Some issues on Nandigram

People’s Democracy, Vol. XXXI, No. 13, April 01, 2007

Brinda Karat

THE chief minister of West Bengal and the CPI(M) have expressed their deep distress and regret at the police firings and violence in Nandigram on March 14. Sympathisers, friends of the Left, democratic minded citizens have expressed their strong feelings on the issue. The matter is before the Kolkata High Court which has asked for more details. Once the investigation is over, action will no doubt be taken against those responsible for the excesses. The authorities have also registered FIRs on complaints of rape, made by four women several days after the reported incident. Urgent investigations are required and if found true, exemplary punishment must be meted out to those guilty. Till now two cases of rape have been confirmed by medical reports and both these are prior to the March 14 police action, the victims being CPI(M) supporters. The guilty must be brought to book and punished in these two cases also. 

This is not the only violence that the people of Nandigram have faced. Less known, their stories and tragedies ignored by the national media, around three thousand men, women and children of 12 villages of Nandigram, have been forcibly driven out of their homes and have been living in camps outside Nandigram since January 3 because they are known members or sympathisers of the CPI(M). Those killed or beaten by the police, those injured in hospital, those thousands displaced in camps are almost all poor, agricultural workers, marginal peasants or artisans, a substantial number of them are dalits. The CPI(M)’s opponents speak in terms of “their poor” and “our poor”. When representatives of the displaced sat on dharna in Kolkata, they were mocked at by Mamta Banerjee leader of the Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) who contemptuously brushed aside their suffering as ‘ CPI(M) drama.” The NGO activists and fact-finding teams who have been to Nandigram have not included the trauma of these families even as a footnote in their reports. This is not our understanding or approach. We stand in solidarity with the families of those killed and the injured in hospital just as we do with the displaced. 

It is necessary to normalise the situation. At present because of the continuing tension and refusal to allow the administration to function in the area, normal life is completely disrupted. Children have been the worst affected. In just one relief camp in Tekhali there are 67 children, 58 of whom have been forced to miss school for the last three months. Mid-day meal schemes have been stopped in 127 centres. 275 women’s self-help groups have stopped functioning. Poor people who have to move out of the area for livelihood purposes are afraid to do so. Who gains from this division of the poor, from their feelings of insecurity, loss of livelihood? Who are the forces responsible for the situation in Nandigram? There is a deep political game afoot in West Bengal which has many layers that need to be laid bare before the people.

RESISTANCE AGAINST WHAT?

It is said that the Nandigram mobilisation has been a great peaceful resistance movement. When I met the injured women in the PG Hospital in Kolkata and asked them the reason for the mobilisation on March 14 they said they had been told that the police were coming in to takeover their land. “We will never give up our land” they said. I asked them whether they had known that the chief minister had said no land is being taken. Their answer was revealing: “The BUPC has told us that the plan for land acquisition has already been made by the CPI(M) and that is why we have to guard our land day and night.” 

Why should the BUPC continue to run a campaign based on utter lies on the threat of land acquisition? Since January 9 the chief minister and government officials have been repeatedly stating that there will be no land acquisition in Nandigram since the farmers do not want it. Indeed he is the only chief minister in the country who has made such a categorical statement that a condition for land acquisition must be farmer consent. This has been a longstanding demand of all those including the CPI(M) who have been opposing the arbitrary takeover of land from farmers in different states. Normally when there is a struggle on a specific demand, in this case against land being taken over, if the demand is accepted it is claimed as a victory of the struggle and naturally the agitation is called off. 

In the huge farmers struggle in Ganganagar and other districts of Rajasthan where the CPI(M) plays an important role, police firing and violence under the BJP government between 2004 and 2006 has taken the lives of 17 farmers including one woman. The deafening silence against those killings of those who claim today to be the main defenders of farmer interests tells its own story. But the point to be made is that in the first phase of the agitation after the government was forced to agree to the demands concerning water sharing, the agitation was called off. Later when the BJP government reneged on its assurance the agitation resumed. It is precisely because the interests of farmers, the rural poor or the issue of saving the land is not the real agenda of the “resistance” in Nandigram that the chief minister’s statement was ignored. It is for this reason that the main parties in the committee, the Trinamool and the Congress have continuously boycotted the over 20 meetings called by the district administration to resolve the issue. The agenda is clearly only one, shared by all the disparate elements of the committee from the right to the extreme Left and including the various assorted foreign funded NGOs, namely, to reverse the massive mandate given to the CPI(M) in the last elections. It is a straight political battle, not to do with bhumi ucched (land displacement) but for CPI(M) “ucched.” 

NOT PEACEFUL, NOT DEMOCRATIC

There was nothing peaceful about the BUPC organised protest on January 3 and subsequently. That was the day a team from the central government was visiting the area as a village was going to be recognised as a “nirmal” district. Using that as a pretext the committee succeeded in whipping up a genuine fear among the local communities, created by the Haldia Development Authority notice that the team had come to finalise the takeover of their land. The fear and concern among a wide section of people in the area was used as a sanction for violence. Two gram panchayat offices were attacked and locked up. The two pradhans, Sameerun Bibi and Lakshman Mandal were driven out of the village. Houses of CPI(M) members and sympathisers were identified in an organised way and attacked. In one day, 34 homes were burnt, 41 houses were broken into and household goods smashed, 47 houses were looted. Thousands were driven out. Sobita Sumanta is one of the many displaced women who had come to meet the various authorities in Kolkata. Her husband Shankar Samanta was an elected gram panchayat member. On January 3 he had tried to reason with the leaders of the committee not to indulge in violence. He resisted attempts to drive out CPI(M) sympathisers from the villages. He paid the price for it. On January 7 he was burnt alive by an armed group of people. Kanika Mandal is also among the displaced. On January 3, her husband and two young sons were forced to flee from their home in Sonachura. She and her younger daughter Sunita, a bright student in Class 9 continued to live in the village under constant threat. On February 10, at around noon mother and daughter were working in the field. Sunita returned early to the house. When her mother came back she found her daughter killed. The medical report confirmed rape. She was warned not to follow up the case with the police. She fled the village and is now in the camp. Kakoli Giri was driven out of her village of Kalcharanpur along with her husband and children. On March 3, she went back to check on her belongings. She was surrounded by a group of men who g
ang raped her. Since she had not returned, her anxious son came in search of her. He found her lying unconscious and somehow brought her back to the camp. Her medical report has confirmed rape. Krishna, an activist of the AIDWA took her to meet the women’s commission. The women’s commission was prevented from following up the report. The police have been unable to follow the investigation leave alone arrest those responsible. Krishna herself received death threats for taking up the case and lives in fear. Earlier a police personnel had been lynched, and his body thrown into the river. Not a single person has been arrested for these murder and rapes. They have all taken shelter behind the “peaceful resistance.” 

