At the start of 2016, it’s time to look back on the blunders we’ve made, which could have been avoided. When it comes to Indian politics, lawmakers had many hits, but they also had some pretty significant misses. Here are 5 political oversights that Indian policymakers could have avoided last year.
1. A MUTE MODI ON THE DADRI LYNCHING
A 52-year-old man, Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched by a mob in Dadri village on 28th September; over rumors that he and his family had consumed beef. When reports surfaced that the perpetrators were allegedly supported by a local BJP leader, the case ignited a national debate and sent shockwaves across India about the rising religious intolerance in the country.
While most leaders were quick to express their concerns, the silence of PM Modi on this issue irked many. Even though he did express regret over the incident a few weeks later, many felt it was too little and too late. Many political pundits believe that his deafening silence on the issue may have contributed to BJP’s defeat in Bihar elections as well as reinforced the belief that the BJP and its right-wing allies may have had something to do with the incident.
2. THE TRADE CUT OFF WITH NEPAL
Nepal was possibly the country with whom India had the closest of relationships until they adopted their Constitution in September 2015 which did not incorporate India’s suggestions. With respect to the “unofficial” economic blockade that was instated along the border between India and Nepal after this Constitution was adopted, the land-locked nation was cut off from crucial fuel, food supplies and other essential services.
The Indian government officially denies any role in this action. However, many within and outside of Nepal (the World Health Organization for example) aren’t willing to believe it. They consider the blockade to be India’s tacit support of Nepal’s Madhesi community, who felt ignored in the new constitution. The blockade is now entering its fourth month and has given rise to a major humanitarian crisis. With China and Nepal already getting closer because of the ongoing crisis, the goodwill generated in the aftermath of the April 2015 earthquake is losing steam. If India fails to mend relations with Nepal, it can prove to be a big strategic blunder for the neighborhood.
3. U-TURNS ON THE DIGITAL FRONT
On the one hand, PM Modi and his ministers have been aggressively pitching for their ‘Digital India’ idea to the world, but on the other the issues of net neutrality, encryption and call drops remain unresolved. In September, the government introduced a draft National Encryption Policy requiring users to keep their emails, WhatsApp and Facebook messages for a minimum of 90 days for security reasons. Considered to be intruding into the privacy of common users, the draft was withdrawn after public protests.
Earlier in August, the IT & telecom ministry banned several porn websites but this ban too was withdrawn after it faced criticism. Meanwhile, TRAI has asked for people’s comments on net neutrality multiple times this year, but still haven’t taken any policy action for it. Instead of gaining goodwill on the digital front from the Digital India initiative, the government appears to be confused as to how to approach the sector altogether.
4. A LAPSE IN DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Shoddy disaster management was one of the main reasons for the flooding in Chennai last year. Human constructions on ecologically sensitive areas & poor drainage system are two issues directly linked to poor infrastructure governance that worsened the calamity. However, what made this year’s flood really devastating was the release of excess water from nearby dams by the authorities.
While rainfall declined in large parts of the city, roads remained inundated with water as approximately 30,000 cusecs water was released from Chembarabakkam Dam on 1st December. The opposition claims that the release of water flouted the standard operating procedure as no prior warning was issued. This will surely came back to haunt the current State Government as the Tamil Nadu gears up for assembly elections in May 2016.
5. NO CONTROL ON FOOD INFLATION
Food inflation raised its ugly head once again this year. Prices of dal, the only sources of nutrition of a large section of the country, rose significantly across the country. The rise in dal prices was especially seen during September and October 2015. Prices of vegetables especially onion remained a constant cause of worry for consumers. Hoarding by wholesalers along with erratic weather across the country – drought in Maharashtra and Bundelkhand to excessive rainfall in parts of North India – were some reasons responsible for the soaring food prices. The government’s efforts to rein in the hoarders seemed ineffective as food inflation is still a major issue at the end of the year. The lack of control over the food prices became one of the reasons for BJP’s Bihar this situation continues, food inflation could play a major role in political outcomes this year too.
2016 provides an opportunity for our lawmakers to rectify their mistakes and steer our country towards a better future. Let’s see if they are up for the challenge.