Over a year ago, we wrote about a protest movement going on in the village of Silger, in Sukma district in the south of Chhattisgarh, against the setting up of a police camp in their village.[1] (We will not repeat here the details given in that article.) As we write this, the movement has completed more tha16 months; and it is still continuing. When we consider the life conditions of the participants, this fact is particularly notable:

These are all poor Adivasi villagers who take time off from their daily-wage labour or farming, students who come when school permits, or women who bring their children because they have nowhere else to leave them. On down days the numbers may be a few dozen, on special days the number swells to thousands.[2]

Moreover, the struggle at Silger “has sparked off similar struggles elsewhere across the districts of Bijapur, Sukma and Dantewada as well as northern Bastar/Kanker in Chhattisgarh, protesting against the security camps that have colonised the landscape….”[3] People perceive a link between the setting up of these camps and the drive by the corporate sector to capture the natural resources of the region. This is significant.

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The technical issues with our other site, rupe-india.org, have been resolved. Thanks for bearing with us.

We are experiencing a technical issue that is interfering with access to our other website, rupe-india.org. We are working with the hosting service to resolve the problem. Our apologies for the inconvenience.

On July 18, 2022, the State Bank of India Research Department issued a “Special Report on Agriculture”. The principal claim of the report is that “Farmers’ income doubled in FY22 [2021-22] as compared to FY18 [2017-18] for certain crops in some states… while in all other cases it rose in the range of 1.3-1.7 times.” (emphasis added)

This factoid is destined to be propagated widely. To say the SBI report was widely covered would be an understatement: it appeared in the Times of India, Economic Times, Hindu Business Line, Business Standard, Financial Express, The Tribune, Dainik Jagran, Dainik Bhaskar, Op India, The Print, Swarajya, Zee News, News 18, and many other media outlets. All of these outlets repeated the contents of the report without venturing any comment of their own on these findings.

The political agenda of the SBI report is not subtle. The first sentence is “Agricultural Policies are ushering in a greater tomorrow…”, and it goes on to celebrate the farmer-related initiatives of the present government in purple prose. It explicitly links its ‘findings’ to the Modi government’s announced goal of doubling farmers’ income by 2022-23.

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Since the business papers are not read by the general public, they sometimes speak quite candidly about the interests of big business, as if behind closed doors. Take, for example, the Economic Times’ coverage of the choice of Droupadi Murmu as the NDA’s presidential candidate:

“Murmu’s Candidature to Help BJP Counter Tribal Protests Better”

Even as the Sangh Parivar intends to intensify its outreach among STs [Scheduled Tribes] – a top priority for the RSS for many years – Droupadi Murmu’s candidature as President can work to soften the Vanadhikar or tribal resistance movements that many states such as Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and parts of MP have been witnessing in the recent past, and help the BJP to counter them better, senior leaders said.

Economic Times, June 23, 2022

Archana Aggarwal[1]

Prashant is in his late thirties. Before the Covid pandemic, he used to run a small paint shop with around ten workers. Like many others, he faced hardship during the pandemic and the lockdown, and he had to shut down his ‘factory’, since he could not pay the workers. Even earlier, he sometimes did a few deliveries for Swiggy. But after the closure of his factory, he became completely dependent on Swiggy for his livelihood. He works for eleven hours a day, every day of the week including Sundays. He manages to feed his family only if he works through the month. He can manage because he lives with his parents in a self-owned house, and his father had retired with a pension.

Naresh is an Uber driver. He had lost his steady job of many years (in a company as a driver) in May 2020. He was replaced by a much lower paid contract worker. The landlord of his rented house in Delhi extended him credit for five months, enabling him to stay on in Delhi. However, he had to send his family back to their native village, where his extended family has a bit of land. Naresh rented a car and onboarded himself as an Uber driver. After paying the rental for the car, he is able to earn Rs 500 to 600 per day and survive in the city. However, he does not make enough to be able to bring his family back to Delhi.

Vijay, also an Uber driver, has a different experience. His father works in an established press, his brother has a job and he lives in a joint family which owns five properties in Delhi. He owns the car used as an Uber cab, and his earnings from Uber supplement the family income.

Zeeshan does odd jobs in an office, where he gets a salary of Rs 25,000 per month. Five days a week, he logs in as an Uber driver for a few hours after his office. This brings him additional income.

Gig workers, such as food delivery riders and app-based cab drivers, are increasingly becoming one of the most visible faces of urban employment. In the urban areas, many turned to gig work after losing existing employment during the pandemic.[2] The gig economy, or platform economy, is increasingly becoming a significant means of livelihood for literate men (and a few women) who have enough resources to own a smart phone and to buy or hire a car or a two-wheeler.

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— Rahul Varman

Thirty workers were reported to have been killed on the afternoon of May 13, 2022, when an electronic goods assembly factory in the Mundka industrial area of Delhi caught fire. Most of those killed were young women, and almost all of them were migrant workers. They had come all the way to toil in the nation’s capital for a measly sum of Rs 6500 – 7500 per month. For a day or two, newspapers carried reports on the incident. Now the incident, like the young victims, has disappeared without a trace.

