New Subjects and New Governance in India 9780415522908, 9781138664814, 9781315816128

This volume looks at the ways in which governance in the exercise of its strategies also acts as a process of production

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Table of contents :
Half Title
List of Tables and Figures
Section I: A Second Transition? Sources of Legitimacy and ‘Scientific’ Governance
1. The Democratic Story of Twin Challenges to Governance: Identity Needs and Developmental Needs
2. New Technique of Governance: E-Governance and India’s Democratic Experience
3. Disasters: Experiences of Development during the Embankment Years in Bihar
4. Between Ecology and Economy: Environmental Governance in India
5. Conflict and Development: Implications for Democracy and Governance
Section II: The Production of Appropriate Subjects
6. The Cultured Subjects
7. A Well-behaved Minority Population
8. The Educated Subjects
About the Editors
Notes on Contributors
Recommend Papers

New Subjects and New Governance in India
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New Subjects and New Governance in India

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New Subjects and New Governance in India

Editors Ranabir Samaddar Suhit K. Sen


First published 2012 in India by Routledge 912 Tolstoy House, 15–17 Tolstoy Marg, Connaught Place, New Delhi 110 001

Simultaneously published in the UK by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, OX14 4RN

Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business

© 2012 Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group

Typeset by Star Compugraphics Private Limited 5, CSC, Near City Apartments Vasundhara Enclave Delhi 110 096

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the publishers.

British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record of this book is available from the British Library

ISBN: 978-0-415-52290-8

Contents List of Tables and Figures Acknowledgements

Introduction Ranabir Samaddar and Suhit K. Sen

vii ix


Section I: A Second Transition? Sources of Legitimacy and ‘Scientific’ Governance 1. The Democratic Story of Twin Challenges to Governance: Identity Needs and Developmental Needs Amit Prakash


2. New Technique of Governance: E-Governance and India’s Democratic Experience Dipankar Sinha


3. Disasters: Experiences of Development during the Embankment Years in Bihar Manish K. Jha


4. Between Ecology and Economy: Environmental Governance in India Sutirtha Bedajna


5. Conflict and Development: Implications for Democracy and Governance Sujata Dutta Hazarika


Section II: The Production of Appropriate Subjects 6. The Cultured Subjects Badri Narayan Tiwari


vi — New Subjects and New Governance in India

7. A Well-behaved Minority Population Ranabir Samaddar 8. The Educated Subjects Anup Dhar


Bibliography About the Editors Notes on Contributors Index

376 394 395 396


List of Tables and Figures Tables 1.1 Performance of Political Parties in Constituencies of Jharkhand in the Lok Sabha Elections, 1991 1.2 Performance of Jharkhandi Political Parties in the Lok Sabha Elections, 1991 1.3 Performance of Political Parties in Constituencies of Jharkhand in the Lok Sabha Elections, 1996 1.4 Performance of Jharkhandi Political Parties in the Lok Sabha Elections, 1996 1.5 Performance of Political Parties in Constituencies of Jharkhand in the Lok Sabha Elections, 1998 1.6 Performance of Jharkhandi Political Parties in the Lok Sabha Elections,1998 1.7 Performance of Political Parties in Constituencies of Jharkhand in the Lok Sabha Elections, 1999 1.8 Performance of Jharkhandi Political Parties in the Lok Sabha Elections, 1999 1.9 Performance of Political Parties in Constituencies of Jharkhand in the Lok Sabha Elections, 2004 1.10 Performance of Jharkhandi Political Parties in the Lok Sabha Elections, 2004 1.11 Performance of Political Parties in Constituencies of Jharkhand in the Lok Sabha Elections, 2009 1.12 Performance of Jharkhandi Political Parties in the Lok Sabha Elections, 2004 8.1 Ratio of Private and Public Share in Higher Education Sub-sectors

48 50 51 53 54 56 57 59 61 63 65 67


Figures 2.1 Focal Domains for e-Governance 4.1 Irreversibility of Environmental Process and the Asymmetry of Technological Change



viii — New Subjects and New Governance in India

4.2 Environmental Kuznet’s Curve 4.3 Trade-offs between Inter-generational Efficiency and Equity 4.4 Organisational Structure of the MoEF, India (Environment Wing) 4.5 Organisational Structure of the MoEF, India (Environment Wing)


8.1 The Education Conundrum


166 186 188

Acknowledgements With two companion volumes on the present history of governance in India, Political Transition and Development Imperatives in India and New Subjects and New Governance in India, the Calcutta Research Group (CRG) com-pletes almost a decade-long study of some of the specific features of post-colonial democracy, particularly in India. In the course of these years we have picked up the themes of autonomy, justice, and governance. Our work began with an investigation into the role and function of autonomy in Indian democracy. This was followed by research on popular perceptions of social justice, law and its limits in delivering justice, and the ways in which marginalities have produced demands for justice. Now, in the two volumes, we shift our focus to the specifics of post-colonial governance, the developmental paradigm of governance, and its interface with popular claims, rights, and justice. Autonomy, justice, and governance — these are three of the fundamental areas of democratic theory and research, which we felt have been neglected in traditional historico-political studies of democracy. In this sense, these are different from the usual studies of civil society, political society, elections, parliament, bureaucracy, and social capacity for democratic function that crowd the field of democratic studies. They are also different from studies of individualism, liberty, freedom, etc. But hopefully, together these volumes will throw new light on some of the less discussed aspects of Indian democracy. These researches were carried all through in dialogic manner. A large number of people — scholars and non-scholars — participated in workshops, dialogues, and meetings held in different parts of the country. Several institutions collaborated with CRG. Besides the dialogues and workshops, the research drew inspiration from the wide-ranging discussions in the Third and Fourth Critical Studies Conference (Kolkata, 2009, 2011) held respectively on the themes of ‘Empires States, and Migration’ and ‘Logistics, Development, and Democracy’, and the symposium on ‘Bio-politics, Development, and Governance’ (Kolkata, 2010).

x — New Subjects and New Governance in India

The contributors to the two volumes are indebted to each other as much as to discussants and other participants in the dialogues. Our collective thanks are in particular to Itty Abraham, S. Anandhi, Sahana Basavapatna, Sibaji Pratim Basu, Sudeep Basu, Parthasarathi Banerjee, Paula Banerjee, Pradip Kumar Bose, Subhas Ranjan Chakraborty, Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhury, Dwaipayan Bhattachrya, Indira Chowdhury, Bidhan Kanti Das, Samir Kumar Das, Rajarshi Dasgupta, Vivek Dhareshwar, Pallab Kumar Goswami, Ruchira Goswami, K. C. Suresh, R. Limbadri, Manabi Majumdar, Deepak Kumar Mishra, Bishnu Mohapatra, Amites Mukherjee, Dulali Nag, Arun Kumar Patnaik, Pradip Phanjoubam, Prasanta Ray and G. Krishna Reddy. The Ford Foundation supported the research and dialogue programme on governance. It also supported the past two programmes on autonomy and social justice. Our thanks are in particular to Stephen Solnick, Representative of the Ford Foundation in India, and to Bishnu Mohapatra, the Programme Executive at the Ford Foundation, who gave us advice and interesting ideas all through the three research programmes. Without the members of the CRG team, of course, none of these would have been possible. We take this opportunity to thank each and every member of the CRG team and the CRG network, especially Sutirtha Bedajna and Mithilesh Kumar, who contributed substantially to the production of the book.

Introduction Ranabir Samaddar and Suhit K. Sen In this volume the focus is on governance as a process of production of subjects, moving on from the theme of governance as a field of strategies in the companion volume. By ‘a field of strategies’, we tried to indicate how strategic imperatives of rule (such as law-making, constitutionalism, producing the combined discourse of the rule of law and rights, promise-making in politics and other forms of legitimacy exercise, developmentalism as a strategy of governance, governance as a means of ensuring security, etc.) take their shape. By ‘a process of production of subjects’ we want to say that governance is not a one-sided affair starting and ending with those who rule and govern us, producing fiats, decrees, and diktats, but a productive process — one that produces the subjects of governance who then react to the process and make the field of governance a contentious one. Thus the principal question addressed in this volume is: what is the nature of this dynamics of power in the process of ‘subject production’, indicating thereby both subjection (to those who rule) and subjectivation (that is, who by their own subjectivity now react to the process of governance)? This volume picks up a few select instances of this dialectical process — the process of governing and the process of popular politics, which does not passively receive orders but has autonomy and responds to the dynamics of governance with its own ideas and responses. In discussing the dynamics of governance as a field of production of subjects, we have to remember that the productive process we are describing in this volume did not begin all of a sudden, de novo. In the first volume we have traced mainly what we can call the founding years of post-colonial governance. Indians had just become a people graduating from a colonised status to that of free citizenry. In this volume, we are showing why the process of governance could not rest content with that transformation. While the fundamental structures of rule were put in place, the requirements of political economy, technology,

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democracy, popular politics, globalisation, fiscal crisis, and above all, resistance to misrule called for a change in the process and structure of governance. This volume, therefore, begins with pointing out the transformation in the dynamics of governance through select studies included in the first section, titled ‘Second Transition? Sources of Legitimacy and Scientific Governance’. The second section, ‘The Production of Appropriate Subjects’ makes the inquiry, namely, what kind of subjects do the rulers envisage in taking their own vision of development forward? The transformation we inquire into is thus not only of the technologies and themes of governance (say, the theme of disaster management exemplified in the study of flood and disaster management in Bihar by Manish Jha in his article in this volume, Chapter 3), but also of the subjects who must now become appropriate for the new kind of rule. In other words, governmental practices are studied here in the light of two things: (a) the emergence of what can be called broadly a developmental democracy such as India; and (b) globalisation. The study of governmental processes in a developmental democracy means focusing on the inter-relations between democracy, development, and governance. In the wake of globalisation and globalisation-induced development, the relation between governance and democracy thus becomes more critical. Democratic governance means governing a democracy, in particular governing the tensions, conflicts, claims, and collective claims that developmental processes and a developmental regime provoke in a democracy. It also means particular governing processes and structures. This volume reflects these three aspects of concern, namely: (a) the process of governing a developmental democracy; (b) the relevant structures of administering the task of governance; and (c) the popular response to the agenda of developmental governance. Against the backdrop of the first transition of democracy in India from its origin in a colonial polity to the first phase of its independent life after the promulgation of the Indian Constitution in 1950, the discussion moves on to what it terms provisionally, the second transition to democracy (implying the inter-relations between globalisation, development, and governance structures). This suggests that while the study has to

Introduction  3

reflect on the governance of transition, it has to reflect at the same time on how democracy negotiates this transition. Yet we have to remember that the changes mostly have not been drastic — there have been strong continuities, while some changes emerged, even though certain moments in the evolution of governmental technologies can be considered as watersheds. On one hand, thus, we can note that development was also independent India’s first government’s call in the light of which industrial and agricultural policies were adopted in the 1950s, the planning process ensued in full swing and development was seen as perched on the plan of welfare. Welfare was the great leitmotif. Thus the public sector, developmental administration, a sprawling welfare bureaucracy, rural decentralisation, poverty eradication programmes, and as an extreme measure of this trend, the desire to develop what one Indian prime minister called ‘a committed judiciary’ marked the first developmental phase. However, in the decade of the 1980s’, particularly towards the end of the decade, welfare as the legitimating factor of developmental policies gradually gave way to growth. In some cases, this shift meant rapid and drastic changes, such as closing down of sick public sector enterprises, radical market-friendly measures, a reorientation of the planning process, changes in taxation and fiscal policies, and so on. But in many other cases change emerged slowly, while in still some others, old policies and governance policies carried on. Some of the articles in this volume (on e-governance by Dipankar Sinha, ecological governance by Sutirtha Bedajna, managing identity need and combining it with developmental need by Amit Prakash, and disaster management by Manish Jha, among others) discuss the complex nature of the transition. Two major things happened in this scenario of continuity and discontinuity: on the one hand, the welfare discourse changed to that of rights and claims (due to popular politics, emergence of human rights’ arguments, relevant developments in the judicial field, and above all, parliamentary democracy and, therefore, regular elections), with citizens no longer accepting the legitimacy of governmental actions and consequences on the given ground that these actions are motivated by developmental inspirations and questions are raised about whose development these policies serve. On the other hand, in the socio-economic field some

4 — Ranabir Samaddar and Suhit K. Sen

major changes have taken place. Briefly, these changes are: foreign direct investment (FDI) and the Indian corporate sector have grown phenomenally; the corporate sector is now greatly connected with public relations, media, glitz, and the economy of conspicuous consumption; while external investment of Indian big business in many non-traditional sectors is increasing, World Bank–Asian Development Bank–International Monetary Fund– Japan–United Kingdom linkages are also growing for almost all infrastructure development activities. At the same time, agriculture is moving slowly (some say it is in a crisis); similarly, the numbers of the labour force are increasing very slowly, if at all, with the unorganised sector’s condition remaining at a depressed level; farmers’ deaths/suicides epitomise the permanently depressed conditions of certain areas of the country and among sections of the population; the developmental projects are extracting a heavy toll in the form of massive displacement in different parts of the country and poverty reduction has not shown any connectivity with global investments in the country. Finally, while expenditure is rising on issues of defence, security, science establishment, intelligence, and crowd control, it is still Dalits, the indigenous population, minorities, and women, who form the core of India’s working population as well the most impoverished sections of this population. Numbers also suggest, at least prima facie, the changes and the paradoxes being referred to here. FDI grew in the first quarter of the fiscal year 2008–2009 by USD 40 billion per month, whereas in 2004–2005, the corresponding figure stood at USD 15 billion. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), the greater part of FDI has gone into the computer and softwarerelated industry and infrastructure; for instance, the maximum FDI equity inflows between April–August 2008 have been in the services sector with USD 2.34 billion, construction activities including roads and highways with USD 1.64 billion, housing and real estate with USD 1.62 billion, and computer hardware and software with USD 1.36 billion as equity inflows. At the same time, in this period, a massive displacement of population groups has taken place — according to one respected estimate, the figure of displacement (due to violence, natural disasters, and displacement due to developmental activities) can be anywhere between 50–60 million (Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre

Introduction  5

(IDMC) figures, plus that of Walter Fernandes’ works).1 Again, to note, in the last decade (1997–2007), besides displacement, farmers’ deaths/suicides reached the devastating figure of 100,000 deaths, with five states (Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh) accounting for 89,362 deaths between 1997 and 2005.2 This suggested that while the established institutional financial system for supporting the peasantry (the great achievement credited to the pre-1990s governance was the help given to the farmers by various means) has been failing in this period, making a return of traditional moneylending a possibility; the entire agricultural system was in crisis, with agrarian growth recording a barely 2 per cent plus annual growth. Again of the various crops, foodgrain production rose only marginally — from 217.3 million tons in 2006–2007 to 219.3 million tons in 2007–2008. One of the results of such a situation is that we still have 36 per cent of the people living below the poverty line, one-third of the poor living in urban areas, and the rest in rural areas. But it is in this period again that the manufacturing sector has grown by 9 per cent, and the corporate sector as a whole has grown by about 12 per cent. The Indian corporate sector also invested abroad phenomenally in the last decade. According to the latest UNCTAD World Investment Report (2007), India’s outward FDI was the second highest at USD 20.4 billion after Brazil at USD 28 billion. Significantly, while China’s outward FDI rose by 32 per cent, to USD 16 billion in 2006, India’s outward FDI went up by almost four times. According to a Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) report published in July 2008, India’s total outbound investments in joint ventures and wholly owned subsidiaries (WOS) abroad grew by 53.2 per cent in financial year 2008, the figure standing at USD 23.07 billion, as against USD 15.06 billion in the previous fiscal year. The overall number of proposals 1 IDMC:, accessed 1 January 2011; Walter Fernandes, ‘Liberalisation and Development-induced Displacement’, Social Change, 36 (1), March 2006, pp. 109–23; Walter Fernandes et al., ‘The Draft National Rehabilitation Policy: A Critique’, Policies and Practices, 16, Calcutta Research Group, Research Paper Series, 2007; also access 2 P. Sainath, ‘One Farmer’s Suicide Every 30 Minutes’, the Hindu, 15 November 2007;, accessed 2 January 2011.

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during the financial year 2007–2008 has totalled 2,261, with a growth of 24.4 per cent over the proposals registered, and of 53.2 per cent in amounts of investment in the previous year. And finally, India remains the undisputed leader in offshore services, accounting for about 65–70 per cent of the global offshoring pie, according to recent research by Gartner Inc. The point to note, at least prima facie, is the impact of these changes (of which we mention only the barest of the barest here), on the working of the government. For instance, the ascendancy of the executive is overwhelming — the executive now represents detailed governmental management of poverty, capital formation, urban growth, development of infrastructure, social justice, communal relations, and the gigantic and elaborate process of electoral democracy (three times vote, Parliament, electoral bureaucracy, etc.); at the same time there is marked opposition to the organised consensus in official politics about governmental ideas and policies on development, brought about by the governmental management of economic policies. Governmental ideas of development are countered by ideas of dignity and rights, which represent deeper concerns about issues of justice. Thus today’s developmental discourse has to contend with the movements of the indigenous people for rights of land, forest, and minimum wage, demands of various Dalit groups for justice and affirmative action, as well as the demands of the minorities, particularly the Muslims, for better survival means. All these indicate a strong presence of rights’ language in the popular reception of the governmental approaches to development. The article on environmental governance by Sutirtha Bedajna discusses these dilemmas. In the light of these symptoms of changes (along with largely unmarked shifts) in governance structures we need to inquire: what are the specifics of a governing process that seeks to promote growth (of certain defined kinds) as development? Is there any major difference between it and the earlier governing process that promoted development as welfare coupled with a specific state strategy of industrialisation? What are the continuities and discontinuities in governmental practices in the process of the transition from the welfare orientation of government to a developmental regime instituted by a pronounced market-friendly state? How has the change of national focus from welfare, rights,

Introduction  7

and equality to growth and development, impacted on democratic governance, and democratic politics at large? How have people responded to the particular governing processes and technologies? Do these responses ‘exceed’ or defy the governmental grids of power? Does the developmental process impact on the dynamics of claim-making in democratic politics? How has governing privileged certain kinds of responses while censoring many others? Why do we find vocal and protracted responses to such instruments and mechanisms, such as the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 (earlier unnoticed or ignored) or the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Act of 2005 etc., unlike in the first two decades after Independence when the social cost of several mega projects went unnoticed? As a corollary to the above, we may also ask how does the style and form of governance of an area afflicted by protracted insurgency impact on the issue of developmental democracy? That is to say, are there similarities and differences in governing ‘development’ in insurgent and non-insurgent areas? Let us look little more clearly at the situation, marked by these questions. Looking at India, we can say that a distinct regime type is emerging. It can be named the regime of ‘developmental democracy’. Its features, prima facie, consist of: a new emphasis on development in place of welfare and citizens’ participation and the diminishing capacity of the state in terms of assuring basic economic, social, and civil rights of the people, shrinking of the legislation and deliberation process while the executive is on the ascendancy. Against this background, the emergence in various forms of the principle of autonomy as the route for the people to claim agency for participation in polity can be seen. Finally, the landscape of social justice is marked by a varying combination of legalities and illegalities, lack of consensus about what constitutes development, and fresh debates about the role of law in redistributing and reconfiguring power and guaranteeing delivery mechanisms of justice. Out of this interface, we can note the phenomenon of a rapid enunciation of policies by the executive, aimed at increasing the policy fund of the governing institutions — a phenomenon that can be termed ‘policy explosion’ of the last decade (1997–2007). Among these policies are the National Agricultural Policy, Relief and Rehabilitation Policy, Right to Information Policy, Right to Work Policy and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Policy, National Environment Policy,

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National Forest Policy, National Water Policy, the National Policy for Indigenous People, Policy on Special Economic Zones (SEZs), etc. Some of the major policies coming out in this decade have also been turned into enabling legislations. Four features mark this complex scenario, prompting this research agenda: First, we must note the massive ‘securitisation’ of governance in the wake of developmental tasks. From taking over land to laying out oil and gas pipelines, constructing airports to guarding railway tracks, and cleaning cities of lumpen elements, rioters, vagrants, suspected terrorists, militants, and urban refugees, the developmental discourse is now mixed with the security discourse. The aim of the security administration is to provide cover for the developmental activities (Gandhamardan, Singur, Nandigram, the Kosi riverbank management, construction of pipelines, to mention a few instances), but more important, the developmental agenda has to be governed in a warlike model — regimented, disciplined, command-structured, hierarchised and carefully budgeted in terms of provisions (both hardware and software), and finally, recreating the difference between the military and the civilian in the form of developed areas (IT cities, for instance) and the country’s hinterland. Guarding, maintaining, and protecting life in the form of commodities, finance, information, and skills is the most significant task of governance. If governance in this way produces ‘illiberalism’, what should be the democratic response? Second, governing in democracy has a fundamental tendency of dividing up, rearranging, and reconfiguring the social and geographical space it is administering. This has a profound impact on the liberal traditions of freedom — the freedom to reside, move, visit, work in a particular area, etc. Developmental agenda increases the governmental power to reconfigure the space continually, and as the Indian experience also suggests, democratic governance introduces a new spatial divide between the spaces that are ‘sacred’ and hence are rendered inaccessible to the many and the spaces where hunger, famine, and disease (like polio, malaria, and AIDs) have returned and are kept ‘isolated’ as ‘places of contagion’. The more we study conflicts around the issue of displacement of massive groups of population in the wake of riots,

Introduction  9

development, construction, militarisation, and other such factors, and the consequent loss of substantive citizenship, the more important it becomes to study the relation between governance and space. One interesting aspect to investigate would be the way the administrative services and institutions are spatially organised, and the Indian way in which federalism has been practised with all its implications for the relations between the government and the people. Sujata Dutta Hazarika’s article in the first section deals with the security problematic. Third, the question of democratic governance acquires particular relevance in the context of governing a wide variety of cultures. Nowhere is this more aptly illustrated than in the case of governing the cultures of the marginalised and the Dalits. Governing cultures have assumed myriad forms ranging from fixing and freezing cultures, preserving, upgrading, plotting, and marking these cultures in a whole hierarchy of cultures to make them ‘acceptable’ to an official policy of multiculturalism, once again crucial for developmental agenda. These trends give rise to the questions: what kind of subjects do the rulers want? How can they be turned into cohesive population groups? How is to one impart skills to these groups? The studies by Badri Narayan Tiwari, Ranabir Samaddar, and Anup Dhar are exercises in that direction of inquiry. Yet in discussing these, and this is the final point, we cannot forget that the legitimacy of the government, more specifically the government of people’s conduct and lives, stems from the fact that this government claims that it is the prime agency of people’s lives. The institutionalisation of a strong patriarchal benevolent image is from the colonial times — not only the huzur sarkar, but also mai–bap raj. Does this image undergo significant changes with the assumption of the ‘historically given task’ of national development and of catching up with other countries and time? What happens then to the governmental task of delivering justice, for which the citizens look up to the government? Does the pattern or do the patterns of government–people interface change significantly? In sum, we are asking: (a) If development has required an appropriate administration and has signalled certain changes mentioned above, has it in the same measure responded to the

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requirements of democracy? What has democratic governance done to the quality of democracy? (b) What are the characteristics of a developmental democracy? What are the major institutional landmarks in promoting developmental democracy? These two broad questions underpin the present volume; their significance in the framework of policy implications is enormous and they are at the heart of this volume.

I A Second Transition? Sources of Legitimacy and ‘Scientific’ Governance

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1 The Democratic Story of Twin Challenges to Governance: Identity Needs and Developmental Needs Amit Prakash The peculiar empirical realities of India’s democratic experience over the past half century have challenged much of the conventional wisdom in social sciences about the relationship between identity, development, and the liberal state. While the conventional argument was that with increasing modernisation and communication, more particularistic identities would eventually be eroded or would be submerged into national identities, in reality, many identities sought economic and political equality by retaining their socio-cultural distinctiveness, instead of abandoning them.1 In fact, in the Indian case, the two quests — that of identity recognition and that of socio-economic change — have been inextricably intertwined in the political process. One cannot be seen to be displacing the other, perhaps even to a limited extent. It is this complex dynamics of the politics of identity and development that seems to anchor much of India’s democratic experience. It is also here that issues of public authority and the legitimacy of the political face serious challenges. Liberal theory has a long and venerable history of both theoretical explorations as well as practice with respect to the issue of redistribution. Since the end of World War I, studies of ‘development’ in its various meanings across the epistemological divides, as also across the political spectrum, have analysed a variety of forms of redistribution of resources, issues of structural 1

George M. Scott, ‘Group Solidarity: Towards an Explanatory Model’, Journal of Ethnic and Racial Studies, 13 (2), April 1990, p. 148.

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inequality, ownership, control, and capability of utilising access to resources. The main concern for much of this literature has been that of furthering social justice through the mechanism of redistribution of resources to those who are marginalised. This body of thought has created a rich literature interrogating the complex issue of economic rights of citizens and its multifarious relationship to politics, legitimacy, and the state. While much of the politics as well as public policy were grappling with developing mechanisms to address shortfalls in the realisation of this goal of distributive social justice, political articulation by many of the marginalised groups have taken a different route to realisation of social justice though the politics of identity. This bodes for a complex and dynamic relationship between the two streams of thought on social justice in terms of both the mechanics as well as content of these two contested notions of social justice. It is this dynamic and contested notion of social justice, and modes for its realisation, that is the main concern of this article. First, this article will offer a set of conceptual anchors to interpret this debate and then go on to locate it in the changing political arguments and discussions on governance to underline the context of the growth of this debate in contemporary times. Finally, select empirical evidence (keeping in mind the incompatibility of the spatial and temporal constraints of this article and the fascinatingly complex and multifaceted dynamics of this debate) will be offered to ground the argument. The main argument of this article is that unlike the empirical experience elsewhere, India’s democratic experience has created a cusp between the two sets of debate in which the issue is not of either the distributive or the recognition route to social justice. In the Indian case, both the notions are inextricably intertwined and anchored in the politics of participation and representation. Therein lies the compulsion of the contemporary state in India, which must grapple with these two apparently contradictory and competing notions of social justice in order to retain its legitimacy in the era of ‘governance’.

Setting the Conceptual Terrain: Continuing Debates on Recognition Versus Redistribution Issues of social justice have been one of the main concerns of much of social theory for the past half century or more. Scholars

Twin Challenges to Governance  15

and practitioners alike have been concerned with the creation of mechanisms, institutions, and processes to ensure that all citizens, especially those who are marginalised, have an equitable access to the redistributional processes that the modern liberal states have taken on themselves to anchor. It was hoped until recently that with better access to economic resources, issues of ascriptive claims on the liberal state would be subsumed into a politics of interest premised on equal individual rights. However, the recent empirical evidence indicates that the main current in recent politics across the world has thrown up claims of recognition: The discourse of social justice, once centered on distribution, is now increasingly divided between claims for redistribution, on the one hand, and claims for recognition, on the other. Increasingly, too, recognition claims tend to predominate. The demise of communism, the surge of free-market ideology, the rise of ‘identity politics’ in both its fundamentalist and progressive forms — all these developments have conspired to decenter, if not to extinguish, claims for egalitarian redistribution. In this new constellation, the two kinds of justice claims are often dissociated from one another — both practically and intellectually. Within social movements … activist tendencies that look to redistribution as the remedy…2

‘Recognition’ thus has become a leitmotif of contemporary politics, with a number of theoretical explorations into its meaning, relationship with the idea of redistribution, and implications for politics. Theoretical formulations are faced with the empirical reality of politics, often constructing redistribution and recognition as an antithesis of each other. The proponents of one often reject the other. Theorists of ‘distributive justice contend that the recognition theory carries unacceptable communitarian baggage, while some philosophers of recognition deem distributive theory individualizing and consumerist’. Besides, Marxist scholars argue ‘that the category of distribution fails to capture the full depths of capitalist injustice because it neglects the relations of production and fails to problematise 2

Nancy Fraser, ‘Social Justice in the Age of Identity Politics: Redistribution, Recognition, and Participation’, in Nancy Fraser and Axel Honneth (eds), Redistribution or Recognition?: A Political-Philosophical Exchange, trans. Joel Galb, James Ingram, and Christiane Wilke, London: Verso, 2003, pp. 7–8.

16 — Amit Prakash

exploitation, domination, and commodification’, while the poststructuralist authors critique ‘the idea of recognition’ as carrying ‘normalizing assumptions of centered subjectivity, which impede a more radical critique’.3 Nancy Fraser, however, argues that these ... are false antitheses … [J]ustice today requires both redistribution and recognition. Neither alone is sufficient … [T]he emancipatory aspects of the two problematics should be integrated in a single comprehensive framework’ by devising ‘a two-dimensional conception of justice that can accommodate both defensible claims for social equality and defensible claims for the recognition of difference..4

Given the complexity of the relationship between the politics of class and that of identity in contemporary times, Fraser proposes a ‘perspectival dualism’,5 as a robust theoretical frame to analyse both kinds of injustices — that of maldistribution and of misrecognition, without collapsing/reducing one into the other. Each instance of injustice must simultaneously be analysed as both an economic issue as well as a cultural one although the degree to which an issue is skewed in a particular direction is a context-defined variable. Fraser further argues that in her perspectival dualism: redistribution and recognition do not correspond to two substantive societal domains, economy and culture. Rather, they constitute two analytical perspectives that can be assumed with respect to any domain. These perspectives can be deployed critically … One can use the recognition perspective to identify the cultural dimensions of what are usually viewed as redistributive economic policies … one can assess the justice of any social practice, regardless of where it is institutionally located, from two analytically distinct normative vantage points …6

Other theorists, like Axel Honneth, disagree with the argument of ‘perspectival dualism’ to propose a ‘normative monoism’ of 3

Ibid., pp. 10–11. Ibid., p. 9. 5 Ibid., pp. 60 ff. 6 Ibid., p. 63. 4

Twin Challenges to Governance  17

recognition. Honneth argues that recognition is a differentiated and a multi-dimensional concept, which subsumes within itself the idea of redistribution. Honneth proposes that this normative monoism enables analysis to focus upon a greater variety of claims on the political system by ensuring that a link is made between: critical social theory and present-day social movements … [without running the] danger … [of] an unintended reduction of social suffering and moral discontent to just that part of it that has already been made visible in the political public sphere by publicity-savvy organizations. A critical social theory that supports only normative goals that are already publicly articulated by social movements risks precipitously affirming the prevailing level of political-moral conflict in a given society…7

While Honneth privileges the importance of empirically observed social processes in defining the agenda of social theory, he does not conceive of this avenue as the only mode of evolving a progressive agenda: But the now widespread acceptance of a merely opposed perspective, whereby only moral discontent articulated by the “new” social movements is valid as a theory-guiding objective, holds no less danger for the project of a critical social theory. It is all too easy to abstract from social suffering and injustice that, owing to the filtering effects of the bourgeois public sphere, has not yet reached the level of political thematization and organization.8

Honneth therefore argues for ‘plurality of three equally important principles of social justice’ encompassing three recognition spheres of love, legal equality, and the achievement principle. ‘This tripartite division arises from the consideration that subjects in modern societies depend for their identity-formation on three forms of social recognition, based in the sphere-specific principles of love, equal legal treatment, and social esteem.’9 7 Axel Honneth, ‘Redistribution as Recognition: A Response to Nancy Fraser’, in Nancy Fraser and Axel Honneth (eds), Redistribution or Recognition?: A Political–Philosophical Exchange. p. 115. 8 Ibid., p. 116. 9 Ibid., p. 180.

18 — Amit Prakash

Honneth further argues that ‘what is at stake is the central, far more difficult task of developing normative criteria out of the plural concept of justice, by means of which contemporary developments can be criticised in light of future possibilities’.10 It is therefore Honneth’s view that: [o]n the one hand, we see here a process of individualization, i.e., the increase of opportunities to legitimately articulate parts of one’s personality; on the other hand, we see a process of social inclusion, i.e., the expanding inclusion of subjects into the circle of full members of society. … a solution to this problem can only be found within the framework of the tripolar model of justice that develops with the differentiation of three spheres of recognition as a normative reality. Because what is henceforth to be called ‘just’ is to be measured, according to the sphere, by the idea of responsiveness to need, legal equality, or the merit principle, the parameters of moral progress within the new social order can also only be defined with reference to all three principles.11

These two theorists, locked as they are in a debate of some standing, have stressed the importance of both notions of social justice with a disagreement on both, the relative proportion of the idea of recognition and redistribution as also the mode to achieve it: Axel Honneth, conceives recognition as the fundamental, overarching moral category, while treating distribution as derivative. Thus, he reinterprets the socialist ideal of redistribution as a subvariety of the struggle for recognition. The other one, Nancy Fraser, denies that distribution can be subsumed under recognition. Thus, she proposes a ‘perspectival dualist’ analysis that casts the two categories as co-fundamental and mutually irreducible dimensions of justice.12

Their disagreement notwithstanding, both these theorists seem to privilege the idea of participation as a central anchor in addressing 10

Ibid., p. 181. Ibid., pp. 184–85. 12 Nancy Fraser and Axel Honneth, ‘Introduction: Redistribution or Recognition?’, in idem (eds), Redistribution or Recognition?: A Political-Philosophical Exchange, pp. 3–4. 11

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the issues at hand. While Honneth stresses the ‘increase of opportunities to legitimately articulate parts of one’s personality’ and also ‘the expanding inclusion of subjects into the circle of full members of society’, Fraser more explicitly offers representation as an anchor linking the two notions. While this ‘two-dimensional’ view of justice and equity has been a subject of active political and social contestation the world over for some years, the changing political economy of the world as well as the experience of Indian democracy in reconciling these claims indicates that ‘it is no longer clear that they are capable of addressing the double character of problem of justice in a globalising age’.13 It is therefore central that the idea of the political and the contests and claims in this realm are integrated into the argument by focusing on the idea of representation: Centered on issues of membership and procedure, the political dimension of justice is concerned chiefly with representation … representation is a matter of social belonging … inclusion in, or exclusion from, the community of those entitled to make claims on one another. At another level, which pertains to the decisionmaking aspect, representation concerns the procedures that structure public processes of contestation. Here, what is at issue are the terms on which those included in the political community air their claims and adjudicate their disputes. At both levels, the question can arise as to whether the relations of representation are just.14

The issue of just processes for enabling participation in the political realm has been a focus of other scholars, mainly those concerned with multiculturalism as a frame of state policy as a tool to address issues arising from the individual rights-based premises of the liberal state. The fundamental principle of liberal democracies — basic individual civil rights and political rights — ‘are well-articulated both in the actual functioning of Western liberal democracies 13

Nancy Fraser, ‘Re-framing Justice in a Globalising World’, in Terry Lovell (ed.), (Mis)recognition, Social Inequality and Social Justice: Nancy Fraser and Pierre Bourdieu, London: Routledge, 2007, p. 17. 14 Nancy Fraser, Scales of Justice: Reimagining the Political Space in a Globalising World, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2008, pp. 17–18.

20 — Amit Prakash

and in the tradition of Western political theory’. However, ‘it is difficult to define the basic features of a liberal-democratic approach to managing ethnocultural diversity…’,15 including the myth of the ‘ethnocultural neutrality’ of the state. This myth lies in the roots of the inability of the modern rationalist liberal state to deal with the diverse claims of rights placed before it by highly mobilised identities premised on cultural factors. The state has responded in a rather ad hoc fashion with responses ranging from conceding minority cultural rights to denial of all such claims. ‘The emergence of ethnicity and minority rights on the political theory mainstream agenda can be traced back to Rawl’s writings on pluralism and consensus as the essence of liberal democratic thinking’, which created a large literature engaging with the liberalism-communitarian divide. Autonomy of the individual was pitted against arguments in favour of ‘a broader communal socialisation in a historically rooted culture’ as a necessary precondition for such individualism.16 This led to debates about the necessity and mechanisms to accommodate communitarian claims into broader liberal political theory. Amongst other things, the attention of scholars has been focused on the claims of recognition on the state and the political process, which in turn structures the debates within political theory. These claims may be classified into three sets: (a) Claims of special rights from the government: special representation rights, devolution, and national selfdetermination (b) Claims of special rights to seek accommodation of a variety of cultural practices: exemption rights and cultural rights leading to special status to disadvantaged communities including affirmative action programmes (c) Demands that are not claims to rights but to collective esteem: symbolism of flags, names, public holidays, national 15

Will Kymlicka, ‘Nation-building and Minority Rights: Comparing West and East’, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 26 (2), April 2000, p. 183. 16 Stephen May, Tariq Modood, and Judith Squires, ‘Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Minority Rights: Charting the Disciplinary Debates’, in idem (eds), Ethnicity, Nationalism and Minority Rights, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004, p. 4.

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anthems, public funds for cultural activities, educational curricula, etc.17 While debates continue about the appropriateness of granting the rights being claimed by the articulated ethnic identities, a distinction is also made between rights that may be granted to ‘national identities’ and ethnic identities. Theorists have argued that claims of recognition from ‘national’ identities may be addressed by granting special status; claims of recognition from smaller ethnic identities can only be granted rights that enable them to integrate with the mainstream on fair terms. This global debate is founded on the central premise of a liberal state in which political processes should be founded on interests, free association, and ideology (politics of redistribution) and all groups claiming rights on any other basis (politics of recognition) are somehow less ‘legitimate’. However, what is of interest to the politics of recognition is the fact that most modern states operate a diverse set of equalising policies such as ‘affirmative action’ or ‘protective discrimination’, located in the global discourse on development and modernisation, especially when these policies have failed to prevent ethnic identity articulation.18 Further, most of these articulated identities demand ‘autonomy’, a term whose meaning is as fluid in academic literature as in the popular political discourse. Being subject to the ‘affirmative action’ of the state, the development argument becomes central to the politics of identity. Thus, there exists a paradox with respect to most identity articulations: almost all ascriptive ethnic identities require a ‘rational’ argument of socio-economic deprivation as an added premise for their articulation. It is these conceptual tensions embedded in liberal theory, but innovated upon in practice, that is the focus of the study. The complex ways in which India’s democratic experience has grappled with these issues will assist in understanding the transformation underway in the relationship between the demands of 17

Will Kymlicka, Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. As discussed in ibid., p. 4. 18 In fact, in some cases, these very policies of affirmative action may be responsible for encouraging a swifter identity articulation.

22 — Amit Prakash

identity and development; both of which derive their legitimacy from arguments of rights, justice, and equity embedded deep in the notion of a liberal state.

The Governance Paradigm: New Directions to Resolving Tensions between Identity and Development The contemporary liberal state is facing a peculiar paradox, which creates a fundamental challenge to its continued legitimacy. It both structures the ability of the political to deal with challenges of development and identity as well as stretches the basic premises of the liberal state, underlining the need to reinvent the terms of political discourse. The paradox that the liberal state faces is that ‘governance’, interpreted in the broad frame of the political and policy environment of the 1990s, has been used to denote ‘a baseline agreement that governance refers to the development of governing styles in which boundaries between public and private sectors have become blurred’.19 Consequently, the term is often used to ‘provide the acceptable face of spending cuts’, and has become ‘a code for less government’ but more substantively, ‘involves recognition of the limit of government’.20 Governance, therefore, is seen as ‘a reference point’ for challenging ‘many of the assumptions of traditional public administration’. Gerry Stoker offers five propositions as central anchors of governance theory: governance refers to a set of institutions and actors drawn from but also beyond government; it identifies the blurring of boundaries and responsibilities for tackling social and economic issues; identifies the power dependence involved in relationships between institutions involved in collective action; stresses the centrality of autonomous self-governing networks of actors; and finally, recognises the capacity of collective action that does not rest on the power of the government to command 19

Gerry Stoker, ‘Governance as Theory: Five Propositions’, International Social Science Journal, 155, 1998, p. 17. 20 Ibid., p. 18.

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or use its authority but sees the government only in a steering and guiding role.21 The central issue in the debate on governance remains about organising public affairs in a way that is most democratic and which encourages economic growth. Besides, concern is also focused on finding the correct institutional mix for such an objective. Further, a significant strand of the literature is also devoted to the issue of democracy and continues the modernisation-era debates of the relationship between democracy and socio-economic change. Last, but perhaps most importantly, the conception of the state as a facilitating mechanism versus a structure mediating and upholding citizens’ rights is interrogated. All these debates are conducted in a context of pluralisation of actors as well as levels of governance, which leads to a significant impact on the conceptualisation of liberal rights and a democratic state.

Legitimacy, Democracy, and Governance The essential features of liberal democracies have been described in various ways, from a focus on participation to rights, from a limited state to the supremacy of the rule of law and many more. While none of these central features of liberal democracies can be quarrelled with, it is also important to underline that the idea of equity and justice has come to acquire a central place in the meaning and features of the liberal state, whether through conceptual redefinition or through cardinal political practice. This centrality of equity and justice issues has thrown up the politics of presence and recognition as well as that of development. The dynamic contours of the debate on the politics of identity and the politics of development lead to the paradox mentioned earlier: while on the one hand, the governance paradigm is geared towards a reduction of the degree of engagement of the state with issues of socio-economic transformation, on the other hand, the character of the liberal-democratic state requires it to engage with issues of rights, equity, and justice. This leads to the fundamental paradox of the modern state: how is a smaller, less engaged state a more legitimised one? 21


24 — Amit Prakash

Liberal democratic states, no matter what the policy compulsion, cannot ignore this issue on account of the fact that ‘legitimacy is the recognition of the right to govern … To define legitimacy as the right to govern assumes that consent play a major role therein’.22 This consent is ascertained in electoral contests but is manufactured via the complex process of engagement between the state and various socio-cultural identities. It is this process of manufacturing of ‘consent’ — in other words, generation and sustenance of legitimacy — that remains the prime issue in the debate. Political legitimacy can be seen to comprise three components: the normative discursive frame; the process of engagement between the state and socio-political groups; and outcomes. Normative legitimacy deals with the ways in which the issues of equity and justice are reconciled by the state in its political discourse while the process component focuses on the political process through which contested terms of engagement are negotiated and reconciled. Both these components of legitimacy are linked to the capacity of the state to deliver on the expectations of various socio-political groups, without which the first two components become difficult to sustain. Therefore, unless the twin goals of recognition and that of socio-economic change is addressed by the governance process, consent for the right to govern will become increasingly difficult to obtain, leading to undermining the political legitimacy of the state, which in turn leads to what Atul Kohli has eloquently called the ‘crisis of governance’. While the governance frame offers analytical ability to focus on a web of relationships that structure the legitimacy and capacity of the state, the crucial factors of equity and justice need to be brought into the frame to ensure continued relevance of the liberal state. This concern is also underlined by the demands levied on the liberal states to deliver both, development outcomes as well as identity recognition. If the political process and the state are unable to find a procedural balance between the two, legitimacy and state capacity is severely compromised, leading to threats to the liberal order. 22

Jean-Marc Coicaud, Legitimacy and Politics: A Contribution to the Study of Political Right and Political Responsibility, trans. David Ames Curtis, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002, p. 10.

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Recognition Versus Redistribution: A Typology of the Indian Terrain Over the past half century, identity politics in India has acquired a variety of forms and expressions, each levying a different kind of demand on the state and the political process. While there is something to be said in favour of the peculiarity of each such articulation, almost all identity articulations carry within themselves a strong linkage with the politics of redistribution/development. Further, it must also be noted at the outset that none of these strands of identity articulation are completely exclusive and may overlap significantly, especially in areas structured by the politics of development. However, much of political contestation in India in recent years seems to be filtered through the lens of the politics of recognition. While the premises, boundaries, self-definitions, mode of articulation, etc. may vary across space and time, there is almost no serious contestation of the political space that is not articulated through the politics of identity and recognition. The demands levied on the state by these highly articulated political groups range from symbolic representation in terms of recognition of symbols (for instance, recognition of a language, public holidays, etc.), through the creation of special rights (for instance, inclusion in a scheduled list) or recognition of cultural distinctiveness, to the other extreme of self-determination or autonomy. Articulations of visions of autonomy are often as varied as the groups and political actors demanding it. For instance, many groups in Nagaland view autonomy as a sovereign state, while many of the other articulations would be happy with a state within the Indian Union. Still others wish to see the creation of a sub-state ‘development’ council while yet others have a vision of a regional, multi-state structure. Given the plurality of forms of the various articulations of the politics of autonomy in the country, various contemporary identity articulations may be classified into the following broad categories for the limited purpose of analytical discipline: (a) Politics of Socio-cultural (‘Tribal’) Recognition Arguably, the strongest linkage that can be established between the politics of recognition and identity, and that

26 — Amit Prakash

of redistribution/development, lies in the realm of various tribal/adivasi communities in India. There is a wide variety of articulation of tribal identity in India, ranging from those in the north-eastern states and those in central India (Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha) to those in Gujarat and Maharashtra, as also those in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka. There is very little similarity between the dynamics of identity articulation between these tribal social groups but their contest for resources with the state take similar forms. Much of this contest, structured around the politics of recognition, is mediated through the syntax (and sometimes, the frame of) the politics of redistribution, the latter also forming the basis of a language of dialogic engagement with the state. (b) Politics of Recognition of a Region The politics of recognition of a regional identity also takes varied forms across the country. Sometimes, but not always, being mediated by the tribal, socio-communal, or other forms of politics of recognition, the issue of regional identity is often seen as a ‘more secular’ form of identity articulation by the state. Much of regional identity politics (for instance, those of Uttarakhand, Odisha, Himachal Pradesh and lately, Gujarat and Bihar) uses the strong language of the politics of development and seeks to secure a larger share in public resources controlled or structured by the state. (c) Politics of Recognition by Exclusion These identities, premised often on socio-religious factors, are seen to be the greatest threat of the ‘nation-building’ process and have also, paradoxically, been one of the most important factors in structuring the national political process. Such identities, by creating a discursive device of a social community (for example, Hindutva), create a politics of exclusion for all other social groups. Interestingly, the context to these identities is structured by the state, not in terms of the discursive inconsistency of the claims of these identities, but in terms of the developmentaldeficits for rest of the social space. For instance, the exclusion (and persecution) of Muslims from the political discourse of Hindutva is sought to be addressed by the

Twin Challenges to Governance  27

state not in terms of the constitutional ideational facets such as the rule of law but though ‘developmental’ focus on the socio-economic backwardness of the Muslims. The contest between the politics of identity and the politics of development continues. (d) Politics of Recognition by Representation and Inclusion Another form of the politics of recognition that requires the mediation of politics of development for a dialogic engagement with the state, is the recent articulation of caste politics in many north Indian states, chiefly, but not exclusively, in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, and Rajasthan. While almost diametrically opposite in its premise of articulation from the Hindutva kind of politics of recognition, the articulation of a caste identity creates a new form of challenge to the premise of liberal democracy, especially its stress on equity and justice. Given this multi-hued debate on the politics of recognition and that of redistribution and the complex dynamics of an evolving relationship between the two in India — much as this article may like to unpick all the threads — space constraints permit a focus only on some of them. The rest of the article will, therefore, focus on the first one: the politics of socio-cultural (‘tribal’) recognition with examples from the case of Jharkhand. Many of the formulations offered below are applicable across the typology offered above but that is an aspect that will not be focused upon.

