BookPDF Available

Wake Up, India! Essays for Our Times


Abstract and Figures

Product description Wake up, India: Essays for Our Times Product details Paperback: 208 pages Publisher: YS Books International; 1ST edition (2014) Language: English ISBN-10: 9383793201 ISBN-13: 978-9383793204
No caption available
Content may be subject to copyright.
Wake Up, India!
Dr Koshy A V & Dr Bina Biswas
ISBN-13 : 978-93-837932-0-4
Printed at Mayur Press, New Delhi
Published by
Off : F-31, Bali Nagar, Near Ramesh Nagar Metro Station, New Delhi-110015
Tel. No. 011-45562623, Mob. No. 9891412623
Email :
Website :
Copyright © 2014 by Dr Koshy A.V. & Dr Bina Biswas
No part of the book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval
system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic,
mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior
written permission from the publishers.
The views, content and opinion expressed in the book are the
individual assertion and opinion of the authors and the publisher does
not take any responsibility for the same in any manner whatsoever.
The same shall solely be the responsibility of the authors.
I have to start with a significant disclaimer which is the most
important part of the book. is short but extremely idea-riddled
book is the result of a very fruitful dialogue online and through
email between Dr Bina Biswas and me for over three years on a
whole series of wide ranging issues affecting today’s world, India
and the youth, reflecting our highly divergent backgrounds. e
most important point here is this, the revolutionary, subversive,
radical and extreme political views in it in the first twenty
three chapters come purely from me. e moderate, humanist,
democratic, nationalist, liberal, secular and socialist views in the
rest of the chapters come from the tempering intelligence of Dr
Bina Biswas. We both critique things, but mine is the hot-headed
devil may care controversialist Zizekian and Hegelian dialectical
intellect at work, while hers is the one that is more dialogic and
polyphonic, clearly Bakhtinian and mayhap advaitic. Why I say
all this is simply to explain that for any of the unsavoury parts in
the book in terms of fiercely, ideologically speaking, unpalatable
ideas, only I am to be held responsible. Whereas, for the ones
that lead to a more constructive approach on the process of
nation building, she is the beacon of both good taste and sense.
us, if any book or author burning is to be done, it has to be
aimed at me, while any praise must be aimed at her.
To sum up: I stir up the waters of thought and she calms them
down, making for an excellent mocktail or cocktail or Molotov
as your taste might be.
e book might read like one on economic, sociological and
political, not to mention religious issues that are of increasing
urgency today, but it is more an essay in literary theory as the
iv | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
analyses of various crises were done using a literary criticism-
based mode of writing out a general proposition to find out
some of its logical ramifications. e resultant product is still
amazing enough for us to want it to come out in book form,
to be placed along with my three other prose books, namely
Wrighteings: In Media Res, (with A.V. Varghese), A Treatise on
Poetry for Beginners, re-released in India as e Art of Poetry:
A Self-Styled Verbal Weaving, and Samuel Beckett’s English
Poetry: Transcending the Roots of Resistance in Language and
my three collections of poetry, one self-published called FIGS,
and two collaborations called 2 Phases:50 Poems and Soul
Resuscitation with Gorakhnath Gangane and Angel Meredith,
respectively, as well as Dr Bina Biswas’ critical work, Tagore’s
Heroines: Assessing the Portraits of Gender Orientation,
translations of A Man Outside History of the poems of Naseer
Ahmed Nasir and Meghnaad Badh Kabya (with Sayantan
Gupta), an epic poem by Michael Madhusudan Dutt, short
story collections ,Tale of the Missing Shoe and Other Stories,
Breeze in the Old Building and Other Stories and poetry
collection Forest Flowers and her latest collaboration, again
with Sayantan Gupta, which is a collection of Indian detective
stories called Bombcase Baxi and Cleo.
I consider this an especially intriguing book as the whole text
still shows marked traces of the fact that it was first published
as a series of notes on facebook, now locked up, one of my
unique trademarks as a writer, and as articles published by Bina
Biswas on proud2beIndian, interestingly not her usual modus
operandi, and by me in, two online news portals,
in their datedness but not in their relevance. ese Derridean
traces help the book to both cohere and add beauty to its
destabilised mode of existence that fits well into its scheme of
tentative probing that is not holistic pattern-making, complete
with gaps in the best traditions of literary theory writing in
the twenty first century, that is both post modernist and post
structuralist, not to mention deconstructive and post colonial.
e bridge between the two parts, the first one purely by me and
the second by her, is thus, in very Zizekian or Lacanian fashion,
Preface | v
a long research essay. e book can exist as a text complete
in itself, or as an invitation to a whole series of such texts by
other stalwarts in any of the fields mentioned, or by myself or
Bina, or both of us together again, in the effort to tease out
and dig into all its implications, though we have no plans to
do anything of the sort in the near future. In brief, it suggests
a multifaceted method of dealing with national crises by astute
insights that may lead to shaking up the status quo and creating
better outcomes for the future of India as a nation, a matter of
much concern to all of us who are Indians, especially to young
Indians, and much of our thrust is towards them.
e research in it is not done by seasoned sociology veterans,
and this is the quantitative limitation of the text. But the
qualitative aspect is one we are proud to swear by.
e second part of the book is a series of chapters written by
Dr Bina Biswas as essays, except for the one on Irom Sharmila
which is by me and edited by her and the last on the youth and
their future was co-written fittingly as an envoi by both of us
together. All of them tie in neatly with the first part, because of
our discussions, as the aim of both is the same: our common
dream of a better and happier India, offering tentative solutions
to some of its burning issues or what should be noticed as such.
I am deeply honoured and grateful to work with Bina Biswas in
collaboration on this as she has one of the sharpest, most gifted
and hard working creative minds I have come across in India.
As I say of our other individual book efforts, this one too will
definitely withstand repeated reading, as we are purposefully
letting loose a hornet’s nest with good intentions for our nation.
Dr Koshy A.V.
Assistant Professor
Dept. of English
Academic College of Arts for Women
Jazan University
Ministry of Higher Education
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
We thank Mahip Chadha and YS Books International for
publishing this topical book which is not as haphazard in
its inner core as the first reading of it may make it seem. We
thank proud2beindian and where some of this
material first appeared. We thank all the authors whom we
have quoted in part or even fully from or for their relevant
articles during the course of the text and acknowledge images
taken from commons on the net, statistics from it and sources
like Wikipedia for some of the information. We do not make
claims for the veracity of some of the information in terms of
it being up to date.
Preface iii
Acknowledgements vii
By Dr Koshy A.V.
Some oughts on Reservation 1. 1
Ideology-12. 5
Ideology -23. 8
Ideology-3 4. 14
Poverty and Class-1 5. 17
Poverty and Class-2 6. 26
Population and Land-1 7. 32
Population and Land-2 8. 40
What Is On Offer - A Bridge Piece 9. 55
Politics and the Populace-1 10. 60
Politics and the Populace-2 11. 66
Was Gandhi a Mahatma? e heads side of the coin 12. 71
Was Gandhi a Mahatma? e tails side of the coin 13. 77
Corruption, common sense and the common man-1 14. 82
Corruption, the common man and common sense-215. 89
Debt, the common man, black money and religious 16.
or “white” money 95
More Horrors and Grand Narratives 117. 02
x | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
Return to Analysis 118. 08
Inflation 119. 18
e Specially Gifted and Shangri La 120. 24
Shangri La - e Dream of an Autism Village 21.
in India 128
A Bridge to Part Two: Living Modernity 122. 31
by Dr Bina Biswas
e Irom Lady by Dr Koshy A.V./ed. Bina Biswas 123. 47
‘Freedom from Fear’ Aung San Suu Kyi’s story 124. 49
e Maker of India – Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru 125. 52
Is Arvind Kejriwal an Aam Aadmi? 126. 55
Making India a Consumers’ Mecca – Dreams vs 27.
Reality of FDI 157
e First War of Indian Independence 1857 – 28.
e Lesson To Be Learnt 161
Biodiversity - A New Challenge for the Youth? 129. 64
E-Waste and the Question of Livelihood in the 30.
ird World 167
“Look at the Darkness, giving birth to the 31.
Sun” - Gujarat 171
Is Honesty a Far Cry in Today’s World? 132. 74
Tagore - e Poet Educator 133. 76
e Desolate Indian Youth – A Story of Expunction 34. 180
e Youth of India & eir Future 35.
by Dr Bina Biswas & Dr Koshy A.V. 182
Addendum: On post-colonialisms by a non- post 36.
colonial 186
Index 37. 192
Or: A few, scattered thoughts on reservation:
coming entirely from a post-democratic,
Ambedkarite, post-Marxist perspective
Reservation helps to open up a possibility or an avenue to
alleviate - in terms of being a fundamental, constitutional right
for the ‘depressed’ Indian castes - the lack of economic, social,
financial, agricultural, educational, cultural and other kinds of
capital (fixed or movable assets like land, machinery, air, water,
green cover etc.) on the part of the depressed castes.
ey were made depressed by historical wrongs that were
connected clearly to a religion (Hinduism) in India and,
secondarily, by colonialism (British) that stratified it to some
extent. Reservation cannot be done away with, but can, if need
be, on the basis of undeniable Marxist imperatives, include also
the depressed classes of all religions, and work on a different
basis for the creamy layer in the depressed classes. It would not
be one of elimination but of free admission, and a different fee
structure that is not as high as the rich but not as low as the
poor or the poor depressed, etc.
As for reservation for the poor among the minorities and
reservation for those who convert from depressed castes to
Christianity or Islam or Buddhism, or any other religion or
2 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
ideology or political philosophy for that matter, their right
for reservation has to still be included, upheld or retained
unconditionally, without any doubt. Reservation for women
is a must. Reservation for the poor is too, whether they come
from a majority religion or caste, or a minority one.
us, what has to be done is not do away with reservation, but
increase it and make it more inclusive, and ensure it is properly
ere is the question of its efficacy after so many years, and
some people - we all know who (the ones who also consider
conversion from a lower caste to an upper caste as an impossible
idea) - say it hasn’t helped. But it has helped, however little, and
it’s better that there is some upward social mobility than none.
We all know that the aim or ideal is to remove it, but if equality
and equity is not attained unless some other more powerful
means is found, it has to be in place.
ere is the question of its efficacy after so many years, and
some people - we all know who - say it hasn’t helped. But it
has helped, however little, and it’s better that there is some
upward social mobility than none. We all know that the aim or
ideal is to remove it, but if equality and equity is not attained
unless some other more powerful means is found, it has to be
in place.
Of course, conversion remains a possible key, but only if
reservation remains a right, irrespective of one’s financial status,
which can be taken care of as I suggested earlier, by perhaps
even introducing a slab system for the creamy layer.
is is one way of looking at it. ere may be others, equally
positive ones, not the defeating one suggested by the upper
class and caste, of getting rid of reservation for a so-called
“class” oriented form of reservation for their own obviously
vested interests, not taking into consideration cultural capital
1. Some Thoughts on Reservation | 3
issues etc., but the other constructive ways of looking at it are
not clear to me at the moment.
is primarily deals with numbers. After all, the majority of
Indians are not, as we are made to believe, Hindus (Hinduism
being defined cannily by the ruling junta, esp. the BJP, as
anyone who’s not a something else, being a Hindu - which is a
geographical identity by which definition pushed to its logical
extreme even those who are a something else would be Hindus,
if this definition is to make any sense!). But are Hindus of
the SC/ST/OBC, Muslims, Christians, Marxists, Buddhists,
Jains, Sikhs, animistic tribals (in the North East especially),
atheists, Zoroastrians, New and old New Age religious
members (eosophy, Church of Scientology) etc, Hindus? If
democracy is the rule of the majority, then it may be time to
recognize that India is not one. e fact is that India is ruled
by a rich upper class and upper caste elite, primarily Hindu,
due to the strangle hold of the Bengali renaissance on Indian
intellectual thought, with a smattering or sprinkling of rich
Muslims and rich Christians and rich revisionary Marxists here
and there in the echelons of power too, for the sake of the vote
bank and because of the history of the Mughal invasion and
British colonial oppression. Unless this ruling order, fortressed
and buttressed by years of training in having, holding on to,
gaining and multiplying capital and ruling at the expense of
the Other/s in India, is ousted, the only hope is to continue
with intensive and extensive reservation policies to ensure some
modicum of fairness in our seemingly secular, republican,
sovereign, democratic, humanist, socialist, liberalist set up.
e way forward thus, temporarily at least, seems to be of
agency, direct engagement/involvement through organizing or
as individual efforts (sans violence but not therefore any less
insistent) and functionality... obviously settling for the lesser
alternative of continuing with the reservation policy, out of
lack of choice.
Ideology is, in the hands of powerful thinkers or ideologues,
the ones with clearly developed idiolects, a powerful tool,
aid or weapon towards critiquing, critical thinking, analysis,
interpretation, designing, out of the box thinking, systemic,
hermeneutic, semiotic, creative, present-based and future-
oriented; whereby society can see its own faults as in a mirror, if
so minded. Also, each individual can find something by which
he can get for himself the required progressive lenses that deal
with long sight, foresight, insight and short sight, ground
properly. is, in its turn, may lead to short and long term
solutions being evolved for the pressing problems that ail the
universe and all in it, including mankind.
Ideology, if it is to make any sense, according to me, should
start by thinking of the local, then the zonal and the regional,
and finally the inter or transnational, or the global and the
universal. I have purposefully left out nation from that list
above because nation itself is an ideological construct, rather
than a natural geological concept.
In the previous chapter, I had suggested solutions to improve
equality and equity and distributive justice and liberty for the
depressed castes and classes in India - solutions that border on
the absurd in asking for expanding and extending it in terms
2. Ideology-1 | 5
of numbers, into the private sector areas and in time, across
one’s entire life-span. is is because extreme issues often lead
to tentative solutions that sound absurd, but may not be in its
entirety, because their general drift is not towards practicality,
but idealism, and towards examining the motives and intents
of society, as to whether the desire for reform is heartfelt or not.
e conclusion drawn by the constant reiteration of certain
solutions is that it is not. What society wants is to maintain
the status quo, human nature being selfish and having its
interests narrow and centred around its own group’s survival,
going in an ascending order of individual, family, relationships,
clannishness, tribe, environment-al (of ) upbringing, language,
regional culture, sect, religion etc…(I speak here primarily of/
from my “Indian” context).
If we look carefully at ideological movements that caused change
around the world, we see that they often sprang up from fighting
against certain things that had helped mankind to grow at one
period in their history; things that had later on taken a turn for
the worse and become oppressive. e basic pattern regarding
oppression and the oppressed and the oppressor is to understand
that while not dismissing the universal fact that we all are
oppressors and oppressed, it is important to not make an excuse
of this to remain endlessly in either of these camps but to be in
the revolutionary impulse. Hereby, one is able to see who all the
oppressors are in any cause, at any given point of time in history,
and actively engage in making them lose their power, granted
that there is a hierarchy of lesser and greater even in that, ensuring
that the power is then transferred to the oppressed to the extent
where somewhat genuine parity is restored. However, there is no
guarantee that, later on in the cycle of time, the oppressed might
not have, in their turn, turned into oppressors, if they become
the ascendant power, which should not have happened if equality
was the aim. In short, one changes constantly, when one is in
the revolutionary impulse, is in flux, belongs to all ideologies
and none, is an ideologue and/or not, and mixes and matches
6 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
freely. But there is a difference between the false ideologue and
the true one, because the latter does all this dispassionately
and yet is driven by keenly felt injustice, whereas the former
only appropriates powerful ideas to strengthen his position as
oppressor. e real ideologue seeks to uncover the meta-, the
ground of oppression, and is thus a tremendous threat to all the
false thinkers around him.