Collective Delhi’ has brought out a significant report on the Mundka factory fire. It shows that such ‘accidents’ in Delhi itself are a regular occurrence, and summarises information about 18 such incidents since the 1997 fire in Uphaar Cinema in New Delhi, when 59 members of a film audience were killed. The response of the administration seems to have a pattern – immediate tweets and statements by the likes of the Prime Minister and Chief Minister, expressing their ‘anguish’ and ‘shock’; a perfunctory arrest of the immediate owners of the property or those running the establishment; and some token amounts to the families, depending upon the visibility that the incident gains. For instance, as middle class lives were lost in the Uphaar Cinema fire, the compensation amount was way above whatever workers have got over the years for losing their lives. And once the issue fades away from media and memory, it is business as usual. That means no due diligence by the safety authorities, no systemic remedies from the concerned to prevent such accidents, no attempts to invest in a system that can hold anyone accountable for their (lack of) safety practices. Finally, such incidents are termed ‘accidents’, as if nothing could have been done to prevent such casualties.

: Ease of Doing Violations: Collective Delhi’s Report on the Mundka Factory Fire and the Pattern of Criminal Negligence in Delhi’s Industrial Areas Continue Reading »

On May 13, the Modi government suddenly announced a ban on the export of wheat, after promoting it actively for two months. While this step has been widely criticised, the criticism has been largely from a neoliberal standpoint, not from the standpoint of people’s interests. Even those who have made legitimate criticisms of the Modi government’s steps on the export of wheat have tended to focus on the boastfulness and incompetence of the Government. What needs highlighting, however, is that the debacle was the result of Government policy.

Starting in February 2022, the Prime Minister, the Finance Minister, the Commerce Minister, the Food Secretary, and various other officials declared that India would fill the void left by the exit of Russian and Ukrainian wheat from the world market; it would export 10 million tonnes of wheat and perhaps even more; indeed it could feed the world if the World Trade Organisation would allow it to do so. The Government slashed its public procurement target from 44 million tonnes to just 19.5 million tonnes. The Indian Railways added extra wagons for the transport of wheat, and the government of Madhya Pradesh waived mandi taxes on wheat to promote exports. On May 12 itself – one day before the ban – the Ministry of Commerce announced it would send trade delegations to nine countries to explore the possibility of boosting wheat exports from India.

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We are happy to report that the RUPE publication, India’s Working Class and Its Prospects, has been translated into Tamil and published by Alaigal Veliyeetagam. The Tamil title is “India ulaikkum varkkamum athan ethir kaalamum” (Rs 330, 328 pp). It was released during the Chennai Book Fair (February 16-March 6).

The volume contains articles by a number of contributors on a range of topics:

— a discussion of the specific features of India’s working class,
— the conditions that result in bondage and migration of brick kiln labour,
— the leather industry and its workers,
— the conditions of garment workers,
— the effects of contractualisation and informalisation in the organised sector, and the scope for struggle in this situation;
— and the experience of organising workers in Chhattisgarh.

Contributors include:

Tathagatha Sengupta and G. Vijay,
Manali Chakrabarti and Rahul Varman,
Archana  Aggarwal,
Alok Laddha and T. Venkat,
Sudha Bharadwaj,
and RUPE.

For copies, contact:

Alaigal Veliyeetagam
5/1A, Natesan Nagar 2nd St,
Ramapuram, Chennai 600089
Mobile: 9841775112
Email: alaigal89@gmail.com  

Copies of the English original are available with RUPE (rupeindia@yahoo.co.in)

Class Contradictions Characterise Each Phase

Wu Song[1]

The Communist Party of China (CPC) turned 100 in July 2021. In November 2021 it passed a resolution on its history. Twice in the past, in 1945 and 1981, it has passed resolutions on its history, which marked important junctures in the party’s development. So it is an appropriate occasion on which to reflect on its journey.

There is renewed interest among progressive forces worldwide regarding China. This is on account of developments both internal and external to China. Among the developments which have aroused interest are the following:

(1) Setting itself the goal of “Common Prosperity”, the CPC’s latest history resolution claims that China has recently “brought about a historic resolution to the problem of absolute poverty in China, and created a miracle in the human history of poverty reduction”.

(2) Even as it has globalised, the Chinese state appears to have retained control over certain important elements of the economy.

(3) Among progressive circles, there is also interest in China’s claim to “ecological advancement” through what the history resolution calls “green, circular and low-carbon development”.

(4) Further, the Chinese government has recently taken steps against some well-known billionaires, leading to a crash in their companies’ share prices and consequently in their wealth.

(5) China has also become the target of US great-power strategy, with imperialist attempts to build a global anti-China coalition and to foment secessionist unrest in different regions of China. Progressive forces, on an anti-imperialist basis, have opposed this targeting of China. Some of them hope that China, with its increased economic and military strength, will emerge as an alternative pole against US global hegemony.

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