|Thank you very much; I am delighted to be here. As per the request of the organisers, I will speak in a mix of hindi and english. Mine is a ‘Mumbaiya’ dialect, and I speak 5 languages equally badly. I am a Telugu, and when I go to Andhra Pradesh, there people demand that I speak in Telugu. This happened two months ago, and I told the organisers, “I am very proud of my home state Andhra Pradesh, because in the entire history of the state there have never been riots based on language. If I speak in Telugu, that will instantly change.” So you have been warned, but I will try to speak in a mix of Hindi and English.
In India, there has been a stunning growth of inequality in the last 25 years, and a spectacular growth of inequality in the last 15 years. It is not just a question of wealth and income; inequality is visible in every sector. It is visible in water, whether water for irrigation or drinking water. Transfers of water from poor to rich, from agriculture to industry, from village to city are going on.
Maharashtra is a state that is 55% rural . And water is being sucked out of rural areas. I live in Mumbai’s Bandra Reclamation area. In all of Mumbai, the residents receive 24 hours supply of water. There is never a shortage in my colony. All this water comes from 5 lakes-Vaishali, Vaitarna, etc- which are all located in the Adivasi areas of Thane district. If you go to Thane district, you will not find a single piped connection in an Adivasi house. There is water, we are stealing it all. You will not find a piped connection in Mokhada, in Thalassery. 75 years after independence, you will not find a single adivasi home with a water piped connection.
And it is in the same way, all over Maharashtra. The Times of India had filed an RTI-The TOI also occasionally files an RTI. The correspondent who did this, is in my opinion, doing cutting edge reporting in rural matters. Her name is Priyanka Kakotkar. With the help of an RTI, she showed how much water goes to the cities, how much goes to the villages. Water comes from the villages- all the rivers and lakes are there. Urban Maharashtra gets 400% more than village Maharashtra. 53% of Maharashtra’s water is consumed in 3 out of 36 districts- Mumbai, Nashik and Pune. Are people in the villages less thirsty? They do more physical labour requiring more water intake. So inequalities are in many, many sectors whether in bank credit, water, housing or land. Everywhere these inequalities are to be seen. In agriculture, this has led to a crisis. What we call an agricultural crisis is basically a crisis of inequality. How we treat our agriculturists and how we treat our farmers, that is an extremely important thing.
Let me give you some numbers about what is happening in wealth inequality. Credit Suisse brings out a very interesting publication. Every year since 2014, they bring out the Global Wealth Data Book and the Global Wealth Report. These days I am not very interested in poverty data, because all that data has been destroyed. The Global Wealth Data Book contains tables giving information about 130 nations and in that you can see how much does the top 1% own. How much wealth does the top 5% control, the top 10% , and then the wealth controlled decilewise- what is the share of every 10% in household wealth.
Since 2014, they have published three reports-2014, 2015, 2016. I have said that there is a spectacular growth of inequality in the last fifteen years. This is the same whether we have a UPA government or a NDA government. This is because the main characteristics of the inequality we have in India is that it is driven by policy. This is not the inequality of any natural calamity; this is a planned inequality, a constructed inequality. It is most cynically constructed and most consciously engineered.
What is the difference between the inequality of thirty years ago and the inequality of today ? Thirty years ago, you planned for equality. Now you plan for inequality. My understanding of trickle-down theory is that all the food in the room should be on my table. And it cannot fit on my table, so some crumbs will fall and all of you will get to eat. Credit Suisse is giving tables from 2014, but their data is from 2000. Look at what it shows here.
This is the 2016 table for all the countries of the world, but they have given selected countries data. I am giving you a comparison between India and the United States. Have a look at India, more closely. In India the top 1% owns 58.4% of the total household wealth. This calculation is by Credit Suisse and their sources are Government of India, NSS, Forbes Magazine and United Nations Human Development data. 58.4% is the total share of the top 1% in India. If you were to look at the United States, the control of the top 1% is just 42.1%. Your inequality in terms of control by the top 1%, you are way ahead of the United States in inequality. And that is the quintessential neo-liberal capitalist economy of today, and we are ahead of them. The control of the top 10% is 80.7% in India, in the United states it is 57.6%. But more interesting, look at this-the bottom 10%, the bottom 20%, the bottom 30%.
