History Repeats Itself:
The Indian Politicians Have Still To Learn

N. Bhattacharyya

The present coalition government at the centre is run by almost of all the right-wing parties excluding those of the NDA. The mainstream ‘left’ is supporting it from the outside. Are they doing so to isolate communal politics or is there some other reason? In the nineteen-seventies a section of the ‘left’ gave support to Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s government and this was to be acknowledged as a ‘mistake’ later on. Let us wait and see!

Last year when Manmohan Singh’s government presented its first budget for the ‘common man’ we were told that in the 2005-2006 budget there would be policy issues to implement the common minimum programme (CMP) agreed upon by the coalition partners. In the present budget the UPA government claims to have allocated around Rs 50000 crores to the social sector. Let us see how this compares with last year’s allocation.

Table I
Share of Plan Expenditure (%)







Social services

19.1 21.6


25.8 33.2

Education etc.






Health & Family Welfare






Water supply etc












Economic Times dated 14.3.05

Thus on the face of it around a decade back hardly 20 percent of the plan expenditures were allocated to social services, last year it was raised to 26 percent and this year it has been jacked up to 33 percent. The significant increase on education from 5 percent to 10 percent is partly due to education cess collected by the centre from last year. This year there is a proposal to spend around Rs 15000 crores on education against the Rs 10000 crores of last year. That clearly shows that with Rs 5000 crores education cess this year it should be Rs 20000 crores, otherwise with inflation at 10%, the current year’s allocation on education is significantly lower than that of last year. On Health and Family Welfare the current year’s proposal is to spend around Rs 8800 crores including the cess to be collected on tobacco products against last year’s revised estimate of Rs 7000 crores. Thus on this account too there is hardly any significant addition when inflation is taken into consideration. The argument that the government in the current year wants to spend Rs 48000 crores on social services should be praised because last year’s revised estimate was only Rs 35000 crores, an addition of Rs 13000 crores!

What is disturbing is that if the central budget wants to reflect the ground realities one needs to recall that most of the budget provisions on social services are spent not by the centre but by the bankrupt states (unfortunately all of them). For example on education most of the budget provisions are spent on the payment of salaries to teachers and non teaching staff. Nothing is left for either repairing the schoolrooms or for the purchase of educational equipment. The midday meal is for show because it is not yet served properly where it is distributed and the major portion of schools are yet to get this facility. Moreover, it is mainly financed by donations collected from foreign countries. It is not still understood that this is an insult to the nation, we feel proud of begging.

At the same time we try to satisfy the US arms dealers by allocating more and more financial resources on the useless and wasteful defence establishment. George Fernandes and Jaya Jaitley know what a defence deal is: Tehelka will tell them. In 1996-97 defence expenditure was Rs 29000 crores and in this budget it is proposed to spend Rs 83000 crores, a net addition of Rs 54000 crores. India’s hands are tied and we are forced to waste such huge amounts every year to maintain the defence industries of the developed countries. What is the ‘common man’ thinking? Are they going to eat guns and bullets as cereals and pure drinking water are beyond their reach? Thus it is evident that there is a more of a ‘fair and lovely’ MNC cosmetic touch than any real increase in the allocation for education, health and insurance while defence expenses are soaring high irrespective of the needs of the people. Can our policy makers explain to us in detail whom we are going to fight against? We need not defend ourselves as by accepting the ‘reform’ processes of USA imperialism; we are at the mercy of those imperialist powers. Now they will protect us from all foreign attacks just to give protection to their own MNCs who are exploiting the poor and middle class Indian masses.


