While giving an interview to an English daily,Rajasthan Chief MinisterVasundharaRajesaid that the media sitting in Delhi is showing Rajasthan in bad light and that this is being done because Rajasthanelections are approaching. But far from what Raje says, Rajasthan has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons since the BJP came into power with a thumping majority in December 2013. Apart from the cold blooded murders in the name of “gauraskha” and “love jihad'' and the recent controversy of saffronisation of education, Rajasthan government has also been in the news for carrying out anti poor policies in the state.
Since the Raje government assumed power, it has come down heavily on the government schools. According to local reports, the government tried to shut down at least 36000 schools all over the state but due to the overwhelming resistance of the people,itwas couldshut down around 17000 school. This was the highest number of government schools being shut down by any state in recent times.This was done in the name of ‘centralisation of school system’, which means merging the primary and middle level schools. It resulted in a negative growth in overall enrollment of school children.According to the figuresof 2012 -13, around 1.33 crore students enrolled in schools whereas during2013-14 the number of students came down to around 1.32 crore. This move directly resulted in the decrease in the number of students enrolling in government schools from 72 lakh, in 2012–13 to 68 lakhs in 2013–14. Activists working in the education sector say that this was done to help increase private profits and push the idea of ‘welfare state’ to the backfoot.
The students who come from the poorer backgrounds,specially from the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes don’t have enough resources to go tofar off schools or afford private education.This was a mainreason for the high drop-out rate after the move. In Jaipur after the merger of schools, out of the 3,417 enrolled students 917 children stopped going to schools which means a dropout rate of 10%.
Apart from this, since its inception the Rajasthan government has also made serious amendments in the Labor Laws. Theamendments in the Industrial Disputes Act, Factories Act, Contract Labor act havealso had serious implication on the lives of working class people in Rajasthan.
The amendments done in the Industrial Disputes Act aim to empower the employer to retrench workers at will.The cap for retrenchment of workers and closure of an industry was raised from 100 to 300 workers, this facilitated artificial closure of industries and throwing out of the entire work force, without the permission of the Government. Apart from this the cap of making a union in a factory or workplace was raised from 15 % to 30 % of workers. This means that now,a trade union requires at least 30 % membership in a factory to function, any less and the workers can’t unionize. This is a draconian amendment given that a workers union is the only hope for workers to assert their rights in an otherwise anti labour environment. In fact, the existing provisions were already flawed as they benefited only those paper trade unions which maintained better records.
The amendments in the Factory Act have increased the threshold limit of employment in factories. For factories operating without power, it has gone from 20 to 40 and for factories operating with power from 10 to 20 for the purpose of being covered under the Act. This means that all facilities which are supposed to be given to workers under the Factory Act and Contract Labor Act have become null and void.Apart from this,these amendments have taken away all the rights given to contract labourers.In September this year,the Rajasthan government passed an ordinance which gave legal impunity to corrupt government officials. This bill made it very difficult to file a case or report any corruption allegations against any government official without government permission. The Rajasthan high court had given notices to the state and the central governments on the bill after the it was challenged in court.
The condition of Rajasthan in terms of communal tension which has been on the rise in the state in the last few years is well known.Activists working in Rajasthan claim this communal frenzy is being created by the government and right wing organizations that are associated with it. In this year, from April to December 7, 5 people have been killed by cow vigilantes and Hindutva fanatics in the state. The first was Pehlu Khan in April, in whose case the main 7 accused are out on bail and there are allegations that the government is helping them and making the case weak deliberately. After him Zafar khan, Umair Khan and on December 6 it was Mohammad Afrazul, a Muslim labourer who was killed brutally in the name of “Love Jihad “. Recently in the early hours of December 7, Talim Hussain of Muh, Haryana, was also killed in the name of cow smuggling. It should be noted here that Rajasthan is the only state in the country which has a Cow Welfare Ministry.