भोजपुरी फिल्म फेस्टिवल : अपने ही जाल में उलझा भोजपुरी सिनेमा

प्रकाश के रे बरगद के संपादक हैं.

bhojpuri-4प्रख्यात फिल्मकार मार्टिन स्कॉर्सेसी के मुताबिक, सिनेमा का मतलब उसके फ्रेम के भीतर और बाहर की चीजों से तय होता है. जाने-माने गीतकार-लेखक जावेद अख्तर कहते हैं कि सिनेमा के जरिये हम देश की आधुनिक इतिहास-यात्रा को रेखांकित कर सकते हैं.

दिल्ली में आयोजित भोजपुरी फिल्म फेस्टिवल के आयोजन के संदर्भ में ये दोनों बातें बार-बार मेरे जेहन में आती रहीं. फेस्टिवल में प्रदर्शित दस फिल्मों के सहारे भोजपुरी सिनेमा के इतिहास को तो देखा ही जा सकता है, इन फिल्मों में भोजपुरी समाज के वैचारिक और मनोवैज्ञानिक उलझनों को भी पढ़ा जा सकता है.

पूरा लेख द वायर पर पढ़ें.

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Mediocre ‘musical’ La La Land deserves to win at the Oscars – it’s a story for our uninspiring age

Will Brooker is a Professor of Film and Cultural Studies, Kingston University.

la-la-land-kiss-e1481856498407La La Land deserves its record-breaking 14 Oscar nominations, I now realise. When I saw the movie, I wasn’t blown away. A pleasant entertainment, with a pretty central couple and some nice frocks. Two actors dancing like the celebrity winners of Strictly Come Dancing and singing like cruise-ship karaoke. You applaud their efforts and can, to an extent, understand the critical acclaim. We need pleasant distractions right now, in the face of Trump and Brexit. We need nostalgia. I didn’t think it deserved the five star reviews, but I appreciate that people enjoy escapism, especially in a time like this.

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My Three Years at Mahbub College

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]gmail.com.

Mohan Guruswamy

There was a small item in the Deccan Chronicle a few days ago inviting alumni to join in yet another celebration. I will miss it.

But two years ago I attended an alumni evening at my old high school, the Mahbub College High School at Secunderabad, where I was also asked to say a few words. The MCHS caters predominantly to the lower and middle classes in Secunderabad. It has been in existence for over 150 years and has had its share of distinguished alumni such as Admiral Ramdas Katari, Air Marshal P Jayakumar, Mohan Kanda IAS, former CS of AP and ML Jaisimha, the Test cricketer. I joined it in the 10th class and passed out from it in 1963 with a very high first class. The reason why I was shifted was due to the reputation for academic excellence it enjoyed those days.

But it was also a hard place. The student community was tough and every class had the norms of a wolf pack. On my first day, I was stopped by a bunch of tough kids outside my class and my bicycle tires were deflated. When I complained about it to the games master, RN Dixit, he eyed me from feet to head and said “you look big enough, go and sort it out yourself or you will find life very difficult.” Next morning, when the same thing was being repeated I took the ring leader on and roundly thrashed him and in a few minutes I was accepted by all as an alpha not to be trifled with. It was the best advice I got in my life. I have never forgotten it.

800px-clock_tower_secunderabad
Clock Tower, Secunderabad/wiki image

We sat on fixed bench and long tables with names carved from times immemorial. But the teachers, mostly Tamil Brahmins, were top class. The incidence of Tam Bram teachers was due to the fact that the school was started by Secunderabad’s Mudaliar community, who despite their legendary rivalry with Brahmins respected them enough to entrust them with the education of their children. Both my father, Maj. NK Guruswamy IAS and uncle Maj. NK Vishwanath IPS served as Presidents of the school committee. As the school grew it took in a very cosmopolitan hue and the social stratification was also more reflective of the community. Some of my classmates were children of cab drivers, factory workers, railway clerks and as the son of a senior IAS officer, I was a bit of an oddity. I got a few more knocks because of that. 

