G-20 is an intergovernmental forum comprising 19 countries like China, Russia, Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia, US, Britain, India and the European Union (EU). G20 members are the world’s major imperialist-capitalist economies representing all inhabited continents, 80% of world GDP and 75 % of global trade. Its declared objective is to recognize interlinking of global economies, achieve global economic stability, foster sustainable growth and promote financial regulations with a view to reducing risks and prevent future financial crises; and thereby create a new international financial architecture. Apparently, the words sound mellifluous. But in essence, this is a cartel of global powerful capitalist-imperialist countries to sort out bilateral as well as multilateral issues relating to their respective economic interests and conflicts and make attempts to somehow provide extra lease of life to decadent moribund global capitalism-imperialism. In this forum, every effort is made by the constituents to bargain for greater economic advantages for their respective countries by wielding political-military clout and forming coteries within to negotiate better deals. Let no one harbour any illusion that this forum has anything to do with people’s interest.
Indian PM’s ‘amritvani’ in G-20 conference
The presidentship of this forum is decided by rotation. From December 2022 to November 2023, it would be India’s turn to chair the forum and accordingly Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister (PM), would preside over the meetings of the conference. So, the ruling camp is busy reaping harvest of the opportunity to pitchfork Modi as Vishwaguru (global leader of reckoning) and improve the prospects of the BJP in the coming elections. With that purpose, the ‘Earth is placed on the lotus’ in the newly designed logo of G20. The colour of the lotus is also significantly saffron. While unveiling the logo of G20 on 8 November 2022, the PM said that ‘the lotus in the logo symbolizes India’s ancient heritage, faith and thought’ and ‘the philosophy of adwait emphasizes the oneness of all creatures’ and ‘the notion of universal brotherhood’ and ‘both the Goddesses of knowledge and prosperity are seated on a lotus’ and the ‘seven petals of the lotus represent the seven continents and seven universal musical notes’ and ‘when the seven musical notes come together, they create perfect harmony’. The PM went on to say that ‘India is such a rich and living democracy of the world and has a proud tradition in the form of the mother of democracy’. The PM further said that our G20 mantra is—‘‘One Earth, One Family, One Future’’.
Oneness of all creatures and notion of universal brotherhood and proud traditions of India
Excellent demagogy! For people of India have been witness to how the seven petals of the BJP lotus are turning pale and are falling apart due to avowedly discriminatory and arch communal policies of the party since it has come to power in 2014. An open hate campaign against the Muslim minorities, endeavour to strip genuine Muslim citizens of their valid citizenship, systematically carrying out crusade against the Muslims, Christians, so called dalits and the tribals, bear testimony to that. Lynching of theirs by the foot-soldiers and criminals of the RSS-BJP-Sangh Parivar be it on the pretext of reverence for the cow, moral policing, love-jihad, religious conversion, or for violation of implied untouchability norms and such other flimsy charges as well as orchestrated pogroms like that of Gujarat also attest to this fact. In fact, there is a concerted effort to precipitate divide among the toiling masses belonging to different communities to foil crystallization of united protest against ruthless capitalist oppression and repression. This is the way ‘oneness of all creatures’ is practised in BJP-ruled India while the PM preaches ‘the notion of universal brotherhood and proud traditions of India’
Philosophy of adwait
The second one is about pursuit of the ‘the philosophy of adwait’ which, it obviates to say, is open declaration of allegiance to Hindu religion in a country whose Constitution declares it to be a secular democratic republic. Secularism, as we have shown times without number, presupposes non-recognition of any supernatural entity and hence precludes entry of religion in the field of politics, state policies or social relations. Religion, it proclaims, should be a matter of personal belief. The very utterance of the PM that both the Goddesses of knowledge and prosperity are seated on a lotus’ clearly points at allegiance to Hinduism where both Saraswathi and Laxmi, the perceived goddesses of knowledge and wealth are found in their idolized forms to be seating on lotus (that also happens to be the BJP party symbol). A few days back, the IIM Ahmedabad, obviously under instruction from the top, has changed its logo containing a replica of the ‘Tree of Life’ chiselled on stone windows of the 16th Century Sidi Saiyed Mosque of Ahmedabad on a bogus plea that its origin is controversial. The unity in diversity, which this ‘‘Tree of Life’’ is said to have represented through its branches, is