Why do we play non-identical double games?

Bhaskar Majumder

I wonder if Privatization and Swadeshi can walk together – for the sale of “non-strategic’’ Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) to promote the former and khadi-village often home-based products of the latter may be mismatch. Of course, the dhurondhor (shrewd) economists on the establishment or their advocates may combine the two opining ‘anything that is produced within the geographic boundary of India is Swadeshi’. It seems, to promote Swadeshi from the heart means to promote Privatization from the brain. I take two “heroic’’ assumptions here on the axis of Chamberlin: one, in global division of labour, there cannot be any product like Swadeshi, and two, global capital entering Swadesh promotes foreign brand name of products. At this point, I am not delving into capital-labour relations (not ratios).
Somehow I link Swadeshi and Aatmonirbharshil, both pledged by the political master – both seem to have had a direct and proportional relation. Between these and dependency, a long time-span went partially unnoticed – the time-span activated by the polity-corporate. The joint families that used to exist up to mid-1960s gradually broke down for the reasons that included the following:

  1. Industrialization post-Mahalanobis 2nd Plan that abruptly shifted the focus from agriculture to heavy industry,
  2. Consumerism unfolded for transfer of technology from mostly advanced capitalist countries,
  3. Most of the PSUs relied on import of technology from abroad to be set up,
  4. People got alienated/dislocated in the above processes,
  5. Sub-division and fragmentation of land holding forced some people to migrate to urban areas – beginning of forced formation of nuclear families,
  6. Government intervened – apart from PSUs and public administration - with a Jhola (bag) of benefits,
  7. People got further divided by BPL and APL and all that,
  8. Local capital in collaboration with global capital took full advantage of emergence of nuclear families – a shift from one Chulha for 30 persons to one Chulha for 4/5 persons – from one refrigerator for 30 persons to one refrigerator for 4 persons and all that.

While the above show decomposition of the processes, the broad proposition that I offer is, in aggressive global capital for exploitation of workers all over the world, neither local nor glocal (a mix of global and local) can survive. Many of the steps that the Government of India needed subsequently included Nationalization of public utilities and public finance of late 1960s and early 1970s, pledge to “Garivi Hatao’’ during early 1970s, and with a gap of three decades, pledge for “inclusive growth’’. The people were made to believe what the government of India believed – there were, of course, intelligentsia in support of the political economic thesis of the government. This is not necessarily India-specific. Educated people, not all, still believe Keynes took birth post-Great Depression to help government save people. People are so innocent!

Some of the middle level people see the problem as a choice between market and state without caring for the fact that the society showed the budding of a local market that the state took as a cue to form market. Straightway, market is state-sponsored. I am not going into the corollaries of this statement but one may go through Polanyi’s “The Great Transformation’’ or Kaushik Basu’s “Beyond Invisible Hand’’ to re-think.

While the state functioned as a charitable hospital (Corona-delinked) to rehabilitate the private sector enterprises in crises, for by then “Quit India’’ probably did not take kick start, and some half-hearted disinvestment of PSUs went parallel, now it is blatant sale of PSUs that are termed non-strategic. So it is a disguised shift from lockdown to lockout to sale of the locked Units. Once people knew the PSUs were the temples of modern India, as announced by Nehru. Is the sale of temples now distressed? If yes, were the migrant labourers responsible for that?

Again people at the bottom, say 80.0 per cent, are befooled for how they know what PSUs are strategic and what are non-strategic. I asked some “pari-likhi’’ persons in both Heartland and West Bengal what were strategic, most of them responded it was military industries for surgical strike. I asked the same respondents, “Aatmonirbhar kaise banoge?’’ They responded, “Aap hi bataai’’. What could I suggest? Most of the respondents were born and brought up in towns and cities – so, I could not advice them to be land-based workers for they had no cultivable land or water bodies and orchards. I could advice them to be traders – but then pondered over for it might crowd out the existing sellers who had been engaged as street vendors and all that. Then I started searching for alternatives – on the Indian Himalayan region I found two-year back people were not much dependent on market but lived their life through women-centric collections from hills-forests. For Inner-Line Permit or for reasons not to go into detail now, this alternative has its built-in restrictions.

Let me narrate now in a light mood. Yes Sir (Political Master), we were Aatmonirbhar in India’s civilization and there was hardly any poor-mind in living not much by economic distancing. Long before introduction of MNREGA, 2005 or long before Food for Work Programme, 1977/1978 we experienced collective labour in digging ponds and constructing houses. Most of the houses had no boundaries till end-1970s. There was hardly any poverty-apartheid up to that period, though some corners of the country developed social volcano since the days of crises of mid-1960s. Even in the days of the Great Epic Mahabharata, at the end of War, Vidur requested Kunti to come and stay in his “Gariv Kutir’’ in the forest. The story of friendship of Krishna-Sudama is known to all, in the same Epic. Or, the story of Rama-Guhak in the Great Epic Ramayana is known to all on the land of Ramayana.
Who dislodged the people of India from local self-reliance that encompassed also global (Indian) friendship? My humble submission is the state in collaboration with corporate assassinated that Swadeshi or Aatmanirvarshil era. Assassination of Gandhi was the last nail on the coffin. Befooling has no full stop, however, as is evident from some economists that opined in favour of opening of the coal and mining sectors to private players. They went on to glorify the New Economic Deal post-Corona 2019/2020 as if it would reinstall the economy on the trajectory of double-digit growth in the coming years.

If there is no choice (TINA) post-globalization, why then accuse the Corona virus or its probable originator – it is also global just as flows of capital-technology? Some will die because of leakage of deadly gas from Union Carbide long back and some will die for LG Polymers, 2020, and some on railway track and some on road. Meanwhile the government will continue to float Advisory and ask the states in federal structure to do the needful. The Walking Bharat and the home-locked sleeping people are far away from this revolution by terminology like COVID-Lockdown-Social Distancing-....... The homeless people are not privileged to be home-locked, of course – they are knocked out.

Let me come to the point of focus then. Playing two non-identical games means games played under completely different rules. To make it simple, Tendulkar playing cricket on the ground on the day fixed means he cannot come out to play chess. Of course, one may use hands to write on a dashboard while using vocal cord delivering a lecture on a common space, say, a classroom. Playing privatization and pledging Swadeshi/Aatmonirbhar are two opposite games if people are players. If a handful of As and As play the game, then the story is different.

Bhaskar Majumder, Professor of Economics, G. B. Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad - 211019

Back to Home Page

May 20, 2020

Prof. Bhaskar Majumder

Your Comment if any