08 April 2010

India's Tribals/Adivasis and Naxalite/Maoist Violence - 2

Arundhati Roy on India's tribals/adivasis and the Naxalite/Maoist violence*:

This legacy of rebellion has left behind a furious people who have been isolated and marginalised by the Indian government. The Indian Constitution, the moral underpinning of Indian democracy, was adopted by Parliament in 1950. It was a tragic day for tribal people. The Constitution ratified colonial policy and made the State custodian of tribal homelands. Overnight, it turned the entire tribal population into squatters on their own land. It denied them their traditional rights to forest produce, it criminalised a whole way of life. In exchange for the right to vote, it snatched away their right to livelihood and dignity.

Over the past five years or so, the governments of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal have signed hundreds of MoUs with corporate houses, worth several billion dollars, all of them secret, for steel plants, sponge-iron factories, power plants, aluminium refineries, dams and mines. In order for the MoUs to translate into real money, tribal people must be moved. Therefore, this war.

This CSR masks the outrageous economics that underpins the mining sector in India. For example, according to the recent Lokayukta report for Karnataka, for every tonne of iron ore mined by a private company, the government gets a royalty of Rs 27 and the mining company makes Rs 5,000. In the bauxite and aluminium sector, the figures are even worse. We're talking about daylight robbery to the tune of billions of dollars.

There are no teachers in any of the schools, Chandu says. They've all run away. Or have you chased them away? No, we only chase police. But why should teachers come here, to the jungle, when they get their salaries sitting at home?

The perennial problem, the real bane of people's lives, was the biggest landlord of all, the Forest Department. Every morning, forest officials, even the most junior of them, would appear in villages like a bad dream, preventing people from ploughing their fields, collecting firewood, plucking leaves, picking fruit, grazing their cattle, from living. They brought elephants to overrun fields and scattered babool seeds to destroy the soil as they passed by. People would be beaten, arrested, humiliated, their crops destroyed. Of course, from the forest department's point of view, these were illegal people engaged in unconstitutional activity, and the department was only implementing the Rule of Law.

When the Party is a suitor (as it is now in Dandakaranya), wooing the people, attentive to their every need, then it genuinely is a People's Party, its army genuinely a People's Army. But after the Revolution how easily this love affair can turn into a bitter marriage. How easily the People's Army can turn upon the people. Today in Dandakaranya, the Party wants to keep the bauxite in the mountain. Tomorrow, will it change its mind?

Most of the people, including those in the PLGA (People's Liberation Guerrilla Army), have a haemoglobin count that's between five and six, when the standard for Indian women is 11. There's TB caused by more than two years of chronic anaemia. Young children are suffering from Protein Energy Malnutrition Grade II, in medical terminology called Kwashiorkor. "It's an epidemic here, like in Biafra," the doctor says, "I have worked in villages before, but I've never seen anything like this." Apart from this, there's malaria, osteoporosis, tapeworm, severe ear and tooth infections and primary amenorrhea — which is when malnutrition during puberty causes a woman's menstrual cycle to disappear, or never appear in the first place. "There are no clinics in this forest apart from one or two in Gadchiroli. No doctors. No medicines."

Niti talks about the range of agricultural problems they have to deal with. Only 2 per cent of the land is irrigated. In Abujhmad, ploughing was unheard of until 10 years ago. In Gadchiroli on the other hand, hybrid seeds and chemical pesticides are edging their way in. "We need urgent help in the agriculture department," Vinod says. "We need people who know about seeds, organic pesticides, permaculture. With a little help we could do a lot."

*"Walking With The Comrades" (Outlook, 29 March 2010)

India's Tribals/Adivasis and Naxalite/Maoist Violence - 1

Arundhati Roy on India's tribals/adivasis and the Naxalite/Maoist violence*:

Right now in central India, the Maoists' guerrilla army is made up almost entirely of desperately poor tribal people living in conditions of such chronic hunger that it verges on famine of the kind we only associate with sub-Saharan Africa. They are people who, even after 60 years of India's Independence, have not had access to education, healthcare or legal redress. They are people who have been mercilessly exploited for decades, consistently cheated by small businessmen and moneylenders, the women raped as a matter of right by police and forest department personnel.

If the tribals have taken up arms, they have done so because a government which has given them nothing but violence and neglect now wants to snatch away the last thing they have — their land. Clearly, they do not believe the government when it says it only wants to "develop" their region. Clearly, they do not believe that the roads as wide and flat as aircraft runways that are being built through their forests in Dantewada by the National Mineral Development Corporation are being built for them to walk their children to school on. They believe that if they do not fight for their land, they will be annihilated. That is why they have taken up arms.

