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आखिर ये कैसी लड़ाई थी सामंतवाद (Feudalism) के खिलाफ?

By Aamir Ali 


मैं एक चांदनी रात में अपने गाँव के चबूतरे पे बैठ कर अपने वर्तमान मेम्बर ऑफ़ पार्लियामेंट के बारे में बात कर रहा था जो उस वक़्त किसी जेल में बंद था. ये सांसद माओवादी का जोनल कमांडर रह चूका है और अभी झारखण्ड मुक्ति मोर्चा पार्टी की ओर से पलामू से लोकसभा का सांसद है. वैसे तो अपने इलाके की बदतर हालत देख कर मेरे दिमाग में हमेशा उथल पुथल होता है लेकिन उस रात मैंने लोगों से बात करते हुए ये बोला की हमें वोट देने के समय थोरा सोचना समझना चाहिए और अच्छे इन्शान को वोट देना  चाहिए जो हमारे इस पिछड़ेपन को दूर करे. न की ऐसे लोग को वोट दें जो इलेक्शन के ढाई साल के बाद भी जेल में बंद हो. इतना सुन्ना था की मेरा एक दोस्त परेशान होकर ये जवाब दिया की " आज जो इतने रात में हम बहार चबूतरे पे बैठ कर बात कर रहे हैं ये उन्ही का देन है ". “उन्हीं का देन है” मतलब उनलोगों का जिन्होंने बन्दूक उठा कर गरीब और पिछड़ों को विकाश के रास्ते पर लाया हो या न हो  या गरीबों के डेवलपमेंट में बाधा हों या न हों लेकिन इन्हें उच्चय जाती और जमींदारों के हाथों  और ज्यादा ज़लील होने से रोका जरूर है.       

 ये कहना गलत होगा की माओवादी सामंतवाद के सहायक थे.  लेकिन ये भी कहना की माओवादी इनके खिलाफ पूर्ण रूप से थे "अर्ध सत्य" होगा। क्यूंकि माओवादियों की लड़ाई अगर सामंतवाद के खिलाफ होता तो आज सामंतवाद जैसी स्तिथि दुबारा नहीं होति. मैं बात कर रहा हूँ एक ऐसे इलाके की जहां सामंतवाद रग  रग में बसा है. ये बात है झारखण्ड राज्य के पलामू जिले के जपला छेत्र की जहां मैंने अपने से इस छोटी उम्र का अधिकांस समय बिताया और अभी भी बिताता हु. जहां एनकाउंटर, पुलिस और माओवादियों का लोगों में डर, डकैती, गुंडागर्दी कुछ ज्यादा ही प्रचलित था और है. 

इस इलाके में सामंतवाद  का गढ़ शुरू से रहा है और इसके खिलाफ "उग्रवादियों" ने बहुत लड़ाई भी लड़ी है और गरीबों और पिछड़ों को जस्टिस भी मिला है. आज कोई पिछड़ा गरीब तबके का बन्दा उसपे होने वाली अत्याचार के खिलाफ बोल सकता है. और इस डेवलपमेंट में माओवादियों का बहुत बड़ा योगदान है.  लेकिन ये लड़ाई अधर में ही रह गयी और माओवादियों का पलायन हो गया और अगर नहीं हुआ है तो हो रहा है. ये वही जगह है जहां कुछ साल पहले माओवादियों ने महुआ को कॉमन प्रॉपर्टी बना दिया था जो मेरे समझ में एक सही पहल था. क्यूंकि आखिर भूमिहीनों और गरीबों के लिए भी कोई श्रोत लाइवलीहुड  का होना चहिये. ये वही जगह है जहाँ कुछ साल पहले जनसुनवाई और जनअदालत लगा कर गरीबों और लाचारों को न्याय दिया जाता था. ये वही जगह है जहाँ कुछ दिनों पहले चोरी और डकैती की वारदात कम हो गयी थि. लेकिन आज हालात कुछ अलग है यहाँ कि.  

आज माओवादी और उग्रवादी (जैसे तृतीय  परस्तुत कमिटी, टी. पि. सी ) ठेकेदार और माफिया के एजेंट बन कर रह गए हैं. और ये माफिया और ठेकेदार में अधिकतर लोग पुराने जमींदार हैं. ये वही लोग हैं जिनके पूर्वजों ने सामंतवादी विचारधाराओं से गरीबों और पिछड़ों पे अत्याचार किया और आज ठेकेदारी और माफियागिरी से गरीबों पे अत्याचार किया जा रहा है. और अब बात जहां रही माओवादियों और अन्य उग्रवादियों का तो इनमें बस लेवी लेने की होड़ मची है. ऐसे ही एक उग्रवादी ग्रुप  है टी. पी. सी जिन्होंने कुछ दिनों पहले बड़े पैमाने पर कैंप लगा कर दुकानदारों और ठेकेदारों से लेवी लिया. और ऐसा ही एक कैंप मेरे गाँव के पास जंगल से सटे एक फील्ड में भी लगा था जहाँ बहुत सारे लोग मेरे घर के सामने वाले रोड से जाकर इन उग्रवादी ग्रुप को पैसे दिये. 

