Mamata Banerjee’s New Avatar As National Leader
Mamata Banerjee, whose party a few days back was the second largest ally of the Congress Party-led UPA-II government, now is trying to take center stage in politics announcing her new role as a national leader, when she opposes all the policies of the government. Now, she threatens to bring no confidence motion against the UPA government and has announced her plan of a campaign around the country.
Experts say that Mamata Banerjee’s protest from Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on 1st October 1, 2013, was nothing but the announcement of Trinamool Congress’s new role as a bigger national party and Mamata Banerjee as the national leader, ahead of general elections due next year. She declares her role in the national politics when she says she will campaign around the country against the policies of the government.
She has taken her battle to New Delhi because now the people of Bengal are not sufficient; she needs the support of the whole country. Why is now the firebrand leader again full of energy and aggression? The energy comes for something more than FDI in retail. She has withdrawn support to the UPA and should be focusing on governance in her state now. Then why is this aggression more manifest? These questions are clearly answered through the actions of Mamata Banerjee.
It is clear that her eyes are now set on the power corridor of Delhi. Now, as almost all the regional parties are taking centre stage and playing a key role in national politics, why not the Trinamool Congress, which made history last year when it threw out world’s longest democratically elected Left front government from the state of West Bengal after 34 years of its rule? With its historic presence and support of the people the chief and only leader of Trinamool Congress thought it was time to make her presence felt on the centre stage of national politics as the government at the Centre has lost its credibility among the people of the country due to deep-rooted corruption and bad governance.
Mamata Banerjee seems more serious about a new front where regional parties will play a vital role in the general elections. This was evident when one witnessed Janata Dal (United) Chief Sharad Yadav being on stage with Mamata Banerjee declaring her the “Tigress”, Now, she knows it very well that regional politics is now incomplete without Mulayam Singh Yadav, for which she said that she would hold a rally each in Lucknow and Patna and invite Mulayam Singh and his son Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. At the same time she announced rallies by her party against the government policies across the country. This indicates her interest in bringing in regional parties under one umbrella, which can form a powerful third front in the coming general election. However, talking to Uday India, West Bengal Pradesh Congress President Pradip Bhattacharya said, “Mamata Banerjee has no agenda. She wants to benefit herself whether it is a UPA or an NDA government. As a matter of fact, she supported the Congress-led UPA but now she is going to change her stance. Many leaders are trying to project themselves as national leaders, let’s see how the land lies.”
Here it is to be noticed, that Mamata Banerjee shows her maturity as a national leader when she invites Mulayam Singh Yadav and his Chief Minister son Akhilesh Yadav for the rally in Lucknow on November 17 in spite of having sour relationship experience with the elder Yadav during Presidential election and also over the FDI issue, when Samajwadi Party gave its support to save the Congress-led government at the Centre.
By taking Mulayam Singh Yadav to her side she might be thinking of giving a jolt to both UPA government at the Centre and the Left parties, which are dreaming of having a third front and also hinted Mulayam Singh Yadav to play the leadership role at the Centre if he could bring in more parties into the fold of the third front.
Mamata Banerjee is making every move with great calculation. By doing this she plans to isolate the Left, and also can make the government at the Centre weak, creating space for her own party in the national arena with more future political combination aiming power at the Centre.
Mamata Banerjee knows it very well how to capture the issues. She did it all tactfully with the Left in Bengal taking up the issue of farmers in Singur and Nandigram and now she knows what issues hit the common man and can give mileage to her and her party. The biggest problem which the common man in India is facing today is price rise and hike in diesel price. Therefore Mamata opposed the government for FDI in retail sector which reflects her concern for the common man. But CPI(M) has a different take on this, which says that she is doing all this now only to take advantage of the present political situation and project herself as a new national leader of the masses. Talking to Uday India CPI(M) leader Mohammad Salim says: “Issues are not new to Trinamool Congress and Mamata Banerjee. Since 1984, she has been at the Centre with various portfolios, why is she raising these issues now? She was with the government when CWG, 2G and all other cases of corruption happened. But then she remained silent. Now seeing the political situation of the country she is trying to jump onto the fray so as to project herself as a national leader. I don’t know whether she will live herself up to people’s expectations.”
