An agency to ensure fair and just exchange, with the aim of ensuring sustainable livelihoods and a dignified life for all members of Lokavidya Samaj
B Krishnarajulu (10 Dec 2022)
The Capitalist Market System that pervades the Globe today, greatly influences ALL human activity and relationships. The dominant and all-pervading principle underlying ALL operations and arrangements in this Global Market System is “maximization of profit”. Such an ‘operating principle’ has led to a stage where the very survival of the ‘indigenous’ communities (especially in the Third World) whose lives and livelihoods are based on ‘local community knowledge’ and whose local interactions including marketing/exchange etc are based on local, shared communitarian values; at risk. Such communities have not been able to withstand the onslaught of the capitalist-market worldview, based on modern ‘scientific’ knowledge; with the result that most ‘traditional’ livelihoods have all but ceased to support the lives of these communities. The survival of these communities and the sustenance of their livelihoods and ‘ways of life’, rests on the development and inculcation of ‘Swaraj Chetana’ , based on the principles of Nyaya,Tyaga and Bhaichara as opposed to the (paramount) Profit-only principle of the Capitalist Market System.
This note sets out the Concept of Swarajya Bazaar ,an agency whose prime and sole task is to assist in the sustenance of the lives and livelihoods of Lokavidya Samaj; while countering the rapacious dehumanisation of the Capitalist Market System.
- The equality of all human beings is inherent in and is an integral part of Swaraj Chetana
The concept of dharma has NO equivalent in non Lokavidya-based societies and it has, therefore, all along been subject to ‘ silencing’ by commentators and analysts trained in other knowledge traditions. Swaraj Chetana incorporates Nyaya,Tyaga and Bhaichara as axiomatic principles of living. Gandhiji’s reference to Sanatana Dharma seems to indicate, among other things, his desire to bring such principles of ‘correct living’ to the fore. Public discourse should be in the vocabulary of vidya and dharma ; their meaning is commonly understood by ordinary people albeit in different ways; such understanding strives to ensure the protection of the fundamental right to life and livelihood of individuals and communities.
- All inequality, social and economic, has its basis in knowledge hierarchy.
While analysing the dynamics of “knowledge-evolution” in the Indian context, Dharampalji in his Bharatiya Chitta, Manas and Kala, has stated the following:
“Differentiation between what is called the para vidya (knowledge of the sacred) and apara vidya (knowledge of the mundane) is one aspect of the Indian ways of organising physical and social reality. When this division, between para and apara knowledge, occured in the Indian tradition cannot be said with any certainity…this sharp division may have arisen sometime during the end of Treta (yuga) and the beginning of Dvapara, with a variety of skills and crafts appearing on the earth to help man live with the increasing complexity of the universe..
It is commonly believed that the four Vedas along with their various branches and connected Brahmanas, Upanishadas, etc form the repository of para vidya ..and the Puranas, Ithihasas etc as also the various canonical texts of different sciences and crafts like Ayurveda, Jyotisha etc deal with the apara vidya.
In spite of the presence of both streams of knowledge together in almost all canonical texts, the dividing line between para vidya and apara vidya seems to be etched rather deeply in the minds of the Indian people….. It seems that the Indian mind has somehow come to believe that all that is connected with apara vidya is rather low, and that knowledge of the para alone is true knowledge. …What the Indians realised was the imperative need to keep the awareness of the para, of ultimate reality, intact while going through the complex routine of daily life.
With the passage of time, this emphasis on regulating apara vidya through our understanding of the para vidya turned into a contempt for the apara.… this imbalance has affected our thinking on numerous subjects and issues, for instance, take our understanding of the varna vyavastha. In interpreting this vyavastha, we have somehow assumed that the varnas connected with textutal parctices and rituals of the para vidya are higher, and those involved in the apara are lower. Closeness of association with what are defined to be para practices becomes the criterion for determining the status of a varna and evolving a hierarchy between them. Thus the Brahmanas associated with the recitation and study of the Vedas become the highest, and the Sudras engaged in the practice of the arts and crafts of ordinary living become the lowest.
The issue of the hierarchy of the varnas is not , however, a closed question in the Indian tradition. During the last two thousand years, there have occured numerous debates on this question. (Maharishi) Vyasa…. composed the (Vishnu) Purana..where he proclaims the Kali yuga to be the yuga of the women and the Sudras. Perhaps in the Kali yuga, everyone turns into a Sudra….in this yuga of the ascendence of the apara vidya, the role of women and Sudras, the major practitioners of the apara vidya, of practical arts and crafts of sustaining life, becomes the most valuable. In our own times, Mahatma Gandhi expressed the same thought…that in this yuga everyone must become a Sudra”.
- The march towards the establishment of an egalitarian order, based on social and economic equality, begins, in this ‘knowledge era’, with the relegitimization of Lokavidya and ensuring the Right of individuals and communities, to live by Lokavidya.
- Within Lokavidya Samaj too, equality will be re-established/achieved only when the hierarchy of knowledge, the basis of the heirarchy in the varna/jati system, is removed; concomitantly with the acceptance of the inherent equality of knowledge and livelihood practices of the various jatis and varnas.
- One of the important means of actualizing the ‘ideal of equality’ enshrined in Swaraj Chetana, would be the establishment of a Swarajya Bazaar; because the Bazaar is the place (both conceptually and physically) where there is continuous and purposeful inter-dependent interaction between the various constituents of the Samaj.
- Swarajya Bazaar is the process of supporting and sustaining Lokavidya-based livelihoods and establishing concepts of ‘value’ and norms of exchange, which will aid and assist such sustenance.
- This should lead to a new political unity within Lokavidya Samaj, which is essential for building a new socio-political order.
Swarajya Bazaar : The concept
The Market place is where commodities are exchanged between, broadly speaking, producers and consumers. It is also the place where secondary accumulation of wealth takes place by the nature of the exchange-activity i.e commodities are traded(bought and sold); while the primary accumulation takes place at the production site(of raw materials and/or products of consumption and service). The Market is, primarily, intended to facilitate this form of exchange-activity.
Swarajya Bazaar, on the other hand, is primarily intended to make available products and services to the local community( of producers and consumers) and facilitate exchange ,of such commodities and services, to help sustain and perpetuate lives ( and livelihoods) with a level of equality and dignity for members of the community. This is the underlying dharma of Swarajya Bazaar. This is also the cardinal difference bewteen the Market and Swarajya Bazaar.
The inequality inherent in the exchange-activity, in a capitalist dominated market system, leads to economic and social inequality and exploitation. In sharp contrast, Swarajya Bazaar, will be charcterised as a humane exchange-activity process that is dominated by a constant zeal to promote welfare, dignity and equality of the members of the community it serves. There are no over-riding motives save that of upholding and promoting its dharma.
Swarajya Bazaar is therefore a collective activity and effort at sustaining Nyaya,Tyaga and Bhaichara among the various participant communities. Its dharma, through practice, pervades the philosophical, social and economic space of Lokavidya; each enriching the other across space and time.
The aspect of inequality arising from the exchange-activity process has to be addressed by redefining the concept of value(of a commodity) by incorporating the idea of knowledge-based and community-accepted value. In a knowledge paradigm, that recognises the fundamental equality between all knowledge and knowledge-based activity, the sustenance of a concept of knowledge-based value and the social and economic equality that it engenders, will not prove beyond the new political imagination that governs society.
The physical location of the Swarajya Bazaar will be in the locality (village, panchayat area, cluster) that Swarajya Bazaar serves . This will be similar to the weekly markets(shandies) that are still prevalent in most parts of the country . Many services may be available(marketed) at doorsteps such as milk delivery, dhobi services, etc . There will also be scope for online marketing with door-delivery facility for many products and services.
Economics pertinent to Swarajya Bazaar
- The value of goods and services are determined, in the main, by three factors
- Cost/value of ‘raw materials’ required to produce utilitarian goods/ products
- Knowledge/skill input in the production of the goods or rendering of service
- Labour power input- this is measurable in terms of socially necessary/accepted time required for production/rendering(this would also apply to naturally derived inputs/raw materials)
- The equality between all forms of knowledge/skill input is inherent in Lokavidya dharma
- The value of Labour power is dynamic and determined by constituents of the local Lokavidya Samaj in proportion to the time necessary for production/rendering of service (including that of women in all household activities) AND precludes ‘forward trading’ in goods/commodities/services.
- The exchange value is dynamic and determined by constituents of the local Lokavidya Samaj in proportion to the extant supply/demand situation and would never adversely effect the equality of knowledge or labour-power inputs or the sustenance of any Lokavidya-based livelihood/activity.
[The value of a commodity (we use this term to denote ALL goods and services which are produced by and through human labour for self-comsumption and/or exchange) is neither pre-determinable nor pre-assignable i.e. there is no intrinsic value to any commodity. A value accrues to a commodity as a result of it being essential to life and/or during the process of social exchange and is by nature a dynamic quantity].
There are broadly two ‘types’ of value that accrue to a commodity; use-value and exchange-value. Both these ‘types’ of value are determined, in the main, by the knowledge-content and the labour-content (in relative proportions which could change with time and place) of their production and/or availablity. Supply and demand factors would only temporarily ‘modify’ the value and, in Swaraj, would never assume commanding heights in value determination. While knowledge-content is a local, collective and community-dependent entity, labour-content is a continuously evolving entity and, as can easily be seen, would depend on the extent of technology infusion in productive and service activities of society. Knowledge-content derives from Lokavidya and, as Lokavidya evolves and strengthens with infusion of new ideas, data and creativity; knowledge-content also changes accordingly. So, the value that accrues to a commodity is neither static nor market-determined; it progresses with Lokavidya and is continuously assessed by the (local) Lokavidya Samaj and mediates all transactions of Swarajya Bazaar.
Instances of Knowledge incorporation in value
Until about 200 years ago almost all production (of food, goods and commodities) and service activities were carried out locally i.e within the village or panchayat area. Every community(jati and upajati) was engaged in this production and service activity . It served as the basis of their livelihood and was in turn based on specialised knowledge of the production processes or service activities. Such production and service activities were, by and large, year-long activities with nature-induced breaks for rest, recreation, pilgrimages, festivals, social celebrations etc. ‘Payment’ for contribution/involvement in any and all such activity was normally made at the time of harvest, with each section of society receiving its payment in terms of (food)grains. Everyone got a ‘pay’ commensurate with the(largely locally determined) yearly minimum-requirement for living a dignified life and sustaining livelihoods.There was an inbuilt equality in the knowledge-content of value of commodities/services. Bonuses/Inams were distributed on special occasions for special services from different sections of society. Value was not obviously measured merely (or only) in terms of labour-content i.e. socially necessary time for production/rendering. There must have been a socially/culturally mediated method of value-accretion based on equality of the knowledge-content of the input. Quantification of this knowledge-content in terms of measurable space-time variables is probably not possible; and also indeterminable outside a local socio-cultural context. Lokavidya Samaj determined this knowledge-content of value , it was part of its dharma.
Instances of ‘value’ incoporating Lokavidya dharma
For the modern Swarajya Bazaar, it is necessary (maybe imperative) to clearly define/quantify ‘value’ such that it incorporates the essential equality of Lokavidya-based knowledge and skill(labour) inputs. We give a few instances from the past which set out the principles of value determination and incoporation.
- Quotations from Gandhiji’s “Autobiography” summarising Ruskin’s “Unto This Last”:
“A lawyer’s work has the same value as the barber’s, as all have the right of earning their livelihood from their work”
“ A life of labour i.e the life of the tiller of the soil and the handicraftsman is the life worth living”
“ The right system respecting all labour is, that it should be paid at a fixed rate; but the good workman employed, and the bad workman unemployed”
“The equality of wages, then, being the first object towards which we have to discover the road, the second is that of maintaining constant numbers of workmen in employment, whatever may be the accidental demand for the article they produce”
- Quotations from Dharampalji’s “Essays on Tradition, Recovery and Freedom” summarising the Chengalpattu data:
“An elaborately worked out system of sharing of the produce of the region also seems to ensured fairly equal distribution of economic and cultutral prosperity among the various communities and occupational groups that inhabited the region”(Pg 116,Other India Press edition,2000)
The average agricultural produce allocated to individuals comprisng different workers, artisans, service-providers etc in Chengalpattu, extracted from Table 3 on Page 142 (ibid)
|Artificers (carpenters Ironsmiths)||20|
|Kanakkupillais (Account Keeping / Registry)||19|
Wage and Cost/price
The cost of a goods/commodity/service to (or the price payable by) a consumer is related to its value
The minimum wage/pay/compensation accruing to the producer of goods/commodity/service is related to the cost (as above) and would, at all times, be consistent with the inherent equality of the knowledge/skill input in the production of the goods or rendering of service and the socially determined minimum required to live a dignified life.
The cost of labour-power(wage) is measured in terms of socially necessary time required to carry out a productive/service task. However, using merely a time-measure can result in several ‘inequalities’ . For example, the relative preparation time and execution time may differ vastly from activity to activity( growing a crop requires a month of preparation followed by 2-3 months of actual production; whereas preparation of a meal or a piece of cloth would involve relatively much less preparation time and less execution time; while both activities are known to be equally important, necessary and valuable.
If in ‘socially necessary time’ we also incorporate ‘preparation’ and ‘waiting’ time, during which the pertinent knowledge process continues(sustenance of labour-power), and hence incorporate the cost of maintaining a life of dignity during these relatively activity-lean times, then we put, for example, the cost of artisanal labour or home labour(by women) in a dharmic relationship with that of agricultural labour; resulting in a more equal method of costing and price determination.
Management and Control of the Bazaar
The local Panchayat, comprised of elected experts representing different areas of knowledge/skill of producers and service-providers of the local area; will be the apex body in deciding policy issues and resolving contentious issues related to the Bazaar.
The Local Management Committee
The Local Management Committee(LMC) will be in direct and full control over all the day-to-day activities of the Bazaar and comprise of elected members of the local area representing all types of producers and service-providers relevant to the Bazaar, a majority of whom may preferably be women. Every member will have equal rights.
The structure of the LMC will be determined by local conditions and there will be no over-representation or under-representation of any section of producers/service-providers.
This Committee will be in charge of administering the Bazaar, including long and short-term planning and management. It will decide(dynamically) on the ‘terms of trade’ among the various participating constituents of the Bazaar.
Capital inputs into the Bazaar will be planned and regulated by the LMC through a Gram Kosh and Vastu Bandar (treasury/warehouse/seed bank). All transactions within and without the Bazaar will be in Lokamudra (appropriately designed and engineered digital technology, such as “tokens” created on Etherium) which, by its very nature will be largely “cashless” . It will also transact in terms of seeds, fertilizers, pesticide and other locally-required inputs.
The LMC will decide the extent of short-term and long-term financial holding in Lokamudra that would be required as well as plan and execute short-term and long-term capital mobilization; for the effective conduct of the Bazaar. The ‘terms of trade’ of this Gram Kosh and Vastu Bandar would also be set out by the LMC and would act primarily to offset over-production or shortfall in necessary inputs while helping sustain livelihoods.
The Lokamudra pool of each local Lokavidya Samaj shall be regulated by the Finance committee of the local Panchayat without detriment to the operations of the LMC which would regulate , through appropriate financial measures, the amount of money supply in the Bazaar so that the equilibrium of its operations is not adversely affected.A minimum of 10% to 20% of the Lokamudra generated , in the respective Panchayat region over a year, shall be added to the Reserve fund allowing for the volume of funds to grow thus enabling higher investments for capital and revenue expenditure.
There will be two levels of operation in Lokamudra.
- The modes and methods of capital infusion will be though a Toll/Collection scheme or as otherwise decided. Additionally, there could be direct “stock purchase” or contributions by members of Lokavidya Samaj. Every member of the local Lokavidya Samaj will be allotted a certain number of Lokamudra as determined by the local
- All transactions within Swarajya Bazaar shall be in terms of Transactions with the ‘external’ markets would at an appropriate ‘exchange’ rate.
- All value-assignments of Lokavidya products/services shall be in terms of Lokamudra and overseen by the local Panchayat which would ensure that the basic principle of sustaining Lokavidya-based livelihoods is upheld at all times. (This is much like the RBI intervening to control exchange and interest rates to the advantage of the Market)
- Trade/transactions in Swarajya Bazaar with entities outside of the Samaj, shall be in terms of Lokamudra so that there is never a “uncontrolled” flow of capital outside the Swarajya Bazaar. (All wealth created locally remains in the local area and capital investments in infrastructure or other developmental activities is always determined and overseen by the Panchayats)
- Over a period of time it is expected that the Lokamudra “ holding” of each member of the Samaj will grow (after due deduction for value of goods and services supplied to the member through the Bazaar). Such “surpluses” can be used for enhancing productivity of the livelihood activity of the member , for investment in Lokamudra and/or for other consumptive expenses.
- Interest free (or very low interest)loans can also be given to members by the LMC while the bulk of the accumulated “wealth” will go to development of infrastructural facilities for the local Samaj (housing, sanitation, water supply, schooling, healthcare, energy utilities, roads etc) as decided by the local
Marketing of local produce and services, in non-local areas, will best be served by using the potential of Internet-based marketing. This will be a key component of an additional marketing methodology and the knowledge backing (of trends, possibilities, potentials, forecasting, disaster management etc) will also be based on inputs derived from the Internet.
An agency to manage this ‘facility’ will be set up at each local market area, manned by local youth who have acheived some training/competence in using and managing web resources.
How may we re-establish Swarajya Bazaar?
The farmers, who constitute the largest section of Lokavidya Samaj and are producers of food, can take the lead in establishing local Swarajya Bazaars and orienting other sections of the Samaj to actively take part in supporting, conducting and extending the scope of the Bazaar.