Jharkhand: Contours of Politics of Redistribution-Recognition (a) Discursive Evolution and Change Initial political articulation in Jharkhand was clearly within the ambit of the politics of recognition wherein recognition of the uniqueness and separateness of the tribal population of south Bihar was seen as the avenue towards all kinds of social change, including redistribution. In this sense, politics in Jharkhand in the early part of the 20th century was more in the frame of Honneth’s politics of recognition and the argument of normative monism could be used to analyse its implications.

28 — Amit Prakash

Writers on the subject, who have been important political actors in the Jharkhandi politics of recognition, devoted a lot of effort in constructing a distinct, historically located political existence of the Jharkhand region and grappled with lines of exclusion and inclusion. They argued that the Jharkhand region, with its unique tribal heritage and culture, had been an autonomous political actor in the past and should be made an autonomous state under the present system. They isolated relevant historical incidents and symbols to forge and sustain a politics of recognition. For instance, Bhagwat Murmu while pointing to an allusion to Jharkhand in the Ain-i-Akbari by Abul Fazl during the rule of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, argues: These aboriginal jatis23 differ on the lines of language and traditions and customs. Educationally and economically, with a few exceptions, they are largely, similar . . . These jatis are peace loving and depend primarily on agriculture for their living. They have deep respect for their social traditions, language and customs and are ready for the greatest sacrifices to protect them . . . These have never been aggressive jatis . . . their social organisation is based on purely republican system and has been extremely strong. It is still able to keep the entire society united.24

On the one hand, the social autonomy of the tribals and their respect for their traditions and customs are emphasised. On the other hand, their ‘modernity’ is exalted by dwelling on the ‘republican aspects’ of their social systems. The one essential ingredient of the politics of recognition — construction of distinctiveness and delineation of boundaries — is thus reinforced. Further, the extract also dwells on the construction of an image of a typical tribe. It emphasises the point that tribal people are peaceful and simple and have few needs. Consequently, they are open to exploitation by the ‘others’. Besides, this image is construed by Murmu to justify the need of administrative autonomy as the goal of the politics of recognition in the region. Such an image of an independent and exclusive tribal society 23

Here the term jati has been used to mean tribes. Bhagwat Murmu, ‘Jharkhand Andolan: Karan Aur Nidan’ (The Jharkhand Movement: Reasons and Solutions), in S. Narayan (ed.), Jharkhand Movement: Origin and Evolution, New Delhi: Inter-India, 1992, p. 37.


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was the basis of the Jharkhand movement for a long time. Simultaneously, however, since the movement required the political support of the non-tribal populace, the existence of a longstanding social intercourse between the tribes and the ‘others’ is emphasised as well: Since the ancient times the Santhal society has offered a place in their villages to the [non-tribal] functional/occupational jatis . . . these jatis have never been the ones to spend their lives in total isolation.25

This lies at the root of a constantly evolving political debate (and shifting electoral support) about the balance between recognition and redistribution in Jharkhand. Therein also lies the logic of Murmu’s emphasis on the similarities between the tribal and other people: The similarities between the culture and traditions of the tribal jatis with other jatis have not been encouraged but have either been ignored or brushed aside . . . In fact, as far as this point of view is concerned, there are more elements of similarities between their customs and traditions and those of other jatis.26

In fact, Murmu himself makes a twin argument of recognition and redistribution when he argues that: It is certain that the Jharkhand movement finds its strength from the economic problems of the Adivasi society and their backwardness and illiteracy. If a fraction of these problems is solved or even an honest effort is made to solve these problems, then the very ground under the feet of the movement will slip away on its own. Despite the abundance of the minerals, poverty reigns . . . People are hard working, they want work but it is not available to them. Even after 45 years of independence their problems of land have not been solved and irrigation facilities have not reached the land that is held by them.27

This approach of simultaneously foregrounding the recognition as well as the redistribution argument as twin anchors of 25

Ibid., p. 39. Ibid., p. 39. 27 Ibid., p. 41. 26

30 — Amit Prakash

the politics in Jharkhand, since almost the very beginning of political articulation in Jharkhand, had a two-fold effect. It provided discursive manoeuvrability to the state to officially translate the claim of recognition into one premised on redistribution. Such engagement with the state also gave the Jharkhandi movement an avenue to partake from the state’s legitimacy to further articulate a multi-pronged character. This, in turn, was taken up by the government to minimise the implications of the demand for administrative and political autonomy.

Recognition and Redistribution: The State’s Response and Implications for Jharkhandi Identity Some of the clearest articulations of the premises of the politics of recognition and that of redistribution of the Jharkhandi identity can be found in the documents of various commissions, committees, etc., to which the leaders spearheading the movement have submitted a variety of representations and responses. The first amongst such documents is the report of the States Reorganisation Commission.

States Reorganisation Commission After Independence, a sizeable amount of political energy was invested in demanding the creation of separate states all over India. Although some amount of deliberation had gone into the principles and practices behind the organisation of the states in 1948 when the integration of the numerous princely states was being considered, the first large-scale review was undertaken in the years 1953–55. The States Reorganisation Commission (SRC) dealt with the issue comprehensively and reported against the creation of a state in the Jharkhand region. It had recommended the creation of new states on lingual lines only, rather than on principles such as tribal cultural identities.28 On the linguistic criterion, the Jharkhand region had not qualified as a new state.29 28

Although there has never been a formal revision of the criteria for the creation of a state, instances do exist where states have been created on the basis of regional and cultural identities such as Nagaland in 1963 and Mizoram in 1986. 29 This was so because of the multiplicity of languages spoken in tribal south Bihar. Moreover, these languages have only now begun to acquire some written form. Consequently, some scholars do not consider them languages

Twin Challenges to Governance  31

The SRC acknowledged the good performance of the Jharkhand Party in the 1952 elections but noted that it had not secured an absolute majority in the region.30 It also pointed out that with the exception of the Jharkhand Party, no other political party in the region was in favour of the creation of a Jharkhand state.31 The commission also took note of the fact that the tribal population in the region was only a third of the total population and was divided into several linguistic groups. Therefore, it opined that: even if it is assumed that Adivasis are solidly in favour of the formation of a Jharkhand State, a major issue of this kind cannot, in our opinion, be decided on the basis of the views of the minority. There seems to be no warrant, however, for the assumption that even Adivasi opinion can be considered to be unanimous on this point.32

Furthermore, the SRC pointed out that the creation of the state of Jharkhand would affect the ‘entire economy of the existing State’. It noted that ‘the plains are predominantly agricultural and Chota Nagpur plateau provides an industrial balance . . . The residual area can hardly afford to lose the benefits derived from this situation . . . [it] will upset the balance between agriculture and industry in the residual State which will be a poorer area with fewer opportunity and resources for development . . .33 The commission found no deficiency in the development profile of the Jharkhand region and saw south Bihar as an industrial complement to the agricultural north Bihar. The goal of this commission was to recommend the reorganisation of states with the objective that regional aspirations would be satisfied, but at the same time ensuring that administrative convenience was retained. It did not see any grounds for a separate administrative set-up for the tribal population in south Bihar, as they were a numerical minority in the region. Besides, it also pointed out that the goal of administration and but dialects. 30 The Jharkhand Party had won three out of eight seats in the region in the 1952 elections (seven out of 12 if all the multi-member constituencies prevalent at that time are counted). 31 ‘Report of the States Reorganisation Commission’, New Delhi: Government of India Press. n.d., pp. 617–8. 32 Ibid., p. 618. 33 Ibid., pp. 619–20.

32 — Amit Prakash

a development programme was the economic and political advancement of the whole population and, therefore, it was generally satisfied with the existing administrative arrangements in the region. Clearly, the SRC prioritised the politics of development and redistribution over any articulation of the politics of recognition as a basis of the reorganisation of states.34 The translation of the claims of recognition into a side-effect of the politics of redistribution had clearly started by this time, when the SRC argued that it has been ‘suggested that Chota Nagpur is bound to benefit from the separation, because it has been neglected so far by the Bihar Government [but] . . . there is little evidence, on the whole, of lop-sided economic development …35 The Jharkhandi leaders on the other hand, were unable to contest this translation of a claim of recognition into a demand for redistribution, on account of their compulsion to carry out democratic politics in the context of a skewed demography of the region. Besides, the nation-building discourse of the 1950s was clearly anchored on the redistributive role of the state and the credentials of the new nationalist state were yet to be tarnished.

Sarkaria Commission Apart from the States Reorganisation Commission, the Commission on Centre–State Relations chaired by Justice R.S. Sarkaria carried out the only other large-scale official review into the issue of state autonomy and other related issues and reported in 1987. Although the terms of reference of the commission did not include the prospect of the creation of new states, its report 34

Around the year 1951, the development profile of the region of Jharkhand was better than Bihar as a whole but gradually deteriorated over the years. It soon reached a point when the growth of development opportunities in the region became stagnant at best and negative at worst. Therefore, with the passing years, the issue of poor performance of the public policy delivery mechanism further entrenched the links between the issue of a separate state, the Jharkhandi identity and developmental issues. See Amit Prakash, Jharkhand: Politics of Development and Identity, New Delhi: Orient Longman, 2001 for a full analysis of the development profile of the Jharkhand region from 1950s to the 1990s and its relationship with the Jharkhandi identity. 35 ‘Report of the States Reorganisation Commission’, p. 621.

Twin Challenges to Governance  33

is valuable in terms of what the respondents to its questionnaire had to say about the equilibrium between the states and the centre and their perception about the linkages between the issue of state autonomy and developmental issues. The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha was the only registered party in the south Bihar region when the commission was eliciting the views of the major regional political actors. While responding to the questionnaire, the JMM continued the twin discourse of recognition and redistribution but the skew in favour of the former is clear: but the decentralisation should not itself be between centre and State, but also between district and districts considering the heterogeneity[,] un-even development and multicultural character of the State itself with specific mention of the hilly and tribal areas of Bihar now existing [as] a[n] internal colony of both the State and Centre.36

To the commission’s question about whether the respondents knew of any actual existence of a federation where national and regional governments were co-ordinated and absolutely independent within their respective constitutional jurisdictions, the JMM responded that they believed that such a set-up existed in the USSR.37 The party seemed to be pointing to the nationalitybased political set-up in the erstwhile USSR. Clearly, the claim of recognition was being articulated in this response. The JMM was by now able to combine both issues in its discourse. It hoped that such a practice would fulfil its purpose of generating political support in both the tribal and the non-tribal sections of the population of the region. At the same time, it was assumed that the underpinning of the demand for political autonomy with cultural aspects would also give the movement a sense of identity, which would not only differentiate it from other demands for administrative decentralisation but also create a relatively more potent political force. 36

‘Response of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha to the Questionnaire of the Sarkaria Commission Report on Centre–State Relations’ in the ‘Report of the Commission on Centre–State Relations’ (Chairman: R.S. Sarkaria), Nasik: Government of India Press, 1987, para 1.3. 37 Ibid., para 1.4.

34 — Amit Prakash

The JMM in its response to the Sarkaria Commission further argued: We support the power under Article 3 but . . . this has not been properly utilised for political consideration of the dominating section to ensure development of culture, language, identity of the oppressed nationalities as that residing in the area called Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and others in the country creating tensions between nationalities. A provision should be made in Article 3 to review with statutory commissions . . . to form any more states in the country, to ensure proper development . . .38

This is a good example of the balance which Jharkhandi leaders were able to create between their demand for autonomy based on the claim of recognition ‘of the people of the Jharkhand region and the wider national discourse of redistribution. Therefore, according to the JMM leadership, there was an urgent need to grant autonomy to the Jharkhand region, which would not only bring about faster development (since the development initiative would then be based on a model that is suitable to the socio-economic peculiarities of the region) but would also help in realising the claims of recognition of the region.

Committee on Jharkhand Matters The Jharkhandi demand for autonomy has also been considered in some other forums since Independence. An important document in which the Jharkhandi leaders as well as the state engaged with the issue of the nature and character of the movement is the Report of the Committee on Jharkhand Matters, 1990 (COJM). This committee was constituted by the union ministry of home affairs in an attempt to find a solution to the issue. It comprised all the major political figures of the Jharkhand movement, irrespective of their official party political affiliation.39 Besides, 38

Ibid., para 1.8. The important political figures of the Jharkhand movement who were members of the COJM were Dr R. D. Munda, Dr A. K. Singh, N. E. Horo, Shibu Soren, B. B. Mahto, B. P. Kesri, S. S. Besra, Prabhakar Tirkey, Santosh Rana, Suraj Mandal, Shailendra Mahato, and Professor Stephen Marandi. The state was represented by the relevant officials. The joint secretaries of the ministries of rural development, tribal development, and home affairs represented the central government while the government of Bihar was


Twin Challenges to Governance  35

there were many other experts ranging from anthropologists to social activists who served on the COJM. This report defined the Jharkhand movement in terms of developmental problems. It noted that: apart from its other dimensions, basically, it is a socio-economic problem and that it has arisen as a response to the exploitation of the indigenous people inhabiting the Jharkhand region. Specifically, for the scheduled tribes people, measures have been undertaken by the Government of Bihar and the Central Government to effect improvement in their socio-economic conditions and to combat exploitation . . . Notwithstanding these and various other steps taken, it would appear that the discontent of the people of the region has not only continued to simmer, but has also shown a tendency to rise. The demand for a separate State of Jharkhand falls into that pattern (emphasis added).40

The report also examined the process of conversion of the Jharkhand movement premised on claims of recognition based on ethnic factors into one that was primarily based on a redistribution argument and the underdevelopment of the region. It regarded the movement as originating from tribal ethnic characteristics but gradually losing its tribal heritage character to become merely an avenue for political action to demand better public policy delivery in the region. It pointed out that: … even though when Jharkhand movement as an ethnic movement has not been able to recapture its peak of electoral performance reached in the 1950s, the issues articulated by it centering on regional autonomy as a remedy against underdevelopment and inequality have been largely accepted by almost all parties and political forces in the region ... MLAs and MPs ... have repeatedly emphasised the need for autonomy and development. Wherever the Committee went, the Congressmen equally complained of neglect and underdevelopment of the region, even though they did not support separation. The Bharatiya represented by the secretaries of the ministries of home affairs and tribal welfare and the regional development commissioner of the Jharkhand region. 40 ‘Report of the Committee on Jharkhand Matters May 1990’, New Delhi: mimeo., n.d., para I.2.

36 — Amit Prakash Janata Party has supported the formation of Vananchal [the BJP’s version of a Jharkhand State]41 comprising of 12 districts of Santhal Pargana and Chotanagpur. The CPI has favoured the formation of a separate State out of the Scheduled Areas of Chotanagpur and Santhal Pargana. The Lok Dal has supported the idea of carving out smaller states. A poll recently taken… has suggested the presence of sizeable support for autonomy amongst many sections of the population. We believe the reasons for this support arises (sic) from a widespread feeling of alienation among a large section of people of Chotanagpur, both tribal and non-tribal from the rest of Bihar…42

The committee thus felt that there was a political consensus about regional autonomy in the region due to widespread neglect of the region by development initiatives. It did not, however, recognise the significant ethnic tribal components in the movement. It felt that the ethnic component was at its height in the 1950s and had since run out of steam. The process of translating the claim of recognition into a demand of redistribution is clear. This was further emphasised by the COJM by stressing its regional aspect in the observation that: in the early phases of the autonomy movement in Chotanagpur, the lead was given by the tribal people. They were also good reasons for it. They were more literate and articulate. They were also more conscious. They had primarily led uprising and movements in 19th century. Agrarian laws were enacted to confer special benefits on them. In the early years of the Adivasi Mahasabha and Jharkhand movement, in spite of the fact that some non-tribals joined them, the non-tribals as a whole kept out of such movements. The reason for this lies in the colonial policy of separatism. The missionaries and the colonial officers treated the tribes and non-tribes as two separate categories. The hang-over of this policy persisted even after Independence for many years, even though the operation of market forces and of economy in general and the surfacing of underlying cultural processes tended to mitigate such dichotomous perceptions . . . the distinction between the 41

The original demand of a Jharkhand consisted of the 25 districts from tribal regions of four states: Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Odisha. However, the BJP has proposed that a state called Vananchal be created comprising the tribal districts of south Bihar only. 42 ‘Report of the Committee on Jharkhand Matters’, para III.19.

Twin Challenges to Governance  37 two categories became blurred and their perceptions of regional problems converged as both became victims of progress. A sense of neglect gripped them. Therefore, from the beginning of 1960s, the tribes and non-tribes started interacting more closely within the framework of the movements for autonomy and separation. In the process, they invoked cultural symbols and created myths and legends to provide cultural underlining of political movement . . . The movement is still dominated by major tribal groups . . . but others have also joined.43

Such underplaying of the tribal heritage aspects of the movement and highlighting of the regional aspect has become the predominant character of the movement. The points of view expressed by the report can be taken as the articulation of the Jharkhandi groups as well since all major political and social organisations of the region were represented on the COJM. These Jharkhandi leaders did not contest any major point of the report, with the exception of the proposals for the new administrative arrangements hence this definition of the nature and character of the movement has become the dominant point of view across the political spectrum. The cultural traits of the movement were further undermined when the COJM expressed its view that over ‘the last forty years there has crystallized the concept of Jharkhand region, with a distinct identity, language, form, cultural traits, elements of material culture and historical development’44 and recommended the creation of a cultural development authority for the overall cultural development of the region with possible autonomous powers and the introduction of tribal languages in the syllabi in schools and the development of a composite culture. This cultural development authority suggested by the COJM, if operationalised, would probably mean an institution akin to the existing national cultural academies. Thus, while the COJM found it salient to preserve and promote the cultural uniqueness of the region, it did not consider this uniqueness to be a pertinent premise for the creation of an autonomous state in the Jharkhand region. Hence, against the views of the Jharkhandi representation in the committee, the report did not recommend the creation of 43 44

Ibid., para III.21, 24. Ibid., para III.30.

38 — Amit Prakash

a separate state in the Jharkhand region. Consequently, in its Supplementary Note,45 most of the major leaders of the region emphasised the need to create such a unit. Their major point of difference with the main body of the COJM’s report was the nature of the proposed administrative arrangements. After a brief paragraph on the cultural uniqueness of the region, this note of dissent swiftly went on to differ from the COJM on the ground that the experience of the past four decades had proved that adequate development of the Jharkhand region was not possible within Bihar. Therefore, a clear relationship emerged between the failure of a policy-delivery mechanism and the articulation of a politically pertinent ethnic identity in the Jharkhand region. All the major political interests, therefore, agreed that the reason behind the demand for a separate state in the Jharkhand region was the poor developmental profile of the region. This also had implications for the self-perception of the Jharkhandi identity. From a cultural identity, it evolved into one that has a poor developmental profile as the primary basis of its articulation and relegated the cultural aspects to the background. The state and Jharkhandi political opinion have thus gradually created an articulation of the ethnic identity that is acceptable to both of them. The report of the COJM has, therefore, amplified the clear correlation that was seen between the demand for the creation of a separate state in the Jharkhand region and the poor performance of public policy since Independence.

Issue of Autonomy in Parliament This translation of the claim of recognition into a demand for redistribution by the agencies of the state is evident in the direct correlation between autonomy and development, which was further emphasised in the Resolution Regarding Creation of New States of Uttaranchal and Vananchal tabled by Jagat Vir Singh Drona on 5 March 1993 in the Lok Sabha. The resolution sought to recommend to the government that two states (Uttaranchal and Vananchal) be created. In the opening statement itself, Drona drew a direct relationship between the two issues and observed that: 45

Supplementary Note to ‘Report of the Committee on Jharkhand Matters’, ibid.

Twin Challenges to Governance  39 even after these 45 years of independence, there has been very little or negligible development in the hill areas of Uttar Pradesh and in the 16 districts under Chotanagpur and Santhal Pargana area of Bihar. The people of the area have been expressing their resentment on the issue from time to time . . . Jharkhand Mahaparishad proposal was mooted to the effect that efforts were being made to form a Jharkhand state . . . wherever various State Governments participate in such areas . . . the situation becomes complicated. So, the proposal for formation of Jharkhand State [by] carving out some district from four States is not practicable nor it is in the interests of the country and the people of the area because difference of opinion will crop up from time to time which will stall the development schemes. In this connection, it is the well-considered opinion of my party [the BJP] that all the 16 districts in Chotanagpur and Santhal Pargana areas have their won [own (sic)] culture, their own thinking and their own language and a State by the name of Vananchal may be formed comprising of these 16 districts.46

The above extract reflects two important points which explain the improvement in political support for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Jharkhand region in the 1990s. Firstly, the BJP was the first national party that offered a practical alternative to the demand for recognition of the Jharkhandi identity, which was demanding autonomy by the creation of a separate state from districts in four states. The BJP pointed out that the political possibility of carving out a new state comprising 25 districts spread over four states verged on improbability owing to the differences of opinion amongst the four states concerned. Consequently, the likelihood of the creation of such a state was remote. It argued that in such a scenario of continuing disagreement, recognition claims notwithstanding, even redistributive policies would have little impact. Thus, it raised a bogey of a worse development policy effort if the demand for a separate state was continued in the present form. At the same time, the BJP was also able to alter the way in which the demand for a Jharkhand state had been articulated since Independence by postulating that the region of Santhal Pargana and Chotanagpur was in some way, the ‘real Jharkhand’ by dwelling upon the separateness and uniqueness 46

‘Debate on the Resolution Regarding Creation of New States of Uttaranchal and Vananchal’, Lok Sabha Debates, 5 March 1993, col. 418–27.

40 — Amit Prakash

of the region. The electorate, faced with the already poor development performance of the public machinery, was quick to understand this message. In a surprisingly short time, all the major political opinions had accepted this approach. Soon, even the most conservative of Jharkhandi groups had, unofficially, watered down their demand to the districts of south Bihar only. Cutting across the political spectrum, various members expressed similar views. They differed marginally in their views but there was a common thread in their speeches. All the speakers concurred on the view that the demand for autonomy was due to imbalances in the development of the region. All of them quoted cultural factors, such as language and cultural uniqueness, but soon went on to emphasise that south Bihar was rich in mineral and forest resources and that the speed of development in the region was not in consonance with its contribution to the economy of Bihar and India. At this point enters a completely new dimension to the halfcentury-old redistribution–recognition debate in Jharkhand. Suraj Mandal, one of the JMM MPs, intervened in the debate and read out a catalogue of ills that had plagued the region. However, he did not point out any cultural factor as the basis of the JMM’s demand for a separate state. He emphasised the mineral wealth of the region but also brought up a new issue that had not been underlined till then. He asked for sharing of power with the people of the Jharkhand region: ‘... no development of the area was done. The people were not allowed sharing of power. Rather colonialism was no [on (sic)] the rise after exploiting of its mineral resources and establishing factories ...’.47 Mandal thereby introduced a third element in this ongoing debate — that of equitable representation in structures of power for the claimants of recognition from Jharkhand. The general trajectory of the debate on the Jharkhand issue until then had been on the course of action that was best for the speedy development of the people of the Jharkhand region. It essentially involved a greater sharing of developmental resources. However, Mandal’s intervention points to the fact that the Jharkhandi groups were no longer happy with redistributive politics and hoped that the claims of recognition would be recognised some day. They were claiming equal representation 47

Ibid., col. 437–43.

Twin Challenges to Governance  41

in power as well. It can be argued that this new element in the discourse of political autonomy reflected an increasing maturity and confidence of the Jharkhandi groups. Over the years they have come to realise that any meaningful engagement between the Jharkhandi electorate and the state could occur only if the resources controlled by the electorate (apart from mere political patronage) became crucial to the Indian state (which controls vast political, economic, and information resources). This exercise of demanding a share of governmental power by decentralisation of the administrative apparatus of the state is an effort to improve the resource base of the electorate. A greater local control over the economic and information resources by the populace of Jharkhand would also augment their political influence. This would, in turn, secure a better policy response from the state due to the region’s mineral deposits. The protracted debate on the resolution led to a consensual view about the nature and character of the Jharkhand movement. The remarks of Chitta Basu on 19 March 1993 seem to summarise mainstream opinion: . . . there is no basic question of ethnicity, language or culture for the demand of creation of Jharkhand State. The basic issue or the basic emotion or the basic sensitivity for the demand of creation of Jharkhand State is a regional disparity of development ... and because of regional disparity in development, the question of having a separate State has arisen and not on the basis of language, not on the basis of culture and not on the basis of ethnicity because even if Jharkhand State is created, it will be a multi-lingual State . . . it will be a multi-ethnic State; . . . it will be a multi-cultural State ... [The problem exists because] there has been exploitation, that there has been a backwardness; and that backwardness has been a planned backwardness . . . The grievance is even if some resource is transferred to the State by the centre, the appropriate proportion does not go [to] the Jharkhand area and therefore, there should be an autonomous council which should be guaranteed with wide powers of administration and legislative business and also guaranteed with statutory financial resources both from the centre and State. This can be reasonable, rational and satisfactory solution to the Jharkhand problem . . .48


Continuation of the ‘Debate on the Resolution Regarding Creation of New States of Uttaranchal and Vananchal’, Lok Sabha Debates, 19 March 1993, col. 380–6.

42 — Amit Prakash

Such an emphasis on the developmental problems in the region by both the Jharkhandi groups as well as the government altered the character of the demand for autonomy itself. Increasingly, there emerged a consensus in favour of decentralised developmental machinery in the region but not a separate state. Hence, the government did not find it prudent to create smaller states as solutions to the bottlenecks in the implementation of public policy. Here, it is pertinent to speculate that if so much emphasis had not been laid on the developmental problems in the Jharkhand region, the issue of a separate state might not have been overtaken by an autonomous council although, perhaps, it would not have enjoyed cross-party support in any other form. It is noteworthy that these debates in the Lok Sabha have been used by the JMM in a way that is rather unknown in the political life of India. The JMM has published extracts from the debates in the form of little booklets, which are distributed to the general population in the Jharkhand region. They contain the interventions by Mandal and Shibu Soren in the Lok Sabha. By way of these booklets, the JMM is making an effort to point out to the local populace that despite being a small parliamentary group, the JMM is trying its best to put forward the points of view of the Jharkhandi people in the highest forums of power. This action is in consonance with the earlier point made by Mandal that the Jharkhandi population now wants representation in exercise of power. The availability of parliamentary debates to the common man performs this exact function of giving the impression that their access to power has improved through their JMM representatives. (b) Complex Patterns of Electoral Support to Redistribution– Recognition By the time India gained Independence in 1947, the Jharkhandi leaders had succeeded in the creation of a political community in the erstwhile south Bihar region with the hope of engaging with the Independent Indian state in a manner similar to the nationalist’s engagement with the colonial state,49 to stress their claim of recognition. 49

Amit Prakash, ‘Contested Discourses: Politics of Ethnic Identity and Autonomy in the Jharkhand Region of India’, in Alternatives: Social Transformation and Humane Governance, 24 (4), 1999, pp. 461–96.

Twin Challenges to Governance  43

However, the nationalistic, socialistic credentials of the Indian state gave it a degree of political legitimacy and support which the Jharkhand Party (JHP) was not able to undermine. This legitimacy of the nationalist state was further buttressed by (a) its overwhelming control of state resources, a recipient of whose largesse was the Jharkhandi community; and (b) the dominant paradigm of the time was steeped in modernization theory which sought to use the route of redistribution to address all ills, including claims of recognition. Further, owing to their weak political position in the legislatures, the Jharkhandi leaders were neither able to effectively articulate their claim of recognition nor that of a better redistribution effort, constraining them from playing a meaningful role in the emerging politics of development in the region. The politics of redistribution and recognition in Jharkhand in the period 1947–91 is complex and is marked by an overall poor performance of redistribution policies in a context of multifarious political articulations and contests premised on recognition. A fuller discussion of the patterns during this period is precluded by the focus of this article and space constraints. It may suffice to note that the overall pattern of socio-economic change was that the Jharkhand region was contributing a disproportionate share of revenue to the coffers of Bihar while receiving only a minuscule proportion of developmental investment. This pattern continued over the next five decades, lending credence to the Jharkhandi argument that the region was an internal colony of Bihar. Admittedly, most indicators of social and economic development show a substantial improvement over the period 1951–91, but the rate of improvement in Bihar as a whole far outstripped the improvements in the Jharkhand region. This differential is true for most indicators except those for the growth in literacy and education in Jharkhand. On this front, the improvements in the Jharkhand region were better than Bihar as a whole. This factor had an important role to play in the intensification of the Jharkhand movement and the central role that the All Jharkhand Students’ Union (AJSU) came to play in the politics of recognition in the region in the 1980s owing to

44 — Amit Prakash

an intensified feeling of alienation of the Jharkhandi population from the state government of Bihar.50 Clearly, any hope of politics of redistribution subsuming the by now robust politics of recognition in Jharkhand was belied. Further, while redistributive politics in the region manifested its limitations, the politics of recognition was anything but staid.51 In the 1950s, the JHP’s agenda of autonomy and statehood for the Jharkhand region, premised as it was on demands for political recognition of the socio-cultural uniqueness of the region, had found enthusiastic support amongst the electorate of the region. The JHP not only performed exceedingly well in the 1952 election (winning three of the eight seats — seven of 12, if the multi-member constituencies are included)52 and the 1957 election (winning eight of 12 seats). Clearly, support for recognition-based claims articulated by the JHP had found enthusiastic support amongst the electorate but was gradually overtaken by the politics of redistribution, to be replaced by a complex recognition–redistribution logic. The reasons for the decline in electoral support for JHP’s politics of recognition were multidimensional but included the failure of the party to effectively articulate the claim of recognition 50

See Prakash, Jharkhand…, chapters 4–6, for a full discussion. Prakash, Jharkhand, pp. 85–131. 52 In 1952, when Lok Sabha had 489 seats, the country was divided into 314 single-member constituencies, 86 double-member constituencies, and one three-member constituency. In 1957, with 494 seats in the Lok Sabha, there were 312 single-member constituencies and 91 double-member constituencies. Reservation of seats for scheduled castes and tribes was the main reason for the creation of double-member constituencies. In Bihar, Palamu-cum-Hazaribagh-cum-Ranchi, Purnea-cum-Santhal Pargana, Santhal Pargana-cum-Hazaribagh, and Dumka were declared double-member constituencies. The scheduled tribes were assured a seat in the double-member constituencies through a special procedure for declaring results. Results of the reserved seats were declared first; the ST candidates polling the highest number of votes from among the ST contestants was declared elected (for unreserved seats, candidates polling the largest number of votes was declared elected, irrespective of his/her social affiliations). The electorate in such constituencies had two votes, and in the results of these two elections, both winners and runners-up were elected from such constituencies. For details, see V. B. Singh and Shankar Bose, Elections in India: Data Handbook on Lok Sabha Elections, London: Sage Publications, 1984, p. 13. 51

Twin Challenges to Governance  45

before the SRC by creation of a separate state. Besides, excessive dependence on a politics of recognition in a demographic context of the declining tribal component in the population of Jharkhand did not augur well for wide electoral support in a democratic context. Besides, the redistributive intervention of the state’s public policy was not without its own charms. All these factors ensured that the JHP was increasingly marginalised in the decades to come and an era of the politics of redistribution became dominant though the politics of recognition never quite disappeared from the political horizons of the region. In consonance with the emerging dominance of the politics of redistribution, between 1961 and 1991, the electorate experimented with a wide spectrum of political formations — from the Indian National Congress Party (INC) to the extreme left, without much avail. The development effort did not accelerate nor did the issue of autonomy and statehood make any headway. The political process during the decades of the 1960s, 1970s, and much of the 1980s was fractured across various political formations active in the region. The failure of the politics of recognition espoused by the JHP (embodied in the failure to secure a separate state) led the electorate to adopt the politics of redistribution offered by the developmental vision of the INC. While the issue of recognition and autonomy never quite lost its appeal amongst the electorate, they swiftly realised the political impediments to its realisation, leading to their support ebbing away from Jharkhandi parties. Further, the numerous Jharkhandi parties that emerged — all claiming to be the true inheritors of the JHP and articulating a vague and incoherent politics of recognition — went into almost complete disarray. The phase of national parties was truly underway in Jharkhandi politics. The INC performed well in the 1962 elections and even better in the 1967 elections (partly due to the fact that the JHP had merged with the INC in 1963) and the 1971 elections. The 1977 elections found the national pattern being repeated in Jharkhand with the Bharatiya Lok Dal (BLD) leading the way and Jharkhandi parties being more or less absent from any serious contest. Despite two decades of support to the INC’s development vision and redistributive politics, the socio-economic profile did not change swiftly enough. The electorate, therefore, also discarded the INC and the 1980 election again saw support for a wide

46 — Amit Prakash

variety of political formations, from the INC to the Janata Party to the rejuvenated JHP, but INC was back in favour in the 1984 elections,53 winning all the Lok Sabha seats from the Jharkhand region. The 1989 elections mark a break in the political process in Jharkhand with the entry of a new actor — the BJP — on the political horizon, bringing the politics of recognition along with claims of autonomy and statehood back onto the political agenda of the region with its proposal for smaller states.54 Another feature of the political process of Jharkhand in the 1980s was the three-pronged strategy articulated by the electorate, which was a peculiar combination of the politics of recognition with that of redistribution. On the one hand, electoral support was extended to national parties, particularly the INC and BJP, which would form the government at the union level and could legislate for a separate state. Electoral support at the state level was extended to the regional parties likely to form the government at the state level in the hope of influencing a better developmental response. Simultaneously, sizeable political support was extended to the agitational politics of AJSU and the Jharkhand Co-ordination Committee (JCC). A blockade of mineral transportation from the region was a part of this strategy, which served the purpose of bringing the issue onto the national agenda, owing to which the Committee of Jharkhand Matters was appointed in 1990.55 The 1990s, therefore, mark a second break in the political process of the state, creating some new patterns of strategic support and at the same time, continuing or repeating some old ones. 53

The results of the 1984 elections need to be treated with caution as this election was truncated by the assassination of Indira Gandhi. Hence, most parts of the country saw an unprecedented ‘sympathy-vote’ in favour of the INC, leading to the largest majority in the Lok Sabha ever. Thus, this result may not be a part of a long-term electoral trend in the Jharkhand region. 54 The BJP clearly articulated its view of smaller states only in its election manifesto for the 1991 Lok Sabha election and in the ‘Resolution Regarding Creation of New States of Uttaranchal and Vananchal’ tabled on 5 March 1993 in the Lok Sabha. However, politically, the issue was very much alive in the 1989 election. 55 This committee was constituted by the union ministry of home affairs in an attempt to find a solution to the issue. For full details and the importance of the committee, see Prakash, Jharkhand…, chapter 7.

Twin Challenges to Governance  47

Politics of Redistribution–Recognition: The 1990s and Beyond The pattern of electoral support for the parties in the 1990s reflects a re-prioritisation of the politics of recognition by the electorate while marginalising, but not quite discarding, the politics of redistribution. Before analysing the emerging complex interlinkage between the two, a brief discussion of the main contours of this evolving political debate must be delineated. The 1991 elections to the Lok Sabha, while continuing some of the facets of the 1989 election in terms of the BJP with its promise of a separate state winning five of the 14 seats (with more than 30 per cent of average votes), also marked the virtual exclusion of the INC from any serious electoral contest in the region. In the 1991 elections, the INC did not win any parliamentary seats (despite 18 per cent of the average votes in the Jharkhand constituencies) while JMM won six. After a couple of decades of the politics of redistribution, the political process of the region once again began to stress the centrality of the politics of recognition, albeit in a new form and with a new set of political actors. As far as electoral support for the pro-autonomy JMM was concerned, they fared poorly in 1991 compared with the 1989 election in terms of vote share but won six of the 14 seats in the region. The JMM’s average vote percentage in the seats they won declined to 36.79 per cent (almost 49 per cent in 1989) while they polled an average 29.28 per cent in constituencies where they had a presence amongst the first five candidates. The JD, by virtue of being the party in a position to influence redistributive policies at the local level, continued to receive some degree of electoral support in the region. Thus, the politics of redistribution was only marginalised but not discarded. By 1991, the political process of the region crystallised into a clear support for the BJP, which was promising a separate state,56 and 56

In the election manifesto for the 1991 Lok Sabha election, the BJP promised: ‘The BJP recognizes that regional imbalances have developed in some states because of their size. The party would appoint a commission to report on formation of smaller states which are economically and democratically viable. Initially, BJP will have Uttaranchal, Vananchal and Union Territory of Delhi as three new states of the Indian Union; …’, Manifesto of the Bharatiya Janata Party for Lok Sabha Election 1991: 3.














Number of Candidates


Constituency Name

IND 12.93 Teklal Mahto INC 17.08 Chandan Bagchi

BJP 29.40 Yadunath Pandey BJP 28.99 Amrendra Pratap Singh

JMM 39.94 Silendra Mahto

INC 9.81 Set Hemraj INC 16.24 Sarfaraz Ahmed INC 16.42 Manzarul Haque

BJP 28.34 Babulal Marandi BJP 31.79 Ramdas Singh BJP 29.39 Janardan Yadav

JMM 58.28 Shibu Soren JMM 48.21 Binod Bihari Mahto JMM 49.12 Suraj Mandal CPI 34.33 Bhuvaneshwar Prasad Mehta

JMM 10.53 Aklu Ram Mahto

MCOR 25.93 AK Roy

BJP 44.20 Rita Verma (W)

INC 18.75 Nagmani

BJP 25.99 Dhirendra Agrawal

III Party and Per cent of Votes Polled

JD 35.67 Upendra Nath Verma

I ( Winner) Party II (Runner up) Party and Per cent of Votes and Per cent of Polled Votes Polled

IND 2.97 Buvaneshwar Yadav

V Party and Per cent of Votes Polled

IND 9.94 Suraj Singh Basera

INC 12.32 Gyan Ranjan

INC 0.55 Chandra Shekhar Prasad

IPF 5.65 Tridibesh Ghosh

INC 9.70 IND 0.83 Yogeshwar Prasad Amtaf Dutta Yogesh IND 0.95 IND 0.73 Jonathan Tudu Kunjiram Tudu IND 0.52 IND 0.49 Jaikant Pandey Bijay Prasad Singh JP 1.72 IND 0.63 Ashok Kumar Singh Manohar Singh

JP 3.90 Ajoy Kumar Singh

IV Party and Per cent of Votes Polled

Table 1.1: Performance of Political Parties in Constituencies of Jharkhand in the Lok Sabha Elections, 1991













JMM 36.10 Krishna Marandi

BJP 37.95 Ram Deo Ram JMM 38.21 Simon Marandi BJP 48.47 Ram Tahal Choudhary

BJP 37.40 Lalit Oraon

JD 33.17 Mumtaz Ansari

BJP 36.02 Karia Munda

INC 21.01 Simon Tigga

IND 9.93 Prabhakar Tirkey

BJP 30.28 Ritlal Prasad Verma

INC 26.14 IPF 6.49 Tilakdhari Prasad Mahendra Prasad Singh Singh JD 16.89 INC 22.80 IND 16.35 Karam Chand Sumati Oraon (W) Binod Bhagat Bhagat JD 32.08 INC 13.64 SKD 6.49 Jorawar Ram Kamala Kumari (W) Jawahir Ram INC 31.13 BJP 27.40 IND 0.74 Thomas Hansda Santlal Marandi Kasan Soren JD 22.57 INC 17.29 JP 4.33 Awadhesh Kumar Shiv Prasad Sahu Subosh Kant Sahay Sing BJP 20.56 INC 22.34 JP 4.76 Munda Radhey Bijay Singh Soy Bagum Sumbrui Sumbrui

JHP 23.38 N E Horo

IPF 2.81 Kishore Kumar IND 0.62 Kisan Murmu IND 2.85 Ram Dayal Munda JD 4.12 Mangal Singh Limaye

JHP 1.95 Asha Roa (W)

JP 0.43 Adibuzama Rizvi

JMM 6.93 Ramesh Kumar Munda

Source: Statistical Report on General Elections, 1991 to the Tenth Lok Sabha, vol. I (National and State Abstracts & Detailed Results), New Delhi: Election Commission of India, n.d.



50 — Amit Prakash

JMM, to ensure that this promise was not forgotten by the BJP in the national parliament. Table 1.2: Performance of Jharkhandi Political Parties in the Lok Sabha Elections, 1991

Election Year 1991

Average Votes Polled by All Jharkhandi Parties in Constituencies with Electoral Presence

Average Votes Polled by All Jharkhandi Parties in all Constituencies of Jharkhand

Average Percentage of Votes Polled in Seats Won by Jharkhandi Parties

Seats Won Out of Total Seats in Jharkhand




6 out of 14

The BJP’s clear articulation of the demand for a separate state has yielded rich dividends for the party in every election over the 1990s. The Lok Sabha elections in 1996 saw a stronger electoral support for the BJP with the JMM once again being relegated to the political backwaters, not to recover for the next three elections. In fact, the BJP, with its national standing and clear potential of forming the government at the union level took the wind out of the sails of the JMM, the only active Jharkhandi party in the region. Recognition was back on the agenda, perhaps as only a conduit to better redistribution, but was back nonetheless. In the 1996 elections (Table 1.3), BJP candidates were elected from 12 of the 14 Lok Sabha constituencies in the region with an average of 33 per cent of the votes. The JMM and the INC won one each; The INC thus failed to convert its 16 per cent of the average votes polled in Jharkhand into seats during this election. Clearly, the inadequate performance of the development machinery over five decades had encouraged popular support for the idea of autonomy (something that had mellowed earlier) which, combined with the BJP’s clear promise of a state (something which no other party with any chance of forming the government at the union level had yet accepted), created unprecedented support to a relative newcomer — the BJP — in the region. As far as the JMM was concerned, it seemed to become increasingly marginalised in the region. While the demand and mobilisation for a separate state was led by Jharkhandi groups such as the JMM, AJSU, and others, owing to the virtual hijacking
















Number of Candidates


Constituency Name

BJP 33.20 Karia Munda

BJP 42.85 Dheerendra Agarwal BJP 33.44 Rita Verma (W) JMM 31.94 Shibu Soren BJP 36.52 Ravindra Kumar Pandey BJP 35.88 Jagdambi Prasad Yadav BJP 36.36 Mahabir Lal Vishwakarma BJP 33.37 Bharadwaj Nitish Janardan JMM 14.93 Prabhakar Tirkey

JMM 19.42 Shailendra Mahato

JHP 14.79 N E Horo

INC 16.56 K P Singh

(Table 1.3 continued )

JD 6.52 Devid Bhangar

AMB 0.67 Nimai Mahato

JMM 19.94 Suraj Mandal

JD 26.84 Salauddin Ansari JMM 15.91 Tekalal Mahto

JMM (M) 16.66 Raj Kishore Mahato

JD 21.18 Saba Ahmed

CPI 26.84 Bhumeshwar Pradas Mehta JD 25.07 Inder Singh Namdhari INC 26.58 Shushila Kerketta (W)

JMM 6.31 INC 5.97 Munir Ahmed Khan Bijay Kumar Singh INC 6.67 IND 0.91 Thakur Tudu Helen Soren (W) INC 13.99 JMM 8.49 Rajendra Lal Chand Mahato Prasad Singh IND 2.57 INC 10.09 Panchanand Furkan Ansari Thakur INC 9.07 CPI (ML) 3.06 Chandrashekhar Gunni Oraon (W) Dubey

MCOR 14.17 AK Roy JD 26.31 Basudev Besra

CPI (ML) 1.72 Chinta Singh

V Party and Per cent of Votes Polled

IND 6.90 Mahesh Singh Yadav

IV Party and Per cent of Votes Polled

INC 7.15 Mumtaj Ansaree

III Party and Per cent of Votes Polled

JD 32.10 Krishna Nandan Prasad JD 30.69 Samresh Singh BJP 30.89 Babulal Marandi

I (Winner) Party II (Runner up) Party and Per cent of Votes and Per cent of Polled Votes Polled

Table 1.3: Performance of Political Parties in Constituencies of Jharkhand in the Lok Sabha Elections, 1996











JD 31.83 Ramesh Prasad Yadav INC 25.42 Bandi Oraon JD 31.98 Udai Narayan Choudhary JMM 19.55 Simon Marandi INC 29.38 Keshav Mahato Kamlesh IND 18.30 Vijay Singh Soy

BJP 39.44 Ritlal Prasad Verma

BJP 34.01 Lalit Oraon

BJP 43.42 Braj Mohan Ram

INC 45.22 Thomad Hansda

BJP 35.94 Ram Tahal Singh

BJP 20.88 Chitrasen Sinku

I (Winner) Party II (Runner up) Party and Per cent of Votes and Per cent of Polled Votes Polled

JMM (M) 12.94 Krishna Mardi

INC 11.22 Umesh Chandra Agarwal JD 18.20 Karam Chand Bhagat INC 10.78 Radha Krishna Kishore BJP 16.65 Jhano Rewati Tudu (W) JD 26.46 Ashok Kumar Singh

III Party and Per cent of Votes Polled

JMM 1.92 Bhagwan Prasad Bhagat INC 12.29 Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu

JD 15.73 Lobin Hembrom

BSP 3.80 Bhuneshwar Ram

JMM 15.24 Bernard Minj

JMM 8.03 Salkhan Soren

IV Party and Per cent of Votes Polled

JD 10.89 Hiber Guria

IND 1.31 Francis Sabras

IND 0.79 Karan Soren

JHP 1.66 Kanhai Ram

JKPP 2.58 Binod Kumar Bhagat

CPI (ML) 3.11 Mohan Datta

V Party and Per cent of Votes Polled

Source: Statistical Report on General Elections, 1996 to the Eleventh Lok Sabha, vol. I (National and State Abstracts & Detailed Results), New Delhi: Election Commission of India, n.d. ∗ ST Constituency


Number of Candidates


Constituency Name

(Table 1.3 continued )

Twin Challenges to Governance  53

of their agenda for autonomy by the BJP, such political groups have been unable to claim that they alone are the legitimate proponents of the Jharkhandi political opinion, and consequently, were increasingly marginalised over the 1990s. Likewise, their vote share in the 1996 elections declined further and the JMM polled about 32 per cent of the votes in the sole seat won. The average votes polled by the JMM in Jharkhand declined to 14.4 per cent while the average votes polled in the constituencies with a presence amongst first five candidates declined to 15.5 per cent only (Table 1.4). This was a far cry from the large electoral support that the JMM and other such parties have enjoyed in the past. Table 1.4: Performance of Jharkhandi Political Parties in the Lok Sabha Elections, 1996 Average Votes Polled by All Jharkhandi Parties in Constituencies Election with Electoral Year Presence 1996


Average Votes Polled by All Jharkhandi Parties in All Constituencies of Jharkhand

Average Percentage of Votes Polled in Seats Won by Jharkhandi Parties

Seats Won Out of Total Seats in Jharkhand



1 out of 14

The 1998 general elections continued the same electoral pattern with very few significant differences (Table 1.5). While the INC slightly improved its presence in the region by winning two seats with 17 per cent of the average vote, the BJP was the undisputed winner in the electoral contest of 1998. The BJP candidates were elected in 12 of the 14 constituencies in the region with more than 45 per cent of the votes. It must be noted that by this time, all major political actors in the Jharkhand region had come around to supporting the idea of a separate state in Jharkhand (which may have been a partial factor in the marginal recovery of the INC’s electoral fortunes). However, the BJP with its astute mix of a small-states agenda, tribal mobilisation, and fielding of candidates with a tribal background created a situation in which the JMM became politically marginalised. Further, since it was increasingly becoming clear that the electorate had by now decided to fully support the autonomy agenda, only national parties with significant numbers in the Lok Sabha would be relevant. This is exactly what the results of 1998 elections underline.












