By Justice Markandey Katju, former Judge, Supreme Court of India
Much has been said and written about abrogation of Articles 35A and 370 of the Indian Constitution which gave special status to Kashmir. I had avoided commenting on the topic for quite some time as the atmosphere was so surcharged with jingoism and euphoria about our great ‘victory’ that it was impossible to present a rational opinion without getting a barrage of abuses and invective’s in return.
However, now the time has come to speak the truth.In my opinion this abrogation was only a stunt and gimmick to divert attention of the public from the terrible economic crisis facing India. Let me explain.The test of every political system and political act is one, and only one : does it raise the standard of living of the people, does it give them better lives ?To my mind, abrogation of Articles 35A and 370 will not raise the standard of living of the people of Kashmir, and so it is really irrelevant whether they are retained or abrogated.The truth is that the Indian economy has tanked, and is spiraling downwards rapidly and irreversibly. Details about dip in GDP, steep downward turn in the auto, IT, real estate and other sectors, lacs of job losses, etc have been widely publicised in the media, and so I need not repeat them.
All serious economists admit that the crisis is due to lack of demand ( since most of our people are poor ), and the huge job losses has further accentuated the problem.A worker is not only a producer, he is also a consumer. For instance, a worker in the auto sector not only produces automobiles, he and his family consume food, clothes, shoes, medicines, etc. When he loses his job his purchasing power is drastically reduced, and now he will be surviving on his savings, and spend only on bare essentials.
When job losses take place on a large scale the domestic market consequently shrinks. This makes manufacturers cut down on their production, and lay off many workers, which makes the market shrink further, thus intensifying the crisis. It is a vicious cycle. Businesses run on bank loans, and banks run on loans to businesses. Both will be adversely affected, because businesses will borrow less when their market ( i.e. demand for their products ) has shrunk, and banks will lend less for fear that the loan may become a NPA, and may never be recovered. Again, a vicious cycle.The huge deficit in the Union Govt budget has been sought to be covered by taking Rs 1.76 lac crore from the Reserve Bank of India, but this can only give a temporary relief, and reminds one of the situation in France before the French Revolution of 1789. The situation there was that the expenditure of the French Govt ( the monarchy of Louis 16th ) far exceeded its revenue, and the huge deficit was sought to be covered by taking loans from Dutch bankers.
However, a time came when the bankers realized they would never recover their loans, and so stopped giving any further ones, and the consequence is well known.Our political leaders obviously realized that an economic crisis was looming, and to divert attention from it resorted to the desperate gambit of abrogating Articles 35A and 370 ( since Ram Mandir, Yoga Day, Swatchata Abhiyan, etc no longer sufficed ), depicting it as a great triumph over the villain Pakistan. This has no doubt been lapped up with glee by our gullible public ( whom I had described as 90 % fools ), but harsh economic realities cannot be wished away for long. Like Banquo’s ghost, they will keep reappearing.