no more. The textbooks are being rewritten distorting the history of India and giving primacy to myth over facts. ‘‘Vaastu sastra and astrology’’ is being incorporated in educational courses in the name of teaching ancient science. This shows how secular institutions of higher learning are also getting drawn into communal measures. Even Swami Vivekananda who believed in the adwait Vedanta and whom the RSS-BJP seek to project as one of their icons had observed that ‘‘Religion has no business to formulate social laws…social laws were created by economic conditions…the terrible mistake of religion was to interfere in social matters…Hands off! Keep yourself to your own bounds and everything would be come right’’. (What we believe in, written to ‘Kidi’ on 3 March 1894 from Chicago)
The third point is about PM Modi’s observation that ‘‘Global development is not possible without women’s participation. We have to maintain priority on women led development even in our G-20 agenda’’. Anyone in India who opens the newspaper every morning or tunes in to news channels on TV finds incidents of crimes committed against women in various forms-molestation, rape, gang-rape, murder, dowry death, abandonment for either having not borne a child or giving birth to girl child, female foeticide and infanticide, killing for alleged infidelity, refusal to respond to love proposal, marital discord or even domestic trouble. Even officially published data shows that in India 87 rape cases are reported every day. There would be more cases which are not reported. 80 women are murdered every day. 19 women on average are victims of dowry deaths per day. Hindus have the highest number of missing girls attributable to female foeticide in India, a new research report prepared by the Pew Research Centre has revealed. According to their analysis, at least 9 million girls are ‘missing’ in India as a result of female infanticide from 2000 to 2019 despite ban on prenatal sex-determination testing in the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act 1994. The clandestine use of ultrasound facilities for this purpose continues, however, as do sex-selective abortions. Almost ten women die every day of unsafe, illegal abortions in India. Nearly 4.6 crore (45.8 million) females are ‘missing’ in Indian demography in the year 2020, mainly due to pre and post-birth sex selection practices stemming from son preference and gender inequality, a recently released United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report has said. India accounts for almost one-third (32.1 per cent) of the total 142.6 million missing females in the world and is the second highest contributor. A total of 371,503 cases of crimes against women were registered across the country in 2020, the government told Parliament in December 2021.
Rich and living democracy
Moreover, the PM claimed that ‘India is such a rich and living democracy of the world and has a proud tradition in the form of the mother of democracy’. If democracy means rising inequality, rule of the monopolists and their unabated right to amass fabulous wealth by ruthless exploitation of the working people and virtual clamping of a fascist autocracy with a façade of parliamentary system and rising misery and abject penury of the 95% of the population, then he is right. But if he sought to mean anything else, that was a travesty of truth. Throughout the 75 years of independence oppression and repression of the ruling monopolists, i.e. the capitalist class, have dragged down the vast majority of the Indian people—however much the ruling parties in governmental power try to manipulate the exact figure of ‘below poverty level line’—to live a subhuman life without even two square meals a day, with practically no shelter, or clothing to maintain a dignified and decent life, without proper education or any at all, without minimum health facilities and, even without a job to earn the minimum of livelihood. One after another hard-earned democratic rights are snatched away and voice of dissent meets with punitive action. During these years and under this cruel capitalist regime, they have not only been bled white, rather they are being pushed nearer and nearer to virtual extermination. Leave aside the grave issues like the immense economic development and power of the monopoly capital or capitalists under government largesse and subservience; the sky-high corruption abounding all-around, not to speak of the highly corrupt, criminalized political arena as well as an administration developing into a source of power and pelf, while people at large stand deprived on the questions of minimum security of life, basic social support, minimum conducive social ambience of democratic values, ethics and morality. A dark void stares blank in the face of common people. Hapless, helpless, rudderless—the vast majority of poverty-stricken people stoop with the drudgery of life; while parliament and parliamentary democracy appear as a haze looming in faraway lands of the moneyed people, the monopolists and their cohorts: this is what the people have earned from this ‘‘proud tradition in the form of rich and living democracy of the world’’.