BJP 46.71 Yashwant Sinha

CPI 4.32 Kaleshwar Hembram JMM (M) 12.13 Raj Kishore Mahto JD 11.20 Abutalib Ansari JMM (M) 20.23 Teklal Mahto

INC 34.54 Rajendra Prasad Singh JMM 36.45 Suraj Mandal CPI 23.08 Bhuwaneshwar Prasad Mehta

RJD 16.83 Aklu Ram Mahato

JD 6.62 Md. Saeed Khan

III Party and Per cent of Votes Polled

JMM 44.88 Shibu Soren

MCOR 30.17 AK Roy

BJP 50.60 Rita Verma

BJP 47.01 Babu Lal Marandi BJP 45.50 Rabindra Kumar Pandey BJP 47.13 Jagdambi Prasad Yadav

RJD 38.38 Nagmani

BJP 45.06 Dhirendra Agarwal

I (Winner) Party II (Runner up) Party Number of and Per cent of Votes and Per cent of Votes Candidates Polled Polled


Constituency Name

CPI (ML) (L) 4.35 Deoki Nandan Vedia

IND 3.70 Enamul Haque

JD 7.53 Lal Chand Mahto

JMM 4.18 Pratima Devi (W)

SP 1.19 Faiyaz

IND 0.30 Kailas Chandra Mahto

SP 0.69 Lalita Hembram

SP 0.59 Surendra Prasad Roy

IND 0.66 Marigendra Prasad Yadav JD 2.90 David Murmu

IND 2.92 Naresh Bhuiyan

V Party and Per cent of Votes Polled

SSD 2.98 Dwarika Prasad

IV Party and Per cent of Votes Polled

Table 1.5: Performance of Political Parties in Constituencies of Jharkhand in the Lok Sabha Elections, 1998















BJP 41.87 Lalit Oraon

INC 45.66 Indra Nath Bhagat

INC 36.44 Vijay Kumar Soy

BJP 34.03 Som Marandi BJP 58.12 Ram Tahal Choudhary BJP 34.33 Chitrasen Sinku

RJD 40.05 Uday Narayan Chaudhary INC 34.02 Thomas Hansda INC 37.16 Keshav Mahto Kamlesh

RJD 27.39 Avid Hussain

BJP 42.06 Ritlal Prasad Verma

BJP 53.72 Braj Mohan Ram

JMM 12.65 Ram Dayal Munda

INC 34.66 Sushila Kerketta (W)

BJP 43.29 Kariya Munda

JMM 25.68 Simon Marandi FBL 1.32 Napendra Krishna Mahto JMM 24.39 Mangal Singh Bobonga

CPI (ML) (L) 3.73 Kishore Koomar

JMM 4.90 Prabhakat Tirkey

INC 18.36 Tilakdhari Prasad Singh

CPI 13.42 Tika Ram Majhi

IND 27.87 Russi Modi

BJP 41.50 Abha Mahto (W)

CPI (ML) (L) 0.74 Shubhendu Sen JMM (M) 4.84 Krishna Mardi

JMM 0.67 Bahadur Singh

CPM 3.83 Jyotin Soren

JHP 2.27 K D Jojo

CPI (ML) (L) 4.47 Mahendra Prasad Singh

RJD 5.69 Onkarnath Jaiswal

IND 0.79 Ram Chandra Das IND 0.98 Ramshil Murmu BJC 1.71 Suren Ram

JD 3.17 Bhuwaneshwar Lohra

JD 7.06 Gauttam Sagar Rana

JHP 9.41 N E Horo

IND 9.79 Sudhir Mahato

Source: Statistical Report on General Elections, 1998 to the Twelfth Lok Sabha, vol. I (National and State Abstracts & Detailed Results), New Delhi: Election Commission of India, n.d. ∗ ST Constituency



56 — Amit Prakash

Consequently, the JMM was unable to win even a single seat in the region in the 1998 elections. Besides, the average votes polled by the JMM across all the constituencies declined to 14.4 per cent. However, the vote share of the JMM in those constituencies where it had a presence amongst the first five candidates rose significantly to 22.5 per cent. Such a rise in the vote share did not translate into a higher number of seats won by the JMM on account of the extreme polarisation of the political process of the region during the 1998 elections (Table 1.6). Table 1.6: Performance of Jharkhandi Political Parties in the Lok Sabha Elections, 1998

Election Year 1998

Average Votes Average Votes Polled Polled by All by All Jharkhandi Jharkhandi Parties Parties in All in Constituencies with Constituencies Electoral Presence of Jharkhand 22.52


Average Percentage of Votes Polled Seats Won in Seats Won Out of Total by Jharkhandi Seats in Parties Jharkhand –

0 out of 14

The large mandate given by the Jharkhandi electorate to the BJP did not translate into significant gains for the population of the region. The union government did not last a full term and elections were called for once again in 1999, but there is hardly any change in the pattern of electoral outcome in the region. The BJP won 11 of the 14 seats in the region with 45 per cent average votes while the INC won two seats with average vote share of 23 per cent. The RJD won only one seat with an average vote share of 8 per cent (Table 1.7). A perusal of the two Tables (Tables 1.5 and 1.7) delineating the performance of political parties for the 1998 and 1999 elections shows that the BJP candidates were elected by a larger proportion of the votes in almost all the seats won by them. The JMM continued to be increasingly marginalised in the electoral contest during the 1999 elections. As in the 1998 elections, it did not win any seat in the 1999 elections.57 57

JMM did not win any seat in the 1999 elections but Shibu Soren of JMM won the Dumka parliamentary seat in a by-election after it was vacated by Babulal Marandi on 8 March 2001 consequent to his swearing in as the first chief minister of the newly created state of Jharkhand.














Number of Candidates


Constituency Name

INC 26.06 Ghanshayam Mahato

BJP 45.40 Abha Mahato (W)

JMM 12.80 Sunil Kumar Mahato

JMM (U) 12.05 Teklal Mahto

INC 17.18 Furkan Ansari

JMM 22.30 Suraj Mandal RJD 17.12 Akalu Ram Mahto

JMM (U) 8.04 Shiva Mahato

BJP 47.98 Yashwant Sinha

BJP 46.70 Ravindra Kumar Pandey BJP 34.91 Jagdambi Prasad Yadav

AMB 0.78 Ravan Murmu

CPI 8.97 Dulal Munshi

CPI 9.40 Ramendra Kumar

CPI 13.64 Sanjay Kumar

JMM 1.18 Kartik Mahato

NCP 0.71 Anand Tudu

(Table 1.7 continued )

JMM (U) 5.74 Sudhir Mahato

INC 6.24 Ishwari Ram Paswan

RJD 9.49 Javed Iqbal Ansari

BSP 0.55 Kamal Das

FBL 0.32 Palu Hembram

JD (S) 0.82 S K Verma

CPI (ML) (L) 1.03 Upendra Narayan Singh

JMM 2.44 Kansari Mandal

NCP 0.83 Kamlesh Kumar Singh

JMM 1.20 Pooran Chand

BSP 2.70 Mahavir Prasad Yadav

V Party and Per cent of Votes Polled

IV Party and Per cent of Votes Polled

III Party and Per cent of Votes Polled

JMM 36.02 Rupi Soren Kisku (W) INC 42.97 Rajendra Prasad Singh

MCOR 46.21 AK Roy

BJP 48.07 Rita Verma (W)

BJP 36.87 Babulal Marandi

BJP 39.51 Dhirendra Agarwal

RJD 52.73 Nagmani

I (Winner) Party and II (Runner up) Party Per cent of Votes and Per cent of Polled Votes Polled

Table 1.7: Performance of Political Parties in Constituencies of Jharkhand in the Lok Sabha Elections, 1999













BJP 49.04 Laxman Giluwa

BJP 65.72 Ram Tahal Singh

BJP 44.31 CPI (ML) (L) 3.55 Ritlal Prasad Nazmul Hasan Verma INC 43.97 JMM 7.77 Indra Nath Bhagat Bishwasnath Bhagat RJD 36.65 BSP 6.84 Jorawar Ram Rampati Ram BJP 33.59 JMM 20.46 Som Marandi Simon Marandi JMM 6.76 INC 23.93 Prem Chand K K Tewari Mahto INC 31.59 JMM 15.17 Vijay Singh Soy Champai Soren

INC 46.02 Tilakdhari Prasad Singh BJP 45.02 Dukha Bhagat BJP 53.37 Braj Mohan Ram INC 44.68 Thomas Hansda

JHP 13.09 N E Horo

INC 39.82 Sushila Kerketta

III Party and Per cent of Votes Polled

BJP 46.31 Karaiya Munda

I (Winner) Party and II (Runner up) Party Per cent of Votes and Per cent of Polled Votes Polled

CPI (ML) (L) 1.35 JD (S) 0.65 Jai Prakash Minj Bhubaneswar Lohra CPI (ML) (L) 2.28 JP 0.86 Kishore Kumar Renu Devi (W) IND 0.51 IND 0.47 Mahesh Malto Kistu Murmu CPI (ML) (L) 1.09 FBL 0.82 Anant Prasad Narendra Krishna Gupta Mahto UGDP 2.37 JMM (U) 0.90 Lakshman Soy Krishna Mardi

JMM 1.52 Bhagwat Rama

FBL 0.78 Ghanshayam Singh Munda NCP 3.29 Dr Mumtaj Ansari

V Party and Per cent of Votes Polled

IV Party and Per cent of Votes Polled

Source: Statistical Report on General Elections, 1999 to the Thirteenth Lok Sabha, vol. I (National and State Abstracts & Detailed Results), New Delhi: Election Commission of India, n.d. ∗ ST Constituency, # SC Constituency


Number of Candidates


Constituency Name

(Table 1.7 continued )

Twin Challenges to Governance  59

Further, the JMM also faced an all-round decline in the average votes polled. In the constituencies in which it had an electoral presence amongst the first five candidates, the average votes polled fell to 12.88 per cent from 22.5 per cent in 1998. Besides, the overall average votes polled by JMM in all the constituencies of the Jharkhand region declined to 11.9 per cent from 14.4 per cent in 1998 (Table 1.8). Table 1.8: Performance of Jharkhandi Political Parties in the Lok Sabha Elections, 1999 Average Votes Polled by All Average Votes Polled Jharkhandi Parties by All Jharkhandi in Constituencies Parties in all Election with Electoral Constituencies of Year Presence Jharkhand 1999



Average Percentage of Votes Polled in Seats Won by Jharkhandi Parties

Seats Won Out of Total Seats in Jharkhand

0 out of 14

Clearly, the four elections held in the decade of the 1990s were dominated by the vision of recognition offered by the BJP in Jharkhand. Since the major difference between the electoral positions of BJP and other political parties active in the Jharkhand region was the promise of a separate state, it is perhaps not wrong to deduce that the electoral support for BJP’s clear articulation of the promise of autonomy, fulfilling the long-standing claim of recognition of the Jharkhandi electorate, carried the day for the party. In fact, the attraction of the separate state promised by the BJP held so much of a sway in these elections that the political formations which had led the demand for such a separate state since before Independence were also marginalised. Whether such shifts in electoral support from the JMM and the INC to the BJP is a short-term pattern of voting by the electorate and not a more far-reaching shift in electoral mobilisation in the recently created state of Jharkhand, will emerge in the analysis of the results for the 2004 and 2009. The 2004 Lok Sabha elections were the first to be held in the new state of Jharkhand and were also significant for the political re-configurations that seemed to emerge from the result of this election. By this time, the new state of Jharkhand had been in existence for over three years and the BJP, the party which was

60 — Amit Prakash

the largest beneficiary of the pattern of electoral support in the 1999 elections, was in power in the state (and at the union level as a part of the National Democratic Alliance).58 However, the peculiar brand of politics of recognition espoused by the BJP did not continue to reap rich electoral harvests for the party as the trends and patterns of electoral support for the BJP noticed in the 1999 elections did not continue in the 2004 elections (Table 1.9). BJP candidates were elected only from one constituency in Jharkhand, Koderma, from which Babulal Marandi, the former chief minister, was elected with 44 per cent of the votes polled. BJP polled less than half of the 1999 average vote share at 22 per cent. However, this does not mean that the scope of politics of recognition in Jharkhand had run its course. In fact, this strand of politics led to a resurgence of electoral support for the JMM and other Jharkhandi political groups59 on the electoral horizon of Jharkhand after more than a decade of dismal performance verging on the point of political irrelevance. Although a number of Jharkhandi political formations were in the fray, only JMM was able to win seats in the region. JMM candidates were elected from four of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in the region — a splendid performance considering its history of more than a decade of electoral oblivion. Further, the JMM polled an average of almost 47 per cent of the votes polled in the seats won by its candidates, which was quite respectable. However, this performance by the JMM in the 2004 elections does not reflect a rise in popular support for the Jharkhandi political opinion in the state. In fact, the average electoral support for all the Jharkhandi parties in constituencies in which they had a presence amongst the first five candidates declined to 8.24 per cent in the 2004 election from 12.88 per cent in 1999 (Table 1.10). 58

The Bihar Reorganisation Act, 2000 provided that the term of the newly constituted legislative assembly of Jharkhand would be coterminous with that of the Bihar legislative assembly as those MLAs in the Bihar assembly who had been elected from the Jharkhand region formed the bulk of the MLAs in the assembly of Jharkhand. 59 Such as the All Jharkhand Students’ Union (AJSU) and the revived Jharkhand Party (JHP) led by N. E. Horo.














Number of Candidates


Constituency Name

JMM 51.00 Sunil Kumar Mahato

INC 44.88 Furkan Ansari CPI 50.47 Bhubneshwar Prasad Mehta

JMM 49.03 Tek Lal Mahto

JMM 54.32 Shibu Soren

INC 37.76 Chandra Shekhar Dubey

RJD 27.89 Dhirendra Agarwal

BJP 37.40 Abha Mahto (W)

BJP 35.54 Yashwant Sinha

BJP 28.06 Ravindra Kumar Pandey BJP 41.66 Pradeep Yadav

BJP 35.92 Sone Lal Hembrom

JD (U) 23.56 Inder Singh Namdhari BJP 25.08 Rita Verma (W)

I (Winner) Party and II (Runner up) Party Per cent of Votes and Per cent of Votes Polled Polled

SP 2.24 Omkar Nath Jaiswal

JD (U) 5.27 Suraj Mandal AJSU 5.20 Chandra Prakash Choudhary

JD(U) 11.44 Inderdeo Mahato

BSP 2.16 Baijnath Manjhi

MCO 15.66 A. K. Roy

BJP 22.88 Nagmani

III Party and Per cent of Votes Polled

NPF 1.42 Surya Singh Besra

CPI(ML)(L) 2.06 Heera Gope

BSP 2.75 Jai Prakash Yadav

IND 1.33 Shamim Akhtar IND 1.59 Snehlata Devi (W) IND 1.42 Sitaram Tudu

BSP 1.91 Kamal Sahu

IND 1.46 Sona Murmu (W)

SLP (L) 1.98 Dina Bandhu Singh

SP 3.29 Suresh Yadav

V Party and Per cent of Votes Polled

(Table 1.9 continued )

AJSU 4.52 Raj Kishore Mahato

AJSU 1.97 Jonathan Tudu

IND 11.28 Samresh Singh

IND 11.92 Ramlal Oraon

IV Party and Per cent of Votes Polled

Table 1.9: Performance of Political Parties in Constituencies of Jharkhand in the Lok Sabha Elections, 2004













BJP 23.63 Braj Mohan Ram INC 32.33 Thomas Hansda BJP 38.61 Ram Tahal Choudhary

RJD 32.22 Manoj Kumar

JMM 32.76 Hemlal Murmu

INC 42.55 Bagun Sumbrai IND 31.17 Laxman Gilua

BJP 28.65 Dukha Bhagat

INC 48.00 Rameshwar Oraon

INC 40.82 Subodh Kant Sahay

CPI(ML)(L) 25.64 Raj Kumar Yadav

JMM 25.64 Champa Verma (W)

BJP 44.40 Babulal Marandi

SAP 13.96 Sukhram Oraon

IND 7.53 Bandhu Tirky

JD(U) 16.64 Radha Krishn Kishore BJP 27.85 Som Marandi

IND 12.64 Chamra Linda

JKP 6.50 Niral Enem Horo

BJP 34.00 Kariya Munda

III Party and Per cent of Votes Polled

INC 44.54 Sushila Kerketta (W)

I (Winner) Party and II (Runner up) Party Per cent of Votes and Per cent of Votes Polled Polled

IND 6.31 Salkhan Murmu

BSP 2.11 Chunda Tudu CPM 5.42 Rajendra Singh Munda

BSP 9.49 Jitendra Kumar

IND 2.08 Sukhdeo Lohra

INC 25.64 Tilakdhari Prasad Singh

JD (U) 4.27 Dr. Ram Dayal Munda

IV Party and Per cent of Votes Polled

LJNSP 2.60 Dimple Lamay (W)

IND 1.67 Rajesh Kumar

IND 1.67 Dilip Hembrom

INC 8.42 Vijay Kumar

BSP 1.53 Bhupendra Nath Ram

BSP 25.64 Mahesh Ram

BSP 4.21 Ajit Kiro

V Party and Per cent of Votes Polled

Source: Statistical Report on General Elections, 2004 to the 14th Lok Sabha, vol. II, New Delhi: Election Commission of India, n.d. ∗ ST Constituency, # SC Constituency


Number of Candidates


Constituency Name

(Table 1.9 continued )

Twin Challenges to Governance  63 Table 1.10: Performance of Jharkhandi Political Parties in the Lok Sabha Elections, 2004

Election Year 2004

Average Votes Polled by All Jharkhandi Parties in Constituencies with Electoral Presence

Average Votes Polled by All Jharkhandi Parties in all Constituencies of Jharkhand

Average Percentage of Votes Polled in Seats Won by Jharkhandi Parties

Seats Won Out of Total Seats in Jharkhand




4 out of 14

Since Independence, this was the lowest level of electoral support for Jharkhandi political parties in constituencies in which they had a presence amongst the first five candidates. Further, the overall electoral support to Jharkhandi political parties in all the constituencies of Jharkhand declined to 4.12 per cent in the 2004 elections from 11.96 per cent in the 1999 elections. This poor level of electoral support for Jharkhandi political groups was the second-lowest in all the general elections since 1952. Clearly, all is not well with Jharkhandi political groups in Jharkhand. Simultaneously, the politics of redistribution which has been the INC’s agenda for the past half century, found renewed electoral support. In fact, the largest beneficiary in the shifting patterns of electoral support in the new state of Jharkhand in the 2004 general elections was the INC, which was elected from six of the 14 constituencies in Jharkhand with an average vote of about 26 per cent. A study of Table 1.9 indicates that Jharkhand’s political dynamics seem to have reverted to that of the early 1970s and early 1980s when the INC used to dominate the elections in Jharkhand with is agenda of redistributive politics. However, the transformation is more complex. The restoration of the political patterns of 1970s is further attested to by the results of the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. The general elections of 2009 in Jharkhand seem to confirm some of the patterns of the 2004 elections while reinstating the patterns of acute political disarray noticed in the 1960s, indicating an evolving contest between the politics of recognition and redistribution. The first important trend to note in this election is that the BJP seems to have reversed its fortunes by securing eight of the 14 seats from the state while polling only 27 per cent of the total

64 — Amit Prakash

votes polled.60 The INC on the other hand was able to win only one seat while polling 15 per cent of the votes cast. At first glance, it seems to be a complete sweep for the BJP, similar to the decade of 1990s (Table 1.11). On the other hand, the lack of a high percentage of votes polled by the BJP indicates that its good performance in the 2009 polls election in terms of seats won was owing to the complete political disarray amongst other parties active in the region. The INC’s troubled relationship with the RJD and the JMM was one important factor. The alliance with the JMM also reflects the absence of a political strength and agenda within the INC, as also once again, its inability to combine redistribution with claims of recognition. As far as Jharkhandi political opinion was concerned, a complex picture emerges. In terms of winning seats, the JMM was the only Jharkhandi party which won two of the two Lok Sabha seats from the state. Further, in these two seats, the Jharkhandi political parties substantially lost electoral support by polling only 28 per cent of the votes (compared with 46.7 per cent in 2004). The average votes polled by all Jharkhandi parties across all constituencies in Jharkhand rose significantly to 24.6 per cent in 2009 compared with a mere 4 per cent in 2004. Further, in constituencies in which Jharkhandi parties marked a presence amongst the first five candidates, the votes polled for Jharkhandi parties rose from 8 per cent in 2004 to 28.7 per cent in 2009 (Table 1.12). Thus, despite significantly increasing their vote share in almost all constituencies in the state, Jharkhandi parties were unable to translate their electoral support into seats. The prime reason for this was the complete splintering of the Jharkhandi political space. The JMM faced stiff contest from a number of parties, all of which claimed to be representing the Jharkhandi ideal. Chief amongst such new parties were the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) (JVM); the AJSU Party; the Jharkhand Janadikhar Manch (JHJAM); and the Jharkhand Jan Morcha (JHJM). These parties therefore fragmented the Jharkhandi vote share in a way that impacted the outcome of the polls. Here it must be noted that such fragmentation of the Jharkhandi political opinion was 60

B. K. Sinha and Harishwar Dayal, ‘Jharkhand: Politics of Performance’, Economic and Political Weekly, 44 (39), 26 September–2 October 2009, p. 145.














JVM 22.18 Pradeep Yadav AJSU 12.57 Chandra Prakash Choudhary JVM 11.21 Arvind Kumar Singh

INC 26.00 Saurabh Narain Singh JMM 28.34 Suman Mahato

BJP 31.81 Yashwant Sinha

BJP 45.30 Arjun Munda

JVM 20.47 Saba Ahmad

JMM 22.40 Teklal Mehto INC 22.96 Furkan Ansari

CPI 3.96 Pashupari Kol

JVM 10.37 Ramesh Hembrom

AJSU 5.30 Shailendra Mahto

JMM 7.80 Shivlal Mahto

JMM 9.92 Durga Soren

CPI 4.46 Aklu Ram Mahto

MCO 10.51 A K Roy

AMB 1.32 Hemant Singh

AJSUP 5.25 Raj Narayan Khawade CPI 7.78 Bhuvneshwar Prasad Mehta

IND 3.36 Indra Dev Mahto

IND 3.12 Nandlal Soren

LJP 3.20 Virendra Pradhan

JD(U) 9.72 Arun Kumar Yadav

V Party and Per cent of Votes Polled

(Table 1.11 continued )

CPI (ML) (L) 13.47 Keshwar Yadav

BSP 16.28 Samresh Singh

RJD 14.51 Nagmani

IV Party and Per cent of Votes Polled

INC 19.44 Dhiraj Prasad Sahu INC 24.89 Chandrashekhar Dubey BJP 30.50 Sunil Soren

III Party and Per cent of Votes Polled

BJP 23.76 Nishikant Dubey

IND 22.86 Inder Singh Namdhari BJP 32.03 Pashupati Nath Singh JMM 33.52 Shibu Soren BJP 37.30 Ravindra Kumar Pandey

I (Winner) Party II (Runner up) Party and Number of and Per cent of Votes Per cent of Votes Candidates Polled Polled


Constituency Name

Table 1.11: Performance of Political Parties in Constituencies of Jharkhand in the Lok Sabha Elections, 2009













INC 25.48 Neil Tirkey CPI(ML)(L) 19.34 Raj Kumar Yadav IND 26.10 Chamra Linda RJD 22.18 Ghuran Ram JMM 24.73 Hemlal Murmu BJP 41.04 Ram Tahal Choudhary BJP 28.82 Barkuwar Gagrai

BJP 41.19 Karia Munda

JVM 25.55 Babulal Marandi

BJP 27.69 Sudarshan Bhagat

JMM 25.80 Kameshwar Baitha

BJP 26.12 Devidhan Besra INC 42.88 Subodh Kant Sahay

IND 44.29 Madhu Kora

IV Party and Per cent of Votes Polled

INC 16.49 Bagun Sumbrui

IND 4.04 Hikim Soren

JKP(N) 5.88 Nitima Bodra Bari RJD 14.17 BJP 14.75 Pranav Kumar Laxaman Sawarnkar Verma INC 24.81 JHJAM 6.17 Rameshwar Oraon Rama Khalkho JD(U) 9.95 JVM 13.85 Radha Krishna Prabhat Kumar Kishore RJD 20.95 JHJM 9.00 Thomas Hasda Stiphen Marandi CPM 3.04 JVM 4.36 Rajendra Singh Akhtar Ansari Munda

JKP 16.46 Nishikant Horo

III Party and Per cent of Votes Polled

JVM 1.66 Mangal Singh Bobonga

BSP 1.52 Md. Sarafuddin

JVM 6.24 Som Marandi

BSP 6.68 Hira Ram

JVP 4.51 Throdore Kiro JMM 7.86 Bishnu Prasad Bhaiya AJSU 3.18 Deosharan Bhagat

V Party and Per cent of Votes Polled

Source: Collated from various sections of the Election Commission website owing to unavailability of official reports until now. ∗ ST Constituency, # SC Constituency


I (Winner) Party II (Runner up) Party and Number of and Per cent of Votes Per cent of Votes Candidates Polled Polled


Constituency Name

(Table 1.11 continued )

Twin Challenges to Governance  67 Table 1.12: Performance of Jharkhandi Political Parties in the Lok Sabha Elections, 2004

Election Year 2009 2004

Average Votes Polled by All Jharkhandi Parties in Constituencies with Electoral Presence

Average Votes Polled by All Jharkhandi Parties in All Constituencies of Jharkhand

Average Percentage of Votes Polled in Seats Won by Jharkhandi Parties

Seats Won Out of Total Seats in Jharkhand

28.72 8.24

24.61 4.12

28.13 46.77

2 out of 14 4 out of 14

earlier noted in the 1960s and 1970s, a period during which the Jharkhand movement all but disappeared from the political landscape of the state. Matters were not helped by the complete absence of an agenda of transformation amongst the Jharkhandi parties — a legacy of the Jharkhand movement phase that they have yet to overcome.

Recognition–Redistribution: A Complex Relationship The Jharkhandi case reflects a complex relationship between the politics of recognition and that of redistribution. The issue has not been simply either one or the other but the peculiarity of the political context ensures that a complex argument is carried forth. Further, the argument of recognition and redistribution not being sufficient to completely define the contours of social justice in India is also clear in the case of Jharkhand. The issue of representation has always been a central part of the argument but promises to become more important. The increasingly intense discussion amongst political actors in Jharkhand on the premises, structure, and degree of embeddedness of panchayats under the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) is an example of this debate. In fact, in many ways, this debate on representation carries forth the recognition–redistribution debate, conducted as it is in the context of traditional structures of local governance in Jharkhand and their space and role in statutory panchayats under PESA, 1996. The implications of this experience for democratic politics more widely in the country are manifold. Perhaps, the most important

68 — Amit Prakash

implication is that any hope of the politics of redistribution substituting that of recognition is a fond hope. While there may be limitations in liberal theory and practice to combine the two, the empirical reality is of the two being effortlessly combined to levy a claim for representation on the state. There is, therefore, a need to find new institutional forms and processes to address this multi-faceted demand. This will require a more thoroughgoing analysis of other forms of the recognition–redistribution debate alluded to earlier in this article — but that requires another study.

2 New Technique of Governance: E-Governance and India’s Democratic Experience Dipankar Sinha∗ ‘What do I do with an information kiosk if it does not provide me access to the information I need? I grow oranges in an orchard so I do not need information about potato cultivation in the kiosk.’ — A Darjeeling resident

India’s experiment with post-colonial democracy is more than six decades old. So is her tryst with ‘development’. Both democracy and development are undergoing a supposed paradigm shift in the current era in different ways, the manifestations of which are marked by a number of challenges and dilemmas. Social scientists over the years have contested the assumption that democracy and development necessarily go hand in hand; as a result, in the contemporary era, we are more inclined to focus on the intricate dialectics of the two. The dialectics of democracy ∗ The author wishes to thank the Calcutta Research Group (CRG) for inducing him to process his thoughts in the form of a coherent article. Special thanks are due to Ranabir Samaddar, Director, CRG, for this purpose. The author also wishes to thank Bishnu Mahapatra and Prasanta Ray for valuable comments made as discussants of the drafts of the article in two successive workshops. The suggestions from the highly informed participants in the workshops have also been extremely useful and many of them have been incorporated in the final version of the article. The author also expresses his gratitude to Ranajit Maity and Anirban De of the department of panchayats and rural development, government of West Bengal, the ITC officials, especially, Nikhil Singh and Vilas D. Lodhe, and to Jayanta Pal, Jugal Prasad Mondal, and the research assistants for their inputs. Last but not the least, the cooperation of the e-Choupal sanchalaks, the proprietors and operators of the selected CSCs/STMKs and the respondents in the concerned sites is gratefully acknowledged. Usual disclaimers apply.

70 — Dipankar Sinha

and development have been a part of post-colonial India, too, for a fairly long period but it has assumed immense complexities in recent times — especially since the 1990s — with the Indian economy adopting neoliberal, market-led economic reforms, on the one hand, and the Indian polity claiming to be making a transition from the representative mode to the participatory mode, on the other. The participatory thrust of the latter is being accompanied by the notions of inclusionary development and people-centric governance, based on the highly valued attributes of transparency, accountability, and responsiveness. Simultaneously, there is mounting publicity of the developmental state in which a performance-based, efficient, rationalised, technology-aided managerially efficient delivery system is being privileged over the hitherto existing notions of and routes to welfare states. The question is, how do the two ‘ends’ meet. This question assumes greater importance in our context because e-governance is being widely publicised and promoted as one of the ‘most viable instruments’ of the developmental state. But there is a catch here. Behind the promotion and the associated hype vis-à-vis e-governance in the official discourse lies the premise that the developmental state, being synonymous with the ‘delivery state’, would ‘automatically’ be democratic in nature, if not for anything else, for its urge to establish a highly efficient delivery system for people at large. But as Ebrahim Fakir perceptively argues, ‘…the polarisation between state … and society has served largely to crudify much of the policy and politics debate, casting it in terms which in essence become incomprehensible if one were to think about democracy and delivery in tandem’.1 Thus, the process is not as smooth and spontaneous as it appears to be in the official discourse. It is no less true in India’s case where the organic link between state and society has at best been tenuous. How does, if at all, the notion of e-governance in India visualise and situate the p-factor, that is, popular participation, in the numerous schemes, projects, and programmes promising to bring the concerned services 1 Ebrahim Fakir, ‘The Democratic State versus the Developmental State: A False Dichotomy’, Isandla Development Communique, vol. 2, p. 6, 2005., accessed 7 September 2008.

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at the doorstep of the people? While scrutinising the idea and practice of e-governance — its ideational roots, major referents, official conceptualisation — efforts will be made in this article to highlight some specific tensions and contradictions between the participatory and the developmental modes of organising and reasoning vis-à-vis the Indian polity. It is also important at this juncture to leave a broad allusion to the Indian State’s love for ‘governmentality’, the deployment of rationalities to produce and manage the everyday life of the people. The foundational premises of this article are three: (a) It treats e-governance as a relevant and important public policy instrument with immense potential for ensuring effectiveness of both inclusionary development and participatory democracy without, however, relying exclusively on its technological and technocratic agency. It is because the massive and extensive ‘injection’ of technology into an unequal, non-participatory structural relationship is only a cosmetic and self-defeating endeavour; (b) it considers sustained popular participation as the key to the symbolic and substantive acceptance of e-governance on the way to ensuring inclusionary development — the foundational pillar of the information society; and (c) it is guided by the ‘political’ notion that both the policy discourse of the Indian State and the language talks about Information and Communication Technology (ICT)2 policies and problems which are not neutral. In both cases setting the terms involves an intense struggle for power, which itself results in differentiated meanings of technology to the ruler and the ruled and even among the different segments of the latter. Thus, there is no ‘veil of neutrality’ in the study and it overtly opts for foregrounding governance in the interest of the ordinary people.3 It is against this background, marked by the specificities of development–democracy dialectics in the days 2 In this article, I also use ‘IT’ to connote information technology in excerpts to retain the original term. 3 I prefer to use this term instead of the too general ‘masses’ or too technically specific ‘citizens’. Even if it is being used here as a compact, the fact remains that ordinary people are not unstratified with uniform needs and expectations. The term ‘citizen’ is used here in a conventional sense to denote the members of the state, who are at least legally entitled to the service delivery.

72 — Dipankar Sinha

of the perceived transition to participatory democracy, that this article would seek to indulge in a ‘reality-check’ of the official e-governance scenario in India. The article first addresses the conceptual growth of e-governance and seeks to identify some complex strands before embarking on, in more concrete terms, the analysis of the e-governance problematique. Accordingly, the discussion gradually evolves by combining two major parts: the first overwhelmingly deals with the conceptual-theoretical themes and issues that shape and disseminate a specific perception of e-governance, and the second part concentrates on the specificities of the Indian e-governance policy scenario. In terms of its methodological framework the article relies, mainly for the first part, on the critical-analytical method to scrutinise the relevant existing documents — books, monographs, articles, websites, and reports — on the theme. For the second part, the method adopted during fieldwork was largely dependent on interviews, focus-group discussions, semistructured interviews, participant observation, and even, going beyond the conventional norms of social science research, freefloating discussions with the respondents of both the ‘supply side’ and the ‘demand side’.

Whose e-Governance?: Transnational Root of Information Society E-governance is supposed to be both a constitutive part (subset in the technocratic-managerial parlance) and a manifestation of the information society. The conceptualisation of the information society which preceded the idea of e-governance had its roots in the United States of the mid-20th century, the year 1956 to be precise, in which the number of workers employed in the service sector of the US economy for the first time surpassed those employed in the agricultural sector and the industrial sector. While a detailed discussion of the point is beyond the purview of this article, it is important to point out that way back in the mid-1970s, two pioneering scholars floated the idea of a postindustrial/information society. The ‘right-of-centre’ Daniel Bell,4


Daniel Bell, The Coming of Post-Industrial Society, London: Heinemann, 1973.

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and the ‘left-of-centre’ Alain Touraine,5 had warned of the inequalities that would be part of the negotiation with the new society. The thrust of the argument of both was on the ‘internal factors’ and the national scenario — mainly the impact of economic and social policy shifts for Bell and the centrality of the class contradiction and class conflict for Touraine. What largely remained outside their ambit was the transnational root of the information society, which has become inescapably evident in the contemporary era, in the days of globalisation. Much later, even Manuel Castells — who is often credited with providing a most comprehensive account of the ICT-society interface through his analysis of the network society — argues that the lifelines of the information age, the space of flows and networking, produce revolutionary changes but the changes by their very characteristics give rise to tensions created by the conflict of personal well-being and social alienation, of individual fulfilment and social disintegration.6 Space of flows here refers to different centres linked in information space through electronic networks. Networking relates to governance based on the use of flexible linkages organised by information technology. The possibilities of confusion, dilemmas, tensions, and contradictions grow all the more when a ‘static’ information society is imposed, rather than organically rooted in the specific context and milieu. Without doubt, the twin concepts of the information society and e-governance have not only been theorised by Western analysts but have also provided policy-orientation overwhelmingly by Western states (especially, though not limited to G8 and its earlier version, G7) and west-controlled transnational agencies such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), International Labour Organisation (ILO), International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and the World Bank. The west-centric trajectory is quite long, but for the sake of brevity, a brief overview of some of the landmarks of the transnational constructions of the information society will 5

Alain Touraine, The Post Industrial Society, New York: Wildwood Press, 1974. M. Castells, The Rise of the Network Society, Series on The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, vol. 1, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1996. 6

74 — Dipankar Sinha

be in order. It is important to point out that since the 1990s, the G8 countries have taken great initiative in the shaping and governing of the information society on a global scale. The issues being considered by the G8 have a wide range: a ‘correct’ policy and regulatory regime, establishment of norms, principles, and rules of Internet governance, e-network readiness, e-commerce, intellectual property rights protection, taxation of goods and services delivered via the networks, issues of privacy, surveillance and security, and so forth.7 Since the late 1990s, special consideration is being given to the issue of the digital divide between the rich and poor countries, a point to which we shall return subsequently. The Okinawa Economic Summit of the G8, held in June–July 2000, is one of the most important landmarks in this context. It was at this summit that the Okinawa Charter,8 with its dual emphasis on the need for ‘everyone’s inclusion in the global information society’ and the ‘need for appropriate policy and regulatory environment’, set the ball rolling for the transnational foundation of the information society. Recognising the revolutionary impact of the ICT on the ‘way people live, learn and work and the way government interacts with civil society’ the charter encouraged further development of ‘user-friendly’, ‘barrier-free’ technologies with a simultaneous emphasis on the advancement of the information society ‘underpinned by the development of human resources capable of responding to the demands of the information age’ (Provision 11). The charter (Provision 18) also led to the formation of the Digital Opportunity Task Force (better known as the DOT Force), which was associated with political leaders, civil society activists and industry barons mainly from the west but also from some nonwestern states. The DOT Force was described as ‘both a unique model of international cooperation and a new way of responding to the challenges of development’. It conceived an Action Plan to ‘universalise’ the benefits of digital technology with multiple foci, including 7 For details see Jeffrey A. Hart, ‘The Digital Opportunities Task Force: The G8’s Effort to Bridge the Global Digital Divide’, 2004/indiana/papers2004/hart.pdf. 8 unpan002263.pdf, accessed 3 January 2009.

New Technique of Governance  75

those of access and governance. In July 2001, G8 leaders endorsed the Genoa Plan of Action, a product of the DOT Force, which called upon bilateral and multilateral development assistance programmes to better integrate ICT for development as a strategic, cross-cutting theme in ‘their own’ development efforts and country strategic plans of the developing countries. ‘Digital Opportunities for All: Meeting the Challenge,’ yet another significant document prepared by the DOT Force, contains a vision of global development based on the power of the ICT to promote sustainable growth, advance social justice, and strengthen democratic governance. It begins with a quotation from the Okinawa Charter of the Global Information Society: ‘… We renew our commitment to the principle of inclusion: everyone should be enabled to participate in and no one should be excluded from the benefits of the global information society.’9 The report also sought to integrate global policy with human capacity, access, connectivity, national e-strategies and local content and application.10 Significantly, there are frequent references to ‘e-government’ in the report but not a single reference to e-governance, a distinction valued in this article and elaborated on in the next section. The latest in the line of global conferences on the theme is undoubtedly the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), sponsored by the United Nations and the ITU. The WSIS meets were held in Geneva in 2003 and Tunis in 2005. Much publicity has been attached to two major WSIS documents — the ‘Declaration of Principles’ and the ‘Plan of Action’ — which claim to have made breakthroughs in the construction of the information society and the removal of the digital divide. In recognising the importance of ‘our common vision of Information Society’, the WSIS ‘Declaration of Principles’ mentions a number of measures for reorienting the information society, including protecting cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity, and local content.11 However, several critiques, including one based on an intensive ideological-discursive and content analysis-based study of the documents, assert that: 9 ‘Report Card: Digital Opportunities for All’, Digital Opportunity Task Force, Kananaskis Summit, Canada, 2002, p. 2. 10 Ibid., p. 3. 11 Document WSIS-03/GENEVA/DOC/4-E, 12 December 2003.

76 — Dipankar Sinha ‘both the “Declaration of Principles” and “Plan of Action” paint a wholly utopian picture of an “Information Society” that grossly oversimplifies and generalises a complex issue and social phenomenon. WSIS is framing a debate on an issue where no clear consensus exists; their vision of an “Information Society” is based mainly on ICTs, and is technologically deterministic in outlook. The critics are in general agreement that information industries and ICTs are important in today’s world, but the WSIS “Information Society” serves to “fetishise” ICTs and technology, promoting technological determinism, simplistic answers, and perhaps even wrong solutions.’12

All the transnational linkages, including the aforementioned ones, of the information society are designed to foster the role of the market forces and private/corporate initiatives with the governmental sector, the latter mainly being relegated to ensuring the ‘right kind’ of predictable, transparent, non-discriminatory policy and a pro-competitive regulatory environment. One of the favourite and recurrent phrases in the transnational ICT discourse is something which we are now familiar with — public– private partnership (PPP), which visualises a ‘protective’ role of the state and a ‘pro-active’ role of the market. Thus, in one of the earliest instances, the World Bank had formed a Global Information Infrastructure Commission (GIIC) in February 1995, which was supposed to facilitate cooperation between governments and the private sector in order ‘to foster private sector leadership and private–public sector cooperation in the development of information networks and services to advance global economic growth, education and quality of life’. The UNDP also favours the same while advocating the introduction and implementation of the ICT in the developing countries on the basis of well-formulated national strategies in order to integrate these countries to the prevailing global economy.13 The World Economic Forum’s Global Digital Divide Initiative (GDDI), which coincided with the year of the Okinawa Summit, gave a call ‘to develop PPPs that would help bridge the gap between those who 12

Ajit K. Pyati, ‘WSIS: Whose Vision of an Information Society?’, www, accessed 3 January 2007. 13 ‘New Technologies and the Global Race for Knowledge’, Human Development Report 1999, New York: UNDP, pp. 57–76.

New Technique of Governance  77

have ICT access, skills and resources and those who do not’.14 The Okinawa Charter also delineates the path of the PPP with a significant observation: ‘The private sector plays a leading role in the development of information and communications networks in the information society. But it is up to governments to create a predictable, transparent and non-discriminatory policy and regulatory environment necessary for the information society.’ The charter in a yet another significant observation says: ‘It is important to avoid undue regulatory interventions that would hinder productive private-sector initiatives in creating an IT-friendly environment.’ (Provision 7, emphasis mine). The information society in all these documents is to be based on ‘free competition in open market’. The recurring focus on the developed states’ self-proclaimed ability to frame and distribute a ‘guiding manual’ for the construction of the information society in developing countries can be understood in the context of the dominance of the neoliberal mode of development throughout the world. While it would be a bit simplistic to assert that the information society is an ‘innovation of the corporate forces at a specific historical juncture to enhance their profit’, if one considers its current parameters and the ways it seeks to deploy new technology, the observation contains some grains of truth. In the excerpt below, the deterministic influence of the neoliberal mode of development vis-à-vis the construction of the information society is addressed directly: A good thing, from the neoliberal point of view, was that the I(nformation) S(ociety) concept built on the prior ones of ‘new economy’ and ‘knowledge economy’ with only minor changes. The primacy of the conceptions of economics over the social and the political was clear here. So the IS was able to be presented as a kind of a-historical, ideology-free and apolitical system, where the laws of market reigned supreme and which presented such a perfect system of managing economic enterprise that the need for political and social institutions that hitherto provided the framework for such activity, as well as the back-up against its undesirable side-effects, were left with a minimal role. Social 14, accessed 15 December 2009.

78 — Dipankar Sinha policy based interventions were mainly for the purpose of managing market imperfections but the new ICT-based market system tended towards such perfection that these interventions were needed much less than ever. In fact such interventions could come in the way of the perfect operation of the ICT-based market systems, and hence were abjectly undesirable.15

The problem, as we shall explain in detail in the ensuing discussion, lies in the state, that is, India, finding in ICT in general and in e-governance in particular a convenient mechanism to bypass many of its responsibilities, and no less dangerously, a perceived short cut to (mainly hyperbolic) claims of ‘impending’ success. It is because of this that the conventional bifurcation between the statist model and the private sector model becomes unimportant. There is, in fact, a splendid cohabitation between the state and the market when it comes to the minimal role of the former in neoliberal India. The root problem lies in the mechanistic, technocratic, and managerial perception of the information society, in which technology is ‘autonomous’ and ‘apolitical’ and the modes of construction of the information society are ‘universal’. But contrary to these tenets, technology does have politics, and so has e-governance as the most publicised, glamorous, and pervasive outcome of ICT. Langdon Winner, in an innovative essay, argues that technological change expresses a panoply of human motives, not the least of which is the desire of some to have dominion over others even though it may require an occasional sacrifice of cost savings and some violation of the normal standard of trying to get more from less.16 We can supplement the observation by adding that in a world where those at the helm of governance are increasingly adhering to Foucault’s tenets of biopolitics, technology, especially its digital reincarnation, is displaying a marked tendency to have more and more control over the life and personhood of people in the name of ‘protection’ and ‘welfare’. Radical versions of the biopolitics of information technology would go to the extent of questioning 15

Parminder Jeet Singh and Anita Gurumurthy, ‘Political Economy of the Information Society: A Southern View’, briefing paper prepared for WSIS Paper Series of Instituto del Tercer Mundo, IT for Change, January 2006, p. 7. 16 Landon Winner, ‘Do Artifacts have Politics?’, Daedalus, 109 (1), Winter 1980, pp. 121–36.

New Technique of Governance  79

the very notion of connectivity and put a great premium on the ‘codes of information’.17 In this context, the grand project of the Government of India, the Unique Identification Project (now known as AADHAAR), which aims to provide, on the basis of a combination of demographic and biometric data, a ‘unique number’ to the ‘residents’ is a relevant instance. Incidentally, the project is being justified on the grounds of improving service delivery, e-governance, and the information society, especially in the interest of the poor and the marginalised, though along with optimism it has also invited scepticism and criticism, bringing in the issues of surveillance, transgression of privacy, violation of civil liberties, fundamental rights, and so on. If there is a mechanistic transplantation of the ‘seed’ of the west-centric information society on as different a ‘soil’ as that of India, it is inevitable that most of the policies, projects, and programmes seeking ‘new technology-induced development and governance’ would at best be stunted and at worst, a failure. In the rush for development, the Indian policy makers tend to underestimate, if not ignore, local factors and conditions, and in the process end up making ordinary people disillusioned and/ or cynical about endeavours concerned. There are some exceptions, as we shall note, of successful instances of application of new technology but exceptions only prove the rule. Kenneth Keniston, a veteran observer of the ICT-sourced projects in India, is only being pragmatic, not cynical, when he makes the following observation: Not surprisingly, in discussions of IT for the common man, there is a great deal more talk than action. Examples abound. For example, I was recently privileged to attend a meeting of the IT Secretaries of almost all of the States of India. With few exceptions, every State has a plan with two seamlessly related components: first, stimulation of the IT industry (every State wishes to create its own Bangalore); second ‘IT for the common man’. Looking at the second half of these programs is a moving experience: good ideas, grand plans, hundreds of info kiosks dedicated to the needs of peasants, etc. But a more careful reading, to say nothing of visits 17

See, for instance, Julian Reid, ‘Politicizing Connectivity: Beyond the Biopolitics of Information Technology in International Relations’, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 22 (4), pp. 602–23.