The displaced women, each with a personal tragedy to narrate, are bitter when asked why they did not resist. We were unprepared, it was so unexpected, and they were fully prepared and armed. Do you think they drove us out with flowers, they ask, the men were armed with guns and axes. They say that all political activity in the area in opposition to the BUPC is banned literally with arms. On January 29 the CPI(M) and Kisan Sabha had organised a big rally in an area neighbouring Nandigram. The people in the two worst affected panchayats were warned not to attend the rally. But some still did. On the following day, 14 more families were driven out of their village for defying the dictat. There are approximately 7000 women who are members of the AIDWA in the affected area. Today almost one third of them, have been forced to leave their homes. The rest who are in the villages live in fear and terror sending out messages from time to time about their plight. Among those forcibly driven out are 13 panchayat members including women. What about their democratic and human rights? 

BUPC Dictats

After the successful forced displacement of thousands of CPI(M) families, the area was barricaded. Over 116 culverts, bridges and roads were broken and dug up. Four panchayat offices have been attacked. Government officials including teachers and employees have not been allowed to enter. Any other government would have immediately sent in its forces to ensure an end to this lawlessness. The West Bengal government refrained from doing so precisely because it believed that it was essential to start a political process. But this approach was rejected by the opposition. Since there are no elected members in some of the areas, no government officials accountable, there is a kind of dictatorship of the leaders of the BUPC who operate according to their will. Money is being reportedly collected from every household in the name of protection, every house has to send one person to “guard” the village and if they do not do so they have to pay a fine. There were 17 reported criminal offences in the area in this period with no action taken.

Evidence available and reported on some of the Bengali TV channels shows the meticulous planning of the BUPC preceding the incidents of March 14. Recorded conversations of organisers owing allegiance to the TMC clearly indicate the amount of money spent on procuring arms, bombs etc. The date of the administration’s plan to start rebuilding the roads and culverts and the police and administrative move to reestablish the government’s presence in the area was known to the organisers. The main concern expressed in the taped conversations is how to prevent the seizure of weapons by the police. Names of two TMC leaders are also mentioned. The taped conversations reveal that the planning included holding a puja in one area, and mobilising of women and children in school uniform to act as a shield for the armed men who attacked the police. There is also video footage available of the men lurking behind the women with guns. The utter cynicism and criminal callousness of those who deliberately used women and children as a shield while wielding arms is unprecedented. Of those killed, two died due to bomb injuries, one due to injury from a sharp weapon, and a few more due to gunshot injuries which were not police bullets. Who was throwing these bombs and wielding arms? There is a totally false campaign that the CPI(M) men went into the area along with the police. This is being linked to the arrests of ten men reportedly CPI(M) men, who were found in a brick kiln by the CBI team with arms and ammunition. No doubt the investigations will reveal their role and the reason for their presence in Tekhali. This incidentally is the area where a CPI(M) camp for displaced people is set up and which had been brutally attacked on January 5, leading to the deaths of several people. It was once again attacked on March 21 and the camp itself was sought to be burnt down but fortunately there were no casualties because many of the inmates were in Kolkata that day. But to link this up with a so-called joint operation of the police and the CPI(M) in Nandigram on March 14, is a deliberate canard to shield the role of the armed groups in the barricaded area.

No, there is little that is democratic or peaceful about the “resistance.” 

Political Gang-up 

There is a gang-up of political parties ranging from the BJP, the TMC, the Congress, the SUCI and the various naxal outfits. On March 17, the Maoists issued a statement calling for a Bangla bandh on March 20. The secretary of the CPI-Maoist, Soumen also wrote a letter to Mamta Banerjee published by some Bengali newspapers extending full support to her and assuring the backing of the Maoists for “the resistance struggle.” The letter states “We were there in Singur, we are there in Nandigram and we will stay. We will not leave the place.” Such statements should not be dismissed as rhetoric. The geographical location of this belt is crucial for the spread of the Maoists “liberated” belt stretching from areas of Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa. Bengal is the big block and barrier in the Maoist thrust to the east. Already there are reports that the sea route through the Bay of Bengal is being used by the Maoists to come into Nandigram. Undoubtedly there are huge arms stockpiles in the area. Neither the CBI team or the local police has been able to go to any of these areas. In fact the police withdrawal from the area after the March 14 has further facilitated the entry of the Maoists.

Surprisingly, the High Court which made an unprecedented intervention ordering a CBI inquiry without so much as hearing the state government has not yet taken note of these developments. The plan of digging up roads and areas and preventing the entry of officials in different parts of Bengal has now been adopted as a strategy by the TMC. In a thinly attended meeting in Deganga on March 25, Mamta Banerjee has given a call to “create areas free from the CPI(M) and the government.” The implications of this are ominous. In the last few days Bengal has witnessed incidents when miscreants armed with bombs and pipeguns have attacked CPI(M) Party offices. Rumours to mislead the peasantry about land acquisition are deliberately spread. The Party has adopted a policy of utter restraint. The challenge will be met with a widespread political campaign approaching all sections of the people with the facts. 

But what however to be noted is the close coordination between the TMC and the group of NGOs functioning under different platforms, but united in the BUPC. In fact the NGOs and some nationally known figures and commentators have provided a cover of so-called impartiality to the reactionary political forces operating. In fact it is they who have more or less taken over the public face of the anti-CPI(M) campaign. 

Concerted Campaign of Misinformation

One part of the campaign is a number of highly exaggerated and sometimes self-contradictory reports from various sources about the incidents of March 14 and subsequent events. Wild allegations have been leveled at the Party from the killing of children, mass rape of women to massacre and burying of dead bodies. Three such investigation reports have been circulating on the net. The first of these is by a team of
the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights which claims to have been ‘deputed by the High Court.’ A perusal of the High Court order makes it clear that there is no such team deputed by the High Court. However the APDR are the petitioners in the High Court case. The second report is that of Medha Patkar and company called the All India fact-finding team report. The third is the CPI-ML team report that was led by its general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya. On the night of March 14 itself , wild rumours were circulating through SMS and e-mail by NGOs in different states about the violence against children. There is no doubt that the children of Nandigram’s affected areas have been severely traumatised by the violence since January 3 and the complete disruption of their routine. Everything must be done to help the children. But look at the “impartial” reports: The APDR report says ‘ Children were murdered indiscriminately, bodies have been thrown into the nearby Chuniburi river.’ The next sentence reads ‘Eight children of primary schools have been killed by the murderers and then all those children were buried in a particular place in the Bhangabhera area.’ The Patkar report says ” 35 children are missing… children from other villages are also missing. The parents apprehend that they are killed and their bodies abducted. Uniforms of two school children were found in nearby bushes. Incidents of children being killed and torn apart by pulling aside their two legs were also reported.” The ML report says: Women have recounted their children being torn apart…” Yet not a single report of a single missing child has been filed with the police. Why did not these leaders help the mothers register cases with the police? Even an ordinary citizen leave alone such internationally recognised eminent individuals would have considered it their bounden duty to file complaints of “children being torn apart.’ But they did not. Clearly such reports are concocted with the one aim to spread rumours and inflame passions. The situation of women is also highly coloured. The first reports of rape were revealed to the BJP team. The team said that after detailed interviews with women hospitalised, two women said that they were raped by unknown policemen. This was on March 17. The same day the “two women” becomes “women raped and molested” implying a large number of women were affected in the Patkar report but no fresh FIRs were filed. The ML report takes it further “there were gang rapes and brutal assaults of a sexual nature…” But did they meet any of the women? Their report reads “the women we spoke to spoke of six other rape victims who were not examined due to pressure from above.” A report from an NGO calling itself the Medical Service Centre (MSC) which has been the source of information for the media on the charge of “mass rapes” claimed that four of the women in the hospital said they themselves were rape victims. There are further charges made that on the night of March 14, after the firing, there was ” mass rape of the women.” The Patkar report says ” the police and cadres dragged people out and raped and molested the women inside..” The ML report links the rapes with the arrests of the alleged CPI(M) men from Tekhali. It reports the arrests thus ” The CBI sleuths who raided the brick kiln came across.. women’s underclothes.’

