UPA-II's Unremarkable Year in Office
There is not much to write home about UPA-II’s first year in office, writes Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is known to be a straight person, shorn of the charisma of the Nehrus. That has been his strength also, as he does not have to bother too much about his image.
That he is more of an economist and a former World Bank bureaucrat than an austute politician was evident at his hugely-attended press conference on May 24 marking the end of the first year of UPA’s second term in office. By the way, the UPA did not do as poorly as his performance at the press conference.
There are too many negatives in the balance sheet of the UPA-II to allow us to dwell on its meagre positive performance. Broadly, these can be stated in a single paragraph.
The UPA-II’s gains are few and far between. It did largely hold the peace between religious communities and created an environment in which the Sangh’s poisonous propaganda was rendered ineffective.
Even that is not much of an achievement when you look at it in the right perspective. After all, it is the primary duty of the state to keep peace between different sections of people. If the NDA under AB Vajpayee failed to stop genocide in Gujarat, for instance, it was criminal dereliction of duty on NDA and Vajpayee’s part. However, if a government does it duty by protecting people and keeps peace it is only doing the thing that it must. No extra credits for that.
The UPA’s declared intent to empower the people has not always worked. The second term witnessed the exposure of quite a few serious flaws in pro-poor programmes like NREG.
Despite massive support to rural communities there was virtually no let-up in hunger, mother-and-child malnutrition, insufficient access to food and safe drinking water.
It is precisely the humongous scale of deprivation that has led to the rise of maoism. Closing their eyes to the difficulties and sorrows of tribals successive governments at the Centre and in states thought they had “solved” this problem.
The crime of government’s apathy was compounded by the excesses of local police and forest officials. By looting their natural wealth and sources of livelihood and routinely raping their women state officials hastened the tribals’ decision to rebel.
Although the UPA only inherited the maoist problem (instead of creating it), it completely failed to address the issue. The maoist threat had a dramatic surge over the last year, its violence getting increasingly spectacular.
We had been consistently telling the government not to be carried away by RSS-inspired intelligence officials who wasted the last five years crowing about “Muslim terrorism” and completely ignoring maoist violence.
To his credit, the prime minister publicly admitted in December 2007 that maoism was the greatest internal security threat to India. That line has often been parroted by ministers since then, but no progress is visible on the ground till the middle of this year.
Initiatives like Sachar Committee are still to bear fruit although some work is visible on the ground. Muslims do trust the Sonia-Manmohan-Rahul trio, but they still have to deliver. Four year’s time is not long enough to do that unless they work really hard.
Hindutva terrorists like Col. Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya and company have wreaked extensive damage and put their sins in the account of “Jehadis”. Muslims fear that they, too, would wriggle out of the trap like their seniors Advani, Joshi, Uma Bharati and others have done after shedding Muslim blood. UPA has not done much to restore confidence in justice and rule of law.
High prices of food items hurt Muslims as much as they do others, if not more. Poor and middle-class people are not really impressed by the PM’s promise of 10 percent growth. It does not matter for a preponderant majority whether our economy is growing at five percent or 10. What matters is whether we can buy and consume enough food.
For Muslims there are other issues specific to them only, like the inroads into Jamia Millia and AMU’s minority character and government’s persistent refusal to look into the infamous Batla House encounter, despite substantial indicators in the autopsy report that give a lie to police claims. Even the Human Rights Commission of India has admitted that the police version did not match the autopsy report.
These specific issues have to be addressed sooner than later, alongwith the larger issues enumerated above for the UPA to come up with a better result card next May. Till then we wish the UPA all the success and happily give it more time to improve upon its performance. g