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Published by: Ananyo Mukherjee on Jan 02, 2012
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A note on the question of development I In the context of the policy initiatives of Liberalisation Privatisation and Globalisation undertaken by the

Indian state—the present phase being euphemistically called the second generation reforms—the debate on the model of development that this country has embarked on has once again taken the central stage. The media is abuzz with news and views that make a case for a shift of focus from agriculture as the main source of employment generation to the service sector of the economy as the main guarantor of employment. Thus there are learned as well as official views (as in the often cited recent NSSO survey) that the farmers themselves are desirous of the fact to leave agriculture as their main source of income. Thus the peasantry has to give way for development. Since the peasantry cannot provide labour opportunities through agriculture anymore for the bulk of the masses as required by the circumstances coupled with the diminishing returns from agriculture with a high input cost and low market price / support price for the output, there is no more incentive for them to continue in the same productive activity. The argument further progresses, towards projections, as to how these small and middle peasants not to say the landless agricultural labourer are going to benefit from new opportunities that may abound as a projected boom that is sooner than later going to embrace the vast and diverse countryside with the setting p of Special Economic Zones (SEZs). SEZs have become the solution for the all round agrarian stagnation cutting across states right from the much show cased ‘Green Revolution’ pockets to other regions which is still untouched by the capital intensive ‘HYV-Fertiliser-Pesticide’ policy. It has become the panacea for the looming spectre of unemployment that has gripped the countryside. We are also being told that the only way to prevent the increasing instances of suicide deaths of the peasantry is by establishing SEZs in these regions which can provide employment and growth. But all these claims fall flat when the farmers are refusing to part with their land for the proposed development of SEZs. Most of them insist, contrary to the claims of the policy pundits, that they don’t know anything other than agriculture. Some of them say that it has been their way of life and to think of leaving that forebode for them a bleak future. The direct outcome of such uncertainties are tell tale instances of violence and repression like Kashipur, Kalinganagar, Nandigram, Raigada, Jagatsinghpur and Singur. Close to the heels of protests of the peasantry is the growing discontent of small scale entrepreneurs in the mofussils and urban centres. As part of the beautification of urban spaces to cater to ‘world standards’ as suggested by global policy agencies such as Mckinsey small and medium industries in cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Bangalore are being forcefully vacated. These areas that they have vacated have become prime plots of speculation for the real estate market reserving these spaces for monopolies. The state claims that the opening up of the market would make the industries in India more competitive so as to come up with cutting edge technologies. The small and medium producers believe that with the duty free, tax free, subsidised provisions for investors in SEZs would finish off any little possibility that they had for producing goods that they would be able to sell at a cost effective price. Away from all this, is the plight of the tribal, being forcefully removed from their habitat, with the help of the paramilitary forces, moving with the collector, industrialist, contractor for facilitating building of huge dams for power generation and irrigation. Thus the Polavaram dam in Bhadrachalam, Andra Pradesh would displace more than 2 lakh tribals, the largest in Asia. There are numerous Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) worth lakhs of crores of rupees signed by the government with various Multi National Corporations (MNCs) and the domestic comprador capital for mining, oil exploration and setting up of industries such as coal and steel in states such as Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh. These states are

the richest in terms of mineral and forest wealth while housing the poorest of people who find it hard to have a square meal a day. The policy experts are busy formulating the best possible rehabilitation packages which is nothing but give these people some money and also the promise of settling them in some other place. And it is often claimed that in the long run all these will help these people as well. Yet in the maze of this publicity blitzkrieg by the proponents of LPG, what is carefully ignored is the question of development itself. The question as usual is deliberately posed in a manner where the pertinent aspects on the ramifications of a development model—that is totally reliant on foreign capital / dependent on imperialism—for the vast sections of the masses of this country hardly gets any mention. II Is displacement due to development or the development of displacement an inevitable thing like ones own shadow, a necessary evil that has to be lived with when one thinks about development? To put it differently, does the collective labour of the people and its outcome