We are just on the second day of a 21 day enforced lockdown declared by the Government. The Finance Minister has just announced a relief package of Rs. 1.7 lakh crores. At the current rate of exchange this package amounts to $22.7 billion. Compare this with the package of over $2 trillion announced by the USA, or about $ 200 billion announced by UK or even the $ 45 billion announced by Italy (which has an economy much smaller than India).  Even the Canadian Government (where the population is 1% of India and less than most major Indian cities) is rolling out $ 27 billion in subsidies and $55 billion in credit to help those affected by COVID 19.  Keep in mind that India will have many more people affected by the lockdown, firstly because of its vastly larger population and also because there are a far greater proportion of poor who are in need of relief measures. This clearly shows that the relief measures being announced are woefully inadequate.

              Actually even the figure of 1.7 lakh crores is misleading. This includes the amount of Rs.31,000 crores which is already in the fund for benefit of construction workers which the State Governments have been asked to spend for construction workers. This is not a new benefit for construction workers but money which was already provisioned for their benefit.

It also includes Rs. 20 increase in the daily wage of MGNREGA workers. This will only be available to them when they can do the work of MGNREGA, which seems unlikely till the lockdown lasts. There are about 27 crores of MGNREGA workers[i]. Each worker is to benefit by Rs. 2000 in one year (given that he gets the full 100 days of work, which never happens). So 54,000 crores is for the MGNREGA workers. So half of the package – 85,000 crores (31000 crores for construction workers and 54000 crores for MGNREGA workers) is no contribution by the Government at all. In any case, MGNREGA workers were due for a rise in wages, even otherwise. Their rate of wages is among the lowest in the country today.

About 20 crore women who have Jan Dhan accounts will get Rs. 500 per month for 3 months. This amount is too little to provide any real relief. The free  LPG connections to the around 4 crores beneficiaries of the Ujjwala Scheme gives each a benefit of about Rs. 2400 (deferred over about 3 months taking one cylinder per month). About 3 crores senior citizens and widows are to be given Rs. 1000 each. Again not a great amount. Besides this BPL households will get each month 5 Kgs of rice or wheat and iKg of dal free. Rural farmers are to get Rs. 2000 each as direct transfers to their accounts in the first week of April. Besides this the PF contribution for workers (both employers and employees shares) for MSMEs will be paid by the Government for the next three months. Take the best case scenario of a farmer who is a woman having a Jan Dhan account and also a widow. She would then get Rs. 3500 and three free gas cylinders for three months and 5 Kgs of rice or wheat and Ikg of pulse. She would get a further Rs 500 per month and another 5 Kg of rice/wheat and 1Kg of pulses for the next two months. This is too meagre an amount to provide any real relief in todays times. The monthly estimate by the 7th Pay commission for a worker’s family of two parents and two children is 42.75 Kgs of Rice/Wheat and 7.2 Kgs of pulses (dals)[ii]. The cost of just food and cloth for such a family was calculated as Rs. 9300 per month as on 1st January 2016. Today, this would translate to well over Rs. 10000. When you declare a total lockdown, it must be assumed that all opportunities for earning are stopped. People will have to depend solely on savings and aid.

 

The Indian economy before the lockdown was none too healthy. Recent figures had shown that unemployment was at the highest in 45 years[iii]. The GDP growth rate has already fallen to about 4.5% in the third quarter of the current financial year. The stock markets were in a crash mode for almost a year, banks have been turning belly up, the growth in the manufacturing sector was down to around 0.5% in the third quarter. All this shows the ailing health of the Indian economy. The signs were clearly there for the Government or anybody else who wanted to, to read.

              In times of recession, it is not the large enterprises which suffer the most. It is the small and medium enterprises which have to bear the brunt, eventually being eaten by the bigger fish. Even more it is the workers in these enterprises who suffer the most. The capitalist can make up his losses just by selling the assets like land, which have appreciated so greatly that he is often left with more than when he started. For the workers – especially the workers in the smaller enterprises and informal sectors, the contract workers, casual workers, self-employed workers, small sellers, small farmers, there is nothing to fall back upon. If the economy is to shut down for a prolonged period of time, it is these workers and farmers who have to be provided for.

            What could be done for such workers and farmers? Let us take the workers first. The Government has to ensure that they will be paid their wages for the full period of the lockdown with assurances that their jobs will be retained. How can this be ensured? In the UK, their Chancellor, Rishi Sunak has announced that the Government would pay 80% of wages to employees (till £ 2500 per month) who were not able to work due to COVID 19 in an attempt to see that their jobs are retained. This cover will be backdated to start fr[iv]om the beginning of March and will last for three months and may be extended if necessary, it was announced. Other measures include help to those unable to pay their rents. After this announcement by the Chancellor two further schemes to help business were announced on Tuesday: a new interest-free Business Interruption Loan Scheme for small and medium-sized firms and a Bank of England finance option for bigger businesses. A support package for self-employed people is also expected soon as already announced by the Government.

The USA already has a robust system of unemployment benefits based on what you have earned in the past 12 months and subject to a minimum of 50% of the average. This is to be extended to those who are unemployed due to COVID 19. At the time of writing this the US Senate has just passed a new bill for $1.7 trillion. This includes $1200 direct aid to all individuals who earn below $75000 per year, $250 billion for further unemployment aid including for self-employed and $300 billion for the airlines industry.

Even in Pakistan, Imran Khan yesterday announced a package of Rs. 1.2 lakh crores to help people affected by COVID-19. This is for a population of 20 crores – less than a sixth of India’s population.

About other countries, the Business Standard Article of 20th March[1] had this to say :

  • Paid reductions in working time/partial unemployment benefits, which compensate workers for hours not worked, are being expanded or simplified in France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands
  • The Chinese government has directed employers to not terminate contract of migrant workers in case of illness or containment measures
  • Unemployment insurance benefits have been expanded in several countries, including the United States. In the Philippines, the Social Security Scheme is prepared to give unemployment benefits for up to 60,000 job losses
  • Countries like Italy and Japan are giving financial support and simpler procedures for allowing teleworking
  • Provisions for paid sick leave for self-employed in Ireland, Singapore and South Korea

Source: ILO

In the face of such measures the relief being provided to workers and poor farmers in India is only illusory and a farce! We have to demand.  better and more meaningful support. Such measures can also be easily taken. For instance, India may not offer 80% of the wages to workers, but it can certainly say a lesser percentage, say 50%! It not that, it could offer enterprises which keep their workers and give them full pay a tax sop or a moratorium on taxes as an incentive to keeping the workers. It may not be able to give full relief to the farmers but it can certainly set up a Minimum Support Price and can ensure that it itself buys all farm produce at the minimum support price. This is especially important when the Rabi crop is in the process of harvest and is expected to be a bumper crop. This will, of course lead to the question of stocking such produce but that is not a real problem. The FCI godowns today have more stocks than ever before. An article in the Economic Times of 26th March 2020 based on the statement of the Food Minister, Ram Vilas Paswan, says that though the norm is to store 21 million tonnes of food grains we now have over 58.49 million tonnes (30,97 million tonnes of wheat and 27.52 million tonnes of Rice)[2]. There is nothing to stop the Government from directly sending all this food grain to affected people. It has already agreed to give them meagre amounts like 5 Kgs per month for 16 crore families it only comes to less than 1 million tonnes per month. Why is the Government hoarding food grains at a time like this?

