Economics Professor Ritu Dewan
Director: Shaina Anand
Duration: 00:57:12; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 33.826; Saturation: 0.132; Lightness: 0.162; Volume: 0.218; Cuts per Minute: 0.332; Words per Minute: 170.748
Summary: Shaina Anand converses with Ritu Dewan, a professor of gender economics teaching at the University of Mumbai. Their conversation attempts to unveils possible underlying hazards beneath the guise of globalisation, and delves deep into the economics motivating America and its policies. Ritu attempts to expose a host of contradictions within the West's rhetoric on topics such as 'structural adjustment programmes,' the war on Iraq, Afghanistan; the deadlocked WTO rounds, especially at Doha, and more. She comments on what she believes to be the reasons for the 'failure' of an alternate rhetoric in response to this.
However, Ritu also provides a number of possible solutions to these issues, encouraging the youth to question, critique, and join in the movement for improvement in whatever manner or means by which they can.
RD: Then globalisation and the context of women in that. Then take more easily understandable things like work participation. Uh? So first you take the introduction you've got. Then, you take your work participation. Then how they've been decreasing. No. Work participation rate, rural, urban, etc. Then the impact of globali... (sation). So, everything in relation to overall. Then you take industry-specific. So you have taken your organised sector, un-organised sector. You can take the two separately if you want. Then take the feminisation...
Two potted plants are kept on the sill of a window. One of the windows is open and letting in the glaring sun. SA tries to set the white balance on the camera, while Ritu gives one of her students tips on how to structure her/ his essay.
international monetary fund
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SA: But still, it's not a problematic, you know.
RD: How and what...?
SA: When you are seeking a thing that says "yuddh nahin, shanti have
" (We don't want war, we want peace) and then you start by condemning violence, you do condemn 9/11. You can't say "just(ice) is done. Accha hoa, aeroplane gaya vaha
" (It's good that the aeroplane crashed there.) You are not going to find any water now by talking about the PWG
(People's War Group). Because to the mainstream eye, it's so problematic.
RD: Surprisingly, one does.
The conversation begins at the table, while SA digs in to some noodles. Here SA refers to the problems of framing the Left's argument for today's mainstream public.
people's war group
Here Ritu is talking about the Naxalite
movement in its early phase, and the sheer amount of support for it then. But we are unable to resort to that movement's strategy as a reference, as under the current circumstances of America's war, it appears that the same will not work because the two situations are so different.
RD: And not mainstream positively. I mean, I don't know. I haven't been to the villages in Andhra where all these things happen now. Earlier, I used to. And that was even a different group so, much more active, bigger than the PWG. And there was of course a lot of support for all of this. Because it was an immediate oppressor. (The) immediate oppressor is something very different from some big, unipolar world and one country which is oppressing you.
RD: And I think the levels of frustration with... I mean, the tremendous changes in the last 15 years; tremendous, absolutely. So in a way that becomes the only recourse. And yet, you know it is not the only thing.
RD: So I think you are stuck where you were.
SA: No and, but...?
Here SA explains the target viewer of 'Tellavision Mumbai,' and consequently, the problems she is addressing. SA lays emphasis on the effect of liberalisation on the Indian youth's psyche, and how it appears to have bled them of their Indian identity.
SA: Yeah. I mean, in these 10 years the class divide has become so strong that now when you are lumped with that, (you respond with) "yeah, okay. It is so class divided, the world," and it's changed so dramatically. Then if my audience at this point is the middle class; see, I can't make a film for everyone.
RD: No absolutely, absolutely.
SA: And my big problem is...
RD: In fact, it would be a dishonest film if you did.
SA: My problem is with the sheltered world. It's not about (hitting table with her hand) do you live there, do you see how oppressed they are? And the land is not theirs, and there's this and that.
RD: No, No.
SA: It's about, do you have any clue, besides watching these...?
RD: (yeah) ...
SA: (gesturing)... Your world outside your TV. And, I mean, liberalisation has done that. Especially with the youth. It's just been like one (true, true) morally bankrupt; completely! And they are clueless about their own country. (slightly smiling)
RD: Is it?
SA: I just want this to roll because I'm clearing; I'll finish eating and we'll shoot you. So don't...
This is an aside to Ritu clarifying why SA is recording the current conversation.
SA preps Ritu for the interview.
SA: So what happened is, "so what."
RD: The role of youth and the corruption of youth; I have lots of things to say on...
SA: I want you to... There a lot of things you have to say things on. And then we'll chat and...
RD: No, so I'm getting an idea of what...
SA: So what... And I also want to give you a texture (rubbing her fingers together), a feel of the film, so you know what sort of triggers...
RD: That's what I want.
Here SA briefs Ritu on the whole concept behind Tellavision Mumbai, i.e. deconstructing media coverage of the world's first TV war, dealing with an Indian youth that is distanced from its country's realities, bringing all these together in a film as a new form of dissent. As SA reveals the intention behind this film, her vivid hand gestures re-emphasise the chaos, fragmentation and general bewildering pace of today's TV world as is reflected in the beginning of the film. It mirrors the onslaught of war images just before America went to war.
SA: Because it's titled 'Infinite Injustice, Ensuring Freedom.' That's the name of the title, which of course comes from infinite justice and enduring freedom; those two things. So the film begins with just this TV world. And for 3 minutes it is this roller-coaster of just... And I've not shot like, it's not like I've taped it off a TV screen. I've shot inside the TV screen. So I'm zooming into just that much of a building, that much of a stock market... All the nonsense that goes on on a TV screen because you have flickers running down there, but let's see them only. You have something here, something here. You have one guy talking finances here but uske
(in that) background mein
dhad dhad dhad dhad, the planes going in; there is that imagery we take (in) of so much happening and then nothing gets registered. So, sort of deconstructing that so you're hit with it. So what happens is that the towers collapse and then everything goes on - chaos, New York stock exchange. "If the event here was symbolic, crashing into the financial neck of the world." Da da da da da da... So you have these bleeds. And you have this really fast imagery - stock crashing, World Trade Organisation, rupee note, something, something, something, something, something. Asia business, you know like, e-biz Asia, just that, the TV thing flashing, so you are taken into these things. And neeche
(below), 'cause the whole film is going to be re-shot keyed onto a TV screen. The idea being, you ain't never going to see this film inside your ghar
(house), on your cable TV. It's not going to come there. But you WILL see this in a NEW public intervention - it will be in a park; it's going to hit the streets somehow. Because that's part of the ensuring freedom. We need new spaces for dissent, we need new ways. And if cheap technology is not going to pick it up, and the youth aren't going to pick it up, then... you know. So it's this film, you will be making an effort, to see this film. You will not be able to change a channel. So it's sort of like, it's structured along that mind which has a 30 second attention span, that...
RD: How long is the film?
SA: It will be 50 minutes.
RD: 50? Five, zero?
SA: Mmmn. 45 - 50, to under that hour slot. While that happens, what happens in this 3 minutes of just TV bytes which then go on to war, and there's bombing, and like, just weird rhetoric, na? President Bush vows to hunt down (those responsible), there's a Blair <>ka statement, there's Vajpayee, Musharraf shaking hands, and a close up on their hands like they are also part of this nasty alliance; there's all these things. There's bombing going on. There's like Rumsfeld giggling away, all really fast. And through this... Then it goes into, it opens up a bit with... So it essentially takes you through these 4 months, in a sort of chronology, but through that it's touching upon everything. Because there is a statement about...
