Why Shouldn’t the Economic Crisis Turn Into Another Opportunity to Talk About GDP?
The Modi government has tried to persuade all TV viewers that the COVID-19 pandemic is not mismanaged.
The Union finance minister gave a five-part presentation on a plan to revive the economy. However, as Kiran Mazumdar Shaw stated on an NDTV show, everyone was looking for a package to help them survive financially or provide relief monies.
Independent thinking business people to economists and economics enthusiasts, farmer associations to industrial trade unions, and opposition parties have all criticised this idea to boost the economic situation through loans and privatisation at this time. Regardless of beliefs or professions, everyone appears to agree that the economy cannot be re-started while our country’s urban and rural workers are without food or cash, and families in the medium to lower-income brackets have lost jobs and are in debt.
On the other hand, the central government appears to be in denial.
As part of its new Atmanirbhar Abhiyan (self-reliance movement) package, the government has rehashed many pre-coronavirus economic strategies.
The government’s primary statements in the 2020 Budget supported MSME, privatisation of the mining sector, construction of airports, ports, highways, and space exploration.
These measures pushed to boost economic GDP during a global crisis, and anti-globalisation may wind up costing the Indian people considerably more than they provide. This government, which has thrown the economy into disarray with the demonetisation and the GST, is not known for keeping track of the costs of its initiatives. However, in our very unequal society, where different sections of society experience “the economic situation” in dramatically different ways, these dangerous propositions are unaffordable.
It is unlikely that anyone in India still needs persuading that the cache of neoliberal growth successes since 1991 has vanished into the Cayman Islands, NPAs, or the fortunes of Forbes billionaire families after two terms of the UPA and one of the NDA.
According to an Oxfam analysis from 2020, the wealth of 63 Indian billionaires was greater than the Union Budget for 2018-19. We’ve been in a lengthy period of jobless growth, decreasing spending on public infrastructure and services. According to scientists studying urban expansion, this is a state of “accumulation without progress,” according to scientists studying urban development.
This has coincided with an increase in the deliberate and legal destruction of natural resources. Those who claim to choose between growth and the environment are mistaken. Our governments have turned development into a weapon against the environment and its people.
Continuing on this path of expansion will now be detrimental to humanity. Communities and movements in many parts of the world that care about the earth and its inhabitants are demanding greener, slower, and smaller economies that value social indicators over GDP, cooperation over competition, and leisure, creativity, and connectedness at the centre of our social organisation. Why haven’t such ideas been made in India?
The short answer is that we are still in relief mode since our governments have failed to allocate sufficient resources to those in need, such as stranded migrants, farmers and fishermen who have lost their harvest, and the growing number of unemployed people.
Due to the inconceivable levels of hunger and deprivation, these are unquestionably the concerns that deserve all of our attention. However, the absence of aggressive post-COVID-19 ideas could be because many economists believe India is too poor to reject the current growth models.
We also have a small number of economists who are willing to look beyond the welfare state paradigm based on a highly extractive economy. As a result, constructing a post-pandemic world necessitates the active participation of activists, academics, and community organisations capable of anchoring the economic situation inside a decent society.
We must dictate our terms and conditions to the economic system rather than being dominated by its default logic as citizens of an interconnected society.
Land and Labour:
Most poor city workers are returning to their original villages searching for food, shelter, and money.
While television stations refer to them all as “migrants” and group them, their unique identities, which reveal a storey of structural injustice, are obscured. Many of those seeking work in the city comes from our society’s most socially and economically oppressed parts.
As it works in favour of those interested in privatising land and dominating the rural economic situation, the state is complicit in permitting exploitative caste-based work and feudal forms of discrimination to continue.
Adivasis and Dalits make up a considerable portion of our rural economy’s smallholders, wage labourers, and landless peasants. For food security, marginalised rural workers, particularly Dalit and Adivasi women, rely on village commons and forest resources. These kinds of lands are particularly vulnerable to land grabs, and the families who are dependent on them have little say in the choices that are made about them.
Understanding how populations on land become poorly paid labour in India requires an understanding of how private property is created unevenly. For example, indigenous tribes now divided by class will lose their lands in Arunachal Pradesh, which is again in the news for substantial dam projects because those who have de facto authority over common land resources want to profit from it.
The government has never implemented progressive changes to preserve and promote upland community land management traditions. Because individuals who give up land and those who protest against it cannot be accommodated in an economic setup that is becoming leaner due to big data, algorithms, and automation, the entire population will soon suffer.
Land acquisition for massive projects funded by the government is more about profit than meeting our society’s requirements. These projects promise bright futures, yet the majority of them end up becoming displacement stories. Despite constitutional protections and national and international human rights standards against discrimination and dispossession, land-dependent communities have been relocated without their agreement in the majority of cases.
