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Country Report: India

from the 2nd ICOR Asian Contintental Conference, July 2013
    1. India with a population of around 125crore ranks 140th in terms of income per capita. It is inhabited by one of the most deprived and poorest peoples in the world. According to World Bank statistics, about 40 crore people in India, as compared to 129 crore people worldwide, live below the international poverty line. A Committee appointed by the Indian Planning Commission led by Arjun Sen Gupta has recorded that more than 80 percent of the Indian population has a daily earning of only less than Rs. 20 a day. India has about 61 million children under the age of 5 who are chronically malnourished, compared to 150 million children worldwide. Of the number of infants dying worldwide within 24 hours of birth, one-third is in India. An estimated 10 crore children below the age of 14 are condemned to work as child labourers in most hazardous occupations.

    2. According to the latest sector-wise national income statistics, agriculture, industry and services respectively contribute around 15 percent, 25 percent and 60 percent to the country’s GDP. The same data source puts the distribution of India’s labour force by occupation in agriculture, industry and services as 52 percent, 14 percent, and 34 percent respectively, pinpointing the extreme dependency of the people on agriculture for their sustenance. As is obvious, industry and services which together encompass 85 percent of the national income provides employment only to 48 percent of the population, that too an inflated figure. According to latest reliable data, of the 48.8 crore work-force in the country, only 7 percent works in the organized sector, 90 percent of which is still provided by the dwindling public sector. The literacy rate of 74 percent as claimed by government is still lower than the worldwide average and the country suffers from a high dropout rate from schools. As revealed by the 2011 Census data on the household consumption patterns, about 67 percent of households use firewood, crop residue or cow dung cakes for cooking and 53 percent do not have toilet or drainage facilities on premises and two- thirds have no access to safe drinking water. Some 60 crore Indians have no electricity at all.  While 80 percent of Indian villages have at least an electricity line, only 44 percent of rural households have access to electricity.

    3. Asset-wise, 100 leading corporate companies in India directly and indirectly control almost 90 percent of the country’s assets, while one-third of the rural population is landless and destitute. The number of super-rich Indians earning more than Rs. 5 crore per annum and having highly valued durable assets is estimated at 125000.The upper crust of this super-rich section which is fully integrated with the comprador and most corrupt Indian regime has made this country the topper in black money generation. According to the Swiss Bankers Association India topped the worldwide list for black money and its “underground economy” is conceived to be several times larger than the so called official economy. The corporate-politician-bureaucrat nexus belonging to the super-rich, upper class has stashed almost $1500 billion--more than the national income of India--in Swiss banks alone. Taking into account the various tax exemptions enjoyed by them, the effective tax rate on this super-rich comes to only around 15 percent while even in several capitalist countries in Europe, the tax-GDP ratio is more than 50 percent.

    4. Retail trade is one of the pillars of Indian economy and accounts for an annual turnover of Rs. 30 lakh crore. However, 95 percent of this sector is still being informal or unorganized providing direct employment to around 5 crore people upon whom around 20 crore people depend for their sustenance, and after agriculture, retail trade is the biggest employment-provider. Under pressure from global retail giants like Walmart, who are on their way to the fast expanding Indian retail market, recently the UPA has removed all restrictions that stood in the way of FDI in retail trade. As one of the largest middle class consumer markets, India is the tenth largest importer of luxurious items and gold in the world and an attractive destination for considerable foreign investment from imperialist financial centres.

    5. This is the concrete outcome of two-century old colonization led by Britain which was followed by more than six decades of postwar neocolonisation unleashed by the world imperialist system led by USA. During the initial decades of neocolonisation, when imperialism was pursuing the international policy of Keynesianism, coterminous with it the comprador Indian state adopted the so called Nehruvian policies which provided a welfare mask to neocolonisation till the eighties. But when the world imperialist system entered into an irreversible crisis called stagflation since the seventies, taking advantage of the ideological-political setbacks suffered by the communist movement at the international level, finance capital buried Keynesianism and resorted to a new accumulation process called neoliberalism since the late seventies starting with Thatcherism and Reaganomics which was transplanted to neocolonial countries like India through globalization.

