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A review of The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable by Amitav Ghosh 

By Suvrat Raju

“The Great Derangement” is a very well written book. It is difficult to write accurately and readably about a complex issue, but Ghosh explores the cultural, historical and political questions surrounding climate change with remarkable grace. Ghosh’s attention to detail, his research into the history of the British Empire in Asia, and his fondness for science are evident throughout the book.   And at times, in some of the parts that I found the most enjoyable, he throws in obscure but fascinating details—an eleventh century Chinese poem about coal use, for example.

Ghosh divides the book into three parts —“stories”, “history” and “politics.” In the last two parts, as I will describe later in this review, Ghosh turns to the contemporary politics of climate change and his intervention deserves careful analysis. (more…)

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III. How One Class Enriches Itself at the Expense of Another

What, then, accounts for the growing divergence and inequality that the Survey itself reveals?

In the first place, it is a mere myth that the ‘free market’ equalizes outcomes across society and the global economy. In fact, any market is only a social institution, the product of a history of the exercise of political power. When that history has placed the control of resources in the hands of particular classes and countries, and spawned vast inequality of wealth, the ‘free market’ continuously reproduces and perpetuates that inequality. Had the free market dogma been reality, the vast inequalities prevailing across the globe would have disappeared long ago. But in fact historical experience has proved that capitalism concentrates wealth at one end of the pole and the vast mass of labouring people at the other, imperialist countries at one end and underdeveloped countries at the other. As Marx noted, “If the free-traders cannot understand how one nation can grow rich at the expense of another, we need not wonder, since these same gentlemen also refuse to understand how in the same country one class can enrich itself at the expense of another.”[1]

Casting aside such ideological blinkers, we need to look at Indian society as it actually is. We need to look at the structures which determine the paths along which the social surplus will flow. (more…)

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Ajoy Sengupta

We are saddened to learn of the death of Ajoy Sengupta, at the age of 81, on March 16. He had been an outstanding distributor of Aspects of India’s Economy in Kolkata for the last more than two decades, distributing 80-100 copies of each issue. He was the most scrupulous of our distributors, clearing his dues in the old-fashioned way, by money order, in advance of all others, with meticulous hand-written accounts. In his gentle and responsible way, he would also give us pertinent suggestions and criticisms from time to time. He was of course a Marxist, engaged in the working class movement for the last 60 years. We understand that he worked hard to promote Marxist literature and study circles amongst trade union workers. We will miss him greatly.

 

RUPE

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II. Growth that Reproduces Backwardness

Coupling and decoupling, twin processes
This process is brought out in the Government’s own Economic Survey 2016-17. The authors of the Survey themselves reveal the perverse nature of the growth process in India in some of their research conclusions. They reveal that the very ‘growth’ of certain regions/sectors reproduces backwardness and depressed incomes in other regions/sectors.

First, let us take what the Survey considers to be good news. The Survey celebrates the fact that “India has replaced its erstwhile socialist vision with something resembling the ‘Washington Consensus’: open trade, open capital, and reliance on the private sector…. Reforms along these lines have been adopted by every Indian government over the past quarter-century.” (emphasis added) As a result, in 25 years of reforms, there has been a “remarkable transformation… from a largely closed and listless economy to the open and thriving economy we see today.” (more…)

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  1. Two Worlds

Many useful articles been written about the recent demonetisation, perhaps the most discussed economic event in India in recent times. The entire discussion has brought to the fore many aspects of India’s economy. Among them is an important theme that we have emphasized in earlier issues of Aspects: Namely, the gulf between different sectors of the economy. This gulf has economic and political implications.

This gulf can be seen in many measures, which are expressions of a single reality: the gap between the income of the ‘informal’ (‘unorganised’) and ‘formal’ (‘organised’) sectors; between rural areas and urban areas; between the sectors producing commodities (agriculture, manufacturing) and the services sector; between income-poor regions which are rich in natural resources and other regions where income is concentrated. (more…)

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Coal Is King

(The following is an extract from a forthcoming book by the author on the plunder of the ‘commons’ in India.)

— Yogi Aggarwal (yogi.aggarwal[at]gmail.com)

 

Introduction

Two major events took place in India’s coal sector in the last few months.

 First, on the night of December 30, 18 coal miners were killed after the mine collapse at Eastern Coalfields Ltd’s Lal Matia coal mine in Jharkhand. This  pushed mining fatalities to over 100 in 2016, of which 65 deaths occurred during just the first six months of this year, for which  data is available.

 The Ministry of Mines has termed the Lal Matia accident an “unprecedented” event. “Prima facie, it is observed that the incidence is unprecedented, since an area of 300 m length by 110 m wide solid floor of the Over Burden dump area has slid down by about 35 m involving around 9.5 million cubic metres of earth material. This could be due to failure of the bench edge along the hidden fault line/slip,” the ministry said in a statement.

 In fact, the disaster at Lal Matia was a result of two factors: one, increased pressure to ramp up output to meet ambitious targets; and a policy of outsourcing to private contractors, a form of semi-privatisation of coal operations. Lal Matia supplies almost half the annual production of Eastern Coalfields Ltd (ECL). ECL awarded a contract in 2015 to a private contractor, Mahalakshmi Infrastructure Pvt Ltd, to handle an overburden of 20 million cubic metres. Repeated complaints by social workers  In the first nine months of the previous year, production at Lal Matia grew at the rate of 9.5 per cent. In the course of 2016, several complaints were made to the ECL management regarding the danger of the overburden, but these were ignored, leading to the calamity of December 30.[1] One of the reasons why private coal mines were nationalised in 1973 was precisely their poor safety record and the abysmal condition of the workers. (more…)

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By S. Pratap[1] and A.J.C. Bose[2]

Neoimperialism, by way of a new international division of labour, has emerged in the shape of ‘global value chains’ over the last two to three decades. Taking advantage of increased openness of developing countries to foreign investment, transnational corporations based in the developed countries have fragmented production processes across different low-wage locations. Only a negligible share of the value is captured in the developing countries, and the rest is captured in the developed countries, the lion’s share by the transnational corporations. The widespread labour protests in Asia clearly testify to the reality of compression (degradation and repression) of labour in these chains.

 

  1. INTRODUCTION

A value chain refers to all the value-adding activities in production and distribution, linked together in the making and selling of a commodity. A production chain, as a subset of the value chain, refers to the value-adding activities in the production of a commodity. Various firms in the production chain are linked through contracting and subcontracting relations, as also arm’s-length ‘purchase’ transactions, and these firms can be classified into a minority of lead firms and a majority of supply chain firms. Value chains exist within and across countries, and it is impossible to track down all the firms/producers and workers in the production chains (Bose and Sinha, 2012a; JCB, 2013). (more…)

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