In the meantime in the name of development and growth of the Gross Domestic product (GDP) massive concessions have been given in both direct and indirect taxes. They promised to the WTO to reduce custom duties to 5 percent as is practiced in the Asean region so that India is allowed to be exploited as a virtual open market by MNCs selling their foreign goods and services. Who are the happiest lot – definitely the MNCs who are given the liberty to exploit fully a market of a billion people against the backdrop of their recession hit market at home. During the last 13 years Japan failed miserably to increase its real growth rate from its rock bottom situation. It is banking only on tied long term loans to the developing countries so that it can export its goods and services against that loan disbursed. West Bengal’s ‘revolutionary’ chief minister congratulates Japan as the largest financier of the state’s development projects! This is the economic situation of a major Group Eight (G-8) country. Japan’s economy is in utter doldrums and our custom duty policy hammered out by the WTO is designed to help sick capitalist countries like Japan. In the same manner the current account deficit of USA is ballooning every year, meaning thereby it is not in a position to export its own home-produced manufactured goods, agricultural crops and services mainly due to higher costs. Information technology services have already migrated to developing countries where costs are very little. Thus at least two post Second World War economic superpowers are down with incurable capitalist diseases that are bound to destroy the imperialist super powers in the 21st century itself. The USA may appoint one of its own war hawks as the President of the World Bank while holding only a 17 percent share, but it forgets the other major shareholder, European Union (EU), holding 34 percent share of World Bank can challenge the USA’s supremacy in this multilateral financial institution. If the group of 21 (G-21) developing countries that assembled recently at New Delhi remain united in their common economic interest vis a vis that of the G-8 countries and can compel the WTO to follow some uniform agenda on issues like agricultural subsidy, intellectual property rights and so on, the developed world will find that the earth is moving under their feet. At the same time agriculture, research and development and so on in the developing countries will get a huge boost. The recent decision by the WTO on cotton subsidies has created panic among the cotton producers of the USA. The same thing may happen in near future with soya beans; it depends on Brazil and Argentina how they effectively mobilise the G-21 countries to get their rightful share of world trade.

By reducing unilaterally the custom duty we are net losers for what we want is that our goods and services should enjoy the same facilities to enter the markets of the developed countries free of any artificial restriction. When the developed countries don’t get any reason to restrict imports from the developing countries, they use ‘dumping’ as a safe reason to restrict their imports. We should also follow the same game plan to teach them a lesson. Our policy makers are afraid of the USA; long back they have surrendered India’s sovereign rights. Otherwise how does the Secretary of State of the US have the courage to tell the government of a billion people with whom India should negotiate an oil pipe line deal? Iran is not an enemy country of India. What is the locus standi of the USA in interfering in our internal affairs? Condoleezza Rice came to India to sell arms. One of our learned chief ministers is angry because he was not allowed to enter his dream country! Modi should have been sacked by the president by now for his anti-national behaviour in showing his hunger to go to the USA at any cost and thus humiliating Indian national honour and dignity. He has lowered Indian self-respect in the eyes of the world. The WTO has to be pressurised to allow free access to both skilled and unskilled labour from India and other developing countries to the rest of the world where the wage rate is kept artificially higher than ours. Work permits should be given to the people of the poorer countries without any restriction. The skilled and efficient manpower of the third world may not migrate to the west in the near future, as the information technology industry shows, work will migrate here.

The recent custom duty reduction in the budget of the government of India has reduced the excise duty levied on goods produced in India and naturally the big manufacturers, both Indian and foreign are happy that their costs are going down, but the selling price is remaining the same so that the profit margin is sky rocketing. Thus India is kept as an artificially high profit-earning market so that foreign investors may come in large numbers. The only difficulty is that organised industry is still run by some strong trade unions who refuse to accept the 18th century ‘hire and fire’ policies or what the ‘reformists’ term as ‘exist policy’. However, peculiar things are happening in recent days. The highest court in the country is helping big business by delivering pro- management and anti-labour judgements more or less as a policy matter, when the government itself failed to pass any such law in the assemblies and parliament. First it sacked an employee found sleeping during working hours, second it sacked an employee for using abusive language against his employer and third it sacked an employee who went to court to get redress for termination of service for participating in a ‘gherao’ against his employer. If these are the new laws to be applied by the employers, who will sack the judges often found sleeping during court proceedings? We are not talking of the 5 star employers who all sleep during office hours in their air conditioned chambers, rather labourers attending a machine can never sleep even during night duties. Does the judiciary think that it is only the prerogative of the boss to use abusive language or even beating a worker as happened when slavery was practiced in our society? Whether the Supreme Court in India likes it or not employees will violate the norms of human behaviour when the employer is abusive, corrupt and anti-social. A ‘gherao’ is undertaken to teach a lesson when arguments and other forms of peaceful methods don’t work in the case of oppressive and corrupt employers and bureaucrats. In a capitalist economy, such practices have to increase when hire and fire practices are allowed by the state against all laws passed by the legislatures. If the Supreme Court feels that it can further the cause of barbarous labour exploitation policies because 21st century imperialism wants it, it is utterly mistaken.

