‘Make in India’ – Modi’s War on the Poor

For some months now, I have been thinking of someone whom I saw on television during the parliamentary election campaign. The place was Benaras and Modi’s candidature from the seat had just been declared. The television journalist was interviewing a group of clearly poor people, taking their reactions on this new, though expected development. This person, fairly drunk in his Modi-elixir – and perhaps also a bit literally drunk – swaggered as he answered, affirming his support for Modi: Modi bhi chaiwala hai, hum bhi chaiwala hain (Modi is also a tea-seller and I am also a tea-seller). His words reflected the success of the remarkable gamble – that of projecting the new poster boy of corporate capital as a humble tea-seller. It was clear how so many of the poor had bought into this campaign.

What reminded me of this person initially, was that very soon after the election results were out, even before the government was formed, ‘team Modi’ announced a series of measures for the development of Benaras, which included the building of 60 flyovers – ‘to ease traffic congestion’. Mainly meant for the benefit of smooth flow of motorized traffic (rikshas, cycles and pedestrians, after all, have little place in the economy of the flyover), this was the beginning of a plan that would transform this holy city. If the experience of building flyovers anywhere in India is any experience, this would additionally mean mass demolition of settlements of the poor, shops and even entire informal markets – including tea shops that have long been part of life of local communities.

Then the government took office. Within a couple of months, the plan for Varanasi’s upgradation started being drawn up more concretely. Not everything in the proposed subsequent plan (end July 2014) seemed objectionable -not the least the idea to work on a possible mono rail, improvement of the bus network, and a Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) like the one in Ahmedabad. Except that this would mean more and more dislocation of the poor and destruction of their livelihoods. We have seen this happen in city after city in India, including in Delhi.

Finally, as the prime minister embarked on his global sojourn, an agreement was signed whereby Japan would help develop Benaras into a ‘smart city’. What exactly this means is not very clear except that it is supposed to be hi-tech, networked through information technologies and, minus all the frills, embodying business-led urban development. The cities, in short, have to be business friendly. The fundamental point is that, the model for Benaras and for all other Indian cities that this government is putting in place, will be designed with the automobile and the rich at the centre. Where our enthusiastic chai-seller will figure in this recasting of the city is anybody’s guess.

Modi and his supporters can of course, always argue that they made no secret of what their model of development was – and he is doing exactly what he said he would.

This model of an ‘India Rising’, as we have been informed recently, is based on ‘the yearning to defeat defeatism’, that is to say, the UPA II’s inability to act with determination: “Policy paralysis was the anodyne technical term to describe this state. Underneath was a vast nervousness about whether India could actually change.” And this “was the moment Modi stepped into with political finesse…”

We have noted earlier on Kafila that this so-called ‘policy paralysis’ bemoaned by our media commentators and corporate cheer-leaders has little to do with matters relating to common people. On matters like forest rights, food security, environmental protection and labour welfare, there were real developments. ‘Policy paralysis’ – and therefore defeatism – was always a code that meant that corporate capital was not being given free rein to loot the resources and people of the country. At least not the extent they wanted. There is little doubt that the UPA regime too was pro-corporate – it could not have been any different, given the forces it represented and the deep levels of corruption that tied it to different sections of big capital. Nevertheless it was a regime that was still susceptible to some kinds of mass pressures and social movement interventions. That it had put in place schemes like MNREGA or enacted legislations like the Forest Rights Act or the RTI, that it drew up the Food Security Bill – all these were things that bothered neoliberals and corporates alike. As we will see below, the attack on the UPA government and its supposed ‘policy paralysis’ was actually a smokescreen for wanting to do away with precisely these measures that came about through some degree of democratic negotiation.

 Some Achievements of the Past Six Months

The very first move of the new government was its attack on one of the linchpins of democratic government: transparency. Not just government officers but even ministers were forbidden from interacting with the media or making any public pronouncements about anything to do with the government. Liberals who should know the value of transparency better than anybody else, had – and continue to have – nothing to say on this matter. And yet, this was precisely the move that enabled the government to move swiftly towards fulfilling its obligations to the corporate sector for its continued plunder of the country’s natural commons.

War on Environment

In the first 50 days itself, long before formal policy changes were announced, the government ‘gave environmental clearance’ (read waived clearance) for five infrastructural projects. According to a Business Standard report, “the projects given clearance include(d) Adani Ports’ Mundra special economic zone (SEZ) in Gujarat, two coal mining projects – Coal India Limited (CIL)’s Tikak block in Assam and Reliance Power’s Chhatrasal block in Madhya Pradesh (MP), GAIL’s gas-based power plant in MP and a state highway renovation project in Assam. These projects are worth around Rs 2,570 crore (excluding Adani Ports, as the environment clearance documents do not mention the cost details of that project).” The background to this, though well-known, bears repeating:

Adani and Reliance Power’s Sasan projects became controversial during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) tenure. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had pulled up the UPA government alleging Rs 29,033-crore financial gains to R-Power for coal allotment to Sasan ultra mega power project. The Chhatrasal block was among the three captive coal blocks allotted to Sasan Power. The report had called for a review of allocation of the Chhatrasal coal block for the Sasan power plant. The project was given a go-ahead by the environment ministry on July 11. The coal block, having reserves of over 160 million tonnes, will fuel Reliance Power’s 4,000 MW Sasan and 4,000 MW Chitrangi power projects. The Gujarat high court had in January this year ordered the closure of the 12 out of 21 operational units in the Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone due to lack of environment clearances.