80 — Dipankar Sinha to the sites themselves, indicates that in such plans, the operative verbs are not ‘is’ and ‘does’, but rather ‘will’ and ‘would’. These are plans, wishes, dreams, promises. In only a few cases do they have any on-the-ground reality.18

In a deeper sense one can argue that the Indian policy makers’ rush to mechanistically implement only certain segments of information society and e-governance (and thereby, to use a cliché, missing the woods for the trees) can be traced back to the failure to understand the complex dynamics of information itself. Here one can refer to Scott Lash, who captures the complexities of the information society at the very foundation. Lash consciously makes a departure from his predecessors — Bell, Touraine, and Castells — and their near-exclusive focus on the transition from the goods-producing to the knowledge-producing social system/ order/network to explore what he describes as the ‘paradox of the information society’. Coming much closer to Ulrich Beck in the methodological spirit, Lash stresses the need to understand ‘how can such highly rational production (in the Information Society) result in the incredible irrationality of information overloads, misinformation, disinformation and out-of-control information.’ He asserts that at stake is a ‘disinformed information society’. Lash further explains, ‘… the most highly rational formulations and designs (in the Information Society) lead to the most irrational of consequences. Yet the information society is not irrational. It is highly rational and irrational at the same time … rationality and irrationality are juxtaposed in the highest tension.’19 In this background, the e-governance scenario in India suffers from dual deficiency. First, in making e-government synonymous with e-governance, and second, in visualising the ICT as the prime instrument of developmental democracy in which, as mentioned earlier, a specific genre of development with managerial reorganisation, technical efficiency, and highly rationalised procedures and processes are sought to be promoted, often at the 18

Kenneth Keniston, IT for the Common Man: Lessons from India, M.N. Srinivas Memorial Lecture, NIAS Special Publication SP7–02, Bengaluru: National Institute of Advanced Studies/Indian Institute of Science, 2002. Emphasis mine. 19 Scott Lash, Critique of Information, London: Sage Publications, 2002, pp. 2, 220.

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cost of the welfarist considerations and popular mobilisation. This dual deficiency, we shall contend, leads to a narrow focus on e-government as distinct from the broader perspective of e-governance in which the construction of the information society is prioritised beyond the overwhelming stress on access to bring up the question of entitlement (to be elaborated in the section on ‘Privileging Access over Entitlement: Base Error’).

E-governance is more than e-government I have argued elsewhere that there is an imperative need to understand the distinction between e-governance and e-government.20 When it comes to the visualisation of participatory governance, apart from the cardinal feature of the right of the people to choose their representatives there are other prerequisites as well, such as, enhancing the capacity of public institutions, capacity building of citizens, ensuring an enabling environment, providing a key role to civil society in the process of governance and establishing the widest possible access to the delivery system. It is common knowledge today that the spectacular ascendance of the ICT has made it an ‘essential tool’ of government and ‘indispensable instrument’ of governance. It is precisely for this reason that both e-government and e-governance have come to enjoy much prominence in the parlance of policy making as well as in the arena of theory building vis-à-vis democratic governance. However, the fact remains that both the concepts are somewhat fluidic in nature and being so they are subject to various, even conflicting, interpretations. Let us assert here that even if e-government is a precondition to and an inalienable part of e-governance, the two are not synonymous. The distinction between the two does exist, however slippery it might seem to be. The distinction, so to say, is created mainly in terms of their spread and depth, at the core of which lies the qualitative difference in popular participation — its visualisation and implementation. Both e-governance and e-government rest on the enablement and utilisation of the ICT as a major means to 20

Dipankar Sinha, ‘“e” Anyway?: Critical Reflections on the e-Governance Roadmap in Andhra Pradesh’, Democratic Governance Paper Series 6, UGC-DRS Programme (Phase I), Kolkata: Department of Political Science, Calcutta University, 2005–06.

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achieve their objectives.21 Yet there is an underlying distinction. E-government is generally defined in terms of the use of the ICT for online automation of workflow, repetitive tasks, and upgrading of service delivery, with the primary purpose of making the transaction of user-oriented government services more efficiencydriven, productivity-driven, and cost-effective. As an illustration we can refer to a typical model in which a ‘fully functional’ e-government would consist of the following stages: Stage 1: Cataloguing, that is, online presentation of information; Stage 2: Transaction, that is, limited forms and services available online; Stage 3: Vertical integration, that is, top-down links of different systems; Stage 4: Horizontal integration, that is, links across different functional units.22 As the following observation reveals: ‘At present, e-Government is the broad term used to describe the provision of on-line public service in order to enhance their delivery by making them more accessible to citizens in time and space (“24x7 e-Government”) … The underpinning philosophy of current developments is the vision of e-enabled delivery of more integrated (“joined-up”) services as part of a “holistic government”.’23 A typical technocratic definition follows: E-government (E-gov) is a function of four variables: governance (G), information and communication technology (ICT), business process re-engineering (BPR) and e-citizen (EC). It can be stated as an equation, which may be called the first e-government fundamental equation, thus: E-gov = f (G, ICT, BPR, E-C)…where E-gov = E-government, f = Function, G = Governance, ICT = Information and Communication Technology, BPR = Business Process Re-engineering, and E-C = Electronic Citizen. The four independent variables — G, ICT, BPR, E-C, require elaboration.


Richard Heeks, ‘E-government for Development: Basic Definitions’,, accessed 20 October 2002; Richard Heeks, ‘Understanding e-Governance for Development’, wsis/DEVDOT/00341.HTM. Yet another important website, that of Digital Governance.orgInitiative, dealing with conceptualisation of the theme is http:/ 22 K. Layne and J. Lee, ‘Developing Fully Functional E-government: A Four Stage Model’, Government Information Quarterly, 18 (2), 2001, pp. 122–36. 23 ‘Organisational Change for Citizen-centric e-Government: Issues, Policy and Strategy’, ECOTEC Research and Consulting Limited, Birmingham, May 2008, p. 6.

New Technique of Governance  83 There cannot be any e-government (e-gov) without good governance, sound information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure support, a critical examination of existing administrative procedures followed by appropriate administrative reforms, here designated as business process re-engineering (BPR) and, finally, meeting the needs of e-citizen, a citizen who seeks public service delivery and interacts with state online, a citizen of the virtual state and a member of emerging e-society.24

As the following diagram shows, e-governance, on the other hand, has much broader parameters and implications of/for governance. Figure 2.1 Focal Domains for e-Governance Other Agencies Building External Interaction /

Local Communities

Improving Processes

Government to Government

Connecting Citizens


Non-profit/Non-governmental Organisations


Source: Richard Heeks, eGovernment for Development Information Exchange, Manchester University, Manchester, 2002. Partly altered by the author.

No less important for the purpose of our discussion here, which has an intensive normative-ethical dimension of the democratic exercise of power with a view to opinion-formation and expression as its motive-force and acknowledgement of information as public good as its foundational criterion, e-governance rests 24

M. P. Thapliyal, ‘Challenges in Developing Citizen-Centric E-Governance in India’,, accessed on 29 September, 2009. Emphasis mine.

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on accountability, openness, transparency, and awareness, and participation of the ordinary people. Inclusiveness, to be elaborated in the subsequent discussion, is a hallmark of e-governance which overwhelmingly rests on the public interest and thereby on the expansion and sustenance of democratic rights and privileges along with social collective obligations. The main thrust of e-governance is on the citizen-sourced/citizen-driven decisionmaking process, which goes beyond the hitherto celebrated ‘citizen-centric decision-making’. The ‘cycle of informing’, which itself is a compact of literacy skill, innovativeness, communicative competence, degree of motivation, and social capital is an important concept that links informational navigation to the larger social, cultural, and institutional setting or milieu, on the one hand, and the people’s individual actions and relationships, on the other.25 This distinction lies at the root of the differentiation of e-governance and e-government. In more concrete terms, while e-government has a greater organisationalmanagerial-technical and thereby technocratic thrust with basic goods and/or service-orientation, e-governance is supposed to have a greater systemic-structural thrust, with the networks at the centrestage, with greater grassroots-level mobilisational orientation. To explain, from the vantage-point of citizens, e-government basically aims to provide citizen-centric orientation to government departments through efficient service-delivery by using the digitalised online mode, while e-governance is supposed to have a much broader ‘emancipatory’ aim of using the same mode for ultimately enhancing citizens’ participation in the decision-making process that concerns their lives. In this sense e-government has an inherent trend towards codification while e-governance, by the very fact that it has governance as a foundation, is more of a learning process, exploratory in nature and based on trial and error, with a goal to develop a shared experience and collective sense of purpose among the rulers and the ruled. For obvious reasons, the latter has much deeper 25

The idea is borrowed from Leah A. Lievrouw, ‘Integrating the Research on Media Access: A Critical Overview’, in Erik P. Bucy and John E. (eds.), Media Access: Social and Psychological Dimensions of New Technology Use, New Jersey, Newhagen: Lawrence Erlmaum Associates, 2004, pp. 269–78; www.

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implications for democratic governance in which people’s proactive participation in the governing process remains the core objective. There is, to reiterate, a great deal of confusion arising out of the lack of appropriate understanding and conceptualisation of e-governance and e-government. The following observation, made in no uncertain terms, supports our contention: The most compelling observation to be made is that there is substantial overload on the term ‘e-Governance’ itself, making it some overarching metaphor for magical reform. Plenty of e-administration initiatives — even long overdue citizen conveniences like public utility bill e-payments — are being passed off as e-Governance, as if there is no difference between the two. It is important to remember that e-Governance is governance first and electronics next. Currently much government decisionmaking is non-participatory and discourages citizen inputs, so passing off service delivery improvements alone as governance is misplaced.26

Accordingly, in the case of the e-government, the primary thrust is on developing G2G (government to government) and then, G2B (government to business) interfaces. There is also the scheme for G2C (government to citizen) services (as distinct from interfaces) in the e-government initiatives. In the case of e-governance, in which devising and realisation of the means of citizen intervention and participation in the decision-making process in/by governance remains the most significant objective, the overwhelming thrust goes beyond the realms of G2G, G2B, and G2C to have the ultimate focus on G2C (government to citizen) and most importantly, on C2G (citizen to government) interactions. Interestingly, the policy papers of the Government of India and those of the state governments make little use of the distinction between e-government and e-governance, a trend that has, as we shall explain subsequently, long-term political implications. On the basis of the simultaneous interdependence and divergence between e-governance and e-government, four points beg attention. First, that governance in general and e-governance in particular have to be inclusive in character. It is not just sufficient 26

S. Vincent and A. Mahesh, ‘E isn’t Everything’, 16 April 2005. www.india, accessed 3 January 2006.

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to stress the enhancement of efficiency of governance by backing it with the power of the ICT. It is as much necessary to ensure inclusiveness, with a view to enhancing the effectiveness of various nodes of governance and that of the ICT, by inclusion of various strata of society — the backward and weaker sections, women, youth, the elderly, the displaced, and so forth — so that the ordinary people can enjoy the benefits not just as ‘receivers’ of certain services, but by elevating themselves to the status of ‘actors’ in availing opportunities for intervention, which arise out of the synergy of transparent, responsive, and accountable governance and people-centric ICT. Second, India being a vast country with a federal system in which the states have a reasonably large space for policy formulation and implementation, there cannot be a rigid and uniform formula for establishing e-governance in India, and that too, without any effective consultations and deliberations at the policy-making stage. Third, the twin acts of policy formulation and policy implementation vis-à-vis e-governance have to privilege the ‘local’ in the sense that local knowledge, local resource, and local skill, along with the local needs, have to be accorded prime importance in formulating an e-governance strategy and making it work. For this purpose, the local government institutions need to be strengthened and made pro-active. (We shall see in the subsequent discussion how in the e-Choupal model the local factors have been prioritised.) Fourth, e-governance for what it is, has to provide fundamental importance to information, more specifically, the information flows within government, between government and ordinary people, and no less important, among the people themselves. The content, nature, location, and impact of information flows and shaping policies based on ‘appropriate reading’ are of great importance in giving shape to e-governance.

Access as Be-All and End-All: Base Problem To lay the foundation of e-governance in the sense mentioned above, the cardinal point to follow is that ICT should be at the service of the ordinary people and not the other way round. The fundamental problem in the Indian e-governance scenario is the lack of concern about the importance of the ‘organic’ nature of information that constitutes an integral part of the everyday existence of the ordinary people. Such ‘organic’ information has

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two forms: i) the information that lies with the people at large, which they seek to disseminate to others, including the policy makers; and ii) the information that they lack completely or partially, which they seek to receive from others, especially the policy makers. These two forms, we would argue, are intertwined with the felt needs of the people concerned.27 Influenced by the technocratic impression that information is something that is already there and which has to be fed into the system, the Indian policy makers are more guided by the idea of ‘universal access’ to new technology — so much in vogue in the mainstream transnational development discourse — thanks to the transnational circuit mentioned earlier. Interestingly, even if the transnational discourse is graduating slowly from the negatively connoted Digital Divide thesis — measured unidimensionally in terms of rate of access — to the more positively connoted Digital Opportunity thesis, the centrality of access remains intact. Thus, the report ‘Digital Opportunities for All’ devises a formula of success in which ‘access and connectivity’ are accorded a higher position than ‘human capacity’. It thus mentions: ‘Community access and improved network connectivity are the primary means of spreading the social and economic benefits of information technology. Concerted efforts are now under way in the areas of access for under-served areas, public access points, adaptation of cost-effective technologies and the development of national network information centres.’28

Human capacity in the aforementioned report is made synonymous to e-literacy, that too, with the prime purpose of serving the enterprise and entrepreneurship of the private sector. 27

The affix felt is important because we distinguish it from the ‘needs’ that form an integral part of the official discourse. In the latter, the needs are ascertained from the top, rather than through consultation with the people concerned. Felt needs vary from locale to locale and the best way to identify and provide respective weight to the services to be rendered is to utilise the ‘next-door’ local governments and civil society organisations. There are several instances of the ITC-enabled governance initiatives in which the people have been consulted through various local government institutions and civil society organisations, that too, with impressive degrees of success. This has happened as a classic instance in a developing country like Brazil. See Sara, Schoonmaker, ‘Globalization from Below: Free Software and Alternatives to Neoliberalism’, Development and Change, 38 (6), 2007, pp. 999–1020. 28 ‘Digital Opportunities for All’, p. 4. Emphasis mine.

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Such continuity in epistemological terms can be found in the underlying stress on informatisation and information management, in which the political dimensions are considered illegitimate and unnecessary ‘irritants’. Without doubt, access is an important condition for social inclusion, which can be broadly defined in terms of popular participation in the determination of both individual and collective life chances. But it is not a sufficient condition for establishing e-governance. Without adequate political manoeuvring of the delicate and complex issues of capabilities and entitlements, which again is inalienably linked with the incidence of participation, the question of access hangs loose and does so without any substantive goal except for the fulfilment of the donor-driven agenda marked by a narrow conceptualisation of e-governance.29 In this scheme, e-governance becomes more of a cutting-edge technological marvel for the service providers and, more dangerously, a disciplining instrument for the ordinary people. To refer back to the twin issues of capabilities and entitlements, these concepts play a decisively political role in exposing the limitations of the ‘access issue’ which has ruled the Digital Divide thesis for a considerably long time, thereby impacting on the conceptualisation of a narrow kind of e-governance. The major manifestation of such narrow conceptualisation, as found in a vast literature, is to measure the impact of the new technology on the user community on an excessively short-term basis and ignore any long-term considerations. Even in those instances in which such impact studies find below average performance, the main factors identified are as technocratic as ‘deployment 29

The zeal to impress the donors is an important point. As a report mentions it point blank: ‘Donors, it is claimed, are keen to justify their expenditure, wish to promote the “good news” and ignore or suppress the bad. It is also alleged that commentators talking up the potential of ICT are “increasingly either donor-funded or seeking donor funds”… current literature appears to contain a greater proportion of pilots and proposals that, necessarily, emphasise potential benefits rather than actual negative outcomes. The new discourse, therefore, obscures rather than clarifies the true extent of success and failure, in which successes still form only a small minority of all (ICT) initiatives in developing countries.’ Richard Curtain, Information and Communications Technologies and Development: Help or Hindrance?, Report commissioned by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), Virtual Colombo Plan, Curtain Consulting, Melbourne, 28 June 2003.

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deficiency’ and ‘integration failure’. In putting such factors at a premium, the felt needs of the people remain out of sight and the main factors responsible for failures and deficiencies, especially the severe underestimation of the user demands, is not taken into consideration. As a result, ordinary people are not accorded any participatory role to contribute to the shaping of e-governance. People instead are treated as an amorphous mass, who are supposed to take advantage of ICT-based schemes and projects as and when they are established. Even ‘The Global Information Technology Report 2001–2002’ raises this point: Most e-development projects don’t have clear objectives. The ‘if we build it, they will come’ mentality still dominates technology projects. The ‘wow’ factor still hasn’t gone away, and the technology remains the ends rather than the means of many projects… Without clear objectives, it isn’t clear how to measure results.

Such a situation has resulted in a limited but intense call by some veteran communication scholars to explore a linkage of the vital concepts of capabilities, entitlement, and functioning with the possible democratisation of the ICT.30 The impact of Amartya Sen’s formulation of communicative capabilities and entitlements has been pronounced for the obvious reason that in Sen’s approach there is justifiably a central focus on creation of conditions in which people have ‘real opportunities’ of judging the kinds of lives they would like to lead.31 As aptly observed by E.M. Alampay: While access to a basic good is a prerequisite to use, the capability approach says that individual differences, capabilities and choice 30

Nick Couldry, ‘Communicative Entitlements and Democracy: The Future of the Digital Divide Debate,’ in Robin Mansell, Chrisanthi Avgerou, Danny Quah, and Roger Silverstone (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Information and Communications Technologies, New York: Oxford University Press, 2007, pp. 383–403; Nicholas Garnham, ‘Amartya Sen’s Capabilities Approach to the Evaluation of Welfare: Its Application to Communication’, The Public, 4 (4), 1997, pp. 25–34. 31 Amartya Sen, Inequality Reexamined, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995; Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

90 — Dipankar Sinha play a role on whether people make use of these goods, how they apply them, and how they are valued. Unfortunately, traditional measurement of ICT access still does not monitor the variations in the amounts and functions of use of ICT resources by different people. Since Sen … argues that people have different ways of transforming the same bundle of goods into opportunities for achieving their plans in life, it is important to understand the complex nature of what restricts effective demand for them by ordinary people …32

Garnham reiterates the same argument: Thinking of entitlements in terms of functionings and capabilities allows us to get behind the superficial indices of access and usage … While it remains important for the assessment of comparative advantage or deprivation…we must always remember that these are very crude indicators and do not get to the heart of the matter. We cannot assume that people derive equal functionings from a given usage or that they are in the position, because of other inhibitors, to take advantage of the full capability set that is in principle on offer. Just as Sen argues that people have different capacities to translate a given food bundle into nutrition and also have different nutritional requirements to reach the same level of functioning, so too in the field of communication it is the real availability of opportunities and the real achievement of functionings that matters … But what the capability approach highlights is that access is not enough. In evaluating levels of entitlement we need to take into account both the range of communication options made available, and these must be real options not mere choices between products and services with minimal real differences, and the ability of people actually to make use of these options, to achieve the relevant functionings.33

Sen’s approach is a good entry point to linking variables — of general types like class, gender, age, income, skill, location, and infrastructure, and India-specific ones like caste and tribe — which 32

Erwin A. Alampay, ‘Beyond Access to ICTs: Measuring Capabilities in the Information Society’, International Journal of Education and Development Using Information and Communication Technology, 2006, 2 (3), p. 12. 33 Garnham, ‘Amartya Sen’s Capabilities Approach’, p. 32. Emphasis mine.

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intervene to cause differential outcomes in terms of capabilities (both potential and real) and functionings (as actual use or utilisation), thus moderating the high-pitch tone of the advocates of the access thesis. However, even while adopting Sen’s approach such efforts should go beyond Sen’s ‘apolitical’ orientation in order to explain with greater depth how participation remains a blind spot in the existing conceptualisation and practice of the so-called e-governance in India.34

Experimenting ‘e’: The Indian Context India in the 21st century has become a domain-cum-marketplace for e-governance. The two key players in this venture are the state/government(s), and the private sector — composed of transnational organisations, corporate entrepreneurs and NGOs. Many of the e-governance projects in India are based on the PPP model in which both the state and the private sector cooperate and collaborate. India formulated the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) in 2007, which can be regarded as a fountainhead of e-governance initiatives, including the associated confusions and contradictions, such as the misleading use of the terms e-governance and e-government synonymously. Interestingly, in terms of its vision the NeGP has given primacy to the common man.35 The vision is to make all government services ‘accessible to the common man in his locality, through common service delivery outlets and ensure efficiency, transparency and reliability of such services at affordable costs to realise the basic needs of the common man’. A closer scrutiny would reveal that the thrust of e-governance in the NeGP is on ‘service delivery’ and there is little mention of popular participation in any form. Despite the fact that the NeGP argues in favour of the need to have a ‘holistic view’ of the e-governance initiatives in India, the NeGP only scratches the surface. The point can be substantiated by referring to the issues that are covered by the NeGP in its 34

In Sen’s formulations, there is a limit beyond which he does not go to directly reveal the role of the political factors and that of the political establishment in causing the (deficient) manifestations and effects he refers to. Often the concrete terms are stunted by high-level philosophical discourse. Sen, it can be said, adopts a sort of thus far and no further approach while exploring the causal factors in his critique. 35, accessed on 15 April 2008.

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reference to the ‘basic lessons’ which have supposedly been learnt from administering e-governance in the country. The issues are: the need for political ownership and national vision, a dedicated team for conceptualisation and implementation, exploration of PPP, security, and privacy, development of a basic core and support infrastructure for service delivery at the doorstep of citizens, pre-scaling up pilot projects, and re-engineering and management of change. No less significantly, in the much publicised Integrated Approach of the NeGP the category of ‘Capacity Building’ relates solely to government departments of the centre and the states, and that of ‘Citizen Interface’ pertains to employment service, vehicle registration, drivers’ licences and passports/visas. In its ‘Implementation Framework’ the NeGP accords primacy to various layers of the governmental organisations, including the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, the National e-Governance Advisory Group, the Apex Committee on NeGP, various ministries and departments, and the department of information technology as the ‘facilitator and catalyst’ — with no space for civil society organisations to provide the people’s perspective. There has been an array of ‘e-governance’ projects in India over the years, all of which promise to introduce and sustain IT-enabled services ‘through state-of-the-art technology’ to rural, urban, semi-urban India. One can in this context particularly mention the much publicised projects like Bhoomi, Gyandoot, and Gyan Ganga, and relatively less known non-governmental initiatives like Tarahaat and Drishtee. The major thrust of various projects is on front-end services (such as, FRIENDS in Kerala, e-Setu in Maharashtra, e-Seva in Andhra Pradesh, Sukhmani in Punjab, and Citizen Service Bureaus in Delhi and Bengaluru) and on ad hoc bodies (such as, the Gyandoot Society in Madhya Pradesh, the Akshaya Society in Kerala, and the Sukhmani Society in Punjab). A detailed discussion on each of these initiatives is not possible within the limited space of this article. However, a general remark can be made — that none of them have been able to sustain the initial momentum they had for a number of reasons. Pradip Thomas, analysing the limitations of Bhoomi and Gyan Ganga in particular, seeks to trace the root of the problem to ‘issues related to replicability and content provision, but also a deeply rooted technological determinism that assumes that the layering

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of ICTs in development will automatically solve the many issues related to the provision of ‘‘access’’ to this information’.36 One initiative that has shown greater ‘sustaining power’ than many of the rest is the e-Gram (e-Village). It is a much publicised scheme, based on the PPP model, of the government of Gujarat. Gujarat is the only state in India which has deployed the infrastructure to provide e-services through computers to 13,693 village panchayats. Officially, all the 25 district panchayats (100 per cent) and 224 taluka panchayats (nearly 100 per cent) of Gujarat have been connected through the Gujarat State Wide Area Network (GSWAN). But the whole infrastructure in the first phase is geared to provide e-certificates of birth and death, proof of income, proof of caste, bona-fide certificates, proof of residence certificates as well as forms/applications of various government schemes. In the following phases, the e-Gram scheme is to bring within its purview information related to agriculture, education, health, employment, facilities for online applications, resolution of complaints, lists of people below the poverty line, video conferences related to crop diseases, health (telemedicine) and, so on. The exclusive focus is on G-to-C (government to citizen) and B-to-C (business to consumer) e-services to all the e-village panchayats. There is no mention of mobilising the people for articulation of their felt needs in the e-Gram scheme, which could have lent much greater legitimacy to the grand endeavour. The poor and the disadvantaged segments are at a particular disadvantage. As an empirically rich study of the famous Akshaya project in Kerala finds, the poor are not the ‘primary customers’ of the service delivery kiosks which proves to be more tilted towards the middle class who can pay for relevant services.37 The study provocatively concludes with a question: It remains unclear in what way ‘social development’ is being served, or can be served, by these kiosks.38 36

Pradip Thomas, ‘Bhoomi, Gyan Ganga, e-Governance and the Right to Information: ICTs and Development in India,’ Telematics and Informatics, 26 (1), February 2009, pp. 20–31. 37 Renee Kuriyan, Isha Ray, and Kentaro Toyama, ‘Information and Communication Technologies for Development: The Bottom of the Pyramid Model in Practice’, The Information Society, vol. 24, 2008, pp. 93–104. 38 Ibid., p. 102.

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We shall now focus specifically on two categories of projects. First, the PPP model-based Common Services Centres (also known as Common Information Centres in some Indian states), which fall under the state/government-initiated National e-Governance Plan. Second, we shall refer to the largest corporate initiative in ICT, the ITC-sponsored e-Choupal. The analysis, backed up by field visits in select sites, would facilitate an understanding on a comparative basis of some of the most important initiatives in India within the context under consideration.

PPP Model: Common Services Centres The Government of India, through its department of information technology, approved the flagship scheme of Common Services Centres (CSCs) in the year 2006, with the aim of providing support for establishing 100,000 CSCs in 600,000 villages of India. The scheme visualises the CSCs, based on the PPP model, as the ICT-enabled front-end delivery points for services in rural India in an integrated manner. The Government of India also considers the CSCs as the core of the e-governance venture in India. Let us explain in some detail the rationale of this contention. Against the background of facilitating ‘three resources of development’, information, infrastructure, and services, the declared objective is to develop a platform that can enable the government and private and social sector organisations to align their social and commercial goals for the benefit of the rural population, even in the remotest corners of the country, through a combination of ICT-based as well as non-ICT-based services. The CSC scheme has a three-tier implementation framework: At the first level would be the local Village Level Entrepreneur (VLE, loosely analogous to a franchisee) to service the rural consumer in a cluster of five to six villages. At the second/middle level would be an entity termed the Service Centre Agency (SCA, loosely analogous to a franchiser) to operate, manage, and build the VLE network and business. An SCA would be identified for one or more districts (one district would cover 100–200 CSCs). At the third level would be the agency designated by the state — the State Designated Agency (SDA) — to facilitate implementation of the scheme within the state and to provide the requisite policy, content, and other support to the SCAs. The perceived objectives of the CSCs,

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visualising a mix of ‘good governance’, ‘empowerment’, ‘equal opportunity’, ‘human development’, and ‘income/employment generation’, are quite a few: (a) To create a low-cost vehicle for government institutions for easy, direct, and cost-effective delivery of e-governance services to the rural citizens; (b) To develop, test, and demonstrate a portfolio of products and services which can be delivered through the CSCs; (c) To customise and deliver standard products and services as per local needs; (d) To build capacity for support systems for new enterprises and infrastructure for such delivery outlets; (e) To provide a platform to civil society organisations and NGOs to reach and communicate with remote and isolated communities; (f) To demonstrate that to bring sustainable economic and social growth in underserved rural India by using the benefits ICT, one has to take a sustainable business approach and not merely a philanthropic approach; (g) (By meeting all these objectives above) to create a significant and lasting impact on rural livelihood in the areas of empowerment, equal opportunity, gender equity, social inclusion, better governance, employment generation, and human development. Our interest in the CSCs primarily lies in their formation at the grassroots level, being the instances of ‘bringing e-Governance next door’ and more important, being visualised as a ‘change agent’. Thus, the Guidelines for Implementation of the Common Services Centres (CSC) Scheme in States, in Provision 1.3 mentions: ‘…the CSCs cannot be seen as mere service delivery points in rural India. The CSC is positioned as a Change Agent — that would promote rural entrepreneurship, build rural capacities and livelihoods, enable community participation and collective action for social change — through a bottom-up model with focus on the rural citizen.’39 But do the CSCs bridge the gap between the 39

Department of Information Technology, Government of India, New Delhi, 9 October 2006, p. 1.

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role expectation and role performance? The stated objectives and the role perception mentioned above reveal that their effective implementation would require not just routine feedback but participation of the people. There would be a ‘general category’ of felt needs, which would be composed of the common needs of the ordinary people irrespective of their location. But there would also be another category of felt needs that would be specific to a particular area. The CSCs, in order to be successful, would have to accord primacy to the ‘organic’ information of the specific area and then reap the benefits of the ICT, which would facilitate the information in demand. Field visits have been made to 30 CSCs (better known as the Sahaj Tathya Mitra Kendra (STMK) in five districts of West Bengal — Howrah, Hooghly, South 24 Parganas, North 24 Parganas, and Murshidabad. The STMKs have been chosen from the official list provided by the department of panchayats and rural development, Government of West Bengal.40 While the locations of the STMKs vary widely, in terms of their operations in villages, peri-urban areas, and urban areas, certain general observations can be made based on our findings during field visits. STMKs have a number of ‘everyday’ common services: desktop publishing, printing, net surfing, payment of telephone and electricity bills and insurance premiums, reservation of railway tickets, and so forth. They are also supposed to be involved in preparing voters’ identity cards, identity cards for work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) scheme, dataentry operations of the panchayats, preparation of land deeds, and so forth. The proprietors are expected to have an average monthly income of ‘above ` 10,000’. The state government officials assert that the best-run STMKs ‘under the competent and zealous entrepreneurs’ can earn up to ` 50,000 per month. The field survey, however, reveals a bleak scenario with the average income being less than ` 3,000. Interestingly, insofar as our sample is concerned, the proprietors and/or managers of the STMKs express intense dissatisfaction about the state of affairs. Their common complaint is that 40

From the list we have selected a sample of ‘good’, ‘medium’, and ‘bad’ categories of CSCs on the basis of their recorded income generation. We are thankful to the Department of Panchayats and Rural Development, Government of West Bengal, for providing the official list.

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little care is taken on behalf of the major stakeholders — the state government and the corporate firm, Srei Sahaj e-Village Limited (better known as Srei Sahaj), which, after the termination of the contract with Reliance by the government of West Bengal, is now in exclusive collaboration with the government of West Bengal, to establish the STMKs. The organisation has a highly ambitious vision (which is condensed in this excerpt): Srei Sahaj dreams to evolve as an organisation where rural India would turn out to be synonymous with the Srei Sahaj endeavours, enterprises, efforts, and achievements. Srei Sahaj strives to get mingled with the rural life of this country in such a manner that whenever people would think of rural India the name that would come into their mind is Srei Sahaj. When the rural consumers and disadvantaged people would need something, the first door they would knock at is Srei Sahaj’s; and when the rural youth, the zealous aspirants, would dream of something apparently unattainable, the first friend they would get in touch with to share this dream is Srei Sahaj, since we at Sahaj dare to make the impossible come true.41

However, for reasons to be noted in the following discussion, none of the STMK proprietors are too happy with the ways the stakeholders are treating them. In most cases it was found that there is little publicity of the STMKs in the concerned areas. In most cases, there is only one banner in front of the centre’s building itself. Although there are a few instances, as in the case of Mohammad Raju of Beldanga 1 block in Murshidabad, the proprietor-cum-operators themselves take the initiative to publicise the functions of the STMKs through ‘miking’ (the use of microphones fitted to a rickshaw/van) or circulation of leaflets, but these are more by way of exceptions. In more than 90 per cent of the cases the proprietors are too dejected with their venture to invest even a little amount in publicity. It is important to note that these cases include the ‘successful’ STMKs in the official list. As Anup Biswas of the STMK in Behrampur town would point out, ‘the income shown in the list against my name is not true as I have to borrow 41

‘Bringing Government and Business to Rural India under the Aegis of the National e-Governance Plan Government of India’, Srei Sahaj e-Village Limited, Kolkata., accessed 8 June 2009.

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money from my father to run the centre’.42 His father, a retired school teacher, nods his head in agreement. Maihara Khatun of Rajdharpur treats Anup’s case as a ‘warning’ and refuses to open an STMK, despite having the requisite permit to do so. The major problem is the lack of a systematic approach in establishing and sustaining the STMKs, which contributes to what a STC proprietor in Howrah precisely identified as ‘lack of earning’ (implying a low average monthly income) and ‘lack of activity’ (measured by a low average number of daily footfalls). Thus, we found a number of cases in all the districts where the local people go to the privately run cyber cafes for services which are supposed to be available in the STMKs. The lack of a systematic approach on the part of the major stakeholders leads to a number of constraints: (a) Lack of timely channelling of funds in the form of bank loans; (b) Rigid bank rules of repayment despite lack of income generation; (c) Refusal of bank loans; (d) Irregular power supply; (e) Lack of proper broadband connectivity; (f) Supply of less sophisticated technology and computer peripherals; (g) Irregular monitoring of centres by the private stakeholder; (h) Government officers remaining incommunicado. These constraints make the STMKs unpopular, which is integrally linked to the lack in earnings and activities. On a broader scale this also saps the foundation of the participatory spirit that e-governance is supposed to create. One major way to ensure popular participation and fix the STMKs in the popular mind is through the proactive role of the local administration, be it the corporations in cities, the municipalities in the towns, or the panchayats (especially, the gram sabhas) in the rural areas. But our successive field visits in the STMKs reveal that there is a general detachment of the STMKs and the local administration 42

Interview, 19 December 2009.

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in the sense that the officials of the latter are either delightfully vague or completely oblivious to the state of affairs of the STMKs, citing reasons as different as ‘pressure of work’ and ‘lack of technical knowledge about ICT’. Thus, the block development officer (BDO) in Srirampur pleaded ignorance about the STMKs in the ‘absence of the officer concerned’. The panchayat pradhan in Gosaba block of the Sunderbans expressed helplessness because the proprietor of the ‘closed’ STMK, situated in the gram panchayat office itself, ‘had not shown up for months’. But there is a counter-example too. In one particular case, in Chandernagore town, the complaint was that the establishment of the STMKs are ‘not being encouraged’ by the panchayat and rural development department despite the demand of the local administration. In Chandernagore, a former French colony, known for its relatively efficient municipal administration and inhabited by a sizeable section of the educated middle class, the mayor himself wants the STMKs established for facilitating public information, but he is yet to get a ‘favourable response’ from the authorities concerned. In both cases, the STMKs and the local people suffer. Our study also shows that even the relatively better-run STMKs are nowhere near their perceived role of the ‘transformatory agent’ in terms of enabling community participation and collective action for social change in the concerned localities. They are, at best, relatively better-run information/service kiosks with somewhat better services. No less important, no STMK proprietor has been inculcated, during their training sessions, with the idea that was so strongly emphasised by the NeGP — that the CSCs are to play the crucial role of the ‘platform’ for civil society activities. Last but not the least, state government officials are all too happy to leave the STMKs in the hands of the private entrepreneurs, invoking the PPP model but interpreting it in a highly partial and distorted manner, thereby absolving themselves of responsibilities. The over-dependence on the private partner also results in a lack of effort to reorient and revitalise the local government institutions like the panchayats to be actively involved in the process. Several interviews with panchayat staff reveal that to them the STMKs are either ‘an extra burden’ or something to be left to the operators. There is no effort by any panchayat to associate the STMKs with local self-help groups, a linkage which could have been a viable proposition. At best, the STMKs, as one

100 — Dipankar Sinha

panchayat pradhan pointed out, have ‘ornamental value’ as the indicator of the arrival of the new technology in concerned areas. On the other hand, a leader of the STMK proprietors’ association argues that the private organisation concerned ‘sees nothing beyond profit-seeking for itself’.43 As a result, the STMKs not only fail in the long-term goal of being an ‘agency’ in ‘empowering rural community and catalyse social change’, but also in its immediate objective of service delivery online. The state of affairs that we find in the case of STMKs in West Bengal can be found in the case of the CSCs in various parts of India. We have already referred to the study on the Akshaya project in Kerala. In the north-east, where the Common Information Centres (CICs) are being converted into the CSCs supposedly for according greater service-orientation; the existing ones, except to some extent in Assam, are marked by gross underperformance. In rural Rajasthan where the base work for setting up 6,600 CSCs is being carried out by identification and appointment of the CSC owners and training them — problems with the implementation process itself such as submitting advance payments to the agencies by the entrepreneurs — have already surfaced.44 All the limitations and constraints of the CSCs, to reiterate, ultimately boil down to the point that there is barely any importance given to the context-specific nature of information and of the multi-way informational dynamics — based on the quantity and quality of information flow, along with the perceptions on the importance of information of the stakeholders and those of the people — that forms the core of successful e-governance initiatives. Notwithstanding the frequent promise of ‘capacity building at the grassroots level’. the approach is wholly ‘topdown’ and thus incapable of bridging the gap between promise and performance.

Corporate Model: e-Choupal Sponsored by a corporate giant, ITC, e-Choupal constitutes a major landmark in the realm of ICT-based corporate initiatives. 43

Interview with Jayanta Pal, 21 December 2009. Correspondence with Upendra Singh, director, Centre for Development Communication and Studies, Jaipur, 11 October 2009.


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The initiative deserves our attention not only because it is a nonstate, market-led initiative but also because, as the ensuing discussion will show, it provides certain vital clues to strategising e-governance. The researcher’s visit to e-Choupal sites in the Vidarbha, a backward region of western Maharashtra, better known for farmers’ suicides, provided an opportunity to have a first-hand scrutiny of the working of the model at the grassroots level. The selection of the region was primarily based on two criteria: first, the ITC officials during the interaction with the researcher claimed that the region is among those which host a large number of e-Choupals (600 to be exact) and some of the vibrant ones since the year 2003; second, the region is a social scientist’s delight as it witnesses the cohabitation of some of India’s richest and poorest farmers. The introduction of e-Choupal in this region is significant not only from the commercial point of view but also in the broader political terms of governance and development. Before we narrate the findings of the field visits to e-Choupal sites, let us give a brief introduction of the e-Choupal model itself. e-Choupal, a market-led business model which is part of the ITC’s Agri Division, was launched in June, 2000 as an ‘efficient and sustainable’ supply chain which would be able to minimise the perennial challenges in Indian agriculture, such as fragmented farms, weak infrastructure, domination of intermediaries, and so on. The selection of the term ‘choupal’ has great import. It literally means a gathering place but inherent in the ICT scheme of things is the objective of such a gathering, which is commercial activity. The ITC claims that e-Choupal unshackles the potential of the Indian farmer who has been trapped in a vicious cycle of low risk-taking ability, low investment, low productivity, weak market orientation, low value addition, and low margins, which makes not only the farmers but also the Indian agribusiness sector globally uncompetitive, despite having rich and abundant natural resources. Thus, the model is supposed to enhance the competitiveness of Indian agriculture and trigger a virtuous cycle of higher productivity, higher incomes, enlarged capacity for farmer risk management, larger investments, and higher quality and productivity. In an additional claim, ITC visualises a scenario in which the growth in rural incomes will also unleash the latent demand for industrial goods so necessary for the continued growth of the Indian economy.

102 — Dipankar Sinha

The e-Choupal model is the largest Internet-based intervention in rural India. It now covers over 4 million farmers who are engaged in cultivating a range of crops like soyabean, coffee, wheat, rice, pulses, and shrimps in over 40,000 villages. These villages have 6,500 kiosks across 10 states — Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. Each e-Choupal is supposed to serve approximately 10 villages within a radius of five km. In terms of its prime mechanics the ‘e-Choupal’ seeks to leverage ICT to virtually cluster all the value chain participants, thereby claiming to deliver the benefits as vertical integration. The importance of the ICT is enumerated in the following manner in a case-study report of the World Resources: From the conception of the model, an IT-based solution was recognised as fundamental to optimising effectiveness, scalability, and cost. Information technology is 20% of all the effort of ITC’s e-Choupal business model, but is considered the most crucial 20%. The two goals envisioned for IT are: z


Delivery of real-time information independent of the transaction. In the mandi system, delivery, pricing, and sales happen simultaneously, thus binding the farmer to an agent. E-Choupal was seen as a medium of delivering critical market information independent of the mandi, thus allowing the farmer an empowered choice of where and when to sell his crop. Facilitate collaboration between the many parties required to fulfill the spectrum of farmer needs. As a communication mechanism, this goal is related to the commitment to address the whole system, not just a part of the system.45

More specifically, the e-Choupal, with the avowed goal of ending the domination of the agents in the mandi system, makes use of the physical transmission capabilities of current intermediaries — aggregation, logistics, counter-party risk and bridge financing — while disintermediating them from the chain of information flow and market signals. The key role in the e-Choupal experiment is played by village Internet kiosks managed by the local farmers, known as sanchalaks, who are supposed to perform certain functions: i) facilitate the local farmers to get ready access to 45

Kuttayan Annamalai and Sachin Rao, What Works: ITC’s E Choupal and Profitable Rural Transformation, Michigan: World Resources Institute, August 2003, p. 10.

New Technique of Governance  103 information in local languages on various relevant issues like weather and market prices; ii) disseminate knowledge on scientific farm practices and risk management; iii) and facilitate the sale of farm inputs and purchase farm produce from the farmers’ doorsteps. The model asserts that its stress on real-time information and customised knowledge enhances the ability of farmers to take decisions and align their farm output with market demand and secure quality and productivity. The aggregation of the demand for farm inputs from individual farmers also gives them access to high-quality inputs from established and reputed manufacturers at fair prices. In addition, as a direct marketing channel, virtually linked to the mandi system for price discovery, e-Choupal also claims to have eliminated wasteful intermediation and multiple handling, which also leads to the reduction in transaction costs. While the farmers in this initiative are supposed to benefit from enhanced farm productivity and higher farm gate prices, ITC benefits from the lower net cost of procurement and elimination of costs in the supply chain.

In terms of the field-level functioning of e-Choupal, the sanchalak (volunteer coordinator) is at centrestage. A local farmer who has considerable influence in the village and ‘inculcated with spirit of social service’ is selected as the sanchalak with the formal charge, solemnised by an oath-taking ceremony, of serving the interests of the local farmers through the efficient and effective running of the e-Choupal. A computer with V-SAT connectivity is generally located in his house or in a space outside his house. He is provided training in basic computer operations, including the ways to access the e-Choupal website, which has a user password. He is also provided training in the inspection of the quality of crops. The sanchalak receives a commission (at the rate of 0.5 per cent) for each transaction that occurs through e-Choupal. The sanchalak is supposed to get the assistance of a samyojak (collaborator), who is a commission agent, well versed in the functioning of the mandi system, responsible for ensuring logistic support. Let us now discuss the findings of the field visits to the e-Choupal hubs situated in Omred, Bhagawanpur, Telegao, and Talakunde, and to e-Choupal Sagar (a store-cum-mini shopping mall) in Wardha. The findings reveal that while it would be too premature to argue that the e-Choupal initiative is effecting a rural transformation, the fact remains that it shows how a

104 — Dipankar Sinha

profitable venture can be made with the deft use of information by the stakeholder and by combining appropriate incentives and importance to the clients. Let us elaborate on the contention. The e-Choupal model is a brainchild of a singular corporate house, which is not yet being replicated by other organisations in the corporate sector. It also has a very limited presence in some select areas in a few states. It is interesting that the ITC does not have a single e-Choupal in West Bengal even though it is headquartered in Kolkata. It is also important to note that even where such initiatives are being undertaken, there is a difference in the degree of efficiency and effectiveness, depending on physical factors like the nature of crops and on various local factors and conditions. Thus, for instance, the e-Choupals are performing much better when it comes to soya cultivation in Maharashtra in comparison to the e-Choupals dealing with shrimp cultivation in Andhra Pradesh. The field visits also reveal that in some cases the sanchalaks are not as active as their counterparts elsewhere. In some instances one could find sanchalaks who are too complacent about their performance and reluctant to take up the cases of fellow farmers on the grounds that the ‘system is known to them’. In some cases, there was a lack of coordination among the sanchalaks and the samyojaks. Moreover, ITC’s claim that the sanchalaks are ‘strictly prohibited’ by them from participating in political activities is valid up to a point because political activities do not necessarily emerge from formal membership of a political party. The researcher in the field met some sanchalaks who had political clout in at least indirect ways — by, for instance, having close relatives and friends as panchayat sarpanches and even as MLAs. This apart, the very designation of the sanchalak and its association with the ITC has contributed to the political clout of the concerned individuals. Notwithstanding these limitations, the e-Choupals have made their mark in the arena of e-governance for the primary reason that it has accorded priority to face-to-face communication, with the ICT as a facilitating instrument. Thus, in the house-cum-hub of Sanjay Mugle, the sanchalak of Bhagwanpur, one could notice the exchange of information among the villagers with the computer as the ‘back-up’. Mugle himself admitted that through experience he has come to realise that the face-to-face interactions are of ‘primary’ importance, which is ‘supported by the computer

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machine’.46 The respondents in Omred and Talakunde pointed out that the proliferation of cell phones has also benefited them as it ‘greatly facilitates human communication’. It also goes to the credit of the ITC that while e-Choupal seeks to do away with the negative features of the mandi system it coopts its vital feature — acquiring and processing information through human interactions. Such interactions have various forms and manifestations. In the e-Choupal chain, diverse sequential activities, such as pricing, inspection and grading, weighing and payment, and so forth are done on the basis of face-to-face interactions and circulation of information. The sanchalaks have regular meetings in which they interact among themselves and exchange relevant information. The methodological precision and operational and transactional efficiency of a corporate house — backed by the hierarchical order of the hub-in-charge, administrative officer, branch manager, area manager, insurance officer, and agricultural officers performing various specialised tasks in the same organisational chain — also ensures that there is systemic and systematic generation and exchange of relevant information at a particular point of time. Information gathering by ITC not only concerns ‘input’ and ‘output’ but also ‘throughput’ which relates to ‘what go in and what go out’ in terms of products and service delivery. (ITC’s goal is to exert control over 30 per cent of throughput.) On the whole, the functioning of the successful e-Choupals makes it evident that information is context-specific and one cannot have a ‘one-size-fits-all’ kind of information system. It also makes it evident that there are no ‘fixed’ senders and receivers of information. Thus, on certain counts the local farmers are the senders of information when the sponsor, ITC, acts as the receiver, and on certain occasions it acts as the sender of information with the local farmers acting as receivers. This horizontal interplay, as distinct from the top-down approach, and the ‘role reversal’ — though done in a limited sphere with a specific purpose — provides important clues about how e-governance can be made effective on the ground. All said and done, the e-Choupal initiative, though much more efficient and effective in comparison to the CSCs, is that of a corporate house in which the prime motive is profit generation for the 46

Interview, 7 October 2009.

