[Marxism] On “The myth of India’s Development” and other messages

Marla Vijaya kumar marlavk at yahoo.com
Mon Jul 10 11:01:58 MDT 2006

    On “The myth of India’s Development” and other messages:
      I  apologise for my slow response as I wanted to do some homework before I could  reply to some of the points raised in various messages that have appeared in  Marxmail in the last few days.
      I  am happy on two counts. One, that India is increasingly being debated on Marxmail, an  indication that comrades are beginning to see the importance of India in world affairs, not simply because it is the second  most populous nation, but also because of its strategic position in today’s  world. 
      And  secondly, the recognition that communists in India are worth their salt and that they are not class  collaborators, as the propaganda goes.
      In  fact, when I wrote once that the priority of Indian communists when they gain  power in provinces (‘states’ as we call them), is implementing land reforms and  distribution of land to the landless poor and protecting and improving workers  rights, Louis commented that Indian communists appear to be different from  those of Chinese communists. They are in deed and have decades of experience in  the struggle on two fronts – in mass struggles as well as in parliamentary  participation, ie. to put it simply, inside and outside the parliament.
      The  elections of 2004 are indeed a turning point not only in the country’s history,  but has significance to the neo-liberal designs of world capitalism. In India, communists are fighting pitched battles against  neo-liberalism, winning inch-by-inch and the gains are limited but significant.  The latest in these victories is the backtracking of the Indian government on  privatizing of profit making public sector companies. It is funny that the  government, last year, was contemplating selling 10% stake in BHEL, a profit  making heavy electrical engineering company (I work for that company) for an  amount which is far less than the annual profit of BHEL. The ruling Congress  Party, belying its promise not to pursue privatization as a philosophy, is  doing just that. After mass protests and under pressure from the communists,  the government had put BHEL’s privatization on the back burner. And now the  attempts to sell off two more profit amking state companies, NALCO
 (aluminium  giant) and Neyveli (Power company), shows the neo-liberals in the government  are doggedly pushing privatization, with total disregard to the will of the  people. So the vigil has to be continuous against the neoliberal attemts to  dismantle the state sector companies as well as the rights of the workers and  the rural poor. A latest move of the Finance minister, P. Chidambaram was  ostensibly aimed at reducing the wages of agricultural labourers in rural  areas. As it is they are lowest paid among Indian workforce. The communists  have warned the government against such a move.
      By  extending support from outside to the government of the secular coalition led  by the Congress Party, the communists are winning on two fronts.
      1.         Keeping the  Communal and fascist BJP from regaining power.
      2.   At the same time,  occupy the opposition space and pressurize the government against anti-people  policies.
      The ex-Prime Minister AB Vajpayee had said that the  BJP has to learn this successful tactic from the communists. He also told his  party to understand why the communists retain power in some of the states, without  losing peoples’ confidence.
      And Now about “The myth of India’s Development”:
“There is, however, no denying many Indians their conviction that the 21st century will
 be the Indian Century just as the 20th was American. The exuberant self-confidence of a 
tiny Indian elite now increasingly infects the news media and foreign policy 
establishment in the United States.”
      Picturing India as an emerging super power may fit the US designs to develop a puppet counter weight to China, but it may or may not translate into reality, as  there are many complex factors that guide the destiny of this huge country that  is of continental proportions. The euphoria of a tiny bourgeoisie minority in India over the meteoric stock-market growth in the recent  past was short lived. The global gamblers were playing the same games all over  the world, that of pumping in dubious money into the share market and suddenly  pulling the carpet at the required instant – a stale game played out many  times. The Indian government was falling head over heels to invite these  gamblers into the country on indecently attractive terms, flouting all rules of  economic governance, and the finance minister was in chorus with the big-biz  media to picture this inflow of shady money into the country as genuine FDI.  Well, the so called FDI had evaporated in no time,
 leaving stocks in shambles  and the majority of investors, who are middle class, drained of their life’s  savings. This is certainly not growth. 
“But the increasingly common, business-centric view of India suppresses  more facts 
than it reveals. Recent accounts of the alleged rise of India barely mention the fact 
that the country's $728 per capita gross  domestic product is just slightly higher
 than that of sub-Saharan Africa and that, as the 2005 United Nations Human 
evelopment Report puts it, even if it sustains its current high growth rates, India 
will not catch up with high-income countries until 2106.”
“Nor is India rising very fast on the report's Human Development index, where it 
ranks 127, just two rungs above Myanmar and more than 70 below Cuba and Mexico. 
Despite a recent reduction in poverty levels, nearly 380 million Indians still live on less
than a dollar a day.”
“In recent weeks, India seemed an unlikely capitalist success story as communist parties
 decisively won elections to state legislatures, and the stock market, which had enjoyed 
record growth in the last two years, fell nearly 20 percent in two weeks, wiping out some
$2.4 billion in investor wealth in just four days.”
Let us not claim such dubious credit for the fall of stock market. In fact, in the 2004 April 
elections when the communists won 61 seats in the parliament and it was certain that the 
Congress party had to depend on Communist support, we have seen the stock market 
rash for a few days and recover. The crisis in the capitalist gambling den was brewing 
since a few months when the big fish had decided to shoot up the share market index. 