Where is the money for all this to come from? Barclay’s has estimated that the loss to the Indian economy by just the three week lockdown is of the region of $120 billion. We need not spend as large amounts as the US or European. However, we cannot make worries about fiscal discipline stop us from providing needed aid at a time like this. India is today sitting on the largest foreign exchange reserves in history. India has foreign exchange assets of $ 447.3 billion in total reserves of $481.9[v]. Even if the Government were to increase its aid by ten times, this would not even be half of the foreign exchange reserve. Such an amount could give every worker of the 47 crore workers in our country the minimum wage of Rs. 10000 per month for Three months. Even if not this source, in such a crisis any source could be used. Fiscal discipline cannot guide spending in such a time. Germany’s Angela Merkel has said that they will spend whatever is necessary. Same with other countries. We can capitalise (print the money if necessary though such measures may not become necessary) at such a time of crisis. We can worry about inflation later.

Com Sanjay Singhvi is the General Secretary of TUCI

 

[i] From the MGNREGA website see http://mnregaweb4.nic.in/netnrega/all_lvl_details_dashboard_new.aspx

[ii] See page 65 of the Report of the Seventh Central Pay Commission published here by the Finance Ministry https://www.finmin.nic.in/sites/default/files/7cpc_report_eng.pdf?download=1

[iii] Though the Statistics Secretary, Pravin Srivastava said that the figures were based on a new matrix and new design when the report was released in May 2019, he would not deny that unemployment was at a 45 year high. In any case the Labour Force Participation Rate, which is closely allied confirms that unemployment was at the peak for the past fifty years.

[iv] See the BBC page here for more details https://www.bbc.com/news/business-51982005?xtor=AL-72-%5Bpartner%5D-%5Byahoo.north.america%5D-%5Blink%5D-%5Bnews%5D-%5Bbizdev%5D-%5Bisapi%5D

[v] See https://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/india-to-offer-unemployment-benefits-to-workers-affected-by-coronavirus-120031901409_1.html

[vi] See https://in.finance.yahoo.com/news/enough-foodgrains-stock-fci-govt-073916599.html

[vii] According to the Reserve Bank’s weekly supplement of 13th March 2020. See https://m.rbi.org.in/Scripts/BS_ViewWssExtractdetails.aspx?id=49546

Three months after COVID 19 emerged in Wuhan, its epicenter, China has succeeded to contain and beat back this pandemic, with no new cases reported for last few days. At its peak, this epidemic affected 81,054 people in China, with 3287 deaths. Starting with the shut down in Wuhan and few other places, at its peal 60 million people were under lock down. Now, after effectively containing this epidemic, China has already started economic recovery and rehabilitation of affected people.

 

We are well aware that China is no more a socialist country, but an imperialist country, a bureaucratic dictatorship, engaged in trade war with the US for world hegemony. But, instead of taking a positive approach to China’s handling of  this epidemic, right from the beginning the China-based branches of Voice of America, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and Time, US media giants, were taking a Xenobhobic, racist, antagonistic approach while reporting its anti-corona virus efforts, which was parroted around the world, including India. They portrayed the makeshift hospitals erected very fast in Wuhan as “concentration camps,” The lock-down in China was criticized saying “ it came at great cost for its people’s livelihoods and personal liberties.” The Wall Street Journal called “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia”. At the same time, now when the whole of Italy is under lock down, with military deployed to enforce it, even then many above 80 years are left to die without treatment (as many reports from there reveal), all that is done there is praised by the same media as great, “risking its economy in an effort to contain Europe’s worst corona virus outbreak”. One can understand the increasing rivalry between US and China, who are engaged in a dirty trade war for world hegemony. But Trump has extended it through the imperialist think tanks and media to attacking China’s efforts to contain the outbreak of corona virus also. As a result, even when WHO and other UN agencies and China had warned about the pandemic nature of COVID 19, necessary precautions were not taken to prevent it from spreading to US and Europe. Modi led RSS/BJP regime was fully engaged in finding ways to get the NPR/NRC done based on CAA, in organizing a great welcome to Trump, planning the pogrom in Northeast Delhi from 23rd to 26th February, apart from involvement in the divisive election campaign for Delhi assembly, While the first corona virus case was reported from Kerala and the state government’s efforts were reported, no attention was given to take precaution at al India level. Even after Kerala government came under severe criticism for not checking passengers from international flight for COVID 19, and it  started checking international as well as internal air travelers by end of February,  attention was given for it by the central authorities only by the second week of March, as the number of corona patients in Maharashtra and elsewhere went above Kerala, with cases and deaths daily increasing. By that time, the epidemic had reached serious proportions in Italy, Spain, France and other EU countries along with US and Canada, and Iran, around the world to more than 160 countries. Only then Modi woke up, addressed the nation on 19th, called for janatha curfew on 22nd February, followed by lock down of almost 400 million, and putting the remaining 940 million under distress with railways, interstate buses and many other facilities cut. Already there are 462 people tested positive and 9 deaths according to hospital count.

Meanwhile the total affected in 160 countries reached 3, 16, 659, and death too going above 15, 000 on 22nd March, with 4825 deaths in Italy, above 2000 in Spain alone. In US, Canada in North America, and in the EU countries of Europe, the oldest and richest imperialist countries, the number of affected people and dead are galloping everyday, with the lack of medical facilities to the common masses well exposed. In these countries panic is leading to pandemonium. Though harsher methods are used to contain the present uncontrollable spreading of this epidemic compared to those followed in China, still Trump and company are refusing to take lessons from the Chinese experience.Same is the case with Modi regime in India. They have no answer to the question: if China could contain the COIND 19 outbreak with the lock down of 60 million people, how come even after more than 600 million people are already under lock down all over the world, there is no containment of the pandemic COVID 19 in sight? Why it is spreading alarmingly all over the world, with many hundreds dying everyday? This shows the anti-people, barbaric nature of the imperialist system 

 

In this critical situation, while asking these cardinal questions to Modi government, we have to demand the following steps from it on an emergency basis:

 

  1. Almost half India’s population, about 600-700 million, are under severe economic distress following the lock-down and other restrictions. Why you are not coordinating with the state governments and declaring an economic package for providing food ration, financial assistance, medi-care etc? Do it now.

 

  1. WHO and other agencies have called for testing a larger section of people for corona virus to understand its real spread among the masses. Take immediate action to bring the huge private medical sector under control of central and state governments as Spain has done, and involve them to test at least 10% of the people on an emergency basis, and to provide treatment to affected people.

