18 April 2014

The 100-city Madness

     P.Chidambaram and N. Modi are closer to one another than what their statements on media make it appear. Both share a common economic strategy for the nation. Even though they are at each other's throats - with Chidu naming Modi a brute, and Modi calling Chidu an artificial sophisticate, the two share a common dream for the nation - to build one hundred more cities.
     We may call this the  'modimbaram' strategy. What it underlines is a significant fact - that whether we get a Congress or BJP government, the act of copying economic policy of the USA is going to continue. This portents a tremendous upheaval which will tear out the heart of this country, but I am afraid that such a vital issue has been left untouched, unexplored, by media and intellectuals.
     What does this imply - this building of a hundred more cities? What will be the population of each city? Say, 30 lakhs, which is a small-to-medium city size. Who will populate these cities? Not the residents of Mumbai and Chennai and New Delhi; neither Modi nor Chidambaram will shift there - these new cities will be created out of a massive disturbance to the Indian rural environment.
Forced migration will push villagers to these new cities. Why do I say forced? Because no satisfied farmer wants to leave his land, his green environment, his neighbouring forests, and his cultural heritage. And that is where the crux lies: our government policy is not aimed at making the farmer satisfied where he is. Rather, our economic action has been the opposite - to deprive and make lakhs of farmer landless. If you have heard the fact that 250,000 farmers have committed suicide in the last 12 years, then let me add to that: a further 20 lakh farming families have resigned to the fact that they must sell their land, on which they have their own home and their own enterprise, and move to the city slums as tenants and daily-wage labourers.
     When we can build air-conditioned metros and malls, but cannot provide basic electricity to our villages, when we can crowd the sky with private airlines but cannot provide a reliable bus service to and from the village, when we pay obscene amounts of salary to employees in cities for doing lazy, wihte-collar work, and pay a pittance to the hard-working farmer for his valuable produce, making him poor and vulnerable - in such a situation, what else are we doing but forcing him to migrate?
     With the new Modimbaram Strategy, that cruel economic action is now going to be renewed a hundred-fold. To populate 100 cities at 30 lakh per city, we are looking at a massive migratory movement of 30 crore people - that is one third of the entire nation's rural population. This is madness, and it is a madness that may well take our 5000-year civilization to its ruin.
     Who put this crazy idea into Chidu's and Modi's heads, it would be useful to know this. And the answer to this is that it is the economists and businessmen who favour copying the USA model who are pushing this move, right since 1991 (see this blog post for a detailed report). Already, the stage has been set with laws to allow private corporations to buy massive tracts of rural land, and buccaneer capitalists are licking their lips in anticipation of the Modimbaram Strategy.
     Two significant issues arise out of this:
     1. Is the nation as a whole aware of, and in favour of, copying the USA model? In the USA mode, the small farmer has been wiped out, and over 90 per cent of rural land and rights are in the control of a handful of powerful corporations who fund the politicians. Have the intellectuals of India even thought about this, or studied this aspect.? I feel that this copying of a retrograde economic system will be a tragedy, a catastrophe, because the USA is a failed state, it is in a state of economic and social collapse. (see this blog post for a detailed report). To abandon the 100-city Strategy, we will need a clear rejection of the USA model, and a visionary document of an Indian Economic System.
     2. The Indian farmer is resilient, it takes some doing to make him give up his land. The way the modern economic system is going about this is to make the farmer mired in debt. This is the strategy they adopted in the USA, and the same poison is being spread here through the sale of seeds, genetically modified seeds, and the sale of chemical toxins as 'fertilizer'. Our agricultural policy supports, promotes and conspires to make the farmer dependent and debt-ridden. To turn this around needs a bold decision, a visionary decision, which will cut out the multinational seed and fertilizer and banking corporations, and show the way to zero-budget farming and self-sufficient communities.
     In this election season, what do our parties' manifestos say? We have already stated that the Congress and the BJP have both chosen the path of economic insanity. The same goes for the other regional parties and their money-making masters. Sadly, the Aam Aadmi Party manifesto also falls short on these two fundamental issues; it has tried to parry around them, rather than hold the issue by its horns. At one place, it says, "India still lives in its villages" (the italics is mine) - is there an element of regret in this sentence? I should hope not, because I have once met Ms Atishi, one of the persons who drafted that manifesto, and I know her to be a sincere and passionate student of socio-economics for a humane society. I hope that she meant it proudly, that 'India still lives in its villages', which means that 70 crore people are already self-employed in a socially knit traditional structure. The real concern for Indian economists, I feel, is not the village, which produces more than it consumes, but the growing urban population which is naukri-dependent, produces nothing, but which is a voracious consumer and a shameless polluter.
     You and I may also be on this urban list, along with Modi and Chidambaram, but what will distinguish us from them is the direction we seek from here - they have chosen the Modimbaram Strategy, what will be ours?