I Have already given sufficient hints in the last issue that Comrade Debiprasad Chattapadhyaya possessed his own peculiar view on the tradition of Indian philosophy. He gave clean-chit to at least two philosophical systems, namely Purva Mimamsa and Naya-Vaisesika as materialist which were originated from the Vedas or at least declared their allegiance to the Vedas. He did not give much importance to Yoga since it was not a philosophy proper. The history of Samkhya philosophy we have already discussed according to the view of Debiprasad who did not accept this philosophy as a Vedic one. Therefore, there is only one Vedic philosophy left which Debiprasad declared as an out and out idealistic and that is Vedanta or Uttar Mimamsa. Along with that he added another philosophy, although non-Vedic in nature, in the list of idealist system, i.e. Mahayana Buddhism. Therefore he declared in the beginning of his another remarkable work, “What is Living and What is Dead in Indian Philosophy”: “At the same time when it comes to the question of a serious philosophical defense of idealism, the Advaita Vedantists eagerly borrow from the Mahayana Buddhists, just as the latter show no hesitation to work out the fundamental suggestions of the Upanisads, normally considered the scriptures of their aliens. This philosophical fraternity between the Vedantists and Buddhists is liable to be overlooked by us if we are misled by the face value of their own sectarianism.” Now let us see how Debiprasad described the fundamental tenets of the above mentioned philosophies and why he identified those as the most prominent idealist systems. I shall start with the Advaita Vedanta.
Debiprasad has divided the philosophical systems in idealist and materialist lines depending on the single issue, that is, whether the system recognizes the existence of the material world or not. The Vedanta philosophy opines that the material world is nothing but an illusion. We have already come to know that the Vedas are divided into four distinct portions, namely, Sanhitas, Brahmanas, Aryanakas and Upanisadas or Vedanta. The Vedic idealism took shape for the first time in the Upanisadas. Here, for the first time it was categorically asserted that actually there was nothing in this world but only Brahmo, the supreme idea due to which every creation was made possible. Whatever we see in this phenomenal world actually is nothing but only the manifestation of the Brahmo. However, we cannot recognize those as the one and same Brahmo due to our ignorance. Similarly all the human beings, or jibatman are actually another manifestation of the Brahmo or Paramatman. Due to this monism the dominant school of the Vedanta is called Advaita Vedanta.
There are many Upanisadas so far discovered. The number might be around one hundred and eight. However, out of that only eleven Upanisadas are most important and sufficiently archaic in nature. Many Upanisadas are composed in the later period. The Brihadaranyaka Upanisada attributed idealist philosophy based on the concept of the Brahmo to one ancient sage called Yajnavalkya. Debiprasad wrote: “Such a philosopher is the great Yajnavalkya who declares that reality is just a mass of consciousness [vijnanaghana]. It can neither be grasped by the normal organs of knowledge nor described in normal language.” [What is Living and What is Dead in Indian Philosophy]
The same conception we can find in other major Upanisadas also. Apart from the Upanisadas another important source of Advaita Vedanta is Brahmosutra composed by some Badrayana. Later, in the eighth century CE, Acharya Samkara wrote a detailed commentary on Brahmosutra which actually became the main source of Advaita Vedanta philosophy. Although the Advaita tradition is pre-Buddhist and many Acharyas came into succession to uphold the view and establish it firmly into the people’s mind, Samkara became most prominent philosopher in this series. The upsurge of Samkara is described by Debiprasad in the following manner:
“In the subsequent history of Indian idealism, Advaita Vedanta becomes the most dominant philosophy, largely because of the marked decline of interest in philosophy proper among the Mahayana Buddhists after Santaraksita. The great prestige of Advaita Vedanta in later history of Indian philosophy is associated with the activities of Samkara, who is either a direct disciple of Gaudapada or a disciple of his disciple. Born in a village in Kerala he extensively travels in India and founds four monastic establishments in four corners of the country, the heads of which still bear the general title Samkara-acharya. In founding these monasteries, Samkara follows the organizational principles of the famous Buddhist monasteries which have provisions for wholetime religious and philosophical propagandists. In the context of his own times the establishments of these monasteries is surely an evidence of his exceptional organizational abilities, inclusive of his ability of mobilizing huge financial support for the purpose. Such organizational activities apart, his literary output is undoubtedly voluminous, just as the literary quality of his writings is exceptionally high. For sheer charm of lucid Sanskrit prose, none in Indian philosophy perhaps ever equals Samkara. And yet Samkara does not live a very long life. Born in AD 788, he dies at the age of only thirty-two. Judged by sheer personal gifts, therefore, this young philosopher has indeed a very imposing stature in the cultural history of the country.” [ibid]
This is an important fact, though Debiprasad did not give much importance to it, that all the major philosophies propagated by the Aryans, be it Vedic [namely Advaita] or non-Vedic [namely Buddhist], had started philosophical discourses with ignorance. Samkara also started his discourse with ignorance and “this behavior has for its material cause an unreal nescience and man resorts to it by mixing up reality with unreality as a result of superimposing the things themselves or their attributes on each other.”[Brahmosutravasya— Samkaracharya]. In Vedanta this superimposition is called nescience or avidya. Now, what is the consequence of avidya? As the result of this nescience lay persons perceive the material world and assume that it is real. According to Advaita this is the starting point of all problems.
But how can the felt reality actually be unreal? Here, the Advaita Vedantists reply that it is due to avidya a false perception takes place which is called Maya. Just as it is only because of ignorance that one saw a snake where there was just a piece of rope. Similarly the entire material world which we perceive is nothing but sense-illusion or Maya. However, the illusion is also a reality, but a different one. For a Vedantist illusion or Maya is illusory reality or pratibhasika-satta. But what about the perception of the rope in the rope? According to the Advaita Vedantists it is nothing but vyavaharika-satta or existence from the point of view of practical life. From the point of view of absolute reality both are false but the degree of their falseness differs. Debiprasad wrote: “The former [perception of a snake in the rope] not to speak of having any ultimate reality, could not serve even the purpose of practical life while the latter, though equally bereft of ultimate reality, could and did serve these purposes. From the point of view of ultimate reality or the paramarthika-satta both were of course utterly false, and as such, it would be wrong to imagine that the rope perceived in the rope had any more reality about it. In other words, there were degrees of untruth and unreality, though these were not to be confused with degrees of truth and reality. For there was nothing real excepting the Brahman and the whole structure of practical existence was false and unreal.”[Debiprasad Chattapadhyaya: Indian Philsophy]
Now, the question is why the Vedantists consider everything related to the material world is unreal?
No clear answer of this question is ever given in Vedanta, but there are enough indications. And Debiprasad too, did not pay much attention to it. However, it is an important subject which we must understand in order to follow the discussion of Debiprasad about the Indian career of Idealism. Let me quote a debate between Samkara and his opponent on a Sutra in Brahmosutra of Badrayana.
The Sutra is: “Ante Caracagrahanat!”[He is the eater who consumes all that moves and does not move]. Now the question is, “who is the eater?” Samkara was in the opinion that the Eater was the supreme Self. Then the doubt was raised: “We read in Kathopanisad: ‘How can one know thus as to where It [the Self] is, for which both the Brahmana and the Ksatriya become rice [food] and for whom death takes the place of a curry [or ghee etc. poured in rice]?’ [I.ii.25]. Here we appraised of some eater indicated by the mention of rice and its adjunct [curry]. Now who can this eater be? Is it fire or the individual soul, or is it the supreme Self? This is the doubt, for no conclusive distinction is in evidence, and it is seen in this book that questions are put [to Death by Nachiketa] with regard to three entities——— Fire, individual soul, and the supreme Self. What should be the conclusion then?
