Former finance minister Yashwant Sinha at the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad on Saturday. (Express photo)
Former finance minister Yashwant Sinha who was in Ahmedabad on Saturday, to mark the completion of the Gujarat leg of his Gandhi Shanti Yatra, took out an impromptu march without police permission from Law Garden to Gujarat College, in defiance of the continuous and repetitive imposition of CrPC section 144 in the city.
Stating that he wished to pay his tributes to Vinod Kinariwala — a memorial for whom is within the Gujarat college campus — the former bureaucrat said that walking together while violating section 144 would be a statement in itself. Scores of people left from Thakorbhai Desai Hall in the evening, where Sinha addressed a public gathering, and accompanied him for the less-than-a-kilometre walk. No person was detained, though heavy police force accompanied the rally.
Formerly a senior BJP minister, Sinha observed that the state appears to be in a perpetual state of “martial law”. He added, “I hope the Gujarat government will take a lesson from the Supreme Court order in the Jammu & Kashmir context (Anuradha Bhasin vs Union of India) that made observations on how section 144 cannot be misused.”
Sinha, who was a finance minister in the government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee (1998-2002), said that the country’s present economic status is in a fragile position, especially with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman missing in action.
“For the first time, we are seeing budget pre-consultation being conducted by the Prime Minister, that too 13 times, with various interest groups. The Financial Minister was not present in any of the meetings. From my experience as finance minister, this (budget pre-consultation) is the duty of the FM. If I was the FM and if my position was undermined by a PM, I would have resigned the same day... First, they tried to manipulate data...Because the government is pouring its money into Public Sector Units. Who is burdened by fertiliser subsidies and gas subsidies? The PSUs. The government has no reserves and is on the brink of bankruptcy. Revenue sales have slumped. Expenditure is being tried to be reduced, even as the consensus is that the government expenditure should go up during an economic slowdown... The economy is in doldrums,” said Sinha. “For the first time, demand has collapsed, which started with the rural agricultural sector. It was amplified by demonetisation, which spread to MSME and the construction sector, and has now spread to the organised sector. We are seeing the death of demand...We’ve seen poor economic conditions but never has demand died this way... I have a strong suspicion that stock markets are also being manipulated by vested interests.”
Listing out the objectives of conducting the nearly three-week long ‘Gandhi Shanti Yatra’, Sinha said, “We have primarily three demands. First is that the Citizenship Amendment Act be rolled back as people of the country don’t want it and the majority (of a party) in the Parliament should not be misused. Secondly,...it must be declared that NRC shall not be done. Thirdly, in BJP-governed states have seen state-sponsored violence... We demand that there should be a time-bound judicial inquiry and the guilty must be penalised at the earliest.” The Yatra that started on January 9 from Mumbai, will end at Rajghat in New Delhi on January 30.
Noting that he has been unable to understand why the new citizenship law was brought in, Sinha said such a law would not have come into effect “had Vajpayee been alive.”