Maruti-Suzuki: The Realpolitik of Managerial Intransigence

Ankit Mandal

Can the Maruti management’s stubbornness be explained only by its unwillingness to allow workers to have their union? This seems doubtful. Unions in India in themselves do not pose such a grave threat for managements. There must be something more to it.

Rather, it reflects a bourgeois resoluteness to bring the long pending demand for institutionalisation of the changes in the labour regime to the centre-stage of policymaking. Changes in the labour regime – casualisation and contractualisation that neoliberalism intensified have not yet been codified completely, which frequently puts managements in legal predicaments, allowing unions to pose ‘legitimate’ demands. A recent Supreme Court judgement which ordered regularisation of contract labourers employed in airports demonstrates the lag between the industrial reality and the legal framework.

In the past decade, the agenda of labour reforms could not be pushed ahead partly because of political compulsions (UPA I was supported by the left parties) and partly due to economic conundrum (the global crisis) in which the UPA regimes found themselves in.

The Maruti management’s determination is not coming from its own competitive need; rather it is representing the general will of the bourgeoisie in India. Not anyone could have acted in this manner. The central role of the automobile sector in the present phase of capitalist development and Maruti’s overwhelming leadership in this particular sector puts it at the helm of the bourgeois class.

At least, it is hard to deny that this sector has been in the forefront of demanding labour reforms. The recent statements from the Automobile Component Manufacturers Association of India (ACMAI) and the Society of Indian Automobiles Manufacturers (SIAM) testify this. These associations have been emphasising that labour reforms are crucial for the growth in the automotive industry.

Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) Ex-President Pawan Goenka : “Labour reforms is high on agenda of SIAM for quite some years. We don’t have any policy on laying-off during slowdown. …We have made several presentations to the Ministry of Heavy Industries, but no serious discussion has happened yet on what could be done… One thing is certain that something has to happen. Otherwise, it will have serious impact on the sector.”

“The rigidity in labour laws has led companies to increasingly resort to outsourcing and contracting of labour. To be very precise, the need of the hour is flexible labour reforms,” General Motors India vice president P Balendran had said.

SIAM Director General Vishnu Mathur said the law should give “flexibility” on taking disciplinary actions even against a single person.

“We believe that employment will get a boost by labour reforms which is the need at the moment,” Srivats Ram, president, Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India (ACMA) told.

The Haryana government is clearly backing the Maruti management and is not at all showing any sympathy to the workers. Haryana Labour Minister Shiv Charan Lal Sharma says, “How can it be possible for the management to take back workers against whom an FIR has been lodged and (criminal) cases have been filed”. Haryana Labour Commissioner Satwanti Ahlawat says, “During the talks, it came to notice that there is a clear intention of few persons, backed by some political support, who want to mislead workers,”.

However, even if tomorrow the Maruti management agrees to workers’ demands in toto (which is doubtful), it has achieved what it had to – it has already succeeded in bringing the state in for labour reforms. The central government has (Sep 21) agreed to set up a National Automotive Board as a nodal agency for the issues relating to this industry within 2-3 months, and that “Labour laws or in fact any law is not sacrosanct or permanent. Labour laws will have to change with time. If the industry feels so, the Labour Ministry will look into it.”

MSEU: Condemn the arrest of MSEU leaders

Maruti Suzuki Employees Union
18th September

We write this at a time when our movement is under attack from all quarters, and three of our leaders, namely, Sonu Kumar (the President of MSEU), Shiv Kumar (the General Secretary of MSEU) and Ravinder, have been arrested by the police in a completely unjustified and unlawful manner.

All concerned probably know the way in which processes unfolded over the past few weeks. Our leaders went to the negotiation table with the management of Maruti Suzuki and the Labour Department on the 16th of September. Talks were still going on today, when they broke down because the management stubbornly refused to take back those workers that had been thrown out.

We believe that the management, prepared for this eventuality, had already made suitable arrangements with the police and the administration. That the government and its police have been bought over by the company management is absolutely clear. When talks broke down at about 10:15 pm today, the police spared no time in arresting our leaders. The attempt, clearly, is to cripple our movement when we have refused to back down in the face of all threats and enticements.

It is known to us that Ravinder already has an FIR filed against his name; but Sonu Kumar and Shiv Kumar have never been charged before. However, looking at the foul play that the police are already indulging in, we are sure that our leaders will be charged of crimes they never committed.

This way or that, we will continue our struggle. We appeal to all to condemn such acts by this unholy alliance of the police, the government and the company management. We ask you to stand in our support, in the support of our movement, of our arrested leaders and against injustice.