The share of the bottom 10% is -0.7. This means serious debt when your liabilities vastly outstrip your assets. People are drowning in debt. Minus 0.7 percent. And that too, dropped to -0.7 from +0.1 percent in just twelve months. The next decile- 20 percent- have 0.2%; the third decile- 30 percent- have 0.5%. This means that the ownership of the bottom 30% is zero. Null. The bottom 30% owns nothing.
Look further at the bottom 90%. The bottom 30% cancel each other out and own 0, keep that aside. After that comes 0.8, 1.3, 2.0, 2.9, 4.5, and 7.8, which comes to 19.8%. That means, the top 1% owns three times what 90% of your population does. 58.4 vs. 19.8, look at it. That is an incredible, intolerable, level of inequality. The closest country to us is Thailand, with 58.3%. Russia is a more unequal country than India, but they had 30 years to do it in. The Big Bang they did in ‘91- Jeffrey Sachs and others who are now trying to eradicate poverty, subjected Russia to the big bang and the privatisation of all assets that were state owned capital. But in terms of the rate of growth in the last 15 years, almost nobody equals India. In the big nations, nobody.
Now these are the 2016 figures. Just go to 2015. In 2015, the Indian top 1% owned 53.0%. This means that in 12 months, you added 5.4 percentage points to the wealth of the top 1%. In 2014, the share of the top 1% was 49%. This means that in 24 months, the one percent sitting at the top added 10 percentage points to their wealth. You will not find this rate of accumulation in any other country. You are living through the greatest loot and grab sortie in your history. In 2000, this share was 36%.
In 2000, India had 9 dollar billionaires; in 2009 there were 53 dollar billionaires. In 2017, the Forbes Billionaire list had 101 people from India. From 9 to 101- A phenomenal growth of billionaires. But look at the bottom 1%. From +0.1% they went to -0.7%. The 20% went from 0.4 to 0.2 and the third decile went from 0.7 to 0.5. So you cannot say the cake is getting bigger and everyone is getting more. That is not the case. Wealth is being sucked upwards. And it is being sucked upwards by engineered and constructed policy.
This is showing in thousands of places- the impact of this. Let me also tell you how Credit Suisse defines wealth. It is a total value above one crore. Their definition of middle class is- it will shock you- the definition of middle class is 13,700 USD to 1,27,000 USD; that is total wealth assets of 9.25 lakhs INR to 92.5 lakhs INR. 3% of Indians fit into that middle class. Those above that are 0.2% of India’s population. This means that out of India’s 130 million people, 26 million Indians have assets more than one crore. 0.2% of Indians are rich according to Credit Suisse; 3% of Indians are middle class. This is the state of your wealth equation in the country.
Let me show you how this is reflecting in lifestyles, just in architecture. And then, in what is happening in the water crisis. Houses and constructions are coming up in all these areas which we call drought prone. Maharashtra has the century’s greatest drought. They have a competition in the headlines- is it 70 years greatest drought or a 100 years greatest drought. That has not stopped the kind of building constructions that are coming up in Maharashtra. Building complexes with 50, 60, 70 floors with a swimming pool on every single floor. They are called balcony swimming pools. This photo I have taken from the advertisement of the builder. This is called Aquaria Grande coming in Borivili, in Mumbai. These are the balcony swimming pools, but they also have one large consolidated pool. This building has two towers, with 37 floors each. And the connection is the builder’s penthouse flat. This means that just the front of the building has 75 swimming pools. The ten floors below that are just for parking. Because each family there is a three-car family. Construction has stopped because there are a lot of protests over water, but the project has received clearance. So one day, it will definitely be completed. When completed, or if completed, this is the artist’s vision or nightmare- whichever you prefer. This is Amchi Mumbai, in Maharashtra. They also have a large pool, a commonwealth sized swimming pool. They have everything. The kind of journalism that I do, I do not interview builders much but I definitely interview the labourers that come there to work. I also do speak to builders. Buildings like these are not confined to Mumbai, they are coming up everywhere. They are also coming up in Baramati, Sharad Pawar’s constituency, a rural area. I interviewed the labourers working on the site and asked them who they were.
