Economist and social scientist, Dr. Bhaskar asks, do we talk about a humane economy or the human face in the economy? It is not rising or falling inequality – it is there in the structure of the economy – India’s richest one per cent now holds 58 per cent of the country’s total wealth. It is reported that 57 billionaires in India now have same wealth ($ 216 billion) as that of the bottom 70 per cent population of India. Globally, just eight billionaires have the same amount of wealth as the poorest 50 per cent of the world population. So the safe intermediate conclusion is that India’s economy is decidedly against the 99 per cent. Are these 99 per cent excluded in the economy? The sure answer is no, for they are very much required as the pedestal for the accumulation of the top one per cent. He then dwells on the issue of social causes of underdevelopment of UP, where handful few control the rest through exploitation and fear psychosis. He examines the Avaidh kabja (illegal encroachment), where the power that be are hand-in- gloves with the wrong doers. Here’s the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.
Inequality is not specific to India and not specific to countries in the Third World that house most of the poor in the world. Inequality is everywhere – let us confine to the economy for the time being. What is specific to India is that large number are ready to get dispossessed on a regular basis relative to other essentially small size economies and that island affluence extracted from oceanic poverty in India. That makes India, a core country, for study by the economists.
Not surprisingly, during our childhood, we used to compare Tatas and Birlas without understanding what it really meant! We were told Tatas had the human face though Birlas were generous also in building temples and all. Those were parts of social education without much significance. History repeats, for now, I find my students at the post-PG level praise Ambanis and Adanis for the wealth they accumulated, without the understanding with a gap of fifty years the type of dispossession that commoners had to experience. It goes without saying that state played and plays a key role post-Keynes in such accumulation.
Do we talk about humane economy or the human face in the economy? Some Vidur-type (great character in Mahabharata) economists may go for that. But basically, the trend remains how best to get the top one per cent (that itself is a large size in India with 1.3 billion people) get obese by capital accumulation for accumulation.
In my understanding, it is not rising or falling inequality – it is there in the structure of the economy – India’s richest one per cent now holds 58 per cent of the country’s total wealth. It is reported that 57 billionaires in India now have same wealth ($ 216 billion) as that of the bottom 70 per cent population of India. Globally, just eight billionaires have the same amount of wealth as the poorest 50 per cent of the world population.
So the safe intermediate conclusion is that India’s economy is decidedly against the 99 per cent. Are these 99.0 per cent excluded in the economy? The sure answer is no, for they are very much required as the pedestal for the accumulation of the top one per cent. Let there be no confusion on the question if the state will be aggressive on this one per cent for both Schumpeter and Keynes were for the enterprising capitalists, while Lewis wanted more from the people by dragging them from agriculture to industry. The world is for the brave! Let the 99 per cent live happily!
Social Causes of Underdevelopment
Imagine a society that resists development or accepts underdevelopment as development. Or imagine a society that likes to remain trapped or cobwebbed. My wanderings in the nooks and corners of UP makes me compelled to think along this line. It is a society that is divided into multi-layers and each section is linked with the other in dislike relations. Now, what is this dislike relation? Imagine a truncated section from within the Scheduled Caste households, aligning with the Thakurs (having no social/blood links with Rabindranath Thakur /Tagore), to extract short-term benefits, opposing tacitly its own caste members, in a village, in Sultanpur that truncates the imaginary caste/community support, in UP, at the local level. Or imagine the non-parent relatives of a particular boy engaged in studies in the University of Allahabad anxious to get the boy married early for no reasons. The particular boy and his parents are also not willing to get the boy married early as opined by the particular potential bridegroom. The boy’s sister has left for Delhi for social fear of getting coerced to get married early. Early marriage seems to have become an ambition in life!
I asked the boy if there was any political pressure for early marriage of boys and girls in scheduled caste families – his response was in the negative. On further enquiry, I was made to understand that the kith and kin like to live over generations in the same state of affairs as their forefathers were. It is also not a fact that these SC households are totally dispossessed – many of them have cultivable land, as reported, of less fertile quality. At this point, I was made to understand that a fragment of them remained dependent on the higher caste category (Thakurs in this case) for safety (sic) and the other fragment in efforts to go for higher size (sex multiplier) to have more working hands; at the end of all these they were anti-change and anti-education.
By extension of my imagination, they accepted my understanding of underdevelopment as their understanding of development. But then did these numbers in society bother about their development? The boy replied that the Thakur families – only four in number in the village – were the determinants of the outcome in the village and its links with the outside world. My question was, were the members inside these Thakur families educated, at least by possession of institutional degrees. The boy’s response was in the negative. Then he explained it was the money-muscle-gun power of the Thakurs and it was the fear factor for the rest.
So I come to my conjecture what I was pondering over since last two decades if it was low level living along with fear factor for the lower sections in juxtaposition the coercive power of the top section – the determinants being money-muscle-gun, that keep underdevelopment as development in UP.
But the problem is deeper. It is that questions do not come to the minds of even the youngsters why this and why not that! So I used to ask the boys if they were regularly physically abused at home, in schools and colleges that in my understanding blunts the independent thinking at the budding stage and instil fear in them. Most of these boys were initially hesitant to respond but then nodded their heads in affirmation. Some even accepted fear as a necessary component of discipline (military) or learning.
However, this may be one of many hypotheses to explain the underdevelopment of UP.
Avaidh Kabja (Encroachment)
I recently asked different cross-sections of our society, at the middle by income-asset, how people get extra (rent, transfer). The responses were interesting. My colleague from Orissa informed that his bicycle was immediately stolen allegedly by people in his native village, in Orissa, who demanded money from him for consumption of country liquor and my friend declined to transfer that money for no labour work of the money-seekers. Now that they labourerd to steal the bicycle, my friend from Sociology background may be enough surprised what kind of labour it was. My students at the post-PG level, at Allahabad, in UP, responded that the relatively well-off go for Avaidh Kabja (encroachment), meaning the annexation of public land and related assets for private benefits through private ownership or through constructing public resources like tree-tied temples etc. The Allahabad case is an inverse of Roman law that anything that does not belong to the private belongs to the state.
Here anything that does not belong to the state belongs to the private – the private has to have the capacity to prove it. In West Bengal, it is the pickpocket in moving trains and buses that explain the transfer of money.
Long back I wrote somewhere that a process of growth visible to all has to be shared by all. There was/is nothing socialistic/communistic in this proposition. Money changes hands – the name of the owner is not there. In many cases of visible assets, the same may be true and some assets may ultimately become invisible like the filling in of ponds in UP for Avaidh Kabja and the same in West Bengal for plotting and sale for multi-storied residential buildings and if possible grocery-stationery shops on the basement.
My precise point is money is in circulation for all – the persons in search of it will get it. For some, it may be painful and for others, it may be without pain. The bigger question is state intervention in the game of money circulation. Recently, through electronic media, I came know one thief nabbed red-handed, in West Bengal, allegedly used to share the booty with the local Thana. How does one explain this!
©Dr. Bhaskar Majumder
Photos from the internet.
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