One thinks of Zarathustra (pro-duality at a time when it
needed to be stated as a corrective, perhaps?), the earlier
Moses (anti-slavery), Buddha (pro- enlightenment), Jesus
Christ (pro-inclusivity/anti-exclusivity), Mother eresa
(pro-poorest of the poor), Pandita Ramabai (pro-women,
both widows and orphans), Ramana Maharshi (pro-advaita)
Kabir (pro-inclusivity/anti-exclusivity), Jyotirao Phule (pro-
education, especially for women and the depressed castes), Dr
Ambedkar (pro-equality and equity, education, conversion,
and for the upliftment of the historically wronged castes),
Karl Marx (pro-proletariat), Martin Luther King (pro-black),
Franz Fanon (anti-racist, anti-colonial), Bede Griffiths (wider
ecumenism), Jean Vanier(for the differently abled), Soren
Kierkegaard ( against the state-church nexus), Dietrich
Bonhoeffer/Agamben (against Fascism), Elie Wiesel (against
anti-Semitism) Solzhenitsyn (against Stalinism), Edward Said
(pro-Palestinian and against Occidentalism), Chinua Achebe
(against colonialism), the Sufragettes (pro-feminism), Vandana
Shiva (anti-neo-imperialism. esp., against the American/
Western stealing by patent kind) and many others who came
with this kind of ideological message, radical to its core or in its
kernel, that threatened the existing order of things by ushering
in slow or immediate revolutions, peaceful or violent, that went
against the dominant discourses of their time.
What one sees in common among them all is the ability to stand
against the oppressor and for the oppressed, against the powers
that be, to bring about a change, whereby power is wrested
2. Ideology-1 | 7
away from or tilted away from its misusers and abusers to
those who do not have it, in a concrete way, so that real change
comes about in society quickly via revolution, or gradually
via evolutionary developmental, progressive revisionism or
reform, regarding the ending of unjust privileging, giving a
voice to the silenced and bringing the margins/marginalized
of the untouchables, the ones living in the gaps or interfaces or
outside the borders, the avarna, the subaltern, the differently-
abled, the victims of neo-imperialism, women, children, the
minorities and the Dalits - the demonized and the Other who
suffer under and in the system in every place and clime and
time in short, - meaning finally the underserved - into embrace
and sight. In this process, in my opinion, the false step has
often been in the field of cultural studies and sociology, where
earlier crimes against the universe, earth, nature and all living
creatures have often been reinstated in the name of attacking
newer ones, which is not excusable if one is into really mature
analysis which should be looking into the future and not trying
to reinvigorate all of the past with life.
Post-democratic can be imperfectly defined as a new form of
governance that is self-regulatory, issue-based, and driven by
the common people, who will sort out their own differences,
not about affiliation to political parties or ideological systems of
thought, or belief systems or value systems, or national leaders,
to begin with. If India, for instance, because it still exists as
a geographical entity, wants to better itself using words like
progress, development, futuristic thinking, holistic planning,
evolution etc., it should not fall either into the trap of thinking
it has a million grave issues or only one – say corruption - to
deal with. Instead, it should see that its issues, many or not/
few, can be tackled one by one or "together" if the "people"
deal with it, by entering more into the post-democratic spirit
of agency, involvement/engagement/participatory citizenship
as individuals and groups, and by functionality, peacefully and
insistently, but urgently.
e list in the previous essay of ideologues that matter (to me)
could be expanded, but gaps and aporias and silences matter
as much as lists. Why some names go missing could mean that
either they are being put under the sign of erasure by me -
a historical necessity or personal predilection? - or that they
matter, but have to be mentioned in a different context or as
a sign, asking for reader response to fill in the apercus, or as
sheer negligence/laziness or extreme contempt. e primary
3. Ideology-2 | 9
reason is historical conditioning. Any writer can only write
from within the ambit of his knowledge, his history and his
multi-facetedness, however large that may be. For leaders or
ideologues, not that the present writer is either, being only a
populist thinker, to claim to know everything is foolish.
e romanticization, even in recent times, of someone like
Marx’s works into a know-it-all-caught-it-all haloed system, for
instance, is what led to its breakdown in India, where no thinker
could think beyond Marx, Lenin and Mao, and understand
that it was a caste and gender revolution that was required here,
and not just an anti-industrial, anti-feudalist and anti-cultural
revolution. at is why Marxism failed in India, it was not
It is the caste issue that destroyed the rise of Christianity too,
and not just its being an arm of colonialism. e early Christians
in India could not see how Jesus had moved beyond Judaism
in understanding its essence, by fulfilling its requirements, into
embracing the Gentile and the Samaritan and the Canaanite/the
Philistine (todays Palestinians), understanding the flaw in the
religion he was born into. His disciples ever since, except for John
and Peter and Paul, do not really seem to have understood it.
In Buddhism, we see a similarly powerful spirit in action - if
we read Kumaran Asan’s Chandala Bhikshuki - in the lives
of one or two of Buddha’s disciples. In Sree Narayana Guru’s
social reform movement in Kerala, we see it to a much lesser
extent - in dealing with the upliftment of a particular caste. We
never see it otherwise in Hinduism - except perhaps in Raja
Ram Mohun Roy-, namely, the spirit of equality to those one
meets and to the so-called scum, the untouchables/lepers in
one’s own system, and except in glimpses in the early written
works considered as Scripture, at least not in the recent past of
its adherent leaders, not even in Gandhi who got it hopelessly
wrong, or Vivekananda or Ramakrishna Paramahamsa or
Dayananda Saraswati who were all bothered only with Hindu
revival(ism), which is why Ambedkar wrote about the need for
10 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
the Annihilation of Caste and converted to Buddhism, unlike
Savarkar who only wrote of the “abolition” of caste.
To return, let us take post-democratic procedure which is being
helped along by thinkers like Assange (pro- transparency)
and Snowden, and an issue like different abledness. I choose
different abledness because it is one of the few things I can
speak of with some seeming semblance of authority. Let us say
that x number of differently abled people exist in the "province"
of India. e agency of the more active among the suffering
population, composed of those among them as victims able to
stand up for their rights, and their well wishers, usually parents
and siblings and relatives, or those with a vocation towards, or
for them as caretakers etc., will naturally be the ones who are
capable of being the standard bearers and bringers of change
in this sphere. ey will show a tenacity of purpose and work
at bringing about change ceaselessly, in an every-drop-matters
relentless fashion, and many hands will eventually make light
work as the saying goes. Self-interest works in this instance.
ey will move the proverbial mountains, albeit knowing about
change, chance and chaos as negative instruments too, and will
pester or badger authorities, be they of whatever hue, till things
do improve for their population or peoples.
Why would they succeed partly, where others have failed,
if they do? e reason is simple, they become aware that
discrimination is practiced against their peoples, whether
knowingly or unknowingly, and the awareness that they are
a kind of unrecognized nation within a nation, to whom
ideologies cannot satisfactorily apply, since fate or destiny has
overtaken their numbers or members, irrespective of whatever
school of ideology their parents belonged to, levelling all
ideologies to the dust in its efficacy to solve such issues. So
these populations become users of ideologies and not under
their sway, a positive step in some ways. In other words, be it
fascism or democracy, the government matters little to them.
But they will choose democracy over fascism because fascism
3. Ideology-2 | 11
is more likely to come up with a "final solution" or genetic
tampering, than a democracy, seemingly. Behind such choices
which will make them support certain policies will be a tensile
steel-like strength that will also ensure a push and shove to
make sure that the government remains and expands into being
a true democracy where their area of concern is involved, that
it is never pushed under the carpet, and their minority interests
are not hijacked in the short or long run.
Whenever ideology as a corrective is talked of, the cry comes
from the ones who fear that their power (expressed primarily as
and in and through owning different kinds of capital) is going
to be eroded – “ey want power! ey are thieves. Stop them
at all costs. ey want to take away what is ours by right.
is is meaningless. What is at stake is not taking away, but
adding to the Other/s, but fear is behind all human holding
on to capital or power, the fear of insecurity and tomorrow,
and also attachment - attachment to self and their own people
(nepotism and communitarianism/communalism) and their
future security. Adding to the ‘Other/s’, however, will shift
the balance in power, and this is what really worries the upper
class and the rulers. e vote becomes, as it should be, not the
only point of say that the ‘Other’ has in pushing democracy
to its logical limits and beyond, in such a new scenario. e
Other's empowerment is what is feared, most of all, and the
empowerment comes from all knowledge being made and kept
available in the open domain. us some “normal” people are
scared that differently abled people will take away what is theirs
- by what they think is their "right" in being born normal, their
jobs etc.,- while their normalcy is only a gift, as is different
abledness. is was borne out in field trips I conducted recently
with 25 students where we found out that while employers may
sympathize with autistic people, they would not take them on
in Bangalore yet, because a normal person would:
do the job better(a)
do more(b)
12 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
do it faster(c)
not ask for a fair wage policy (naturally!)(d)
Despite all the so-called outward sympathy shown, and all
the rest of the usual humanist bullshit that comes with it,
the underlying grid of ideology which is actually a form of
metaphorical fascism unknown to the wielders themselves
is clearly simple: more to the effect of go take a walk to the
other/dark side of the moon which is where you belong, in an
institution with others like you and sort out your own stuff,
along with the ones who want to help you. However, you
and people like you are ultimately not really my/our concern,
but yours alone and the state's. e state, meanwhile, hardly
Ref. deduced from interviews with Rita James (principal of a
special needs school), Kavita Sharma (founder of Prayas) and
Jayashree Ramesh (ASHA for autism) and parents, informal
interviews that represent/speak for at least 2,225 people.
is is especially so in the private sector which is primarily or
purely for profit.
It is the same with the upper caste, the practitioners of a
religious majority in any country and so many biased groups
that hold power, who feel that their power may be levelled.
ree quotes by Foucault about the nature of power come to
my mind in this respect:
“Power is not an institution, and not a structure; neither is it
a certain strength we are endowed with; it is the name that
one attributes to a complex strategical situation in a particular
“e strategic adversary is fascism... the fascism in us all, in our
heads and in our everyday behaviour, the fascism that causes
us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and
exploits us.”
3. Ideology-2 | 13
“If repression has indeed been the fundamental link between
power, knowledge, and sexuality since the classical age, it
stands to reason that we will not be able to free ourselves from
it except at a considerable cost.
It is clear that the fault-lines ideology reveals, the points and
areas of conflicts caused by vested interests –are the ones that
particular attention must be given to, because it is here that
negotiation and advocacy will have to be watched as the
injured parties will seldom be given a say in such conversations.
Negotiation, dialogue and advocacy are only names, often,
for compromise at the expense of, sometimes even of the
demonization of, the ‘Other/s’ and can best be countered
only by ideologists who point out how the affected ones have
not been taken into consideration at these closed round table
talks, where their fates have been so summarily decided and
dismissed. In other words, governance has to be forced to take
into account every time that, in issues, needs are more at stake
than whether the majority or the minority want a certain thing
or not. It is all about needs and not wants, and that material
needs do play as large a role in the sustenance of all things in the
universe, sentient or not, as does the spiritual, for the present
and for the future well being of the coming generations.
Reading ideology is a peculiar procedure in the case of an
emerging theoretician, precisely because his ground is not
revealed, and this leads to deductions that are premature, as
in the case of the ideologue who sought justice and was called
a materialist, but was making his stand more on an entirely
different premise - that of hoping God's will would be done "on
earth." A case in recent times is the emergence of a thinker like
Agamben who makes Nietzsche look amazingly incompetent,
no one suspecting that an "overman" concept would lead to its
counter in an "underman" by one such thinker, influenced by
Walter Benjamin, one of such incisiveness that its (his works)
full implications will take quite some time for all of us to
(Some temporary grounds with which to define what an
ideology is)
When an ideology takes on the effort to be a new 1.
scripture, it fails.
Ideologies work, or may look like they are working, for 2.
a while, if they address injustice and try for distributive
justice across all borders and do not propound systems,
because all systems stultify.
e enemy is within and without every ideology, but this 3.
is the most dangerous point in/of an ideology; the one at
which every ideology balks and fails, ending up tilting at
the proverbial windmills a la Don Quixote.
Marxism makes the best whipping boy for the sake of
explanation, for in it the initial enemies of the bourgeoisie and
the petty bourgeois (the former for their clever cruelty that has
stretched down the ages and the latter for their wrong kind
of ideals about what upward social mobility should entail,
meaning that they think it should consist of an aping of the
means by which power was negotiated by those at the apex
of the hierarchy of power, the supposed reason why Indians
think Dalits if they come to power are or will be corrupt) - and
4. Ideology-3 | 15
of private property, as well as all the hoarders and investors
of capital in industrialized societies who do not consider
labour(ers) as worthy of being paid their fair share of the profit
that comes from the sold produce all soon became forgotten,
and the enemies became those who criticize dogma in the Party
without taking into consideration changing geographical,
cultural and historical notations and exigencies. Outside of
that, the enemies are those who are not Party members, but
who have/wield power outside of the Party system who will
not play along with the Marxists. e strength of communism
which had lain in its seeming impartiality to all the poor, was
thus subverted over time to a weakness whereby only the "poor
in the Party" mattered and among them too, only those who
toed the Party line properly, irrespective of whether the others
mattered, or the ones who asked questions were asking the
right questions or not etc.
is is the fate and end of all ideologies - to become static and yet
go on, to no longer be the dominant discourse, however mightily
it once mattered or shook the foundations of the world, since it
cannot, or does not want to understand what the revolutionary
impulse is all about, unfortunately, as opposed to the revolution
per se which only brings about temporary change.
I could analyze any major discourse there ever has been and
show how they all follow the same horrendous pattern of rise
and fall and hence falls into disuse.
e enemy, which is primarily fear of the other, and not 4.
wanting to be the other, or one with the other, is first of
all to be engaged in oneself and destroyed so that it is
not a hindrance in engagement with the present points
of conflict that have arisen due to present historical
ideological imbalances that are old but still around or
freshly arisen, that need to be urgently addressed, if not
16 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
What ideology reveals is that all people are ready to agree 5.
to one thing for the sake of their consciences and live
by another code facilely and easily, and are never ready
to change since they benefit from this maintenance of
the status quo. So its primary aim is only to expose this
crevasse they like living in, which hurts others initially
but in the end only hurts the ones who practice it in
terms of their inability to ever rise above their own petty
selves. It is a slow form of suicide. ere is of course
a question of degrees in this culpability. Ideology need
serve no other purpose than this exposure and it would
still justify itself.