This utterly false reporting is reminiscent of the highly motivated campaign several decades ago when the Left front was in its infancy and under severe attack, an incident of a badly managed function in Rabindra Sarobar on April 6, 1969 became the focus of a vicious campaign that under the Left Front, goondas had a field day. A newspaper report of the time is illustrative that described “torn pieces of sarees and a good number of underclothes were found scattered all over the place.” A huge campaign started against the Left and the CPI(M) in particular. Fact finding committees were setup to defend “human rights and a League to be formed for defence as during the nazi regime.” 175 MPs from different parties issued a statement which spoke about “mass scale molestation of women, women being stripped, jumping into the lake to save their honour, several dead bodies of women have been recovered from the lake water..” and so on. The enquiry that was set up established conclusively that this was a huge fabrication. Yet another unfortunate case was that of Champala Sardar. Champala was used to concoct a totally fabricated case of rape against CPI(M) men by the TMC at the time of the 1993 panchayat elections. The CPI(M) men named by Champala were arrested. She was cruelly paraded at meeting after meeting by Mamata Banerjee as a symbol of CPI(M) criminality. The opposition campaign focussed on the issue. Later it was found that the case was fabricated and all the men were acquitted. Champala herself was abandoned soon after the elections were over. 

The plight of women in Nandigram causes deep concern to all those who have worked with women victims of violence. Police action may have involved cases of brutality which may not exclude those of a sexual nature. As has been stated earlier a proper investigation into the complaints is essential and action required against those guilty. But to exaggerate and concoct reports for narrow political ends is insulting to the dignity of the women. It also undermines the hard struggle by women’s organisations to give extra weightage to the statements of the women victims where medical evidence is not available. But if women are used as tools in a politically motivated campaign as in Nandigram by the BUPC it undermines the very credibility of the demand.

Political Context

The immediate aim of the TMC led campaign has been openly stated to be the next round of panchayat elections scheduled for May 2008. The Congress party in the state has even demanded president’s rule. A union minister from the state has made the most intemperate statements against the chief minister. The aim is to continuously provoke incidents in the name of saving the interests of farmers. The CPI(M) will have to face a combined onslaught of all these political forces in the state working in tandem with the ultra Left and being provided a cover by some self-serving NGOs. 

But the implications of the current campaign against the Party are not limited to Bengal alone. In the present national political situation the CPI(M) has been playing a crucial role in defence of the interests of the working classes and the rural poor putting forward a set of alternative policies. This stand has received wide recognition and caused much consternation to the neo-liberalisers. The BJP also knows that the CPI(M) is a big hindrance in what it considers its comeback trail which is why even though it does not have a single MLA in Bengal, it has focused its national campaign against the CPI(M). The cadre of the Party who are being villified today are those who have selflessly fought to defend secularism and the unity of the people and defended the interests of the working people. The effort is to demoralise the Party and villify it, to isolate it and thus weaken the only credible opposition to the exploitative policies of the ruling classes. It is also not a coincidence that US officials in India held an unprecedented meeting with a leader involved in the mobilisations of the minority community in Nandigram. The categorical position the CPI(M) has taken against the strategic partnership with the US being pushed by the Indian ruling classes and a section of the establishment, is reason enough for these interests to lend their support to the anti-CPI(M) platforms.

Some well intentioned commentators have called on the CPI(M) to introspect on the different issues that have arisen. That is a process which is an intrinsic part of the Party’s functioning at all levels. Appropriate lessons are drawn from the collective experience of critically analysing the Party’s work and policies with a view to addressing and removing weaknesses, lapses and gaps whenever and wherever they exist. The most widespread campaign is re
quired throughout the country to explain not only to our friends but also to our critics and to the people in general the context of the Nandigram developments and to launch a strong united campaign to counter the highly motivated campaign against the CPI(M) and the government it heads in West Bengal.

Asking the state to grab land has to stop

http://mbalamurugan.blogspot.com/2007/03/asking-st…

For fifty years, ever since he won his first election to Parliament, the same jibe has been hurled at Atal Bihari Vajpayee: ‘A good man in a bad party!’ From time to time, this would be accompanied by mock-sympathetic invitations to join Party X or Party Y or Party Z.
The former prime minister is a tolerant man. Someone less forgiving would be tempted to turn the tables on his tormentors today, and muse aloud that Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee too is a ‘good man in a bad party’, and invite the beleaguered chief minister of West Bengal to leave his carping comrades for more congenial company!
I refer, of course, to Nandigram. The CPI-M is currently tying itself up in knots over the issue, its carefully cultivated image as the ‘people’s champion’ torn to shreds by the sight of all hell breaking loose in the green fields of Nandigram.
Even its allies in the Left Front are enjoying the discomfiture of the Marxist Big Brother, while the Congress has been dropping broad hints that any tie-up with the CPI-M is limited to Delhi, and definitely does not extend to West Bengal and Kerala.
The non-CPI-M parties are having so much fun abusing the CPI-M that they probably did not hear a couple of interesting statements, two by Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and one by the party boss in Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan. Both men, however, are senior politicians and we must at least pay them the courtesy of hearing them out.
Here, first, is what the chief minister of West Bengal had to say about the genesis of the problem in Nandigram. It was, he said bluntly, the handiwork of Muslim fundamentalists.
You must also know that Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said this not once, but twice. Even more interestingly, on each occasion it was to American listeners. I understand that the first statement came at a meeting with an Indo-American business council. The second, more intriguingly, was to a high official, with links to the US intelligence establishment, who had called on the chief minister.
Can you imagine the furore had a BJP chief minister said anything of the kind? (Actually, can you imagine the howls of outrage had a BJP functionary at any level met an American official?) Yet Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s remarks won little or no attention in a media titillated by Bob Woolmer’s murder.
Please note that the chief minister of West Bengal is one of the few ‘secular’ functionaries with any credibility on the issue of Muslim fundamentalism in India. He had previously spoken of the dangers of unchecked illegal immigration from Bangladesh, not once but repeatedly so.
Let us now turn to Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan’s bastion. According to the party boss, the West Bengal firing in Nandigram was in ‘self-defence.’ Please ponder a little over the implications of that statement. Pinarayi Vijayan is one of the 16 current members of the CPI-M Politburo, a man who has himself been a minister in Kerala. And he is saying that the agitators in Nandigram were equipped with modern arms, not just the crude spears and scythes they waved before the television cameras.
For more than half a century, Communists of all stripes have had two whipping-boys, namely ‘Western imperialism’ and ‘Hindu fundamentalism’. But today two senior CPI-M functionaries are blaming neither; they are laying all the blame at the doors of well-armed Muslim fundamentalists, probably instigated from abroad. If they are correct then the tragedy of Nandigram has only begun to unfold.
I have given you one side of the story. In the interests of fairness, here is an attempt at presenting the other side.
Let us grant that there is a heavy Muslim presence in Nandigram, where, I was told, roughly 40 per cent of the population is Muslim. But opposition to the CPI-M cut across the Hindu-Muslim divide, and the 60 per cent of the population that is Hindu appeared to be as vehemently anti-CPI-M as anyone else.
If reports are true, CPI-M workers in the area actually thought it necessary to band together in a safe camp!
Second, there is the peculiar incident that happened when Mamata Bannerjee tried to reach Nandigram. The CPI-M immediately accused her of fishing in troubled waters, and CPI-M workers prevented her entourage from getting to Nandigram. I repeat: It was not the police but the CPI-M proper that stopped her.
In other words, Nandigram was an area under siege by the Marxist cadre — which casts a smidgen of doubt on Pinarayi Vijayan’s portrait of his West Bengal comrades coming under fire.
There is one final point that I would like to make, namely that we should not ignore the economics while debating the politics. Special Economic Zones are here to stay. Lay aside Nandigram, or even West Bengal as a whole. The fact is that several chief ministers have recently written to Delhi, demanding that the Union government give the green signal to their own Special Economic Zones. That includes states such as Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, both of which have chief ministers belonging to the United Progressive Alliance.
The brutal fact is that agriculture has reached its limit as far as employment generation is concerned; the industrial and services sectors need to grow if future generations of India must get jobs, and if Special Economic Zones can give the process a boost, so be it.
But if Special Economic Zones are here to stay, why should the State get involved in acquiring land? Let the barons of industry negotiate directly with the owners of the land. If the current proprietors do not wish to sell, let industrialists persuade them to lease it. Or perhaps they could offer a combination of rent plus dividends, something that would make the peasants feel as if they have some stake in industrial enterprises coming up in their area.
The private sector often boasts of its capacity for innovation. Well, here is the opportunity to be proven correct. Persuade the peasant proprietors to part with property if you can manage it. But this business of asking the State to grab the land has got to stop!

