chemistry between the right hand and the left: why the indian left hates the market without actually having been there

part of a very perceptive comment (made by someone using the pseudonym 'xtraview') that i found here:
Its like being an Indian leftist, whose either parents are in public sector or wife or brother or aspiring sons. Who truly beleives that market is bad. In all his earnest he plead to the state for providing for the poor, or open a NGO. Sometimes, in rage organize labor and prepare masses to revolt (incidentally organized labor is just 5 % in India, the left contribute to secure their interests and job security at the cost of 95% who are in unorganized sector)
My question is why is the left is against the market?
The answer to this won't be found in the 'ethical framework' but somewhere else.
I can only give you a hint ' look at the middle class composition (70 percent depend upon state either for salary, or subsidy, or protection', the NGOs, left intellectuals and we are part of this)
The whole debate on capitalism, imperialism which occupy indian intellectual minds...is coming fron a Country where the sequence of development had been State, then civil society and then market. Unlike the West (Origin of Marxist thoughts)that followed the sequence of State-market-civil society (that developed a critique of market excesses).
So, what is in the market...that is resisted? (read pranab bardhan on this)
Is it fear of competetion. The loss of the priviledges...

But what caste has got to do with it?
This has more to do with the 'ethics'. If you go beyond the caste data to the caste narratives, you will find three distinct yet dominant strands. i.e the Pride (in relation to other caste), Jealousy (if someone from caste deemed low comes in the neighborhood with a bigger Bunglow) and Fear (of society, of losing face, more pronounced at the time of marriage- the perpetuation link).

Now remove caste out of it, then what we have is Pride (as a relational concept) manifestating in a patron-client mindset, squeezing individuality out, seeking or dispensing favor rather than exercising 'citizenship'
Jealousy (inability to accept others as equal) manifesting itself in the form of 'lack of trust' giving rise to flea market economy...giving rise to moms and pop's stores rather that accumulated enterprises (I do accept that things are changing a little though a miniscule proportion among urban elites).
Fear (of losing face to 'invisible' yet formidable society) manifesting itself in the dearth of individuality and entrepreneurship, being overly path-dependent, just look at the dating system, how hard it is to win over a girl or boy by manifesting individuality, but so easy to find the partner for life by just conforming (I am not saying it's essentially bad though)

This is just a glimpse of how entrenched caste is, even extracting an ethical framework is not devoid of it. That leaves us to the question of what to do with it...atleast at the individual level. Can we jettison caste alltogether, I don't think its wise (more so when any attempt may reinforce it further). If I have to take a high moral ground, I will say that what we can and should do is to create a renewed vision for the society, a collective aspiration for the kind of society we would like to have now, the kind of society we want to live in – and indeed, the question of who 'we' are? When I pay bribe to get my work done or just speak in english to get past the guard, in essence I am legitimizing a system that indirectly perpetuate caste system. Why not instead of using 'connections' we exercise our 'citizenship'?

By having a vison it may be much easier to agree on the values that would characterize Indian society - such as equality diversity, solidarity, treating people by 'who they are', not by 'what they have' and so on –in this way we can harmonize conflicting claims much beter rather than raking the past and getting divided in camps of -for or against caste or reservations. Its time to recognize that a Brahmin is not a conspirator and neither does a Dalit incompetent. We as an individual are entwined within a system that dispense rent, to some more than the others.
The question remains 'whether we can ever have the courage to stop seeking rent? The irony is often we have more incentives rather than the courage.
'Individual insecurity' is yet another manifestation of the caste.


60,000 crores: missing the woods

a report in the times of india, hyderabad, a couple of days ago says:
Even as bankers wait for detailed guidelines from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on the loan waiver scheme, their preliminary assessment is that the real beneficiaries would only be the wilful defaulters and not the disciplined farmers. In Andhra Pradesh, bankers estimate the wilful defaulters to be not more than 10 lakhs at the most.
10 lakhs in andhra pradesh. how many farmers would that mean, across india? at best, 8 million? that means i was a little optimistic in this post, in which i'd mentioned 10 million possible beneficiaries. the report goes on to say:
Bankers say there are about 1.15 crore farmers in the state. Of these, about 90 lakh are small and marginal farmers, including about 20 lakh tenant farmers. The tenant farmers have never tapped banks, not surprising because they work on an oral tenancy without any written agreement with landlords. The 70 lakh "real" farmers, bankers say, have been making use of the banking sector but a majority of them are disciplined and repay loans on time. This is also to avail loans for the next crop.
here, the reporter seems a little optimistic: if 70 lakh small and marginal farmers were able to access institutional credit in andhra pradesh, so many thousands wouldn't have committed suicide in the last fifteen years. this rediff report from punjab says:
Indeed, according to Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, nearly 80 per cent of the farmers in 1 million holdings in Punjab will be outside the ambit of the biggest loan waiver in Indian fiscal history.