RD: Oh, because it did...? EVERYTHING?
SA: It's a moment of reckoning. It's a moment of reckoning, and a public moment of reckoning.
RD: Gender... everything, everything.
SA: Everything and...
RD: Ummn? (Beckons SA to take some more food)
SA: buss buss
. (Enough, enough.)
RD: You've been chatting away.
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Here SA is telling Ritu that they should just let the interview flow naturally, while discussing America's moment of reckoning after it decided to wage war post the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers.
SA: So we'll just let it flow completely normally.
SA: We'll just flow; chat, chat, chat. September 11, the attacks - which the world watches, like, LIVE - becomes a moment of reckoning. Because while okay, the First World and that part of the Western World is so shocked by whatever, their securities and their weapons of safety...
RD: That THEY could be ever attacked on THEIR land.
SA: Absolutely. So, it becomes a moment of reckoning right there for, I think, the world over. Because for that part of the world, they've to look very... (deep) within. So let's just...
RD: Yeah, because of the impact on the world. Yeah. In that sense, directly, it wouldn't (impact) on the other part of the world. I mean let's talk about the other end first...
Here Ritu says that the general middle class Indian's reaction, and the illiterate Indian's reaction have both been against the war, no matter what kind of misinformation the media has been propagating. She hints that the reaction was almost spontaneous.
RD: But I think the reaction to it is obviously something which the other world faces. And, I really don't know to what extent to say this, but one's been meeting a lot of people; and when I say lot of people, it is middle class, it is workers, it is people in trade, etc. I don't know what the reaction would have been if it was only the Pentagon. Being WTC, being - they kept saying, 'aam log
' (ordinary people), you know, ordinary people. And this thing of ordinary people is what upset them right in the beginning. But I think almost immediately, even before the media caught on to it, etc, that everybody felt it just wasn't justified. I mean, to what extent, for one individual, can you kill so many people. Now, I'm saying something that is very banal, in that sense of the term. But I think that the fact that it came so fast in people's minds, it really shows. And people, I would even say illiterate people, is something (a section of the population) where that really shows what education really means. Does education really in that sense mystify what the actual reality is? MYTHIFYING, positively; but mystifying is something I find came out very sharply, the contrast which came out where this incident was concerned; incident, or whatever one might call it.
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Here Ritu says that one of the most dangerous outcomes of the 9/11 attacks is the resulting excuse handed to America, allowing them to enter the South Asian region and set up their bases.
RD: Also, I don't want to go into the entire analysis of it, but I think the fact that it has given a total entry into Asia; it's given America a total entry - unipolar world, one superpower, etc, supported by certain European parts - and it's this which is absolutely the most dangerous point, I feel, apart from what had happened to Afghanistan. I mean that there's a lot of talk, there's a lot of debate. I don't even want to comment on that. But the fact that it's given them an entry, the fact that they're using this to set up bases all around Afghanistan, within Afghanistan; and bases not against Afghanistan, but FOR protecting their interest in the ENTIRE South Asia region. This is something which I find EXTREMELY dangerous.
Here Ritu sarcastically condemns India and Pakistan's decision to align with America's unjust war, even while America's unjust economic policies are obviously oppressing India.
RD: Another very dangerous attitude is, of course, India-Pakistan who are directly effected. And India-Pakistan INVITING... (SA giggles) I mean, I just find it... It's come. You are already exploiting us where IMF or globalisation, World Bank, etc, are concerned; and these for us as economists are very important issues. I mean, what Stiglitz had to say in his resignation from the World Bank and the IMF.
Ritu goes on to cite a reference to renowned Former Chief economist at the World Bank, Joseph Stiglitz
, whose argument she agrees with. Stiglitz, she says, talks about how the IMF, World Bank, etc. have actually caused underdevelopment in developing nations.
SA: What is that?
RD: Stiglitz, the chief economist. He's been criticising what IMF has been doing for a very long period of time, and particularly what happened in South East Asia. And then, at a point to point level, the critique he has made of structural adjustment programmes in third world countries has shown historically how they've actually CAUSED underdevelopment and removed whatever little level of development had taken place in the last 10 - 15 years; well, not 10- 15 - would become structure adjustment - but maybe before that, the 70's - 50's, 60's, 70's - the earlier post-colonial period. And now, of course, the process of re-colonisation, etc. So you have that economic, the only word which a lot of us economists use is 're-colonisation'; that's the word which we accept these days.
South East Asia
Here Ritu makes fun of the Indian and Pakistani governments for inviting America to come and colonise both countries all over again, while she pointedly distinguishes between 'government' and 'people.'
RD: And we are, of course; it's the government's inviting, "please come and colonise us all over again." You have that, you also have now the military presence, like I pointed out, but also the military invitation, in that sense, which is being given by India and by the Pakistan governments. And here, please, a total differentiation between what are governments and what are people.
Here SA cuts in to clarify terms like 'globalisation' and 'structural adjustment' that Ritu is throwing at her. She brings in the point that globalisation can actually appear to be positive if one approaches it from a personal viewpoint, and asks Ritu to clarify which part of the entire phenomenon she is referring to.
SA: Let's just stop here, one sec. When we were talking about the structural adjustment programmes, and I have this TV bit, TV byte, and I'm telling you there because this is exactly where - then I was like, "where is Ritu?" (both laugh) Globalisation defined, for one. I don't think people, you know, especially with us youth, we... (can say) "Yo! It's a global world." Which for a lot of us, it is.
SA: And for me, there is that nice part of globalisation that works, where I can connect where I go, where art, music, technology, for ME is affordable. So it's completely putting me on the map right there. So, but, the good globalisation and the...
Here Ritu talks about the technological divide present in Third World Countries because the technology in these nations is not labour-intensive as in Japan and Europe's case, but rather is capital-intensive, which then makes it a luxury affordable only to a small percentage of the population. She also states that globalisation has been selective and the benefits are mostly very short term. It is in this manner that there has been a globalisation of capital, and of the aspirations of the middle class, but no globalisation, or rather internationalisation of labour, which appears to be the only solution to the current scenario.
RD: The consumer goods' result of globalisation; I think let's be very clear about that.
RD: Okay, better cameras, better watches, better everything. But that's basically for consumers and those who can afford it.
RD: But what technology does to the majority of the people? I mean, that's something we've seen right from "Nehruvian Socialism," and also what we are seeing now. I mean, just see Japan's experience or Europe's experience; it was all labour-intensive technology and not capital-intensive, the way in which we, historically - almost all Third World countries; I mean Africa is a totally different experience, I don't want to talk about Africa - so, has structure adjustment, the "benefits," in that sense of the term, VERY short term. So you get these pretty goods and wonderful goods, etc; very much globalisation of capital, globalisation of aspirations of the middle class. Alright. But (what) we didn't have is the globalisation of labour, the globalisation of interest of labour. So, I think it is globalisation of capital and internationalisation of labour. And it is the internationalisation of labour which I think finally, can be the only way to stop exactly what is happening these days.
