Politics and economics are inseparable. It is the political economy which shapes the character of a State. The Constitution defines India as a secular state and provides for public welfare. The BJP–RSS combine has been aggressively making efforts to transform the secular state into a theocracy. And the Narendra Modi government wants to dismantle the welfare state by privatising the public sector.
A steep decline in the health of the nation’s economy has been a distinguishing feature of seven years of Modi rule. This process has been exacerbated by the suicidal policy of privatisation of the economy and the dismantling of profit-making public enterprises, both strategic and non-strategic, which have a sterling record of contributing to the emergence of self-reliant India. The Prime Minister, who talks of Atmanirbhar Bharat, is doing exactly the opposite by pushing the privatisation of public sector enterprises and pursuing neoliberal policies that would make India critically dependent on international finance capital.
The finance minister has announced that the government will work with the RBI for implementing the bank privatisation plan announced in the Budget. It indicates the government’s resolve to hand over public sector banks to private hands. This would take India to the pre bank-nationalisation era and deepen inequality and poverty and intensify the concentration of wealth and means of production in a few hands. This would prove disastrous and go against the constitutional vision that aims at progressive reduction of poverty and realisationof justice and equality. B R Ambedkar, while participating in the discussion in the Constituent Assembly on Objectives Resolutions on 17th December 1946 presciently said: “I do not understand how it could be possible for any future government which believes in doing justice socially, economically and politically, unless its economy is a socialistic economy.”
The constitutional vision of social and economic justice for citizens has been jeopardised by the promotion of market forces and corporates. The aggressive privatisation programme of the Modi regime affecting railways, banks, public sector enterprises including navaratna companies is seriously compromising the principle of social and economic justice enshrined in the Constitution. The Directive Principles of State Policy is clear that “the ownership and control of material resources are so distributed as best to subserve the common good” and that “the operation of the economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment”.
Privatisation is a direct attack on the policy of reservation. It deprives access to employment and education in the public sector for the SC/STs, OBCs and differently-abled persons. There is no law to provide reservation in the private sector. Privatisation of the economy is deepening the existing fault lines and structured forms of inequality such as caste, patriarchy and gender.
In the context of the 2008 financial crisis that originated in the US then prime minister, Manmohan Singh has said that India could withstand it because of the resilience of public sector enterprises and public sector banks. India will hereafter be more vulnerable to multiple crises of national and global dimensions. India would be susceptible to manipulation by those who have monopoly over international finance. It aggravates crises at multiple levels of economy, society and polity and makes India an easy target for control by global powers. India will lose its economic leverage and vast masses of people would slip into more poverty and deprivation at a faster pace.
The COVID crisis has underlined the point that it is the public sector which can rise to the challenge and save people and society from the dangers threatening life, livelihood, safety and security. Policy makers world over have realised this since the advent of the pandemic. The Modi government needs to learn from the renewed emphasis on the public sector at the global level.
India’s public sector has played a key role in nation-building. Instead of strengthening it, the Modi regime is committing the egregious blunder of dismantling it. It will prove fatal for the country. The working class must put up a strong resistance against Modi regime and ensure that India continues as a welfare state that provides economic and social justice. Political parties that have a commitment to save the Constitution and the nation must come together and build popular movements across the country.
The writer is general secretary, CPI