 

  1. Now, apart from giving sermons, Modi government has restricted its action merely to bringing more people under lock down. But, even this is reduced to a mockery as RSS/BJP leaders and cadres tried to transform the 5 minutes clapping hands and beating plates at 5 pm on 22nd Feb. called by Modi to Hindutva rallies even joined by the police men , violating the basic purpose of lock-down. So, we demand that, keeping away the divisive politics of BJP, the Modi government should form broad people’s committees at all levels, especially at grass root level, joining hands with the state government, mobilizing with the medical personnel from public and private sector, the retired doctors and nurses, people’s representatives and youth/student volunteers, for (1) testing atleast 10% of the people to find the real extension of the virus infection, (2) for providing quarantine/isolation facilities to the large number of house-less people, (3) for hospitalization of all COVID 19 patients, (4) to continue mid-day meals for children,(5) for providing free food ration to all needy families,(6) to provide economic assistance to all who lost their jobs based on the economic package to be urgently announced by the central government in consultation with the state governments, and (7) to supply all necessary medical kits to all people.

 

We appeal to all political parties, people’s movements, trade unions, mass organizations, civil society/voluntary organizations to get actively involved so as to make it make the campaign to contain and beat back the pandemic COVID 19 a massive people’s movement, compelling the central and state governments to come out with necessary economic package for it.

 

The Central Committee of CPI(ML) Red Star calls upon all Party Committees to get actively involved in this movement, if necessary mobilizing the masses to put pressure on the central and state governments to declare the economic package and involve the whole state machinery with the people’s forces to make it a success without any delay.

 

KN Ramachandran,

General Secretary

CPI(ML) Red Star

 

New Delhi

23rd March, 2020

On 24th February when Trump and Modi were displaying bonhomie, and Trumps was spewing Islamophobia boasting about how US administration has put down Islamic terrorists making the largely RSS mobilization at Ahmedabad stadium happy, and the mainstream media was eulogizing these neo-fascists in power, Modi’s own RSS men, the Hindutva terrorists, led by BJP leaders indulging in hate speeches had started surrounding the Muslim areas of Northeast Delhi and indulging in large scale arson, looting and killing. As happened in Gujarat in 2002, the police was not visible for two days, or if present, were helping the RSS men on 24th and 25th February, resulting in large scale arson of Muslim shops, workplaces and houses, killing of 23 and bullet injuries to hundreds. By the time Amit Shah opened his mouth giving ‘shoot at sight’ orders to the saffronized Delhi police, and Modi appealed for peace on 26th February, what the RSS wanted was started and realized in a big way, terrorizing the Muslims, in their latest bid to show that the Muslims are entirely responsible to the Anti-CAA, NPR, NRC movement. It was surprising that when a defeated Assembly candidate of BJP, Kapil Misra, could lead the attacks by the RSS men, none of the elected AAP MLAs or leaders of the mainstream opposition parties were also not visible in the streets to support the victims of this aggression by Hindutva forces. Reports from this area on 26th also shows that, in spite of putting the whole area under prohibitory orders and police making flag marches, RSS men are still on the streets and they are still burning down if any shops, factories or houses of Muslims are still remaining in this area. As a result, hundreds of Muslim families are fleeing from their houses to more safe areas in Delhi. Instead of addressing this state of affairs and to arrest the RSS muscle men indulging in these crimes, BJP is justifying their actions by comparing what Congress did in 1984! It is an outright criminal approach! As far as the masses are concerned they unequivocally condemn all criminal acts of pogroms in 1984, 2002 as well as what is happening in Delhi now in order to communalize and suppress the Anti-CAA, NPR, NRC movement.

Modi government cannot justify what the RSS men are doing in the streets of Delhi, indulging in large scale arson and killings by their muscular forces providing state support. A whole section of the population, the Muslims, are subjected to barbarous attacks in order to communalize and brutally suppress a peaceful movement by masses of people, not only Muslims, but also the dalits, Adivasis and other most backward sections spear headed by the students and women on a large scale. What the Modi government is doing is illegal, unconstitutional and cannot be justified at all. So we demand his government should resign taking responsibility for what is happening in the country to impose the CAA, and to go ahead with the NPR from 1st April, to be followed by the NRC process after 30th Sept, the entire process aimed at making millions of people stateless, as was done under NRC/Assam in that state, rendering 19 lakhs of residents stateless.

We appeal to the Masses of Muslims undaunted by the criminal attacks by the Modi government, the dalits, the Adivasis and other most backward sections of people, along with all secular democratic forces who are part of the present Anti-CAA, NPR, NRC movement, to intensify the movement to its highest levels so that the Modi government can be prevented from launching the NPR anywhere in the country. Along with this, let us intensify the campaign demanding the banning of RSS which is the largest, uniformed, trained and armed terrorist organization in the world, as well as the resignation of Modi government which has subverted all its constitutional responsibilities, resorting to criminal acts to impose the majoritarian, Hindutva agenda of fascist RSS. n

 

Introduction

 The Notification issued by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on October 7, 2019, as per Modi government’s directive with a view to “Deepening Digital Payments” across the country is of far-reaching consequences. The Notification contains the essential guidelines for a “pilot project” to convert one selected district in every state of India into fully digital or “cashless” in all financial payments and transactions by the end of 2020. Obviously, this pilot project is envisaged as a prelude to the eventual transformation of India as a full-fledged cashless society in the near future. Accordingly, the task for achieving this time-bound task is entrusted with the concerned 'Lead Bank' of the respective district in coordination with the administrative head, the District Collector.  Instructions from RBI have already gone to the State/UT Level Bankers Committees (SLBCs/UTLBCs) “to identify one district in their respective State/UTs for digital payment ecosystem on a pilot basis in consultation with banks and stakeholders” and the district identified “shall have significant footprint which will attempt to make that district 100 percent digitally enabled within one year.”  The RBI Notification has also directed SLBCs/UTLBCs to ensure that such “cashless’” districts identified are converged with the “Aspirational Districts” already identified by NITI Aayog for “good governance” as part of Modi’s “Digital India” Program.

 

Of course, this strategic decision is not an overnight development. Its roots lay deep in the Demonetization superimposed on India by Modi at the behest of neoliberal-corporate centres. A Committee headed by Nandan Nilekani who spearheaded the Aadhar, world’s biggest biometric exercise (which, contrary to its declared objectives, has no empirical evidence on improving welfare delivery) has been working on this issue since Demonetization. Accordingly, the “High Level Committee on Deepening Digital Payments” led by Nilekani submitted its Report to the RBI in May 2019. In fact, the RBI’s Notification issued on October 7 2019 in essence is a repetition of what elucidated in the Nilekani Report. As pointed out in the Notification, the pilot project that is envisioned on an experimental basis aims at multiplying India’s ‘per capita digital transactions’ by ten times within a year--estimated at 22 as of now to 220-- and increase the number of “cashless” or “digital citizens” from the current 10 crore to 30 crore by the end of 2020!