This may be initiated through a campaign using the following slogans/messages:
- Buy locally produced goods and commodities and avail of locally available services provided by local artisans, skilled workers, service providers.
- When goods and commodities produced locally are bought or local services and skills are availed of then , it provides gainful “employment” to and support for the lives and livelihoods of your brothers and sisters of the Samaj.
- All goods, commodities and services required for ordinary life are being made locally and available in the Swarajya The producers of such goods and commodities are mostly self-employed.
- When you buy such goods you support their lives and livelihoods. That is the dharma of
- Swarajya Adopt this dharma and practise it.
- Notice the large price difference between goods and commodities produced outside the local area or by industrial establishments and similar items produced locally. Why do you want to pay so much? And why do you want your hard earned money to go outside unnecessarily?
- The path to a dignified life is one which is paved with the support of the local community of producers and consumers. Let us build, nurture and sustain such paths.
- If we do this, our children need not beg for employment or welfare.
Swaraj Chetana Based on Nyaya, Tyaga, …
B Krishnarajulu (09 Dec 2022)
Every movement for social change, in the Indian subcontinent, over the past 2500 years has been initiated by a fresh interpretation of the concepts of nyaya (rationality & equality), tyaga (duty) and bhaichara/sahodara (kinship with all life forms) in the realm of ordinary life practice. Such interpretations were put forth by gurus and sants / swamis (saints); and ‘accepted and absorbed’ into the belief systems and life practices of ordinary people. Their lives thereafter underwent changes appropriate to the sustenance of such changes. Most often, this led to the ‘formation’ of different sects within the all-pervading sanatana dharma that characterized Indian society.
Such interpretations can be seen, for example, in the teachings of the Buddha and Mahavira and later in the teachings of Basaveswara, Guru Gobind Singh and many others. More recently we find that Mahatma Gandhi too, offered a new ‘talisman’ for ordinary life practices through his interpretations of these concepts. All these ideas/interpretations formed the bases of mass ‘movements’ and we know, historically, that they did lead to social change. However, with the onslaught of capitalist mode of production, and the concomitant ‘destruction’ of the natural environment, such changes in society and lifestyle have been under severe pressure and the very sustenance of the belief system and social formations, that those interpretations engendered, have been pushed to the ‘brink of extinction’.
Nyaya, Tyaga and Bhaichara in the Context of the Knowledge Movement
All characteristics of inter-relationships are primarily, and in the main, determined by interactions between individuals and between communities/collectives, and governed by the evolving worldview that determines these relationships. Concepts of equality (nyaya), fraternity (bhaichara) and collective governance (swarajya) evolve through such economic, social and cultural exchanges. The contemporary capitalist-market worldview, that influences ALL relationships today, will have to make space for Knowledge(Lokavidya)-based Swaraj Chetana which should henceforth influence ALL relationships within and without Lokavidya Samaj. This will form the basis and agenda of the movement for radical social change.
The Movements for Social change:
The concept of dharma has NO equivalent in non Lokavidya-based societies and it has, therefore, been subject to ‘silencing’ by commentators and analysts trained in other knowledge traditions and influenced (unconsciously perhaps) by the prevalent market-driven values. Swaraj Chetana should incorporate Lokavidya dharma which incorporates Nyaya, Tyaga and Bhaichara as axiomatic principles.
Public discourse should be in the vocabulary of vidya and dharma; their meaning is commonly understood by ordinary people, albeit in different ways. Such understanding is not in conflict with principles of Nyaya, Tyaga and Bhaichara and should now serve as the basis of establishing a system of interactions for the protection of fundamental right to life and livelihood, in a globalized Knowledge-based society.
- The march towards the establishment of an order, based on Nyaya, Tyaga and Bhaichara, begins, in this ‘Knowledge era’, with ensuring the Right of individuals, individually and collectively, to live by and base their livelihoods on the Knowledge they possess and practice viz Lokavidya.
- The aspect of inequality, arising from the exchange-activity process, has to be addressed by redefining the concept of value of a commodity/service, by incorporating the idea of knowledge-based value, in a knowledge paradigm, that recognizes the fundamental equality (in utility) between all knowledge and knowledge-based activity. The sustenance of a concept of knowledge-based value and the social and economic equality that it engenders, will not prove beyond the new political imagination, that will evolve in society.
[Value: The value of a commodity (this term denotes ALL goods and services which are produced by and through human labour for self-consumption and/or exchange) and is neither pre-determinable nor pre-assignable i.e., there is no intrinsic value to any commodity. A value accrues to a commodity as a result of it being essential to life and/or during the process of social exchange and is, by nature, a dynamic quantity.]
Ideas on Knowledge equality- an important aspect of Nyaya
The inequality, which Basaweshwara lamented, was not the inequality of personal endowments, but of the social, economic, religious and spiritual practices which created inequality and came in the way of development of individual personality. He went to the very roots of the state of nature in attacking the inequality created by human beings.
Basaveshwara gave a concrete meaning to the conception of work or occupation in the form of Kayaka which is regarded as an important means for the removal of all inequalities–economic, social, religious and spiritual. Kayaka is a spiritual view of labor and not merely a materialistic view. Every kind of labour is looked upon with high honor, dignity and spiritual significance. Kayaka doesn’t encourage amassing wealth or hoarding of money. It is NOT motivated by profit.
from Gandhiji’s “Autobiography” summarising Ruskin’s “Unto This Last”:
“A lawyer’s work has the same value as the barber’s, as all have the right of earning their livelihood from their work.”
“A life of labour i.e the life of the tiller of the soil and the handicraftsman is the life worth living.”
“The right system respecting all labour is, that it should be paid at a fixed rate; but the good workman employed, and the bad workman unemployed.”
“The equality of wages, then, being the first object towards which we have to discover the road, the second is that of maintaining constant numbers of workmen in employment, whatever may be the accidental demand for the article they produce.”
from Dharampalji’s “Essays on Tradition, Recovery and Freedom” summarizing the Chengalpattu data:
“An elaborately worked out system of sharing of the produce of the region also seems to ensure fairly equal distribution of economic and cultural prosperity among the various communities and occupational groups that inhabited the region”
from Paul Mason’s article in The Guardian titled ”The end of Capitalism has begun”
A study for the SAS Institute in 2013 found that, in order to put a value on data, neither the cost of gathering it, nor the market value or the future income from it could be adequately calculated. Only through a form of accounting that included non-economic benefits, and risks, could companies actually explain to their shareholders what their data was really worth. …The knowledge content of products is becoming more valuable than the physical things that are used to produce them. But it is a value measured as usefulness, not exchange or asset value… (but) information as a social good, free at the point of use, incapable of being owned or exploited or priced.
Ideas on Tyaga or Fundamental Duty
[Tyaga is neither renunciation nor charitable donation / alms giving]
from Tirukkural (Valluvar’s instructive text focused on wisdom, justice, and ethics.)
Goals of porul (wealth obtained in ethical manner) and inbam (refers to pleasure and fulfilment of one’s desires) are desirable, yet both need to be regulated by aṟam (dharma). Valluvar holds that aṟam is common for all, irrespective of whether the person is a bearer of palanquin or the rider in it.
from the Bhagavad Gita
Karmanye Vadhikaraste ma phaleshu kadhachana OR “Perform your duty but do not have any expectation of the fruits”. It speaks of being dedicated to your vocation, your art, your science (your livelihood practice) as a fundamental duty. The Indian tradition also holds that there exists an inherent tension between artha and kama. These must be pursued with “action with renunciation” (Nishkama Karma), that is, one must act (do one’s duty) without craving in order to resolve this tension.
Kayaka is to be done in the spirit of dasoha. Dasoha meant working hard for one’s livelihood and for the maintenance of society. In his view, a dasohi should consider himself, but a servant of society. Therefore, dasoha in principle assumed that what belongs to God must return to Him and what came from society should be given back by way of selfless service.
Kayaka is a duty by which each one has to maintain oneself and render its proceeds to the welfare of all. As per the principle of dasoha, since everyone earns his minimum requirement through Kayaka he contributes the rest of his labour to the society rather than accumulating personal wealth. Therefore, Kayaka does not encourage the amassing of wealth if it is done in the spirit of Dashooha. Human beings are equal by nature in their wisdom and virtues, that should be maintained accordingly.
from Guru Gobind Singh
Dharam dee kirat karnee – Do your work (livelihood practice) as a duty.
Dasvand denaa – Donate a tenth share of your earnings.
Langar Parshaad ik ras vartaaunaa – Serve Langar prashad (food) with impartiality.
Ideas on Bhaichara (Sahodara) or Kinship
from the Maha Upanishad
Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam meaning “the world is one family”.
The Gandhian vision of holistic development and respect for all forms of life; nonviolent conflict resolution embedded in the acceptance of nonviolence both as a creed and strategy; were an extension of the ancient concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam
from the teachings of Mahavira
A central tenet of his teaching was a renunciation of violence in all its forms and a concern for all forms of life; that all living beings, irrespective of their size, shape and form, how spiritually developed or undeveloped, are equal and we should love and respect them.
Social Action For Change
It does not take much to see that ALL the great movements for Social change, in different parts of the country(and in fact the World), have been based on teachings (new interpretations of Nyaya, Tyaga and Bhaichara), such as the ones quoted above, and have led to new social (religious) groupings based on belief systems which have incorporated the essence of these teachings. These movements have been sustained through centuries by the Tyaga that dominated (and governed) these social groups; that is until the ‘onslaught’ (both ontological and ethical) of modern western Science and Technology, especially and very perceivably by the advent of the globalized capitalist market system.
Climate Change, a fallout of the Capitalist Development paradigm, is directly linked to the absence, neglect or down-grading of Bhaichara (as enshrined in various belief systems). Environmental Movements against the ill-effects of Climate Change have, in almost all cases, re-emphasized the understanding of Bhaichara; that was a given in the various communities of the Tribal / Indigenous Peoples of the World.
It appears that the space and opportunity for redefining Nyaya, Tyaga and Bhaichara has been opened up by various peoples’ movements across the world. The farmers’ movement in India, which was initiated about 40 years ago across many states in the south (Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh) and the north (Punjab and Uttar Pradesh), has kept clear of the many ideologies for social change that pervade the knowledge domain and ,in fact, has often invoked the teachings and guidance of various sants and gurus to enthuse the mass of farmer-participants and sustain the movement. The recent massive farmers’ movement seems to have been greatly influenced by the teachings of Guru Gobind Singhji and was able to sustain the movement for over a year. It was attended largely by small farmer families from Punjab, Haryana and UP. The Langar, local arrangements for stay & facilities and healthcare have been provided for by bigger farmers and their organisations. It is my opinion, that the urge to stay together seems to be the overarching belief that the (Khalsa) leadership is being guided by the teachings of Guru Gobind Singh: of grow food (as a duty), share food through Langar (Bhaichara) while ‘fighting’ for justice (Nyaya) for the entire community (that is dependent on agriculture). Those teachings will certainly be reset to the contemporary context in order to sustain the movement, but this provides the hope that a new interpretation of Nyaya, Tyaga and Bhaichara could well emerge and be ‘accepted’ by ordinary people, through this movement. It has set the stage for the growth of Swaraj Chetana based on Lokavidya dharma– the value system that would usher in social change and liberate Lokavidya Samaj from the dehumanization of the capitalist-market system.
Decentralized Governance: Future of …
B Krishnarajulu (07 Dec 2022)
Political ideologies of modern Europe were born in the context of the development of the political society (society and state formed in the domination of the bourgeoisie and the workers as the new classes) post the advent of industrial capitalism in the late 18th and 19th centuries. These Feudal societies transformed into Capitalist societies. Political conciousness that developed was comprised of ideas such as Democracy, Democratic Socialism and Scientific Socialism. In such societies the dominant mode of production became centralised industrial production and the political form of governance was (mostly) through a Republican Parliamentary institution. These societies were characterised by a rapidly atomised social organisation, where the individual(and his rights and duties) became paramount in political discourse and extant communities and almost all community-based kinship relations gradually vanished. The spread of mercantile-capital- driven global-trade , of the previous centuries, laid the foundation for the rapid development of the imperialist phase of capitalism, marked by increased control over human and natural resources(in the colonies) and of global capitalist market development.
Class Consciousness and Political Society
This transformation caused a lot of misery to a large section of the population in these industrialised (imperialist) countries together with great wealth and power accumulation in a new (comparitively very small) elite. The old feudal Kings were displaced by the leaders (Party bosses) of a new political ruling class. In order to counter this new exploitative and dehumanising social order a “new” Class Consciousness of the oppressed was sought to be inculcated in the ‘oppressed’ classes(mainly comprised of industrial working people); within the Political Society that now characterised the transformed society. This led to the development and spread of ideas of Socialism and Communism in the late 19th century, and the mobilisation of the ‘exploited’ classes (industrial workers and peasants) to challenge the socio-economic order and bring about social change towards a less exploitative and more just social order. Such ‘revolutionary’ changes did, in fact take place in many countries; notably Russia and China. The political system that oversaw and guided this new social order(Communism/Socialism) was a one-Party dictatorship operating through a centralised Parliament.
The major developed countries of the World today, such as China and Russia and some smaller ones such as Singapore, are one-Party dictatorships and in many of the other so-called democracies of the First World, such as those in Europe, USA and UK, there are serious attempts to transform them into One-party dictatorships. The ‘developing economies’ such as Brazil and India are also in the process of installing One-party dictatorships. The countries of Africa, Latin America and South-east Asia are also verging catastrophically into dictatorships while the oligarchies of the Arab world are characterised by wealthy despotism.
All these political dispensations , have actively and militarily perpetuated a ‘development’ paradigm based on centralised industrial production, rapacious utilization of natural and human resources, globalisation and market-based economic imperialism. The political structure that has ‘nurtured’ and sustained this process is characterised by extreme centralisation of (political) power and decision making. This has been actualised through One-Party dictatorship over a centralised Parliament. The dramatic rise of China and the sustenence of Russia ;both under the dictatorship of the Communist party, as global economic super powers; underlines the ‘success and the compulsion’ of this strategy. It is therefore not surprising that the other established economic giants such as those in Europe, USA and UK and the aspiring developing countries, such as India and Brazil, are also heading in the same political direction.
Dictatorships allow the ruling dispensation to wrest and excercise control over all resources(human and natural), production and marketing and use military might to subjugate any dissidence. Such a situation inevitably results in the loss of a number of fundamental human rights for the population , who are then surely driven into a new form of dehumanised slavery.
Every dictatorship needs an ‘ideological’ base for it’s sustenance. While the Communist ideology , bolstered by some ethnic nationalism, led the way in Russia and China; the nascent dictatorships of Western Europe and North America have long tried to established a social base in White Supremacy (such as White Aryan supremacy in Nazi Germany, WASP supremacy in USA). The would-be dictatorships of Latin America seem to have embarked on a process of political ethnic cleansing. The oligarchies of the Arab world have increasingly used Sunni Islam as the ideological base of their dictatorships. While in India, Hindutva has become the chosen basis to legitimize this centralization. It should be quite clear that the global attempts to establish dictatorships to further the capitalist market system seek to suppress and eliminate all ‘subaltern’ societies that comprise a vast majority of the global population. The nascent dictatorships of North and Latin America and Australia are rapidly moving to capture centre stage in the movement to marginalize and eliminate all ‘traditional’ societies and their cultural and social identities.
The situation in India
Indian society is made up of variety of social formations and these social formations are made up of further smaller social communities. The individual, and his identity, rights and duties, are largely defined in a communitarian context. Society and individual are the two complementary features of social reality. This is important because the understanding of human consciousness that thus emerges places the individual and the societal consciousness in a well-defined relationship.
Indian Society is now clearly divided into two large sections. One section is comprised of the (largely) urban educated people and the other section, which vastly outnumbers the former, is comprised of the ‘uneducated’ largely rural people. The ‘educated’ section are those that have gone to school and college and base their livelihoods on that acquired knowledge and skills. The ‘uneducated’ section are those who have almost never attended school or college and base their lives and livelihoods on the knowledge and skills they have inherited from their families, peers within the community and ancestors. Such knowledge is the Knowledge in Society (Lokavidya); and so this section should be referred to as Lokavidya Samaj rather than ‘uneducated’. This section comprised of peasants, workers, artisans, service providers, women, adivasis and the road-side/small retailers, dalits and tribals and is, on a very large scale, comprised of those commonly known as exploited (shoshit) and externed (bahishkrit).
We need to understand the nature of their consciousness, for based on such consciousness the movements of change could derive their strength and build the pathways to liberation. This section, Lokavidya Samaj, cannot be understood in terms of classes. It exists as a collection of Samaj’s (communities / jatis / upajatis) and each constituent has it’s identity in terms of their Samaj(communitarian identity). Broadly speaking their consciousness may be seen as mainly composed of four complementary characteristics: moral, social, political and knowledge based. It is this united consciousness that governs all the activity of Lokavidya Samaj which includes economic, technical, social, political, cultural and philosophical aspects and all activities related to knowledge production, management, etc. The individual worker/producer often has a reasonable understanding of such consciousness.
The predominant thinking with those who have gone to the University and comprise the intellectual, political and Government circles in India, is that they are unable to think without reference to (received)European thought and concepts. They have been wholly influenced by the capitalist (centralised) development models and now, unreservedly seem committed to market-based economic imperialism. All political parties have essentially supported this development paradigm and, during the past 70 years or so, the attempt to establish their control over governanace (dictatorship) has been underway. The Congress, through the Indira Gandhi regime attempted to usher in dictatorial control over the economy and polity in the 70s , but failed to complete the task. The RSS -BJP , who have been open advocates of rampant capitalism (their anti-socialism/ communism emanates from adherence to the (fascist) capitalist development paradigm), have long sought to establish a popular base (as support to their dictatorship) through Hindutva (Vedic Brahmin supremacy) ideology. The RSS – BJP have continuously been attempting to consolidate ‘Hindu’ opinion to back their efforts to establish a one-party dictatorship and set the country on the path to becoming an important player in global market capitalism. They have now unabashedly begun to consolidate the dictatorship given the political mandate that has gone in their favour.
