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Colombia’s ‘Madonna’ helps LGBTQ people fleeing Venezuela | Colombia News

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Maicao, Colombia – Gusts of hot desert wind drift through the broken window, shattered by a stone, in the house that Madonna Badillo shares with seven Venezuelan sex workers.

Badillo fixed the window many times before but eventually gave up. Harassers have repeatedly hurled rocks at the home as an act of aggression against her and the transgendered people taking refuge here.

Since 2017, an estimated one million Venezuelans have fled to Colombia, leaving behind a crippling economic meltdown, political persecution and extreme medicine and food shortages.

But for the most vulnerable groups, such as the LGBTQ population, there are few allies in Colombia.

For that reason, Badillo, a 49-year-old trans woman, has opened the doors of her humble home near Colombia’s border with Venezuela.

Her service started two years ago, just as migration from Venezuela started to swell, when she noticed two young trans women, named Champagne and Nicole, marooned in the dusty streets of Maicao.

“No one wanted to rent them a room because there is a lot of discrimination towards our population,” says Badillo at her home. “They were so skinny. Because of the situation [in Venezuela], they go hungry.”

The two-bedroom home has only basic furnishing, a few electric fans, and a muddy backyard reeking of sewage. In the living room stands a life-size figurine of Jesus.

“My house isn’t a palace, but they are able to live freely and I don’t charge them for rent or anything, so they help out buying food and things,” she says.





‘Madonna’ Badillo adopted her moniker from the famous US pop star [Steven Grattan/Al Jazeera] 

“Because of what’s happening in Venezuela, and as our neighbour country and members of the LGBT community, I find myself wanting to help them and give them refuge.”

Born to a Venezuelan Wayuu mother and a Colombian Guna father, Badillo says her cross-border indigenous heritage motivates her to continue helping.

A difficult place to be trans

Badillo’s home bears the signs of her own struggle throughout the years. The broken window, a scar of repeated attacks, is only one.

“‘F***ots, get out of here’ – they shout things like that,” she says.

In a stack of newspaper clippings sit several hundred photos and articles of the American pop star Madonna Ciccone, whose moniker Badillo adopted three decades ago when she began her transition to a woman.

Badillo once had a vast collection of Madonna photos, LPs and cassettes, but they were destroyed when torrential rains flooded her home and ravaged Maicao around 30 years ago.

“She has been my alter ego since I was very young, during the 80s. I identify with her. She’s a chameleon,” Badillo says.

“When I present myself to people, I believe they are thinking: ‘Who’s that girl?” she says with a laugh, alluding to her favourite Madonna song.





A woman puts on her makeup in Madonna Badillo’s home [Steven Grattan/Al Jazeera] 

For Badillo, growing up in Maicao came with a lot of obstacles as an “extremely prejudice and machista place”.

Badillo says she was the first openly trans woman in Maicao, and during the 1980s, she endured discrimination, harassment and violence at the hands of intolerant townspeople.

“There are a lot of people from the LGBT population crossing over who don’t feel secure and they confide in me,” she says. “I tell them to take care of themselves here because there’s a lot of homophobia.”

Wilson Castaneda, director of Caribe Afirmativo, a leading Colombian LGBT rights group working in the Caribbean region, says that despite the challenges Badillo faced, she “created her trans identity with dignity and made a place for herself”. 

“It was difficult and she faced a lot of insult and negativity, but she persisted; because she didn’t want to leave her hometown,” Castaneda says. 

Colombia Diversa, the country’s largest LGBTQ rights group, says attacks against LGBTQ people, especially trans women, are reaching worrying levels.

The most recent statistics, from the end of 2017, show that over 109 members of the LGBT population in Colombia were murdered that year. Of that total, trans women accounted for 36.

‘She died’ 

Some of those Badillo takes in are living with HIV/AIDS and facing death because of the lack of antiretroviral medication in Venezuela. The migrants, like hundreds of thousands of the Venezuelans who have fled, often arrive in Colombia with little money and possessions.