A glance at both the Nilekani Report and RBI Notification unravels the process or the various steps required for accomplishing this “pilot project” for cashless transactions within the proposed time-frame. Among other things, they comprise a concerted campaign for opening zero-balance accounts for all who are outside the banking system, an increase in the number of smart phones, swiping machines (PoS machines or terminals), linking of bank accounts with Aadhar, popularization of BHIM Aadhar Pay, discouraging cash withdrawals from banks, developing ‘feature phones’ appropriate to cashless payments, and so on. The RBI Notification does not ascribe much importance to ATMs in the transformation process towards digitization or cashless transactions. The idea is to reduce the number of ATMs which are conventionally used for cash withdrawals and to transform them mainly as CDMs (Cash Deposit Machines) so as to suck out the cash in circulation. In a cashless society, the new role of ATMS would be that of ‘digital facilitation points’ which implies a recalibration of them for bill payments, currency transactions, tax payments, mobile recharging, ticket booking, etc. A proposal is also there for the creation of specific ‘digital wallets’ for all payments and receipts pertaining to government transactions. Together with the existing US-based ‘digital tools’ such as Master Card, VISA, Debit and Credit Cards,  PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Paytm (controlled by Chinese giant Alibaba) which are widely used in India, emerging  tools like Phonepe (controlled by Walmart, world’s biggest MNC) and initiatives to involve Whats App and Facebook are also in full swing. 

 

Background for Modi Regime’s Cashless Move

The invention of money certainly led to an epoch-making transformation in human history like that of fire and wheel. It enabled human society to transform itself from the ‘primitive’ barter system (exchange of goods for goods) to a higher stage of development where money became a medium of exchange, store of value and standard of deferred payments. And till the end of the 20th century, in political-economic circles, there had been no talk of a cashless society or replacing cash by digital payments. In fact, discussion on cashless transactions has its beginning only in the turn of the 21st century along with the origin and development of cross-border/transnational digital flows. Over a span of two decades, broadband connections have become more important than shipping lanes and, in terms of its economic significance, are now at par with the centuries-old trade in goods. While internet penetration in US is estimated at 80 percent of the population, the same is around two-third in EU and one-third in Asia whereas in India it is only one-fourth. On the other hand, the so called “digital divide” (people having no access to internet) has become a clear manifestation of mounting economic inequality not only between imperialist and oppressed countries but also among people and groups within countries. Today digital flows have become indispensable for the movement of goods, services and above all finance, and every cross-border transaction today has a digital component. Digital business which is already in trillions is still growing in double digits. At the same time, compared with the sphere of production, it has been in the sphere of circulation and finance that digital flows have become truly a catalyst.

It is in this context that digital technology and data flows are becoming the driving force for cashless transactions. And, quite logically, the motive for this cashless initiative everywhere comes from the US- centred global corporate giants who are the custodians (with the exception of China today) of digital tools essential for cashless payments. However, ironically, among the countries which are much advanced in the realm of digital technology, only the Scandinavian countries are apparently moving towards a cashless economy. On the other hand, vast majority of the people in US which is much ahead of others in digital and network infrastructure, leading countries of EU and Japan are deadly against a cashless situation despite concerted efforts on the part of software giants, corporate financiers and monopoly banks in these countries which regularly propping up their respective governments for adopting digital payments.

For instance, with the backing of US Federal administration, various US-based software and digital giants as well as big banks are engaged in a massive and aggressive campaign for adoption of digital payments system. However such a move is vehemently opposed by various state governments in US. This has prompted the digital MNCs to target the so called ‘emerging economies’ in Afro-Asian-Latin American countries by influencing amenable regimes there. As a manifestation, various companies including VISA, Master Card, Citibank, Gates Foundation, Dell Foundation, etc. joining with the USAID (United States Agency for International Development) have already formed the “Better Than Cash Alliance” initiative for seriously taking up the cashless agenda amidst stiff domestic opposition to such a move in the US. The aim of this Alliance was to manipulate policy decisions in backward economies thereby superimpose cashless payments on global people.

The ascendance of Modi regime in 2014 and the Prime Minister’s proclamation on “Digital India” program in the following year should be seen in this context. And, as an appendage of the Better Than Cash Alliance, an initiative entitled “Catalyst” with the involvement of Indian Ministry of Finance started work in since 2016.  Catalyst began its operations based on the guidelines codified by USAID under what is called “Beyond Cash”.  Alok Gupta, Director of Washington-based World Resources Institute, who cooperated with Nandan Nilekani in designing Aadhar was appointed as Indian Chief Operating Officer of Catalyst. According to available evidence, US think-tanks including neoliberal-far right economists like Larry Summers and Reghuram Rajan were associated with this project in its beginning stage. In fact, the launching of Unified Payment Interface (UPI) as the brainchild of Rajan is considered as the forerunner of cashless initiative in India. As RBI governor, it was he who imposed restrictions on cash withdrawals from ATMs, even as 37 crore new bank accounts were opened in India under Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana during 2014-18 preparing the background for the move towards cashless payments. No doubt, corporate-saffron forces effectively used these Jan Dhan accounts as a convenient tool for whitening huge volumes of unaccounted black money during the opaque days of Demonetization which was a “guinea-pig” experiment superimposed on the Indian people with intellectual inputs from the USAID-led Catalyst-an aspect to be taken up in the ensuing discussion.

Meanwhile, Catalyst had attempted at launching "cashless townships" in six Indian cities- Indore, Visakhapatnam, Kota, Jaipur, Bhopal and Nagpur- on an experimental basis as part of its action plan towards a making India perfectly cashless or digital. These six cities had been selected based certain criteria such as the use and  popularity of smart phones, number of digital money transfers, the availability and familiarity with digital tools among  vendors and merchants at the local level, various administrative factors essential for such an experimentation and so on. As noted above, and as well-documented by international sources (see Select References attached), it was in this overall background that at the behest of neoliberal-corporate think-tanks, Modi imposed Demonetization in November 2016 that enabled the most corrupt corporate big businesses and crony capitalists hand in glove with the ruling party to have the biggest-ever one-shot wealth accumulation in history by abruptly sucking out the life-blood of more than a billion people and at the same whitening all corporate-black money hoardings through banks.

Totally paralyzing all cash-based economic activities especially in the informal/unorganized sectors that provide sustenance and livelihood to more than 90 percent of the Indian workforce, Demonetization led to an unprecedented squeeze of the entire economy resulting in the biggest unemployment and economic slowdown in five decades coupled with a galloping of all kinds of money-spinning businesses and ballooning speculation at the macro level, thereby transforming India as the most corrupt country in Asia within a year. Of course, while Modi himself was immersed in the post-truth campaign of interpreting Demonetization as “surgical strike” against terror funding, black money and counterfeiting and tried to whip up Islamophobic and Hindutva chauvinist sentiments in the process, in those crucial days, it was left to Gurumurthy, the leading RSS intellectual and member of RBI Director Board to reiterate at the behest of imperialist centres that the true aim of Demonetization was to achieve a state of cashless or digital payments. No doubt, the latest RBI Notification regarding pilot project on “digital districts” is a logical corollary and continuation of both Demonetization and Catalyst-sponsored “cashless townships” already experimented in the country. Revealingly, as the RBI itself acknowledges, a copy of this RBI Notification was forwarded to USAID-led Catalyst too.