It is very important to understand that the lives and livelihoods of Lokavidya Samaj is firmly and wholly grounded in Lokavidya; that is, their productive lives and activities are almost entirely based on their Knowledge and skills and their lives are centred around their local living community-spaces. Conflict resolution also takes place within the ambit of community-panchayats and the ‘verdict’ of the panchayat commands a greater influence on their opinions than the ‘external’ cannons of Law.
In other words, everything about their existence as productive, contributing humans is decentralised, however oppressive or regressive it might appear to the urban, educated sections of society. They would always be comfortable and continue to be productive in a decentralised system; one that is closer to their ways of thinking and social behaviour. However, over the past decades since Independence, there has been growing opposition to alternate development paradigms, based on decentralised production, local market economy and localised governance; long advocated by Mahatma Gandhi, Kumarappa, Rammanohar Lohia etc.
The Capitalist Market System, that dominates all thinking today; is firmly grounded in Western Knowledge Systems. This system has purposefully and systematically de-legitimised all other ‘local’ (indigenous) Knowledge systems (in the Indian context we see the almost complete de-legitimisation of Lokavidya) and concomitantly the lives and livelihoods based in these knowledge systems. This has led to great social fragmentation and ‘unemployment’ (the vast majority of Lokavidya Samaj have all but abandoned their ‘traditional’livelihood practices ; they being unable to sustain a basic life of dignity) with the result that people of these ‘traditional/indigenous’ communities have been forced to migrate to the urban centres, live in slums and eke out a living as coolies(labourers sans knowledge and skills). This forced urbanisation of the population, a sort of social centralisation, has completely disrupted the social fabric and values that people (Lokavidyadhars) lived by. Their lives have indeed become unsustainable and this large mass of humanity has, in capitalist parlance, become ‘redundant and disposable’.
Swaraj Chetana(Consciousness): The basis for Social change in India
The unity of human consciousness that promotes and sustains decentralised economic and social systems, may be called Swaraj Chetana (consciousness). The just concluded farmers’ movement on the borders of Delhi has recast the question of the relation of such movements with politics in the broader context of the values of the rural society(Lokavidya Samaj), namely Nyaya, Tyaga and Bhaichara. Attempts should be made to develop a new discourse on the question of ‘centralised mass production versus decentralised production by the masses’, in the context of developing ‘Swaraj Chetana’, within Lokavidya Samaj. A sustainable model of production and marketing, that should serve as the basis for a vision of an alternate development paradigm; should be able to unite Lokavidya Samaj and define the parameters of an alternate decentralised political/governance model, based on local Panchayats .
The way forward for Lokavidya Samaj
It is quite clear now that, the very survival of this vast section of humanity(Lokavidya Samaj who comprise about 12% of the population on the planet), as a vibrant contributing section of Society, is at stake. The only way forward is to establish decentralised production, distribution(marketing) and governance, at least for Lokavidya Samaj. This is the agenda for a new political imagination based on Swaraj Chetana.
The farmers, who comprise the vast majority of Lokavidya Samaj and have been at the forefront of many struggles for decentralised economic and political control, need to take the lead in espousing the ideas and consiousness that underlie Swaraj Chetana. All important decisions taken during the course of the recent year-long farmers’ agitation were taken by the various community panchayats and mahapanchayats , which were convened from time to time, after due deliberation. It is very notable that women were present in good numbers during these meetings and did contribute their thoughts and ideas during these deliberations. This points out to the success of the form and method of collective decentralised decsion making; the basis of Swaraj.
Additionally, all those who wish to work for change, – individuals, groups, organizations and those pursuing different ways of thinking; need to promote and develop ideas related to this new consciousness( Swaraj Chetana) and assist the farmers’ movement and the different sections within Lokavidya Samaj, to help take the process forward.
Outline of Writings for the Book
Girish (06 Dec 2022)
In general, it appears to me that the overall book should appear like a “political” exploration / extension of the last part of Hindi book. That means the book should attempt a reformulation (i) that has a ‘popular’ appeal (for whatever reason), and (ii) that addresses, or does not completely ignore the question of “power”. Both requirements may be appropriately contexed and addressed if an attempt is made at
- An open exploration from many angles of the popular idea of Swaraj and the fledgling thought of Swaraj-Chetana
- Giving more concrete shape to idea of distributed power
For myself, I would like to write about
- ‘Swaraj’ and ‘Swaraj-Chetana’ from the viewpoint of ‘autonomy’, elaborating what ‘autonomy of autonomies’ might be construed as. The latter is related to the idea of distributed power, its acceptance and sustenance. If distributed power is conceived as one of the central aspects of Swaraj then “autonomy of autonomies” appears as a moral / governing principle of Swaraj.
- Farmers and Sant Parampara. Threads binding these two together are social (samaj, caste, values of Nyaya-Tyaga-Bhaichara, ordinary life), ‘political’ (place of individual, rulers, … in समाज and in the world, limits to coercive power, principles of governance), and natural (autonomy, environment). The aim is to appreciate Sant Tukaram from some of these angles.
- Federalism and Swaraj. Gandhi’s idea of Swaraj rallied diverse communities together in the freedom struggle. Today many of these communities (social, linguistic, regional, …) are asking for a federal structure and liberation from attempts at homogenization, seen by them as destructive of what is theirs. As it exists today, this opposition is caused by, and probably limited to, the extreme state of the day. What do these struggles / federal demands mean for Swaraj?
Brief Outline of Articles for Inclusion in …
B Krishnarajulu (15 Nov 2022)
- De-centralised Governance: Future for Lokavidya Samaj
The sustenance of the globalised Capitalist Market System, controlled by Monopoly Capitalists in all spheres of Production, Marketing, Services and Finance, requires an extreme concentration of both political and economic governance. Monopoly Capital exercises control Financially through agencies such as World Bank and IMF, Economic(Marketing) control through WTO and Political control through the Governments of various Nations. At the level of Nations, Political control necessitates extreme centralisation of governance, that is, in Legislatures, Judiciary and all Institutions of Governance. Such extreme centralisation is what is known commonly as ‘Dictatorship’ which necessarily results in the subjugation of the lives and livelihoods of a vast majority of the population, to the extent that their very survival is now at stake. This applies to Lokavidya Samaj in India.
The article will argue that the only option for the survival of the Samaj is to struggle for decentralisation in governance, production and marketing apart from opposing any form of ‘cultural and ideological homogenisation’(which historically has been the hallmark of all dictatorships). This movement towards de-centralised governance has to be formulated through the concept (and practice) of Swaraj, which in turn would require widespread inculcation of ‘Swaraj Chetana’ if it is to take concrete shape in society.
- Swaraj-Chetana (Consciousness): The basis for social change in India
Political ideologies of modern Europe were born in the context of the development of the political society (society and state formed by the domination of the bourgeoisie and the workers as the new classes) post the advent of industrial capitalism in the late 18th and 19th centuries. Political consciousness that developed was comprised of ideas such as Democracy, Democratic Socialism and Scientific Socialism. Feudal societies were transformed into Capitalist societies. In such societies the dominant mode of production was centralised industrial production and the political form of governance was through a Republican Parliamentary system. The rapid development of the imperialist phase of capitalism has been marked by increased control over human and natural resources(in the erstwhile colonies) aiding and accelerating the establishment of the global capitalist market system. The whole world today seems to be in the thrall of this mode of development which, as we saw, requires the subjugation of all activity of Lokavidya Samaj to the centralising agencies of the Capitalist Market System.
In opposition to this development paradigm and for the ‘liberation’ of Lokavidya Samaj, it is necessary to establish Swaraj which in turn requires the reiteration of the concept (and practice) of ‘Swaraj Chetana’. The basis of Swaraj Chetana would be Nyaya, Tyaga and Bhaichara, as propounded through the ages by our Sant Parampara and nationalist leaders, tuned to meet the needs and requirements of modern-day society.
The article will attempt to highlight the main aspects of Nyaya, Tyaga and Bhaichara which we have derived from the teachings of our Sant Parampara.
- Swarajya Bazaar
An agency to ensure fair and just local-market exchange, with the aim of ensuring sustainable livelihoods and a dignified life for all members of Lokavidya Samaj
Since the main form of appropriation (of wealth produced by Lokavidya Samaj) is through a centralised Marketing system; that operates on the principles of Capitalist Market Development, the real means of countering this ‘dehumanising’ concept is for Lokavidya Samaj to establish and operate its own decentralised marketing system (Swarajya Bazaar) whose principles of operation are diametrically opposed to the principles of the Capitalist Marketing system. These principles will of course be based on Nyaya, Tyaga and Bhaichara and seek to ensure a dignified life based on sustainable livelihoods for the members of the Samaj.
The article will outline the concept of Swarajya Bazaar and draw from the practices of the local market system that thrived before colonisation.
Knowledge Politics: Outline of Articles …
Sunil Sahasrabudhey (15 Nov 2022)
- Knowledge Politics
With the farmers movement emerges the possibility of a Radical Knowledge Politics. It is the politics of emancipation of the Lokavidya Samaj. Farmers have had a hurting relationship with politics so far. Every time the movement became political in the sense of building a political party and participating in the elections, it faced huge defeat and damage. Almost always their candidates lost their deposits. It has been argued that there can not be a political party of the farmers because farmers do not constitute a political society, they are not a class in any, even very liberal, concept of class.
Farmers constitute a very very large majority in the villages. They as if by themselves, constitute the village social formation, Gram-Samaj. If they cannot have a political party of their own then what is the option available to them to intervene in the mainstream social/economic/national process which could be in their interest and in the interest of other oppressed/exploited/deprived. For this they must harness the greatest source of strength they have, namely, knowledge, their knowledge, lokavidya. So let us first proceed to get a reasonable hang of lokavidya episteme. Then we shall be equipped to develop the markers and the points of departure for a radical knowledge politics.
Lokavidya is knowledge in society with the people. It has its own values, logic and the body of knowledge (information, skills, competencies, etc.).
Lokavidya Samaj is constituted of farmers, artisans, adivasis, women, retailers on the pavements, those possessing a variety of skills, service providers of all kinds, loka-kalakaars etc. In short lokavidya-samaj consists of people who live by lokavidya, generally speaking, knowledge obtained outside the university, in the loka.
Loka includes all our world. The earth, the skies, clouds, climate, rivers, mountains, plants, trees, living beings, humans, all.
As opposed to Rajniti (power-politics), Lokaniti is the Knowledge Politics that is referred above. It is the popular will of the lokavidya-samaj, expressed and represented informed by lokavidya. It draws its inspiration from the Santa-parampara ( To mention a few names – Kabir, Nanak, Ravidaas, Meerabai, Tulsi, Tukaram, Basavanna, Annamayya,…) and has the goal of serving the loka.
- Swaraj Panchayat
Swaraj-chetna is a key concept reflecting the reality of consciousness in the Loka. This is an amalgamation of moral, social, epistemic, spiritual and political consciousness. Based on such consciousness is to be developed the main instrument of Knowledge Politics, namely, Swaraj-Panchayat – to be seen simultaneously as organisation, process and event. Some programs are listed below, which may serve as points of departure for a knowledge politics that this country (and the world) is in urgent need of.
- Campaign for Nyaya, Tyaga and Bhaichara
- Gyan Panchayat where lokavidya and university-knowledge are treated on equal footing.
- Bauddhik Satyagraha
- Local Market
Note for Discussion (08Nov2022 and later)
Girish, Gandhi (08 Nov 2022)
Points for discussion / to seek more clarity on / for new writings – all in the context of planned English book and social media contributions (mainly FB / VA website / Twitter), but with a more long-term interest in enrichment of a political vision for future samaj.
- Farmers’ movement and politics:
- Party form of political organization (always proved detrimental to the movement / normally resorted to for electoral purposes / yet movement has gravitated toward it – because it has not been able to visualize any other type of representative power?) Fresh look at popular movements of the past (JP movement, pre independence anti-British movements, caste / region / identity-based movements, tribal movements) in search of alternatives to political organization and system of party-based parliamentary politics. Related questions to ask:
- Political parties have been centre-heavy, and far from “means-conscious” so far as power-grabs are concerned. Is party form of politics intrinsically incapable of accommodating interests of Lokavidya Samaj, whose power is distributed, decentralized and organized in social organizations like khap / caste / samaj panchayats?
- The Constitution does not mandate party formation. Can we argue for a. complete modification of the People’s Representation Act (PRA) – no political parties and party-affiliations in electoral contests; for b. institutional framework of traditional caste / khap panchayats, which provides elected representatives; and for
c. revisiting the demand for separate electorates put forward by Ambedkar before the Poona Pact may be helpful?
- Farmers’ movement and powers in society: Movements in the past created challenges to existing state power, to the standing and prestige of political parties, and to current ideas of political representation – but all this over short durations. Can one visualize longer-term (permanent) challenges based on a deeper source of strength in kisan-samaj? Say, in the potential of the Annadata farmer to transform into Anna-devata (food-sovereign) and thus the creator of a civilization?
- Farmers’ movement and distributed power: SKM model – does it provide pointers to creating structures of distributed power, and their governing / guiding values and norms? (Again, though, it lasted for just about an year – Was it just because of limited focus of defeating a legislative action?)
- Khaps / samaj / caste and power politics vis-à-vis khaps / samaj / caste and distributed power in society, caste as samaj. Is there a “towards Swaraj” argument in this?
- Farmers’ movement and Swaraj, Swaraj and distributed power, politics of Swaraj, Swaraj and autonomy, (Gandhi / Kosambi / Dharampal…), Distributed power vis-à-vis decentralization; imagination of ‘distributed power’ as autonomy of autonomies; clues in the empires of the past, from Mughal back to the Mauryan empire, or even before that, at the time of Buddha or at times of the Mahajanapadas; Dravidian heritage (Tamil Sangam era society organisation) as evidenced in Thirukkural and other works, clues in non-capitalist societies; “India as a federation of janapadas”, or “India of federation of district-level panchayats” any better than “country of villages”?
- Farmers’ movement and sant-parampara; Bhakti movement as expression of aspirations and assertion of Lokavidya samaj, and as upholder of prestige of ordinary life? (Kabir, Raidas, … in the north, Nayanars, Alwars, … in the south, Tukaram, Chokha Mela, Namdeo, … in Maharashtra); Sant Parampara and Swaraj, Sant Parampara and knowledge dialogue, Sant Parampara and lokavidya – main threads binding these pairs: social (samaj, caste, values of nyaya tyaga bhaichara, ordinary life); ‘political’ (place of individual, community, rulers, … in the world, limits to coercive power, principles of governance); natural (autonomy, environment)
- Farmers’ movement and federal politics; Centre and States, Agriculture as State subject; Dravidian model; Farmers’ movement, food sovereignty, powers of local bodies and local governance
- Education, language, culture – Attempts to destroy variety / build monoliths using state power; lokavidya and language, loka-bhasha as gyan-bhasha; Work of G N Devy; NEP and mother-tongue as medium of instruction
- Market and unequal exchange: Deepening and widening of unequal exchange with globalization of the capitalist market – Need to limit scope of the capitalist market? Two possible ways:
- Reduce size of command area – break up global / national (at least the sub-continental sized (US, Canada, China, India, Australia, Brazil, Argentina) markets: global movement towards smaller nation-states and smaller states within nation; winding up the GST to decentralize indirect tax collection
- Bringing economic / financial transactions to the oversight of the local markets controlled by local communities / panchayats / municipalities. Reserve essential articles (food, clothing, toiletries, stationery…) for manufacture and sale by local village / ward-based producer cooperatives, imposing much lower taxation rates than those in centralized factory production; explore idea of sovereignty by local communities over production and consumption of essential items (food sovereignty).
- Imagining markets beyond the capitalist markets: view all economic and financial transactions as services exchanged in local markets among members of localized communities; product also considered a service extended by the producer to fellow community members it being the duty of the community to compensate him fairly; Can one conceive such markets to be governed by laws other than those of the capitalist market?
- Incomes and unemployment: Falling real incomes and growing unemployment
- Pakki aay to members of Lokavidya Samaj; farmers – a legal guarantee for Minimum Support Prices for all major crops calculated (C2+50%) using statutory minimum wages to labourer, statutory minimum wages fixed and related to the salary of a govt servant.
- Unemployment as inevitable outcome of present capitalist system; response of the system – Universal Basic Income: an indirect admission of the failure of the capitalist system; discussion of welfarism vis-à-vis freebees only fudges this admission
Federalism and the Farmer
Krishna Gandhi (06 Dec 2022)
The farmer movement in independent India has primarily targeted the policies of the central government. This by itself makes it clear that it is the policies of the central govt that determine the well-being or otherwise of the farmers of India. Although agriculture and allied activities have been earmarked as a state subject in the Constitution, it is the interventions of the central govt such as Green Revolution, Minimum Support Prices, Procurement and Stock Holding of food grains, Enactment of laws for food security, Essential Commodities Act, Control over the export and import of food/agricultural products that have profoundly affected agriculture and farmers.
Although the farmers movement has been in existence in India for more than 50 years now, it has hardly questioned the usurpation of the powers of the state govts by the central govt.