Rishipal
Executive Member
Maruti Suzuki Employees Union (MSEU)

Movie: Debtocracy

Courtesy: Debtocracy

For the first time in Greece a documentary produced by the audience. “Debtocracy” seeks the causes of the debt crisis and proposes solutions, hidden by the government and the dominant media. The documentary will be distributed free by the end of March without usage rights and broadcasted and subtitled in at least three languages.

Debtocracy International Version by BitsnBytes

Movie: Capitalism Is The Crisis

Courtesy: capitalismisthecrisis.net

The 2008 “financial crisis” in the United States was a systemic fraud in which the wealthy finance capitalists stole trillions of public dollars. No one was jailed for this crime, the largest theft of public money in history.

Instead, the rich forced working people across the globe to pay for their “crisis” through punitive “austerity” programs that gutted public services and repealed workers’ rights.

Austerity was named “Word of the Year” for 2010.

This documentary explains the nature of capitalist crisis, visits the protests against austerity measures, and recommends revolutionary paths for the future.

Special attention is devoted to the crisis in Greece, the 2010 G20 Summit protest in Toronto, Canada, and the remarkable surge of solidarity in Madison, Wisconsin.

It may be their crisis, but it’s our problem.

Must We Rebuild Their Anthill? A Letter to/for Japanese Comrades

Silvia Federici and George Caffentzis

Dear comrades,

We are writing to express to you our solidarity at a time when the pain for those who have died or have disappeared is still raw, and the task of reshaping of life out of the immense wreckage caused by the earthquake, the tsunami and the nuclear reactor meltdowns must appear unimaginable. We also write to think together with you what this moment marked by the most horrific nuclear disaster yet in history signifies for our future, for the politics of anti-capitalist social movements, as well as the fundamentals of everyday reproduction.

Concerning our future and the politics of anti-capitalist movements, one thing is sure. The present situation in Japan is potentially more damaging to people’s confidence in capitalism than any disaster in the “under-developed” world and certainly far more damaging than the previous exemplar of nuclear catastrophe, Chernobyl. For none of the exonerating excuses or explanations commonly flagged in front of man-made disasters can apply in this case. Famines in Africa can be blamed, however wrongly, on the lack of capital and technological “know how,” i.e., they can be blamed on the lack of development, while the Chernobyl accident can be attributed to the technocratic megalomania bred in centrally-planned socialist societies. But neither underdevelopment nor socialism can be used to explain a disaster in 21st century Japan that has the world’s third largest capitalist economy and the most technologically sophisticated infrastructure on the planet. The consequences of the earthquake, the tsunami and, most fatefully, the damaged nuclear reactors can hardly be blamed on the lack of capitalist development. On the contrary, they are the clearest evidence that high tech capitalism does not protect us against catastrophes, and it only intensifies their threat to human life while blocking any escape route. This is why the events in Japan are potentially so threatening and so de-legitimizing for the international capitalist power-structure. For the chain of meltdowns feared or actually occurring stands as a concrete embodiment of what capitalism has in store for us —an embodiment of the dangers to which we are being exposed with total disregard of our well-being, and what we can expect in our future, as from China to the US and beyond, country after country is planning to multiply its nuclear plants.

This is also why so much is done, at least in the US, to minimize the severity of the situation evolving in and around the Fukushima Daiichi plants and to place the dramatic developments daily unfolding in and out of the plants out of sight.

Company men and politicians are aware that the disaster at Fukushima is tremendous blow to the legitimacy of nuclear power and in a way the legitimacy of capitalist production. A tremendous ideological campaign is under way to make sure that it does not become the occasion for a global revolt against nuclear power and more important for a process of revolutionary change. The fact that the nuclear disaster in Japan is taking place in concomitance with the spreading of insurrectional movements throughout the oil regions of North Africa and the Middle East undoubtedly adds to the determination to establish against all evidence that everything is under control. But we know that nothing is further from the truth, and that what we are witnessing is the deepening crisis, indeed the proof of the “unsustainability” of the energy sector — since the ‘70s the leading capitalist sector— in its two main articulations: nuclear and oil.

We think it helps, then, in considering this crisis, to think the Fukushima disaster together with different scenarios that, in their representation on the US evening news seem to have nothing in common with it and with each other.

*Libya: where NATO and the UN are collaborating with Ghedaffi in the destruction of a rebellious youth whose demands for better living conditions and more freedom may jeopardize the regular flow of oil.

*Ivory Coast: where French, UN and Africom (the US military command devoted to Africa) troops have joined ranks to install a World Bank official, handpicked by the EU, to clearly gain control of West Africa’s most important country after Nigeria and create a solid Africom-powered bridge connecting the Nigerian, to the Algerian and Chadian oilfields.

*Baharain: where Saudi Arabian troops are brought in to slaughter pro-democracy demonstrators.

