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Independence and the Marginalised

Independence and the Marginalised

The first revolt against the East India Company was by the Kol tribe in present day Jharkhand. The Adivasis or first people of the Indian peninsula understood the implications of Colonialism even before the ancestors of our today’s freedom fighters did.The contributions of the Adivasis and the Dalits to the freedom struggle has never been given due place in Indian National History writings. Even though according to Government figures 7% of our population is Indigenous or Adivasi and if we add to this the non Scheduled Tribes and the Dalits the percentage would go much higher they have been the victims of this present ‘Development’ paradigm. 50 million people mainly Adivasi and Dalits have been evicted and dispossessed (mildly called displacement) to construct the Mega Development Projects known as the Temples of India. This was when the State was supposed to be a Welfare and a caring one.

Today in the season of Market Economics when the State is gradually becoming a protectorate of the Corporate world the situation will grow acute. Take for example the onslaught on the lower ladder of the working class. It is a well known fact that most of the ‘downsizing’ or ‘flab shedding’ of the workforce has affected the Adivasis, Dalits and Women. In the mining sector of Jharkhand both Public and Private sector the axe of VRS (Voluntary Retirement Scheme) has fallen on this group of people more than any one else and this is not just coincidental.

The present day phenomenon of Capitalism is interesting. For the creation and expropriation of surplus the State and National boundaries were built. Bourgeois Democracy was crafted for this purpose. The sacrosanct State was one and above all. Its institutions, like the Judiciary was fairly independent (despite Narmada Judgment). Besides, despite the vested interest of Class in these creations, they were institutions where ‘people’ were central.

Market Economics is the same Capitalist Juggernaut that can create an instrument and then move over to crush it. It preaches, “market equilibrium” as if like gravity is another law of nature. Today these institutions are run at the behest of the Corporate world. The Constitution 5th Schedule, which the framers of our Constitution created to protect the Adivasis in the Schedule areas, is likely to be amended. The Orissa Government has passed an order to supervise and audit all NGO’s. A move considered especially for those people’s movements fighting MNC’S that have flooded the State. Koraput District one of the poorest in the State has over 60 MNC’s operating, and stiff resistance to Bauxite mining by foreign companies is going on. From people as central we have moved to profit and speedy surplus as central.

What does all this mean? Who will pay this price? If speedy surplus and profit have to be enhanced who will create it? The Working class for sure! Downsized, de-organised, under paid, casualised they will have to deliver. Some feel that technology has replaced labour. If this were true then the mineral and manufacturing industry would not shift to Third World countries. And who make up these workers? The marginalised Adivasi, Dalits who have been the biggest contribution to the countries economic growth rate will have to perform a double task of increasing this growth with much less remunerations, or just disappear.

Every one is talking about upper mobility. How many are going downwards? Executives in companies are now monthly earning six figure salaries, some are getting ‘milk allowance’ for their children to beat the Income Tax laws, while in the same company there are casual or piece rated workers working for far less than the minimum wage. This is precisely the economics that lead to higher profit margins. Cut in the labour bill, cut in the legally binding benefits like provident fund, housing, medical etc. If you understand the logic you will understand from where this prosperity is piped.

What are the affects? Hemoglobin counts in the poor have gone so much down that in many paces of Jharkhand and Orissa women do not menstruate after 35. Calorie intake has gone so down that the immunity system within the body of these marginalised have stopped working. Disease has set in. No functioning public health institutions. Talk about the threat of AIDS and HIV we have already acquired the affect. Malthusian economics re-christened!

All this above is not dangerous is we listen to Awtar Singh Pash the slain poet of Punjab who wrote, “…………to lose one’s dream is most dangerous”. I can assure you that the Adivasis and Dalits of Jharkhand have not.

(The above article was published in the ZEE TV Web Magazine)

Xavier Dias

August 13, 2001