और आपको ये बताना मैं लाजिम समझता हूँ की ये ठेकेदार सड़क, बिजली और म गा नरेगा जैसे कार्यों में ठेकेदारी लेते हैं जिसका अगर सही रूप से अमल हो तो शायद इस इलाके के पिछड़ापन को थोरा  सा दूर किया जा सकता है. लेकिन जब गरीबों के हक़ के लिए बन्दुक उठाने वाले ही गरीबों और पिछड़ों के साथ नहीं हैं तो इस इलाके के पिछड़े लोगों का भाग्य ऊपर वाले के ही हाथ में है. और इन सभी वर्त्तमान कंडीशन को देख कर मेरे मन में यही सवाल उठता है की ये कैसी लड़ाई थी सामंतवाद के खिलाफ? किसी बुजुर्ग ने मुझसे कहा था की ये" सब लेवी का खेल है". तो क्या ये सच में लेवी का खेल ही बन कर रह गया है?

 

WHY ACADEMICS SHOULD TAKE ON NARENDRA MODI

By Adi Prakash


The US recently rejected Narendra Modi’s visa application. Yes, even after he won a third term as Gujarat’s Chief Minister. The Americans don’t seem to share our mindset of elected is legitimate. For a section of our people, Modi’s election means Modi’s innocence. The BJP mounts this cerebral defense time and again. Surprisingly, it found resonance in the silence of Jagdish Bhagwati.

In recent ramblings against Amartya Sen’s view of development, Jagdish Bhagwati offloaded on Sen. He attacked Sen’s personal credentials, while discerningly keeping his discussion of Modi limited to Gujarat’s economic growth success. While Sen’s audience was deemed dangerous, Modi was portrayed as a little girl building an igloo next to the ageing academic.

Bhagwati is one of the premier economists of the country. He is read throughout the country’s intelligentsia. He could have been critical of Modi’s politics while praising the successes of his neo- liberal policies. Economics can be debated but killing people is just wrong. Yet, the ambit of the article was deemed too small by Bhagwati to mention, leave alone challenge, Modi’s abysmal human rights record.

It is but the unwillingness of academia to demolish dumb statements that allows rhetoric like “But then there have been no riots in Gujarat since 2002”, float about. The air with which Modi and company say it, makes one wonder if it’s a success of the establishment or a favour by the paid goons of the ruling party who are now supposedly underemployed. There shouldn’t have been a riot in 2002. The year was not ‘The year of the Dragon Riot’.

Yet another defense goes, “You cannot blame Narendra Modi for what the crowds did”. The center of the chessboard is a difficult place to hide. Modi placed himself at the very center when he accepted the position of the state’s chief minister. Such a colossal failure of the state to maintain law and order is sadly his responsibility. So are the actions of MLAs in his cabinet like Maya Kodnani who became an arms dealer for the Day.

Modi is at fault, irrespective of whether charges are proved against his person. In a time when the man who should have resigned as Chief Minister 11 years ago is vying for Prime Ministership, the author feels it behooves academia to critique him vociferously. Bring up the 2002 riots in every discussion on anything about Gujarat- because the man in the picture cannot.

 

संकरी गलियों का समाज

By Waqar Usmani

 

उत्तर प्रदेश सर्वाधिक छोटे नगरों वाला प्रदेश है. इनही नगरों में से एक है मऊ नाथ भंजन जो अनेक कारणों से राजकीय  राजनितिक पटल पर एक खास विशेषता रखता है. अपने स्वरुप के अनुरूप ही इसकी  वर्तमान व्यस्था है. नगर का मुस्लिम बहुल होना इसे एक स्वभाव देता है जिसने राजनितिक आकाँक्षाओं की पूर्ति के लिए इसे क्षेत्रिय प्रयोगशाला बना डाला है. सत्तर प्रतिशत बुनकरों वाला ये नगर अपने भविष्य को इस वर्तमान में सुनिश्चित करने में  अयोग्य पाता है. समस्याओं के अम्बार झेल रहे इस नगर में वर्तमान में अब केवल बिजली ही एक मात्र समस्या नहीं है पर ये ज़रूर है की यही एक समस्या अन्य समस्याओं को पनपने में योगदान दे रही है.  बिजली लूमो में जान भरती  है जो स्वाभाविक रूप से नगर की प्राथमिक प्रवृत्ति को निखार देती है. ये बिजली ही लूमो की खटर पटर के माध्यम से  एक जटिल सामाजिक सम्बन्ध को जन्म एवं बढ़ावा देती है जो नगर के वाणिज्यिक विकास एवं सौहार्दता को बल प्रदान करती है. लूमों की गति विशेषतः बटे हुए समाज को बाधने का प्रतीक है क्योंकि इस पूरे वाणिज्यिक तंत्र में जहाँ साडी उत्पादन कुशल मुस्लिम कारिगर एवं घराने करते हैं तो धागे एवं कच्चे माल की बेहतर खेप की आपूर्ति एक कुशल हिन्दू बनिया व्यसायी ही सुद्रिड करता है. उसी प्रकार से साडी की डिजाइनिंग और ग्राफ एक मुस्लिम करता है तो पट्टा कटाई एक कुशल हिन्दू कारीगर करता है एवं  सबसे महत्वपूर्ण है ख़राब हुए लूम मशीन को सही करने वाले कारीगर जो कि जकाट तकनीशियन के नाम से प्रसिद्ध हैं केवल हिन्दू ही हैं.