Viewed, in this context, the threat the disaster at Fukushima poses to international capital is not that thousands of people may develop cancer, leukemia, loose their homes, loose their sources of livelihood, see their lands and waters contaminated for thousands of years. The danger is that ‘caving in’ in front of popular mobilizations, governments will institute new regulations, scrap plans for more nuclear plants construction and, in the aftermath, nuclear stocks will fall and one of the main sources of capital accumulation will be severely compromised for decades to come. These concerns explain not only the chorus of shameless declarations we heard in recent weeks (bouncing from Paris and Rome to Washington) to the effect that the path to nuclear power is one with no return, but also the lack of any international logistic support for the populations living in the proximity of the melting reactors. Where are the planes carrying food, medicines, blankets? Where are the doctors, the nurses, and engineers? Where is the United Nations that is so readily fighting in Ivory Coast? We do not need to ask. Clearly, as far as the EU/US are concerned, the guideline is that everything must be done to prevent this nuclear disaster from sinking into the consciousness of people and trigger a worldwide revulsion against nuclear power and against those who knowingly have exposed so many to its dangers.

There is also something else however in the response of the world politicians to this juncture. What we are witnessing, most dramatically, in the response to the tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan, especially in the US, is the beginning of an era in which capitalism is dropping any humanitarian pretense and refusing any commitment to the protection of human life. Not only, just one month after its inception, the catastrophe that is still unfolding in Japan is already being pushed to a corner of the evening news in the same way as nothing is any longer said about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. We are also repeatedly informed that catastrophes are inevitable, that no energy path is safe, that disasters are something to be learnt from, not a cause for retreat, and, to top it off, that not all is negative, after all, Tokyo’s troubles are Osaka’s gain!

This is the same doctrine that today we are dished out in debates on the financial crisis. Financial experts now all agree that it is impossible to prevent major economic crises, because, however clever government regulations may be, bankers can elude them. As Paul Romer, a finance professor in Stamford University, put in a New York Times interview (3/11/2011): “Every decade or so, any finite system of financial regulation will lead to systemic financial crisis.” That is, those of us who are on pensions or have a few savings or have taken out a mortgage must prepare for periodic losses and there is nothing that can be done about it!

What we see, then, today in Japan, is the moment of truth of a world capitalist system that, after five centuries of exploitation of millions across the planet, and after endless litanies on the fact that science opens a path of constant perfectibility of the human race, has decided that it is not their business to offer solutions to any major human problem, obviously convinced that we have become so identified with capital, and have so lost the will and capacity to construct an alternative to it, that we will not be able to prise its future apart from ours even after it has demonstrated to be totally destructive of our lives. We are reminded here of the response that Mr. Chipman, an official of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), gave when asked, thirty years ago, if “American institutions” would survive an all-out nuclear war with the Soviet Union. “I think -–he replied– they would, eventually, yeah. As I say, the ants eventually build another anthill.”

We think is our task to prove Mr. Chipman wrong –to prove that we will not be like the mindless laborious ants who mechanically reconstruct their hill not matter how many times it is destroyed.

We believe it will be a major political disaster if in the months to come we will see business as usual prevail, and the surge of a broad global movement protesting what has been done to the people of Japan and to us all as the current will bring to our shore the radioactivity leaking from the unraveling plants.

We are concerned however that a mobilization in response to the disaster in Japan should not be limited to demanding that no more nuclear plants be constructed and those in existence be dismantled, nor that more investment be directed to the development of ‘clean energy’ technology. Undoubtedly, the Fukushima meltdowns must be the spark for a worldwide anti-nuclear movement. But we think, judging also from our experience in the aftermath of the disaster at Three Mile Island, that this movement will not have any hope of success if the struggle to eliminate nuclear plants or against the existence of nuclear armaments, is approached in the narrow manner characteristic of the anti-nuclear movement of the 1980s, if approached, that is, as a special issue, according to the argument that if we do not eliminate first nuclear power we will not be around to deal with other issues. This, we believe, is a short-sighted argument, as death, genocide and the ecological destruction of the environment come in many forms. Indeed, rather than as exceptions we should see the proposed proliferation of nuclear plants and the callous indifference demonstrated by world politicians to the possible destruction of million of lives under a nuclear regime as symptomatic of a whole relation to capital and the state that is the real threat to people across the planet.

What we need is to approach the question of nuclear power as the prism through which to read our present relation to capital and bring our different struggles and forms of resistance together. Short of that, our political activities will remain powerless, separated and fragmented like the reports about Libya, Ivory Coast and Japan on the networks’ evening news.