When I asked my middle class, upper middle class and rich
undergrad students in India ( I don't know if this is a good
cross section, but they were the ones I was teaching) - not the
literati or the glitterati or the illuminati who don't matter
much anyway because what they write of usually doesn't
make immediate sense to anyone; it is not common-speak,
but gibberish - they told me that the problems that are really
bringing the nation down are poverty, population, politicians
and corruption. is is immediately accessible. But just as
the aforementioned gibberish is incomprehensible, this is
inaccurate. Poverty is something one experiences as a problem,
but it is not in itself the cause of one's misery, or the misery of
the person who is experiencing it. e cause or causes of his
or her or his loved ones' misery, which is what is making him
miserable in its turn, is what someone like Buddha or Jesus
or Marx sought to alleviate - the first two in what people call
a spiritual manner, starting from the inside, and the third
in what people call a materialist manner, dealing with the
outside. What they all saw was an unmet need, which could
be emotional or material, that was found not primarily in
the people who belong to the upper class, more commonly
called the rich, though none of them therefore categorize
or castigate everyone in the upper class as entirely bereft of
18 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
a conscience. However, as a class, they are attacked by all
these three thinkers or their immediate - in time - followers/
disciples/acolytes. e attack may be direct or implied, but it
is there all the same.
We find Buddha saying: "To live a pure unselfish life, one must
count nothing as one's own in the midst of abundance."
One could add, and in the midst of having nothing. is
sounds contradictory, but is the truth too. Having nothing is
different from wanting nothing.
is is very much akin to something like Jesus' proverbial rich
man trying to go through "the eye of the needle."
Jesus: "Blessed are the poor."
James: "Come now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your
miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted
and your garments are moth eaten, your gold and silver are
rusted and the rust of them shall be a witness against you and
shall eat your flesh as it were fire. You have hoarded treasure
together for the last days. Behold the hire of the labourers
who have reaped down your fields which is of you kept back
by fraud, cries out and the cries of them who have reaped are
entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. Ye have lived in
pleasure on the earth and been wanton; ye have nourished your
hearts as in a day of slaughter; ye have condemned and killed
the just and he does not resist you."
Buddha also says: "Contentment is the greatest wealth." Paul:
"Godliness with contentment is great gain. If you have food
and clothing, therewith be content." I would add: please note
also that both had no families and were men. is is why I feel
the married Marx is also relevant.
e onus here, in the spiritual teachings, is on the individual.
It comes from inside. It is an attitude of the mind.
5. Poverty and Class-1 | 19
is is, of course, accurate as a solution for the individual who
cultivates it, both in the face of poverty and riches. But several
questions arise on perusing this line of thought. One is that
of language, the consistent nagging problem which is what
Buddha spoke of as wrong desire (not right desire), and Jesus
spoke of as lust (strong desire, not just desire) and Marx spoke
of as want (not need) should not be lost or misunderstood
because they used three different words. What happens if and
when a group of such like-minded people who have the right
attitude of mind come together? A Sangha forms, we know, but
on what principles will it work? We know the principles. ey
are the known and universal ones of generosity, giving without
expecting to get anything in return, of love and compassion,
of "not doing to others what you don't want done to you"
(Confucius), "of doing to others what you want done to you"
(Jesus), of sayings like "it is more blessed to give than to receive"
(Paul), "they (the disciples) held all things in common" (Luke),
of Marx's "no private property," "of loving one's neighbour
and one's enemy as oneself, and laying down one's life for one's
friends, and loving the stranger in one's midst"- taken from the
Buddhist Sangha and the Bible and Marxism - but no longer
are they propagated than we hear the murmur of the opponent
from within and without saying it is not possible, here is one
more "dreamer" as Lennon was, etc. is enemy crucifies Christ,
drives Buddhism out of India, labels and emasculates Marxism
as a dangerous and violent ideology, without understanding its
grounds first, and shoots a Lennon or assassinates a King and
a Gandhi, and spits at Ambedkar's followers for not speaking
proper English. Just as the Sangha is formed as a trust, in trust,
in which the adherents have no guarantee that they will remain
on the path or that the others who walk with them will, for
change can happen to any man or a group at any time. ere is
also the non-sangha, the ones who do not accept this teaching
as fruitful, who will either join in later or not, or oppose it or
not, or who will try to find other ways of tackling the problem
20 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
at hand - the problem not of poverty, but of the pain and
suffering it causes, because of one's lack, which may be material
or spiritual, as I mentioned earlier.
Some, of course, will just plod along the weary path of existence,
beaten, unaware that they are only fodder for the metaphoric
cannon that is the state, the ones Agamben calls bare life/bodies
in the biopolitics of biopower. ese are the abject of every
system. If the individual or individuals who has/have attained
contentment or the Sangha cannot maintain, grow up in and
grow in numbers and address, sooner or later, by a constant
eternal vigilance, seeking meanwhile also to fulfil the needs
(not wants) of the abject, and opposing the ones who come,
as if from above with the authority of capital(ism) to penetrate
their mental states of equanimity, protecting the abject from
them, (since their offer to fulfil the formers' material needs is
based on motives of "more profit" for the bringer of the offer
than for its taker), then it will lead precisely to what happened
in history, time and again, to Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity
(now primarily Catholicism), Islam and Marxism. e “death"
of the Sangha will occur and another one with similar impulses
will arise in another place and time under another leader. is
does not mean, of course, that the form of these earlier Sanghas
does not go on. It does and there are adequate numbers in the
folds to make everyone feel happy.
But this is not the main issue here. e main issue is poverty's root
cause or causes, and how it is perpetuated through generations in
the same way that riches are perpetuated through generations, to
the point where my undergrad students unequivocally say that
India is a poor country, and one of our most pressing problems
is poverty because most Indians still live under the poverty line,
according to international indices. More important than the
question of who is to blame is that of what can be done to set
this right. Increasingly, it has occurred to me that the arguable
solution is to understand that we deal with the positions of that,
5. Poverty and Class-1 | 21
for, not for, against, not against, not that, the opposite of that,
the not-that of the opposite, the anti-that of the opposite etc.,
in an ever lengthening chain, meaning that one is never going
to get a consensus on any subject regarding what has to be done.
In this lacunae one should only suggest, suggestivity is the way
forward; the best thing is to be "an ineffectual angel beating in
the void his luminous wings in vain."
e ground of the argument is of course this: the universe,
the earth, everything on the ark or spaceship, sentient or not,
depending on whether one wants to draw one's metaphor from
Noah or Fuller, is energy, life and matter - mutable, perhaps
perishable - and this includes human beings; especially the
ones in the geographical entity now called India - a nation
construct of recent origin - and by present denominators
people/humans are resources and so this area is rich both in
natural resources - though not oil - and in human resources
because of its population. It also has a presence in other nation
constructs through its huge diaspora which should count
towards its growth. Despite this, because of its regional history
which includes its religion, and its invaders (the Aryans, the
Mughals and the British especially), it remains impoverished
with many multiple causes for poverty.
It can raise itself to a state where all its citizens have enough
according to the many prevalent indices of poverty, happiness,
wellness etc., only if there is a sizable and vigorous revolution in
mind-sets that understands what has to be done - things that can
be done only by the entire society together or by its majority, if
the gap between the haves and the have-nots is to be filled, and
the rich get richer but the poor don't get poorer, and the rich
getting richer is not at the expense of the poor, who meanwhile
get richer too, somehow, and don't just go down the hill or stay
in the same boat. It is the class divide that has to be eliminated,
but it cannot, unless its linkages with caste, gender, education,
communalism, nepotism, colonialism, neo-imperialism in
the form of globalization, capitalism, racialism, geographical
22 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
bias, linguistic bias, corruption, the state's ruling machinery,
the ruthless world of profiteering caused inevitably in and by
the privatized sphere gunning for globalized prosperity etc., are
clearly understood.
Leaders like Buddha or Jesus or Marx or Ambedkar or even
Gandhi - named here purely in order of their historical appearance
- are not around anymore. Sanghas of idealism too are in short
supply. To make up for lack, and parallel to, as well as preceding
it (the Sanghas), various forms of governance, mixed and pure,
have been and still are being tried out or experimented with/
on all over the world, forms that include democracy, federalism,
republicanism, socialism, communism, fascism, theocentric rule,
monarchy, oligarchy, military rule, other forms of dictatorship,
nepotism, tribal rule, etc. None of them have been able to create
primarily poverty free zones, although the world believes, rightly,
that the developed countries are primarily less poverty ridden.
at is why the increasing cry is heard in the developing countries
(the third world!) - for democracy, liberalism, humanitarianism,
secularism and capitalism, a cry that is on the rise. Gaddafi has
capitulated, China has gone pink, Bengal has fallen, Kerala is
revisionary, and no one cares for Cuba. e Arab Spring rages
fitfully, while India remains poor, along with South America and
Africans. is shift to trust in governance to deal with issues, and
the belief that there is more sense in having many counsellors, was
signalled into existence in the West, of course, by the Renaissance,
the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the French, American and
Russian revolutions etc. However, correspondingly, the colonial
drive and slavery, and the decimation of indigenous populations
etc., went on. Progress was clearly for the white man and not for
others. is should make us take democracy with not just one
pinch but several pinches of salt.
At present, the majority of the (metaphorically speaking)
"decimated" populations in India, with a few odds and ends it
was given in return for the "gift" of being colonized, like the
English language which I am writing in at present, is trying to
5. Poverty and Class-1 | 23
undo ravages that stretch back to the time of the Aryan invasion
till now, having understood that the haves are usually upper caste
Hindus - the result of aggressive Aryan ideology, or "upper class"
Muslims - the result of aggressive Mughal supremacy, or a few
"upper caste" Christians or " upper caste" Marxists - the results
of aggressive colonialism or aggressive post-independent shifts in
power in two Indian states (Kerala and Bengal). By aggressive, I
simply mean being extremely in line with the powers that be.
e ravages, all of them, have to deal with our topic for now -
the causes of poverty.
What is poverty?
It is connected to the resources of the land one is born in. ese
resources form one’s -the citizen's- capital, ideally speaking.
Resources can be material or non-sensory, but do not cease to
be resources, either way.
Let me start by listing them. e argument here is that all, not
just human beings, deserve these things, irrespective of whether
they earn them or not - the principle being highlighted being
one of "to each according to what one needs and from each
according to what one is able to give/ one’s ability." is is to
stand all political theory on its head and take nature with its
theory of nurture into consideration, wherein a mother does
not ask the child what he/she has to give, but instead asks
what he/she first needs, and gives that, and only later talks of
responsibilities to be fulfilled. No state does this. But it makes
sense to. For if the state nurtures well, when the children grow
up, they will return the state's adequate nurture.
My New Poverty Index
Air - pure, clean, free.1.
Water - pure, clean, free.2.
24 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
Land - of good quality, meaning arable and agriculturally 3.
Clothing - adequate covering, again geography specific.4.
Shelter - geography specific.
Transportation - means of.5.
Health-care, medicine and insurance - free or 7.
appropriately priced, depending on one's ability to
Education - for the mind, intellect, and to learn skills 8.
like maths and the sciences, and humanities and arts
that may lead to employment.
Leisure - for one's creative thoughts to flourish in.9.
Sleep - for one's physiological and physical well being.10.
Family, and/or other meaningful social relationships, 11.
engagements and pursuits as well as playful and
pleasurable social pastimes - to fulfil mental and
emotional and psychological and spiritual needs.
Sports and Games - for one's physical well-being and for 12.
channelling of the need for violence into constructive
Employment - for one's upkeep and for those dependant 13.
on one.
Sex – a biological need.14.
Knowledge needs, with language as an adjunct - 15.
availability, accessibility, searchability and “findability”
of requisite information, at the right time in the right
place, by the right person/needy denizen of planet
5. Poverty and Class-1 | 25
Technological needs – acknowledging the fact that life 16.
is no longer able to live independent of the machine.
Possessions - furniture for instance, and other assets, 17.
movable or fixed. Includes items for schooling, etc.
Are these only needs for humans? I do not think so. ey
seem mainly the needs of everything on earth, more or less,
and if some of the new things on my poverty index seem
anthropomorphic or anthropocentric, that is only because
being human myself, I cannot yet transcend to the level of
total objectivity as to speak for all species.
e government has to provide each of these to all its citizens -
human or not, as needed - equally, and more in the case of those
who are differently abled, not only on paper, but concretely,
and if it cannot, it has to abdicate.
In short, to put it bluntly, simplistically, reductionistically, to
end for the time being, poverty signals the class divide, and the
class divide is actually caused by man's innate selfishness which
comes out in the form of systems like capitalism which start
from catering to demands (consumerism) and not to supplying
needs, and grows into profit from the same (profit being: wealth/
riches/assets/ capital/possessions/ name/fame/money/status/
power/beauty/ influence/membership in power networks) and
not into getting a return from the abilities of those whose needs
have been met. is wisdom has to be torn down in its entirety
if one is to return to the mature wisdom or spiritual violence
of the ideas of a Buddha or Jesus or even a Marx (sans physical
violence as end or means, though Marx rightly propounded it
for his place and time as a sound corrective, which, too, as in
the case of every other corrective, was corrupted unfortunately
into a tyranny later on).
e way in which poverty is not studied, is concretely.
Of course we read in all creation stories around the world, origin
stories, that Everything Was Free, in the beginning. is brings
us to the one of the most significant hindrances to removing
poverty in our midst.
It is the lowest common denominator that supposedly ensures
quality and excellence, the unit that assigns value to everything
and works as the mediator of buying, selling, spending, earning,
saving, barter, exchange and all our other interactions in the
fiscal, financial and economic realms - Money. You might have
noticed that I did not put capital or money in the list of things
that make up my poverty index. But this is where I am wrong,
technically all one needs is the different kinds of capital and/
or money and luck (chance and chaos/ destiny and fate need
to leave one alone, or Providence/God has to be with one, of
course, I guess) - luck, a word that I have heard tell, comes
from Lucifer, and not any of those other things, not even food,
which I left out in my list of imperatives, and no one probably
noticed in the previous instalment, which only goes to prove,
perhaps, my point that the arts of reading and writing are dead,
though that is an altogether different issue. To return, the need
for capital and money as the two main things is because, the
6. Poverty and Class-2 | 27
way artificial man-made society has developed through rule
and governments and law, all the other things can be laid hold
of, if one has at least one of these two things.
One of the metaphors to explain the obvious is that of the long
distance race. If life is a race - whether by rats, cats, dogs and/or
cockroaches (as my friend Michele Baron would like me to say),
one would think that all of them should run different races,
being different creatures, and run different distances to win
because they have different capabilities and aids/helps - natural
or otherwise. But wait a second. Isn't life like that anyway? No.
In India especially, under the heavy shadow of casteism and
because of the influence of the joint family system, and the
threat of survival and the pressure of having to make it - there
being so many people around - it is never so. Different races, so
it seems to us. But a closer look reveals some alarming fissures
and rents in this rosy picture. It's not perhaps that life doesn't
make us run different races. It's that it makes us run a different
race from the one we would probably run well. Technically
speaking, all men/women/children are free to make their own
choices in life, become what they like or are good at, etc. Of
course there are several things in them determined by genetics,
which nothing can be done about, and some things in their
environment like language, culture, religion etc., also about
which nothing can be done initially, which precludes much
choice already. Added to this is the strong, marked influence
of those you grow up with, the kind of society you grow up in,
and the education you receive.