Isabella Ferrer is a 19-year-old trans sex worker and beautician who fled the Venezuelan city of Maracaibo. She says she knew many people who were unable to get access to antiretroviral medication.

“She was like this,” Ferrer recalls, holding up her finger to describe how skinny her Venezuelan sex worker colleague had become.

“She died. It was impossible to get the medicine. She was about the same age as Madonna [Badillo],” she explains.

Ferrer, who learned of Badillo from a news segment on television, has lived here for two months. “I saw Madonna on TV. She was being interviewed, so it was a complete coincidence,” Ferrer says.

“After that, I spotted her outside. I saw her during the day walking down a street and I asked her, ‘Are you the Madonna that was on TV?'”

Since then Badillo has shared her home with her – one of roughly 25 Badillo estimates have come and gone over the past two years.

“She’s fabulous. I love her personality. Although, if you get on the wrong side of her, she’ll tell it how it is. She doesn’t mince her words,” Ferrer says while straightening her blonde wig before a night of work.

‘Humanitarian crisis’ 

Badillo herself, who has never been a sex worker but a stylist and beauty product saleswoman, was diagnosed with HIV more than 25 years ago and blames her own promiscuity as a young woman. She has also been battling cancer since two years ago and now lives with a colostomy bag.

“I faced lots of discrimination because there’s a lot of stigma around the illness, even nowadays there are people who don’t understand,” she explains

“I’ve had clients who’ve left me because they think that when I pluck their eyebrows they’re going to catch it, or even just by touching them.”

Although hard data on the issue is scarce, Caribe Afirmativo says many Venezuelan migrants living with the disease have gone without medication and cross over to Colombia. They arrive in areas with poor HIV care, even for Colombians. People have to wait a long time to get assessments for medicine and it often leads to AIDS.

“Last year, in Barranquilla, eight gay Venezuelan men died of AIDS while waiting to be assessed to get their medicine,” Castaneda says.

“One thing that happens is that many Venezuelans who arrive can’t find formal employment and end up in sex work. Some of them use protection, some don’t, and this has caused a rise in the virus and a greater risk to Venezuelan people living in this situation,” he adds.

Another problem stems from the undocumented status of many Venezuelan migrants. Worried of possible deportation at health centres, many do not attend medical checks.

“We can say that the situation of Venezuelans living with HIV in Colombia is a humanitarian crisis and we need to see an immediate response by the government,” Castaneda says.

In recent years, Castaneda and many NGOs have invited Badillo to speak about HIV/AIDS prevention at schools in Maicao and elsewhere in Colombia.





Badillo says she has endured discrimination and violence over the years [Steven Grattan/Al Jazeera]

Badillo also takes her migrant guests to a local LGBTQ safe house, Caza de Paz, where they can obtain medical tests free of cost.

“Thank God, I have been able to live with this illness,” Badillo says. “I’ve been on national radio, TV and in newspapers and I go and speak at schools about HIV. I am also very involved with spreading this message within my own community.”

Although she recognises the hardships she’s endured, Badillo insists that trans women ought to be proud and determined in their quest for equity and equality.

“We may be ‘different’ to other people,” she concludes, “but we still have the same rights as anyone else.”

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Opinion | The distressing disconnect of the Davos Man today

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In January 2020, the Davos elite, a group of privileged people, companies and institutions, will meet for the 50th time in as many years. The World Economic Forum (WEF), as it is officially called, has over these years served the interests of the 1,000 firms that are its members rather well.

The deregulation of economies espoused by the WEF opened the floodgates for large corporations as they rushed to invest and dominate businesses across the globe. In the last 50 years, corporate power and market share has got increasingly consolidated among fewer companies in most industries, often to the detriment of consumers and workers. For these mega corporations, membership of the WEF has paid off handsomely.

