ITF Not The Drama Seminar: Inequalities - P. Sainath
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Organised 50 years after the original Drama Seminar in 1957, the Not the Drama Seminar (NTDS) brought together theatre practitioners from all across the country to convene at Ninasam, Heggodu in March 2008. This seminar meditated on the nature of theatre in India today, on how we got to where we are. The attempt was to understand 'Indian Theatre' in all its multiplicity and diversity, bringing these several faces of Indian theatre face to face, and problemetize the issues that arise therein. These ideas were exchanged through a series of presentations and discussions over five days, and each day ended with a performance.
He needs no introduction so I am not even going to try and attempt to introduce him. All I do want to say is that Sainath has remained at heart a reporter. I think it's very critical to what he does - he has not become the sort of journalist who only opines in columns. There are too many columnists in this world and even though Sainath has written one of the most popular columns that I've certainly read, in essence he remains a reporter, which is what takes him all over the country, to the most inaccessible parts of the country, to very difficult terrain and so on...I use the word 'terrain' in the largest possible sense of the term and that's what enables him to ask the most critical questions that face the country. It is his belief that one of the most critical question that we face today as a nation is the question of inequalities. So I hand it over to P. Sainath.
Sainath: Thank you. On the flight in from Mumbai to Bangalore, I read two items in The Times of India that were quite, to my mind, interesting. One, was an announcement that the elite schools of Mumbai had again revised their fees upwards. These are anyway schools that charge about 2,00,000 rupees a year as fees. They had made a 45% revision or something of fees upwards. The other item was a rant by Mr. P. Chidambaram, attacking persons unknown, unnamed but quite identifiable, in that he was disgusted, he said, by people who attacked growth as meaningless. I mean the people he was referring to had mentioned a particular kind of growth that doesn't benefit anybody except a very tiny percent of the population. But both items were very interesting. I mean if you look at the kind of growth that Mr. Chidambaram is talking about - we'll get to that in a little bit.
But the schools, the elite schools, I derive considerable entertainment from visiting the websites of these schools. You know 10-15 years ago they didn't exist. Let me share with you some of the excerpts from their websites of my favourite schools. This is from the website of The Goenka International School, Delhi. Now in this globalised age, to use one of the worst clichés of all time, in this globalised age the school promises to make your child a truly global citizen. A round...a well-rounded global citizen. So that you know...it's not just about learning more about the stock markets, it's also about cuisine and I quote for you, "Your child will be served food from many traditions including Indian, Continental, Mexican, Chinese." Now this is a school, it's a school, it's an air conditioned school but it's a school. And let's be fair, they have fitted in Indian on Monday, okay, Mexican, Continental and other stuff but the desi element is not lost. So let's be fair to them. "Meals are carefully prepared" quote again, verbatim from the site, "Meals are carefully prepared by expert dieticians and only, only premium quality mineral water, juice and organically cultivated fruit, vegetables and eggs are utilised...are used." Okay, so it's only organically cultivated fruit, eggs and whatever and premium quality mineral water which we shall return to, it's a very important thing in this inequality business.
Another of my favourite schools, also in Delhi, is the Sanskriti School. Run for the children of elite of the elite and sometimes ministers' kids fail to get into that school which has been given grants of... in excess of 15 crore, 150 million from different governments. The Sanskriti School announces on its website, or did announce until I wrote about it and then they removed that line, "the chairperson of our board will always be, whoever is the wife of the serving Cabinet Secretary." Well, I did raise the question- what happens if the Cabinet Secretary is a woman? Lets be optimistic. So, then that...that line disappeared from the website but I saved the page, so it's there. It's part of my memorabilia and all that stuff, it'll go into the museum of great websites.
Then, I can't leave out my place of residence, Mumbai. My favourite school there is The Bombay Scottish. The Bombay Scottish School, which, last year, I think it continues this year but particularly in January and this thing last year was the sight of a bitter and intense class struggle. You see most of the people, the VIPs...when they hold the college...when they hold the school day, they have a shamiana, which has a special shamiana, there's a special shamiana for the millionaire children. Not for the children but for the millionaires, the children still get to be children, to some extent...anyway...so, into this Garden of Eden, crept a serpent in the late nighties called billionaires. So then there was a huge and bitter problem about how to seat the super rich amongst the merely obscenely wealthy. So that created...they did that, they created a separate enclosure and it was for three days on the front pages of Mumbai's newspapers as it left a lot of very disgruntled millionaires, who felt they were being discriminated against on a class basis. So there was an intense, there was this intense bitter struggle between the millionaires and the billionaires. I am not quite clear how it was resolved but I will catch up with it when the next episode occurs and...you know...and maybe when the mobs of millionaires take to the streets burning Lexuses and Mercedes then...
For millions of children in this country, estimated between eight million and six times that number, there are no schools to go to at all. Millions of kids in this country don't go to any school at all. 14.5% of those who do go, drop out in grade I, a much larger number by the time you reach grade V. If you look at the Census of India 2001, the data, it's fascinating, the household census, the census household data, it shows you - places of religious worship in this country, as you know we have a very serious shortage of places of religious worships, we always want to build one more. Places of religious worship in India, 2.4 million, that's the census data. 2.4 million places of religious worship. Schools, colleges, polytechnics, technical institutes, universities- vishwavidyalayas, science and research, and hospitals, primary health care centres, tertiary hospitals, superspeciality hospitals, schools, everything put together - 2.1 million. Places of religious worship 2.4 million. Thats the equation.
In the United Nations Education For All Report...the UN puts out - it's got a mandatory thing that every six months you depress the world by saying something. In the listing of performance of the basic globally accepted parameters of education, India ranks, despite Sanskriti, despite Bombay Scottish, despite Goenka, India ranks 105th in 129 nations surveyed. And that is actually over the years and years of liberalisation, a fall; it was...we were up at 100 once. But we have come down from there. The 59th round of the National Sample Survey Organisation, the biggest data survey we have in the country, after the census of course, but the biggest gatherer of such information on a regular basis, which tells us something about what rural Indians, particularly, say people in farming, what do they spend on education? At the one end are these schools on which you are spending lakhs of rupees a year to send your kid to eat Thai and Continental. At the other end, in the monthly per capita consumer expenditure of the Indian farmers, of people in the farming sector, the expenditure on education is, per capita, Rs. 17 a month or 50 paisa per day. And what education you can buy in 50 paisa a day, you tell me, I'd like to know about it. So you are talking about hundreds of millions of people whose per capita expenditure on education is 50 paisa per day because that's what they can afford.