    6. As a result of the globalisation-liberalisation-privatisation policies of the last two decades, the state itself has transformed from its erstwhile Keynesian role of an ‘initiator’ of economic activities to a ‘facilitator’ of corporate behaviour everywhere. Through a whole set of budgetary and extra-budgetary policies pertaining to extensive deregulation and liberalization of the agricultural, industrial, services, financial and foreign trade sectors, even the remnants of former inward looking or domestic market-oriented economic strategies are being systematically demolished. The core of this IMF-World Bank-WTO enforced neoliberal attack consist of a downsizing and roll back of the erstwhile welfare state, cut in social welfare expenditures pertaining to food, health, education and shelter, abolition of special provisions to the oppressed and weaker sections, elimination of state subsidies including that of food, stoppage of price support and procurement programs, closing down of public sector units and disinvestment of very profitable ones at throwaway prices, restructuring infrastructures, public utilities and social overheads under the euphemism of public-private partnership and BOT schemes enabling private sector to accumulate vast amount of wealth through toll collection or imposition of appropriate user charges, liberalization of trade, banking and financial markets, liberalization of tax regime, liberalization of the labour market including wage freeze along with required anti-strike laws and above all, free entry and exit of MNCs with unhindered profit repatriation facilities.

    7. As a manifestation of the systematic downsizing of the state, successive governments at the centre and the states are increasingly withdrawing from their resource mobilization efforts such that as a proportion of GDP tax collection is fast going down. For instance, under the Nehruvian or pre-liberalisation period, the tax-GDP ratio of the central government had been above 10 percent on an average, while under neoliberalism, the same has declined below 10 percent. This trend has further accelerated with the ascendancy of Manmohan Singh as the prime minister of the UPA government since 2004. Through growing corporate tax exemptions and tax reduction in corporate and income taxes, big businesses are grabbing huge sums from public exchequer. For instance, according to the statistics given in the 2011-12 Indian budget by the central government, tax forgone by Manmohan Singh government had risen from 50 percent of the total tax collected in 2005–06 to 72 percent of the total tax collected in 2010–11. During this five year period alone, according to official estimates, the total revenue forgone under corporate income tax, excise duty and customs duty amounted to more than twenty lakh crores of rupees! According to independent estimates, under the prime ministership of Manmohan Singh since 2004, the total tax exemptions to corporate sections through budgetary measures alone have reached around Rs. 35 lakh crore! The loot done by Ambani like corporate sections through grabbing of national assets at throwaway prices and through indulging in speculation in most essentials of common people’s sustenance such as food and fuel is in addition to this. The outcome of this phenomenon even when the number of speculative billionaires in the country is mushrooming is an absolute reduction in government’s social welfare expenditures and cut in subsidies to the downtrodden and toiling masses whose purchasing power steeply falls in the context of lack of earnings and purchasing power on the one hand, and rising prices of necessaries of life and essential items on the other.

    8. From sectoral perspective, agriculture is now subjected to the worst form of financial penetration through what is called ‘second green revolution’. The first green revolution started in the 1960s at the behest of American imperialists, World Bank, USAID, Ford-Rockefeller philanthropies, etc. acting as a conduit for the penetration of imperialist capital in to Indian agriculture has already transformed it as an appendage of agribusiness MNCs together with the strengthening of land concentration in new landlord classes and accentuation of landlessness of the peasantry. It has also led to the complete loss of Indian peasants’ self-reliance on domestic seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, transfer of the Indian gene pool of food crops to the seed banks controlled by MNCs, and above all the irreversible soil degradation and natural resource depletion having long lasting ecological problems. However, till the eighties, these changes were taking place under the domain of state led development. However the advent of imperialist globalization since the beginning of 1990s under unhindered financialisation has added a new dimension to India’s agrarian crisis. With the inclusion of agriculture along with intellectual property rights including those pertaining to genetic engineering into the WTO regime, under agri-business MNCs who have completely monopolized the agriculture technologies, India is now witnessing an unprecedented corporatisation of agriculture.