The very first three months saw what has been called ‘Modi government’s silent war on the environment‘, Nayantara Narayanan enumerates as many as seven key initiatives that open out, in unprecedented fashion, the path for relentless corporate plunder. These include:

1. Taking away the right of tribal village councils to oppose an industrial project: “The National Democratic Alliance government is looking to discard a provision of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, that requires the “prior informed consent” of gram sabhas before their forests are cleared for industrial activity. The Act, implemented in 2008, recognises the rights of indigenous tribes over forestlands, asking these groups to certify that their rights have not been violated by an upcoming project.”

2. Exempting coal mining from public hearings, allowing irrigation projects without clearances: “The Environment Ministry has allowed coalmines with a capacity of less than 16 million tons per annum to expand without conducting a public hearing. The cut-off for this exemption used to be 8 mtpa. The ministry has also cleared the one-time expansion of mines with capacity greater than 20 mtpa if the expansion is restricted to 6 mtpa…

Irrigation projects affecting less than 2,000 hectares will no longer require environmental clearances. Those occupying less than 10,000 hectares can be cleared by the state governments.”

3. Lifting the moratorium on new industries in critically polluted areas“In September 2013, the United Progressive Alliance’s environment ministry directed the Central Pollution Control Board to reassess the Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index, an important criterion for project clearance, while keeping intact the moratorium on new industries in critically-polluted areas.

But even before the review is completed, the ministry under Prakash Javadekar has lifted the moratorium in eight critically polluted areas – Ghaziabad, Indore, Jharsuguda, Ludhiana, Panipat, Patancheru-Bollaram, Singrauli and Vapi.”

4. Diluting forest norms and allowing industry to creep closer to national parks: “The environment ministry has changed a provision of the Environmental Impact Assessment rules to allow projects to come up within 5 km of a protected area without clearance from the now-toothless National Board for Wildlife. The earlier rule made NBWL clearance mandatory for projects in these eco-sensitive zones unless they were 10 km or more away.”

On Land Acquisition

Ever since the great anti-land acquisition struggles of Singur and Nandigram made a decisive impact, forcing both the state government of West Bengal and the central UPA government on the backfoot, there has been a raging debate about the issue. Singur and Nandigram actually turned the spotlight on many of the earlier anti-displacement land struggles that have been going on for years. The Nandigram moment forced a fresh re-examination of the issue, including the all-important point about whether this should be the task of a government at all. Especially  in a market economy, does it make any sense for a government to forcibly acquire peasants’ or tribal people’s land in order to pass them on to private corporations? It was under the impact of the massive reappraisal of this and related issues, and subsequent struggles like the one in Bhatta Parsaul, that the UPA government was forced to review and amend the land acquisition law and bring in a new legislation, namely, the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill. This has been described as a ‘landmark legislation’ and along with the issue of environmental clearances, constitutes the crux of the ‘defeatism’ of which the government was accused by the corporate sector. Little wonder then that almost simultaneously, the Modi government moved to make sweeping changes in the land acquisition laws. Thus, according to a Hindustan Times report in mid-July:

The rural development ministry would be asking the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to relax norms to acquire land for projects by scrapping mandatory consent provision for public private partnership (PPP) projects and reducing it to 50% from the existing 80% for private acquisition.

The slew of changes in the land acquisition law 2013 for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s approval means that consent of half of the affected families would be enough to acquire land by private parties, a move aimed at improving investor sentiment.

The corporate world had cried foul at the 80% consent clause saying it would make winning acquisition approvals impossible. Sympathetic towards their concerns, rural development minister Nitin Gadkari had said a proposal on changes in the law would be submitted to the PM.

The ministry would also be suggesting to the PMO that people’s view will not matter if any public agency was participating in the project.
The changes proposed to overhaul the law enacted in 2013 also includes lifting a ban on acquisition of multi-crop land making 48% of the total 179 million of hectares of total agricultural land available for acquisition. The present law limited acquisition option only for waste-land and single crop agriculture land.

The ministry also wants that provision for appraising the projects on its impact on livelihood of people, called social impact assessment, for all projects be done away with as it could delay in execution of the projects. (All emphasis added)

The proposals are quite self-explanatory – except for the subterfuge that it is the rural development ministry that is requesting the prime minister’s office to implement the said changes. Anyone even remotely aware of the ways of functioning of this government knows that there is only one person who takes all the decisions! What all this will mean for the future of the poorer populations as well as for the larger question of food security can easily be imagined.

‘Make In India’ and Labour ‘Reforms’

And so finally, we come to the grand dream of making India the manufacturing hub of the world economy: the much hyped ‘Make in India’ campaign. This declaration, made from the ramparts of Red Fort in Independence day too had sent liberal commentators swooning over the new visionary leader that they had suddenly discovered.

The proverbial cat, however, is now finally out of the bag, for the slogan to ‘Make in India’ is an invitation to global corporate capital to come loot and plunder the natural commons, to destroy the environment, to dispossess populations made dispensable and to exploit cheap Indian labour; it is an invitation to global corporations who are being forced out of their home countries because high environmental and labour costs have been long been eating into their profits. Whether or not the notorious Lawrence Summers Memo of 1991 that talked of moving ‘dirty’ industries to the third world was a serious policy proposal or a mere sarcastic prank, the Modi government seems to have internalized its impeccable economic logic. China was the trail blazer in this regard and one can already see the devastating impact it has had on daily life in China. Even as GDP soars to the skies, daily life gets more and more insecure and violent. That is the direction that the new government has chosen to take India in the name of making India the manufacturing hub of the world. Yes, there will always be people to point out how GDP growth has meant more employment and money circulating among ordinary people at large, but these are the classically myopic economics-drunk people who have not spent a minute thinking about what all this means in the longer run.