They spend twice that much on health. In fact, more than twice that much on health. So on the one end you have this phenomenal, you have this absolutely incredible schooling system, some of the costliest schools anywhere. On the other, you have a nation that is spending 50 paisa per day on education...I mean it as individuals.
Worldwide, worldwide - there have been several processes, and I'm going to summarize them very crudely...which have unfolded across the globe, in most countries of the world, in the last 15-20 years. A period that I describe as the collapse of restraint on corporate power. Now there are these...what are these processes? They have been very pronounced in India, much worse in Latin America over the last 15-20 years.
One, withdrawal of the State from sectors that matter to the poor. The State has not withdrawn, the State has not withered away. The State is far more interventionist than it has ever been on behalf of the rich, on behalf of the corporate power. That's the first of these processes.
The second is huge expenditure cuts in the social sector on health, on education. On a listing of 189 countries, India ranks...on a listing of 182 countries on expenditure on health, India ranks 179th.
You are the fourth most privatised health system in the world. Anyway, for the current budget, the farmer's budget actually gives huge sops, huge incentives to corporate hospitals, in rural areas. So huge expenditure cuts in the social sector. That's the second process.
Third, shrinking of subsidies and supports for the most vulnerable people. Fourth, the steady and systematic transfer of wealth and resources from the poor to the rich. Worldwide process, you take the United States, you take U.K., you take India, you will see it. It's been extremely rapid in the United States and it's been quite fast in India and I will give you the numbers of that shortly.
This transfer of wealth and resources takes place in many ways around you but we don't necessarily recognise it. It takes place in all the cities that we live in. For instance, in the transfer of public land in Bandra, costing crores of rupees per acre to Lilavati hospital on the ground that they will reserve 30% of their beds for the poor people while they have not performed even 10% of that in their existence. Apollo hospital, Delhi did not realise even 5% and was pulled up by the Delhi High Court more than once. But you transfer billions of rupees worth of land to them in the name of this, the transfer of resources from the poor to the rich.
Second, all these hospitals, through the nineties, imported billions of rupees, millions and millions of dollars worth of custom duty-free equipment on (sic) the name of serving the poor. In the name of serving the poor, the gigantic instrumentation that they brought, the huge equipment that they brought in from overseas was exempt from customs duty. You are transferring public revenue to multi-billionaires who live in Antwerp.
The fifth and the most central process is the unprecedented rise of corporate power. This is the most central and important thing if you want to understand what's going on; there are huge dramas around us...there are huge, huge dramas whether in the countryside or the city.
And one of the mistakes I think Mr. Chidambaram was making when speaking yesterday in his anger against unnamed and unknown journalists who threw a dampener on everything was that whole business of disconnecting the rural India from the urban India, it's a very bad idea if you want to understand what's going on, the action is in urban India. Rural India experiences the fall out very often. But don't try understanding these two separately from each other. The unprecedented rise in the corporate power...those of you who watch the Budget, it's been more this year than every year, the opening of the prime time news, the first line the anchor says is," And the bad news in the Budget is that India Inc's wish list has been ignored."
Actually, about 98% of the wish list has been oversubscribed. But India Inc's...the bad news of the Budget is that India Inc's wish list has been ignored. There isn't even a pretence in the panelists, you know, the distinguished panelists are indistinguishable from each other...
Then the next, you see the rise of corporate power out of these ten processes I am describing, the rise of corporate power is so central. I think the Australian sociologist, Alex Carey described this in a very beautiful way, he said that there were three major developments in the 20th century. He described the entire 20th century in three propositions - the rise and growth of democracy; the rise and growth of corporate power; the rise and growth of corporate propaganda to stifle the rise and growth of democracy. I think it captures most of the situations of the preceding century fairly well.
Okay, but the sixth process, the impositions of user fees and user charges on people who cannot afford, it's simply impossible for them to afford.
Seventh, what I call the privatisation of everything, including intellect and soul. And I mean everything. The latest in Mumbai - those of you who travel or travel very regularly by Mumbai's public transport - have you ever noticed that in all the railway stations of India there are little kids sitting polishing shoes, in all your Mumbai stations? They have privatised the space of polishing...of the shoe shine polish boy and they have sold it for 15 lakhs per space to corporations, which will then put a shoe shine, a massage, a massage machine, Coke and Pepsi and cigarettes, but the shoe-shine boy's space has been officially privatised. I think that must be a world first, at least in our part of the world...in our neck of the woods. The privatisation of everything, including intellect and soul. It's one of the reasons why we use this very pompous term in these last ten years, public intellectual, because the rest have become private. They belong to something...they are all private intellectuals so we have to say I am a public intellectual distinguishing... I am not owned by Ambani. So that's the...
The eighth process is the stunning rise in inequality which is the foreword of this and is the defining feature of our time.
Ninth is what I call, I won't go into it much but is best summed up as the ideology of market fundamentalism. The market is beyond reproach, though not at this moment, when people who have been bred on this ideology are suddenly being told, that the Indian economy can tank because somebody sold a bank in the United States. Bear Stearns...is down the tube in the U.S., so you are in very big trouble, don't mind if you can't pay your home loan because Bear Stearns was sold in the US. But it is a very important ideology, it's the driving ideology of the Indian ruling elite at this time. And the takeover of governance by non-representative bodies whether through World Bank arbitration or intervention or IMF or whoever, and some of this is being achieved everyday in the city around you, through privatisation of water, through undermining of the elected bodies, and very often with the aid and co-option of so called civil society organisations, okay, which are unrepresentative, unelected and undermine the municipality and other bodies. So these are the sort of processes that we will cover today. Come back to the schools, I mean you know we have been through Sanskriti and stuff, let's try something else.
Take Vidarbha schools. Last year Mumbai posted a record pass percentage in HSC, 76%. Vidarbha had the topper, it had the state topper from Maharashtra but Vidarbha's pass percentage in HSC was 49%. Marathwada's pass percentage in HSC was 49.1%. What are we to conclude from this? The children of Vidarbha are stupid, they don't study, kids of Marathwada are basically dimwits and some might even cite as evidence that the Chief Minister comes from there. How was Mumbai's pass percentage 76%? The difference is this - that most of Mumbai's kids go back to homes with electricity, with twenty-four hours power connection, with internet connection, often broadband, with tuition outside of their schools and schools in which teachers actually take classes, and maybe internet broadband connections at home for a significant percentage of these students, and coaching classes at the higher levels.