We see that if we put along with this, the fact that one is
already born with a certain amount of capital and money to
back one up, or not, is of a certain gender, caste or sect, or
cult or denomination, a certain family or tribe or clan, brought
up in an ambience of a certain political leaning, of a certain
ideological disposition, or scientific interest, or artistic bent , or
a humanities-centred and liberal arts/general studies oriented
28 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
home, one's choices become more and more limited. If one is
born poor and has to stay poor without becoming poorer or has
to become richer, one has to deal unconsciously with this entire
baggage that may contain in it, both plus points and minus
points, along with the kind of baggage that comes from outside
of the interests of others, clashing with your need to come up
in life, with Darwin's law of the jungle and the survival of the
fittest still being very much around, only in a different guise.
e race seems to narrow finally into a single one for most, for
power, authority, dominion, throne, principality, glory, dwelling
securely in the high or heavenly places where wickedness and
iniquity is also found, left untouched because no one dares to
attack it at such high levels unless they want to be beheaded
or have a tragic end like Hamlet. What happens is people
are lined up by systems chock-a-block, pell-mell, by systems
unaware of differentiating or of multiple intelligences, systems
with no heart - all systems being such, people with capital or
without it, with or without skills or money, or the requisite
training. e result of the race is that the ones who started out
with more, end up getting more, and vice versa. e sensible
ones try for generational improvements. us, our fathers and
mothers tried to live a "better" life than their parents, to give
us children a better chance, and we will try to do the same for
our children. If done well, intelligently, (who said intelligence
doesn't matter any longer?), and with getting the right breaks,
over the generations we will see a gradual improvement, a kind
of slow and steady wins the race thing, though the race is not
exactly won. It's just that one either doesn't slip back or gains
a bare inch or two and holds on to it for dear life. So much for
the (rat?) race metaphor.
Humans require validation - meaning, they won't think I am
an authority on anything because this is not a peer reviewed
journal or anything. I am a nobody sitting and writing away
on my laptop in a corner on fb, not giving my writings the so
6. Poverty and Class-2 | 29
called fiscal value of copyright or trying to get it published,
on purpose, as of now - so I need to also look at two more
so-called validated by the public indices on poverty, happiness
and wellness before moving on to the topic of how poverty is
generated and sustained in India, how it is an industry, how
India needs it more than riches for everyone, and how some
people are used by others to make it remain like that so the rich
can remain rich and get richer while the poor get poorer, how it
is an unintentional and intentional conspiracy, but with results
as bad as the Holocaust. A slower Holocaust, actually, which is
much worse, but definitely, doubtlessly, a Holocaust.
"One-third of world's poor in India: Survey
TNN Aug 27, 2008, 02.11am IST
NEW DELHI: India is home to roughly one-third of all
poor people in the world. It also has a higher proportion of
its population living on less than $2 per day than even sub-
Saharan Africa. "
at is the sobering news coming out of the World Bank's latest
estimates on global poverty. e fine print of the estimates also
shows that the rate of decline of poverty in India was faster
between 1981 and 1990 than between 1990 and 2005. is
is likely to give fresh ammunition to those who maintain that
economic reforms, which started in 1991, have failed to reduce
poverty at a faster rate.
India, according to the new estimates, had 456 million
people or about 42% of the population living below the new
international poverty line of $1.25 per day. e number of
Indian poor also constitutes 33% of the global poor, which is
pegged at 1.4 billion people.
30 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
"e World Bank defines poverty in absolute terms. e bank
defines extreme poverty as living on less than US$1.25 per day
(PPP), and moderate poverty as less than $2 a day. It has been
estimated that in 2008, 1.4 billion people had consumption
levels below US$1.25 a day and 2.7 billion lived on less than
$2 a day. e proportion of the developing world's population
living in extreme economic poverty has fallen from 28 percent
in 1990 to 21 percent in 2001. Much of the improvement has
occurred in East and South Asia. In Sub-Saharan Africa, GDP/
capita shrank with 14 percent and extreme poverty increased
from 41 percent in 1981 to 46 percent in 2001. Other regions
have seen little or no change. In the early 1990s, the transition
economies of Europe and Central Asia experienced a sharp
drop in income. Poverty rates rose to 6 percent at the end of the
decade, before beginning to recede. ere are various criticisms
of these measurements."
is was in 2008.
According to Gross National Happiness, a country is rich if its
citizens - the majority of course - are satisfied in seven areas:
Economic satisfaction (savings, debt and purchase (i)
Environmental satisfaction (pollution, noise and traffic)(ii)
Workplace satisfaction (job satisfaction, motivation, (iii)
ethics, conflict, etc.)
Physical health (Severe illnesses, overweight,..)(iv)
Mental health (usage of antidepressants, self-esteem, (v)
positive outlook..)
Social satisfaction [including family and relationship (vi)
satisfaction] (domestic disputes, communication,
6. Poverty and Class-2 | 31
support, sex, discrimination, safety, divorce rates,
complaints of domestic conflicts and family lawsuits,
public lawsuits, crime rates, etc.)
Political satisfaction (quality of local democracy, (vii)
individual freedom, and foreign conflicts, etc. (http://
Where India would stand in such a survey is not known to
me, but then again the seven points of quantitative analysis
themselves were developed in Canada and seem slightly too
urban-centric and not relevant to India in some points whereas
some other points - the prevalence of female infanticide, for
instance? - are obviously left out.
e white paper produced and addressed to America primarily
by IIM as a result of the above mentioned survey - http:// - is worth looking
at briefly, for the sake of Indian cities, I suppose, before
abandoning it entirely for reasons that will be self evident to
you if you read it.
e state, the government - the rulers - the laws/the judiciary,
the bureaucracy/administration, the nation, the military etc.,
are not entirely responsible for this state of things, the paper
e truth is that such radical poverty - a giant problem - cannot
be tackled or alleviated on a giant footing if nation and state, in
both the international and national senses of the word, remain
intact as the main ideological concepts and philosophical
constructs of the twenty first century. is would apply not only
to solutions regarding poverty, but also regarding population,
politics and corruption - the first quadrant, my students said,
are India's major problem areas.
I would like to start with a digression about Bob Dylan, today.
He is on a never ending tour, which is admirable at his age,
and these notes are going to be like that, how he plugs on or
chugs on like "a slow train coming," seemingly never ending.
However, there is life in Dylan still, as his song in the latest
Hank Williams album suggests, showing an old dog can still
teach new pups and little bitches on his block who think the
sun rises, shines and sets out of their rear ends, a few lessons
and tricks if he wants to, whether they want to learn or not.
Similarly, I know there is life in my notes, even if everyone
begins to hate me for writing them, and no one gets anything
from or out of it, and nobody ever reads it, or they spot the
glaring inconsistencies in it, which is all unlikely.
To come back to the topic, no one has, yet, except a very few
smart crooks in Ernakulam, which is in Kerala, my home state,
started selling (non-bottled) air, and they do it not in bottles
as far as I know but as health meds by asking one to purge his
or her body by taking in pure, fresh oxygen in a closed cabin.
is is to make money of course, the smart cheats, and they
have/had a big clientele and made money too the last time I
checked. Unlike I, who just sits here and writes these notes for
free reading, as of now, but I could tell them if they only mixed
it with some Eastern mumbo jumbo of pranayama like the Art
7. Population and Land-1 | 33
of Living guy, getting people to pay them to teach them how
to do something which is their birth-right, namely breathe,
properly, since they obviously don't know how to do even that.
ey would - the air sellers - be even smarter, but they're not
that smart, they want to keep it scientific, the clever fools - so I
do not plan to write much about it - air, I mean - as a resource.
Air seems plentiful and not yet in short supply except at high
altitudes and for asthmatics and parents of autistic children who
want to opt for hyberbaric oxygen treatment which is highly
expensive, so humans and/or other species haven't yet started
making it a sellable and buyable commodity, or fighting over it
or stealing it or offering discounts on it as of now, though this
doesn't mean it won't happen in the future.
We should probably air-right - like we copyright books - our
air, but this would leave me and my family dead as I don't have
any land - the air above which would hopefully be mine, as
would the sand and earth and rocks and whatever minerals etc.,
are there in/on it and any water- if we get lucky. But actually in
India, even this isn't mine. Owning land is an "ordinary right"
and not "a fundamental right!" Imagine! What this means is,
I can buy land and have to pay tax on it and on my house
and on my salary if it goes beyond the prescribed limit of one
and a half lakhs per annum, but the government can come
and take my land away from me very cheap at any moment
for themselves, and give it to the industrialist for his factory
and the so-called town developer for flats, and the business
families like the Tatas for their expansion projects, and that
is called progress and development. If I resist, they will not
only take my land away from me and level it, but also bulldoze
me into the ground to be buried there with the bulldozer they
brought to do the bulldozing with, and no questions will be
asked about my body, which would have gone to enrich and
nourish the earth in a pile of levelled rubble. As a result, most
of India is waterless, landless, "power" less, jobless and air-less,
34 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
living off the government's or somebody else's bounty, and
strangely enough still in debt, unbeknownst to themselves,
or known to themselves, as I know of my plight, but life still
goes on somehow, despite such heavy odds against it, for the
disinherited and dispossessed of India! Amazing resilience!
I want to point out that I do not expect anything to happen
because of my notes, and I am not trying to make anything
happen, and I also want to state that I claim no responsibility
if a revolution does happen partly, hopefully, because of them.
Having got that disclaimer off my heavily-laden-with-concern-
and-worry-for-India chest, like all the other talkers who are not
walkers or doers in this land and on FB, a do nothing and a
not-do-gooder, to whose ever growing union and ranks I gladly
join and belong, let me go on...
I want to skip water, and go on to land from air, the way I
skipped food in my list of things in my earlier New Poverty
Index. is is because I am often in a frisky mood for one
thing, and I don't know much about water for another, and
writing long notes are tiring, and finally, because I do know
something about land and land laws in India, incidentally or
e total land area of India is: (I think)
3,287,590 km² (1,269,346 sq mi) if some records are to be
trusted, that is.
It is the seventh biggest country or politically unified land mass
in the whole world. Australia is just above it in the list!
(e link gives the details about the water we own too.)
"e demographics of India are inclusive of the second most
populous country in the world, with over 1.21 billion people
7. Population and Land-1 | 35
(2011 census), more than a sixth of the world's population.
Already containing 17.5% of the world's population, India is
projected to be the world's most populous country by 2025,
surpassing China, its population reaching 1.6 billion by 2050.
Its population growth rate is 1.41%, ranking 93rd in the
India has more than 50% of its population below the age of 25
and more than 65% hovers below the age of 35. It is expected
that, in 2020, the average age of an Indian will be 29 years,
compared to 37 for China and 48 for Japan; and, by 2030,
India's dependency ratio should be just over 0.4."
What do these figures actually mean?
It means something very simple. If all Indians need enough
air, water, food, land, shelter, clothing, education, medication,
insurance, jobs etc., by 2030 we have to expand our territory!
is is, if we are going to continue with the concept of the
nation state. We have to expand out across the continents,
anyway, for survival, peacefully or otherwise, whether we
continue as a nation or fall apart by 2030, due to the pressure
put on us by the huge population increase.
But meanwhile, let me abandon common sense and adopt
maths for a while.
If we divide the land by the number of the people, each
person would get .027 km squared of land, at present. Now
we know this won't work. the government takes away land as
common use land for forest or green cover, for its buildings for
administration, judiciary and military and for the rule, buildings
like the Parliament, and for other "public" institutions like
schools and colleges, research institutions like BARC and ISRO
and all sorts of other things. Let's say, totally randomly, with no
36 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
cause for rhyme or reason, both things we have to keep out of
this meticulously, because that is how the government and this
country and all governments and states work, that at the end of
all this appropriation each person should still have technically
.010 kilometre squared of land. is would be about the size of
a room and that could do wonders in a place like Mumbai. You
must remember that I have not mentioned agricultural land
at all! And I am imagining India as a place with level ground
and stable weather, with all of it hospitable and welcoming and
arable and liveable!
I have not dared to bring up issues like environmental or
ecological caretaking either, or the rights of species etc., because
we are dealing with a staggeringly huge number of people, so
huge that if we divided it up in the foolish way, I suggested I'd
get land the equivalent of five rooms, which should be enough,
very technically speaking, me having a family of five, with no
muttam, a Malayalam word for front yard, and I would have
to make use of hydroponics to get plants to grow and use rain-
water harvesting and go back to candles and kerosene too, for
alternative sources of power, in an anyway 'power'less land.
But now comes the whole point of this absurd exercise, which
is to tell you that the government is not going to give me
these five rooms worth of land. I have to buy it from them
or someone else for which I have to slave all my life to make
money if I started out landless, and in the middle of all this,
my land or the one I'm "covetously" eyeing for my family, evil
man, may suddenly find itself usurped by demands on it either
by inflation, or the land mafia, or the government, or some
other higher power, in case I finally managed to get hold of it.
How did all this come about? In history text books, I read
that when the whites went and took away the red man's land
in USA, it was considered a crime against humanity, though
it was of course not stopped, but the red Indians at least
7. Population and Land-1 | 37
fought against it. But millions of poor suckers of brown
Indians like me live on their own land and have never even
stepped out of the country ever, unlike me, and still have no
land even in their own country! Who took their land away
from them? ey were born without land, live without land,
and die without land. Many end up losing even what little
land they had in the first place.
e blame game goes on, regarding feudalism, zamindars,
governments, the British, casteism, the Mughals, the Aryans
etc.; but the landless, consequently the waterless and the
foodless etc., increase in drastic numbers, meanwhile. How
did it happen? e highest authorities of the land arraign
themselves with power through a set and series of constantly
changing laws and amendments, whereby the land can be kept
in the hands of a few and taken away from the hands of the
many, throughout the centuries. is was because a nascent
democratic state or whatever kind of state it was, ruled India all
along - which is actually probably unknown to itself fascistic -
needs not only rulers but subjects. It needs not only those who
have the right to become somebodies but also those who have
to be kept as nobodies, whose bodies can be used for slavery,
for its successful running as a nascent, democratic, unknown to
itself, fascistic state, have no doubts about this!
A quote seems in order or needed here: "Since its origins,
Agamben notes, law has had the power of defining what "bare
life" (zoe, as opposed to bios: qualified life) is by making this
exclusive operation, while at the same time gaining power over
it by making it the subject of political control. e power of law
to actively separate "political" beings (citizens) from "bare life"
(bodies) has carried on from Antiquity to Modernity – from,
literally, Aristotle to Auschwitz. [citation needed] Aristotle, as
Agamben notes, constitutes political life via a simultaneous
inclusion and exclusion of "bare life": as Aristotle says, man
is an animal born to life (zen), but existing with regard to the
38 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
good life (eu zen) which can be achieved through politics. Bare
life, in this ancient conception of politics, is that which must be
transformed, via the State, into the "good life"; that is, bare life
is that which is supposedly excluded from the higher aims of
the state, yet is included precisely so that it may be transformed
into this "good life". Sovereignty, then, is conceived from
ancient times as the power which determines what or who
is to be incorporated into the political body (in accord
with its 'bios') by means of the more originary exclusion
(or exception) of what is to remain outside of the political
body—which is at the same time the source of that body's
composition ('zoe') [citation needed]. According to Agamben,
bio power, which takes the bare lives of the citizens into its
political calculations, may be more marked in the modern state,
but has essentially existed since the beginnings of sovereignty
in the West, since this structure of ex-ception is essential to the
core concept of sovereignty."
Agamben seems to think, perhaps, but I doubt it, that this is
something that started out and happens or happened only in
the West. It is not true, it is universal and connected as much
to India which is a "SOVEREIGN socialist republic" and was
based on a very clear idea of governance even from Vedic times
which operated precisely on the same principles as mentioned
above of biopower AND biopolitics, as witnessed by ideas
implied in events like the aswamedhayaga.