And thus it happened that the most opaque government ever that India has had, has now unveiled a whole series of labour reforms in order “to boost transparency and create a business friendly environment“.  Not surprising, then, that “Industry lauds the changes”. The pilot project, as it were, of the BJP/Modi government’s labour reforms was put in place, in Rajasthan, in the end of July, when the state assembly passed Bills amending four major Acts concerning labour. These amendments to the Factories Act, the Industrial Disputes Act, the Contract Labour Act and the Apprenticeship Act basically make it easier for industrialists to fire workers and make the formation of trade unions more difficult. Says a Business Standard report:

The amendments proposed in the Industrial Disputes Act include empowering employers to retrench up to 300 employees without permission of the government. At the moment, the upper limit is 100 employees. Plus, in case of retrenchment, a worker should raise an objection within three months. At present, there is no time limit. The proposed amendment also says a trade union can be formed only if it gets 30 per cent of the total workers as members. The figure is 15 per cent at the moment.

That this was a pilot project of sorts and would be replicated wherever the BJP was in power, with the full backing of the Centre was evident from the following statement of the Union labour minister:

Earlier this month,  Union labour minister Narendra Singh Tomar had said states could change labour laws according to local need and political conditions. “Our effort at the Centre would be to strike a balance between business and labour communities…If a state goes ahead with amendments apropos to their local, economic, political and social conditions, it is a healthy practice,” he’d told Business Standard on July 2.

And to Cap It All – Surrender Before Drug Companies

According to a report in DNA, shortly before Modi departed for the United States, the government issued a circular directing the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority to withdraw its earlier guidelines that had capped the prices of 108 important drugs related to treatment of tuberculosis, hear ailments, cancer, diabetes and HIV/AIDS. The result of this firman was the sudden spurt in the prices of these important medicines. Sample this from the report:

Government decision to decontrol prices of 108 drugs — used to treat tuberculosis, AIDS, diabetes and heart ailments — has jacked up their prices. In some cases, prices have seen an unbelievable rise.

The price of Glivec, an anti-cancer tablet, for example, has risen from Rs 8,500 to Rs 1.08 lakh.

Plavix, used to treat blood pressure and heart ailments, will cost Rs 1,615, against the earlier Rs 147. An anti-rabi injection, Kamrab, priced at Rs 2,670, will now cost Rs 7,000.

While drug companies claim that these are not essential drugs but those linked to ‘life-style diseases’, the fact is that these are precisely the consequence of our new ‘developed’ environment. The fact is that we live today in the middle of a cancer epidemic, produced by a range of  radiation and toxicity all around us. Take this fact: the number of known cancer patients in India is around 11 lakhs while in the USA, one out of three Americans suffers from some form of cancer in his or her lifetime. The cost of cancer drugs in the USA has become an important cause of increasing number of bankruptcies. The cost of a new drug stands at well over US$ 100, 000 per year, according to Dr Leonard Saltz, chief gastrointestinal oncologist at the Memorial Sloan Kettering – one of America’s premier cancer centers. Some extracts from an interview that can be accessed here:

Cancer is so pervasive that it touches virtually every family in this country. More than one out of three Americans will be diagnosed with some form of it in their lifetime. And as anyone who’s been through it knows, the shock and anxiety of the diagnosis is followed by a second jolt: the high price of cancer drugs.

They are so astronomical that a growing number of patients can’t afford their co-pay, the percentage of their drug bill they have to pay out-of-pocket. This has led to a revolt against the drug companies led by some of the most prominent cancer doctors in the country.

Dr. Leonard Saltz: We’re in a situation where a cancer diagnosis is one of the leading causes of personal bankruptcy…

Lesley Stahl: So, are you saying in effect, that we have to start treating the cost of these drugs almost like a side effect from cancer?

Dr. Leonard Saltz: I think that’s a fair way of looking at it. We’re starting to see the term “financial toxicity” being used in the literature. Individual patients are going into bankruptcy trying to deal with these prices.

Lesley Stahl: The general price for a new drug is what?

Dr. Leonard Saltz: They’re priced at well over $100,000 a year.

Lesley Stahl: Wow.

Dr. Leonard Saltz: And remember that many of these drugs, most of them, don’t replace everything else. They get added to it. And if you figure one drug costs $120,000 and the next drug’s not going to cost less, you’re at a quarter-million dollars in drug costs just to get started.

The game is serious and the stakes are very, very high. Is it very surprising then that as our new visionary prime minister acts decisively to take the country into that dystopic future that is, in a sense, already here, we have intellectuals lining up to tell us how important this war to ‘defeat defeatism’ is?

Is it at all surprising that the prime minister should then have chosen the very appropriate metaphor of the ‘bitter pill’ in order to underline that he would have to take some tough decisions.

The PM’s blunt message after his vigorous “acchey din aane waale hai” campaign is seen as an attempt to temper expectations over any dramatic turnaround of the economic situation while preparing the ground for unpopular measures.