Any sane person would have sensed immediately that this kind of a rise is artificial and 
ould not last. The victory of communists in two states has nothing to do with this. This
is the propaganda of the big-biz press and let us not bite the bait.
      As Prof. Amartya Sen says in an interview (Asia  Source, July 7th, 2006, http://www.asiasource.org/news/special_reports/sen.cfm):  “The idea of development is a complex one: it is not surprising that people  think that the way development is defined could be improved. When the subject  began in the 1940s it was primarily driven by the progress in economic growth  theory that had occurred through the preceding period in the 1930s as well the  1940s. It was dominated by the basic vision that poor countries are just  low-income countries, and the focus was simply on transcending the problems of  underdevelopment through economic growth, increasing GNP and so on. That proved  to be a not very good way of thinking about development, which has to be  concerned with advancing human well-being and human freedom. Income is one of  the factors that contributes to welfare and freedom, but not the only factor.  The process of economic growth is a rather poor basis for judging the
 progress  of a country; it is not, of course, irrelevant but it is only one factor among  many. 
      Human  development, as an approach, is concerned with what I take to be the basic  development idea: namely, advancing the richness of human life, rather than the  richness of the economy in which human beings live, which is only a part of it.”
      A  good number of young people, who had spent a couple of years working in USA in  computer software jobs are in fact returning back to India, to settle down  nearer home and are happy with incomes that are 10-15% of what they get in USA.  Yearning for home might be one strong reason, but above all, even such a high  income could not give them the quality of life which they enjoy back home, with  much less income. The point I am trying to emphasize is that we should not  measure progress only in terms of dollar incomes. 
      Agriculture  has been given a short shrift by the previous BJP government to prefer urban  upper middle class and the rich capitalist class. As per the official  statistics of the Union Home Ministry, 200 thousand farmers have committed  suicides between 1989 and 2003 (not 100 thousand as reported on Marxmail). This  is the period when India embarked on “liberalization and structural  adjustment”, meaning large scale privatization. Farming has become a costly  occupation, post-Green Revolution. Credit is needed for water, for fertilizers,  for pesticides, even for seeds. Institutional credit at reasonable interest  rates is not available. For example, while the total short-term credit required  for crops is about 1 thousand billion rupees a year, financial institutions  provide only 12-14% of this. A  growing number of shopping malls, coffee shops and nightclubs for the new  richer Indian urban middleclass are fast changing the Indian urban landscape.  On the other
 hand, the ever-growing urban poor, surviving in slums, are being  continuously pushed into darkness by slum demolition drives, neglected in  sanitation, power, and water. The resources of these neglected areas are being  diverted to transform Bangalore, Delhi,  Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, and other Indian mega-cities into the new  global centers of back-office work. The growth of MNC oriented IT industry creates  new forms of social division, separating these reconstructed young adults from  the rest of society.  The millions of  India's urban poor and those living in rural India, who do not have access to  basic education and minimum social infrastructure, are the ones who are paying  for the costs of developing this world class infrastructure, thus widening the  class and regional disparity in living standards. The government has followed  an economic policy that robs the poor and feeds the rich. 
      Agricultural  growth had slowed down, threatening the country’s food security. Rural poor are  starving and the UPA government’s promise of providing 100 days of paid work  for the rural poor could translate into implementation only after two years of  struggle by communists.
      That  explains the recent World Bank report about widening economic disparities, as more  and people are paying attention to what the communists have been saying all  these years. The realization is coming after seeing the naked force of  capitalism for nearly two decades, degrading their incomes.
“The potential for conflict - among castes as well as classes - also grows in urban areas,
 where India's cruel social and economic disparities are as evident as its new prosperity.
 The main reason for this is that India's economic growth has been largely jobless. Only
 1.3 million out of a working population of 400 million are employed in the information 
technology and business processing industries that make up the so-called new economy.
No labor-intensive manufacturing boom of the kind that powered the economic growth 
of almost every developed and developing country in the world has yet occurred in India. 
Unlike China, India still imports more than it exports. This means that as 70 million more
 people enter the work force in the next five years, most of them without the skills 
required for the new economy, unemployment and inequality could provoke even more
 social instability than they have already”.
      A  majority of Indians may be poor but India is not poor. According to the estimate of the  national anti-corruption bureau, the black money generation in the country is many times  more than the country’s annual budget. What should have gone into the  government’s coffers to be utilized for welfare and development schemes is  being pocketed by the rich minority. It is reported in the press that many of  the irrigation projects taken up with loans from World Bank and ADB, have their  estimates jacked up, as nearly 40% of the funds are eaten away. The erstwhile  prime minister Rajiv Gandhi had once commented that out of the funds spent in  the name of welfare schemes, less than 10% is reaching the poor. Just imagine  what can happen if this money is siphoned back to the government and it is  spent where it is required. It will certainly accelerate the country’s economic  growth. One need not wait for 110 more years for India to “catch up”. 
      A  few random ideas thrown up for discussion here; fell free to dispute my arguments.
      Thank  you.
      Vijaya  Kumar Marla
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