The 2013 land purchase law necessitates landowner approval and pledges to pay wage workers reliant on the land. However, state-level modifications have eliminated the consent requirement. In eviction campaigns, women-headed homes are targeted first. Mining, an extractive industry that accounts for only 2% of India’s GDP, literally turns their lives inside out. Central and state governments treat this industry cautiously, even though it creates fewer low-wage, unskilled jobs in exchange for decimating vast living ecosystems.
Progressive reforms regard rural land as only a launching pad for more “modern” economic models. However, astute entrepreneurs, prosperous farmers, and indigenous people have firsthand knowledge of how the political economy of land works. Land rules allow certain people to amass what everyone requires.
The extraction of caste work and resources from the village and forest is the foundation of India’s industrial and metropolitan economies. What has it produced? There are millions of jobs that are devalued and dehumanised people. These occupations were promoted as the economy’s backbone, yet they vanished as soon as the economy shook. The issues surrounding labour in our society are significantly more complex than what can be captured by statistics employment measures.
India’s employees are landless and stateless, as this lockdown has demonstrated. When there is no safety net beneath them, they are expected to realise India’s growth ambitions. They are caught in the middle of the city and the countryside. This is, without a doubt, the most extreme type of alienation: millions of families are forced to live in two universes.
Labour and the Environment:
Those who are solely concerned with the distributive features of the economy and are unconcerned with the primary separation of communities from land urge more of what we have been doing all along to create a more significant welfare state: globalised markets, industrial growth, and urbanisation. On the other hand, a production system can only go so far. We may not be aware of these boundaries in all circumstances, but we do recognise when ecological feedback is negative and powerful. One type of proof is this pandemic and several other virus attacks.
Consumption of commodities and materials on a large scale has wreaked havoc on our planet. Recycling, on the other hand, does not return resources to the earth. Even though water and forest resources are priceless commons, intensive agriculture, industrialisation, and urbanisation are granted preferential access to decreasing water and forest resources.
No matter how environmentally degrading or life-threatening, project operations can privatise common resources since the commons are seen as inefficiently managed. Many economic “branches” destroy more jobs than they create. If they generate jobs, their production techniques expose workers and communities in the surrounding area to occupational diseases and environmental harm.
Disease and bad health are widespread in numerous generations of families living in coal mining and industrial regions. Such schemes put the public’s health at risk. Toxins from their operations permeate into food and water, affecting workers and larger populations and animals vital to the household economy.
Approvals for projects like these are provided with the utmost haste. Weakened labour and environmental regulations are, at most, quiet witnesses to these consequences, but they are essentially facilitators. These laws provide a false sense of security in the belief that someone, somewhere, is looking after us all.
A South Korean facility spilt poisonous fumes just last week, endangering villages within a 3-kilometre radius at the very least. In many places of India, such development projects impact industrial workers, farmworkers, and ecological communities. The Narmada Bachao Andolan (Movement to Save the Narmada) and Shankar Guha Niyogi’s trade unionism fought to bring the poorest Adivasi (tribal), Kisan (farmer), and mazdoor together (worker).
Climate change is, of course, the green elephant in the economic planning room today. Climate change’s abrupt, uneven, and unpredictable effects are little understood but widely felt throughout India. Our country constantly ranks first in Asia in terms of disaster displacement.
Ecomodernists are eager to identify the converging “pathways” of economic expansion and climate solutions via the lens of technology. Carbon emissions from fossil fuels are a critical component of these solutions. On the other hand, technology can only be a valuable collaborator; it cannot define our options for a different future.
A good illustration is how climate and energy policy has embraced the use of large-scale, private-sector-led massive renewable energy projects. Large solar parks built with non-renewable materials and even on the scale of small countries are recognised to be insufficient for an inherently over-consumptive modern economy. But we continue to judge the success of climate policy through expanding this sector.
Renewable energy is a hot topic in worldwide conversations about green jobs, but in land-based countries like India, renewables, like all other projects, are criticised for displacing valuable land from communities. We must keep in mind that the impacts of the current economy are not replicated in this new economy of alternatives. Many “climate-resilient” growth strategies may not improve over current top-down, extractive economic models.
An ecological state:
Years of short-term economics and cabal politics have significantly impacted India’s land, labour, and environment. The government’s economic package pushes us further away from social and environmental justice at this critical juncture. True, we urgently require a stable and robust socioeconomic welfare state.
We must also traverse the distance from the welfare state to the ecological state at this time.
As geographer Cindi Katz points out, we can’t secure everyone’s well-being if the “grounds of social reproduction” are poisoned and unfriendly to life.
Welfarism must now be based on ecology. We must abandon our GDP-driven economic growth addiction favouring a more humane and regenerative economy. Our goal should be to create conditions that allow for the unborn child’s social, economic, and environmental freedoms.
Edited and published by Ashlyn