View: A new book on the Modi years mixes topicality and amnesia

Aakar Patel, former head of Amnesty International in India, sacked Narendra Modi’s seven-year rule in his latest book, Price of the Modi Years. Backed by considerable research, it has more credibility than other rhetorical denunciations of the BJP rule.

The book has a smart cover of 16 charts of India’s performance as measured by international indices. India shows a downward trend in 15 indices and an improvement in just one – the World Bank’s Doing Business index, which the Bank itself has ditched as fatally flawed.

Patel argues that the Modi years were spent on slogans, not performance. He admits that Modi changed the discourse of the idea of ​​India, made communitarianism respectable and put secularism on the defensive. Patel believes Modi has seriously failed economically, in governance, and in external affairs, but has used communalism and chauvinism to achieve tremendous popularity. There’s a lot of truth to this, but Patel too easily dismisses Modi’s accomplishments in wellness and financial inclusion. Modi may have stolen many policies from Congress and renamed them (like Swachh Bharat and Jan Dhan Yojana), but implemented them so much better than Congress that he deserves credit for them.

In a chapter titled Brand versus Product, Patel lists 58 different international indices compiled by reputable global institutions. India improved their position on just four and fell or performed poorly in the remaining 54. It is worth mentioning a few; there is no place for all.

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index examines civil liberties, pluralism, political culture and participation: India fell from 27th place in 2014 to 53rd in 2020.

Pew Note Religious Restrictions: In terms of social hostility, India worsened from 9.0 to 9.6, and in religious restrictions, from 5.0 to 5.9.

Lowy Institute Asia Power Index: the score fell from 41.5 in 2018 to 39.7 in 2020, below the threshold of 40 required for “big power” status.

IMD Global Competitiveness Ranking: India moved from 40th position in 2013 to 43rd in 2021. Note that it was in 27th position in 2007 and therefore fell faster under the UPA.

Freedom House’s Freedom in the World index: India lost 10 positions between 2015 and 2020. Its status has changed from “free” to “partially free”.

World Press Freedom Index: fell slightly from 140th in 2012 to 142nd in 2021. Its position was dismal even under the UPA.

Fraser Institute’s Global Economic Freedom Index: India’s ranking fell from 95th place in 2015 to 105th in 2020.

Cato Human Freedom Index: India fell from 75th place in 2015 to 111th in 2020 on issues such as the rule of law, religious freedom, civil liberties and economic freedom.

Fund for Peace Fragile States Index, measuring social cohesion and related issues: India lost 15 places between 2014 and 2021.

IFPRI Global Hunger Index: India fell from 55th out of 76 countries in 2014 to 94th out of 107 countries in 2020. India is even behind Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Coursera Global Skills Report: Between 2019 and 2021, India rose from 50th to 55th in business skills, 44th to 65th in technology skills, and 51st to 66th in skills in data science.

Transparency International’s Global Corruption Perceptions Index: India is down slightly, from 85th place in 2014 to 86th in 2020. However, this hides India’s ranking improved between 78th place in 2018.

Critics may accuse Patel of choosing the start and end dates of international comparisons to exaggerate Modi’s failures. He may also have omitted some clues that show India in a better light. Nevertheless, his list is a formidable indictment.

He is at his best to elucidate the harassment of minorities and the alienation and violation of civil rights in Kashmir. He gives sobering examples of how the judiciary that once controlled human rights violations has become complicit, especially in Kashmir.

It is less convincing to denounce the economic performances. Modi’s first five years (2014-19) were pretty good. Growth then fell sharply, even before the Covid. But was it a blip or a new trend? The IMF forecasts growth of 9.5% for India in 2021 and 8.5% in 2022, the fastest in the world. Patel ignores skyrocketing achievements in renewables and startups. The jury is still out on economic performance.

Patel claims passenger vehicle sales stagnated at 27 lakh from 2012 to 2020. Sorry, but the Company of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) reports passenger vehicle sales (cars, vans and utility vehicles) were of 26.86 lakh in 2012-13, steadily increasing. at 33.77 lakh in 2018-19, then collapsed to 27 lakh the following year. Six good years followed by a bad year and Covid looks more like a failure than a stagnation.

Nonetheless, Patel did a great job exposing the collapse of India’s international stature on religious freedom and human rights. Even a strong economic recovery will be little consolation for this. What good is a man if he wins the whole world but loses his soul?

About Nicole Harmon

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