Business Standard spoke to 25 farmers in three villages in Sangrur and found that just 4 out of 25 farmers benefit from the waiver.

if only 20% of farmers (or 2 lakh farmers) in punjab would benefit from this waiver, the less said about the rest of the country the better- even the figure of 8 million sounds very, very optimistic now. because, in terms of access to bank credit punjabi famers have always been the most fortunate. institutional credit met 60% or more of their needs until a few years ago- famers in most other states, on an average, cannot access more than a fifth of their credit needs from banks.

i met five small famers from the prosperous samalkot area in east godavari district, in coastal andhra, yesterday. access to bank credit in that paddy-growing, canal irrigated region has always been better than in most other regions in the state. but i was told that none of the five famers i met would benefit from this waiver. because none of them are defaulters. and they had stopped going to co-operative banks more than a decade ago because most of them had stopped lending to ordinary famers. most of the debtors on their books are famers of course. but a majority of the farmer-borrowers don't know that the co-operative banks had lent them money.


the chemistry between the right hand and the left

laxman seth, a cpm mp, tells the government how to mobilize more resources, a couple of years ago (and i'm sure someone from the cpm had given the government the same advice a couple of years before that, and a couple of years... before..):
Saying that there is a huge resource crunch, with high revenue and fiscal deficits in the union budget, Seth stressed the need for resource mobilisation. And for this, the vast parallel economy of black money must be tapped. Seth pointed out that there are huge tax arrears amounting to nearly Rs 70,000 crore. The non-performing assets of banks (NPAs) account for another Rs 75,000 crore. He criticised the government for not making any attempt to unearth the black money. He also wanted plugging of large-scale evasion of taxes by corporate and business houses and the broadening of the tax net. He gave an example of how bad things were by citing the case of returns filed by the corporate houses. Only two per cent of those returns are checked on the plea that the government does not have sufficient machinery. Seth questioned why there is no sufficient machinery and if this was the case how the government can mobilise resources.
what do you learn from that advice? one, that there is large scale tax evasion in the country and two, the government should invest more in machinery so that tax evasion can be curtailed and arrears can be collected.

one agrees totally with the first conclusion. tax evasion is bad for the country. one also agrees with the second conclusion, almost totally. almost totally, you might ask? why not totally? the second conclusion, or element of advice, asks the government to invest more in machinery, and this is what i object to. machines do not collect taxes, people do. babus in the central and state governments. the mp obviously thinks the government should recruit more taxmen. he means upper caste taxmen, of course. you very rarely find any other kind in the country. this would entail a certain cost every year- a few crores, or a few hundred crores if you're thinking of the whole country, in pay and perks for these new taxmen. and they won't come with any guarantee that any tax arrears will be collected. writing such a condition into the terms of employment would of course have the cpm on the streets, conducting bandhs, and also galvanize them into action in parliament, conducting roadshows. and what'd you be ultimately left with? more taxes to pay for the extra taxmen.

that's how upper caste revolutionaries save upper caste businessmen while pulling up the government, and not the upper caste taxmen, for not recruiting more upper caste taxmen to improve tax revenues. that's called: saving all shades of upper caste indians with one stone.

here's another instance of good marksmanship:
In any case, the issue is between:

Rs. 58,416 + 38,107 + 58,655 +87,992 crores vs. Rs. 60,000 crores

Needless to say, the marginal and small farmer has neither such tax-saving options - and for that matter, a taxable income!!!
that is how you save upper caste small and marginal farmers (yes, i know it'd be easier to find the loch ness monster than small and marginal upper caste farmers who need relief): by pointing out how upper caste businessmen owe more notional tax arrears than them! you can't tax the loch ness monster for inhabiting the loch ness, can you? but notional tax arrears make as powerful tools as mythical monsters in keeping the lower castes hungry and happy.