India too made its big splash at the summit in 2006. It was a coming-out party for an economy that was growing at around 8%, much to the delight of the world, and the Indian publicity campaign, dubbed “India everywhere”, saw the movers and shakers of business and Bollywood shaking a leg under the watch of policy mandarins. At Zurich airport that January, visitors who landed were greeted with huge billboards which trumpeted the “world’s fastest growing democracy” as a counterpoint to China’s growth.

In the following decade, the promise of India has considerably dimmed, even as China seems to have gained from the WEF’s charter. In 2006, India’s rank on the WEF’s annual Global Competitiveness Index was 43, while China was at 54. By 2019, India had slipped to 68 while China has risen to 28.

Next year again, Indian CEOs, celebs and officials will be present at the mega show. It is debatable if anything useful will come of their presence, though business individuals still find it a convenient place to network. But beyond an expensively mounted getaway for the rich and powerful, Davos’s appeal as a forum where the world’s problems are debated and resolved is in question.

Much of the criticism over the years has been directed at hedge fund billionaires and CEOs with million-dollar pay packages flying into the alpine resort in private jets to discuss such issues as climate change and growing inequality. Beyond the irony of that, there is a far grimmer reality. The world in the 1970s, roiled by an oil shock induced by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and dominated by oil and automobile companies like Exxon Mobil, General Motors and Ford, looked vastly different from the one today, in which the most valuable companies, Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft, operate in areas that existed only in the realm of science fiction then. Somewhere along the way, Davos Man (Samuel Huntington’s delicious term for the archetypal attendee of the annual gathering in this Swiss resort town) lost touch with developments on the ground, even as capitalism, the very bedrock of the lobby group, increasingly came under pressure.

Indeed, if its original objective was a commitment to “improving the state of the world”, it is clear the forum has failed to deliver. Even Klaus Schwab, its visionary founder and executive chairman, has been forced to concede that “people are revolting against the economic ‘elites’ they believe have betrayed them”. With good reason.

At this year’s Davos meeting, Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, presented a report claiming that the gap between rich and poor had only increased. Titled Public Good Or Private Wealth, it stated that the fortunes of billionaires increased by 12% last year—or $2.5 billion a day—while the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity saw their assets decline by 11%. Byanyima was scathing in her assessment of this concentration of wealth: “The billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a failing economic system.”

Next year’s conclave is focused on the “fourth industrial revolution”. Ironically, the Davos corporate elite is facing its biggest challenge from these very disruptors who continue to poop the party of big business in ways they seem unable to anticipate when they ponder the future at such events. The gig economy, the very fulcrum around which business fortunes turn today, is the creation of men and women who have barely heard of Davos.

The problem, of course, is that today’s disruptors quickly turn into tomorrow’s establishment. In 1999, Wired magazine placed Jeff Bezos in the “arriviste” category of its listing of Davos attendees. Within two decades, he was right up there. In 1997, when the Davos theme was “Building the Network Society”, Bill Gates and Andy Grove were its two major “digital revolutionaries.” Today, a whole new generation of such revolutionaries is taking centre stage.

As for debate-worthy subjects for the world’s elite, wealth is increasingly coming into focus. At a recent New York Times DealBook conference, Bill Gates took on US presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren’s proposal of an additional 3% levy as wealth tax on billionaires, saying: “When you say I should pay $100 billion, then I’m starting to do a little math about what I have left over.” That Gates, whose generous philanthropy has gone some way in making the world a better place, should be conflicted about the issue is itself revealing.

A reordering of the world’s wealth to make it more equitable is not a simple matter. It is what you would expect the WEF to discuss at Davos. Instead, the theme next year is a rather dull, “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World”.

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In the age of Putin’s Russia, George Orwell’s 1984 is stiflingly relatable today

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This year, I spent a suffocating four months living inside George Orwell’s “1984.” I didn’t know what I was getting into when a Moscow publisher suggested that I translate the classic dystopian novel into Russian, so I agreed too lightly. Vanity was part of the reason, but I did feel that “1984” had grown relevant to Russians, again.
I’m still coming up for air.

