The BJP government led by Narendra Modi came to power in May 2014 with the promise of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas- development for all with everyone’s participation.
The election manifesto presented a “government of the poor, marginalized and left behind….to create an enabling eco system and equal opportunity- for education,health and livelihood. The protection of the rights of all, SC/STS, minorities and women were affirmed. The focus on protecting women’s rights began with the pre-election campaign “Ab na Hoga Naari pe Vaar, Ab ki Baar Modi Sarkar.” The theme, which continued into the manifesto, also committed to implementation of laws related to rape and gender disparities in property rights, marital rights and cohabitation rights.
Though the government’s first year saw some positive steps taken towards girl’s education such as digitization of education and implementation of the RTE, what remains prominent are rapid and undemocratic reforms in higher education. These would pose serious threats to the autonomy of educational institutions and their diversity. The steady “saffronization” of education and the shift towards an information/skills (versus knowledge) based education system with close connection with industry and corporations is not a healthy sign. Also noted were steep budgetary cuts in central allocation to education.
This one year of the BJP government ‘Make in India’ saw a combination of legislative amendments and policies aimed at easing land grabs, flouting environmental norms, withdrawing various protections to labour a rollback on pro poor schemes like NREGA. There is a irrational faith that industry will do its own compliance. The nature of the relationship between the State and industry are perfectly illustrative of crony capitalism in which success in business depends on the close relationships between industrialists and government officials. This may take the form of favouritism in the distribution of legal permits, government grants, special tax breaks etc. The use of ordinances as well as the core legal and institutional reforms point to systems which had been in place since independence to ensure that the nature of development is in keeping with principles of justice and equality being dismantled.
ON GENDER AND SEXUALITY-:
Empowerment addresses not just economic and legal issues, but also social and cultural constructs and how those sought to being empowered are viewed. The government in this one year has significantly contributed to the negative ways in which women are viewed, including those who are survivors of violence. In a context where other institutions such as the family and media seek to reinforce repressive social norms, the State is busy reinforcing these oppressive norms instead of providing an Island of refuge from violations. On the one hand it is disallowing the imparting of education about sexuality, on the other it is using the media to create the extra political moral order which the BJP itself has spoken of. Far from fulfilling its duties, the state is strengthening the hands of these oppressive social institutions, including Khap Panchayats. They have also sought to use fears related to sexuality to further the communal agenda and construct the gap between “us” and “them”. Evidence suggests that these groups are now being further emboldened by the government in power.