‘Sir, we are farmers. We are farm labourers.’
“What are you doing here? Why are you not in the villages? Don’t you want to farm?”
“What farming can I do, sir? Where is the water?”
Where is there any water in the villages? So our fields are lying fallow. I cannot tell you what it felt like for me that they have abandoned their fields because there is no water in the village and come to build your swimming pool and mine in the city. For me this is intolerable; it is just intolerable. You are building for a huge, gigantic explosion. You cannot have such inequalities.
And what you are doing increasingly, you are constructing smart cities. Smart cities are a very dumb idea. Has anyone here seen the plan for any smart city? Consider that of Indore. The smart city that will come up in Indore will serve 2.8% of the present population of Indore. Amravati will not serve even that much of the population of the Krishna-guttur areas. So you are talking of inclusive economy on the one hand, and you are excluding those who have something in the cities. That is the kind of gigantic social divide you are building, not only with rural India but within urban India.
All this, this has a swimming pool on every floor. I will take you to my hometown, Chennai. We are a very refined culture. We don’t do this vulgar one on every floor; we are modest, we build a swimming pool on every third floor. This is also an approved building. My favourite is if you drive from Mumbai towards Pune. You will see hundreds of hoardings advertising luxury villas with private swimming pool. My favourite is this one- Luxury homes with an attached forest reserve. In Maharashtra, the poor tiger also does not have a private forest reserve, but the builder gets one!
Just two or five kilometers from there, you should see how the ordinary citizen lives. This is how the average Indian woman gets her water. This is a town. Note that every bucket has a number, a symbol. Why? There are two reasons. One is, I can say that this is mine. But the number also is because it is in a queue. Because the woman who keeps a pot in the queue for this tap, has also kept six other buckets near six other public taps. And her entire day is spent in this. You know how hard the Pahari woman works. She walks 20-24 kilometers a day just for water, fodder is a different issue. This is just for water. This is the Indian woman’s water gathering task- and ordeal.
But no matter where you have placed your bucket in a queue; it does not work if you are a Dalit. If you are a Dalit, I will simply kick your bucket away. This woman is an Adivasi. Look at what she is doing. She has two pots. She is standing on 5 stones, collecting water from a leaking municipal pipe, and filling the other pot with it. Then she will fill this pot and take them both to her house. The house was not very far. I was sitting there taking interviews all day and watching her. The house was 300 metres away, not very far. But she made that trip 40 times. There were many buckets, and drums in the house. If you do a 300 metre trip 40 times, you have walked 12 kilometers. And half of that journey, 6 kilometers, you have been carrying 40-50 litres of water.
This stunt has become a status symbol everywhere. This image is from London. Near the US embassy, two buildings span a broad avenue, with a lot of traffic. An Irish builder is constructing this, I have taken this photo from the Guardian. All other images are mine, except for the first picture. This is a glass swimming pool, connecting two buildings across a broad avenue. There you can not only swim from a height, but you can also wave to all the idiots below, to all the little people down there.
And this is a Dalit woman. She said, ‘Sir, this is the sixth time I have sat here. I have placed a bucket at each tap, and I have placed it first at around three in the morning. But I always get water last.’
In India, there is a caste and class geography in irrigation and in domestic water. In Marathwada, from January to April, in each household, one person spends one entire day every week just collecting water. And this same Marathwada is home to our billionaires who are the people in the sugar lobby. The amount of water consumed by 1 acre of sugarcane can be used to cultivate 12 to 15 qccres of Jowar. Do you know how much water is spent in irrigating one acre? The UP average is mch better than Maharashtra, but Maharashtra has a ruling lobby of sugarcane farmers. Also know that there are many sugarcane farmers who are small farmers. They too suffer a lot, there are several suicides among them. But look at the inequalities in control of water in Maharashtra. The 2% of farmers who are sugarcane cultivators utilise 68% of irrigation water. 2% farmers cultivated 6% of land and consume 68% of water. These same people have now also joined industry, and diversions are happening. There were firings in which 5-6 farmers died protesting against the transfer of water from Maval to Pimpri-Chinchvad.