Here, Ritu grounds herself in her subject, Economics, to explain how the Left
has not been able to develop a proper rhetoric for modern malaise. She believes that this has been the greatest flaw in most movements.
RD: So, when you talk of things... Okay, now these things sound boring, and they are stale, and they are supposed to be given up. And there's been a collapse. But, "workers of the world." I mean, here you have development of the world which is internationalised, but what about workers' interests? And therefore that becomes, for me, the primary and the most fundamental issue where economics is concerned; economics and the applied component of economics. It's partly the theoretical, but also very much the applied, and therefore linking up theory to our applied component in academics. I mean, I am speaking only as an academician, and partly as a practitioner. But also in relation to movements. And I think this is really where movements do lack.
Here Ritu talks about how today's youth doesn't have a political movement to inspire them. While she allows that they may not remember the events of the Emergency, having not precisely experienced it themselves, but she finds that the lessons of Vietnam, Burma, Thailand and the Naxal Movement are being consciously erased from the collective memory by teachers, government and the media.
RD: A lot of us have been part of the movement for 25 years. Emergency onwards was a big shock for us. But I see our students today don't understand what... I mean, I talk about the Emergency in class and the students are... There's no political shock which they have undergone. All right, there's no current political movement is now to inspire them, an ongoing kind of inspiration. I mean, we had... Okay, France was a little before us, but you had the Naxalite Movement. And worldwide... And Vietnam - what the Vietnam movement did to a lot of generations of students. Now you do have Burma. I mean, Burma is a very important (movement), and Thailand to some extent; the post crash areas, post Asian Tigers areas. But that kind of an experience is not internationalised. The media stops it very, very consciously. The governments stop it very, very consciously. Academicians stop it; we don't talk about it, we don't teach about it. So, you have our syllabus. Our syllabus has been changing every five years, but we don't incorporate these kinds of components at all. So, you are denying one, two, three generations their entire history. You are denying them their living history which is not what we as students, either in school or in college, or in the University, experienced. Even when we started teaching, when we were young teachers, we were open and we had access to this kind of information.
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Here Ritu talks about the monopolisation of Information, in all streams - broadcast (TV), radio, etc - which causes a monopolisation of knowledge, and consciousness. This results in a lack of variety, since the information propagated fails to produce an alternate point of view, reality or rhetoric.
RD: So that's why I think this whole hysteria and euphoria about Information Technology... I mean, fine, of course, it's supposed to bring you closer, 'global village,' etc. I hate these phrases. But anyway they are there and we have to develop alternatives, which I think is another lack on our part, because we haven't been able to develop an alternative terminology, or you know, in reply to this rhetoric. It's that it's very difficult. So what your Information technology does is that it is monopolised. All right, it's monopolised maybe by one... not one company, several companies. But what is monopolised is knowledge. And that for me is the most important component. Consciousness is monopolised. So you have your consumerism which is monopolised, your TV, radio, whatever; that kind of a component which is completely monopolised and monopolised with one single purpose - deliberately, non-deliberately, whatever it may be - to stay away.
Here Ritu bluntly puts her view across - America's is not fighting a war against terrorism, America itself IS the terrorist. She suggests that Bush's actions against Afghanistan is, at its base, state-sponsored terrorism, on a much larger and stronger scale.
RD: Now, for me, one of the first... I really don't know, people say inhuman, but only humans do this. I don't think there's anything inhuman about (what) this is, what America - and this is what I want to link - what exactly is this war AGAINST terrorism? I think it's war BY terrorism; state terrorism, very much that. So this concept of state terrorism which is much stronger, which is every single component under its command, and massive component under its command. That at one level...
Here Ritu opines that the monopolisation of information and knowledge causes a crises of ethics and values. These become veiled from the public eye, educated and uneducated alike. As a result, atrocities like those being perpetrated in the Cuban Bay are mostly hidden, and when dealt with, become justified even though they violate the standards set by international humanitarian laws like the Geneva Convention.
RD: The use of technology at another level, the use of consumerism is what is being done to the prisoners who have been taken to the Cuban Bay. That for me is... I just... it is the ABSOLUTE ULTIMATE. It's been (silenced), except for I think little shots here and there; nobody talks about it in the paper. In fact, The Times of India, which is supposed to be THE most important (newspaper), I'd specifically like to mention that they've never talked about it, except one article by some Subramaniam saying how JUSTIFIED America was in treating them the way they were treating them. So you have your biotechnology which is used against them, you have religion which is used against them, there's is nothing that is not used against those prisoners, whether prisoners of war, Geneva Convention, etc; the total double standards which exist where this is concerned. And for me, I think the crisis of globalisation and the crisis of structural adjustment is primarily a crisis of ethics and of values; and it's so fundamental as that - that it not only is unethical, it not only kills off all your values, but it VEILS the values from you. It veils the values from the majority of the people, and you are very much - as in students, teachers, intellectuals in that sense - so much a part of it. It...
Here SA tries to direct the interview towards the actual specifics of the WTO talks, the controversy, the problems, etc.
SA: One second. Here what... This is what I think was during the - not the divorce thing; what's before this? - World Trade Organisation talks, the second round of the World Trade Organisation talks. Okay, fine, WTO talks. The WTO talks when Maran was there and all. So there was this little clip which was on TV, Star News Sunday or something, where that Bibek Debroy was talking, and Jayati Ghosh from JNU; and something that she said, she said that "well, in the spirit of things, every thing's great." Although she said that in terms of what's written down it might seem fair...
RD: No, I don't agree with it. The spirit is totally violated. But even what is written down is totally wrong.
jawaharlal nehru university
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Here Ritu says that while the logic behind globalisation is not wrong in and of itself, it becomes wrong when it intersects with the requirements of the people; essentially, when globalisation acts against the interests of the people, it is then in the wrong. She then goes on to state that the benefits of globalisation, such as the importing of new technology, is aimed primarily at the large-sector and is unable to provide for the small-sector; the latter which forms the majority in Third World Industries.
RD: Totally wrong. It's not wrong in terms of the logic of globalisation; for them it is not wrong. But where it comes into contradiction with the existence of people, there is not a single thing which is right about it. I mean we are talking about the use of technology, the way it goes against employment. You are talking about the concept of sub-contracting, the kind of process of de-industrialisation which is taking place in Third World countries, so factories are out. So you go right back from the large-scale sector to the small-scale sector. Small-scale sector, because it is small, forget about product quality, etc. But the small scale sector doesn't allow application of existing technology. And existing technology is only for large companies, because we are importing all these kinds of technologies. Where's the technology that improves small-scale (industries)?
Here Ritu talks about how the use of labour-intensive technology has lowered the average wage per head. So theoretically, itself, the logic of applying technology in this way, to the Indian working scenario, is flawed.
RD: So, what is right? They say more people are going to get employment? That's one of the... not the spirits, the theories that more people are going to get. More people are going to get employment, BUT at lower wages, okay? This is the logic. So, logic becomes that somebody, one person is earning 4,000 rupees in a factory. Factory closes down, he goes to the - whether it's a hand loom or power loom - sector. Now instead of one worker, 4 workers are now employed, because technology is now more labour-intensive. Better, where employment is concerned. But it is four workers getting 1,000 each? So what is this logic? The theoretical component itself... (is flawed.) They talk about structural adjustment. I think these terms...
