Friday, December 30, 2005

Aircraft Modernization-- Flaws in procedure used just published a report that hinted about irregularities in the entire bidding process for the modernization of the Delhi and Mumbai airports. It seems that private players were being given indiscriminate favor (a charge that these players predictably deny), which has resulted in the resignation of upright officers belonging to the Airport Authority of India, which oversees the functioning of airports in the country.

The right wing media (read the Indian Express) had gung ho talked about the inevitable necessity of privatization as the only means of bringing modern utilities to these airports (the logic can be contradicted empirically by taking the example of Changi Airport, which was developed with public and private participation simultaneously, IIRC..this author was astounded at the levels of facility available at Changi ..he stayed there once on a 19-hour transit...). IE had also suggested that the bids submitted by AAI was not enough qualitatively to be considered at all in the first place and almost excitedly cherished the process that had unfolded.

The Left parties, particularly the CPI(M) had come up with a statement that the entire modernization procedure used was probably flawed and there could be a hidden scam in it.. The E.Sreedharan (of the Delhi Metro fame) committee that was set up to look into the reevaluation process, almost confirms this aspect. They suggest that what was required was modernization, not ex ante privatization.

Modernization of the airports is a necessity, YES, no second questions about it. The problem is that in the name of improving efficiency and bringing facilities, what is being undertaken is providing private players with more muscle to proceed with profit accumulation at any cost. Yet another example of the increasing continuity of the monopolization of the Indian bourgeoisie.

Saturday, December 24, 2005 interesting analysis and the movements..

I have always wanted to enter a blog on an interpretation made out of the Lagaan movie, by one of my closest friends, whom I consider should become a prominent theorist very soon.

The angle summarily goes like this: Bhuvan, the role played by Aamir Khan, is likened to Gandhi. The entire team that Bhuvan assembles is similar to the Congress Party....and so on...

The angle can be described thus: Gandhi fights the British by playing their own game.. The villagers are taught to play cricket...the Analogy...Contest the elections that the British call for...(its a non-violent game, after all).. the inner contradictions are done away with.. (note the structure of the Champaran village, the Mukhia's increased land holding, some holding much more land than others)...even the Britishers are given the benefit of doubt.. Note the British Umpires shown as upholding fairplay....The Muslim is also part of the team and plays an important, though secondary role...The Dalit is included too...but wait..he is weak, deformed and is guided by Bhuvan....Note the Independence movement analogy...The Untouchables are brought into the freedom movement fold, Gandhi fights hard to remove Untouchability, terms the Untouchables as 'Harijans'....Even the Raja is accepted as an Indian, after all, despite the fact that he suffers none of the ordinary villagers' plight in having to partake their earning, their food and their rations.. The Raja is also co-opted into the fight against the British, after all there is no "formal" compliant against him taking part of the villagers' hard earned money...and the Raja also supports the villagers' in their game against the British, well, in an informal way....Notice the similarity with Gandhi's position on the princely states..and the fight to overthrow the princes..he always took a much more moderate stand compared to the fight against the British...the Malabar/ Travancore movements are case studies....

The Lagaan team is a all-encompassing conglomeration, overcoming class, caste and religious differences.....Gandhi's greatest achievement as India's leading Congress freedom fighter was the same...he was the only person who could unite Indians as Indians against the imperialist British!.

Well...there is also the British girl who falls in love with Bhuvan....So did a host of Britishers who fell head over heels to the Mahatma's grace and charm as a non-violent freedom fighter (in the platonic sense...Meerabhai, C.F.Andrews...etc..)...

I am not sure if Ashutosh Gowariker is this big an intellectual to make a movie this deep in its thinking..reminiscent of the Congress' model of the freedom struggle, but the fact remains.. Lagaan symbolises the Indian freedom struggle, led by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi..the movie shows the Congress' role in the freedom struggle as a metaphor in the cricket game that is played between Bhuvan's team and the Englishmen....if Gowariker did this intentionally, then Lagaan would go down as one of the most astute symbolic movies of our times in India.

The interesting thing is that Sudhanva Deshpande in the Frontline also somewhat alluded to the same angle that my friend was talking about.

It would be remiss for me not to talk about Rajkumar Santoshi's "The Legend of Bhagat Singh" here...The movie surprises everyone for its remarkable candour and its depth. The best part of the movie when Bhagat Singh exhorts his comrades of Hindustan Republican Army (which he and his comrades rename Hindustan Socialist Republican Army) to fight not merely for independence but for economic independence...not to leave the country in the hands of "burre sahibs" after throwing the yoke of the "Gore Sahibs"....Surely this dialogue was confirmation that Bhagat Singh, the revolutionary was by heart the Communist...Its no fluke that most of Bhagat Singh's comrades, including Shiv Verma, Ajay Ghosh, and others named in the Lahore Conspiracy Case, later on turned out to be leading Communist Leaders in the country.

Interestingly, Harkishen Singh Surjeet, the senior CPI(M) leader of today started his revolutionary career as a foot-soldier in the Naujawan Bharat Sabha, the organization started by Bhagat Singh.. Surjeet, who used to cycle from Amritsar to Lahore to attend organizational meetings and to carry couriers, was arrested by the British for his role in an anti-British-rule incident..He introduced himself as "London Tod Singh" in his speech in the court later.. Its a pity that the bourgeois media pays scant respect to this veteran freedom fighter just because he is a communist..