Let us show how the so called reforms during the last one and half decade have helped the growth of employment in the organised sector in India in the period 1991 to 2004. The reality is that it can’t provide jobs to even 9 percent of our total labour force. Total investment in the country in the organised sector during 1991 to 2004 (14 years) was around Rs 190495 crores, which involved implementing 694 Industrial Entrepreneur Memoranda (IEM). The following states received either 0% or not more than half of one percent of these investments so that the consequent employment generation is a disaster.

Table II
Employment Generation, Investment and IEM implemented between 1991 and 2004


% share of total

 Investment employment

I.E.M. implemented

Andaman & Nicobar
























Himachal Pradesh








































Economic Times dated 21.3.05

Thus out of 35 states and union territories in around 50 percent of them industrial investment is either nil or marginal during the long 14 years of the reform period. Thus it can be charged that this is all intentional and not accidental. India claims to be a democratic country and at the same time its constitution is federal in character, but the above figures of the government of India clearly indicate that these states only exist on the map of India as decoration pieces. Their beautiful people are shown in the tableaux presented on Republic Day on 26th January each year, otherwise the people of these states don’t matter in the day to day policy making in this country. One has to explain to the nation why the entire north east of India is willingly forgotten as an industrial investment centre of the country. During last around 60 years this region only saw the killing and torture of the local population by the Indian military and para-military forces on the pretext of terrorism. Will any civilised government in the world explain what the local youth are supposed to do? We have seen highly qualified youth studying in the Central Universities in Delhi. Are they supposed to dance praising the industrial policy of the central government and for perennially supplying military and paramilitary forces? However, so far as the deforestation industry is concerned the major big companies of the mainland are engaged in the timber industry even though the Supreme Court ordered a halt to lumbering in these forests. One can easily understand why the people of these states address outsiders as ‘you Indians’ and not ‘we are also Indians’!

The government feels happy that the Indian GDP growth rate no longer hovers around 3 to 4 percent per annum, now the average has jumped to 5 to 5.5 percent. During the ‘India Shining’ campaign of the communal BJP rule of 2003-2004 the GDP grew around 8 percent, the next year it was expected to grow at 6 to 6.5 percent, but the UPA government claims that it has grown by 7 percent and the CMP rulers are very happy indeed! Look at the Bombay stock exchange, the speculators are offered free lunches by the finance ministry by allowing them bank loans for stock speculation at a nominal rate and at the end of the day they go home pocketing a huge surplus without investing a single penny from their pockets! Do they return the loans they take from nationalised banks? Maybe, maybe not. The bankstaff are publishing the list of big businessmen who were given lavish loans with the understanding that they were not required to return them. These unions are also a party to such national loot because all these years these ‘patriotic’ and ‘left’ trade unions blackmailed the bankers, but they never came forward to reveal this to the public through their leaders who are members of parliament as they are doing now. The bank employees can’t ignore their involvement in this multi-crore bank scandal. In the rest of the economy such progressive union leaders are indulging in the same practices – compromising themselves for selfish narrow interests but outside they all pretend to be the ‘great’ leaders of the ‘sarvahars’ (poorest of poor). The non-performing assets of Indian financial institutions have grown under broad day light and the villain is the Indian business community which is supported by the mainstream politicians and the trade union leaders. Mr. Chidambaram has declared that the trade in derivatives’ constitute non-speculative transactions. Thus the UPA government is dreaming of ‘Bharat Nirman’ (Building India) with the funds from the bull transactions of the Bombay Stock Exchange.

