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GDP: Growth or Fudge?

GDP: Growth or Fudge?

Mohan Guruswamy

Mohan Guruswamy is Chairman and founder of Centre for Policy Alternatives, New Delhi, India. He has over three decades of experience in government, industry and academia. He can be contacted at mohanguru[at]

The government has now made it known that the GDP has grown from 7.2% in the December 2015 quarter to 7.9% in the March 2016 quarter. This should be a reason for much celebration, but the popular mood seems unmoved. For the statistical picture presented doesn’t seem to dovetail with the ground truth.

Lets take a few important ground truths. Gross fixed capital formation (GFCF), which is the net increase in physical assets within a period, or very simply investment, is actually decreasing. It has been declining steadily since Q2 when it was 32.9% of GDP, to 29.9% in Q2 and 29.4% in Q4. In the data released recently GFCF in Q4 is down by Rs.17,197 crores or contracted by 1.9%. Moreover government expenditure, while having increased by Rs.6482 crores, has actually declined in comparison with Q4 in 2015 by about Rs. 4400 crores. So what is driving growth?  During the UPA period we seemed to have had  jobless growth. Are we now seeing investment less growth?

Another worrying ground truth is the widening discrepancies between sectoral growths and GDP growth. Industry growth fell from 8.6% in Q3 to 7.9% in Q4, while the Services sector slowed from 9.1% in Q3 to 8.7% in Q4. Only Agriculture has reversed to trend from minus 1% in Q3 to 2.3% in Q4, after having tumbled down from 2% in Q2.

Vizag Port/file photo: wiki

Vizag Port/file photo: wiki

During the past two years vast parts of India has been gripped by a severe drought. Food grains production has remained largely dormant. It fell from 265.57 million tons in 2013-14 to 257.07 million tons in 2014-15. It is expected to be 253.17 million tons in 2015-16. There are visible signs of widespread distress in rural areas; the most visible manifestation is the rural migration to the cities in search of jobs.

Yet the agriculture data suggests an optimism that flies against the reality. Clearly the quality of this data seems questionable, particularly since it is the one that eminently suits a practice that Chinese economists quaintly term as “adding water to the milk”, as it is largely dependent on subjective projections and assessments.

Two things standout in the latest set of Q4 data released. Private final consumption expenditure (PFCE) has shown a smart spurt from Rs.71.93 lakh crores in 2014-15  to Rs.80.76 lakh crores in 2015-16. A good part of this increase must be attributed to the huge jump in government wages and pensions (including OROP) by over Rs.110,000 crores last year alone. No wonder sales of bellwether industries like private and commercial vehicles and household appliances have shown an uptick.

Then there is another indicator that is worrisome. Credit growth has declined from 9.1%  to 8.4% in the last year due to a slump in industrial credit demand. This suggests that while some sectors are clearly back on the growth path, it also suggests that this growth is being driven by segments of the population whose incomes have grown sharply in recent times. Must we thank the Seventh Pay Commission and OROP for this?

There is something else that is very worrisome. This is the sharp increase in a budgetary item called “discrepancies” These were Rs.143,000 crores in Q4 2016. While they were Rs.29,933 crores in Q4 2015 or a difference of over Rs.113,000 crores. This means the growth in “discrepancies” was very slightly less than the Q4 growth of Rs.127,000 crores in PFCE or consumption. In other words “discrepancies” contributed almost 50% of GDP growth. This is like the “miscellaneous” item in business accounting. Every year there is a provision for it, but when “miscellaneous” rises to many times over the usually expected, auditors have to take notice. On an annualized basis this shaves off almost 1%  off GDP growth, making the expected annual GDP growth 6.9% instead of the 7.9%, which Arun Jaitely is prattling about.

Now a little explanation seems to be in order. Gross domestic product (GDP) measures output as the sum of final expenditures—consumer spending, private investment, net exports, and government consumption and investment. Gross domestic income (GDI) measures output as the sum of the costs incurred and the incomes earned in the production of GDP.

In theory, GDP should equal GDI; in reality, they are different because their components are estimated using mostly different and less-than-perfect data sources. In national income accounting, the difference between GDP and GDI is called the “statistical discrepancy”; and it is the factor ‘x’ which balances the GDP=GDI equation. Economists also know this item as the official fudge factor. Since it’s a contrivance to balance GDP and GDI, the temptation to inflate it is real, particularly when you are desperate to show performance?

Now consider this too. In February 2015, the government gave itself a little bonus by tweaking the methodology of computing GDP to put economic growth at a higher trajectory by 2.2%. Too bad it was not announced by the Manmohan Singh government one year earlier because then the growth in its last year would have been a good-looking 6.9% instead of the dismal 4.7% which Narendra Modi pilloried. Take out this bonus and take out “discrepancies”, we take out a huge 3.2% from the 7.9% GDP growth being tom-tomed.  This suggests that GDP growth is actually around 4.7%.

But there are encouraging signs too. Latest corporate results show that profits are rising. The FE’s study of about 1200 companies shows that Q4 profits rose by almost 42%, while sales rose only by 4.20%. A CRISIL study for FY16  tracking results of 642 companies representing almost 72% of the NSE’s market capitalization, shows profits rose by 16.7% to Rs.178,833 crores, while revenues rose only 2.5% to Rs.22,98,030 crores. Clearly, the prospects for investment are now brighter as Q4 results are heartening. But we must wait a bit for those results to be seen.

With Q4 corporate profits showing a smart upturn and the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) categorically pronouncing “zero chance of deficient rains”, we have good reason to be optimistic about. Hopefully this will be the season of inflection for the Indian economy? In usual times the IMD’s predictions have as much credibility as the neighborhood astrologer. But we know from the past that after two bad years the probability of a good monsoon becomes very high. Governments come and go, but it is the monsoons that still determine economic outcomes.

Economies don’t shift trajectories easily and quickly. India has shown the ability to be on a high trajectory before. The entire UPA 1&2 period was a period of unprecedented growth, averaging 7.8%. But UPA 1&2 also sowed the seeds for our present slowdown by spending increasingly more on subsidies, mostly unmerited, rather than on capital expenditure. The Modi government needs to urgently reverse this. But it has studiously shirked from this, as philosophically the RSS too shares much of the misguided populism that emphasizes indulging sundry citizen appetites rather than on investing in growth and the future. If subsidies (merited) were mostly for education and health, that too would have left better placed us for a  faster growth.

Higher growth rates will happen, but for that the government must do the right things first. That will come by making investments in human capital and in productive job creation. Since capital is always the constraint, it must be judiciously used. Fudging data will only create an interim illusion of well-being. Since reality catches up sooner or later, it is better to grapple with it now and rely on the illusion in 2019.


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SREEDEEP is an independent photographer & Fellow at the Centre for Public Affairs and Critical Theory, Shiv Nadar University.

“Praatohkrityo” is a dance-theatre production that originates from the urban rituals lying beneath the surface of everyday life. The pre-designed structure of repeated actions, movements, behaviour, feelings, pushes us to look for newer signs, codes, and movements. These codes of movement have been determined by different overlapping systems of oppression such as patriarchy, fundamentalism, the State etc. It takes cue from urban ritual because our movements essentially emerge from life we live and that is our point of departure of this dance theatre. The work raises questions regarding the perfect body type expected of a dancer and dance belonging only to traditionally schooled dancers.