SA: Yeah. Can we have that explained?
Here SA comes in to ask Ritu to clarify what exactly structural adjustment means, and how can one form an argument against the World Bank when it appears to be helping India with financial aid (loans) for its development. Ritu begins to answer this by first differentiating between the population that approves of the developmental changes, and those who do not.
SA: What happens when we are really excited that, "oh blah, blah, blah, we've got a great new flyover coming because the World Bank has given us a loan."
RD: Who is excited?
SA: Everybody's excited, Ritu. That is why this film is being made.
RD: The drivers are excited. But...
RD: You talk to the ordinary people. I have been working...
SA: Yeah, but you talk. Did you talk to the middle class who drive cars on that?
RD: Of course. That's what I'm saying, the drivers.
SA: Yeah. To those of us who own cars. Absolutely.
RD: A flyover is wonderful.
Mohammad Ali Road
RD: (it's great) When you are on the flyover. When you come down to the feeder road, it's hell.
RD: It's absolutely hell. But...
SA: Dongri, Mohammad Ali Road.
RD: If you talk to the majority (of) people in the Bombay city, in any city where the flyovers are coming up, they hate it. HATE it. Because it takes away from whatever little investment... They could've improved the bus. There's no space to walk on the road. One flyover is equal to, I think, at least one third of Bombay which is going to have better pedestrian walks. All Right. Go to the rural areas. They don't know what a flyover is. You explain the flyover to them. They cannot understand why a flyover exists. All right.
SA: Needs to be there. (laughing)
Ritu states that in actuality, the majority of people in the city would hate the flyover. It's important to notice that the investment could have been used to improve public transport or pedestrian walkways, instead of being wasted on capital intensive but use-exclusive flyovers that benefit the few rather than the many.
Here Ritu draws a stark comparison between the amount of money invested in building a flyover versus the amount needed to provide drinking water. She calls our attention to the priorities of development - Who benefits? Can a luxury for a select few be termed development when the masses are being deprived of basic amenities like drinking water? So it's not that there is no capital, it's just that the capital is being used for the benefit of a few.
R: You calculate (it), I tell my (students). They say, "No Ma'am, this is urban infrastructure; it needs to developed." Of course it needs to be developed. But which component of urban infrastructure needs to be developed? Is it for these 10% who drive cars, is it for the 90% who use buses and trains? And then when you find out what - and for me this is extremely important - what are the priorities of investment and the alternatives that you could have developed. One flyover at an average is about 32 crores in Bombay city. We have about 52 flyovers. Calculate 52 by 34, whatever it is. 34 crores for one flyover which saves you two and a half minutes. Okay? Little petrol, here, there; that's separate. What is the cost of providing drinking water to a 100 villages? 1 single crore. Multiply 32 by 100. You see the kind of priorities. So when people as economists, we are told, a lot of us are told and some of us may be even believing i - whether it is the IMF, or whether it is our own government - that there is what they call 'scarcity of capital' in underdeveloped countries. I... (SA laughs) do not believe it because your existence disproves it. There is more than enough capital.
SA: Like there is no food in our country.
RD: The point is how it is used. How it is not used.
RD: Another example in terms of the waste of capital. These are small little examples which come up. I think one can go into very many of these examples. The question of... I think the Bombay Airport thing is too detailed. I don't want to talk about that. But there are two others, one of course which is very very new. We have 55 million tonnes of food grains in our silos. In our grains. That is what the government has got. Yet we have starvation. But starvation is not called starvation anymore. We have this very pretty terminology which is called 'food security'. All right. So you have terms which are just finishing off the existence of what is destroying people, not only culturally, etc, but actually physically TERMINATING the existence of people. Talk about again the contradiction and the TOTAL anarchy of production, and the anarchy of planning and more than that the fundamentals of the economic system which we now SWEAR by. Internationally now, a lot of countries swear by and some economists do swear by.
Ritu argues that the question is not about a lack of food grain, or a lack of capital, or lack of infrastructure for education, but that the economic system in play today is structured to reinforce these schisms of inequality.
public distribution system
RD: You export rice... Okay, take the example of wheat. You export wheat at Rs 5.50 per kilo (kg). It is sold in the Public Distribution System (PDS), which is meant for people Below the Poverty Line (BPL), at about Rs 9 a kilo. What rationale (SA laughs) is this? So when you say you don't have food grains; not true. When you say you don't have capital; not true. You say you don't have education; yes. Education, but, (pinching her fingers to show 'a tiny bit') this minority. And for me, another very fundamental contradiction "India leads in Information Technology." All right. It LEADS. Yet, it has the MAXIMUM number of illiterate people in the world. So, you want to develop the market for information, more employment, which is where the structure - and this is what the original meaning of the term 'structure.' Structure Adjustment doesn't mean monetary policies and fiscal policies. The original meaning of the term is the structures of society, the institutional structures. Your property structure, your class structure, your patriarchal structure, your caste structure which exists. These are the structures. These are used by Smith and Ricardo. It's not something which I've created. But the way it is being used today, in a totally reductionist manner. Not only reductionist, it absolutely negates the existence of all these original structures which exist and dominate the production patterns and the distribution patterns even today. (Holding head in hand) I can give lectures on this for two hours.
SA: Yes. No, you must.
She continues that structural adjustment is not in terms of monetary and fiscal policies, but of social structures and institutions like those of property, class, patriarchy, caste which are reinforced by the existing economic systems being touted as "the way" of the developed world.
Related links: [Smith and Ricardo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_economics
below poverty line
RD: I was talking about 'capital scarcity.' Now, like you were saying there's this general hysteria - "Oh! 50 million dollars have been given to Bombay for it's MUTP?" (Mumbai Urban Transport Project), or whatever it is. And for various other kinds of mega projects or whatever. Now I would just like to say whether it's IMF, well, IMF doesn't do, but the direct funding which comes from the World Bank, or from any other.... None of these are charity organisations. I mean they are not old people's homes that... Okay, India is poor and therefore we must give them or any kind of a charity offering kind of a distribution. It is very clearly an economic basis on which this capital is being given. They want to make a profit, and they make a profit, and you know what the profit is. I was AMAZED when I read this in Time and Newsweek magazine. It is not some Left literature which has produced this. For every dollar invested in South Asia, a private company gets back eight and a half dollars. That's the kind it takes back; in terms of whether it's repatriation of profits or tax exemptions or a large number of contracts which are taken.
Ritu argues that the IMF or the World Bank are not motivated by charity or human kindness in their loan transactions with developing nations, rather, they aim for profit. She makes it clear that these are not charity organisations, but they are organisations with economic interests.
international monetary fund
old age home
Here Ritu talks about the wastage of capital within the country, and the dirty politics behind rebuilding a country (Kuwait), that was supposedly created to be destroyed.
