India: Poverty of the biggest democracy

India is hyped as being very modern, yet in the midst of the towering buildings and corporate plazas there are huge swathes of ghettos overflowing with intense poverty and misery, where human beings are forced to live in bestial conditions of unhygienic and filthy dwellings. The artificial glitter and the facade of modernity fails to conceal the primitive social and economic conditions that prevail across India. These conditions are reflected in politics, and particularly in the elections that are being held in nine stages from 7th April to 12th May this year.

The victory drums of a party based on the most ancient ideological foundations, the BJP, are feverishly being beaten by the corporate media. This reactionary party and its chauvinist mascot Narindera Modi are supposed to complete the modernisation of India. Such a dialectical contradiction could hardly be more ironic. Yet the majority of the electorate don’t really have any hopes or illusions in these elections or the democratic process as a whole. There is a palpable revulsion towards the system in its entirety. In an opinion poll released this week by the Pew Research Centre, more than 70% of people are dissatisfied with India’s prospects and more than 80% are bitterly gloomy about economic matters. Bruce Stokes of the Pew concludes, “Everything is a problem for the Indian voter.” While the Indian masses have no optimism about the future of India under the rule of capitalism, the billionaires of India, who now outnumber those of Japan, are desperate to get this religious bigot Modi into the prime ministerial slot. In another opinion poll conducted by the Pew Centre seventy-four out of the hundred richest Indian corporate bosses were shown to have jumped on Modi bandwagon.

modiThe mass rush of the elite towards Modi is for no other reason than the desire to see Modi enforce anti-worker and pro-capitalist policies. These take the form of more concessions to the business class, a reduction in state subsidies, and deregulation of the labour laws thus undermining hard won rights of the Indian proletariat. Furthermore, national chauvinism, including Pakistan-bashing, will provide fuel for the Hindu fundamentalist frenzy. After the November 2008 attack and the carnage in Bombay perpetrated by Pakistan-based terrorists, Modi mocked the Congress Party as weak in the face of Pakistani terrorists. In a TV interview he hissed, “I would do with them what I did in Gujarat.” In a recent article in the Guardian Aditya Chakrabortty wrote about Modi’s venal attitude towards Muslims, “Modi bears a responsibility for some of the worst religious violence ever seen in independent India—but there’s nothing like looking a winner to attract apologists… Modi said a couple of years ago that he felt the same pain over the bloodshed (in Gujarat in 2002) as a passenger in a car that has just run over a puppy. He referred to the refugee camps set up to shelter some 200,000 Muslims who lost their homes as ‘baby-making factories’.”

The mantra of Gujarat’s economic model of growth has been assiduously touted as the feather in the cap of Modi’s success story in the corporate media. India is being prepared for the same medicine. However the reality of this high growth has been stark and painful for the masses. It is true that corporate capitalists in Gujarat have amassed huge profits but only while the toiling masses have suffered at the hands of this high growth rate. According to the official figures there has been no improvement in the health, infant mortality, education and workers’ wages in Gujarat. Modi’s aggressive neoliberal policies have increased the burdens on the workers and the poor. In 2006 there were more undernourished children in Gujarat than in 1993. According to the Comptroller and Auditor General, “His (Modi’s) administration has sold off public land dirt cheap to industrialists, provided companies with energy at below-market prices and given them loans at an interest rate of 0.1%. They in return have provided him with sponsorship and rides on their private jets.” Atul Sood of the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi writes, “The governance model of Gujarat is all about aggressive implementation of development on behalf of the big private investor. It is a model that works for the rich and against the poor.”

The performance of the Congress Party has been spectacularly dismal. During its rule corruption has sky-rocketed alongside price hikes, unemployment and a sharp rise in poverty in spite of the high growth rate. However like all the BRICS and the so-called emerging economies, growth rates have lost steam and the fragile nature of these uneven capitalist economies stands exposed. The regional parties use all varieties of nationalist, ethnic, caste and racial prejudices to gain votes and power which is their ticket to a share of the pilfering and plunder. The unleashing of free market economics by Manmohan Singh in the early 1990’s provided impetus to the communist parties (CPs) culminating in their winning their highest number of seats ever in the elections of 2004. Unfortunately this was squandered by participating in an opportunistic coalition of the centre parties and opening their doors to corporate capitalism and alienating their mass support base. This led to a disastrous election result for the Communist Parties in the 2009 elections. They have learned no lessons from this and today they have abandoned revolutionary politics for a dismal parliamentarian cretinism and hollow secularism.

The Aam Aadami party offers no solution for the woes of Indian masses. It also advocates the same policies as the Congress and the BJP albeit with different colourations.

As Indian capitalism continues its decline, the conditions of its people deteriorates. According to official figures out of a population of 1.2 billion, 810m are food stressed. The arch mouthpiece of world capitalism itself, The Economist, is pessimistic about the prospects of Indian capitalism, “The country is teeming with problems. The growth has fallen by half, too low to provide work to the millions of young Indians joining the job market each year. Reforms go undone, roads and electricity remain unavailable, and children are left uneducated… The business of politics, Indians conclude, is corruption.”

This is a slap in the face for the Indian ruling class. Not only does this demonstrate that they failed to accomplish the tasks of the national democratic or the industrial revolution but their reactionary nature is exposed by their support for the Hindu fundamentalists seeking to install a repressive regime to squeeze profit from the blood and tears of the Indian workers.

This historical failure of the bourgeois lays bare the doomed nature of Indian capitalism. In a remorseless chorus of the cliché, “biggest democracy in the world” they try to conceal the fact that India also has the largest concentration of poverty and deprivation in the world. This misery and suffering is not the destiny of the India’s working classes. They have magnificent traditions of struggles and mass revolts. They cannot be kept in the chains of capitalist coercion in the name of democracy and nationalism for long.