'mayawati is anti-obama'

note how newsweek's judgment on mayawati so faithfully mirrors brahminized india's views on her. the international media depends, as i said in this post, very strongly on certain classes of indians to generate content on india- who were providing research and field support for jeremy kahn?

the article says: mayawati is divisive. because her secular record is clean? because she has not engineered any communal riots until now? because her party has not drawn any muslim or hindu blood until now, unlike the two major national parties? in india, the debate on secularism is a gigantic hoax, a clever collaborative effort between the two national parties. a staged debate that never moves beyond arguments on the lines of how the other party has killed more people. mayawati doesn't qualify to participate in this debate, i guess.

mayawati doesn't have an economic policy. more lower caste farmers and weavers and others have committed suicide in the last five years than in any comparable period in indian history- manmohan singh knows economic policy? or advani whose party depends as much, if not more, on astrologers as the planning commission to formulate policy, understands economic policy better?

mayawati doesn't know foreign policy. the phrase foreign policy itself is such an anachronism, redolent of the colonial era. imperial powers have foreign policies, ordinary nations try to forge friendly, on a basis of mutual benefit and on terms of equality, ties with other nations. remember, in the last ten years, the advani and manmohan singh led regimes have pushed india more than once to the brink of war with pakistan.

and if the media wishes to know about mayawati's agenda, her economic and foreign policies, why don't they use a fraction of the sweat they spend on chasing such folks as priyanka gandhi or shashi tharoor or whoever else and try and speak to her?


some perspective

estimates on the kind of funds the dole, covering more than 1.25 crore families in andhra pradesh, would require range from rs. 20,000-30,000 crores a year.

- that makes it bigger than the total allocation for the nregs (rs.16,000 crores) in the central budget of 2008-2009 for the entire country. please note: the 16,000 crores was the amount allocated, not the amount spent finally, by the end of the year.


how india pays for america's health

there is an organization called the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) in the united states which boasts of a membership of 46,000 doctors.

if you wanted to form an organization called the indian association of physicians of indian origin (iapi) as a forum to facilitate and enable physicians working in rural india to excel in patient care, teaching and research etc., i bet you wouldn't find half as many members.

all state governments together don't employ half as many doctors in rural india, in over 6 lakh villages. and i am not even talking of absenteeism among those paid to work in the villages. vote for a government that'll send a chandrayaan-like mission to rural india to explore how people live there, in the absence of anything remotely resembling a public health system.


what's a vote bank?

The word “party” has become a Kannada word. Every administrator and politician speaks of “party politics” in villages, and even villagers are often heard saying, “There is too much ‘party’ in such and such a village”. The coming of elections gives fresh opportunities for the crystallization of parties around patrons. Each patron may be said to have a “vote bank” which he can place at the disposal of a provincial or national party for a consideration which is not mentioned but implied. The secret ballot helps to preserve the marginal affiliation of the marginal clients.
ramchandra guha quoting from 'The Social System of a Mysore Village' by M.N.Srinivas to explain how the term 'vote bank' was born. in the next paragraph he asks- how does this description hold up 50 years later?
We still use the term coined by Srinivas; however, we mostly mean it now to capture a solidarity that is horizontal rather than vertical. “Vote bank” is not what a single patron commands; rather it denotes a collective political preference exercised by a particular interest group. In India, this interest is defined principally by primordial identity — of caste or religion or language.
check how the definition of the term has been twisted: 50 years ago, going by srinivas' and his effusive admirer guha's formulation, dalits and other lower castes and the minorities were the vote banks. 50 years later, dalits and other lower castes and minorities are still the vote banks. the definition has changed, but it still fits the same social groups. the definition has been changed to still fit the same social groups?

who actually deserves this gaali (because that's what it is primarily, because that's the intention behind the usage of the term, mostly): vote banks in india? who are the actual vote banks in india, people who vote along strictly sectarian lines (if we go by the first definition), for sectarian interests (going by the second definition)? i won't bore with you a lot of facts and figures- i'll refer only to the bsp experience in uttar pradesh. in uttar pradesh, brahmins and other upper castes didn't vote for the bsp until the bsp started offering them tickets- now all brahmin and other upper caste voters of the bsp vote for its brahmin candidates, but very few of them vote for the party's dalit/obc/muslim candidates. they vote along strictly sectarian lines. and even now they'd vote for the bsp only as long as it serves their interests- like in this elections, brahmins were given 25% of the tickets. they vote for their own sectarian interests.

