in a one-idea country
"The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) is now a part of a coalition
government in the forefront of the effort to heap burdens on the
people'' claims a news story published in an international website.
JVP is facing the perils of incumbency. The other day a well meaning
and politically engaged person was seen to be castigating the JVP's
tank-rebuilding programme. This man's central thesis is that the
JVP's 'wev' programme is a politically driven one, aimed securely
at its large rural voter base.
his thesis strikes, unbeknownst to its author, at the core of the
"development debate'' for Third World nations. This week saw
the passing of Narasimha Rao, former Indian Prime Minister. CNN,
eulogising Rao said "whatever maybe said about him, the policies
that Rao initiated are now the cornerstone of the Indian economy;
an economy that is doing very well indeed – as one of the
best performing economies of the world today." (!)
the Indian economy is one of the best performing economies of the
globalized world economic order of our times? Then, why is it that
43 per cent of India's women – according to the recently completed
UN survey – suffer from chronic anaemia due to malnutrition?
burgeoning Indian middle-class is therefore one heck of myth, and
it's a myth that is chiefly propagated by the yuppie Indian entrepreneurial
class, whose handmaidens are those such as the CNN correspondent
who claims as if he just found the Holy Grail, that India is "one
of the best performing economies on the planet.''
neo-liberals have a cheerleading squad. They are made of people
such as our friend who inveighed against the JVP's thousand tanks
people feel that any indigenised economy is a rout. They believe
that when a country ties itself to the world economy, such a country
should do so by falling hook line and sinker – and they advance
the examples of the Asian Tigers and South Korea etc., with Malaysia
now appearing to be the current favourite case-study..
shut their eyes to the fact that in countries such as India, this
neo-liberal paradigm has failed in uplifting the general economic
conditions of the people, even though the champions of neo-liberalism
spout their gargled version about "one of the best performing
economies one earth'' on CNN, as if they had just been regaled about
such tales from half a billion or so beautiful anaemic women in
the Indian heartland.
told and sealed with a billion kisses. It's another matter that
those who see bad policy in the JVPs tank-reconstruction programme
never saw anything negative in J. R. Jayewardene's Accelerated Mahaweli,
which was a programme launched on the same basis of economic self-sufficiency,
albeit with tons of British aid for good measure to remind us that
there was international approval for this scheme.
sub-continental experience has been that if there is 43 per cent
chronic malnutrition among Indian women, there will still be no
social uprising in India. Maybe it is Hinduism or the kismet of
the Indian union, or maybe because as somebody said 'India is obscenely
way, Indian politics has been geared to keep chromic poverty under
socially manageable control. Not so in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan peasantry
cannot be badgered into taking the neo-liberal medicine with uncomplaining
least they will change governments. Quite incidentally it is what
the mass of the Indian population did too, by kicking out Vajpayee
and his "shining India,'' circus as if they knew that the only
thing that was shining was a piece of tinsel in a dress boutique
in Khan Market New Delhi.
least according to animated voices of CNN pom-pom boys, the new
Indian government is following the policies that Narasimha Rao initiated
without any deviation, because Rao's Finance Minister Manmohan Singh
is the new PM under renewed Congress rule.
in fact the new government is desperately trying to empower the
rural masses in any which way it can, though the country is now
firmly locked into the neo-liberal economic process.
still do not know enough about India's new economic policies to
say whether there is anything novel in this department of positively
reengaging the rural economy for growth. But what we do know is
that in Sri Lanka at least, there has been a new idea in this area
- - and that is the thousand 'Wev' programme of the JVP.
this is the very programme that the JVP is getting blamed for! Now,
though it seems to be obvious that the JVP is suffering from the
culture shock of power, and is not doing all that well in coping
with it, the party is in need of affirmation for the fact that it
has at least one idea versus none from the two dominant political
parties – the UNP and the PA!
JVP with its 'wev' programme seemed to have charmed the weather
gods into having a change of heart about the Sri Lankan drought.
Rains drenched the dry zone -- to the point of overkill. But more
important seems to be the fact that the JVP broke the drought of
ideas in the contemporary political establishment. To put it in
short, the thousand 'wev' programme needs a thumbs up from everyone
who sees the absurdity of India today – where a hyped-up 'high-performing'
high octane economy serenaded by all the angels of the World Bank
and the neo-liberal cheer squads (read CNN, and the international
newsmagazines etc.,) falters, even as the country's wretched continue
to wallow in abject levels of poverty with 43 per cent chronic anaemia
among women being one of the most painful statistics of them all….
JVP therefore needs a little positive stroking, but cautionary rider
to that is that even the JVP seems to have only one idea.
one is better than none – the JVP appears to be lost and confused
in its current state of political culture shock - - its leadership
meandering, surviving politically from one day to the next. It's
a dangerous symptom – and very soon the Sri Lankan peasants
might want to find another party to vote for now that they have
dumped the PA and the UNP and had a dalliance with the JVP. But
at least we haven't let some World Bank hurrah boys mislead us as
they appear to have done in India. That's the brighter side. The
downside is that this is still one-idea country, pathetic really
after 50 + years of independence from colonial rule.