Agenda Proposed for Winter Session of Parliament of India, 2019

Bhaskar Majumder

The winter session of the Parliament of India is going to start from 18th November, Monday, 2019. Today is 18th – hopefully I am not much delayed in conveying my message. I understand that the Agenda is already fixed for debate in the session. In spite of that I think as a common man I have the responsibility to draw the attention of the esteemed Parliament on some issues that I believe need immediate steps. We had enough of Demonetization, Rafale, Aadhar, NRC, Pathankot, Phulwama, J&K, Rama Mandir during past six years. I had a series of occasions to talk to people in both the villages and the towns in Bharat during the past six decades including these six years of immediate past. The methodology of data collection was unstructured. The data were qualitative based on personal interviews, group discussions and participatory and disguised observations. What I understood are the following:

Common People (Aam Admi)
What they responded to my questions, and none of those were lead questions, were (i) they had high respect for the Jawans, (ii) they had nothing to do with Demonetization, (iii) they had virtually no idea about Rafale, (iv) they heard NRC not by its name but by its impact, (many of them supported Modi Sarkar for reasons they could not explain other than saying ‘Modiji ne Kuch Kar Ke Dikhaya’ (Modi ji has done something to display).  They expressed that they were concerned with ‘Roti-Rozi’ and not with issues that Bade Aadmi were interested in. What I understood from the conversations was the acute innocence of the common people. Most of them live hand to mouth and could not tell how many zeroes were there in one million. Surely, they were distanced from trillion.

These common people were the milkmen, the domestic workers, the rickshaw pullers, the vegetable vendors, the members in families owning and cultivating marginal land, and first generation adult students. The excluded section in these conversations was Adivasis, not by choice.    

Middle Section
The middle section mostly kept silence contrary to their common practice. Some opined to keep distance from polity, however, had no reluctance to get benefits from polity. These benefits mostly included job security in the organized segment of the economy. They expressed anxiety about the growth in GDP as they got it through print and electronic media. The women members in these families expressed concern about rising prices of vegetables or kitchen-concern. Most of them did not express concerns for women empowerment or safety of women in public place. This section included regular employees in service sector and owners of petty business.   

Power Section
This has got nothing to do with the energy sector – it is the elite or the determinants of the state. Many of them enjoyed whatever happened during the past six years. Most of them revealed their patriotism engaging with Pakistan as the originator of terror. Most of them legitimized NRC accusing Bangladesh and so on. This section claimed to be right for others were projected as wrong. Most of this section were educated, frequent fliers, academic elite and business elite.

Agenda Proposed
My purpose is not to stand on pedestal of any of the above categories for my living in the grey zone. This also empowers me to propose to the state through the Parliament of India the following:

  1. Guarantee of minimum income of the households in villages who are landless, may be @ prevailing wage rate in MNREGA based on engagement of members of households for 100 minimum days per year.
  2. Waive institutional loans of marginal and small farmers who had been repaying outstanding loans for past three years or more.
  3. Bring back money stashed abroad without fear or favour and spend that on social security.
  4. Set up more Old Age Homes focusing on metropolitan cities first in view of medical advancement led longer longevity.
  5. Deprivatize essential services.
  6. Promote public investment on land for zero net imports of food grains.
  7. Revert reduced taxes on corporate.
  8. Spend heavily on public education and public health.
  9. Expand PDS to include non-perishable vegetables.
  10. Ensure minimum 150 days wage-work in MNREGA (keeping in mind Act 2005).
  11. Ensure existence value of hills-mountains.
  12. Allow Adivasis to dwell in forests (with or without Act 2006).
  13. Implement Ganga Purity Plan to make it navigable also.
  14. Reject River linking plan, if any.

The above is non-exhaustive. In my country that has accepted inequality since time immemorial, with different expressions, the state has enough breathing space to take action plan as such. In almost all the regions that I visited, most of the people declined to accept that they were poor. Poverty is mostly an elite construct for it requires legitimization of the jet-set living of the elite. I have reasons to assure the state that the so-called poor people are not chasing behind the elite moving jet-set. However, I must not conceal some of the responses of elderly male individuals that I could collect by disguised observations (A talking to B where I had been C as an observer/listener) in the villages in Heartland that they preferred Temple to school – that was also pre-judgement by the Apex Court, November 2019. It was innocence for they had reasons not to understand Keynesian multiplier. The social scientists may be sent to such villages to stay and make them understand the cost-benefit calculations of public assets. This is not to deny that temples/mosques cannot generate wealth.

I have deliberately avoided listing transnational issues and determinants. One reason is I have failed so far understanding the necessity of war though I experienced the impact on the eastern border. The other is many of those are diplomatic questions and long-term that also include a number of countries. Also, I avoided issues in the processes that the Monetary (RBI) and Fiscal (Finance Ministry of the Government of India) authorities are competent to tackle like the Foreign Exchange Reserves, lending rate and so on that aim at stabilizing the economy and promote Keynesianism.

I have full faith in the Parliament of India to tackle the issues that I thought I could propose. The reason I listed internal issues was it requires internal legitimacy for the state to make people believe its intentions, even if it fails to implement all the plans and programmes for social security. If there is no direct participation of people in the processes of decision-making, for often they are seen as a consequence of development, let it be a social map where these people are taken into confidence that everything is not lost. After all, a civilization like Bharat reorients itself over centuries.    

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

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Nov 19, 2019

Bhaskar Majumder

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