that is the transformation of material world into a new reality be at the cost of a vast majority of people while benefiting only a few? Or is there a possibility of a development which is free of any form of displacement; any form of violence on the people? Any attempt to theorise the history and nature of development in post-47 India cannot escape the larger structural and causal elements within and without the Indian sub-continent which contributed and sustained the Indian state. In essence, from the days of the much touted Community Development Programme of the early 1950s to its present day variant of SEZs, it is the mapping of the trajectory of interests that have contributed towards the forging and implementation of a model of development that is essentially an expression of the interest of the dominant classes of that state. A concrete understanding of the present phase of Liberalisation Privatisation and Globalisation (LPG) of the Indian economy and its implications in the South Asian sub-continent, calls for the need of an approach toward development from the point of view of the vast sections of the masses. It then becomes pertinent to disentangle the maze that has deliberately been created on the question of development through a dialectical approach the politico-economic rationale of the path of development which India has been / is embarking. Any attempt to talk about the future of the path of development that India should embrace should flow from a perspective informed by the past and an understanding of the present rooted in the past enlightened by a theory that is in the interest of the vast sections of the masses. In their critique of displacement due to development, many of the activists, academics and social commentators consider the present phase of development (initiated through the second generation reforms of LPG) as the main cause of ruin of gains of the Nehruvian era. The main lacuna of this approach among other things is the obfuscation of the real nature of the politics of development that was unveiled soon after the transfer of power in India from the British. In this perception of development it becomes natural that despite the best efforts of the planned economy in the Nehruvian period certain people, certain communities, still remain out of the loop of the ‘fruits’ of development. Neither development could reach these people nor do people embrace development. Development thus becomes a neutral category. No matter which class or state is promoting it, development needs to take place. It also flows from the same argument that development, it does not matter who is getting benefited from it, should be promoted as it will ultimately make the country prosper, stable and secure for everyone. At the end of the day, commonsense has it that the ‘fruits’ of development will reach—trickle down to—everyone, irrespective of caste, class, nationality, religion and region. Close on the heels of the above notion of development is the contention made by many that all was well till the mid-80s of the last century and things started deteriorating ever since then. Central to this argument is the nostalgia of the good old days of Nehruvian planned economy with Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs), Five Year Plans and Nationalisation being the hallmark of development planning

during this period. This perception, which is shared by the whole spectrum of the parliamentary parties, albeit with minor reservations here and there, again exalts development to the status of a neutral category, shorn off the real class interests it represents in space, time and structure. For this dominant opinion, development is thus possible in the urban centres because there is availability of capital, market, and also income so as to consume the products that are available in the market. Conversely there is no or little development in the rural, tribal areas as in these social realities there is little income generation to match the parity of the products available, besides low income / low capital formation has resulted in a skewed or total absence of the market in these social formations. Thus development gets reduced to presence or absence of capital, market, income. People become less important in this model. A deeper investigation into the period of Nehruvian planned economy would prove beyond doubt that what is being implemented today by the likes of Manmohan Singh in the form of LPG is yet another unfolding dimension of the politics of development in the present and continuing phase of imperialist exploitation of the world economy. It becomes pertinent then to look into the articulation of the planned economy of the Nehruvian era, how it was befitting the post-47 arrangement, the re-division of the world market after the World War II that emerged as a consensus among the erstwhile colonial powers and the emerging ruling classes in the erstwhile colonies, most of whom emerged in the anti-colonial resistance. Given the subservient class nature of the Indian big bourgeoisie-feudal landlord alliance, an independent, self expanding capitalist development that could successfully address the above mentioned impediments was totally ruled out as that would threaten the very class basis of the emerging post -47 India. But at the same time they had to negotiate with the growing internal pressures from the domestic economy failing which would have been a grave danger to their expansionist dreams. This low industrial base and a relatively