आज़ादी के बाद दंगो की विभीषिका झेले हुए और विशेष रूप से बटे समाज में विकास की राजनीति  मानो दम घोट रही हो. दिशाहीन सरकारी नीतियों के दुस्साहसी नतीजे कभी भी क्षेत्रिय दैनिक में बहस का मुद्दा नहीं बनते बल्कि राजनितिक द्वेष पुर्ण सामाजिक पुनः वर्गीकरण का सधा  हुआ प्रयास किया जाता है. (मुख्य धारा?) अंग्रेजी मीडिया के पढने वाले कम है इसलिए वो कोई प्रयास नहीं करते.   

केवल मऊ ही नहीं बल्कि पूरे उत्तर भारत के छोटे कस्बो की मुस्लिम  नारीयों की दशा पर बहुत कम लिखा एवं समझा जाता है और इसके लिए क्षेत्रिय बुद्धजीवी वर्ग सर्वाधिक जिम्मेदार है! मुझे व्यक्तिगत रूप से मऊ जाने का अवसर अपने स्नात्कोत्तर शोध के सिलसिले में मिला.

  मऊ की महिलाएं जिनमे अधिकतर अंसारी मुस्लिम समाज की होती हैं कई प्रमुख कारणो से विशेष हैं क्योंकि इनका रहन सहन, शिक्षा एवं इनका घरेलू वस्त्र उत्पादन में मुख्य भुमिका उन्हें अपने पुरुष प्रधान समाज में एक विशेष स्थान देता है. यहाँ शिक्षा सबके लिए समान है और वो है मदरसे जिसमे मुख्यतः सभी बुनकर लड़कियां शिक्षा पाती हैं. कुछ  गिने चुने कॉलेज हैं पर मदरसों की कम लागत एवं धार्मिक शिक्षा देने की प्रबल भावना इन्हें इससे बेहतर विकल्प की ओर अग्रसर नहीं करती! अधिकांश लड़कियां बड़े छोटे आयु से ही बुनकारी की कुशलता से ओतप्रोत होजाती हैं. इनको  अपने समाज में एक बेहतर एवं कुशल कारीगर के रूप में उद्योग में सहायता एवं बढ़ावा देने की क्षमता के रूप में देखा जाता है! इनका विवाह भी मुख्यतः कम आयु में ही किया जाता है और  इनके लिए वर भी नगर के ही किसी दुसरे मोहल्ले में ढूढा जाता है. ये प्रथा जातिवादी एवं कुशल कारीगर को नगर के भीतर ही खपाने की कवायद जैसा ही है. जातिवादी मुस्लिम जैसे कि शेख़, सय्यद  एवं पठानो में इनका विवाह नहीं होता.

सरकारी तंत्र  एवं पुरुष प्रधान समाज इनके बहुमूल्य जीवन को मुख्य धारा मे न लाने हेतु परस्पर ज़िम्मेदार है! सरकारी निष्क्रियता जोकि आधारभूत सुविधाओं जैसेकि स्कूल, कॉलेज, पोलिटेक्निक एवं अस्पताल जैसी सुविधाएँ देने में असफल है समाज के पुरुषप्रधान ढांचे को ही बल देता है. नगर में सेक्युलर स्पेसेस जैसे कि पार्क इत्यादि की कोई व्यस्था नहीं है जहाँ ये वर्ग कुछ समय बिता सके पर नगर में कम्युनल स्पेसेस की भरमार है जैसे की मुहर्रम मैदान, रामलीला ग्राउंड इत्यादि जोकि पुरुष प्रधान समाज से संचालित होते हैं. बुनकर महिलाओं का जीवन मुख्यतः संकरी गलियों में बने घरों की जुगाड़ लूम मशीन के इर्द गिर्द या घरेलु कार्यों में ही व्यतीत होता है! लूमों की खटर पटर की धुन मानो इन महिलाओं को एक जटिल परिवेश में थोपा हुआ संगीतमय जीवन देता हो.