India is colonising itself

By Arundhati Roy & Shoma Chaudhuri

26 March, 2007
Tehelka

There is an atmosphere of growing violence across the country. How do you read the signs? Do you think it will grow more in the days to come? What are its causes? In what context should all this be read?

You don’t have to be a genius to read the signs. We have a growing middle class, being reared on a diet of radical consumerism and aggressive greed. Unlike industrializing western countries which had colonies from which to plunder resources and generate slave labour to feed this process, we have to colonize ourselves, our own nether parts. We’ve begun to eat our own limbs. The greed that is being generated (and marketed as a value interchangeable with nationalism) can only be sated by grabbing land, water and resources from the vulnerable. What we’re witnessing is the most successful secessionist struggle ever waged in Independent India. The secession of the middle and upper classes from the rest of the country. It’s a vertical secession, not a lateral one. They’re fighting for the right to merge with the world’s elite somewhere up there in the stratosphere. They’ve managed to commandeer the resources , the coal, the minerals, the bauxite, the water and electricity. Now they want the land to make more cars, more bombs, more mines – super toys for the new super citizens of the new superpower. So it’s outright war, and people on both sides are choosing their weapons. The government and the corporations reach for Structural Adjustment, the World Bank, the ADB, FDI, friendly court orders, friendly policy makers, help from the ‘friendly’ corporate media and a police force that will ram all this down peoples’ throats. Those who want to resist this process have, until now, reached for dharnas, hunger-strikes, satyagraha, the courts, and what they thought was friendly media. But now, more and more are reaching for guns. Will the violence grow? If the ‘growth rate’ and the sensex are going to be the only barometres the government uses to measure progress and the well-being of people, then of course it will. How do I read the signs? It isn’t hard to read sky-writing. What it says up there, in big letters is this: The shit has hit the fan, folks.

You once remarked that though you may not resort to violence yourself, you think it has become immoral to condemn it, given the circumstances in the country. Can you elaborate on this view?

I’d be a liability as a guerilla! I doubt I used the word ‘immoral’-morality is an elusive business, as changeable as the weather. What I feel is this: Non-violent movements have, for decades knocked on the door of every democratic institution in this country and have been spurned and humiliated. Look at the Bhopal Gas victims, the Narmada Bachao Andolan. The NBA for example, had a lot going for it, high profile leadership, media coverage, more resources than any other mass movement. What went wrong? People are bound to want to re-think strategy. When Sonia Gandhi begins to promote Satyagraha at the World Economic Forum in Davos it’s time for us to sit up and think. For example, is mass civil disobedience possible within the structure of a democratic nation-state? Is it possible in the age of disinformation and corporate-controlled mass media? Are hunger-strikes umblically linked to celebrity politics? Would anybody care if the people of Nangla Machhi or Bhatti mines went on a hunger-strike? Sharmila Irom has been on a hunger strike for six years. That should be a salutary lesson to many of us. I’ve always felt that it’s ironic that hunger-strikes are used as a political weapon in a land where most people go hungry anyway. We are in a different time and place now. Up against a different, more complex adversary. We’ve entered the era of NGOs – or should I say the era of palthu shers – in which mass action can be a treacherous business. We have demonstrations which are funded, we have sponsored dharnas and social forums which posture militantly but never follow up on what they preach. We have all kinds of ‘virtual’ resistance. Meetings against SEZs sponsored by the biggest promoters of SEZs. Awards and grants for environmental activism and community action given by corporations responsible for devastating whole ecosystems. Vedanta, a company mining bauxite in the forests of Orissa wants to start a university. The Tatas have two charitable trusts that directly and indirectly, fund activists and mass movements across the country. Could that be why Singur has drawn so much less flak than Nandigram, and why they have not targeted, boycotted, gheraoed? Of course the Tatas and Birlas funded Gandhi too – maybe he was our first NGO. But now we have NGOs who make a lot of noise, write a lot of reports,but who the sarkar is more than comfortable with. How do we make sense of all this? The place is crawling with professional diffusers of real political action. ‘Virtual resistance’ has become something of a liability.

There was a time when mass movements looked to the courts for justice. The courts have rained down a series of judgments that are so unjust, so insulting to the poor in the language they use, they take your breath away. A recent Supreme Court judgment allowing the Vasant Kunj Mall to resume construction though it didn’t have the requisite clearances said in so many words, that the question of Corporations indulging in malpractice does not arise! In the era of corporate globalization, corporate land-grab, in the era of Enron and Monsanto, Halliburton and Bechtel, that’s a loaded thing to say. It exposes the ideological heart of the most powerful institution in this country. The judiciary along with the corporate press, is now seen as the lynchpin of the neo-liberal project.