low rate of accumulation forced the comprador bourgeoisielandlord alliance to agree for an economy with the Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) as one of the principle sources of capital mobilization. The technology for the core industries such as steel, heavy engineering, mining etc. was obtained through foreign collaboration. Whatever efforts that were made to reduce dependence on foreign exchange (as the continual lack of foreign exchange was perceived as the main source of dependence) to the minimum proved counterproductive. Despite all the nationalist pretensions of the likes of Nehru—thus the coinage of the term Nehruvian socialism—the logic of imperialism prevailed over in a strategy conceived as Import-substitution Industrialisation. All the effort to reduce the import of manufactured goods to minimise the burden on foreign exchange by replacing the same through enhanced domestic production had faded into oblivion overwhelmed by the real image of imperialist development’s future in the sub-continent as it started reproducing itself in the multiple local specificities (multiple modes of production) of the less developed Indian economy. As the mass of the Indian population remained poor tied to the land for survival, incapable of providing a market for goods, the efforts to produce domestic manufactured goods did not translate into production of mass consumption goods. Thus there was hardly any correspondence—neither forward nor backward— between the agrarian and the industrial realities that unfolded in post-47 India. Quite evidently, the dynamic of development that was set in motion was externally induced propelled fundamentally by the needs of imperialist capital rather than an internally induced self expanding dynamic which would have primarily responded to the needs of vast sections of the masses that being the main source of its strength. Thus it becomes natural in this model of development to come up with programmes like poverty alleviation / amelioration, Food for work, Rozgar Yojana, National Rural Employment Guarantee Schemes, etc. as externally induced initiatives to reach those sections who are out of the loop of the above mentioned model as if these schemes or concepts are in itself external to the notion of development.

Not only those people who become targets of these schemes are reduced to lifeless things, to be worked upon so as to be uplifted, even the onus of responsibility of not being part of the model of development promoted by the state falls on their shoulders. Thus moribund capital leaves the imprint of its own parasitic nature on those people who are easy targets of its logic of surplus maximisation. Thus it becomes easy for the cabinet minister to dismiss the shocking instance of tribals consuming poisonous roots or grass to keep them alive as a ‘natural’ ‘cultural’ attribute of these people not in the habit of eating rice which is being provided to them by the government. The fact that they are left out of the loop of the model of development imposed on them by the State and hence they are starving to death due to lack of opportunities to survive as a people becomes politically motivated interventions of those who are antidevelopment and primitive in their vision. The development that was promoted by the Indian State created islands of prosperity amidst a sea of humanity languishing in poverty and destitution unable to find them worthy of anything in a model that was subservient to the imperialist interests of maximisation of the surplus. This model could only benefit a few in the Indian economy, those who form the dominant class/caste in this society whose interest was congruent to the needs of imperialist capital and it was only possible by holding back the productive capabilities of the Indian economy by not letting the majority partake in their role as active producers of use values. At best what these people would be of use is as cheap labour to perform the least skilled of labour that would further dehumanise them. This model could only degrade the labour by pushing them further down the pyramid of hierarchy that was maintained to produce and reproduce the status-quo. It is not necessary that the landless agricultural labourer who had lost his/her opportunity in the agrarian economy would end up as labour in the factories at the urban centres. What this model has perpetuated is the violent displacement of the opportunities of toiling sections in the countryside to convert them into pavement dwellers or squatters who are struggling to eke out an existence as these people have become misfits in the urban scenario. It would certainly be not at the risk of exaggeration, if one says that imperialism, which has become the way of life of capitalism, has lend its image of the future in the form of ‘development’, in less developed countries like India. Thus the realisation of the image of the future of imperialism in less developed countries like India as a model of development is a replication of the status-quo where the money lendertrader-landlord nexus hold the political power, while sharing the benefits of surplus generated in the economy with imperialism. The persistence of this model in a semi-feudal, semi-colonial reality cannot be ensured without total reliance on imperialism. Needless to say, displacement is inevitable in this model without which it cannot replicate itself. Greater unevenness, widening regional disparities, increasing impoverishment of the people etc. are