Elite and Bharatvasi:
Some Stray Thoughts

Bhaskar Majumder

There is much gap between ‘We, the People of India’ and Bharatvasis in my perception for the latter are least bothered about what rules, if followed, and how. The latter know the local administrator or the political leader (or, his dabang agent) as the Sarkar.  The reason why I pose this question is most of the time when as a privileged citizen of India I peruse the English jargons in print and electronic media that reveal facts about the socio-cultural issues in Bharat, that is India, I feel puzzled. This follows my living with the Bharatvasis over past six decades, often hiding my professional or academic identity.

Bharatvasis are innocent, localized and many are migrants. They are migrants not because that they like to enjoy the scenic beauty of the land that is called India but for their distress. The elite pretends to know what they do not know for the very idea of infinite ignorance is absent in them – some of them are knowledge-proof also. Some of them ridicule the knowledge-saints. The elite, however, define others (Bharatvasis), fix the self-made playground, fix the goalpost, re-fix it if needed and scores goals fixing a puppet goalkeeper or removing the goalkeeper under the bar. The rules of the game are obviously of the elite – Shakuni strategy in the Great Epic Mahabharata? The question of accusing the elite does not arise for they had been the pioneers in Philosophy or Sanskritization.

The elite are a clan – self-glorifying – advising others. They do not touch tools and equipments either in home kitchen or on the paddy field. They do not soil their hands. They do not drive car for each one of them owns many and which one to drive? Some of them own yacht and jet. They engage the Bharatvasis from the bottom to work under hire and fire. The elite sponsor the dominant polity and help form the Government camouflaged as Bharatvasis forming. The elite sponsor for they structured their guild or the corporate; the corporate become the wage-giver to the workers, the latter coming from the Bharatvasis. They need the workers from the bottom but do not like them for the pedestal is altogether different. Some such Bharatvasis feel fortunate to live in labour colonies that often resemble slums provided by the corporate elite.

The issue is not about ownership of assets of the elite, or its translation into political-economic power. I am also not much concerned about the dispossession of Bharatvasis because of the elite. For consequential inequality is unavoidable in a post-private property world. The Bharatvasis are not in competitive/comparative mode and they go by fait accompli – they are so innocent and wait to get a new better (sic) birth, probably in the heartland as a Pundit (Brahmin). My concern is with the national interest though I never tried to prove my nationalism – let the elite keep the buffer at home, that is, Bharat, so that Bharat Mata may show asset bump or asset multiplier (pl. don’t read it as NPA). After all, if the Bharatvasis cannot accumulate (asset) then the elite will come forward to shoulder that responsibility.

Is the elite ready for that – I mean, keeping assets at home (Bharat) and become the guardian of the Bharatvasis? The corporate elite float the idea of corporate social responsibility where ‘’social’’ has little meaning. In a state-corporate network, the state is the constitutional authority and offer benefits to all (Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas) that includes the elite and the corporate that they form. The guardianship of the Bharatvasis, thus, ultimately depends on the state. The question remains how can the state be the guardian? One straight answer is, since the state policies flow mostly from the experts cocooned in the shell of the elite, the state can direct these experts to throw light on how to keep public assets privately appropriated at home. Next, the state can direct the ruling intellectual apparatus how the assets can be ploughed back to the Bharatvasis. I believe the state is ready for this.

The Bharatvasis do not say that they are poor but poverty is inflicted on them. If they are not poor, they will be evicted from the natural resource base like forests, hills, rivers that had been their natural habitat so that they can be impoverished to be dragged into the safety net of the Government. The Government, thus, becomes the welfare agent.

Controlling the Bharatvasis is not a difficult task for they are so innocent - they have faith, they respect the person at the peak once the person is projected as the unquestionable leader who can carry the country forward. The Bharatvasis get accommodated in the system somehow that marginalizes them – they spend the nights on the railway platforms, on road dividers if it is urban space while the rural society pushes many of them out beyond the mono-cropping season. Many of them are put into the unreserved train compartments that show four times the carrying capacity of the compartment and many are drawn by bus if it is long distance; otherwise it is truck/tractor. Many of these Bharatvasis rooted in the villages try to sleep under the sky in the city of Mumbai and they feel fortunate if they get such a space. Even in a rurban city like Allahabad one observes Bharatvasis spending nights on railway platforms and road dividers. These Bharatvasis are silent other than the resident ones who join the bandwagon to be part of Kanwaris during July-August, wait for cost-free Prasad (food) during January and some join polity to share in public assets.

The fortune of the elite is mostly secret by transfer of benefits, a soft version of which may be found in the book ‘’Beyond Invisible Hand’’ penned by Kausik Basu. They walk on the corridor of power and understand their command over distributable benefits. It is not distribution of power between the elite and the Bharatvasis. The Bharatvasis are nowhere in power sharing; apparently they stand on the queue for benefit sharing. But really, they are provided some cards to access benefits and they are provided daan (donation) as symbol of benevolence. Many of these Bharatvasis stand on the queue in front of temples, sit on the floor in Gurudwars to get food to survive.

India, that is, Bharat is a religious country – a country of a nation that is in faith (Sanskar-Parampara). So whatever daan is provided by the benevolent-philanthropists is in the name of God. God blesses both – the donor and the receiver. The country, thus, live in faith – faith is unquestionable just as the person with charisma is unquestionable (though in the Great Epic Mahabharata Bhagwan Krishna was repetitively questioned, of course with Bhakti, by his disciple-friend Arjuna). As Bharatvasis, I think, we need to re-read the Great Epic Mahabharata.        

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

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Sep 10, 2019

Bhaskar Majumder [email protected]

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