A nation’s success is determined on various indicators, including GDP; however, GDP is no longer the most effective measure with new metrics in play. Another indicator that defines a nation’s success is the policies that the government creates for its subjects. Providing a secure and conducive domestic environment as well as economic security can give an accurate picture of a nation’s success. A UK-based think tank had offered a checklist to determine a nation’s progress at the societal level. It identified five indicators: good jobs, well-being, environment, fairness, and health. Based on these indicators, where does India’s societal progress on the policies created by its ruling government – the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), stand?
Good Jobs: For a country whose economy has been on a downward slope since demonetization in 2016, BJP’s management of the COVID-19 has proved to be fatal. Indian society is facing an unprecedented job crisis. According to the CMIE report, India’s unemployment rate increased to 6.9 percent in February 2021 from 6.53 percent in December 2020. Indian analysts believe that over 60% young graduates are unemployed whereas, the government claims that the skill gap is causing joblessness. In an attempt to upskill the youth, the ruling government’s employment mantra (scheme) turned out to be a disaster as the most recent 2020 statistics showed that only about half the people it trained managed to find a job. Therefore, BJP’s tall claims of job creation, and providing a secure and stable economic environment, for youth remains unfulfilled. India’s unemployment situation has ballooned into a massive crisis, and the government seems unconcerned about the issue.
Well Being: According to Divya Kandukuri, “An individual’s well-being cannot exist in a vacuum. It is tied to the systemic and structural bodies that he interacts with, be it at the level of government, policy, law, police, education, or economy.” Since in power, the BJP has wreaked havoc upon the weaker or already marginalized segments of Indian society. Whether it is abrogation of Articles 370 and 35 (A), the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA), the National Register of Citizens (NRC), or the most recent Farm Bill 2020, the BJP is ripping apart the socially inclusive image of Indian society. Although any public policy’s ultimate goal is to improve people’s lives, yet with the implementation of CAA and NRC, millions of Indians have been alienated on their land. After seven decades, people are required to prove their identity. Critics believe that the CAA, under nationwide registration drives, has become a means to exclude the minority population of the country. Consequently, discrimination, especially against Muslims and Dalits led to widespread protests, but was brutally silenced by the ruling government – overtly by force and covertly because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Besides the indiscriminate repression of Kashmiris, pellet-firing on civilians, extrajudicial killings, illegal and unilateral actions of August 5, 2019 in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) depict BJP’s determination to crush human rights in the region. On the other hand, in September 2020, the BJP’s attempt to freeze Amnesty International’s assets is a prime example of how Narendra Modi’s government is intolerant of any criticism, especially regarding the issue of human rights violations in IIOJK.
Unfortunately, for its short-sighted political gains, the BJP has attempted to implement policies that have contributed in eroding the sense of human security from Indian society. Attacks on minorities and disenfranchised are polar opposite to the ideals of secular Indian foundations, and against the (proclaimed) all-inclusive identity or rather “brand” of so-called “Incredible India”.
Environment: To some readers, climate change, pollution and biodiversity may seem marginal in the broader spectrum of national success, but a nation’s prosperity and future generations depend on a healthy environment. India ranked 168th out of 180 countries in the 2020 Environmental Performance Index (EPI). At the end of BJP’s first tenure, 15 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities were in India. Concern for the environment is low on the domestic policy priorities of the BJP government. Furthermore, when India’s environmental watchdog – the National Green Tribunal, tried to highlight the government’s inefficiency, the BJP government attempted to influence and undermine its independence. It is too easy to take the environment for granted, but when environmental turmoil occurs, it is the society – at large, that bears the suffering.
Fairness: Anation’s success can also be measured through the strength of its independently functioning democratic institutions. A system that ensures accountability, equality, and transparency keeps the soul of democracy alive. These institutes ensure that the government delivers results within a prescribed time frame; however, interference of political entities with the autonomy of democratic institutions deters societal progress. In India, there is an apparent conflict of interest between the ruling government and state institutions. In recent times, many instances have surfaced in which the government has tried to influence prominent independent institutions, disturbing fundamental structures of democracy. Whether it is the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Election Commission of India (ECI), or Supreme Court, none has remained safe from BJP’s attempts to encroach on their independence. The intellectual spheres of India have persistently flagged concerns on the political subjugation of these institutions.
Health: Another prerequisite for a nation’s success is its quality of healthcare. The role of protecting and promoting a nation’s health is a concern for policymakers worldwide. The Indian healthcare system raises serious concerns about citizens’ wellness. The President of the Public Health Foundation India, K Srinath Reddy claims that the Indian healthcare system has evolved in a disorganized manner, that “it has grown not designed.” With the growing population, the government has neglected to cater to this vital aspect of Indian society. With 1.3 billion people, the government’s expenditure on public health is between 1.3-1.4 percent of its GDP. The doctor-population ratio in India is 1:1456 against the WHO recommendation of 1:1000. Lack of hospitals, expensive treatment, and ill-equipped health professionals have dogged the Indian health sector for decades. The most recent initiative by PM Modi, Ayushman Bharat, or National Health Protection Mission, is yet to be tested.
Under Narendra Modi’s leadership, India stands as a contradiction to its deep commitment to the pluralistic lines that were put forth by the founding fathers of modern India. It is no secret that the BJP has moved India from being a multicultural and tolerant society to a majoritarian and extremist one. BJP’s eagerness to promote one language, one culture, and one leader is a clear depiction of its parent organization RSS’ ideologues, inflicting grave damage to its democratic image. Hence, to solidify Hindu identity, secularism in India is being brutally destroyed. This also shows that the BJP has remained unsuccessful in providing strong financial stability, a conducive domestic environment, and human security to the very people that noted it into power.
Perhaps it is the time for Indians to recognize how the BJP has eroded the sense of belonging within its citizens and slowly poisoned Indian society.