So the Opponent said: “The eater is Fire. Why? Because this is gathered from the familiar use in such text as, ‘Fire is the eater of food’ [Brihadaryanaka Upanisada, I.iv.6], as well as common parlance. Or the individual soul may be the eater, for there is the text, ‘One of them eats the fruits of divergent testes [sweet or sour]’ [Mundaka Upanisada, I.1]. But it cannot be the supreme Self, for there is the text, ‘The other looks on without eating’ [ibid].
Samkara replied: This being the position, we say: The eater here should be the supreme Self. Why? Because of his appropriation of all that moves and does not move. For all movable and immovable things appear here as the eatable thing with death as its [pouring] adjunct. None but the supreme Self can consume such a food fully. As for the supreme Self, it is quite possible to assert that He devours all, inasmuch as He withdraws everything into Himself during dissolution.
Opponent: But the appropriation of all that moves and does not move is not stated here. How can then the appropriation of all movable and unmovable things be accepted as an established fact to be advanced as a ground [for inferring God]?
Samkara: That creates no difficulty, because when Death is mentioned as the curry, all beings present themselves along with it, and because the Brahmanas and Ksatriyas are cited by way of suggesting [all beings], they being the chief among them.
As for the arguments that even the supreme Self cannot be the eater in the face of the Upanisadic revelation, “The other looks on without eating”, we say: This revelation is meant to deny the enjoyment of the fruits of action, for that is near at hand [to the text]. That is not a denial of the dissolution of all things [figuratively denoted by eating], inasmuch as Brahman is well known in all the Upanisads as the cause of creation, sustenance, and dissolution. Therefore, the supreme Self can be the devourer here.” [Brahma-Sutra-Bhasya of Sankaracharya/ Trans by Swami Gambhirananda/ Advaita Ashrama/ Kolkata].
Although written in little obscure language, but it is very clear from the passage that Vedanta accepts the fact that in this world everything is perishable, impermanent. We have already seen that the materialists [Lokayatikas] also were in this opinion. But is there anything which is not perishable? The materialist answer is No. However, the Advaita Vedanta as the leader of idealism in our country strongly advocates the notion that there is the supreme Self which is not perishable. It is permanent [nitya]. Therefore, “He” is the “eater of all the things which moves and does not move”. Hence “He” is only real. And rest of the world which is impermanent and perishable is not real, only illusion or Maya. For the idealists, impermanent is unreal. And the permanent is only real, the absolute truth.
If the Mayavada [the theory of illusion] is the first basic tenet of Advaita, the second one is based on its denial of the valid means of knowledge [pramana]. Debiprasad Chattapadhyaya rightly pointed out, “Above all, any real allowance to the normal sources of knowledge carried the danger of imputing reality to the body and the external world. Therefore, to fortify his own position Samkara had to deny the validity of all possible sources of knowledge—— the senses, reason and even the Veda.” [Indian Philosophy].
Now, this conception needs some discussions. According to Samkara and Advaita philosophy only real thing is the supreme Self, which is called Brahmo. Therefore, the entire material world is unreal. A person is unreal. His or her body is unreal. Therefore, his sense-organs are unreal. So, his perceptions, inference and other means of knowledge are unreal. Therefore, all pramanas are unreal or invalid. All sense-organs are operating under the general boundary of ignorance or avidya. Therefore those are doing nothing but super-imposing one entity upon another. So, Debiprasad wrote:
“Samkara opens his Sariraka-bhasya with the declaration that the claim of all sources of knowledge like perception, inference, etc. as giving us real knowledge has to be rejected outright, because we can use these as instruments of knowledge only so long as we are under the general spell of ignorance. But why is it so? Samkara says that the basic function of ignorance— as is evident from the patent cases like seeing a snake in a rope —is to ‘super-impose’ something on something else, or, in simpler language, falsely imagining something to be what it is actually not. Without such a ‘super-imposition’ no source of knowledge can at all operate. The very precondition of all the alleged sources of knowledge is ignorance. Instead of giving real knowledge, all these so-called sources of knowledge keep one under the spell of ignorance.” [What is Living and What is Dead in Indian Philosophy].
This same long speech Samkara gave in his Brahmosutrabhasya, too. Now the question is, how then a person can come out from the all-pervading grip of ignorance in order to achieve salvation or mukti? This is another question to which Debiprasad Chattapadhyaya once again did not pay much attention. He is only happy to identify idealism and not really interested into the social consequences of the same. According to Advaita since ignorance or avidya is the root cause of bondage and false knowledge, then the actual knowledge is the only way out. And what is the actual knowledge? It is nothing but the knowledge of the supreme self which is called Brahmogyana. However, since Brahmogyana is also a gyana or knowledge [actually supreme knowledge] then if there is no valid means of knowledge then how can one obtain this? Advaita philosophy has a specific answer to this question. In Kath Upanisad, when Nachiketa requested Yama [the god of death] to render him the knowledge of Brahmo [Brahmogyana], Yama at first expressed doubts whether he was a fit person for the job. He said that if this knowledge was rendered by an ordinary person then it would not be understood because this particular knowledge did not depend on debates and discussions, or on some other means of knowledge. Only a fit person [Brahmogyani] can render this knowledge [“Na narebarena prokto esa subigyea, bahudha chintyamanah/ Ananyoprokte gatiratra nastanian hi atarkam anupramanat”— Kath Upanisad/ 1.2.eight]. Therefore, as far as the philosophy is concerned, Advaita finally accepted the advices of the supreme teacher who possesses the knowledge of Brahmo as the only valid means of knowledge, since the knowledge of Brahmo— the only true knowledge—— is beyond of any debate or discussion [atarkam]. Same thing is repeated many times in different Upanisadas and other Vedantic literatures. As a result the grip of the Brahmins over the religious matters was firmly established. And it is a well known fact that the control over the religious matters was the key to control the society including its economy and politics.
Here, Debiprasad unfolded a magnificent discussion that how the religious matters became the key to control the economy and society which in return played a pivotal role to develop the backdrop of idealist insurgency. Yajnabalkya, the great sage at that time once called his two wives to divide his wealth between them as he was about to leave the family in order to pursuit for a higher life. Then Maitreyi, one of his wives asked him, “If now, Sir, the whole earth filled with wealth were mine, would I be immortal thereby?” The core philosophical discussion in the Brihadaryanaka Upanisada starts with this question. The question undoubtedly is thought-provoking mainly for two reasons.
Firstly, it is interesting to note that at that time in the realm of human thought one question was already present, i.e., how to become immortal! Debiprasad pointed out that in the Vedic age the thinking to be immortal did not occur at all in the human minds. However, in the Upanisadic age, when the surplus production had appeared and a propertied class was born then arising of this thinking at first among them and next to spread in the entire society became absolutely natural. Debiprasad said, “Nothing is more attractive for the kings than the prospect of overcoming death or attaining immortality. It is basically the same temptation that leads the Pharaohs of Egypt to waste colossal amount of wealth to build pyramids.” [What is Living and What is Dead in Indian Philosophy/ page 127]. Now the question is what is the connection between immortality and the idealist Vedantist philosophy? It is interesting to see that when Maitreyi asked Yajnabalkya the above mentioned question he replied, “No, as the life of the rich, even so would your life be. Of immortality, however, there is no hope through wealth.” Then what is the path for immortality? Then Yajnabalkya started to render the “secret knowledge” on Barhmo to Maitreyi and the core philosophical discussion in Brihadaranakyaka Upanisada began.