A first step in this direction is to establish that Nuclear Power has nothing to do with energy needs, in the same way as nuclear arms proliferation had nothing to do with the alleged threat posed by communism. Nuclear power is not just an energy form, it a specific form of capital accumulation and social control enabling capital to centralize the extraction of surplus labor, police the movements of millions of people, and achieve regional or global hegemony through the threat of annihilation. One of its main objectives is pre/empting resistance, generating the kind of docility and passivity that we have witnessed in response to such capital-made disasters as Katrina, Haiti and today Japan, and that in the past enabled the French and US governments to explode hundreds of atomic bombs in open air and underground tests in the Pacific and use entire population from the Marshall Islands to Tahiti, as guinea pigs.

Nuclear power, therefore, can only be destroyed when social movements come into existence that treat it politically, not only as a destructive form of energy but as a strategy of accumulation and terror– a means of devaluation of our lives– and place it on a continuum with the struggle against the use of the “financial crisis,“ or against the cuts to healthcare and education. To this program, those of us who live in the US must add the demand for reparations for the descendants of the people who have been the victims of US nuclear bombs and nuclear tests. For our struggle must revive the memory of the crimes that have been committed in the past through the use of nuclear power beginning with Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

For with memory comes the demand for justice.

In solidarity,

Silvia and George

Courtesy: http://libcom.org/library/must-we-rebuild-their-anthill-letter-tofor-japanese-comrades

Financialization, Household Credit and Economic Slowdown in the U.S.

Deepankar Basu

Between 1948 and 1973, real GDP for the U.S. (measured in 2005 chained dollars) economy grew at a compound annual average rate of about 3:98 percent per annum; between 1973 and 2010, the corresponding growth rate was only 2:72 per cent per annum. While the 25 year period of high growth after the Second World War has, with some justification, earned the epithet of the “Golden Age” of capitalism, the period of relative stagnation since the mid-1970s has been characterized by heterodox economists as a neoliberal capitalist regime (Dum´enil and L´evy, 2004, 2011; Harvey, 2005; Kotz, 2009).

Three characteristics of neoliberal capitalism have attracted lot of scholarly attention. First is the marked trend towards growing financialization of the economy, by which is meant a growing weight of financial activities in the aggregate economy. Figure 1 presents some well-known evidence, for the period 1961-2010, in support of this claim. The top left panel plots the share of value added that is contributed by the FIRE (finance, insurance and real estate) sector in the value added by the total private sector of the U.S. economy: between 1961 and 2008, the contribution of the FIRE sector increased steadily from about 16 per cent to roughly 25 percent. The top right panel gives the share of financial sector profit in total domestic profit income in the U.S. economy, which shows a steady increase since the early 1970s (interrupted briefly in the early 1980s). It is only during the financial crisis in 2007-2008 that this share declined for a brief period; it is noteworthy that the share started a rapid ascent in 2009, and has recovered much of its loss since then. The two figures in the bottom panel provide evidence, for the period 1988-2009, of the growing size of the stock market: both stock market capitalization and total value traded, as a proportion of nominal GDP, has trended up since the late 1980s, providing clear evidence of the growth of financial relative to real activity.

The second notable characteristic of the neoliberal regime has been the veritable explosion of the flow of credit (and the build-up of the stock of debt) in the economy. One important dimension of the growth of credit has been the unprecedented increase in the credit flowing to (working class) households. Figure 2 presents evidence in support of both these claims by plotting the time series of outstanding debt (measured as total credit market liabilities) of three crucial sector of the U.S. economy: the nonfinancial business sector, the household sector, and financial business sector. While the business sectors display an increasing trend since the early 1960s (along with large fluctuations at business cycle frequencies), the household sector debt starts a secular rise since the early 1980s (with almost no business cycle fluctuations), and the financial business sector also displays a secular rise till the onset of the Great Recession. The last chart in Figure 2 plots the time series of the ratio of outstanding household debt and outstanding debt of the nonfinancial business sector. The ratio shows a clear upward trend since the mid-1970s, with household debt increasing from about 85 percent of nonfinancial business debt in the mid-1970s to about 140 percent just prior to the start of the Great Recession.

The third important characteristic of neoliberal capitalism has been stagnation of real wages for the bulk of the working class. In the face of rising productivity, this has entailed a massive redistribution of income away from working class households, leading to widening income and wealth inequality. Figure 3 presents evidence in support of this claim. The top panel plots an index of productivity (measured real output per hour) in the total nonfarm business sector of the U.S. economy. There is an increasing trend in productivity over time, with a marked acceleration in growth since the mid-1990s. This is in sharp contrast to the evolution of real wages of production and nonsupervisory workers plotted in the bottom panel, who comprise about 80 percent of the U.S. workforce. The hourly real wage has barely increased between the early 1970s and the late 2000s; the weekly real wage has in fact declined during this period.