necessary evils in this model. Displacement was inevitable in their pro-imperialist model of development where moribund, parasitic capital only looked for the maximisation of surplus while retaining the local regressive structures of the domestic economy which would facilitate this process. III This is diametrically opposite to an alternative model which would move towards a structural change in the economy with redistribution of land and a thoroughgoing shift in political power in favour of the toiling masses. The direct implication of going for an internally induced development was to undermine the existing class/caste hierarchy which was holding back the economy. Such a development which would have successfully addressed the question of possible ways of avoiding displacement or lack of participation or lack of opportunities for the vast sections of the masses was not in the interest of the ruling classes of this country. And such a model of development where people are an asset and not a burden to the economy and their physical, mental well-being is what development is all about will be detrimental to the interests of the landlord-money lender-trader alliance which is holding power in the

economy. This model of development which is fundamentally against the interests of imperialism and its local benefactors have to undo the regressive structures that make possible surplus extraction and hence hold the economy backward. This is not possible without large scale mobilisation of the masses who have decisively rejected the old model while building the new in their own image of the future. This model envisages mass participation, with the needs of the masses forming the propellant factor giving a sense of direction to the industries resulting in the production of items that are useful for the everyday life of the people, for leading a dignified meaningful existence. This would necessitate the orientation of an economy sensitive to its resource base and indigenous technology; an impetus for local innovations that would destabilise the present hierarchy of production relations with the ‘expert’ at the top. The self induced / internally induced development is an inclusive model which cannot be implemented without unleashing the productive potential of the masses. Without land reforms, without distributing the land to the tiller this becomes impossible. Land reforms were a pre-requisite for this model. The initiative of the masses of Dandakaranya is a definite step in this direction. The Indian state is quick to dub them as terrorists, anti-national. Organised under the CPI (Maoist) they have fought the efforts of the state to implement the pro-imperialist model of development in their immediate social formation which is primarily a tribal economy. In this mode of production, pro-imperialist model of development had its imprint in the form of the local contractor who had come to collect kendu leaves, the forest officials denying the tribals the right to their natural habitat, the mining corporations who have come to extract minerals and also big hydel power projects. The resistance that started against the forest officials, and the contractors for better price for the kendu leaves soon had to face the repression from the forest official-contractor nexus who had brought goons from outside. The resistance also had to deal with opposition from within in the form of tribal chiefs or youth who enjoyed special favours from the contractor/forest officials. It was thus a resistance that constantly interrogated the social reality from within and without. The fight against the exploitation by the contractor/officials also had thrown open the need to fight similar tendencies of oppression and exploitation within the tribal social formation. Thus women fought against forced marriages, sexual exploitation and an equal role in the everyday affairs of their society. The need to resist exploitation of forest wealth and tribal labour for the profit maximisation of capital also provoked them to organise themselves into a settled community that would not only take care of themselves but their future generations as well. Thus evolved the practice of shared agriculture that would share seeds; bio-fertilisers that will renew the soil. Cooperatives were also created. Since the soil and the seed were not uniform the crops and cropping patterns also used to differ. Also the tribal peasant who had more land than the one at the lowest bracket or the clan that was better placed than other due to historical reasons could perform better because of their social location in the economy. This could have created imbalances and inequalities within the economy. But this also had inspired the people there to device ways and means through which surplus could be redistributed. All this could not have been possible without the mobilisation of the tribal masses into an organised force ready to defend the gains that they have made in the process of transforming into a new being. It is this potent threat of a resistance in the form of an alternate peoples’ model of development that has forced the Indian state backed by imperialism to clamp down on this people through a Salwa Judum. But then any form of alternate practice that defies the logic of imperialism, of moribund capital is bound to face a violent response which is essentially the characteristic of predatory capital. Any alternative cannot shy away from the fact of defending it.

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