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India: Impending Threat by Corporate Sector, Middle Class and Communalism to Our Political System

by V.K. Tripathi, 22 March 2013

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V.K. Tripathi, IIT Delhi

Ever since UPA II assumed power, corporate sector and middle classes are on the offensive against the government. The media owned by the former is aggressively pursuing this design, and the ideological organization of these classes, the RSS (with all its wings) is waging a viscous countrywide communal campaign. It is not only the Congress and its allies that are under threat, the entire political system is in danger.

Corruption, Blackmoney and Lokpal Movements
The industrialists, businessmen and corporate sector already have legal rights to misappropriate the labor surplus of the farmers and workers and to squeeze the national resources to amass sky high profit. Over and above this, they have the tools of hoarding, black marketing and bribery to reinforce it further. Two years ago, in order to bend the government to its knees, they raised the bogey of corruption, black money and Jan Lokpal bill. Media over night lifted Anna Hazare, and later Ramdev and Kejriwal, to the sky. However, no finger was raised on these classes, the real source of these evils. The assertive elements of institutes like IIT (who had carried Ramshila poojan on their premises in 1989 and in whose veins runs deep rooted hatred for Gandhi), the shopkeepers, builders, officers and other sectarian elements turned behind them. In the 2000 billion rupees 2G spectrum scam, D.Raja and others were already under prosecution on the charge of taking bribe of Rs. 2 billion, i.e., 0.1% of the value of scam. This issue was raised with great vigor and the face of the entire government was blackened but no finger was raised on those who cornered 99.9% profit.

Massive Communal Drive
In July 2012, violence took place between the Bodos and Muslims in Bodoland (comprising Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baxa and Udalguri districts of Assam). One hundred people were killed and 4 lakhs rendered refugees. Eighty percent of those killed and displaced were Muslims. It was a grave tragedy as Bodos are poor and Muslims are even poorer. Both are Indian citizens, our own people. However, Lal Krishna Advani, with a view to propagate hatred, said that this was not the conflict between Hindus and Muslims but between Indians and Bangladeshis. Soon Togadia reached there and spread the venom, “Do not let these Bangladeshis (the displaced victims) return back.” VHP, RSS, BJP and other organizations indulged in massive country wide propaganda that there were crores of Bangladeshis in the country. Assam in its 3.2 crore population has 31% (1 crore) Muslims of which doubtful cases, according to the recent white paper issued by the state government, are less than 1% of Muslim population. West Bengal has around 2.5 crore Muslims. All these people, and the Bangla speaking Muslim laborers from these states who have gone to different parts of the country due to sheer poverty (and survive by selling their labor for cheap) are Bangladeshis in their eyes. This is a blatant attack on the citizenship and dignity of the countrymen, on the roots of the nation. But TV channels ignored to unearth this massive drive. In fact sections of print media became a party to this drive. The impact of this drive and similar other moves on the middle classes has been so deep that they started projecting Narendra Modi as the prospective prime minister. Modi has two distinctions: one, he taught tough lessons to Muslims, by letting the genocide go on uninterrupted for three days, and two, he has reduced the status of MLAs and Ministers to zero. Corporate sector directly gets its work done by him and the entire secretariat is ready to serve them.

The Mighty Thrust of Capital
The thrust of capital (market forces) on the political system is most severe. In 1991, the crisis of payment, the thrust of domestic and international capital and the breaking up of the Soviet Union led to the era of globalization and liberalization. Some progressive organizations opposed it but their base was limited. Computer revolution and outsourcing of work broadened the size of the middle classes. Internet and mobile phone led to information and communication revolution. The tsunami of market driven economy turned polity in its favor. The Congress might have begun the new economic policy but in a way all political parties towed the same line. Economic activities spread, industrial production grew, Metro, flyovers, multilane highways, and the numbers of cars, motorbikes grew phenomenally. The spread of computer in railways, banks, tehsil and all areas of production, marketing and administration and the outsourcing of work from developed countries led to rapid rise in the number of engineering colleges. In early nineties the intake in B.Tech was below 1.5 lakh, in 2011 it reached close to 8 lakh (mostly in the form of private engineering colleges). The seats in management colleges also grew manifold.
With this glamour of development also grew the inequality rapidly. The government withdrew from education and health and these became very expensive. The worst fall out was on land and housing sector which came under the control of builders, corporate sector and industrialists. 40 to 50% people in big cities are seeking shelter in slums or slum like localities. In the countryside, low holding farmers are losing their lands to neo rich from developed areas and corporate sector. The contractor system in services has greatly increased the gap between the salaries of contractual and regular employees. Workers in private sector companies and in the unorganized sector have no job security and no pension plans. 75% of the people are outside the main stream of education and development. The pressure of market forces on the political system is so intense that in the name of development it is busy being primarily a facilitator of these classes.
The political organizations that have emerged through the struggles on the issues of the masses – Congress, Communists, Socialist, Bahujan Samaj, and regional parties are still in touch with the masses. Their heritage has some influence on their policies. They may have traders, industrialists and criminal minded people with them but have a larger number of those who understand the problems of the people and stand with them against the oppression by the police and administration. However, the roots of all these parties are shaking.