In a climate like this when people feel that they are being worn down, exhausted by these interminable ‘democratic’ processes, only to be humiliated eventually, what are they supposed to do? Of course it isn’t as though the only options are binary – violence versus non-violence. There are political parties that believe in armed struggle, but only as one part of their overall political strategy. Political workers in these struggles have been dealt with brutally, killed, beaten, imprisoned under false charges. People are fully aware that to take to arms is to call down upon yourself the myriad forms of violence of the Indian State. The minute armed struggle becomes a strategy, your whole world shrinks and the colors fade to black and white. But when people decide to take that step because every other option has ended in despair–should we condemn them? Does anyone believe that if the people of Nandigram had held a Dharna and sung songs the West Bengal Government would have backed down? We are living in times, when to be ineffective is to support the status quo (which no doubt suits some of us). And being effective comes at a terrible price. I find it hard to condemn people who are prepared to pay that price.
You have been traveling a lot on the ground — can you give us a sense of the fissures you are seeing on the ground. What are the trouble spots you have been to? Can you outline a few of the combat lines in these places?

Huge question – what can I say? The military occupation of Kashmir, neo-facism in Gujarat, civil war in Chhattisgarh, MNCs raping Orissa, the submergence of hundreds of villages in the Narmada Valley, people living on the edge of absolute starvation, the devastation of forest land, the Bhopal victims living to see the West Bengal government re-wooing Union Carbide – now calling itself Dow Chemicals – in Nandigram. I haven’t been recently to Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharshtra, but we know about the almost hundred thousand farmers who have killed themselves. We know about the fake encounters and the terrible repression in Andhra Pradesh. Each of these places is has its own particular history, economy, ecology. None is amenable to easy analysis. And yet there is connecting tissue, there are huge internatio
nal cultural and economic pressures being brought to bear on them. How can I not mention the Hindutva project, spreading its poison sub-cutaneously, waiting to errupt once again. I’d say the biggest indictment of all is that we are still a country, a culture a society which continues to nurture and practice the notion of untouchability. While our economists number-crunch and boast about the growth rate, a million people, human scavengers – earn their living carrying several kilos of other peoples’ shit on their heads every day. And if they didn’t carry shit on their heads they would starve to death. Some fucking superpower this.

How does one view the recent State and police violence in Bengal?

No different from police and State violence anywhere else – including the issue of hypocrisy and doublespeak so perfected by all political parties including the mainstream Left. Are communist bullets different from capitalist ones? Odd things are happening. It snowed in Saudi Arabia. Owls are out in broad daylight. The Chinese Government tabled a bill sanctioning the right to private property. I don’t know if all of this has to do with climate change. The Chinese Communists are turning out to be the biggest capitalists of the 21st century. Why should we expect our own Parliamentary Left to be any different? Nandigram and Singur are clear signals. It makes you wonder – is the last stop of every revolution advanced capitalism? Think about it – the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution, the Vietnam War, the Anti- Apartheid struggle, the supposedly Gandhian Freedom struggle in India…what’s the last station they all pull in at? Is this the end of imagination?

The Maoist attack in Bijapur — the death of 55 policemen. Are the rebels only a flip face of the State?

How can the rebels be the flip side of the state? Would anybody say that those who fought against Apartheid – however brutal their methods – were the flip side of the state? What about those who fought the French in Algeria? Or those who fought the Nazis? Or those who fought Colonial Regimes? Or those who are fighting the US occupation of Iraq? Are they the flip side of the State? This facile new report-driven ‘human rights’ discourse, this meaningless condemnation game that we all are forced to play, makes politicians of us all and leaches the real politics out of everything. However pristine we would like to be, however hard we polish our halos, the tragedy is that we have run out of pristine choices. There is a civil war in Chattisgarh sponsored, created by the Chattisgarh Government which is publicly pursing the Bush doctrine – if you’re not with us, you are with the terrorists. The lynch pin of this war, apart from the formal security forces, is the Salwa Judum – a government backed militia of ordinary people forced to take up arms, forced to become SPOs (Special Police Officers). The Indian State has tried this in Kashmir, in Manipur, in Nagaland. Tens of thousands have been killed, hundreds of thousands tortured, thousands have disappeared. Any Banana Republic would be proud of this record.. Now the government wants to import these failed strategies into the heartland. Thousands of Adivasis have been forcibly moved off their mineral –rich lands into police camps. Hundreds of villages have been forcibly evacuated. Those lands, rich in iron-ore are being eyed by corporations like the Tatas and Essar. MOUs have been signed, but no one knows what they say. Land Acquisition has begun. This kind of thing happened in countries like Colombia – one of the most devastated countries in the world. While everybody’s eyes are fixed on the spiraling violence between government backed militias and guerilla squads, multinational corporations quietly make off with the mineral wealth. That’s the little piece of theatre being scripted for us in Chattisgarh.

Of course it’s horrible that 55 policemen were killed. But they’re as much the victims of Government policy as anybody else. For the Government and the Corporations they’re just cannon fodder – there’s plenty more where they came from. Crocodile tears will be shed, prim TV anchors will hector us for a while and then more supplies of fodder will be arranged. For the Maoist guerillas the police and SPOs they killed were the armed personnel of the Indian State, the main, perpetrators of repression, torture, custodial killings, false encounters. The ones whose professional duties involve burning villages and raping women. They’re not innocent civilians – if such a thing exists – by any stretch of imagination.

I have no doubt that the Maoists can be agents of terror and coercion too. I have no doubt they have committed unspeakable atrocities. I have no doubt they cannot lay claim to undisputed support from local people – but who can? Still, no guerrilla army can survive without local support. That’s a logistical impossibility. And the support for Maoists is growing, not diminishing. That says something. People have no choice but to align themselves on the side of whoever they think is less worse.

But to equate a resistance movement fighting against enormous injustice, with the Government which enforces that injustice is absurd. The government has slammed the door in the face of every attempt at non-violent resistance. When people take to arms, there is going to be all kinds of violence – revolutionary, lumpen and outright criminal. The government is responsible for the monstrous situations it creates.

The term Naxals and Maoists and outsiders is being used very loosely these days. Can you declutter it.

‘Outsiders’ is a generic accusation used in the early stages of repression by governments who have begun to believe their own publicity and can’t imagine that people have risen up against them. That’s the stage the CPI (M) is at now in Bengal, though some would say repression in Bengal is not new, it has only moved into higher gear.. In any case what’s an outsider? Who decides the borders? Are they village boundaries? Tehsil? Block? District? State? Is narrow regional and ethnic politics the new communist mantra? About Naxals and Maoists – well… India is about to become a police state in which everybody who disagrees with what’s going on risks being called a terrorist. Islamic terrorists have to be Islamic – so that’s not good enough to cover most of us. They need a bigger catchment area. So leaving the definition loose, undefined, is effective strategy, because the time is not far off when we’ll all be called Maoists or Naxalites, terrorists or terrorist sympathisers and shut down, by people who don’t really know – or care -who Maoists or Naxalites are. In villages of course that has begun – thousands of people are being held in jails across the country, loosely charged with being terrorists trying to overthrow the state. Who are the real Naxalites and Maoists? I’m not an authority on the subject, but here’s a very rudimentary potted history.