if the dalits or lower castes of india voted along sectarian lines or for sectarian interests- would the majority of legislators in elected houses across states still be from the upper castes?


vote for the dole

the media says poll expenditure in andhra pradesh would exceed 4,500 crores this time. the police, across the state, seem to be stumbling over piles of cash and liquor bottles wherever they turn. over 25 crores has been recovered until now- a mere nothing really.

cms says this problem isn't so bad in kerala and a few other states. not everyone is selling their votes. journalists say not everyone accepting cash or packets of biryani or gold jewellery or saris or bottles of liquor is voting for the buyers.

if you still feel like voting- vote for the dole. because once the dole becomes policy, no future government can wriggle itself out of it. and it'd soon expand beyond the state to become national policy. once the dole reaches the villages, the poor would start thinking a few days ahead of today. they wouldn't sell themselves short today- this would ensure minimum wages are respected, without any babu's intervention. on days when there isn't any work, and because we've all become such cynics, people could splurge on the movies, liquor, satta. that wouldn't matter really, because it would mean more businesses would spring up around the cinemas and arrack shops. which would result in more work for those who are willing to work. and if the men splurge on the movies, liquor, satta even on days when there is enough work, the women could go to work and purchasing power of their families would still remain higher than earlier, because for the great majority of families in the villages, the dole would mean a two-three times jump in their incomes. which would mean more business for anyone who is interested in the rural markets- and a lot of smart businesses would be interested in a 20,000 crores market. and more businesses would spring up around the countryside- and not all of them would be new stores, cinemas and bars- there'd also be small manufacturers and others. and not all of them would be interested in selling products- some of them would also be interested in buying local products. which would mean more work for those who are willing to work.

in whatever way the men choose to spend the dole, women would still get to handle some money- from hiding a little, or going to work and earning a little. that would mean more kids would go to school. and better nutrition for them than earlier.

if the women are harassed at home, they would've enough money to talk with the police. if the women are harassed at work, they could skip work to look for better opportunities, the next day or the day after. the dole would give them that kind of breathing space. the dole would mean not just the transfer of a little money from the cities to the villages- it'd inevitably be accompanied by a little transfer of power, every time the money travels from the cities to the villages.


the logic behind freebies

Price-makers, for their existence, need the price-takers to take the prices they make. Hence, to preserve themselves, the price-makers must also preserve the price-takers. This is the positive side of the contradiction. It explains several policies pursued by the ruling class aimed at protecting the price-takers, namely, the farmers, agricultural labourers, artisans, handicraftsmen and small industry men. Such for instance are the policies to perpetuate small-scale farming by legislating ceilings on agricultural holdings: to protect artisans by make-believe support and assistance; and to promote small industry by supply of bank credit. What the ruling class will not do is to give these producers an assured price for their product or an assured wage for their labour.

In order to escape exploitation and privation, the price-takers must abolish themselves as a class. This they do, not by abolishing the price-makers, their opposite, but by invading the camp of price-makers and merging themselves into them. This is the negative side of the contradiction.

The process is already on. Farmers, agricultural labourers, artisans, handicraftsmen, small industry and businessmen, price-takers all, are leaving their trades behind and seeking wage-employment in the organized sector; in other words, they're joining the camp of price-makers. They have nothing to lose except their petty property in land and means of production. and they have a job to win, a job with an assured income on the first of every month, whether it rains or not, whether they produce or not, whether what they produce, sells or not. With progressive exploitation of the price-takers by the price-makers, the gap between the two will widen, and the migration will accelerate until the class of price-makers reaches a critical level. The inherent contradiction in everybody trying to be a price-maker will then come to surface and the whole system will fall to the ground. I should be modest and not prophesy what will take its place.
v.m.dandekar wrote that around 1974. i'd originally read the essay in a collection called 'social inequality in india' (rawat publications). there seem to be some minor changes between the essay in the book and the essay i've quoted here- but the chief argument remains the same: the organized sector, the price-makers, in india exploits the unorganized sector, the price-takers.