Look at this in Nagpur. In Nagpur the maximum temperatures can reach 49 degrees. And what is this? An artificial snow producing machine imported from Japan. Fun and food village is a Delhi based company. This has a skating rink. But there are skating rinks in several places, this can also make snow. The electircity charge is 20% of what the domestic consumer pays- this is the amount of subsidy it has. They claim to be creating jobs. I counted, in the entire Panchayat from whom they acquired land, they have create 9 jobs. And what are those? 3 gardeners, two toilet cleaners, and such jobs. All other jobs are filled outside. 49 degrees, and you are producing snow. I went in the month of May. I am very proud to tell you that the story we did got it shut down. There are many like this. In Mumbai, there are 24 Fun and Food villages. They give the Panchayat 45,000 rupees per year for the land lease. During the season, gate collection is more than 45, 000/-
Mumbai has Esselword, Fun world and all the others. This has also come to Nagpur. On Nagpur’s famous lake, Haldiram’s has also set up one. So much water is being drained away..billions of litres are being used..Go to Jaipur in Rajasthan. This boy is taking water from the tubewell, trying to fish out water with his hand and put it into his vessel. This is all a religious resort, where you can go for spiritual succour, in the middle of an artificial lake. The water got dried up, but they got more from outside. I also want to show you an update, much more recent.
In 2016, my friend and colleague, Jaideep Hardikar of Teleggraph and I both went to the Godavari. For the first time in 140 years, the Godavari dried up. It dried up at the source, as did the Krishna. No one can say when was the last time that the Krishna dried at the source. So we thought there is no point in merely making a complaint, we need to do a survey; let us drive to the source of seven rivers in Maharasthra. So Krishna, Godavari were the big ones, then Savitri, Gayatri, Verna, and others. Krishna, Savitri, Verna are all in one region, Mahabaleshwar. Godavari comes from the district of Nashik. It is an incredibly important river for Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. What did we find when we went to the source of these rivers? The towns, in the name of promoting religious tourism have been concretised 100% . There is no place for the water to go. Where does water come from? It comes from the mountains, in two or three springs. It gets collected in one tank, and then flows from there. Godavari emerges from a mountain called Brahmagiri. I have been up that mountain. It comes from8-10 little springs, which come to a natural tank called Ganga Sagar. In ancient times, people expanded the natural tank. From GangaSagar, there is underground flow. Trimbakeshwar town was founded there. And under Trimbakeshwar town the water flows, meets hundreds of tributaries, and becomes very large. Do you know what has happened? Trimbakeshwar town, which is the birthplace of Godavari, gets water once in three days. The entire town has become concrete. All of you have heard of the Rama Kund, the ancient site for the Shani snan. You can find a mention of this tank in literature a thousand years ago. This Rama Kunda has become dry. How did it become dry? There is a million years old natural rock formation there. The municipal council of Nashik, a BJP-Sena council, destroyed this ancient rock formation and covered it with Italian marble to ‘beautify’ the tank. The Ram Kunda dried up for the first time in history. The Rama Kunda going dry, do you know what it did? For a thousand years, people have been putting dead bodies in the water. All those human remains surfaced. Everyday, a hundred trucks would cart away human bones. Then the government got scared. They said, ‘Rama Kunda should never be dry’. So what did they do? They poured tanker water into the river. Every day for four months, 90-100 tankers poured water into the Godavari. Where is that water coming from? It is coming from public taps! It is coming from public taps, the contractors are getting money for it, and the contractors are all the MLAs and the corporators’ men. A few million litres were poured into the Rama Kund for four months. The funniest thing is, the sacred Shani snan now happens with tanker water. I have photos that show people at the edge of a tank,bathing in the sacred waters of a tanker. It is completely insane, what we are doing. My argument is that because of inequalities, we are not just having a drought, we are having a mega water crisis. And it is a crisis of inequality, of how we use our waters.