RD: After the Gulf War, do you remember the most DISGUSTING fight over Kuwait, i.e. who was going to rebuild Kuwait. And the quarrel whether it was going to be France, or England, or America, or any other country about the re-building of a country which you have created to destroy. It is... I don't know what to say about ETHICS. I really don't know what word to use. (smiling). There is also the entire concept of... Now what were the other... All right... Capital scarcity and one can go into millions of examples. The amount of income tax which is due to us from film stars, some international, multinational companies, and big business houses is exactly equal to our defence budget. So, and defence budget is what one third, (or) one fourth of our entire budget. I mean there is capital - how is it being used, and where is it being used. We have, in India, something very brilliant called a Parliamentary Hindi
Committee. How to extend the teaching of Hindi
in the world. This Committee goes out once or twice a year. It spends some two or three crores a day. So, to say that there is no capital is something which I find absolutely LAUGHABLE.
RD: And honestly, I want to tell you, some of my PhD students who take just this topic, the loss of capital within the country, inside the country - forget about what goes abroad, or what the IMF takes, or World Bank or multinational takes - the total anarchy of production which exists. We are not able to fulfil our government quotas - which America as a PROTECTIONIST, you have your NAFTA which is there Multi-fibre Agreement which still exists - which India didn't get out from the WTO. It could have fought and bargained and got it out. We are not able to fulfil our quota. Yet, mills are closing down, the cotton growers are in total state of disarray. Mill workers don't exist any more. We know the Mill Workers Movement in Bombay, exactly what has happened to it. So, this kind of a logic. I don't think... There's nothing in the spirit. The spirit does not exist because not only the soul, but the body doesn't exist. So what spirit and body are we really talking about? I just don't see any kind of a... (shakes her head) And I think these contradictions which exist within themselves, within the logic of structural adjustment programmes and actually, I refuse to call them structural adjustment because they do not adjust the structure. If they adjust the structure we would have better distribution of income, between the different classes in the country, we would have better gender relations, we would have reduction of atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Castes. These are the structures that we are talking about. Babes, I can go on for hours.
SA: Go on, go on.
RD: Now, tell me which topic.
Ritu returns to the question of the spirit of the WTO, which is itself pitted against the interests of the majority of the people in developing nations. She says that she objects to the term 'structural adjustment' itself, because there are no real adjustments in the oppressive social structures.
international monetary fund
mill workers movement
north american free trade association
Here, Ritu questions the concept of patriotism and how that can justify what is happening in Kashmir. She suggests that while there doesn't appear to be an easy solution, the people of Kasmir are often forgotten in these struggles over land. Furthermore, India is inviting America to come and resolve the issue, providing America with an excuse for a foothold in the entire Asian region.
RD: That hysteria, this whole attitude of war, that we have to keep proving that you are patriotic - I mean, what is this kind of proof? The fact that you are living here? That's patriotic enough, isn't it? (laughs) Otherwise we would have probably left and gone. And I think this having to prove it at every single point of level. This is linked directly to Babri Masjid. In fact, before Babri Masjid to the (?) Shilanyas
(foundation stone laying at Babri Masjid) which Rajiv Gandhi started, then your Babri Masjid, and then the entire chain of events which take place. Right now, what is happening in Kashmir; I think nothing can be worse than Kashmir. One example of "patriotism" - Okay, one statement of patriotism which is now... I think, one of the most common statements which is given is Kashmir hamara hein
('Kashmir is ours'.) That is the statement which is made.
SA: Maa tujhe salaam
(Salute to you Mother).
R: I go to Kashmir two, three, four, fives times a year. And I write a bit, quite a bit on Kashmir. I've been meeting there. I will not be an expert. I will not say I know anything about the Kashmir situation in terms of a solution. I think it's too arrogant on my part, to say I have the solution to Kashmir. But one thing I know is, when people, I have yet to hear a single person, who instead of saying Kashmir hamara... (hein)
says KASHMIRI hamara hein
(The people of Kashmiri are our brethren). You know, it's something which I find just absolutely unbelievable. And if I say this, I have gotten reactions from people and these are educated, intellectuals, literates, political leaders (being sarcastic) of every colour and breed and BRAND and whatever one may call it, who say "No, let the Kashmiris go. They want to go to Pakistan. Let them go. Leave Kashmir for us." So really, what are we fighting for? And now, ON this issue of Kashmir, you are inviting Bush and others - "Please resolve our problem, which we have not been able to resolve for so long." So now they have a toe in West Asia, now they are going to get an entire footprint where Asia is concerned; where India and Pakistan are concerned. I don't think Musharraf is any better than what our Indian government is doing.
Here SA opines that India is becoming the bully of the South Asian region, much like America bullies the rest of the world. And Shaina suggests that part of it is may be the middle class mentality that supported India's going ahead with nuclear testing, when it was crucial for a global decision to disarm.
RD: What was the other thing?
SA: Oil, resources.
RD: No. What was it on war you said?
SA: You know, on some level that you just, that right wing middle class thought, viewpoint, that gets trumped up with this whole patriotism swirl of hamara vathan, hamara yeh
(Our promise, our this…). In a lot of ways, it sort of mirrors… India is trying to play a big bully in South Asia...
RD: Of course.
SA (continuing): ... In so many ways, like the America. Whether it comes to... Bangladesh doesn't like us, Nepal doesn't like us. The Hindu kingdom does not like us, then I think we need to look within. What is this jingoistic role that fully for... When nuclear tests happened, if the country did, if you are to say that 90% of, whoever did that opinion poll, I believe it's the middle class... The Times of India reading people, if 92% supported India's nuclear test, at a time when the only solution worldwide, as a thought, is nuclear disarmament, is no more manufacture of weapons.
Here Ritu explains her opinion of the underlying motivation for any country to go nuclear, suggesting that the glamour of the technology itself because it is considered advanced and modern.
RD: Yeah. But you see, now this whole thing of nuclearisation. It has been defined FOR us. Now, I'm not saying we are fools and the West has defined it, our own government. And that's the role of TECHNOLOGY. The most ADVANCED technology is that of nuclear technology. If you have it, you are modern, you are a developed nation; that (is the) equation which exists. Secondly, I think it's in very simple terms - the GLAMOUR of nuclearisation. It's like the glamour of civil aviation. Travelling in a plane is more glamorous than travelling in a train. So you will invest in new airports, but you won't invest in improving the number of trains, or the services of trains. At that level it becomes one issue - technology, glamour, etc. The consumerism component. One, the technology component. Secondly, the consumerism component.
RD: Third, the question of modernisation. So how do you define yourself as developed? Not that you have, in India, 50% of the world's blind, 50% of the world's anaemic, 50% of the world's illiterate (laughs), 34% of the world's child labour, one can just go on and on. Nothing is going to be done on that issue. BUT, you are going to spend on nuclear missile because there is, and that is... Again, I would say after Rajiv Gandhi, after this whole Babri Masjid, the whole communalisation and ghettoisation of thinking. It's not only ghettoisation of living, the ghettoisation of living that is there, which says and which is lived with... Okay, take the Kashmir issue or the Pakistan issue. India - independent nation in 1947, actually not even '47; '48 and '51, with Hyderabad and Junaghad and Kashmir, etc. We have lived, India has lived, Indian people have lived with this situation right from 1952 to 2002. They are fed up. Solution doesn't exist? (sarcastically) Doesn't exist according to the Indian government. They've tried. Kashmir problem is still existing. Pakistan problem is still existing. (Swearing in Hindi) Finish this off. DECIDE once and for all. It's this kind of an ideology I think, which is something very dangerous.
