CPI(M) Research Unit Convenor, Prasenjit Bose interviewed by Vima Naukara (Insurance Employee), the monthly journal of insurance employees association in Karnataka published from Bangalore. The text of the interview recorded in September 2010 is reproduced here.
Vima Naukara: - India with the GDP growth rate figures touching double digits and claiming to be a World Economic Power is having millions of people starving. Why this contradiction?
Prasenjit Bose: This contradiction is not specific to India. All over the world today, tremendous amount of wealth co-exists with acute poverty and hunger. This contradiction is intrinsic to the very nature of capitalist development, because capitalism simultaneously creates wealth at one pole and poverty on the other. This is what Karl Marx wrote about one hundred fifty years ago. The reality under capitalism has not changed much since then.
GDP growth means nothing to the working people. It only shows how the incomes of the rich and the affluent are rising. The net worth of the richest 100 Indians in 2009 accounted for roughly 25% of India's GDP. In contrast, 77% of our population spend less than Rs. 20 per day. As far as hunger is concerned, a recent estimate by the UN World Food Program suggests that presently there are 92 crore people in the world who suffer from hunger, out of which over 23 crore is in India. As per the latest National Family Health survey (2005-06), nearly half of India’s children under three years of age are malnourished and over half of pregnant mothers are anaemic.
The situation is worsening because of the neoliberal policies pursued by the UPA government. Its illogic can be seen today in the 60 million ton foodgrains rotting in our godowns, feeding the rats even as our people go hungry. The Prime Minister and Food Minister are willing to confront the Supreme Court, but are unwilling to distribute this grain at cheap prices through the PDS. Targeting and division of the poor into BPL and APL has weakened the PDS and left people at the mercy of the market, at a time when food prices have been rising relentlessly.
Targeting is nothing but a ploy to cut subsidies and deny people their basic right to food. This is being followed in India because the policy establishment is steeped in a deep anti-poor mindset, arising out of neoliberal ideology. They do not want to tax the rich and spend on food for the poor. They believe in making the rich richer by giving them lakhs of crores of tax concessions. Then they say, 'we have no money' for food subsidy.
Vima Naukara: - Rahul Gandhi talks about Two Indias. He promises that development policies of the UPA Government is going to bridge the gap. Do you agree with his statement?
Prasenjit Bose: He has no choice but to talk about the two Indias because that is the reality today six decades after independence. If he denies it nobody will take him seriously. But the issue is whether he is serious about 'bridging the gap' between the rich and the poor. What he has been saying so far does not reflect whether he understands at all why the rich are rich and the poor are poor. He seems to share the same neoliberal outlook of the Prime Minister. Only that he tops it up with gimmicks for the aam admi. That may fool some people for a while, but eventually hypocrisy gets exposed.
We are yet to hear one word from him on why thousands of crores of public money is being looted by his Party leaders in the name of Commonwealth games, even as crores of Indians go hungry. Is that how the gap between the rich and poor India will be bridged?
Vima Naukara: - Barak Obama, President of USA is scheduled to visit India in the month of November. Do you feel that his visit will help the Indian people?
Prasenjit Bose: Mr. Obama is facing an increasingly difficult situation at home. The failure of his fiscal stimulus measures to curb unemployment is helping the Republicans to make a comeback. What he can do to help India in such a scenario is very doubtful. In fact, his current measures like restrictions on outsourcing will only squeeze job creation in India.
The US administration is also applying pressure on the Indian government on several fronts to serve their own interests. They want the government to change the provisions of the recently enacted civil nuclear liability bill in order to allow American nuclear suppliers escape any liability. They want the government to open up sectors like retail, higher education, defence along with insurance and banking for American MNCs. Those, I think, would be Mr. Obama's priorities and not any help for the Indian people.
Our foreign policy establishment is facing problems because they put all their eggs in the American basket during the Bush era. Our rulers were fooled into a strategic alliance. Now with Obama, American foreign policy priorities have shifted. They need the Pakistani military to stabilise the situation in Afghanistan. Therefore Pakistan is more important for them in this region than India. They will never give priority to Indian interests vis-a-vis Pakistan. See what is happening on terrorism. Belying all fond hopes of the Prime Minister and the Home Minister, the US has not pressurised Pakistan to bring all the conspirators of Mumbai terror attacks to justice. In fact the David Headley revelations showed that the US intelligence probably knew much more about the attacks than they initially shared with the Indians.
That is how imperialist interests operates, first use and then throw. They created and funded the Taliban to fight the socialist regime in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Now they are using the Pakistani military to combat the Taliban. They are also trying to use India to counter China. Mr. Obama, like all past American Presidents, works within this matrix of US geostrategic interests. American interests in South Asia are fundamentally antithetical to peace, security and well being of the people of all countries in the region, including India.
Vima Naukara: - What is your message to Insurance Employees who are in struggle under the banner of AIIEA against privatisation of insurance sector for the last 15 years?
Prasenjit Bose: The AIIEA has played a very inspiring role, alongwith other progressive unions in public sector banks and financial institutions, in stalling the attempted denationalization of the insurance and banking sectors in India. Without the solid struggle by these unions, the Left Parties could not have succeeded in pushing back the legislations allowing more FDI in banking and insurance during the previous tenure of the UPA government. It was widely recognised after the global financial crisis in 2008, that our public sector financial institutions saved the country from crisis even as multinational giants like AIG and Lehman collapsed.
This struggle has to continue because the present Finance Minister is also committed to the financial liberalization agenda. Rather than learning any lesson from the global financial crisis, he is displaying the same free market humbug and pre-crisis hubris of the finance ministers of the West. His enthusiastic disinvestment drive has already created a bubble in the stock market. The stock market speculators want more.
American pressure to further open up the insurance and banking sectors will also increase during the Obama visit. If that is allowed to happen, it will only pave the way for a financial crisis in India. So we have to collectively resist these moves and defend the integrity of India's financial sector. (end)