Issues

Ghar Wapsi: A ploy to push anti-conversion bill and second round of privatisation

Ghar Wapsi programmes are being organised with fanfare all over the country. It is claimed hundreds of Christian and Muslim families are returning to their ancestors’ religion. Amid reports of conversions through offers of money and other rewards there is also a possibility of inflated claims about the number of converts. There is also no proof that those paraded as converts were really Muslims or Christians.

 Are Hindutva organisations really interested in Ghar Wapsi? The dominant possibility is that they are not. They very well know that if such open methods of attracting people towards their religions are adopted by Muslims and Christians the chances of Hindus converting in big numbers are even higher. The Ghar Wapsi movement is a well-thought out attempt at bringing a new law which would make conversion almost impossible, and through expected nationwide tumult, to silently roll through the second round of privatisation. The anti-conversion law, they believe, would ensure that the ratio of Hindus and other communities will not change in favour of other communities. By making Ghar Wapsi movement a big issue they seek to force Christian and Muslim leaders to accept the anti-conversion bill. Already some Muslim panellists appearing on TV debates can be seen favouring the idea of the proposed Act.

 Muslim and Christian leaders need to recognise the hidden motive and oppose any such move because it will be against the very essence of the Constitution, which recognises Freedom of Conscience as a Fundamental Right of every citizen, and an anti-conversion law will amount to snatching this right away from him or her. What is to be ensured is not that no conversion takes place at all, but that no conversion takes place through force or allurement of any kind.

 The larger motive, however, is more sinister and chances are that even some “secular” parties may be privy to it. With the Ghar Wapsi movement gaining momentum, the communal bomb seems set for a huge explosion. This is the kind of trigger which can detonate the bomb within no time with a devastating effect on the country. When privatisation was sought to be introduced in the 1980s, a simultaneous communal agenda was set into motion with the launching of the Ayodhya movement. The country forgot about what was boiling at the economic front and the political and social organisations, including the Leftists, busied themselves with combating the monster of communalism. This continued till privatisation got fully entrenched. The situation was then allowed to settle down. Now, the second round of corporatisation seems to have begun. Privatisation is again in full swing, and every government scheme - good as well as bad - is being tuned in to suit the interests of big business.

 Economic forces, including the corporate and the government supporting them, know the likely effects of the move on public mind. They fear that the forces that are more concerned about the common people can embark upon a nationwide campaign against corporatisation. It is therefore necessary that the public mind is kept busy somewhere else. What else can be the best option other than using the time-tested card of communalism?  With hatred engulfing the nation, the social forces and political parties like Congress, Janata Parivar and communists will again be busy countering communalisation. Economic forces can play their card without attracting public attention. Once the second round is finished, the situation will be eased again for some years in wait for a suitable time for the next round.  

 According to the following report, the key areas which are being described as “reforms” by the industry -- remembering that “reforms” almost always means the ways by which big industrial giants can monopolise the wealth of the country - are as under:

FDI in Insurance
The government needs approval during a parliamentary session ending on December 23 to allow overseas investors to hold a 49 percent stake in insurance companies, up from the current 26 percent cap. The law would also raise the cap for the pension industry. The opposition has not yet promised support needed to pass the law in upper house. The industry expects that raising the cap would result in $2 billion of inflows into insurance.

Land Purchase Rules
The government by issuing an ordinance on land wants to make it easier to buy land for infrastructure and industrial projects. Road projects alone worth $10 billion face delays over land disputes and other clearances.

Labour Reforms
Modi has moved to amend archaic labour laws, reducing regulatory interference while coaxing employees with more benefits. Last month, parliament approved a bill to simplify the process of complying with 16 labour laws for small companies employing up to 40 workers by placing the forms online. The government will have to overcome union resistance to move forward on relaxing restrictions on hiring and firing.

Goods And Service Tax
The government wants to move a constitutional amendment in the ongoing session of parliament, then win the consent of state assemblies to implement India’s first nationwide service tax union by April 2016. If successful, economists say the measure could add 2 percentage points to GDP growth. Most state governments are on board, but the main opposition, Congress, has still not given its backing. Consensus is still missing on the final GST tax rates - recommendations vary from 16 percent to 27 percent.

Asset Sales
The government plans to raise nearly $9.5 billion by selling stakes in state-run and private companies including oil explorer ONGC (ONGC.NS) and Coal India <COAL .NS> by March. Analysts doubt whether the target will be achieved. Market valuations are high and Modi seems determined to overcome labour union opposition to the Coal India sale, but the government has started the sell off late in the financial year. Separately, the government has reiterated its commitment to lowering its stake in public sector banks, while retaining a majority holding. It has not given a timeline.

Subsidy Reforms
The government plans to cut wasteful subsidies on fuel, fertiliser and food, estimated at over 21 percent of total estimated revenue receipts in 2014/15. It has ended diesel subsidies and is waiting for a panel’s report to announce next steps, possibly in the annual budget in February. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has suggested subsidies on cooking gas could be slashed for the well-off.

Coal
Coal fields are due to be auctioned by February, followed by plans to allow commercial coal mining for the first time, and to invite in foreign miners. The government used an executive decree to bring about the changes. Now it needs parliamentary support.

Mobile, Radio Spectrum
The government is planning the sale of mobile telephone and FM radio spectrum in early 2015. (http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/11/28/india-economy-modi-reform-idINKCN0JC18T20141128)
Except for the Left parties, the present Indian political set-up, including the so-called “Samajwadis,” are agents of the corporate, the difference being in degree. The BJP, of course, remains the extreme right political group in India. The Leftist movement has become too weak to withstand the onslaught of privatisation. They had made a historical blunder by forgetting the economic agenda in the communal Strife of the late 1980s and the early 1990s. There is hardly any possibility that they will not repeat the blunder. They would not understand that the biggest antidote to communalism will be to counter the monopolisation of national wealth. Even if they want, they are hardly in a position to mobilise the masses. Congress suffered defeat in the last elections primarily because the corporate world had lost faith in its leadership. It is likely that they would opt for winning the faith of the corporate rather than mobilising the masses against the steps that will accentuate economic disparity to new heights. Power, after all, is what everyone is aiming for.
 The author is Delhi-based thinker and writer with over a dozen books including his latest Qur’anic Paradigm of Sciences & Society (First Vol: Health).
He can be contacted at doctorforu123@yahoo.com

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 January 2015 on page no. 2

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