Ritu discusses the indicators that should be considered while defining a nation as developed or not, such as its social indices like literacy, health, etc, rather than political might symbolised by nuclear armament.
Here Ritu, relates India's stance on the Kashmir, Pakistan and nuclear issue to an ideology propagated by film, especially Amitabh Bachchan films which condone killing in some sense. The nuclear arms race, she says, is in a nutshell, a simplistic nut shell, is just Pakistan and India playing an expensive game of back and forth.
RD: It's what is reflected in films, very much so. That is what Amitabh Bachchan did. Amitabh Bachchan films were very ideological films. One against the world. So you have ONE saviour who's going to come, and how does he come, and how does he save the world. By just killing and getting away with it. So, therefore your thinking is to kill and get away. Therefore what is the best way. Bhanduk se tho kaam nahin chalega
( A gun doesn't make things work). Now, there are higher levels, more DEVELOPED levels. Aur hum bhi developed hai
(We are also developed). You have five nuclear countries. You want to be one of those. So, become nuclear and get nuclear. India does it, Pakistan does it. Pakistan does it. India reacts again. So again your tit-for-tat kind of a thing. Maybe I'm being very simplistic but, (shaking head) for me this is one of the major components of "why more nuclear."
RD: War. Now, I really don't know what to say about war. How does one even define it? I think I was 8 and a half when I wrote my first poem, in life. VERY childish, VERY immature. And I've still preserved it. And that poem was on war. And, VERY embarrassed about it, but now I think I will just publish it ANYWAY. (laughs) Even after forty years or whatever. Because I really don't understand this whole concept of war. I don't want to give a treatise, or a thesis or a big lecture on war. It is never achieved, it will never be achieved. And we know that. We go through it once, twice, thrice, again and again. It brings out the 'macho' in a human being. Now, that at one level...
Ritu suggests that at one level, war is all about flexing political muscle.
Here, Ritu says that America has put together a government in Afghanistan that is acceptable, not to the locals, but to America itself. The result is a sort of unquestioning obedience to America's supposedly higher power.
RD: Secondly, what is important to me is what Afghanistan is to become. So, you have a sort of person who has become the head, the president and it is accepted. So they think that "okay, aur koi nahin tha, is ko dal do
(No one else was there, so just put him), because he is ACCEPTABLE. (SA laughs) But acceptable for whom? For the local people? For America, it is acceptable. He goes to America and doesn't say a WORD about the prisoners who are in the Cuban Bay. It really shocks me. NOT a word. NOT a QUESTION about it. People like us are questioning far away. But your own ruler of your own COUNTRY doesn't question about it?
prisoners of war
Here Ritu talks about how self serving the war in Afghanistan was, because the West did whatever it felt suited them best, rather than try to build a body of representatives for the Afghani people. She illustrates this with the example of RAWA - a women's group in Afghanistan.
RD: America talked a lot about women. So you had Laura Bush and your Clintons, those and famous First Ladies talking about a lot, that unless Afghanistan... What the Taliban had done against women in Afghanistan, and women therefore must come up. RAWA, the only organisation of Talibani women, started how long back? Not ONE of the representatives were called when the government was to be organised. And the government to be organised by sitting in Europe, not in Kabul. So your white leaders are maybe too scared to come in case shot off by... Whatever....
association of women in afghanistan
RD: I don't want to go into this whole Taliban, Northern Alliance thing because it's another VERY very big debate. But I don't' think...
SA: So what's RAWA's role now? They are just...
RD: They are totally sidelined. RAWA is totally sidelined. Absolutely. SIDELINED, BY those who have set up the new government. Sidelined BY the new government, by the puppet. I mean there's nothing... It is positively a puppet government. There's nothing more to it than that, which the local people themselves realise. In fact, local Afghanis don't even know that their "leader" has gone to America. They think he's just gone for a walk, or for a weekend somewhere.
She continues to make reference to Afghanistan's current government, and states that RAWA has been continually sidelined by those who set up the new government, as well as the government itself.
RD: But as far as I know, whatever little information one hears, is that RAWA IS active in Afghanistan, which, I think, is the most important aspect. We don't know too much about it. But whatever one knows is that they don't care what the world thinks. They care what the Afghani women are going through. And that is something that is more important. How many months or weeks of the Afghani government, supported by the leaders of world democrats, of the "free world." For me, free is not democratic free, only according to what Europe, etc say they are. Free is also 'Free Market.' So, it's a certain kind of IDEOLOGY, which is being perpetrated through this concept of freedom, democracy, etc. So, no definition, no involvement, no kind of a policy statement which has been given to get women back in Afghanistan, in whatever role they … Women are still in their burkhas
. I really don't know what term that is, child.
Ritu debates the various interpretations of Afghanistan's freedom, implying that, in fact, the people remain anything but free.
RD: Upsetting. See, upsetting, I mean in terms of one's faith. Of course, one gets extremely emotional, and I'm not afraid of being emotional. If it's there. It's there. You feel it. And this is something, you know - emotional is not rational. I think emotion IS extremely rational. I think the two have to be interconnected. Otherwise you don't get your ethics and values, etc. People talk about… A lot of my students raise aspects of ethics, of values. Some of them, may not have what I perceive as correct ethics, etc, which is maybe my definition… Which is not an issue (shaking head).
Ritu makes reference to the connection between emotion and rationality, implying that she believes the two to be connected through the medium of ethics.
RD: But, I think one can really see students - and that is the youth component I was talking about earlier, that I wanted to mention - they are not isolated from what is happening in the world. (The camera zooms in for extreme close up) People at my age talking about "wo bada admi" (he's a powerful man). So I said, "Really? What has he done?'' "Nai, nai, nai, nai. Wo bohoth kamaatha hein
" (No, he earns a lot). So, if THOSE are the kinds of definitions… So, this is not some ethical island existing in a sea of unethical behaviour. So, this at one level...
Ritu explains what she perceives to be a misconception in ethical definition - the sign of a big man is not measured by his actions, but rather by the amount he is able to earn.
Here SA vents, stating that we need to think about a shift in perspective, especially the Indian middle class.
RD (pressing her forehead pensively): Now what was I going to say about ethics?
SA: No, you were saying that emotionally, if you feel about something, if things do move you... And then you started talking about the ethical (situation), the ethics people need to have. Well, I... Let's just put it differently. What needs to change? On a very personal level, I think, a nazariya
(perspective), whatever we can call it, something needs to shift in just a way the world is perceived. Because the world is as it is today... But you have to... Where you position yourself to look, with great honesty. I think that, for example, a middle class person only thinks of what he could aspire to be and that, he never looks... For me, India levels me. And that... I mean, I can't think about anything. I feel depressed. I want to slit my wrists. I have to look out of my window and give myself a thappad
(slap) and think of how fabulous things are.