“Taking tough decisions and strong measures in the coming one or two years are needed to bring financial discipline which will restore and boost the country’s self-confidence”, Modi told party cadres.

“I need to take some harsh decisions and administer some bitter medicine in order to resuscitate this patient. The medicine may hurt some of you but I ask for your support at this time,” he added later at a separate event. – Times of India, June 15, 2014

“The medicine may hurt some of you but I ask for your support at this time” – that is the supreme confidence of the Leader who is convinced that the people so love him that they would prefer to perish than do anything to annoy him.

But what Modi has started is a war not just on the environment, but a class war on the poor of this country. It is not a war that he will win uncontested.

53 thoughts on “‘Make in India’ – Modi’s War on the Poor”

  1. Yes , comments are certainly subject to modification as per your comment policy.Any sane, logical argument that demolishes your rabble rousing and suicidal economic reasoning is weeded out.A bunch of pessimistic losers from concubines like JNU are given a free run on this blog.My fair advice to the author. Instead of producing gibberish which can only be appreciated by jholawalas, read Jagdish Bhagwati’s recent book and hopefully then , you will realize the gravitas as to what keeps popping out of your feverish blogs.


    1. I suppose you believe, Prashant Banerjee, that you are making a ‘sane, logical argument that demolishes my rabble rousing’? I pass this comment for the benefit of those who wish to understand what a ‘sane, logical argument’ is. This meaning will be difficult to get anywhere else. By the way, please check the meaning of the word ‘concubines’ – I think you are thinking of (all-prickly) porcupines:)


    2. Why does this presumably “sane, logical argument” present itself as a barrage of abusive labels? Incidentally, Aditya Nigam, “porcupine” is way off. Such people take delight in words like “randi” but cannot properly translate them.


      1. Interesting that Jagdish Bhagwati is mentioned.
        He and his protégé Arvind Panagariya have thus far gotten nothing, it seems –unless vastly mistaken — from the Modi regime.
        Ditto Madhu Kishwar.
        Why is that?


    3. Mr. Banerjee,

      Since you seem to be so enamored of Jagdish Bhagawati, you should also know that he trumpets free market policies in developing countries while being completely mute about the agricultural subsidies in the west and other far from free market policies. People like him have done enormous disservice to the profession of economics in which leading intellectuals just serve as mandarins of the state (which translates to corporations more and more everyday).

      You have every right to disagree with the opinion of the author but it is obvious that you have not even read the article. Far from gibberish it is actually a very well researched piece. It has become fashionable in India today to abuse anyone who questions pro-corporate policies.

      Believe me, a “Square Capitalist” is almost or sometimes even more pernicious than a “Hippie Communist (I assume this is what you meant by “Jholawala”)


  2. I sure hope Modi is contested in this particular war. How do politicians continue to exploit the poor and get away with it? Smart cities…bah! Flyovers, ouch! Evictions and relocations to low quality high-rise buildings the poor cannot live in. It’s the stuff of nightmares!
    Unfortunately, the poor aren’t organised enough to fight a concerted battle. They need collaborators, many of whom seem to have crossed over to the ‘other side’. But I wouldn’t underestimate the poor in India either…


  3. You have criticized the policies made by the present government….. My question to you, is how you would envisage development?….. Is it possible to have development without “bitter medicine”?….. What form would such development take?……How would one attract investment without “incentives”?…… Is it possible to have development without displacement of anyone?…….. Do such precedents of non displacing development exist elsewhere?…… Above all, is it possible to have development without replacement or loss?……. What policies would you suggest the government adopt for sincere true development?……. Note please, I am just genuinely curious, not a BJP supporter….


    1. reformtheworld3497,
      Thanks for your questions. If you actually browse through our Kafila archives, you can see that there is indeed a different way of seeing the world and the question of development. I cannot go into a detailed exposition on how that development would take place – though we can point towards some of the possible directions:
      1. Who eats the bitter medicine? Who gets richer and fatter by the day? Suppose we were to build dams and nuclear plants by taking over the huge estates of the rich and the powerful and not the powerless peasants and tribals, I think that would be fine in terms of justice. And we would have development. That would level things out a bit. Though I would still be opposed to a big dam and a nuclear plant – precisely because they are leading to greater and greater destruction but let us set that aside for the time being.
      2. When you talk of ‘attracting investment without incentives’, do you see yourself as a believer in a market economy? You assume the presence and intervention of a strong government that simply dispossesses people, takes over land from them and hands them over to the corporations. This is a travesty of the idea of a market. You should actually be arguing that corporations, if they want land should either buy the land from the peasants and tribals or, if they are not prepared to sell it, let them make the peasants and tribals partners in a joint stock company where their land is treated as strictly parallel to the capitalist’s capital. That is to say, they do not get a one-time compensation but a return in perpetuity.
      3. Actually the only place where actual, brutal displacement took place was England during the enclosures and now China. In places like France, throughout the 19th century, small peasant property got strengthened. In France, urbanization took place with the rising capitalist class in Paris buying up land in the surrounding areas. In most other places of Western Europe too you have a very different history of development. But most importantly, we must remeber this: it was because of this model of development that the millions of people uprooted from their livelihoods and habitat were forced to turn to crime – often to petty crime for survival. The expanding urban labour market could not accommodate them. But Europe had the option that no one else has. They sent off these ‘surplus populations’ to Australia and New Zealand. And then with the ‘discovery’ of the Americas, hordes of them left in search of greener pastures for the new world. There they simply killed in history’s worst genocides, the native population. By the end of the 19th century, 50 million people had left Europe – and this was as much as one-eighth of Europe’s total population. Nowhere has this meant that development for all has taken place equitably. And let us make no mistake, there are no vacant or apparently vacant continents waiting for ‘us’ to transport our ‘surplus population’ to. They will all remain here and all you will see in the coming years is increasing violence of all kinds. The crimes of property come back to attack the propertied in new and unpredictable forms.
      As far as alternative forms of development are concerned, you could just google something called the ‘new economy coalition’ or the ‘solidarity economy’ and ‘degrowth’ – and you will find a whole new world out there. These are all things that are actually being done in practice.