In 2008, an expert group appointed by the Planning Commission submitted a report called 'Development Challenges in Extremist-Affected Areas'. It said, "the Naxalite (Maoist) movement has to be recognised as a political movement with a strong base among the landless and poor peasantry and adivasis. Its emergence and growth need to be contextualised in the social conditions and experience of people who form a part of it. The huge gap between state policy and performance is a feature of these conditions. Though its professed long-term ideology is capturing state power by force, in its day-to-day manifestation, it is to be looked upon as basically a fight for social justice, equality, protection, security and local development."

They (the tribals) asked why when the government says that "the Writ of the State must run", it seems to only mean that police stations must be put in place. Not schools or clinics or housing, or clean water, or a fair price for forest produce, or even being left alone and free from the fear of the police — anything that would make people's lives a little easier. They asked why the 'Writ of the State' could never be taken to mean justice.

*"Mr Chidambaram's War" (Outlook, 9 November 2009)

02 April 2010

India Vs Bharat: Modern-Industrial-Urban Vs Traditional-Agricultural-Rural

India and Bharat. Two different countries. Or at least, two different parts of the same country. "India" is industrial/urban/modern, while "Bharat" is agricultural/rural/traditional.

This is a popular theory. Then the question arises: Exactly how much of the country is "India" and how much is "Bharat"?

The answer depends on exactly what criterion you use to divide the two:

1. Industrial – AgriculturalEmployment
(Industry + Services vs Agriculture)
2. Urban – RuralLocation
(Cities + Towns vs Villages)
3. Rich – PoorIncome
(Middle Class vs Lower Class + Poor)

*My estimate for 2010.

Thus we can identify different 'India's and 'Bharat's.

Now these categories (industrial-urban-modern and agricultural-rural-traditional) do not merely represent differences in occupation, location and income/lifestyle. They represent something much bigger. They represent two different ages in the history of man: the Agricultural Age and the Industrial Age.

Now historical Ages differ from one another materially, no doubt. For example, they differ in food, clothing, shelter, tools, etc. But they also differ from one another "mentally" – that is, in mindset or worldview. By mindset/worldview, I mean the sum total of a human being's tastes, interests, opinions, attitudes, outlook, values, norms, knowledge, awareness and beliefs. Each Age has its own mindset/worldview. Accordingly, there is an Agricultural Age mindset/worldview and an Industrial Age mindset/worldview.

Now if we take this mindset/worldview as a criterion, where do we draw the line between 'India' and 'Bharat'? Firstly, when it comes to mindset/worldview, the "urban" vs "rural" classification (30% vs 70%) is misleading. A more correct division would be metro vs non-metro. This reduces 'India' from 30% to 7%, and increases 'Bharat' from 70% to 93%. That is, considering mindset/worldview as a criterion, the 8 metros are on one side and on the other side are not just the 6,00,000 villages or the 5,000 towns but also the 400 "cities" (so called just because their population is more than 1 lakh). So we have:

4. Metro – Non-metroLocation (Metros vs Cities + Towns + Villages)7%93%

Now in these metros, it is only the middle class that has an Industrial Age mindset/worldview, not the lower class or poor. So what we are left with is the metro middle class (MMC). What % is this group? The McKinsey study indicates that about 25% of our urban population is middle class today. That gives us an MMC of about 2%. So finally we have:

5. Mindset / WorldviewIncome + Location
(Middle Class and Metro vs Lower Class, Poor + Cities, Towns, Villages)

Thus the real India–Bharat divide is 2%–98%. If you are reading this, you almost certainly belong to the metro middle class (MMC). That means you represent only 2% of India!

  • I have used the names "India" and "Bharat" merely because they are the most popular terms used to denote this divide. The more correct terms are Agricultural Age India/Bharat and Industrial Age India/Bharat (quite a mouthful). For me, India and Bharat are one and the same.
  • I am NOT saying that "India" (Industrial Age India/Bharat) is better/superior/preferable/more desirable than "Bharat" (Agricultural Age India/Bharat). I am merely noting the difference between the two.
  • I am NOT saying that the Industrial Age mindset/worldview is better/superior/preferable/more desirable than the Agricultural Age mindset/worldview. I am merely saying they are different from each other.

01 April 2010

India's Ranking/Position in the World Economy

Question: What is India's ranking/position in the world economy?
Answer: #12

RankCountryGDP ($ tr)

Source: World Bank (2008 data)