106 — Dipankar Sinha

concerned company. Thus, ITC officials would clearly mention that the e-Choupals have little to do with the cotton farmers who are in dire straits and committing suicide for lack of relevant information regarding better productivity and marketing of their products. The distressed farmers can offer no viable contribution to the ITC’s supply chain and to its profit generation. Thus, the e-Choupal model has little altruistic motive, except perhaps in the very limited arena of ‘corporate social responsibility’, which it seeks to exercise in terms of assuring better prices and marketing facilities to the local farmers who agree to be a part of it. The CSCs, on the other hand, despite their ‘deformed’ functioning, are conceptualised to not only cater to a much larger segment of the population but also, as the aforementioned discussion notes, to contribute to sustainable social and economic growth and human development. The problem that emerges from the two initiatives is that, for different reasons, neither has sufficient potential to ensure the growth of e-governance in India on a comprehensive scale. While in the case of e-Choupal there is a lesson — in the creative-strategic modes of handling information — for the state, the fact remains that a corporate initiative is not supposed to take charge of social transformation. At the other end, the CSCs, for reasons identified and analysed in detail, are too far away from fulfilling their stated objectives. To an observer it may also be a great irony of the e-governance scenario in India that a corporate enterprise without a broader agenda of development succeeds in its own way in demonstrating how e-governance can be initiated at the grassroots level while the developmental state falters at the very beginning.

Concluding Note: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Syndrome In the final analysis, the development state in India, so to say, suffers from a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde syndrome, which in turn contributes to the failure of the Indian policy makers to initiate e-governance. Notwithstanding the ‘benevolent’ rhetoric of transparency, accountability, and responsiveness in governance and the promise of a rationalised and efficient system of service delivery, the techno-managerial vision of the developmental state weakens the foundation of e-governance in various ways. First, as argued earlier, by obfuscating the meaning and basic parameters

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of e-governance. Second, by shying away from the much-needed institutional reorganisation that e-governance entails. The institutions in India, insofar as bureaucratisation is concerned, show a remarkable degree of resilience. Third, by according technology excessively high primacy and agency, ignoring the existing material objective conditions and considerably minimising people’s felt needs and the requisite of development of people’s capability, there is a sort of ‘taken-for-grantedness’ insofar as the collection and generation of appropriate information — regarding the people’s needs, entitlements, and capabilities — are concerned. One might argue, as many do, that the passing of the Right to Information (RTI) Act in 2005 at the end of a long-drawn civil society struggle has been a right move in the right direction, but the point should not be overemphasised. The information dynamics being associated with e-governance, as we have noted, has a much broader base and intensity, much greater flux, immense complexities and nuances, and even a kind of suppleness than what can be addressed by a codified act with the specific objective of eliciting ‘official’ information as in the case of the RTI and some technical information on the so-called digital divide in the broader scenario. The adoption of a ‘bottom-up’ approach to information and the commitment to utilise the power of information to foster affective relations with the people, to our mind, are a prerequisite for democratic and decentralised policy making. When a polity lacks them, it leads to two major negative manifestations: first, there is no public consultation endeavour to ascertain the people’s needs as a ‘we know it better than them’ approach is predominant among policy makers. There are a few organisations in India that are functioning as ‘watchdogs’ of e-governance by producing research-based literature on ‘what is going wrong’ and ‘what should be done’. But there is hardly any instance of the policy makers paying them any heed. Second, it is because of a lack of awareness about the range and depth of the idea of e-governance that some front-end service delivery in select forms and online purchase of train/plane tickets or submission of house-building plans or booking of hotels or online banking are much hyped both in the official discourse and in the urban-centric popular discourse as the ‘grand cases’ of e-governance. This hype misses the woods for the trees because it overshadows the fact that these

108 — Dipankar Sinha

services are a necessary, but not sufficient condition to establish and sustain e-governance in the sense elaborated in the early part of the discussion. But as we have already noted, when even the question of access to ICT is conceptualised and promoted in a superficial manner, almost delinking it from the fundamental concerns of improving the baseline of human development, the developmental state in India is going to serve us with a half-baked and perverted form of ‘e-governance’, with a complex mix of normative, technical, and political elements, that too, without a connect to the inclusionary core of democracy, which is supposed to have a mutually constitutive, and not mutually exclusive, relation with efficiency. The academic debate on the intricacies of the trade-off between democracy and efficiency may go on for some more time, but for ordinary people, the most legitimate form of governance is that which combines democracy and efficiency. The quote of the Darjeeling resident at the beginning of this article is a stark reminder of what governance, and for that matter e-governance, is supposed to address.

3 Disasters: Experiences of Development during the Embankment Years in Bihar Manish K. Jha Present-day political regimes of divergent ideological orientations apparently assign great value to democracy. It is discernible that an aura of legitimacy is conferred to rules, regulations, policies, use of power and authority, and so on, largely to sustain a ‘democracy’ so that it can be perceived to be in the interest of people at large. The development issues and concerns in democracy underline the indispensability of democratic institutions to actively involve citizens in the process of governance. Consequently, it presupposes a correlation between democracy, development, and governance at least in common parlance. However, recent developments bear ample testimony to the fact that a large number of people and communities are de facto excluded from the ambit of dialogue and deliberations which, consequently, impact their everyday existence (for example, the Special Economic Zone [SEZ] Act, mining projects, displacement, etc.). State responsiveness to social claims and the ability of representatives of the government to engage with poorer sections of society for significant policy concerns is extremely constricted in India. Closely following the governing techniques, tactics, and practices followed by the ‘administrative state’, even a laid-back observer can recognise a major shift over the years, wherein disciplining the people and communities have invariably been undertaken in the name of governance. The modern state is indeed a governmental state whose agencies use multiple techniques for governing the people by drawing them in by coercion or persuasion, whatever be the demand of the exigency.

110 — Manish K. Jha

In the process of governing a democracy, the state and its agencies have to manage everyday administrative activities and at the same time they have to deal with emergency and risk situations, as and when they occur. The competence and capacity of the state gets challenged in situations of disaster and risk; and developmental democracy is expected to stand up and match the expectations of people. Most of the disasters occur in a socio-political space, even though it is not solely determined by politics. It is increasingly evident that disasters have become recurrent features of social life across the world and they indeed continue posing risks to the very social world where they are located. Engagement in disaster response provides a rich repository for research and a sound understanding of sociopolitical systems, structures and processes, and their behaviour during such situations. In a developmental democracy, it is a matter of serious engagement to understand what makes the government responsive to people in normal situations as also in times of risk and disasters. The experiences of disaster in Bhopal in 1984, the Gujarat earthquake in 2001, the Gujarat riots in 2002, the tsunami in 2004, the Bihar floods in 2008, and others, clearly show that the response of developmental democracies varies enormously. These experiences demonstrate how policies and institutions are shaped, reshaped, and defined differently by the governing agencies in different situations. India has traditionally been vulnerable to natural disasters on account of its unique geo-climatic conditions. Floods, droughts, cyclones, earthquakes, and landslides have been recurrent phenomena. About 60 per cent of the landmass is prone to earthquakes of various intensities; over 40 million hectares (mha) are prone to floods; about 8 per cent of the total area is prone to cyclones; and 68 per cent of the area is susceptible to drought. In the decade 1990–2000, an average of about 4,344 people lost their lives and about 30 million people were affected by disasters every year. The loss in terms of private, community, and public assets has been astronomical.1 On an average 7.63 million mha of the nation’s land are f looded every year, affecting 32.92 million people. Crops over 3.56 mha valued at ` 705.87 crores are lost 1 ‘Disaster Management in India: A Status Report’, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, 2004.

Disasters: Experiences of Development  111

every year due to floods that destroy 1,235,000 houses, killing 94,000 cattle and 1,590 persons. Average annual damages due to floods are estimated at ` 1,782.35 crore.2 It is not exactly pointless to reaffirm that the occurrence of disasters varies in terms of their predictability and unpredictability. Normally, earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones, etc. are relatively less predictable as compared to floods. In some of the flood-prone areas, the seasonality and impact of disasters can be estimated and appropriate plans can be made well in time. For instance, in the Kosi area, the recurrence of floods is largely predictable; though its severity is normally unpredictable. The issues of flood control, displacement due to dams and embankments and consequent relief, rehabilitation as well as compensation for losses are certainly intertwined with the functioning of developmental democracy. The history of embankment and barrage construction on the Kosi river and rampant corruption in its maintenance and repair takes us to the inner courtyards and faces of the functioning of democracy that is apparently rooted and committed to development. There is a long history of debate and deliberations against embanking the Kosi during the colonial regime. The debate was renewed in the early phase of the post-colonial administration, culminating in the construction of a barrage in 1963 to regulate the flow of the river and to ‘facilitate irrigation’. From the beginning, the decision to embank the Kosi was a politically contentious issue and there was a sharp polarisation on the issue of barrage construction. The process of governing the poor immediately after Independence was dictated by the notion of the demands of development for strengthening the ‘democratic nation’. On the one hand, the embankment was expected to protect 214,000 hectares of land; on the other, nearly 200,000 people of more than 300 villages were likely to be trapped within the embankment. There were major apprehensions and insecurities among the affected populace. After more than four decades and the experiences they brought, it has been proved beyond doubt that embankments have a disastrous impact on the people of the area. The region is still mired in poverty and migration is regular due to the destruction caused by the fury of the Kosi river, notoriously known as the 2

Ministry of Water Resources, Central Water Commission, Table 5.12.

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‘sorrow of Bihar’ in popular parlance. The devastating nature of the Kosi was appositely captured by L.S.S. O’Malley in 1911: Sweeping down from the hills, it brings with it volumes of sand ... destroying the productive power of the land, choking the wells, and driving the villagers from their homestead ... In the interval of twenty-five years the river cut into and overspread some twenty miles of country, turning fertile fields into arid wastes of sand, sweeping away factories, farms, and villages, and changing the whole face of the country from a fruitful landscape to a wilderness of sand and swamp.3

The present article is an attempt to trace the transition of the discourse of disaster and development around the Kosi from the pre-colonial to the post-colonial era of the Indian state. Based on archival resources and an ethnographic study of the area, the article analyses that the governmental rationality for the development of the Kosi region was in fact manufactured to establish the hegemony of the dominant post-colonial party, the Indian National Congress. The politics of building dams and the corruption in construction and maintenance of barrages and embankments demonstrate how the largesse of the government is distributed as patronage to consolidate political influence in the area, which in turn, nurtures and consolidates the middleman/ state-agent. This nurturing and sustenance act as a strong chain between political leaders and the masses and presumably, it goes on to augment electoral gains. However, the process is not static at all and other political developments do impact the electoral outcomes. Different political regimes have used the same state largesse among people belonging to different sets of castes and other combinations as well as affiliations. The change is visible in the form of the political, social, and overall caste status of new agents as intermediaries between the political leaders and masses, ably replacing and substituting earlier arrangements. The analysis also looks at the issue of exclusion by way of a newer definition of democratic processes, thereby highlighting the democratic deficit in an otherwise politically active region. In this regard, this article draws from the arguments of Patrick 3

L. S. S. O’Malley, Bengal District Gazetteers: Purnea, Calcutta: Bengal Secretarial Book Depot, 1913, p. 6.

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Heller in ‘Degrees of Democracy: Some Comparative Lessons from India’.4 Much as the robustness of Indian democratic institutions has been rightfully celebrated, their effectiveness is increasingly in doubt. Fifty-three years of almost uninterrupted democratic rule has done little to reduce the political, social, and economic marginalisation of India’s masses. Second, a more disaggregated picture reveals that within the unitary institutional domain marked by the boundaries of the Indian nation-state, there are degrees of democracy or, as Guillermo O’Donnell would have put it, differences in the intensity of citizenship.5 Because institutions and politics are relational and configurational, their attributes are never perfectly isomorphic, either horizontally across different policy arenas or vertically from one level of the state to another. As the state radiates out from its geographic and functional core, its authority and effectiveness fluctuates dramatically. Functionally and geographically, the degree of public legality in many formal democracies remains severely constrained. Post-colonial democratic institutions in India in general and Bihar in particular have been influenced by the politician–bureaucrat–elite nexus in which the space of participatory democratic governance disappears. The disaster, development, and governance in the Kosi region is a case in point. Talk to anyone in the region and the discussion on the Kosi begins with the perception of the river as a being which is unstable. For instance: Kosi Ganga ki tarah kal-kal bahne wali nadi nahin hai. Wo jab bhi aati hai tandav karti, hanhanati, bifarti, puri unmadini ki tarah (Unlike the Ganges, the Kosi does not follow a tranquil and unruffled course. Whenever she arrives, she arrives with thunder, causing havoc and turbulence). It is interesting to note that moving ahead from the perception about the river in the popular psyche, the discourse on disaster establishes an inextricable link between the vulnerability of people and governmental policies and practices. Disasters are multidimensional, affecting most 4 Patrick Heller, ‘Degrees of Democracy: Some Comparative Lessons from India’, World Politics, 52 (4), July 2000, pp. 484–519. 5 Ibid., p. 485. For Heller’s quote from O’Donnell, see Guillermo O’Donnell, ‘On the State, Democratization and Some Conceptual Problems: A Latin American View with Glances at Some Post-communist Countries’, World Development, 21 (8), 1993.

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aspects of community life because they are both physical and social processes, in which a geophysical or biological event is evidently implicated in some form or the other in causing disaster.6 In disaster situations, the custodian of ‘expert knowledge’ of the government takes on the responsibility to deal with the ‘masses’, who have to struggle for another category called victims. It is this expert knowledge that decides, more or less absolutely, who is a victim and to what extent, how much state compensation is owed, making a distinction between ‘fake’ and ‘real’ suffering, and even whether to declare incidences calamitous or not. Thus, you can have the expert knowledge of a Lalu Yadav in Bihar brushing off reports of a kala azar epidemic or a Kalyan Singh in Uttar Pradesh hushing up riots in his state, since political power enables ministers to assert expert status in most matters relating to the people with whose well-being they are charged’.7 The same happened in the case of the Kosi from the time the decision to construct dams and embankments was taken to the times when several breaches occurred. Trekking through the course of history, one comes across numerous instances of ‘expert knowledge’ manipulating discourse and decisions on behalf of the authorities. The policies around embanking the Kosi, the process of construction of dams, and the institutional arrangements for managing the entire process followed the dominant politics of the day. Political manoeuvring during the period as also the nature and functioning of the governing agencies exhibited a pattern which unfortunately, but consequently, became the culture of governance in the entire region for years and decades to come.

Course of the Kosi and Colonial Developmentality Floods are an annual feature in the Kosi region of Bihar, and people have learnt to cope, deal with and even live with it. Perceived as the ‘sorrow of Bihar’, the Kosi is recognised for causing great 6

Piers Blaikie, Terry Cannon, Ian Davis, and Ben Wisner, At Risk: Natural Hazards, People’s Vulnerability and Disasters, London and New York: Routledge, 1994, pp. 4–5. 7 Rukmini Bhaya Nair, ‘Acts of Agency and Acts of God: Discourse of Disaster in a Post-Colonial Society’, Economic and Political Weekly, 32 (11), 15–21 March 1997, pp. 535–42.

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devastation, such as destroying crops, submerging habitations, and damaging livelihoods, which in turn lead to distress outmigration from the region. Talking about the Kosi region as part of the Bengal presidency, Christopher Hill mentions that the river was so volatile that it carried unproductive sand in its raging waters completely to the end of its run. For most of the colonial period, the Kosi region was largely deserted jungle.8 More or less similar accounts are contained in the writings of Phanishwar Nath Renu, one of the finest novelists coming out of the sands of the Kosi: Lakhon ekad zamin ko lakwa maar gaya hoga. Ek vishal bhubhag hathaat kuch se kuch ho gaya hoga. Safed baalu se koop talab nadi naale pat gaye.9 Following the mythical restlessness ascribed to the Kosi, the river has shifted its course westward by 112 km in 200 years, transforming 7,000–8,000 sq km of arable land into waste wetlands. Large amounts of sediment are transported downstream by the river and distributed across the fringing flood plains during the period of inundation.10 Sweeping through the district of Purnea in north Bihar, the Kosi increasingly became erratic in the 19th and early 20th centuries.11 The total catchment area of the Kosi is 74,030 sq km, out of which only 11,410 sq km are located in India and the rest in Nepal and Tibet. The average silt load of the Kosi is 92,400 acre feet. Dinesh Kumar Mishra, who has been working on water-related issues in this region, highlights the fact that due to its high sediment load, the Kosi is known to meander and has shifted course by about 160 km between the years 1723 and 1948. The violent character of the Kosi river has had powerful social ramifications, involving desertion, migration, and agrarian


Christopher V. Hill, ‘Philosophy and Reality in Riparian South Asia: British Famine Policy and Migration in Colonial North India’, Modern Asian Studies, 25 (2), May 1991, pp. 263–79. 9 Lakhs of acres of land must have been cruelly paralysed. A big landmass must have been altered beyond recognition. All the wells and rivulets must have been filled with the sand. 10 Amrita Chatterjee and Dipayan Dey, ‘Water Woes in South East Asia: GeoEcology of Trans-Border River System and Dams between India and Nepal’, 11 Christopher V. Hill, River of Sorrow, Michigan: Association for Asian Studies, 1997, p. 5.

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exploitation.12 Governance, policies, and social relations in the Kosi region have been greatly influenced by the impact of the river. It is widely perceived that the Kosi in India was embanked as early as the 12th century. Francis Buchanan considered this embankment as a fortification that ran along the western bank of the Daus river up to its junction with the Tiljuga.13 There is a long history of deliberations and debate against embanking the Kosi during the British regime. The region was characterised by constantly shifting rivers and changing agro-ecological settings. This meant having to constantly keep pace with the shifting (revenue and administrative) boundaries and changing conditions, and having long-term, flexible, and adjustable policies for the region.14 However, the colonial regime opted for permanence in administrative and revenue policies. In response to the flood problem, the early British administration was in favour of embankments, but in due course of time and because of the experience of recurring breaches, they had to revise their view after 1869. The Kosi basin was badly flooded in 1869 and 1870 and the district of Purnea was hit hard by the spills of the Kosi and the Ganga resulting in considerable damage to the crops and cattle. W.W. Hunter writes, ‘... A project for embanking the Kusi, which would affect the reclamation of a vast area of jungle country, has been proposed, but it is very doubtful whether it could be accomplished.’15 In 1897, the Calcutta Flood Conference was organised to come up with strategies to deal with the fury of floods and a proposal of embanking was also deliberated upon. The conference reached the conclusion that ‘no steps are feasible to control the course of this tremendous river with its numerous channels and their wide and elevated beds, beyond protecting by short length of embankments isolated tracts exposed to floods’. 12

Christopher V. Hill, ‘Water and Power: Riparian Legislation and Agrarian Control in Colonial Bengal’, Environmental History Review, 14 (4), Winter 1990, pp. 1–20. 13 Francis H. Buchanan, An Account of the District of Purnea in 1809–10, Patna: Bihar and Orissa Research Society, 1928, p. 53. 14 Praveen Singh, ‘The Colonial State, Zamindars and the Politics of Flood Control in North Bihar (1850–1945), Indian Economic Social History Review, 45 (2), 2008, pp. 239–59. 15 W.W. Hunter, A Statistical Account of Bengal, vol. XV, London: Trubner, 1877, p. 341.

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In fact, one realises that the policies, governing processes, and overall administrative structure in the Kosi area during colonial rule was significantly influenced by the river Kosi and its unpredictability. Along with the concern to tackle the fury of floods, the colonial administration was also grappling with demands for flood relief. Though the idea of calamity relief during the British era revolved around famine, in relation to which a relief code was delineated, most of the relief work during floods was also guided by the provision of this code. However, O’Malley writes that the concept of relief operation was unknown to the people of the flood-ravaged district of Saharsa till 1936. In 1947, advisory committees were formed in Saharsa, Darbhanga, and Munger. These committees advised the government to streamline relief operations, and gradually, schedules for availability of boats, working of charkha groups and work centres, waivers/concessions in the repayment of loans, etc., were worked out.16 The grants for such relief were meagre and its disbursal was marred by several societal constraints. The experience of the Saharsa Advisory Committee was quite bitter. With the available money, it was not possible to provide relief to everyone. This bred dissatisfaction. Further those who were given relief, took it as their right and did not work. This led to their moral degradation and tended to make them beggars. Then, there were many middle class families, especially widows, who did not want to take relief although their situation was no less pathetic than the poorer section of the society.17

Here it is interesting to note that the British used to have a special quota of relief for the ‘zenana’ of middle-class families as the zenana women would not come out to seek relief. With regard to dam construction, the colonial state was helpless as a considerable length of the river (about 40 km) was located in Nepal whose cooperation was essential. Towards the end of the 19th century, the two countries signed the famous Sugauli 16

Dinesh Kumar Mishra, ‘Floods and Some Legal Concerns’, in Ramaswamy R. Iyer (ed.), Water and the Laws in India, New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2009, p. 312. 17 Ibid., p. 313. Mishra refers to Laliteshwar Mullik, Kosi, Bharat Sevak Samaj, 1953.

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treaty and immediately afterwards, the British tried to tame the Kosi by constructing marginal embankments along its course in 1891.18 However, the work could not take off due to the fury of the monsoon and related complications. The early 20th century witnessed differing views for and against the embankment of the Kosi. The Patna Flood Conference of 1937, which was attended by prominent politicians and engineers, in a way became a reference point for the politicisation of floods as also the changing contours of governance in the Kosi region. Prominent leaders and engineers of repute opposed the idea of embanking the Kosi. Interestingly, while Captain Hall strongly opposed any embanking of the rivers, it was during his tenure as the chief engineer of Bihar, in the year 1937–38, that the Tirhoot Waterways Division made a preliminary survey of the Kosi and its old and new channels crossing the Nepal border19 Besides, several other proposals were submitted to deal with the ferocity of the Kosi but no decision could be taken. Just prior to Independence, a conference of Kosi sufferers was held in Nirmali (now Supaul and then Bhagalpur district) on 6 April 1947, which was attended by C.H. Bhabha, then member of the ministry of works, mines and power, Rajendra Prasad, and Shri Krishna Sinha, among others. Bhabha explained to a gathering of about 60,000 that it was proposed to construct a large dam of concrete of about 229 m height with a storage capacity of 0.31 million cubic m on the Kosi. It was also to have a hydroelectric generation unit of 1,200 megawatts and a canal system to irrigate 12.5 lakh hectares of land in Nepal and India. The project was estimated at ` 100 crore and expected to be completed in seven different phases in 10 years.20 This was the beginning of the great rhetoric around development, establishment of new governance structures, and the unleashing of a politician–engineer–contractor regime. However, the fury of the Kosi was so devastating that the proposal of making a dam was generally received with enormous hope and joy in the initial phase.


Dinesh Kumar Mishra, ‘The Bihar Flood Story’, Economic and Political Weekly, 32 (35), 30 August–September, 1997, p. 2208. 19 Ibid., pp. 2209, 2210. 20 Ibid., p. 2210.

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Embanking the Kosi: Reservoir of Governmental Rationality and Grassroots Politics The decision to embank the Kosi was a political one necessitated by extra-technical considerations. After the devastating flood in 1953, when Jawaharlal Nehru made an aerial survey, the process of making a barrage gained impetus and subsequently, the decision was taken to construct a barrage at the border of Nepal and Bihar, embankments on either side of the river and a canal system to irrigate crops. The humongous task was undertaken by the state through initiating a project called the ‘Kosi Project’. Due to the recurring devastation caused by the Kosi floods, there was a sense of elation in favour of a dam; but at the same time, no one wanted to be trapped in the embankments. People of around 300 villages, who were going to be trapped between the two embankments, were anxious and opposed to their construction. This put the government on the defensive, as a result of which subtle and palpable attempts were made to justify the decision to make the embankments and to dispel any fear that the people could have had. The then planning minister, Gulzarilal Nanda, had to issue a statement in the Lok Sabha on 3 May 1954, regarding the soundness of the 1953 scheme, in which he quoted experts who had certified the scheme to be beyond any risk. He also said that the scheme has been formulated after detailed investigations on the basis of research and experience gathered between 1946 and 1953 and all the aspects had been carefully looked into.21 In fact, the governmental technology of using sponsored investigation and research was used by prominent politicians to influence and make people accept the government’s views.22 The Kosi-affected people were also split into many factions. On one side was the 1.92 lakh population (1951 census), spread over 304 villages and threatened with being trapped within the proposed Kosi embankments, who were demanding that the embankments should not be built in the first place and if that could not be avoided, the spacing between them should be kept to a maximum so that the fury of floods within the embankments could be minimised. On the other hand were the villagers whose 21 22

Ibid., p. 2212. Ibid., p. 2213.

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homes were marginally close to the embankments and who were agitating hard to stay out of the embankment area. This would be possible only when the spacing between the embankments was reduced. Another set of people was interested only in the employment that the construction of the embankments was likely to offer, was indifferent to the alignment of the embankments, and demanded its speedy implementation. The embankment alignment was changed time and again and the villages with powerful political connections managed to stay out. All this was done under the garb of technical feasibility. One of the leading political leaders of the ruling Congress party, L.N. Mishra, was actively lobbying in the 1950s for the construction of a dam. He cited the results of scientific tests to convince people that only a 10-cm-deep sheet of water would enter the villages that would be within the two embankments, at a discharge of 900,000 cusecs into the river. While addressing a gathering of the workers of the Bharat Sevak Samaj (BSS) in Patna on 2 December 1954, L.N. Mishra said that recent model tests at a Poona laboratory had shown that only a 10-cm-deep sheet of water would enter the villages that would fall within two embankments if the flow of water was 25,510 cusecs in the Kosi. Mishra’s views were later confirmed by the model tests in the laboratories of the central board of irrigation and power as, ‘... it was found that there is practically no rise in the water levels at these villages due to the construction of the embankments. In the years to come, this conclusion of the model test at the Poona lab turned out to be a cruel joke on the people living within the embankment area. Whether Mishra motivated the laboratory to validate his statement or whether it suggested that he make such a statement about the extent of inundation is difficult to judge.23 Such claims were corroborated by many leading politicians and policy makers of the time, which indeed confused people about the future impact of the decision that had already been taken. To doubly assure the people that the construction of embankments along the rivers would do no harm, the Kosi embankment lobby played its trump card when it succeeded in arranging a visit by Rajendra Prasad, then President of India, during 17–22 October 1954, to many 23

Dinesh Kumar Mishra, ‘Life within the Kosi Embankment’, Water Nepal: Journal of Water Resources and Development, 9 and 10 (1 and 2), July 2001–July 2003, pp. 277–301.

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districts of north Bihar apparently to convince people to come forward and contribute to this great national cause (emphasis mine).24 Here it is imperative to note that Prasad was otherwise known for his anti-dam views. However, the demands of the post-colonial democratic polity had its influence in changing the views of leaders like Prasad. Subsequent developments in the area further reflected the role of institutions and development agencies in determining the culture of governance in this backward region. Since the decade of the 1950s was an era of heightened nationalist fervour and there was tremendous faith and respect for the nationalist political leaders, affected people of the area felt compelled to accept the governmental view. Further, several government agencies (the Kosi Project, the Kosi Area Development Authority, the Kosi Sufferers’ Development Authority, etc.) and voluntary groups (such as the BSS) were formed for the successful implementation of the project and also to deal with the sufferings of embankment victims. The Kosi Control Board (KCB) was formed to ensure public cooperation in the programme. It was expected that the board would create a sense of partnership between the people and the project so that the distance between peoples’ perception and the government’s decision could be lessened or removed. The BSS was initiated by prominent leaders of the Congress to build a cadre of volunteers to undertake earthwork activities to build the embankments and canals, apparently also to have a more visible emblem of peoples’ ownership and concord with the government’s decision. The initiation of construction was widely publicised and large numbers of people were encouraged to participate in this developmental mission. According to the 1951 census, the 304 villages trapped between the embankments had a population of about 192,000. As construction proceeded, the length of the proposed embankments was extended. As a result, the number of villages that would be within the embankment increased to 338. The alignment of the embankments was changed many times and, therefore, authentic data on the number of people actually trapped within the embankments is not available. Unofficial sources claim that today about 800,000 people live within the Kosi embankments, which were built nearly five decades ago to confine the river and 24

Mishra, ‘The Bihar Flood Story’, p. 2213.

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provide security from flooding. But despite this, breaches have occurred several times and have left vast Kosi-dependent regions in north Bihar waterlogged. The issue of compensation and rehabilitation of people trapped between embankments remained unaddressed for a very long time. Even when some initiatives in this direction were taken, it benefited very few people.

Making and Breaking of Embankments: Site for Politics and Patronage Post-colonial Bihar experienced a situation in which the developmental process and governing structure often took recourse to dividing communities and spaces, which had major consequences in the Kosi region. After six decades of Independence and diverse development projects completing their course, the region has the dubious distinction of remaining one of the most backward parts of the country on most social indicators, such as health, education, out-migration, etc. The politics of consideration due to political affiliation and the culture of political patronage made inroads into the political life of post-colonial Bihar. Such considerations have had great influence even on the technical aspects of embankment design and alignments since its inception. The alteration of alignment due to political considerations infuriated people, who mounted pressure on the administration to adhere to the original plan. ‘Jogeshwar Jha, who later became a Member of Parliament, led a movement opposing the alignment. We wanted our village to remain outside the embankment. He asked, “Did not Lalit Narayan Mishra, the administrator of the Kosi Project, T.P. Singh and chief engineer of the project, K.V. Ekambaram, come to our village and tell us, in very plain words, that we would gain if we remained within the embankments?” They did not elaborate on the gains but said that they had come to explain things to us and if we launched a movement, the government was well equipped to deal with it suitably ... We held a meeting of all the village elders and sought a lawyer’s advice. The lawyer told us that if the government wanted to acquire the village land, it would do so and that it was impossible to stop the government’.25 25

Mishra, ‘Life within the Kosi Embankment’, p. 282.

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The language of coercion, threat, and persuasion by the developmental state was played out simultaneously one after another and many a time in synchronisation with each other. Political pressure, the professed demands of nation building, and the government’s superiority of technical knowledge about welfare and development became so overwhelming that any space for genuine claim-making shrank completely. Besides, the politics of changing the alignment of embankments illustrates the influence of caste in the democratic polity and governance structure in Bihar. With pressure tactics and political affiliation, the alignment of the western embankment of Kosi was pushed towards the east, which resulted in the people on the eastern embankment also mounting pressure for changing the alignment. The eastern embankment was supposed to have passed through the villages of Mahisi and Bangaon in Saharsa district. The residents of the Mahisi and Bangaon villages agitated to locate their villages outside the embankment and they succeeded. It is not a coincidence that Bangaon is the biggest village in the area dominated by Brahmins and that it played a decisive role in the electoral arithmetic for the local assembly constituency. In several instances, the spacing between the embankments was revised to suit the caste and political affiliation of people aligned with authority. ‘The spacing between the embankments at Ghoghardiha is 16 km. At Sarauni, many kilometres south, the spacing is only 9 km, whereas it should have been more’.26 Influential politicians of the time were instrumental in taking the decision to keep the village outside the embankment to garner votes. ‘The leaders also played caste games. Brahmins who lived in the villages of Aasi, Kanhai and Gandaul were located outside the embankments’.27 Tul Mohan Ram, a former member of the Lok Sabha, said, ‘The embankment was a political embankment right from the beginning’.28 People of different socio-economic strata and of varied political affiliations echo similar sentiments. In this politics of alignment and realignment, the embankments squeezed in those who were left within from both sides. The simmering discontent and a sense of injustice among people 26

Ibid. Ibid. 28 Ibid. 27

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started gaining ground and the demand for compensation was articulated with greater fervour than ever before. ‘A meeting of representatives from 87 villages under the leadership of Jaidev Salhaita was held at Kusamaul just before the general elections, on 4 February, 1957... The people felt that in order to save 14 villages, the interests of the 79 villages, trapped within the embankments had been sacrificed’.29 The government seemed to have endured these demands and the agitation due to the ensuing general elections of 1957. As soon as the elections were over, the government sent armed police to the embankment construction site. The policies of the government successfully split the people into two factions: those who wanted an increase in spacing between the embankments and those who wanted it to decrease. Stories of animosity, anger and street fights between groups were recounted by people in several villages.30 An uneasy calm and sense of agitation prevailed throughout the western embankment area as the government kept serving notices against obstruction in construction. Despite government notices and threats of use of force, villagers chased away the volunteers of the BSS. The governmental technologies of simultaneously coaxing and coercing continued; sometimes the villagers were cajoled and persuaded by officials and at the very next moment, arrest warrants were issued to the unrelenting agitators. The character of the state was fast evolving as a high-capacity regime that displayed facilitating and retaliating tendencies simultaneously. High-capacity regimes are typically ones with extensive formal democracy, marked by trust of the rulers or the ruling groups in the government, ordered ways of negotiations among groups, similarly ordered ways of interest representation to various organs of government, adjudication, legislation, and a capacity to deploy combinations in various measures of coercion, rewards, and resources, as well as a resolve to tackle contentious claims.31 The governing ‘language of stateness’ of warning and threats can be observed in one of the press releases (Table 3.1 below). T.B. Hansen and F. Stepputat rightly observe that the state not 29

Ibid., p. 286. Personal interviews with the people in affected villages. 31 Ranabir Samaddar, Prescribed, Tolerated, and Forbidden Forms of Claim Making, Calcutta Research Group (Policies and Practice Series), Kolkata: Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group, 2008, p. 7. 30

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only strives to be a state for its citizen-subjects, it also strives to be a state for itself and is expected by populations, politicians, and bureaucrats to employ ‘proper’ languages of stateness in its practices and symbolic gestures.32 Press Release It has been brought to the notice of the state government that the residents of some villages close to the river bank are indulging in all sorts of undesirable activities and obstructing the work going on in the Kosi embankments in Saharsa and Darbhanga districts. The alignment of the embankment has been drawn making the best use of available technology. It is undoubted that the condition of the villages located between the embankments subsequent to their construction would become so unbearable that it would not be possible for them to remain there. The government would put all its might in rehabilitating the residents of such villages. At the same time, it would not tolerate any resistance to the construction by the said villagers. The embankment constructed in the past two seasons have protected a vast area against floods ... It is not desirable that the benefit accruing over a vast area subsequent to the construction of the embankment are allowed to be nullified by the resistance put by a handful of villagers. The government will sympathetically consider their demands put through legitimate and peaceful means. It also wants to make it clear that it will not tolerate any violence and unlawful activity.33

The language and tone of the press release unambiguously illustrate what kinds of claims could be tolerated by the democratic state; precisely, what forms of claim-making it entails. It also underlines the forbidden forms of claim-making which are considered offensive and therefore, to be dealt with by the legal authority of the government. In fact, making claims through requests to an influential political leader, engineer, or bureaucrat and using caste and clan affiliations with the political elite seems


Thomas Blom Hansen, and Finn Stepputat, State of Imagination: Ethnographic Exploration of the Post-Colonial State, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2001, p. 6. 33 Translated from a press release of the government of Bihar, Aryavarta, Patna (ed., 11 April 1957, p. 12), cited in Dinesh Kumar Mishra, Trapped! Between the Devil and the Deep Waters, Dehradun: People’s Science Institute, 2008, p. 56.

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to be a ‘prescribed form’ of claim-making.34 And it further nurtures and sustains the caste and community affiliations that were emerging on the sidelines of embankment construction.

Governing through Voluntary Institutions In the post-Independence developmental processes, leaders like Nehru and Nanda felt the need to mobilise common people for development work on a voluntary basis. This supposedly Gandhian notion of voluntary efforts contributing to the postcolonial development administration was immensely, albeit metaphorically, needed to give a mask of peoples’ consent and involvement. Consequently, the BSS, the voluntary group with government patronage, was established in 1952 to work as a link between the government and people mainly for ensuring public cooperation in the ‘nation-building’ exercise. Involvement in the Kosi Project turned out to be a major responsibility for the BSS and it generated tremendous enthusiasm among people to perform shramdaan. The involvement of people in the voluntary work was so overwhelming that the Kosi Project had to advertise for capping the requirement of volunteers. Besides, the BSS was instrumental in awarding the contracts for earth-cutting, vigilance, etc. Unit leaders of the BSS, who were mukhias (panchayat leaders) of the villages, were allotted 1,000-ft lengths of construction of embankments. In a way, they turned out to be the government contractors and became vocal advocates of embankments, at times even against the wishes of people they were representing in the panchayat. ‘This was an innovative government strategy to build a cadre of embankment advocates at village level, who were coaxing as well as compelling people against fighting with the government. Persuasion to accept compensation offer and threat of government wrath was simultaneously talked about by these BSS leaders,’ said Amrendra Jha of Barahi village, Navhatta, Saharsa. The entire strategy needs to be analysed from the perspective that the Kosi region was a bastion of the Socialist Party and its leaders were committed to its decision that the structure should 34

Drawing from Samaddar, ‘Prescribed, Tolerated and Forbidden Forms of Claim Making’.

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be built only after settling the issue of compensation and rehabilitation to embankment victims. In order to deal with the cadres of people agitating for compensation and rehabilitation, mukhias as unit leaders of the BSS were offered contracts for building the embankment. ‘Thus the potential opponents of the project were purchased and they became its advocates. This was an achievement of the government through BSS’.35 Besides, the sum of 10 per cent of the total amount of construction work that was paid to the BSS, as establishment costs, lead to widespread corruption in its rank and file. ‘It was revealed in 1962, that some 109 unit leaders did not come for work after taking advances from the Kosi Project and another 389 unit leaders had balances due from them after settlement of the final bills, resulting in swollen advances’.36 Invariably, these unit leaders became the agents of the ruling party and government for decades to come and a cadre of contractors-cum-agents informally and indirectly received patronage from prominent political leaders of the area. Though the basic idea behind the involvement of the BSS was augmenting human resources, it got involved in construction of roads, bridges, and canals and subsequently the issue of corruption among the BSS cadre under political patronage was raised in many quarters. It was undeniably an innovative governmental strategy to use a voluntary group and, therefore, to avoid some procedural checks and balances required in stateowned institutional structures. Even in parliamentary debates, L.N. Mishra was charged with withdrawing lakhs of rupees from BSS accounts, though he denied the charges. Earlier also, Mishra had stymied any attempt at auditing BSS funds that was proposed by the then Bihar chief minister, Binodanand Jha. Subsequently, an enquiry commission was constituted in 1968 by the central government under the chairmanship of Justice J.L. Kapoor to look into the working of the BSS. In 1971, the Bihar government led by Karpoori Thakur also constituted a commission of inquiry to examine the financial irregularities of the BSS and the role of Congress political leaders like L.N. Mishra and Lahtan Chaudhary. Within three months of the constitution of the committee, Karpoori Thakur’s government fell and the 35 36

Mishra, Trapped! Between the Devil and the Deep Waters, p. 125. Ibid., p. 126.

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new Congress government that came into power dissolved the commission. Whatever happened in the Kosi Project was best summarised by Baidya Nath Mehta in the Bihar Vidhan Sabha, ‘The works that the Bharat Sevak Samaj did, it took all the profits and money out of the same ... They murdered public cooperation ... misused public money. Apart from corruption in the building of Kosi embankments ... they have exploited the state in the name of public undertaking.’37 Charges of graft, nepotism, and misappropriation of funds were made against L.N. Mishra (then union minister) and Jagannath Mishra (chief minister, Bihar in the mid-1970s and early 1980s) in the construction of guide bundhs, desiltation, and other works. The convener of the special subcommittee of the Bihar Assembly’s 53rd Estimates Committee maintained that the report of the committee clearly established that the families of L.N. Mishra and Jagannath Mishra had been obtaining the contracts and pecuniary benefits by exploiting the official position held by them.38 In its report, the sub-committee had listed many instances of awards of contracts worth crores of rupees to members of Mishra’s family, agents, and relatives, to manoeuvring of transfers and posting of pliable officials in flagrant disregard of established rules, appropriation of contracts in the name of unemployed engineers, floating of fictitious firms, and manipulation of payment of bills not only for works completed but also ‘where no work has been done at all’.39 Besides, people of the area cite numerous instances about how the project provided opportunities to his relatives to amass huge wealth through contracts of various kinds. In fact, the BSS as an organisation and its members became the agents of the ruling party and its political leaders in the area. It also consolidated the process of patronage through the corrupt practices of favouring political affiliates in allocating contracts for public works and gradually, a nexus of leaders–contractors–engineers and bureaucrats made the Kosi Project a money-minting machine. The process of making money to play politics and playing politics to make money was crafted to a fine art by some of these leaders. Local-level engineers, bureaucrats, and institutions were colonised by leaders and their 37

Ibid., p. 131. N. K. Singh, ‘River of Scandal’, Economic and Political Weekly, 8 (37), 15 September 1973, p. 1673. 39 Ibid. 38

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affiliates and a well-structured network of patronage systems had been established. At times the nexus bore a great resemblance to Robert Putnam’s analysis of an uncivic region of Italy: Public life in these regions is organized hierarchically, rather than horizontally. The very concept of ‘citizen’ here is stunted. From the point of view of the individual inhabitant, public affairs is the business of somebody else — i notabili — ‘the bosses’, ‘the politicians’ — but not me … Political participation is triggered by personal dependency or private greed, not by collective purpose.40

Through the politics of dams and embankments, the government succeeded in dividing even the leaders of political parties who had to jettison their previous positions on the issue and re-align themselves, taking into consideration the need to save their constituents from the danger of being trapped in the embankments. As the project had a very important component of irrigation attached to it, the developmental plank forced politicians to align on the basis of pragmatism in securing benefits for their people. Even the election polling booths in the areas trapped within the embankments have been on boats and more often than not, people with muscle power manage to get these ‘abstract’ and ‘unseen votes’. The construction of dams and barrages along with annual maintenance work brought a huge amount of contract work in the area and the politicians got an opportunity to distribute contract work as a mode of patronage to political workers. A new cadre of people were interested in the making of embankments so that they could get employment. They were used by the government as propagandists to emphasise that the demand for embankments was indeed very high and a reality that had to be accepted. This process was marked by a new culture of the politician–bureaucrat–contractor nexus and the influence of money got an important place in electoral politics. The area, which was substantively influenced by socialist ideology, helplessly watched the transformation of the location into a site of a new political culture of post-colonial India. ‘So much so that most of the important socialist leaders of the area joined Congress party in early 1960s and those who 40

Robert Putnam, Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994, p. 115.

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remained in Socialist Party suffered politically’.41 In first the parliamentary election of 1952 both the seats of Saharsa were won by the Socialist Party and the elected representatives were J.B. Kripalani and Kiraya Mushhar.42 However, the political scene changed dramatically in 1957. Kripalani decided to contest from another constituency named Sitamarhi and L.N. Mishra won from Saharsa as a Congress candidate. Thereafter, an era of Congress dominance could be observed till the late 1980s, which got altered substantively only after the electoral success of Lalu Prasad in 1990 on the plank of social justice through the implementation of the Mandal commission recommendations. It ushered in an era during which the domination of the forward castes in Bihar politics for over 38 years was replaced by political parties with OBC leadership and support. However, it had hardly any influence on the nature and pattern of governance, except for a change in the caste profile of intermediaries, contractors, engineers, politicians, etc. The politics of patronage and rampant corruption continued without any disruption. The crisis of governability and rampant corruption in the body politic of the state made the Kosi barrage a barefaced site of plunder and pillage as has been captured by Indu Bharti: Such is the racket of breaches that out of the 2.5 to 3 billion rupees spent annually by the Bihar government on construction and repair works, as much as 60% used to be pocketed by the politician–contractors–engineers nexus. There is a perfect system of percentages in which there is a share for everyone who matters, right from the minister to the junior engineer. The actual expenditure never exceeds 30% of the budgeted cost and after doling out the fixed percentages, the contractors are able to pocket as much as 25% of the sanctioned amount. A part of this they use to finance the political activities of their pet politicians and to get further projects sanctioned. Thus the cycle goes on. [The result is that ...] the contractor’s bills are paid without verifying them. 41

Personal interview with Niras Baba, freedom fighter, and several mukhias of Bara village, Saharsa. 42 Saharsa was a dual-representative constituency (one unreserved, one reserved seat). Although J. B. Kripalani hailed from UP, he decided to contest from here because it was a stronghold of the Socialist Party. Another candidate from the reserved constituency, Kiraya Mushhar, belonged to the Mushhar caste, one of the most deprived, even among Dalits.

Disasters: Experiences of Development  131 The same lot for boulders and craters are shown as freshly purchased year after year and the government exchequer is duped of tens of millions. Many of the desiltation and repair and maintenance works shown to have been completed are never done at all and yet payments are made ... So much is the income of the engineers from the percentages that the engineers do not bother to collect their salaries.43

Ruling political parties of all hues and their cohorts continued the corrupt nexus unabashedly, and alignments and realignments did not bring any change in the way the government functioned. A common man in the Kosi region outspokenly states that the government officials are in league with contractors and through these associations, they channellise the funds for repair works in a manner that by the time repair work commences, the next round of the monsoon and floods arrives, providing the contractors and their connivers scope to claim full credit for work that was hardly undertaken. Even in situations where some work has been done, it is through a set pattern of corrupt practices. While politicians and engineers are paid into cornering embankment works by the contractor, the latter stand to benefit from the use of substandard material for the work.44 ‘As the state and its agencies and agents became more and more corrupt and self-serving, gradually new social forces, containing in their midst new sets of elites, began to challenge the old order, but not its corrupt foundations, in which they all wish to share or control themselves or divide more equitably.’45

The pattern and the nexus were inescapable to the eyes of an otherwise casual observer of the governing strategy in the Kosi region. Apart from mercenary incentives from embankment construction inhibiting the political leadership to suitably modify 43

Indu Bharti, ‘Fighting the Irrigation Mafia in Bihar’, Economic and Political Weekly, 26 (38), 21 September 1991, pp. 38–41. 44 Centre for Science and Environment (hereafter, CSE), Floods, Flood Plains and Environment Myths, New Delhi, 2005, p. 123. 45 Paul R. Brass, ‘India, Myron Weiner and the Political Science of Development’, Economic and Political Weekly, 22 (44), 20 July 2002, pp. 3026–3040, especially p. 3033.