the life of an upper caste revolutionary is tough: he has to carry the burden of so many lower caste ingrates while at the same time protecting, as i said earlier, all shades of upper caste indians.

the day upper caste taxmen collect the 70,000 crores in tax arrears plus the 75,000 crores in npas (mentioned in the first part of this post) and also the Rs. 58,416 + 38,107 + 58,655 +87,992 crores in tax evasion (mentioned in the second part, or instance) i'll offer them an equivalent amount plus one rupee as a token of eternal gratitude from the aforementioned ingrates.

a cry of despair

The continued dismal literacy rate among Adivasis and Dalits is a matter of embarrassment for the leaders [who think themselves as rulers] of India. The overwhelmingly Upper-caste bureaucracy, responsible for taking education and other development measures to the marginalised, see little sense in doing so. They perceive the spread of education as akin to the erosion of their privileges. There are micro-level studies available that hint at the systematic evolution of a culture that denies development to the poor and “lower castes”.
that's from an article (emphasis mine) by arun kumar, general manager, youth, child rights & you, that i found at pritam p.hans' blog. the article goes on to say:

In the field of education, even stronger observations can be made. According to the Seventh All India Education Survey (2002), 47 per cent habitations do not have a primary school. Who might be staying in these areas? Only 20 per cent of habitations have a secondary school. Who might be staying in these areas? Right from the start, the Indian state policies have had a special predilection for Higher education at the cost of primary and elementary education.

The Budgetary allocation for education has never gone past 4.27 per cent of the GDP mark (2000-01). However, the best outlay for elementary education till date has been at 1.19 per cent of the GDP. What it means is that the priority of taking education to those who were historically beyond its periphery has always been lower than catering to those who were already in its fold.

read the article for more plainspeak on sarva shiksha abhiyaan etc. reflect on the attitude of the ruling classes who think high school graduates or worse make good enough teachers for the dalits and other marginalized sections of indian society. doesn't that remind you of the attitude of those who promote 'different schools for different classes'?

i searched for the original article (this seems to be an edited version) but couldn't find it. and neither, unfortunately,.could i find any other article by mr.arun kumar.


mohandas pai endorses a dole

Subsidies on food are up, so also on fertiliser. But a large part of the subsidy does not reach the poor. What India needs now is a direct income transfer on a monthly basis to the BPL sector and our farmers of at least Rs. 1000 per month for each family through electronic fund transfer.
reacting to the budget, t.v.mohandas pai of infosys recommends a direct transfer of funds to below poverty line families and farmers in the villages every month. print isn't television, in many ways. he seemed much more emphatic on television. a few months ago, meghnad desai had also suggested a dole, a direct transfer to poor families every month to to ensure they send their kids to school- this was on television too (i can't trace the transcript).

i've been talking about a dole, direct monthly electronic transfers from delhi to every home in rural india, not just farming or bpl families, for quite a while, as a few visitors to this blog would remember. dr.jayaprakash narayan of lok satta has often talked about the futility of the thousand or more schemes ( dr.narayan says that they actually number a thousand and he should know because he has worked in the ias, and later the nac) that are being run by the central and state governments to alleviate poverty, and the need to replace them all with one universal program.

most of these people do know what they're talking about- and i think the indian government has enough resources now, thanks to the reforms, to extend this dole to every family in the countryside. there is no need to be clever about it (most schemes fail because they're designed by very smart people who seem to forget that there are very smart people outside yojana bhavan too, in my view, ), to target it or to worry about how to prevent undeserving people from grabbing it. let every family in the villages be a beneficiary- rich and poor, savarna and dalit. the rs.100, or 200, or 500 or 1000 that an undeserving rich family grabs from the national coffers every month might not mean a lot to it, or to the government, but the rs.100, or 200 or..will mean a lot to every poor family that receives it, every month. and the dole stands a higher chance of reaching every poor family's doorstep than any smartly devised scheme. and monitoring it would be a hundred times simpler.

some of my earlier posts on a dole: [1], [2] and [3].
Add to Technorati Favorites