Roots of India's New Revolutions

Just a couple of months ago, the story of India, 'Shining' was making the headlines. 2006 was regarded as one of the best years for the country by many long time perceptive observers as Kushwant Singh. The Sensex, benchmark of confidence in the economy of the urban speculator was at a new high. 300 plus Special Economic Zones were promising a new era of growth and billionaire corporates from the United States and Europe were rushing to New Delhi to set up shop in diverse fields from retail to aircraft manufacturing. The same confidence may not be forthcoming today and India; 'Sulking' may be a more appropriate denomination of the mood of the country. The next stage could even be India, 'Sinking' unless the roots of the new revolution are addressed with alacrity.

Underlying this sudden shift of mood is lack of appropriate mechanisms to presage the ups and downs of economy and in turn polity. The hubris of power contributing to anti incumbency was evident with the ruling coalition losing two of the three states which went to elections in February. The isolation of the marginalized in both urban and rural India provided the Opposition space for electoral victories. Despite the electoral shift there is limited hope for the underclass for while the personalities have changed the inability of the state to address primary needs of the people through effective last mile delivery of opportunities for livelihood, economic growth, justice and rule of the law is likely to continue.

Looking beyond the electoral cycle of hope, disappointment and anti incumbency, the rites of passage of credibility of governance to a new revolutionary class which is meting out economic goods as well as justice to the marginalized is a cause of alarm. The situation is thus ripe for India's new revolutionaries, the Naxals and the ultra left, who are well organized along the central spine of the country from Bihar to Tamil Nadu. Their objective of restructuring society and polity is evident through documents such as the Urban Perspective or the press release of the 9th Congress held in February not in the jungles of Myanmar or Chittagong but in the so called Compact Revolutionary Zone in the heart of India. These proclamations denote the contours of extension of the red revolution exploiting a complex mix of economic deprivation, marginalization of labor, tribalism and Maoism, all into one. These forces are also gaining ideological support from political mavericks and genuine do-gooders waiting in the wings.

There is no dearth of, 'soldiers' willing to give up their lives to the cause espoused by the Naxalite. Estimates indicate over 830 million people live below the $ 2 or Rs 90 per day poverty line in the country with 327 million or almost 40 percent living even below $ 1 or Rs 45 per day. This vast body of deprived and disempowered resides in three segments, the primate forests, rural and the semi urban landscape of the country. The Naxalite are in control in many pockets of the first two sectors such as Abujmadh in Chattisgarh and are now seeking to establish a foot hold in semi urban areas which over the years could reach out to the urban pockets as well.

The delusion of power and euphoria of promised investments has deluded the government in states as well as the centre from addressing the challenge being posed by the new revolution which is home grown, represents over one third of the country in terms of population as well as land mass and is slated to subsume our economic growth through fratricidal conflict unless the early signs of distress are not immediately addressed.

The response of the state so far has had the opposite effect of strengthening the opposition and feeding the forces of the new revolution. The critical mass of population to be addressed is not only those who lack economic assets but also those who are deprived of legal ownership of their manual labor. These are the unregistered share croppers of Nandigram and tendu leave collectors of Central India. Daily toil, their only asset has not been legalized by effective documentation. Displacement engineered by the state through movements as Salwa Judum has made some of them a refugee in their own land. A new dispossessed class comprising of small time traders, Sunday Haat resellers and neighborhood sabzi wallahs is emerging in urban India. As the retail revolution takes over their clientele, these self employed multitudes are faced with prospects of deprivation which may drive them into the hands of waiting Maoists charting out their path of an urban revolution.

The state response to the looming crisis ahead will predictably swing the pendulum by putting SEZs on hold and curbing retail growth. This will not be enough to check the revolutionaries but will also stymie overall economic growth. The ides of March need to be laid to rest by broad banding policy and governance that empowers not just the economically dispossessed but also those whose rights to livelihood may not exist on paper but are fully enshrined in the Constitution. The ability of the Indian state to effectively meet these challenges will dictate the chart of economic growth and not the number of billionaires added or Wal-Mart's entry in Mumbai.   


More by :  Col. Rahul K. Bhonsle

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