It’s not just me. The eminent translator Viktor Golyshev, whose Russian version of “1984” has won the most acclaim, spent a year on it in the late 1980s. He remembers being chronically sick for a year after finishing it.

“Nothing serious, just a runny nose,” Golyshev, who is 82 now, told me. “But there’s some contamination in this thing. It’s a poisoned book, perhaps because Orwell himself was sick when he wrote it.”

It was probably more than that. Reading “1984” closely — as a Russian, a journalist, and a believer in Russia’s potential to overcome Putinist despotism just as it defeated the Communist variety — is both sickening and cathartic because so much is instantly recognizable. Like my Soviet birth country and Russia today, Winston Smith’s world is both lawless and full of rules, incomprehensible from a human point of view but perfectly logical as a system, indiscriminately cruel and privately lyrical or even heroic.

Most of all, Winston Smith’s world is enclosing, hermetic, stifling. I remember the same feeling from school during the Brezhnev years. I never thought it would be back, not with such force. I felt sorry for Winston, but I knew I was feeling sorry for myself.

Becoming a Nonperson

The novel came out in English in 1949, but was banned in the Soviet Union in any language until 1988. To the best of my knowledge, my Russian translation will be the fifth to be published officially. That’s a lot of translations, even for so famous a literary work.

But they’re all different, and not just because rendering Orwell’s newspeak into Russian, along with his descriptions of life on Airstrip One, formerly known as Britain, requires difficult linguistic choices. Each version also reflects its time and its purpose, two factors that are far from trivial when it comes to “1984’s” history in Russia and in Russian.

Orwell himself determined the fate of his work in the Soviet Union. In 1937, the editor of a Moscow literary journal asked him for a review copy of “The Road to Wigan Pier,” a book about the plight of the English working class. Orwell sent back a copy along with a polite note pointing out his association with the Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification, or POUM, an organization whose Barcelona workers’ militia fought in the Spanish Civil War. Orwell, who’d fought with POUM in Spain, knew the organization had fallen afoul of the country’s Stalinist Communists, influential in the Republican government trying to put down General Francisco Franco’s fascist rebellion. He didn’t think, therefore, that the Moscow journal would want to touch his work. Sure enough, the secret police advised the editor to write Orwell that getting in touch with him had been a mistake, since Trotskyite POUM was “part of Franco’s fifth column behind the lines of Republican Spain.”

The “Trotskyite” label stuck to Orwell, and his work was shunned in Stalin’s Soviet Union. In 1945, Orwell made things worse by writing “Animal Farm,” his dystopian fairy tale mocking the Russian revolution and then, two years later, a preface to the Ukrainian translation. The translation by Igor Shevchenko, called “Kolgosp Tvaryn,” or “Animals’ Collective Farm,” was circulated among Ukrainians in displaced-persons camps in occupied Germany. In his preface, Orwell wrote:

I have never visited Russia and my knowledge of it consists only of what can be learned by reading books and newspapers. Even if I had the power, I would not wish to interfere in Soviet domestic affairs: I would not condemn Stalin and his associates merely for their barbaric and undemocratic methods. It is quite possible that, even with the best intentions, they could not have acted otherwise under the conditions prevailing there. But on the other hand it was of the utmost importance to me that people in western Europe should see the Soviet regime for what it really was. Since 1930, I had seen little evidence that the U.S.S.R. was progressing towards anything that one could truly call Socialism. On the contrary, I was struck by clear signs of its transformation into a hierarchical society, in which the rulers have no more reason to give up their power than any other ruling class.

The Soviet occupation authorities demanded that “Kolgosp Tvaryn” be confiscated. According to a 2014 Orwell biography by historians Yuri Felshtinsky and Georgy Chernyavsky, the U.S. authorities collected 1,500 copies from the displaced Ukrainians and handed them over to the Soviets, but some of the books remained in circulation. There’s a copy in the Library of Congress.

