After six decades, Indian economy is pledged to be cashless in market transactions. One needs to ponder and have exhaustive market/household surveys what went right or wrong in that direction. A sizeable section of the population, obviously at the bottom of the economy, continue to practice not only barter-based exchange of self-produced goods but also share home-grown vegetables outside the barter system – it was precisely the collective sharing of households produced goods. Dr. Bhaskar’s research surveys in the states of UP, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand confirm not only collective sharing, barter-based exchange but also hunting to satisfy food and basic needs at the bottom of the human living. People at the bottom have remained with some cash (as revealed from recent demonetisation) and without cash (who could not make their citizenship felt), without voice, and landless-assetlessness, only with manual labour for sale, without understanding the equivalence in exchange. He next dwells on the plight of the commoners and their confusions. Finally, Maoism is vague and nebulous. Here’s the narrative by an economist and social scientist, in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.
During India’s early 1950s, based on the estimates for all classes, expenditure on consumer goods per person was about Rs. 22 per month of which about Rs. 13 was spent in cash and Rs. 9 was the value of consumption of home-grown food and home-made articles. Housing was primitive in villages and extremely in deficit in urban areas. The supply of nutritive foods was meagre although nearly two-thirds of the total expenditure was spent on food items. The level of living thus was extremely low (Mahalanobis 1985: 22-23). In value terms, home production was 40.9 per cent of household consumption during the early 1950s.
Now after six decades, Indian economy is pledged to be cashless in market transactions. One needs to ponder and have exhaustive market/household surveys what went right or wrong in that direction. I have very little first-hand ideas on this but if I rely on the theses of D.Phil. scholars, who worked under my supervision, during more than a decade covering large sample size drawn from the states of Assam, Orissa, and UP, I have reasons to believe that a sizeable section of the population, obviously at the bottom of the economy, continue to practice not only barter-based exchange of self-produced goods but also share home-grown vegetables outside the barter system – it was precisely the collective sharing of households produced goods. My own research surveys in the states of UP, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand confirm not only collective sharing, barter-based exchange but also hunting to satisfy food and basic needs at the bottom of the human living.
The sceptics may feel free to visit the remote areas in India (and for the privileged most of the regions in India are remote by absence of electricity functionally, communication, absence of hotels and all these).
People at the bottom have remained with some cash (as revealed from recent demonetisation) and without cash (who could not make their citizenship felt), without voice, and landless-assetlessness, only with manual labour for sale, without understanding the equivalence in exchange.
Cashless transactions are a safe proposition for the people at the top and little meaning for the people at the bottom. Capitalism, however, is distanced from the possession of the poor – it dispossesses the poor of his labour in case the latter is not on the wasteland. My personal view is it is too early or premature to go for a cashless economy because the bottom society is not ready for it. If cashless economy eradicates corruption as pledged by the state, it is welcome, though again, my personal idea is that corruption is a necessary component of capitalism!
(Reference: P.C. Mahalanobis, 1985, Papers on Planning, ISI, Calcutta)
The Commoners in Private and Public
The extent of the disaster that telling private conversations that too love-oriented in the public domain by individuals eminent in the latter could be an unmanageable disaster has been proved notwithstanding damage control efforts latter. It was with respect to one highly acknowledged/appreciated individual in the film industry in India. I intend to set the question not in the patience/impatience frame because many of the discussions that I had to listen to through electronic media were really in not-so- good taste. I would rather like to pose the question in the private-public domain.
Many statements are made in private, in a pleasure-pain mood. My grandmother used to say post-partition, in 1947, that British India was alright without understanding that it was the British that divided us (sic); my grandfather, whom I did not see, expressed to go back to former East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), where he had adequate cultivable land and known neighbours, which my grandmother resisted perhaps, because, by then, almost all my relatives, many of whom are no more, had to get resettled as refugees in West Bengal. It was then distanced from land and dream was for education-led job for survival. It was not land, and the concept of motherland also had partially changed in the post-British period. My father was in IB but readily resigned to join another British Company that was not apparently against the people involved in nationalist movements.
Commoners are not always and not necessarily responsible for the changing nature of the state but the latter may guide/misguide commoners. The problem more is with individuals with public eminence. So ‘A’ had to face the consequences in the non-too- remote past.
Otherwise, in my understanding, the commoners in buses and trains, in Kolkata, and many regions in India, talk at random, without even understanding the state repercussions and often pay the price.
My idea is, judge a man, if at all, by his highest deeds! This is, however, not to justify anybody’s lowest deeds.
Dissent and Governance: Understanding Maoism
I cherished for long that dissent was a necessary condition for governance in a democracy. I also believed that democracy through participation and concluding through consensus would be dilatory, but I never cherished that the idea that the world would be better through authoritarianism. Exercising through authoritarianism in political democracy at the least understood by free and fair voting was never imagined. But that is what I experienced in the not-too- distant past.
To free the reader from doubts about what might follow is that I try as far as practicable to remain above partisan politics, knowing well that living above political outcome is impossible. What disturbs me is getting somebody identified as Maoist simply because she differed from the routine mainstream thought-content. She is a statist or she is a Maoist – there is no space in between. Who defines her as a Maoist? It is the state with all alacrity. Why? Because she is to be controlled, otherwise the Mao contagious disease may spread over space and people. The state defines cross-sections of people and summation of people (can people be summed up?); the Maoists are incapacitated to define. It is like the affluent defining the poor; the poor remain incapacitated inter-generationally to define the affluent.
I am, however, surprised to find people in their twenties and thirties, who appreciate national wealth, measured by invisible wealth accumulated by the top two percent of the people (extraordinary) and I understand that these people (most of them are students in Economics) hardly understand Economics. So I quote from ‘Beyond Invisible Hand’ by Kaushik Basu to make my observations more credible: “What the wealthy know and the nonwealthy typically do not know is that you rarely get rich by simply selling or buying products and services at the market price. Not all, but most of the rich got there by mastering the art of barter through nods and winks as well as the extensive use of the exchange of favours…”(p. 26-27).
The purpose of my quoting is simple – to re-examine so-called Maoism phenomena by the indicators of dignified indicators of human living. The state identified the dislocated as Maoists; it will be the responsibility of the state to re-define them.
(Reference: Basu, Kaushik, 2011, Beyond Invisible Hand, Penguin Books Ltd., London, p. 1-273)
©Dr Bhaskar Majumder
Photos from the internet.
He also worked in research projects for Planning Commission (India), World Bank, ICSSR (GoI), NTPC, etc. A meritorious student, Bhaskar was the Visiting Scholar in MSH, Paris under Indo-French Cultural Exchange Programme. He loves speed, football and radical ideology.
Latest posts by Prof. Bhaskar Majumder (see all)
- What are the Central Problems of the Indian Economy? - April 9, 2017
- How Silence Suits Various Sections of the Society in Uttar Pradesh? - March 26, 2017
- An Open Letter to the Beloved Prime Minister of India - March 19, 2017