Performed in Kamani Audi, New Delhi on April 21, 2016

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Dancers/ Performers

1. Shruti Ghosh

2. Debarati Sarkar

3. Satakshi Nandy

4. Sreejita Mitra

5. Priya Saha Roy

6. Koustabh Chakrabarty

Musicians / Percussionists

1. Arkapravo Das

2. Sourav Chatterjee

3. Dwaipayan Saha

4. Ritoban Das

5. Pratap Dalui

6. Debjit Mahalanobis

7. Indradeep Sarkar

Director/ Designers/ Management

1. Joyraj Bhattacharjee  (Director/ Choreographer)

2. Sumit Chakraborty (Light Designer/ Operator)

3. Khokon Chandra (Sound Engineer)

4. Indranath Pal (Stage Manager Set and Properties)

5. Aditya Shaw Sonar (Stage Manager Light and Sound)

6. Aritry Das (Production Manager)

7. Daminee Basu (Executive Producer)

All are from Kolkata, India.

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The hatred of journalism!

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) released today its 2018 World Press Freedom Index, which evaluates the level of press freedom in 180 countries. This year’s map reflects the dramatic growing animosity towards journalists.


Hostility towards the media from political leaders is no longer limited to authoritarian countries such as Turkey (down two at 157th) and Egypt (161st). The hatred of journalism is now a dangerous threat to democracies as well.

More and more democratically-elected heads of state are increasing their verbal and physical violence against the press. This is the case in particular in the United States (45th, -2), the Czech Republic (34th, -11), Slovakia (27th, -10) or in Malta (65th, -18) where the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered in the explosion of her car, simply for doing her job.

Faced with the trivialization and brutality of these attacks, it is urgent to take action to defend and preserve the freedom of information in the world.


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India’s Regional Policy: Still Meddle and Muddle

Mohan Guruswamy is Chairman and founder of Centre for Policy Alternatives, New Delhi, India. He has over three decades of experience in government, industry and academia. He can be contacted at mohanguru[at]


Mohan Guruswamy

Much as we would like to exalt Jawaharlal Nehru as the founder of modern India’s foreign policy, like all other major countries our policy too derives its basis from one man, France’s Cardinal Richelieu who enshrined national interest as the only guiding principle to conduct affairs with other nations. The French have an elegant phrase for it. Raison d’état. Richelieu rejected the notion that policy should be based on values and sentimental considerations. He believed, as we all still do, that the state has permanent interests, the singular pursuit of which requires much intellectual and moral flexibility. He believed that the only challenge facing a policymaker is to decide what the national interest was and what it required? It was this singular pursuit that had Catholic France intervening in the Thirty Years War (1618-48) on the Protestant side to block the increasing power of the Pope. At Richelieu’s prompting, the philosopher, Jean de Silhon, defined the concept of reason of state as “a mean between what conscience permits and affairs require.”

How we see our national interest depends on how we see ourselves. Therein lies the rub. The rump Republic of India sees itself as the successor to the British Raj, which left these shores in 1947. For the two centuries that Britain was the paramount power in India, India’s national interests were synonymous with Britain’s. The paramount powers paramount interest, as far as India was concerned, was to keep the goose that laid the golden egg healthy and well. Lord Curzon of Kedleston who was Viceroy of India  (1898-1905) and later Britain’s Foreign Secretary (1919-24) is still regarded by many of our foreign policy elite as the man who outlined India’s grand strategic vision and its focus on fixing borders. It is argued by these that while the political context might have changed, geography has not. Physical geography may have not, but political geography has changed very much. Afghanistan is no longer the glacis on which the war for India will be fought. Neither are Tibet and Xinjiang buffers against northern threats. The threats are at the doorsteps now.

In the immediate period after 1947, India’s foreign policy was still conducted by the western educated elite who had imbibed their lessons in Cambridge and Oxford and believed they were legatees of the white man’s burden, including the defence of India. India’s immediate neighbors have for their own reasons still largely see India’s conduct towards them as the continuation of the British legacy. It didn’t help very much when the Oxbridge elite were followed by the St. Stephens elite who were also cast in about the same laat sahib mold.


Consequently, our diplomats have tended to be overbearing with the smaller non-hostile neighbors, often treating them like errant schoolboys. This is the constant lament heard in the neighborhood, whether it is in Colombo or Kathmandu. Increasingly such voices are heard in Thimpu as well. With Bangladesh too, we have rapidly descended from being the liberator to neighborhood bully. The dominant Indian discourse of “the demographic aggression” by Bangla migrants has created a certain unhelpful mentality in both countries. What after all must a nation think when its larger neighbor thinks of it as an unending source of human vermin?

It is interesting that we don’t nurture a similar attitude towards Nepal, whose unabated and facilitated migration in India possibly exceeds that from Bangladesh. But there is a difference. The Bangla migrant is usually a Muslim while the Nepali migrant is always a Hindu. Unfortunately, many of our leaders still see Muslims as invaders, while not seeing India as a nation of immigrants and forgetting that the vast majority of South Asia’s Muslims are converts who sought escape from the inequities of the Hindu order.

To add to our woes, we still seem to be wearing those Curzonian blinkers that have bequeathed us the Great Game mentality with its focus on highways, railroads and sea-lanes and ports as military threats. South Block still doesn’t seem to have realized that modern military means and technology have made the theories of Mahan and Mackinder largely irrelevant. It is this infantilism that makes us see every Chinese investment in the cash-starved region as a threat to India’s hegemony when even our worst fears about Hambantota or Gwadar actually make them juicy and easy targets.

While excoriating Foreign Secretary Earl Russell in the House of Lords on February 4, 1864, Edward Stanley, Earl of Derby said: “The foreign policy of the Earl may be summed up in two short homely but expressive words – meddle and muddle.” But we are now no longer prepared to behave like Curzon either. The tension between that Curzonian tendency to meddle and the passive spirit of Nehru to muddle still persists. We see this manifested in New Delhi’s policy responses to the current situations in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh or Maldives -with more muddle than meddle. The muddle in South Block is not due to the limited number of options. There is no L’embarrass des richesses, but a poverty of clarity.


The most significant development of this century so far has been the rise of China as an economic powerhouse with its military not lagging far behind. Speaking to Singapore’s foreign minister Geo Yeo in July 2010, the then Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi responding to criticism about China’s assertiveness just said: “China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that’s just a fact.” Indeed it is, and at this point in time, even India is much too small to be able to compete with it in its spree of chequebook diplomacy. Most of India’s regional neighbors are poor countries and if their adversity forces them not to look at Chinese gift horses in the teeth, then we must understand it. In other circumstances, we too might have done so too?

But our inherited Curzonian vision and now a little bit of American induced notion of containment is pushing India into a confrontationist posture with China. India will do well to remind itself that of the Quad that is being increasingly talked about, only India has a long and contentious land border with China. The other three Quad players are hooked up to China’s growth engine and are also most responsible for its rise – America with its trade profligacy, and Japan with its massive investments and transfer of technology. India must be wary of becoming their cats’ paw.