The main question that this paper wishes to explore is the possible connections between the slowdown in economic growth on the one hand and the three characteristics of neoliberal capitalism on the other? Heterodox economists have been interested in this question for at least the last three decades, and the main contribution of this paper is to extend that literature by presenting a theoretical model to address this question. Building on and extending Foley (1982, 1986a), this paper develops a discrete-time Marxian circuit of capital model to analyze the link between financialization, nonproduction credit and economic growth. It is demonstrated that increasing financialization and the growth of household credit (a component of nonproduction credit) can reduce the growth rate of a capitalist economy. Hence, this paper offers a novel explanation, rooted in a Marxian circuit of capital macroeconomic analysis, for the slowdown of the U.S. economy during the neoliberal era.

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Cyrus Bina’s “Oil: A Time Machine”

A New Threat to Forest Dwellers and Protected Areas

Campaign for Survival and Dignity

Having cleared the destructive Chiria mines and the POSCO project in violation of the law, the Environment Ministry has proceeded to grossly violate people’s rights in protected areas – to the detriment of both people and wildlife. On February 8th, it issued new guidelines for the declaration of “critical wildlife habitats” under the Forest Rights Act. These guidelines are in direct violation of the Forest Rights Act and will encourage the kind of brutal forced relocation that harms people, increases conflict with wildlife and leads to more destruction in protected areas. Everyone from the Tiger Task Force through numerous conservationists themselves have pointed out the dangers in the current relocation process.

Once again, we see that the primary interest of this system is not in wildlife, forests, people or even “development”: it is retaining its own power.

The guidelines are in violation of law on the following counts (for a quick summary see table below):

  • Identification of CWHs: As is admitted by most wildlife organisations and by the government itself, existing national parks and sanctuaries have often been demarcated arbitrarily without consulting either the people of the area or scientists; as a result many are of limited wildlife significance. Therefore the FRA requires that a consultative and scientific process, “case by case, on the basis of scientific and objective criteria” (s. 2(b)) for identification of critical wildlife habitats should be undertaken in all existing protected areas. In order to ensure that this process is actually sound (and not arbitrary again), it should be done by an Expert Committee including experts from the locality and a Tribal Ministry representative. The new guidelines do not satisfy any of these requirements.
    • Scientific basis:The new guidelines say nothing about which “scientific and objective criteria” are to be used. They also ignore the requirement that critical wildlife habitats should only be established where it can be scientifically proven that the presence of forest dwellers is causing irreversible damage to wildlife and that co-existence is not possible. The only reference to any of this is a vague statement that studies on human impact should be carried out – but this is in Annexure 2, a list of points to be taken into account for financial planning, long after identification is over. Finally, the process of identification is to be carried out by the DFO and a “local scientific institution” in the space of a mere 60 days. The result can only be imagined – exactly as occurred in the case of critical tiger habitats, all existing protected areas will simply be sought to be converted into critical wildlife habitats, followed by pressurising people living inside them to relocate. The guidelines also sneak in the intent of extending CWHs to areas “in and around” protected areas (point 5.6.2) thereby leaving room to extend PA boundaries to larger areas. This is a total perversion of the intent of the law.
    • Consultation: On consultation, the guidelines are a farce. The identification of the habitat, as said above, will first be carried out by the DFO; whereupon the guidelines say there should be “extensive consultation” with forest dwellers by an Expert Committee. What will happen to the results of this “extensive consultation” and the comments of the people? Nothing. They are never referred to in the guidelines again. Thus this consultation process is actually non-existent.
    • No Expert Committee:Indeed, the role of the Expert Committee – which is to identify the critical wildlife habitat – has been reduced to “motivating” villagers for relocation, after the two technical members have on their own decided the area to be demarcated as a CWH. In sum, the guidelines reduce the process of identification to an administrative exercise controlled by the Forest Department.
  • Relocation: In addition to the scientific evidence of irreversible damage from people, the law requires that relocation from a critical wildlife habitat requires the free informed consent of the gram sabha (s. 4(2)(e)), must provide a secure livelihood (s. 4(2)(d)), and can only take place after rights are recognised (s.4(2)(a)), and facilities are complete (s. 4(2)(f)). Every one of these conditions is violated:
    • Consent of gram sabha: There is no reference in the guidelines to taking the consent of the gram sabha for relocation at any point, except when the section itself is quoted. Instead there is talk of relocating even if “a small number of families agree”, which by implication means that the majority do not do so – and hence the gram sabha could not have consented. This will open the way for individually pressurising families and pushing relocation step by step, once again in violation of the law.
    • Secure livelihood: The guidelines again say nothing about providing any livelihood at all, leave alone a secure one acceptable to the people. Instead, they say that two “options” will be offered (based on the Project Tiger package) – Rs. 10 lakhs per family or a vague reference to “rehabilitation by the Forest Department.” In fact, the law does nota allow such provision of mere cash compensation, as this is at the root of all the rehabilitation failures of the past. It is also a total violation of people’s rights, since they lose their livelihoods and access to the forest and only get a sum of cash – which itself often doesn’t reach them.
    • Completion of recognition of rights: Once again there is no reference to this except in Annexure 2, where it is irrelevant. Since rights are hardly being recognised in protected areas and the guideline imposes an absurd 60 day time limit, relocation will now proceed without bothering with people’s rights – making harassment and pressure on forest dwellers more likely.
    • Completion of facilities: This was intended to protect against hasty relocation without any facilities being provided. In the last year alone, two people have died (in Similipal in Orissa and Achanakmar in Chhattisgarh) after being forcibly relocated from tiger reserves and not provided any proper shelter.There is not a word about this requirement anywhere in the guideline.