For instance, when the aswamedha is sacrificed, the women
suddenly become bare lives/bodies and:
"e chief queen then has to mimic copulation with the dead
horse, while the other queens ritually utter obscenities.
On the next morning, the priests raise the queen from the
place where she has spent the night with the horse. With the
7. Population and Land-1 | 39
Dadhikra verse (RV 4.39.6, YV VSM 23.32), a verse used as a
purifier after obscene language."
e point is that in the absolute sway of the state: the women
(read, weak ones) have no choice but to be what the state wants
them to be, and obey what the state wants them to obey. In
this case they have to yield to theocratic demands for a night
and day at least, and more, while in our case or days, we (the
women, and the weak) have to yield to political ones for all our
A frightening thing deduced from Agamben is: "Agamben's
criticisms target a broader scope than the US "war on terror".
As he points out in State of Exception (2005), rule by decree has
become common since World War I in all modern states, and
has been since then generalized and abused. Agamben points
out a general tendency of modernity, recalling for example
that when Francis Galton and Alphonse Bertillon invented
"judicial photography" for "anthropometric identification",
the procedure was reserved to criminals. To the contrary,
today's society is tending toward a generalization of this
procedure to all citizens, placing the population under
permanent suspicion and surveillance. "e political body
thus has become a criminal body". Agamben also notes that
the Jews deportation in France and other occupied countries
was made possible by the photos taken from identity cards.
[29] Furthermore, Agamben's political criticisms open up in
a larger philosophical critique of the concept of sovereignty
itself, which he explains, is intrinsically related to the state of
Now imagine what happens in INDIA if land is wanted for a
temple or place of worship, some other land for the government
to preserve a cultural and historical monument, some for
a graveyard or crematorium, some for an industrialist, some
for a business man, some for a town planner and developer or
MNC from the private sector and finally, let us say a poor guy
decides to squat on some land that he finds vacant. He's alone.
He "grabs" a cent or two of public or private land in a fit of
despair. He wants to live in one place, finally, stop paying rent,
stop wandering maybe, and wants a home and place of his own
and can't afford to buy it at the exorbitant rates charged on
the market, ever. e state will throw him out and the people
watch, unperturbed, the same way they watch if tribals have
their land taken away, and dalits are uprooted and repatriated
elsewhere, and the urban slum dwelling poor too are often
given marching orders. e last three will be made possible
with "eminent domain" laws initially imported from America
added to British crown laws at the time the constitution was
framed, and the first with the charge of breaking the law,
criminality, illegal squatting, etc. What is strange about all
this is the natural human mind automatically militates against
all this and feels that something is wrong, not in the first six
examples succeeding, but in the latter three or four failing, but
8. Population and Land-2 | 41
the law makers prefer to do nothing about it. e law makers
frame the laws to favour the rich and the powerful. And the
lawyers fight for clients who pay, irrespective of which side of
the brief they are on. ey are just doing their job. No wonder
justice has scales in her hand but her blindfold is now not to
ensure impartiality but to ensure that lawyers do not have an
opinion on the ethics involved in the cases they are fighting.
e whole thing is crazy. e truth is, Indians stop other
Indians from having some little land to live on. If our aim is
self-sufficiency as a nation, what we have to strive for is that
everyone has basics first, before we try to progress. It you ask
Indians, they will say they don't do any such thing because they
do not understand the nature of societal or social responsibility
which is not just taking care of yourself and your family and not
interfering, but something more. We have to put the cart before
the horse. is means enough water, food, shelter, clothing,
education, jobs, power, transport, etc., for everyone, not just for
some. is can only be brought about if the government is taken
back by the people instead of subjecting the people, to the extent
where the government obeys the people and not the people the
government. e push has to be towards a post-democratic
world that deals with resources and issues, because neither the
majority nor the minorities can be trusted anymore.
I need to tell you a little story. One day in class while
discussing land, I made the rash statement that the land in
India belonged primarily to the government, religious trusts,
the rich businesses or industrialist families like the Tatas, Birlas,
Ambanis, politicians, industrialists, business men, MNCs and
land sharks etc. e students asked who I thought it should
belong to. I spoke of equitable distribution. Now we come to
the crux of the story. A clever girl - perhaps an Ezhava from
Kerala, a significant signifier for those who come from that part
of India - started searching the net for records, governmental
and otherwise, of whom all the land in India really belongs
42 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
to. It's like searching for a needle in a haystack. She went to and many other sites and searched. She told me
she finally came to a site that is supposed to give all the details
of ownership but drew a blank. I have searched but am unable
to find any such site, the details/truth remain hidden as usual.
For the sake of the lousy academicians, of whom I'm one, I am
putting two articles in, although it doesn't really give me what
I want to know...
However, both of these are balanced articles that require
e Right of Eminent Domain: Revisiting the Proposed
Land Acquisition Bill
Dr. M.N. Buch
Visiting Fellow, VIF
e Constitution of India prescribes the basic framework
within which government is to function and also mandates
that government will promote a welfare state which will have
its moorings in socialism. is is given in the Preamble to the
Constitution. ere is also Part IV of the Constitution which
contains the Directive Principles of State Policy. Article 38
requires the State to secure a social order for the promotion of
welfare of the people. Article 39 directs the State to secure for
all citizens, the right to adequate means of livelihood, ensure
that the ownership and control of the material resources of the
community are so distributed as to best subserve the common
good, and to prevent the concentration of wealth and means
of production in a way that would harm society. Article 46
in particular enjoins the State to promote the educational
and economic interests of scheduled castes, scheduled
tribes and other weaker sections of society. In other words,
both property and resources which could generate wealth, are
deemed to belong to the nation as a whole and the State, given
8. Population and Land-2 | 43
the authority to legislate for the use of these resources for the
interests of all and not of a particular section of society.
In the matter of property in land, the old original Article
31 which made it a fundamental right was repealed, Article
31A was substituted, the right of the State to legislate in the
matter of estates, land above a prescribed ceiling, etc., to be
expropriated, has been enshrined, and the only restriction
on acquisition of land held legally within a prescribed
ceiling is that compensation for acquisition of the land will
not be less than the market value. Constitutionally, therefore,
acquisition of land is legal and legitimate, subject to the law
enacted in this behalf.
e present Land Acquisition Act permits the State to acquire
land for public purpose. Unfortunately public purpose is not
clearly defined and, therefore, a mere certificate from the
authority acquiring land that it is needed for public purpose
is enough justification for acquisition. is provision has
been misused. For example, in the Nandigram case, as much as
thirty-eight thousand acres of land was notified for acquisition
by the West Bengal Government, with the objective of allotting
it to a foreign company for setting up industry in the corporate
sector. e fact that employment would be generated thereby
does not make this acquisition fall within the definition of
public purpose because the Land Acquisition Act was never
designed to help private parties obtain access to land by State
coercion. ere are innumerable cases where land has been
acquired for setting up industrial estates, individual parcels
have been allotted to industry, and many of these plots
have subsequently been resold by the allottee. is is a clear
violation of the original objective of acquisition of the land in
question. e latest example of this is the Greater NOIDA case
in which the Supreme Court quite rightly quashed the orders of
the Uttar Pradesh Government, whereby thousands of acres of
land was acquired for industrial purpose and then passed on to
44 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
private builders for construction of houses for profit. In doing so,
the land use was changed. is is also a gross misuse of power.
All industry, all development works, all construction is done
on land. In India, sixty percent of all land is arable, and about
thirty percent is under forests, pastures, etc. Only about ten
percent of our land is totally unculturable waste. By contrast, in
China, only ten percent of the land is arable, about ten percent
is forests and the balance eighty percent of land is unculturable
waste. In India, if any development work is to be done, the
likelihood would be that it is from cultivable land, and that
a portion will be excised and given over to the development
work. Almost every dam would submerge some cultivable
area. Roads, railway tracks, canals and power lines would cut
across a substantial amount of culturable land. Mining may
be on forests and waste lands, but here environmental criteria
would apply, which may activate the brakes. Power stations,
educational campuses such as IIT Kanpur and IIM Ahmedabad,
the great industrial clusters such as BHEL, Bhopal, Bhilai Steel
Plant, the entire operation of Tatas at Jamshedpur, hospitals
such as the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and the
Indian Institute of Science are all located on land, as are the
Gobind Ballabh Pant Agriculture University at Pantnagar and
the Punjab Agriculture University at Ludhiana, the last named
two on prime agricultural land. is is inevitable in a country
where a major part of land is cultivable and actually cultivated.
If land is needed for development works, it is axiomatic that
a substantial portion of it will come from the cultivated
landmass in India. is is a reality of Indian life.
ere are three categories of non-governmental activists who are
engaged in matters relating to land acquisition. Medha Patkar and
Narmada Bachao Andolan represent one category, which started
off by awakening us to the fact that land acquisition without
justice and equity deprives people of not only livelihood but
the means of livelihood, as also their homes. e movement
8. Population and Land-2 | 45
began as a protector of persons displaced by dams on the
Narmada River and its tributaries. Adequate compensation, full
rehabilitation of the displaced and allocation of land to them in
the command area of the projects, were the three main demands
of this group. Soon, however, the movement metamorphosed
into one opposing all dams, and subsequently, all development
projects which had anything to do with land.
e second set of activists would fall within the category of
advocacy and adversarial litigation. e first and second groups
have a fair amount of overlap. e advocacy groups emphasise
that acquisition is a violation of the fundamental rights of
the land owners, mainly small farmers, and therefore, every
act of acquisition is opposed at every step by agitation, legal
means and resort to litigation.
e third group would be that of the environmentalists.
Environmental protection is extremely important in a
country where all peninsular rivers are rain fed, whose health
is dependent on the health of the forests in the catchment.
Protection of the environment, therefore, is crucial to the
ecological balance in this country. However, these groups have
now gone to the other extreme in which, on environmental
pretexts they have virtually brought all mining to a halt,
most irrigation projects to a halt and all major road works
to a halt. None of the above three categories of activists are
prepared to even listen to a contrary point of view or to arrive
at a compromise in which the interests of persons whose land is
being acquired, protection of the environment and promotion
of the development programmes are brought into balance. For
example, Narmada Bachao Andolan is not prepared to discuss
with government, measures necessary to reduce dam height and
the area under submergence. ey have only one stand, which
is that there should be no dams at all. Environmentalists want
a blanket ban on all mining. In a country where coal based
thermal power is a major source of electricity, there would be no
46 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
electricity generation without coal. No one realizes that without
dams there can be no irrigation, and therefore, a quantum jump
in agricultural production; without power there can be no lift
irrigation and all prime movers in industry would come to a
halt. Any discussion with any of these groups leads to an almost
primordial cry for a return to a state of nature. Whether this is
possible in a modern world is a matter of extreme doubt.
Let us take a scenario where there is no Land Acquisition Act.
Can we imagine the Punjab without Bhakra-Nangal, Madhya
Pradesh without Indira Sagar, Bargi or Bansagar or the country
without IIT Kanpur, IIT Delhi or IIM Bangalore? All these
exist on land and if land could not be acquired, none of them
could be built. Is that the objective of our activist groups? e
Land Acquisition Act as it stands today, is flawed, but it is
based on what all Land Revenue Codes state in India; all land
belongs to the State. is concept itself is based on the British
precept of all land belonging to the Crown, from which it is
held by the people. In India, the State has voluntarily given
over bhoomiswami rights, under the ryotwari system, to all
cultivators and in urban areas it has made over land in freehold
or on permanent lease. In effect, the right to property is restored
to the people. But because there is what is called in the west,
the Right of Eminent Domain, that is, the sovereign right to
take over land for public purpose, there is a law which enables
the State to acquire land. is ability of the State must not be
abridged, though the law must be clear in its definitions. e
public purpose for which land is to be acquired must be shared
with the people so that they become partners in the project.
Compensation should be such that, at that price the land
owner would voluntarily agree to surrender his land, and the
rehabilitation of the land owner from whom land is acquired
must be built into the system.
If there is strict definition of public purpose and an even
stricter interpretation in application, complaints about
8. Population and Land-2 | 47
the misuse of the Act would disappear, or be substantially
reduced. In the fixing of compensation, the value of the land
as reflected in sale deeds should be ignored because all land
transactions in India are under-valued so that tax and duty
can be avoided. Everywhere the District Collectors’ office
should periodically publish an authoritative rate list of land
values, which is compiled by experts of proven credibility,
who gauge the true value of land, including its declared
value and the black money value which is not declared. All
Land Acquisition Officers should use this authorised rate
list as the basis of fixing compensation.
Under no circumstance should land be acquired for
private parties. e corporate sector buys raw materials and
other inputs into production from the market and the State
does not provide these items. Land on which the corporate
activity is located is also an input into production and there
is no reason why the State should provide the land, except in
designated, highly regulated State owned industrial areas or
estates. Land should never be acquired where an alternative
is available. However, for development projects which
promote the welfare of the people, land will be needed
and the law should provide for its acquisition. Because of
some do-gooders in the National Advisory Council and the
intervention of activist NGOs, government is likely to go to
the other extreme in enacting a new law on land acquisition.
e Bill proposed by Jairam Ramesh under pressure from the
NAC makes it so difficult to acquire land as to render it almost
impossible. One clause which is likely to be introduced is that
government cannot acquire any irrigated or double cropped
land. e whole of the Punjab, much of Haryana and Western
Uttar Pradesh, the Chambal Valley in Madhya Pradesh, are all
irrigated and double cropped and, therefore, under the new
law, land cannot be acquired here for any purpose. is means
that in the Punjab, no canal could be built, no road widened,
48 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
no power station set up, no new defence establishment created,
no new educational institution built. In fact, no development
activity in the public sector could be possible because the
land would not be available for it. Is this our objective? Will
it promote welfare? Will it enhance economic well-being by
providing more gainful employment?
In China, the government has never recognised private
ownership of property and, therefore, the Chinese
Government takes over lands whenever it likes for its own
schemes. In constructing the ree Gorges Dam, China
displaced thirty lakh people. In expanding and renovating
Beijing, especially in the context of the Olympic Games,
China displaced more than ten thousand farmers, whose
protests were brutally suppressed. e path followed by
China is not available to India, whose democratic polity will
not permit us to ride roughshod over the people. Nandigram
was an attempt to emulate the Chinese example and it caused
the three decades long Marxist Government in West Bengal
to be thrown out by the people at the polls. At the same
time, India cannot afford a state of paralysis in which the
State cannot acquire any land whatsoever regardless of the
worthiness of the cause. As the minister in charge of piloting
the Bill, it is the duty of Jairam Ramesh to strike a balance
between the needs of the people and society, the protection
of the interests of the people and the national imperatives
to modernise society, economy and infrastructure. Can
we expect this minimum wisdom from a minister whose
penchant for playing to the gallery is notorious?
Published Date: 26th September, 2011
8. Population and Land-2 | 49
e second one is: Land use and ownership in India
“Out of 304 million hectares of land in India for which records
are available, roughly 40 million hectares are considered unfit
for vegetation as they are either in urban areas, occupied by
roads and rivers, or under permanent snow, rock or desert.
Of the remaining 264 million hectares of land that have some
potential for vegetation, 142 million hectares are cultivated,
67 million hectares are classified as forestland, and 55 million
hectares as fallow or wasteland, or land with pastures or
In percentage terms, according to World Bank estimates:
Cultivable land amounts to around 58% of land that has
potential for vegetation.