Possible reasons for this –
- Economistic nature of the farmer movement
- Faith on a free unified domestic market to deliver justice to the farmer
- History of struggles against inter zonal restrictions on the movement of agricultural products / foodgrains within the country
- Importance of export / Import restrictions of the Central govt in the determination of domestic prices of agri-commodities.
A change in perception has occurred after the recent successful movement against the three farm laws –
- The encroachment of the central govt on the powers of the state govts in the enactment of the three farm laws
- The identification of the central govt as the representative of monopoly corporates
- The realisation that Agricultural Marketing (APMC) laws and infrastructure vary highly from state to state
- Crops and their costs of production vary from state to state.
- A disillusionment with WTO and its false promise of a free market in agricultural commodities
- The decreasing competitiveness of Indian agricultural products in the international market
- The total refusal of the central govt to accede to the basic demand of the farmer movement for legally guaranteed MSPs, and accommodation of the long-term interests of the farming community in policy making
The way forward-
- The farmer movement must realise that the capitalist market system can never accommodate the interests of the farming community
- It must realise that the corporate takeover of the central govt is not a transient phenomenon; it is the inevitable outcome of the current global capitalist development. Hence accommodation of the interests of the farming community is near impossible under an all-powerful central govt
- The history of the past farmer movements including the most recent one of 2020-21 shows that howsoever mighty the mobilisation of the farming community be, it has proved unequal to the task of forcing the central govt to adopt policies friendly to the farming community
- In this situation, forcing the central govt to adopt farmer friendly policies is almost impossible
- Therefore, In the medium term, the farmer movement must strive to divest the central govt of its powers to interfere in the agricultural sector, as the Constitution has earmarked agriculture as a State Subject. The powers so far appropriated by the central govt must revert back to the states.
- The farmer movement has, even under the present politico-economic conditions, sufficient strength to force the hands of the state govts to frame policies in the interests of the farming community
- The powers to enforce food security, procurement of foodgrains and their public stock holding, determination of and legal guarantee of MSP must be transferred to state govts
- All matters related to the trade and stocking of agricultural commodities must rest with state govts
- Export and import of food / agri-commodities must be left to the jurisdiction of the state govts
- Technology related matters pertaining to agriculture including GM food must be left for the states to legislate as per local requirements.
- In short, at least in the case of agricultural production and distribution, state governments must enjoy full powers, with no scope for interference by the central govt.
- Regional parties have been demanding a federal structure, with greater autonomies for state govts in policy making and implementation. The farmer movement must fully endorse the demands of regional parties for more federal powers and autonomy for states. In the case of agricultural policy and food security, the farmer movement must demand full autonomy to state governments
- The farmer movement must realise that even with full federal powers and autonomy, regional political parties and state governments may not provide solutions to the problem of unequal exchange in the capitalist market which is the crux of the problems facing the farming community. Therefore, the farmer movement must also formulate a long-term strategy for emancipating the farmers from the clutches of the capitalist market.
- The long-term goal of Swaraj can only be achieved through the strengthening of the lowest rungs of local self-government like the gram sabhas, gram panchayats, town panchayats and municipalities. It is here that the farmer movement has a great role to play.
- Keeping the lowest rungs of self-government outside party politics must be the top priority task the farmer movement must take upon itself. The villages and towns of our country are the victims of the divisive policies of the centralising forces of the parliamentary political system where political parties rule the roost.
- The re-establishment of Lokvidya samaj as the most important determinant of local self-government can be achieved if instead of the current systems of voting and decision making in the panchayati-raj institutions are replaced by the traditional panchayats as practised by the people. The SKM leading the farmer movement has demonstrated that the panchayat system of decision-making can go a long way in ensuring the primacy of the samaj over politics.
- The farmer movement must address head on the issue of transforming the prevalent top-down parliamentary party based politics to a swarajist non-party bottom up panchayati politics of the lokavidya samaj.
Note for Discussion (18Oct2022 and later)
Girish (18 Oct 2022)
Scope of discussion / points to seek more clarity on / new writings – all in the context of planned English book and social media contributions (mainly FB / VA website / Twitter), but with a more long-term interest in enrichment of future vision of samaj
- Farmers’ movement and politics: (points that came up earlier)
- Party-form always detrimental to movement – normally formed for electoral purposes; yet movement has gravitated toward it time and again – perhaps because it has not been able to visualize any other type of representative power?
- Farmers’ movement and powers in society: Movements in the past created challenges to existing state power, to the standing and prestige of political parties, current ideas of political representation – but all this over short durations
- Farmers’ movement and distributed power: SKM model – does it provide pointers to creating structures of distributed power, and their governing / guiding values and norms? Again, though, it lasted for just about an year – Was it just because of limited focus of defeating a legislative action?
- Khaps / samaj / caste and power politics vis-à-vis khaps / samaj / caste and distributed power in society, caste as samaj.
- Farmers’ movement and Swaraj, Swaraj and distributed power, politics of Swaraj, Swaraj and autonomy, (Gandhi / Kosambi / Dharampal…)
- Farmers’ movement and sant-parampara, Sant-parampara and Swaraj, Sant-parampara as a knowledge movement, sant-parampara and lokavidya.
- Framers’ movement and federal politics; Centre and States, Agriculture as State subject, Dravidian model, Farmers’ movement, food sovereignty, powers of local bodies and local governance.
- Education and language, lokavidya and language, loka-bhasha as gyan-bhasha, (G N Devy), NEP and mother-tongue as medium of instruction
Food Security, Food Sovereignty, and the Farmer
Krishna Gandhi (25 Oct 2022)
Food Security: an excuse to centralise food production and distribution
The nations of the world – both developed and developing – are getting obsessed with the idea of Food Security these days. The Covid 19 pandemic, the Ukraine – Russian War, and the effects of global-warming like drought and excessive rains have adversely affected food production and distribution in different parts of the world. Supply chains have been disrupted and many nations are struggling to meet the food requirements of their people. In India, the estimates of wheat production were cut down drastically from previously predicted record production levels of above 110 million tonnes to less than 100 million tonnes. Later, the Indian govt imposed a ban on the export of wheat and even wheat flour, retracting grand announcements of helping many countries meet their wheat requirements. Now, the erratic rainfall pattern this monsoon (2022) in most of north and east India has forced the govt to impose sanctions on the export of rice and even broken rice (used to make animal feed in foreign countries). India’s export bans have been curiously questioned by those very countries like the US and the EU who have traditionally been opposed to India’s attempts to export food to outside world.
In this uncertain scenario of food production facing the world, there is a renewed emphasis on bolstering food security by many developed countries especially of European Union. Previously they had paid scant attention to this issue, confident as they were of uninterrupted supply of food from countries like Ukraine, Russia and Argentina. Wheat prices shot up to nearly twice the then prevailing rates in the aftermath of the Ukraine-Russia conflict, although they have come down after the agreement between Russia and Ukraine to allow the movement of wheat laden ships through the Black Sea. Food deficit countries like Britain are taking steps to alter the nature of farmer subsidies away from environmental protection to per acre fixed payouts so that farmers use the latest technologies including chemical farming to boost production. Technologically assisted AI enabled precision farming is being promoted to increase food production.
Behind all these proposed policy changes are attempts to introduce high technology in agriculture (pushed at the last Glasgow meet on climate change). Under the capitalist paradigm of development, decentralised and distributed agriculture (DDA), that is, family-owned-and-farmed agriculture, is thought to be an impediment to progress in general and food security in particular. Therefore, DDA is being finished through forces of the market or state or both. In the developed world DDA practised by farmer families are almost extinct, but in the developing countries large farming communities engaged in DDA are stubbonly persisting due to a number of reasons including jobless capitalist growth. Nevertheless, here too global capital is trying its best to introduce big technology and centralised production/distribution systems in agriculture.
This will result in the pauperization of the family-owned-farms and the dispossession of their means of production and resources like land, seeds, water. Also under attack will be the knowledge of decentralised agricultural production that farming communities have passed on through generations. All this dispossession has been done through the mechanism of unequal terms of trade. In the developed countries dairy, poultry and meat industries are already being run in factory mode. Only foodgrain production remains to be completely centralised there. In the developing countries, this transition has been taking place in a slow and steady fashion so far for mainly three reasons. Firstly, the peasantry, at the forefront in the anti-colonial struggles shared considerable political power when independence was gained. Secondly, post independence, redistribution of land led to some immediate economic benefits for the peasantry (now called farmers). Thirdly, the relative poverty that farmers experienced following the penetration of the capitalist market in agriculture took a few decades to take effect. And when it did, farmers realised that it is the terms of trade and not ownership of means of production that determines their incomes. In our country, capitalist market penetration was mostly confined to the northern, western and southern states where green revolution was effective and cash crops dominated agriculture. So it was not surprising that farmers movement questioning the unequal terms of trade also arose in these states.
The three farm laws that were withdrawn after a protracted movement by the farmers, were intended to facilitate capitalist market penetration in agriculture.
The UPA govt led by the Congress had enacted the National Food Security Act (NFSA) in 2013. Through this Act, the central govt centralised the procurement and distribution of food, which normally should be the responsibility of the state governments. After the BJP came to power it was hoped that the NFSA would be repealed or at least diluted, as it had come into power on promises of minimum government. But contrary to expectations, NFSA has been used to strengthen the powers of central govt and curtail those of the state govts. For example, the West Bengal govt’s “Duare Ration” scheme of doorstep delivery of ration was recently struck down by the Calcutta High Court on the ground that it violated the NFSA. Earliier also the AAP government’s proposal of doorstep delivery of ration was vetoed by the Lieutenant Governor. At the same time NFSA has placed an enormous financial burden on the central government to the tune of at least 3 lakh crores per year. But the more disturbing feature of NFSA is its debilitating effect on food producing farmers of the country. The subsidised food distributed through the Public Distribution System (PDS) ends up depressing the open market prices of the foodgrains (especially wheat and rice), lowering the incomes of farmers. Under the PM Gareeb Kalyan Yojana, 80 percent of households are being given free or almost free rations. In addition to depressing open market prices, large scale corruption in the form of clandestine diversion of wheat and rice meant for PDS to open markets is another negative factor. Although suggestions have been made to replace the PDS system with cash food subsidies for the poor directly deposited into their bank accounts (DBT – Direct Beneficiary Transfer), these have not been seriously taken up by the central govt. Altogether doing away with the corruption-ridden, wasteful, and expensive operations of procurement, stockholding and distribution of foodgrains involved in the PDS would be the best policy for both farmers and consumers. But apparently, too many vested interests want to perpetrate the PDS system. It is obvious that, the main motive of the govt is not saving money, eliminating corruption or securing food for the poor, but to use the foodgrains procured from farmers as a weapon to exploit the very farmers by keeping the foodgrain prices depressed in the open market. This enables the state to extract and transfer capital from the farming community to the pampered and protected industrial lobby.
The NFSA also empowers the government to control and even ban the exports of food. This is another means of manipulating domestic food prices to deny fair prices to the farming community. Even in times of plentiful harvests, exports are not allowed. And when domestic food prices rise due to production shortages, the central govt immediately imports food even at rates above those prevailing in the domestic market. In effect, the thrust of the NFSA is to make sure that the urban consumers get cheap food. This is achieved by making food production a loss making proposition for the farmers.
The above discussion makes it amply clear that the Indian government is using the mechanism of unequal exchange to extract capital from the agricultural sector to finance industrialists. The NFSA is one of the major instruments to perpetrate this injustice on the farmers.
Food Sovereignty versus Food Security
The idea of Food Sovereignty has been proposed by different farmer and indigenous people organisations as a counter to the state manipulated market control over food production and consumption. The basic argument is that the decisions of what crops are produced by whom and where and what foods are consumed by whom and where must be determined by the producers (farmers) and consumers (farmers and non farmers), and not by markets manipulated by government and corporations. That is, producers and consumers of food are denied sovereignty over decisions affecting production and consumption of food. Hence the food sovereignty movement seeks to wrest this control back to food producers and consumers.
Theoretically, this demand for food sovereignty appears to be well justified. But the real challenge is the practice of food sovereignty. The crux of the matter is the decentralised and distributed nature of food production and consumption. As a result, only those structures, mechanisms and principles compatible with this decentralised and distributed production and consumption of food can help in the establishment of food sovereignty. But so long as the food markets are dominated by governments and corporations there is little hope that food sovereignty will prevail.
Smallest units of local governments (panchayats and municipalities) have a key role in food sovereignty
Therefore it seems that for food sovereignty to be established, control over food production and consumption must be kept out of the reach of governments and corporations. One way to achieve this could be, in the beginning at least, to transfer the responsibility of ensuring food security to the smallest possible (geographically speaking) entities of local self government. This will necessitate the transfer of subjects like agriculture, food production and distribution from the jurisdiction of the Union govt to that of panchayats and municipalities and local community based producer/consumer organisations. Except in case of emergencies, state and the Union govts must be forbidden from interfering in the decision making processes of panchayats and municipalities bodies in matters of food security.
Right to Food
A more fundamental approach to break the hold of the capitalist market (controlled by governments and corporations) over food production and distribution would be to declare the right to food as a fundamental right of every citizen. The enforcement of the right to food would be the duty of the panchayat/municipality where the citizen resides. The production and distribution of food can thus be taken outside the capitalist market mechanisms. The prices of food produced by farmers will not be determined by market forces of supply and demand. Neither will they be subject to interventions by governments and corporations. Just as a labourer’s wages are protected by the statutory minimum wages act, so too the prices paid to a farmer for the food he produces will be protected under statutory laws. The responsibility for implementing statutorily determined prices of food would lie with the panchayats and municipalities.
Thus the panchayats/municipalities must take over the functions of purchasing food grains from farmers and storing them locally to ensure that supply of food is assured to the needy and destitute living within their boundaries. For this purpose, food grain storage facilities must be established at each panchayat and municipality. The destitute and the needy will be easily identified at the level of each village and ward. The panchayat/municipality will then provide them with food through its own distribution system. Alternatively, food coupons will be provided to the needy by using which they will be able to purchase food in the local market at subsidised rates.
But the bulk non-poor consumers will buy food directly from farmers or traders in the local markets.These local markets will function as per the rules formulated by the panchayats and municipalities and will function independently and separately from the capitalist market controlled by governments and corporations.
Local Markets versus Capitalist Market
One necessary condition for achieving food sovereignty by consumers and producers at the level of panchayats and municipalities is that they have access to local markets as distinct from capitalist markets. The rules of the capitalist market will be in the hands of the national government as is the situation now, but the rules and oversight of the local markets will be in the hands of the local communities as represented by the panchayats and municipalities. The local markets will facilitate the exchange of goods and services produced and consumed locally (within the boundaries of the district, for example, to which the panchayat or municipality belongs). This will not be an unequal exchange, as happens in the government controlled capitalist market. In the capitalist market goods and services are taxed by the government under the nationwide GST system. But the local markets will be governed by different rules of taxation as adopted by the panchayats and municipalities where they are located. These local markets will seek to promote fair exchange of goods between producers and consumers who are members of local communities engaged in modes of decentralised and distributed production and consumption.
Following the Gurdwara Tradition of Langars
It has been said that God appears as food to the hungry. Hence it is most appropriate that the hungry are fed at places of worship. The gurdwara tradition of providing food to the hungry (langar) is a shining example of this. This needs to be emulated by all religions so that every temple, masjid, church or any other place of worship provides food to the hungry. Already many famous shrines in our country provide free food to the devotees going to worship there. This practice needs to be encouraged and extended to all places of worship.
Not just religious organisations, but charity organisations may also be asked to participate in this program so that our country is free of hunger.
Delivery of food to the consumer
Despite the role the panchayats and municipalities are expected to play in ensuring food security to the poor, and that of religious and charity organisations in feeding the hungry, there must exist standard mechanisms whereby most of the consumers of food access food. In the absence of a PDS, it is expected that the consumers individually and collectively buy food items directly from farmers or from traders in the local market. These traders will be allowed to buy food from the local farmers and sell to the consumers in urban areas.
Consumer and producer organisations
Individual producers and consumers of food are not in a position to contact each other directly and benefit from the reduction in the number of intermediate transactions. However producer organisations and consumer organisations can directly deal with each other and benefit from the elimination of intermediaries in the food chain. Therefore panchayats and municipalities may promote the establishment of producer and consumer cooperatives or organisations that result in better realisations for local producers and lesser costs for local consumers.
Note for Discussion on 27 Sep 2022
Girish (27 Sep 2022)
In our meeting on Tuesday, 20Sep22, the proposal that we should come out with an English version of our Hindi book came up for discussion. This proposal is not new as we have talked about it earlier even before we decided to publish the Hindi book. During further exchange we – only four of us were there in the meeting – felt that it will be more appropriate to view this proposal in the context as it has developed since political initiatives like an All-India Farmers Party by the Telangana CM and Bharat-Jodo Yatra by the INC. The Note written by Sunil (originally for Akhilensh) and the ensuing discussion around it in our last four meetings has already set-out how we view these developments.
This note is for discussion on the above proposal in our Meeting on Tue, 27Sep22. The following points seem relevant and important to me if we finally decide to give effect to the proposal.
- The book should be viewed as a one of the steps in carrying forward our participation in the developing events referred to above.
- The first two parts – आन्दोलन and बाज़ार, बेरोजगारी और आय – of the Hindi book will need to be overhauled almost completely. The third part – ज्ञान, राजनीति और भावी समाज की दृष्टि – will also need some changes.
- The prologue may be directly based on Sunil ‘s Note and the second part of the transcript that I had sent.
- Part I should contain articles on movements of the Lokavidya Samaj, and on general relation between movements of Lokavidya Samaj and politics. This Part may have articles on state-centre conflict, federalism, electoral system, fiscal arrangements, on other issues of concern about extreme centralization of power, and possibly on a relook at caste as a समाज.
