Narendra Modi’s speech on Independence Day indicated the Sangh’s communal fascist agenda for the BJP Government’s second tenure. The most significant of these is a ‘population control’ campaign projecting small families as ‘patriotic’. The PM also tried to project privatisation of public sector assets as a move to “free” people from Government interference, and to project labour and environmental protection laws as “redundant”. And he coined a new term for big corporations - “wealth creators” - to justify his Government’s pro-corporate policies.
Modi waxed eloquent about the “festival of independence” being celebrated across India. But the grim irony was that his Government is holding the whole of Kashmir caged and captive.
On the lines of the “Swachh Bharat” campaign, Modi called for a campaign against what he called “uncontrolled population growth.” The campaign, he said, would focus on projecting parents with small families as responsible and patriotic. He said, “Before a child arrives into our family we should think – have I prepared myself to fulfil the needs of the child ? Or will I leave it dependent on the society?” This statement of the PM’s raises a series of concerns.
First, the very claim that poor families/nations should have reproduce less smacks of bias towards the poor and oppressed. Imperialist policy makers have always implied that it is poor nations that are irresponsible for failing to “control population”. But poor nations are impoverished by colonialism - and it is the erstwhile colonising nations that are wealthy today. So poverty is not caused by “overpopulation” but by colonial and imperialist plunder and exploitation. Likewise, in India, poverty is not caused by “overpopulation” but by unequal distribution of resources. India’s problem is not “population explosion” - it is the unequal distribution of resources, where India's top 10% holds 77.4% of the total national wealth, while the top 1% holds 51.53% of the wealth.
It is indeed the responsibility of the government and society to ensure that every child in India has food, shelter, and education. If the children of the poor suffer hunger; if they are labour rather than go to school; if they die in epidemics for lack of medical attention - it is not the fault of their parents but of the Government. Mr Modi himself is one of six children. Were his parents “irresponsible”? If not, why should a poor Indian family today be told that it is unpatriotic or irresponsible for failing to restrict its family size?
For long, the “population control” policy of Governments of India, backed by international funding agencies, has resulted in extreme violence towards poor women in India. 15 women from poor and oppressed communities died in a “sterilisation camp” in Chhattisgarh in 2014. Between 2009 and 2012, 15 women died every month due to botched sterilisation operations in similar sterilisation camps. Modi’s “Swachh Bharat” (Clean India) campaign resulted in public shaming and violence against poor and oppressed caste/community women for open defecation. Now, the “population control” campaign will boost the violent of women’s bodies, and shaming of poor women for bearing “too many children.”
Finally, for Modi’s party BJP, and for the RSS, “overpopulation” is code for “too many Muslims.” In Gujarat 2002, Modi himself infamously had called the relief camps for the pogrom-affected Muslims, as “baby-producing factories”. Last month, on 11 July 2019, Modi’s Cabinet Minister Giriraj Singh addressed a rally in Delhi on World Population Day, demanding a Population Control Law. At that rally, a song played from the dais, “Jansankshya visphot se apni azaadi ko khatra hai/hamko gaddaron ki badhti aabaadi se khatra hai” (Our independence is in danger from population explosion/we are in danger from the rising population of “traitors”.” Modi’s Minister openly called for a law to prevent the decline in the population of Hindus and curb the growth of Muslim population. Participants in the rally branded Muslims as unpatriotic and irresponsible for bearing too many children even if they were poor and worked as cobblers or at repairing cycle punctures. They called for curbing the “human rights” of Muslims and even for genocide of Muslims. Modi’s “population control” campaign will be another way to encourage Sanghi mobs to brand Muslims as unpatriotic.
The fact is that higher population growth rates are linked to factors like illiteracy, deprivation, and poverty. The fertility rate of Muslims in a state like Kerala (where literacy, especially female literacy, is high), is lower than that of Hindus in a state like UP (where literacy and female literacy is low). With improving literacy of Muslim women, Muslim population growth rates are actually falling at a far faster rate than that of Hindus. The Muslim fertility rate is 2.6; that of Scheduled Tribes (STs) is 2.5; that of Scheduled Castes (SCs) is 2.3; that of OBCs is 2.2; and that of the states of UP, Bihar, and MP is 3. These communities and states cannot be branded by the Government as irresponsible, unpatriotic, or morally inferior! Instead, The Government must be held responsible for poor access to health and education facilities. By profiling the poor and deprived as immoral and unpatriotic, the Government is washing its hands off its responsibility to ensure that the poor have access to health and education facilities.
Modi also spoke of his aim to “reduce the involvement of government in the lives of its peoples”. He boasted that in the last five years, he had, without the knowledge of the common man, “abolished one redundant law every day” - all to improve “Ease Of Doing Business”. In the first ten weeks of his second tenure, he said, 60 laws have been repealed towards “Ease of Living.”
What are these laws that the Modi Government is quietly abolishing daily? These are, actually, labour laws and environmental protection laws! When Modi says he will “reduce the involvement of government” in people’s lives, he means privatisation of basic services. His Government and party is interfering in people’s lives at every level - controlling their choice of diet and of who they love and marry; surveilling every aspect of people’s lives using Aadhaar! He has no intention of curbing that interference and encroachment on privacy and civil liberties.
Moreover, Modi in his speech made a passionate attempt to correct what he called the “wrong beliefs” that the super-rich corporations are unpatriotic. He said “We should not doubt our wealth creators”, rather they should be honoured and encouraged. These so-called “wealth creators” plunder India’s forests and land. They plunder public-sector banks and then flee the country with the Modi Government’s active encouragement. The Modi Government waives their taxes and loans to the tune of lakhs of crores of rupees. Modi gives his corporate cronies defence contracts at the cost of public sector companies. Modi is trying to justify these shameless anti-poor and pro-corporate and pro-corruption policies of his Government. No wonder, since these corporates are indeed “wealth creators” for the BJP, funding it massively and secretly through Electoral Bonds.
India’s people face the challenge of defending democracy, of defending the rights of Kashmiri people; of resisting communalism and anti-poor policies disguised as “population control”; and of resisting privatisation and the attacks on labour and environmental laws as well as the Constitution of India.