 

General Consequences of Cashless Economy

 The immediate outcome of a cashless economy would be total alienation or marginalization of those who (a) have no bank accounts, (b) having no cash in their accounts, (c) having no access to the appropriate ‘digital payment tools’, and/or (d) not having the technical knowhow required for operating them. In spite of the enrolment of millions of “zero-balance accounts” initiated on a war-time footing under Jan Dhan Yojana after Modi’s coming to power, only 60 percent of the 135 crore of Indian population has even namesake bank accounts (many of them are reported to be bogus or benami accounts too). In the event of India moving to a full-fledged cashless or digital payments system, the custodians of the entire cash or currency in the country will be big banks or such other financial entities.  This will automatically “disenfranchise” those who have no valid bank accounts or those unable to operate such accounts through proper digital tools.  That is, when the Modi regime under the guise of “financial inclusion” is engaged in “digitizing citizens” it needs to be understood in effect as an ingenious corporate-fascist agenda of denying citizenship itself to the marginalized and oppressed. Therefore, at a time when 30 crore Indians (almost equal to the total population of USA) are below the official poverty line and around 50 crore of people having no bank accounts still being outside the banking net, this superimposed cashless project, contrary to the claims of its proponents,  is leading to “financial exclusion” and not “financial inclusion”.

 Let us see the whole issue of cashless payments from an international perspective too. That the US has already reached saturation regarding the availability of smart phones with iPhone and Android facilities and credit/debit cards is a widely conceived fact today. Moreover, as already noted, the US today still continues (in spite of cut-throat competition from the Chinese digital giant Huawei) to be the biggest source of the digital/software tools such as VISA, Master Card, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Venmo, Square Cash, which have become indispensable for maintaining “digital imperialism”. Again, Walmart, the US-based biggest MNC, for instance, has its majority holding in the software tool such as Phonepe (as is the case with the Chinese giant Alibaba’s involvement in Paytm). As a result, in the World Digital Competitiveness Ranking, the US holds the top-most position today, and that of Sweden, which is moving towards cashless economy has third ranking in this regard, whereas India’s ranking is 44th among 60 countries. Thus, with all the necessary requirements, US is most favourably situated for embracing total digital payments.  A study conducted by the Tuft University and published in May 2016 Issue of Harvard Business Review had unequivocally identified US, Japan, Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, Czech Republic, Brazil and China in that order as ideally placed on account of their technological capabilities and social realities to move towards a cashless situation. No doubt, as already mentioned, the formation of corporate-sponsored "Better than Cash Alliance" with its slogan "war against cash" took place in the US precisely in this context.

However, public opinion in the US from the very beginning has been vehemently against this pro-corporate cashless initiative. Upholding people’s sentiments, ten US states-- Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York State, Washington State, Oregon, Rhode Island, Chicago, Philadelphia and California (whose GDP of $ 2.7 trillion with a population of 4 crore is equal to that of India with a population of 135 crore)—under the label "States for Cash" have enacted stringent laws with punitive measures against traders insisting on cashless payments. For example, in New Jersey, for the first violation of the law (i.e., forcing digital transfers), the fine is $ 2500 and for second violation the fine will be doubled to $5,000 (around Rs. 3.5 lac). Other states like California also have passed similar laws with criminal procedures and varying degrees of punishment.  According to a New York City Council study, 11 percent of the New York residents does not have bank accounts at all. According to it, the superimposition of a cashless system of payments on the poor, immigrants and elderly who have no bank accounts is outright “disenfranchisement”, especially when the US Constitution does not insist bank account as a criterion for citizenship. In spite of having the highest potential for transforming in to cashless economy, most of the people in US prefer cash payments and more than 55 percent of transactions in the US are still under denominations of $ 10. In fact, this is the context that prompted the well-known online portal USA Today to declare "Cash is still King in USA". The annual per capita digital transactions in the US is 474 compared with just 22 in India where the Modi regime totally cut off from concrete realities is shamelessly pursuing the cashless dream!

 

Specific Issues Concerning India’s Cyber Security

Issues connected with cyber security are of particular relevance when it comes to the case of India. According to cyber experts, digital flows/transfers with barely two decades of history are still like an unchartered territory. A recent BBC Report (bbc.com/worklife-101), has also pointed out the risks involved in the “payment over the cloud” and highlighted the need for proper studies on this emerging field.  Serious attention is required regarding the issue of privacy. Of all digital dealings, financial transactions are subjected to highest level of surveillance and information manipulation not only by governments but also by private operators. While the rich and the powerful can ensure their privacy through extra payments, political activists and common people are always vulnerable and at the receiving end.

Cybercrimes and hacking connected with financial transactions are notorious. In this realm, India’s position is the worst. A 2015 Interpol Report situates India as having the lowest cyber security in the world. In that year, the Interpol noted around 111000 “violations” or "transgressions" in Indian cyber space. Assocham has endorsed these findings in a recent study and warned about more worries for India’s digital transactions in the near future. According to Chipset manufacturer Qualcomm, India's hardware security is not at all compatible with digitization. It also points out how hackers can easily steal users’ passwords from existing Android models. On November 15, 2019, the BBC News has released the revealing news of RBI seeking the help of “Group-IB” a Singapore-based cyber security agency to investigate the “status” of over 13 lakh Indian debit cards whose data base might have been stolen. Ironically, this RBI decision to investigate into India’s digital payments came in October 2019 when its Notification on cashless project was also released.

Still more shocking is a recent revelation made by “Group-IB” itself (The Hindu, February 8, 2020, Kochi Edition, p. 12) regarding the display of 461976 Indian card information for sale in a notorious “dark net” called "Joker's Stash"! This hacking was possible solely because of the fragile nature of India's cyberspace. The information leaked includes card numbers, their expiry dates, CVV / CVC codes, cardholder names, emails, phone numbers and addresses. As estimated by “Group-IB”, these data base stolen probably from PoS terminals is worth over Rs 30 crore in the cyber market. Yet another case is regarding the recent leakage through social media of passwords and e-mail ID of around 30000 customers from Flipkart’s e-wallet.  Personal details hacked thus were later put on the website ‘Throbin’.  Another instance pertains to a recent hacking of e-mail accounts of almost 3000 government officials at ISRO, IGCAR (Indira Gandhi Center for Atomic Research), BARC and SEBI. According to analysts, these are only tip of the iceberg. Cyber violations in India where majority of victims are common people are less reported. For instance, millions and millions of informal and unorganized workers who migrate across different states within India and who are forced to use debit cards are often victims of cyber-security breaches. According to a BBC Report, it is the first-time users of net transfer in India who are facing major financial frauds. Amidst such reports which have become frequent, the obscurantist saffron regime’s rhetoric on digitization without even having minimum cyber security arrangement has already exposed it before all the well-meaning people the world over.

 

The Sorry State of India’s Digital Infrastructure

As already mentioned, compared with other Asian countries, India is far behind in terms of digital infrastructure. It was fully exposed during the critical days of Demonetization when many people all over the country were died standing on the queue before ATMs and banks. Of course, in a cashless situation, the existing ATMs will have to be recalibrated as ‘digital facilitation points’, an aspect noted earlier. In spite of that, even in the case of per capita availability of ATMs, India’s position is among the lowest, even below that of the so called “least developed countries” as defined by World Bank.  For instance, in the case of BRICS countries, Russia with 184 per capita ATMs ranks one, Brazil second (107), China third (81) and South Africa fourth (68), while India has only 17 ATMs per capita. And over the past three years, on account of bank-mergers and consequent closure of branches mainly in rural areas, the number of ATMS in India has declined further.  