22% is forestland.
7% is uncultivated (revenue) ‘wasteland’.
7% is rocky, barren land.
7% is urban/non-agricultural land.
Roughly, 20% of the total land area is ‘commons’, which
includes both cultivable and uncultivable wasteland and some
e Central Statistical Organisation puts the percentage
distribution of the country’s total land area by land use (1992-
93 figures) as follows:
Forests: 22.2%
Land not available for cultivation: 13.3%
Permanent pastures and other grazing land: 3.3%
Land under tree crops included in net area sown: 1.2%
50 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
Cultivable wasteland: 5.1%
Fallow land: 8.2%
Net area sown: 46.3%
Area sown more than once as percentage of net sown:
Land ownership in India
During the two centuries of British rule, India’s traditional land
ownership and land use patterns were changed. e concept of
private property was introduced, de-legitimising community
ownership systems in tribal societies.
e British introduced the zamindari’ or ‘permanent settlement
systemin 1793, whereby feudal lords became owners of large
tracts of land against fixed revenue payments to the government.
Peasants became tenant farmers and had to pay rent. is
system prevailed in most of northern India.
In the south and west, the ‘ryotwari system’ was followed.
Individual cultivators (ryots or raiyats) were proprietors of land
against revenue payments, with rights to sub-let, mortgage and
transfer land.
A third system under British rule was the ‘mahalwari system
whereby entire villages had to pay revenue, with farmers
contributing their share in proportion to their holdings.
Land distribution under these systems became extremely
unequal, and rural society got polarised into landlords, and
rich peasants versus tenants and agricultural labourers.
Land transfer was institutionalised under British rule and
moneylenders secured land against loans. Combined with high
revenue rates, this led to growing indebtedness, dispossession of
land, rising tenancy, and a widening of the income gap between
8. Population and Land-2 | 51
rich landlords and poor tenants and agricultural labourers.
By Independence, about 40% of India’s rural population was
working as landless agricultural labour.
us India has inherited a semi-feudal system of land
distribution that followed the social hierarchy. Most
landowners belong to the upper castes, and cultivators to
the middle castes; agricultural labourers are largely dalits
and adivasis.
After Independence, India brought in legislation for land
reform that included:
Abolition of the zamindari system.
Abolition of intermediaries.
Protection to tenants.
Rationalisation of different tenure systems.
Imposition of ceilings on landholdings.
However, legislation did not lead to substantial progress
towards equitable land distribution. Most studies in fact
show that inequalities have increased rather than decreased.
e number of landless in India has progressively
Landholding distribution too has become skewed. According
to government data compiled from sources such as the All India
Report on Agriculture Census 1991-2000, in 1995-96:
1.2% of landholdings in the country accounted for 14.8%
of the total operational holdings with large holdings of 10
hectares and above (average holding: 17.21 hectares).
6.1% of holdings accounted for 25.3% of the total
operational holdings with medium holdings of 4 to 10
hectares (average holding: 5.8 hectares).
52 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
12.3% of holdings accounted for 23.8% of the total
operational holdings with semi-medium holdings of 2 to
4 hectares (average holding: 2.73 hectares).
18.7% of holdings accounted for 19.8% of the total
operational holdings with holdings of 1 to 2 hectares
(average holding: 1.42 hectares).
As many as 61.2% of holdings accounted for only 17.2% of
the total operational holdings. On average, the size of these
marginal holdings was 0.4 hectares.
Landless labour
According to the India Rural Development Report of 1992,
43% of the country’s rural population was absolutely or
near landless. Landless agricultural labour makes up almost
half of those living below the poverty line in rural India.
A majority of the economically and socially weaker sections
of society, such as scheduled castes and tribes, dalits, adivasis
and women, make up the majority of landless population
working as labour.
Landlessness has been steadily rising among the scheduled
castes and scheduled tribes. According to a government
Rural Labour Enquiry report, the percentage of landless
households among scheduled castes increased from 56.8%
in 1977-98 to 61.5% in 1983, while among adivasis it
increased from 48.5% in 1977-78 to 49.4% in 1983.
Even among those who own land, a majority own marginal
plots that provide them little or no food security. e
government describes such marginal landowners as mere
landless’ (those who own less than 0.002 hectares) and ‘near
landless’ (those who own between 0.002 and 0.2 hectares).
According to the draft paper of the Ninth Five-Year Plan,
8. Population and Land-2 | 53
77% of dalits and 90% of adivasis are either ‘absolute
landless’ (own no land) or ‘mere landless’.”
Let's not try to go deeper into the issue, from 1992 to 2011.
In urban places, it is not just the dalits and the adivasis, but
also the urban poor, irrespective of all social markers, that are
suffering. Why I don't want to go deeper is, without going into
investigative journalism which is a waste of time, I will not be
able to name the real benefactors among the landed gentry of
India of the State's skewed policy, or give you the real latest
statistics for 2011.
One of the surreal or “irreal” solutions I can think of is to ban
public property and ownership of private property in such
huge measures by certain individuals or groups and encourage
squatting. But it has to be done with style, glamorously and as
a media event. at is where "occupy wall street etc.," is amiss.
It is not carnivalesque enough or not enough of a spectacle,
not garish enough, infra dig enough, tasteless enough, not
absurdist or grand guignolesque or commedia dell'arte enough
or dadaesque or theatre of cruelty or ubuesque or stage managed
enough. It doesn't play to the gallery. It is too serious in its
outward veneer. To be done right, a landless person must squat
in a private or public place and there must be an interview with
a bikini clad woman about it on All TV channels as to why she
supports it and some spilt blood, a case of streaking, and social
networking on twitter, fb and youtube for days on end, live
cam etc., plus a parody of a puja, distribution of some sweets
to some children, a band mela, a pandal with dances, etc. is
is to borrow the modus operandi of the bigger, unstoppable,
ruthless criminals like today's conglomerates and corporates
who are not only globalized, multinational and transnational,
but also oh so Indian still! ere is some virtue in all this. It will
at least give entertainment, to the rich and the poor starving
masses alike, impartially, like God gives.
54 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
Another, "better", "idealistic" solution is to take all the land
away from the government and the ones who own it most and
distribute it freely, gratis, in piece-meal fashion or manner, two
to five cents each (at least 0.10 km squared, remember) to each
person; age, caste, religion, gender, creed, etc., being no bar,
among all the other people in India, so that a family of "four"
- the magic number according to the Kerala economic model-
would get at least eight to twenty cents of land, arable or waste
or mixed, if they do not own any land at all....unmindful of the
chaos and anarchy this may cause!
What Is On Offer -
a BrIdge PIece
What is on Offer - A Bridge Piece: Between my
Population and Land pieces, and Politics and the
Populace pieces.
I need to start with a digression again because of certain gaps
in my narrative and some of the comments that I received – I
guess I need to clarify some things because it’s possible that
loose definitions can lead to confusion. Democracy is defined
as the rule of the majority, and I definitely prefer it to other
forms of government, even if, in India, we at present are only
moving towards it. I have no problem with this, but voting
patterns in India tell me clearly that it is not the majority
that rules India. Another thing I want to say is that I don’t
necessarily think majority rule will be the best rule. e third
thing I wanted to say is, while India is ruled by a government
that is in the main, a move towards democracy – it is actually
ruled either by soft Hinduism (Congress/ or Marxist leadership
in Bengal and Kerala) or a group that wants to move towards
hard Hinduism (BJP).
If the majority is to rule India, then it will be as I suggested
the OBC/SC/ST and the others (Minority communities, those
in the North East etc.), all of whom are mostly poor, who will
actually do the ruling. is would be a real democracy, whether
56 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
agreeable to me or others, or not. Other choices for the country
are move more and more into the Global networks like the one
suggested by BRICI, or more into theocentric fascism, or break
up into two to five administrative units and more and more states
(Telangana, Gorkhaland, western Odisha) or smaller countries
(an obvious suggestion being south India and north India), or
more countries (Bodoland) etc. Another bigger picture option
is for India to start colonizing Antarctica, Africa and South
America out of sheer pressure since America and Europe
would not let us do it - because of its exploding population,
and declare its diaspora also dual citizens and also try to set up
colonies in space, on the moon, Mars, underwater etc. None of
these suggestions are likely scenarios in the future.
When I say the people, I always mean the underbelly of the nation
that I just spoke of above. And when I say the government, I
mean the elected representatives, the bureaucracy, the judiciary,
the law enforcers, the military, the rich and powerful.
But my personal preference goes with none of the above
futures. Instead, it opts for a post-democratic form or forms
of governance which, as I said, is revolutionary in its constant
thrust to remain primarily about resources and issues and
rights and responsibilities and people’s priorities, as opposed to
anarchy or anti-democracy, which is good to clear the ground,
but does not suggest what is to be put in place instead.
Many of the comments I received on these essays show the
extent of ignorance people have about things to do with large
numbers of people to be taken care of, in their suggestions
opting for a this or that solution, or criticism that this or
that would not work, or lack of clarity in reading that may
stem from my lack of clarity in writing, though I doubt it.
e ultimate folly is forming a “system” instead of taking into
account pluralism, multiplicity, many- facetedness and constant
change in the world around us. So a sober mindedness in the
9. What Is On Offer - A Bridge Piece | 57
midst of flux is the only option really open to human beings
now. e American experiment of the melting pot and the
Canadian one of the salad bowl have both seemingly failed in
terms of dealing with multi-culturality, and it is now obviously
time to try out our own local combinations of the “aviyal” and
“kicchidi” to see what emerges when they are applied to larger
contexts of multinationalism, as the future is going to bring in
more and more people from other countries into India, while
the tentacles of the recession keep spreading.
I want to however concentrate on one point from the above
things spoken of in this rant or soapbox or whatever you want
to call it. It has to deal with solutions for large numbers of
people. First we need to figure out what is actually on offer for
citizens of a country, for individuals and groups.
Let’s say one is born as a citizen of India and belongs to a group
in India of the wooden spoon variety. What will or does the
state offer you? Free education of a very low and poor quality in
government schools, but one still has to pay for notebooks, texts,
school bags, uniforms etc., if one manages to escape being part
of the child labour force pressed into service to make ends meet
at home, by the ones at home in their sheer helplessness. Water
that is often not potable, non-nutritious rationed subsidized
food nowadays sometimes even poisonous, leading to
deaths, energy whether for cooking or as electricity or transport
if one has a two wheeler that has to be paid for, rent to be paid
for, clothes to be paid for, an apology for free medicine (with
doctors refusing to work in rural or poorer quarters' hospitals),
phone charges if one needs a mobile, jobs with very low pay,
usually in the undependable agricultural sector from which all
this and more - including mostly meaningless religious and
cultural expenses - have to be met by one’s parents and at the
end of one’s education, no sure or respectable job with a better
pay necessarily anywhere in sight, ensuring that one is a step
better off than one’s parents were at the end of the day.
58 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
It is true that if one is poor, one doesn't have to pay tax but
when one is poor, expense inevitably outdoes income, and
income and debt enters the picture through money lenders or
banks and then one enters another spiral of paying interest to
keep the loan sharks at bay, but never being able to pay the
loans back. is brings in the questionable nature of the service
actually delivered by private banks especially, in their zeal to
make profit of welfare to everyone, seemingly.
I could prove that all of the above statements are true through a
series of articles and quotes etc., for the usual validating myself
bit, but am a bit tired of that whole procedure. I would instead
like to just point out that the changes in the country have hit
the weaker ones employed in the agricultural sector in India
hardest, - witness farmer suicides - and then that the attempt to
shift from an agricultural economy to a business economy, and
from rural to urban growth has led to such stark unemployment
rates as has never been seen in India before, au contraire to what
people think. If you connect this to us being a progressively
younger and younger nation in coming years, it gets alarming.
“India Unemployment Rate at 9.40%
e unemployment rate in India was last reported at 9.4
percent in 2009/10 fiscal year. From 1983 until 2000, India's
Unemployment Rate averaged 7.20 percent, reaching an
historical high of 8.30 percent in December of 1983, and a
record low of 5.99 percent in December of 1994. e labour
force is defined as the number of people employed plus the
number unemployed, but seeking work. e nonlabour force
includes those who are not looking for work, those who are
institutionalised, and those serving in the military.”
If the unemployment percentage or rate is not going down
but increasing steadily, how does it augur well for “our”/the
9. What Is On Offer - A Bridge Piece | 59
What should individuals in such groups do?
Politics dealt originally with the polis and its beneficial rule for
the welfare of the citizens. e etymology still survives in words
like polity, policy, metropolis, cosmopolitan, etc. e modern
connotations of ‘politricks’ and the Shavian coup d'état of
“politics being the last refuge of the scoundrel”, all come about
signalling the shift in politics from managing the city for the
good of the people, to managing the people in the city for their
own good. is, we know, is a major shift indeed.
Politics is not formed in the mind and character of a denizen
of a certain geographical area consciously. It is environmental,
and its real makers are found at home and school, although
inadvertently, much of it is also formed in our brushes with
society at large - the point being that it is all formed in
childhood and only very strong minds can get to the point early
(or sometimes late), where they can look at these emotionally
powerful formative forces somewhat objectively.
For instance, in a time when the freedom struggle was being
fought, central Travancore residents, who had a Syrian Christian
background but were part of the reformed churches like Mar
oma or CSI (Anglican), were naturally Congress, influenced
by the reform impulse. e rift in this logic which pitted them
against themselves in being for their faith and their country at
10. Politics and the Populace-1 | 61
the same time, in the struggle for independence was something
they could resolve only by being one-third Christian, one-third
Western and one-third nationalist, meaning upper caste, (!)
and consequently to some extent upper class.
is was reflected in my house that was staunchly CSI
Anglican and Marthomite, believed in meritocracy, voted
for the Congress that promised to protect the interests of the
minorities and was solidly middle-class in its values, aspiring
towards the life of the upper middle class which consisted in
those days of reaching the highest educational status possible,
knowledge and hard work, and decency being the key to a
better life, some land, a car, a fridge (!), a government job with
its security of PF and pension, etc. But my childhood was
already rent by dissenting voices for me, in the junction circle
near the many rented houses I lived in, I would sometimes
watch the Salvation Army present the gospel and feel a certain
animosity in the listeners which they did not seem to have
towards the Catholics, for instance.
At the time, I knew nothing of Kerala politics. What little I
knew was of Indian politics, being told at home that Gandhi
was a great soul and about Tagore and Raja Ram Mohun Roy
by my mother. We had books by Tagore at home which I read
eventually; especially Gora which my mother told me was the
best novel to come out of India in the recent past. When I
was young, I read and thought with but one aim, which was
to become one with the author, his intentions, the story, the
characters, etc. As such, everything I read enchanted me.
When I read English books, I wanted to be an Englishman,
when I read Tagore, I wanted to be Tagore, when I read the
Bible, I wanted to be a good Christian, etc. It was a very good
education brought about partly by the fact that my father and
mother had also been outside Kerala and had some exposure
and though somewhat simple - meaning straight, not dishonest
folk - they knew that since they could not give me much capital
62 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
as wealth, land, possessions, assets etc., the capital they could
give me which they felt was valuable was education, knowledge,
culture, refinement, breeding, the advantages of a good family
name, good Christian values etc. All this sounds straight out of
a British novel, Pip in Great Expectations maybe, waiting for a
stroke of luck, which never came either from Miss Havisham or
the Australian convict, but it took me many years to understand
what all this entailed. It meant something entirely different
from what it would mean in an English context, which any way
was way beyond me to fathom. Of course they would not have
used the word capital, not knowing much about Marx. But this
is an important point. What they - my parents - did not know
about, or was not able to introduce me to, was what constituted
"the other" that would gradually begin to occupy my thoughts
more and more as time went by, as was the question of why
they didn't know about it.