In 1963, when I passed out, MCHS students obtained the first nine ranks in the State 12th class exams. Almost a fourth of my class of forty went into the IITs. Most of them now live in the USA. The rest seemed to drift into the tedium of urban lower class life. Yesterday I met quite a few of them. I have never shook so many hard and calloused hands for a long time. The guy I beat up on the second day in school was there and regaled the others with how I beat him up. One of them told him if you had fought back well he wouldn’t be doing it still.

I recall my teachers with respect and affection. Some really standout. My English, Maths, Physics and Chemistry masters above all. I also recall Sarwar Saheb who wore a Kashmiri topi ala Shammi Kapoor on a school trip to Kashmir in 1962 and then hurried us out of the valley when the war broke out. Years later when I was at Harvard, one of the administrators discovered that I hadn’t done my TOEFL, and wanted me to do a basic course in English. When I remonstrated to my advisor I was asked where I had learned English as it was very good, I proudly replied from Mr. Soundarrajan at the Mahbub College. Similarly when my Economics professor was impressed with my Mathematical abilities, I told her that Mr. Veeraswamy at the Mahbub College had me.

MCHS had a top class schools level cricket team. One year it had piled up over 800 runs against the Hyderabad Public School, the place where the elite sent their kids. We skittled them out twice in one day and sent them packing back to their lush playing grounds in the smart blazers and emblazoned school bus. It also had its share of top soccer and hockey players like Pulliah and Jagannathan who played football and hockey for India; and how can MCHS be without its boxers. BD Manmohan who fought for India and once won a CWG medal was also there yesterday.

I still refer to my three years at Mahbub College as my hard knocks years. And believe me, nothing prepared me for life, as my three years here. I am glad I went back to it yesterday.

एक पाती अमेरिका के नाम

हेलो अमेरिका,

आपके नये राष्ट्रपति डोनाल्ड ट्रंप शपथ-ग्रहण के अवसर पर आपको बधाईयाँ और शुभकामनायें. अमेरिका का राष्ट्रपति सिर्फ़ अमेरिका के लिए ही नहीं, बल्कि पूरी दुनिया के लिए बहुत मायने रखता है. ऐसे में उसके साथ ग़ैर-अमेरिकी दुनिया की भी भावनायें, आकाँक्षायें और शंकायें जुड़ी होती हैं. आपके देश में और धरती के अन्य हिस्सों में ट्रंप ने अलग-अलग तरह से उम्मीदों और आशंकाओं को नयापन दिया है. बहरहाल, मुझे लैंग्सटन ह्यूगस की कविताएँ- I, Too, Sing America और LeT America Be America Again याद आ रही हैं. कई दशक पहले लिखी गयीं ये कविताएँ अगर आज प्रासंगिक लग रही हैं, तो इसका मतलब यह भी है कि ट्रंप को लेकर जो डर या चिंताएँ हैं, वे नयी नहीं हैं. ह्यूगस ने लिखा है-

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

मुझे लगता है कि आज कुछ देर के लिए ट्रंप, ओबामा, क्लिंटन, सांडर्स, बुश, रीगन या फिर इवांका, स्ट्रीप या फिर रूस, चीन, विकीलीक्स आदि से ध्यान हटा कर अमेरिका के मनोवैज्ञानिक और सांस्कृतिक संकट पर सोचा जाना चाहिए. अगर यह सुझाव स्पॉ्यलिंग द पार्टी या डिस्टर्बिंग द मिलांकोली है, तो इसे बाद में भी अंजाम दिया जा सकता है. अमेरिका के मौजूदा संकट का सबसे सीधा उदाहरण ओबामा का नोबेल शांति पुरस्कार है. आपको याद होगा कि यह सम्मान उन्हें अपने चुनाव अभियान के दौरान इराक़ से सेना हटाने और अमेरिका के वंचितों को न्याय दिलाने के वादे से पैदा हुए ‘होप’ की वज़ह से दिया गया था. अब देखिये, बाद में उन्होंने क्या किया या नहीं किया, उसे छोड़ दें. आज उनका आख़िरी दिन है बतौर राष्ट्रपति. उस पर चर्चा बाद में की जायेगी. उनके अभियान पर आते हैं. एक व्यक्ति, जिसकी राजनीति में कुछ भी भरोसेमंद नहीं था, वह सिर्फ़ गूडी-गूडी बात कह कर न केवल अमेरिका के आम लोगों का, बल्कि नोबेल कमेटी के धुरंधरों को भी मोह सकता था. क्या यही यह बताने के लिए बहुत नहीं है कि अमेरिका को किसी भले मनोवैज्ञानिक काउंसेलर की ज़रूरत है, जो जीवन और शासन में आस्था को बहाल करने के लिए लोगों से प्यार-दुलार से बात करे. उन्हें सांत्वना दे. ढाँढस बँधाये. आ चल के तूझे मैं लेके चलूँ, एक ऐसे गगन के तले…