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flood-control policy, the lure of cheap electoral gains also motivates these leaders to maintain the status quo. Embankments, unlike other measures, have a tangible presence and are easier to construct both in terms of time and money. Even their ‘apparent’ gains have an instant manifestation. Consequently, they serve as an effective electoral ploy for politicians to woo their vote banks.46

Compensation, Rehabilitation and Resistance ‘Where there is a power there is resistance, and yet, or rather consequently, this resistance is never in a position of exteriority in relation to power.’47 The universality of resistance is observed in different degrees and in different situations; however, in many circumstances it remains in a state of simmering discontent and the scope of collective insurrection fades away in the quagmire of the struggle for bare existence. The state of Bihar is known for its otherwise astute political awareness and liberating movements from the ancient to the modern era. In the post-colonial phase, the success of the total revolution led by Jaya Prakash Narayan in 1974 and the strong ultra-left movement in the central and southern regions have shown the existence of a vibrant civil and political society in the state. However, when one tries to capture the narratives of victims of embankments and floods in the Kosi region, one realises the extremely constricted role and relevance of civil society. The presence of a vibrant civil society is critical to democratic performance because it broadens the scope and style of claim-making beyond the formal interest representation that defines political society. The political society in the area has invariably been misappropriated for a partisan role by mainstream political parties. Political society in the Kosi region is deeply divided along caste lines and the scope of associational network based on socio-economic association is extremely limited; and in more ways than one, successive governments have worked hard to defeat the possibility of one. Unlike other parts of the country where communities have organised themselves to resist the state’s highhandedness in the recent past (Singur, Nandigram, etc.), 46

CSE, Floods, p. 123. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, vol. I, New York: Random House, 1978, pp. 95–96.


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the situation of the people in the Kosi region could be characterised as one of resignation and withdrawal. Though micromovements against embankments were initiated as early as in 1956, the dominant political force of the area managed either to co-opt many leaders by sharing the booty generated through contract work around dams and embankments or through dealings with the demands through governmental agencies such as the Kosi Sufferers’ Development Authority/Kosi Area Development Authority. The governing elite was fairly successful in co-opting the leaders who were at the forefront of claim-making through favours in the form of contracts, government jobs, grassroots political positions, licences for public distribution shops, etc. Invariably the victims of embankments or floods were left to themselves and they had little option but to resign themselves to fate and to continue living in the zone of exclusion. The precariousness of the people affected by the embankments unfolds before us a chapter which affirms that the history of development should be uniformly read as the history of displacement — and the subsequent process of compensation and rehabilitation often comes as governmental rationality for uprooting the life and livelihood of people. However, in the context of the Kosi Project, the governmental language and communication treated and made demands for rehabilitation a nonissue by any estimate. It was only gradually, when the process of building embankments generated and acquired controversial postures, that the demand for rehabilitation started getting articulated. In the meeting of the KCB in Patna on 2 March 1956, it was reported that the Central Water and Power Commission was opposed to the idea of compensation as this would set a wrong precedent. However, the irrigation minister of the state and administrator of the Kosi Project, T.P. Singh, prevailed against this view and the idea was also subsequently supported by the chief minister of the state. However, at no point in time was it felt necessary to consult the victims regarding rehabilitation; probably ‘people’s participation’ had not acquired any meaning or space in the developmental discourse at that time; even at a superficial level. Unilaterally, the government announced a rehabilitation package that included homestead land at a reasonable distance from the embankment, additional land for community services, provision of tube wells and wells at rehabilitation sites, grants for

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building houses and boats for transport to and from agricultural land, etc., as a result of which less than one-fourth of the families were resettled by the late 1970s. There were several problems in the rehabilitation plan and it turned out to be a total failure. The farmers and labourers were given only homestead land; no land for livelihood was provided. Parmeshwar Kuwar, one of the prominent leaders for the cause of Kosi victims, succinctly analyses the attitude and behaviour of government and its agents regarding rehabilitation: The rehabilitation problem is not yet sorted out there. They have been left to the mercy of god. They are told to settle down four to five miles in the west in Darbhanga district where they do not want to go … Today if the people go to the officials, they tell them to go to the minister and when they contact the minister, he says go and talk to the officials. There are 1,200 bighas of land that have been acquired for resettlement and the people are willing to go there but they are not permitted to get on to this patch of land. The people are in trouble and the government says that the people are too attached to their ancestral land.48

More than 300 villages were affected but only 47 were compensated, that too only for land on which they had their dwellings and not the land they tilled. People kept running from pillar to post and rehabilitation remained an illusion for them, naturally leading to feelings of discontent and a sense of frustration among the victims. The important leaders of the ruling Congress party were voicing their concern for compensation and rehabilitation; however, there was hardly any genuine effort to pay heed to the victims or their concerns. Mostly, the socialist leaders of the area or the leaders belonging to the backward-caste communities took a lead on behalf of the embankment victims. The profile of political leaders who were taking the side of the people trapped within embankments were either socialists or belonged to backward communities, except a few upper-caste Congress leaders whose electoral interest was affected by the embankments. Leaders such as Baidya Nath Mehta, Parmeshwar Kunwar, Tul Mohan Ram, Yuvraj, Janak Singh, and Janki Nandan Singh were vocal in raising the issue in the state assembly and outside. After half a century of 48

Mishra, Trapped! Between the Devil and the Deep Waters, p. 49.

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the Kosi embankments, the socio-economic indicators of the Kosi area are a telling example of its ‘development’. The literacy rate of villages within the embankment varies between 18 per cent to 34 per cent against the state and national average of 47.53 per cent and 65.38 per cent respectively. The female literacy in these villages varies between 8.51 per cent to 20.93 per cent against the state and nation average of 33.57 and 54.16 per cent, respectively. These villages are bereft of roads, electricity, banks, hospitals, colleges, etc., and their living condition is nothing but primitive. The only modes of transportation available to them are boats and, therefore, the availability of boats defines their life and circumstances as well the services they can access and avail of. One of the energetic youths from within the embankment near Navbhatta, Santosh, describes the situation of his village and surroundings areas by drawing on the lines of the novelist Renu: Dhusar, viraan, antheen prantar. Patita bhumi, parti, jamin, vandhya dharti... Dharti nahi, dharti ki laash

(A dusty, desolate, infinite stretch. Fallen land, fallow land, infertile earth. Not earth, a corpse of earth).49

In the absence of a vibrant civil society and fragmentation of embankment victims along caste and political lines, the mobilisation for resistance against the state’s highhandedness regarding compensation and rehabilitation has been sporadic. However, there have been instances when some groups have tried to resist and mobilise communities in situations of dire vulnerability. According to Raghupati of the Sampurna Kranti Manch, a group of grassroots political workers, ‘way back in the mid-1950s, when the embankments were in the first phase of their construction, there were couple of occasions when people rose in organised protest against their construction and there were even


From Phanishwar Nath Renu’s novel Parti Parikatha. One of the most noted Hindi novelists of regional-style writing, Renu wrote this novel in 1957. It was written at the time when the process of making dams and embankments was initiated.

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instances of police firing against them’.50 Again, after the 1984 breach in the eastern Kosi embankment that engulfed 196 villages in Saharsa district, Sarvodaya leaders like Shivanandbhai and Prembhai mobilised large numbers of people and also filed a case in the Supreme Court. Despite the Supreme Court’s directive for the formation of a high-powered committee to assess compensation claims of flood victims, the state government did not act. The Sarvodaya leaders could not sustain their legal battle against the state and the claims of flood victims were never attended to. Unfortunately, localised mobilisation and struggles often remained unregistered by people in power. Even the media hardly takes cognisance of localised mobilisation and protest.

Developmental Tools as Modes of Appeasement It was widely perceived that the Kosi Project would usher in an era of agricultural prosperity for the region, which had so far suffered on account of the fury of floods. Whatever the gains, the benefits have, however, been shared unequally, the bulk of the gains accruing to substantial landowners. The Kosi tamed, in the absence of essential structural changes, has turned out to be an instrument of iniquity.51 The salient features of the agrarian structure of the Kosi area are extreme concentration in the ownership of land, absentee landlordism with all its accompanying evils, widespread share-cropping characterised by insecurity of tenure, rack-renting, and other outrageous images of inequities. Besides, many landless agricultural labourers were left eking out a precarious livelihood under the extant semi-feudal relations of production in agriculture. The late 1960s and mid-1970s witnessed a decline in popular support for the Congress party and when in 1977 Karpoori Thakur formed a Janata Party government in Bihar, it tried to prove that their governance was different from the Congress party’s and was explicitly pro-poor. As the situation of landlessness and conflict around share-cropping were acute in the Purnea area and agrarian tension was building up fast, a developmental programme called ‘Kosi Kranti’ (Kosi revolution) was launched in five developmental blocks of Purnea district. 50

CSE, Floods, p. 214. P. S. Appu, ‘Unequal Benefits from Kosi Development: Cost of Bypassed Institutional Reform’, Economic and Political Weekly, 8 (24), 16 June 1973, pp. 1076–1081.


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With most of the people remaining landless or as sharecroppers and wage rates being extremely low, Kosi Kranti aimed at land reform along with the socio-economic development of peasants by ensuring benefits of irrigation facilities created by the Kosi Project. However, in reality, ‘Kosi Kranti’ was yet another effort at agrarian pacification in a new idiom. According to B.G. Verghese, journalist and author of a report on the land reform project of the A.N. Sinha Institute, Patna: ‘Purnea is an area of known agrarian tension that has witnessed past violence and it is important to demonstrate a workable Gandhian alternative.’ Further, ‘The situation is explosive and must be remedied unless the future is to be abandoned to violence...52 The landlords started clamouring against the programme soon after it was announced. Legislators from the area, irrespective of their political affiliations, unleashed a campaign in the legislature, in the press and in the area itself, saying that Kosi Kranti would turn into ‘Khooni Kranti’. They challenged the laws, attacked the government, and instilled fear in the bureaucracy.53 The landlords of the area also orchestrated communal violence in the area and all governmental agencies lost complete interest in any major initiative. The bureaucrats were hand-in-glove with the landed gentry as they believed that their interests were intertwined with the elite. Once again, it was proved that irrespective of a change in regime, the structure and institutions of governance showed remarkable resilience, which brings us to examine the nature and mechanism of response to one of the recent disasters in the region.

Governmental Response to Kosi Floods in 2008 Though floods are an annual feature in the Kosi region of Bihar, and people have learnt to cope and live with them, in 2008 the situation turned into a catastrophe.54 Before the final breach took place, 52

A. S., ‘Fiasco of Kosi Kranti’, Economic and Political Weekly, 14 (34), 25 August 1979, p. 1451. 53 Ibid. 54 Manish K. Jha and Vijay Raghavan, Disaster in Bihar: A Report from TISS Assessment Team, unpublished report of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, 2008, p. 3, repecDownload.aspx?fname=Document16102008271.267642E-02.pdf&fcate gory=Articles&AId=1711&fref=repec.

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the flooding started at an embankment on the Kosi river near Kushaha area in southern Nepal much earlier, where the barrage was breached and burst. Two spurs, 200 m and 269 m long, were constructed at this site. However, the river meandering between the two embankments came very close to the spurs and started eroding it. The process started on 5 August and the embankments were finally breached on 18 August. People of the area consider this as a clear case of dereliction of duty and criminal negligence on the part of all those responsible for maintenance.55 It is crucial to understand that since the time the barrage was built on the Kosi, following the Indo-Nepal Water Management Agreement in 1954, the Indian government shouldered the responsibility (as per the terms of reference of the Indo-Nepal Friendship Treaty) for maintenance and repairing work on the embankment in order to protect the people living downstream in Bihar, whereas the Nepal government was in charge of monitoring the flood waters. The local people, activists, and media persons, irrespective of their affiliations, point towards widespread corruption at every level in the process of awarding and executing the annual maintenance contract. They are of the view that the politician–bureaucrat– engineer–contractor nexus has allegedly been siphoning off money on the pretext of maintenance work. The 2008 floods severely affected five districts, 114 revenue blocks, and around 3,000 villages. A population of around 5 million (48.5 lakhs) has been affected by the disaster which destroyed 322,169 houses and engulfed a crop area of 3.38 lakh hectares. The estimation of loss of human lives and cattle was something about which the administration had no clues. Based on the recovery of dead bodies, the official death toll was 235 human lives and 787 cattle. However, those who were working in the affected areas know that the death toll was much higher and that the state would never cite the correct figures for obvious reasons of compensation and rehabilitation. It is interesting to examine the functioning of government agencies in the 2008 Kosi floods as it simultaneously demonstrates the pulls and pressures by competing political parties, the relationship between the state and central governments, the caste dynamics in the area and its 55

Observation based on numerous interviews immediately after floods as also in February 2010.

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implications for relief, and the government’s approach. The Kosi region is dominated numerically by Yadavs and Dalits who traditionally voted in favour of Lalu Prasad and Ramvilas Paswan. Though the candidates from their political parties lost from most of the constituencies of the area in the last assembly election, they thought that the flood provided them an opportunity to influence the communities by arranging relief packages for the flood victims. On the other hand, the present chief minister, who is otherwise appreciated for ‘good governance’, was lackadaisical in the relief and rehabilitation of flood victims, the reason for which can be gauged — the political affiliation of caste groups. Here, it is important to highlight that the state government was generally praised for flood relief in 2007 in flood-affected areas near Patna, a stronghold of the chief minister, Nitish Kumar. The laid-back approach in disaster response was evident at different levels of administration. There were only three choppers deployed for air dropping food packets in one of the most devastating floods of 2008, whereas the state deployed 13 choppers in the 1987 floods and 11 choppers in the 2004 floods, though the magnitude was far less in the earlier instances. Similarly, deployment of boats for evacuation was negligible compared to the population that needed to be evacuated. It seemed that the state abandoned the people, waiting for the water level to recede on its own. Instead, the government machinery was busy talking to the media and aiming to play down the loss of lives and magnitude of the problem. It refused to register the number of missing people.56 ‘The Government of India and Bihar are going about the relief work as if it is a favour they are doing for the people,’ wrote Himanshu Thakkar, the journalist and water-rights specialist. ‘That favour is being doled out in a totally haphazard, unplanned, callous way.’57 The perceptions of the victims as well as the relief workers were in agreement when they underlined that the government machinery was taking steps strictly in view of the likely political dividends. It proves that ‘[g]overnments can use natural disasters to redistribute power through the political effect, favouring 56

Based on the author’s personal observation and interview with flood victims in several camps immediately after the floods and during the period when rescue and relief work was in operation. 57

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disaster spending in regions that are politically aligned with the party in power’.58 Governments can use natural disasters to redistribute power through the political effect, favouring disaster spending in regions that are politically aligned with the party in power.59 A correlation between proximity to power and better flood relief and distance from power leading to discrimination can be ascertained through differential state responses in different flood zones. In one of the worst floods in Darbhanga district in the year 2002, 1,078 villages with a population of 26.26 lakhs were affected. Assuming a family size of six, nearly 437,670 families must have suffered from the deluge. According to official figures, only 28,839 families were given shelter, which was just 6.6 per cent of the families affected by floods. On the other hand, if one looks into the details of Gopalganj district, which also happened to be the home district of the then chief minister, one finds that 314 villages with a population of 690,000 were affected by floods that year. The government, however, provided relief to 58,295 families, that is, 50.25 per cent of the affected families.60 Relief becomes a political tool because through relief, supporters can be obliged and by depriving people of relief, opponents can be ignored or punished. However, despite widespread resentment against the government’s response to the 2008 Kosi floods, the electoral outcome did not reflect it. The fragmentation of communities between other backward castes (OBC)/extreme backward castes (EBC),61 Dalit/Maha-Dalits,62 as well as Muslims/Pasmanda Muslims,63 became a critical factor for the electoral outcome rather than disillusionment with governing processes. In several villages, where people had a strong antipathy for Lalu Prasad, the political discourse blamed him for the floods. ‘Lalu, jo ki rail mantri 58

Charles Cohen and Eric D. Werker, ‘The Political Economy of “Natural” Disasters’, Journal of Conflict Resolution, 52 (6), December 2008, p. 797. 59 Ibid. 60 Mishra, ‘Floods and Some Legal Concerns’, p. 315. 61 As opposed to Lalu Prasad’s influence on OBCs, Nitish Kumar is making efforts to consolidate votes among EBCs through the provision of reservation of seats in panchayats and several other governmental decisions. 62 Those at the lowest rung, even in the Dalit category and most disenfranchised, even among Dalits. 63 Pasmanda Muslims are a marginalised community belonging to ‘Arzal’ and they demand preferential treatment from the state.

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hai, ne raksha mantralaya ke sahyog se baandh pe bumb lagwa ke use uda diya taaki Nitish sarkar ki phajihat ho” (Rail Minister Lalu Prasad has taken help from the ministry of defence in planting a bomb near the dam so that the Nitish government is defamed),’ commented Raghu Sharma of village Choti Baisa in Sonbarsa block, Saharsa. It was observed during field visits that there was a pattern in such propaganda and certain government officials gave a fillip to it either by affirmative nods or assenting silence. It is yet another intriguing fact that the caste most affected by the 2008 floods was the Yadav caste and this was considered the main reason behind Lalu Prasad’s concern and outcry for flood victims. Instances of social exclusion, faced by people coming from poor and marginalised sections in distribution of relief material, were narrated in camps after camps. Shyam Sada, one of the people we met, said, ‘Invariably, the administration acted through representatives of panchayat institutions who cared more for their families, relatives and supporters.’ ‘While dominant people influence the administration and get away safely, we are never counted and left behind, he added. An illiterate Sada tried to succinctly put the meaning of electoral politics in perspective, when he opined, ‘Election jitney ke baad to mukhia sabka pratinidhi hota hai na ki sirf unka jo unko vote dete hain; agar waisa nahi ho to election ka matlab hi kya hai?’ (After getting elected as mukhia,64 the elected person is representative of all and not only those who voted for him; if that doesn’t happen, then what is the meaning of democratic elections?). This apparently unadorned statement puts a big note of interrogation over the entire notion of representative democracy, but ironically Shyam’s voice appears to be a cry in the wilderness. Theoretically and technically, people have power over the state through their voting right in this largest democratic country of the world, but in practice this right means nothing. Where inequalities between social categories are so pronounced as to create extra-constitutional forms of binding authority (clientelism, patriarchy, caste subordination), the exercise of citizenship is subverted.65 64

A mukhia is an elected representative of the panchayat, a democratic, decentralised institution for rural governance. 65 Heller, ‘Degrees of Democracy: Some Comparative Lessons from India’, p. 489.

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The process of relief distribution was marred by utter chaos, confusion, and bureaucratic complexities in the relief distribution centres (to supply relief materials to villagers) in the flood-affected districts. Certain procedures needed to be followed, which were somewhat like this: villagers from a particular ward had to put in an application addressed to the block development officer (BDO) specifying the name of the village, ward number, name of the panchayat and the block to which they belonged. The application had also to contain a rough estimate of the affected families in the ward and type of relief material required — food, polythene sheets, bottled water, etc. The application had to be endorsed by at least one member of the ward committee or the panchayat or other representatives like the mukhia. These applications then had to be submitted to the BDO or the district collector land revenue (DCLR) stationed in the relief camp, who then scrutinised the application and issued a receipt or a token number which specified the type and quantity of material to be given. Food packets were kept in packed polybags consisting of chuda (flattened rice flakes), sattu (ground gram), jaggery, candles, matches, etc. These packets were then put into jute sacks each containing around 10 such bags. Depending on the assessment of the DCLR, the applicant was then issued with a token specifying the number of packets or sacks to be given to the villagers. However, there was no fixed place or designated area where the BDO/DCLR sat, which meant that the applicant had to keep shifting her or his base from one building to another. As people continued following him or her, it increased the chaos and confusion in the camp on several occasions, leading to instances of violent conflict — women and old persons were unable to access the DCLR/BDO due to the prevailing chaos. A number of people, many of them women, said that the ward and panchayat members in their village had shifted out of the village after the floods. They were, therefore, unable to get their applications endorsed by the representatives concerned. The scrutinising officers, instead of helping them by identifying a solution or an alternative, expressed their inability to provide relief material to them. The affected districts, where the literacy rate ranges between 20–40 per cent and where most of the affected Dalits and EBcs/OBCs are illiterate, it was evident that the procedure was a deliberate attempt to exclude a large chunk of already marginalised people and communities. ‘Sirf dabang logon ka hi dabdaba tha aur wo sab relief pe kabja kar lete the’ (The powerful and mighty had control

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over relief material and they used to capture all relief materials), said Nunu Mistry of Kataiya, Supaul. Such chaos and a complex system helped the dominant caste and sections of populace to get a larger share of relief materials and the weak were left far behind. Better access to information and greater familiarity and ability to deal with government officials and procedures certainly made things easy for influential people. People failed to understand the governmental rationality behind the procedure whereby flood victims needed approval or endorsement from the authorities to get food and relief. It is important to iterate that these bureaucratic processes resulted in the active exclusion of the dispossessed and vulnerable people. It also demonstrated that in their modus operandi the relations between care and power get revealed and the revelation is not soothing to the victims. One also observed how in the form of disaster response, such as declaring a ` 1,000-crore package for flood victims and several other announcements, the governmentality and physicality of politics was blatantly played out. Post-disaster intervention of the governmental agencies in handing out ex-gratia payments, procedures of verification of claims, use of police, etc. were essentially based on mistrust. The design so developed intended to dispossess the people who were supposed to be in some kind of social contract with the state and in turn, the state is obliged to take care of them. Though the disaster-management policy of the Indian government aims at using disaster as an opportunity to build an equitable society, the government notification for compensation officially discriminates against the poor. ‘Bade logon ko 25,000 milne ki baat hai kyon ki pucca ghar ke liye utna milta hai jabki unka ghar to tuta bhi nahi; hamari jhopri bhi bah gayee aur mahino ka kaam chala gaya lekin hamen 5,000 hi milega — pata nahi ye kaun sa sarkari nyay hai’ (The powerful people will get ` 25,000 because compensation for a concrete house is that much, however, their house is still intact. Our mud houses were washed away and we lost work for months together, still we will get only ` 5000 — we don’t know what kind of governmental justice this is), said Bidyanath Sarma with utmost anguish and frustration.66 The analysis of several emergency contexts exposes the fact that 66

According to norms specified in the Calamity Relief Fund and National Calamity Contingency Fund for the period 2005–10 (MHA Letter No. 32–34/ 2007-NDM-I dated 27 June 2007).

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the profile of victims influences the decisions of treatment and compensation by the governing regimes. The socio-economic and political status of affected people defines the decision of regimes to fix the compensation together with anticipated and potential political dividends. Meagreness of compensation and the process of delivery clearly demonstrate the class character of the governing process and how it still characterises the initiative as disaster response. The study of disaster and vulnerabilities helps in unravelling and dissecting governing practices by democratic regimes from the time of rescue to rehabilitation. It takes days to rescue stranded victims and the state comes across as a weak and unprepared agency, which is substantively different from other situations where the state portrays its robustness. Though flood-control policies are in place and the state follows a certain stipulated timeline for issuing government orders for prevention, monitoring, and relief of floods mostly as a ritual, year after year, the experiences one comes across from previous years as well as the one generated through discussion with the victims demonstrate a lack of seriousness and sense of responsibility among political leaders and government officials — and remain the definitional features. ‘The formal functioning of relief camp was postponed as it was decided that it could only be inaugurated by the minister by ceremonial cutting of a ribbon,’ said Deep Narayan sarcastically.67 The inauguration of the relief camp was delayed and thus postponed the operation and distribution of relief for the victims. Unfortunately, the discourse of development democracy as it obtains amongst us rotates around relief materials such as polythene sheets, salt, candles, etc. and larger and pressing issues of claim-making as a right and entitlement is diffused in the process. During conversations with the author of this article during flood relief, even the chief secretary of the state categorically mentioned that until the victims come to the government camps, no relief can be supplied to them.68 In an another 67

Several photographs and new clippings of local newspapers substantiate the statement. 68 Telephonic conversation between the author and the chief secretary of Bihar … I was talking about thousands of people who were stationed near

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instance, after one and half months of the floods, the government stopped supplying food to the camps; however, many people were still staying in camps because flood water had not receded from their villages — but when government staff visited these camps, they instructed people to hand over the tents to government officials immediately.69 One wondered why the government suddenly required those torn tents and why people were literally forced to vacate camps. Resistance or even simple queries provoked angry reactions from those who represented the government. ‘In logon ko har saal relief lene ke aadat ho gaye hai, ye yahan baith ke khana chahte hai’ (they are habituated to relief every year, they want to eat government relief by sitting idle), was a comment encountered from most of the government staff irrespective of their rank and position. A sense of distance added by an attitude of suspicion governs the mindset of governing agents. Unlike general expectations, even the public and performative act of governance in the Kosi region is far from sensitive, leave aside any expectations for compassion or caring action. In the context of marginality, a disaster situation pushes vulnerable communities to the limits of subsistence.

Kosi: Migration and Deprivation Thar, thar kaanpe dharti maiya, roye ji aakash Ghari ghari par murcha lage, ber ber pyas Ghat na sujhe, baat na sujhe, sujh na apan haath (Mother earth shivers coupled with the sky shedding tears Each moment marks lifelessness with recurrent thirst overpowering us Can’t see the bank, can’t see the way out and can’t even make out our own hands)

This folk song depicts an elderly singer crying while singing it but no one comes to his rescue. The dance of Kosi destroys the Kataiya power plant and no government relief was reaching them. As this was not a government notified camp, it was not ready to take any responsibility. 69 On behalf of TISS, I was coordinating relief work in the area and I had several arguments with government staff against such decisions.

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fields, ravages villages, kills people, and leaves behind sand and barren land. And the situation becomes so precarious that migration becomes the only option for a livelihood. The history of migration from the Kosi region is inextricably interlinked with the devastation caused by the river and the policies of colonial as well as post-colonial governments. During the colonial regime, the fury of the Kosi was at its peak and the massive amount of sand and silt brought by it would leave the area unfit for cultivation for decades. In fact, a trend of migration started in the 19th century and it was actively encouraged by the local administration. Hill’s study of Dharampur estate shows how the colonial administration decided to experiment with famine control by means of migration, a policy partially based, as the ‘Dufferin Report’ detailing the condition of Bengal peasantry later noted, on the results of the Irish potato famine of the 1840s.70 However, during the colonial regime, the peasants of the Kosi area were moving within the region itself, following the pattern forced upon them by the destruction caused by the Kosi. The migratory pattern has drastically changed with the decision of making dams and embankments in the post-colonial phase. With the embanking of the river, large tracts of land and thousands of people are facing water-logging throughout the year. With very few opportunities to cultivate land, denial of rehabilitation, and minuscule employment possibilities, people are left with only one option — to migrate from the area. The mass exodus of people from within the embankments as also from outside embankments started with the initiation of the project and has continued unabatedly since then. Village after village, people and communities manage to survive from the ‘money-order economy’, that is, money being sent by the migrants from their destinations. Earlier, labourers from these areas used to migrate to the east and north-eastern part of the country, such as Kolkata and Assam; however, due to a hostile political atmosphere against migrants in Assam and West Bengal and with the increasing opportunities offered in the states where the green revolution succeeded, the trend altered. The labourers started getting employment in Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, and other parts of the country. It is a common observation and proven fact that able-bodied adult males are virtually not 70

Hill, ‘Philosophy and Reality in Riparian South Asia’, p. 266.

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seen in the hinterlands of the Kosi region as most of them prefer migrating for work. Estimates suggest that more than ` 1,000 crore comes to Bihar every year through money orders, although there is no accurate estimate. In most cases, despite the money from migrant members, the families of these workers face all kinds of vulnerabilities and marginalisation. A study conducted by Barh Mukti Morcha found that of 475 adult males in Parsauni village (within the embankment), 278 had migrated. Similarly, in two other villages within the embankment, namely Lilja and Gopalpur Khurd, 72 and 86 adults had migrated, out of the total adult male population of 130 and 150 respectively.71 The situation is no better in the villages outside the embankments. ‘Two out of three sons in a household migrate out of the village for six to nine months in a year,’ says Sikander Sarma from Parokhia. The most common destinations are Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh.72 The migrants are mainly employed as agricultural labourers in potato farms, as workers in cloth and cement packaging industries and as labourers on construction sites. The wages earned vary between ` 50 and ` 150 per day; the standard income of a household in Chhoti Baisa through migration would be between ` 3,000 and ` 4,000 per month.73 The phenomenon of a sustained supply of a regular workforce of migrant workers to destinations where they operate under squalid conditions, simultaneously consolidates zones of prosperity and zones of exclusion. The situation is equally deplorable when one looks at the prevalence of child labour in this area. It has been found that a vast number of rescued children from several factories, etc., come from the districts of the Kosi region. The predicament of the migrant workers is appalling — the report on unorganised sector workers highlights the hazards of travel, deplorable living conditions, low wages, irregular payment, long hours of work, alien work conditions, absence of occupational health and safety provisions, and vulnerability to the recruiting agent.74 Besides, 71

Barh Mukti Abhiyan Survey, 2003; cited in Mishra, Trapped! Between the Devil and the Deep Waters. 72 Personal interview. 73 Shared by villagers in FGD. 74 ‘Report on Conditions of Work and Promotion of Livelihoods in Unorganised Sector’, Government of India: National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector, 2007, p. 129.

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hostile behaviour, threats, and violence perpetrated by nativist right-wing political groups are making the situation much more difficult for these migrants.75 While travelling from the source to the destination, the exploitation and harassment of migrant labourers by police personnel is a common phenomenon. Invariably, the police seek identity cards and other proof from labourers and on that pretext, extort money from the migrants. It is an intriguing fact that despite such a mass exodus from the area, none of the political parties that have come to power have made any effort to deal with the issue. Moreover, the governmental strategies seem to be encouraging and facilitating migration rather than making an effort to enhance employment opportunities at the source. The ministry of railways decided to introduce a train, ‘Jan Seva Express’, with only unreserved compartments (with wooden seating/sleeping planks) to carry migrant labourers from the source (the Saharsa–Kosi region) to destination (Amritsar–Punjab) at a subsidised fare of ` 155 for 1,551 km. Besides, the first subsidised A/C train, ‘Garib Rath’, was also introduced on the same route. A visit to Saharsa railway station at the time of arrival or departure of these trains, from where these trains originate, clearly show the commercial viability of the decision as it is obvious that a stampede-like situation prevails most of the time. The modus operandi of the state reflects its tacit support in facilitating out-migration, thereby minimising its developmental responsibilities vis-à-vis flood victims. Perennially on the brink of a flood threat, the landless poor of the area have been migrating out of state for decades, but the response of the governing regime during the recent floods made the Kosi region a site of forced migration. The government announcement of ticketless travel for flood victims facilitated mass migration of people from the area. Due to the lack of political will to deal with the challenges of disaster, such governmental strategy tactfully minimises any scope of claim-making by the people. Thousands of people had started migrating within one week of the disaster in search of some livelihood; they knew they had to start life afresh. Large numbers of people, mainly landless labourers belonging to Dalit and extremely backward communities, were convinced about 75

Recent incidents in Maharashtra are one such example.

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their loss of livelihood for years to come. Many of them were not even sure about where they were going, but they knew for sure that if their families had to survive, they would have to migrate to earn a living. ‘At least 200 flood-hit families from Murliganj in Madhepura district, who were rescued and brought in relief camps in Purnea, left for Punjab and Delhi in search of a livelihood’.76 Information about distress migration is pouring in from all across the flood-affected region. In many families, the men have migrated and women and children have been left behind in a state of fear and anxiety. The disaster situation in the Kosi region once again proves that women suffer in varied forms during and after disaster. Naila Kabeer points out that the intersection of genderbased discrimination and economic deprivation means that women from poor households represent a particular category of social exclusion, facing greater discrimination in meeting their basic needs than men from poor households and more likely to slide into greater poverty in a situation of crisis.77 The case of a Dalit woman Buchiya Devi is a Dalit of the Rishidev caste, which is one of the most downtrodden castes in north Bihar. She lives in Parokia village of the Sonbarsa panchayat of Saharsa district in north Bihar. Married off at a pre-adolescent age to Basar Sada, she soon realised that she could not conceive. Subsequently, her husband began to fall ill regularly, and was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He was unable to go out to earn, and Buchiya was compelled to work in the fields as an agricultural labourer. Daily wages were ` 20–25 per day, which was barely enough to cover household expenses. Her husband would make bamboo baskets to sell in and around the village. In the year 2000, her husband fell very ill and needed immediate medical treatment. They took a loan of ` 18,000 from the local zamindar (landlord) at 10 per cent interest per month, and the burden of paying it off still rests on her. Despite all efforts however, her husband died after four years. Now a widow, Buchiya has no other support system. The floods (Box Continued ) 76

Hindustan Times, Patna edition, 4 September 2008. Naila Kabeer, ‘Poverty, Social Exclusion and the MDGs: The Challenge of “Durable Inequalities” in the Asian Context’, IDS Bulletin, 37 (3), Brighton: Institute of Development Studies, 2006.


150 — Manish K. Jha (Box Continued )

have resulted in exacerbating her vulnerability to lower depths. She had a partially constructed house granted to her through the Indira Awas Yojana, but it was washed away in floods, compelling her to live in a thatched hut. All the nearby fields are waterlogged, rendering agriculture impossible, which means that her only source of livelihood is now no more. Today, at the age of 47 years and completely illiterate, there are no other ways of earning a living for her. What is worse is that often her wages used to be in the form of grain, rather than cash. This means that after the floods, she has neither food nor money stored for dire times which she can use. Today, she survives on a meagre diet of maize chapattis and snails, only due to the benevolence of her neighbours. Even any rudimentary form of health care is completely denied to her, and she seems indignant at the question. When asked, she exclaims, ‘Whether I have illnesses is irrelevant. Is anything going to change by being ill, is there any support for me? Then how does it matter?’ The panchayat, truly representative of a defunct local self-governance system has not offered any support. Though she is eligible for a widow’s pension, none of the villagers have had any experience of actually receiving benefits from any scheme. The mukhia never comes to the village, and is basically inaccessible even though he is a Rishidev himself. There are five other Rishidev members in the 14-member panchayat of that region, but they do not even know when the schemes come and go! This is not to say that she lacks political awareness in any way. She is proud of the fact that she has been voting for ages now, and it has always been out of her own volition (apne marzi se, kisi ke kehne se nahin). Even then, the accountability of the elected members is a matter of concern, which she feels is beyond her control. Even while speaking, she has a distant withdrawn look on her face, akin to one who has lost hope ages ago, and now passes each day like a stranger to life. Sebati, Tata Institute of Social Services team, 2008.

In the Kosi region, which has always been at the margins of existence and which is infamous for out-migration, people have forgotten either to make claims or even to expect any substantive support from governmental. Forced migration, trafficking, child labour, etc., have become the coping mechanisms for people ravaged by Kosi disasters.

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Conclusion As has been exhibited through the narration of experiences and observations, the governing process in a developmental democracy is always permeated with and mediated by politics, which operates through the mandate of policy prescription and institutional arrangements. The illustrations of the Kosi experiences is an attempt to locate the vernacular notion of governance in the wider ambit of the state, its developmental strategies, and approaches to maintain order and authority with the conscious use of the language of stateness. Carefully choosing instances and initiatives since the early days of the post-colonial state, the case study depicts the interplay of grassroots politics, which was embedded in and in turn influential in shaping governing strategies. It shows how political interest shapes the agenda of the state and governance and, therefore, serves interested constituents and social interests. Even with a change of the political regime, a pattern of continuity in governance procedure, policy, and behaviour of institutions is observed from the 1950s to 2010, major political shifts in the nature and character of governing elites notwithstanding. The same governmental largesse and patronage route have been used by ruling parties of different hues and alteration, discernible in the form of the caste background of contractors, engineers, and bureaucrats as also the caste and party profile of local political leaders, which is largely in agreement with what appropriately elaborate: ‘... each new regime builds a number of new institutions or nurses particular areas with greater care and zeal, often reflecting the larger ideological formations and communities out of which they have emerged. In intensely competitive democratic set-ups, the result seems to be that each political movement or party seeks to establish and maintain zones of loyalty, reproduced through flows of patronage ...’78 The political culture in the area thrives on doling out favours in the forms of transfer and posting of bureaucrats and engineers, arranging contracts for their political cadres and ensuring monetary resources for their respective political parties by way of kickbacks. The interweaving of political interest with 78

Hansen and Stepputat, State of Imagination, p. 30.

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embankment repair, breaches, and relief and rehabilitation measures is an indication of the extent to which politics can degenerate when politicians derive political capital out of people’s plight and misery. Hansen and Stepputat go on to say: Most political figures are involved in this ‘political retailing’ that has very little to do with dominating or restructuring the state, but merely with influencing the course of a few micro-operations of the state. But the net result of these millions of everyday interventions in the functioning of local institutions is, of course, that governance becomes increasingly ‘porous’ and fragmented at the local level and the implementation of most policies are deflected, if not stunted.79

Besides, a lack of sensitivity due to the rigid frame of bureaucratic understanding and language creates a hiatus between the state and its social constituencies. Whether denial of relief by a chief secretary to those who are away from government-drawn boundaries even in emergency situations, or the decision of a BDO to force people to surrender their tents when they still needed to be in camps, clearly exposes the undemocratic and insensitive face of a supposedly representative and accountable democratic regime. The encounter between the government and people is apparently premeditated, repeatedly structured and performed from a range, which is either proximate or distant depending upon the socio-political placement of people. The various agencies of government act in such a manner that the whole discourse of claim-making is caught in claiming polythene sheets for tents, a few kilograms of grains, candles, milk powder and medicines. Consequently, the larger questions remain with the victims or they are not heard or answered. In fact, there is hardly any space or scope for substantive claims by way of demanding rights for a dignified existence as citizens of the state. The social groups are invariably at the receiving end they inhabit, that is to say, the rough and tumble world of political society, where governmental agencies are met by with and by stealth, and not uncommonly by violence.80 Low levels of literacy and 79

Ibid., p. 32. Stuart Corbridge, Glyn Williams, Manoj Srivastava, and Rene Veron, Seeing the State: Governance and Governmentality in India, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005, pp. 1, 2.


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discriminatory treatment by dominant caste/class-controlled institutions and the governing elite have further constricted the scope for associational autonomy for lower castes and classes. Though the political regime has been represented by political parties led by backward caste leaders in Bihar, practices of social exclusion by governing actors as also by the dominant society at large has not altered in any substantive way. Evidently, the situation also reveals a colossal disconnect between expressed societal anger and frustration towards governing agencies and individuals, including those in political parties. In this regime, its agents and the dominant constituencies, the frustrations of the larger masses do not get articulated in any significant manner. It has also been observed that the political decision of reserving seats for extremely backward castes in panchayats and favourable promises for Maha-Dalits and Pashmanda Muslims, etc., helps constitute electoral majorities, but ends there. In reality the politics that determines the character of the state in the Kosi region is consistently run by an assemblage of political workers-cum-contractors, dalals (brokers), and crooks. They ‘surround the “official state”, deprive it of funds, and help to ensure that it is run in part for the private benefit of some of its employees’.81 On the other side, the government agencies and agents fail the poor and vulnerable on a recurring basis and yet, ironically, the government is called a representative democratic regime.


Ibid., p. 4.

4 Between Ecology and Economy: Environmental Governance in India Sutirtha Bedajna With the advent of neoliberalism, the discourse on governance has taken an interesting turn to further introspection in a changing world. The world, facing the opportunities and challenges of liberalisation, urges good governance, which has been defined by the World Bank through four key elements: (a) public sector management; (b) accountability; (c) legal framework for development; and (d) information and transparency.1 All these are assumed as prerequisites for sound socio-economic development. In a resource-oriented, globalised, liberal world, governance is projected as perhaps the most appropriate device to confront and mitigate the challenges of the network society.2 The World Bank has defined good governance in the following manner: ‘Good governance is epitomised by predictable, open and enlightened policy making, a bureaucracy imbued with a professional ethos acting in furtherance of the public good, the rule of law, transparent processes and a strong civil society participating in public affairs.’3 Governance is also articulated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in terms of eight major imperatives. They are participation, rule of law, transparency, responsiveness, consensus-orientation, equity and inclusiveness, effectiveness and efficiency, and accountability. Participation means informed and organised involvement either 1 Bidyut Chakrabarty and Mohit Bhattacharya, ‘Introduction’ in Bidyut Chakrabarty and Mohit Bhattacharya (eds), The Governance Discourse: A Reader, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2008, p. 5. 2 Ibid. 3 Ibid.

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directly or through legitimate intermediate institutions or representatives. Rule of law urges fair legal frameworks that can be enforced impartially with full protection of human rights, particularly those of minorities. The freely and directly available information to those who will be affected by the process of governing and enforcement is the criterion of transparency. By being responsive, governance can gain legitimacy and effectiveness in the public domain. Good governance is expected to reach a broad consensus on issues that are in the best interest of the whole community in spite of the existence of different interest groups and voices in society. All the members of a society should feel included in the mainstream and should have an opportunity to improve or maintain their well-being. Efficiency addresses the best and sustainable use of natural resources and protection of the environment. And on the whole, accountability is the key factor of good governance.4 Good governance is the instrument to attain development in the most democratic way; at least that is what the present neoliberal discourse tells us. It is expected to play basically the role of mitigation or facilitation in the process of development. On the other hand, the question of markets, both local and global, arises especially in the post-1991 paradigm. Integrating markets has evolved as an instrument to attain developmental goals where liberal measures, tariff-free exchanges, and less controls on markets have gained prominence. However, certain aspects, identified as the prerequisites of developmental practices, have emerged for which market-clearing methods may not be sufficient and some sort of monitoring, control, and policy prescriptions are needed. Improvement or maintaining the status of the environment and environmental concerns are two of the prerequisites of developmental practices. The natural environment may play a role of negative externality in the process of development,5 or more precisely, economic development. 4

Ibid., pp. 7–9. Negative externality arises when costs are borne without benefits being received. It comes into effect when an activity of a production unit causes some unintended harm to other production units and the former one fails to compensate the affected. The natural resources and environmental amenities often develop negative externalities in response to the economic activities.


156 — Sutirtha Bedajna

The negative environmental externality evolves with the divergence between private benefits and social benefits as well as between private costs and social costs of an economic project or activity. Generally, there are no markets to mediate between these two kinds of agent — the one who affects and the one who is affected. Most often, this is because markets tend to be difficult and expensive to organise and enforce.6 This phenomenon has resulted in an inference that it is beyond the efficiency of the market-clearing model to resolve environmental questions in an overall paradigm of development. Certainly, the matter of control and protection mechanisms comes in. It is postulated that such control mechanisms need an insight of governance where an authoritative monitoring, practice of law, and policy formulation and implementation of those laws and policies through an administrative structure are expected to function. Therefore, the urge to govern the environment arises, keeping certain areas of market failure in focus, particularly while dealing with natural resources. For the environment at least, governance or good governance has emerged as a method to mitigate replacing or complementing the market mechanisms. On the other hand, the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have selected some crucial sectors for which development initiatives may be consolidated. The initiative is certainly a global one and is based on integrating mandates. Goal 7 has called for the need to ensure environmental sustainability,7 and advocated (a) the integration of the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes to reverse the loss of environmental resources,8 and (b) reduction of biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the 6 Katar Singh and Anil Shishodia, Environmental Economic: Theory and Applications, New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2007, p. 70. 7 The economists’ worldview of sustainability put stress on the long-term constancy of economic output, income, and consumption whereas the ecologists advocate for long-term preservation of the biosphere. Sustainability is a character of a system that will last forever. Sustainability has a socio-economic as well as ecological dimension. 8 The phrase ‘sustainable development’ has its root in the publication of the Brundtland Commission Report, Our Common Future (in the World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987). This report defined sustainable development as ‘development which meets the needs of the present without sacrificing the ability of the future to meet its needs’.

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rate of loss.9 Consequently, the question of time-bound policy making and environmental governance has become important. According to the World Summit on Sustainable Development Plan of Implementation (WSSD), ‘good governance, within each country and at the international level, is essential for sustainable development.’10 It is interesting to take note of the fact that environmental concerns have made an entry into both the discourse on governance and development in an interconnected manner. Good governance and MDGs both incorporate sustainability as a prerequisite. It is evident that the aim of environmental governance is to reach sustainability and development together, keeping the environment in focus. The aim is two-fold. One is to ensure development in society as an agent of the whole developmental paradigm. That development should be sustainable through the effective and efficient utilisation of natural resources for the satisfaction of the present generation, keeping the need of future generations intact, qualitatively and quantitatively. On the other hand, as a part of good governance, it is also expected to meet the indicators of success — participation, rule of law, transparency, responsiveness, consensus-orientation, equity and inclusiveness, effectiveness and efficiency, and accountability. The task of governance is much more intricate whenever the issue of the environment comes up as it involves the managerial assignment to monitor and control the natural resource base to facilitate the economic aspirations of developmental practice as well as to synthesise the accountability to protect the sustainability of nature. In that sense, environmental governance is very much within the interaction line between economy and ecology as a communicator and/or manager to both where the interaction line is not linear either. Let me introduce ecological components in brief. Ecology certainly plays a problematic role in the developmental paradigm with all its uniqueness. Whatever encompasses the surroundings of an organism collectively and affects its life and development, may be termed as the environment.11 Basically it has to take into 9, accessed 15 April 2010. 10, accessed 15 April 2010. 11 K. D. Saksena, Environmental Planning, Policies and Programmes in India, Delhi: Shipra Publications, 1993, p. 1.