In Vidarbha and Marathwada, again it's happening as exam period approaches, 15 to 17 hours of power cuts. Even the Panchayat Bhawan doesn't have power. Those Panchayat Bhawans which have bulbs, they do not have power. Do you know what it would take to give them power? Who are the biggest consumers of power and electricity? Malls and multiplexes. If Mumbai...if we imposed a 15 minute, I mean one five, 15 minute power cut on Mumbai, all eleven districts of Vidarbha would have two hours of power. But we cannot do that to the beautiful people.
I think there is incredible drama in this, that because we cannot take away 15 minutes of power from Mumbai, the children of Marathwada, or Vidarbha definitely, you can do the calculation; Vidarbha, by the way, produces most of the electricity of Maharashtra. It generates far more power than western Maharashtra or Mumbai-Konkan. It's children are paying the price of your children's education. Thats inequality.
If you went right now to rural Nagpur, Bazargaon is a village within the rural Nagpur district. Bazargaon children will be sitting without any electricity, without water. There is no water, no electricity. The exams are on, the teachers are off, everything is normal. Bazargaon, in the same premises of Bazargaon is what is called Asia's largest or India's largest Fun 'N Food Village for the children of the elite who come in from Nagpur, Yavatmal town, the rich towns of that area. I visited the Fun 'N Food Village, it's owned by a Delhi company. It has in an area classified as drought prone and severe drought; it has eighteen different kinds of water slides. So you can get wet in eighteen different innovative ways and it has, it had, until again a story went in and sort of destroyed the whole thing, they had a snow dome, not a skating rink but a snow dome, a huge complex that created snow. An incredible use of electricity.
We are talking about lakhs of units of electricity. It creates snow, flown in all the way and reassembled from Japan, no less. It has a bar of course, and the snow dome, you can frolic in the snow when, outside, the measured temperature was 49 degrees centigrade. This is just Vidarbha in summer anyway. Amravati and Nagpur have 47-49 quite easily. Now this entire Bazargaon Fun 'N Food Complex lives at the expense of Bazargaon village. What does Bazargaon village get from the complex? This was supposed to create jobs, it did. It created nine jobs- maali, jamadarni, the toilet cleaner - all these sort of jobs it created for them. It earns during season. Fun 'N Food Village on ticket sales - let alone food, refreshments, anything - on ticket sales, gate sales, it earns over 1 lakh to 1.13 lakh per day at the gate. The annual rent given to the Panchayat of Bazargaon for the whole year is Rs. 45,000, which is less than half of what it earns at the gate in a single day in season.
So that is Bazargaon. And Haldiram has opened its own water park in Nagpur itself on the edge of the Bhosle lake from where the water is taken, on which Nagpur city was built several hundred years ago, the levels in that lake are going down as you frolic...I think it has nineteen forms of water slides.
Okay, the fastest growing thing in this country is not IT, it's not software, it's not the sensex, certainly not at this point. The fastest growing sector in India is not IT, thats the wrong T, it's Inequality. And it has grown faster in the last fifteen years than at any point in the last fifty. The levels of inequality you are looking at today around you, last existed in the colonial period and we are making a pretty good shot at outdoing that.
Let me just tell you some of the good news, we don't want to get too depressed. Some of my favourite reading when I can tear myself away from Sanskriti's website is that India now ranks 4th in the world in the number of dollar billionaires. And that's the list of all the countries in the world that have billionaires. We have three-and-a-half times more billionaires than all the Scandinavian nations put together- Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, the lot of them have fifteen. We have 53;our dads are richer than their dads.
We have 53. The U.S., of course, has 469. Russia, another highly mafia-ised economy, 87. Germany 59, India 53, we are closing in very fast on Germany and we can be sure about one thing, we'll beat Russia at some point because about half their billionaires will end up in prison. You know, Khodorkovsky and all, they need company there, they'll run a casino inside. So we will be there and one day we will erase the national humiliation of having fewer billionaires than the United States. Now the 53 Indian billionaires, 21 of them live in Mumbai. Do you know that? 21 of them have a Mumbai address; me too - I also have a Mumbai address.
I'll get there. These 20...these 30...these 53 individuals - their net asset worth is 334.6 billion dollars, which means that 53 Indians have a net worth equal to 31% of your Gross Domestic Product. 31% of your GDP, probably more, because we are now finding out that our GDP was wrongly calculated on the basis of an outdated purchasing power of parity system and that it's actually 40% smaller than we thought. But still, the billionaires are real. Four of the ten richest men in the world are Indians. Lakshmi Mittal, Mukesh Ambani, Anil Ambani and this guy from DLF, KP Singh, from the DLF. Those four alone have a net worth of 160 billion dollars which is more than the GDP of about 40-50 countries. If you look at the small nations and stuff you are looking at something very interesting.
The net asset worth of these people is not 4th in the world, it is 2nd in the world, 2nd only to the United States. The net asset worth of the Indian billionaires is over a hundred, is over 70... is over 40 billion dollars higher than the net asset worth of Germany's 59 billionaires. Our net asset worth is higher than those of Russia's 87 dollar billionaires. Then...but if you want more fun with numbers, read my favourite, my...my required reading which is the Times Of India of a morning.
The Times of India of October 8th, 2007, gave me this utterly fascinating...why....I mean...just two years ago we ranked 4th....we ranked 8th in the number of billionaires to be ranked 4th, we are apparently adding one-and-a-half a month to the billionaires' list. And The Times Of India tells me that the top ten richest Indians in 2007, between July, August and September, in 90 days added 2,51,000 crores to their worth, meaning, 65.3 billion dollars, which means that 10 Indians added 100 crores an hour, every hour, for 90 days to their wealth, which means they earn 2 crores per hour, sorry 2 crores a minute.
Of which Mr. Mukesh Ambani alone, according to the Times Of India, which is very helpful in telling you these things, says that Mr. Mukesh Ambani added 40 lakh rupees...4 million rupees a minute which made me think, 40 lakhs a minute.
I then checked up and found that I could not find any record that showed me, let alone 40 lakhs a minute, the poorest section of Indians are agricultural labourers...I could not find any evidence to show that in ten years they had added 40 rupees to their wage. Let alone 40 lakhs, let alone in a minute. In ten years, the wages of agricultural labourers had not gone up by 40 rupees in ten years, let alone a minute. The concentration of wealth is now so serious that if you look at findings of Abhijeet-Piketty...Abhijeet Banerjee and Thomas Piketty. In 1956 to '80 income inequality in India went down considerably at the top level. From the mid 80s it began to rise again, with a difference. In the 80s, the rise in inequality saw the top 1% gap grab goes (?) to the benefits, in the 90s its not the top 1% that has taken the lion's share of the benefits but it's the top 0.01% of the population that has taken the lion's share of the benefits.