ओबामा ने वही किया था. पर, कोई हीलर या प्रीचर सही सीज़र तो हो नहीं सकता. सो, वह रोग और बढ़ गया. नतीज़ा- ट्रंप और हिलेरी. इसलिए, अमेरिका, न्यूयॉर्क टाइम्स के थके हुए उदास कॉलमनिस्टों और फ़ॉक्स के उज्जड प्रेज़ेंटरों के मोहपाश से कुछ देर के लिए बाहर निकलने की ज़रूरत है.

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath–
America will be!  

आप सोचिये, एक तरफ़ आपका राष्ट्रपति,चाहे वह कोई भी हो, शांति की बड़ी-बड़ी बातें करता है, और दूसरी तरफ़ दुनिया के कोने-कोने में अपने सैनिक, हथियार और परमाणु मिसाइल भेजता है. दियेगो गार्सिया गूगल कीजियेगा. मैं जहाँ से यह सब लिख रहा हूँ, वहाँ से आपके देश की दूरी हज़ारों किलोमीटर है, पर हिंद और प्रशांत महासागरों में घूमते आपके नौसैनिक पोतों से मिनटों के भीतर मेरे ऊपर परमाणु बम गिराया जा सकता है, आप ड्रोन भेज कर मुझे मार सकते हैं. आपके कमांडर-इन-चीफ़ ने अफ़ग़ानिस्तान, यमन और पाकिस्तान में निर्दोष लोगों पर बम गिराया है, ड्रोन से गोली चलायी है. स्कूलों, अस्पतालों और बारातों पर हमले किये गये हैं. जब वैसे राष्ट्रपति अपने बच्चों-बीवी को लेकर भावनात्मक बातें बोलते हैं, तो आप भी भावनाओं में बहे जाते हैं. गूगल कीजियेगा, उन बच्चों, माँओं और परिवारों के बारे में जिनकी मौत ईश्वर ने नहीं, ओवल ऑफ़िस के वेस्ट विंग से तय की जाती हैं. आप सबसे ज़्यादा खानेवाले देश हैं, आप सबसे ज़्यादा खाना बरबाद करनेवाले देश हैं, आप वह देश हैं, जो अनाज और फल-सब्ज़ियों के दाम को नियंत्रित करने के लिए ऊपज को समुद्र में फेंक देता है. दुनिया की लूट में आपको भी हिस्सा मिलता है. सस्ता लोन, सस्ता इएमआइ. आपको मज़ा आता है बड़ी-बड़ी बातों में. आप दुनिया के सबसे मोटे लोग हैं. आप मनोचिकित्सकों के पास जानेवाले सबसे बड़े देश भी हैं. जब आपके स्कूल में या मॉल में गोली चलती है, तो आप गन कल्चर पर बहस करते हैं, लेकिन आपका चहेता राष्ट्रपति दुनियाभर में जनसंहार के सामान बेचता है, उसे आप आर्थिक विकास, वाणिज्य और कूटनीति कहते हैं. इधर आपने नया शगल पाला हुआ है कि रूस ने चुनाव में दख़ल दी है. सच इसके उलट है. येल्त्सिन और पुतिन को रूस पर कब्ज़ा कराने में आपके देश का बड़ा हाथ रहा है. अभी आपके एक ज्ञानी चॉम्स्की ने बताया है कि दुनिया के कई देशों के लोकतांत्रिक चुनावों में अमेरिका बेज़ा नाक घुसेड़ता रहता है. तख़्ता पलट और रिजिम चेंज तो आपकी नीति का ही हिस्सा है.

