“With no checks, the fire of social tensions is rapidly spreading across the nation and threatens to char the soul of our nation. It can only be extinguished by the same people that lit it”
DESPARDES — Former Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh is the latest among voices of reason and wisdom to speak out on the “situation in India” post Kashmir annexation, NRC and Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which critics say is meant to exclude Muslim refugees and undocumented Muslim Indians and migrants from the nationality net.
In a scathing op-ed Dr. Manmohan Singh who was the PM for a decade (2004-2014) has urged Modi-led BJP government to quickly embark on a plan which should include withdrawal or amending the Citizenship Act, ending the toxic social climate and foster national unity. The former PM also urged the government to put together a detailed and meticulous fiscal stimulus plan to revive the spiraling economy.
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According to Mr. Manmohan Singh, India faces imminent danger from the trinity of social disharmony, economic slowdown and a global health epidemic. “Social unrest and economic ruin are self-inflicted while the health contagion of COVID-19 disease, caused by the novel coronavirus, is an external shock. I deeply worry that this potent combination of risks may not only rupture the soul of India but also diminish our global standing as an economic and democratic power in the world.”
He highlights that Delhi has been subjected to extreme violence over the past few weeks — foreign media last week ran stories on Delhi riots with law enforcement personnel complicit in the carnage. “We have lost nearly 50 of our fellow Indians for no reason. Several hundred people have suffered injuries”. He adds, “Communal tensions have been stoked and flames of religious intolerance fanned by unruly sections of our society, including the political class. University campuses, public places and private homes are bearing the brunt of communal outbursts of violence, reminiscent of the dark periods in India’s history”. He says institutions of law and order have abandoned their dharma to protect citizens. Institutions of justice and the fourth pillar of democracy, the media, have also failed us”.
Charred soul of the nation
With no checks, the fire of social tensions is rapidly spreading across the nation and threatens to char the soul of our nation. It can only be extinguished by the same people that lit it.
It is both futile and puerile to point to past instances of such violence in India’s history to justify the present violence in the country. Every act of sectarian violence is a blemish on Mahatma Gandhi’s India. Just in a matter of few years, India has slid rapidly from being a global showcase of a model of economic development through liberal democratic methods to a strife ridden majoritarian state in economic despair.
At a time when our economy is floundering, the impact of such social unrest will only exacerbate the economic slowdown. It is now well accepted that the scourge of India’s economy currently is the lack of new investment by the private sector. Investors, industrialists and entrepreneurs are unwilling to undertake new projects and have lost their risk appetite. Social disruptions and communal tensions only compound their fears and risk aversion. Social harmony, the bedrock of economic development, is now under peril. No amount of tweaking of tax rates, showering of corporate incentives or goading will propel Indian or foreign businesses to invest, when the risk of eruption of sudden violence in one’s neighborhood looms large. Lack of investment means lack of jobs and incomes, which, in turn, means lack of consumption and demand in the economy. A lack of demand will only further suppress private investments. This is the vicious cycle that our economy is stuck in.