In the Background of Elections – The Development Debate: Frazer Mascarenhas

This is the post by FRAZER MASCARENHAS, SJ that came under attack from the Moditva Brigade, aided ably by the ‘propaganda machine’ that the media has become, and which has since been taken down from the St Xavier’s College website. We have Fr Mascarenhas’ permission to reproduce it here. As any committed teacher would certify, it is our privilege and responsibility to place before our students a range of views, including our own, provided we make clear what our own views are, and do not cloak these as truth or the only valid view. I believe in this piece Fr Mascarenhas has adhered to this ethical principle.

It is also not a coincidence that the Moditva  Brigade frontally attacks particularly people from minority communities when they express their views fearlessly, whether it be Shazia Ilmi labelled as communal for asking Muslims to vote for their “own” – Arvind Kejriwal, mind you, not a Muslim, thus redefining the very idea of community as has been pointed out here – or Fr Mascarenhas placing his views before his students.

Of course, the fear of the Modi Masks is that “minorities” are communities that are “led” by their own.

The truth that they dare not confront is that Fr Mascarenhas and Shazia Ilmi belong to another community altogether – our community of Indians who believe in a strongly democratic society, a society that secures to its citizens justice, equality and dignity. As the two statements endorsing Fr Mascarenhas (that will shortly go up here on Kafila) show – one from the St Xavier’s academic community and the other from a wider set of people –  “We the People” will never ever fit neatly into the hateful divisions the Hindutvavaadis try so hard – and keep failing – to propagate.

The approaching elections have brought an interesting discussion to the public forum on what constitutes human development and how it is to be achieved. The Gujarat model has been highlighted for our consideration. That is very apt because it puts in stark contrast two current views. Is the growth of big business, the making of huge profits, the achievement of high production – what we seek? Or is it the quality of life for the majority in terms of affordable basic goods and services and the freedom to take forward the cultural aspirations of our plural social groups that make up India?

Gujarat may be doing well in the first sense, although not as good as some other States in the country. But all the Human Development Index indicators and the cultural polarization of the population show that Gujarat has had a terrible experience in the last 10 years. Take the example of education: schools for the ordinary populace show abject neglect with a very high dropout rate in the last 10 years. Higher Education has not been allowed to move forward. To take just an example, St. Xavier’s College Ahmedabad, thrice NAAC accredited with an equivalent of the A grade, has not been able to gain permission from the Gujarat Government for Academic Autonomy, for the last 10 years and has finally won a battle in the High Court to approach the UGC directly for this status. Gujarat has also been the worst performer in settling claims and distributing title deeds to tribal people and other forest dwellers, as shown by the latest data put out by the Union Tribal Affairs Ministry. Till 2013, the State, with 15% tribal population, settled only 32 per cent of the claims, the lowest rate in the country.

As opposed to this, efforts like the Rojgar Yojana and the Food Security Act have been called “election sops”. However some of our best social scientists like Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze have supported these as necessary in the emergency economic situation the country and the world is facing. The country is grateful that committed activists like Aruna Roy and Shailesh Gandhi have worked with the Government to initiate and sustain the Right to Information Act which makes accountability possible. Corruption still needs to be addressed effectively but since it is so prevalent at every level of society, it will take civil society long agonizing efforts to root it out.

A massive investment in health and education is sorely needed in our country of widening disparities and those who support big business and its unethical profits will never agree to such public expenditure for the masses. In fact, the worsening situation of environmental degradation and depletion, in the lunge for growth and profit, shows up the real intentions of the greedy. None can withstand this, as seen by the many clearances given in a week’s time after the recent change of guard at the Central Environment Ministry, which had earlier tried to hold the line under a different Minister.

So what lessons does a reflection on the approaching elections teach us? The prospect of an alliance of corporate capital and communal forces coming to power constitutes a real threat to the future of our secular democracy. Support for people who pledge to work to take Human Development Indicators higher and who commit themselves to a pluralistic culture in diverse India – this is the hope for the future. No magic wand or divine miracles will come to the aid of the Indian people. Their reasoned choice of individuals and political parties who promise to work for a real quality of life for all, will see India prosper or flounder on the precipice. Choose well!

7 thoughts on “In the Background of Elections – The Development Debate: Frazer Mascarenhas”

    1. don’t you forget the other side either, especially since the Right Honourable Mr Bhagawati has made it clear today that he would be “honoured” if he found a place as an advisor in the modi government…. I should say there is an old Hindu tale, about a fellow buying eggs.. and dreaming of so much more.. and something very mathematical about “not counting” until they are Modi-fied etc… I hope he has all his eggs in one basket and is not one short of a full dozen either.

  1. Why target only the ‘negative’ aspects and present an one sided view. Is he really concerned about Human Development or is he interested in making a plea to vote against NDA. Should he not compare the growth and development of 2004-2014 in India as it was the Congress led front that has ruled for a decade.
    ‘The prospect of an alliance of corporate capital and communal forces coming to power constitutes a real threat to the future of our secular democracy.’
    Corporate capital knows that it cannot support only one party/front and get benefits. Hence its support is not limited to one party. Why limit communal forces only to BJP. Is not using religion as criteria to give quotas in jobs and education and to implement programs is an exercise in indulging communalism. His bias is obvious. He should have quit academics and joined politics to fight BJP directly. Were such letters issued in 2004, 2009 and during elections to Gujarat assembly. Is corporate capitals support to non-communal forces is acceptable to him. This means that corruption and scams are fine as long as they dont involve communal forces. Let us call them secular scams and secular corruption.

    1. This is exactly why I was extolling the virtues of attending a Jesuit institution to my 11th grader the other day. Like the Quakers in the US, the Jesuits have the courage to -speak truth to power. And this forthrightness can be seen in the new Pope as well.

      Were it not for the fact that it displays a frighteningly communal disposition and a hatred of any opposition a la fascists, I would be inclined to laugh at the prickliness of members of political party standing for elections in a democracy where the rules regarding what code binds whom during elections is clearly laid out. Moreover , their supporters never seem to want to debate any issue or cite any statistics (which are real) when expressing their opposition to those who point out flaws in their and Modi’s claims. They prefer to accuse such people of bias or of being secular (which they think is a problem) in a secular country, or are simply vulgarly abusive.

      The scary thing is that their behavior does not stem from misunderstanding rules or norms but from a belief in their right to flout these norms by creating and feeding a model of how they – the majority have been put down! There was a time when their moronic behavior and feeble arguments provided a lot of mirth. At this point, the implicit threat of violence in these repeated distortions of rules and norms is both frightening and sickening.

      And a question Nivedita, how do I express my thanks to Fr. Mascarenhas for doing his duty by his students?

    2. What’s the problem if he’s rooting against nda? There’s no hue and cry about the principal in surat suspending students for not attending modi rally. None about srcc inviting modi to speak, when students were also beaten by the police for protesting. And you find this problematic?

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