पर, आप स्वीकार नहीं करेंगे यह सब. पर, सच यह है कि आप बीमार हैं. आपकी चिंता में क्लिंटन का सिगार, ट्रंप की ग्रैबिंग और लेडी गागा का ड्रेस होता है. आपकी चिंता में आप ही नहीं हैं क्योंकि आपको दो शिफ़्ट में काम करना होता है, घंटों कम्यूट करना होता है, बेनेफिट के लिए लाइन में लगना होता है. ऐसे में आप सत्ता के मेलोड्रामा से मनोरंजन चूसते हैं. इसलिए ट्रंप पर आपकी चिंता या ख़ुशी भी ऐसे ही खोखली हैं. कभी अवसर मिले, तो मनोवैज्ञानिक विल्हेम रीख़ की Listen, Little Man पढ़ियेगा. बीस पन्ने का परचा है.    

ख़ैर, जो गति तोरी, सो गति मोरी. इधर भी हाल बेहाल है. जब मैं आपको यह सब लिख रहा हूँ, तो इसका एक पता मैं भी हूँ. थोड़ा लिखा, ज़्यादा समझना. मिलते ही ख़त लिखना.

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.

Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed–

I, too, am America.

आपका,
प्रकाश के रे

सीरिया में शांति की उम्मीद

प्रकाश के रे बरगद के संपादक हैं.

बीते पांच सालों से जारी सीरिया का गृह युद्ध आज एक खास मुकाम पर है. इस महीने के आखिर में कजाखिस्तान के अस्ताना में सीरियाई सरकार और विद्रोहियों के बीच बातचीत की संभावना बन रही है. इस शांति वार्ता की मध्यस्थता रूस और तुर्की कर रहे हैं. रूस ने इस संघर्ष में सीरिया के राष्ट्रपति बशर अल-असद का साथ दिया है, पर बातचीत के लिए उपयुक्त माहौल बनाने के लिए उसने अपने सैनिकों को वापस बुलाना शुरू कर दिया है. रूसी नौसैनिक पोत एडमिरल कुज्नेत्सोव संघर्ष क्षेत्र से विदाई से इस प्रक्रिया की शुरुआत हुई है. अलेप्पो में विद्रोहियों की हार के बाद हुए युद्ध-विराम समझौते के तहत ये सारी पहलें हो रही हैं. इस समझौते में इसलामिक स्टेट तथा अल-कायदा समर्थित अल-नुसरा और उसके सहयोगी संगठन शामिल नहीं हैं.

दिसंबर के आखिरी दिनों में अलेप्पो में जीत के बाद राष्ट्रपति बशर अल-असद बीते पांच सालों में पहली बार कुछ निश्चिंत नजर आ रहे हैं. एक हालिया साक्षात्कार में उन्होंने कहा है कि वे शांति वार्ता में हर मुद्दे पर विचार करने के लिए तैयार हैं. असद का आत्मविश्वास उनकी इस बात से भी झलकता है कि यदि सीरियाई जनता उन्हें सत्ता में नहीं देखना चाहती है, तो वे पद छोड़ने के लिए भी तैयार हैं.

