People refuse to be taken for a ride anymore. They will no more accept half measures and betrayals
Amit Sengupta Delhi
SOME OF THEM may have banned the depressing term 'recession' in the media, but recession stays despite the flights of fancy of the sexy Sensex which, perhaps, affects less than three per cent of our population, like the stock market. Old habits stay steadfast. Die hard fanatics of the neo-liberal regime of globalisation have already started pumping the prime minister to rapidly push economic reforms, disinvestment in the public sector and bailout for predator capitalism, "now that the Left has been shown the garbage can of history".
Till yesterday, they were screaming their hearts out saying that agricultural growth will create new wealth, new demands, and save the economy. This is when the mantra of 'industrialisation' was being chanted from Kolkata to Delhi, by the official Left and the Right. This is when they effectively have tried their best to kill agriculture (which remained static at around 2 per cent growth last year), the farm sector, and the vast network of the public distribution system. So much so, the purchasing power of the people was so low, that even Rs 2 kg rice seemed inaccessible. No wonder, now they are all promising cheap rice as an election promise. Stuff your stomach, and stuff it. Don't ask questions. Let the fat cats fly.
Some things just don't change - as if the free fall of the free market in the most volatile centres of advanced capitalism has nothing to do with the end of ideology, or a painful philosophical rupture in political economy. So, the bulls have started roaring again and voters below the mythical poverty line can go back to their insomnia, listening to silence of the lambs.
If artificial hype could compensate for the glorious uncertainties of the globalised market, then we would all be buoyed by the great leap forward. But, life is not like this only: millions have lost jobs in the world, in the West, in China and in India. And, this includes not only workers of the organised and unorganised sector but also the inheritors of the middle class and elite, IT experts, MBAs and media professionals, yes, journalists. Tens of thousands of migrant labourers, mostly landless farmers, are moving back to their jobless villages as factories and industrial hubs shut down (see Hardnews, February 2009), artisans and skilled labourers are out of work, senior professionals are sacked, the young are not being hired, businesses are shutting down.
And yet, we are not supposed to utter a word, even as the chattering classes sing the virtues of globalisation. If this is not market fundamentalism and censorship, then what is? If the Indian elite continues to be so shallow, inegalitarian and without a social vision, how can it even hope to be part of a united and prosperous India? And, how can a country be united and prosperous if economic and social fragmentation and divisions are so sharp and unjust?
Suddenly, the virtues of farm loan waivers and the NREGS have been discovered by those who would hate to document the village reality of India because it does not sell. While the tens of thousands of farmers who have committed suicide and continue to die, mean little to this ghettoised magicians of fetish, wallowing in their own wealth, ambitions, luxury.
If 78 per cent Indians live on Rs 28 a day, how do they and their children survive? Do they get education and medical care? Do they get warm clothes during winter and food and nourishment for their family? How do they travel to work?
ASPIRATION LEVELS ARE so low in this country that even when a 'socialist' Lalu Prasad betrayed the mandate of social justice for protracted periods, he won. He lost now because Nitish Kumar, another socialist who bakes bread with communal fascists and capitalists, has done some piece-meal reforms, which is being hailed as great performance. Even little is more, when you have nothing.
The fact is that people in India do not really need the Indian State as a saviour. The Indian State and its representatives across the Right and Left spectrum have repeatedly betrayed the vast Indian masses and it is through sheer resilience and human courage that the poor have been able to live through generations of exploitation, suffering, injustice and tragedy. But for how long, and why?
If it is the end of identity politics, then what is the new politics which must arrive? Is development a neutral concept, or is it linked to that mythical trickle-down theory of economic reforms with a human face? Where is that face? Is it human, inhuman, robotic or faceless?
What is the paradigm shift of this political economy which is being dangled like a magic wand by the inheritors of power in the name of development? SEZs for, of and by money bags - like the heavily subsidised Nano for the Tatas? Or, vast acres of fertile land for the corporates almost for free? Or, mass displacement of tribals and farmers for multinational and corporate mining in the precious ecological zones of Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh ravaging pristine landscape, land, rivers and forests? Didn't the arrogant and stagnant CPM lose because the wounds of Nandigram are still festering?
The communal fascists have been defeated. People don't like their muscular, aggressive and insensitive language. The discourse of hate is disliked by Indians, especially the young. The flip side of crumbling globalisation has seen the creation of aspirations which are flying on the wings of desire. People are not ready to accept only caste and religious polarisations; they will not accept the fruits of democracy and progress to be appropriated by a small section of the rich and super rich; they will not be subdued by half measures and deceptive illusions. If there is a paradigm shift, it is this - the making of a civil society, from 'in itself' to 'for itself; from the ought to being; from theory to praxis. Clean drinking water, school uniforms, healthy food, clean homes and clean localities, classrooms and schools, clean health centres and hospitals, clean railway platforms and efficient trains, clean toilets and community centres. Work, education, health, roads, infrastructure.
If the political class does not come clean on it and continues to pamper the rich and marginalise the poor, this will be a betrayal of the people's mandate of Election 2009. The people have voted against the fascists, against pseudo communists who became stooges of capitalists, against pseudo socialists who have taken them for a ride. People have voted against mass unemployment and economic uncertainty.
A phase of history has ended and another process of churning has begun. The phase of Kamandal and Mandal will now decline and a longing for egalitarian development will gain ground. This will consolidate democracy's finer points and reject the parasites and the corrupt. But, this will only happen when history from below is able to capture mainstream spaces, like a historical right.
If politicians are making millions, and millionaires are becoming politicians and MPs, and if elections become yet another financial investment to reap in the profits later, if governments work only for the benefit of predator and casino capitalism, and if you continue to hit the poor where it hurts most, then Nandigram, Singur, Kalinganagar, Kashipur, Niyamgiri, Dadri, Raigarh, Jagatsinghpur will move to the heart of democracy and redefine the world. This is the historical reality of resistance.
Check it out: are any of the big business projects in these conflict zones on their way to a grand start? Despite police firing, arrests, bloodletting, killings and rapes, and massive use of force by the State in support of the corporates? No.