The Supreme Court verdict on Singur land acquisition that eventually signaled the beginning of the end of CPI(M)-led Left Front’s 34 year long rule in West Bengal, has come as a breath of fresh air. It is especially so, because the advent of the Modi government at the Centre had succeeded in reinstating the logic of corporate development, brushing aside all concerns regarding environmental clearances to land acquisition, despite its attempts to undo the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act 2013 (LARR 2013), being effectively rebuffed. The implications of the Singur judgement go far beyond West Bengal, for the argument made by Justices V. Gopala Gowda and Arun Mishra underlines one thing starkly: the “brunt of development” should not be borne by the “weakest sections of the society, more so, poor agricultural workers who have no means of raising a voice against the action of the mighty State government.” While the 204 page still waits to be read more closely, it is clear that the break that the Singur-Nandigram moment had already initiated in the neoliberal consensus among the political and state elite in 2006-7, continues to acquire legitimacy. Even the 2013 Act was a consequence of that break. The SC verdict recognizes that ‘growth’ and industrialization’ do not come without costs and who pays for those costs remains a key question at the end of the day.
The tragic death of a farmer from Rajasthan occurs at a rally organized by the Aam Aadmi Party on 22 April 2015. The farmer, Gajendra Singh, hangs himself from a tree in full public view of the demonstrators, the media, the police. The electronic media had till then been barely covering the event, generally holding forth instead, in studio ‘debates’ among the opponents of AAP. Once this happened, the media spin doctors swung into action, and as Rajdeep Sardesai tweeted later, they seemed to work on an already decided script. Sardesai’s tweet said that there were clear instructions from the BJP to the media to focus only on the hung/ dying (or dead) man, and forget the rally. It seems, on a closer look, that the the second part of the instructions had perhaps already been given in advance – not to cover the rally and if at all, to attack it in sponsored studio debates. And of course, the BJP, which is the architect of the new Land Acquisition Ordinance, is an interested party in this game.
It is not entirely irrelevant to the overall politics of the media-BJP spin doctoring of ‘reports’ that the AAP government in Delhi was perhaps the first in the country to announce what is without doubt the highest compensation to farmers suffering crop losses – Rs 50, 000/- per hectare for all farmers who have suffered damage. Nor is it entirely irrelevant that the Delhi government had lent full support to the anti-land acquisition struggles and Kejriwal had himself joined in the rally held by Anna Hazare and had now taken up the land issue in all seriousness.
Thus it happens that between the BJP and the big media propaganda machine, which has on at least two previous occasions completely blacked out AAP, the stage was set. Also at work in the media-AAP relationship over a longer term now, is the role of Mukesh Ambani’s media empire, given that on a range of issues AAP has directly challenged the latter. As an aside, let me add that a very senior journalist told a friend at the height of the Delhi election campaign, that in CNN-IBN/ IBN7, clear instructions had been issued to the staff not to give more than 20 seconds exposure to Arvind Kejriwal under any circumstances. If AAP swept the Delhi elections despite that, it must say something about the limits of the media game, at least as far as the majority of the population is concerned.
This time round, there was another constituency that was waiting to move into action – the Delhi elite, especially the radical elite whose hatred of Kejriwal is simply visceral, but which had been just about tempered by the presence in his team of People Like Themselves, darlings of the media. The latter had, to use an old Maoist expression, ‘wormed its way into the party’ and was intent on fighting an ‘ethical battle for inner party democracy’ against the ‘fascist Kejriwal’, a battle in which they were fully backed by the Ambani dominated media.
The lexicon of this election is very different. Some things are being said in coded language while for others, a new language is being invented. Hindutva is repackaged and reworded with suffixes like ‘constitutional boundaries’ and anti-women, anti-dalit, anti-tribal, anti-minority and anti-poor development agenda is being openly articulated as a model that works. The latest in this frenzy about newer ways of framing things is a coinage about policy decisions, especially policy decisions that have been made in the past by the elected governments of this country (See for instance, A game changing reform strategy, Arvind Panagriya’s, TOI special op-ed, April 5, 2014).
The two key policy decisions of the UPA namely, the Industrial Disputes Act and, the Land Ceiling Act, are viewed by Mr. Panagriya as a catastrophe fallen on the Indian people who are now “condemned to forever live with our past sins”. Why do only labour and land laws, which impact the vast majority of the working classes and the peasantry of this country, become ‘sinful’? Why living with primitive judicial system or uncivilized AFPSA or dark age 377, low tax rate laws and so many others are not equivalent to living with past sins? The irony of 2014 elections, it appears, is that there is no need to specify one’s vantage point. It is the point. The author’s confidence does not end here. His argument goes on further to say that if anyone disagrees i.e. if the provinces disagree with this definition of sins, then make them fall in line by redefining the federal structure. Continue reading All About So-called Sins and the Game Plan: Atul Sood→
On 7th March 2013, at least two mothers of Dhinkia and Govindpur (Patna village in this panchayat) villages in Jagatsinghpur went naked before the paramilitary station in Mangalpada near Govindpur village. In a rally led by mothers, hundreds of women and children went to the temporary paramilitary station that has more than 5 platoons of forces at the moment. While taking off their clothes, they constantly shouted, ‘why have you come here?, what do you want to see?’.