पर वास्तविक स्थिति जटिल भी है. जैसा कि एसोसिएटेड प्रेस के फिलिप इसा ने लिखा है, अलेप्पो की जीत किसी और माहौल में असद के अपराजेय होने का संकेत हो सकता था क्योंकि वे इतने सालों से जारी विद्रोह के सामने डटे हुए हैं. लेकिन हाल के समय में रूस, ईरान और तुर्की के सहयोग के कारण ही उनकी स्थिति मजबूत हुई है. ऐसे में फिलहाल इस मामले में हाशिये पर पड़े अमेरिका में डोनाल्ड ट्रंप के सत्ता संभालने के बाद अमेरिका के साथ ये तीनों शक्तियां सीरिया के भविष्य को तय करने में महत्वपूर्ण भूमिका निभायेंगी.

दिसंबर में रूस, ईरान और तुर्की ने मास्को में एक बैठक की थी जिसमें कोई सीरियाई प्रतिनिधि नहीं था. ऐसे में इस संकट का घरेलू समाधान होने की जगह अंतरराष्ट्रीय स्तर पर कूटनीतिक पैंतरे की संभावना पूरी है. असद ने भी कहा है कि रूस और अमेरिका के संबंधों में नरमी आने से सीरिया संकट को सुलझाने में मदद मिलेगी. उधर विद्रोहियों के पक्षधर तुर्की के साथ भी रूस के संबंध सामान्य होने लगे हैं. जानकारों का कहना है कि सीरिया का इस्तेमाल भू-राजनीतिक मंच पर बड़ी वैश्विक और क्षेत्रीय ताकतों की आपसी लेन-देन के लिए हो सकता है. तुर्की की स्थिति भी बहुत दिलचस्प है. उसने शुरू से ही विद्रोहियों की मदद की है. लेकिन सीरियाई कुर्द सैनिकों के बढ़ते प्रभाव ने राष्ट्रपति एर्दोआं को यह समझने के लिए मजबूर कर दिया कि कुर्द राष्ट्रपति असद से ज्यादा बड़ा खतरा हैं. कुर्द लड़ाके न तो असद की सुनते हैं और न ही विद्रोहियों की. तुर्की सरकार की नजर में सीरियाई कुर्द अपने देश में बढ़ते कुर्द उग्रवाद से जुड़े हुए हैं. इसलामिक स्टेट से लड़ने के लिए पांच हजार तुर्की सैनिक सीरिया के भीतर हैं और शांति वार्ता में भागीदारी से उसे अपना प्रभाव बढ़ाने में मदद मिल सकती है. 

संयुक्त राष्ट्र भी आठ फरवरी को सीरियाई सरकार और विद्रोहियों के बीच ठप पड़े जेनेवा वार्ता प्रक्रिया को शुरू करने जा रहा है. यूरोपीय देश सीरिया संकट में अलग-थलग पड़े हुए हैं. उनकी आंतरिक मुश्किलों और अमेरिकी नीतियों में अस्थिर725px-syria2c_administrative_divisions_-_nmbrs_-_colored-svgता के कारण अभी वे हस्तक्षेप करने की स्थिति में भी नहीं हैं. लेकिन मध्य-पूर्व में ब्रिटेन, जर्मनी और फ्रांस के राजनीतिक और आर्थिक हितों की जड़ें बहुत गहरी हैं तथा विभिन्न देशों के साथ उनके संबंध भी अच्छे हैं. ईरान की ताकत बढ़ने और सऊदी अरब की तीखी प्रतिक्रिया तथा यमन और लीबिया की अशांति के मद्देनजर बहुत जल्दी हम यूरोपीय देशों की उल्लेखनीय उपस्थिति देख सकते हैं.