      1. I totally agree with your points 2 and 3 but I have reservations about point 1. I agree with the morality and ethicality of your suggestion. But in practice many of the large estates of the rich and powerful are located in massively urban and atleast adjacent to densely populated areas. If say, a nuclear plant were to come up in such an area, it would mean even more massive loss of life and loss of quality of life than if it were located in a rural area. If something like that were set up, it would be the simplest way of depopulating the whole city. Rich people would flee for cleaner locales, while the poor would be forced to stay put. Also because the rich people have already fled, employment, business would flee with them leading to loss of jobs. So your suggestion, while well intentioned would be disastrous. I did google new economy coalition and degrowth, while they seem intent on their goal of an inequality free society, they also seem quite vague on how such a thing is to be achieved. Ironically, both societies are US and Europe based, while societies that need such solutions are Asian or African even more than US or Europe, amply demonstrating the fact that not only do we suffer economic inequality but perhaps thought inequality as well. Also, I seem to note an undercurrent of anger against the rich and powerful in your words. Sir, what about those who legitimately earn wealth or power? Surely it is the corrupt rich and powerful that we need to direct our anger to, not everyone rich and powerful?


  4. Except that this would mean more and more dislocation of the poor and destruction of their livelihoods. We have seen this happen in city after city in India, including in Delhi.

    And yet more and more people- especially the poor- keep flocking to cities (incl. Delhi) and the chaiwallahs whose livelihoods were (allegedly) destroyed stay on in those same cities. Strange, isn’t it?



    1. Life is strange, Majumdar, isn’t it? You know the planet is heading for a crash, radiations can cause cancer, nuclear radiations can maim generations…and yet more and more nation-states and their elites insist on doing so! For the poor who flock to the city, at least once can say that there is no option, for there are no livelihoods left in the villages, once they are dispossessed; what is it that makes the elites tread this path is over and over again is something that remains a puzzle in your sense…


  5. How do you make a rapidly growing, partially educated population like India’s prosperous without creating manufacturing jobs? The fastest route to get majority of a population to care about the commons is to first get them to the point where they don’t have to worry about roti, kapda or makaan. This is the history of the development of sustainable environmental awareness (to various degrees) in almost every country. “Make in India” is not an indication of war on the poor. To the extent that this aspiration comes true, it is best anti-poverty program. Making is the only way for relatively resource-poor countries to alleviate poverty. Heck, it is the only way even exploitative colonial empires became rich – by manufacturing the finished product.


    1. Existing Mega Industries and those coming up under “Make In India” do not and will not employ “semi literate” populace neither they will live in “smart cities”, ironically the very people who have bought into this dream so enthusiastically. It needs very few workers and that too qualified and experienced. People working in the Auto major in Haryana are post graduates and graduates. So they have justifiably accordingly ambitions and aspirations too, that opens another pandoras’ box as we have seen!
      We need more SME(Small and medium Enterprise) industries to create the employment for “semi literate” populace, where the existing ones are being wiped out by legal/illegal imports.
      As the land will be taken over for Industries people will be pushed to the cities. They will need roti kapda makan. These will not be provided by current “cure-alls”. Employment could be provided by creating more SMEs and sustaining the current ones. Makan can be provided by building more affordable housings not “smart cities”.
      But then these do not make a splash like MII and SC!


        1. Affordable housing does not mean free housing. Government is making policies for “smart cities” not building it! Similarly it must make policies for affordable housing and provide the required push for the same. Affordable housing also does not mean less profit for builder. Houses should be built for every section of society. Right now, their focus is lopsided on a small section of society. If this goes long enough we will end up like China that is saddled with Ghost cities. This is the future of “smart cities” if it is not thought through properly.


      1. @ Sanjay … I am agree with your point that we need more SMEs but we need one or two major industries also i.e Maruti/Hero motors/Honda where SMEs can supply their finished material. It was an just example for Auto mobile industry..and same is the case of other industries.


  6. Mr. Nigam,

    for there are no livelihoods left in the villages, once they are dispossessed;

    I think you need to get some real data rather than make theoretical statements. Most of the poor who have moved to the big cities are not the ones who are dispossessed (typically tribals)- I can say this confidently becuase I have employed a few of them- but who are from places like Haryana, UP and Bihar who have moved out because population pressures and land fragmentation have made their erstwhile professions unviable.

    There are of course those who have been genuinely dispossessed-tribals mainly- the bulk of these dispossessions have happened at the hands of the jewels- the navratnas- so dear of our secular elite. These tribals have not flocked to the cities- becuase they dont have the skills to survive but have moved to marginal lands in their own districts/tehsils.