 

POLITICS OF POVERTY AND ITS METHODOLOGY

By Digvijay Kumar

 

India, a country of paradoxes having the second largest population, the largest democracy and one of the fastest economic growing countries of the world, comprises of the largest number of absolute poor, malnourished children and hunger. In the context of India, poverty is mainly a social problem which has its historical root and can only be solved through political intervention. It is a kind of a ridiculous fact that those who experience poverty do not have the space to formulate plans or raise their voice while it is Yojana Bhavan, Delhi which decides who is supposed to be declared poor on the basis of prescribed daily consumption expenditure and what polices must be formed for their welfare.

The poverty estimates are largely the outcome of politically influenced manipulative statistics to show that due to corrective measures of the contemporary ruling government the poverty rate has reduced. The poverty estimation and identification is a number game supported by volatile statistics. The Below Poverty Line (BPL) census, conducted by Ministry of Rural Development, which identifies poor households, is itself too narrow and unfair in its targeting. The ruling party has always been trying to bring down the poverty line which has its repercussion on reduction in absolute number of poor.

The institution to estimate poverty itself has narrow methods to identify poor. National Sample Survey Organisation’s (NSSO) consumption expenditure survey data which forms the basis of poverty estimation has been consistently under-reporting consumption expenditure when compared to the National Account Statistics (NAS) estimates arrived at from private final consumption. The consumption expenditure estimates of NAS is always higher than NSSO. Another twist came in 1999-2000, when the NSSO switched to a method known as the Mixed Reference Period (MRP) from its earlier Uniform Reference Period (URP) measuring consumption of five low-frequency items (clothing, footwear, durables, education and institutional health expenditure) in the previous year, and rest of the other items in the last 30 days. The poverty rate is always lower on MRP basis and when it was taken to measure, it showed lower poverty rate than earlier and this was considered as reduction in poverty rate, since then it is still followed.

The present level of poverty line, which is Rs. 28 per day and Rs. 33 per day in rural and urban areas respectively, fails to satisfy the prescribed calorie norms fixed in 1978-79. It is very much similar to starvation line if one considers the presence of more than 40 per cent malnourished children and above 200 million people living hungry in India. The reduction in budget allocated to the social sector /welfare programmes and at the same time welcoming SEZ’s by providing large tax exemptions has led to deterioration in the conditions of the poor.

 

HOT SUN AND COOL LEMONADE

By Durgarao Koorada

 

It was mid-afternoon on a scorching summer day. After travelling for two hours,   I reached a sign board on the side of the road that said I was near my destination - an 'organic village' - where almost all farmers were engaged in organic farming. I had been cut off from main road a long back and there was no signal on my mobile. My field contact, Raju, was to guide me to reach another village for my planned interviews with organic farmers. With a little difficulty, I could finally contact him and we decided to follow the schedule. The village that we had to go to was 4 kilometres away and there was no transportation available.

We decided to walk all five km though it was a rocky and hilly slope area. I am always happy to walk! But, this time, I was in a hurry and a little apprehensive about the availability of farmers at that time. With hope in my heart and a bag on my back, I started walking in silence besides Raju. It was mid-day and there was nobody around. There was absolute silence all around us, broken only by our footsteps. After travelling this way for maybe half the distance, we stopped for a few minutes under the shade of a tree to save ourselves from the sun. After that small break, we continued our journey under the angry sun. Our footsteps created clouds of dust once again. But we started talking to each other and left the silence behind, under the shade.

Talking to Raju, I was surprised to find out that the very person walking next to me cultivated around 23 varieties of crops on his three acre plot of land. He depended on his own labour and lived on his own land. Raju shared with me the satisfaction he got from shifting to organic farming:

'In each village, farmers formed co-operative groups. We brought changes in cultivation practices by bringing changes in our lives. Each farmer would cultivate at least eight to ten varieties of crops in their three to four acres of land. With the increase in income and by saving costs on fertilisers farmers became self-sufficient and their economic condition improved. All of this came together to improve social relations between us and created a sense of collectivism.'

With improved economic conditions and social capital, Raju's community got together, to fight against alcohol production and consumption in their villages. They created new social norms around drinking and other such social problems. I thought of Maslow's hypothesis. Improved economic conditions after the fulfilment of basic needs appeared to have given rise to a new set of social needs in Raju and his community.

As I was lost in his narration, the distance shortened and sun could not do anything to stop us from travelling. In the near distance we could see the village and after climbing a small hill we reached the village and interacted with the farmers. I was already convinced that something good was happening here, that their farming practices were improving for the better. But as a duty bound researcher, I opened my questionnaire and filled in their responses.

By the time I completed the interviews; one farmer brought thick lemon juice and offered it to us. After such a long walk in the sun, the lemon juice made us feel like we were in heaven.

