View from Ground: Politics and economics of Covid 19

Radhakanta Barik

Prof. Partha Chatterjee a leading political scientist speaking on the present regime in a book review as just populism which does not explain the complexities of political reality. Modi government or Trump government have no association with people and their demands are not taken partially. There is a blatant violation of human rights during COVID 19. The arrests of human rights activists in the name of urban Naxals. Urban Naxal does not mean anything or as a legal concept it does not stand. It is sheer attack on the human rights activists for their intellectual opinions over the question of oppressed. The same in the case of Left wing activists associated with great movement against the CAA specifically the women have been arrested without any charge. The communal riots got organised by Hindutva cadres according to the Home Minister on the floor of Parliament as the outsiders but arresting them those who are being charged as the initiators of riots. This does not bring any way nearer to populism. It is fascism and an attack on common people including the Muslims as they did in Europe on Jews. Post modernism of Prof Chattejee has destroyed his potentiality as a scholar and for confusing Indian people when they suffer the worst in terms of their material loss and political freedoms. Today millions of migrant labour waiting for food and going home and no answer from the government. They are suffering from hunger for the last month under the COVID 19. Prof Chatterjee must look at the facts and explain politics under Modi Shah. Not confuse under the concept of populism. I have a high regard for his intellectual integrity and his depth in understanding of politics.He has immense capacity to discuss Gramsci in the context of India but we are discussing this below.

Gramsci captures public imagination in India as India is experiencing the fascism today which makes us conscious of Gramsci that the popular front is required to fight against the fascism. Fascism tries to hold Indians under the influence of religious fascism but it is not an easy as Hinduism is a multi-layered religion and it does not hold the same way as in the North. For instance in Punjab there is no such fascist tendency where as in Haryana yes the fascism has grown by combining different castes against the Dalits and Jats. The real battle is in UP where the upper castes such as Rajputs and Brahmins have been communalized and criminalized for a long time and today they are dominating the political space of the most dominant state in attacking the Muslims and Dalits. Bihar there is no hold of upper castes like UP but fascism is a growing trend as the capitalists of rural Bihar have sided with the fascism to save their interests from the subalterns .They are attacking the others including  Muslims, Yadavas Dalits etc. In Western India fascism has taken over the cultural space of Gujarat and they have a control over the media and cultural world like literature and art and painting. In Maharashtra fascism was a growing trend under the leadership of Gujarati Banias like Ambanis and Brahmins.In South the reform movement has made them cooled down but slowly fascism are appealing the primitive instincts. To some extent they have succeeded in Karnataka not in other states.In the East they are in periphery as the caste domination does not work there. But in North East they have manipulated the election result in their favour. Real battle is against fascism on the cultural and religious level where the fascists need to be defeated to create  counter hegemony and to have counter commonsense against the fascism and here Gramsci is being placed in the context of struggles against fascism in India.

The way migrant workers were facing the distress in  social and economic terms and whose human rights have got violated by the state has not been heard by the Supreme Court which has been listed but it is not the urgent matter but the FIR against Arnab Goswami is the urgent matter by the court speaks a lot of bias against the workers. A reporter to NDTV was talking to the workers in NCR where the ten workers were dozing in a room of six by six. “One picture is worth a thousand words,” This explains the story of social distance which the PM does not understand although he claims from a humble background that he has no understanding of workers in this country or their hunger and work and their eagerness to go back home. As PM does not have kept a home in his village which explains the pains of these workers who want to go back to their villages. They want to go by the trains on payment unlike these leaders who go abroad in special planes which the public pays for it. They have forgotten the work, employment and income and food here which are pushing them to back to their villages. They want to do something there and earn their livelihoods. They realise this as they realise that this is not democracy for which they work during the election time and they vote the present elite to rule over them. Their voice does not reach them. This is democracy their demand for going home reaches their deaf ears. They are struggling in the NRC without any thing and only keep tears with them.