    If you dont believe me, I suggest one day you walk out of JNU and move to places like Katwaria Sarai or Lado Sarai etc and make an inventory of how many of the migrant residents who stay there are from Bihar, UP, Haryana and how many of them are dispossessed from some of these “development projects” in Central India.



    1. Majumdar,
      I am quite surprised at your presumptuousness – with statements like ‘the dear of our secular elite’ and suggestions to the effect that I live (and work?) in JNU. I think this is not very helpful, if you are really interested in an argument. I am making an argument that should be met with another argument. I could also have labelled you something and responded to that category rather than to you.
      You suggest that I should get some real data rather make theoretical statements – and then proceed to give me anecdotes about some people you have employed. In that case let me tell you that I have worked for years with many workers who work in the municipal corporation (mainly from Uttarakhand, UP and Bihar) and others who work in the industrial areas of Shahadra – and not as an employer. But neither your anecdotes nor these instances constitute any ‘data’ in the hard sense – if by that you mean to fix how many and what proportion leave the villages and for what reason.
      There are, to be sure, any number of reasons why people flock to the city as far as the ‘push factor’ is concerned – but the ‘pull factor’ is only one: there are more opportunities. In the case of dalits, additionally, anonymity. And yet there are about 21 million internally displaced people in India (i.e. displaced by development projects, including by large public undertakings). You mean they have all moved to “marginal lands in their own districts/ tehsils”? And because they don’t have skills? Now, I should perhaps ask you for the data on how many of these 21 million have moved to neighbouring marginal lands. And where are these lands lying around for them simply to go and occupy. And what precisely do they do for a living? Will be grateful if you can supply the data.
      Meanwhile, let me tell you that in my own interactions over the years, I have found that people acquire fairly complex skills – from electricity and plumbing work to automobile repair etc without any formal training. Simply by learning on the job.


  7. The decisions to do away with public hearings are preposterous and indicate how little India’s political decision makers care for the ‘democracy’ they keep touting. It is important to note that these decisions have not seen even the slightest opposition from the Congress, or other parties.

    Some of the commentators point out correctly that the shift of a major chunk of labor away from agriculture and allied activities is inevitable and along with the growing number of job-seekers, this makes economic growth imperative. But while GDP does correlate with jobs, how strong this correlation depends strongly on the nature of growth. If economic growth is concommitant with more inclusive political and economic institutions, then indeed jobs will multiply and the society will grow stronger.

    India’s regulatory environment, and capacity to enforce the rule of law are extremely weak, go to the regional office of any environmental law enforcement agency in a state and you will know what I am talking about. Heck, go to a police station and see the conditions there.

    The current dispensation is different from the old one in that it feels more confident about itself and is more vocal despite bypassing the media (which is what Pratap Mehta was talking about). Part of this is the personality and background of Narendra Modi in comparison to Manmohan Singh, part of it is the simple fact that the BJP has a parliamentary majority that the Congress did not. But the basic policies and attitudes remain the same. Same old schemes and programs that have marginal impact, and mainly serve to fill party coffers for fighting the next election.

    This is ‘vikas’ and ‘acche din’ for the few, by the few, in the name of the all. But for real vikas and acche din, we need to work seriously on our policing (both its capacity and attitudes), our laws (both its effectiveness and quality) and our social fabric (state as an agent that encourages harmony and inter-community understanding, rather than an opportunist that keeps certain communities in perpertual fear with it selective silence).


  8. I find the slogan of Make In India by Modi very amusing. It seems so far nothing has been made in India. Again his other expansion of FDI to wit First Develop India is even more amusing as it suggests that India is not developed. And even more amazing is that 31% of the population has lapped up this untruth. It appears we are swinging to the other extreme side wherein the rich will get richer more faster than the present and the poor will reach the point of being perished more faster than present.


  9. You can either try and create wealth – Or you can distribute poverty. Seems the author prefers the latter option.

    The people who benefit the most in the scenario prefered by the author, are the university educated aid workers / jhola wala types. They have a vested interest in keeping the poor poor, so that they have a purpose.

    I am by no means, part of the traditional rich in the country. But I have done fairly well over the last 20 years of liberalization and growth of the private sector and modern economy. I could just have easily been a marginal farmer like my ancestors and lived in poverty and filth.

    Who are you to deny the opportunity to others to rise out poverty and subsistence?


    1. We now have another flinging labels like “university educated aid workers / jhola wala types”. He seems to think that criticizing the current sarkar’s policy on “development” is the same thing as wishing poverty and filth on the poor. I can only advise him to read this, posted yesterday:
      “If you actually browse through our Kafila archives, you can see that there is indeed a different way of seeing the world and the question of development.”