Now within this time frame of few months before the general election she will have to establish her image among the people of the country as a national leader. At the same time she is trying to be the rallying point of a non-Congress, non-BJP front whenever it comes up, before the election or after it. That’s the reason she is concentrating on Delhi and targeting the UPA government so much despite being under attack from the rivals in her state over governance issues.
Opposition in Bengal is targeting Mamata Banerjee’s government, which is evident when assessing 16 months of Mamata’s governance, former Left front Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya uses the term “non performance” for Mamata Banerjee’s government. “The state is under debt. crimes are on the rise but she is busy rallying in Delhi” says another left leader. Congress which was an ally of the government in Bengal has come out to play a vital role in establishing its image among the people in Bengal. But Bengali are silently watching every move of the leader they trusted a year back.
Her next move will be keenly watched by the political analysts. Mamata Banerjee may have managed to attract some attention of the people of the country in her transition from a regional leader to a national leader, but now it is to be observed how she manages to turn the political waves on national stage in her favour.
By Joydeepdas Gupta from Kolkata
Government policies are adversarial towards agriculture
Eighty-five per cent of population lives in rural areas. The share of agriculture in Odish’s GSDP has gone down from 65 per cent in 1951 to 40 per cent in 1991 but the percentage of workforce has remained almost at 73 per cent during that time. There are a total of 40.67 lakh operational holdings possessing 50.81 lakh hectares area.
The analysis of agriculture in the Odisha shows that, between 1993-94 and 2003-04, the area under production and quantity produced fell for three important produce for the state—rice, potato and onion. Production per area also fell for the first two as well as for total pulses and total fibers. Equally discouraging is the fall, during this interval, in the yield rate of rice, gross cropped area (GCA), net sown area (NSA), and cropping intensity. In fact, based on data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy(CMIE), gross cropped area and net irrigated area in the state fell during 1993-94 to 2003-04 by an average of 1.20 per cent and 4.45 per cent per year respectively. The area under food grains also showed the same sad trend. The increase in fertilizer consumption by an average of 6 per cent per year suggests a possible “chemicalisation” of agriculture. Some authors have, in fact, shown that in Odisha there is a process of “pauperisation of agriculture” through, among other things, underutilisation or non-utilisation of land and agricultural labour, degradation and diversion of cultivable land, and stagnant crop and resource productivity.
The development policy on rural population has impacted them showing, basically three distinct trends—Miniaturisation of land holdings: 85.50 per cent of farmers’ households are marginal farmers having ownership over 41.52 per cent of agricultural land (NSSO Report No.491). 71.5 per cent of the marginal farmers own less than 0.5 hectare. More than half of the households in this size class (0-0.5 hectare.) own a negligible amount of productive land. Unlike the all India level, the concentration of operational holding is quite low in Odisha. Per capita availability of land in Odisha has decreased from 0.39ha. (1950-51) to 0.14 ha.(2005-06). The average income for farmers operating less than 4 hectare of land was shown by 2003 NSSO data to be negative.
Increasing landlessness: Landlessness is 9.56 per cent. If we exclude homestead land from our calculation, ownership landlessness increases to 38.5 per cent.(NSS Report 491) Just for an illustration—the Agriculture Survey data of 1995-96 in the tribal districts shows that the percentage of tribal landholders having less than one standard acre of land ranges from 41 per cent in Malkangiri to 77 per cent in Gajapati. The district of Gajapati, a tribal dominated district, has just 14.82 per cent of its total area under cultivators’ landholding, with the rest of the land belonging to the government. Approximately 93 per cent of the rural households in this district have legal title on only nine per cent of the district’s land area.