Locate this against the most important government report to have come out in twenty years, perhaps the most important government report in India since the First Labour Commission's Report. Some of you may have heard of it, The National Commission For Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector. A report chaired by...a team chaired by gentleman with all the right qualifications, Dr. Arjun Sengupta, Planning Commission, World Bank, IMF, you name it, he's been there, he's done that...and also having other Planning Commission members like Mr. B.N Yugandhar, all of them on this panel.
Let me tell you what it says, in its own words, '836 million Indians or 77% of the population live on less than Rs. 20 per day. The World Bank's definition of poverty is less than one dollar a day while 836 million Indians live on less than 50 cents a day.' That is the Government of India's report, page one. I am reading out a quote from the report, verbatim...these are not my words, these is the Government of India's report, "79% of the informal and unorganised sector belong to this group without any equal...without any legal protection of their jobs or working conditions or social security, living in abject poverty and excluded from all the glory of a Shining India."
Government of India Report... National Commission for Enterprises of the Unorganised Sector.
The report also shows you that there has been virtually no increase in employment in this period. Indeed, there has been a huge rise in labour productivity and a huge fall in real wages of labour. The International Labour Organisation tells us for the reforms period, the key areas of the years of reforms period, that labour productivity arose 84% but real wages of labour in manufacturing fell 22% because that rise was introduced...that productivity increase was engineered by making higher output per worker, greater use of technology and larger... and...and throwing out many more people from jobs.
Take two examples, take Tata Motors...take Tatas in Jamshedpur Steel; in 1991 the Tatas produced 1 million tonnes of steel with 84,000 workers. In 2005, they produce 5 million tonnes of steel with half that number of workers.
Bajaj...you just can't beat a Bajaj. Bajaj Motors, Pune, 1 million two wheelers with about...1million two-wheelers with 24,000 workers; 2005, 2.4 million two wheelers with 10,500 workers. Employment has gone down by factor of half and productivity has gone up by a factor of...1 to 2.4.
So this what the report is saying. Even such employment as has been added to the organised sector really constitutes informalisation of the formal sector - Like what's happened to women where the major expansion of employment that has come in garments, which is now taking a hit with the rising price of the rupee, with the rising strength of the rupee. So exports are falling, so women take a real hit. The other sector for which has opened up for women is domestic worker.
So what is called the rise in employment in the organised sector is really rise in informalisation of the formal sector. However, see your salaries...oh, by the way, who are these 836 million people? Do they have a face? Yeah, 88% of all dalits and adivasis fall into this group. 88% of all dalits and adivasis fall into this group. 85% of all Muslims fall into ths group. Something like 72% of OBCs and so on...so on the list goes. What does it show you? It shows you that in this country, the gap between the super rich and rich is perhaps larger than the gap between the merely rich and the poor. Because, what does it take to be in top 5% of this country?... not much. If you have spent Rs. 15,000 last month you are in the top 5%, that is the expenditure class of the top 5%. Rs.15,000, there are lots of people here who fall within that.
So I am saying the gap between the super rich and the merely wealthy...like that gap in Bombay Scottish...that is the gap, that is the gigantic huge gap. The rest of us are not so well off but pretending to be, but then, you know, chasing Australia and Japan and all that stuff.
Now here's another very interesting thing that should tell you about poverty calculation in this country. I never take the BPL figures seriously, I don't base my work on them, it doesn't matter whether BPL - Below Poverty Line is 36% or 39.3% or 27.9%, the counting is done by top 1%. Which means your 836 million people live on less than Rs. 20 per day but less than one-third of them are below the poverty line officially. To achieve that status of being below the poverty line you have to live on less than Rs. 12 a day then, only then, will you have learned the hard work of being poor. So that is the situation. It means that for 1% or 2% of the population, the benchmarks are Australia, United States, Japan, Western Europe...for 60% or more of the population, sub-Saharan Africa would be a useful benchmark.
So here we are as a society, 4th in the list of dollar billionaires, 128th in human development. In billionaires only three countries ahead of us, but in human development, in the basics of human existence, in access to basic education, literacy, sanitation, water, who are the countries ahead of us? Let me give you a quick run through of some of them. Not all of them because there are 127 of them ahead of us. El Salvador, which fought a war for one-and-a-half decades is ranked 103, twenty-five places ahead of us. Bolivia, poorest nation in Latin America, eleven places ahead of us. Guatenamala, thirty-six years of a civil conflict which hasn't ended yet, 10 ranks ahead of us. Africa - Gabon, Botswana, both of them ahead of us. Nicaragua - 110 ahead of us. Honduras 113, ahead of us. Ecuador is about forty places ahead of us. Cuba ranks 55th in the human index and we rank 128th, you can figure out how many positions ahead of us Cuba is.
When you are 128th in a list of 177, you are already in the bottom 50 nations of the world. But suppose we took out dalits and adivasis. Dalits and adivasis make up, they make up 250 million in your population, that is the fifth-largest...fourth-largest nation in the world after China, India and the United States, it's a nation large...and Russia...it's the fifth-largest nation in the world, it's bigger than Indonesia. Suppose we treat this as a separate nation they will not rank in the bottom 50, they will rank in the bottom 10. They would rank in the bottom 10 nations of the world.
But, suppose we treated India as a whole, all one billion of us, we are in the bottom 10 of the world if we take children as the criteria. If we take child literacy and nutrition, you're below Ethiopia, you're below Burkina Faso, you are below Chad. Percentage of children below the age of five under weight, Ethiopia - 15%, Chad - 22%, India - 30%.
And as you take all children, India is 47%, again higher than these countries. So that's where...what is very...why am I including all these countries, all these so called basket-case countries in the lot...very important, because none of them has 10% growth, none of them is an IT super power, none of them is an emerging nuclear power, none of them has a sensex...all of them together do not have... all the countries I've named together do not have four billionaires.
You have 53...all of Scandinavia does not have one-third of what you have. Okay, so this is the position, why is inequality today different? We have always seen inequality. It's not as if we grew up in some egalitarian paradise but there is a difference. In the last 15 years, the difference is this...the difference is that never in our history as an independent nation and in the world at large, has inequality been so ruthlessly engineered, so cynically constructed, in that transfer of wealth, the transfer of power, the undermining of elected bodies, the transfer of resources to the super rich. And what has happened at the bottom end of the spectrum in those 15 years? One, hunger has grown at an unprecedented rate since the crisis of the 60s. The per capita food available per Indian in 1991 was 510 grams, the highest ever for an independent India, 510 grams per Indian was the1991 figure.