    2. Shivinder,
      Apart from the name-calling that Mukul Dube has pointed out, your comment is also full of a whole range of superstitious beliefs regarding the economy. This way in which you say “you can either create wealth or redistribute poverty” is nothing less than a superstition – never mind the fact that extremely well paid economists peddle this idea.
      For one thing, there is no such thing as “creation of wealth”: For every bit of wealth that is created, a whole lot of destruction has to take place that is not accounted for in indices like GDP. So, the forests that were destroyed, the populations that were dispossessed, the air that was polluted, the water that was poisoned, the mountains of waste that were created, the radiations that were produced leading to new diseases that – none of this is taken into account in GDP. Once you include all this, you will realize that what you call creation of wealth is a mere transference and destruction of the commons (air, water, forests, ozone) and large chunks of populations rendered disposable, into consumables for an ever hungry middle class that cannot think beyond its immediate desires.
      I am happy that you have done well in the last twenty years of liberalization. Let me assure you that like you, I too have done well in this period. Like you, I am one of the few who has received the benefits of this destruction of populations and natural commons. Does that mean that we should look the other way and not ask where all this ill-gotten wealth is coming from? I am nobody (in response to your ‘who are you to…’) but there are literally millions who are being destroyed asking the same question to people like you and me. You can ignore me (this is what is called ‘shooting the messenger’ for I only bring you the news about this ill-gotten wealth), but can you ignore these millions? For how long?


  10. Mr. Nigam,

    I have found that people acquire fairly complex skills – from electricity and plumbing work to automobile repair etc without any formal training. Simply by learning on the job.

    I am happy to hear that. At least on one point, we agree. The logical corollary of course is that the government should focus more on making it easier to start, run and close businesses and employ apprentices for that “on the job” learning experience and less on providing “education”, which is fundamentally useless in the manner in which it is delivered currently.


    PS: That JNU remark was in bad taste as Jay and you pointed out, serves no purpose. My apologies for that.


  11. Make in India talks about manufacturing constituting certain % of GDP. Did it ever talk about, how many people will be employed ?

    If the poverty line in India is around 30 %, I think the unemployment is also around 30 %.


    1. Mr.Nigam…I also work in an auto major in haryana & I am an NIT graduate. So let me rectify ur statement… No auto major has majority of workforce as graduates.. More than 75% workforce in my organization consists of ITI&diploma holder guys.
      and I have not included indirect employment here.
      Please visit gurgaon once to get an idea about the actual employment opportunities generated by these manufacturing units


      1. naveen,
        Let me rectify your statement, actually. More importantly, let me offer some unsolicited advise: Please read carefully before you comment. I challenge you to show me where I have said that the majority of automobile sector workers are graduates. This observation has been made in the comment above by Sanjay and he may have good reasons for saying so. So, your unsolicited advise (“please visit gurgaon once to get an idea…”) is simply unnecessary and irrelevant.


  12. Well researched and articulated… maybe there’s a need to also explore the latest swach business… word on the street is this is a prelude for PPP model of rural water and sanitation projects, benefitting the corporate contractor lobby… possible?


  13. Aditya

    The point you are making is puzzling. Is it that ALL development is a zero sum game? That development, of the typical brick and click and mortar type, necessarily means destruction of someone and someplace? The experience of Asia, just to take examples closer home and post colonial say otherwise. From japan to Korea to Malaysia, not to speak to smaller city states like Singapore – a dramatic increase in wealth and physical infrastructure has juxtaposed with a notable increase in quality of lives, for everyone. The poorest Korean today is much better off than 50-60% of his ancestors 50 years back. The same goes for India, in a much less “achieved” level. The poorest Indians have a lot more than the poorest Indian 20 years back. And a lot any more Indians are middle class Han was the ase 20 years back. Importantly more of them are outside of the “upper caste, urban” elite.

    Remember it is the emphasis on this development, four letter word that is, that enables the Indian in the 10th percentile to read this blog and draw her conclusions! Else, how many people ever read EPW?!:)


    1. Sigh! Somnath, you can go on repeating the same thing irrespective of the argument you are confronted with! Best wishes for Diwali from one Indian in the 10th percentile to another:)


  14. H and RPS,
    Since there have been many comments (some in unpublishable prose) – apart from yours – on the question of drug price hike, let me set the record straight. In the first place, I urge you to read the news report to which you have linked. All it says is that Narendra Modi has assured Kerala chief minister, Oommen Chandy that there will no rise in drug prices. The assurance is one of those which Narendra Modi has made his trade mark by now. Even as he makes preparations to suck the blood of the working class, he refers to them as ‘shramayogis’. Let us actually look at the actual things that have happened from where the earlier new report (linked in my post) emanated:
    1. First, the report in H’s comment above that links to the IP blog (spicyIP). In this piece by Swaraj Paul Borooah, clarifies a possible error that may have crept into the earlier DNA story, by pointing out that the generic drug (imatinib) of which Novartis’ Glivec is only a particular brand and that may or may not have gone up to Rs 1.08 lakh (from the current Rs 8500). The clarification in Borooahs’ comment too is not very categorical about Glivec but we could say that there is reasonable doubt now about the actual quantum of increase that may happen in the near future. It is a bit like the recent 45 percent hike in gas prices to please Reliance, which was kept in abeyance till the assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana were over – but it was clear to everybody who cared in April itself that this was going to happen. Narendra Modi and his propaganda machine had being doing precisely what they are doing now – deny, deny and deny.
    2. The reason why Borooah is able to make this distinction between Novartis’ Glivec and other brands of the same generic drug is also largely because of a big battle that was won in April last year when the Supreme Court of India struck down Novartis’ attempt to patent the drug. Please note that even at that time, Indian companies like Cipla and Natco were selling their drug at one-tenth the price of Novartis’ Glivec. Here is a quote from a report from Reuters:

    India’s top court dismissed Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG’s attempt to win patent protection for its cancer drug Glivec, a blow to Western pharmaceutical firms targeting India to drive sales and a victory for local makers of cheap generics.
    The decision sets a benchmark for intellectual property cases in India, where many patented drugs are unaffordable for most of its 1.2 billion people, and does not bode well for foreign firms engaged in ongoing disputes in India, including Pfizer Inc and Roche Holding AG, analysts said.
    It cements the role of local companies as big suppliers of inexpensive generics to India’s rapidly growing $13 billion-a-year drugs market and also across the developing world.
    Among the chief beneficiaries of Monday’s Supreme Court ruling will be India’s Cipla Ltd and Natco Pharma Ltd, which already sell generic Glivec in India at around one-tenth of the price of the branded drug.