This secret knowledge of Barhmo is nothing but the world denying idealism which is called Vedanta. Debiprasad remarked, “The metaphysical discourse attributed to him [Yajnabalkya— present writer] is a long one. Its main point is the gradual unfolding of the idealist outlook. But how is this outlook supposed to overcome death and ensure immortality? There is only one way of doing this and that is to remove from the realm of reality the physical world as a whole, and along with this the physical facts of birth and death. As Yajnabalkya argues, the soul, which is pure consciousness and bliss, is the only reality. Being completely uncontaminated by anything material, it is by nature aloof from what appears to mortal eyes as birth and death. This death, like birth, is completely unreal. How can one who knows this be any longer haunted by the fear of death? This is not ensuring oneself against the fact of death, before which the philosopher is as helpless as any other mortal. But it is a way of inducing a subjective change in oneself which helps one to overcome — though only in ideas and imagination — the sense of death and the terrors thereof.” [ibid/page:131].
Thus, according to the observations of Debiprasad, Indian idealism took up the task to make a subjective change in the minds of the people to deny the material world in order to deny the actual facts related to the birth and death of human beings. This observation is important and at the same time it is interesting to note that Rabindranath Tagore, a staunch follower of Upanisada for quite a long time in his life, finally landed in the same conclusion in a different perspective although. Travelling Iran by airplane at the backdrop of the war-ridden events between the World Wars was a turning point in the life of Tagore. Most probably it was the first ever experience for him to travel through an airplane in his life. He wrote that when the plane took off and reached in certain height the houses, roads and localities on the ground suddenly became a map only which in return exhausted the human relations centering round the ground reality. He exclaimed that probably for that reason it made so easy for a pilot of a bomber plane to drop bombs in order to create mass destruction. He said further that in the beginning of the Kurukshetra war when Arjuna did not want to enter into the war fearing mass killing, Krishna rendered him the knowledge of Brahmo. And what it did? Tagore said that it actually lifted the mind of Arjuna in such a height that from that above, the facts related to who killed and who were killed became absolutely cloudy. Tagore named this treatment of Vedanta as “theoretical airplane”. [“As the flying machine goes higher and higher ... the signs that tell us the earth is real are gradually obliterated and a three-dimensional picture is flattened into two-dimensional lines. ... Thus deprived of its substantiality, the earth’s hold on our mind and heart is loosened. And it is borne in on me how such aloofness can become terrible, when man finds it expedient to rain destruction on the vagueness below. Who is the slayer and who the slain? Who is kin and who is stranger? This travesty of the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita is raised on high by the flying machine.” Persia, 1932]
Now, let us back to the time of Yajnabalkya once again. We have already discussed the first point which we can understand from the question of Maitreyi to Yajnabalkya, that, the idea and aspiration to be immortal already appeared in the human minds at that time. The second important point is that how much wealth a sage who used to propagate a world-denying philosophy could have at that time, and what was the source of that wealth? Debiprasad tried to calculate the amount which a world-denying sage philosopher could earn at that time and indicated the source of that.
Yajnabalkya was a philosopher from Advaitva Vedanta school, according to which the material world was not real, only illusion. However, it is interesting to note that it did not prevent Yajnabalkya to accumulate wealth. This wealth was accumulated from the King. Debiprasad quoted Brhidaranyaka [Br] Upanisada: “Janaka, king of Videha, was seated. Yajnabalkya came up. To him the king said, ‘Yajnabalkya, what brings you here? Is it because you want cattle or hair-splitting discussion?’ ‘Indeed both, your majesty’, he said.” Debiprasad said further: “Thus this great idealist philosopher, with his intense contempt for the material world, shows no hesitation to admit that he is not interested merely in philosophy; he is also interested in the payment for it.” [ibid/ page:128].
Now, Debiprasad took an attempt to calculate the amount of the wealth of Yajnabalkya. We all know the famous incident which is narrated in Br Upanisada: Once the king Janaka organized a massive yajna [Vedic ritual] where many Vedantist priests and philosophers participated. Janaka was curious that who possessed the highest knowledge on Brahmo [Brahmistha]! So he declared one thousand cows with ten pieces of gold [padas: 1/400th of a tula — ancient Indian measurement] tied to the horns of each as prize. [janako ha baideha bahudakshiena yajneneje tatra ha kurupanchalanam brahmana avisameta bavubustasya ha janakasya baidehasya bijiggisa bavuba kahswidesham brahmananamanucanatama iti sa ha gabam sahasramabarurodha dasa dasa pada ekaikasya srimgorabadha bavubah— Br Upanisada: 3.1.1]
Undoubtedly, it was a big amount. So everybody hesitated to advance. However, Yajnabalkya immediately ordered his disciple Samasraba to lead those cows towards his home [Yajnabalkya’s]. Naturally, it initiated resentments among the Brahmins present there and one of them came forward to challenge Yajnabalkya and a hair-splitting debate started. Yajnabalkya finally defeated Aswal [the Challenger] and won the prize.
This is a known fact. However, Debiprasad went on further investigation. He said: “In the account of the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad just quoted, Yajnabalkya’s pupil drives away for him one thousand cows, with ten padas of gold tied to the horns of each. In the next account of the same Upanisad, king Janaka——awed by Yajnabalkya’s breath-taking flights of pure reason—— four times offers him ‘a thousand cows and a bull as large as an elephant’. This is followed by another account of the same text in which the same philosopher receives from the same donor for the same reason five thousand cows, in installments of one thousand each……… Let us try to be clearer about the property accumulated. Not to speak of other accounts, the three that we have just mentioned tell us of a total of ten thousand cows, besides the ten thousands padas of gold.” [ibid, page 132]
Now, was it the total amount of Yajnabalkya? No. Debiprasad further remarked: “But this is only elementary arithmetic, and lest we are misled by it the Upanisad tells us also of the bulls as big as elephants. The cows accumulated by the priest-philosopher also multiply.” So now it is clear that why king Janaka did not give Yajnabalkya only the cows but also big bulls. Bulls were used to multiply the cows by reproduction. But what was the rate of that reproduction? In order to have a rough understanding regarding the rate of reproduction, Debiprasad quoted a story from Chandagya Upanisad. Let us read that portion:
“Satyakama Jabala goes to Haridrumata Gautama, desiring to be a student of sacred knowledge. After having received him as a pupil, he [the priest-philosopher] separated out four hundred lean, weak cows and said, ‘Follow these, my dear.’ As he was driving them on, he said, ‘I may not return without a thousand.’ So he lived away a number of years. When the number reached a thousand the bull spoke to him, saying: ‘Satyakama!’ ‘Sir’, he replied. ‘We have reached a thousand, my dear. Bring us to the teacher’s home’.” [ibid, page 133]
Then Debiprasad said again: “If this rate of increase satisfies the Upanisadic calculation in one case, there is no reason why it should not be applicable to another. The ten thousand cows received by Yajnabalkya only according to three accounts of the Brihadaranyaka Upanisad are soon supposed to multiply into twenty five thousand. It does not take much time again for the twenty five thousand to multiply into 62,500 and so on.” [ibid, page 133].
Yet the amount of wealth of Yajnabalkya cannot be restricted with cows only. At that time since the cattle were main form of wealth it is often overlooked that to maintain this huge number of cattle a vast portion of land was also required. So, indicating the text of Chandogya Upanisad, Debiprasad said, “Whatever may be the system of land tenure in Upanisadic India, there are in these texts unmistakable accounts of the gift of villages by the kings and the nobles to the custodians of secret wisdom.”
It is interesting to note that all the wealth of the priest-philosophers at that time was accumulated from the kings or the nobles. Therefore, it is clear that a portion of extracted surplus from the real producers by the ruling classes in our country at that time went to the hands of these idealist philosophers. The kings and the nobles used to pay these amounts to them as the reward of the ‘secret knowledge’ which was supposed to make them ‘fearless and immortal’. Therefore, there was a clear and definite relation between the world-denying idealist philosophy and the surplus sharing between the kings and the priests, i.e. between the Brahmins and the Khsatriyas.
