“The acche din you were promised is nowhere near reachable! Please try again later” would be a perfect soulless voice to describe the post 2014 election climate in India. Modi posted his pics and updates in facebook. He tweeted to reach out the youth. He travelled as Holograms where he wasn’t able to campaign. He traveled as short films in OB vans to interior villages. This was during the elections of 2014. Now that he has won the elections, with nothing different from the congress to offer on the economic front, he has opted to do the same!
On the 145th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, Narendra Modi launched the Swacch Bhaarat campaign, which aims at a clean nation. He borrowed the idea behind “ice bucket challenge” and nominated nine notable public figures to propagate the campaign who would in turn nominate nine other individuals. Since then BJP MPs, Business tycoons and various personalities have jumped on the streets with brooms for a day’s exercise before the cameras, cleaning off leaves which are often littered just before, thereby exercising their duty to the Nation!
Gimmicks like these are not unusual in Indian politics. Rahul Gandhi stayed in Dalit homes for a day promising to be among them and then went back to his cozy lifestyle declaring that first and foremost he is a Brahmin. Just like the “Jan Lok Pal movement”, it’s the abstractness and simplicity of the Swacch Bharat campaign that has attracted urban class whose conception of clean environment is limited to “dust free roads”. But with the government trying to project it as a big step on the environmental front the narrow ideals of the campaign maligns the entire environmental debate going on. When we point out the enormity of the problem the bourgeoisie apologists try to convince us that this is just a starting point. But how far will the Indian state go? How has the Indian state dealt with environmental struggles so far?
The majority of the people’s struggles that have challenged the Indian state in the recent times have been against the projects that have huge economical impact, the projects that have put profit before people and ecology. It was this people’s struggle, which made Manmohan Singh declare the Maoists the biggest internal security threat to the nation. The people who are fighting against the Koodankulam nuclear plant were slapped with sedition charges and were abused as foreign funded movements working against national interests. The Supreme court and the National Green Tribunal gave Sterlite copper smelting factory permission to operate even after serious environmental charges were proven. Even after the numerous cases of radiation effects on the people in Jadugoda Uranium Mines the Government has renewed licenses to resume mining of Uranium. Its 30 years since the Bhopal gas tragedy, the victims have still not get their justice.
The Swacch Bharat campaign runs the risk of reducing itself to beautification project which were undertaken in metropolitan cities. Such beautification projects have ended up relocating the poorest of the working class who are condemned by capitalism to live in slums out of the city limits. Urbanization has resulted in a drastic increase in population in the metropolitan cities that has increased the pollution levels to alarming extent. Waste disposal has become even more difficult. Places near their livelihood of the poor have been converted to dumping grounds for the wastes collected in the city and are left without any recycling that only ends up contaminating air, land and water. Swacch bharat carefully ignores these questions.
The Swacch bharat campaign rather than confronting the economic problems caused by the profit motive of the corporate, seeks an alliance with them. Companies are asked to use their Corporate Social Responsibility funds to build toilets in the schools. If a few lakh rupees can bail you out morally or even legally for all the environmental damage, then why not? Corporate companies are sure to participate in this with enthusiasm! To expect Modi and BJP, who don’t shudder to call the manual scavenging as a spiritual experience, to talk about the caste angle of the cleanliness issue is a folly on our part!
It’s no surprise that the campaign which has failed to deal with the economic policy which puts profit before the environment and people has ended up as a mere photo-op! Capitalism is incapable of solving the environmental issue. It can only move its problems around. We may do away with the garbage off our streets only for them to be accumulated and built up elsewhere. A nuclear power plant may power up our homes for now, only that the nuclear waste which cannot be stored safely will engender our existence in the future. Entire coastal areas may be mined for rare earth minerals and whole mountains can be turned inside out for a few points in a GDP only to destroy the whole eco-system. A genuine environmental policy is inseparable from an economic policy that puts people before the profit.