Delivering the valedictory to a recently concluded conference of South Asian scholars at the UNESCO Madanjeet Singh Institute of South Asian Regional Cooperation & Coordination, Pondicherry University, my advice to the fellow South Asians was that they would do well to take in all the Chinese financial assistance forthcoming and not be too worried about it. I recalled the dictum enunciated by Walter Wriston, the legendary Citibank Chairman who told my class at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, “countries don’t go under, they just roll over”. Indian corporations are experts at rolling over debts and that if the neighbors should need advice on how to do it they could just knock on our doors. Hence they should remember this song from the 1970 Manoj Kumar movie, Purab aur Paschim:

Koee jab tumhaaraa hriday tod de,
Tadapataa huaa jab koee chhod de,
Tab tum mere paas aanaa priye,
Meraa dar khulaa hai,

khulaa hee rahegaa, tumhaare liye.


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Padmaavat and the other side of history

Abrar Ahmed Khan is a Bangalore-based commentator. He can be reached at abrarkhan351[at]gmail[dot]com.


Abrar A Khan



Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat is minting moolah. It’s got what cinema aficionados expected from it after all—vibrant visuals, OMG-inducing sets, Ranveer and Deepika together (well, not quite, but still), clever use of VFX, impressive screenplay, a “paisa-vasool” feeling at the end of the day…Bhansali played to his strengths yet again.

However, the movie, which is gaining a rapid reputation as being the veteran director’s “masterpiece”, hasn’t been received well by many. While members of the Karni Sena ran amok before the movie’s release, the Muslim community had also seen the writing on the wall, albeit in silence. The trailers did give a sense of what was coming—another of those attempts to use history (although doubts remain over Padmaavat being a slice of history at all) and demonise the Muslim identity. A disclaimer at the beginning about no intention of harming any community notwithstanding, Bhansali’s portrayal of Alauddin Khilji in this fictional potboiler does appear to reinforce a few dogmas about Muslims that members of the Sangh Parivar would have us believe—“foreign invaders”? Check. Barbaric? Check. Deceivers? Check. Oppressors of women? Check. Merciless meat eaters? Check. Bhansali did tick almost all of the boxes there.

Many have opined that Muslims have a right to feel offended by what Padmaavat does to them in the current socio-cultural scenario in India. The movie appears to be another of those attempts to cash in on things that “sell” these days (“love jihad”, Hindu nationalism, and other issues that a section of the media keeps harping on claiming that those are what helps it get the number of eyeballs it needs).


The issue isn’t with Bhansali taking creative liberty. The issue’s got to do with the larger socio-political context of “othering” Muslims and relegating the Muslim identity in India. The Sangh Parivar does not shy away from admitting that it wants to rewrite Indian history and hence the attempts to saffronise school textbooks and play politics over Indian history. At times, you wonder if the days of giving cultures and people their due are behind us. When someone like Mughal emperor Akbar, a man who is known to have had immense respect for the Hindu culture and whose religious and administrative policies attracted praise from historians generation after generation, does not survive the bile attack from Yogi Adityanath, you know that all’s not well. Somewhere in this whole Hindu nationalism narrative, a subtle message of there being a problem with all things Muslim is being disseminated and the Muslim identity is being singled out.

A lot of the developments in the recent past appear to be telling us that a section of the media and entertainment industry is buying this vitriolic “nationalist” narrative. Bhansali’s previous movie “Bajirao Mastani” also appeared to ride the Hindu nationalism wave with the protagonist striving to oust the Mughals and establish a Hindu Rashtra. Akshay Kumar has managed to build himself a reputation for being a “nationalist” actor and the national award that the Modi government conferred on him did not actually come as a surprise. For most news channels, Pakistan bashing, triple talaq, and Tipu Sultan are more important than farmer suicides and the impact of GST and demonetisation on the common man. See things in the larger context and you can connect the dots. With “Padmaavat”, Bhansali appears to have jumped on the bandwagon and dished out a movie tailor-made for the reinforcement of the Sangh Parivar’s propaganda of “foreign” powers wreaking havoc in India and their exploitation of the “locals”.

The other side

It can be safely deduced that this whole hullaballoo about foreign invasions and attacks on Hindus and the Hindu culture has hypocrisy written all over it. For most people, especially those in the Sangh Parivar, history begins and ends with the advent of Muslims in India. What hardly ever comes to light is that all was not hunky-dory in pre-Muslim India. For instance, several tales lay buried in the saga of the growth (and decline) of Buddhism and Jainism in India, the very place they originated from (yes, long before “foreign” powers had set foot on Indian soil). Historians cite references of religious violence being carried out against Buddhists and Jains by Hindu rulers and how Buddhist and Jain places of worship were either destroyed or replaced with Hindu temples. There have been conflicts between Shaivite and Vaishnavite kings and places of worship have been attacked, desecrated and looted. A reading of Dr BR Ambedkar’s works on India’s past reveals several of the wrongs that were committed which not many would dare talk about in today’s times.

Padmaavat itself has some moments that make you go “aha!”. Deepika Padukone is a Buddhist to begin with (a Buddhist who hunts, wow!). A Hindu king marries her and in no time, she knows all about Rajput and Hindu pride and is a proud Rajput woman (“love jihad” anyone?). “Jauhar” (or Sati as we know it) is the ultimate victory of good over evil (whatever happened to triple talaq and women’s liberation).

True, the celluloid version of Padmaavat is Bhansali’s fictional ode to Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s epic poem. The plot makes for great drama and on-screen representation. But there’s enough food for thought for Bhansali to dramatise Chinese traveler Huen Tsang’s description of a Hindu queen’s influence on her husband who killed thousands of Buddhists in Madurai. There’s ample scope for drama in Kalhana’s Rajatarangini, which talks about the treacherous killing of Graha Varman Maukhari by Sasanka (who is notoriously known for destroying several stupas and uprooting the sacred Bodhi tree at Gaya). Will Bhansali, a period film expert, make movies on these themes? Probably not. The singling out of the Muslim identity and attempts to leave it battered are not likely to come down anytime soon. Don’t be surprised if Bhansali jumps on the bandwagon yet again.

As I write this, Padmaavat has raked in more than Rs. 500 crores at the box office and is not off the screens yet. It pays to join the anti-Muslim rhetoric in these “nationalistic” times after all (ka-ching!).


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Budget 2018: More Sleight of Hand

Mohan Guruswamy is Chairman and founder of Centre for Policy Alternatives, New Delhi, India. He has over three decades of experience in government, industry and academia. He can be contacted at mohanguru[at]


Mohan Guruswamy


The Union Budget 2018 was presented at a time when the Indian economy is facing the worst slowdown in at least half a decade (CSO). While macroeconomic shocks such as demonetization and the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST) are likely to have contributed to the slowdown, the root of the slowdown lies in the decline of investments in the country. The slowdown in investments has led to all round and widespread gloom and distress. The big question about this budget then was to see how it addresses issues arising out of this such a job contraction in the informal sector, a slowdown of manufacturing, increasing farmer, and lower-middle-class distress? 

In a budget, you take from some and give to others. So who gives and who takes is where we should be looking. The challenge of budget making is to take enough from the nearly 15% of the population or about 200 million making up 40 million families liable for direct taxes, without dissatisfying them too much. This should provide enough to blunt the edge of popular anger of the 60% who make little more than subsistence in terms of income. This covers about 700-750 million population or 150 families. It is these people have largely been bypassed by the huge growth gains made since 1998. That means the two NDA and two UPA terms.