With data sheets filled, taste buds satisfied, and content deep inside because of Raju’s narration of the change they could bring to their villages i.e. - development in its truest sense -  I started my journey back. But this time, nature seemed joyful like never before.

I did fieldwork for my dissertation in Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh, where I interviewed sixty organic farmers in nearby villages of Utnoor, with the help of Chetna Organic Organisation.

 

 DEVELOPMENT DISCOURSE IN NORTH EAST INDIA: INDIA’S LOOK EAST POLICY AND BEYOND

By Liangousang Vualnam

 

 “Development requires the removal of major sources of unfreedom: poverty as well as tyranny, poor economic opportunities as well as systematic social deprivation, neglect of public facilities as well as intolerance or over activity of repressive state”.

-Amartya Sen (1999)

 

The insurgent hit, underdeveloped and backward region of India’s North East is immensely different from the rest of the country whether in its economic, political or cultural orientation. Even after more than six decades of independence and the subsequent neo- liberalization of India’s economy in the 1990’s, the region still lags behind the rest of the country in respect of growth, human development and in various aspects of development. The politics of development as pursued by the State has resulted in a vast divide between the elites and the masses. While the State raised the slogan of democratic decentralization, power however crept into the hands of the bureaucrats, businessmen and the political elites.

Interestingly, there is limited scholarship on development in the North East especially from a sociological or anthropological perspective. Most of the writings on North East are on political and social issues surrounding ethnicity, conflict and the nation state. Given the trajectory of academic scholarship, it interests me to explore the development discourse in the North East especially after the 1990's when the structural adjustment programme was implemented, heralding the start of the era of globalization in India. Even the scholarship on India’s Look East Policy is mainly in the context of the India’s foreign policy vis-a-vis its neighbouring countries and hence lacks critical engagement with the heart of the North East region itself.

India's North East is a region troubled by history and geo-politics; it has remained one of the most backward parts of the country. The North East region includes the seven sisters- Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim. In the period prior to Independence, the North East region was among the most prosperous regions of India. The partition of India in 1947 not only took the region backwards, but also placed hurdles on the future development of the region. The region as a whole is lagging far behind the rest of the country in important parameters of growth and human development. Isolated from the mainland, with only a connectivity of 27 kilometres wide Siliguri corridor with the rest of India - North East is a 'remote land' and that is constrained in the movement of goods and people. The quest for ethnic and cultural identities has sowed the seeds of frustration and dissatisfaction. Seclusion, backwardness, remoteness and problems of governance have provided a fertile ground for the breeding of armed insurgencies. Due to overwhelming dependence on the Central Government, public investment in the region has sub- optimal productivity due to weak forward and backward linkages. With the exception of the government employees, politicians and the few influential contractors, the while populace of the region is reeling under poverty.

The North East region occupies an area of 2,62,179 sq. km. constituting 7.9 percent of the country's total geographical area. According to the provisional Census 2011, the region is home to   over 44 million people or about 3.65 percent of the total population of the country's 1.21 billion plus population.  The region has hilly terrain in all states except in parts of Assam. The region has over 160 schedule tribes and over 400 other tribal and sub- tribal communities and groups. The region is predominantly rural with over 84 percent of the population living in the countryside.

After more than sixty decades of independence, we still have too many people who often go to bed hungry, and often die of simple, easily preventable and quickly curable disease; have little or no access to modern medical facilities; have no means to afford adequate shelter and have no stable jobs to ensure a reasonable standard of living for themselves and their families. For all these people of the region ‘development’ has little meaning. For the North East, development is only perceived in security terms while ignoring the social, infrastructure and economic development for the region. While many of North East's present conflicts have been as old as its emergence as a landlocked and peripheral region, they have become more pronounced in the wake of partition of 1947 and the consequent re-organisation of international borders. A re-thinking in terms of policy alternatives and new geopolitical imaginaries to get out of this impasse is a recent development that took off in a significant way only since the early 1990s (Das 2010).

The Government of India has initiated various strategies to remove poverty, backwardness and to promote the development of the North East region with plans of expanding provision of basic minimum services. The North East's development concerns are tackled through the Five Year Plans, Tribal Sub-Plans and other plans of the Union Ministry and central agencies as well as various schemes and programmes for the regions. Funds are allocated through the North Eastern Council (NEC) as well as through state governments as grants.  The Central Government with the objective of streamlining the strategy of development in an effective way has established Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) with a major agenda to provide special assistance to upgrade and expand infrastructure. Besides, the State has also made attempts to strengthen and facilitate professional support to the NEC. In spite of these moves in recent times, the region still finds it immensely difficult to initiate any substantial development measures owing to the virtual absence of economic and industrial infrastructure. As a result of absence in structural transformations in the infrastructural base, the development programmes fail to make any positive headway. Development of human resources available in North East region needs to be given the highest priority. However, it needs to be noted that security needs appear to supersede development concerns. India's security phobia has always been a dampener on different initiatives in the region.