dandekar's essay, in my view, reflects a growing realization, in the 70s, among participants in policy making, those who make it and discuss it, that the indian welfare state isn't working. its institutions worked for only a few and weren't capable of delivering to a vast majority of indians such basic public services as education, health and other entitlements which promised relief from hunger and deprivation. it's not the institutions were inherently incapable, just that they tended to serve a few at the cost of the many. the 70s, one should remember, also mark the beginning of populist politics- half-hearted attempts to make up for this serious structural bias.

in the essay, dandekar tries to use the marxian method to identify social classes in india: he finds that of 180 million workers in india, only 47.5 million may be said to have entered into production relations of the capitalist economy. the rest, around 130 millions, are workers whose gainful activity is conducted within the framework of households, in other words, whose relations of production are pre-capitalist. these were mostly cultivators, landless labourers, artisans and handicraftsmen etc.,

he further divides the 47.5 million who have stepped into a capitalist economy into three broad segments: those who work for the state, others who work for the bourgeoisie and independent workers. the independent workers, who numbered around 16 million, were neither employers nor employees and hence neither the bourgeoisie nor the proletariat. they worked in diverse occupations- as tailors, bricklayers, vehicle operators and labourers to waiters, washermen, hair-dressers, shopkeepers, salesmen etc.,

so, who were the bourgeoisie and the proletariat? of the remaining 31 million, around 2.2 million could be called the bourgeoisie because they were employers who ran their own businesses and employed others. and the remaining 29 million were all employees, with further classes (blue collar and white collar) between them. but broadly speaking, in 1971, these were the proletariat of india, according to dandekar.

of these 29 (or 29.5 million, to be precise) million, 12.5 million were employed in the public sector (by the state), 6.8 million were employed in establishments employing ten or more workers. these sections together constituted the organized sector. the rest, 10.2 million, were employed in the private unorganized sector (in establishments employing less than 10 people each).

summing up, the organized sector in india in the early 70s employed around 19.3 million workers and these folks, along with the big bourgeoisie exploited the rest of the workers (130+16+10+others= 160 million).

how? in a tightly controlled economy, the organized public and private sector enjoyed monopolistic clout. and people employed in the organized sector too enjoyed better bargaining clout than workers employed in the rest of the economy. so monopoly capital combined with monopoly labour and passed a large share of costs to the unorganized sector, broadly. how did dandekar reach such a conclusion?
My contention is that the large wage-differentials presently obtaining in different sectors of the economy are the result of the fact that the appropriation of the surplus-value generated in each enterprise is left to the bargaining between the management, private or public, and the workers in each enterprise. When this is done, the workers in the capitalistically more highly developed sectors are able to secure higher wages; firstly because in these sectors, there is employed more fixed capital per employee and consequently is created larger surplus value per employee which, though it is due to past labour embodied in the means of production, is treated as available for splitting between the bourgeoisie and the workers; secondly because the workers in these sectors are better organized, and hence possess superior bargaining power, which power improves with every increase in wages they secure; and thirdly because the bourgeoisie in the private sector, or the state in the public sector, enjoy greater monopoly power and hence are able to pass at least part of the costs to the less developed sectors of the economy. This is the central proposition of my analysis and, in my view, this constitutes exploitation of the less organized sector by the more organized sector in which process the capital and labour combine.


how has the picture changed in the last forty years? the first class of workers (mostly cultivators, landless labourers, artisans and handicraftsmen etc.,), those whose gainful activity is conducted within the framework of households, in other words, whose relations of production are pre-capitalist, number around 270-300 million*, approximately, (130 million in the 70s) now. are relations in this sector still largely pre-capitalist? we do see wage labour, production for the market and profit, but most of the gainful activity is still tied within the confines of the household and the use of technology is still limited. and the question is unimportant in the sense that most of this sector still consists of price-takers anyway, if you follow dandekar's formulation. remember, the key parameter that should be employed to determine whether workers, in any sector, belong to either the super-class of price-takers or price-makers should be the capital employed, on an average, per worker in that sector.