Ritu problematises the current situation and says the solution probably lies in looking very closely at the economic policies
SA: There is a level…
RD: Yeah. You know, all these things become very banal in terms of... Because I don't know what to say is the solution. I don't know what can be a solution. But I think a solution is (shaking head) what our... I wouldn't say what are we doing... What is our economic system, the policy. Let's take every single policy, and see what does it do; who does it benefit and what does it do. And at a policy level, for me it is (counting on fingers) who initiates the policy, who justifies it, who implements it, and obviously who is going to benefit from it. Whether it is an economic policy, or a gender policy, or our day to day policies. I think these are extremely important.
RD: Now, I don't know how to define ethics and people talk (about) defining a conscience, that I should be able to sleep well at night with a clear conscience. I'm sorry but I can't, because one worries so much about what is happening (smiling) and there's no way that you can. So it's in a way a reversal. Now, what one can do? I have to do it in my profession. I have to do it. I have to articulate what I think is correct. It may not be correct. But at least initiate a debate. And for me that is the most important thing. Not getting my friends, or people I work with, or the movements I am associated with, or my students to accept what I'm saying. All I try (smiling), and say, "please, there's another way of looking at things. Do NOT accept blindly anything. Do NOT accept what I'm saying, do NOT accept blindly what anybody else is saying. QUESTION AND CRITIQUE at every single level," which is really what is, I think, the basic need today.
Ritu suggests that the only way to be assured of an individual conscious and sense of ethics is to question and critique, to never blindly accept what is being propounded by another.
Here Ritu explains how she believes that the internationalisation of labour is one of the answers to the current problem of globalisation of capital. But it is not a standard solution, so how one goes about it remains to be worked out.
RD: I don't want to give a solution in terms of ... Yes, of course, at a broader level, coming back to what we were discussing right in the beginning - what is the answer to the globalisation of capital? Yes. Internationalisation of labour. Now, whether one articulates in terms of a Trade Union, I really don't know how Trade Unions... I mean, we keep saying that Trade Unions are holding the country to ransom, in terms of they don't allow India to globalise properly or to liberalise properly. How much of the work force is unionised? 2% (wagging two fingers) of the entire work force in India, including people like us, who rarely go on strike. If teachers go on strike, nobody takes them seriously. The kind of strike, in a very noble kind of way we go, is where students are not affected. Who is going to listen to us? Nobody is going to listen to us. So whether they get together...
Here Ritu analyses where the Left Movement fell short, in a sense, suggesting that this was because it was hanging on to a rhetoric that was not suited to the time. She states that the various fragments of the Left movement need to regroup, and the war in Afghanistan has proved to be an excellent catalyst, just like Vietnam was in the '60s i.e. because it caused people to sit up and think about these issues and reconstitute a rhetoric that will work.
RD: Or is it going to be this typical kind of NGOs, Self Help Groups, I really don't know. And I don't think there's any standard solution. Of course, those who have the same perspective on society, same perspective on ethics, are those who are finally going to come together. How it is to be done, and the way it is to be done - I don't think anybody has an answer. I mean, we still have the hope which came much later, that there is going to be a movement which is going to change. And I think it did, for a very long period of time. But we were not able to understand the changes which were going on. Whether it was economic changes, or social, or gender, historical, whatever changes were going on, we were not able to understand them. And I think when it is a progressive movement, it has to anticipate the changes. But here what has happened is, we've been left behind in analysis. So forget about movement and organising, even the analysis let us down. Now there are ways of regrouping, etc. It will take time. And hopefully something would happen and something will happen. And in a way, I think really the Afghanistan issue is a catalyst. The kind of things people are thinking and articulating. It is something which has never been. I think, Vietnam and now...
non governmental organisation
Here, Ritu caustically criticises the lack of debate in the news about crucial issues and the dumbing down of the so-called 'Fourth Estate.'
RD: And the control over the media, which is much more centralised than Vietnam. So Vietnam, you had photographs, you had people talking about it, more forums for debate in newspapers. Today, what debate in newspapers do you have at all? Who went for which party on a Saturday night, and who wore red and who wore pink. I mean, are these debates, are these newspapers debates? We, people like us, we used to write a lot for the newspapers before. Now it is fully controlled. Editors have no... There's no editor of newspapers any more. It's called "MANAGING EDITOR." (makes a face) So you are more in management than an editor. So this works out in various kinds of ways.
Here Ritu points out that although she feels that the Internet is one of the most democratic of media, it doesn't make sense as a medium of mass communication because it is so inaccessible to the majority.
RD: So that is why...
SA: ... Or TV, or transnational companies or...
RD: Media, in every way. You have the Internet. I mean the Internet in that sense, at least gives... (It) Is one of the most democratic media. The most democratic. But, who has access to it? The illiterate world, who is 80% or 90% doesn't; who is affected does NOT have access to this, doesn't have access to literacy, OR even electricity. (SA laughs) So, where's the question of getting Internet, etc?
Here Ritu elaborates on the centralisation of capital, which consequently creates the centralisation of media. In this manner, the media has lost its role of playing the 'Fourth Estate.' It's become like any other business. She says that an alternate forum for discussion, which was so vibrant in the euphoria of post-colonial times, is now being wiped out.
RD: So, along with the centralisation of capital, (folding her hand into a fist) there is the centralisation of media. The control over the media, because now media is like any other business house. It does not have a role (signalling quotes) "to play." The euphoria of the post-colonial phase? Of the post independence, not only India, the entire post war, post colonial period; that is totally over now. Vietnam, very important. Also who takes up Vietnam and who takes up Afghanistan. The agitations against the WTO. What is happening in Doha. What is happening in New York. I mean, extremely important, what is happening today. Totally wiped out. Totally wiped out of any kind of debate, any kind of discussion. There is an alternate forum which is taking place in Brazil, which is totally wiped of any kind of debate or discussion. And who wipes this out?
Here Ritu doesn't mince her words when she critiques the current scenario of the media. She says that the media has no qualms in 'mis-educating' the populace, so that whatever little information does trickle down to them through the education system, is 'un-learnt'. It is all about revenue, advertisements, and readership for the owners of media capital now. And they justify this dumbing down by saying that they cannot force their readers to read what they (the editors) think is news-worthy.
RD: So, this question about the attitude of the media that people get what they deserve - they want saas bahus
(mother-in-law and daughter-in-law soaps), they want consumerism, so you have your crorepatis
, and you have our whatever other - I'm talking about our media, I'm talking about whatever exists. (slams hand into fist) And (that) becomes a way of moulding the consciousness or un-educating whatever little level of education one gives. Now, if these forums and I think when this is done consciously, it's not as if ten editors, or maybe it happens, ten editors get together and take a decision. Actually they don't, the owners, the OWNERS OF MEDIA CAPITAL, that's how I would put it - It's "media capital," It's not "media" - would get together and say, we don't want to make this news-worthy. Whether no one is financing us, no one is advertising for that kind of a component, or it goes against our interest. Because if we talk against what is happening in New York or Seattle, or Doha, we are not going to get these kinds of advertisements. Our readership will not like it. Because our readership is at a totally different level.
Here Ritu talks about how, these kinds of issues are reported in the regional media, because it is only the English language which has been 'globalised.' The only time it will spill over into the English media is when someone English-speaking considers it to be considered news-worthy, or when someone decides to study it.