 However, coming to the case of swiping or PoS machines (terminals) which are indispensable for cashless purchases and transactions, Indian situation is too pathetic. Though the availability of PoS machines in India has increased from around 14 lac during December 2016 to 35 lac as of now, a country with 135 crore of people, this is meagre compared to international standards. Regarding PoS machines, from the very beginning, India has been abjectly depending on China. Two Chinese companies, Veriphone and Ingenica are the sole suppliers of PoS machines for India. During the years following Demonetization, and in view of Modi’s ‘cashless dream’, China is reported to have increased the production of PoS machines by around 600 percent, even as there is no dearth of rhetoric associated with ‘Make in India’.  A Chinese PoS machine that simultaneously performs various functions such as billing, accounting, data storage, and money transfer on an average costs Rs. 5 lac. Though a cashless economy inevitably eliminates vast-majority of petti and small retail traders as it would be impossible for them to bear the cost of installing PoS machines, even the financial burden (which will be put on the backs of consumers in the form service charges) on the average merchant would be unbearable. Though there are reports on some Indian companies in Bangalore (e.g., Zk Teco) producing PoS machines, their efficiency and capability compared with Chinese machines are reported to below standard. Thus, the much trumpeted 'Make in India' itself has now transformed into 'Made in China'. It is often said that Modi has to fulfill his cashless dream by totally depending on the mutually contending two biggest imperialist powers in the world; on the US for all the software components and on China for the hardware.  

   Along with cyber security, in the concrete case of uninterrupted and efficient power supply, download speed, bandwidth availability and server capacity, India lags much behind even the neighboring countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.  In terms of the Digital Networking Index based on a recent survey of 139 countries, India’s rank is 91 whereas, the same is still lower at 114 when it comes to the case of Basic Infrastructure Digital Transactions Index, as measured by international agencies. As reported by speedtest.net in December 2019, regarding mobile internet speeds of countries, India ranks 128th in the list of 140 countries. Further, the download speed of India is the lowest among BRICS countries at 11.46 Mbps (Megabits per second), while the world average is 32.01 (the highest speed is 103.18 which is in South Korea).

Given this extreme backwardness of India’s digital infrastructure and technology, the neoliberal advisers of Modi including Nilekani have suggested a “leap-frog” to overcome such hurdles for achieving the cashless dream. For instance, though the number of mobile phones in India comes to around 100 crore, according estimates, only 25 percent of the population has smartphones useful for digital payments. Hence the alternative suggested is to link Aadhar with BHIM and thereby develop BHIM Aadhar Pay as the main digital tool in the move towards digitization.  Another suggestion is to make use of the new developments in digital technology such as “block chain” (capability of storing data as separate blocks as if in a chain) in accomplishing the declared objective.    

But these claims have no basis and are only wishful thinking in view of India’s dismal experience with similar experiments in recent times. A best example is that of GST (Goods and Services Tax), which in many respects is a “digital tax”, that makes use of digital technology. Like the Catalyst-sponsored cashless project being super-imposed on India, the entire blueprint of GST that totally undermined the federal character of Indian Constitution itself was also designed by imperialist think-tanks. GST being the biggest postwar neoliberal tax reform, various institutions and agencies such as OECD, UNDP, IMF, World Bank, WTO, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), KPMG, Deloitte, Tax Inspectors Without Borders (TIWB), Forum for Tax Administration (FTA), etc. have actively coordinated their work with India’s National Institute of Public Finance and Policy to design it. All stakeholders including traders can become part of the GST regime only by registering themselves with the GSTN and can pay taxes only through its software. However here too, on account of the extreme inefficiency and backwardness of India’s digital/software technology the GST experiment is in severe crisis today. Due to software malfunctioning, according to reports, more than 38 lac merchants across India are yet to submit their GST returns for the preceding year. In the specific case of the tiny state of Kerala, as of January31, 2020, only 25 percent of the registered traders has submitted their returns even for the fiscal year 2017-18--an issue directly linked with the non-viability and incompatibility of India’s basic digital technology with the avowed claims of its ruling classes.  

 

Democracy and Freedom in a Cashless Society

Denial of the right to hold cash or currency, the universally accepted and time-tested tool or means for payments is inseparably linked with broader questions of freedom and democracy. Those who have no bank accounts and/or no cash in their accounts and have no access to the essential digital tools and/or not capable of to use them properly are the first to be deprived of their right to life, remain alienated and excluded in a cashless society. As mentioned earlier, digitization, like any other phenomenon is subsumed under class relations and concrete social divisions and the so called “digital divide” or “digital gaps” or “digital relations” arising from superimposition of digital payments will certainly reinforce existing socio-economic inequalities between and within countries and will “disenfranchise” the already deprived “other”. In a cashless economy, those who are not “digital citizens”, or those who are not “digitized” will be deprived of livelihood and basic sustenance and all those fundamental rights associated with  ‘citizenship’ in spite of their being formal citizens.

Concrete details coming out from Scandinavian countries like Sweden which are moving towards the goal of cashless society pinpoint to many grass-root level difficulties including the problems faced by rural and elderly people on account of digitization. At a time when people are forced to be alert with many vexed issues of life, keeping the username and password, the ‘life-saving medicine’ in a cashless society always in one’s memory is an added liability. Loss or denial of one’s digital tool (e.g. smartphone) results in loss of one’s many rights associated with citizenship altogether. Why freedom-loving people should shoulder such unnecessary burdens? Digital payments will deprive people not only of their privacy, but even freedom associated with keeping cash with them. These are questions raised by well-meaning people even in countries like US which have the potential in terms digital technology for embracing cashless transactions.

 

Democracy giving way for Corporatocracy?

   Obviously, cashless society is one where banks (and other financial entities) are the custodian of the entire currency stock in the country. This takes place under neoliberal corporatization, when banks are becoming the supreme arbiter or the decisive force in the economy. Today all socio-economic sectors are apparently becoming sub-structures of the bank-led financial superstructure that encompasses more than 90 percent of the entire economic activities. In this epoch, therefore, the ongoing close integration between corporate-led banks and the state regimes is the material basis of emerging neo-fascism everywhere. In a digitized and cashless economic system, real economic power will be in the hands of a few banking monopolies who control the entire monetary stock, the software giants and internet providers who provide the digital tools together with the neoliberal state.  No wonder, ever since the advent of digitization, the biggest MNCs and billionaires have been digital-software giants or companies close to them. As is obvious, this directly results from the galloping profits especially from the digital-financial sphere. While there is no specific cost for physical cash/currency transfer/transaction among people, in a cashless economy, every swiping or digital transfer leads to a corresponding deduction in the form of service charge / fee/commission from the bank account of those involved. For instance, when any number of physical exchange of a hundred rupee note among persons can be done cost-free, the same through digital transaction will involve substantial deduction at every stage that directly goes into corporate coffers.