However, in this course the biggest challenge emerged in front of the idealist philosophical theories to bridge between illusion and reality. If the material wealth was an illusion then why an idealist priest-philosopher was interested to accumulate wealth? How, Yajnabalkya solved this question which became the landmark of idealism according to Debiprasad, I shall discuss it in the next issue. In this course of discussion it is also an interesting point that how Debiprasad accused the Mahayana Buddhists to follow the path of Vedanta.
Muslims, women, Dalits and tribals to be the worst affected The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) have brought together the nation to agitate against the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) divisive policies. In Assam, where the NRC had already been implemented, 19 lakh people were rendered to be ‘stateless’, with the burden of proof being on them to prove themselves to be the citizens of India. Now, with an all-India NRC on the cards; it will be repeated in Assam again, trade unions and activists say that the worst hit of the entire lot will be the unorganized sector of the country.
What is the Strength of the Unorganized Sector in India?
There have been no conclusive numbers on the strength of the unorganized or informal workforce in India. The Economic Survey of 2018-19 released in July this year says that in India, “almost 93%” of the workforce is “informal”. In a report – Strategy for New India at 75 by Niti Aayog, the informal sector “by some estimates” is supposed to be employing 85% of all workers. Another report by the National Statistical Commission, 2012 pegs it at “more than 90%” of the total workforce. However, going by the numbers, more than 400 million of the people in India work in the unorganized sector.
Who Comes Under the Unorganized Labour Force?
According to the Ministry of Labour, Government of India, the unorganized labour force is categorized under four groups – occupation, nature of employment, specially distressed categories and service categories.
- Under Terms of Occupation: Small and marginal farmers, landless agricultural labourers, share croppers, fishermen, those engaged in animal husbandry, beedi rolling, labelling and packing, building and construction workers, leather workers, weavers, artisans, salt workers, workers in brick kilns and stone quarries, workers in saw mills, oil mills, etc. come under this category.
- Under Terms of Nature of Employment: Attached agricultural labourers, bonded labourers, migrant workers, contract and casual labourers come under this category.
- Under Terms of Specially Distressed Category: Toddy tappers, scavengers, carriers of head loads, drivers of animal driven vehicles, loaders and unloaders come under this category.
- Under Terms of Service Category: Midwives, domestic workers, fishermen and women, barbers, vegetable and fruit vendors, newspaper vendors, etc., belong to this category.
These workers mostly belong to scheduled castes / scheduled tribes and other backward classes and mostly do not possess a permanent residential address, birth or school certificates and find it difficult to apply for voter IDs and Aadhaar identification numbers.
Last year, informing the Parliament about how many people were issued the Aadhaar Card, KJ Alphons, the Minister of State for Electronics and IT, said that more than 89% of the total population had been granted the same.
In 2019, India had around 900 million eligible voters, with 95.64% having a photo identity card.
While the government planned to offer benefits like insurance and pension to over 40 crore unorganized workers using the Aadhaar, it hasn’t made it clear whether the biometric identifier or the voter IDs will be regarded as proof of citizenship.
During the Assam NRC, the basic criteria to appear in the NRC list was that the name of the applicant’s family members had to either be in the first NRC prepared in 1951 or in the electoral rolls up to March 24, 1971. Other than that, applicants also had the option to present documents such as refugee registration certificate, birth certificate, LIC policy, land and tenancy records, citizenship certificate, passport, government issued license or certificate, bank/post office accounts, permanent residential certificate, government employment certificate, educational certificate and court records. However, it must be noted that 19 lakh citizens were left out of the Assam NRC and scores were wrongly dubbed ‘foreigners’ or ‘illegal immigrants’ even after producing the required proofs.
Who Face Document Woes and Why
According to a report by Down to Earth, in India 95 percent (195 million) women were employed in the unorganized sector or engaged in unpaid labour.
Deccan Herald reported that according to Garment Labour Union President Rukmini VP, women are still finding it difficult to enroll for Aadhaar because more than one document is required for address proof. “Migrants often find it difficult to produce them, as their homes are in other states,” she said, urging the government to stop imposing multiple citizenship proofs. The SC, ST and OBCs have historically been kept away from education and property ownership and they are all set to be affected said city-based advocate S Balan who works for the welfare of purakarmikas and daily wage labourers. He also said that at the APMC market in Bengaluru itself, over 3,000 headloaders don’t have any documents, not even voter IDs.
According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy Pvt Ltd, out of the 400 odd million people in India employed in the labour force, 39 million are Muslims. A little more than a hundred million muslims are in the working age bracket in India, i.e. they are of 15 years of age or more. Of these, 42.3 million actually participate in the labour markets by either working or looking for work. Muslim women have a lesser participation in the labour force, compared to other faiths. Out of the 39 million, 36.5 million are men and only 2.5 million are women. Some households have only one working member, mostly a male and if that person has to run from pillar to prove to gather documents, his household is bound to suffer extreme financial losses.
The NRC process in Assam saw many women being left out of the list. Women from poorer backgrounds were excluded due to lack of documents. It was not compulsory in Assam to register birth or deaths until 1985. The NRC process does not recognise this. Several women were married off they turned 18, so their name will not be on the voter list along with their parents. With no awareness of the NRC process and emotional and financial dependency on the patriarch, coupled with practices like early marriage and the dwindling girl-child education robs them of their valid identity proofs. Most of the women in rural areas or conservative households do not register for voter identity cards. Without educational degrees and land documents, women don’t possess independent identity documents which makes them particularly vulnerable to the NRC process.
Dalits and Tribal Communities
The rampant illiteracy and lack of awareness of maintaining documents is going to affect the Dalits and the tribal communities of India. A Delhi-based rights lawyer had claimed that in the Assam NRC over 100,000 Scheduled Tribes who were original inhabitants of Assam were left out of the list due to the inability to prove their legacy from 1971. Overall, the NRC is set to hit the poor the most especially with them running from pillar to post, gathering documents and facing undue harassment from authorities. The NRC process to the exchequer itself may cost over Rs. 50,000 crore in administration expenses, Rs. 2 – 3 lakh crore to construct detention camps and Rs. 36,000 to take care of the citizens who will face a future in detention camps (National Herald).
According to The Times of India, the cost of reclaiming citizenship will go up to Rs. 50,000 per person. In Assam, people left out of the NRC spend Rs. 7,836 crore for hearings. Will the economically crippled labour of India be able to bear the cost of the NRC if and when it does hit the country especially when over 22 percent of the country’s population is below the poverty line?
Last week, the Union Cabinet approved the updation of the National Population Register (NPR), sanctioning funds of over Rs. 8,400 crore for the same. The NPR exercise, scheduled to be updated April onwards, is being seen as the first step to the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
With protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and the NRC gaining ground, the arguments against the citizenship amendments have moved from solely criticising the religious binarial divide of Hindu-Muslim to incorporate the concerns of the historically disadvantaged communities that will be adversely affected. With tribals constituting 8.6 percent of the total population, there are growing concerns regarding the implications of the citizenship law and the NRC for the indigenous and forest-dwelling communities of India. The primary issue is regarding documentation. Forest-dwelling communities have faced a long-lost battle with displacement for the sake of development. In the wake of the NRC, this displacement, that forces them to leave their land and migrate to far-off settlements, has placed them in yet another precarious situation.
According to Aloka Kujur, Jharkhand-based Adivasi rights activist, the state of Jharkhand, being a “Scheduled Tribe/Adivasi area” has witnessed a long history of displacement due to projects including Bokaro Steel Plant, and mining for coal, uranium and bauxite. Displacement continues, even today. “Due to this, many people’s villages have disappeared. So how will these show up in documents?” she asked.
“These people are constantly migrating from one place to another. If you tell them to give documents of their father or grandfather, or ask them where they took birth, how will they tell you? Because even the name of their village has been removed, it has disappeared. It is not in the system anymore. Even if they name the village, where is it? Which district? This is a major issue,” Kujur told The Citizen.