बहरहाल, इतना जरूर है कि पांच सालों से अधिक समय से चल रहे सीरियाई गृह युद्ध के सिलसिले में आगामी दिनों में महत्वपूर्ण बदलाव हो सकते हैं. पर, स्थायी शांति की अभी कोई गारंटी नहीं दी सकती है. लेबनान का सशस्त्र गुट हिजबुल्ला भी सीरिया में है. इसे ईरान और बशर अल-असद का समर्थन भी है. यमन में भी ईरान हौदी विद्रोहियों का समर्थन कर रहा है जिनके विरुद्ध सऊदी अरब का बड़ा गंठबंधन लड़ रहा है. रूस के प्रभाव के प्रति अमेरिका और यूरोप के नकारात्मक रवैये में भी बहुत जल्दी कोई अंतर नहीं आनेवाला है. फिर इसलामिक स्टेट और अल-कायदा से जुड़े गिरोहों की सक्रियता शांति वार्ताओं के परिणामों पर निर्भर नहीं करती है. अगर शांति बहाल भी होती है, तो यह कह पाना बहुत मुश्किल है कि यह कितनों दिनों तक रह पायेगी. लेकिन ऐसी कोशिशों से अगर लाखों शरणार्थियों की वापसी होती है तथा युद्ध से तबाह सीरिया के पुनर्निर्माण का रास्ता खुलता है, तो इसका स्वागत किया जाना चाहिए. थोड़े समय की शांति बड़ी ताकतों, सीरियाई सरकार और विद्रोहियों को कुछ सकारात्मक सोच बनाने का अवसर भी दे सकती है.

The Cost and Consequences of Demonetization?

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]gmail.com.

Mohan Guruswamy

It now seems that Rs.14.97L crores or almost 97% of the Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes “demonetized” by the Modi government are now in the banks. On November 8 when he made the announcement, the Prime Minister listed the three objectives for removing Rs. 15.40L crores from the system were to filter out the “black”, counterfeit and terrorist cash from the economy.  This was undeniably a laudable objective, but what did it fetch in return must be a question that needs to be answered?

Sources in the government seemed to believe that about Rs.4-5L crores would not be deposited back as they would be money with dubious antecedents. This would then be the RBI’s bonus, which could be used to refinance the NPA’s burdened PSU banks. But this is not to be and most of the cash outside, in flow or stock, has been deposited. So what was said to be the unsaid expectation is now best left unsaid.

But this doesn’t mean that the three main objectives stated by Narendra Modi remain unrealized. Quite clearly there was a good deal of tax-evaded income, counterfeit notes and terrorist funds in the system. Only counterfeit cash would have been filtered out in this first filtration. The tax-evaded incomes will now be searched out and large deposits from the usual suspects and unexpected sources will be scanned with diligence, both for the nations as well as the tax collectors benefit. How much will fetch the exchequer is not clear, but we can safely assume it will be a tidy sum.

Last year the RBI recorded filtering out about Rs.29 crores of counterfeit notes. But not all counterfeits go back to the banks, though in theory at some stage or the other they will have to. How much could this be? We have often heard of a figure of about Rs.20, 000 crores of locally manufactured and Pakistani counterfeits in circulation. If it is in the flow these notes will sooner or later be intercepted at the final stage of their life when they comes to the RBI for their obsequies. But a good part will also be in stock and we will never know how much will end up in the Ganges, like it was shown on TV on November 9?

220px-500_inr_obs_lrTo be sure there is huge tax evasion in our system. Even if the National Institute for Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP), the Ministry of Finance’s in house think-tank, estimation of a parallel economy equal to about 68% of the GDP is not accepted and the figure of 20-25% often cited by the multilateral agencies like the IMF and other authorities is accepted, we are looking a parallel economy of about Rs.30L crores. This implies about Rs.10L crores of lost taxes.

The demonetization exercise would not fetch even a small fraction of it, largely because most of the undeclared income undergoes metamorphosis into property, gold and foreign holdings leaving only about 4-5% within the cash system. So at the IMF end we are looking for about Rs.1-1.5L crores at least and at the NIPFP end we are looking for about Rs.3-4.5L crores at least.  The tax gains thus could at best be between Rs.50, 000 crores and Rs.1.5L crores.

Now we hear murmurs of expectations of about Rs.4L crores, which if so suggests that the NIPFP estimates are closer to the reality? After imposing penalties (30%+30%) this should fetch the government about Rs.2.4L crores as taxation.