The Communist Party of India the CPI was formed in 1925. The CPI (M) Communist Party Marxist- split from the CPI in 1964 and formed a separate party. Both of course were parliamentary political parties. In 1967 the CPI (M) along with a splinter group of the Congress, came to power in West Bengal. At the time there was massive unrest among starving peasantry in the countryside. Local leaders of the CPI(M) – Kanu Sanyal and Charu Mazumdar led a peasant uprising in the district of Naxalbari which is where the term Naxalites comes from. In 1969 the government fell and the Congress came back to power under Siddharta Shankar Ray. The naxalite uprising was mercilessly crushed – Mahashweta Devi has written powerfully about this time. In 1969 the CPI (ML) – Marxist Leninist split from the CPI (M). A few years later around 1971, the CPI (ML) devolved into several parties: the CPI -ML (Liberation) largely centred in Bihar, CPI –ML (New Democracy) functioning for the most part out of Andhra Pradesh and Bihar, the CPI-ML (Class Struggle) mainly in Bengal. These parties have been gen
erically baptized ‘Naxalites.’ They see themselves as Marxist Leninist, not strictly speaking Maoist. They believe in elections, mass action and, when, absolutely pushed to the wall or attacked- armed struggle. The MCC – the Maoist Communist Centre at the time mostly operating in Bihar was formed in 1968. The PW Peoples War, operational for the most part in Andhra Pradesh was formed in 1980. Recently, in 2004 the MCC and the PW merged to form the CPI (Maoist) They believe in outright armed struggle and the overthrowing of the state. They don’t participate in elections. This is the party that is fighting the guerilla war in Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Jharkhand.

The Indian state and media largely view the Maoists as “internal security” threat. Is this the way to look at them?

I’m sure the Maoists would be flattered to be viewed in this way.
The Maoists want to bring down the State. Given the autocratic ideology they take their inspiration from, what alternative would they set up? Wouldn’t their regime be an exploitative autocratic violent one as well? Isn’t their action already exploitative of ordinary people? Do they really have the support of ordinary people?

I think it’s important for us to acknowledge that both Mao and Stalin are dubious heroes with murderous pasts. Tens of millions of people were killed under their regimes. Apart from what happened in China and the Soviet Union, Pol Pot, with the support of the Chinese communist party (while the West looked away discreetly) wiped out two million people in Cambodia and brought millions of people to the brink of extinction from disease and starvation. Can we pretend that China’s cultural revolution didn’t happen? Or that that millions of people in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe were not victims of labour camps, torture chambers, the network of spies and informers, the secret police. The history of these regimes is just as dark as the history of Western Imperialism, except for the fact that they had a shorter life-span. We cannot condemn the occupation of Iraq, Palestine and Kashmir while we remain silent about Tibet and Chechnya. I would imagine that for the Maoists, the Naxalites as well as the mainstream Left, being honest about the past is important to strengthen peoples’ faith in the future. One hopes the past will not be repeated, but denying that it ever happened doesn’t help inspire confidence….Nevertheless, in this part of the world, the Maoists in Nepal have waged a brave and successful struggle against the monarchy in Nepal. Right now in India the Maoists and the various Marxist Leninist Groups are leading the fight against immense injustice in India. They are fighting not just the State, but feudal landlords and their armed militias. They are the only people who are making a dent. And I admire that. It may well be that when they come to power they will as you say, be brutal, unjust and autocratic, even worse than the present government. Maybe, but I’m not prepared to assume that in advance. If they are, we’ll have to fight them too. And most likely someone like myself will be the first person they’ll string up from the nearest tree – but right now, it is important to acknowledge that they are bearing the brunt of being at the forefront of resistance. Many of us are in a position where we have are beginning to align ourselves on the side of those who we know have no place for us in their religious or ideological imagination. It’s true that everybody changes radically when they come to power – look at Mandela’s ANC. Corrupt, capitalist, bowing to the IMF, driving the poor out of their homes – honouring Suharto the killer of hundreds of thousands of Indonesian communists with South Africa’s highest civilian award. Who would have thought it could happen? But does this mean South Africans should have backed away from the struggle against apartheid? Or that they should regret it now? Does it mean Algeria should have remained a French Colony, that Kashmiris, Iraqis and Palestinians should accept military occupation? That people whose dignity is being assaulted should give up the fight because they can’t find saints to lead them into battle?

Is there a communication breakdown in our society?

Yes.

Govt. changes SEZ rehab rules, onus on developer to provide as per state policy

 

Vikas Dhoot

New Delhi, March 21: With the government still to give final shape to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s promise of a ‘humane’ National Relief and Rehabilitation policy for the project-affected, the Commerce Ministry today notified changes in rules for special economic zones, making SEZ developers solely responsible for rehabilitation of displaced persons, indicating that state governments should steer clear of acquiring land on behalf of developers.

The notification, issued ahead of a meeting of UPA and Left leaders called by the PM, stated “the developer shall make adequate provision for rehabilitation of displaced persons as per the relief and rehabilitation policy of the state government”.

To allay fears of real estate grabbing in the name of SEZs, the Commerce Ministry has also reduced the validity of ‘in-principle’ approvals from three years to one year. This should keep out ‘speculative’ developers and ensure that developers acquire the requisite land and make good their investment promises as soon as possible or risk losing their approvals altogether.

The validity for formal approval, however, remains three years as it’s not possible for a developer to get formal approval unless the land acquisition and other formalities with the state governments are complete within a year of getting an in-principle nod from the Board of Approvals.

on SEZ dharna, Tikait gets call from PMO

Express News Service

Posted online: Thursday, March 22, 2007

NEW DELHI, MARCH 21: The UPA government was reaching out to Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Mahendra Singh Tikait as it met the kisan leader who was camping in the capital to demand scrapping of the Special Economic Zone Law of 2005 calling it an “undemocratic way of making use of farmers’ land for industrialistion”.

On Wednesday evening, Tikait held an exhaustive meeting at the PMO, shortly before the UPA dinner, along with members of the Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movement (ICCFM) who say the SEZ law will only benefit big companies while fertile farmland will be acquired at throwaway prices. The farmers movement also held a demonstration in this connection on Wednesday.

The farmers have asked the UPA government to stop farmers’ suicides by waiving their loans. They also asked agriculture to be kept outside the purview of world trade. They asked the government to keep a tab on prices and to stop commercialisation of agriculture. The coordination committee wants the government to scrap the Indo-US pact on Agriculture and Seed Bill, 2005 as well.

The meeting in the PMO came against the backdrop of efforts to rope in the kisan leader using his base in Western Uttar Pradesh to help the Congress in the coming Assembly polls. Other members of the coordination committee are Yudhvir Singh, Sardar Gumnaam Singh and Ajmer Singh Lakhowal.