Kujur gave the example of Nilamber Pitamber village in Jharkhand. “Modi sarkar came and inaugurated the Mandal dam. If due to the Mandal dam, there is again an order for displacement, then the entire village will be submerged. Those who are then displaced to other areas, unka naam, pata, thikaana badal jaayega (their name, address and locality of residence will change),” stated the activist, who has a sedition case filed against her for posting on Facebook supporting the Pathalgadi (or Pathalgarhi) movement in Jharkhand.
CR Bijoy, with the Campaign for Survival and Dignity, a national forum for tribals and forest dwellers stated, “The whole point is that if you ask me if I have a birth certificate, I don’t. In my generation, I don’t think any one of us has a birth certificate, because it was never considered at that time as a necessary document.” “Now what I have is what is available in my school records. I do have a passport. But the point is that if you are making a birth certificate a fundamental evidence even to validate my passport, what do I do?” How then are the tribal and forest-dwelling communities expected to furnish such documents, he asked.
Kujur referred to the 2019 Supreme Court order that called for the eviction of lakhs of people belonging to tribal and forest dwelling communities, whose claims to forest land rights were rejected under the The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act (FRA), 2006. “People are living in the forests without Aadhar. They migrate and live in these areas. How will they provide documentation? How will they prove their citizenship?” she asked. Kujur further stated that the tribal populations who fall under the category of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG), earlier known as Primitive Tribal Groups (PTG), do not have any documentation and will find proving their citizenship an extremely arduous task.
As per the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, there are 75 tribal groups spread across 18 states and the Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands that are identified as PVTGs. With “pre-agricultural level of technology, stagnant or declining population growth, extremely low level of literacy and subsistence level of economy”, PVTGs constitute “the most vulnerable section among tribals and largely reside in isolated, remote and difficult areas.” Even the Dalit population in Jharkhand does not have any property in their name, but sustain themselves by working as daily-wage labourers, Kujur told The Citizen. According to her, while documentation is one hurdle the tribal population will find hard to cross, the granting of citizenship based on grounds of religious persecution will create yet another obstacle in their path.
“One thing that has been mentioned in the Citizenship (Amendment) Act is very significant for Jharkhand. The Indian government is saying citizenship will be provided based on religion. In Jharkhand, the adivasi population has become Christian. Sarna Dharmik group is another group that is not mentioned in the Indian Constitution. They have not been given recognition by the government. In this situation, where will this dharmik group go?” Kujur stated. “Apart from this, Birsa Munda had made a Bhisai Dharma. This Bhisai Dharma is practiced within the Munda community. This has also not been recognised by law,” Kujur told The Citizen. Adivasis, being primarily animistic, worship the forests they inhabit and resources they derive sustenance from, rather than the recognised forms of organised religion today.
She further explained that there was a Tana Bhagat team that worked with Gandhi during the freedom struggle. “Even today there are Tana Bhagats. They live a simple life and they are fighting their own property battle to be settled on land of their own by law. This is an issue on the basis of religion. In this situation, the adivasi population, if they practice and follow different dharmas, then if they need to provide identity documentation for citizenship, their ethnic identity will be completely destroyed,” Kujur said.
Against the backdrop of the CAA that will grant Indian citizenship to members of six persecuted religious communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, tribal rights activists also fear that the land inhabited by the indigenous populations of India will become a “dumping ground” for the refugees.
“As far as Central India is concerned, the likelihood is that for the Indian state and the upper ruling caste/class to see the lesser populated tribal region as an easy dumping ground for any person, whether they are internally displaced or foreign ‘illegal’ immigrants,” Bijoy told The Citizen.
Giving an example of the Tamil Sri Lankan repatriates who became estate labourers upon entering India, Bijoy said that about three lakhs were “dumped” in Tamil Nadu’s Nilgiri District, primarily occupying the Gudalur and Pandalur Taluk which were originally tribal regions. “In fact, today the situation is that these repatriates who are estate labourers and tribals are jointly fighting for their land rights,” Bijoy said.
Land rights and the legal security they offer for tribal and forest dwelling communities remain a matter of contention. “There are millions of tribals who are officially landless but holding on to small bits and pieces for their survival,” Bijoy stated. He explained the difference between the two forms of land rights—revenue land and forest land.
“According to the government’s own estimates, there are about 40 million hectares of forest land that fall within the purview of the Forest Rights Act, according to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. Out of which, if we actually look at the extent to which the land has been titled, that is maybe about less than 15 percent,” he said.
While forest land has a component of collective ownership under the Forest Rights Act, the revenue land law primarily talks about individual rights. “If you look at the actual holding of the tribals in the revenue land, you will find that only a very insignificant part of what they really hold is actually titled. So under the government, they are officially ‘landless’ but they are actually holding the land. The reason is that we do not have a revenue law that actually goes through the process of determination of rights,” Bijoy told The Citizen.
Access to documentation is a rare luxury for those living in far-flung regions of the country. While many do own ration cards and Voter IDs, the confusion regarding the documents necessary to prove citizenship is continuing to create anxiety among the populace. The label of ‘landless’ that hangs over the tribals and forest-dwellers further adds to their quandary. “The government here has made a land bank,” Kujur said.
“Within this land bank there is a lot of land. There are people who sustain themselves on the basis of that very land. If it is part of a land bank, it becomes the property of the government. Then the identity of the adivasi community that lives there is threatened,” she told The Citizen. The granting of residential status under the FRA differentiates between those belonging to Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs). STs must prove that they have been living on forest land since before December 13, 2005. OTFDs must prove that at least three generations have been residing on the land in question, prior to the same date.
“Three generations means a person who is currently alive, whether his father and grandfather were seen around the area. If there is some elder person who says we have seen them around, then you can say that at least for three generations they have been residing here,” Bijoy said.
Highlighting the issues created by the bureaucratic takeover of granting of land rights in this manner, he stated, “The mischievous thing was that bureaucrats subsequently twisted that particular provision. When it became an Act, they put 25 years as one generation equivalent. So they now require documents from 1930 onwards.”
Meanwhile, protests in North East India have emphasised concerns regarding the ethnicity of the indigenous populations being destroyed in the wake of the citizenship amendments. According to Bijoy, the historical influx of refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar has created a precarious situation for the indigenous population in the North East.
Protective legislations have also been enacted differentially in the North East. Bijoy further stated that people from the Oraon and Munda communities have not been recognised as Scheduled Tribes in Assam.
“There is a different history for North East, as far as the mainland is concerned and therefore inapplicability of varieties of Indian laws, be it revenue laws, the forest laws. Say for instance, most of the North East except for Sikkim—particularly states like Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh—there are areas called ‘unclassed forests’ where the Indian forest laws are not made applicable,” he said.
“Same thing with land, and therefore people believe the community still has control over the land and resources. With immigrants getting merged with the Indian population, the fact of the matter is that a sizeable section of people are becoming invisible to the state,” Bijoy told The Citizen.
While activists and concerned citizens have been bringing up the implications of the CAA and NRC for the Adivasi population, how much do the people belonging to tribal communities truly understand the citizenship law? A recent report by Hindustan Times highlighted the lack of awareness among those living in the tribal-belts of India. While most had heard of the CAA and NRC, they were unaware about the implications of the same, wondering whether the documentation they currently have would suffice to prove their citizenship…
“Right now, it is a huge mess,” Bijoy claimed. Coming back to the complications created by the certification process for tribals in the aftermath of the citizenship law, he stated, “Community certification for tribals should actually be done by the community, not by bureaucrats who are external alien creatures who know nothing about that particular place. So the most ignorant are the ones who are authorised to deal with it. Even in this Citizenship Act, it is going to be the same old colonial bureaucracy who is going to have a field day.”
