Saturday, March 24, 2007

Nandigram: rebirth of hope



Rudrangshu Mukherjee had written in January, following the Nandigram disturbances, about the death of hope for West Bengal.

Yesterday, I read the Trotskyite turned fascist groupie/apologist Swapan Dasgupta’s article about the return of hopelessness.

And today, senior journalist Sunanda K Datta-Ray has written about the death of hope.

A remarkable convergence of opinion, very revealing about the make-up and worldview of India’s educated, English-proficient class. Alienated, thus fundamentally ignorant, and full of despise for the humble, toiling folk. Totally enslaved in their hearts and minds by colonial hangover.

Hope isn't dead. Its these people who are dead fish!

They all suffer from “market-fetishism”. They denounce opposition to capitalist globalisation as anti-market. But markets do determine economic activities everywhere in West Bengal. As Prof Abhirup Sarkar pointed out in a seminar in Calcutta last year, it is the collusion between the ruling party / state and the large cold storage owners that ensures that the interests of potato farmers, and especially small farmers, are systematically thwarted.

They also suffer from “modernity-fetishism”, which is simply another form of wearing fine suits and boots and sneering at the rustic peasant in his loincloth for his lack of finesse!

They talk about "setting back the industrialisation clock". What nonsense! They should sit in a time machine and try to return to the Victorian era where they rightly belong.

Nandigram has advanced the clock of an economics that is just and democratic.

Thankfully its possible to see through and dismiss these pathetic purveyors of pious platitudes. Being a student of economics, I know that economics rests on a foundation of values. The set of values that comes by default – acceptance of the distribution of resources and endowments in society - is only one set of norms. There could be others. The values thrown up by the farmers of Singur and Nandigram – present a mandate for economists and public policy specialists to try to act upon.

The poor do not wish to stay poor. They know what poverty is, like the self-proclaimed pundits will never know. They want economic growth, which will bring greater opportunities for improved quality of life. However, to assume that economic growth of any hue – through real estate development, through dubious international capitalists (recall Enron) – will automatically translate into removal of poverty is plaintively disingenuous. I can see that it may not be possible for an agency committed to eliminating poverty to get all the capital investment it wants in the desired spheres. So there can be a strategic outlook, where whatever is achieved is sought to be linked to people’s welfare.

But in a state where perhaps the worst oppression on the people is in the state of the primary education system and the public healthcare system – which in turn are in this state because of the extortionary activities of the CPI(M) – care and concern for the people is nowhere on the party's horizon, they care only for power and loot.

The people of Singur and Nandigram have spoken. It is the duty of the educated, privileged section to understand and interpret this, and come up with fitting solutions.

The squeaks of all these “analysts” are not unlike the self-righteous denigration of black capabilities by beneficiaries of the apartheid regime. There is no hope for them in a just order.

As scholar Ross Mallick has written, violation of human rights in South Asia can be largely attributed to the dominance of westernized elites who control the state apparatus. He argues that there is a tacit collusion between national elites (including scholars), NGOs and international agencies in neglecting human rights issues on the subcontinent. He concludes that the very survival of democracy in South Asia will depend on how the dominant elite groups accommodate the needs and aspirations of the deprived and marginalized groups.

Nandigram – is the rebirth of hope.

2 comments:

Mrinal Bose said...

Great post. Rudrangshu, Swapan or Sunanda are intellectual assholes. They don't understand India and its people. They are SEZs in human form. We can do without them. And they are redundant at this crossroad of history.

Mrinal Bose

kuffir said...

'I can see that it may not be possible for an agency committed to eliminating poverty to get all the capital investment it wants in the desired spheres. So there can be a strategic outlook, where whatever is achieved is sought to be linked to people’s welfare.'

this is still a top-down perspective rama. the great lesson of nandigram, in my view, is that the people want control over their lives- and they'll decide the course of development and industrialization or whatever.

but as you pointed out - 'But in a state where perhaps the worst oppression on the people is in the state of the primary education system and the public healthcare system'... if the state wanted to partner with the people, it'd have started there.