Monthly Archives: August 2008

Gainers gain, losers lose


Today (Aug 06) Mint carried an article written by one of its columnists which shows how neoliberalism in India has made the rich richer and the poor poorer at the geo-structural level.

The article concludes on the basis of recently released data on “outstanding loans sanctioned in a particular state/region and utilized in that place” – much has changed since India officially took steps towards liberalisation (according to the author, the economy has overall gained), however, “there are winners and losers…, there are some regions that have gained more than others”. What is most significant in the data (which the author does not explicitly recognise) is that it remarkably demonstrates that the geographical hierarchy that prevailed prior to the 1991 counter-revolution persists with hardly any reshuffling, while the vertical gap has tremendously increased. The data is significant since neoliberalism is mainly about financialisation and capital investment through the instruments of usury, debt and the credit system, which seemingly are, what the data perhaps substantiates, “radical means of accumulation by dispossession”, as David Harvey would put.

Excerpts:

1. “Comparing the data for end-March 1991 with the recently released numbers for end-March 2007, the northern and western regions have been the biggest gainers in terms of credit growth. In March 1991, the northern region accounted for 18.3% of the total credit outstanding—that percentage rose to 21.9% in March 2007. The western region, which accounted for 27.5% of total credit outstanding in the country in 1991, saw its share rising to 31.5%. The southern region’s share increased modestly from 28.1% to 28.5%. The losers were: the east, with the region’s share down from 12.3% to 8.9%, the central region (which includes Uttar Pradesh), whose share fell from 12% in 1991 to 8.1% in 2007, and the North-East, for which it declined from 1.7% to 1%”.

2. However, the gain in the northern region is virtually sham as “it’s Delhi that gained the most, with its share of credit going up from 7.1% in 1991 to 12% in 2007. The shares of Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir all declined over the period, while that of Rajasthan was flat”.

3. “In the east, West Bengal’s share fell from 7.7% in 1991 to 5.3% in 2007, Bihar’s share (including Jharkhand) decreased from 3% to 2% while Orissa’s share remained flat at 1.6%. In the central region, the share of Uttar Pradesh, or UP (including Uttarakhand) fell from 7.9% to 5.2%, while that of Madhya Pradesh, or MP (including Chhattisgarh) declined from 4.2% to 2.9%”.

4. “In the south, the big beneficiary has been Karnataka—its share went up from 6.4% to 8.8%. Kerala’s share went down from 3.7% to 3.1%, Andhra Pradesh’s from 7.2% to 6.6% and Tamil Nadu’s from 10.6% to 9.9%.

5. “The data also corresponds to the increasing metropolitan focus of credit delivery. The numbers show that 66.1% of credit was utilized in the metropolitan centres in 2007, compared with 46% in 1991. Naturally, this will mean more credit growth in places such as Delhi and Mumbai. That’s probably the result both of the decay of rural India as well as the more rapid growth of these centres”.

6. Comparing the recent data with the distribution of national credit pie during 1981-91, Delhi’s share actually fell “from 10.2% in December 1981 to 7.2% in March 1991. Growth in that period was more uniform, with all the southern states except Kerala gaining modestly during the decade, as did MP, UP, Orissa and Assam”.

7. As for the political conclusion of the above economic phenomenon, the author shivers at the prospect of increasing “demands for redistribution” along with migration. “These will create immense political strains between Indian states and the potential for serious differences.”

…………………………

    “They have exemplified the saying: To him that hath, more shall be given; and from him that hath not the little that he hath shall be taken away — The rich have become richer, and the poor have become poorer; and the vessel of the state is driven between the Scylla and Charybdis of anarchy and despotism. Such are the effects which must ever flow from an unmitigated exercise of the calculating faculty”. (Shelley, ‘The Defence of Poetry’)

Gandhian subversion and parliamentary deviation


Gandhi advised his colleagues and subordinates on 7 August 1937 when the then Congress contested the elections and were ready to accept office under the Government of India Act 1935:

These offices have to be held lightly, not tightly. They are or should be crowns of thorns, never of renown. Offices have been taken in order to see if they enable us to quicken the pace at which we are moving towards our goal.

(The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol.72, pp 99-100)

Again on 21 August 1937, Gandhi said,

Indeed the triumph of the congress will be measured by the success it achieves in rendering the police and the military practically idle. And it will fail utterly if it has to face crises that render the use of the police and the military inevitable. The best and the only effective way to wreck the existing Constitution is for the Congress to prove conclusively that it can rule without the aid of the military and with the least possible assistance of the police.

(The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol.72, pp 148-49)

On 17 July, 1937:

The Government of India Act is universally regarded as wholly unsatisfactory for achieving India’s freedom. But it is possible to construe it as an attempt, however limited and feeble, to replace the rule of the sword by the rule of the majority. The creation of the big electorate of three crores of men and women and the placing of wide powers in their hands cannot be described by any other name. Underlying it is the hope that what has been imposed upon us we shall get to like, i.e., we shall really regard our exploitation as a blessing in the end. The hope may be frustrated if the representatives of the thirty million voters have a faith of their own and are intelligent enough to use the powers (including the holding of offices) placed in their hands for the purpose of thwarting the assumed intention of the framers of the Act. And this can be easily done by lawfully using the Act in a manner not expected by them and by refraining from using it in the way intended by them.

(The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol.72, pp 35)

It is known that Marx’s and Lenin’s words (against officialdom) don’t attract the offici-al revolutionaries in India today, except when they could be used to justify their “two steps backward”. Hope they could learn something from Gandhi. Our leaders do recognise exactly 70 years later,

[T]he Constitution we have adopted reflects some of the ambiguities of the ruling classes. The Constitution declares India as a socialist republic. In reality, the State power rests with the bourgeois-landlord class led by the big bourgeoisie.

(Jyoti Basu, “60 Years Of Our Independence And The Left: Some Thoughts”, People’s Democracy, August 19, 2007)

But then have they tried to judge if their act of “accepting and running office” stands at least the Gandhian test of subversion? Have they devised “the best and … effective way to wreck the existing Constitution”? What happened recently in West Bengal – SEZ, Singur, Nandigram…- at least shows that they will definitely not succeed in passing the Gandhian test as defined here.

Ambedkar’s view on organisation


Some days back I was in Nagpur for a seminar on the Dalit question. A dalit leader told me an interesting fact (which needs to be verified) that Ambedkar’s slogan for the movement raised during the formation of Bahishkrit Hitakarani Sabha, (Association for the Welfare of the Ostracised) in 1924 was not shika, sanghatit vha va sangharsh kara (“EDUCATE, ORGANISE AND AGITATE”). It was actually shika, sangharsh kara, sanghatit vha (“EDUCATE, AGITATE AND ORGANISE”). And the change, according to him and I agree, was significant since the original slogan perceives an organisation as produced and reproduced (made, unmade and remade) within the process of movement. The change in the slogan leads to the status-quoisation of the movement, as within this changed framework the institutionalised structure of an organisation manipulates the movement for its own reproduction.