As the reporter puts a question to them: tears are flowing down over their cheeks as they do not have any cheeks which these leaders have heard that chubby cheeks and they carry hallow bones in their faces. Why their voice do not reach the politicians and are they thinking as if they are the kings and why these voice do not reach the Judges? The Supreme Court says it is not their duty to feed millions of workers.  Art 21 says the Right to life which means right to food, education and health are fundamental to have a life with dignity. But Art 19 says they have right to have free movement but why not be allowed to go homes. The Court and Executive are dead for them. Will they recover from this shock under which they are undergoing today? They will be treated by psychiatrists tomorrow rather than doctors who treat them as if they are the victims of Corona virus.

According to the leading economists of the world that India has wealth of which a portion can be shared for the workers. This is an unusual crisis created by COVID 19. Workers are feeling the crisis in its intensity as they have lost the jobs which have created them without any income and without basic necessities. This brings to the question of a small farmer who sells his landed property while facing the children's education or health of some body. While my father was educating us he used to sell his land and his cousins came to him questioned him that he answered that he had no saving in the bank which he could spend it. There was no alternative but to sell land. He understood the language of Amartya Sen who speaks of human capability although he had no education. It is robust commonsense which made him to educate us. Nation is confronting the COVID 19 which has resulted in the unemployment of such a huge labour force. If they remain healthy and fit then they can come and work after this bad phase passes away. Modi surely understand the logic of Indian economic development as India is a middle order economy which can spend around 5% of its GDP for its people.

What is the sociology of Hunger? It was widely prevailing in Odisha till 1999 super cyclone. Powerful novel on hunger has been written by Kanhu Mohanty in his Haa Anna, Reading of this novel creates a melancholic feeling in readers. Hunger is the basis of slavery in Odisha as till 1990 servants were available for Rs ten for the whole year plus two gamachas. The families used to send their sons as servants to landed households. It has no caste root but any caste person can work as a servant. Hunger creates a parasitic political elite in rural Odisha. The Sarapancha for twenty five years in our panchayat of five villages used to cook extra five meals to offer the leaders of these villages that was the basis of his political power. Politics and sociology are both critical in society of Odisha. It creates a parasitic elite including the trader who offers the rice at the end of the day to small farmer who offers his land to the trader and in the process, he owns his land. The primitive accumulation of the rural Odishs was a crude and inhuman in approach. Today the power elite do not have that power neither they can appropriate land of the others or can keep their sons as servants and cannot win the election of the Panchayat by feeding five extra meals. The way deurbanisation is going on under the COVID 19 Modi wants to get back the support of the old elite who used to live on a form of slavery.

 The former Governor of RBI Prof Raghuram Rajan, has made a calculation of Rs 65000 crores for making a package for the migrant workers and poor in India.This is a small amount of our GDP. The estimated cost of central vista which is unnecessary at present as we have a strong Parliament House is Rs 20000crores. It can be cancelled for making money for a social package for the workers. Free ration for all the poor makes 20000 tons which is one third of total food is kept in the FCI. What is the problem for Modi government to spend this amount for the poorer people of India? Either Modi is not ready to listen to sane voice or he is knowingly ignoring the poor. There is an odiya proverb that 'Mote jete mathibu math, Mu sei dorpodha katha" The half burnt wooden piece is not going to be burnt easily as much efforts you put. Present government at the centre is behaving like half burnt wooden piece.

 Lockdown declared by the present government has worked in a crafty manner which questions the integrity of the present regime. It is functioning like a declaration of demonitisation by Modi which was a monumental disaster. In terms of socio economic and political consequence it is worse than Demonitisation. In the name of Covid19 they have worked out their communal agenda in a crafted manner.They allowed  the congregation of small religious group at Nizammuddin to work out their communal agenda. Even they arrested some of the members who participated in the congregation. This has increased the gap between Hindu and Muslim groups. Furthermore the economic agenda has been worked out with the help of spineless RBI chief Shri Das who has removed the defaulters like big people who are staying in abroad such Nirab Modi,Choski etc. Politically they have arrested the left wing student and intellectuals in the name of urban Naxals. A student wing AISA has been closed down by them. Those young left wings belonging to Muslim community have been arrested under the NSA. Perhaps this is the agenda for going for declaration of third Lockdown.

