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Notes on the Political Economy of India's Tortuous Transition

Substantial socio-economic changes have taken place in India in the last quarter century. This essay refl ects on the systemic implications of these changes from the point of view of the transition to an enlarged and dominating sphere of capital in the economy. There are a number of checks and balances and road bumps that will make the progress of capital in India halting and hesitant, and the democratic processes, however imperfect, will partly tame its brutalities. The Indian transition is thus bound to be rather tortuous, though in the long run inexorable, and its narrative will be more complex than usual.

What Is Maoism?

What is Maoism? What of its origins and development? What went before its advent? What are its flaws? Where is it going? Where should it be going, given its legacy? The questions are of great import, for Maoism has given birth to a movement which has taken root in India, survived for more than four decades in the country, and the State has now unleashed a massive counter-insurgency operation to crush it. This essay attempts a stepwise approach to finding first answers to the questions - What is Marxism? What is Leninism? What is Stalinism? - and thereby aims to understand what Maoism is all about.

Sovereign State and Mobile Subjects: Politics of the UIDAI

The increased mobility of people and the ever growing complex integration of systems of delivery of services have together led governments the world over to introduce new systems of identification that can be interoperable across a multitude of local systems. Each such initiative has met with anxieties and resistance. The unique identification project that India has initiated has to be seen in that context. Such a project does not necessarily and directly result in compromising the ability of the poor to survive and it does not necessarily mean loss of privacy across the board. However, it does not also automatically signal empowerment as the Unique Identification Authority of India has been insisting. It simply means that the terrain of plausible action, the terrain on which citizens' transactions with the state and the market agencies occur, will change.

Ashoka - A Retrospective

Ashoka of the Maurya dynasty is today perceived as one of the greatest rulers of our history. But over the millennia he was perceived in various ways and a retrospective of his influence is almost a tour through the entire span of Indian history. Why was this extraordinary ruler seemingly ignored by some; why has he become so prominent in recent times? How has his influence permeated through different historical periods and how have his legacy and ideas been appropriated, by whom and in what form? Is it possible to draw ideas from him for our contemporary concerns without doing harm to the historical context?

The Crisis of the Left

There is a theoretical ambiguity in the Left that underlies the crisis that it now finds itself in. On the issue of industrialisation, the real issue is whether it occurs through subservience to the logic of capital or it occurs without compromising the dialectics of subversion of the logic of capital. Subscribing to the view that the only immediate choice is between "development" and an attempt to overthrow the system negates any scope for Left politics. The scope for Left politics arises by rejecting this binary choice, by transcending the problematic that the only immediate choice is between subservience to the logic of capital and attempting to overthrow the system. Transcending this problematic is precisely the resolution of the theoretical crisis of the Left. And the possibility of politics that is created thereby will also resolve the practical crisis of the Left.

Dealing with Effects of Monsoon Failures

The deficiency and uneven distribution of rainfall during the 2009 monsoon has brought several issues to the fore: rising water demand from various sectors, regional effects of a drought and the failure of the India Meteorological Department to provide credible forecasts at the disaggregate level. A multi-pronged strategy to permanently deal with monsoon deficiency requires exploring newer drought tolerant and climate-conducive crop varieties, enhancing employment opportunities to non-poor households, and developing a new model that improves the efficacy of the IMD forecast.

Verdict 2009: An Appraisal of Critiques of the Left

Critiques of the mainstream left in India have questioned its political strategies and priorities, in the light of the left parties' defeat in the 15th Lok Sabha elections, following which the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has conducted a review - identifying its weaknesses and errors. The argument that the left should not have withdrawn support to the ruling alliance in 2008 over the nuclear deal and should have privileged its struggle for livelihood issues, ignores the impact of imperialism on national sovereignty. That there were organisational shortcomings and mistakes by the Left Front-led West Bengal government is undeniable, but a rejection of the "democratic centralism" model of functioning by the CPI(M) does not automatically follow. Also the notion that a "left sans the CPI(M)" is viable flows from a flawed argumentative basis.

Can Democratic Centralism Be Conducive to Democracy?

Democratic centralism has generally been accepted as the principle for building communist organisations, whereas it was only meant to address the organisational demands of a particular historical context in Tsarist Russia. By institutionalising centralism and leaving democracy undefined, this organisational form has fostered authoritarian tendencies and undermined the growth of new ideas in the working class movement. This is seen in India where the engagement of the communist parties with democracy has remained ad hoc and untheorised. This article argues that democratic centralism has been an obstacle for the communist parties to be able to creatively respond to new situations and conditions.

Need for a New Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy

Policymakers must see that there is an inconsistency between the new emphasis on inclusive growth and the rigid fiscal strategy they want to follow. Fiscal prudence should not be discarded but the conentional focus on a narrow interpretation of fiscal and revenue deficits harms the cause of balanced growth. There is also a need to reorient government expenditure and to mobilise resources by ending and even rolling back the increasing regressivity in direct taxation. We need, in other words, a new fiscal strategy for the medium term.

Curry Bashing: Racism, Violence and Alien Space Invaders

The fact that the majority of Indian students in Australia live in cheaper, more dangerous suburbs, often travel late at night, and so on, all complicate the question of whether racism has been at play in the recent attacks. Yet, this does not mean that the question of whether Australians are (still) racists is an invalid one. It is clear that this is still an issue that Australia has not yet completely dealt with. This essay also argues that the Australian identity has become partly construed in terms of the question of whether Australians are racists or not, something that builds on a past of Anglo-Saxon "white" nation building and a future which is strongly multicultural and Asia-oriented.

The Rise and Fall of the Bilingual Intellectual

This essay interprets the rise and fall of the bilingual intellectual in modern India. Making a distinction between functional and emotional bilingualism, it argues that Indian thinkers, writers and activists of earlier generations were often intellectually active in more than one language. Now, however, there is an increasing separation of discourses - between those who operate exclusively in English and those who operate in the language of the state alone. The decline of the bilingual intellectual is a product of many factors, among them public policy, elite preference, new patterns of marriage, and economic change.

Khairlanji: Insensitivity of Mahar Officers

The Khairlanji incident of 29 September 2006 in which a mob of caste Hindus lynched the entire family of Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange shamed humanity, but justice has remained elusive. A majority of the police and medical officers, across ranks, handling the case, were dalits. But they showed a negligent attitude towards their official duties and social indifference to the plight of the Bhotmange family. The Nodal Officers, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, recorded the attitude, particularly of the civil surgeon and the district superintendent of police to be "aloof and indifferent to allowing the crime and subsequent manipulation of evidence".

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