Added to this the government has to promise to deliver all this with a most expensive public administration (10.4% of GDP), and an almost defunct delivery system. A majority of government employees – over 25 million – are the bedrock of the direct taxes paying cohort. So in effect, a major part of the direct taxes are realized by the government from those who work in it. In either case, we the people pay for them.

So you need to get much from others. This is where indirect taxes come in. Indirect taxes are derived from a far bigger base of population. For instance, even the lowest sections will buy match-boxes from which taxes are derived. As you go up the chain of manufactured goods the incidence of indirect taxes increase. This is where you run up against powerful lobbies. For instance, the polyester yarn manufacturers will look at askance at too many reliefs and benefits given to the cotton textiles sector. Balancing the budget is the easier part. Balancing aspirations is next to impossible.


FinanceMinister Arun Jaitley (image from his FB page)


Thus, budgets haven’t really changed over the decades. An analysis of budget break-ups since 1999 shows that proportions of most heads just do not change, as GDP growth and hence tax revenues usually stay nearer where they have been before. Discretionary revenue expenditure can only go up when GDP growth really perks up as we saw between 2009-2012. From then it has been downhill in terms of growth.

Against this backdrop how are Modi and Jaitely faring? I must say quite heroically. Like boys on the burning deck. They are just distracting us with promises and hoping to stave off the inevitable – popular discontent. Take for instance the much-hyped National Health Protection scheme to cover 500 million people or 100 million families with the medical cover of up to Rs.5 lakhs. But what is the outlay for this? It is a measly Rs.30, 000 crores translating into a premium of about Rs.3000 per beneficiary family, whereas the prevailing premiums are at about Rs.4400 a year. Even here the government is being disingenuous. If this were in addition to what is allocated to the Rs.1.38 lakh crores to health, which was Rs.1.22 lakh crores in the previous year, there would be some little cause to cheer. No, instead it comes from the health budget, which in effect means that this year less money is being spent on public healthcare. So if government hospitals and clinics have fewer doctors and lesser medicines be happy with your health insurance and go to a private nursing home or corporate hospital and see how soon the cover evaporates. In effect, this is a direct benefit to private healthcare providers and insurance companies who will get a Rs.30,000 crores windfall.

A similar sleight of hand is indulged in increasing the standard deduction to Rs.40, 000 for salaried persons. The outlay for this is Rs.8000 crores. But the education cess goes up by 1%, which means an outgo of Rs.11, 000 crores. So who is out of pocket by Rs.3000 crores?

The government has announced that it will fund 8 crores new stove and cylinder on getting a gas connection. This is an existing scheme. But reports from gas agency dealers in several parts of the country, especially those in rural areas, have reported that an extremely low number of Ujjawala beneficiaries are returning for refills of their cylinders. Thus, the number of LPG connections may be rising rapidly, but LPG usage is not. The catch is that below poverty line families who exist on less than Rs 32 a day in rural areas and Rs 47 a day in urban areas is simply too poor afford the market rate of LPG.

There was much expectation of an agriculture-oriented budget. Nothing of that sort has been announced to suggest that. Institutional credit to the agriculture sector has gone up to Rs.11 lakh crores when it was Rs.10 lakh crores last year.

The Finance Minister spoke about “revitalizing Infrastructure and Systems in Education by 2022. Technology to be the biggest driver in improving quality of education. To increase digital intensity in education, it will move an infrastructure from the blackboard to digital board. By 2022, every block with more than 50 percent ST population will have Eklavya schools at par with Navodaya Vidyalayas”. Fine, but show me the money? He is clearly a man for the big picture who doesn’t get into such specifics.

Am I unhappy about the budget? Why should I be? The limit for senior citizens for investment in interest-bearing LIC schemes doubled to from Rs.7.5 lakhs Rs 15 lakhs.  But as Claude Pepper said: “ at my age, I don’t even buy green bananas!”


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Padmavat: An Engaging Tale

Dr Gopa Nayak is a writer and an academician. She has a DPhil from the University of Oxford and her first Master’s degree is in Sociology from Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi. She writes in both Odia and English and her poems have been included in anthologies of a poetry of women. She can be contacted at gopanayak[at]

The main engagement over this long weekend for me and many was, of course, Padmavat apart from the Republic Day Parade. The movie for me was significant as the portrayal of an event in history when Indian women threw themselves to the burning pyre to save their honour against a foreign invader. It reminded me of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre where countless Indians were gunned down in one evening with no way to escape. The scenes of Padmavat brought back similar images where red saree clad proud Rajput women had nowhere to escape but to the burning pyre. The fire appeared as a lesser enemy compared to the foreign ruler. At least the fire devoured their mortal being with dignity. That movie has portrayed the mass massacre of Indian women by a single foreign invader in the most dignified manner and it should be acclaimed for that.



This movie has brought Rajput women’s tale of gallantry to the consciousness of Indian psyche. And if we flip the coin the atrocities that have been meted out to the bold and beautiful princess and the women in the palace who lost their lives in a single incident has been most gracefully presented. With my academically wired perception, I found feminism highlighted throughout the movie although it may not be the main theme running through the movie. A princess as a warrior and a beloved, a wife who could defy the orders of her ruler husband and put her wit to work- were some examples of Indian feminism at its best. It is, of course, another thing that many people did not find it interesting as there was no novelty in the portrayal. However, does it mean that what has been there should not be cherished?

This movie if not anything else is an eye-opener to the young Indians who are not aware of the historical nuances of foreign invasion on the plight of Indian women. Invasion of this glorious country by foreigners with shrewd strategies and brutal power led women took up the cudgel of saving their own dignity. In the movie, this bold and intelligent streak in Padmavat’s character is highlighted when she tried both wit and valour to defeat the enemy. However, in the end, she had to burn herself to escape atrocities.

Another thing that struck a chord with me was the death of Padmavat’s husband the brave Rajput ruler who would not compromise his values at any cost. Had he not been foolish enough to go and fight the battle alone he would not have been killed. These historical truths make you wonder if it is worth hanging onto one’s old-fashioned values of adhering to principles of trust and faith.

Khilji’s character acted out by Ranbeer Singh could get him accolades for the role as he has managed to play out the most heinous acts of masculine atrocity on screen perfectly. However, if we look around Indian youths act out the same strategy as Khilji even today. Rape a woman and kill her just like Khilji did on the eve of his wedding. The girl with whom he had sex and the witness of the act were both murdered mercilessly without a second thought. Could the stronger gender, if they believe to be so, take a message from this movie that what Khilji did was wrong. Could the old values of respecting women come back to the Indian consciousness again after watching the movie?

The movie with all the controversies has but asserted one truth that Indian women like women all over the world have been victims and men with lust had been responsible for their suffering. A movie as glamorous as Padmavat has painted that picture effectively and perhaps could go a long way in changing the world for women in a subtle way.   