 Except the health problems have been created by COVID 19 for the people in the BJP ruled states they have misused the Lockdown in a careful manner for their advantage which has never happened in the history of disaster managements. it is going to have the same result like Gujarat earth quake which made the BJP government in Gujarat so unpopular that the meeting by Vajpayee and Advani was thinly attended by Gujarati people which resulted in installing RSS pracharak as the chief minister with an agenda of creating communal riots in 2002. The Lockdown has been carefully crafted one for sending the divisive agenda in a planned manner. The way Modi as the Prime Minister handled the Covid 19 it looks like Advani wanted to connect with the people of India through the Babri Masjid- Ram Mandir issue. His rath started moving through the cities and towns each place experienced deaths through large scale communal riots.Here deaths are happening because of Corona but the mass psychology is getting stirred up by the announcement of Lockdown.

 Modi after coming second time in 2o19 turned into Modi 2 became an actor in politics who moved away from people. His party started losing the election one after the other. This brings the chance to create an aura through Corona. The RSS organizing politics of the rath aound the societies where we live in Dwaraka, Delhi. With full of songs in the film style and Image of Modi is getting through the songs as Advani's image was pushed through the songs of those days in 1989-90. This resulted in winning of the BJP after some time where Vajpayee became the Prime Minister. Prior to that the destruction of the Babri Masjid happened. This brings us to fight the words and language have been used around Covid 19 carefully crafted to push Modi to the centre stage of politics. We should be careful of these moves which going to create a disastrous impact on people of India and politics of India.

 After Odisha government has decided to send vehicles to bring back migrant labour which keeps moral pressures on UP and other BJP ruled states that they want to do so. Odisha like Kerala has taken an initiative in handling the Covid 19 with a human face. It is the state government with a limited resource under its control has gone for announcing the package for the labour in general and migrant labour in particular. That in package there is a financial component and it can be given without such identity card which is an innovative step by our government. This innovative measure has been appreciated by the eminent economists and social worker.

Aurobindo Subramanium in his lecture in Indian Express adda uses the word 'pralaya' in economic sense. Pralaya has been used in Hindu scriptures which have not gone to the heads of Hindutva leaders. Modern imagination and rationality can work out so well that the country can be saved from Pralaya. As the texts say that human beings will be turning into cows carrying masks over their mouths which is being interpreted by some that is what pralaya. Here the pralaya has been used in economic sense that he questioned the IMF 's prediction of economic growth in terms of 1.5 which is a figment of imagination. Indian economy was on down slide that this pralaya hits the economy which would result in negative rate of growth. This is understandable as he worked with the present government has provided some sane economic advice that there is way to save from the pralaya by giving an economic package of 5% of GDP for the labour specifically as they will return back as workers in a healthy and fit mood. Their contributions cannot be underplayed by the rulers of today.

Gujarat growth model one can see in the Kutch belt one can realise the importance of migrant labour in this dry and deserted belt of Gujarat which is the so called magic of Modi's economics. This land was no body's land except the fishermen and pastoral community used to live over this land with their animals who used to walk from Afghanistan to Kutch. They got ignored by Modi's administration and allowed big industrialists to buy their land at throw away price with the help of pliable district administration. Here some industries such as ports by Adani came up where the migrant labour from UP and Bihar used to work. They are in a desperate mood to go out. Surat as an old industrial area used to get labour from Odisha specifically the Western Odisha and Ganjam who work here. They are about 12 Lakhs who work here and live in bastis where one can find the red gamacha which symbolises the Odiya labour they are in a desperate to go out and their family members live back in the villages. Recently I went to give a lecture in a college at the border town of Ganjam with Andhra found a large number of students are studying in the College and came to know them as the daughters and sons of the labour working in Surat. If Modi government can provide a security package then the real pralaya is hitting Indian economy and society can be saved.

