By Rohit Prajapati,
On 25 September 2014 before leaving for the USA, Mr. Narendra Modi, addressed his government’s real ‘Alliance Partners’ the top global CEOs based in Delhi, Mr Modi said about FDI, “for Indians is – First Develop India. And to global business developers, I say India is an opportunity. For FDI we can move ahead on the journey of progress by taking this twin definition.” The main thrust of Mr Modi’s speech reveals that for him, FDI means “First Develop Industries”. This is truly the CEO PM India now has.
Ruing the disgruntlement of investors with a sluggish policy environment, Mr. Modi’s main concern is to rebuild investors trust and provide them with a better investment climate – promising faster decision making and a better policy environment for global and domestic corporates. Mr. Modi said in his speech that “A trust was broken — that when a policy will be changed, when will the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) come? This is what I heard from all of you. The biggest issue is trust. Why don’t we trust each other? I want to change that.”
And Modi asserts that he has and will continue to oversee the necessary changes: “Today, when I have brought this ‘Make in India’, I don’t want that any industrialist or any entrepreneur should feel compelled to leave. That situation has to change. I speak from the experience of past few months that circumstances have changed. … Government’s effort is, we have taken continuous measures; we want to reassure you that your money will not sink.”
It should come as no surprise that corporate India is extremely happy with these pronouncements. Many CEOs have said that the Prime Minister’s focus on ‘effective and easy governance’ by making his bureaucracy walk two steps ahead is something which will make a big difference to the ‘ease of doing business’ in India.
What does creating an investor-friendly policy regime entail? The ruling party’s manifesto had made clear that environmental clearances should not stand in the way of investment. The principal concern is speedy clearance for the industries and not the environment. On p.29 of the manifesto, we read: “Take all steps: like removing red-tapism involved in approvals, to make it easy to do business, invest in logistics infrastructure, ensure power supply and undertake labour reforms, besides other steps to create a conducive environment for investors.”
The Commerce Minister Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman openly stated that number of steps had already been taken by the Modi government to make it easier to do business in India along with the removal or relaxation of foreign equity caps in several areas. Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman also said that the government is committed to chart out a new path wherein business entities are extended red carpet welcome in a spirit of active cooperation and assured that the government was closely looking into all regulatory processes with a view to making them simple and reducing the burden of compliance on investors.
The government has sent a note to all departments/state governments to simplify and rationalise regulatory environment which includes online filing of all returns in a unified form and government also assured that there would be no inspection without the approval of the head of the department.
The ‘Modi-Festo’ clearly states the intention to mortgage both the environment and labour laws. The undertaking to revise all labour laws is a critical part of the “Make in India” invitation to big business. Neither as Chief Minister of Gujarat nor now as PM of India has Mr. Modi given any assurance to the workers who invest her/his labour in production process that the government assures the workers for their social security and real living wages for their work. No assurance has ever been given to farmers and agricultural labourer who are taking their lives across the country on account of indebtedness and lack of farmer-friendly agricultural policies. No assurance is given to the people of India that the government will be in the forefront for social responsibilities like education, health, food, real living wages with social security net for all etc. On one hand government is taking more and more responsibility for the corporations and on other side withdrawing from its constitutional responsibility like education, health, food, real living wages with social security net for all etc.
Mr. Modi is concerned to raise the purchasing power of the ‘common people’. While trying to give ‘lip services’ to the working people Mr. Modi said, “It is important for the purchasing power of the common man to increase, as this would further boost demand, and hence spur development, in addition to benefiting investors.” Mr. Modi looks at the working class as “consumers” like the corporations of the world and not as ‘the producers’. And that is why he is talking about purchasing power and not the real living wages with full social security for all workers.
Mr. Modi’s address to his Alliance Partners – the CEOs — was in the mould of a Chairman addressing the shareholders’ meeting of his company. Mr. Modi forgot that he is not CEO of the federation of the corporations but he is the PM of India and his vision should not be restricted to big business. It is telling that his speech made no reference to medium and small industries that provide much of the employment to India’s workforce.
I strongly feel that Mr. Modi is trying to convert the Government of India into the Government of India Pvt. Ltd. and it is time for all people’s movements, trade unions and progressive people to fight back his “Make in India” mission. It is necessary to understand that talking only about the Hindutva agenda, while not addressing this agenda, enables the neoliberal push to go ahead.
The author is a Gujarat based activist and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org