    3. On September 23, in the run-up to Modi’s visit to the United States, the Department of Pharmaceuticals that functions under the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers (!!) government of India ordered the NPPA (National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority) to withdraw and earlier order of May 29, 2014, that had capped prices of 108 ‘non-essential’ drugs. The NPPA complied and many sections of the industry had welcomed it – not without reason. According to another Reuters report:

    A director at the Department of Pharmaceuticals, under the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, declined to comment as he was not authorised to speak to the media. Aradhana Johri, the secretary of the department, was not available to comment.

    This has become the hallmark of the current government’s completely opaque functioning. Nothing but speculations (rumours, according to RPS) are encouraged in such a scenario. The fact is that the decision has been taken and it has been welcomed by a section of the industry – and top officials have refused to say anything in the matter.

    4. Finally, it is an open secret that the United States has been targetting India’s patent system and as a letter by many individuals and organizations working on Intellectual Property related issues, (published in the Economic and Political Weekly, 27 September 2014) says:

    India’s IPR policy is TRIPS-compliant. India chose to use the health safeguards available in the TRIPS Agreement to protect the interests of Indian patients as well as millions of people living in other developing countries. The law requires that patented inventions are available to the public at affordable prices as well as obligates the patent holders to work their patents in India. By making use of the flexibilities in the TRIPS Agreement the Indian Patents Act and policy reduce options to pharmaceutical companies, be they Indian or foreign, to profit from diseases or those suffering from them. The Indian law has stood the test of time and judicial scrutiny. It is also increasingly serving as a model legislation for many developing countries, including Brazil….
    Meanwhile, the US continues to target India’s patent system and has amplified its pressure on India. The US trade representative continues to make illegitimate threats of unilateral trade sanctions against India through the Special 301 process. It is to undertake an out-of-cycle review of India’s IP protection and enforcement standards in the coming months.

    That is what makes the decision just days before Modi’s US visit so suspect.


    1. Glivec is branded drug, there are tons of generics in the same category, all selling for much less than the 1.08 lac price touted for glivec. So unless Novartis is irrational or the market will force it into rationality!


  15. It is a bit like the recent 45 percent hike in gas prices to please Reliance

    The greatest beneficiary of this 45% hike is not Reliance but our own publicly owned ONGC and OIL. And even for Reliance, there is the little matter that they have to first demonstrate that the loss of production is the past couple of years (or is it 3?) is not due to their own faults. Besides, even with this gargantuan hike the domestic gas price is $5.6 per mmbtu, which is way less ($8.5) than what the previous secular INC govt had given to Reliance. More importantly, it is way less than the US$ 14 or so we pay for imported gas or crude oil. (It is noteworthy that some of the folks we import gas and crude from also fund progressive organisations which have recently sprung up in places like Syria and Iraq, but here I digress.)



    1. Your expression “Secular INC govt” is revealing. If you were really interested in anything but nitpicking you would not fail to notice how outspoken our criticisms of that government have been. For you the world is simply divided into Congress and BJP.
      Just a small correction, the pitch was really queered on this issue by Arvind Kejriwal – for the UPA to start with, and has therefore created a situation where no subsequent government can simply go ahead as planned. But does it really matter? Kejriwal is neither Congress nor BJP, and in your world no one who does not belong to either of them, simply does not exist. Well enjoy!


  16. Varanasi is one of the dirtiest cities in India. Status quo is not an option. The city is full of filth and unhygienic. It needs new roads, drainage, clean water and improved facilities.


  17. Reblogged this on ESCRITORIO and commented:
    This is something to think about and Analyze! We must look at the functioning of the government with an objective eye and pose enough criticism so that things actually can Improve!
    It is very surprising that congress has kept quite over many issues where they would normally ask strong questions and try to criticize Government Policies! But this has not happened!


  18. The report from DNA quoted in the article has been disputed, and is quite possibly inaccurate. While it is true that the government has allowed price increases that should be criticized (these are upto 3%: http://www.thehindu.com/business/govt-allows-pharma-companies-to-hike-prices-of-509-essential-drugs/article7081150.ece), none of them is of the level 8000 -> 1.08 claimed by DNA. See here for a report by a doctor: http://spicyip.com/2014/10/cancer-drug-price-is-not-going-from-8000-to-1-08lakhs.html

    In particular, that article claims that generic versions of Glivec continued to be available at the old price, and the branded version of Glivec from Novartis already had the price of 1.08 lakh even before the changes.

    I hope the article is corrected to avoid further propagation of misinformation on this important topic.


    1. ahannaasmi, who has the patience to read, when you can just jump in and make a quick comment! Especially when you claim to have no aham…There are 49 comments before yours and the links that you have now produced have already been supplied above by H and RPS above and I have responded to them in detail. You may want to read that just for form’s sake:)


  19. Pingback: Vikas Dubey

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