158 — Sutirtha Bedajna

account an ecosystem, constituting both biotic and abiotic components, which shows a multitude of inter-relations. These interrelations are very essential for the existence and functioning of life-cycles. Every single organism has a non-negligible part to play in the cycle of an ecosystem and the human population is a consumer acting as a material storage place. All the biotic components are connected with a non-linear interdependency-web, which is a complex process, and with the gradual increase of species’ composition and ecosystem-dynamics it would reach its climax stage of more stability, barring severe negative externalities by succession.12 This complex stage is familiar as biodiversity, which is in the focus of several worldwide natural conservation strategies over the past five decades of ‘environmentalism,13 with a view to ensuring ecological stability and ecological resilience.14 So, environmental governance is entrusted with the task of maintaining biodiversity as well as ecological stability and the only process to ensure it is sustainable development, as is believed worldwide. Therefore, from the point of view of environmental governance certain functional technicalities should be incorporated within the tasks of governance, which require the efficiency to protect ecosystem functions, recycling of materials, natural equilibrium, and perpetuity of matter and energy to prevent environmental degradation. A country like India is unique for its practice of environmental governance. Here, the issue is not only the protection of biodiversity and ecological stability but also the protection of the rights to access to natural resources for an impoverished society to sustain livelihoods. To them, nature is not only a reserve of resources but a boon of endowment. On the contrary, as a developing country, India is a part of the global bandwagon of the neoliberal paradigm and is also on an economic growth ladder. Here come the contested issues; economic growth has certain linkages with sustainability though the linkage may pose some conflicts when 12

Ecological succession involves recovery from natural changes in the species’ composition that occupy a given area over a period of time, as well as from the changes that occur in ecosystem dynamics. 13 Environmentalism is a broad philosophy and a social movement regarding concerns for environmental conservation and improvement of the state of environment. Available at, accessed 10 October 2009. 14 Ecological resilience is the rate at which a disturbed ecosystem returns to its original state.

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the issue of inter-temporal allocation of scarce resources within generations comes in.15 The present article intends to discuss the nature, functioning, changes, successes, and challenges of environmental governance in India. In this process, it will explore the evolution of environmental governance in India, over decades, with the support of constitutional and institutional manoeuvrings. This article intends to reveal the dynamics of and the challenges before the ministry concerned, especially in the neoliberal developmental decades locating environmental governance in India in the complex interconnection between economy and ecology, which on the one hand aims at higher economic growth to achieve developmental goals and on the other hand joins international and domestic mandates on sustainable utilisation of natural resources. There are bio-physical and ecological limits to economic growth in the discourse of ecology but there is no limit to growth in the formulation of a developmental model in a developing country like India. So, how to govern this juxtaposition is a question for deeper introspection. Is environmental governance a dilemma in India? This article intends to answer this research question with an ecological appraisal, along with the issues of good governance. More specifically, the appraisal will be two-fold. It will evaluate environmental governance in India from the ecological point of view and also from the perspective of governance. It is evident that the discourse on environmentalism has incorporated the issue of sustainability in such a manner that both developmental practice and governmentality take on the subject as an inherent component to deal with. Thus, initially, this article puts forth some theoretical aspects of sustainability. It is essential to have an exposure to several ecological dimensions of ecology–economy interactions before going into an evaluation of environmental governance in India. The following discourse is going to deal with two prominent issues — economic growth as well as sustainability — both from an economic and ecological perspective. 15

Inter-temporal choice is the study of the relative value people assign to two or more payoffs at different points in time. This relationship is usually simplified today and some future dates. The concept of inter-temporal choice was introduced by John Rae in 1834 in the Sociological Theory of Capital. Later, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk in 1889 and Irving Fisher in 1930 elaborated the model.

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Sustainability: A Limit to Economic Growth The market traditionally deals with the question of scarcity. The allocation of scarce resources (natural and human) involves broad philosophical issues: questions of values, preferences, efficiency, and equity. Along with these, the notion of sustainability has emerged, which problematises the path to achieve an optimal inter-temporal allocation of resources. According to neoclassical thought, environmental decisionmaking models are assumed to assimilate two principles: the ‘Axiom of Material Value’ and the ‘Axiom of Abundance’. The ‘Axiom of Material Value’ holds that natural resources have no intrinsic value apart from their economic value in markets. It indicates many essential ecological functions, though critical, may have little value because their use is not allocated through markets. The ‘Axiom of Abundance’ holds that the earth is very large in comparison to the economy and production need not be restricted in the long run as the availability of natural capital is unlimited for practical purposes. In general, neoclassical economics argues that the physical and ecological constraints on economy are inconveniences. They are impediments to economic growth and a limit to welfare accordingly. But those can inevitably be overcome by substitution with the discovery of new economic resources or technologies allowing the conversion of non-economic materials to economic goods.16 This approach adopts the First Law of Thermodynamics, which argues in favour of constancy of energy and matter base, that is, matter-energy can neither be created nor be destroyed or the total content of matter and energy in a closed system is fixed. The law demonstrates conditions under which prices, indicating the preferences of rational economic agents, accurately reflect resource scarcity, and conditions in which markets efficiently allocate scarcity. That means markets perpetuate themselves by continuous technological improvements. The quality of manmade and natural capital, in terms of how they can substitute each other, depends only on knowledge, manifested as technology. So, the ‘Axiom of Abundance’ changes to the ‘Axiom of Technological Abundance’: technologies will always be found enabling 16

George F. McMahon and Janusz R. Mrozek, ‘Economics, Entropy and Sustainability’, Hydrological Sciences Journal, 42 (4), August, 1997, pp. 501–7.

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substitution between manmade and natural capital. Therefore, the economy can expand without environmental degradation as long as technological discoveries continue.17 However, the law fails to describe irreversibility.18 The economy is an open system, which extracts usable energy and matter from the surroundings and returns unusable wastes to it. The boundary of economy is moveable or expanding, whereas the global environment is a closed system as it receives a relatively insignificant volume of matter from space. Space is again an isolated system. The economy is dependent on the global environment mainly for life support, for supplies of raw materials to production and for dumping wastes. In that sense, the extending economy has a physical boundary to meet, which is not expandable further. Also, economic activity converts lowentropy energy and matter to high-entropy wastes,19 from which the original low-entropy inputs can’t be recovered without conversion of more low-entropy resources to high-entropy wastes. This irreversibility is addressed by the Second Law Principle of Thermodynamics. Dismantling the natural environment, in many instances, will leave the area with an abiotic base entirely different from the one which existed initially in the natural state. Also, technology can do little to reproduce the particular geomorphology, biodiversity, and ecological succession that were present before disturbances. So, technology is asymmetric. According to the economist Rabindra N. Bhattacharya: ‘If the in situ resources of an environment are appreciating in value, relative to goods and services that it might yield if developed then irreversibility will clearly pose a problem.’20 He has described the problem in the following manner.21 In Figure 4.1, the shift of the production possibility frontier from (1) to (2) to (3) indicates the absolute reduction of natural 17

Ibid. Beyond a certain threshold, continuous human exploitation of nature or economic growth may cause unmanageable damage to certain vital components of a natural ecosystem. Those damages may be unrecoverable. 19 Entropy is defined here as the degree to which finite-time processes are irreversible. 20 Rabindra N. Bhattacharya, ‘Economics of Natural Resources’, in Rabindra N. Bhattacharya (ed.), Environmental Economics: An Indian Perspective, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2001, p. 74. 21 Ibid., pp. 74–76. 18

162 — Sutirtha Bedajna Figure 4.1: Irreversibility of Environmental Process and the Asymmetry of Technological Change Produced Goods


2 X jiii





Services of N atural Environm ent

Source: Rabindra N. Bhattacharya, ‘Economics of Natural Resources’ in Rabindra N. Bhattacharya (ed.), Environmental Economics — An Indian Perspective, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2001, p. 76

amenities whereas the rising magnitude of the interception on the axis of produced goods exhibits the effect of improved technology. A family of social indifference curves is showing the shifts of optimum points to left and upward, which indicates the consistent increase in the relative price (value) of natural environmental amenities even with no shift in taste. The slope at the points of tangency represents the negative of the ratio of the price of natural environmental amenities to that of produced goods. These will make future consumption more critical thermodynamically. So, entropy as a physical law imposes absolute constraint on economic growth as far as overall well-being is concerned — where ‘substitution among individual sources is sometimes possible, it is not always possible and will be less possible

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as time passes’.22 Ultimately, issues of biophysical limits emerge in prominence where technological choices fail to offer longterm solutions. However, economists argue in favour of technological solutions on the ground of substantial progress in science and technology based on research and development (R&D) activities. This optimism iterates that if the costs and benefits of R&D investments are ascertainable, technology can be conceived as a reproducible item.23 Capital gives rise to profit and profit is again employed to augment capital base. Similarly, when natural resources are exploited with the help of a technology it gives rise to surplus in the form of rent in a capitalist system, which needs to be further mobilised and invested to develop new resources and technology.24 Seen from that angle, technology is not asymmetric. Also, the constant increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a necessary as well as sufficient condition to develop new resources and technology. According to this school of thought, the environmental quality may suffer from degradation only temporarily in the initial phase of economic growth. Economic growth and environmental cleanliness would move together in the same direction beyond a threshold of development and that is supported by both demand and supply side arguments. Such a pattern can be illustrated by the Environmental Kuznet’s Curve in the following figure. Here, environmental quality is considered as a normal good with a positive income effect.25 The substantial growth of the secondary sector as part of rising GDP leads to increase in hazardous waste output, biomass depletion, and a rise in total direct and indirect intensity of GDP. However, at a later stage, the share of the service sector in GDP would go up as a result of maturity of capitalist development and consequently, the pollution intensity of the social aggregate product would decrease due to the nature 22

McMahon and Mrozek, ‘Economics, Entropy and Sustainability’, p. 504. Ramprasad Sengupta, Ecology and Economics: An Approach to Sustainable Development, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2001, p. 226. 24 Ibid. 25 People demand higher environmental quality as income rises. 23

164 — Sutirtha Bedajna Figure 4.2: Environmental Kuznet’s Curve C oncentration of Pollutants





Incom e per Capita Source: Ramprasad Sengupta, Ecology and Economics: An Approach to Sustainable Development, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2001, p. 228

of demand composition, product preferences, and the incomeelasticity of the demand for environmental services.26 However, this optimism inevitably faces some fundamental questions. Can preferences of individuals be treated as given? Can social wellbeing be seen as a result of the aggregation of fixed individual preferences? Ramprasad Sengupta has rightly argued that: … preferences of people can be manipulated by technological changes, by creating new wants through advertisement in a consumerist culture which can offset part of the benefit of population control … Like technology, the notion of well-being changes over time depending on the realisation of the people regarding the role of various factors including the ecological ones in determining the quality of life.27

On the other hand, the capitalist pulse of an economy guides human perception towards short-run instead of long-run gains and losses. Preferences will be different in the short and long run and preferences will change. The prediction about changes in preference paths and technological responses cannot, however, be delivered accurately as they are uncertain in nature. 26 27

Sengupta, Ecology and Economics, p. 228. Ibid., p. 229.

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The economy under the neoliberal framework has to find a way out by maximising individual welfare and that of society as a whole. Accounting for ecological constraints within economic analysis and policy has been driven by the urge to achieve an inter-temporal choice of allocation over generations. Here come the issues of sustainability — both in ecological and economic senses, which are ultimately issues of limits and conservative investment criteria. Issues of equity and distribution are also issues of limits and they deal with uncertainty.28 The economics of sustainability deals with the decision-making process under extremely uncertain circumstances in spite of careful scrutiny of technological choices because over time it is expected that changes will occur in technology, income, and people’s preference(s). The problem is not that changes will occur, but that we do not know for sure how and when these changes will occur (that is, the changes will be, from our viewpoint, random in nature) and we do not know what will be the implications of these changes on future resource availability. Therefore, the protection of ecological stability, inter-generational equity, and inter-temporal management of natural resources are prerequisites to deal with uncertainty and irreversibility and to achieve sustainability. The definition of sustainable development establishes that it is an equity, not an entirely efficiency, issue and it also incorporates an ethical criterion with fairness across generations and fairness within generations. The needs of the present are not to be satisfied at the expense of future needs (well-being). Thus, the trade-off between equity and efficiency needs to be addressed. If equity is an important issue in considering sustainable development, not all efficient points are sustainable. Let, the starting point be D. Clearly, this point is inefficient as it is located inside the production possibility frontier AEFGB. A move to point E or F or any point between these two points would lead to a Pareto optimal outcome.29 Such a move would benefit at 28

Our knowledge about environmental assets and their processes is seriously incomplete. So, we are unaware of the effect of several economic activities on natural environmental amenities and the degree of impacts. The impacts may be irreversible. 29 Given a set of alternative allocations of goods or outcomes for a set of individuals, a change from one allocation to another which makes at least one individual better off without making any other individual worse off is called

166 — Sutirtha Bedajna Figure 4.3: Trade-offs between Inter-generational Efficiency and Equity







F uture

Generation O



GNP: Present Generation Source: Ahmed Hussen, Principles of Environmental Economics, London: Routledge, 2004, p. 181

least one of the generations without affecting the well-being of the other generation. So, efficiency would be achieved along with equity as the range of points from E to F is all on the production possibility frontier. The equitable range has been identified with black shading. However, the move to point G would maintain efficiency but would fail to continue equity as the move makes future generations worse off. So, equity and efficiency may not always lie on similar production choices. Accordingly, economic growth and sustainability may differ at some point since growth is basically an efficiency-based agenda whereas sustainability inherits equity within its ambit. It is not obvious to continue a ‘sustainable growth’. We are endowed with three different conceptions of sustainability, namely the Hartwick–Solow Approach to Sustainability, the Ecological Economics Approach to Sustainability, and the Safe Minimum Standards (SMS) Approach to Sustainability. a ‘Pareto improvement’ or a ‘Pareto-optimal move’. An allocation is defined as ‘Pareto efficient’ or ‘Pareto optimal’ when no further Pareto improvements can be made.

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The Hartwick–Solow Approach to Sustainability focuses on the constancy of real consumption over an indefinite period and thus, it is a consumption-oriented approach to sustainability. In order to ensure constancy in the consumption pattern over generations, the maintenance of a non-declining capital stock is a necessary condition. This capital stock is a conglomeration of natural capital (Kn),30 human capital (Kh)31 and manmade capital (Km).32 This approach is based on a critical assumption that human capital and natural capital are substitutes. Taking all features together, it can be inferred that this approach requires the maintenance of capital stock across generations, however the composition of the capital stock is not considered so important. This can be rigorously defined as: Kn + Kh + Km ≥ K∗ where K∗ = some pre-determined threshold level of total capital composition expressed in monetary terms. This evokes that an economy, dependent on non-renewable resources as one input to production, could have a constant consumption level over time provided that it follows a simple rule: reinvest all rents (the difference between price and marginal cost per unit extracted) from exploiting the resources in manmade capital, which results in non-declining consumption over time.33 But it is important to note that the substitution of one form of capital for another form is possible only to a certain extent. This implies that a certain minimum quantum of each form of capital is essential for development.34 That is why this approach is known as the ‘weak sustainability approach’. This approach has been criticised for the same reason for which the neoclassical growth model has also been questioned. This approach assumes that sustainability is defined in terms of 30

Natural capital comprises renewable and non-renewable energy and material resources. 31 Human capital includes labour, skill, and knowledge embodied within people. 32 Manmade capital comprises the results of past production, as the excess of output over consumption. 33 Nick Hanley, Jason F. Shogren, and Ben White, Introduction to Environmental Economics, New York: Oxford University Press, 2001, p. 137. 34 Singh and Shishodia, Environmental Economics, p. 57.

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maintaining a constant real consumption (of goods and services) over an indefinite period of time while recognising humangenerated and natural capital are substitutes. This assumed substitutability (characterised by technological advances) is a lively dispute between neoclassical and ecological economists. Either use of technology is asymmetric while dealing with irreversibility and increasing entropy or it fails to rule out uncertainty of the economic impact on ecology due to a time lag. Ecological economists believe that at the current level and pattern of human economic activity, it is more appropriate to view natural and human capital as complementary. Also, the Hartwick–Solow approach assumes that preferences are exogenously determined and market prices reflect the true social value of resources over time, which implies the existence of a set of competitive markets from now to eternity.35 Therefore, this approach basically deals with inter-generational efficiency but not with inter-generational equity. People have positive time preference; that is, other things remaining equal, people prefer present consumption to future consumption. So, people would be willing to substitute present consumption for future consumption by discounting the future.36 The Ecological Economics Approach to Sustainability starts with a worldview that the natural world is not only finite, but also nongrowing and materially closed and human and natural capitals can be complements in the best of situations. Furthermore, it is postulated that the general capacity of the finite natural world would be strained by the scale of the human economy. So, the approach advocates for stricter sustainability rules in terms of non-declining natural capital. This can be rigorously defined as: Kn ≥ Kn∗ where Kn∗ = some predetermined threshold level of natural capital. This implies that the natural capital stock is to be maintained on its own above some predetermined threshold level. A consideration of inter-generational equity is the underlying principle 35

Ahmed Hussen, Principles of Environmental Economics, London: Routledge, 2004, p. 184. 36 People will trade or substitute present consumption for future consumption at a future date only at a premium. That means the value of future consumption is less.

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for this specific requirement. The non-declining natural capital stock is expected to be consistent not only with economic sustainability but also with the ability of the ecosystem to withstand shocks.37 That is why this approach is known as the ‘strong sustainability approach’. But, economists argue that this approach is unnecessarily strong. The ultimate objective of the development with inter-generational equity requires that the process of development does not end up with the decline of a human well-being index of society over time.38 Sustainability has to address also the present societal well-being. Therefore, revising the lacunae of this ‘strong’ approach one has to look for some comprehensive and balanced ways to deal with the issue. The balance could be brought in through the SMS Approach to Sustainability, which starts as a practical guide to natural resource management under the condition of extreme uncertainty. Therefore, it is highly important to pay serious attention to not extending resource exploitation beyond a certain safe minimum standard. Otherwise, the social opportunity cost of reversing direction might become unacceptably large. When viewed from a perspective of long-run resource management, the nature of the substitution possibilities between natural and human capital is uncertain. In this respect, then, ‘sustainability warrants maintenance of nondeclining natural capital.’39 This can be rigorously defined as: Kn ≥ Kn∗∗, Kh ≥ Kh∗∗ and Km ≥ Km∗∗∗ where Kn∗∗ = some minimum level of natural capital; Kh∗∗ = some minimum level of human capital; Km∗∗ = some minimum level of manmade capital. It seems that the SMS and the ecological approaches are similar to an extent. Both approaches impose limits on the substitution possibilities between natural and human capital facing the threats of irreversibility and uncertainty. However, these two approaches are distinct while providing explanations for limits in 37

Ecological resilience. Sengupta, Ecology and Economics, p. 216. 39 Hussen, Principles of Environmental Economics, p. 180. 38

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factor substitutions. The SMS approach uses irreversibility while the ecological economics approach relies on the physical laws of which irreversibility is a part. The SMS approach first identifies the minimum viable population or minimum habitat size of a population or minimum required stock of some other natural asset. If a proposed development threatens the SMS, decisionmakers are presumed to rule against that proposition, unless the social opportunity costs of doing so is too high. From the above analysis, what has become increasingly evident is the unsustainability of rapid economic growth, especially if it is based on increasing use of throughput from the natural ecosystem. Economically efficient use of resources is not necessarily similar with sustainable use of resources. The sustainability approach prefers an ethical dimension over an efficiency criterion along with inter-generational equity within its ambit. Also, it is evident from the above analysis that market efficiency cannot resolve the matter due to negative externality, irreversibility, and uncertainty of the economic impacts on nature. That’s why protection rules become viable and in that sense environmental law, policy making, and governance come into the limelight. These are non-market instruments to deal with the problem. The sustainability rules are thus viable for those non-market instruments because the question of ethics and inter-generational equity are beyond the capability of marketclearing systems to resolve. Although the extremely stringent sustainable rules cannot be chosen due to economic compulsions of society, the safe minimum harvest rate should be determined for both renewable as well as non-renewable natural resources in environmental governance, keeping in consideration phenomena like irreversibility, uncertainty, and integrity of nature. The present neoliberal set-up of the globalised world, majorly dependent on market mechanisms for development, however, complicates the issue. On the one hand, as a part of the neoliberal governance model, it has to cater to the developmental targets of the time. On the other hand, it should advocate limiting economic growth in accordance with the ecological principles of assuring sustainable governance of nature. It is interesting to take note of the fact that the emergence of a discourse on sustainability is very much within the ambit of the neoliberal paradigm, which

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also advocates high economic growth, as an essential indicator, to achieve developmental success. This juxtaposition problematises further the issue of environmental governance. The following section will attempt to provide a concise evolution of environmental governance in India. The constitutional and institutional manoeuvrings are enclosed with it to locate the non-linear and contested path. This attempt is to understand how much of ecological and how much of economic concerns are being associated with that evolution. Theoretical inputs from this section will be helpful to evaluate the evolution of environmental governance in India, the balance between ecological urgency and economic imperatives in functioning of the model of governance concerned as well as its transition, if any, taking the issues of good governance into consideration with a larger ecological and economic reference of a changing world. That will be attempted in an appraisal of environmental governance in India.

Evolution of Environmental Governance in India: A Journey through Constitutional and Institutional Manoeuvrings Constitutional Provisions The policy paradigm to govern the environment might start with the earliest provisions made in the Indian constitution: Articles 47, 48, and 49, which commanded the state to improve the standard of living and public health and to protect historical monuments and structures.40 To fulfil these constitutional goals, it was necessary to provide a pollution-free environment. All of 40

Article 47 provided: ‘The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties …’ Article 48 provided: ‘The State shall endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preservation and improving the breads…’ Article 49 provided: ‘It shall be the obligation of the State to protect every monument or place or object of artistic or historic interest, declared by or under law made by parliament to be of national importance, from spoliation, disfigurement, destruction, removal, disposal, or export, as the case may be.’

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the mentioned Articles were included in Part IV of the constitution under the directive principles of state policy.41 Article 37 under this section defined the principle. It said: ‘The Provisions contained in this Part shall not be enforced by any court, but the principles therein laid down are nevertheless fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws.’ Use of the phrases like ‘fundamental in the governance’ and ‘duty of the State’ seek to raise pressure on union and state legislatures to undertake policies in accordance with the provisions made under the directive principles of state policy. However, these are not directly enforceable due to the ambiguity embedded within the directive principles.42 However, the most important breakthrough in this context can be noticed in the mid-1970s, following several international conferences and resolutions on environmental protection. It would not be irrelevant to quote from the speech of the then prime minister, Indira Gandhi, which was delivered in Parliament in October, 1976: So far, the feeling of responsibility towards nature was absent all over the world. It was not absent in our own ancient books; but came about because we adopted the Western viewpoint. Now the time has come to go back to the source of strength of the human race and to try to preserve and revitalise them.43 41

The directive principles of the Indian constitution laid down the following: ‘The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing …. (a) that citizens, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means of livelihood; (b) that the ownership and control of the resources of the community are so distributed as best to subserve the common good; (c) that the operation of the economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment.’ This declaration along with the aforesaid Articles enhanced the probability of formulation of policies or legislations on various aspects of man–nature relationship. 42 An ambiguity was raised when Article 37 has stated, ‘The Provisions contained in this Part shall not be enforced by any court…’. It indicates that the Court cannot compel the state to enact a law or to enforce a particular principle of the state policy or no action can be brought against the state before a court of law for its failure to implement the directive principles. 43 Lok Sabha Debates, eighteenth session, fifth series, LXV (3), column 143, 27 October 1976.

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This growing concern in Parliament resulted in the Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976, which came into force from 3 January 1977. It added Article 48A: ‘The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forest and wildlife of the country.’ A new Part IVA was added, introducing Fundamental Duties in the constitution. Article 51A (g) of this Part stated: ‘It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.’ It was the first time phrases like ‘natural environment’ or ‘to protect and improve the environment’ were included in the constitutional draft. Inclusion of these two Articles in the directive principles of state policy further enhanced the possibility of the emergence of a national policy regarding nature and natural components. Also, it indicated that Parliament was trying to implement two-fold provisions, where, on one hand, it admitted the liability of the government to protect and improve environmental quality and, on the other hand, it cast a duty on the citizens to help in that process. Articles 15 (2) (b), 21, and 24 under Part III of the constitution, primarily concentrated on Fundamental Rights, provide specific provisions which may be linked with environmental protection. ‘Right to protect the environment’ comes under Article 19. In this context the decision taken by the Supreme Court in Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India (AIR 1978 SC 597), Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra vs. State of UP (AIR 1988 SC 2187), popularly known as the Dehradun Quarrying Case, and M.C. Mehta vs. Union India (AIR 1987 SC 1086), popularly known as the Oleum Gas Leak Case, may be mentioned. The Seventy-third Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992, on restructuring of panchayati raj, has added Schedule XI of the constitution which has assigned eight entries (2, 3, 6, 7, 11, 12, 15, and 29) linked with environmental protection and conservation, like soil conservation, water management, watershed development, social and farm forestry, drinking water, fuel and fodder, non-conventional energy sources, and maintenance of community assets to the panchayats. The Seventy-fourth Amendment Act, 1992 has added entry 8 to Schedule XII assigning ‘protection of environment and protection of ecological effects’ to urban local (municipal) bodies.

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From the point of view of policy making and governance, allocation of legislative authority is very important. Article 246 of Part XI under Schedule VII of the constitution provides the distribution of legislative powers between the centre and the states through three Lists of subjects. Some of the subjects of those Lists, with direct or indirect implications on environment are as follows: List I: Union List44


Entry Number



Atomic energy and mineral resource necessary for its production


Entering agreements with foreign countries and implementing of treaties, agreements and conventions with foreign countries


Industries, the control of which by the Union is declared by Parliament by law to be expedient in the public interest


Regulation and development of oil-fields and mineral oil resources


Regulation of mines and mineral development to the extent to which such regulation and development under the control of the Union is declared by Parliament by law to be expedient in the public interest


Regulation and development of inter-state rivers and river valleys


Fishing and fisheries beyond territorial waters

List I, the ‘Union List’, contains subjects over which the union government has exclusive power of legislation.

Environmental Governance in India  175 List II: State List45 Entry Number



Public health and sanitation, hospitals and dispensaries


Agriculture, including agricultural education and research, protection against pests and prevention of plant diseases


Preservation, protection and improvement of stock and prevention of animal diseases


Water, that is to say, water supplies, irrigation and canals, drainage and embankment, water storage and water power subject to the provisions of Entry 56 of List I


Fisheries List III: Concurrent List46


Entry Number



Prevention of cruelty to animals




Protection of wild animals and birds


Economic and social planning


Population control and family planning

List II, the ‘State List’, contains subjects over which the state governments have exclusive power of legislation. 46 List III, the ‘Concurrent List’, contains subjects under the simultaneous jurisdiction of both forms of governance though in case of conflict between the Union and state law, the former will prevail. Also, 17A, 17B, and 20A were transferred from the ‘State List’ to the ‘Concurrent List’ through the Fortysecond Amendment Act, 1976.

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Prevention of the extension from one state to another of infecting or contagious diseases or pests affecting men, animals or plants






Archaeological sites and remains other than those declared by or under law made by Parliament to be of national importance

The residual subjects, not included in any of the mentioned Lists, are under the jurisdiction of the union government according to Article 248. These entries offer a vast spectrum to formulate legislation and policies at the national or state level to increase the quality of environment assisted by some other Articles like 249, 250, 252, and 253 providing special power to the union government regarding formulation of national policies containing any matter of national interest when required.47 With these constitutional provisions, which are binding forces on citizens, noncitizens as well as the state, it has become viable to go for policy formulation and governance in matters of environment. The plan documents can serve as a first-hand appraisal of the evolution of an institutional effort to protect and govern the environment in India as a conglomeration of legislative laws and institutional manipulations. In this regard, the following sub-section would 47

Article 249 empowers the Union Government to legislate with respect to a matter in the State List in the national interest, if the Council of States (Upper House of the Union Parliament) has declared by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the members present and voting that it is necessary or expedient in the national interest that Parliament should legislate on it. Article 250 empowers the Parliament to legislate with respect to any matter in the State List if a proclamation of emergency is in operation. Article 252 provides power to the Parliament to legislate on any matter with respect to which it has no power to make laws for the states except as provided in Articles 249 and 250, if the legislatures of two or more states pass a resolution to the effect that is desirable for it to do so. Article 253 empowers Parliament to make any law for the whole or any part of the territory of India for implementing any treaty, agreement, or convention with any other country or countries or any decision made at any international conference, association, or other body.

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reveal the institutional environmentalism in India through the five-year plan model.

Institutional Environmentalism Real environmental concerns were absent in the drafts of the first three Five-Year Plans. They emerged with India’s obligation to join international efforts to protect the environment in the early 1970s. The Fourth Five-Year Plan (1969–74) incorporated animal husbandry, dairying, fishing, and forests all in a single section recognising ‘…the inter-dependence of living things and their relationship with land, air and water…’48 and admitted the need for development in harmony with environmental issues for the first time. It stressed linking the rural economy with forests, which came to be known as social forestry, and introduced a new section, ‘Conservation of Wild Life’ with the National Park Policy. The initiative to protect nature institutionally began through the establishment of the National Committee on Environmental Planning and Coordination (NCEPC) by Indira Gandhi in 1972. It was set up under Pitambar Pant, member of the Planning Commission, and was entrusted with the task to identify environmental effects of activities that were programmed and to recommend modifications to safeguard the quality of the environment. It consisted mostly of experts from various disciplines, related with the environment, and was serviced by the department of science and technology. Also, the country got two important environmental Acts, the first of their kinds, through union legislation: the Wild Life Protection Act, 1972 and the Water (Preservation & Control of Pollution) Act, 1974. The last one paved the way for the establishment of Central and State Pollution Control Boards (CPCB and SPCBs) to implement the provisions of this Act and of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, and the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.49 They were responsible for implementing legislation relating to prevention and control of pollution. This re-orientation of a developmental approach was vehemently lost again in the Fifth Plan (1974–79), introduced at 48, accessed 15 April 2010. 49 Ulaganathan Sankar, ‘Environmental Policy’ in Ulaganathan Sankar (ed.), Environmental Economics: Readers in Economics, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 401.

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a time when the country was reeling under a severe economic crisis, though one of the most crucial aspects of institutional environmentalism in India, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), was undertaken in 1977 to ensure environmental compatibility of any economic project. Also, the country was offered the Environmental Protection after Constitutional (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976, and the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Amendment Act, 1978. Though this plan period lacked any kind of environmental commitment in governance as far as the process of planning was concerned, undoubtedly the major contribution of this time was the synthesis of Article 48A and Article 51A (g) in the constitution. The Sixth Five-Year Plan (1980–85) devoted one full section to ‘Ecology and Environment’ and classified environmental problems in India into two broad categories: 1. Those arising from conditions of poverty and underdevelopment; 2. Those arising as negative effects of the very process of development; and recognised, ‘. . . a concern for environment is essentially a desire to see that national development proceeds along rational sustainable lines. Environmental conservation is in fact, the very basis of all development. . .’50 This assertion was a marked about turn in the history of environmentalism in India and its policy making, which looked at the environment as a nonexcludable and one of the most essential factors of development. The document indicated some of the programmes to be implemented; such as the EIA as an integral part of the entire planning process; setting up of an Environmental Information System and appropriating programmes for ‘Public awareness about environmental protection’ etc. The Government of India appointed a Committee for Recommending Legislative Measures and Administrative Machinery for Environmental Protection under the chairmanship of N.D. Tiwari, then deputy chairperson of the Planning Commission. One of the recommendations of this 50, accessed 16 April 2010.

Environmental Governance in India  179

committee was the creation of a department of environment at the centre to provide explicit recognition to the pivotal role that environmental conservation must play for national development. The committee further recommended that this department should be under the charge of the prime minister and ‘should primarily play a watchdog role, to study and bring to the attention of the Government and Parliament instances, causes and consequences of environmental degradation in all sectors, and also as a nodal agency for environmental protection and ecodevelopment in a coordinating role’.51 The government accepted these recommendations and the environment division was converted into the department of environment with effect from 1 November 1980. A National Committee on Environmental Planning (NCEP) was also set up in April 1981 as per a recommendation of the Tiwari Committee. Its functions included preparation of a state of the environment report, arranging conferences on significant environmental issues, and establishing a nationwide environmental information and communication system to propagate awareness through mass media. Attuned to the rationale of sustainability, the approach paper of the Seventh Plan (1985–90) envisaged the formulation of a National Conservation Strategy. The main programmes included development of instrumentation, equipment, and institutional facilities for environmental monitoring, pollution control, and waste management. It further stressed eco-development, environmental research promotion, environmental education, training and awareness, and coordination and liaison with state governments and union territories in this respect. For the first time, it put forward its concern on international cooperation for the sake of environment protection, incorporating several bilateral and multi-lateral environmental programmes. The ministry for environment was upgraded to the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) of independent minister of state rank in 1985. Following this initiative, the state governments started to establish their own departments of environment and forests to keep pace with fast-increasing policy initiatives. The MoEF, developed as a full-fledged central ministry, comprising four divisions:

51, accessed 16 April 2010.

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(a) Environment: With the field formation being the CPCB for exercise of promotional and regulatory functions under the water, air, and environment protection Acts. (b) Forest and Wildlife: With field formations in different parts of the country for enforcing the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. (c) Ganga Project Directorate: Administered by a steering committee headed by the secretary, environment and forests. It would supervise the National River Action Plan as and when it was finalised. (d) National Afforestation and Eco Development Board: With six regional centres to provide support for project preparation (like dams) and interaction with the Government of India in May 1988. They were: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Shillong for the North-eastern Region Calcutta for the Eastern region Chandigarh for the North Region Bangalore for the South Region Lucknow for the Central Region Bhopal for the Western region

Other departments/organisations dealing with different aspects of environment are the department of science and technology, the department of agriculture and cooperation, the department of biotechnology, the department of ocean development, the department of space, and the department of non-conventional energy sources. Some of the important institutions dealing with environmental management, forestry functions, and pollution control functions of MoEF were: the Council of Scientific Industrial Research (CSIR), the Botanical Survey of India (BSI), the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), the Forest Survey of India (FSI), the Forest Development Corporations, the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE), the National River Conservation Directorate, the National Land Use and Wastelands Development Council, the National Land Use and Conservation Board (NLCB), the National Wastelands Development Board (NWDB), the Indian Board for Wild Life (IBWL), the Wildlife Institute of India, the Animal Welfare Board of India, the Central Zoo Authority, the National Eco-Development Board, and Eco-Task Forces of Ex-servicemen.

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There was another unique attempt to adopt a coordinated, decentralised approach to environmental conservation, involving the cooperation and active participation of every segment of the society and realising the regional diversity of nature and hence the need of different treatments for different problems. Nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), voluntary bodies, and the private sector organisations were thus entrusted with an effective role in this effort. During the plan-decades of the 1980s, India witnessed following the important central legislations: 1. The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 2. The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 3. The Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (Processing of Claims) Act, 1985 4. The Wild Life Protection Act, 1986 5. The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 6. The Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986 7. The Manufacture, Use, Import, Export and Storage of Hazardous Micro-organisms or Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells Rules, 1989 Not only did the number of such laws increase, but also the incorporation of new items, previously left out under governmental consideration could be noticed. The features of the central Acts tended to be more comprehensive than before, acknowledging the fact that ecology is a complex inter-connected web and not to be dealt with sectorally. The Eighth Five-Year Plan (1992–97) urged to monitor the state of environment on a regular basis and to regenerate and restore degraded ecosystems, if possible. India got the Public Liability Insurance Act and Rules and Amendment, 1991, and the National Environmental Tribunal Act, 1995, in this connection. The question of environmental governance has become more intricate and interesting with the onset of the liberal paradigm. The pro-capital, consumption-induced market dependency along with the illustrations of special economic zones, free trade areas etc. raised the questions on how the structure of environmental governance could be manoeuvred in response to this transition. The Ninth Plan (1997–2002) set out certain strategies:

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1. Evolving the rights for common property resources 2. Inter-sectoral coordination and cooperation 3. Participation of people (particularly women) in the management and sharing of usufruct through Joint Forest Management (JFM) 4. Integrated development of villages in and around forests. These were in addition to all other provisions appropriated previously. The country got three new Acts: the National Appellate Authority Act, 1997, the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management & Handling) Rules, 2000, and the Ozone Depleting Substances (Regulation & Control) Rules, 2000. The Tenth Five-Year Plan (2002–07) iterated, ‘Sustainability is not an option but an imperative’ and ‘… without sustainability environmental deterioration and economic decline will be feeding on each other leading to poverty, pollution, poor health, political upheaval and unrest’52 — thus relating environment with every aspect of life, cutting across all sectors of development. The explicit recognition to sustainability issues might indicate that the governance regarding environment has adopted the principle of sustainability and sustainable development in its agenda and will act according to the sustainability doctrine. It admitted India as one of the 12 major biologically diversified countries and set out new initiatives besides the previous ones: 1. Schemes incorporating clean development mechanism; 2. Schemes with international cooperation. India has been offered several union laws like: the Noise Pollution (Regulation & Control) Amendment Act, 2002, and the Biological Diversity Act, 2002. The country finally got its first ever National Policy draft on the environment in 2004 and its implementation in 2006. Finally, the Eleventh Five-Year Plan (2007–12) stated the following in connection with the environment and climate change: Protection of the environment has to be a central part of any sustainable inclusive growth strategy. This aspect of development is 52 v2_ch9_1.pdf, p. 1055, accessed 16 April 2010.

Environmental Governance in India  183 especially important in the Eleventh Plan when consciousness of the dangers of environmental degradation has increased greatly. Population growth, urbanisation, and anthropogenic development employing energy-intensive technologies have resulted in injecting a heavy load of pollutants into the environment. More recently, the issue assumed special importance because of the accumulation of evidence of global warming and the associated climate change that it is likely to bring.’53

The plan document made a statement that environmental objectives require actions in several areas cutting across the purview of different ministries. In that sense the role of the MoEF is very crucial. The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has the important role of monitoring the development process and its environmental impact in a perspective of sustainable development and to devise suitable regulatory structures to achieve the desired results. While this role is crucial, environmental objectives can only be achieved if environmental concerns are internalised in policymaking in a large number of sectors. This would require sharing of responsibility at all levels of government and across sectors with respect to monitoring of pollution, enforcement of regulations, and development of programmes for mitigation and abatement. Regulatory enforcement must also be combined with incentives, including market and fiscal mechanisms to encourage both industry and people in their day-to-day working lives to act in a manner responsive to environmental concerns.54

The following is the structure of the MoEF till date. It is still the nodal agency in the administrative structure of the central government for the planning, promotion, coordination, and ensuring the implementation of India’s environmental and forestry policies and programmes with the broad objectives: 1. Conservation and survey of flora, fauna, forests, and wildlife; 2. Prevention and control of pollution; 3. Afforestation and regeneration of degraded areas; 53 ch9.pdf, p.: 192, accessed 23 April 2010. 54 ch9.pdf, p.: 192, accessed 23 April 2010.

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4. Protection of the environment; and 5. Ensuring the welfare of animals. Besides the five regional offices, a new office of the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau has been established in New Delhi. MoEF has 76 Environmental Information System (ENVIS) Centres with different subject areas. The CPCB and SPCBs are now designed as ENVIS Centres. The Forest Survey of India, the Botanical Survey of India, the Zoological Survey of India, the Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy, the Directorate of Forest Education, the National Institute of Animal Welfare, the National Zoological Park, and the National Museum of Natural History are subordinate offices under the ministry. The ministry has five autonomous organisations, four authorities, three boards, and one public sector undertaking under its purview. The divisional structure of the MoEF is as following: Divisions z Administration; z Animal Welfare (AW); z Budget and Accounts (BA); z Civil Construction Unit (CCU); z Clean Technology (CT); z Conservation & Survey (CS); z Control of Pollution (CP); z Environment Education (EE); z Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) z Environmental Information (EI); z Environmental Information System (ENVIS); z ENVIS — A Gateway on Sustainable Development; z National Natural Resource Management System (NNRMS) Programme; z Database of Environmental Experts in India, 2007; z NGO Cell (NC); z Environment Research (RE); z Externally Aided Projects (EAP); z North East Cell (NEC); z Forest Conservation (FC); z Forest Policy (FP); z Forest Protection (FPR);

Environmental Governance in India  185 z z z z


z z

z z z z z z z z z

Forest Services (FS); Hazardous Substances Management (HSM); Integrated Finance (IF); International Cooperation and Sustainable Development (IC&SD); z Climate Change (CC) [Website: 8th Conference of Parties to UNFCCC (COP8)]; z Clean Development Mechanism (CDM); National Afforestation & Eco-Development Board (NAEB); z United Nation Convention to Combat Desertification; National River Conservation Directorate (NRCD); Official Language (OL) [Web-site: http://www.rajbhasha.]; Montreal Protocol & Ozone Cell (OC); Plan Coordination (PC); Policy & Law (PL); Project Elephant (PE); Project Tiger (PT) [Website:]; Research & Training (Forestry) (RT); Survey & Utilization (SU); Trade and Environment (T&E); Wildlife (WL); z Regional Offices (RO).

Certainly, this reflects the vast spectrum under environmental governance in India.55 Perhaps, the MoEF consists of the most intricate, wide, and comprehensive structure of governance. It has to connect itself with the functions, objectives, and goals of all other ministries, which are crucial for developmental governance. If the task entrusted to the MoEF is looked at from a wide angle then it can be stated that basically, it has to take into consideration both ecological and economic concerns simultaneously. For the sake of the economic aspiration of the country, which was basically under-developed before the penetration of global capital into its own economic arrangements, India would prefer to go for a growth-oriented economic strategy through planning models prevalently up to 1991 for capital accumulation and self-reliance. Also, with the advent of the neoliberal set-up it internalises 55

MoEF website:, accessed 20 April 2010.




Adm Inct CAOC, Pri, IWSU, Protocol RII Act Adm o f RO BOm BSI ZSI SACON Bio-suly Custom Protocol CEAC NBA and NHAP CBD Worldlands and *** BCS


Crone C ell TBGRI Coral Reefs Mangroes Centre for Eco Science BSc FRLHT OL BGIR UND-CCFII & UNDP-GEF


PC Economic Call Ttade & Environment

Eco Ady (RSA)

A nnual Report State of Env. Report El ENVIS Updation of Ministry's Website Stat, Call

Stat Ady (NRG)

Secretary (E & F)


P#L Legal C ell CP Admin o f CPCB SAS SD Clean Technology


Ens. Health" WBIDCBP" IA o f Thermal Power Contraction Coal Mining# SAICM PCPs Review H any Motels RC SHC





Figure 4.4: Organisational Structure of the MoEF, India (Environment Wing)

*CCCDM# • UNFCC# • VIG >Medi




GPG: Global Public Goods GEAC: Genetic Engineering Approval Committee GC: Central Co-ordination GEF. Global Environm ent Facility GA: Central Administration HSMD: Hazardous Substances M anagem ent Scheme IGPP. Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar IA: Im pact Assessm ent IC: Interactional Co-opersion ICIMOD: International Centre for Integrated M ountain-Development IWSU: Internal Work Study Unit MABP: Mao and Biosphere Programme MD: Male Declaration NBAP: National Biodiversity Action Plan NBA: National Biodiversity Authority NATCOM: National Communication NRCD: National River Conservation Scheme NLCP: National Lab Conservation Plan GL: O fficial Language PG: Public Grievances PC: Plan Co-ordination P&L: Policy and Law

POPs: Persistent Organic Pollutants RC: Rotterdam Convention SACON: Salim A li Centre for Ornithology & Natural History SAICM: Strategic Approach to International Chemicals M anagem ent SAS: Source Apportionm ent Studies SD: Sostainable Developm ent UNFCCC: United Nationals Framework Convention on Climate Change UNCCD: United Nations Convention to Combat Decertification VIG: Vigilance WBIDCBP: World Bank Industrial Developm ent Capacity Building Project ZSI: Zoological Survey o f India

SS (RHE): R.H. Khwaja, Spl. Secretary AS (MFF): M.F. Farooqul IS (BPN): B.P. Nilantna, Joint Secretary IS (HKP): H.K. Pande, Joint Secretary IS (AKG): A.K. Goyal, Joint Secretary Eco. A dv (RSA): R S. Ahiawat, Econom ic Adviser Stat. A dv (NKG): N il Karth Gosh, Statistical Adviser IS (RD): Rajneesh Dube, Joint Secretary Adv (GKP): G.K. Pande, Adviser Adv (RM): R Mehta, Adviser IS (RG): R Gauba, Joint Secretary IS (RRR): R.R. Rashmi, Joint Secretary

Source:, accessed on 12 June 2010

'This w ork w ill directly b e submitted to the Secretary (E&T) ’ Officers for this w ork will report to SS (RHK) IS (HKP) Will report to DGR & SS for this work ^Officers for this w ork w ill report to AS(IMM) AW: Animal welfare BGIR: Botanical Garden o f the Indian Republic BG: Botanic Garden BSI: Botanical Survey o f India BCS: Bio-Diversity Conservation Scheme CC: Climate Change CDM: Clean Developm ent Mechanism CP: Control o f Pollution CRZ: Coastal Regulation Zone CPCB: Central Pollution Control Board CBP: Capacity Building Project CBD: Convention on Biological Diversity EE: Environm ent Education EIVR: Entities o f Incomparable Value Regulations FE: Forest Establishment FRLHT: Foundation for Revitalization o f Local H ealth Tradition GBPIHED.G.B. Pant H im alayan Institute o f Environm ent Developm ent



NATCOM IPC C & all other Scientific/ Technical Works related to OC



LA of Industry, Infrastructure, River Valleys, Mining CRZ MD**


• IFD (Environm ent, NFCD, Forests Wildlife, NAEB)


• Office o f the Principal Pay & Accounts Officer • Budget

Source:, accessed 12 June 2010

••Officers for this w ork will rep o rt to SS (RHK) AICOPTAX: All India Coordinated Project o n Building in Tkxonomy CRZ: Coastal Regulation Zone NDMA: National D isaster M anagem ent Authority CCU: Civil Construction Unit NMNH: National M useum o f Natural H istoiy EIV: Entities o f Incom parable Value NAEB: National Afforestation and Eco-Development Board ESA: Ecologically Sensitive Areas PLI: Public Liability Insurance LA: Im pact Assessment RE: Research in Environm ent IFD: Integrated Finance Division SWM: Sdid Wastes M anagem ent

• RE • Fly Ash • ESA • Assistance to Botanic Garden • AICOPTAX • EIV • NMNH



Secretary (ES'F)


AS (MFF): M.F. Farooqui, Addl. Secretary AS (IMM): I.M. Mauskar, Addl. Secretary Adv (GVS): V.V. Subramaniam, Adviser CE (BKR) B.K. Rokde, C hief Engineer AS&FA: Additional Secretary and Financial Adviser ADV (NB): Nalini Bhar, Adviser ADV.(SKS): Suboch k. Sharma, Adviser

Figure 4.5: Organisational Structure of the MoEF, India (Environment Wing)


Environmental Governance in India  189

within itself global-integrated economic norms. However, the credibility of the MoEF would lie in how it could respond to the developmental fall-outs on natural environment, how it could take a balanced path between ecological urgencies and economic imperatives in a development model, and how it could come up with the global economic transition. The next section of this article will concentrate on the appraisal of the evolution and functioning of environmental governance in India in accordance with the ecological inferences derived from the discussion of the theoretical understanding in the previous section. This would be more or less with a gradual formation of environmental governance in India based on locating the problematic and responding to them institutionally with constitutional back-up. A question that is certainly important here is how the issue of the environment could become such an important issue for governance and where it locates itself between two more or less opposite trajectories of developmental dimensions — economic growth and ecological sustainability. Which one would be of prevalent influence — ‘norms’ of economics or ‘logic’ of ecology? Also, the structure of governance may be critiqued in accordance with the principles of good governance. An appraisal is followed to look for the answers of these queries.