2006 figure which was the last full year available, 2007 numbers are provisional...2006 figure- 422 grams. Now please look at the dichotomy, everyone sitting in this room knows that you and I have been eating better in the last ten years than we ever ate in our lives...okay...the reforms have favoured people like us, they have favoured people of our class backgrounds. Yet we are eating better and better ; the top 12-20% of this country is eating better than it ever did but actually the amount of food is falling; we are now importing wheat.
And from 510 grams you fell to 422 grams, that's not a fall of 80 grams per Indian, that's a fall of 80 grams into 365 days into 1 billion Indians which means that the average family is consuming 100 kg of food less today than they did just ten years ago and if at one end of the spectrum 20% are eating better than ever before, the cake is shrinking, then the question comes up what the heck are the other 40% or 60% eating?
What are they eating? Let me tell you what are they eating. If you went to Rajasthan just now, if you went to south Rajasthan, you went to Kotla tehsil in Udaipur at this moment, the adivasis, in this season - what are they practising? They are practising something called rotating hunger.
Okay...NREGS has arrived, there is some work to be had... people are too weak to do the work, you know who is weakest? Women, their nutrition has collapsed in last 15 years because they eat last and they eat least in the household. So what happens in the household where there are eight adivasis or nine adivasis? They rotate hunger, which means, two out of the eight will eat well that day and go out and work.
The next day it will be another two. They are rotating their hunger to keep their family going, that's what's happening in the bottom end of the spectrum. There are two indexes of hunger in the world; one is the FAO, the Food Insecurity Act of the FAO, Food and Agricultural Organisation, the other is IFPRI, International Food Research Institute...Food and Policy Research Institute. IFPRI's global hunger index, India, 4th in billlionares...94th in the global hunger index of 131 nations. Who is just ahead of us? 93- Zimbabwe which is having food riots. Second index of IFPRI, global hunger progress indicator means how well have you handled your hunger. Who is just ahead of us in that index? Ethiopia.
This is a country where a new restaurant opens everyday in some metro of this city. This is the country where people are eating a 100 kg less than they did just eight to ten years ago. The nutritional status of women as I said has waned the most; there is rotating hunger. This has happened in a period because indebtedness in the peasantry has doubled. You are seeing hunger in farm households, not in landless labour households; hunger...hunger is a permanent feature of landless labour households.
Now we are seeing it in the farm households also, very severely. If you go to farm households in Vidarbha, Marathwada, they are giving you tea without milk because they are selling the milk, they are not giving it to the child, if there is any milk it's going to be sold for money. And it has created a situation...and here is your drama. Here is things (sic) that I would like to see reflected in the media, in the goddamn newspapers themselves for a start but also in theatre and film. Migrations have gone berserk.
We have very bad migration counting data, we have very bad institutions to count migrations. The NSS and Census only treat migration as a one-shot process, you've gone from the village in Raigarh to Mumbai, you're a migrant. And you're only counted as a migrant if you've stayed in Mumbai for six months. Today's migrants don't stay six months anywhere. They come from Orissa, they work one month in Bombay, they go to Sangli to work on the dam, their contractor takes them to... their contractor takes them to Satara to work on the road; then they are off to Vizianagaram to make bricks. They are not anywhere six months, they are not counted as migrants.
But since 93-94, Prof. Nagarajan...MITS is working on this, the migrations have gone completely berserk. This old sterile attitude that migrations went from village, deep village to urban metro, that's wrong. There are vill... it's like a giant anthill. There are migrations going on from rural areas to rural areas, from one village to another village in desperate search of work. There are migrations that's rural to rural, then there is rural to non-urban metro, rural to small towns, small metro...small cities looking for work. There is rural to urban metro from - the classic pattern. There is urban to urban migration on a very large scale and there is urban to rural migration as urban jobs collapse and companies find that they get cheap land and water in the countryside and therefore shift to the countryside where wages are so depressed, where people will work for almost nothing.
That's what is happening. Let me give you one example. In the constituency of the most dynamic minister we have in India, he's won so many prizes for his dynamism, for running the worst Civil Aviation Ministry of the decade, Mr. Praful Patel, the beedi king of Gondia. His father, the late lamented senior Patel shifted; you know, they discovered that labour is five rupees cheaper per quintal in Chhatisgarh, so the beedi...beedi enterprises of this place have all moved out of Vidarbha to Chhatisgarh and Jharkhand to save that five rupees a quintal or whatever obscene amount it is, what do we care!
That has left thousands of women destitute because their income, the household income came from that beedi. So now if you go to Gondia...I'm not talking about rural Gondia, I'm talking about Tiroda, Mofussil headquarters...tehsil headquarters, go to the station, it's crowded with women early in the morning going to rural districts of Nagpur to work for Rs. 25 a day, Rs. 30 a day as agricultural labourers; urban women who have never worked in the fields.
Revantabai Kamble, who told me, because they leave home at...by...you know, they spend four hours a day at home, they are travelling a thousand kilometres a week to earn Rs. 25 a day. Revantabai Kamble told me her youngest baby does not recognise her anymore because she has never been awake when she has come home for six months. The baby has stopped recognising the mother. I travelled that whole distance with these women two-three times.
And half their life is spent in that journey up and down. Apart from the eight hours, nine hours work in the fields. It's just stunning, there's so much drama in it, there's people moving like... there's a beehive of activity and there's incredible misery. There's Bazargaon where these women...these women in their train pass Bazargaon and see the fun and frolic and the eighteen water slides.
There's some very beautiful lines from that old Don McLean song called Homeless Brother which I think of when I look at this.
Down the bowels of a broken land where numbers live like men,
Where those who keep their senses have them taken back again,
Where the night stick cracks with crazy rage, where madmen don't pretend,
and wealth has no beginning and poverty no end,
and you who live on promises and prosper as you please,
the freedom of your riches of the diets of your disease.
There's incredible stuff happening out there if we want to report it, if we want to capture it, if we want to tell that story. The migrations are just one part of it. They're a very...they're just one part of it. But they're a huge part of it because at any given moment now, 70 million Indians are on the move all over this country.
In 1993, I took a bus with migrants from Mahabubnagar in Andhra Pradesh, Mahabubnagar to Bombay (Mumbai). It took 36 hours, there was only one bus a week. 2003 - I took the same bus, there were 47 buses a week. All of them travelling at three times capacity.