(The Citizen, 31 December, 2019) n
As Joe Athilay correctly wrote in the write up published in the Scroll.in, the mighty upsurge sweeping the country has shattered many myths and shaken the society. Very recently I had gone to Kerala, After many decades many big mass mobilizations are taking place up to village level there. In TN, when 4 women on one day used the traditional kolam done in front of their home every day to write No to CAA, No to NRC at Chennai, police arrested them. But thousands of women not only marched to police station and got them released, next day lakhs of household saw the same kolam. The police had to come out saying such kolams are not illegal. Not only mighty mobilization of people, especially students and youth, but such innovative forms of resistance are also becoming wide spread. Such developments are taking place in every state and at Delhi, shaking up the whole country. As Joe has written many myths are getting shattered.
It was in early August, when Amit Shah was dishing out amendments to RTI, UAPA…, scrapping Constitutional provisions like Article 370 etc as in a fast food corner, we came across an article in one portal about the proposed reintroduction of CAB in the Winter Session of parliament and about the Home Ministry’s Circular dated 31st July on starting the NPR from 10th April to 30th September to prepare a NRC at all India level similar to the Assam NRC to be published by 31st August. Recognizing the danger, we held discussions with some of the leading comrades, and based on some material already published in the Red Star monthly, a note on the dangers of this process going to be taken up by the Modi-Shah team, including a counter process to be started by the struggling left and democratic forces. It was sent to our Central Committee comrades, and to a fairly good number of the left and democratic friends. We intensified this process after the Assam NRC was published on 31st August declaring 19,06657 people stateless. Meetings of a dozen or more organizations was convened at Delhi and an Anti-NRC, Anti-Fascist Front was formed. Through Red Star, online RS weekly, and through FB and WhattsApp groups like Anti NRC, a continuous campaign was launched, leading to organizing a rally of 5-6 hundred comrades and mainly people from the basties, from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar by the Front on 14th October, with the slogans: Reject Assam NRC, Withdraw CAB, No to NPR/NRC. Though some of constituents did not agree with the slogans and left, new forces joined. Though mainstream media did not bother, good campaign through social media took place before and after the rally.
The CPI(ML) Red Star had adopted a Path of Revolution in 2011, which asserted the possibility of coordinating the numerous people’s movements and upsurges taking place all over the country and capture of political power through a countrywide mass uprising. The two year long Bhangar movement in W Bengal had proved its possibility, though at micro level. As far as the RSS/BJP is concerned, it is trying through Modi-Shah team, a repetition of what it did in Gujarat, organizing Godhra and the horrific pogrom as its follow up to impose the majoritarian Hindutva hegemony in the state, after its big victory in last Lok Sabha elections. For the arrogant head of RSS, Bhagavat, it is another experiment; even if BJP loses again, the RSS will grow, he states. After parliament adopted the CAB on 11th December, when we called for burning the CAB on 12th, the response was great. Many more forces had started rallying in the anti-CAB movement by this time. And the attack on the Jamia students on 15th followed by attacks on the AMU students, and the resistance during the night by students and others before the police headquarters demanding release of arrested students till early morning started changing the narrative enormously as a catalyst.
But, not only Bhagavat and the mainstream opposition parties, even many among the broad left spectrum refuse to understand the tumultuous changes taking place around the world after the imposing of the neoliberal LPG and corporatization from 1970s taking the exploitation of human labour and nature to most heinous levels, especially after the 2008 imperialist crisis. As the ruling system, not only in the imperialist countries, but in the neo-colonially dependent countries also are taking increasingly ultra right, neo-fascist forms, and the traditional opposition including the social democrats have no alternate stand, mighty uprisings and people’s movements are taking place with millions of people coming out in the streets from the days of Arab Spring starting with Tunisia in 2009. As the very concept of India emerged through renaissance movements and the independence struggle is being challenged by the muscular nationalist, Brahmanical Hindurashtra of RSS, and as the vast masse of people, especially the students and youth are getting severely affected by the unprecedented recession, threatening their jobs, livelihood and basic rights, conditions were being created for the resistance and uprisings by them. What Modi-2 started doing arrogantly within days was alienating and antagonizing them. However hard Modi tried to conceal his aims through a pack of lies, the horrific situation in Kashmir valley and Northeast, in the Detention Camps, coupled with the arrogance of linking citizenship to religion, angered them. So, the over confidence of the RSS/BJP as well as the myths spread by the traditional media and political establishment are shattered. The youth and students, especially the young women are now in th streets throwing up new forms of resistance, challenging the ruling neo-fascist forces.
It is just a beginning. It is not led by any particular force/ forces. It is led mainly by the students and youth who are fed up with the ruling system. Join it with all your might, but do not try to impose your leadership with your half baked ideas, with sectarian, puritan concepts. Understand class struggle is not a tea party or embroidery work. It is the beginning of the festival of the masses. Join it, move along with it, try to understand it, try hard to make it protracted, before theorizing it or judging the very many forces who are part of this torrent, like the variety of forces becoming part of the mighty flow in the Ganges during the floods. Let us be happy that what is happening all over the country from the cities to the villages are exposing the old myths about India, people’s uprisings and that it has shaken the RSS/BJP forces exposing that Modi is not invincible!.
It is in this context, we found the following write up from a young social activist, published in the portel, Scroll.in, very interesting and valuable. Let hundred flowers blossom, let hundreds thought content, so that conditions are created for correct ideas capable of creating social change to emerge. Seeking truth from facts, let us try to approach this upsurge to deepen and develop our understanding, so that it can help to create a new society, a new world.
- TIMO: Modi-Shah are unassailable
There Is Modi Only or TIMO, as one author puts it, was the resounding message of 2019 elections. It took only six months for that notion to get frayed. The combine of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah – once hailed as “forward thinking” politicians who have their finger on the voters’ pulse” more sensitively than anyone else – has been exposed for their sinister designs and divisive agenda. Modi’s fallacious claim that his government had never discussed an NRC was never discussed is a sign that the protests have started weakening the bubble he meticulously created around himself.
- Protests need a central leadership
Protests are generally perceived to need a central leadership, with a single message and directions given from a “control room”. The current protests have proved this wrong. Nobody knows the number of protests happening all around the country. They are happening in big cities, small towns, villages, and even residential colonies in some cities. They are happening during wedding receptions, graduation ceremonies, Christmas carol services and on other unusual occasions.
- Political protests are boring
When ordinary people think about political protests, they imagine long speeches, rhetorical sloganeering and protests in designated places. These protests have broken the template. From using humour and sarcasm, artistic expressions to political sloganeering, from short videos to parodies of popular movie clips, the demonstrations have seen an unique mix of innovative strategies and creative political messaging.
- The Indian middle class fully supports Modi
It’s a cliche that the Indian middle class is apathetic to politics and concerned only about their material wellbeing. They are believed to be Modi devotees. These protests have proved that it’s not the same anymore. Middle-class Indians are finally running out of patience, not just with Citizens Amendment Act and the planned National Register of Citizens but with the country’s crashing economic indicators. They are visible in large numbers at nearly all the protests.
- Youth are only interested in their future careers
Despite many examples to the contrary (including the Independence struggle, the JP movement and the Naxalbari movement), many insist that India’s youth are focussed only on their careers and are indifferent to politics. This isn’t true. Not only are young people participating in protests, they in fact are leading them.
- No one can beat the Hindutva social media strategy
While the Bharatiya Janata Party’s thousands of paid social media workers are unmatched for their numbers and money power, these protests have shown how the same social media, when used carefully, be a potent weapon to mobilise and coordinate protests, despite the state trying to partly shut down internet in some cities and completely in some other.