I would put it emphatically that if Bhagat Singh was alive today, he would have been a torchbearer of the Communist Movement in the country. Pity, because probably the great Gandhi signed the Irwin Pact and didn't bother to ask for Bhagat Singh's release from capital punishment as a quid pro quo when he could have surely done atleast this...This is a huge blot on the widely accepted leader of India's freedom movement...that has never sufficiently been answered by Gandhians/ other Congress freedom fighters.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Cash-on-camera scam

The Cash-on-camera-scam involving 10+7 MPs, was a disgrace. The funny part was that the majority of the MPs involved were from the BJP, the rightist party which claimed to be a "party with a difference".

For all those libertarians who excoriate the Left , including Shri Shekhar Gupta of the Indian Express, its time to remind them that in an event where MPs across political spectrum were seem involved, there was no MP named from the Left.

A peep into the assets of the MPs in Parliament would show how the average wealth of the MPs belonging to the rightist parties in our country (read the Congress and the BJP) towers over the average wealth of the Left parties.

Today, after the investigation by an independent committee of members from all sections of the political spectrum, which included the BJP Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Prof Vijay Malhotra, parliament discussed the issue and decided to expel all the 10 MPs from Lok Sabha. One Rajya Sabha MP, also from the BJP was expelled too.

The BJP did a volte face and voted against the motion to expel the members involved in the scam. They even boycotted the decision and called for yet another Privileges motion committee to look into the issue. The funny part is that no committee can be empowered to take any action, it can only recommend it to the House, this being the highest decision making forum. Only the House can decide upon executive action!. The BJP has yet again betrayed its chameleon like attitude. Filled as it is with unscrupulous semi-fascists, one need not be surprised by its volte face.

Even with regards to the issue of MPLADS being scrapped, except for the CPI(M) and a few other parties, none are willing to scrap the controversial scheme. It is high time that the public realized this folly on the part of the Rightist parties in India and give them yet another decisive blows in the forthcoming State Assembly elections throughout India.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Left rises in Bolivia

Evo Morales, a 46 year old Leftist, was elected to power in Bolivia recently. This marks an accentuation in the coming to power of multiple Leftist Governments in Latin America. Ravaged by policies of neo-liberalism into spiralling inequality, swathes of poverty and increased unemployment, depletion of resources, the people of Latin America have risen up against the Right in many countries. Morales was the leader of the "Movement toward Socialism" party and is the first indigeneous President of a country largely populated by indigeneous population.

Morales' victory reminds me of the dialogue between Alberto Gradando and Ernesto Guevara ('Che'), so eloquently shown in the movie, "The Motorcycle Diaries", where both discuss as to how and when shall the indigeneous people come to rule Latin American countries. Che later in the movie, talks about how Latin America as a whole is a concrete bloc, as he says, "Even though we are too insignificant to be spokesmen for such a noble cause, we believe, and this journey has only confirmed this belief, that the division of American into unstable and illusory nations is a complete fiction. We are one single mestizo race from Mexico to the Magellan Straits. And so, in an attempt to free ourselves from narrow minded provincialism, I propose a toast to Peru and to a united America."

If the trend was set by Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, it was reset by Lula in Brazil, Tabare Vazquez in Uruguay, and Nestor Kirchner in Argentina. Mexico is going to elections soon, and we shall see further Left governments starting to form from there.

The increasing Left assertion in Latin America is a signal of the disenchantment with the policies of integrating with metropolitan capital, as demanded by the Bretton Woods institutions. The approach of the Left governments have been generally to take out and de-link the economies from the Washington Consensus and go for import substitution models, social welfare spending etc.

The most radical of all the governments is the Hugo Chavez regime in Venezuela. Chavez, who was a distinguished visitor to the JNU Campus about 7 months ago, and was greeted and cheered on by the students, has criticized the US government and its policies day in and day out. He has also taken revolutionary steps to help the traditionally poor in Venezuela gain a semblance of improvement in health and education. His policy of selling oil at subsidized rates to governments throughout the world in exchange for medical and technical help is a kind of international relations handling that can be likened to social constructivism. Unfortunately, he is termed "Maverick" by the bourgeois media all around.

Yet, all is not red and rosy about the rise of the Left. The Guardian reports how a bad precedent has been set by the Lula Government and the Workers Party (PT) in Brazil and how the Left in Latin America should learn from the Lula experience.

The rise of the Left in Latin America is a exemplar to the apologists for neo-liberal reforms about the problems that invariably go alongwith these policies.

Dependency Theorists such as A.G.Frank, who have worked eloquently on Latin America's political economy, would be thrilled by the overwhelming support for the revert to socialism in those countries. It is pertinent also to mention James Petras' work on the effects of Globalization in Latin America and how Globalization can be a form of imperialism.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Jyoti Basu's speech and Interview

Jyoti Basu, India's longest tenured Chief Minister spoke at the Indian Society of Labour Economics at JNU on the 15th of December, 2005. Basu stressed upon the right understanding of labour issues by academics as a must and pointed out earlier falsities in arguments propounded by intellectuals such as John Stuart Mill and Ricardo to highlight his point. He also indicated as to how such falsities are being in vogue in current economic theories, particularly those propounded in the arguments favoring "labour market flexibility" and how it was necessary to counter the ill effects on the working class by such policies.

Basu also gave an interview to the Frontline last fortnight. The interview throws light on his career, providing glimpses to the growth of the revolutionary movement in the country during the height of the independence movement. Basu also served long as a leader in the undivided CPI and later in the CPI(M). He still serves in the highest decision making body, the Politbureau, after being requested by his colleagues to continue his tenure, despite requests to step down due to old age.