A glance at some figures will bear out the dismal state of affairs. India ranked 107 out of 121 countries in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2022 with its child wasting rate at 19.3 per cent, the highest in the world. When people in our country were exposed to the fury of Covid 19, lakhs of people were afflicted by the disease and reported death toll had been around 40 lakhs in absence of proper healthcare. At the same time, 12 crore migrant labourers became jobless overnight, and as many as 2.7 lakh industries and 6 to 7 crore small and cottage industries were shut down over and above declared closure of 6.8 lakh industries in the pre-lockdown period. With more than 80 percent of workforce in our country employed in jobs without regular pay or social benefits, at least 23 crore Indians people fell below the national minimum wage poverty line due to the devastating economic impact of the pandemic. 83 crore Indians survive on less than Rs. 20 a day, more than 7,000 Indians die every day due to hunger and 28 people dependent on farming die by suicide every day here. In glaring contrast India’s 100 top billionaires saw their fortunes increase by Rs 12,97,822 crore since March 2021 when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country and this amount is enough to give 14 crore poorest Indians a cheque for Rs 94,045 each. Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani earned Rs 90 crore and Rs 75 crore respectively per hour during the pandemic. Mukesh Ambani’s net wealth today in rupees is 7,48,499 crores. Gautam Adani went on making Rs 1,612 crore per day to double wealth in 1 year and become the second richest man in Asia. His net worth stands at Rs10.94 lakh crores. While common Indians are bearing the brunt of increased indirect tax in the form of buying items of daily use at astronomical prices, the corporate tycoons are being blessed with plethora of tax benefits in the form of reduction in rate, surfeit of concessions, waivers and condonements.
And finally, in the ‘vibrant democracy’, as the ruling BJP leaders often claim India to be, elections have been reduced to a farce with money-muscle-media-administrative powers ruling the roost. 43% of the members of parliament have criminal record (of them 55% belong to the ruling BJP). Hence today it is practically only moneyed people who make it to Parliament, profit-hungry sharks, heartless apologists of capital and capitalists of the country and abroad, high-browed former bureaucrats, mafia ‘dons’, rapists and murderers even, arch communalists, people submerged in utter corruption, shameless flatterers and such other ‘elites’ of the society. The list also includes some individuals with records of sexual debauchery and all kinds of perverse acts often performed using not only their privilege of being members of Parliament but even their offices which may go as high as that of a president of a country or the like. In sharp contrast to the bygone days, in Parliament men of letters, men of integrity and character have become rare, or even abhor to join the parliamentary politics today. There is a drastic reduction in the number of working sessions of parliament. Of the possible 107 hours in the two weeks of monsoon session of 2021, Parliament had functioned merely for 18 hours, wasting 89 hours. As of 1 August 2022, Lok Sabha has spent just under 23 hours working while Rajya Sabha has managed only 13 hours.There is hardly any meaningful discussions and debates over any proposed legislation or issues. Rather, the members end their responsibility by taking potshots at each other. So, most of the important bills are passed with little or no debate. Often, the BJP government enjoying brute majority take ordinance route to enact laws. Yet, the salary, perks and allowances of the MPs go on increasing phenomenally. An RTI query has revealed that in the last four financial years, a sum of Rs 1,997 crore has been spent from the exchequer on the salaries and allowances of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs.
Every Lok Sabha MP has reportedly got an average salary cum allowance of Rs 71.29 lakh each year. And for every Rajya Sabha MP the same was at Rs 44.33 lakh between 2014-15 and 2017-18. The government has incurred around Rs 1.26 crore on medical expenses of Rajya Sabha MPs in 2020 and the average expenditure on them is much higher than the expenditure being incurred on public health when measured on the per capita scale. Salaries and emoluments of elected political representatives constitute an important part of the expenditure of the national exchequer. When people are starving, having no source of income to eke out a bare living, the MPs and also MLAs are enjoying fabulous financial benefits depleting the public exchequer. In the charter of parliamentary democracy, it is enshrined that sovereignty of parliament is contingent upon sovereignty of the people. But does the spectacle presented above come anywhere near to what was envisaged by the founders of the parliamentary system?
How much ‘amrit’ in ‘amritvani’?
It is not at all difficult to understand that beneath this flurry of words on the occasion of G-20 meet, concealed cleverly have been bitter truths including the fact that what is in vogue in India is a caricature of parliamentary democracy. Equality is absent, liberty is chained, and fraternity butchered. Whether the PM’s ‘‘the seven musical notes have come together to create perfect harmony’’ or they are so disharmoniously mixed as to generate cacophony need to be judged on the anvil of the reality of people’s life.