Military expenditure under Modi has increased which brings out to be 2.2 of GDP in 2019 where health budget has declined remaining at 1.6 percentage of GDP. We are suffering from health disaster during Corona virus time as the public health system is in disarray. Specifically the states managed by BJP their health system is in a bad shape. Gujarat being a developed state spends very little on health and this brings out the present state of the highest number of victims because of spread of Corona virus. India does not have today ventilators which need to be imported from Korea and testing kits from China but our health budget remains so low. Most of the money spent in defense does not help in growth of indigenous production system. The best example is Ordnance factories owned by government for production of small arms are for sell which indicates Indian state under Modi can sell even defense production units. India the third biggest military spender after USA and China but China develops its own indigenous defense units whereas we do not do so. During the Lockdown period India has made an agreement for buying military goods from USA. This brings the friendship between Modi Trump. The bigger the expenditure the bigger the cut by the present political establishment like the Rafael deal.

By looking at the governance of the BJP government to which Modi after coming to power in 2014 gave a statement that more governance and less government we used to put this question to our civil servant students while testing their knowledge. But by looking at the BJP ruled states in failing in providing the governance during Covid 19. Their model state Gujarat is failing badly which has the highest number of cases today. Then MP comes the second. Indore Ahmadabad and Delhi under the Home Minister Shah shows that the governance has been failing for some time. They could not handle the communal riots of Delhi. After that the spread of Corona virus is not under their control. Other states in India are able to provide better governance to their citizens. This brings the truth out that governance as defined by Indian Constitution under the Directive principles that providing better health and education and income or livelihood which have been prescribed by the ChapterIV of our Constitution. Specifically art 39 shows the reduction of inequality by providing basic income to all its citizens is failing under Modi. As they do not believe in Indian Constitution but they believe in definition of the governance by the World Bank which says that delivery of services like education, health and minimum income without corruption they are failing. In most of their ruled states they are failing. Gujarat is the worst managed state which is their model state. The Corona virus has originated in Modi - Trump gathering as people claimed but no case has been filed by the government against the organisers whereas in Delhi the case has been filed against the organizers of Nizamuddin. They show their partisan behaviour in handling the corona cases. Furthermore, the import of testing kits is found defective and there has been an allegation of corruption by the middle men. In such a critical moment the middlemen have taken money and used it for their benefits. During the Corona time under Lockdown Modi has arranged a fund for himself which is not going to be audited. This brings the truth that a party of traders cannot change their behaviour as making money is their aim. This brings out a statement of a famous American anthropologist F G Bailey used to say that a politician is selfish to make money but more capable politicians make money for themselves and allow their community to make money and most capable politician does not make money as he or she works for the society. This is a profound observation by him as it is applicable to the BJP ruled states including the centre that they do not distinguish the public policy which benefits the wider section of a society like MGR did not allow any making of money in handling the mid-day meal in schools and Mrs Gandhi did not allow any body to make money in implementing policy of green revolution by which MGR made the Tamilnadu an educated state and Mrs Gandhi made self-sufficient in food grains. Six years of rule of Modi shows that there is a complete failure of governance here and in the BJP ruled states of India.

Let us say no to Lockdown as it has created havoc in lives of millions of workers. Today it is May Day the day all workers feel that they have won the 8 hour day two hundred years back. Today there is a demand by the industrialists that the working day will be 12hour day. They will plead that 8 hours for the wage of workers and four hours for profit of industrialists. Lockdown has helped the industrialists to be more powerful with the present political regime who do not respect labour. It should go and we should accept the self-discipline such social distancing if possible.

Modi as the Prime Minister has announced the third Lockdown which brings the story of Abhimanyu who knows how to enter into Chakravuya but not having knowledge of how to come out . As his father has not educated him to come out of the Chakraavuya. All information regarding deaths because of Corona virus are the lowest in India in comparison to any country in the world but most of the countries have allowed their industries to work as industries are life line of any economy, he has gone for the third lockdown which is going to ruin the economy. After a month he has decided to send the trains to transport the migrant labour when they must be boiling in anger against Indian state. Modi has ulterior interest in declaring the Lockdown three by arresting some left wing students and workers and some minority leaders and allowing the RBI to pardon some more smugglers who have fled away to foreign countries. This is the best time for him as no protest happens here in Delhi and he has sound sleep in his palace.

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May 6, 2020

Prof. Radhakanta Barik

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