Large transfers of water are happening, from agriculture to industry, from villages to towns, from the poor to the rich, from food crops to cash crops. For the last thirty years, we have been encouraging people, giving them credit to grow only cash crops. So you have this gigantic water crisis which is among the top three ugly faces of this inequality.
So you have the inequality of wealth, and the inequality of water. The inequality of income, I do not have to tell you anything. Paul Krugman in his 2002 essay ‘The Gilded Age’ said “when the wage difference between the top CEO of a company and the lowest worker in a factory crosses a hundred, you have a crisis of inequality; when it crosses a thousand, you have a crisis of democracy.” Take the top Reliance CEO’s salary and that of the lowest contracted worker, the diference is not 100, it is not 1000, it is 30-40 thousand.
By the way, I said we have a 101 billionaires. Do you know that out of the top one percent, 0.2 percent own 40-45% of that 58.4 percent. Wealth holding is so narrow. What is happening in the world is happening in India at a faster pace. After all, as the prime minister tells us, we are the best. In everything, we are the best. In inequalities, we are the best.
Look at the world. Oxfam analysed the Human Development Report and Credit Suisse data. Oxfam says that in 2010, 383 billionaires owned more wealth than half the world’s population. In 2014, 83 billionaires owned more wealth than the bottom 50%. Bottom 50% means 3.5 billion human beings. In 2015, 62 billionaires owned more wealth than the bottom 50%. In 2015, 6 billionaires owned more wealth than the bottom 50%. In India, 15 individuals own more wealth than the bottom 50%. I don’t have the figures for 2016 yet. Those figures are worked out by Srujana Bodapati a young economist with ThoughtWorks software consultancy in Gurgaon and she has worked out these figures based on Forbes Billionaires data.
Here we are. You can have a look. This is the Rama Kunda, the tanker is supplying water, and this man is bathing directly from the sacred waters of a tanker. Please note, completely marble. He is not on the rocks, he is on marble. This used to be natural rock formation. This year, the entire crop of Nashik was destroyed by demonetisation. It was destroyed so thoroughly.
I have a personal project, of interviewing freedom fighters, the ones that are left. Now their ages are 95 or so. In three years, no one might be left. Generations of children are growing up without ever having listened to a freedom fighter, seen a freedom fighter. So I was taking about demonetisation to Captain Bhau (Means Captain who is my elder brother) of the underground Toofan Sena of the 1943 uprising. He had looted a great many British banks and trains, for the underground movement. Satara district had declared independence in 1943. For three years, they did not allow the British into Satara. Its founding president became one of the founding presidents of the all India Kisan Sabha. Krantisingh Nana Patil. He was elected to Parliament in 1957 defeating all the major parties. Captain Bhau was the head of the armed wing, and is now 95 years old. I asked him what he thought of demonetisation. He said, “I just don’t understand it. In our times we looted banks and gave money to the people. In your times, you loot people and give money to banks.” Captain Bhau, at the age of 95, came out walking two kilometers in the farmers’ uprising of Maharashtra in July this year. He completed 95 years on June 22nd. How do I know this? He called me to tell me, “Today I have completed 95. I am still willing to fight.”
He is a warrior. He is coming out in protest against the inequalities, against the injustice. The question is, what are you and I doing? What are we doing about such levels of inequality.
Now new communities are coming up. In every city, gated communities. Prakash, you have lived in Delhi for the last 30 years. Before 1993, was there a gate on any community? Even Chanakyapuri and Ramakrishnapuram, there was no gate. 1993, after liberalisation and privatisation, gated communities come up everywhere. Today, there is a company called gatedcommunities.com. They say that the fasted growing gated communities market is in India. Look at the advertisement.
The gated property will have only tastefully designed villas of certain common architectural form. You will come across a large variety of them! Most sought after being Spanish, Mediterranean, Italian, traditional and contemporary architecture. Community with Villas and Apartments . They also want to say something else..they say that children love to live in Gated Communities! Because they get to make many more friends and the communities have larger space and facilities to keep them active & interested. Parents are happy since the children engage in activities, without troubling them. What kind of a society have we built? What kind of a society are we building?