What must be the extent of desperation and provocation that our mothers decide to become naked before outside men? In such a site (Eastern Odisha), where women bodies are constructed dominantly as private objects to hide, what does it mean to dare to bare? It is important to read this shocking act as an act of mediation of their political voices. It is in a desperate bid to express their furore, frustration & anger over intrusive presence of police & paramilitary in the area that they bared their bodies to shame them.
Update of anti-POSCO People’s Movement as on 10th June 2011, 12 noon.
· Police and protesting public are face to face now: Twenty platoon police forces with officers have already reached at the boarder of Govindpur village where more than 2000 villagers are protesting against the forceful land acquisition by government of Odisha for POSCO through 24X7 vigil.
· Protesters are determined to resist any use of force by the government and police forces. Even women and children have come to the forefront as they form the first two shields of protection.
· Senior police officers, with arms and weapons, are threatening people to dismantle through loud speakers. We will let you know the development here
Kindly call the following authorities to lodge your protest.
For the last few days, a few lines from Sahir Ludhianivi’s long poem Parchhaiyan, have been repeatedly coming back to me. A poem that I had read ever so often in my early youth and thought I had long forgotten, suddenly reappeared in a flash. Here go some of the lines (not really in the order in which they appear in the poem, but in the order in which they came to me):
चलो कि चल के सियासी मुक़ामिरों से कहें/ कि हमको जंगो-जदल के चलन से नफ़रत है
कहो कि अब कोई क़ातिल इधर अगर इधर आया/ तो हर क़दम पर ज़मीन तंग होती जाएगी
हर एक मौजे-हवा रुख़ बदल के झपटेगी…
ये खेत जाग पड़े, उठ खड़ी हुईं फ़सलें/ अब इस जगह कोई क्यारी न बेची जाएगी
[Roughly translated: Come let us tell the political gamblers/ that we hate the business of war and strife
Let us tell them that if a murderer dares to come hither/ The land will shrink with each step
Every wave of the air will turn turn against you
These fields have come alive, with the crops swaying on them
No more shall even a bed (of the field) be sold]
Though Sahir’s poem was written as a protest against war, some of these lines resonate with other, more immediately relevant matters. Ironically, Sahir was protesting against the war mongers pillaging civilain populations but here we are, with the new war mongers of our times: what else is the neo-liberal dream but that of pillage and loot of civilian populations by armed forces of civilian governments. And as they, ‘is hammam mein sab nange hain‘! [All are naked in this in this bathhouse]: From Buddhadev Bhattacharya of West Bengal to Mayawati of Uttar Pradesh – spokespersons all of the oppressed! And it makes little difference whether it is a BJP-led NDA government in power at the Centre or a Congress-led UPA.
Since January this year, I have been traveling in North Chhattisgarh to try to understand the scale of land acquisition and dislocation in a state that markets itself as India’s “Power Hub”.
There is something pretty massive going on in North Chhattisgarh – as a recent Down to Earth Cover pointed out :
The state has 10,300 MW of coalbased power capacity, including the captive 2,063 MW that industry consumes. This is about 12 per cent of India’s current coal-based power capacity. To this, it will add 56,000 MW, which is 65 per cent of the country’s coal-based installed capacity, as per the Central Electricity Authority. Nearly two-thirds of this capacity are planned in Raigarh (37 per cent) and Janjgir- Champa (34 per cent).
For this to happen, the state has to acquire vast amounts of land – in some places because the land happens to be above a coal bed, and in other because the land happens to be adjacent to a coal-bed. Most developers prefer “pit head plants”, or plants just adjacent to coal mines to reduce transportation difficulties.
Over the last month, I worked on two interesting legal cases that point to how such acquisition is taking place. I think the two cases offer an interesting insight into the sort of battles that villagers are fighting.
[Sunil is the national vice-president of Samajwadi Jan Parishad. This article was written for a special issue of Janata weekly. The essay is an important statement from one of the leading activist-theorists of the socialist movement (i.e. non-Marxist socialism) which does not simply disavow the marxist legacy but engages with that experience as an essential component of socialist practice. AN]
The tussle between capitalism and socialism as alternative visions of human society is not yet over. It is like the old fable of the race between a hare and a tortoise. At times one seems to be the winner. At other times the other seems to be leading. Capitalism is like the hare of the story. It looks fast, impressive and dynamic but after some time it is tired and resting with its own contradictions. In the end, we know it is the tortoise of socialism which will prevail. But that end is yet to be arrived at.
Capitalism looked supreme and unchallengeable in the later decades of the past century. With the disintegration of USSR, reverting of China, Vietnam and many other communist countries to the path of capitalism, and downfall of social democracy in Europe, there was no challenge to capitalism. Thus ‘end of history’ was arrogantly announced. Market fundamentalism of Reagan and Thatcher varieties started ruling over the world. But soon many crises arrived. Ecological crisis with the dangers of climate change and global warming on the one hand, and the global financial crisis with the worst recession since the thirties on the other, shook the faith in the supremacy and immortality of capitalist civilization. Added to these were the growing crises of hunger, malnutrition, homelessness, violence and war. The number of hungry people in the world kept growing and crossed the figure of 100 cores in the first decade of the twenty first century i.e. every sixth person on the earth today remains underfed and starved. This is perhaps the biggest and the most glaring failure of capitalism. Even after more than two centuries of the industrial revolution and miraculous progress of science and technology, it is unable to fulfill even the most basic need of the humankind.