    9. Along with agri-business companies who in the name of corporate agriculture are concentrating vast land areas in farms, the ongoing corporate land grab in the guise of various neocolonial projects such as SEZs, NIMZs, highway projects, airports, rail corridors, tourism zones, townships, etc., are resulting in further landlessness and destitution of the peasantry. Even existing land ceiling acts are repealed to facilitate this corporatisation resulting in large scale displacement of the peasantry and adivasis from their rural habitat. Consequently, India is witnessing an unprecedented internal migration ever recorded in human history and the displaced, landless peasantry is joining the ranks of slum dwellers in urban centres of the country. As noted by the 2011 Census, if the present trend continues, within a decade the people living in urban areas in the country will be larger than those in rural areas and migrant workers clinging to low wage, informal or unorganized and unskilled work will form as much as 60 per cent of urban population. The lack of secure tenure and threat of frequent evictions by urban real estate mafia with the connivance of the state in slum areas make the life of slum dwellers horrific. Lack of housing and shelter and access to even minimum credit, public services and livelihood opportunities lead to explosive growth in urban poverty at a considerably higher level than in rural areas and the phenomenon is being characterized as the “urbanization of poverty”.

    10. Coming to the case of industry, during the past several years, in terms of its contribution to GDP, industrial sector is more or less stagnant. Several spheres are experiencing what is called a deindustrialization and this is more manifested with respect to employment generation. The ongoing export-oriented or foreign market oriented industrialization being primarily cheap-labour based, whatever employment created is in the informal or unorganized sector where job and social security are nil. As a result of economic crisis in US and EU which are India’s major export markets, several ‘sunrise’ industries that emerged under globalization are facing threat of closures. The IT- related outsourcing bubble which has been solely depending on the financial boom in imperialist countries is also bursting. Unemployment and underemployment are becoming the order of the day. In addition to rapid growth in unemployment, disinvestment of public sector and downsizing of state sector employment together with clamour for privatization has imparted a double blow to the dalits and adivasis as even the nominal job opportunities available to them earlier through reservation are no more existing under the neoliberal regime. As a mark of the deterioration in the standard of living of workers in general, the share of wages in GDP that on an average hovered around 35 percent in the pre-liberalisation period has fallen to less than 20 percent under imperialist globalisation.

    11. On the other hand, utilizing the liberalized atmosphere and in tune with the specific character of finance capital, corporate MNCs and their Indian junior partners are fast moving from the sphere of production into the sphere of speculation composed of real estate, finance, trade and other money-spinning businesses. Corporate finance capital is subjecting every item of human life such as land, food, medicine, education, fuel and so on to outright speculation. Corporatisation and commercialisation of education and health in particular have completely denied As such, the so called fast growing services sector that encompasses these money spinning businesses is now composed of almost 60 percent of the country’s national income. Obviously, the gains from this flourishing speculative sphere are gobbled up by a tiny upper echelon of society.

    12. Along with this, propelled by extreme greed, corporate capital with the connivance of political-bureaucratic set up has unleashed an unprecedented plunder of nature including water, forests and natural and mineral resources leading to hitherto unknown levels of ecological destruction in the country. For instance, the recent Madhav Gadgil Committee Report on Western Ghats that span across six Indian states has proved how this dwindling source of world’s rarest flora and fauna is under threat of extinction due to corporate encroachment by land, forest, mine and quarry mafia.

    13. Thus more than two decades of neoliberal globalization has led India to a peculiar situation where the corporate elites and big businesses composed of just one percent of the population enjoy the riches and pleasures quite undreamt of even by medieval monarchs and aristocracy while the vast majority of the toiling people find it difficult to meet their both ends. While wealth is accumulated by the billionaires and corporate mafia in leaps and bounds, India is becoming a society of mass poverty and destitution. An utterly parasitic corporate elite who are junior partners of imperialism are reaping super profits from this scenario while the very sustenance of the broad masses of toiling Indians is in peril.

    14. To strengthen the neoliberal policies by dividing the people, the Indian ruling classes are effectively utilising all sorts of contradictions and conflicts in Indian society. This provided a fertile ground for the Hindu fundamentalist forces spearheaded by the RSS through its political arm, BJP to penetrate entire apparatus of state power. This created a favourable situation for the growth of Muslim communal forces also to gain strength in response. If the Congress government in 1992 allowed the RSS Parivar to demolish Babri Masjid to divert attention from the imposition of the imperialist globalization policies, this dangerous and sinister step has led to not only the communal fascist BJP coming to power at centre in 1998 and consolidating its grip in few states, but also to the growth of all religious fundamentalist forces, especially Hindu fundamentalists, but also to communalization of the society to a large extent.