Not only have we created new inequalities, we have entrenched older inequalities like caste. I say that the Khaps of Haryana are much more powerful today than they were in 1980 when I started journalism. At that time, there was a little fear of the Khaki uniform of the police. Today, the Inspector General of Haryana police is a member and supporter of Khaps. These new inequalities have entrenched and rejuvenated existing inequalities. Social inequalities are also growing in number. Inequalities are coming across in multiple forms, in multiple ways.
The biggest sector where it shows terribly is in agriculture, where 15 million farmers have quit agriculture between 1991 and 2011. Between 1991 and 2011, there are three censuses- 1991, 2001, 2011. The first ten years of liberalisation, the number of farmers falls by 72 lakhs; in the next ten years, the total number of farmers falls by 77 lakhs. 15 million farmers have quit agriculture. Where have they gone? You have not created a single job to absorb them. The farmers who have left the mountains, will not get a job at Infosys. They might get a job as security, but not a high paying job. So where have they gone?
The same primary census abstract has the answer in the second column. Next to the column of farmers is the column of agricultural labourers. As the number of farmers is decreasing, the number of farm workers is increasing. In united Andhra Pradesh, the population of farmers has decreased by 13 lakhs in a decade, from 2001 to 2011. The number of labourers has increased by 34 lakhs. This means that it is not just farmers livelihoods that are collapsing, but also many others. So you are having an incredible rise in inequalities in all forms. And what is taking place.
What you and I are witnessing is the consolidation of a corporate state. The power of corporations is today greater than that of any government. We have done a good job with the 73rd and 74th amendments, the Gram Sabha is supreme. But when Panchayati Raj meets corporate power, corporate power wins. Except when there is a struggle of the masses as happened in POSCO. The people ejected POSCO from there. Millions of people in this country have been displaced; are being displaced. That inequality is also coming in where you are taking their land and giving it to corporations who will create ten jobs for every 1000 livelihoods lost. Corporate power has become the biggest power of our times.
Yet another inequality is coming in. When there is dissent, when people protest, we are criminalising the dissent. Criminalisation of dissent is the biggest legal weapon being used in this country to destroy human lives. In andhra pradesh, there was an anti-port agitation in Tricha colony. There, there are cases filed on a thousand people- attempt to kill, attempt to fire, attempt to injure police party. Of these, I met a fisher woman. She must be about 4’5” in height, her weight must be about 35 kg, definitely less than 40 kg. She was carrying a sickle in her hand. She has 2-3 cases of attempt to murder filed against her. ‘Attacked police party’. She can barely lift the bl**dy sickle. In POSCO, every child of 14 has 20-30 cases against him or her. Abhay Sahu, who is the leader of the anti-POSCO agitation..when I meet Abhay, I just ask him one question. “how many today?” He’ll say, “52, but it’s increasing!”
Go to Koraput. There you can see the technique being used by the police and the government. If Prakash Upadhyay and his friends come and stage a protest outside the police station, a case is lodged against Prakash Upadhyay and 800 others for attacking the police station with intent to murder. The names of the 800 others are not written. Why? After that for the next three years they can terrorise all the neighbouring villages. I have not written those 800 names..Prakash Upadhyay and 800 others. So when your village is troublesome, I will come and pick up people from your village; when his village is troublesome, I will go there and terrorise them. Prakash Upadhyay and 800 others. There is a chemistry professor among them, he is a urban youth and he has 19 cases against him. And what sort of cases! One of the cases against him is theft of a buffalo. That poor urban young man will probably not be able to tell you the difference between a buffalo and a cow. I had interviewed the Odisha IGP and asked him why they have done that. He said. “You don’t understand sir. These are very dirty people.” I said, “Okay. But attempt to murder is one thing and theft of a buffalo is another. How do these match?” He said, “We know that when he goes to court, the court will dismiss the murder charges. But we will be able to jail him under this one.” So you make his life miserable. He has to go to the police station every week, to the court every day.
In Kalinga Nagar, Orissa there is an adivasi couple- Ravi Jharika and his wife. Educated, with a BSc from Utkal University. They have never seen the inside of a police station. After Tata’s Kalinga Nagar project came up, 17 people died in the firing. And 91 cases have been filed against Ravi Jharika and his wife- 50 against one, 41 against the other. They have just been embroiled. All their life goes in the police station reporting for parole and reporting for court.