But remember this is for the most part of it a one-time exercise. All our past experiences show we revert back to past practices and habits. But there are only so many demonetizations one can have in a lifetime. Frequent demonetizations will only diminish the credibility of the rupee and RBI. With currency no longer linked to gold, its value is only in its credibility and no government should keep risking this.

Against this one time gain of at best about Rs.2.4L crores what did we lose? The loss due to the unprecedented drop in production and income to the economy this year is now widely accepted by economists to be around 2% of GDP. This is almost Rs.3L crores. The cost of printing replacement notes is expected to be Rs.40-50, 000 crores.

There are huge human costs implicit too.  India has a work force of close to 450 million. Of these only 7% are in the organized sector. Out of these 31 million about 24 million are employed by the state or state owned enterprises. Of the vast reservoir of over 415 million employed in the unorganized sector about half are engaged in the farm sector, another 10% each in construction, small-scale manufacture and retail.

These are mostly daily wageworkers and mostly earning less than the officially decreed minimum wages. The average daily wage in India is Rs.272, which means that it is essential to have a good part of that for a typical family to have to escape starvation every day. Just visualize the cold hearths in these homes and children going to bed cold and hungry. At least 22 crores daily workers have suffered loss of work. We will have to await this bill.

Millions of farmers too have lost crops and produce due to the sudden drought of cash, which has impeded both sowing and harvesting. Farmers and the retail trade, which sells perishables like fruits and vegetables, have suffered huge losses due to the abrupt compression of demand induced by the demonetization. The motorbike industry has for long been the bellwether of rural prosperity. Year-on-year sales at Hero MotoCorp, the market leader and the worlds largest two wheeler producer, slid by more than a third in December. According to the research group Nielsen, fast-moving consumer goods, usually a reliable growth sector, retrenched by 1-1.5% in November have been hit harder.

Data released by the Center for Monitoring the Indian Economy (CMIE) shows investment proposals amounting to only Rs.1.25L crores in the October-December quarter as compared with an average of Rs.2.36L crores worth of new investments seen per quarter in the preceding nine quarters that the Narendra Modi government has been in power. While 227 new investment proposals worth Rs.8, 800 crore were announced during the quarter till 8 November, only 177 investment proposals worth Rs.43, 700 crore came in between 9 November and 31 December. The huge post demonetization fall in investment is clearly apparent. 

The big question is whether the slowdown of investment is temporary or long term? It can be plausibly argued that local investment will be back but one cannot say the same about foreign direct investment. Often foreign investors look at several location options simultaneously and once a choice is made that investment are very simply gone forever.

Quite clearly the losses outweigh the gains. And did it achieve anything? Huge volumes of new currency notes have again been accumulating with individuals and corporations. Bureaucratic and political corruption is back as before. The only palpable gain seems to be a stop of high quality high value counterfeits from Pakistani security presses. But that too will pick up in due course. It wont is long before its business as usual.

The topmost priority for the government now should be is to remonetize the economy fully. Unless remonetization is complete, growth cannot be restored and employment cannot be generated.

Women through the ages

Rupen Ghosh is a Delhi-based retired government officer with a keen interest in arts and literature.

Rupen Ghosh

pastimes15The ancient society of hunters and gatherers was intensely dependent on one another and the premium was on cooperation and collective values. As a corollary, there was absence of male supremacy over women, and the division of labour was equitable and fair. Both men and women took part in decision making. The institutions and social arrangements have always been a product of particular historical circumstances. As the society gradually evolved into settled civilisation, and with the polarisation of society into classes and the rise of the state, the women started losing out everywhere, and the patriarchal domination over property family came into existence. From being co-decision makers with men in primitive societies, they were thrust into a position of dependence and subordination.

The new intensive production techniques tended to prioritise men’s labour over women’s for the first time, when the primitive society was trying to organise into a settled civilisation. With the use of agricultural equipment (by those days’ standards) – heavy ploughing and use of cattle and horses – women started losing out to men. While it relieved women from drudgery, it deprived them of being decision makers and the social status it accorded. Similarly, in trade and commerce, it tended to become male monopolies. The control over thoughts allowed men to exercise disproportionate influence and in aristocracies, it was much worse, because women didn’t have to go out and work, and share space with men.