Very revealingly, Thomas Jefferson who drafted the US Constitution was reported to have warned in 1802 that banks controlling currency on account of their power to deprive people of their wealth would be more dangerous than standing armies. Later, in the “financial crash” of 1929 that led to the Great depression, this terribly destructive power of banks came to the fore such that, as part of New Deal, the Roosevelt government was forced to enact the Glass-Steagall Act for controlling bank-led speculation. Though controls were imposed on banks during the Keynesian welfare period that lasted till the early 1970s, with the collapse of Keynesianism and onset of neoliberalism, all controls on banks have been taken away.  In the global financial crisis (“sub-prime crisis”) of 2008, the dangerous role of banks was once again exposed more than ever.  But unlike the 1930s, in the absence of countervailing forces capable of resisting the most reactionary offensive from monopoly banks and finance capitalists, merging with the corporate interests of neo-fascist regimes, banking monopolies and financial corporations notorious for financial frauds and swindles are coming to the centre-stage of economic policy-making today.  In this context, digitization and cashless transactions have imparted a new dimension to the unhindered power of banks. As people are becoming captives of bank-controlled digital finance having transnational dimensions, democracy is giving way to corporatocray.  

 

India, a Guinea Pig for Cashless Experiment?

In this context, why the Modi government is so adamant in imposing the cashless project which is totally inappropriate and incompatible with the India’s digital capabilities and social realities is the pertinent question now. As the aforesaid analysis underscores, despite having all the required technological infrastructure and tools necessary for digital transactions, with the exception of a few Scandinavian countries, the reluctance to embrace cashless payments is very strong in most countries of EU, crucial US, and Japan.  Not only regarding digital payments, but in the case of other political-economic issues too, these countries are quite unwilling to cast their lot with digitization. Their conspicuous opposition towards EVM-based voting and strong affinity to ballots are noteworthy. This is mainly due to the possibility of manipulating people’s voting preferences through the insertion of malicious software in to EVMs.  Another example is that of GST. As mentioned earlier, it is an acknowledged fact that various US-based institutions and agencies were in the forefront of superimposing the neoliberal tax regime of GST over world people. But these agencies have not yet succeeded to convince the federal states in US who are vehemently opposed to a GST regime.

The fact that Modi regime under the cover of its nationalist pretensions has been opening up India for the digital experiments especially of US corporate interests assumes particular significance here. Reports from western sources amply show the manner in which “Better Than Cash Alliance”, Gates Foundation, USAID-led Catalyst and so on have manipulated the Modi regime for superimposing a cashless system in India. For instance, referring to the Demonetization exercise in India, Bill Gates, Head of world’s richest Foundation declared: “It is certainly our goal to make full digitalization happen in the next three years in the large developing countries. We have worked directly with the central bank there (India) over the last three years” (Norberthaering.de/en/war-on-cash/2-years-demonetisation). For carrying out this task, Nachiket Mor, Head of Gates Foundation in India actively worked as a member of the Central Board of the RBI. More information on how under the pliable Modi government India has been made a “guinea pig” by US agencies for cashless experiments is already there in the public domain. A Report published by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in the aftermath of Demonetization also confirmed how it was a catalyst for transforming India in to a cashless society. Modi’s Digital India program, Report of the High Level Committee led by Nandan Nilekani, RBI Notification on Deepening Digital Payments and the ongoing pilot project in selected Indian districts, etc. should be analyzed in this broader context.      

 

Conclusion

There is a tendency even among well-meaning people to summarily dismiss these ongoing Indian initiatives for a cashless society as an impractical daydream. However, fascism is a specific situation where many an agenda which were considered impossible and impractical in yesteryears become concrete realities today. For instance, a few years back, nobody in India would have thought of religion becoming a criterion for Indian citizenship. Or nobody ever had thought of a ‘’surgical attack” on the Indian people like Demonetization. In fact, an objective reading of contemporary Indian history shall make it amply clear that corporate-saffron fascists in India will go to any extent to appease neoliberal corporate interests, especially those emanating from the US. This calls for a serious evaluation of the pilot project for transforming    selected Indian districts into cashless ones and a pan-Indian extension of it thereafter.

 Meanwhile, Lead Banks in charge of the districts selected for the cashless experiment are reported to have started their work in close coordination with the district administration of the respective districts. Initiatives for enrolling all those who are outside the banking net are also in full swing. Efforts to install the necessary digital tools like PoS machines in government offices are also going on. Work for involving NGOs, self-help groups, micro-finance institutions, trade organisations and other peoples  movements in the cashless project has been started. And an all-out offensive for creating people’s awareness on digital payments is in the offing. Of course, more information on this experiment having far-reaching consequences is still to come. Meanwhile, it is high time on the part of all well-meaning people to have an analysis and understanding on  the cashless project in the proper perspective, and thereby enabling all democratic forces to approach this corporate (fascist) agenda in its multi-dimensional manifestations from a people’s perspective.    

 

Select References:-

 

  1. Report of the High Level Committee on Deepening of Digital Payments, May 2019 (rbidocs.rbi.org.in)
  2. Expanding and Deepening of Digital Payments Ecosystem, Reserve Bank of India (rbi.org.in/Scripts/Notification)
  3. Norbert Haering, “A welt-kept open Secret: Washington is behind India’s brutal experiment of abolishing cash” January 1, 2017 (norberthaering.de)
  4. Norbert Haering , “More evidence of early US involvement in Indian de-monetisation”, January 7, 2017 (norberthaering.de)
  5. Norbert Haering, “Demonetisation in India was a great success—for the Better Than Cash Alliance” (norberthaering.de/en/war-on-cash/2-years-demonetisation)
  6. “Demonetisation is Catalysing Digital Payments Growth in India”, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, April 12, 2017
  7. National Bureau of Economic Research, Working paper on Aadhar, https://bit.ly/2T2wSe8
  8. Global Round-up of the World of Work-worklife101 (bbc.com/worklife-101)
  9. “The US will not be cashless any time soon”, February 2019, Forbes (www.forbes.com)
  10. “America has technology to go cashless, but too paranoid to do...", Nov.17, 2016 (www.businessinsider.com)
  11. IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking 2018 (www.imd.org)
  12. P J James, “Demonetisation as a weapon for Biggest Corporate Assault on People”, Red Star, December 2016 (www.cpiml.in)
  13. P J James, “Modi Shifts Goalpost as Demonetisation becomes a Fiasco”, Red Star, January 2017 (www.cpiml.in)
  14. Interpol-Cyber Security (cybersecurityintelligence.com)
  15. Bhumika Khatri, “India's Internet Speeds Growing Much Slower Than Other Countries and That's a Problem'' (inc42.com/features/)
  16. Internet Bandwidth- Country Rankings (the global economy.com); also see, speedtest.net
  17. "11 Reasons Why Cash is Still King", USA Today, June 14, 2017 (www.usatoday.com)
  18. "Cash is Still King in the Digital Era" (money.cnn.com)
  19. "Better Than Cash Alliance Lauds India's Push for Digital Payments, Aadhar", Nov.29, 2019 (livemint.com)
  20. Harvard Business Review, “60 Countries' Digital Competitiveness Indexed” (sites.tufts.edu/digitalplanet/hbr)
  21. "Transforming the digital payments infrastructure" (www.livemint.com)
  22. “Thomas Jefferson on Banks” (www.snopes.com)