Justice V. Krishan Iyer’ letter to Prakash Karat on Nandigram

My dear Prakash Karat,

            I adore you as the top leader of the Marxist Party even as I hold Com. Jyoti Basu as a creative wonder of the Communist Marxist Party.  As you know, I remained in power with the Communist Government in 1956 in Kerala under the charismatic Chiefministership of EMS, the great Leftist thinker.  But alas!, in West Bengal things are murky, capitalism is happy, poor peasantry is in privation and deprivation, if newspaper reports throw light on events objectively.   We, in 1957, came to power by the ballot and rarely, if ever, used the bullet, with the result the police violence was hardly an instrument against the peasantry. 

Look at the contrast.  The brutality and bloodshed, at the instance of the police force is now bulleting of humble humanity.  I had and have great hopes that the Marxists if in power, will rule with compassionate ideology and win votes and people’s co-operation beyond party barriers.  But to my horror, the terror practiced yesterday at Nandigram fills me with dread and disappointment. The illusion of exploitative power has led the ministry to govern by the gun.  The consequent bloodshed demands your urgent attention and commands the party’s authority to arrest the frequency of bloodshed policy and police barbarity.  Sri. Sumit Chakravartty telephoned me last night about the police misuse of firepower.  If true, I protest and entreat you and the party to take immediate action and restore the basic proposition that Communist Government is not power with violent weapons.  And action at party level must be taken if governance over humanity is for the benefit of the peasantry.  I am sure, thousands like me will be shocked by the Nandigram incident.  Please, please have some regard for those who feel that socialism is not terrorism, but humanism; and misrule by gun will not be the rule of the Left in State authority.  Do forgive me for expressing my strong feelings with the expectation that the Left Administration believe and practice as a fundamental for the humble people, not for the proprietariat with the brute force of the bullet.

     With high regards,

      Yours sincerely,                    

                              ( V.R. KRISHNA IYER)

To,                           

       Sri. Prakash Karat                         

       General Secretary

       Communist Party of India (Marxist)

      New Delhi

SEZ policy should be scrapped

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/News/PoliticsN…

GIRISH KUBER

TIMES NEWS NETWORK[ FRIDAY, MARCH 16, 2007 03:59:54 AM]

MUMBAI: The Manmohan Singh government should scrap its SEZ policy as many lacunas in it have been exposed, the threat to food security being just one, says BJP MP Kashiram Rana, also the convenor of the parliamentary committee on SEZs.
In an exclusive interview to ET, a day after 15 lives were lost in Nandigram, West Bengal, in a protest against a chemical hub in the region, the BJP leader from Gujarat lashed out at the Centre’s obsession for SEZs. His views assume significance because as head of the Parliamentary panel he had recently toured Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Kerala, Orissa and Karnataka, where many SEZs are coming up.
In Mumbai last month, Mr Rana minced no words criticising the Vilasrao Deshmukh government for being “hand-in-glove with SEZ developers”. The committee will submit its report to Parliament in the current session.
“Time has come for the government, and particularly the Group of Ministers led by defence minister Pranab Mukherjee to revisit the whole issue. Considering the developments across the country, the existing policy needs to be scrapped,” he said. When pointed out that the SEZ idea had been his party’s (the BJP) creation, Mr Rana said it was more balanced than the current policy.
“We had a clear idea of core and non-core business activities that would be allowed in SEZ territories. And most importantly we never wanted agriculture land to be used for these zones,” he said.
According to Mr Rana, the most important changes the current policy needs pertains to use of agriculture land for SEZs. “The policy allows single crop land for SEZs.
But even in single crop land, farmers carry out lot of allied activities such as growing seasonal fruits or horticulture. How can one measure the farmers’ losses?” he asked and went on to suggest that there should be a blanket ban on using such land for SEZs.
However, he is not against SEZs. “I’m not against these zones. But my point is that there is enough barren, unused or waste land available in the country. Why not make such land open for SEZs,” he said. Mr Rana is also concerned about India’s food security.
“Our agricultural production has been falling drastically. It’s a matter of serious concern. Preventing use of agriculture land for industrialisation could be one way of arresting this decline,” Mr Rana feels.
girish.kuber@timesgroup.com

Indian Money and Credit

Subroto Roy

from The Sunday Statesman, August 6 2006, www.thestatesman.net

One rural household may lend another rural household 10 kg or 100 kg
of grain or seed for a short time. When it does, it expects to
receive back a little more than the amount lent ~ even if that
little amount is in services or in plain goodwill among friends or
neighbours. That extra amount is “real interest”, and the percentage
of its value relative to the whole is the “real rate of interest”.
So if 10 kg of grain are lent for two weeks and 11 kg are returned,
an implicit real rate of interest of 10 per cent has been paid over
that short period. The future is always less valuable than the
present in the sense that 10 kg of grain today is worth something
more than the prospect of the same 10 kg of grain tomorrow.
But loans may be made in terms of money rather than real units of
grain, thus the change in the value of money over the period of the
loan becomes relevant. If a loan of Rs 100,000 is made by a bank to
a borrower for one year at a simple interest rate of 13 per cent per
annum, and the value of money then declines at 8 per cent over the
year, the debtor is paying real interest of just about 13 per cent-8
per cent = 5 per cent. The Yale economist Irving Fisher described
how this monetary rate of interest equals the real rate of interest
plus the rate of monetary inflation, while the great Swedish
economist Knut Wicksell predicted inflation if the monetary rate
fell below the real rate, and vice versa.

And there is another consideration too. A new cycle-rickshaw
costs about Rs 5,000. A rickshaw driver who does not own his own
machine has to pay the owner of the rickshaw a fixed rental of about
Rs15 per day. Now a government policy may want to see more cycle-
rickshaw drivers owning their own machines, and allocate bank-credit
accordingly. But some fraction of the drivers are alcoholics and
hence are bad credit-risks, while others are industrious, have
strong family lives and are good credit-risks. If a creditor is
unable to distinguish between who is an alcoholic and who is not,
credit terms will tend towards subsidising the alcoholic and taxing
the industrious. On the other hand, a creditor who knows each debtor
individually will also know their credit-risks, and price individual
loans to them accordingly.

India’s credit markets, both rural and urban, have been segmented
always into “formal” and “informal”, and remain so despite (or
perhaps because of) much government intervention in recent decades.
Banks and the RBI operate in formal financial markets, but the
informal credit market is where the real action is. For example, a
mosaic-machine used in the construction business costs Rs 15,000
brand new and gets to be rented out at the rate of Rs 150 per day.
Someone with access to formal sector bank loans at say 13 per cent
per annum, might borrow the Rs 15,000, buy a machine, rent it out,
break-even within a few months and make a whopping profit
afterwards. Everyone would thus hunger after subsidised formal
sector bank loans, and these would be rationed quickly and then come
to be allocated to people known to bank officials (like their own
friends and relatives).

Rates of return on capital, i.e. real profits, are and always
have been massively high in India, and that is what is to be
expected because capital, both machinery and finance, is relatively
scarce as a factor of production. Rates of return on labour, i.e.
real wages, are on the other hand relatively low in India thanks to
our vast population. For these reasons we have had for three
centuries foreigners coming to India to invest their capital in
enterprise and make a profit, while Indians have emigrated all over
the world from Fiji to Britain to America in search of higher wages.