- Party manifestos don’t need to be taken seriously
Party manifestos, at best, have been an intellectual exercise for most of the political parties, not taken seriously. Except for isolated attempts, there have been no political or civil society initiatives to hold parties to account for what is written or missing in manifestos before or after the elections. Not anymore. With Amit Shah justifying the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution which gave Kashmir special status and moving the Citizenship Amendment Act by noting that this had been promised in the BJP manifesto, it would serve voters well to scrutinise manifestos closely hereafter.
- Indian society is so polarised, we won’t stand up for each other
The concerted effort by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its political wing, the BJP, over the years have been successful in creating significant rifts between India’s communities, especially Hindus and Muslims. While it is too early to say that communal harmony is restored, there are signs that many Indians have seen through the divisive tactics of these Hindutva groups. Among the signs that the climate is changing: stories of Hindu friends standing guard for Muslims while they are offering namaz during protests and in the curfew-hit Uttar Pradesh, Hindus forming a safety ring around a Muslim wedding procession, or a church choir reacting to Modi’s barb about being able to identify protestors “by the clothes they wear” by wearing Muslim attire.
- The age of street protests is over. Now it’s about managing public opinion through better public relations
After the 2014 elections, mainstream politics seemed to have become a public relations exercise, with event management and marketing companies being engaged by parties to run their campaigns. They framed slogans like Chai pe charcha, Abki baar Modi Sarkar and Lage raho Kerjiwal. These were choreographed for different audience and mediums of communications, making politics more of a spectacle. Street protests becoming a dirty word. That explains why parties and party leaders express their dissent on Twitter, but are rarely seen on streets. The protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens have reclaimed that lost space. No longer are protests confined to enclosed areas designated by the police, which have to be wound up by 6.30 pm. Whether prohibitions against the public gatherings are in force or not, protestors are reestablishing their voices across India.
When all eyes are on the upcoming 2020-21 General Budget, according available macro-economic indicators, Indian economy has been experiencing an irreversible downward trend since the second quarter of 2018, from the claimed 7.6 percent GDP growth (financial year 2018-19) to 4.5 percent in September 2019 (financial year 2019-20). By mid-2019, unemployment growth rate has risen to 7.4 percent, the highest in five decades. And by December 2019, retail price inflation had reached 7.35 percent. Usually, in terms of conventional economic analysis, the continuance of such trends in more than four quarters is sufficient enough to characterise the phenomenon as stagflation defined as a peculiar situation of economic stagnation and huge unemployment coupled with high inflation. In fact, over the past six consecutive quarters since mid-2018, India has been in the grip of a full-fledged stagflation. In conventional economics, there is no remedy to resolve stagflation for obvious reasons. That is, any move to address unemployment and lack of demand arising from economic stagnation will lead to a further rise in inflation, while efforts to tackle inflation will aggravate stagnation.
Meanwhile, Modi regime and its ideologues are engaged in interpreting the grave situation as “cyclical” and not “structural” in character. According to this logic, India’s economic downturn is just an extension of world economic crisis. Thus, economies are cyclic in nature with periodic peaks and troughs. The protagonists of this view this view argue that no economy can keep going in one direction and is subject to the principle of ups and downs or boom and recession. Hence the current cyclical downtrend or the poor state of the economy can be treated with the standard neoliberal medicine currently in vogue. The policy thus is centred round a further boost toward unleashing the power of corporate capital with the state acting as its facilitator. The prescriptions therefore include a whole set of “supply-side oriented” investor-friendly measures directed at achieving “ease of doing business” such as reduction in corporate taxes, liberal and easy corporate financing, facilitating unfettered entry and exit of foreign corporate financiers, and so on.
This neoliberal-corporate orientation has been the hallmark of Modi government’s policies since 2014 which gathered further momentum under Modi.2. For instance, the first budget of Modi.2 in July 2019 followed by successive ‘booster packages’ that overshadowed the budget itself have channelled millions of crore worth of national assets and public money in to the coffers of the most corrupt corporate class. Stagflation is the direct outcome of the unbridled speculation and money-spinning businesses indulged by this tiny financial elite who owns lion’s share of the national income. More than three-quarters of the national income generated in India today is appropriated by one percent of the upper strata who is not at all interested in investing in employment-oriented productive activities. Modi’s policies since 2014 have evolved along with a close integration of the regime with these richest crony capitalists. Its outcome is an unprecedented wealth concentration in the hands of a billionaire class, horrific levels of inequality and destitution of the broad masses of population, speculation-induced sky-rocketing prices of items of mass consumption, massive unemployment and hitherto unknown levels of corruption.
Of course, like all fascists, Modi also came to power effectively using populist slogans pertaining to employment generation and elimination of corruption thereby hoodwinking the people along with the unleashing of Hindutva polarisation. For instance, he promised the creation of 20 million additional jobs every year. He assured people of depositing Rs.15 lakh each in their accounts after bringing back black money hoarded in foreign tax havens. After coming to power for a second time, he proclaimed the goal of transforming India in to a $ 5 trillion economy within 5 years, i.e., almost doubling the present $ 2trillion economy. To achieve this, his policy managers envisaged an annual average GDP growth rate of 8 percent.
But all his claims are now exposed as mere post-truth statements. No new employment opportunities have been created. On the other hand, unemployment today is the highest in five decades. GDP growth rate is plummeted to 4.5 percent (according to some US-based experts, it may even fall towards 3.5 percent) and is even below that of neighbouring Bangladesh, Nepal and even Pakistan, such that the goal of achieving the target of $5trillion by 2024 has become a mere illusion. Under Modi regime, over $1trillion (more than Rs. 72 lakh crore) in black money being hoarded abroad by wealthy Indians (BJP leader Subramanian Swamy’s estimate), India has become the most corrupt country in Asia. Unemployment growth rate at 7.4 percent, as mentioned in the beginning, has become alarming. The wealth appropriated by 63 billionaires at Rs. 28.97 lakh crore is more than Modi’s 2019 budget estimates worth Rs. 24.42 lakh crore. Under Modi, based on Gini coefficient (a statistical tool to measure inequality) India has become the second most unequal economy in the world after Russia. According to Oxfam, inequality is fracturing India such that today 57 billionaires control 70 percent of the country’s wealth.
Exports have gone down and the external value of rupee under Modi has undergone an unprecedented steep fall. When the external value of rupee under UPA regime was approaching Rs. 60 = $1, Modi accused the central government as anti-national. Now following his 6-year rule since 2014, it has now plunged to Rs.72 = $1, indicating the extent of neo-colonial drain from India—much larger than the “colonial drain” estimated at $71 trillion during two centuries of British rule over India. The much trumpeted FDI-depended “Make in India” initiative that envisaged to boost the ratio of manufacturing to GDP from 17 percent to 25 percent has become not only a non-starter, but that ratio itself has gone down below 13 percent. In fact, the country is going through an unparalleled deindustrialisation and agricultural retrogression. In the same vein, the Digital India Initiative that Modi proposed with much fanfare is in doldrums.
To be precise, this economic collapse of India as manifested in what is called stagflation cannot be explained as a mere extension of world economic recession or as a “cyclical” one. For, as neoliberal centres have put on record, when Modi came to power in 2014, India was the “best performing” economy of the world. It was from that relatively better off position that India was transformed as the worst performing economy today. It is directly connected with a series of onslaughts facilitating the reckless loot and plunder of the country and its people by the most corrupt corporate thugs and crony capitalists under the umbrella of the Hindutva fascist regime. The first of these anti-national offensives was demonetisation which has no economic logic either in neoclassical or in neoliberal theory or practice, an aspect clearly pinpointed by several world-famous mainstream economists and experts. It was a traitorous and brutal experiment designed and superimposed by Modi in unholy nexus with criminal-corporate global centres enabling the financial elite to centralise nation’s wealth in their hands by sucking out the life blood of the Indian people. Demonetisation will be recorded in history as a classic post-truth program since it was imposed in the name of eliminating black money and counterfeit notes, but led to the biggest accumulation of both in India. Its economic outcome by blocking the entire circulation system was a total paralysis and freezing of all productive activities on the one hand, and a further ballooning of the cyber-based speculative sphere led by corporate financiers.