In the first bus, there were only adivasis, Lambada adivasis. In the 2003 bus, the people travelling on the bus included landed farmers with twelve acres, and the most poignant part, was sitting next to the landed farmer with twelve acres was his former bonded labourer. Both of them were going to Mumbai to seek their fortune.
That is the kind of pressure that we built up in the countryside; only this time, the obscene gaps that I'm talking about you can see where...not very far from here, not very far from here I mean, across the border in Kerala, Wayanad. Wayanad to Kutta in Karnataka...you know Kutta...in the Coorg district. Kutta in Karnataka, zero buses, state transport buses in 1995 - zero. State transport, KSRT buses in 1997, two. 2005 - twenty-four bus trips a day between Wayanad and Kutta with Keralites migrating to Karnataka to work for half the minimum wage because the agrarian crisis had destroyed work in Wayanad, Idukki and Palakkad.
You can see it in employment, you can see it in jobs, you can see it in...you can see it in weddings. Incidentally, I kept giving you all these lists where we are number fourth and number hundred and twenty eighth...there is one list where India is number one - costliest weddings in the world. Forbes.com
. The costliest wedding in the world was held by Mr. Lakshmi Mittal. That was in France. And you have to sympathize with the guy, it's difficult to get a wedding pandal in Paris in season time. So the poor guy just ended up hiring the Palace of Versailles and he booked on a Bollywood group to make a production number, so you can see 'Mittal: The Movie', shortly.
Now...but you look all around you, watch in the very cities where you are, are you, are you looking at the emergence of theme weddings? The first theme...the theme wedding is that...you know...around the Udaipur Fortress. Or the Taj Mahal, okay. Now if you are Bengali and given to high culture, it's the Sistine Chapel. Or if you are a Delhiite and very patriotic it's Kargil. Yeah. The Kargil Wedding, one-and-a-half acres of billowing white canvas with plastic dead soldiers on the top. Doubtless to impress on the young couple the seriousness of the holy vows of matrimony.
But the theme wedding started in Mumbai in 1989 with one of those billionaires associated with the super-speciality hospitals. Okay. And they planned for...they were very modest...they planned for about ten thousand guests but there were many gate-crashers because everybody wanted to be there at the biggest theme wedding. It was a start. It has since then been out-classed very thoroughly. And in any case that wedding collapsed after nine days because the bridegroom eloped with another man and...so that sort of ended rather regrettably but not from the point of view of the bridegroom, just from the families' point of view.
Now on the one hand are these weddings going on. Now you go across the border into Kerala and look at the church sisters in the Christian-dominated areas of Wayanad. Pulpally Panchayat has more churches than any other part of the world. 27 churches in one panchayat. God has many addresses in Wayanad. You look at the wedding registers. Weddings fell 50% in the agrarian crisis years. They're now going up again. But they fell 50% because people couldn't afford them.
Government of Maharashtra's official figure on Vidarbha, 3,00,000 are unable to get their daughters married. You have to be a true Indian to undersatand how explosive that situation is for poor families. So they're doing mass weddings. It's the only thing in Vidarbha that the government of Maharashtra has done that I support. They're conducting mass weddings, 600 weddings, 800 weddings.
At the same time that Vilasrao Deshmukh holds his son's wedding with 12,000 guests arranged in Turf club...with all the exotic cuisines of the world.
At the time when Mr. Mittal's wedding, Mr. Mittal's daughter's wedding was all the rage, I was at the hut of...I was in the house of a banjara tribal called Gosavi Pawar. The patriarch of the banjara clan of Yavatmal. They...now we're talking about a very small Pawar, he doesn't play cricket. Now this Pawar is the patriarch...and the banjaras gather from all around the country to hold the wedding because they are a nomadic people. They've come from Rajasthan, they've come from Karnataka, they come for the wedding.
They decide to have several weddings at the same time to save on costs. Now they had three weddings at the same time, and they couldn't...Mr. Pawar, Gosavi Pawar couldn't buy the saris required for the wedding. He was humiliated by the money-lender, by the merchant, by the shop owner. He committed suicide. He was already in trouble, in debt in the collapse of the cotton economy of Vidarbha.
I landed there sometime shortly after...to witness, the only time I hope in life I will ever see, a household which had three weddings and a funeral on the same day in the same twenty-four hours.
The worst part was when the wedding procession left the house, and met the funeral procession on the highway. Then those carrying Pawar's body ran into the fields to hide so that the ill-omen would not affect...
By the way, funerals are...if we're talking about weddings lets talk about funerals. Lets talk about Karnataka and funerals. The one funeral that I've attended forcibly, I've attended under duress, was that of Dhirubai Ambani in Bombay. I got stuck in the traffic, because it was a funeral procession with the largest number of cars and ministers and lal-battis.
And the newspapers described it so eloquently - Mr. Dhirubai Ambani atop a pyre of four hundred and fifty kilograms of pure sandalwood flown in specially by special planes from Karnataka - and I thought what a wonderful man, even in death he was doing some service to entrepreneurs like Veerapan. That's the only way that you can get four hundred and fifty kilograms of pure sandalwood.
Now, in this state, at that time, there was this...there was the funeral of Bandiappa, a dalit in Gulbarga, whose wife was stoned by the village because she tried to bury him in the regular graveyard of the village and he was a dalit. Then they dragged...they tied a rope around the body, dragged it out of the burial. Dragged it out of the ground. Then she tried burning the body but she didn't have enough money being an agricultural labourer. The body half-burnt. And I saw a body that had been half-buried and half-burnt.
This is the spectrum of wedding inequality in your society. You can see it in health, you can see it in education, you can see it in water, you can see it in the farm crisis which has now claimed 1,66,000 suicides according to the government of India. But you can also see it in a...one farmer commits suicide every thirty minutes in this country. That's confirmed by the agricultural minister in a start question in Rajya Sabha on November 30th.
But you can see inequality doesn't just breed obscenity, it breeds the mindset of inequality...it breeds that mindset.
So, there I am in Nagpur. Vidarbha, which has had the highest number of suicides in the damn world, of farmers. And a journalist...a journalist asked me the question, "Is it not true, sir, that all these people have died because of excessive alcohol consumption?"
To which I said, you know, well, you know, alcohol is a problem, it's not a problem only in farmers. Goddamnit! If alcohol consumption drove excessive suicide there would be no journalists left in the world. As I...as I told the meeting...as I told the meeting, I would be exempted being a teetotaller but I cannot guarantee the survival of many familiar faces in the audience.