When you are looking at wealth, what is the income and ownership and wealth of the average rural Indian? In 2013 and 2014, the socioeconomic caste census was done. It is a government survey. What does it say? In 75% of rural India, the main breadwinner earns less than Rs. 5,000/-, in 90% of the households the main breadwinner takes home less than Rs. 10,000/-. Of the households making more than 10,000/- half are government servants- railway worker, school teacher etc. 90% of your rural households take home less than Rs.10,000/- but you have 101 dollar billionaires.
And now to the farmers. A situation assessment report of the National Sample survey came out in 2014, with 2013 data presenting information about farm households. These are households, not individuals. A household has five individuals on average. How do Indian farm households work? There is the elder brother who lives on the farm, 3 younger brothers go and get jobs. These younger brothers send remittances to the farm and get a share of the produce annually when they divide the crop. The average farm household in India, considering all sources of income, has a monthly average income of Rs 6,426/- . That too is an average. Punjab, Kerala, Haryana are on one side of the spectrum where the income is from Rs 10-12 thousand. East UP and Chattishgarh are on the other where income is as low as Rs3,000/- . Look at the levels of inequality that we have created. This is a policy driven thing- the credit policies of the government of India.
They say they have increased policy – Chidambaram Sir, Pranab da, Arun Jaitley Sir, they all say that they have doubled agricultural credit. They are not lying, they have done it. But that credit does not go to agriculturists, it goes to corporate agribusiness. NABARD has an annual potential linked credit plan. 53% of the total agricultural outlay goes to Mumbai and suburbs. How many small farmers are there in Mumbai? A Professor at TISS, Rama Kumar has analysed this. The loans of small farmers have collapsed. What loans have increased? The loans from Rs 10 crore to Rs 25 crore have doubled. The loans below Rs .50,000/- have collapsed. How many of you have met farmers who take loans of Rs 20 crores? Do you know of any such farmers? I just know of two in Mumbai-One is Mukesh, the other is Anil. The third one is now Baba! Right? Baba Ramdev is also now in that slot. Credit does not go to agriculturists, it goes to Monsanto, it goes to pesticide manufacturers. Agricultural crisis is a manmade crisis, we are very deeply in it.
What is the response of the government? NCRB, National Crime Record Bureau is a division of the Home Ministry. According to them, from 1995 to 2015, more than 3,10,000 farmers have committed suicide in this country. Two thirds of those happened in six states- Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Chattishgarh and Telangana. More than 3,10,000 farmers have committed suicide. And what is the response of the government? They have shut down the NCRB. They have shut down the division that processes the data. Now we have to turn to each state government for data. We are in the midst of a severe, severe social regression. We are moving socially backwards.
When the government of India feels the need to show Rohit Vermula was not a Dalit. Who gives a caste certificate? It happens at the Tehsildar level. The supreme authority in the matter is the district collector. But this government found the need to show that Rohit Vermula was not a Dalit. So petty minded! You are in a very serious social regression. He says he will double the income of farmers till 2022; we are totally committed to the poor. I accept that the Modi government is for the poor. Someone wrote a very good line on the internet, “ The Modi government’s commitment to the poor is unquestionable. GAREEB is GAutam Adani, REliance Industries, and BAba Ramdev. “
you are in the middle of a very serious social regression when lynch mobs are killing people over beef- suspected consumption of beef, when farmers are being beaten to a pulp while taking cows to the cattle market, when you destroy all the institutions of higher education in the country- central universities, IITs, IIMs, the whole works you are destroying- and there are complete buffoons and clowns in charge. Like the person in charge at JNU who wants to install a tank at JNU. In FTII you have installed Yudishtir- Gajendra Chauhan. The ones who have read Mahabharata know that Yudishtir was so pure that his chariot always travelled 6 inches above the ground. When Yudishtir lied, that Ashwathama is dead, then his chariot touched the ground. It is also very interesting, what they considered honesty. Yudishtir was a gambler, he drank, he gambled his wife away- all that was not a sin. When he lied that Ashwathama is dead, that was a sin; not a sin to gamble away Draupadi. Forget that Yudishtir, his chariot travelled six inches above the ground. This Yudishtir’s chariot is so deeply mired in mud it will never take off. Now after twelve months he has been replaced with Anupam Kher Saab. We have been set back 50 years in every educational institution in the last 3 years.