The second death-blow has been the super-imposition of GST that transferred economic power to the corporate class through an alteration in country’s federal character. Together with Demonetisation, GST has led to a collapse of all productive spheres including agriculture, medium and small industries, informal and organised sectors where more than 95 percent of the Indian people find their sustenance, leading to utter collapse of the purchasing power of the broad masses. At a time when the superrich billionaires with whom the country’s wealth is concentrated are reluctant to invest in job-oriented productive investment, GST by putting the tax burden on the small scale sector and retailers led to further shrinkage of not only production but consumption too. Paving the way for a breakdown in tax mobilisation and reduction in state finances, GST also resulted in further reduction in public expenditures social service spending again leading to economic downsizing and stagnation. Very revealingly, at the behest of neoliberal centres, when Modi regime was initiating steps towards GST in mid-2017, confronted with an economic breakdown, Malaysia was withdrawing from it.
In addition to Demonetisation and GST, looting of public sector banks under the euphemism of NPAs, appropriation of precious national assets of PSUs through disinvestment, budgetary and extra-budgetary fund transfers, booster packages, central and state grants for PPP projects, plunder of natural resources, speculation in money and stock markets, hoarding and black marketing, and other direct and indirect cash receipts, concentration of wealth in the hands of a few financial elite reached epic proportions. On the other hand, collapse of employment together with a whole set of austerity measures and enforced reduction in real wages, vast majority of the common people are subjected to unprecedented poverty, deprivation and destitution. Thus, closely integrated with the Hindu Rashtra project through CAA, NPR and NRC has been the superimposition on the people of the tyranny of the most reactionary corporate financiers allied with the Hindutva forces.
Modi.2’s second budget to be presented to parliament on February 1 is being drafted at this critical juncture. Meanwhile, the IMF after taking serious not of the grave economic situation of India had hinted at the orientation of the forthcoming budget including an advice for further opening up of the economy with a more liberal FDI regime. On January 9, Modi himself at NITI Aayog has taken the initiative for the forthcoming budget through a brainstorming discussion with around 30 top economists and policy experts. Very revealingly, the finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman was conspicuously absent in that discussion (according to observers, pre-budget discussion without finance minister having no precedent was shocking!)in which other leading ministers such as Amit Shah, Nitin Gadkari, Piyush Goyal, Narendra Singh Tomar were present. According to reports, the discussion was mainly centred on real estate development, PPP projects in social overheads and infrastructure projects along with a series of measures to boost foreign and domestic corporate investments through investor-friendly measures including a further reduction in corporate taxes. Of course, Modi’s interaction with top business tycoons is an ongoing process. Even at this time of stagflation, Modi is reluctant to interact with the representatives of peasants, workers, small traders and other sections who bear the burden of the worst-ever crisis. Meanwhile, a decision was also taken to have another round of fund appropriation worth Rs. 45000 crore from RBI.
The stagflation in India which is rooted mainly in country-specific domestic factors and directly connected with the pro-corporate, fascist policies of the Modi regime is currently a topic of discussion even among neoliberal experts. For instance, according to Arvind Subramanian, India’s former Chie Economic Adviser, Indian economy is currently moving towards the ICU. To quote him: “Clearly, this is not an ordinary slowdown. It is India’s Great Slowdown, where the economy seems headed for the intensive care unit, and”, and all indicators are “close to negative territory.”However, even such experts like Subramanian and Reguram Rajan who are opposed to the majoritarian Hindutva fascism now led by Modi, on account of their adherence to neo-liberalism, have no solution to the crisis confronting India. While vehemently criticising Modi, they fail to recognise that the material foundation of fascism including Hindutva fascism is neoliberal-corporatisation itself. Being proponents of neo-liberalism, their criticism is centred round the question of implementation only. It implies that the present crisis can be resolved through a replacement of the existing regime. Though some among them speak on increasing productive capacity, employment generation and even real income of the people, they are reluctant to recognise that the logic of neoliberal corporatisation totally lacks such an orientation.
Since Modi’s advisers, though in varying degrees, also belong to this category, his interactions and brainstorming sessions with corporate chieftains and experts intended to formulate the blueprint for the forthcoming budget are bound to put still more heavy burdens on the backs of the common people. In the guise of boosting investment for overcoming stagnation, the General Budget will resort to several fiscal measures for pumping more funds in to the coffers of the parasitic billionaire class. Under the cover of fighting economic contraction, still more pro-corporate, neoliberal measures along with further direct tax deductions can be expected for boosting the stock, financial and real estate and other money-spinning sectors. On the other hand, in the name of curtailing prices and keeping inflation under check, public spending on education, health and other social expenditures will be cut. Ingenious methods for salary-wage freeze including many austerity measures also cannot be ruled out. Other things remaining the same, the coming budget with still more far-right policies including a more stringent GST regime is going to deepen and widen the stagflation that is already set in. There little sense in expecting anything from the forthcoming budget of the far-right Hindutva fascist regime in the direction of alleviating the multi-dimensional deprivation of the broad masses of working and oppressed people in India. The working class, peasants, retail traders and all toiling and oppressed masses will be thrown in to a ‘do or die’ situation with no other option except resisting and defeating the corporate-saffron menace.
The arrest of a counter-insurgency DySP, Davinder Singh, who was decorated for gallantry by the president in 2018, and posted now with the security and anti-hijacking unit of J&K police along with two senior Hizbul Mujahideen militants, and the recovery of two AK-47 rifles from his quarters has led to many serious questions including his involvement in the parliament attack case of 2001 and many other cases in which he was involved. In 2003 Afzal Guru who was given death sentence for alleged involvement in the parliament attack case by arranging accommodation and vehicle for one Mohammed who was among those who attacked the parliament, had informed the authorities through his lawyer that he was implicated in the case as those arrangements for Mohammed were made by him under the instructions from this officer, Davinder Singh. Strangely, according to the IGP (Kashmir) this allegation was never investigated, Afzal Guru was hanged and Davinder Singh went on to get even the gallantry award.
Many reports about police, para-military, military and intelligence forces using surrendered militants or terrorists to trap the terrorists, and reports of many intelligence and counter intelligence moves by the authorities are frequently coming out. As a result, many cases of innocent people getting tortured, jailed or even killed during these moves are also reported. What is happening in J&K is most atrocious cases of a state-led terrorism, with so many state forces involved in it, with very little accountability continuing for decades, and reaching its climax now under Modi rule. So, Davinder Singh like officers flourish with impunity. Why he is arrested now, what is the truth behind it may not come out, or may come out only very late. At the same time, let us recollect how much sloganeering is continued by the RSS parivar condemning Afzal Guru and those who criticize the injustice done to him as tukda, tukda gangs!
It is in this context, what happened to the CRPF convoy in Phulwama during February 2019 in which 44 jawans were killed raises many questions like, why such a long convoy was allowed to move without intelligence clearance on sanitizing the route and why the investigation report about it is not published yet etc becomes very relevant. Such vital information, especially about J&K are kept out of RTI also as official secrets. With the arrest of Davinder Sungh, a senior security officer along with wanted terrorists, many doubts raised about the way Phulwama happened followed by Balakot, which gave the fuel for Modi and co to whip up muscular nationalism and Pakphobia to sideline all other issues including the intensifying economic slow-down, and manage a facile victory become more relevant today. Not only Kashmir is bleeding, it is utilized by RSS/BJP to manipulate the national politics through a flurry of post truths