    15. In a similar vein, the ruling classes are effectively utilizing the caste based vote bank politics, and encouraging upper caste hegemony, and abstaining from democratizing land relations based on land-to-the-tiller principle. The Indian state does not uphold caste-based reservation as a democratic right and the ruling classes by using the parliament and even the judiciary are trying to dilute the reservation policy by incorporating such concepts as creamy layer. With the backing of ruling class parties, most heinous social institutions and feudal social set ups like khap panchayats are maintained to keep the stranglehold of caste in society. As a result, with specific characteristics, caste hatred, caste discrimination, caste oppression, untouchability, etc. are prevailing in vast areas of the country. Together with this, due to corporatisation of agriculture, mining and plunder of natural resources and establishment of corporate projects, adivasis, landless peasants and agricultural workers are displaced in millions from their habitat and are forced to migrate to urban slums.

    16. Military deployment in Jammu and Kashmir and Northeast is strengthened under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). As the uneven development under neo-colonisation is intensifying, giving rise to demand for separate states, they are ruthlessly suppressed instead of trying for political settlement. In the absence of progressive decentralization, devolution and democratization of the political power, people’s strife based on nationality and ethnic questions also is intensifying. Even existing federal principles in the Constitution are undermined by autocratic Congress and BJP for appeasing corporate interests as a unitary structure is more conducive for their plunder.

    1. Women who constitute half of the population were victims of worst forms of exploitation, attack and oppression under the neocolonial-neoliberal regime. Under the confluence of feudal patriarchy and neoliberal consumer culture propped up by the Indian ruling classes, commodification of women has assumed the worst form today. Ever-mounting sexual atrocities including even murder unleashed on women have assumed highly deplorable proportions such that ‘rape capital’ has become the synonym for Delhi today. Religious obscurantism and Khap panchatats like caste practices patronized by the ruling classes for vote banks have further enslaved women who are already at the receiving end of patriarchy and private property. The practice of female infanticide prevailing in India has made the proportion of women in total population abysmally low in several regions of the country. A recent trend is the large-scale employment of women in low-wage export-oriented works including outsourcing for facilitating the surplus value-extraction by corporate capital. The police and all the bureaucratic apparatus of state have become anti-women. That people are increasingly becoming conscious of the anti-women essence of the ruling system is a positive sign.

    2. Under neo-colonisation, the policies implemented in the name of development which actually serve the interests of imperialists and their lackeys, ecological devastation has become an ever intensifying factor. ‘Global warming’ like phenomena and the nuclear catastrophe created by the nuclear arms race, existing nuclear plants which are ‘nuclear time bombs’ as once again proved by Fukushima and construction of new nuclear plants are threatening the future of human race. Imperialists are dumping industrial and nuclear waste in countries like India. All these developments have made the struggle for ecological protection one of the basic components of social progress.

    3. In order to perpetuate the reactionary ruling system and to promote neo-colonisation, along with medieval and feudal culture and various forms of superstitions, the imperialist cultural values are also promoted brazenly, commercializing and commodifying culture. Utilizing extensive growth of information technology and electronic media, culture is increasingly linked with the market interests of imperialist system and its lackeys and turned in to an industry. Communal forces colluding with imperialists are communalizing all spheres of social life including culture. All these serve as ideology of national servitude and strive for destruction of all progressive and democratic cultural consciousness.

    4. Along with all round criminalization of the society, corruption has become one of the worst malice threatening the social fabric. It has taken gigantic proportions with the speculative capital playing all pervading role under neo-liberal policies. The corruption in the state apparatus including the government machinery from top to bottom, the defense and police services, the electoral system, and even the judiciary have reached unprecedented levels. Under the Manmohan regime, economic policy-making itself is being exposed as rooted in corruption and almost 40 percent of the members of Lok Sabha is charged with corruption, rape and murder, pinpointing to the extreme decay to which the necolonial ruling system has degenerated.

    5. It is the solemn task of Indian proletariat, peasants and all oppressed sections in alliance with progressive democratic forces to resist and overcome this horrific situation with a correct ideological-political orientation based on a concrete understanding of neocolonialism and neoliberalism.

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