I went to a Catholic school where I met three good nuns and
three evil nuns and resultantly became disenchanted with the
politics of Catholicism. A friend of my father came and took
a photo and I was pushed out into the open alone, weeping,
and the flash scared me so the politics of technology became
suspect for me. e cow next door frightened me but
though I was very young, its upturned eyes, red, rolling,
whites revealed, spoke to me of its ropes and chains, of
nature being suffocated, leading to nature's anger, which
in its turn made humans that suffocated it, fear it. Hence
forth, the politics of humanism became suspect to me. e
white and yellow butterflies in the back yard were not like
that. e non-interference of the CSI Anglican and Mar
oma denominations in socially relevant affairs also bored
me. I think, even as a child, I understood that Christianity in
India was in retreat, no longer a power worth bothering about,
a safe enclave for some people, but not involved in the main
issues of the day.
10. Politics and the Populace-1 | 63
Over time, when I saw how the revisionary Marxists behaved
in Kerala when they got power, how Gulf Muslims behaved
to Pakistanis, who in turn behaved meanly to Indian Muslims
in Saudi, and Muslims who were men behaved to women and
to Bangaladeshis, and I saw how the Congress behaved at the
Centre, how the RSS behaved in my state (Kerala) and how
human beings generally behaved everywhere, I lost faith in
every kind of politics, including mine.
ere were two or three or four trends I then tried to follow,
that of pure and essential Christianity, that of humanism,
that of trying to make both meet or of survival which was to
make both ends meet, and that of a total inner Westernisation
since India seemed to be at fault in damning people at birth
itself into oppressor and oppressed, something I had not
come across in any other nation, because of the curiously
peculiar and unique and deadly combination of religion,
caste, gender and class. I was trying to find a way out of
the political, social and spiritual impasse India is in, and
had put me in, concerning politics and ideology. My efforts
broke down one by one as I found I was not able to be a good
Christian due to my predilection for women, and I found
humanism was only found in idealism and never in practice.
Westernization only lead to a meaningless, odius oppressive to
the self and others "mimicry" in Homi Bhabha's terms where
one could only aspire to be "that" (white) but never be "that."
is left me with no recourse but in art. However, several
significant things did happen meanwhile. First, I worked briefly
with the Brothers of Charity, which was a positive experience.
I moved with a separatist Christian group that believed that
everyone who did not belong to them was more or less pagan,
heathen or a Gentile, and I eventually left them. My son was
born autistic, a friend of mine became genuinely enlightened, I
met a more cosmopolitan crowd and north Indians in Bangalore,
and also two different kinds of Arabs - one puritanical and the
64 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
other conservative -in two Arab nations, Saudi and Libya, and
both blacks and whites and people of many other nations, I
was introduced to education theory by an expert practitioner
and also met two significant friends called Shyam and Anil,
who introduced me to Marxism, Leninism, Maoism, black
theory and Dalit theory in their respective turns, and all
this changed my outlook on life radically. I also got heavily
involved with the changing-the-world political, cultural,
ecological, social, environmental, entrepreneurial and futuristic
gaming communities of Urgent Evoke and Edgeryders. It was
altogether quite a potpourri or cocktail or potion or witches
brew. After all this, on coming back to India for a year, reading
about farmer's suicides, going back to doing some economics
reading that I had stopped doing for many years, checking out
Buddhism, working with the autistic community in Bangalore,
I finally began to see what I had missed all along - which was
that politics was evil because unlike me, people were not
going to be ever ready to think beyond what they had been
taught all along, in politics as in culture, and in society in
general. What ruled was the emotional conditioning in the
rulers and the populace of what they were brought up in
and as and not, as I had mistakenly thought, foolishly, a
genuine desire for the common good and welfare of the
nation state as a place/space or for its people or for truth or
genuine change or improvement or any such thing. is was
the best realization I could come to.
After this, it became easy for me to understand that politicians
would always mislead the populace, and the populace would
always be misled. Also that politics is basically constituted
only of the attempt to look for the best interests of a particular
group by fair means or foul, as a long term project, and was
not concerned with the ideological issues I had been wrestling
with all along - of things like dignity, integrity, equality, equity,
liberty, oneness, harmony and honesty in relationships in the
10. Politics and the Populace-1 | 65
midst of celebrating differences, while allowing for change,
etc. e history of mankind resolved itself very simply for
me into the history of its refusal to see anything wrong with
its consistent modus operandi, a kind of pre-programmed
robotism if you will, and of a series of brilliant or not so
brilliant outsiders who were spectacularly good or evil. But in
the giganticity of their impact, in their refusal to play the game
of the others, had managed to leave temporarily a few wounds
and punctures and rents and fissures and scratches and bite-
marks on the impermeable skin of the body politic of the major
oppressive groups of their times, whether it be the religious
or political Jewish and Roman body politic (represented by
Pharisees, scribes, lawyers, Sadducees, Herod, Pilate, Caesar)
in Jesus' time, or the idolatrous, but seemingly Advaitic one
of Buddha's time, or the anti-colonially nationalist Hindu but
evilly casteist one of Ambedkar's time.
e body politic is a strategy, and includes, as I have been saying
all along, the major markers of ideology, whereby discourse is
used by clever people over centuries, to build up an edifice
that cannot be destroyed and replicates itself endlessly without
need of change, so that its oppressive structures can remain
intact in terms of oppressing the others it wants to, both the
ones outside and the ones inside. At present, some of its major
offensives in India would be in religion, caste, gender, class and
identity politics, and for the no longer valid concept of the
nation state in its present form.
Politics is about building up a bulwark whereby those in power
can remain inside and reap its benefits which are endless, done
by a careful manipulation of certain machinery connected to
rule - what was called in another context the "superstructure",
formed nowadays of the media, etc., but in earlier times, of
culture and art and literature and of course force and persuasion
employed alternately by diplomacy and the aggression of
militancy. Politics is a delicate and dangerous art or science or
game of dalliance, whereby the rulers have to ensure a steady
stream of the profit to themselves, remain in power, and also
make it appear at the same time - except in an out and out
fascism - that the space/place/unit of administration and its
denizens are in some way becoming better off. e populace
on the other hand, not really being a homogenous entity, are
not entirely tame and can only be engaged by the promises of
the politicians because they are kept at bay by the simplest and
most effective method possible in all these systems, which is
to assure them that they are a divided force and as such always
need efficient "impartial" negotiation, advocacy and mediators
to keep the balance so that both, or however many groups of
them there are, do not end up killing each other or working to
their own detriment.
11. Politics and the Populace-2 | 67
In short, one has to keep giving the people the appearance
and offer of self rule and at the same time subtly keep
reminding them that self-rule is impossible. Imagine India
without a government? Preposterous thought! Politics
forbid! However, despite the machinations of the rich and
that of the politicians via the press and media, of banks, of
the military and judiciary and police forces, of parliamentary
procedures being made a mockery of, of laws and more and
more amendments, of business conglomerates that cannot
be held accountable, who nowadays buy off even NGOs,
of international and national deals that increase debt all
around, of rising prices and the economics of production,
distribution and the market so that inflation always keeps
rising, suddenly things happen unforeseen that still leads
to solid body blows and heavy buffeting for the entire
body politic that cannot be destroyed. These things do not
just happen because of revolutionary individual thinkers
or natural calamities or grassroots rebellions and reform
movements that grow into full fledged revolutions, they
also happen because of science and technology, and because
of learning, not education, and ultimately due to the
totally unforeseeable, and they can shake up things pretty
Let me give you an example. Inventions, explorations and
discoveries have always fascinated mankind. But think of this
particular invention I would like to talk of. Let us imagine that
someone invents a memory changer - one that works not for
individuals, but for whole groups and even the entire human
race, selectively. Using it, let us continue imagining I remove
from history's artefacts and the minds of people everywhere,
thoroughly, every thought of enmity that ever existed between
Pakistan and India, for instance. Bear with me for the sake of
the experiment for a few more seconds. Next morning, the
Pakistani, the Indian and the azad Kashmiri and everyone else
68 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
in the whole world all wake with memories of everything intact
but with a strangely genuine lack of animosity - not just a long
ceasefire or cessation of hostilities - in each towards all the
players in the historical human drama, one that makes them
wonder what the trouble had all been about. All that is left is
the present and the future with the memory of the sad past
working as a positive antidote, to not repeating the mistakes
of the past and not as a provocation to negativity! What would
those who had gained so much from these animosities suddenly
do? ey would be left floundering, the very ground of their
livelihood and power itself being cut away from under their
feet. e angry religious and anti-religious feelings caused by
Partition, the bitterness of colonial and nationalist hatred, the
huge financial and armaments and research support given for
armies on either side, the sudden surcease of deaths on either
side, the total bewilderment and shock of a world standing still,
able to remember but unable to hate and not knowing what to
do next! Can it even be imagined?! Never!
ere have been moments like that in history, fortunately,
when the hydra headed body politic was suddenly paralysed
and the populace made up only of individuals and groups, large
and small too, were left more or less alone for a brief time, to
fend for themselves as best as they can, and the result was not
mayhem as people would immediately presuppose or think.
What the body politic and the populace in reaction to it can or
cannot accomplish is worth highlighting by quoting just one
instance from history:
"Ashoka had seen the bloodshed with his own eyes and felt
that he was the cause of the destruction. e whole of Kalinga
was plundered and destroyed. Ashoka's later edicts state that
about 100,000 people were killed on the Kalinga side and
100,000 from Ashoka's army. ousands of men and women
were deported.
11. Politics and the Populace-2 | 69
Ashoka's response to the Kalinga War is recorded in the Edicts of
Ashoka. According to some of these (Rock Edict XIII and Minor
Rock Edict I), the Kalinga War prompted Ashoka, already a non-
engaged Buddhist, to devote the rest of his life to Ahimsa (non-
violence) and to Dharma-Vijaya (victory through Dharma).
Following the conquest of Kalinga, Ashoka ended the military
expansion of the empire, and led the empire through more than
40 years of relative peace, harmony and prosperity.
"Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Priyadarsi, conquered the
Kalingas eight years after his coronation. One hundred and
fifty thousand were deported, one hundred thousand were
killed and many more died (from other causes). After the
Kalingas had been conquered, Beloved-of-the-Gods came
to feel a strong inclination towards the Dhamma, a love for
the Dhamma and for instruction in Dhamma. Now Beloved-
of-the-Gods feels deep remorse for having conquered the
Kalingas." Rock Edict No.13
Word-of-mouth stories passed down to us from our fore-fathers
tell us that after the war was over and Ashoka the Great saw the
destruction he had caused, a woman approached him and said,
"Your actions have taken from me my father, husband, and son.
Now what will I have left to live for?" Moved by these words,
it is said, that he accepted/adopted Buddhism. He vowed to
never take life again and became one of the most just rulers
India has ever seen."
is is the real crux of everything I am saying. Unless the
depredations of hatred and wrong governance can flash before
our eyes as in an instant, for we are Ashoka, there will never
be positive impact or change or any reparation.
I do not know how to show to the oppressor - all of us - how they
have been fighting the battle of Kalinga for 64 years and have
70 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
killed millions and have not yet got to the point of the latter
half of Ashoka's reign, the jubilee years, or whatever one wants
to call it. Why this happens is because in a war, all the dead
litter the field and can be seen in an instant as apprehendable to
the five senses. But in this other war in which the body politic
kills millions of people off inch by inch and gradually, though
it is shown on our TV screens and in our newspapers bit by bit
and on the internet daily, it does not affect us simply because
there is no group eye of enlightenment yet that humans have
by which they can comprehend the tragedy of years in a flash
through their five senses as a group experience.
Even if the populace understands what the ruler or rulers
have done, it is doubtful that they will be ready to walk the
path of Dhamma, unless the body politic that brands them
of secondary importance or as a "criminal body" to quote the
more hard hitting Agamben, is somehow taken out of the way,
because it is rotten but not yet fully deceased.
Gandhi is always referred to as “ji”. Gandhi is the Father of
the/our/Indian Nation. Gandhi appears on our bank notes. He
is one of the founders, creators, makers or architects not only
of India, but of modernity and nation building. His biggest
contribution is difficult to analyze because it consists of many
different things to different people.
What do we respect when we speak of him? e person who
wrote truthfully in his book? e vegetarian? e boy who
could not steal without feeling guilty or tell lies to “save” himself
but had to make restitution? e truthful lawyer? e person
who, after being thrown out of a train, began to fight against
racism in Africa? e one who fought for freedom from the
British and against colonialism in India? e devout, tolerant
Hindu? e one who led the Dandi salt march? e one who
went to jail and suffered? e Gandhi who fasted and turned
spirituality into a political weapon? e one who foundered at
the time of Independence regarding Partition? e one who
never understood how to get rid of the caste divide, but went
about it with a pure intention and motive? e one who shifted
from saying God is truth to saying truth is God? e swadeshi,
the maker of homespun with his charkha, the satyagrahi, the
upholder of sanatana dharma and ahimsa, the one who was
shot dead and died saying “hey, ram”? For his "soft" attitude to
72 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
Muslims and the “lower” castes? e one who slept with two
naked women on either side to overcome all sensuality so that
he could unleash a greater spiritual force to make India and the
world a better place? e devotee of Ram? e man the world
came to adore the most in the twentieth century for his doctrine
of boycotts and passive resistance? e man who put to shame
Christians with his obedience to certain tenets in Jesus’ Sermon
on the Mount? e man who loved the hymn Raghupati
Raghava Raja Ram most of all the devotional bhajans he used
to listen to for its ecumenism? Gandhigram’s - and all the
khadi/khaddar and Gandhi topi wearing politicians of today's
inspiration? e one Martin Luther King Jr. and Bob Dylan
eulogized? e one Bertrand Russell covertly laughed at in an
essay, saying his methods would not have worked against the
Nazis? e “naked fakir?”
ere are a thousand or a million Gandhi’s now, in books
like Raja Rao’s Kanthapura, in films like “Gandhi”, in the
memories of a million people. Always at the end, we are left
with the question of unravelling the mystery as to how a man
becomes a medium, an essence, a form and a substance, in
a certain time and place in history, of being and generating
such a gigantic discourse so that the man, the legend, the
myth, the discourse, the works, the commentaries and the
interpretations all become indistinguishable from each other.
It ceases to shock or astonish or surprise us anymore, both
when he is venerated - as in our hearing of a temple made
to and for him in India, and seeing countless statues of him,
everywhere - and when he is iconoclastically attacked, or
lampooned, or given hues he never would have expected like
being suspected of homosexuality, as in a recent book. Gandhi
is no longer Gandhi, but a sign and a symbol. And it is only in
semiotics and in studying archetypes and mythemes that this
sign, the sign of what it means to become a Mahatma, or be
one, can be understood.