Revitalizing the Political System
The main task of polity and democratic institutions is to contain the ill effects of market driven economy, to save villages from degeneration, to save the farmers from exploitation by the traders, to check the misappropriation of lands by builders and corporate sector, to provide technical education up to the level of self reliance for everyone, to implement minimum wages and provide job security and pension plan for workers of unorganized sector, to restrain media from being an aggressive tool of the elite and orient it towards objectivity and people. Only people centric polity, through the awakening of the masses, can put a check on the dictates of the capital. The political parties and social activists who want to save the political system from the onslaught of the capital and keep it alive, must ponder on the following issues.

Devolution of Power among all the Members of Democratic Institutions
Democratic institutions, from Gram Panchayat to Parliament, have large number of members. Gram Panchayat, for instance, has 11 members but the power lies solely with the Pradhan (Sarpanch). The entire money that the village gets from the government (to the tune of one crore rupees per year for MNREGA, housing, roads etc.) is spent through the pradhan and government officials. This gives scope for manipulation and fierce political rivalries. It will be better served if the power is divested in all the 11 members who are a better representative of different communities in the village. Following the model of Gram Swaraj that the Gandhians in Sri Lanka are developing, one may form five or seven committees in the Panchayat, e.g., education committee (looking after schooling in the village as well as when children go to cities), senior citizens committee, housing and construction committee, MNREGA committee, health committee etc., each one with separate budget and full power. The members must be paid salaries too for their involvement.
In Assemblies, Chief Minister should not be all powerful like Gujarat where MLAs and ministers have no voice. An MLA, with wide contacts in his/ her constituency must raise peoples’ issues in the Assembly. He/ she must have responsibility in the execution of schemes at the local and state level. Same should be the role of MPs.

Saving the Land from Corporate and Builders’ Control
A mighty task is to stop the growing control of businessmen, builders and affluent elite on lands. Every political party must explore ways and have a policy on it. The appropriation of lands in villages by urban elite must also stop. For this the consent of 75% people of the village for land acquisition has been propagated. However, personal sale of land to outside elite out of personal financial compulsions is also a matter of serious concern and must be looked into.

Survival of the Villages
MNREGA and Loan waiver programs have been helpful. But the village will not gain strength unless capital formation takes place there. MNREGA should be linked to that. Land, forests and other resources of the village must be saved through the uplift of consciousness, authority of the Panchayat and appropriate legislation. Ill effects of mandi (food grain markets) are countered only marginally by the procurement prices announced by the states as the procurement by the government is too much delayed. Procurement prices themselves are too low. The farmers’ cooperatives must have direct access to markets.

Pension Scheme for the Unorganized Sector
The workers in the unorganized sector are severely afflicted by low wages, job insecurity, health hazards and unavailability of pension plans. For the ones engaged with contractors, pension can be given by placing a surcharge on the contractors. For instance tens of thousands of workers in Lalitpur district of UP are engaged in granite and dust stone work. The government gains crores of rupees per year through leasing the quarries. These workers begin at the age of 18. By the time they are 40-45, their bones become stiff or they develop lung related problems and are not able to do hard work. They do not work for a fixed contractor. For them job cards may be issued. Each year a card will have the record of how many days the person has worked with which contractors, signed by the contractors and counter signed by government official. Once the person has accumulated 4000 man days on the card he/ she must be entitled for the pension to be paid by the forest/ mining department. For this sum these departments may levy a surcharge on the contractors at the time of giving them the lease.

Monitoring Hoarding, Corruption and Misuse of Power
Every political party should form monitoring units that would oversee hoarding, black marketing and corruption by traders and misuse of power by the officers.

Orienting Media towards Objectivity and People
CNN owner once remarked that news is a bigger weapon than a bomb. I did not realize the value of this statement then, but looking at the media role in recent years I am convinced and alarmed. Serious efforts must be put to restrain media from sensationalizing news and offensiveness. They should not act as instruments of corporate interests, rather be objective and people-centric. Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj would be a good guide line for journalists.

Countering Sectarian Propaganda and Liberating Shrines
Sectarianism is counter to democracy. It is not only a menace to minorities, but to the majority too. In its garb, criminals, musclemen and feudal lords enhance their stature and authority, sectarian and vested interests control religious shrines, businessmen gain prominence, peoples’ unity is broken and exploitation accentuates. Hatred also cripples the atmbal of the people. It must be resisted resolutely at all levels. The ongoing propaganda against Bangla speaking Muslim countrymen must be countered. A campaign must run to liberate religious shrines of sectarian influence and stop their misuse as centers of capitalist interests and sectarianism.

The Facade of Modi’s Development Planck

Corporate and media are aggressively creating a Modi cult. Modi is their hero because he can shut his opponents and meek masses, be they minorities or Nirma displaced farmers or other sections. After making him iron man they are projecting him as a man of development. Where ever business classes live the GDP growth of that area is always higher than elsewhere. For the last one hundred years, Gujarat has been having higher share of business and industry than the rest of India, hence the higher GDP growth rate. In last ten years its GDP growth rate has increased very marginally, from 7.2% to 7.8%. During the same period, Bihar GDP growth rate has increased from 2.5% to 7%. Maharashtra is a much bigger state than Gujarat but its GDP growth rate of 7.2% in not far from that of Gujarat. Under the Congress CMs Madhav Singh Solanki and Amar Singh Chaudhry, Gujarat GDP growth rate was higher than today. A much better measure of growth is the per capita GDP growth of the lower 75% of the people. On that scale as well as in human development index Gujarat legs behind several states. It is no credit for a person of national dimension to derive pleasure in concentrating industry and business in certain states or employing one lakh child labor from Dungarpur (Rajasthan) to Banaskantha (Gujarat) every year for bit cotton farming.