now, who has definitely stepped into a capitalist economy following dandekar's formulation again? the rest (those who work for the state, others who work for the bourgeoisie and independent workers)- around 130-150 million (47.5 million in the 70s). of these, 17-18 million work for the state (central, state governments and psus), or the organized public sector, and 9-10 million for the organized private sector (the big bourgeoisie). 26-27 million in all. of the remaining 100-120 million workers, around 25-30 million work in the unorganized private sector (in establishments employing less than 10 people each) and the rest, 70-95 million, are independent workers (tailors, bricklayers, vehicle operators and labourers to waiters, washermen, hair-dressers, shopkeepers, salesmen etc.,).

the organized sector in india, in terms of numbers employed, as you can see, hasn't expanded at the same rate as the rest of the indian economy. the price-makers are still a very small part of the indian economy. only around 27 million people?

the indian economy has changed a lot since the 70s: it has grown a lot, liberalized. do the price-makers still call the shots? does organized capital still combine with organized labour to exploit the unorganized sector? my answer is yes.

we no longer live in a explicitly controlled license-permit raj, but the regulations are smarter now. in sectors where big public and private sector companies enjoyed monopolistic clout earlier, we've oligopolies now, like in the telecom sector. liberalization has meant that big companies now employ much more capital, thanks to easier technology imports, per employee than ever before. so they need fewer people now, and hence the stagnation in employment in the organized sector.

but does organized labour still enjoy superior bargaining power? yes again, in my view. because more capital goes into training the kind of workers technology-intensive big companies need now. they're always in short supply- and the new workers are so in demand that many of them work for more than one company now, as consultants etc.,

the organized sector employed 10% of all workers in india in the 70s- it has shrunk now to 7% or so. that doesn't mean the class of price-makers has actually shrunk- the key yardstick for measuring whether a worker belongs to the class of price-makers or price-takers is to measure the kind of capital that is invested in him, his merit- those who work in capital-intensive large organized sector jobs are obviously price-makers. but those among the independent workers and small entrepreneurs- like chartered accountants, doctors, engineers and architects, fashion designers, software and technology consultants, media professionals and a whole host of new classes of independent workers who have emerged in the last forty years are also price-makers (but not the older classes of independent workers like the tailors, bricklayers, vehicle operators and labourers to waiters, washermen, hair-dressers, shopkeepers, salesmen etc.,) because a lot of capital has gone into training them.

in the past, i've tried to point out in a number of posts on how and why public policy, rooted in brahminized universalistic dogma, works against the marginalized in india. against those who aren't 'upper caste, hindu, male' (because that's what the price-makers essentially are).

i like dandekar's essay because it makes the same point, but in the language of the dogmatic. since the 70s, as i said earlier, policy makers in india have tried to hide the systematic bias in state policies by cooking up elaborate schemes to deal with poverty- the demand for a universal dole would be a great way to call their bluff. would they still go on building iits and calling them national assets when the dole shall start challenging their priorities, when the marginalized can see where the money's coming from?

* these figures are guesstimates, the earlier figures are based on figures from the essay in the book.


a complaint

read this on phalanx a few days ago (via space bar). agree with many things the article says but why does everything boil down to liberalization, globalization and privatization? there was no othering earlier?


the future wasn't agriculture (a naive idea- 4)

57 days a year. that's the number of days of work available in the farm sector in india. from more than 220 days a year, 40 years ago. it'll go down further. how much can you earn from 57 days of mostly manual labour?

despite whatever was promised by the upa five years ago, or whatever the upa or the nda will promise now, in the next ten years agriculture's share in the gdp will go down further- from around 20% now to around 10%. despite increased credit and frequent loan waivers. despite increased subsidies and investments in irrigation. despite whatever curbs on imports or exports. all that means the real incomes of those who depend on agriculture, farmers and workers and others, will go down further every year.

all that silly figures of how we've achieved 4% growth trumpeted by whatever government in any one year actually hides the fact that there had been a 10% fall the previous year. we've been served the same sorry meal for the last twenty years or more and we have been waiting for that inevitable turnaround just around the corner all this while.

the andhra pradesh government has sunk in more than 50,000 crores in the last five years in large irrigation projects and the average and overall yields are almost where they were ten years ago. and twice as many farmers have committed suicide in the last five years than in the ten years before that.