Orwell became a nonperson in the Soviet Union. Mentioning him in print, even to criticize him, became dangerous, as literary critic and translator Eleonora Galperina (pen name Nora Gal) found out in 1947 after her piece titled “Debauched Literature” — in which Orwell was described as a “confused and slippery theorist” — was declared a “serious political error” by functionaries in the Soviet Writers’ Union.

That meant, of course, that a translation of “1984” could not be published in the Soviet Union. In 1958, according to the historian Arlen Blum, an expert in Russian censorship, the Ideology Department of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party actually ordered a translation and a print run of several hundred numbered copies (the translator’s name wasn’t mentioned), strictly for distribution to high-ranking party officials who were supposed to know the enemy better than the masses — to the Inner Party, as Orwell would have said.

But the book was present in the Soviet Union, anyway. There were two main ways to read it: In English, if someone sneaked a copy past linguistically challenged border guards (Golyshev first read a dog-eared paperback of “1984” some 20 years before he did his translation) and in the first Russian translation published overseas. First serialized in the emigre magazine Grani in the mid-1950s, it appeared as a book in 1957 in Frankfurt, courtesy of Possev-Verlag, a publishing house run by the People’s Labor Union, an anti-Soviet emigre organization. The group got the rights and even a subsidy from Orwell’s widow, Sonia.

The Treasure in the Closet

I first learned of the existence of “1984” when I was 11 or 12 years old. Digging around in a closet in our Moscow apartment, I stumbled upon a sheaf of yellowed Possev magazines, full of stories of brave dissidents and Communist oppression. My scandalized mother discovered me sitting on the floor engrossed in the forbidden literature and took the magazines away lest I brag about it at school. But I’d already seen the list of books the publishing house was selling — “1984” was on it — and memorized the titles so I could ask around for the unofficial bootleg copies known as samizdat.

The translators’ names were, according to the cover, V. Andreev and N. Vitov. Both are pseudonyms, one of a White Russian emigre professor, the other of a former Nazi collaborator. Their product doesn’t read well today, whether or not you’re familiar with the original. It doesn’t appear that the translators had a good enough command either of English idiom or of proper literary Russian. The writing is stilted. “Big Brother is watching you,” is rendered as “Starshy brat okhranyayet tebya,” or “Big Brother is guarding you.” The word “telescreen” is merely transliterated. The linguistic annex on newspeak at the end, which holds the key to the entire novel because it implies that the totalitarian regime of Oceania fell at some point, is simply missing. No wonder; it’s the hardest part of the book to translate.

But the Andreev-Vitov translation served its purpose. So did various amateur versions one could stumble upon, and so did the second professional one published as a book, in Rome in 1966. Done by Soviet writer and journalist Sergei Tolstoy from the French edition of “1984” — and therefore woefully imprecise — it had mysteriously leaked to the West and then back to the Soviet Union.

Not many people cared about style when they only got a barely readable typescript or photocopy for one night. As the late dissident Valeria Novodvorskaya recalled in 2009,

Orwell was the treasure of Samizdat. When I first saw [“1984”] in the early 1970s, it was a cumbersome, disheveled folio in a worn, cardboard cover, on tissue paper. The translations were bad, clearly homemade. Some had “teleekran,” some “telekran,” some even “telescreen.” But it was clear that it’s a TV camera, an eye that never sleeps, a watcher. “Alike and alone,” we got it.

She remembered that in some versions of the translation, Big Brother was rendered as Starshiy Brat, which translates literally as “Older Brother,” in others the more size-conscious “Bolshoi Brat,” but said “it was clear he was Stalin,” or a fearsome figure like Yuri Andropov, the KGB boss who rose briefly to national leadership after the 1982 death of Leonid Brezhnev.