- Part II should contain articles on youth movements and on actual and potential alliance between movements of Lokavidya Samaj and those of the youth. This Part may have articles on nature and origin of unemployment, impossibility of resolution of the problem by the present system, extreme income disparities, hegemony of modern education, knowledge equality and पक्की आय demand, and on communication technologies and local bazars.
- Part III can retain most of the articles in the last part of the Hindi book after appropriate modifications. They will all need a freshly written introduction by their respective authors. Some of the articles may be shifted to other parts of the Book. For example, GSRK’s article appears more suited to Part I, and one, or two of Gandhi’s articles too.
- We should invite articles from people outside the group too.
The Book may be published as an e-book. Print version may be produced at Hyderabad, or Bengaluru if necessary for use in / after Kerala and similar future events as well as in other meetings in the context of 2024.
Transcript of 13Sep2022 Discussions
GSRK, Sunil, Krish (06 Dec 2022)
सुनील सहस्रबुद्धे (06 Sep 2022)
वर्तमान शासन के बारे में समझ यह बन रही है कि यह अधिनायकवादी है, भारतीय संविधान का सम्मान नहीं करता है, वैश्विक पूँजी के साथ मेल में और कुछ चुनिंदा कॉरपोरेट घरानों के साथ नज़दीकी रिश्ते में निजीकरण और उदारीकरण की उद्दंड नीतियां अपना रहा है और समाज में नफ़रत को बढ़ावा दे रहा है. तमाम राजनीतिक दल और सामाजिक कार्यकर्त्ता इसके विरोध में हैं और अपनी-अपनी प्राथमिकताओं को लेकर तरह-तरह के आपसी तालमेल की प्रक्रियाओं में हैं. इस प्रक्रिया में व्यापक मंचों पर परिवर्तन के कार्यकर्ताओं ने अपनी उपस्थिति दर्ज करनी चाहिए तथापि साथ ही इस देश में आमूल सामाजिक परिवर्तन की आवश्यकताओं के अनुरूप अपनी स्थापनाओं का इस बड़ी प्रक्रिया में लोप नहीं होने देना चाहिए. इस बात को ध्यान में रखते हुए धोड़ी चर्चा इस पर्चे में की गई है.
१९९० के आस-पास से सोवियत यूनियन के टूटने, वैश्वीकरण के विस्तार पाने, सूचना (इंटरनेट) उद्योग के दिन दूना रात चौगुना आगे बढ़ने तथा दूसरे खाड़ी युद्ध के साथ युद्ध क्षेत्र में सर्वथा नए तौर तरीकों के विकसित होने से शुरू होकर आज तक पूँजीवाद और साम्राज्यवाद ने नई नई वैचारिक स्थापनाओं, नई प्रौद्योगिकी और नई राज्य व्यवस्थाओं व वैश्विक बाजार के जरिये लूट और शोषण में बड़ी बढ़ोत्तरी की है. प्रचलित लोकतांत्रिक, समाजवादी और सांप्रदायिक व्यवस्थाओं सभी ने इसी प्रक्रिया में ज़ोर भरा है. यूरोप से उपजी परिवर्तन की विचारधाराएं इस प्रक्रिया से मुकाबला करने में सर्वथा नाकामयाब रही हैं, सैद्धांतिक और व्यावहारिक दोनों स्तरों पर. इसका मतलब यह है कि मुकाबले की दिक्कतों को केवल सांगठनिक स्तर पर नहीं समझा जा सकता। जिस तरह वास्तविकता में विभिन्न धाराओं के एक मंच पर आने की प्रक्रिया में किसान आंदोलन के कार्यकर्ता तथा गाँधी से लेकर मार्क्स तक सभी के अनुयायी शामिल हैं, यह आवश्यक है कि भारतीय समाज की अपनी समझ पर हमें एक समीक्षात्मक दृष्टि डालते हुए उसकी नई आवृत्ति की ओर कदम बढ़ाने शुरू करने चाहिए. बहुत से लोग ज़रूर पहले से ऐसा कर रहे होंगे.
बड़े पैमाने पर शोषित और बहिष्कृत लोग, यानी किसान, मज़दूर, कारीगर, स्त्रियां, आदिवासी और ठेले गुमटी वाले, कालेज या विश्वविद्यालय नहीं गए होते हैं. हमें इनकी चेतना के स्वरुप को समझना होगा क्योंकि इन्हीं की चेतना की ताकत पर परिवर्तन के आंदोलन बनते हैं और मुक्ति के रास्ते निखारे जाते हैं. ये लोग वर्गों के रूप में नहीं पाए जाते तथापि समाज के रूप में ही वे अपनी पहचान करते हैं और उसी रूप में अस्तित्व भी रखते हैं. इनकी चेतना के चार अंग हैं : नैतिक, सामाजिक, राजनीतिक और ज्ञान आधारित. जबकि इन्हें अलग-अलग पहचानने से समझने की दृष्टि से कुछ मदद हो सकती है तथापि ये एक किस्म की संयुक्त चेतना के रूप में ही अस्तित्व रखती हैं. इन समाजों के जीवन में आर्थिक, तकनीकी, सामाजिक, राजनीतिक, सांस्कृतिक, दार्शनिक और उत्पादन व ज्ञान सम्बंधित सारी गतिविधियां इसी संयुक्त चेतना से संचालित होती हैं. अपनी समझ साफ़ करने के लिए एक उदाहरण की मदद ली जाये. चोरी करना गलत है यह नैतिक चेतना है. चोरी करने से सामाजिक ताना-बाना टूटता है यह सामाजिक चेतना है. चोरी करना दंडनीय अपराध है यह राजनीतिक चेतना है. यूरिया से ज़मीन को होने वाले दूरगामी नुक्सान को पहचानना ज्ञान आधारित चेतना है. इस तरह हम चेतना के इन अंगों की थोड़ी बहुत व्याख्या करके आम लोगों के जीवन में इन चेतनाओं के आनुपातिक महत्त्व की पहचान कर सकते हैं.
आधुनिक यूरोप की राजनीतिक विचारधाराएं राजनीतिक समाज (पूंजीपति और मज़दूर वर्गों की प्रधानता में बने समाज और राज्य) के विकास के संदर्भ में विकसित हुई हैं. लोकतांत्रिक-समाजवाद और वैज्ञानिक-समाजवाद दोनों ऐसी ही विचारधाराएं हैं. भारतीय समाज लघु समाजों (सोशल फार्मेशन) से बना है और लघु समाज लघुतर समाजों से. इस प्रक्रिया को जारी रखें तो अंत में व्यक्ति पर पहुँच जायेंगे। समाज और व्यक्ति मानवीय वास्तविकता के एक दूसरे के पूरक दो छोर हैं. यह महत्वपूर्ण है क्योंकि मानवीय चेतना की इस समझ में वैयक्तिक चेतना और सामाजिक चेतना का एक दूसरे के साथ संबंध निरूपित होता है. ज़मीनी कार्यकर्त्ता कमोबेश चेतना की यह समझ अक्सर रखते हैं. समस्या ज़्यादा पढ़े-लिखे लोगों के साथ है जो यूरोपीय विचारों का सन्दर्भ लिए बगैर सोच नहीं पाते.
जिस संयुक्त चेतना का ज़िक्र ऊपर किया गया है उसे मोटे तौर पर ‘स्वराज चेतना‘ का नाम दिया जा सकता है. परिवर्तन के आकांक्षी व्यक्तियों, समूहों, संगठनों और ढंग-ढंग से सोचने वाले एक साथ खड़े हो सकें ऐसा मंच बनाने का आधार स्वराज चेतना में रखा जाये तो ये क्रियाएं आगे तक जा सकती हैं. ऐसे मंच को ‘स्वराज पंचायत‘ नाम दिया जा सकता है. स्वराज पंचायत को एक मंच, कार्यक्रम और प्रक्रिया तीनों रूपों में एक साथ समझा जा सकता है. आज की परिस्थितियों में तीन बातों पर तुरन्त ध्यान दिया जाना चाहिए.
- नफ़रत की राजनीति और समाज में नफ़रत फैलाने का पूर्ण विरोध: 2014 में भारतीय जनता पार्टी के दिल्ली की सत्ता पर काबिज़ होने के बाद से जाति और धर्म के आधार पर हिंसक भेदभाव में बड़ी वृद्धि हुई. 2019 के चुनाव में भाजपा की जीत ने जैसे ऐसी नीति और सामाजिक प्रक्रियाओं पर मुहर लगा दी हो, नफरत और भेदभाव ने बड़ा विस्तार पाया. भाईचारे के मूल्य को स्थापित करने और देश को बचाने के लिए यह आवश्यक है कि भाजपा 2024 में फिर सत्ता में न आ पाए.
- किसान आंदोलन और राजनीति के बीच सम्बन्ध पर व्यापक विमर्श, सैद्धांतिक और व्यावहारिक दोनों स्तरों पर: किसान आंदोलन शुरू से ही राजनीति के साथ सम्बन्ध के प्रश्न से जूझता रहा है. जबकि अराजनीतिकता से आंदोलन और संगठन ने बड़ी एकता हासिल की, राजनीतिक होने का आकर्षण भी हमेशा बना रहा और समय समय पर चुनावों में भाग लिया और मुंह की भी खाई.ऐसा प्रतीत होता है कि इस बार दिल्ली की चौहद्दी पर हुए किसान आंदोलन ने राजनीति के साथ सम्बन्ध के प्रश्न को किसान समाज के व्यापक मूल्यों – न्याय, त्याग और भाईचारा – के संदर्भ में रखने का प्रयास किया. लेकिन एक बार फिर राजनीति के साथ सम्बन्ध आंदोलन में तीखे मतभेद का कारण बना. स्वराज चेतना का सन्दर्भ लें तो शायद इस प्रश्न के हल में एक बड़ा कदम आगे बढ़ाया जा सकता है.
- किसान-नौजवान एकता की धारणाका विकास, सैद्धांतिक और व्यावहारिक दोनों स्तरों पर: अभी हाल में एक बहुत बड़ा किसान आंदोलन कामयाब हुआ है. संयुक्त किसान मोर्चा द्वारा संचालित यह आंदोलन आज भी न्यूनतम समर्थन मूल्य के सवाल पर जारी है. इसके अलावा लगातार बढ़ती बेरोज़गारी को लेकर हलचल तेज़ है. सेना के लिए अग्निवीर योजना के ऐलान ने नौकरियां न देने की सरकारी मंशा साफ़ कर दी है. सभी नौकरियों को ठेकेदारी या संविदा में परिणत करने का काम लम्बे समय से चल ही रहा है. पूंजीवादी व्यवस्था में, खासकर इजारेदारी और वित्तीय पूंजी की व्यवस्था में, न नौकरियाँ मिलनी हैं और न किसानों को उनकी उपज का वाज़िब दाम ही मिलना है. किसानों और नौजवानों की समस्याओं का हल तभी निकल सकता है जब देश के आर्थिक और राजनीतिक ढाँचे में बड़ा बदलाव आये – विकेन्द्रीकृत और वितरित स्वायत्त व्यवस्थाओं की और देश आगे बढ़े. किसान – नौजवान एकता इस दिशा में आगे बढ़ने की ताकत एकजुट करती है. किसान – नौजवान एकता उस व्यापक सैद्धांतिक प्रस्थापना की मांग करती है जो आज के सन्दर्भों में नई लोकोन्मुख राजनीतिक और आर्थिक व्यवस्थाओं को बहस के केंद्र में ले आएं. यही स्वराज की बहस है, जो व्यापक सामाजिक एकता के इर्द-गिर्द सांगठनिक प्रयासों को ढाल सकती है.
Earlier version of the Note: pdf
Peasants and Farmers
G Sivaramakrishnan (07 Jun 2022)
Peasants and peasant societies have been studied in great detail by social anthropologists and sociologists. Though peasants have often been distinguished from farmers by social scientists, in popular perception no clear distinction is made or understood.It should therefore be not surprising that no words or terms are present inIndian languages to indicate this distinction.
Peasant societies are said to be characterised by subsistence/ self- sufficient economy, with very little by way of surplus being available for exchange. Absence of any ‘ industrial’ activity other than those that are allied to agriculture is said to be another feature of peasant societies. Social scientists also define peasant societies in terms of values and institutions . For instance, peasant societies are supposed to be ‘ moral economies’, that is peasants would not mind paying more by way of tax or rent during times of prosperity but expect the rulers to be lenient during times of distress. Some anthropologists like Oscar Lewis speak of a ‘ culture of poverty’ as a characteristic of peasant societies. Peasant societies are also said to have very strong ties of kinship and family. In the Indian context one may include caste/ jati as an important feature of peasant communities. Peasant life is said to be simple ,based on ascriptive roles and statuses, less accumulative and hence less exploitative. Social scientists generally agree that peasant societies dissolve with the rise of industrial economy and inevitably transform themselves into capitalist farming. Commercial and capitalist farmers are governed / controlled by markets. Production is for the market and hence price of agricultural products and the cost of inputs become the key elements of the farmers economy. There are no peasant societies that can resist the transformation to commercial/ capitalist farming unless they are in total isolation..Though we can hardly speak of peasant societies in the twenty first century and in a globalised world, one may still find elements of culture, values, institutions and beliefs of peasant societies present even today. Whether one can have a complete break with peasant life/ culture is a theoretical exercise with which we are not concerned now.
Peasant society in India was very unlike peasant societies especially in the West or Europe.A prominent difference between the peasantry in India and Europe was perhaps the near absence of ‘ feudalism’ in India. It appears therefore the Indian peasants were less ‘ molested’ than their European counterparts. Indian peasants it seems never paid more than one sixth of their produce to the state or political authority. In contrast, ever since the Norman conquest, British peasants were made to part with more than seventy percent of their produce to the lords and overlords. The Indian practice of not paying more than one sixth of the produce as tax/ rent seems to be a widely prevalent practice in the whole of South Asia. Thus one may safely conclude that in contrast to peasantry elsewhere, especially in Europe, Indian peasants enjoyed more freedom, had more autonomy and were less exploited. Perhaps the institution of caste / jati played no small role in preventing atomisation of peasant society in India and ensured their autonomy.
The coming of the British changed all this irrevocably in the late eighteenth century. The very first act of the British after they took control of India was the enactment of the Permanent Settlement Act of 1793 which created a class of zamindars who were given powers to confiscate land of peasants who fail to pay land revenue fixed by the Boards of Revenue. These BoRs fixed rent at rates unprecedented in Indian history. The British governors were annoyed to find that a lot of cultivated land across India paid no rent at all or were ‘rent free’. Such lands that existed in most parts of India constituted about 30 to 40 percent of the total land under cultivation. These lands were called Manyam or Mafee or Inam lands and were assigned to a number individuals , institutions, functions /functionaries . The British sought to abolish most of these over a period of time by various arguments. For instance, one way the British resumed such assignments was to argue that the present occupants of such lands have not been discharging functions for which the lands were given as Manyam/ Inam. Thus over a period of 50 years or so much of the Manyam, Inams were cancelled or reduced to a great extent.
Peasant society in India was very unlike peasant society in Europe not only because of the absence of feudalism . Apart from paying much less rent or tax on cultivated land , data suggest that the Indian peasantry enjoyed a high degree of autonomy to decide irrigation and other crucial infrastructures required for cultivation of lands like the commons , forests etc. A more important feature of peasant society in India was the extent to which the peasant communities in villages were able to set apart a sizeable part of their produce to run and manage several services. It is estimated that between 15 to 40 percent of the total produce of each village was thus allocated to run/ manage services like washerman, barber, blacksmith , carpenter, etc. Dharampal was able to unearth detailed records of such arrangements in over 2000 villages in a district of Tamilnadu of the period 1760. That very similar arrangements must have prevailed in most parts of India means there was relative freedom/ autonomy in peasant communities of India before the British rule.
Independence did bring about significant changes in Indian peasantry. The almost immediate legislative measures adopted by the centre and several states to abolish absentee land lords and give land back to the tiller, even though poorly implemented, did bring in large changes in villages impoverished and ravaged by the British policies Unlike peasants in Europe who were pushed out of land to migrate to cities in search of jobs in the emerging industries as wage slaves there was no large scale migration of peasants in India. This was perhaps due to the absence of industries to attract rural poor and also due to wider distribution of land as very very small holdings in most of India.
In addition to this caste/ jati may have played a role in holding back the poor from moving to cities in search of jobs. It is quite possible that even when poor migrated to cities for employment in the emerging industries as unskilled labour, they left behind their families with small pieces of land in villages. Thus , unlike Europe , the Indian peasants who were forced to migrate to cities in search of jobs or attracted by the glamour of big cities like Bombay or Calcutta did not snap their connection with the villages. For instance, even now those who have migrated to Bangalore from the districts of Hindupur or Krishnagiri or Dharmapuri and get employed as casual labour or street vendors or cobblers etc , keep going back to their villages to help their families during harvesting or transplanting activities.
