THE first week of the monsoon session of parliament has revealed a lot about the character of the Modi government. In the space of a few days, the government went on record with two untruths. The first was the equivocal statement by the minister of information technology refuting the media reports about the use of the Pegasus spyware in India and blandly asserting that “No unauthorised surveillance has taken place”. The second was a shocking statement, as an answer to a question in the Rajya Sabha, wherein the minister of state for health announced that there were no deaths due to oxygen shortage reported by the states and union territories. The false and egregious nature of these two statements reveals a lot about the authoritarianism of the Modi government and its contempt for parliament and the people.
To deny and lie about facts has become the default position of this government. So when the country is faced with a vaccine shortage, the government stridently denies there is any shortage and accuses the state governments who have complained, of playing politics or being plain inefficient in getting people vaccinated.
It is another matter that the government has given three different accounts in parliament of the number of vaccines produced by the two manufacturers of Covishield and Covaxin and the number of doses available for vaccination. The fact is that the rate of vaccination production has not increased and the government has been consistently inflating the amount of vaccines available for use.
The government is also vehemently denying that there is any underreporting of deaths due to Covid when studies increasingly show that the number of Covid deaths are at least ten times more than the official count.
That this is not a problem of lack of reliable data or misinformation is evident in the way Prime Minister Modi praised the Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh for tackling the Covid pandemic, calling it “unmatched”, in Varanasi on July 15, just a few days before the monsoon session began.
Disregarding the massive cock-up in tackling the second wave in Uttar Pradesh, the bodies floating down the Ganga, the hundreds of bodies buried in shallow graves on the river bank and horrific reports of village after village struck down by the deadly virus with no treatment available, for Modi, this was a governmental response worthy of praise as “unparalleled”. What this posture struck by Modi, shows is that, this is a post-truth government which seeks to fashion its own narrative ignoring facts and realities. Post-truth is a term denoting circumstances where objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal beliefs.
Whether it is vaccines, or deaths due to oxygen shortage, or the actual toll of Covid deaths, the Modi government’s attitude shows an utter callousness to human lives which is unprecedented for any democratically elected government.
The first week of parliament also saw the kisan sansad (parliament) being held in Jantar Mantar daily to highlight the farmers’ opposition to the three acts passed by parliament last year. After eight months of continuous protests on the borders of Delhi, the kisan organisations decided to hold their own parliament, though heavily restricted by the police. Here again, the BJP government’s response is to ignore the issue and pretend that everything is going well with agriculture and the kisans in the country. The perverted logic of an authoritarian government is unless we recognise there is a problem, there is no problem at all.
The refusal to be held accountable in parliament for anything with regard to public policy and executive decisions has led to a peculiar situation. The country can know the truth about the Rafale deal only through an investigation by a judicial body in France since the Modi government doggedly refuses to accept there is any wrongdoing that needs an enquiry.
The Pegasus scandal is being investigated by the French government and even the Israeli government has announced a review of the procedures for sale and use of the spyware produced by the Israeli company, the NSO. But in India, no such enquiry can be held since the government refuses to acknowledge that any of its State agencies contracted to buy the spyware from Israel.
For the Modi government, truth is a malleable commodity to be twisted in any way necessary. The only constants are the Hindutva and neoliberal agendas. Population control, ban on cattle slaughter of all kinds, love jihad laws – all these are pursued without pause by BJP state governments. As for the centre, it relentlessly seeks to enrich the big corporates and super-rich billionaires. For this, it pursues a pernicious privatisation drive of public sector units; writes off loans of big corporates and desists from increasing taxes on corporates and the super-rich even though money is desperately needed for tackling the public health emergency and to provide relief to the people affected by the pandemic and the economic shutdown.
By the time the Covid virus runs its course, more and more people will have come up with the hard truth – this is a government which has no concern for them whatsoever.