Novodvorskaya went on: “Orwell was worth his weight in gold, or in blood. Not every kind of Samizdat landed you in prison under Article 70 of the Criminal Code, and Orwell did. It was worth more than life: We believed that once people read ‘1984,’ totalitarianism would fall.”

Orwell’s novel did something important for its Soviet readers: It described the reality around them as something abnormal, and that made it tolerable. Suddenly, it wasn’t their fault that they saw it all as both criminal and surreal. They were no longer part of the evil. In 1977, writer Anatoly Kuznetsov, by then an emigre, explained this in a Radio Liberty broadcast:

“It didn’t happen,” they say of something that happened. Before, I used to get really excited when I came across this. But after reading George Orwell’s “1984,” I calmed down somewhat about it. It was a philosophical kind of calm, probably not wisdom, more like self-defense, otherwise my nerves would get too frayed.

Meanwhile, the Soviet regime, still thoroughly Orwellian in the way it handled information, gradually grew more vegetarian, or perhaps simply less bloodthirsty. In 1982, there was even an entry about Orwell in the official Soviet Encyclopedic Dictionary; written in a kind of newspeak with characteristic abbreviations, it probably would have brought a grim smile to Orwell’s face:

Engl. writer and essayist. From petty bourg. radicalism, moved on to bourg. liber. reformism and anti-Communism. Antirev. satire “Animal Farm” (1945). Dystopian novel “1984” (1949) depicts society succeeding capitalism as totalitarian hierarch. system. Petty bourg. radicals consider O. a “new left” precursor.

By the time 1984 rolled around, it was perfectly fine to mention Orwell in print, and Melor Sturua, a top Soviet foreign correspondent and propaganda guru, penned a grandiloquent piece in the government newspaper Izvestia explaining that while Orwell had meant his novel as a “caricature of our system,” he ended up predicting the West’s moral bankruptcy.

“No, this isn’t the ideal of socialism, this is the daily routine of capitalism,” Sturua wrote. “The animal existence of the proles is its goal.” It was in the decaying West that the rich surveilled and oppressed the poor, the Pentagon preached that “War is peace,” Augusto Pinochet brutalized Chile and the apartheid government of South Africa erased the truth and vaporized truth-seekers.

By dragging Orwell out of nonpersonhood, the late Soviet ideologists — who still considered him an anti-Soviet propagandist — were gradually making the official publication of “1984” inevitable. It was one bit of evidence that the Soviet system was fraying.


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The fountainhead of India’s economic vitality

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The Modi government has restored the social fabric of trust that had eroded in the UPA years

A new India has risen from the ashes of old India. This new India is bold and forward-looking, an aspirational country soaring on the hopes and energy of 1.35 billion people. And as this new India rises, it leaves behind the corrupt, discredited practices that bedevilled old India.

The stunning rise of new India baffles those left behind. In a recent article, “The fountainhead of India’s economic malaise” (November 18, The Hindu), former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh states that “The tearing of our social fabric of trust is the fountainhead of our current economic malaise.” In fact, the reality of new India is quite the opposite: the restoration of our social fabric of trust by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the fountainhead of our current economic vitality. And while Dr. Singh writes about a climate of fear, he surely recognises that those living in fear are the wrongdoers who flourished during his time as Prime Minister.

A rising superpower

I say this not as a member of the party in power, but as a citizen of the country and a student of business. Note that India is the fastest-growing large economy in the world — long-term trend GDP growth rate is steady at about 7%. Inflation, fiscal deficit, and current account deficit have finally been tamed. Primary employment has grown from 433 million to 457 million in the past five years. India’s foreign exchange reserves are at record levels. The country has vaulted from 142 to 63 in the world in the Ease of Doing Business rankings; corporate tax rates have been slashed and are now among the lowest in the world; and India leads the world in new industries such as renewable energy, fintech, and affordable healthcare. The stock market is at a record high, doubling in the past five years, creating more than ₹50 trillion in investor wealth. Foreign Direct Investment is humming along at $40-50 billion per year. Venture capital and private equity are booming, with investments running at thrice the rate during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) years. Our start-up ecosystem is now the third largest in the world. India has been churning out unicorn companies: there are 20 unicorns right now, and another 30 are expected in the next few years.