More importantly , unlike the violent transition from feudalism to capitalism that Europe experienced, the transition from peasant cultivation to commercial farming in India appears to have come about rather quietly. Along with land reforms , however tardily implemented , the push towards commercial crops, mechanisation, introduction of chemical fertilisers, very rapid increase of irrigation in most parts of India and the active involvement of governments in promotion of modernisation of agriculture , the establishment of Universities of Agriculture Sciences in several states helped in the peasants becoming farmers. By late sixties , with the Green Revolution, one no longer found ‘ land reforms ‘ as prominently in the manifestos of political parties. Remunerative prices for produce and state procurement of food grains were heard more than land to the tiller or the abolition of bonded labour. It is not as though ‘ feudal’ order that was supposed to have existed in India dissolved peacefully after independence.But it may not be incorrect to say that the transition from subsistence cultivation to commercial farming in India was rather smooth. There was no great resistance to the introduction of various measures aimed at linking the cultivators to the wider market , thus transforming them to capitalist farmers. Even the introduction of technology , mechanisation , HYV seeds or chemical fertilisers on large scale did not meet with any opposition. The war cry in those days was modernise agriculture.Those who adopted modern methods of cultivation were called progressive farmers and rewarded with cash prizes or taken on a tour of cities Thus by late seventies when farmers associations began to emerge across many Indian states, their demands were all related to the market, prices , subsidies for electricity, fertilisers etc. By the beginnings of eighties it was clear that a predominantly peasant economy of fifties had been transformed into commercial, capitalist farming . Again unlike the forced collectivisation of agriculture that Russia and some others had to go through before modernisation of agriculture / commercialisation , in India we seemed to have achieved it without as much pain or suffering that other societies have gone through. This may be because of our late arrival on the scene. But even those who were similarly placed as we were did not have the transition as ‘ peacefully’ as we had them .
There is a question that is often posed about the future of farmers / farmers movement in Indian context, especially after the recent unprecedented year long movement of farmers . To be more specific , the question is whether farmers can ‘ rule’ India. Can their movement usher in fundamental changes in our socio- political set up. In other words, can the farmers bring about a ‘ revolution’ as it were. My take on this is there are no indications that farmers of India want to really transform our society. I am not going into questions such as whether farmers of India can be mobilised for socio- political transformation or the class character of farmers or their consciousness etc. It appears to me that the farmers as represented by SKM are rather shy to plunge into politics. The repeated assertions that they are not political can indicate only one of the following. They are as yet not prepared to take political position. Or they do not see themselves shaping the politics of the country. I really do not have an explanation for this lack of ‘ political will’ .
Perhaps, economism , as Lenin would have called it is what characterises the farmers movement in India.
Hindi translation of the article: pdf
Knowledge, Human Society and Swarajya
J K Suresh & G Sivaramakrishnan (24 May 2022)
“Why is it that I always get the whole person when all I need is a pair of hands?”
– Henry Ford
“When the looms spin by themselves, we’ll have no need for slaves.”
It appears reasonable to say that for much of our history, human knowledge has been located in individuals and societies, and expressed in their historic, cultural, economic and social lives, memories, beliefs and structures. Furthermore, it may also be said that tool usage (the “machine”) was an aid to the hand and the mind in every task, be it for obtaining and cooking food, building houses, dams, lakes, or irrigation works, weaving clothes or creating fine sculpture. Not a replacement for it.
The separation of human knowledge from its location seems to have been first achieved in a major way only during and after the industrial revolution in Europe (Such a separation in earlier societies, although not entirely absent, appears to have been incapable of building effective knowledge-power relationships around it).It was only around mid-18th century that England developed the necessary capability to systematically embed a progressively larger amount of complexity (read knowledge) into machines; this capability gradually extended to different areas such as large scale manufacture of iron, textiles, steam and machine tools in the 19th century and to mass manufacturing of cars in the early 20th, enabling the architects of the assembly line to reduce human effort to mere manual labor for the most part. Over time, mass manufacture using machines of progressively higher complexity defined most economic activity in the West over the rest of the 20th century. These developments seem to suggest that knowledge acquires a different character and dynamic once detached from its location and over time, reappears in the form of techniques or technologies that seem more efficient, labor saving and superior to the existing.
A word here about the term – separation of human knowledge (K) from its location (L) – referred to in the foregoing. This is not to be understood merely as a mechanical connection in the sense of an assertion “K belongs in L”, or “K has L”. It is more for asserting that “K in L makes X possible” where X is the outcome of the operation of knowledge in location. X may be taken as referring to the civilizational outputs of the society, while it must also be understood that there is more than K in L that is responsible for X.
Around the end of the 20th century, information technology and communication networks provided a radically new impetus to this process by connecting and simplifying the management of disparate and complex productive entities across the globe. Two broad classes of change can be identified in this process: horizontal, meaning the dissemination of the “latest” machines, processes and “best practices”, developed in Euro-America, into production centers in other parts of the world (e.g., establishing new and modernizing the old factory, adopting automation, GM food or mechanization of agriculture in China, India, S. Korea, etc); vertical, meaning the development of new and better technologies that not only improve existing processes of manufacture and its control, but also enable further progress in the global division of human productive activity through offshoring, outsourcing etc.
An important outcome of this in countries like China and India has been an increasing degree of usage of machines, fertilizers, pesticides and water in agriculture and a greater level of automation in industry. In India, this has resulted in a continuous reduction in employment and erosion of livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people in recent decades. The ongoing process of introducing high levels of automation, with more expected in the coming years, are indications of the direction that India seems to be following currently.
This process did not happen magically or on its own. Around the time of the Industrial Revolution, Europe’s experience of the previous two hundred years of colonization of lands and plunder of Nature had already created an excess of wealth amongst a few and deepened a desire to perpetuate control over the old and new Worlds. Driven by the prospect of ever increasing returns through an efficient exploitation of resources, a new dynamic came to be imparted to the realm of creation, use and obsolescence of knowledge that served empire building right from its initial days. It is likely that a new type of knowledge-power nexus came to be forged during this period, which aided the secularization of knowledge in several ways. One example of this was the change in the way people understood the “other”. Most Europeans in the 16th or 17th centuries instinctively conceived of the earth as a mother, or at least as a living and personal being. However, with the appearance of the mechanistic world view (Cartesian dualism),people began to think about the world in terms of inanimate objects that behave and therefore can be manipulated according to the laws of mechanics. Consequently, people not only found it easier to approach such things as trees and rocks as mere objects, but they extended such insensitivity towards animals and human beings as well. Since it was agreed upon that animals have no souls, it gradually became all right to use them as so much dead matter, or to subject them routinely to painful scientific experiments. When the logic was extended to lesser men, it facilitated the massive introduction of slaves into overseas territories as tools of production. The Cartesian self that is separated from the external world could easily approach living beings and deal with them much more ruthlessly than in previous times.
In summary, it appears that the new understanding of the world that emerged during this period was a consequence of the evolution of a knowledge system based on objectification of entities and relationships, which seems to have significantly influenced the nature of conquest and control of the world by Europe. (It is interesting to observe that historians of science, while debating the “The Needham Question” do not seem to consider the new dynamic of the knowledge-power relationship in 17th-18th Century Europe while answering the question of why other societies did not develop into science and technology superpowers)
As the process intensified over the 19th and 20th centuries, different areas of human endeavor in the production of goods and services gradually turned into objects of knowledge study, analysis and “re-engineering”. Over this time, all human activities became, at least theoretically, capable of being replaced by the machine at some time in the future. And when coupled with the other element of control – force – this led to the accumulation of profits and consolidation of political power – on a scale previously thought unimaginable-that feeds on itself to create even more of it and enables it’s concentration in a few hands. It is thus that the history of the industrial revolution may also be read as that of a new political class which achieved spectacular success in perpetuating itself by separating knowledge from its location, creating the means for embedding it (or its equivalent) into machines, and using them to reduce human effort into mere labor. In this light, the historian’s lament that Ricardo’s iron law of wages provided the defense for the inhuman conditions of subsistence of the workers of England in the 19th century appears only partly true – the machine was perhaps the more compelling proof as well as justification for it.
Turning towards the development of the new sciences (the Natural and the Human) and technologies during this period, the next step of development based on their ability to objectify seems to have been to systematically reduce all natural and social phenomena to governing principles at a (succession of) lower level(s) in order to recombine them in new ways. Such a recombination, when done over several cycles, provides newer ways of acting upon the world, in other words and to the evolution of technologies to encompass ever more activities of man. In fact, the decrease of the number of skilled people in every domain in proportion to the volume of production of goods and services over the last two hundred years is ample testimony to the cause and consequence of separating the connection between knowledge and its location. Post the industrial revolution, the knowledge in the machine is increasingly foreign to the worker except as simple models in his head, and his knowledge is of little value for the owner of the machine, except as related to its operation. It does therefore seem in hindsight that the pretty picture of the scientists of the time –absent minded geniuses busily uncovering the secrets of Nature and exulting innocently in their remarkable discoveries – constitutes only a marginal part of the story, the bigger one being how they assisted the construction of a new empire spanning the entire globe.
Thus, it was that the new sciences aided the separation of knowledge and its location in two ways: either by providing the physical instrumentality for it, or by creating a rationale for it. The reification of Capital, Wages, Profit, etc in economics, for example, or the objectification of Nature and society by the sciences cannot therefore be regarded as accidental or idiosyncratic and must be considered as active elements aiding the capture of the state and its institutions by a small section of people.
More perniciously, the sciences developed (and continue to develop) powerful idioms embedded into human linguistic expressions in such a manner as to make delegitimizing the connections between knowledge, human enterprise and exploitation very difficult, if not impossible. For example, it is very hard to convince educated people across the world that today, Capital is labor saved only for the service of a few, not for all, having been extracted from the activity of those whose economic lives are eliminated by it; or to convince a manual laborer that a government officer’s salary of say a lac rupees is not justifiable in comparison with his earnings of say, eight thousand rupees; most likely because he accepts the mental-manual labor distinction himself.
In today’s world, the new character of knowledge has enabled an increased sophistication of machines and systems of control of production of goods and services, along with structures, norms and processes designed to perpetuate them. This has resulted in a continuous elimination of human labor and with it the sustenance of hundreds of millions of people across the world. One stark outcome of this has been the extraordinary inequality in income and wealth of people in all human societies, symbolized by the “1% vs. 99%“ argument.
In the next two sections, we will explore the conceptual foundations for a resistance to the current predicament of the majority in India.
Section 2: The Re-colonization of India
In the foregoing, we saw how the separation of knowledge from its location and its nexus with power, which began during the times of the industrial revolution in Europe, enabled the sustenance and concentration of power and control in the hands of a few across the globe. Curiously, it goes side by side with popular perception (in the West and among the elite in countries like India) that the sciences and technologies, statecraft and governance that came into being in this period constitute a great triumph of the human spirit in its exploration of the inner and outer worlds of man. The act of fusing education with indoctrination indeed yields remarkable results.
In the era of mass production of goods, the speed with which capital moves, multiplies and commands society continues to increase. Today, in established businesses, a mature product (or service) line finds itself in a constant quest for new strategies to extend market-share in an area; followed by expansion into other areas and countries; during which time the technologies are enhanced to enable the cycle to repeat with new products and services. Over several cycles, these practices evolve into templates for action; in the process, capital becomes, as it were, an independent force by itself that imposes a codified pattern for productive activity in society in return for profits commensurate with risks of business; in a manner which makes it appear that human agency was incidental to it.
As a result, the term capital seems to have undergone a further reification and has come to be understood as an entity that brings with it a reliable tool-set of technological up-gradation and market and process knowledge to help generate efficient returns on investment. (There are indeed other types of capital, e.g., state capital, which of course is inefficient, ponderous, prone to misuse and arbitrary bureaucratic control, say in India and other countries in their socialist phase). It is this assurance which made possible the flow of massive amounts of capital across countries, especially into new markets such as China and India, in the wave of globalization that began in the 1980’s.In the developing world, the flow seems to have had multiple objectives: bring markets and businesses onto public platforms (e.g., stock exchanges) to facilitate their continuous evaluation and improvement; enable entry of foreign players into local markets; enable repatriation of profits across geographic boundaries; create “partnerships” with local capital to infuse technologies; incorporate local players into global economic supply chains; influence regulatory change in governments to create a hospitable “environment” for businesses to develop. In the developed world too, the objectives were somewhat similar.
A new vibrancy seems to have characterized the reshaping of Indian economics during the liberalization process. The seductive sweep of globalization seems to have had a transformative effect on the elites of India since then. The somewhat adversarial and uneasy relationship of big business with political parties, government, bureaucracy and judiciary – a hangover from the anti-colonial struggles of previous times–quickly disappeared, to be replaced by an alignment and bonding between them that has all the features of a no-nonsense, corporate style of sponsorship, cronyism and favoritism characteristic of the advanced nations. In previous decades, the maze of regulations and rules in the country – a peculiar mix of draconian, outdated as well as well-intentioned laws borrowed from the colonizers and given grotesque twists in the name of democratic socialism – had acted as a deterrent against the construction of large business empires, or at any rate, too many of them. But with the deregulatory wave of the 1990’s, many new oligopolies and monopolies came into being, benefiting enormously from free government grants, public funds, reduced regulatory oversight and diluted statutory controls. In time, these were to strengthen the alignment of big capital with politics to a level where, with the help of a compliant judiciary, police and bureaucracy, it has become possible to eliminate the interests of the common man completely out of the scope of governance.
Perhaps of greater significance for the elite of many countries has been the forging of a beneficiary network with the international elite during this period which – through its enormous clout born of huge wealth and nexus with political power – has successfully blurred the distinction between business interests, government function and institutional integrity (of public entities such as the bureaucracy, police, legislature, judiciary, press, etc). The consequent erosion of norms in governance and public life continues to accelerate across the world, making it impossible to constrain large scale mechanization and profiteering on part of the business elite that drives capital. Whereupon, a juggernaut has of late come into existence with the will, and the capability, to crush all opposition to the demands of capital, technology and profits independent of the form of government, legal checks and balances, or traditions and precedents, in every society. In many ways, the USA is as good an example of this development as India is.
In India, for example, the gradual infusion of technology into agriculture over the last 60 years has helped weaken it enough to make it not only unsustainable but also vulnerable to a final stroke – replacement of traditional activity with full blown automation accompanied by a massive elimination of livelihoods. It may be emphasized that this is a “natural” consequence of the logic of the knowledge-power nexus represented by the new capital. At this point in time, there seems to be a degree of historic inevitability to it which is not dissimilar to what happened in Europe or America before. If anything, its logic has become more persuasive and the physical force behind it almost irresistible in the intervening years.
This is perhaps why protests against unjust acts of the government by millions of people have become incapable of forcing the former towards either dialogue or compromise. It does appear that people’s wellbeing, representation and democracy – among others – have by and large become irrelevant when applied to contemporary human societies. It is the logic of science, and knowledge of previous successes, that drives capital today, and impediments to it will be removed through persuasion or force inexorably. The new empire of the 21st century, therefore, seems a new version of colonialism, driven by a distributed, powerful and ruthless elite.
To recast a popular statement on capitalism of earlier times, in the21st century world where machines threaten human knowledge in many ways, “what is human becomes machine, and what is machine becomes (almost) human”.
Section 3: Swarajya and the Knowledge-Power Relationship
Summarizing our previous observations, the early experience of colonization in the New World seems to have helped develop a propensity in the West to objectify the world, in turn enabling greater ease and efficiency of subsequent conquests. This created a new pathway for knowledge, dislocated from its origins and modified “in vitro”, to become a potent force that shapes society in ways that suit the interests of a few and develop a nexus with power that lasts to date. For example, the initial spread of mechanization in a field of production led to the uprootment of a very large number of people from their traditional occupations. Almost inevitably, a good fraction of those displaced cannot be accommodated in the new system that replaces the old. When this happens repeatedly across several fields, the resulting extent of unemployment can become extraordinarily large. Ominously, the phenomenon of jobless growth in recent years is an indication that at last, capital has been effective in completely detaching the interests of a majority of people from those of the minority that owns it or serves it in various capacities.
In the West, a search for mechanisms to deal with this problem has led to the creation of a system of welfare measures and doles, and in recent years to the establishment of a universal basic income (UBI) scheme. This is essentially a means to feed the unemployed and reduce the risk of social unrest that might arise by not feeding them. However, such a scheme reflects an inherent contradiction that underlies economics today, viz., how to address the need for creating employment for all in a scenario where businesses relentlessly focus on costs of operation leading to an unrelenting pressure on employee count. In fact, the rising number of people who have never held a job (between ages 16 and 60 years) in some countries indicates the seriousness of the problem.
On the other hand, for ruling elite everywhere, the previous thirty years have been an outstanding success in terms of their acquisition of power, profitability and control of the state. An important consequence of this is the continuous erosion of the state’s resolve to stand by the poor and the disadvantaged. In a situation where all instruments of the state are pitted against the majority, people’s will and ability to fight has also become significantly weakened.
To take a recent example, the response of many governments across the world to CoVid seems to be not different from that of colonial masters towards their subjects, that is, the majority. Indications are that the wealth of the elite actually grew significantly during the year that the affliction has swept the globe, while tens, or hundreds, of millions have lost their livelihoods. In addition, over a mere 12 months in India, labor rights have been drastically circumscribed, employment conditions have been made more oppressive, big business has been let off with a slap on the wrist after defaulting on tens of lacs of crores of rupee funds from public institutions, farmers have been devastated by new laws that guarantee their complete ruin, etc.
A question that arises at this point is: given that the command of the world’s elite over the majority has never been so complete except perhaps in the 19th century under colonial rule, would the objective consideration of exploitative potential decide, as it did then, the fraction of people who may be allowed to live because they are of some utility for the new empire’s economics? While it is not easy to prove or disprove this hypothesis, it may be useful to understand what happened under similar difficult circumstances in the past.
The colonization of the Americas seems to have provided the necessary experience to Europe to eliminate the natives and settling the land with its people. It is likely that this led to similar efforts in various pacific islands, Australia, New Zealand, etc. It appears that for some time in the 18thand 19thcentury CE, the British colonizers toyed with the idea in India too. However, this experiment seems to have failed for some unknown reasons. Over time, the colonizers seem to have come to terms with having as many natives as were needed to fulfill the need for transfer of the fruits of their labor to the mother country, the rest being either starved to death or periodically culled when they rose up to protest their pathetic condition of life. Dharampal estimates that the total death toll in the 5 centuries of colonial rule of the West would be around a billion people.