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The Demand for Gondwana: India’s Adivasi Homeland

Mohan Guruswamy is Chairman and founder of Centre for Policy Alternatives, New Delhi, India. He has over three decades of experience in government, industry and academia. He can be contacted at mohanguru[at]


Mohan Guruswamy

The scion of the former Gond kings of Chandagarh or Chandrapur now in Maharashtra, Birshah Atram was recently visiting the Gond homelands in the former composite Adilabad district to meet his kinsmen in the various garhi’s in the region. Birshah Atram is descended from a line that was established in Chandrapur in the 13th century by Kandakya Balal Sah. The Gond kings ruled till 1751 when the British annexed it after the Raja of Nagpur died childless. Birshah who holds two PhD’s in English and Ancient Indian History has for long been seeking a solution to the vexed Adivasi problem, that has also morphed into the Telugu led Naxalite rebellion that enables the Central and State governments to turn it into a law and order issue, by highlighting the grievances of the Adivasi people.

He believes that the Central Government needs to implement the constitutional provisions and promises made in the Constituent Assembly by recognizing Gondi language and self-rule for the Gond people by carving out a Gondwana state of the Gond homelands in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.


Women in a tribal (Gond adivasi) village, Umaria district, India. Picture taken during a meeting organised by Ekta Parishad about land rights, the main grievance of the Adivasi people. © Yann Forget / Wikimedia Commons

There is a vast and mostly forested region spanning almost the entire midriff of India from Orissa to Gujarat, lying between the westbound Narmada and eastbound Godavari, bounded by many mountain ranges like the Vindhya, Satpura, Mahadeo, Meykul, and Abujhmar, that was once the main home of the Adivasi.

The late Professor Nihar Ranjan Ray, one of our most distinguished historians, described the central Indian Adivasis as “the original autochthonous people of India” meaning that their presence in India pre-dated by far the Dravidians, the Aryans and whoever else settled in this country. The anthropologist Dr. Verrier Elwin states this more emphatically when he wrote: “These are the real swadeshi products of India, in whose presence all others are foreign. These are ancient people with moral rights and claims thousands of years old. They were here first and should come first in our regard.”

Unfortunately like indigenous people all over the world, the India’s Adivasis too have been savaged and ravaged by later people claiming to be more “civilized”. They still account for almost 8% of India’s population and are easily it’s most deprived and oppressed section. Though this is the home of many tribal groups, the largest tribal group, the Gonds, dominated the region. The earliest Gond kingdom appears to date from the 10th century and the Gond Rajas were able to maintain a relatively independent existence until the 18th century, although they were compelled to offer nominal allegiance to the Mughal Empire.

The great historian Sir Jadunath Sarkar records: “In the sixteenth and seventeenth century much of the modern Central Provinces (today’s MP) were under the sway of aboriginal Gond chiefs and was known under the name of Gondwana. A Mughal invasion and the sack of the capital had crippled the great Gond kingdom of Garh-Mandla in Akbar’s reign and later by Bundela encroachments from the north.

But in the middle of the seventeenth century another Gond kingdom with its capital at Deogarh, rose to greatness, and extended its sway over the districts of Betul, Chindwara, and Nagpur, and portions of Seoni, Bhandara and Balaghat. In the southern part of Gondwana stood the town of Chanda, the seat of the third Gond dynasty and hereditary foe and rival of the Raja of Deogarh.” But the glory of Deogarh departed when the Maratha ruler of Nagpur annexed Deogarh after the death of Chand Sultan.

Incidentally, the Gond ruler of Deogarh, Bakht Buland, founded the city of Nagpur. Jadunath Sarkar writes about him thus: “He lived to extend the area, power and prosperity of his kingdom very largely and to give the greatest trouble to Aurangzeb in the last years of his reign.” In fact the one big reason Aurangzeb could not deploy all his power against Shivaji was because the Gond kings were constantly at war with the Mughals and kept interdicting the lines from the Deccan to Agra. But of course the history of modern India is not generous to them.

During the British days this region constituted much of the Central Provinces of India later to become Madhya Pradesh. This is the main home of about sixteen million Gond people who are India’s largest single tribal grouping. The Gonds are now a culturally and linguistically heterogeneous people having attained much cultural uniformity with the dominant linguistic influences of their region. Thus, the Gonds of the eastern and northwestern Madhya Pradesh region that now includes the new state of Chhattisgarh speak Chhattisgarhi and western Hindi.

But the Gonds of Bastar, which is at the southeastern end of this vast region and a part of Chhattisgarh, are different in this respect. Though there are many tribal groups like the Halbas, Bhatras, Parjas and Dorlas, the Maria and Bison Horned Gonds are the most numerous. The language spoken by them, like that of the Koyas of AP is an intermediate Dravidian language closer to Telugu and Kannada.

The process of Hinduization combined with Hindi culture has reduced the egalitarian Koitur to the bottom of the social strata. Dr. Kalyan Kumar Chakravarthy, Director of the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya, Bhopal has written eloquently and cogently on this in his concluding chapter “Extinction or Adaptation of the Gonds” in the book “Tribal Identity in India” also edited by him.

The real enemy of the Adivasi is the creeping Hinduization with all its attendant values and exclusionary practices, seems to me a good start to the process of saving its tribal society from extinction. All over the rest of India’s central highlands our policies by forcing the Adivasis to merge their identities with that of the encroaching culture have crushed them into a becoming a feeble and self-pitying underclass.

Clearly there are two distinct reasons for the present unrest in the Adivasi homelands of India. The first and probably the more important one is the struggle for identity against the creeping Hinduization or de-culturization of Adivasi society. Adivasi society was built on a foundation of equality. People were given respect and status according to their contribution to social needs but only while they were performing that particular function.

Such a value-system was sustainable as long as the Adivasi community was non-acquisitive and all the products of society were shared. Adivasi society has been under constant pressure as the money economy grew and made traditional forms of barter less difficult to sustain.

The Fifth and Sixth Schedules under Article 244 of the Indian Constitution in 1950 provided for self-governance in specified tribal majority areas. In 1999 the Government of India even issued a draft National Policy on Tribals to address the developmental needs of tribal people. Special emphasis was laid on education, forestry, healthcare, languages, resettlement and land rights.

The draft was meant to be circulated between MP’s, MLA’s and Civil Society groups. A Cabinet Committee on Tribal Affairs was meant to constantly review the policy. Little has happened since. The draft policy is still a draft, which means there is no policy.

Even before Independence on December 16 1946, welcoming the Objectives Resolution in the Constituent Assembly, the legendary Adivasi leader Jaipal Singh stated the tribal case and apprehensions explicitly. He said: “Sir, if there is any group of Indian people that has been shabbily treated it is my people. They have been disgracefully treated, neglected for the last 6,000 years. …The whole history of my people is one of continuous exploitation and dispossession by the non-aboriginals of India punctuated by rebellions and disorder, and yet I take Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru at his word. I take you all at your word that now we are going to start a new chapter, a new chapter of independent India where there is equality of opportunity, where no one would be neglected.” 

The Adivasi’s paid dearly for taking Jawaharlal Nehru and the Constituent Assembly at their word.


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Chilling New Report Cites Greater Death Toll in Allende Massacre

Chilling New Report Cites Greater Death Toll in Allende Massacre

Ginger Thompson is a senior reporter at ProPublica.

Researchers cite a ProPublica and National Geographic investigation revealing the DEA’s involvement and call for answers from the United States.