Despite some weaknesses and internal inconsistencies, the October 2007 guidelines that this order replaces had covered all these issues. This new set of guidelines completely throws to wind the law and violates all the Act’s provisions on procedures of determining and notification of critical wildlife habitats. Indeed, relocating anyone on the basis of these guidelines would be in direct violation of the law; and hence a criminal offence under section 7 of the Act. Following this policy will only ensure the continuance of the earlier form of forced arbitrary relocation, harming both people and wildlife.

Summary of Violations of Law

Provision Requirement of Law What Guidelines Actually Do
s. 2(b) Decide wildlife habitats on basis of scientific and objective criteria No criteria specified; left to administrative fiat
s. 2(b) On a case by case basis Left to concerned DFO “in consultation” with “local scientific institution”
s. 2(b) Decide through a process of consultation by an Expert Committee Identification entirely by DFO and “local scientific institution”, without any consultation; role of Expert Committee is restricted to “sensitising” people to the relocation package after the proposal is sent to MoEF
s. 2(b) Recognition of rights and other pre-conditions to be met prior to any relocation (s.4(1) and 4(2)) Ignores and therefore violates both
s. 4(2)(a) Rights have to be recognised first Completely ignored except irrelevant reference in Annexure 2
s. 4(2)(b),(c) No relocation unless can be shown that human presence causing irreversible damage and co-existence not possible Completely ignored
s. 4(2)(d) Relocation must provide a secure livelihood Rs. 10 lakh compensation or vague “rehabilitation” mentioned; no reference to providing a livelihood
s. 4(2)(e) Free informed consent of the gram sabha to be taken in writing Ignored; no procedure stated, implicitly refers to consent of individual families
s. 4(2)(f) No relocation until facilities at new site (by implication including livelihood) are complete Completely ignored

In sum, every provision of the law has been violated.

A “Green Signal” for the Rape of Justice and the People: Environment Ministry Decision on POSCO

POSCO PRATIRODH SANGRAM SAMITI

Jairam Ramesh and the UPA government have shown their true colours with their decision today on the POSCO project. Ignoring the reports of its own advisory bodies and enquiry committees, violating its own orders and the laws of the land, this Ministry has shown that the naked face of corporate greed – not the “rule of law”, the “aam aadmi”, “inclusive growth” or any of these other lies – is what rules this country. The decision today can be summarised in one sentence: “Repeat your lies, give us promises that we all know are false, and then loot at will.”

We repeat: we will not give up our lands, our forests and our homes to this company. It is not the meaningless orders of a mercenary government that will decide this project’s fate, but the tears and blood of our people. Through the road of peaceful demonstrations and people’s resistance we have fought this project, in the face of torture, jail, firings and killings. If this project comes it will come over our dead bodies.

We note the following about today’s decision:

  • The Orissa government has been asked to give an “assurance” that the people of the area are not forest dwellers under the Forest Rights Act, after which the “final forest clearance” will be granted. The Orissa government has already lied on this count on numerous occasions. Indeed, the majority report of the POSCO Enquiry Committee said “The Committee finds that the government’s own records such as census reports and voters list confirm that there are both other traditional forest dwellers (OTFD) and forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes in the project area and the statement of the District Collector of Jagatsinghpur to the contrary is false” (para II.1, Conclusions and Recommendations). Even the dissenting member agreed that the Act had not been implemented. The same finding had been reached by the subcommittee of the Saxena Committee earlier. After the Ministry’s own enquiry committees have found the Orissa government guilty of lying, what is the meaning of saying the project can proceed if the liars repeat their lies?
  • This Ministry has earlier made a song and dance of respect for people’s views and environmental laws. Under the Forest Rights Act, the consent of the gram sabhas of the area is an essential requirement, and this was confirmed by the Ministry’s own order. Three different committees – the Saxena Committee, the POSCO Enquiry Committee and the Ministry’s own Forest Advisory Committee – all therefore said the clearance should be withdrawn. The Minister today claims that the project can go ahead if he and the Orissa government decide they want it to. So much for the law and for people’s rights.
  • On the environment clearance, we recall again the words of the majority Enquiry Committee, which said “Potentially very serious impacts …have not even been assessed, leave alone planned for…. The cavalier and reckless attitude of the concerned authorities to such potentially disastrous impacts is horrendous and shocks the collective conscience of the Committee….There appears to be a pre dominant belief that conditionalities in the EIA/ CRZ clearances are a substitute for comprehensive evaluation and assessment of the environmental impact by the authorities. Imposing vague conditionalities seems to be a way out for the various agencies from taking hard decisions on crucial issues.” Again, it is not us who said this – it is the Ministry’s own Committee! And yet this is exactly what the Minister has chosen to do.
  • Independent reports and studies by reputed academics have confirmed what we have always said – this project will be of no benefit to anyone except POSCO’s profit margins. But yet we find this being called a project of “strategic importance.” To whom?
  • Today the veil stands ripped open; the government stands exposed before the nation, a mercenary willing to put its regulations, officials and security forces at the disposal of the highest bidder. Let the UPA and the Central government answer: where is the rule of law today, in the name of which you crush struggles across the country? Where is your much vaunted love for the people and for the environment? What do you stand for if not for corporate greed?

    Higher Education Cuts, Students Protests and Media Misrepresentation

    Bulent Gokay
    Farzana Shain

    At the end of 2010, tens of thousands of university students have demonstrated in central London and all over university campuses in the UK, against the coalition government’s proposals to raise tuition fees up to 9,000 pounds. Government and Media coverage of the protests has focussed primarily on two factors – the violence of a minority of protestors and the apparent ‘privileged’ profile of a few student protestors. ‘Rich rioting students’ was just one of the headlines describing the demonstrations. A panellist on BBC’s Question Time described protestors as ‘just a bunch of middle class students’. Michael Gove, the Education Minister, defending the planned increase in tuition fees posed the question: ‘Is it fair to ask a miner to subsidise the education of someone who can go and become a millionaire?’ The irony of this analogy can surely not be lost on those who remember how brutally Gove’s Conservative Party, in its previous incarnation, destroyed the heart of British working class mining communities.


    Courtesy: LATimes

    One of the most passionate, but misguided, commentaries on the recent student protests comes from Julie Burchill (the Independent, 16 December), who made a plea to the public to ‘spare us these pampered protesters who riot in defence of their privilege’. Focusing on one student, Charlie Gilmour, who has been singled out by almost all the British media because of his connection to a famous rock star, Burchill vents her anger at so called ‘middle class’ protestors at the same time as dismissing university education as a wasteful time of ‘boozing and bullshitting funded by the taxes of people who had the actual gumption to remove themselves from the playpen of education and get a job as soon as legally possible’. She goes on to suggest that for many working class youth, university education has made little difference to their prospects of getting a job.


    Courtesy: LATimes

    Burchill is right to question the success of government-sponsored schemes such as widening participation which critics argue has done little to equalise educational outcomes. All the research suggests that while working class students are more likely to attend university than they did 10 years ago the class gap has not necessarily diminished. Working class students are more likely to attend newer universities, to be part-time students and to study for more vocational subjects. But to dismiss university education for the masses as completely irrelevant is surely wrong. Burchill is also wrong to dismiss the current protests as entirely middle class-led. The fact that some students from middle and upper class families join the student protest does not make the whole student protest an action of the privileged few in defence of their privileges. University students, whatever social class their parents are from, historically tend to act together as ‘students’, and for most part for progressive causes as in the case of the 1968 student protests. At first in 1968 too, the governments and media also sought to portray the student protests as work of radical students and small groups of middle class troublemakers.

    The protests over the last few weeks have seen large numbers of working class students (some of them school students) protesting because it is they who have the most to lose from the proposed public spending cuts. Further, to get so hung up on the notion of a so-called middle class-led protest serves to support Gove’s and the coalition government’s attempts to create an ideological standpoint, presumably on the side of the ordinary working people, from which position to launch a wholesale attack on all the social and economic achievements of the previous generations, like the universal child benefit, housing benefit, disability benefits and similar other measures.

    The current representation of the protestors as middle class serves a deeply ideological and manipulative function of deflecting attention away from the stark realities of the public cuts and their real causes. Many people who oppose the cuts simultaneously accept the argument that there is no alternative but to sacrifice education and other public services in order to save the economy. Further, a large section of the British public and media appear to have accepted the line presented by the government that the total package of cuts worth £128 billion by 2015-16 was ‘unavoidable’ because of previous administration’s careless spending, and almost self-made huge deficits. Until the financial crash of 2008, however, the Labour governments had succeeded in keeping national debt below the 40 percent of GDP target that they set themselves. In 2006/07, public sector net debt was 36.0 percent of the GDP. In 2008, it rose rapidly primarily because of ‘financial interventions’ to bailout of Northern Rock, RBS and other banks, because of lower tax receipts, and because of higher spending on unemployment benefits, all caused by the global recession. The current deficit was caused primarily by the recession not by previous administration’s pre-crash careless spending. It currently stands as 63.7 percent of National GDP, and was projected to peak at 74.9 percent in 2014-15.