logically speaking, there shouldn't be any farmers' suicides in andhra pradesh. because the state has always been a food surplus state, from even before the green revolution. and there are enough rice deficit regions in the neighbourhood, and across india, to fetch the andhra farmers' produce good prices. take kerala, for instance. a major portion of rice consumed in kerala comes from andhra pradesh. in the last forty years, while the total area devoted to paddy cultivation in kerala has come down by more than half, it has increased in andhra pradesh.

kerala, which imports rice, has a higher per capita income than andhra pradesh which exports nearly 30-40% of the rice it produces every year.

kerala also has a higher rate of literacy. infant and maternal mortality rates are lower in kerala than in andhra pradesh.

today, rice sells for rs.20-30 a kg in andhra pradesh, at almost the same price as in kerala.

logically speaking, the andhra pradesh (indian) electors should have kicked out anyone who spoke of agriculture and food security in 2004. or during any elections in the last twenty years.


on radical conservatives

a comment here reminded me of this line from a book i'd read a long time ago:
I submit that the proletarian movement in India today is not a movement of the immense majority; we should ask whether it is in the interests of the immense majority.
so if you have aruna roy or the mainstream communist parties or medha patkar or arundhati roy or sainath or countless others speaking for the marginalized, one needs to understand whether they're really talking about the interests of the immense majority.

you can't have change through conservation: you can't conserve a huge government and talk about the right to information at the same time. if you agree to the condition that the government shall have power over all information, how can you expect it to dole it out at your will? if you believe in large public sector presence in industry, how can you challenge large public sector presence, or large dams, in agriculture? when you talk about farmers dying because of cheap imports, how can you talk about curbing profitable exports in order to ensure food security?

no, i haven't turned into what might be called a conservative in the united states. i am only pointing out who exactly should be called the conservatives in india.

all the noise created by the radical conservatives in india drowns out any weak demands from the marginalized, truly vulnerable sections of india to be allowed to run their own lives. we'd get to test the sincerity of the radical do-gooders only when the marginalized move a step up the economic ladder- from subsistence to a minimum level of security (as provided by a universal dole). for instance, would they focus more on universal education then or continue to ignore the existence of a caste system of schools- the poor would have no excuse to keep their children from school then, what would be the do-gooders' excuse to continue to ignore the existence of private schools or state-run elitist schools? or the pampering of iits while government-run schools (and their students) suffer from lack of attention and resources?

[i hope to discuss the line i quoted, and the essay in which it appears at more length in a future post].


why should we blame them?

we're still paying for what people like jagdish tytler did twenty five years ago. we paid for it every year after 1984. bombs, riots, kidnappings, hijacking, plain mass murder-the cbi should've checked all that evidence. the ruling government should've checked all that evidence.

those who shall be planning the next round of bombs, riots, kidnappings, hijacking, plain mass murder would be checking tytler's clean chit. they'll find enough evidence there that they've always been right. and at this moment, i can't really blame them.


where are the issues?

i've been looking at how many major national issues have come up for discussion on the national media, since the election schedule was made public, until now. varun gandhi and ipl, as i'd pointed out earlier, were the only two major issues until a couple of days ago. now, sanjay dutt seems to have joined them.

let's ignore the media for a moment and ask- is anyone, in the political class, looking at issues? i found jaya jaitly's blog at the ibn live site and a post that promised to look at issues. good.
I propose to look at some issues hovering before the electorate in the four crucial states that matter to anyone wanting to create the biggest post-election combine, i.e., Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The rest are in the category of smaller states that add or subtract equally and therefore are not decisive.
I propose to look at some issues. why do issues hover only before the electorate in big states? aren't we talking about national elections? is this what elections in india have turned into: purely elections? in the rest of the post, jaitly briefly touches upon issues such as the recession, 'corporate growth' oriented economic policy, iraq and saddam hussein (why?), job losses, and hurries back to discuss various political parties, alliances, personalities. where are the issues?

i've read that advani too has a blog: so is he discussing issues? the latest post is titled: The Seven Social Sins - By Mahatma Gandhi. And it lists out: The Seven Social Sins - By Mahatma Gandhi. in seven lines. before that, a post titled: The Hour Of God- By Yogi Aurobindo. the post before that promotes one of the schemes he plans to introduce: ladli laxmi yojana. he does talk about girl children and falling gender ratios but then moves on to tell you why he likes prasoon joshi (because he is prasoon joshi?)

and what does he plan to debate with manmohan singh?
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