"It is not just about the sovereign, secular, socialist, democratic republic of India – it says that this is going to ensure for its citizens certain things... and I think the order of those things is also very important.
"What's the first thing it's going to ensure? Justice – social, economic and political. Now bear in mind even the first part of that justice is social justice, then economic justice, then political justice...".
This was Jayati Ghosh, a professor at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning at JNU, citing the preamble to the Indian Constitution.
The second important thing after justice, she said, is liberty – of expression, thought, religion, speech, etc. The third promise in the preamble to the people is of "equality in terms of status and opportunity." And the fourth is fraternity, or ensuring the dignity of the individual.
Ghosh's conclusion: policies and processes that undermine those goals are in fact anti-national.
Elaborating on justice, Ghosh referred to India's informal labour sector, which she estimated at 96 per cent. "India is the only country in the world which has such a loose definition of what a worker, a formal sector worker, is," she said.
Besides the informal sector, added Ghosh, Indian farmers under the self-employed category have been suffering for many years. Because of the low earning potential of agriculture, farmers are forced to find some other work. "This government has made an all-out attack on agriculture... under the guise of fiscal responsibility, it has massively cut the money going to farming.
"They realised that this wasn't so popular, so in the latest Budget they have pretended to reverse it... pretended because it's all lies.... The way they've fudged the money part in this case is to shift heads of budgets. So a subsidy that used to go to banks, that provided credit to agriculture... that subsidy was moved from the finance ministry to the agriculture ministry, so suddenly you get a Rs 15,000 crore increase in agriculture budget, which is not true at all."
There are those whose work isn't recognised, dominantly women, in what is understood to be the "care economy." And then those who are grossly underpaid by the State, anganwadi workers for instance, whose income is below the minimum wage, despite the amount of work they have to do.
Pointing at the cuts in public expenditure on the basic needs of the people – healthcare, education, sanitation, nutrition – Ghosh argued that we are creating a situation where education, health, and even clean air have become unaffordable to common people.
Ghosh pointed out that soon after the Swachh Bharat scheme was announced, there was a massive reduction in the sanitation budget. While the number of dollar billionaires increases, the state implements policies that are anti-poor, thereby increasing inequality, which is "deeply anti-national".
In the video below Ghosh responds to a student's question on why the tax on EPF withdrawals is pushing people from a "stable source of retirement income into a very unstable and volatile source."