A disturbing report released today by researchers at the prestigious Colegio de Mexico provides new details about a 2011 massacre in Allende, a quiet Mexican ranching town less than an hour’s drive from the United States, and suggests that many more people were killed in the incident than estimated by Mexican authorities. The report’s authors also repeatedly cite an investigation of the incident by ProPublica and National Geographic in calling for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to provide information about its role in triggering the killing spree.

Based on previously undisclosed Mexican law enforcement files, the report paints a chilling portrait of a powerful drug cartel run amok throughout the northern Mexican state of Coahuila, right across the Rio Grande from Texas. Numerous mayors’ offices and municipal police departments served at the will of the Zetas cartel, the report said. State and federal authorities were either complicit or indifferent, taking no action as the Zetas, one of the most violent drug cartels in the world, took control of a regional prison and used it for years to store drugs and weapons, hold and torture hostages, and dispose of the bodies.

Perhaps the most brazen display of the cartel’s impunity occurred in March 2011, when a convoy of dozens of heavily armed Zetas gunmen descended on Allende and towns nearby and began rounding up friends and relatives of Zetas operatives that the cartel’s leaders believed had betrayed them. Dozens of victims — including some who had no connection to the cartel or the operatives — were rounded up and taken to a ranch just outside Allende, where they were killed and incinerated. There is still no firm count of how many people are either missing or presumed dead. State authorities had estimated that there were about 28 victims while groups formed by victims’ relatives put the number closer to 300.

The new report suggests that victims’ relatives are right and sets the center of the mayhem even closer to the border in Piedras Negras, a grimy factory town within walking distance of Eagle Pass, Texas. Some 1,400 emergency calls came in from residents there during the initial days of the rampage, more than from any other place in the region, according to the report. Many of those calls were about shootings or fires at locations that were known, like the prison, as Zetas extermination sites.

“The investigation into this vengeance is still not over,” said the report, whose lead author is the widely respected human rights investigator Sergio Aguayo. “The possibility exists that the number of dead and missing is greater than 100, and its even possible that it approaches 300.”

ProPublica and National Geographic, after months of interviews and poring through documents, found evidence of at least 60 people whose deaths and disappearances were connected to the attack.

Other unanswered questions, the report said, have to do with the role of the United States in triggering the massacre. It cites extensively from an investigative oral history published in June by ProPublica and National Geographic that revealed that the killing began after the DEA and its partners in the Mexican federal police mishandled sensitive intelligence. That intelligence wound up in the Zetas’ hands, and alerted the cartel that there were snitches inside the organization. The Zetas’ leaders ordered their henchmen to round up and kill those it believed had betrayed them and anyone linked to them.

The DEA did not conduct an investigation of the leak, or discuss it with either Mexican authorities or victims’ families. The agency had never commented publicly on the incident until interviews with ProPublica and National Geographic. In those interviews, the DEA apologized about the intelligence leak, but placed the blame for the violence on the Zetas.

“The indifference with which such delicate information is shared is typical of the informality that characterizes the security relationship between Mexico and the United States,” the report says. “It is characterized by the absence of the kinds of protocols the United States applies in other countries, like Colombia; the lack of accountability, which is evident by the agency’s failure to conduct an internal investigation of a leak that cost the lives of hundreds of people; and the government’s efforts to cover up information and deny responsibility.”

In an interview, Aguayo said he has long understood that the United States shared responsibility for the drug-related violence that has plagued Mexico in the last decade, leaving tens of thousands of people dead and missing across the country. The reporting by ProPublica and National Geographic, he said, made those connections real, and urgent. As a result, authorities in Coahuila have formally requested information from the DEA about the former cartel informants connected to the leak that set off the massacre.

Aguayo and other researchers at the Colegio de Mexico were given access to law enforcement files by the governor of Coahuila.

A DEA spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

“If we’re ever going to understand not only what happened in Coahuila, but why, so that it doesn’t happen again,” Aguayo said, “it’s important that we follow the leak.”

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रॉबर्ट मुगाबे और पश्चिम के पैंतरे

रॉबर्ट मुगाबे और पश्चिम के पैंतरे

प्रकाश के रे के संपादक हैं.

सैंतीस सालों तक जिंबाब्वे के शासन प्रमुख रहने के बाद राष्ट्रपति रॉबर्ट मुगाबे ने इस्तीफा दे दिया. उपराष्ट्रपति इमर्सन मननगाग्वा के हटाये जाने और मुगाबे की पत्नी ग्रेस मुगाबे के उत्तराधिकारी बनने की अटकलों के बीच सेना ने हफ्ते भर पहले दखल दिया था. मुगाबे की पार्टी, आजादी की लड़ाई के सेनानियों और सेना में लगभग सभी इस बात से नाराज थे कि ग्रेस मुगाबे की महत्वाकांक्षाओं और जीवन-शैली से राष्ट्रपति मुगाबे और उनकी सरकार की छवि पर नकारात्मक असर हो रहा है. ग्रेस को पार्टी में युवाओं का कुछ समर्थन था. बहरहाल, इयान स्मिथ के गोरे शासन से जिंबाब्वे को आजाद करानेवाले मुगाबे पर तानाशाही और विरोधों के कठोर दमन के गंभीर आरोप हैं. इसके साथ ही, उन पर और उनके नजदीकी सहयोगियों, जिनमें मननगाग्वा और कई सेनानी शामिल हैं, पर भ्रष्टाचार के आरोप भी हैं.

जिंबाब्वे के भीतर और बाहर मुगाबे के कई विरोधी इस सत्ता-परिवर्तन से उतने उत्साहित नहीं हैं. इसका कारण है कि मननगाग्वा, ओल्ड गार्ड (स्वतंत्रता सेनानी) और सेना की पकड़ सत्ता पर बरकरार रहेगी. उनकी नजर में मुगाबे के साथ यह समूह भी दमन के लिए उतना ही जिम्मेदार है.

बहरहाल, इतना तो तय है कि मुगाबे की लंबी छाया से मुक्त होने के बाद देश की सियासत में बदलाव आयेगा. द गार्डियन में जिंबाब्वे के पत्रकार रंगा मबेरी ने लिखा है कि उनका देश पश्चिमी देशों की कल्पना का ‘बनाना रिपब्लिक’ नहीं है, और मुगाबे के बाद यह बेहतर ही होगा. मबेरी की इस बात में यह तथ्य भी निहित है कि मुगाबे चाहे जैसे भी नेता रहे हों, अपने देश को अराजकता, अस्थिरता और अव्यवस्था से हमेशा बचाये रखा. वर्ष 1980 में आजादी के बाद दक्षिणी जिंबाब्वे में हुई हिंसा में हजारों लोगों की मौत और फिर 2008 के राष्ट्रपति चुनाव में धांधली और विपक्ष के दमन का दाग तो मुगाबे पर जरूर है, परंतु यह समझना गलत होगा कि इन कारणों से उनके इस्तीफे पर जिंबाब्वे के लोग खुशी का इजहार कर रहे हैं. उन दोनों मामलों में मननगाग्वा राष्ट्रपति की ओर से मुख्य रणनीतिकार थे और उन्हें बड़ी संख्या में जिंबाब्वे के लोग पसंद नहीं करते हैं. लेकिन जब आज उनके राष्ट्रपति बनने की पूरी संभावना है, तो उनका विरोध नहीं हो रहा है. यही तर्क सेना प्रमुख जनरल चिवेंगा के लिए दिया जा सकता है, जो मुगाबे और मननगाग्वा के विश्वस्त हैं तथा यूरोपीय संघ और कुछ पश्चिमी देशों ने प्रतिबंध लगाया है.