You have Swacch Bharat. You are building toilets without one word about the toilet cleaner, about the Dalit, about the Safai Karamchari. The government of India’s estimate is that to eliminate manual scavenging it costs Rs.4,500 crores. You gave Rs. 9,000 crores to Vijay Mallya. Do a joint venture with him for Swachh Bharat. In Tripura, I met an Adivasi woman who was very agitated about a 53% cut in her wages in NGREGA. Single mother, three children, one blind mother. She thought I was a government officer, for my sins. She said, “ What is this Swachh Bharat? This Modi keeps talking of Swachh Bharat on TV.” I said, ‘It is a toilet construction program.” She said, “Look you are cutting our daily work by 53%. If you want to keep our stomachs empty, then why do you need a toilet?”
You are in a situation of unsustainable inequality. It will not show in nice ways only. It will not just show in organised struggles. But it will show in rising fundamentalism, in rising obscurantism, it’s going to show in rising criminalisation of dissent.
I want to leave you with this line: Don’t see the economics as separate from the social. Your country is ruled by socio-religious fundamentalists and economic market fundamentalists. Look at who are the advisors in Modiji’s economic council. Surjit Bhalla Saab, Bibek Dubroy Saab- who on NDTV debated Thomas Piketty and said that inequality is not an issue. The Chief Economic Advisor was also present at that interview- Arvind Subramaniam. Bibek Dubroy said, ‘If someone makes a lot of money, what is wrong with them flaunting it? It’s not our business.’ Arvind Subramaniam said, “I have to go with Bibek on this one.” Even in the mid-nineties had the Chief Economic Advisor of the Government of India said inequality is not an issue, he would be looking for a job next week. Now we are making a virtue of this.
What can we do about this? I say mass movements and you can make a starting point in the constitution of India by fighting for realisation of the directive principles of state policy. Make them all fundamental rights. That also has worker management and factories. It says, “economic systems shall not be used to the detriment of the whole society. It shall not be concentrated in the hands of the few. ” It is a very revolutionary part of your..but I have taken a lot of your time. So I will stop there and take questions. I am happy to answer them. But you are in a terrible, terrible phase of history. But there are bright things happening. I don’t have the time to go into them, I think there are wonderful movements happening, in Kerala for instance. I see people fighting and struggling everywhere, but I also see people giving up and committing suicide as in the farm sector where I have visited 900 households where people have committed suicide.
I ask you, where is our anger? We have to go beyond drawingroom outrage. Where is the rage? I want rage, I want anger. We have to feel like that. In the 60s, 70s, 80s the movements of the oppressed and the affected were often led by those who were neither oppressed nor affected. But there was a bond of empathy. I led a students’ movement in the Emergency. We suffered very little; maybe we did not suffer anything. But it mattered to us that others did because injustice meant something to everybody, not just those denied justice.
Today, those who do not belong to the oppressed and the affected, if they are reaching out to the oppressed and the affected, they become anti-national, they become terrorists, they become anti-development. Worst of all, they become muslims also! We are at that place where we have to decide that we will fight this coalition of socio-religious and economic market fundamentalists.
Look who supports this. The corporate world is entirely behind this coalition because of the kind of benefits they receive. It is not just for the last three years; the alliance has been building for twenty-five years. With that, I would say that either we fight back against inequality, or we look at what Ambedkar said in that fantastic speech of 25th November 1949. He said, “I am handing over this fine document to you in some trepidation. We have entered the world of paradoxes. In politics there is democracy, in society and economics there is no democracy at all. In politics there is democracy and equality, in society and economics there is no equality. And one day the tension between those dispossessed of democracy and equality and your political system fine political will explode your fine political democracy.”
That is our choice. Thank you