Some say that the roots of this are to be found in Europe’s past, and date back to the Greeks. The Greeks – who believed slavery was but natural and justified –appear to have held that, were there to be other means of catering to the masters without the need for slaves, the latter could be done away with. Of course, there is no way of knowing for certain.
What is at stake today for human society is enormous. The nexus between knowledge and power of the previous few centuries seems to have created – paradoxically – one of the greatest threats to the continuance of human life itself in the world. The struggle today is not merely against oppression by the elite, but against what empowers them – the knowledge of people, divorced from their lives and social contexts, infused with the logic dictated by their new masters, and descending back upon them as massive tools of destruction.
One may ascribe to Gandhi an intuitive grasp of this paradox when he calls for the elimination of the machine civilization of the West, labeling it as evil and despotic. In such a reading of him, it may appear that Gandhi wanted India to go forward by destroying the logic of the machine civilization rather than backwards to embrace traditional technologies and ways of life. That is perhaps why his vision of an ideal village may have had nothing to do with any village in India of the time or of the past.
We end here by saying that we are not clear as to how Gandhi will come to our rescue in this situation, or if he can. However, we believe that a deeper study of Gandhi is necessary for us to know if he understood the nature of oppression in terms similar to what are laid out in this note, in which case a re-interpretation of his life and work would yield valuable pointers to those who desire to help construct a meaningful alternative to the world of today.
Abridged version of the Article: pdf
Hindi translation of abridged version: pdf
Decisions of 26 Apr 2022 Meeting
Girish (26 Apr 2022)
In the weekly Meeting on Tuesday, 26Apr22 we discussed the progress toward book publication. The following decisions were taken:
- Since the preparation of final drafts of articles is likely to take some more time, it is desirable to produce the Hindi book first and then the English version. The Hindi book should not have very long articles (>200 words).
- The work of modifying original English articles to align them to the context of the book (farmers’ movement and future vision) and preparing final drafts should be completed as planned, but before 15May22.
- As far as the long articles (longer than 1500 – 2000 words) are concerned, the authors should also their prepare shorter versions of their articles suitable for
translation for the Hindi book aimed primarily at activists. See the Article_Detail.pdf file for word-lengths of articles.
- Authors can choose to prepare the shorter versions suited for Hindi book first, if they want. This will make it easier to organize translation work.
- The final articles should be submitted to Girish and Gandhi as Word documents. Girish will communicate by 1st of May the font, format etc to be used for article entry in Word. This is for uniformity as well as ease of final composition in PageMaker.
- The target date to produce the books is end of May 2022.
Here is the link
to the shared Onedrive folder for the book, which contains the original
Article_Collection folder and a final_drafts folder. The submitted final drafts will go into this second folder:
Editorial Policy and Structure of the Book
Gandhi, Girish (12 Apr 2022)
Purpose of the publication:
Farmers’ Movement led by Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) is the latest manifestation of the fundamental conflict between ordinary people, i.e., the Lokavidya Samaj on the one hand, and the extractive-accumulative ways of the modern world on the other. It has also brought into focus the leadership role of the Kisan Samaj in any people’s movement to challenge the established order. Right since the days of publication of Mazdoor Kisan Neeti in late 1970’s, we have been well-wishers, unconditional supporters, and active participants in the Movement. Never have we believed that Kisan samaj is a reactionary force. Just the opposite! We always believed and continue to believe that the Kisan Samaj and its struggles hold the promise of the emancipation of the broader Lokavidya Samaj of ordinary people, of which Kisan Samaj is the most significant part.
The rich history of the Farmers’ Movement in India has brought into the public discourse many ideas about nature and path of this desired social change. In particular, the most recent phase of the Movement, characterised by mass participation cutting across social and ideological divisions, has thrown up entirely new ideas, beyond the received categories of thought, of social transformation and modes of coming together. This is a historical moment for the Farmers’ Movement and for us all, who desire a just and fraternal society. We felt that this is an opportune moment to share with you some ideas that we have been able to distil from our observations of and limited participation in the Farmer’s Movement as well as the broader Lokavidya Jan Andolan in the hope that they will provoke further debates, ultimately strengthening and enriching the Movement. This is our motivation in bringing out this book. We do not claim any finality for the ideas expressed herein. On the contrary, we sincerely hope they will stimulate a public discussion on what shall be the future vision for India that motivates such a people’s movement and the modalities required to lead such a movement to success.
Organization of Articles:
The articles have been broadly classified into four themes. But this is not a very exact classification, as the many of the articles address more than a single theme. So, the classification may appear somewhat arbitrary. We hope the reader will bear with our limitations.
- The Movement: Promise and Organization
- sunil_Farmers_Movement (971)
- krish Farmers Movement Pamphlet (97)
- girish-किसान अन्नदाता तो है ही…(970)
- gandhi_FarmersMovement-Promise.. (4341)
- Invited articles from Darshan Pal etc…
- Markets and Income
- Sunil-Local Market (8717)
- gandhi-Thoughts_on_Markets (2688)
- krish-Lokavidya_Bazar (5085)
- girish- आंदोलन_और_आय (4671)
- gandhi-आय का सवाल और किसान आंदोलन (1844)
- girish_Income_and_Future-Vision (1265)
- Knowledge and Politics
- jksuresh_gsrkrishnan-Knowledge_Society_and… (3977)
- krish-NyayaTyagaBhaichara_withComments (1890)
- Sunil- Agenda for a Knowledge Politics (419)
- चित्राजी- लोकविद्या समाज की एकता (787)
- कौल- न्याय त्याग और भाईचारा
- krish-State_of_ Nation-Lokavidya_Perspective (865)
- sunil-Nyaya_Tyaga_and_Bhaichara (595)
- Future Vision, Swaraj and Autonomy
- chitraji-PillarsOfSocialOrganization (2094)
- girish-Autonomy (2716)
- girish-AutonomyAndPoliticalSubject (2558)
- gandhi-Vyakti_Samaj_Gyan_and_Dha… (2101)
- gandhi-Unity_in_Diversity (2895)
- amit-Lokavidya_Economy (846)
- gandhi-Autonomy_Federalism_Constitution… (3259)
The Preface (Lead Article):
Lead article elaborating on the world and national situation from the point of view of lokavidya samaj, the important task as seen in the context of the movement, and the overall look at content of the booklet. (Sunil will write first two parts, and Girish and Gandhi will help him in writing the third part, only if it is necessary.)
Note: I and Girish have formulated the above editorial policy, organisation and selection of articles. Comments and suggestions are invited on the following aspects:
- Modification of “The purpose of the publication”
- Selection of existing articles and their revision, and translation to English, when required.
- Incorporation of invited articles from persons outside the group, and who among us will be responsible for getting those articles done, and what will be themes of the invited articles
- Further articles from group members, are they needed to fill some gaps
- We have decided on a smaller number of themes (four). Is there a need to increase the thematic divisions of articles?
- Some of the articles under the same thematic heading are written by the same person like the two articles on Autonomy by Girish and the three articles written by Gandhi in the last thematic section. Should they be condensed and merged into one article?
Decisions Taken in 12 Apr 2022 Meeting
Girish (12 Apr 2022)
- We bring out the booklet first in English. Gandhi and Girish will edit it.
- Gandhi and Girish will prepare a short editorial plan of the booklet by Fri, 15Apr22, which may be sent to authors.
- The file pdf (in the shared directory Article_Collection) lists articles collected author-wise. Everyone should (i) select which of those authored by her/him are to be included in the booklet by Tue 19Apr2022; and (ii) modify them, if needed, and by Tuesday, 26Apr2022. Those of these articles, which are in Hindi also need to be translated by 26Apr2022. A summary of other details of the articles are to be found in Article_Details.pdf.
- New articles should also be ready for publication preferably by the same date. These are: by Vijay Jawandhia on Movement and MSP, by Darshan Pal / Yuddhavir Singh / Yogendra Yadav on SKM organization and its promise, by Harishchandra / Ram Janam on LJA and Movement.
- There is a large number of short facebook posts, many of which are in Hindi, collected together in the file फेसबुक_पोस्ट_समय-समयपर.docx in the shared directory Article_Collection. The editors will finalize those posts, which may be included in the booklet.
- Chitra ji will work on cover design. Any suggestions on this may be sent to her.
- We should bring out the e-booklet by Saturday, 07May2022.
Note on Recent Assembly Elections
Krishna Gandhi (31 Mar 2022)
- Except for Punjab, the BJP has captured power in the remaining 5 states. In UP, the farmer movement was expected to substantially impact the outcomes, but it didn’t happen. In Uttarakhand, there were expectations of the Congress giving some fight, but those expectations were belied. In Manipur and Goa, the BJP has consolidated its position, with Congress being the biggest loser. Let us look at the results statewise.
- In UP, the most important state, we note the following:
- BJP was able to overcome anti-incumbency. The BJP led front got 45% of the votes polled. The polling was 60%, so this means only about 27% of the electorate voted for the BJP front. Clearly, the FPTP system has benefitted the BJP.
- The combined effect of farmer discontent, unemployment, Covid 19 mismanagement on the elections was much less than what was expected. The BJP seems to have overcome these negative perceptions by projecting the issues of i) security (criminals encountered or put in jails), ii) welfarism (labharti, silent majority, women) iii) hindutva conflated with nationalism and iv) misrule and gundaism under previous SP government . It was able to capture almost all upper caste votes and considerable percentages of votes from non-Yadav OBCs and non-Jatav SCs.
- The SP led front was not able to mobilise the full spectrum of backward castes under its banner. Bulk of Yadav-Muslim votes was cast in its favour, but the support from other castes turned out to be much less than expected. In Western UP, Jat votes were split between RLD and BJP, except in the core areas of farmer movement in Shamli and Muzaffarnagar districts. In Eastern UP, Swami Prasad Maurya and other breakaway leaders of backward castes who left BJP and joined the SP front were not able to carry enough votes along with them. The SP front was able to secure 36% of the votes polled, a substantial jump from 2017 figures, but still 9% behind the BJP led front. It needs at least 5%vote swing in its favour to come to power.
- Although BSP could win only one seat, it was able to garner 13% percent of votes polled, showing that it still retains its core vote bank of Jatavs/Chamars. So theoretically, a SP-BSP alliance could have got a vote percentage of 36+13=49% if they had forged an alliance to fight the elections.
- The Owaisi led front, a minor player in the fray damaged SP front’s prospects. In 40-50 constituencies the former was able to garner a few thousands of votes from muslims, OBCs and SCs, cutting into SP front’s vote share and the thus causing the defeat of the SP front candidates.
- Congress has been wiped out both in terms of seats and votes. The elections have brought into focus the question whether it is at all relevant as a national party. Its future is bleak in the absence of a substantial success in Hindi heartland, something that appears very distant now.
- In Punjab, AAP has achieved spectacular success by almost single handedly sweeping the polls. It could do so without entering into any overt alliance with any other party including the newly launched Kisan Samaj Party is remarkable. Its scale of victory was surprising, given the expectations that Congress will give it a good fight. But infighting and indiscipline combined with the lack of a cadre based organisation led to Congress’s undoing. Surprisingly, the Samyukt Kisan Samaj party floated by Balbir Singh Rajewal fared very poorly, forfeiting even the deposits. The party launched by the farmer leader Chaduni also met with the same fate. These events suggest once again a pattern consistent with the past experience of the farmer movements: while the movements may mobilise lakhs of farmers to fight for economic interests, they fare poorly when they form political parties and fight elections. The economistic nature of the movements perhaps has something to do with the failure of farmer movements to catch popular imagination.
Another interesting feature is the narrative spun by AAP in Punjab to garner votes.
Punjab has a substantial population of SCs compared to other states. And Bhagat Singh is a folk bero in Punjab. The AAP had projected both Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh to garner votes. This ideological posture is different from the one it has adopted in Delhi, where it stands accused of appeasing Hindutva sentiments to remain popular. So this raises the question whether, for AAP, ideology is something like a designer cloth to be worn as per demands of the occasion.
- BJP was not considered a force to reckon with in Northeastern states till BJP came to power at the centre in 2014. But within a short span of a few years, it has catapulted itself as the decisive force there, in the process reducing the regional parties and parties with tribal affiliations to the status of second rung players. Congress has been effectively wiped out from the Northeast. BJP has transformed itself as the binding glue of Indian nationalism, replacing the Congress. That a recently formed JD(U) unit in Manipur managed to win 6 seats is also indicative of the rapid churning in the politics of Northeastern states.
- In Goa, Congress has been soundly beaten. So has been TMC and AAP. But surprisingly, a brand new outfit, the Revolutionary Goans Party has made a very successful entry capturing a significant number of seats. What are the factors behind its success? It needs investigation.
- Uttarakhand was not much affected by the farmer movement. It was basically BJP versus Congress and the results show that anti incumbency was not sufficiently strong to help congress win. The inability of Congress to connect with the common man is noticeable here too.
To sum up:
- Conflation of Hindutva with nationalism, the ideological thrust of BJP seems unbeatable as of now. Its implications for the 2024 elections are clear. There is yet no political force on the horizon that seems to provide an alternative pan India counter narrative to the BJP.
- Vote bank politics based on caste and religious minority has proved unequal to the ideological narrative of BJP in the state elections. The backward castes show no signs of cooperating among themselves to gain or even share power. Same is the case with scheduled castes. The likelihood of identity politics posing a challenge to BJP In the 2024 Lok Sabha elections is even less. BJP has steadily increased its popularity and reach beyond upper castes to infiltrate the ranks of backward and scheduled castes in the hindi heartland. It has also been successful in patronising the tribal, christian and other minorities (except the muslims) in the south and in the northeast.
- Populism based on welfarism has created a silent majority of labharthi voters (especially women) among the poor both in the urban and rural areas. It is ironic that the women members of farming households in rural areas have massively supported the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. Perhaps they felt having eaten the salt of Modi and Yogi (The free ration kits distributed contained packets of salt too, in addition to many other items of food.) they must vote for BJP lest they be called Namak Haram. The huge buffer stocks of wheat and rice created by the central govt were pressed into service to provide free rations, depressing the open market prices and reinforcing the mechanism of surplus extraction from agriculture. The farmer movement could not and perhaps did not convince these labharthi voters that free rations will ruin their long-term well being.
- Unless an alternative ideological paradigm of development based on swaraj, autonomy, lokvidya, local self-government, community-based localised circulation and distribution is effectively counterposed to the BJP’s ideological narrative, it is difficult to see how the present oppressive development paradigm imposed by the BJP can be challenged effectively. Whether the leadership of regional parties and popular movements can come together to help project the alternative paradigm of development is the most important question at this juncture. What will be the vision of future India, and what will be the means employed to realise that vision are the questions that must be settled first if we are to proceed on the path of an alternative development path.
Autonomy, Federalism, Constitution, FPTP
Krishna Gandhi (07 Feb 2022)
The Modi Juggernaut of extreme centralisation of political power at the centre is creating ever widening ripples of disquiet in the political landscape of India. Be it demonetisation, the refusal of the central government to compensate the shortfall of the state’s shares of tax revenues as agreed upon under GST, the badly messed up Covid pandemic management, reduction in the autonomies of educational institutions, the decreased devolution to states under the fifteenth Finance Commission (whose terms of reference were changed to favour the more populous states of the north), the enactment of the three farm laws by encroaching upon state government’s powers, abrogation of article 370, or the recurring theme of modifying the Constitution to bring in a presidential form of government… the trend is unmistakable. There is an apprehension that all these and more are part of a concerted move to create an autocratic centre that tramples upon the social, cultural, and economic aspirations of the peoples of different regions of India. Although India’s message to the world is its legacy of plurality and peaceful coexistence of multiple traditions and communities (autonomy of autonomies), exactly the opposite is happening at present.
In his address to the final session of World Parliament of Religions held in Chicago, 1893, Swami Vivekananda said, “If anyone here hopes that unity will come by the triumph of any one of the religions and the destruction of the other, to him I say, “Brother, yours is an impossible hope.” Do I wish that the Christian would become Hindu? God forbid. Do I wish that the Hindu or Buddhist would become Christian? God forbid. If anybody dreams of the exclusive survival of his own religion and the destruction of the others, I pity him from the bottom of my heart, and point out to him that upon the banner of every religion will soon be written, despite resistance: “Help and not Fight,” “Assimilation and not Destruction,” “Harmony and Peace and not Dissension.”
If we were to substitute religions by communities, his words would become even more relevant today. Swamiji was putting into words the Indian legacy of granting different communities the freedom to follow their own traditions of worship and ways of living, without infringing on the rights of other communities to do so. Here is a vision of autonomy of autonomies, that we Indians need to hark back to, and put into practice if the impending disaster of autocracy is to be avoided. In the short term, autonomies (as well the autonomy of autonomies) of the multiple communities of India must be saved. Swaraj is a more distant project now.
At the time of Independence, the founding fathers of our country, faced with the task of creating a nation out of a multitude of communities spread across regions, states and cultures, opted for a Union of States with a limited federal character. It was a time of national liberation movements for emancipation from the yoke of colonialism and nation building was the paradigm of the day. Now after 75 years what we see is an abuse of the concept of nation. An abstraction called the nation, devoid of any concern for the human condition, is being used to cover up the plunder of the country by a few corporate monopolies, with the central govt acting as their agent. All freedoms are being sacrificed at the altar of so-called national security. We are forced to ask: Whose security? Whose nation? Is it not the security of the top 1% of the population that is being protected by curbing people’s freedoms? Instead of Gandhiji’s talisman of the last person (antim vyakti), is it not the benefit of the two richest people of our country that is the focus of the central govt’s policies? At no time since independence was the divergence between the nation state and the people so unbridgeable as now. The concept of nation has become a weapon to deprive the people of their rights. Therefore, we have to seriously attempt a rethink on the relevance of the concept of a nation in meeting people’s aspirations.