इस सत्ता-परिवर्तन को न तो किसी तख्ता-पलट की तरह देखा जाना चाहिए और न ही किसी तरह के सत्ता-संघर्ष के रूप में. जिंबाब्वे की सत्ता पर ग्रेस मुगाबे और उनके तिलंगों के कब्जे से ओल्ड गार्ड का चिंतित होना स्वाभाविक है. जिंबाब्वे के पास बेशुमार प्राकृतिक संसाधन हैं, और वे इसीलिए बचे हैं क्योंकि मुगाबे ने उन्हें औने-पौने दाम पर बहुराष्ट्रीय कॉरपोरेट मुनाफाखोरों को नहीं बेचा. जिंबाब्वे उन कुछ अफ्रीकी देशों में है, जो कबीलाई और सांप्रदायिक आंतरिक हिंसा से मुक्त है. राजनीति स्थिरता और संसाधनों की रक्षा के उद्देश्य से ओल्ड गार्ड का यह कदम समझदारी भरा ही कहा जायेगा. इस पूरे मामले पार्टी, सेना और संसद ने मौजूदा कानूनों का पूरी तरह पालन किया है तथा राष्ट्रपति मुगाबे के प्रति पूरा सम्मान दिखाया है.

इसमें कोई दो राय नहीं है कि मुगाबे और ओल्ड गार्ड ने अपनी सत्ता को बरकरार रखने के लिए हिंसा का सहारा लिया, उनकी नीतियों ने आर्थिक विकास को बुरी तरह अवरुद्ध किया और मजदूर संगठनों में अपने विपक्ष को उन्होंने शासन में जगह नहीं दी, जिस कारण देश में राजनीतिक तनाव का माहौल बना रहा. लेकिन क्या जिंबाब्वे के आर्थिक विकास को बाधित करने में अंतरराष्ट्रीय प्रतिबंधों की कोई भूमिका नहीं रही? क्या अफ्रीका के संसाधनों की सांगठनिक लूट ने कोई असर नहीं डाला? क्या लोकतंत्र और मानवाधिकारों की बकालत करनेवाले पश्चिमी देश अफ्रीका और दुनिया के अन्य हिस्सों में अपनी औपनिवेशिक मानसिकता से मुक्त हो सके हैं? इन तमाम सवालों को नजरअंदाज कर रॉबर्ट मुगाबे के शासन की समीक्षा मुकम्मल नहीं हो सकती है.

जो लोग अफ्रीका का आधुनिक इतिहास जानते हैं, वे यह जानते हैं कि 1960 के बाद से अफ्रीका में 200 से अधिक तख्ता-पलट हो चुके हैं जो कि आम तौर पर बहुत ही हिंसक होते हैं. इन सभी मामलों में पश्चिमी देश- जिनके अफ्रीका में कभी निवेश थे, बड़े कॉरपोरेट- जिनकी गिद्ध-दृष्टि अफ्रीका के कीमतों संसाधनों पर लगी रहती है, और अमेरिका की प्रत्यक्ष-परोक्ष भूमिका होती है. ऐसे में जिंबाब्वे में आजादी के तुरंत बाद के विद्रोहों के दमन को एक खास संदर्भ में देखा जाना चाहिए. यह जरूर है कि देश में और अफ्रीका में अपने सम्मान के असर को देख कर मुगाबे के भीतर एकाधिकार की प्रवृत्ति आ गयी होगी, पर यह भी रेखांकन करना जरूरी है कि जिंबाब्वे के गरीब आज भी उन्हें मसीहा मानते हैं तथा अफ्रीका में उन्हें एक आदर्श के रूप में देखा जाता है.

यदि वे सचमुच में ऐसे होते, जैसा कि पश्चिम हमें बताता रहा है, तो फिर इतने लंबे समय तक वे सत्ता में कैसे रहे. और, अगर जोर-जबर के दम पर रहे, तो आज उन्हीं लोगों को देख कर जनता खुश कैसे है जो मुगाबे से इस्तीफा ले रहे हैं. आखिर उन्हीं के जरिये ही तो मुगाबे दमन करते होंगे!

मुगाबे की खामियों और दमन के इतिहास को भी परखा जायेगा, लेकिन आज सबसे जरूरी इस बात की पड़ताल है कि आखिर पश्चिमी देशों को मुगाबे से इतनी चिढ़ क्यों है. वर्ष 2008 में महमूद ममदानी ने लंदन रिव्यू ऑफ बुक्स में ऐतिहासिक परिप्रेक्ष्य में मुगाबे और पश्चिम के दुष्प्रचार पर लिखा था. उन्होंने रेखांकित किया है कि मुगाबे सिर्फ ताकत के बल पर सत्ता पर काबिज नहीं रहे, बल्कि उन्होंने जन-समर्थन का सहारा भी लिया. गोरे जमींदारों से जमीनें छीन कर भूमिहीन लोगों में बांटने की उनकी नीति ने उन्हें जिंबाब्वे और अफ्रीका के दक्षिण में अपार लोकप्रियता दी.

यदि आप मुगाबे और पश्चिम के संबंधों की पड़ताल करें, तो आप पायेंगे कि 1980 से 1995 तक पश्चिम को उनसे कोई दिक्कत नहीं रही, बल्कि उन्हें सराहा ही गया, जबकि आज उनके विरुद्ध दमन के जो आरोप हैं, वे उन्हीं बरसों में अंजाम दिये गये थे. उस दौरान पश्चिम को खुशी थी कि मुगाबे ने गोरे जमींदारों के पास जमीनें रहने दीं. बेशकीमती खदानों के कॉरपोरेट द्वारा दोहन को कायम रखा. जब 1990 के दशक के मध्य में मुगाबे ने जमीनें छीननी शुरू की, तो उन्हें दुनिया में एक खतरनाक खलनायक के रूप में पेश किया जाने लगा.

वर्ष 1889 से 1950-60 के बीच गोरे उपनिवेशवाद ने जिंबाब्वे में जमीन की लूट का काम पूरा किया था. इयान स्मिथ की हुकूमत अश्वेत-बहुसंख्यक शासन के विरुद्ध थी. उन्होंने अपने शासन को मजबूत करने के लिए ब्रिटेन से संबंध भी तोड़ लिया था. जब 1960 आजादी की लड़ाई निर्णायक दौर में पहुंच गयी, तब फिर उपनिवेश को ब्रिटेन के हवाले किया गया और महारानी एलिजाबेथ के शासन के तहत सत्ता मुगाबे और उनके लड़ाकों को सौंपी गयी.