Increasing number of footloose labour: The most important source of income in the rural income is wages. Around 54 per cent of the rural income comes from the wages. The whole class of marginal farmers (82 per cent of the farmer households) depends on wages. Even for a small farmer, wages constitute around 43 per cent of his total income (NSS Report 497). Thus proletarianisation is a process of subsumption of labour by capital and also the basis of the labour segmentation that we find in capitalism.
Multiple livelihood options are necessary for the reproduction of rural households. Therefore, most people are being pushed to work in the unregulated informal and unorganised sector—such as construction, workshop—manufacturing, large-scale capitalist farms of other regions and services. Casualisation is the primary feature of these labour and different degrees of bonded labour relations are a common condition. There is also an important regional and caste dynamic to this massive labour migration. Adivasis, dalits and OBCs predominate and Odisha is noted to be reservoirs of seasonal casual labour migration for the rest of the Indian economy.
There is also a non-farm economy which has developed within rural areas; accounting for one-fifth of total employment. The National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector argues that 65 per cent of the agricultural sector is in fact self-employed (166.2 million people). There is a vast section of the Indian population that is involved in petty commodity production (PCP) where households control their means of production for exchange as well as exploit their own labour as disguised wage work. Most petty commodity producers are extremely vulnerable, struggling to survive. Thus the rural population is increasingly being integrated into the neo-liberal expansion of Indian capitalism (casualisation, informalisation and contractualisation as methods of organising production), while emerging as a vast reservoir of surplus population to subsist displacement, land acquisition, agrarian crisis and underemployment (Alternating between wage employment and subsistence self-employment.)
The government policies since the beginning are adversarial towards the agriculture. It is considered that agriculture is not a skilled job. Therefore the wages in the agriculture sector is comparatively low and depressed. Even the government documents indicate that 1.89 per cent of persons in a rural family work to maintain a family, while it is the single person for the organised sector.
It is also a fact that public investment in agriculture (measured as a percentage of agricultural GDP) has been more than halved since the mid-1980s .While the percentage of public investment in aggregate agricultural investment fell from 38.97 in 1985-86 to 28.7 in 1990-91 (1980-81 prices). It got reduced gradually from 20.5 in 2004-05 to 17.6 in 2008-09 [Economic Survey, 2009-10]. Moreover, The price support ‘safety net’ has no meaning and relevance as the support prices are set too low and, more generally, no proper system of implementation is in place.
The neo-liberal reforms have rolled back the institutional credit provisioning to farmers to where it was in the 1970s. The non-institutional credit increased from 31 to 42 per cent of rural borrowing between 1991 and 2003. For the smallest farmers non-institutional sources have now, again, become the dominant source of credit.
Within the uneven development of Indian agriculture, a new class of capitalist farmers has emerged from the peasantry and they accumulate through exploiting other rural classes while, at the same time, their surplus may well be appropriated in turn by traders and moneylenders. It may well be that an increasing share of the agrarian profits are being appropriated elsewhere it is, for example, argued that increasing food prices from 2006 onwards have benefited the middlemen and not the farmers.
But then, how was growth taking place in Indian economy/ Odisha? It is the non-agricultural growth that is being sustained across more than two decades of neo-liberal economic reforms based on sectors catering for the urban middle classes and export markets, while direct economic links between agriculture and the rest of the economy have been weakening for a long time. Agriculture has declined in importance for the non-agricultural economy and non-agricultural capitalist classes: capital for investment in industrial production is now available from non-agricultural sources, including international financial capital. Moreover, cheap food and agricultural raw materials can now be provided, at least partly, by the world market, as opposed to solely through productivity gains within India’s own agriculture.
The neo-liberal policy changes from 1991 onwards also made farming more problematic, as the Indian agriculture was also used to operate within a shielded home market. But during the 1990s external trade in agricultural produce and inputs was liberalised, exposing Indian farmers to outside competition at fluctuating world market prices prices that had been falling since 1997 and that fell dramatically for products such as edible oil, cotton and some plantation crops. At the same time, the environmental stress of modern agriculture has been felt by way of land degradation and falling water tables, adding to the difficulties of many farmers. The Government of India data shows that real per capita farm incomes did not grow from 1997 to 2002, and in some states they fell.
