The persecuted may be given Indian passports, retaining their original nationality.

 

Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi has long shown that he is a leader unafraid to attempt deep-rooted rather than superficial changes in policy. The problem he is facing is that the implementing machinery for his bold ideas is much the same rusty, creaky, leaky construct that has held back progress in India during each of the decades that our (severely truncated in 1947) country has been independent. In 2016, both North Block as well as Mint Road made the country an international laughing stock by the manner in which they messed up working out the details of Prime Minister Modi’s move to replace Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 currency notes with Rs 2,000 notes and new Rs 500 notes. Confidence in the Reserve Bank of India in particular and the banking system generally fell to levels never seen before in this country, and the daily diet of often contradictory regulatory tweaks did not help either financial stability or institutional credibility. Thanks to such missteps, the entire small sector and much of the medium sector (not to mention the farming community) was deprived of liquidity in a destructive fashion, with the consequence that the annual rate of growth has almost halved since 2016, rather than doubled as was expected in an economy led by Narendra Modi. Next came GST, and here the babus who worked out the details of the PM’s necessary idea jacked up rates to unbearable levels in the name of taxing luxury consumption. Having never run a business in their lives, and having spent almost all their adult lives having a retinue of underlings the exchequer paid for, the bureaucrats involved in DeMo lost sight of the fact that “luxury” goods create employment as much as other products do. Sticking to UPA-era policies and regulations which criminalise the wealthy was certain to cause a slowdown in output and investment, and a consequent fall in employment and therefore in consumer demand. All this has happened, and unless the budget that will be presented next week departs radically from the Sonia-Chidambaram model that successive budgets have followed even after the 2014 victory of the BJP, it is unlikely that India will come anywhere near double digit growth during Modi 2.0. There ought to have been at most two rates for GST and these much lower than the present growth-limiting rates of what ought to have been a transformative reform rather than a blight, especially on the service sector. As designed by North Block, GST made compliance a nightmare. Policy designed by, of and for the babus is not what India needs or what supporters of Prime Minister Modi expect.

In defiance of reality, some supporters are doing no favours to the central government by disseminating their own version of what in the Soviet Union of the 1930s was termed “socialist realism”. What this meant was that those who were starving claimed in public that they were plentifully fed. Those who lacked employment said to the world that they were at work every day. In other words, that life was perfect. A disconnect with reality shadows the incessant message that gets blared out by some who believe that by doing so they support the government, but who in reality damages its credibility. Theirs is an effort to ignore the need for changes that will strip away the power and profit that the existing system has given to a few over the decades. At a time when India is becoming younger and more educated, what the Prime Minister needs to do is to rely on the people, and empower them through forcing the immense mass of bureaucracy riding on their backs to jump off. This is a difficult task, even for an administrator as able as Modi, but it must be completed within the term of Modi 2.0. Part of the transformation would be the assigning of policy priorities, as for example to liquidity in the case of demonetization, and ease of compliance in the filing of GST. Had this columnist had his way, the next major step of the Modi government would not have been the CAA but the introduction of a Uniform Civil Code, which would have been welcomed by the 95% of Muslims who are as modern and moderate as 95% of the Hindus are, leaving aside the fanatic fringe in both communities. Steps by the Home Ministry such as treating as terrorists those who kill using the excuse of cow protection would create an atmosphere that would make possible the amicable resolution of not just the Ram Janmabhumi but the Krishna Janmasthan and the Gyan Vapi restoration at Varanasi as well. They need to return to what the three Hindu holy sites were during the time of Emperors Jehangir and Shah Jehan. The pain felt by Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah to minority community victims of persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan speaks for their solicitude. However, going ahead with the CAA in a country already bursting with over-population may not generate the public support that some BJP leaders expected. Lack of a communications strategy has resulted in the CAA being misconstrued and misinterpreted in a manner that is injurious to social harmony. An atmosphere made toxic will reduce the outlook for a smooth transition to a Uniform Civil Code and the restoration of the three holy sites of the Hindus to what they were before India endured the Aurangzeb era, the excesses of which ended the Mughal Empire. More than the CAA, it is these two measures that needed to be at the top of the list of government priorities, besides an overhaul of economic management to remove obstacles to growth.

Rather than do the fanatics in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan a favour by opening for them the door to a forced mass migration of Hindus, Sikhs and Christians from those countries to India, what should be done is to introduce Double Citizenship, something that ought to have been done in India in 1947 itself. Victims of persecution could be given an Indian passport while retaining their original nationality, as could others from countries (such as the US and the UK) with substantial populations of Indian origin. Ultimately, CAA-enabled individuals should be assisted to return to their own lands with honour and in safety, with dual citizenship serving as an insurance against fresh repression. Those Muslims who are victims of religious persecution should also be granted the same privilege. After all, Sanatan Dharma regards all faiths as leading to the same divinity. The priority facing the people is the economy, followed by the removal of the historical injustice perpetrated by the tyrant Aurangzeb. Refusal by successive regimes to rectify that injustice is leading to a Hindu community where less than a fraction of 1% were fanatic now having 5% of them as fanatics and counting. Bringing back the three holy sites of the Hindus to their pre-Aurangzeb traditions will ensure that the 5% gets reduced to 0.5% once again, while the smooth rollout of the Uniform Civil Code will weaken the 5% of fanatics among the Muslims who have been given a second wind and a chance to increase their number thanks to the misconceptions being spread about the CAA. Before the storm created by the CAA, the abolition of Triple Talaq and the removal of Article 370 had created a movement for reclaiming Islam in India from the fringe, a necessary step for India’s future as a global superpower. It is time for Prime Minister Modi to free the economy from corrupt babus and introduce dual citizenship (including to religiously persecuted Muslims) as the way towards defusing the efforts of fringe groups to bring back the toxic communal atmosphere last seen during 1936-47.

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