ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Nandigram II- Beyond the Immediate Tragedy

There is a need to go beyond the immediate tragedy of Nandigram and examine the underlying process that gives rise to such episodes. In the neoliberal times that we are living through, governments, whether at the central or a state level, are essentially for the markets, by the markets and of the markets. Indeed, the parliamentary political process is increasingly governed by the logic of the market. But at a more basic level, the process of capitalist development, which is now driven largely by private investment, is creating progress and wealth at one pole, while at the same time dragging masses of people – poor and middle peasants, landless rural workers, urban workers weakened by the decline of effective trade unions, and non-wage earners in the informal sector – “through blood and dirt, through misery and degradation” at the other.

Classically, the “peasant question” has been articulated in terms of class differentiation of the peasantry, ultimately tending to polarisation into capitalists and proletarians. However, the process of industrialisation also demands the mobilisation of agricultural land that leads to displacement of pe a s ant s , l e ading to the i r “prol e t a r i ani s a t ion” or “marginalisation” in an urban environment, a process that has accelerated in India since the 1980s. Of course, before the reforms and the drive towards free trade in agricultural commodities initiated at the World Trade Organisation, such effects were mitigated through state support to agriculture in various forms. But now the “commodification” of food is at high tide. The “peasant question” of the 21st century, more than in the past, thus brings to the fore issues of landlessness, hunger, “informalisation”, homelessness and environmental destruction. Millions of people have been victims of displacement and dislocation, and many more will follow, if the many proposals on the anvil to set up special economic zones (SEZs) go ahead in the country.

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