The initiation of Look East Policy (LEP) by India in the early 1990's was a turning point in the quest for making a foray into the domain of South East Asia and East Asia. In 1991, the move to forge greater economic and strategic ties with Association for South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) was initiated by the erstwhile Prime Minister Narasimha Rao. The significance and necessity of the LEP was a result of myriad developments emanating from the re-configured geo-political dynamics of the post-Cold War era. It was indeed a foreign policy response of the Indian Government to the unfolding global power equations of the Post- Cold war era. Also, such developments provided the grounds for opening up of India's economy to global capitalism. The Look East Policy was a composite policy aimed at accomplishing greater economic and political ties with the countries of South East Asia.

The success of the development strategy of the North East depends on the need for a mutual understanding between seven sister states and the Indian State on solving the political issues and problems of different ethnic communities in the region. Instead of pumping money in a region beset my rampant corruption and abysmal governance, the Indian State needs to devise concrete solutions. Unless, the State has a genuine commitment to solve the problems, discontentment will continue to grow. The State should identify important actors in the region for meaningful participation in the policy making and implementation process and must refrain from looking at the North East from a solely national security or free-market oriented trade prism. Demands of various ethnic groups need to be carefully examined because in an area facing discontentment, neither integration nor development can take place.

 

ON THE THEORY/PRACTICE DIVIDE: PART 1 – DILEMMAS & DIALECTICS

By Indivar Jonnalagadda

 

A Constant Dilemma of Life in TISS:

The debate regarding the relative importance of theory and practice is an everyday feature of life at TISS. Students of social work and development studies maintain a mutual condescension towards each other. Intuitively we all see that theory and practice have a reciprocal influence. Almost nobody would deny that both are important and we need some sort of synthesis of the two, but that's easier said than done. Taking the particular context of development theory and practice one is presented with an elaborate division of labour. The normative principles being provided by the high ethical philosophy of the West, the working principles by more proximate think-tanks and implementation in the hands of an army of foot-soldiers consisting of locals and social workers. A whole industry of development has arisen, with students from institutes like TISS zealously lining up for a placement at some level or the other. But besides this, there are also other problems, deeper questions about the relationship between representation (theory/knowledge) and reality and their limits. I wish to explore this relationship and also to reflect on certain possibilities for a reconstruction of the development discourse. I won't go about placing my thoughts very systematically, but rather by presenting certain fragments from my readings and my experiences in “the field” which I think will convey my thoughts in a simpler way.

 

Heidegger's Silence/Arendt's Laughter:

Martin Heidegger was one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century and also one of the most controversial for his allegiance with the Nazis. Heidegger lived for two decades after the war but never spoke out in self-defence or self-reproach. It was Hannah Arendt, another great 20th century philosopher and incidentally Heidegger's ex-lover who spoke out.

Arendt refers to a tale from the time of birth of philosophy, a tale of Thales the so-called first-philosopher. The story goes that one day as Thales was strolling with his eyes on the stars he fell into a ditch. There happened to be a girl along the wayside who laughed and reproached Thales that what is the point of his knowledge of the stars if he can't see what lies below his feet? Arendt recasts herself as the laughing girl and Heidegger as the fallen philosopher.

She identifies Heidegger's flaw as retreating too far into vita contempletiva, the contemplative life, which is harmfully absent-minded and judges from such a great distance that it dissociates from vita activa, the life of action in concert with others. She points out that viewed from such a distance “one inevitably sees the people as a rabble to be controlled by one form or other of authoritarianism, rather than a human plurality to be participated in and celebrated.” She calls the purely contemplative life a “living death.”

Fragments from Marxian Lore:

Now let's rewind to a previous century and another pair of grand philosophers; Hegel and Marx.

Hegel's philosophy is astoundingly systematic and had an unparalleled influence in early 19th century Germany. Hegel propounded a ground-breaking theory of development which saw history as the process of the development of ideas, where ideas progressed dialectically, i.e. new ideas emerged out of a synthesis of prevalent ideas and their contradictions (thesis and antithesis).

A young Marx found himself surrounded by Hegelians. His relation with Hegel's thought was mixed, he admired Hegel's historical thinking and his dialectic, but loathed his privileging of ideas over material reality. At that time there were two factions of Hegelians, the Old and the Young. The Old Hegelians believed philosophy could by itself bring about social change while the Young Hegelians believed that only radical actions could bring about a social change. Marx however, believed them all to be misleading since in his view Hegel's dialectic was flawed. In his Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right Marx makes the 2 following statements.

1. “(The Old Hegelians) tried to make philosophy a reality without first abolishing it”

2. “(The Young Hegelians) tried to abolish philosophy without first making it a reality.”