80 lakh people, 8 million human beings have quit farming in between the 1991 census and 2001 census. When the 2011 census comes, you will find that that number will be double. I'm willing to bet on it. There are hell of a lot more people...because the crisis has really sharpened after 2001-2002.
80 lakh people. Number of cultivators in '91 census - 111 billion. 2001 census - 103. Where did they go? You're guess is as good as mine.
Now we're looking at the income of these people, the Goenkas, the Ambanis, the Mittals. Look at the income of the farming community. Let alone the agricultural labourer which is much lower than any of this. The average monthly per capita expenditure of a farm household in India, landlord and half-acre wala combined average, 503 rupees out of which 60% goes on food. 18% goes on fuel, clothing and footwear which leaves precious little for anything else. Which means they're spending Rs. 34 a month on health and Rs.17 a month on education; which means they're spending twice on health what they spend on education because health is the fastest-growing cost in your economy and the second fastest-growing cause of rural family debt.
Many of these people who kill themselves had a debt of 2 lakhs -3 lakhs because health, the health sector is the most rapacious sector outside the input sector in agriculture which is the most rapacious sector. And Mr. Chidambaram who speaks about meaningless growth - attacks those who talk about meaningless growth, closed down more banks than any other finance minister in history in rural India. 1503 bank branches in rural India shut down in 2006 alone, the last year for which full data are available, not provisional data.
That means in Mr. Chidambaram's watch, the friend of farmers, one rural bank branch shut down every six hours.
Arrey! The story will appear, so you will see all the details in that soon.
The...but...that's how many...what is that mindset of inequality? The mindset of inequality - you can see it in the media, and two other points that I have...
You can see it in the media in the kind of attention been given to some things and not to other things. One, where these people are called drunkards, that sort of stuff. The other, the highest number of suicides, the worst year for the farm...of the farm crisis in the country for any single state was Maharashtra in 2006. It was so bad that the Prime Minister of the country came down and declared a relief package, the Chief Minister came down and declared a relief package. All this was going on, what were the media doing? What were people like us doing? What were you and I doing? What were the journalists doing?
At the same time that all this drama was going on in Vidarbha, I counted how many journalists from outside Vidarbha, so national media in this country means any newspaper that publishes from two cities...okay...in English.
So...the...number of such journalists in Vidarbha for one week, for seven days, was six. And out of that two were there because they missed the flight, otherwise they wouldn't have been there for seven days. They missed a flight so they had to stay there for an additional day and a half.
Why do I choose seven days as the reference? Because one hour's flight away in Mumbai was Lakme India Fashion Week. 512 accredited journalists for the whole week plus hundred journalists a day on daily passes. Six and 600.
At the Lakme India Fashion Week, you saw cameramen fighting each other with tripods for the space because they had to get the right angle on the girls.
But there was something very striking about it, that it tells you about the...I don't know what it tells you...let me...let me tell you what it is for one to think. What were the girls displaying on the ramp that year? Cotton fabrics. They were displaying cotton. That was the year of cotton.
One hour's flight away, the men and women who grew the cotton were committing suicide at the rate of 8 per day. But that was not thought to be news. Those who grew the cotton were killing themselves at the rate of one every three damn hours.
(break in recording)
...have gone below the poverty line in the last decade because of health cost. Just health cost. It's destroyed them below that one dollar a day price. The health expenses.
Now we're coming to the end of your ordeal. The big, the big battles are going to be fought. The battles are already on, there are huge resistance (sic) to this going on if you wish to see. If you've noticed I haven't even once used the word globalisation, you should thank me for it. Okay. I'm saying, you know, you can call all these processes which I described, you can describe them as globalism, you can describe them as neo-liberal economics, all of it would be true, some of us with more limited vocabularies call it capitalism.
But...you know, but the big loop, the really big fight, the really big loot, has already begun. It's in the sphere of water privatisation. It's coming soon to a city near you. It's already begun in Bombay, it's already happened in Chandrapur. And water is very...it's happening in Bangalore, very rapidly with the aid of civil society groups. And it's happening very... and already Chandrapur and others show, the water has flown from the poor colonies to rich colonies very very swiftly on the basis of who can pay. Now the complexity even of conceptualising who owns water is... is an incredible nightmare. But we know - because the World Bank told us so, so we are doing it and we are privatising water. Understand how big water is, water is the last resource in the world not privatised.
Only 7% of the worlds water is privately controlled and that produces a market of over 200 billion dollars in revenue annually. So imagine what happens if you capture the other 93% - and that is the effort now being made.
Here is something about this globalisation, okay...let's accept it as a descriptive term, not as an analytical one. Here is something very interesting for you, the resistance, the drama, the fight, the theatre of war and conflict in this, of what we call global, the resistance will always be intensely local. It will be the privatisation of water in Delhi, in your colonies, the privatisation of electricity in your part of the country. The battles are going to be intensely local, which means that nobody has an excuse of staying indifferent. Nobody has an excuse for saying the battles are out in Doha, the battles are out in Seattle, and there are a hundred Seattles a day in the Third World. Okay...the battles are at your door. They are...how you react to privatisation of water. It's coming in a very very big way. Look, I went to Nallamada in Andhra Pradesh which is in Anantapur which is a dry arid zone, no good water, there is one village that has very sweet water.
2001 - I go there, they don't give me water and I feel they're either offended, I said something to offend them. They shuffle their feet when I ask for water, and then they say - don't drink our water, it's very...they showed me something which was full of grain sediments and they said, they looked at my face and said, 'but we have Coca-Cola.'
Matlab, paanch rupaiya ka chhota wala. Okay...the water resources of this country have been hawked to soft-drink companies, to water parks, to lifestyle-capes. You have to understand how large the water market is; in the United States last year, Americans spent more money on bottled water than they did on movie tickets and iPods.
Americans spent more money on bottled water, 15 billion dollars than...which is more than the amount spent on movie tickets, it's more than the amount spent on iPods...and this year its estimated to be 16 billion, that's how big that market is, that's how huge it is.
Maharashtra...in India, we have already started the process of privatising rivers. Sheonath river, 23km in...you know, was the first stretch of a river in this country to be officially privatised, leased out to private sector thing. I suppose the government of Madhya Pradesh got tired of sending people down the river and decided to sell the river.