To start with we should redefine India not as a Union of states but as a federation of states. Today, no significant population of any state wants to separate from India. Even the Nagas are reconciled to being a part of a federal India. So, there is no danger of secession if India is converted to a federation of states through suitable changes in the constitution. In fact, the danger is of the opposite kind: secessionist tendencies may arise if the aspirations of the people of different states are further thwarted by the ongoing process of over centralisation.
Let us take the recent controversy over the observations of Madras High Court that Tamil Nadu must be compensated through both more funds and more representation (in the Rajya Sabha) for the loss it suffered when the number of Lok Sabha seats allotted to it was decreased from 41 to 39 in the year 1967. The editorial comment in the Hindu on this issue is reproduced below:
“Tamil Nadu’s representation in the Lok Sabha reduced from 41 to 39 seats since the 1967 general election. The State has lost 28 MPs since then, and it is being punished for effectively stabilising its population, the Madras High Court observed recently. Could Tamil Nadu be compensated for this loss of political power, the HC wondered. This question could snowball into a political controversy in the coming years.
Lok Sabha constituencies were supposed to be delimited after each decennial census, but that process was discontinued, taking into account exactly the concern flagged by the Madras HC — States that control population would be punished with reduced representation in Parliament. Delimitation of constituencies continues to take place, but only within the boundaries of each State. But that restriction on delimitation will be lifted after 2031, when States such as Tamil Nadu and Kerala are set to lose several Lok Sabha seats. That massive shift of political power to States in the north and east of India will have considerable implications for Indian federalism.”
Fresh delimitation for Lok Sabha seats will start in 2026. Before that, a consensus must be evolved on how the decrease in the representation of those states in the Lok Sabha who have successfully implemented population control measures is compensated in terms of political representation in the Parliament. One way is to give more seats to those states in the Rajya Sabha. In fact, equal representation to all fully recognised states in the Rajya Sabha could strengthen federalism. This would also lessen the fear in smaller states of the north-east and south, of being politically overrun by the populous states of the north like UP and Bihar.
Fiscal federalism is also under threat because of the inequitable distribution of GST revenues between the centre and the states. Not only are the shares of states as a whole being curtailed in favour of the centre, but there is also inequity in the distribution of tax revenues among states. Tamilnadu’s contribution to GST is much above 6%, its share of India’s population, yet recent Finance Commissions have been awarding it less than even this 6%. There is heartburn in Tamil Nadu political circles that it is being punished for its successes in eradicating poverty, illiteracy, and population control. This feeling is shared to varying degrees by all southern states as well as Odisha and Punjab.
Hence issues of political federalism and fiscal federalism are agitating the minds of the people of various states especially those ruled by regional parties. India can survive and flourish only if we reverse the path of centralisation and go in the direction of true federalism. India must transform itself from a Union of States to a Federation of States.
Constitution and communities (Samaj)
Has the Indian constitution allowed the full flowering and fruiting of the aspirations of the peoples of India? Even under the era of Nehruvian liberalism, the traditional communities of India (the shudra occupational castes, the tribal communities, religious minorities, linguistic minorities etc…) were feeling suffocated because of the lack of social political and economic opportunities for them to flourish under the Indian Constitution. This is primarily because the Indian constitution was framed with the express purpose of protecting the rights of individual citizens rather than those of communities/samaj. The economic policies were in favour of individual capitalist enterprise, ownership of property, as against social/collective enterprise and common property. The loss of traditional caste occupations like weaving, smithy, leather processing led the traditional communities to suffer economically, socially, and politically. Their autonomy vastly undermined, they are now on the verge of extinction or have become extinct. Only the agrarian communities are surviving. Now, even they, threatened by the corporate takeover of the Indian polity and attendant loss of autonomy, are on a warpath to protect themselves from extinction.
Hence there is an urgent need to critically look at the relevance and usefulness of the extant parliamentary system of democracy in meeting the political, social, and economic aspirations of the traditional communities/ samaj of India. There is a growing perception that the parliamentary system of democracy has been effectively hijacked by the topmost corporate entities of India through their political agents. Hence, through changes in the modes of people’s representation such as changes in the Peoples Representation Act, and the Constitution itself, the power of the people over the polity must be effectively established.
It is clear that one of the most important steps in this direction is to amend the Constitution to make it more federal rather than unitary in character. That is, the powers of the central government must be vastly reduced. The states must be allowed to function with least interference by the Central govt. Except defence, foreign affairs, monetary matters, space exploration, mining of strategically important minerals, and perhaps communication, all other matters must be left to the wisdom of the people of the states to determine for themselves. Secondly, in addition to the citizens exercising individual franchise, that is the one-man-one-vote system of electing representatives, communities must also be given the right to elect their political representatives. We can imagine a new system of political representation as outlined below. Each state will have two sets of legislatures: the legislative assembly and the legislative council. The legislative assembly members will be elected as they are being elected at present through the one-man-one-vote system. The legislative council members will be elected from each of the recognised communities within the state under a system of proportional representation. In conjunction with this will be the
requirement that a state legislation will need to be passed by both the legislatures for it to become a law. This will ensure that the voice of the communities / samaj will be taken into account in governance at the state level.
Role of Panchayats and other Local Self-Government Bodies
Although the 73rd Constitutional amendment made way for the formation of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI), they are quite different from the traditional village panchayats in the way they are formed, how they function and their areas of involvement. This amendment was hardly an attempt at granting autonomy to local self- governance bodies. Rather, it was an attempt at bypassing state governments in the implementation of centrally sponsored schemes. The new PRI have hardly any autonomy compared to the traditional village panchayats. Panchayat traditionally meant a collective decision-making process, rather than an institution. Five wise men (panch) of the community were chosen on the spot to guide the deliberations of the panchayat so as to reach a consensus and it could be the turn of a different set of panch at the next panchayat. There were no majority decisions. In contrast, the new PRI is a three-tiered system with the Gram Panchayat (GP) at the lowest level, with the block panchayat samitis at the next level and the zilla panchayat parishads at the 3rd level. All of them have government officers appointed as ex-officio secretaries, who play a decisive role in their functioning. The Gram Sabha, the village assembly, constituted of all residents of all hamlets within the Gram Panchayat and whose names appear in the voter list, is envisioned as the supreme decision-making body, whose sanction and approval must be obtained by the Gram Panchayat before it takes a decision on any matter. The website vikaspedia.in gives the following description of the Gram Sabha:
The Gram Sabha is the fulcrum of the Panchayati Raj and village development. People use the forum of the Gram Sabha to discuss local governance and development and make need- based plans for the village.
The Panchayat implements development programs under the overarching mandate, supervision and monitoring of the Gram Sabha. All decisions of the Panchayat are taken through the Gram Sabha and no decision is official and valid without the consent of the Gram Sabha
The term Gram Sabha is defined in the Constitution of India under Article 243(b).
Gram Sabha is the primary body of the Panchayati Raj system and by far the largest. It is a permanent body.
Gram Sabha is the Sabha of the electorate. All other institutions of the Panchayati Raj like the Gram Panchayat, Block Panchayat and Zilla Parishad are constituted by elected representatives.
The decisions taken by the Gram Sabha cannot be annulled by any other body. The power to annul a decision of the Gram Sabha rests with the Gram Sabha only. Those who are above 18 years of age and
living in the village and whose names are included in the electoral rolls for the Panchayat at the village level are the members of the Gram Sabha.
According to the State Panchayat Raj Acts, the Gram Sabha must meet at least two to four times in a year.
For people’s convenience, the recommended days are:
Republic Day (26th January)
Labour day (1st May)
Independence Day (15th August)
Gandhi Jayanti (2nd October)
Gram Panchayats are however free to convene Gram Sabha on other dates according to their convenience.
Gram Sabha should be conducted within the purview of GP at a place convenient for all the members to sit.
In case of multiple villages under a GP, Gram Sabha may be conducted on rotation basis in all the villages’ one after the other.
Gram Sabha can be conducted anytime during daytime i.e., after sunrise and before sunset. The Panchayat Secretary after obtaining approval of the Sarpanch should organize the Gram Sabha.
Gram Panchayat Sarpanch has to convene a Gram Sabha meeting when either 10% members of Gram Sabha or 50 persons of Gram Sabha (whichever is more) submits their requisition for holding a Gram Sabha. However, those members have to inform the purpose for the meeting.
A written request for the meeting must be handed over to the Sarpanch during office hours 5 days before the date of meeting.
If the Sarpanch fails to hold the meeting on the requested date, the members who requested the meeting can themselves organize the gram Sabha meeting.
But the saddest part of the story is that the village assemblies (Gram Sabhas) hardly ever take place. They exist on paper only. Thus, under PRI direct democracy is non-existent. Reviving direct democracies at the village level under PRI is of utmost importance if India is to become a vibrant democracy of autonomous villages.
The working of the town panchayats, municipalities and corporations are no better. There is no direct democracy here too.
Absence of financial independence of GPs and other bodies of local self-governance is another challenge that compromises their autonomy. The state level finance commissions allocate funds to the PRI and other bodies of local self-governance. But the awards are always insufficient to make the PRIs financially independent. The central government, bypassing state governments, allocates funds through centrally sponsored schemes which are designed without any consultations with state governments or PRIs. Hence no real autonomy is enjoyed by the PRIs. The issue as to what constitutional changes are to be made to make bodies of local self-government autonomous needs to be debated.
First Past the Post (FPTP) system of electing people’s representatives
Democracy in essence means the will of the people. Direct democracy is impossible when huge populations are involved, and people’s will is exercised indirectly through their representatives. It is often debated which system of representation will reflect people’s will to the maximum. After independence we in our country adopted the First Past the Post (FPTP) system of electing people’s representatives where candidates polling maximum number of votes, even if that number be a very small percentage of total votes polled (not to mention total number of voters) gets elected.
Our experience of the FPTP system has been disappointing. Most often, the contest is among a large number of candidates, and this invariably results in the winning candidate polling less than, often very much less than half the votes polled. Typically, in a multi cornered fight, it comes to one-third to one-fourth of the votes polled. Only when there is a direct fight between two candidates does the votes polled by the winning candidate go beyond more than 50% of votes polled.
If we consider the total number of eligible voters in a constituency, the percentage of votes polled by the winning candidate goes down even more. Hence in the FPTP system, the winning candidate cannot be said to represent even the will of the majority of the voters. It is clear that the FPTP system will represent the will of the majority only when two candidates are contesting. So, until and unless a two-party system or two-alliance system emerges at the national level too, the national government will not be a true representative of even the majority of the voters who exercised their right to vote. So, all claims of popular rule by governments in power at the centre are totally false.
In recent times majoritarianism has emerged as a threat to Indian democracy. The voices of the minorities like Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs and the marginalised like dalits, adivasis, tribals are being ignored or suppressed altogether. Democracy, conceived of as the will of the people, is being challenged by majoritarianism. India’s continued existence as a plurality of traditional communities/samaj having autonomous existence is at greater risk now than ever before. Hence, we need to discard the sole reliance on the FPTP system in choosing people’s representatives.
A combination of FPTP based on one man one vote and community representation based on numerical strength needs to be worked out if we are to avoid the risk majoritarianism poses. To begin with, all states should have two legislatures: the assembly, formed of candidates elected on the FPTP system and the council, consisting of representatives of communities whose numbers will be based on their percentages in the population. In the assembly decisions can be taken through majority vote, but as rule, in the council decisions are to be taken through consensus.
At the centre, the Lok Sabha shall consist of representatives elected on the FPTP system. The Rajya Sabha members shall however be elected from an electoral college consisting only of the members of the state legislative councils.
These ideas have been presented here with the sole purpose of starting a meaningful discussion on how to proceed from now and here towards a future society where autonomy both at the individual and the collective levels will take root leading to a more peaceful and prosperous existence for all the people of India.
Income and Future Vision
Girish Sahasrabudhe (12 Dec 2022)
The farmers’ movement achieved a major victory with the withdrawal of the three farm laws by the Government on 19 Nov 2021. It has since been suspended pending other demands, the main among them being legal guarantee for MSP (Minimum Support Price) for not just 17 agricultural commodities but for all farm produce including vegetables. The SKM is to meet on 15 Jan 2022 to decide on its future action. The SKM movement has touched the boundaries of the possible in these times in various ways. It has brought out into the open both the devious nature of policies and of ways these are fabricated. It has emphatically rejected these as well as convincingly opined on what it expected of a government. To continue effectively as a political challenge, the movement needs to come out with promise of a new, more just social order and picture of a new world. Only then is it unlikely to catch the imagination and trust of other sections of the lokavidyadhar samaj and bring them along as allies in transformative politics.
Farmers’ Incomes: Putting MSP in Perspective
The issue of MSP bears a direct and obvious relation to farmer’s income. The demand is for legalization of MSP as the floor price below which agricultural commodities cannot be traded. It is also known that MSPs as they exist are themselves not remunerative. That this demand is still made shows the markets for what they are: they deny the farmer even the basic minimum return necessary to sustain agriculture.
But the MSP demand is not just demand for legalization of MSP. It also seeks to redefine the concept. As a government policy measure, the idea of MSP at its root is not even meant to remunerate the farmer but to serve to make him more productive and efficient, to make him exert to make the MSP remunerative. Contrary to this, the movement wants to view the MSP quite differently. The view about how to fix MSPs is that in Swaminathan Commission Report. That view questions the assumptions made by CAPC in its calculations in many ways. It talks of honorable life to farmers and, parity with the organized sector, and regeneration of agriculture. How far this conception of MSP goes to as such question markets as they exist will be known only with future events regarding MSP demand.
Income and Lokavidya View
We have been with this for a while in the form of demand for government action to ensure incomes, which are on par with those in government employment in terms of levels and security, to all in the lokavidyadhar samaj (all those who live on the strength of lokavidya). This demand arises from our understanding of lokavidya and denial of instituted hierarchy in knowledge-worlds. It is a concrete demand of लोकविद्या प्रतिष्ठा अभियान.
Lokavidya point of view enriches demands of equal income with explicit positive content – as return for real contribution of lokavidyadhar samaj to the whole society based on its knowledge and labour. It exposes political programs related to free distribution of food and other things, doles, direct payments and subsidies as programs conceived and designed on the basis of a false and negative picture of poverty and destitution. These programs aim to divert attention from social existence and potential of lokavidya-based work and create a myth of state benevolence. Lokavidya view of income is, thus, income as a just social return to all sections of the samaj allowing them to sustain and enlarge their existence. This makes the current income question primarily a question of denial of incomes to lokavidyadhar samaj.
Income and Employment
Policy-based bias against lokavidya in favour of modernity has given rise to all kinds of distortion of and discrimination against everything lokavidyadhar samaj claims as its own. It has legitimized completely unjust and unequal resource allocations and priorities of the state. This has created huge disparities in availability of health services, education, water, electricity and civil amenities, and administrative response. More pertinently, this has led to all-round destabilization of lokavidya-based work by starving it of physical and financial resources and publicly sullying its knowledge base.
It is the destruction of lokavidya work, which is the chief source of unemployment. Of course, it may always be is so in societal transitions. However, modernization, in the name of which it is legitimized ensures no direct entry into the new world for the unemployed. They must “educate” themselves at the cost of further erosion of resources available to those they leave behind. They must also face the brunt of progress of technology, which, in the name of eliminating hardship of human labour, in fact eliminates need for humans themselves. The question of unemployment is thus, the question of destruction of existing lokavidya work: it cannot conceivably be addressed without reversal of that destruction.
Income and Markets
The market denies incomes to lokavidyadhar samaj. It is the site for unequal exchange. State action sustains unequal exchange.
The policies of export and import of agricultural produce are designed to keep prices in the country depressed. The buffer stocks in government godowns are used for the same purpose. Money supply in the market is manipulated partly by salaries in the organized sector and partly by other fiscal policies designed to promote the modern sector. Each such action goes to increase the disparity between the modern and the “unorganized” (lokavidya-based) sections of the society. We know that agriculture is one of the most “human”-intensive of productive activities. A measure of that disparity can be easily imagined by looking at agriculture and, say, projecting likely prices of grain if agricultural labour is paid on par with even the lowest daily remuneration to government employees, and comparing those with farm-gate prices obtained by the farmer today.
The Swaminathan report talks of more than this parity by its price recommendation of C2 plus 50 percent. In that sense it calls for a bigger market-intervention than even legalization of the current MSPs. If the MSP committee negotiations ever take place, and if the movement participates, and can force its own terms for the discussions then it may mean a far-reaching redefinition of market intervention as it is understood and is accepted today.
The question that may be important is does that debate have the potential to go beyond confines of a national (and global) market whether free or regulated. This is important because experience has shown that there can be nothing “just” (equal exchange) and “natural” (exchange as use values) about the national market. In addition, it is difficult to see how the idea of food sovereignty can take root in a national market.
Is there a conception of income that is not primarily derived from that of the market? It is difficult to see that there can be unless some considerable part of income – conceived as means to sustain life activity – is not realized from market transactions. For, otherwise income (and wealth) would always tend to reduce to possession of a “universal” means of exchange. One way to conceive of income not realized on the market is of course in terms of some kind of (primarily) local exchanges, whether directly between people, or communities or in a local market. We have been engaged with this too. But, it may be difficult to move forward in a way, which allows us to do so in dialog with farmers’ movement, unless we have some concrete notion about working of existing local / weekly markets and to some extent what is still in public memory about them.
An extended Hindi version: pdf