Now all of this is very elementary reasoning well known to serious
monetary economists, yet it seems to have always escaped India’s
monetary and fiscal decision-makers. For example, just the other
day, the Finance Minister said in Parliament that all rural banks
had been instructed to lend farmers credit at a 7 per cent
(monetary) rate of interest, and failure to do so would lead to
punishment. By the rickshaw example (in fact many cycle-rickshaw
drivers are also marginal farmers), the FM did not wish to, and of
course cannot in practice, distinguish between good and bad credit-
risks among the recipients of such loans. If the value of money is
declining by, say, 8 per cent per annum, a 7 per cent monetary rate
is equivalent to a minus 1 per cent real rate. i.e., the FM would
have done some Humpty Dumpty economics and caused the future
prospect of holding Rs 1,000 tomorrow to be more and not less
valuable than the certainty of holding Rs 1,000 today. It is
inevitable there will be credit-rationing when credit is so
massively subsidised, so the typical borrowing farmer will get some
little fraction of his credit-needs at the official government price
of 7 per cent per annum and then have to get the bulk of his credit-
needs fulfilled in the informal market ~ at a price perhaps of 1 per
cent-5 per cent PER DAY! The FM promising in his Budget to subsidise
farm credit sounds nice on TV but may be wholly futile as a way of
stopping farmers’ suicides.

The same kind of Humpty Dumpty monetary economics has been
religiously pursued by the RBI for decades upon directions from its
owner and master, the Finance Ministry ~ which in turn has always
meekly followed the dictates of India’s unreasonable politicians of
all parties. Formal sector interest rates in India have been for
decades so artificially lowered that even if we use official figures
measuring inflation, this leads to real interest rates being lower
in capital-scarce India than in the capital-rich West! (See graphs).
Negative or near-zero real interest rates in India’s formal
financial sector coexisting with massively high profit rates in
informal credit markets point to continuous processes of low risk
profits being made by arbitrage between the two. That is why the
organised private and public sectors seem so pleased with official
credit policies ~ while every borrower in the informal credit
markets always has suicide not far from his/her mind.

Other than Dr Rangarajan who once mentioned it, we have never had
an RBI Governor who has wished to see the RBI constitutionally
independent of the Government of the day, and hence dedicated to
restoring the integrity of India’s money. Playing with the repo rate
or other short term monetary rates is fun and makes the RBI think it
is doing something as important as the US or UK central banks.
Certainly the upward trend in such short term rates over the last
few months is better than the nonsensical flip-flops previously. But
it is small potatoes compared to the really giant variables which
are all fiscal and not monetary in India. For example, Sonia Gandhi
(as advised by another naturalized Indian, Jean Drèze, disciple of
the Non-Resident Amartya Sen) insisted on a massive “Rural
Employment Guarantee”; Manmohan Singh and Pranab Mukherjee have
insisted on massive foreign weapons’ purchases and government wage
increases; Praful Patel on massive foreign aircraft purchases; Arjun
Sengupta on Scandinavian welfare benefits; Montek Ahluwalia on
nuclear reactor purchases (so South Delhi will be able at least to
run its ACs in 20 years’ time). All this adds endlessly to the stock
of government paper being held as bank-assets, while the currency
remains inconvertible (See e.g. The Statesman 30 October 2005, 6-8
January, 23 April 2006).The RSS/BJP and JNU/Left have been equally
bereft of serious thought.

Tell any suicidal farmer that the Government of India has been
borrowing larger and larger amou
nts every year just to pay interest
on previously incurred debts; it may make him realise there are
famous and powerful people who are even more unwise than himself and
amount to effective suicide-prevention therapy. But do not tell him
that they unlike himself have been playing with public money ~ or
you may have the opposite effect.

Nandigram: CPM faces political backlash

http://www.ndtv.com/morenews/showmorestory.asp?slu…


CPM faces political backlashSandeep Phukan
Wednesday, March 14, 2007 (New Delhi):

The Nandigram violence on Wednesday has resulted in a strong political backlash against the CPM.
Soon after the news of protesters being killed broke, Opposition MLAs stormed out of the West Bengal Assembly. In fact, the political shockwaves of the violence reached Parliament too.
The significance of the incident was made clearer when even smaller Left parties had no hesitation in criticizing the CPM.
The CPI’s General Secretary AB Bardhan led the charge. “The kind of police action at Nandigram is unheard of in Left rule, which I condemn severely,” Bardhan told State Secretary Manju Kumar Majumder.
“What can we say when our own government doesn’t listen to its allies,” said Abani Roy, RSP MP.
Mounting pressure
Just last week the West Bengal CM had something to cheer about as the Prime Minister praised his efforts on industrialization. But now the Centre is not sitting back, and it has now demanded a report from the state police.
The Congress, in fact, has stepped up pressure on the Left even though the two parties are allies at the Centre.
“I have spoken to CPI leader AB Bardhan. He is also concerned,” said Priyaranjan Dasmunsi, Information and Broadcasting Minister.
Meanwhile, the BJP-led NDA has demanded a judicial inquiry as they believe the West Bengal government is trying to forcibly suppress protests.
“The CPM has brutally lathicharged and fired upon farmers in West Bengal,” said Rajnath Singh, BJP President.
The West Bengal Chief Minister has once before apologized for his party’s bungling of the Nandigram situation when violence broke out following a CPM MP’s attempt to acquire land for the SEZ.
But now, the violence on Wednesday has perhaps sparked off a much bigger political crisis for the CPM.

Nandigram: CPM faces political backlash

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CPM faces political backlashSandeep Phukan
Wednesday, March 14, 2007 (New Delhi):

The Nandigram violence on Wednesday has resulted in a strong political backlash against the CPM.
Soon after the news of protesters being killed broke, Opposition MLAs stormed out of the West Bengal Assembly. In fact, the political shockwaves of the violence reached Parliament too.
The significance of the incident was made clearer when even smaller Left parties had no hesitation in criticizing the CPM.
The CPI’s General Secretary AB Bardhan led the charge. “The kind of police action at Nandigram is unheard of in Left rule, which I condemn severely,” Bardhan told State Secretary Manju Kumar Majumder.
“What can we say when our own government doesn’t listen to its allies,” said Abani Roy, RSP MP.
Mounting pressure
Just last week the West Bengal CM had something to cheer about as the Prime Minister praised his efforts on industrialization. But now the Centre is not sitting back, and it has now demanded a report from the state police.
The Congress, in fact, has stepped up pressure on the Left even though the two parties are allies at the Centre.
“I have spoken to CPI leader AB Bardhan. He is also concerned,” said Priyaranjan Dasmunsi, Information and Broadcasting Minister.
Meanwhile, the BJP-led NDA has demanded a judicial inquiry as they believe the West Bengal government is trying to forcibly suppress protests.
“The CPM has brutally lathicharged and fired upon farmers in West Bengal,” said Rajnath Singh, BJP President.
The West Bengal Chief Minister has once before apologized for his party’s bungling of the Nandigram situation when violence broke out following a CPM MP’s attempt to acquire land for the SEZ.
But now, the violence on Wednesday has perhaps sparked off a much bigger political crisis for the CPM.