But that mining NSDP at constant prices went up during the same period by an average of more than 10 per cent annually suggests that mining may be adversely affecting agricultural productivity. In fact, this seems to be the finding of researchers who attempted to analyse agricultural productivity in a coal mining region in Odisha and found that mining reduces agricultural yield and total factor productivity. Researchers argue that “any developmental effort without due consideration for agricultural improvement will be proved nullified”.
Percentage distribution of population by monthly per capita consumer expenditure (MPCE) classes in the 60th round of NSS, reported in the 2006-07 Economic Survey of Odisha, also highlights the income inequality in Odisha from the urban-rural divide. Only 4.4 per cent of Odisha’s rural population has MPCE of Rs 775 and above, as against 15.4 per cent for India. But 56.2 per cent of Odisha’s urban population lies in this group compared to 52.4 per cent for the nation!
Odisha has one of the lowest wage rates in the country. It is interesting to note in this context that between1993-94 and 2003-04 unskilled wage (as measured by the rural daily wage of field labourers) increased by around 7.51 per cent per year, while the skilled wage (as measured by the rural daily wage of a carpenter) went up by 7.68 per cent.
Agriculture at the district level, has shown a decrease in GCA and an increase in NSA. Cropping intensity, as measured by the GCA as a percentage of NSA, has decreased for all district categories; but it is more drastic for mining districts than non-mining districts. Average annual increase in fertilizer consumption reveals that the mining districts are becoming far more fertilizer-oriented than the industrial and non-industrial districts, though KBK lies well ahead of all.
A study identifies four areas in which the state has salient role to play in farming: (a) irrigation; (b) soil and moisture conservation of rain-fed agriculture; (c) the development and spread of biochemical inputs; in particular, fertilizers; (d) State policy which affects agrarian institutions and prices .
The total cultivable land of the state is nearly 6.56 million hectares of which only 2.47 million hectares were irrigated by the end 1998-1999, which is 41.85 per cent of the total irrigable area of the state. Out of total proclaimed irrigated area, 1.14 million hectares of land are irrigated through major and medium irrigation projects, 0.44 million hectares., through minor (flow), 0.33 million hectares, through minor (lift), 0.55 million hectares through other sources, which include private tanks, ponds, dug wells, water harvesting structures and the like. Nearly 62 per cent of the cultivable land is rain fed. About 30 per cent of cultivable land is irrigated through major, medium, minor and lift irrigation.
THE NEGLECT OF AGRICULTURE
It shows an absence of knowledge of history, which shows that for a country not to be a dependent entity in the periphery; it has to put emphasis on agriculture. In fact, to be an independent entity in the centre, a country has to have a “sustained increase in the productivity of agriculture and hence also in the agricultural surplus”. A report points out that it “is an illusion, perhaps widespread but reflecting ignorance of economic history that industrialisation somehow lays at the heart of the process of economic development”. “On the contrary”, it adds, “it is the final act and the crowning achievement of economic development; and there is no direct route to its successful realisation”. In fact, the study argues that those countries,“that”, to use Samir Amin’s phrase, “imported” the industrial revolution without laying necessary agricultural foundation have succeeded only in creating new forms of dependence”. The study further points out that the rate of exploitation is and always has been vastly higher in the periphery than in the centre”. In the periphery, “only a small part of the workforce is employed as wage labourers in capitalist industry with a much larger proportion being exploited directly and indirectly by landlords, traders, and usurers, not only in the countryside but also in cities and towns”. “The high rate of exploitation in the periphery enables local ruling classes and allied entities to live on a level comparable to that of the bourgeoisies of the centre, while at the same time making possible a massive flow of monetised surplus product (in the form of profits, interest, rents, royalties, etc) from periphery to centre”. The growing inequality in Odisha’s mining districts and the recent emergence and growth of a small group of high net-worth individuals (HNI) in India seem to lend credence to this poignant argument.
By Sudarshan Chhotoray from Bhubaneswar