In dialectical thought the word “abolish” has a particular meaning, to put it very simplistically to abolish refers to the act of rejecting while preserving certain elements, Hegel would preserve the rational elements while Marx would preserve the revolutionary/progressive elements. Returning to the above statements, they indicate that Marx believed representation (knowledge) and reality to be dialectically related. Their synthesis then is the basis of our practices and for Marx it is only through a commitment to practice that desirable social change can be brought about. I tend to agree at some level, but with certain reservations which I shall elaborate on.

The importance of Marx's contribution cannot be understated. I think even today when the theory/practice distinction is invoked we are somewhere referring to the problematic as framed by Young Marx in the early 19th century. But, surely Young Marx's ideas can also be “abolished”, his idea that representation and reality are dialectically related for instance. We cannot count on a single determining factor for their synthesis, it is multiply-determined if not over determined. So if as Marx says, practice is the synthesis of knowledge and reality, then I find myself with a great deal of doubt and scepticism every time I act. In this respect, the words of the German romantics Novalis and Schlegel in their critique of Hegel come to mind: “It is equally fatal to the spirit to have a system and not to have a system. It will simply have to combine the two.”

Although I'm no fan of romanticism, their critique is compelling. While the dialectic can be immensely useful in identifying large patterns, it misses out on other things, what Novalis and Schlegel would call “fragments”. Thus, I think that we cannot be satisfied with broad structural understandings, but such an understanding must also be accompanied by knowledge from the fragment, the particular, the deviant, the random. Or to be less vague, there is no doubt that social phenomena are emergent, i.e. although we might understand the constituents of a system, this understanding would not help us understand the phenomena that result out of their interaction. For example, we might have a comprehensive understanding of the behaviour of various nation states, but that does not help us arrive at a satisfactory understanding of international relations, for that we would require new concepts and new theories. Social phenomena are emergent at every level. It is valuable to understand every level and resist the tendency or desire to privilege a particular level. I hope that the reader can see where I'm going with this. If not, I believe the next couple of fragments will help to clarify. In part 2 of this article I will present to you some observations from an internship experience.

 

RIGHT TO DEVELOPMENT VS CLIMATE CHANGE: PERSPECTIVES FROM INDIA

By Sreeja Jaiswal

 

Perhaps the best articulation of the conflict between Right to Development and environmental issues can be summed up by analyzing India’s stance in the recently concluded The 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), where the Parties met to decide the future of which is till now the only legally binding climate change agreement --The Kyoto Protocol. India which is currently the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind USA and China, reiterated that it will not agree to any binding emission reduction targets because it places higher priority on the development needs of its citizens and poverty eradication. India argued that being one of the fastest growing economies in the world it needs increasing amounts of energy to fuel its growth.[i] It makes sense therefore that as a priority, development should come first because a climate change policy cannot solve all the problems and needs of development of a country. But at the same time given India's vulnerability to climate change adaptation efforts should not be ignored.

India has a burgeoning economy whose GDP expanded at the average rate of 9.06 % from 2005-2008 and swelling foreign exchange reserves which touched 316.80 billion dollars as of July 29, 2011.[ii]Yet India’s plentiful wealth and riches is in striking juxtaposition with its deplorable poverty and hunger statistics and it emerges as a country of extreme paradoxes.   Thus no doubt currently poverty alleviation, employment, literacy, access to primary health care and education, freedom from malnutrition, stabilizing population, ensuring safe drinking water and sanitation are the government’s over-riding priorities.

India ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1993 and the Kyoto Protocol in 2002. As a developing nation, it is not subjected to any binding emission reduction targets currently.  In the Durban Conference the parties took a decision to adopt a universal legal agreement on climate change as soon as possible, and no later than 2015.[iii] In the conference India has held its stand that development and poverty eradication are key issues within the climate change negotiation. India’s stand is based on two main arguments that is of historical responsibility and equity.

The current prosperity of industrialized countries is due to years of “historical emissions”, which have accumulated in the atmosphere since the start of the industrial revolution. The industrialized countries continue to emit more in order to sustain this growth. On the other hand developing countries have only recently embarked on the path of industrialization and hence their per capita emissions are still comparatively low. Under these circumstances any cap on their CO2 emissions effectively amounts to a limit on their economic growth.