RD: These debates still continue, very interestingly, in some of the regional media, which is still not controlled, and it is not seen. It's not in English. It can't be globalised, in that sense of the term. So it is not taken into account. In tribal areas, demonstrations go on every single day, whether it is against bonded labour, whether it is against sexual harassment of women, whether it against wages whatever. Who is going to report it? It is not news-worthy. Nobody reports it. But if I go and do a study of what is happening of wages and I do a study, whether it is for any kind of an organisation, or even for the University or whatever it is, that is going to get articulated. Because I am from out. And I'm sorry to use this word - I'm not "black," I am "white." So you have Macaulay's old statement, English, which is extremely important, which is the language of the world, which always was, and still remains more so. (sound of SA's tripod folding) Enough now. (smiles)
RD: Enough, because I can go on.
Here SA explains the word play of the film title - "Infinite Injustice, Enduring Freedom," from the title of America's war - "Infinite Justice, Ensuring Freedom," a reference to the Christian Crusades.
SA: Or another word for that social justice, or that ideal of fairness and equality that...
RD: What was the... Okay, what was the first phrase which was used and which was rejected? - "Ensuring Freedom"? No, "Infinite justice" which was from the, from the Crusades, from the Bible - "Infinite Justice."
RD: Yeah, "Infinite Justice," yeah.
SA: And it was taken out because it was Christian.
RD: "Infinite Justice, Ensuring Freedom."
SA: And then "Enduring Freedom."
RD: "Enduring Freedom."
Here, Ritu philosophises on the definition of freedom - Is it freedom of Religion, or freedom from religion? And she notes that it is crucial to recognise what is happening on the international front.
RD: (shakes head) The concept, when I first heard "Enduring Freedom," I felt freedom was a burden you had to bear. The concept of enduring, not the question of lasting. Freedom of whom? Freedom of another country to bomb another country as long as it wants, with no (shakes head) OBJECTIONS from anybody? And for me, freedom, it means, it is at various levels. My definition of freedom - it's impossible to define and I'm not a philosopher - is if it is freedom - of course, now you talk about "Freedom OF Religion," "Freedom OF Caste" - for me it is "Freedom FROM Religion," "Freedom FROM Caste." And it is these concepts which become MUCH more crucial. One, at the international level, what's happening , the objective of what's happening. That's one aspect, or take ACCOUNT at least. At least RECOGNISE what's happening.
RD: Second, what is happening within your country. Country is too vast, it is too broad a concept. What is happening - forget state , etc - in your own building, in your own house? And, I think, this concept of questioning. And if you question and you question honestly, for me that is extremely important. One can question, but you have to question honestly. If you are going to question honestly, it will arise within you to DO something. What you do is a totally personal decision. No one can ?--?. And I think, it should be something you CAN do, something you want to do; of course, that is taken for granted. Something you can do, whether it is within your profession, whether it is within your family, whether it is...
Ritu goes on to emphasise the importance of questioning, suggesting that while perhaps being completely aware of the goings-on in a country is unlikely, one can consider things closer to home and contribute in whatever way possible.
Here, Ritu puts to rest any internal conflicts that may arise from moral dilemmas such as child labour. Her answer - let your humanity lead your response.
RD: Okay, you've taken a stand against child labour, but you are caught in your situation when the bai
(maid), when she comes to your house, she is accompanied by her 8 - 9 year old daughter who is going to help her in some cleaning activity, etc. At least feed that child. Give it two bananas, a slice of bread, a glass; it doesn't cost us anything. That is, at least you are ensuring somebody's FREEDOM TO SURVIVE. Freedom of existence and at least a - well, I can't say proper - but at least in terms of food, nutrition, etc; those different kinds of things.
Here, Ritu suggests that people are not always encouraged to take up working on social issues on a full time basis. She says she believes that people should contribute to supporting such workers, because it is a brave decision and almost always involves some sacrifice, economic or otherwise. And those of us who cannot or do not want to take this on full-time, there are always varying degrees of contribution. And the people are willing.
RD: If one wants to contribute in terms of a profession, there is a lot which one can do. People say, "don't become full-timers." I think that is something which is fantastic. And it is great. And a lot of people have done it. And I think there's no way that it should NOT be encouraged. If you want to become a full-timer, maybe you give your time for six months, or you say, "okay, I'll take up a job after one year. Or I'll do my MA after so long," or you want to become for life. I think it is the most fantastic and the bravest and the most courageous decision to take. And there are a lot of us who still go by that, who still agree with that. It's not as if it is an old thing and it's an old hat, so don't bother about it. A lot of us still contribute to supporting full-timers, who have given up their "anchor," in terms of economic anchor, and whatever, anchor according to alternate movements. If some students say, "Ma'am, I can give only one hour a week to teach a child in the university canteen how to read and write;" I think that's fantastic. So this thing of... or maybe... type two pages a week. Fine. You are contributing. And it is this contribution of people who are in the movement. And I think, not looking down on people who can, whatever the restrictions may be, even if no restrictions, that is their desire, that is their level of conscience. Fine. Take whatever people are willing to give. And people are willing to really give a lot.
Here, SA and RD agree that the youth are willing to contribute; they just need to be stimulated. Ritu continues saying that she feels that the current impression of the youth, that they are the "mangta hain
" (I want) generation and that they are losing their 'roots,' is not entirely correct.
SA: Especially the youth.
RD: Oh yes, I want to talk about the youth.
SA: You know, you trigger them. You trigger them and then, it's all coming out. There is...
RD: Absolutely. I really want to talk for two minutes about the youth. My lawyer will scream at me. But I mean, people today talk about, "what is the student generation today, they are not interested in anything." They are what is called, I mean a lot of people I know say it, "mangta hain
" (I want) generation. "Hum ko ye mangta hain, humko wo mangta hain. Humko wo mangta hain
" (We want this, we want that, we want that.). Not even proper Hindi. So it becomes a sort of a... But I think it's not as if the level of competition has increased so desperately, the level of unemployment is so desperate. So it's not the "mangta hain
" (I want) of consumer items. That is only one component of it. And, I think, finally again we have to realise that they're not one island. That everybody is being exposed to this kind of consumerism. So they're not going to separate... Things that are going to keep their little values or whatever. You're living in a very dynamic kind of a state. And I think it's not even where you touch them. I think, if you talk to them without an arrogance, all right? - "I know more than you" - that is one level.
RD: Secondly, I think the education system itself. What is it? A three-year memory test. That is all we call it. We have no interest in...
SA: Vomit on paper.
RD: Lot of teachers don't have any interest in teaching, or you go there. The teachers... You know, there is one beautiful cartoon which exemplifies teaching and I always explain it to my students I say, "please do not." This is not what teaching is going to be. Teaching, a teacher with a big mouth and a student with a big ear, and that's all there was to it. One thing, I know, as students, we fought against this kind of a system and we got it. It's taken back, and the students are not fighting against it. Of course, we can say that they are not conscious enough and they should fight to get it back. But earlier, our existence was only... Our primary character was that of students. Now, we...
Secondly, Ritu suggests that the education system needs to be more relevant, more inspirational, and less of a memory test.