The past fortnight saw Haryana slipped into a state of utter anarchy with the state administration disappearing in the face of the swelling Jat agitation.
Now when the situation has been brought under control, the scale of loss and destruction is being grasped. Economic loss running into thousands of crores, breakdown of social relations, mass crimes with untold victims,destruction of critical infrastructure and loss of investors confidence are just few of the deep and long lasting effects of the poorly handled agitation.
It will take a long time before Haryana can recover from this scar, and this is why it is critical that accountability is fixed for the failure, which led to the situation spiralling out of control.
At levels more than one ,it is Narendra Modi, who is responsible for the agitation gaining such ground and then being subsequently mishandled.
Modi’s failure to deliver on promise of job creation, root of trouble
Modi had won a historic mandate on a platform of development. Development was expected to fix all our problems. Modi was to be the magician and development his magic wand.
If today India again seems to be fixated on the questions of identity, questions which we thought we had left behind with the rise of the age of development, it is because the promise of development remains elusive.
Since the economic pie is not growing as per expectation the focus has shifted to get more of the pie than on growing the pie. If Modi’s promise of jobs for everyone appeared real, youths won’t have laid their life for reservation in jobs. So modi must wake up to the high costs Indian society may have to pay if his promise of development remains elusive. All of us must ensure he can’t escape from this responsibility by diverting our attention by raking emotive issues like nationalism.
Unaddressed rural distress is fanning social conflict
In both the Jat and Patidar agitations the communities involved are agraraian. This is no coincidence that both have amply shown how the rural distress is taking its toll on rural society in untold ways. Two consecutive years of deficient rainfall, low raise in MSP (Minimum Support Price) by government, low global commodities prices etc have all hit our farming community hard.
The situation has been made worse due to government’s reduced support to MREGA, a scheme designed to help in such situation. The combination of all this factor has created an acute rural distress to which the Modi government and even mainstream culture is not sufficiently awake. Such distress is fertile ground for all sorts of social conflicts.
While Modi government, through its sins of commission and commissions, has worsened the rural distress, it is guilty of creating conditions conducive for fomenting social unrest as was seen in Jat or Patidar agitations.
When Manohar Khattar, a Punjabi, was made CM in a state where Jats have always been the favourite for CM role, everyone warned the saffron party how it had a delicate balancing act ahead.
But, instead of exercising caution, the BJP provoked Jat community. Its MP Raj Kumar Saini went around making provocative speeches and the anger he generated is among the major reasons behind prevailing unrest. The sense of disempowerment among Jats was consolidated when the MP was not restrained by the ruling dispensation, creating an impression he was voicing the party’s position.
BJP is also guilty of not engaging with the affected community before things got out of control. Long before the streets were boiling, the smoke was already there. But the BJP was more busy with cows to focus on essential governance tasks like preventing social unrest.
How did a party which convincingly outsmarted its opponents in 2014 looks so politically immature today? Is it hubris or the fact that opposing is much easier than governing? Either way BJP’s poor political management was a prominent factor in the crisis. Since the BJP fought the elections with Modi’s face and, from the bottom up, most of current Haryana BJP is constituted of Modi loyalists, the prime minister owes an answer for this political mismanagement.
Failure of governance
Before and during the Jat agitation, the role of state government has been utterly shambolic. From failing to gather appropriate intelligence and the absence of administration during agitation to panicking and calling in the army without exhausting other options, actions of both Khattar and Modi governments have incompetence written all over them.
Again, if a first time MLA with no prior administrative experience is thrust as CM as was the case with Khattar, then the price of inexperience bound to be paid sooner than later.
For installing an inexperienced and now as is apparent incompetent Khattar to the top post just based on loyalty to himself and the RSS, Modi needs to answer some tough questions.
BJP in general and Modi in particular must be made responsible for things to come to such a passe both in terms of how the reservation demand was handled, violent agitation was mishandled and how Jats were alienated in terms of failure to create jobs and dealing with rural distress.
If India has to avoid repetition of such botched up handling, it must turn the spotlight to the lessons from the failure. Any such endeavour must necessarily involve fixing accountability. So it is important that Modi is subjected to critical scrutiny for his irresponsible handling of Jat agitation.
Failure to do so may cause many more such mutinies in future and the flame of social unrest will become too big to control. We didn’t ask questions to BJP for the Patidar agitation, so Jat turmoil took ugly turn.
This must stop, heads must roll and action must follow. The irresponsible immunity that Modi has granted to his acolytes must end. Perhaps replacing Khattar can be a good place to begin with.
Apoorv Pathak has studied at IIT-Roorkee