From this dominant trend, unequal property rights emerged and women started losing out in inheritance, and much later in matters of divorce proceedings, and in access to education and other entitlements. Any sartorial imposition was also from that perspective, to keep women tied at home and hearth. And since the medieval societies often indulged in warfare and territorial acquisitions, to grab the resources of other societies, women’s position became more confined to domesticity, but even here, since it was the male, who worked and earned the ‘livelihood’, the key decisions about the future of the household or lineage became the patriarchal monopoly.

In India, during the post-Mauryan period, if not earlier, the structure and dynamics of social relations in that era were governed by the social laws that were rigid and patriarchal, based on the scriptural canons, regarded as authoritative by the orthodoxy and the dominant elite. In that socially restrictive order, women’s position was firmly established, much below the male counterpart, and her access to property, inheritance was limited and varied according to caste, custom and mores and religion.

The sharpening of the theoretical structure may have been a response from the orthodoxy to the more flexible and liberal attitudes reflected in the Buddhist texts towards caste and gender. By then, feudalism had started making deeper inroads, huge land grants to the priestly class were becoming more and more common and the governance was considered as a compact between the ruling clans and the orthodox priestly class, much to the exclusion of the vast majority of those who worked on agricultural land, artisans, craftsmen and others.

Education of a limited kind was permitted to women of the upper social crust, but was certainly not intended to encourage their participation in discussion or any trade or occupation. Women’s access to property, inheritance was limited and varied according to caste, custom and religion. Social practices were not uniform and matrilineal systems organized inheritance differently from the patriarchal.

India has come a long way since the time when polygamy, purdah system, ban on widow remarriage, complete absence of education for female child, female infanticide, child marriages were some of the social evils that had vice-like grip over the society. Even barely two hundred years ago, the social evils and superstitions had reached such a stage where social reforms became imperative. This was the period when the westernized educated elite revolted against rigid social conventions, outdated customs, social taboos and blind dogmas. Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Jyotibha Phule, Savitri bai Phule, Ranade and others were the pioneers of the social reform movement, that was to become the first gingerly steps towards evolution of India as a modern entity.

Post-independence, there was a concerted attempt to pursue social reforms aimed at protecting the rights of socially underprivileged and women. In the fifties, a major social reform was enunciated to empower women, to make laws more equitable for them, especially in the areas of property and inheritance rights, education, marriage and divorce. This is considered a landmark change towards greater gender equity, that was to transform the face of India, forever.

Women everywhere are questioning the unequal gender relations and breaking the glass ceilings of patriarchal domination and mindsets, making the environment less exploitative and more gender-friendly. In every sphere of public activity, be it in bureaucracy or politics, or business or self-employment, women are taking on responsibility, earlier perceived as male-oriented areas. Even in such fields hitherto dominated by men as higher education, finance, energy, economic development, climate change, foreign affairs, defence, trade and infrastructure, women are increasingly making their presence felt.

As we evolve into modernity and realise that most of the regressive social practices, customs and mores were detrimental to women, who used to suffer more from patriarchal religious domination, it is time to take a critical look at all such restrictive practices that hamper and curtail women’s activities in the public space that made the male-female relationship more unequal, skewed and iniquitous.

Social reforms are slow in coming everywhere, India or South Asia being no exception, but to truly evolve as a modern society, an objective and dispassionate critique of all regressive practices that have brought misery to women and other marginalised and socially underprivileged sections, and that have only strengthened the powerful oligarchs, would be the best answer. To keep people tied up in superstitious beliefs, received wisdom, handed down edicts and commandments, would only deflect attention from the critical and core issues of life and livelihood impacting the majority of our impoverished masses, including unjust and unequal gender relations.

A country which doesn’t critically and continually examine its past, and discard what is considered regressive, iniquitous, unjust and derogatory to its women, socially marginalised sections and other disadvantaged groups, is condemned to repeat it, to its collective misery.