Growth has moderated recently. This may happen in an open $3 trillion dollar market economy driven largely by private enterprise and buffeted by geopolitical vicissitudes and creative destruction. However, pragmatic business people do not extrapolate from cyclical troughs; instead they build their businesses on the basis of long-term, durable trends. And the trend is clear – India is fast on its way to becoming a $5 trillion economy and is well-positioned to becoming a $10 trillion economy. We will soon be the world’s third largest economy and, quite genuinely, a rising superpower.

Billionaire Raj to People’s Raj

All this has been achieved by Prime Minister Modi’s government in the past five and a half years. India has been transformed politically and economically, but most importantly, the social fabric of trust has been restored. During the UPA years, society had lost trust in government and the rule of law. We began to doubt India’s future. Terrorists attacked the country again and again. Wide swathes of the country were controlled by Left-wing extremists and brigands. Shadowy, extra-constitutional figures ran India. The national government was in a shambles with each Ministry pursuing its own agenda. Government permissions were handed out in hotel lobbies and massive loans granted through phone calls. Crony capitalists feasted on government largesse and there was rampant corruption. Economic growth plummeted while inflation and the fiscal deficit mounted. With India on sale, the UPA years have been labelled the Billionaire Raj. Who dare forget those tragic, desperate times?

Prime Minister Modi’s government has restored the rule of law, trust in government has been rebuilt, and the country is moving forward with new-found confidence. Banks have been forced to come clean on their bad loans. Rickety business empires based on irresponsible lending are collapsing. Crony capitalists, unable to compete, are failing. Skeletons are tumbling out of the closet as investigations proceed, and the guilty are confronting jail sentences. Those who fled the country to avoid prosecution now face extradition. Note that all these investigations have been undertaken while following legal due process and are fully subject to judicial review. The Billionaire Raj has been dismantled and replaced by the People’s Raj.

The wide-ranging reforms initiated by Prime Minister Modi’s government have transformed the Indian economy and made it more globally competitive. While much of their impact is still working through the economic system, and some disruptions are inevitable, these reforms have already profoundly reshaped economic behaviour. Reforms extend across every aspect of the economy but can be grouped into five major areas: (1) establishing a transparent, rules-based economy free from crony capitalism; (2) restoring and maintaining macro-economic stability; (3) building a robust social safety net; (4) improving infrastructure to world-class levels; and (5) strengthening the financial system. Capital is flowing to innovation-driven businesses and well-governed companies with real cash flows.

Reaching growth targets

Our globally competitive, innovation-driven economy will easily reach its growth targets. With GDP at $5 trillion, GDP per capita will be over $3,600 and at $10 trillion, GDP per capita will reach $6,200 (population growth at 1.2% as per United Nations estimates). At these levels, India will be among other upper-middle income countries. The more prosperous States in south and west India will reach upper-middle income status sooner. India has seen an astonishing reduction in extreme poverty with the total number of such people declining rapidly. There are probably no more than 70 million people living in extreme poverty in India today. With GDP reaching $5 trillion, India will eliminate extreme poverty forever.

Prime Minister Modi’s government is set to deliver one of humanity’s most remarkable achievements. We will have brought peace and prosperity to India’s 1.35 billion citizens, lifted everyone out of extreme poverty, resolved long-standing disputes that had cleft the nation, and enabled Indians to live dignified lives. All criticism is welcome in our open democracy, but make no mistake: the Modi decade is enabling India to realise its full human potential and positioning it at the forefront of nations.

Jayant Sinha is the Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Finance in Parliament and a Lok Sabha MP from Hazaribagh, Jharkhand. Views expressed are personal

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