 

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On 24th February when Trump and Modi were displaying bonhomie, and Trumps was spewing Islamophobia boasting about how US administration has put down Islamic terrorists making the largely RSS mobilization at Ahmedabad stadium happy, and the mainstream media was eulogizing these neo-fascists power, Modi’s own RSS men, the Hindutva terrorists, led by BJP leaders indulging in hate speeches had started surrounding the Muslim areas of Northeast Delhi and indulging in large scale arson, looting and killing. As happened in Gujarat in 2002, the police was not visible for two days, or if present, were helping the RSS men on 24th and 25th February, resulting in large scale arson of Muslim shops, workplaces and houses, killing of 23 and bullet injuries to hundreds. By the time Amit Shah opened his mouth giving ‘shoot at sight’ orders to the saffronized Delhi police, and Modi appealed for peace on 26th February, what the RSS wanted was started and realized in a big way, terrorizing the Muslims, in their latest bid to show that the Muslims are entirely responsible to the Anti-CAA, NPR, NRC movement. It was surprising that when a defeated Assembly candidate of BJP, Kapil Misra, could lead the attacks by the RSS men, none of the elected AAP MLAs or leaders of the mainstream opposition parties were also not visible in the streets to support the victims of this aggression by Hindutva forces. Reports from this area on 26th also shows that, in spite of putting the whole area under prohibitory orders and police making flag marches, RSS men are still on the streets and they are still burning down if any shops, factories or houses of Muslims are still remaining in this area. As a result, hundreds of Muslim families are fleeing from their houses to more safe areas in Delhi. Instead of addressing this state of affairs and to arrest the RSS muscle men indulging in these crimes, BJP is justifying their actions by comparing what Congress did in 1984! It is an outright criminal approach! As far as the masses are concerned they unequivocally condemn all criminal acts of pogroms in 1984, 2002 as well as what is happening in Delhi now in order to communalize and suppress the Anti-CAA, NPR, NRC movement.

Modi government cannot justify what the RSS men are doing in the streets of Delhi, indulging in large scale arson and killings by their muscular forces providing state support. A whole section of the population, the Muslims, are subjected to barbarous attacks in order to communalize and brutally suppress a peaceful movement by masses of people, not only Muslims, but also the Dalits, Adivasis and other most backward sections spear headed by the students and women on a large scale. What the Modi government is doing is illegal, unconstitutional and cannot be justified at all. So we demand his government should resign taking responsibility for what is happening in the country to impose the CAA, and to go ahead with the NPR from 1st April, to be followed by the NRC process after 30th September, the entire process aimed at making tens of millions of people stateless, as was done under NRC/Assam in that state, rendering 19 lakhs of residents stateless.

We appeal to the Masses of Muslims undaunted by the criminal attacks by the Modi government, the Dalits, the Adivasis and other most backward sections of people, along with all secular democratic forces who are part of the present Anti-CAA, NPR, NRC movement, to intensify the movement to its highest levels so that the Modi government can be prevented from launching the NPR anywhere in the country. Along with this, let us intensify the campaign demanding the banning of RSS which is the largest, uniformed, trained and armed terrorist organization in the world, as well as the resignation of Modi government which has subverted all its constitutional responsibilities, resorting to criminal acts to impose the majoritarian, Hindutva agenda of fascist RSS.

K N Ramachandran

General Secretary

CPI (ML) Red Star

 

New Delhi

26th February 2020

While the Hindutva fascists with their genocidal hatred towards Muslims have been leading an unprecedented anti-Muslim riot in the entire national capital region of Delhi, during the preceding two days, Modi was engaged in  appeasing Trump, his imperialist master by totally conceding to all of latter's corporate demands.

 

 Accordingly, the joint statement that arrived at designates both India and US as the "Comprehensive Global Strategic  Partners", with the former obviously in its traditinal junior capacity. It implies a hither to unknown level of military cooperation between the two, a revitalisation of the "Quadrilateral" consisting of US, Japan, Australia and India as a geopolitical counterweight against China in the Indo-Pacific region.

 

Out of this deal, the immediate economic gain to US imperialism is  a Rs. 50000 core defence deal including around Rs. 20000 crore weapon-deal from US military-industrial complex led by arms MNCs such as Lockheed Martin. Among other things, the deal also involves the dumping in India of the crisis-ridden Westinghouse-owned 6 obsolete nuclear plants at a cost of around Rs. 2.5 lac crore as well as an MoU on LNG pipeline infrastructure between Indian Oil Corporation and Exxon-Mobil.

 

However, more gruesome is regarding the primary information on the blueprint of a comprehensive trade deal that is under process. Accordingly, among other things, the whole dairy sector of India providing livelihood and sustenance to 15 crore Indians (almost equal to half the population of US) will be thrown open to US agribusiness and corporate farm exporters who are already enjoying a subsidy of around Rs. 61 lac crore in US that enables them to dump their products in India and elsewhere. Regarding this, fascist Modi regime is reported to have given its commitment to Trump even as Indian farmers, many of whom own just one or two animals, are consistently demanding that agriculture should be kept out of all international trade deals.

 

A number of agreements on digital technology and cyberspace, counterterrorism and so on in which US corporatocracy has monopoly power have also been arrived at. For instance, displaying his wholehearted interest to work as a junior partner of US digital giants, Mukesh Ambani has even informed Trump that his company (Jio) is "the only network in the world that doesn't have a single Chinese component." No doubt, various US tech giants such as Googlepay, Apple, Visa, Mastercard, Facebook, What's App, etc. have already established their tendacles in India.

 

And that also is related to the political crux of the matter. At a time when imperialist China is the biggest threat to US-led western imperialist bloc (for instance, all US efforts to contain the growing clout of Huawei, the Chinese digital giant has failed so far) in today's multipolar world, Trump is taking all steps available to deal with it. As the post-Brexit EU becomes more assertive and as Sino-Russian alliance, unlike the Cold War days,  is more strong, Trump, the current CEO of US corporate interests is bent on utilising India as a last resort and  a launching pad in its anti-China machinations.

 

As is obvious now, in this sharpening inter-imperialist rivalry between US and China, Modi is fully inclined towards casting his lot with the former. This was evident from Modi' s last minute exit from the RCEP by the end of 2019,  as continuing in it would have resulted in playing the inevitable second fiddle to China which is the big brother both in RCEP and in Asia-Pacific region. Now together with the geopolitical undertones involved, Modi's impending trade deal with US having far-reaching repercussions for India is the logical corollary of his backing out from RCEP trade deal.

 

To be precise, with these various defence partnerships and trade deals (whose legal framework is to be finalised), Modi is integrating India with the US-led western imperialist bloc that is fully in conformity with the time-tested servility of RSS to Yanki imperialism.

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The Communist movement in India has a history of almost a century after the salvos of October Revolution in Russia brought Marxism-Leninism to the people of India who were engaged in the national liberation struggle against the British colonialists. It is a complex and chequered history.