12. Was Gandhi a Mahatma? The heads side of the coin | 73
e Mahatma is a “newly revived” and “unique” concept
which is itself interesting. ere have been men who said
that they were prophets who brought us divine revelation,
and were considered as such, and saints and holy men and
martyrs and founders of religions, and even men who were and
are treated as gods or said they were God. But only Gandhi
has been called a Mahatma, a title that he neither accepted
nor refuted. is is special. It is as if he occupies a different
place, one that is not religious or spiritual, but at the same
time one that is not connected to the other sphere of worldly
greatness in the sense that a musician or sportsman or writer
or scientist is considered great. is speaks to us of modernity’s
striving to de-mythologize religion and place itself in a more
comfortable secular framework. at such a move should
take place in religious India is also interesting. It can hardly
be understood apart from colonialism’s impact that left Indian
territories seemingly on the defensive, reeling suddenly from
the onslaught of exposure to the Enlightenment’s rational
ideas and its children, and books like Tom Paine’s “Rights of
Men” that influenced India’s first wave of freedom fighters like
Derozio so much.
is is the first point to be noted: Gandhi is a Mahatma
because his spirituality or materialism did not include those
elements that would make the West immediately dismiss him
as a charlatan, a person to be considered as a joke, but was
instead made up instantly of what Edward Said would laugh
at many years later, the Occidental epitome of the rational
man, as opposed to the Oriental who is essentially feminine,
being irrational in outlook. One of the weapons of oppression
is to demand of its victims the highest standards of rationality,
ethics, behaviour etc., and the victim can only fight against the
oppressor if he fulfils these standards first and then launches
forth on his battle. Colonialism is no different. us, to take
a simple example, by colonial standards, to smoke a pipe is
74 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
civilized but to smoke bidis is both unhealthy and barbaric,
and an irrational procedure.
It was here that Gandhi was both consciously and unconsciously
of a different mettle than others the British had come across in
their so-called overseas profit making and civilizing ventures. He
was able to capitalize on a doctrine they had never heard of
and could not grasp, one drawn from the Gita, and use it in a
completely new way, not in Arjuna’s way, but in his own way,
and for this he definitely needs to be lauded. e British may
or may not have known that for Indians, primarily Hindus,
they were the new Kauravas, and in their effort to overthrow
the yoke of colonial rule, the battle of Kurukshetra being
played out again in the 20th century, it was naturally to figures
like Rama and Shiva and Krishna that Indians would turn for
inspiration, and of course to the two major epics. What the Gita
gave Gandhi was unique, how he wrested from it (a book that
was used, to put it in the vulgar sense, to convince Arjuna to
“kill” off his evil relatives). e doctrine of non-violent passive
resistance constitutes and remains one of the major feats of
re-reading in history. To see oneself as being opposed by an
enemy greater than oneself in terms of military force and to
have resounding in one’s ears a shloka like:
ya enam vetti hantaram
yas cainam manyate hatam
ubhau tau na vijanito
nayam hanti na hanyate
(Translation: “Neither he who thinks the living entity the
slayer, nor he who thinks it slain is in knowledge, for the self
slays not, nor is slain.”)
and to interpret it as no justification for the use of violence
in the cause of freeing Sita (the mathrubhumi) from Ravana’s
rakshasa gana (the colonizers), to not turn to religion as an
12. Was Gandhi a Mahatma? The heads side of the coin | 75
excuse in such a situation for refuge in and from which to
launch a "just war" against the oppressors -unlike an atheistic
Savarkar- required a kind of mental courage and an indomitable
will that can only be called indubitable. It is this masterstroke
of moving his unique understanding of the Gita into a socially
valid and politically powerful plane and battle that makes
Gandhi indeed a Mahatma - the only Mahatma that the world
has known recently. is is also a kind of violence, but in a way
of a kind that is superior to even Krishna’s.
e same uncanny intelligence shines through in his use of a
symbolic means of warfare in countering Christianity, which
was the most powerful counter-argument he had to deal with
on the spiritual plane, in an action like buying a pair of boots
for the jailer who used to kick him, and gifting it to him on
Christmas day, the action thereby going beyond the temporal
into being one of folkloric, legendary, archetypal, iconic and
mythemic significance, as an unparalleled gesture to the enemy
that what was best in his worldview - turning the other cheek
- was now no longer his, had been taken away from him and
subsumed into his Other’s (the oppressed's) system, making
him no longer powerful and that meanwhile he himself – the
enemy, the oppressor - had become its antithesis and would
therefore be surely defeated.
At every point in his mature political life, this is what is both
venerable and disturbing about Gandhi - his ability to utterly
disarm or make insignificant or ineffective his enemy, thereby
making them incapable of winning any war. For to him, they
were all the enemies of reason, whether they were British,
Christian, Muslim, Marxist, Dalits like Ambedkar who wanted
to leave what he considered the fold, or a violent soul like S C
Bose, errant Congressmen, atheists, materialists, Hindu fanatics
like Godse or anyone else. ere is a kind of obsessive singleness
of vision in him regarding this disarmament policy, as to how
one can best go about it so that the enemy ends up shorn of
76 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
all its weapons so that all it can do is flee with its tail between
its legs. at had never been seen on the world stage before -
in the social and political stage, front or arena. In obdurate,
perhaps, and obfuscated understanding and recognition of
this peculiarity, we call him a Mahatma. e best translation
of this word in today’s language would be, a greater man, or
superman, and it is good to remember at this juncture that
what it underlies is a tribute to the perfect subjugation and
directing of human willpower to a desired end, not to love of
nation in his case, as some people mistakenly think, but to love
of freedom, which is greater and more admirable.
us, even in his English, he had to attain mastery to again put
to shame the British, and in his life live a life of total simplicity
so that not a single finger, if possible, could be pointed against
him regarding his ethics or rationality or spirituality that it
was fake by all those he was opposing, so that his life could
be in the open, for criticism, and the merits could be seen
to outweigh the seemingly few flaws. Agamben makes this
statement: “Whatever singularity which wants to appropriate
belonging itself, its own being-in-language, and thus rejects
all identity and every condition of belonging, is the principal
enemy of the State. Wherever these singularities peacefully
demonstrate their being in common, there will be Tiananmen,
and, sooner or later, the tanks will appear.” In Gandhi’s case, in
rejecting the normative reading of the Gita that has been read
for millennia as sanctioning killing for the purpose of dharma,
it was inevitable that he would be killed finally by a Hindu,
because the ultimate enemy he had brought into opposition
with himself by his uniqueness was not the British state, but
the Hindu rashtra for being against its primary reading of its
most sacred text and he, the first Mahatma, had to pay the
price for it, as Jesus had had to long ago for re-reading Jewish
In choosing the way or path of Ahimsa, Gandhi found a
platform that could not only unite effectively the thinking
upper caste and upper class Hindus against the British, those
who wanted to take the high moral ground to teach the British
a lesson, but also create the basis for a wider consciousness -
the emergence and forging of a hitherto non-existent “Indian
national consciousness” (one must not forget that colonialism
was partly caused by petty Bharathiyan kingdoms allying with
the British for trade, commerce and power, giving the East
India Company and the British their much needed foothold
into their so-called “jewel in the crown” in the first place) -
bringing many from the "lower" castes, the Christians, the
Muslims, the international community and even from among
the Marxists, into the battle for freedom. is broadening that
was built more around the concept of being an Indian and that
of the nation state than being a Hindu, was what made him
truly great and explosive political material, and he could not
have done it, as I stated earlier, without the master stroke of
reading Hinduism in a new pacifist way.
But we must also remember that there were other startling figures
in India at that time. ere was the frontier Gandhi (Khan
Abdul Ghaffar Khan), M. A. Jinnah, an equally charismatic
and perhaps even more enigmatic figure, with his Savile Row
78 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
suit impeccability and secular credentials, hence perhaps more
interesting to some, representing the Muslims. ere was a Nehru
who inspired in a Pablo Neruda, intense dislike for his innate
Brahminism (superiority complex) if one reads his "Memoirs",
and of course, a Subhash Chandra Bose, representing - to
me - the way of nationalistic himsa - a freedom "fighter" who
made costly mistakes, a Bhagat Singh, representing the full
flavour of revolutionary Marxism, a Subrahmanya Bharathi,
representing Tamil Saivite/Vaishnavite Brahminism, a Gaddar
- great and unforgettable, an Aurobindo, representing North
Indian Hinduism, a Tagore, representing education - whose
spiritual successors are J Krishnamurti and Geetha Narayanan,
literature, the arts and "vishwa bharathi," a Vivekananda - the
global ambassador for Hinduism, a Dayananda Saraswathi,
an Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, a Veer Savarkar - one whose
terrible suffering had naturally twisted him into bitter hatred
so that he would thereby become instrumental in the rise of
the extremist lunatic fringe of Hindu fascistic fundamentalist
theocentric thinkers like Golvalkar and Hedgewar, a Jyotirao
Phule, a Raja Ram Mohun Roy, a Pandita Ramabai, a Sadhu
Sundar Singh, a anthai Periyar.
Last but not least, five figures, four of them known well or not
down south depending on one’s political upbringing, but not to
people in the north much, who for me signal what was lacking
in Gandhi's vision for India, namely Sree Narayana Guru, who
did not oppose religious conversion, Kumaran Asan who sang
of equality among castes and religions with a golden tongue,
Poykayil Yohannan who fought caste in Christianity, Ayyankali
who fought caste in Hinduism, and a name I have come to
revere more than Gandhi's name slowly but surely in India's
checkered history, namely, B. R. Ambedkar, who saw that India
could only progress if the solution was political, that is, by
becoming a genuine democracy - the rule of the representatives
elected by the majority on the basis of putting forth candidates
13. Was Gandhi a Mahatma? The tails side of the coin | 79
who can solve the real needs a new and a growing nation faces or
will face, social - meaning becoming purely secular, economic
- meaning socialistic, genuinely offering equal opportunity
through proper education and temporary reservation for
the depressed classes and affected minorities who are/were
discriminated against by history or religion or colonialism,
for all to get hold of material prosperity - and anti-religious,
meaning that India should not be a new nation based on the
dreaded, iron clad, hateful and unchangeable Hindu varna
shastra but on the ideals of the French Revolution of liberty,
equality and humanism. My choice of names is not accidental,
I have left out people like D. Naoroji, Lal, Bal and Pal precisely
because I am looking at something that was beyond all of them
to see, and even beyond internationalists like C.F. Andrews
(Deenbandhu) and Marjorie Sykes or Sister Nivedita or Annie
Besant to fathom, though they were all, doubtless, extremely
gifted people who helped India’s emergence as a new nation
state in their own ways.
To come back then to Gandhi and Ambedkar, my point is
this – “Gandhi” was truly the “medium” through whom/which
India was born as a new country with its basis in the sound
nationalistic ideal of “Freedom”. His great success or victory
was also in uniting ordinary sets of groups and individuals by
standing for a more inclusive mode of living whereby groups
in the nation would find common platforms to work on, and
thus strive for peace and harmony to at least safe-guard their
own interests. India entrusting the creation of the Constitution
primarily into the hands of Ambedkar, was another clear
instance of providence being with India. us we were founded
as a nation on values of sovereignty, republicanism, democracy,
socialism, liberalism, internationalism, secularism, humanism
and liberty, equality and fraternity, a fair start, if ever there
was one, with Ambedkar with his humane Buddhism being
able to some extent, ameliorate any damage that might have
80 | WAKE UP, INDIA! Essays for Our Times
happened due to the blind spot that might have existed in
Gandhi towards the depressed castes and classes, and Indian
Muslims, Christians or Marxists.
But the truth is that, in hindsight, both Gandhi with his
inability to fight for a greater secularism within India and
for a greater equality within Hinduism – falling prey to the
pressures of the power politics of the rich minority that
made up the powerful camp of modernist upper caste and
upper class Hindus, represented best by Nehru finally and
indirectly by the British who wanted "friendly relations",
and even Ambedkar, with his stress mainly on the religious
and the social aspects of change, as befitting the times,
failed to some measure in not realizing the full potential of
thinkers like Christ, Buddha and Marx.
India cannot reach its pinnacle anymore without taking into
consideration the full spectrum of religious, social, political
and economic reform and of futuristic as well as local and
global trends. What is thus asked for now is revolution, mash
ups, remixes, new forms of governance and getting along and
moving forward together that may even question the very fabric
of concepts like the nation state and of community, being rooted
deeper now in even more primordial existential issues, namely
in issues of basic day to day survival and of possibilities arisen
because of technological change that can drastically alter our
very future so that even words like human and race and gender,
comfortable words that we used as markers of ultimate certainty
in terms of identity, are now being questioned and altered, and
we live in a brave new world of boundless potential that will
end soon in our total destruction or in the next paradigm shift
in consciousness, whereby what evolves will be a new “India”
if it still exists in a new World of which it is only a subset. is
involves pressing both fully into and beyond, as I stated earlier
somewhere, the most basic ideological terms; individuality,
identity, family, clan, tribe, blood relationships, relationships,
13. Was Gandhi a Mahatma? The tails side of the coin | 81
kith, kin, nepotism, community, communitarianism, units of
administration, bureaucracy, law/s, judiciary, the police force
and the military, rulers, elected representatives, religion, caste,
sect, denomination, cult, communalism, class, gender, race,
racism, racialism, language, skill sets, abilities, democracy,
socialism, communism, secularism, liberalism, humanism,
technology, politics, power, authority, governance, participation,
involvement, feminism, activism, ecology, environment,
science, humanities, arts, children’s' and other kinds of rights
(species rights, for instance), sexual freedom, revolution,
reforms, mass movements, people, sexuality, wealth, money,
possessions, banking, finances, fiscality, agency, functionality,
transparency, surveillance, borders, interfaces, collaboration,
conglomerates, corporates, media, multinational, transnational,
global, glocal, education, corruption, speed, transfer, exchange,
encryption, discrimination, economics, society, sociology, etc.
ese are among the new or old keywords we need to deal with
and what emerges from them and their "paryaya pathangal"
and the significance of prefixes like pre and non and anti and
post, is what I hope to study further, along with a hundred
other things, in this ongoing series of articles.
In one class of mine, my 54 students of the middle, rich and
upper middle classes, among whom there were only one and a
half OBCs, had told me or the 4 facilitators, including myself,
with one of us half an OBC - that population, poverty, politics
and corruption were the bane of India. ey being young, were
mostly anti-reservation, pro-cynicism and wanted to tackle
corruption from the grass-roots level and not hit the high and
mighty first. ey were also pro-English - urban effect - and
all for surveillance, having never heard of Agamben! However,
they came up with some interesting ideas to better the country,
esp., regarding tackling corruption. One was the idea of offering
incentives to government employees to nail corruption. While
I do not dismiss all such ideas, no idea is a success or failure
unless one tries it out, and it has been tried out with some effect
in the customs etc., I felt what they were missing was that one
should not be paid extra for doing one's job but it was wage
revision matching real life inflation in the market that would
knock out corruption at the so called "lower" levels up to the
middle class and not just offering incentives for work being
completed or catching corrupt people that would give wrong
ideas of what constitutes job ethics at any level. Corruption in
India works through as complicated a strategy as anything else
and it cannot be destroyed without tackling the related issues.
14. Corruption, common sense and the common man-1 | 83
Corruption is almost impossible to root out in a country where
99 per cent of the people are corrupt.
But what is corruption exactly? How is it to be defined? It's a
slippery, many headed, many footed, man