    Massive cuts to the NHS, local government, and education budgets are not the inevitable solution to national debt. During the Second World War, the UK national debt reached much higher figures of up to 150 percent of the GDP. It is not uncommon for countries to borrow more during the time of serious national and international crises, like wars, or economic upheavals like the one currently affecting the world, and to pay back the debt over a period of time once the economy starts to grow again. In this sense, budget deficits can be an effective way to deal with shocks such as wars, financial crashes and deep recessions. If anything, the problem of low economic activity is the real, and more urgent, issue than the fiscal stability.


    Courtesy: LATimes

    David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ programme offers an ideological justification for the massive public spending cuts which are about much more than just deficit reduction. The pretence of ‘there is no alternative’ offers a means for the Conservative project to radically transform the state and to transfer more services and money from the public to the private sector. If the real intention was to take the British economy out of the crisis, then such massive cuts would not be the answer. There are alternatives: we need to find a fair and sustainable path out of crisis. Budget deficits will more or less automatically heal with the economic recovery. Trying to cut the deficit quickly, in the midst of a serious recession, will damage the economy and extend the crisis. The government instead should concentrate on growth and allow growth to reduce the deficit. Cuts will not reduce the deficit, investment will. Recently, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) announced that it expects economic growth in 2011 to be much slower than previously predicted. A much weaker consumer spending, resulting from massive unemployment and lower wages in 2011, is described as the main reason for this. Cutting too far and too fast will mean more people out of work, fewer jobs in the economy, lower level of taxation from workers and businesses, and more people on unemployment benefit, which will cost the government more. The real challenge is to introduce constructive ways to restructure the national economy so that it can deliver strong and consistent growth.

    The current crisis and the way some other parts of the world economy have been dealing with it successfully, and all social and cultural legacies of this turbulent process have highlighted, like never before, the crucial role of education. The financial and economic crisis has had a particularly strong impact on young people with low levels of education. Investments in education pay large and rising dividends for individuals, but also for economies. On average, a young person with a university degree will generate £77,000 more in income taxes and social contributions over his/her working life than someone with a high-school degree only. Even after taking the cost of university education into account, the net public return from an investment in tertiary education is £56 000 for a male, in generated income taxes and social contributions over his working life. Enhancing tertiary education attainment can therefore help governments increase their fiscal revenues, making it easier to boost their social spending, in areas like, for example education. As the global demand for jobs shifts up the skills ladder, it has become crucial for countries to develop policies that encourage the acquisition and efficient use of these skills to retain both high value jobs and highly skilled labour. Burchill is right to suggest that ‘clever working class youth of this country [have] been socially and spiritually ‘kettled’ – hemmed in, suffocated and stifled’ historically by ‘the privilege and entitlement’ of the likes of elite. But does the answer really lie in cutting away higher education for working class students altogether?

    Britain’s total investment in higher education, even before the current cuts of the Coalition government, was 1.3 percent of the GDP which is behind the OECD average of 1.5 percent. Despite the student numbers rising by approximately 25 percent in the last 15 years, the UK has slipped from third to fifteenth position in numbers graduating among industrial countries because investment in higher education has risen much rapidly elsewhere. Within Europe, the UK is already falling behind France, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Portugal and Netherlands, among others. Other Western governments, most notably the United States and Germany, have viewed the global financial and economic crisis as a sign not to retrench but to invest in their higher education systems as a necessary part of investing in the skills that will be needed for recovery in near future. In the UK, however, it was education that was first in line for cuts in spending: the cutting of the Future Jobs Fund, the cancellation of school building and refurbishment, the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance, and now funding cuts in university teaching budgets, fewer university places and a massive increase in university tuition fees. All these draconian measures will ensure that talented people from working class backgrounds will not achieve their full potential. The poorer you are the more scared you are by the prospect of tens of thousands of pounds of debt. It seems this is exactly what the Coalition government wants- to keep education for the rich and privileged. And this is what tens of thousands of students are protesting against. If we want British economy to recover and take its place in a much more competitive world, if we want Britain to be ‘open for business’, we should make higher education available for everyone, regardless of their social class. The more skilled people we have, the more likely companies will be willing to invest in the UK.

    Bulent Gokay is a Professor of International Relations, Keele University and Farzana Shain is a Senior Lecturer, Keele University