Secondly India insists that a global regime should be based on equitable access to atmospheric space, based on a per capita allocation. [iv] India’s per capita carbon emissions is one of the lowest in the world, averaging only one fourth of the global average and one-twentieth of that of U.S.A. This situation is not expected to change for several decades to come.[v]

There is a close link between a country’s per capita emissions and country’s level of economic development, and thus standard of living of the people in the country. Every human being contributes to the CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. However, the lifestyle of a person’s decides the amount that is emitted. The more economically prosperous a country, the higher is its fossil fuel consumption. This results in higher greenhouse gas emissions. As India continues to develop, it is expected that people’s income will rise and households at all socioeconomic levels will increasingly use energy using devices .[vi] The related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will continue to rise even though the energy efficiencies of the appliances are continually improving.[vii]

So, it is clear that as long as the world economy continues to rely on carbon– driven by energy from coal, oil, and natural gas – growth cannot be de-linked substantially from CO2 emissions. Even after years of talk no country has been able to de-link its growth from CO2 emissions. It is often argued that since “No country in history has improved its level of human development without corresponding increase in per capita use of energy and to expect India not to do so would be unrealistic”. [viii]

However as India continues spend time and resources on developmental activities the issue of climate change is lurking in the backdrop threatening to undermine all of India’s development efforts. India faces a grave threat because of climate change as its economy is closely tied to its natural-resource-base and climate sensitive sectors such as agriculture, water, and forestry.[ix]  The majority of the vulnerable population of India is poorly equipped to effectively buffer themselves against the adversities of climate change due to low capabilities, weak institutional mechanisms, and lack of access to adequate resources. [x]

According to a World Bank report, climate change will have a serious impact on food security in India. Intrusion of sea-water in the ground water and changes in temperature can reduce agricultural and fishing incomes. Apart from these, achievement of vital national development goals related to other systems such as habitats, health, energy demand, and infrastructure investments would be adversely affected. The potential impacts of one metre sea-level rise include inundation of 5,763 km2 in India leading to large-scale migration from coastal zones. This will create large numbers of environmental refugees. And there will be increased expenditure to provide relief and rehabilitation to the displaced people.

The western world argues that even though it is responsible for the historical emissions, India in its own interest should take the lead in reparation.[xi]  However the impact of vulnerability is not only decided by the extent of climate change but also by the robustness of the developmental process in the economy. The Government of India has maintained a stand that it recognizes that “global warming will affect us seriously” but maintains that the “most important adaptation measure to climate change is development itself”. [xii]

It makes sense therefore that as a priority, development should come first because a climate change policy cannot solve the problems and needs of a developing country. The high incidence of poverty underlines the need for rapid economic development this includes strengthening food security, better access to basic social services (education, health, drinking water, and basic sanitation), expansion of economic and social opportunities for all individuals and groups and reduction of disparities . So notwithstanding the climate friendly orientation of national policies, the development in order to meet the basic needs and aspirations of a vast and growing population of the country will lead to increased GHG emissions in the future.

But at the same time initiatives for adaptation and mitigation for climate change, also cannot be ignored chiefly because economic development and poverty are closely linked with environmental degradation.  The poorest of the poor would suffer the most, since they are the ones, most vulnerable to climate change process. They are dependent on nature for their livelihoods, and are therefore highly vulnerable to natural calamities, environmental degradation, and ecological disasters. Any economic development, which destroys or ignores the environment, may augment problems of poverty, unemployment, and disease.

 

References

The Road To Copenhagen: India’s Position on Climate Change Issues, Public Diplomacy Division, Ministry of External Affairs , Government of India, (2009), http://www.meaindia.nic.in

[ii] Economic Survey of India 2010-2011. Ministry of Finance. Government of India. Retrieved from: http://indiabudget.nic.in/es2009-10/esmain.htm

[iii] Durban Climate Change Conference, 28 Nov - 9 Dec 2011, Retrieved from : http://unfccc.int/meetings/durban_nov_2011/meeting/6245.php

[iv] Government of India ,“Proposals by India for Inclusion of Additional Agenda Items in the Provisional Agenda of the Seventeenth Session of the Conference of the Parties”, UNFCCC, FCCC/CP/2011/INF. 2/Add. 1. (2011)

[v]S. Panigrahi, “Climate Change and Development in Indian Context” , At the kiosk: Climate Change & Development  , UNFCCC COP 8, Oct 23-Nov 1 2002, New Delhi, Retrieved from: http://unfccc.int/cop8/se/kiosk/cd4.pdf

[vi] Ibid

[vii] Ibid

[viii] P. Ghosh , “Climate Change Is India a Solution to the Problem or a Problem to the Solution?,”  Climate Change: Perspectives from India, UNDP,UNDP India 2009.

[ix] U. Kelkar  and S. Bhadwal, “South Asian Regional Study on Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation: Implications for Human Development” , Occasional Paper ,Human Development Report Office , UNDP, 2007

[x] M. Mehra. “India Starts to take on Climate Change” in State of the World 2009: Into a Warming World  Climate Connections, Worldwatch Insitute 2009, Retrieved from:http://www.worldwatch.org/bookstore/publication/state-world-2009-warming-world

[xi]S. Narain, “A Just Climate Agreement: The Framework for an Effective Global Deal”,in  Climate Change: Perspectives from India, UNDP,UNDP India 2009.

[xii]M. Mehra (2009). See note 13