So you have...you have Maharashtra which has created the most extensive laws for privatisation of rural irrigation. All these inequalities I have been talking about are global, they are not peculiar to India. United States is more unequal that it has ever been in any other time since 1929. The UK has got a commission looking into inequality, France has 15,000 senior citizens die in a heat wave in a single season, most of them pensioners, in 2003 and 2004.
Now, in this onslaught, the greatest loot and grab sortie in the world today went down from the hands of the poor to the hands of the rich, there is resistance all over the world. There are also benchmarks. Paul Krugman, the Princeton economist, gives you a benchmark of what is unsustainable democracy. He says when the wage differential between the chief executive officer and the poorest worker in the same enterprise is 1000 to 1, you cannot have democracy. It's no longer possible in that society.
So I got very excited and checked the differential between Indian CEOs and their workers. I was very pleased to find that it wasn't 1000 to 1, it was 22,000 to 1 in Bombay's factories. If you make that differential between the Ambanis or the top corporate chiefs and agricultural labourers, it is 1:30,000. If you make the differential between top corporate executives and women agricultural labourers is 1: 33,000 or 35,000. So what happens to your democracy?
There are two things that I leave you with...you know...how do we as people in the media, whether in print, whether in theatre, whether in newspapers, whether in channels, how do we respond to what's happening?
How do we... where do we begin? I told you that there are no excuses and yet there is a danger. It is very very easy to disconnect from the misery of the masses. There is a huge history of disconnect in this country. In 1876, Queen Victoria held her darbar - you remember the great 1876 darbar in India. She got tired of being called a Queen so she decided to rename herself as Empress and she required a fairly large piece of real estate; we now call it India.
So she made herself Empress of India and she had a darbar. The largest dinner party in history with 68,000 guests, essentially royalty. 1876 was one of the peak years of famine in British India. Between Mysore...between Mysore and Madras, one lakh people died of hunger and starvation in that one week of the darbar. The newspapers of that time covered the darbar, oh yes they covered the starvation also - they write about the starvation, they even write about the police and the barricades of the cities of Mysore and Madras clubbing peasants to death as they get into the city to eat some food but they make no connection between the darbar and the deaths. They don't make the connection.
That's exactly whats happening today. You are having coverage of the farm suicides, somewhat, you are having some reports on farm crisis but there is no connection made between that farm crisis, between the incredible misery of the many and the unbelievable prosperity of the few. No such connection is made, we need to make that connection. In Queen Victoria's...in Queen Victoria's time, that wedding...that dinner party of 68,000 guests, remember those were all Raja-Rani log, they came with their guys, their security men, and with their horse keeper, then the guy who cleaned the horse's shit, all that stuff. So there were 2000 cooks for the dinner party and the cooks had their own cooks to cook for the cooks. Okay.
There was a gigantic...yet you will find how little it is written about in history, you find it in Mike Davis's Late Victorian Holocaust, you will find it written in the memoirs of couple of British bureaucrats... okay...of the royal, this thing. But you will not find very much else in the history except the number of deaths. It's like it's almost a secret in history. Call it Victoria's original secret. Okay... and...it's so easy to disconnect.
Let me end with one example in much ancient, more ancient history which I think is the challenge for us, how do we make those connections. How do we capture it or how do we just turn away and walk away from it?
In ancient Rome, the biggest dinner party was held by Nero after the burning of Rome. Rome had burnt down and people blamed Nero for it, actually he wasn't to blame...you know he never...he didn't start the fire, he tried putting it out, he failed. He then needed to curry favour and awe in the masses. So he held this gigantic dinner party. You can read all about the dinner party and those scales and all those things online thanks to University of Michigan which has put the historian Tacitus, a historian and statesman of Nero's time, a minor official also.
Tacitus lived in Nero's time, despised Nero, but was fairly objective in his reporting of what happened. In that dinner party, anybody who was anybody was invited. The centurions, the generals, the conquering generals from Carthage, the philosophers, the poets, the gossip columnist of the time... you know, the scientists, the greatest minds of the Roman Empire were assembled in that party.
Okay... and they...and as Nero says...as Tacitus writes in his prose, the Emperor offered his own gardens for the spectacle. Since in the Emperor's own garden there was a gigantic statue of the Emperor, it made sense. The Emperor offered his own gardens for the spectacle. So the who's who of the Roman world, European world gathered for dinner and then they had a problem. The problem was how to create lighting for that dinner.
But the Romans were pretty efficient, you know, they made aquaducts to bring somebody else's water all the way from Paris to Rome. So they were technologically and engineering-wise extremely efficient. So they solved that problem of how to create lighting, there was no Enron in those days. They did it themselves. As Tacitus puts it, they brought forth prisoners from the cells and burnt them at stake. Thereby creating the nightly illumination.
Now for me as...this is not such a great...this is not such a great incident of cruelty in annals of cruelty. We have done much greater in the 20th century, we are doing it now in Iraq and all sorts of things. Much worse than that has happened, the issue was never what Nero did, Nero was insane... I love that, Nero was insane, all the Roman emperors were wise and just who routinely fed thousands of human beings to the animals in the circus. They were wise and just and broke the laws of western civilisation, contradiction in terms but anyway.
The... so the issue was not Nero, Nero was the little leaguer in cruelty, the issue was who were Nero's guests? The finest minds, the philosophers, the poets, the singers, the writers, the statesman, the politicians were there at the dinner, not one spoke up against the burning of human beings to provide nightly illumination. There is no record that anyone ever spoke up.
Okay...when I entered the Nehru University in 1977 and in 1978 read Tacitus and met Praveen Purkha...and got expelled. In '77-78...huh? (...was that as a result of meeting Praveen, someone asks) ... huh... as a result of meeting Praveen Purkha, absolutely. Yeah, well anyway... in 1977-78, from then for the next 20 odd years it troubled me when I read that. For me the issue always was who were Nero's guests?
What kind of mindset did it require to quaff another goblet of wine or toss another fig into your mouth as another human being went up the flames? When I started covering the agrarian crisis in 2001 and between then and now I have my answer on who Nero's guests were.
It's the same mindset, same mindset that allows us to live with another farm household going bankrupt, another landless labourer killing himself, another farmer taking his life, another human family going up in smoke. It's very easy now to understand who were Nero's guests.
I leave you with this. We can talk about these processes, we can name them in any way we like but the question is what are we going to do about them? How do we engage with them?, how do we make those connections adhere to our audience? How do we make those connection visible and understandable to our audiences?
I think we can agree on one thing, whatever our differences, whatever are views, how ever we approach things, whatever else we will be and do we will not be Nero's guests. Thank you.