Thus what they have planned is the correct strategy – let the economy be exploited by speculators and hoarders, let them carry on their own selfish Nirman because today or tomorrow when the common people of Bharat will face a ‘bear’ phenomenon, the manipulators and speculators will vanish into thin air as Foreign Institutional Investors (FII) have no stake in this Bharat. So UPA’s Bharat Nirman is not for the ‘common people’ who were promised better days in the form of more employment and assured food, shelter and good health.


Let us see how this Nirman has progressed during the last 14 years of Reform or Nirman period. Total employment generated in the organised sector was around 940949. Percentage share of some states with their share of investment and share of IEM is shown below:

Table III
Employment Generation, Investment and IEM implemented
during 1991-2004. Some selected states


% share of total employment











W. Bengal




Economic Times dated 21.3.05

Thus India’s industrial map looks like an acute anaemic patient whose ribs can be easily counted from a kilometre away but its belly is like that of a balloon, giving an impression that the patient is waiting for that destined moment. About 50 percent of industrial investments were cornered by these three states and Maharashtra led in job creation followed by Gujarat. West Bengal as usual lagged behind in job creation.

If we go deep into it, the reform period is a destructive period for the workers of the organised sector. In 5 years, between 1997 and 2002 total employment in the organised sector declined by over 10.39 lakh from 282.45 lakh to 272.06 lakh. The employment in the public sector declined by 4 percent during this period while that of private sector declined by about 3 percent. All this happened with the full cooperation of so-called left trade unions who fought against the right trade unions to accept more and more voluntary retirement schemes (VRS). Even bank employees were to be found in the law courts asking for their help to offer them VRS and create further unemployment in the Indian economy. The trade unions in the organised sector which are mainly controlled by the ‘revolutionary left parties’ aided and abetted the reform process in India and so helped to create millions of unemployment by accepting VRS, disinvestment, closures and other forms of retrenchment. Such are never accepted even in the developed countries. The ‘left’ parties enjoying state power in India have ordered the trade unions under their banner to behave and allow the exploiters to have nice days. So who is going to believe that liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation, in short LPG will bring a smile in the faces of our workers when even organised labour is kept always under the ‘Damocles sword’ of retrenchment, dismissal or layoff. Thus even a school child laughs when the Finance Minister gives assurances of new job creation during the 2 hours of his budget speech. He ensures job creation as follows:


12 million jobs in next 5 years

Information Technology

7 million jobs by 2009

Food processing

2.5 lakh jobs every year


One crore jobs by extending irrigation to one crore hectares of land

Finance ministers are honourable people; they don’t understand what an illiterate understands with a little common sense.

To conclude our above observations on the rapid deterioration of human life in this vast subcontinent, it is good that our policy makers are trying to make some amends here and there. But patchwork will never help in restoring dignity and happiness to the life of crores of our children, workers both male and female and senior citizens. It is wrong to pamper a small group of the hungry middle class who have nothing to do with the poorer sections of society. Consumerism of the worst variety can be found in the burgeoning malls of our metropolitan towns. Let the political bosses waste their time satisfying these human animals. One should see the writing on the wall: the fast growing impatience of the toiling landless labourers and the millions of unorganised workers cannot be contained by saying that the Indian prime minister is a noble hearted man and the chairperson of UPA sacrificed the prime minister’s chair. They want to live in dignity and not on charity. All children should get educational opportunities, all able bodied persons should get the opportunity to work. The state cannot be hijacked to serve the interests exclusively of a very small section and ignoring the minimum needs of the vast majority. They can’t wait. They want action – here and now.

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