रोडेशिया (पहले जिंबाब्वे का यही नाम था) में सेना और प्रशासन के अधिकारी रह चुके डगलस स्कोर मानते हैं कि अफ्रीका की गरीबी का मूल कारण औपनिवेशिक विरासत है. वे मुगाबे के घोर आलोचक हैं, पर पूंजीवादी पश्चिम के पैंतरों को भी खूब समझते हैं. उन्होंने लिखा है कि मुगाबे ने दस-वर्षीय लैंकास्टर समझौते का अक्षरशः पालन किया, कर्ज अदायगी का वादा किया, उनके शुरुआती हत्याकांडों में गोरे सलाहकारों का समर्थन रहा. स्कोर याद दिलाते हैं कि शुरुआती सालों में स्मिथ और उनके सैन्य अधिकारी मुगाबे के अच्छे दोस्तों में बने रहे. अगले दशक में तो ब्रिटेन उन्हें नाइटहुड से भी नवाजा. आज भी हीरा खदान कंपनी के पास बहुत बड़ा इलाका है, संभवतः सबसे बड़ी निजी मिल्कियत इसी कंपनी के पास है.

ममदानी ने बताया है कि 1980 में सत्ता-हस्तांतरण के समय करीब छह हजार गोरे किसानों के पास 15.5 मिलियन हेक्टेयर की सबसे उपजाऊ जमीन थी यानी देश की पूरी जमीन का 39 फीसदी हिस्सा. दस लाख अश्वेत परिवारों यानी 4.5 मिलियन किसानों के पास मिल्कियत 16.4 मिलियन हेक्टेयर की उसर जमीन थी और वह भी सामुदायिक इलाकों में जहां से उन्हें औपनिवेशिक दौर में हटाया गया था या मजबूरन शरण लेनी पड़ी थी. बीच की 1.4 मिलियन हेक्टेयर जमीन का स्वामित्व 8.5 हजार अश्वेत किसानों के पास थी.

आजादी के लिए हुए लैंकास्टर समझौते (1979) में इस असमानता को ठीक करने का कोई प्रयास नहीं था. इस समझौते में तीन फीसदी गोरी आबादी के लिए नयी संसद में 20 फीसदी सीटें आरक्षित की गयीं जिसके सहारे वे जमीन और खदानों से संबंधित किसी बदलाव को रोक सकते थे. जमीन के हस्तांतरण के लिए समझौते में व्यवस्था थी कि 1990 के बाद बाजार मूल्य पर खरीद-फरोख्त की जा सकती है. और, सीटों की व्यवस्था 1987 तक के लिए थी. अश्वेतों को जमीन देने के लिए ब्रिटेन ने आसान कर्ज देने का भी वादा किया था.

जब सरकार ने 1.62 लाख गरीब किसानों को बंजर इलाकों से हटाकर बेहतर जगह बसाने के इरादे से आठ मिलियन हेक्टेयर जमीन खरीदने का प्रस्ताव रखा, तो जमीन की कीमतें उछाल लेने लगीं. समझौते के तहत जबरदस्ती जमीन नहीं ली जा सकती थी. इस स्थिति का लाभ उठाते हुए गोरे जमींदारों ने अपनी बेकार जमीनें बेच दीं. एक दशक के दौरान सिर्फ 58 हजार परिवार तीन मिलियन हेक्टेयर जमीन पर बसाये जा सके.

कृषि अध्ययन के प्रोफेसर सैम मेयो के शोध के हवाले से ममदानी ने लिखा है कि 1992 तक अधिगृहित जमीन का मात्र 19 फीसदी हिस्सा समुचित रूप से उपजाऊ था. वर्ष 1990 तक ग्रामीण आबादी का 40 फीसदी हिस्सा या तो भूमिहीन था या फिर स्थितियों की वजह से इस हीनता का शिकार था.

जब समझौते की मियाद 1990 में खत्म हुई तो अंतरराष्ट्रीय मुद्रा कोष ने एक स्ट्रक्चरल प्रोग्राम तय किया और उसी दौरान सूखे का संकट भी लगातार बना रहा. इसी संकट में भूमि सुधारों के लिए जोरदार आवाजें उठनी शुरू हो गयीं. वर्ष 1980 से 1992 के बीच जमीन खरीदने के मद में ब्रिटेन ने मात्र 44 मिलियन पौंड का योगदान किया था और 1997 में ब्रिटेन से इस जिम्मेदारी से तौबा कर ली. इस माहौल में 1999 में मुगाबे ने संविधान में दो बड़े संशोधन- जमीन अधिग्रहण और अपना शासनकाल बढ़ाना- का प्रस्ताव रखा, पर कबीलाई विभाजन, निजी क्षेत्र के दखल और राजनीतिक प्रतिद्वंद्विता के चलते इस प्रस्ताव को लगभग 45 फीसदी समर्थन ही मिल सका. इस नतीजे से अंतुष्ट असंतुष्ट स्वतंत्रता सेनानियों ने कुछ इलाकों में बलात जमीन दखल का काम शुरू कर दिया जो धीरे-धीरे पूरे देश में फैल गया.

इस स्थिति से निपटने के लिए मुगाबे सरकार ने खेती की सभी जमीनों को राज्य की संपत्ति घोषित कर दिया. करीब चार हजार गोरे किसानों से जमीनें छीनी गयीं, 72 हजार बड़े किसानों को 2.19 मिलियन हेक्टेयर और 1.27 लाख छोटे किसानों को 4.23 मिलियन हेक्टेयर जमीन मिली. उत्तर औपनिवेशिक दक्षिणी अफ्रीका में इतने व्यापक स्तर पर और इतनी तीव्रता में किसी भी देश में संपत्ति का वितरण नहीं हुआ है. निश्चित रूप से यह एक बड़ी सामाजिक और आर्थिक क्रांति है.

इस प्रयास को बचाने के चक्कर में मुगाबे और उनके साथियों ने राजनीतिक स्तर पर दमन की नीति अपनायी. इसकी आलोचना करते हुए व्यापक संदर्भ को भूलना नहीं चाहिए. यह भी ध्यान रखना चाहिए कि पश्चिम ने मुगाबे के खिलाफ प्रोपेगैंडा वार तो चलाया, पर उन्हें लगातार लुभाने की कोशिशें भी की गयीं ताकि बेशकीमती संसाधनों का दोहन किया जा सके. प्रतिबंधों और बेईमान कर्जे के द्वारा अर्थव्यवस्था को तबाह करने में पश्चिम की बड़ी भूमिका रही है.

मुगाबे की समीक्षा उपनिवेश-विरोधी आंदोलन और अन्य देशों में उनके सहयोग तथा देश में आर्थिक बराबरी की कोशिशों को नजरअंदाज कर नहीं किया जाना चाहिए. तीसरी दुनिया का एक बड़ा नेता सेवानिवृत्त हुआ है, और यह उम्मीद की जानी चाहिए कि सत्ता में आनेवाले उनके सहयोगी उनकी अच्छी नीतियों को जारी रखेंगे तथा गलतियों के दुहराव से बचेंगे. उन्हें अंतरराष्ट्रीय वित्तीय संस्थानों, बैंकों और कॉरपोरेशनों से सावधान रहना होगा. जब ये लुटेरे यूरोपीय देशों का दोहन कर सकते हैं, तो ये जिम्बाब्वे को पटरी पर कैसे आने देंगे! देश के निर्माण और कर्जों की वापसी के लिए पर्याप्त संसाधन हैं जिनका ठीक से इस्तेमाल होना चाहिए.



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