An Appraisal First Phase: A Hesitant Beginning India once adopted the Nehru–Mahalanabis (Jawaharlal Nehru and Prasanta Chandra Mahalanabis, the renowned statistician) growth strategy relying on heavy industrial growth to combat widespread poverty and got conjoined with this principle for the first three decades of planning to attain ‘self-reliance’. One objective among the principles set out by the Planning Commission was to increase production to the maximum possible extent so as to achieve a higher level of national and per capita income.56 It was then expected that the socio-economic well-being would percolate to the impoverished section of the population through ‘rapid economic growth’. For this rapid growth ‘efficient’ 56

Ruddar Datt and K. P. M. Sundharam, Indian Economy, New Delhi: S. Chand & Company Ltd, 2001, p. 143.

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utilisation of natural resources was appreciated. The equity question, if considered, was centred on the intra-generational, not inter-generational, goal. Economic infrastructure-building and natural resources were taken into account as the means of reconstruction. For example, the chapter on forests in Part III of the ‘First Five Year-Plan’ document, known as ‘Programmes of Development’ evoked an emerging concern relating loss of some ‘valuable species’ of trees due to the partition of the country and decline of production and import of timber since the end of World War II. The chapter advised ‘...stepping up supplies of timber by increased use of non-conventional species after proper seasoning and treatment by chemical methods …’57 Clause 10 of this chapter presented the then consumption figures of forest timber with a giant share of 27 per cent consumed by the government alone owing to the demand for the production of railway sleepers. Demands also arose from defence and other civil departments. The chapter declared, ‘… as the availability of steel is far short of total requirements, a policy of conserving steel and replacing it by timber has become imperative and should be adopted.’58 With such propositions it can be obviously assumed that forest administration and forest research and education were principally meant for the protection of the commercial potential of forest instead of ecological stability. This perception continued over the first three plan periods and during the ‘Plan Holiday’.59 It might be the cause of not entertaining the potential of the constitutional provisions made under the directive principles of state policy towards an ecological direction. Even the Fourth Five-Year Plan document, which for the first time incorporated ecological concerns into policy making and governance, clearly emphasised economic growth as an answer to widespread poverty with the inherent principle of ‘growth with justice’ and the political slogan of ‘garibi hatao’ (remove poverty). Consequently, ecological concerns were lost at the time of drafting the Fifth Five-Year Plan, when the country was reeling under an acute 57, accessed 23 April 2010. 58, accessed 23 April 2010. 59 Three Annual Plans (1966–69) were euphemistically described as ‘Plan Holiday’.

Environmental Governance in India  191

financial crisis. The initial reluctance of the government to be acquiescent with the international environmental agenda could be located in the following comment of the then prime minister, Indira Gandhi, made at the Stockholm Conference 1972: . . . the environmental problems of developing countries are not side effects of excessive industrialisation but reflect the inadequacy of development. The rich countries may look upon development as the cause of environmental destruction, but to us it is one of the primary ones of improving the environment for living, or providing food, water, sanitation and shelter, of making the desert green and the mountains habitable.60

It was believed by policy makers that there was no trade-off between development and environment. Rather the relationship was complementary. It was also nearer to the neoclassical perception of faster economic growth and full utilisation of resources, ignoring the limits by entropy. It was believed that environmental quality may suffer from degradation only temporarily in the initial phase of growth but beyond a threshold of development economic growth and environmental cleanliness would move together in the same direction, as illustrated by the environmental Kuznet’s curve in the previous section. But India suddenly got stuck in another challenge of governance as it joined the bandwagon of environmentalism as a contracting party of numerous international treaties and agreements on environmental issues. India must have ratified a treaty, that is, by adopting it as national law before it came into force, or by acceding to it after it had come into force. Some of them were: (1) Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which came into force on 1 July 1975. India signed on 9 July 1974 and ratified on 20 July 1976. (2) Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat, which came into force on 21 December 1975. India acceded on 1 October 1981. (3) United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which came into force on 7 April 1982. India ratified on 17 June 1985. 60

Bhattacharya, ‘Economics of Natural Resources’, pp. 100–01.

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(4) Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, which came into force on 22 September 1988. India ratified on 18 March 1991. (5) Convention on Biological Diversity, which came into force on 29 December 1993. India signed on 5 June 1992 and ratified on 18 February 1994. Thus, the emergence of environmental concerns in governmental responses in India had some interesting linkages. The growth of worldwide environmentalism resulted in a series of international efforts like the ‘Club of Rome’ initiatives in the late 1960s; the Founex Conference in Switzerland in June, 1971; the United Nation’s Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in June, 1972; and the Geneva Meeting in April, 1974. Gradually, India became part of these global initiatives. The country took part in the IUCN General Assembly in the USSR in 1978, the World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987, the Rio Conference in 1992, the Johannesburg Earth Summit in 2002, and so on. As discussed earlier, the phrase ‘sustainable development’ was defined in the Brundtland Commission Report, ‘Our Common Future’ (in the World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987) as development which meets the needs of the present without sacrificing the ability of the future to meet its needs. In response to it, legislation incorporated the concept of sustainability in the planning model. A handful of central and sectoral Acts have been implemented, attuned to this path of development. Also, to cater to this new concept of development, the requirement of some institutional back-up was soon realised. That effort resulted in a structured governmental initiative through the creation of MoEF. Articles 246, 248, 249, 250, 252, and 253 all became extremely helpful to draft several policies, rules, and acts. With the provisions made in these Articles, it has become easier for India to join the global bandwagon of environmentalism. Obviously, a question could be raised here. How strong was the international influence on Indian governmentality? There were certainly other issues that did enjoy international mandates. However, India did not wish ever to be a part of the bandwagon on those issues. It should be noted that participation in various

Environmental Governance in India  193

international ratifications on environmental issues was never mandatory. For instance, the issue of ratification under the Kyoto Protocol may be mentioned; it has been a much later initiative and it was introduced when environmentalism has already loomed large as a global imperative. Elaborating this point, let me go back to the theoretical proposition presented earlier in this article along with some empirical findings. It has been stated already that institutional governance regarding environmental issues evolved since the late 1970s and in more comprehensive ways since the mid-1980s. The later time period was contextualised by socialism failing worldwide and the gradual inclination towards integrating the global market. Obviously the demand and supply of raw materials became important, a large portion of which claimed to be natural resources. The ‘Foreword’ and chapter titled ‘Development Perspective’ of the Fourth Five-Year Plan reflected some tensions regarding the status of certain crucial natural resources and the emerging demand for resources in the following manner. It iterated: We faced a plan gap and a budget gap at a time when the whole world, and India more than other countries, was hard hit by inflation, the continuing rise in the price of petroleum while the price of our raw materials remains static, as well as other political and economic tensions and international confrontations … A developing nation must marshal its scarce resources for a concerted effort to build its capital base in various sectors of the economy to enhance production capabilities and allow larger savings. Increased output and a balanced inter-sectoral allocation of the incremental savings promote further development … The very process of development generates new expectations and makes fresh demands on resources … Greater emphasis has been laid on the speedy development of indigenous sources of energy and infrastructural sectors of coal, energy, irrigation and transport. High priority has been given to agriculture and rural development and allied agricultural activities like animal husbandry, dairying, fisheries and also the forestry sector, with accent on development and conservation.’61

61, accessed 1 July 2010.

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The plan document also evoked some uncertainties regarding development. Planning for medium and long term has to reckon with certain inherent uncertainties. There are two principal sources of such uncertainty the weather and the international environment. Weather induced fluctuations in agricultural production and hydel generation can throw plan calculations out of gear … With regard to uncertainties in the international economic environment, several alternative scenarios were experimented with, on varying assumptions about the terms of trade mainly to take account of prospective oil price increases. These calculations show that even a small rise in oil prices vis-à-vis what has been assumed in the Plan will significantly reduce the growth of the economy below target levels; it will also adversely effect (sic) the level of consumption of the poor people. A rapid increase in the domestic production of oil and alternate energy sources and a reduction in the rate of growth of consumption of petroleum products are essential for safeguarding the integrity of our development plans in the face of these uncertainties.62

Now, this concern may be related with economist Rabindra N. Bhattacharya’s proposition: with the consistent increase in the relative price (value) of natural environmental amenities even with no shift in taste, relative to goods and services that it might yield, irreversibility will clearly pose a problem. The capitalist pulse of the economy guides human perception towards short-run instead of long-run gains and losses. Preferences will be different in the short and long run and preferences will change, though, predictions about change in preference paths and technological responses cannot be delivered accurately as they are uncertain in nature. Since the Sixth Five Year Plan, plan documents have reiterated that the new developmental paradigm often has produced unintended side-effects of efforts to achieve rapid economic growth and development. Distortions may be imposed on national resources from poorly planned development projects and programmes, as well as from lack of attention to long-term concerns by commercial and vested interests. Thus it is clear 62, accessed 1 July 2010.

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that a concern for environment is essentially a desire to see that national development proceeds along rational sustainable lines. Environmental conservation is, in fact, the very basis of all development. The urge is to achieve an inter-temporal choice of allocation of resources over generations — sustainability, both in the environmental and economic sense, has emerged as the only choice to deal with the uncertainty and irreversibility factors. Faster growth with declining natural capital and rising real costs of environmental amenities as well as integration with global market norms are certainly worthy contributions to the governmentality of the country. On the other hand, the fallouts of ‘developmental disasters’ on the ‘commons’ of the country and long-sustained environmental movements in several parts of India for rights over natural resources have been other influencing factors on the direction of environmental governance. Large dams had to be built to ensure full utilisation of the country’s hydel energy, particularly keeping in consideration the declining thermal power base and its appreciating costs. Therefore, the Himalaya’s rugged terrain would have been exploited whatever might be its ecological implications. Forested areas should be managed ‘properly’ to extract economic profit through commercial plantation as well as by promoting tourism. Coastal areas would be brought under the purview of the ministry of commerce and industry and other ministries to facilitate the establishment of modernised ports and export promoting zones or special economic zones. New kind of hazardous materials were to be exploited to take up challenges like energy deficiency, chemical revolution, newer demands of the information and technology sector, and the practice of recycling wastes. Plateaus and hillocks had to be penetrated in search for minerals in order to maintain the growing needs of power, physical infrastructure, real estate, etc. However, these have resulted in degradation of core natural areas, causing severe damage to the subsistence livelihood of indigenous communities of those areas. Obviously, these factors have resulted in wide public discontent. Movements like Chipko in Garhwal, the Chilika, Tehri Dam, and Narmada Project movements, the Cogentrix controversy, the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, and tribal movements in many parts of India to attain their rights over natural tracts perhaps sent the popular pulse of the time to governmental

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orders. Accounts of these movements can be found in the writings of Ramchandra Guha, Madhav Gadgil, Vandana Shiva, and Claude Alvares. These movements often have involved environmentalists, lawyers, and other aggrieved parties approaching courts for redress. While in the developed world, movements are mainly against pollution and biomass depletion, the domains of the developing and underdeveloped world generate ecological movements centring on the rights of access to natural endowment. Article 19, as described earlier, endorsed the right to protect the environment, thus expanding the ambit of environmental governance further. This phenomenon has generated another kind of politics — dragging the environment into the overlapping areas of economics, ecology, and society. Right-based politics on several environmental issues has put forth a substantial volume of populism to the governmentality of the country. The MoEF has emerged as a mediator of the tensions and conflicts among economic, ecological, and political aspirations. The role of the courts in this complex interplay of forces brings out some systematic aspects of environmental politics.63 Accordingly, institutional efforts incorporated the issues of rights over common property resources, inter-sectoral coordination and cooperation, participation of people (particularly women) in the management and sharing of usufruct through JFM and integrated development of villages in and around forests in the context of environmental governance. Prior to the 1980s, only the aggrieved party could go to the courts and seek remedy for its grievance. However, any other person who was not personally affected could not do so as a proxy of the victim or the aggrieved party. But, the incorporation of Article 48-A in the directive principles of state policy and Article 51-A (g) in the Fundamental Duties transformed the perspective, creating new horizons of social justice. It was greatly reflected in the cases involving the municipal council, Ratlam vs. Shri Vardhichand and others, (1980) 4 SCC 162, Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra vs. State of UP (1985) 2 SCC 431, and M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India, (1986) 2 SCC 176 to name a few. Simultaneously, the Supreme Court of India embarked upon an activist phase of constitutional interpretation. 63

Pravin Sheth, Environmentalism: Politics, Ecology and Development, Jaipur and New Delhi: Rawat Publications, 1997, p. 118.

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Against the backdrop of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy in 1984 and the Oleum Gas Leak in Delhi in 1985, the Supreme Court suggested that the government should plan a national policy for the location of toxic and hazardous industries and should set up an independent centre with professionally competent and publicspirited experts to provide scientific and technological inputs. Responding to these, Parliament provided the Gas Leak Disaster (Processing of Claims) Act, 1985, the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, and the Manufacture, Use, Import, Export and Storage of Hazardous Micro-organisms or Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells Rules, 1989. Since 1985, the most important role has been played by public interest litigation (PIL) to innovate solutions to environmental matters. Article 142 of the constitution offered the Supreme Court a pivotal power to mould its decisions in order to ensure complete justice. As the Supreme Court is the final authority as far as matters of constitutional interpretation are concerned, it adopted an expanded view of life under Article 21 and enriched it by including environmental rights by reading it alongside Articles 47, 48-A, and 51-A (g). All these substantiate the fact that the authoritative response towards environmental questions in India was not proactive in entirety but reactive to a large extent. It was because of this that environmental governance in India took the approach of command and control (CAC) with a set of laws designed to perform a preventive role. The roles of the CPCB and SPCBs were proved to be soft reactive approaches, resulting only in imprisonment for two to seven years with fines for violation of environmental norms.64 At best, the boards, if necessary, could also close down certain polluting factories. A study conducted by the Planning Commission found that the PCBs do not have a complete inventory of polluting and potentially polluting industries. Small industries have been left out of the purview of pollution control for the sake of economic development, though they have the potential to contribute as much as 40 per cent of air and water pollution. Also, the PCBs were accused of poor enforcement, poor monitoring, lack of technical skills, inadequate funding, and being vulnerable to political interference. Reviewing the situation 64

Bhattacharya, ‘Economics of Natural Resources’, pp. 103–5.

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ecologically, it can be stated that overall, this reactive CAC approach of environmental governance in India is inadequate in the sense that it does not take into account the Second Law of Thermodynamics and entropy. Dismantling an un-disturbed natural environment, in many instances, may leave the area or region in future with an abiotic base entirely different from that which existed initially in the natural state. Therefore, the utility of the CAC approach to govern the environment is certainly questionable. Certain types of pollution may be irreversible and mere punishment will fail to prevent harmful alternations in nature. None of the responsibilities of the CPCB or SPCBs iterates the urgency to address the uncertainty of the actions of the polluting agents. Also, several central Acts like the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (Processing of Claims) Act, 1985; the Manufacture, Use, Import, Export and Storage of Hazardous Micro-organisms or Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells Rules, 1989, etc. emerged as reactive control measures after the consequences of the damage felt. Economic imperatives might force this hesitant state of environmental governance in India to continue. Sustainability issues have been addressed in plan documents several times though governance has failed to take either a dominant ecological stand or an overwhelming economic agenda. What could be the rationale behind this soft reactive approach of the government? India had and has to follow a growth-oriented economic path for its substantial impoverished population as well as a response to the global scarcity of resources, their appreciating costs, adverse balance of payments, and increasing global economic integrity. Ecological problems were certainly admitted and along with global mandates on environmentalism, India has been adopting a structured form of environmental governance. Despite this, the economic agenda could not be abandoned. It has been mentioned earlier that the substantial growth of the secondary sector and its contribution to rising GDP may lead to an increase in hazardous waste output and biomass depletion. However, it is expected that at a later stage, the share of the service sector in GDP would go up as a result of the maturity of capitalist development and consequently, the pollution intensity of the social aggregate product would decrease due to the nature of demand composition, product preferences, and the income-elasticity of demand for environmental services.

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The governmental response to environmental problems in India may have followed the principle that the fast GDP growth rate would ensure declining environmental problems at a later stage of development with the change in consumer tastes, preferences, and income-elasticity of demand.

Second Phase: The Spurt in Reforms The final decade of the 20th century has seen a growing interest in employing a market-based approach to environmental policy making and governance. Everything has been going under the purview of market-based instruments while the World Bank has been engaging itself to set the parameters of good governance. This is to achieve certain developmental goals of the neoliberal regime. Nature is viewed as the resource base to be exploited efficiently for the sake of development, insuring the potential of future use to maintain enhancing consumption practice. Technological superiority has been considered a solution for a shrinking resource base. The argument in favour of technological solutions based on the ground of substantial progress of science and technology has influenced the possibility frontier to shift leftward, reducing the services from environmental amenities. This already has been explained in Figure 4.1 of this article. Everyone has been trying to climb the ladder of growth, which has no end. India also has the aim of reaching double-digit growth figures. The draft five-year plans presented the fact of consistent and rising growth such as: GDP figure rise from 5.8 per cent in the Seventh Five-Year Plan (1987–92) to 6.8 per cent in Eighth Five-Year Plan (1992–97). During the Tenth Five-Year Plan (2002–2007) period, the Indian economy attained an average growth of 7.7 per cent, the highest in any plan period till then. There was an acceleration even within the Tenth Plan period and the average growth rate in the last four years of the plan has been 8.7 per cent, making India one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. However, the question of scarcity of resources urges governance as well as control and monitoring. Expectedly it should be good. Incidentally, environmental governance in India is accused of dilution according to ecological norms when it enters into the market regime. Also, it has invited another criticism from the point

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of view of good governance. It has been accused of incorporating deregulatory policy initiatives in the name of reform measures. The introduction of the Biodiversity Bill, 2000, the declaration of the National Environment Policy (NEP), 2006 (the first ever national policy on environment), the New Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006, and the Coastal Management Zone (CMZ) Notification, 2008, all have been severely criticised on ecological parameters. According to the Biodiversity Bill, 2000, biological diversity and knowledge are brought under the regulation of the proposed National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) whose structure is skewed in favour of strong bureaucratic control undermining two factors — the representation of civil society groups and decentralisation of environmental governance. Panchayats and other local governing bodies are kept as only nodal agencies without recognising their knowledge associated with biological resources. This certainly violates some major principles of good governance such as: participation, rule of law, responsiveness, and inclusiveness. The NEP 2006 derives its legitimacy from the inclusion of objectives such as sustainable development, intra- and intergenerational equity, internalisation of environmental costs into the planning process, precautionary principle, fixing strict liability (even if the absence of legislation or standards), and preventive action. All of them are well-intentioned. However, the NEP seeks no change in the pattern of production and consumption. It makes no effort to control the penetration of profit-maximising private corporate capital into sectors which are ecologically critical and also vulnerable as far as livelihood security and the ‘commons’ are concerned. It is interesting to note that though it evokes the principle of sustainable development and mentions the unsustainable consumption patterns of the industrialised countries, it fails to deliver any concrete mechanism to attain ecologically sustainable path. No ‘Safe Minimum Standard’ has been set to attain sustainability. Also, the MoEF has been accused of undemocratic processes while drafting the NEP, 2006. Civil society groups, NGOs, and other stakeholders have been marginalised in consultations. In July 2005, a few individuals chanced upon a revised copy of the NEP, which was marked ‘secret’ on every page. NGOs once again recorded their consternation with

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the MoEF in the form of an open letter to the prime minister urging that the NEP should be widely circulated and discussed using the vast machinery of the SPCBs, the forest departments and the state departments of environments.65 Environmental-impact assessment (EIA), introduced in 1977, is one of the crucial means of environmental governance. The website of the MoEF asserts: Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is an important management tool for ensuring the optimal use of natural resources for sustainable development. Environmental Management or planning is the study of the unintended consequences of a project. Its purpose is to identify, examine, assess and evaluate the likely and probable impacts of a proposed project on the environment and, thereby, to work out remedial action plans to minimise adverse impact on the environment.

Critiques of EIA have dealt in detail with the problems of faulty EIA reports, non-functional public hearings, violations of the provisions of the EIA Notification, and problems in the content of the EIA Notification itself and its various amendments. The EIA Notification was introduced in 1994 as the only method to assess environmental and social impacts of development projects. However, the New EIA Notification, 2006, based on the reform initiative by MoEF, has been alleged to have diluted the very vision of ‘impact assessment’. Also, the notification was set in an extremely vague as well as undemocratic way. It has been drafted basically as per the principles of the EMCB project of the World Bank and the recommendations of the Govindarajan Committee.66 Consultations on the draft notification were held 65

Aarthi Sridhar, ‘Environmental Governance Reforms: Rephrasing the Reform Process’, Bengaluru: Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, n.d., pp. 6–7. 66 The ‘Govindarajan Committee’ was set up by the cabinet secretariat in September 2001 to recast the government’s investment approvals and regulations framework by examining extant procedures for investment approvals and implementation of projects and suggest measures to simplify and expedite the process of both public and private projects. The ‘Govindarajan Committee’ identified certain problems with the environmental regulation framework, which inhibited investment in the country. They are: a) Time consuming and require undue effort, b) Entail a cumbersome process, where disproportionate details are sought with EC applications, delays take

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only with representatives of industry and central government agencies, as per the ministry’s own submission.67 State governments, panchayats and municipalities, NGOs, trade unions, and local community groups were partially or completely kept out of the process. MoEF held meetings with apex industry associations, namely the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASHOCHAM), and the Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India (CREDAI). It also mentioned that the comments of the apex industry associations were under review, but failed to even acknowledge the range of comments sent by civil society groups. This inherent bias of the ministry to negotiate with the industry on what an environment regulation should be was clear when the MoEF admitted that it was as per the direction of the office of the prime minister. Certain critical modifications made in the new notification were: (a) Exemption of construction projects, power plant projects of less than 500 MW, cement plants of less than 1 MTPA (million tonnes per annum) capacity, real estate projects affecting less than 20,000 square metres from any study of environmental impact and any public consultation; (b) Extremely short time limits on the assessment process;68 (c) No mandatory public hearings if the government feels ‘conditions are not conducive’; (d) Extension of the validity of clearances from five to ten years.69 On the whole, these modifications ensure deregulation of environmental norms in an unsustainable manner, overlooking the threats of irreversibility and uncertainty. The right to attend public hearings or give comments is only for those who have place in appraisal meetings, c) Technical issues are reopened at various stages of appraisal, d) EIA studies are of a poor quality leading to suboptimal regulation, e) There are delays by other concerned agencies. 67 Sridhar, ‘Environmental Governance Reforms’, pp. 7–10. 68 A project application is deemed accepted if government agencies do not respond within the specified time limit. 69 Sridhar, ‘Environmental Governance Reforms’, pp. 8–9.

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a ‘plausible stake in the environmental aspects of the project’, providing discretion to the government to exclude anyone it deems as not having a ‘stake’.70 Conflicts and controversies are emerging with projects reportedly being submitted for clearance at the rate of more than 150 per month. On 19 February 1991, the MoEF issued the CRZ Notification which sought to regulate human activities in the area of 500 metres from the High Tide Line (HTL) along the entire 6,000-km long coastal stretches of India, in addition to riverine stretches affected by tidal action. The objective was to protect the coastal areas from degradation due to unplanned development, which was beyond the carrying capacity of nature. The notification was issued under the powers given to the central government under the Environment Protection Act, 1986. It classified coastal areas into four zones depending on the intensity of protection and considering the extent of development already taken place. They were: CRZ I:

It comprised those areas which were most fragile and in need of absolute protection from any form of development: such as mangroves, coral reefs, national parks, marine parks, sanctuaries, spawning grounds of fish and other marine life etc.; CRZ II: It comprised areas that had already been developed up to or close to shore line. All cities and other wellpopulated areas which were substantially built up and had different infrastructural facilities came under this zone. In these areas, development was permitted only on the landward side of existing infrastructure; CRZ III: It included the areas which did not fall under either CRZ I or CRZ II. In this zone, the area up to 200 m from the HTL was a ‘No-development Zone’. Between 200–500 m, a concession was made for the foreign exchangeearning potential of the tourism industry, provided it complied with certain conditions; CRZ IV: This zone comprised of the coastal stretches of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, and other small islands. These eco-fragile regions were treated 70

Ibid., pp. 9–10.

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as separate entities and special protection status was accorded to them. But, over the years, catering to the productive interests of the industrial, commercial, and other pressure groups and lobbies, the following deregulatory measures have been taken up. Date 18 August 1994

9 July 1997

12 April 2001

21 May 2002

24 July 2003

Deregulations Reduction of CRZs for rivers, creeks, and backwaters from 100 to 50 m. Central government may conditionally allow constructions within 200 m of HTL or even between Low Tide Line (LTL) and HTL in CRZ III. Transfer of hazardous substances was allowed in the port areas. Storage of petroleum products was allowed in ports in CRZ II and CRZ III. Some construction activities related to projects of the department of atomic energy was allowed in CRZ I. Though, any kind of development was denied in CRZ I initially. Recruitments of SEZs and IT industries were cleared in CRZ, even in the ‘No-development Zone’. Projects of the department of atomic energy were permitted in the ‘No-development Zone’ of CRZ III.

In July 2004, the MoEF set up an Expert Committee headed by Professor M.S. Swaminathan to carry out a comprehensive review of the CRZ Notification. Its stated objective was to enable the MoEF with strong scientific principles and to devise regulations that would meet the urgent need for coastal conservation and development/livelihood needs. The Swaminathan Committee submitted its report in February 2005. According to the new zonation, the CRZ has been modified into CMZ. There are a number of problems with the new CMZ Notification: (a) The zonation proposed by the M.S. Swaminathan Committee, particularly CMZ II, is not acceptable, given that it

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is likely to pave the way for unsustainable developmental activities in large areas of the coastal zone; (b) The terminology has been changed from ‘regulation’ to ‘management’. It is only an attempt to prove technological superiority over environment; (c) SEZs have been permitted in the CMZ II areas opening up the process of commercial exploitation of coasts. Therefore, through the reform process environmental governance dilutes its principles as far as the governance of the coastal stretches in India is concerned. This natural stretch is substantially fragile in characteristic and among the last tracts consisting of ecological diversity. On the other hand, environmental governance in India fails miserably in the performance parameters of ‘good governance’ as far as the issues of participation, rule of law, transparency, responsiveness, consensus orientation, equity and inclusiveness, effectiveness and efficiency, and accountability are concerned. Increasing importance of industrial and commercial houses has been felt during the reform phase over aggrieved parties and stakeholders. This dilution not only indicates a declining participatory spirit but a lack of ‘responsiveness’, ‘consensusorientation’, and ‘inclusiveness’. According to UNDP norms, the responsiveness of governance might be meaningful if there is a serious civil society engagement in public affairs. If we consider the CMZ Notification, it can be revealed that MoEF published the draft CMZ Notification 2008 in the Gazette of India on 1 May 2008 under SO No. 1070 (E) and uploaded the draft in its website for public information, inviting objections and suggestions within 60 days from its publication. The question has been rightly asked: How can the MoEF expect that tens of millions of coastal people, specially fishers and fishworkers, residing in more than 3,000 coastal villages situated along some 7,600 km of coastal stretch of our country, will be able to access the MoEF website or the Gazette of India, where the Draft CMZ Notification has been published in English, read it and submit their comments on the same?71 71

Pradip Chatterjee and Santanu Chacraverti, Draft Coastal Management Zone Notification 2008: A Critique and Pointers Towards an Alternative Approach, Kolkata: Disha, 2008, p. iv.

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The appropriation of NEP, 2006 and reforms in the EIA process after consultation with the industrial and commercial lobby, ignoring even the state governments and local governing authorities, apart from the aggrieved parties, NGOs, and the stakeholders, prove that there is fragmented responsiveness, partitioned consensus, and exclusiveness. Effectiveness of environmental governance has been suffering from serious lapses as the measures taken fail to produce results that meet the best needs of the society. If environmental governance in India is efficient, it is certainly not on an equitable path. Efficiency and equity are two paradoxical issues as stated earlier in this article. The present developmental practice will certainly put an absolute limit on economic growth in future with irreversible and uncertain fallouts on natural resources. The present capitalist pulse of the economy guides human perception towards short-run instead of long-run gains and losses. But, issues of sustainability locate themselves far beyond self-interest maximisation to societal cooperation with nature. It demands re-examinations of the value systems — to the extent that they affect human preferences. Preferences will be different in the short and long run and preferences will change. But, as we have said, the prediction about change in the preference path and technological responses cannot be delivered accurately as they are uncertain in nature. An SMS has never been ascertained anywhere as the level of ‘minimum’ is steadily declining according to the parameters of developmental needs. This trend can be substantiated with the deregulatory measures, even in the case of most vulnerable environmental resources.

Environmental Governance in India: A Dilemma The dilution of environmental governance in India, particularly in the neoliberal regime, is a continuous process. The gradual withdrawal of Acts and laws and prevalence of Bills, notifications, plans, and policies reduce legal enforceability. Governance has been located between emerging environmental concerns and powerful economic forces, gradually tilting towards the latter one. Sustainability, the MoEF says, is not ecological but economic, though arguments may be raised about whether this economic sustainability will be efficient enough to overcome the absolute limits on the very process of development projected by

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the negative externality of environment and checks by entropy law. The developmental process and environmental governance proceeding on this line fail to assure either economic or ecological sustainability. The overall appraisal of the environmental governance in India has revealed some general logical deductions: (a) A contested path of governance can be located as far as the institutional ‘environmentalism’ is concerned. The contest can be located between the pure economic aspirations of the society and country as a whole and the unavoidable ecological concern for the very existence of the economy and human society; (b) The aforesaid contest initiated a hesitant and late beginning of structured environmental governance in the mid-1980s and 1990s when, on the one hand, the global mandates for incorporating environmentalism as an inseparable entity of governance and developmental practice, for the very existence of livelihoods, were growing and, on other hand, the new face of governance itself was emerging with the principles of more participation, rule of law, transparency, responsiveness, consensus orientation, equity and inclusiveness, effectiveness and efficiency, and accountability. The review revealed more or less a diluted journey of environmental governance in India where the urgency for incorporating ecological imperatives into the frame of governance has been felt; however, the lack of a comprehensive method or strategy has been felt for governmental procedure. Every plan document since the 1980s has iterated the necessity of adapting the path of sustainable development. However, how to achieve the desired trajectory of sustainability and what approach of sustainability the country is going to adopt has never been mentioned in any of those plan documents. The theoretical section of the present article has provided three distinct and established approaches to sustainability: the Hartwick–Solow Approach to Sustainability, the Ecological Economics Approach to Sustainability, and the Safe Minimum Standard Approach to Sustainability. Among those, the last approach has been acclaimed as the preferred and balanced one, which is to be promoted. However, that desired ‘minimum’

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has never been aimed at in the overall socio-economic planning in India. It has been already mentioned earlier that the criticality of environmental governance has been increased further with the advent of the neoliberal global economic set-up riding on market solutions. The theoretical section has analysed how market mechanisms would fail to provide any long-term sustained solution to ecological problems. It fails to provide substantial positive responses to the issues of ecological externality to the economy, the absolute limit to economic growth, the asymmetry of technology, ecological uncertainty and irreversibility and thus, unable to achieve sustainable path of development. Only, a logical structure of environmental governance along with a comprehensive law and policy paradigm may ensure the desired results. To make this frame of governance more effective, the parametric prescriptions of the World Bank and UNDP can be referred to, not denying the fact that the emergence of that parametric frame is very much within the ambit of the neoliberal logic of mitigating developmental challenges. At this juncture, India is showing a dwindling journey of institutional ‘environmentalism’ following several dilutions in drafting laws, Acts, and policies, especially post-1991 and substantial deregulations in many environmental initiatives in the name of ‘reforms’ in favour of neoliberal economic aspirations. Along with these, the developmental urgency to climb up the ladder of economic growth, which has no virtual end, only results in the virtual diminishing level of that ‘minimum’ with the creation of newer demands for the present and future consumption pattern as a consequence of capital accumulation and technological innovations. In this way, the dilemma of environmental governance in India could be located. Certainly, the country has incorporated the inherent policy dilemmas of neoliberal developmental programmes and continues to run on that path. On the contrary, environmental governance in a country like India has crossed some incredible milestones in spite of several drawbacks. The divisional structure of the MoEF shows how wide, comprehensive, and complicated the structure of governance is as it stands today. The allocation of legislative authority reveals the challenges of the interconnecting task of governance. It gradually reveals how critical the task of governance is, at the receiving end, in lieu of the pressure from several other ministries

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like the ministry of finance, ministry of corporate affairs, ministry of power, ministry of commerce, and ministry of industry. All of the aforesaid ministries are on a similar performance scale as far as issues of good governance are concerned and on the same ladder of growth that has virtually no end. The MoEF is basically a project-clearing agency for them and for bargaining. The union minister of commerce and industry released the ‘Strategy Paper on the Growth of Engineering Exports’ commissioned by the Engineering Exports Promotion Council (EEPC) India on 27 April 2010 and set a target of USD 110 billion by 2014 for total engineering exports. It said, ‘This, indeed, is a robust target and if engineering is able to maintain its share of nearly 22% in total exports than by 2014, India’s total exports should be in the range of USD 500 billion.’72 This will be a substantial increase over the present volume of total exports. The Monthly Economic Report (February 2010) has stated: ‘The overall growth of GDP at factor cost at constant 2004–05 prices, as per Advance Estimates released by the CSO was 7.2 per cent in 2009–10 representing an increase from the level of growth of 6.7 per cent during 2008–09.’73 The ministry of power attributed the fact to the capacity addition in the country in the Eleventh Plan, which has already exceeded the achievements in the Tenth Plan. The thermal resource base is steadily depleting though, and there is an increasing potential of uranium to produce electricity, which nevertheless generates toxic wastes. All these indicate India’s striving for a high-stage economic development based on economic growth and certainly the difficulties of environmental governance are evident. The country is on a journey to an uncertain destination with a shrinking natural shield and deficient developmental perceptions. If the ecological balance is disturbed, nothing else in the economy and society will have a chance to go right. However, the dilemma is prevalent within the structure of governance and governmentality. The transition from a controlled economy to a liberal economy paradigm has evoked some irreversible changes in consumer tastes and preferences and an ever-rising consumption path, which 72

Ministry of Commerce website:, accessed 25 April 2010. 73 Ministry of Finance website:, accessed 25 April 2010.

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provokes governmentality to synthesise a kind of economic urgency and necessity. This urgency is for full utilisation of resources, which necessarily includes natural capital, bypassing the question of how critical it may be to ecological functions. Environmental governance in India has been divulged between these two conflicting aspirations of society. Its evolution, structure, functioning, and the journey through a contested path have always shown certain dilemmas within governmentality that sometimes has been inclined towards the ecological and sometimes to economic imperatives. It has always been searching for a balanced path, following several tussles within governmentality. This dilemma is, certainly, not only India’s alone but is a global phenomenon in a world struggling to take an appropriate strategic path where the opportunity cost of entertaining an economic concern may not be very high for the ecological one. For the time being, however, environmental governance in India is on a path that may not ensure either ecological or economic sustainability. Also, it has been failing to provide good governance as far as global parameters are concerned. Till date, environmental governance in India is going on to produce certain dilemmas, which are able to indicate only a contested and intangible future.

5 Conflict and Development: Implications for Democracy and Governance Sujata Dutta Hazarika Governance and its implications for democratic representation in situations that are susceptible to the politicisation of ethnicity as in the states of north-east India have been a focus of academic reflection for a long time. While it is an accepted fact that no government in the developing world with its inherited legacies of poverty and inequality can provide any solution to problems related to conflicts without the refined institutionalisation of democratic governance, it is also an accepted fact that a clear delineation of what exactly this democratic governance entails, is an oversimplification of the complexities that actually operate in different contexts and realities. In a generic sense ‘governance’ refers to the task of running a government or any other entity. ‘Governance’ in the sense it has been widely used in the development literature of the 1990s, thus has a broader concept than ‘government’. An important distinction between government and governance is the notion of the civil society. Governance thus transcends the state to include civil society organisation and the private sector. The Report of the Carnegie Commission on ‘Preventing Deadly Conflict’ says: Early indicators include widespread human rights abuses, increasingly brutal political oppression, inflammatory use of the media, the accumulation of arms, and sometimes, a rash of organized killings. Such developments, especially when combined with chronic deprivation and increasing scarcity of basic necessities, can create an extremely volatile situation. Successful prevention

212 — Sujata Dutta Hazarika of mass violence will therefore depend on retarding and reversing the development of such circumstances.1

The importance of peaceful management of social conflicts is in fact in the degree of manifestations of such dissent and disaffection in violence wherever political space is denied for such dissent and disaffection to be addressed. Disillusionment and frustration stem from disenchantment with the institutions of democracy. It shakes the bond that unites people and generates bitterness and alienation. If remedial steps are denied for long, eruption of violence is a normal result. In the case of the north-east, absence of transparency and accountability of the government has increased the conflicts. We are aware that at the zenith of governance lies the role of the state as a sovereign functionary; all activities of the government relatable to the sovereign functions of the government thus represent the heart of its domain. According to Sanjib Baruah: ‘We know from the experience of decades of ethnic militancy and counterinsurgency that it is not difficult for the Indian state to control and contain insurgencies’.2 The argument is based on an assumption that the state is sufficiently distinct and distant from the realm of ethnic insurgencies so much so that it is possible for the state to ‘control and contain’ them. The problem with ethnic insurgencies in the north-east is that it is difficult, if not impossible, on our part to locate the state outside this realm. Ethnic insurgencies are not external to the state that is supposed to handle and deal with them. The state-insurgency nexus in the north-east has been a subject of frequent discussion in recent years. In this context, for the state to be an effective instrument and agency to implement ‘democratic governance’ in north-east India, it has to firstly locate itself outside the realm of ethnic politics as a neutral agent of conflict-resolution. This will only be possible when the state can devise a way of using the democratic process and an active civil society while drafting solutions and making policy interventions that are specific, local, sustainable, and universal at 1

Selig Harrison, India: The Most Dangerous Decades, Madras: Oxford University Press, 1960. 2 Sanjib Baruah, ‘Between South and Southeast Asia: Northeast India and the Look East Policy’, Guwahati: CENESEAS, 2004, pp. 3, 10–11.

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the same time. Once the state evolves as a partner to civil society to operationalise democratic governance, trust and sustaining peace-building mechanisms are sure to follow. The role of the state in maintaining law and order, as a prime regulator and the supreme instrument of the enforcement of law, has an omniscient impact on the life of the citizens. The state is thus an important facilitator of governance, which is capable of enabling, enhancing, and deploying the power from other societal actors for sustainable human development. Empowered to network and dialogue with non-state actors, including the public, the media, voluntary organisations, self-help groups, the private for profit sector, community organisations, etc. and create conditions for the latter to contribute to achieving developmental goals, the role of the state is irrevocably linked to the concept of governance. So how does one characterise democratic governance in the context of societies scarred by conflict? Some of the features could be participatory in nature, accountability, transparency, responsiveness, effectiveness, equitability and inclusiveness, the rule of law, legitimacy, and democraticness. The promotion of gender balance, strengthening of indigenous mechanisms, efficient and effective use of resources, service and welfare orientation, innovation, and tolerance and acceptance of diverse perspectives are vital. What is thus of immense importance is the overpowering presence of the state as its implementor. The absence of these features enhances conflict in most conflictprone regions of the world and north-east India is no exception. It is true that given the diverse complexities of a multi-ethnic paradigm, forces of ethnicity very often contradict the neutral structures of the state mechanism, giving rise to what Baruah calls the ‘crisis of citizenship’ in north-east India. However, ethnicisation of politics is neither unique to north-east India, nor is it simply an outcome of state-making in an ethnically diverse region. No region in India today can be free of the ethnicisation of politics and insulate itself from it primarily due to the macro forces of state-induced processes of modernisation, development, governance, and globalisation. Ethnic politics is here to stay until one can negate contradictions arising from the local versus global forces. The influence of ethnicisation is visible not

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only in the activities and inactions of the state but also within the civil society and, very often than not, voices of resistance are framed through the lenses of ethnicity. It is precisely for the same reason that societies prone to conflict look for a neutral arbitrator. In constitutional democracy, this arbitration and levelling force can only be ensured by empowering the state not just through military power but by legitimacy that is earned through effective representation and adherence to wider values of justice, humanity, and empathy with the masses. This article moots that district governance in India will lose its relevance without its element of local self-governance as reflected in Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs). Devoid of its component of democratic governance, the state will inadvertently fail to respond to the demands, grievances, and expectations of the people at the bottom. The violent response of the state to the violence of the extremists has already failed to bring peace by exacerbating the cult of violence. The situation could conceivably be salvaged only by vesting all powers of governance — regulatory and developmental — in the elected PRIs at the village, block, and district levels. The zilla (district) parishad (ZP) should be the representative district agency of the government, subsuming under it all existing line departments, including the police. Being more representative, the ZP would be responsive to the urges and aspirations of the people below. My experience of evaluating the efficacy and functioning of PRIs in Assam, especially after the implementation of the Seventy-third and Seventy-fourth Amendments of the constitution, under a project supported by Action Aid India, had clearly identified PRIs as the most viable and effective means of grassroots participation in governance. This article also proposes decentralisation and effective implementation of PRIs as the most visible and effective means to ensure transparency, participatory governance, sustainable peace, and human development in the region. The model proposed can be emulated in other different states where the basic tenets of PRIs can be adopted in more specific instances of autonomous councils and other local ethnic governing bodies. This article uses some of the arguments and basic tenets of the model I proposed in another article ‘Social Development and

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Conflict in Northeast India: Role of Participatory Governance and Decentralization.’3

Deficit in Governance vis-à-vis Democratic Governance: Interrogating Issues of Human Development The politics of democracy in north-east India appears to have failed miserably to address issues in human resources and the angst of hundreds of ethnic minorities who inhabit the land mass earlier known as Assam. Fermentations of ideas have led to conflict and fragmentations, consequent to the creation of seven separate states. Today, by bracketing the eight north-eastern states, with its diverse tribes, customs, and cultures, into what is called the ‘north-east’, we tend to ignore the distinct identity and sub-national aspirations of these ethnic groups. More so, such a clubbing together of the states in the region, in an attempt to look at it as a single entity, has led to stereotyping of the problems that plague the area. The fact that each state has a different set of location-specific concerns and grievances often gets blurred in the scheme of things of policy framers and government leaders who are supposed to address these issues. For democratic governance in north-east India to have evolved into its present form, both concepts of conflict and development have to be examined. Whether ensuring development through increased productivity or enhanced competitiveness that supports economic growth can ensure levelling of ethnic aspirations or not is yet to be experimented in this region, primarily because in recent years implementation of development schemes came 3 Sujata Dutta Hazarika, ‘Social Development and Conflict in Northeast India: Role of Participatory Governance and Decentralization’ in Debal Singha Roy (ed.), Interrogating Social Development: Global Perspectives and Local Initiatives, New Delhi: Manohar Publications, 2010, along with a recent case study that was conducted for a research and dialogue programme, ‘Development, Democracy and Governance — Lessons and Policy Implications’, conducted by the Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group in collaboration with the Ford Foundation.

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in the garb of either reconciliation, compromise, or bargaining enticement. It is true that the growing conflict situation in northeast India has led to mobilisation of various movements in order to address this contradiction between the individual and the state. This complexity while at a manifest level presents itself as a contradiction of cultural reproduction, social integration, and socialisation of neglect, at a more pragmatic and latent level it can be viewed as a democratic response to the deficit of human development in the region. This article aims to demystify the neglect theory of cultural reproduction and integration, which has aggravated the contradictions between the individual and the state and proposes decentralisation of governance and locallevel participation in democratic institutions as the only viable means of establishing trust and peace in the region. In our collective hurry to bring about ‘peace’ in its narrowest sense, we forget to delve deeper into the primary reasons that have brought about this climate of disharmony and armed conflict. The entire region that we now designate the north-east was first integrated into the geographical boundaries of the new nationstate of India after the British left India in 1947. This region with its diverse mosaic of multi-ethnic identities was subsumed through the efforts of a homogenising Indian State without trying to understand its inherent propensity to be a nation-state in itself. Vast racial, cultural, and historical differences cannot just be wished away. Being a frontier region inhabited by tribes who have migrated from Central and South-east Asia, it remains a distant land mass almost cut off from the rest of India, except for the chicken neck that joins this region to the rest of India. Technology might have taken care of aviation, rail routes, information, and communication but how does one bridge the emotional and psychological gap? Affirmative actions on the part of the nation-state have failed because of a myopic vision which seeks to camouflage real issues of dissent through cosmetic patchings. Reservations, subsidies, technological and modernisation projects, pumping of government funds aimed as a complete development package of the so-called backward area, have only led to further misappropriation, impoverishment, and disharmony. In fact, the resultant chaos caused by the rich getting richer and poor getting poorer has brought out the complexities of class dynamics within a so-called egalitarian

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tribal social structure. Insurgency and its economic viability is nowhere as rampant as in north-east; surrender packages which were designed to abate conflict have only spawned more nondescript militant outfits devoid of ideology. The message that comes through is that unless one resorts to violence one cannot be heard. For every one militant surrendering, there are three others joining. Against the backdrop of such a scenario, the worst victims are the people and the basic standards of human resources with a supportive infrastructure. There may be innumerable socio-cultural, political, and historical reasons that can be cited while explaining the present scenario of dissent and the security crisis and the primary among them is the conception of a so-called ‘north-eastern perspective’ to understand a region not only of extreme diversity in terms of culture, ethnicity, and historical traditions, but economically, too, at different stages of growth. As Professor Udayon Mishra points out, present-day Assam, made up primarily of the Brahmaputra and Barak valleys, presents a very different picture when placed alongside the neighbouring states of Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh. Assam had a deep and wide-ranging cultural intercourse with the rest of the Indian subcontinent centuries before the other hill regions came to know of the so-called ‘mainstream’. When most of the other regions had subsistence economies, Assam was engaged in trade and commerce with neighbouring Bengal and state-formation had taken place.4 In this sense, the context of Assam’s alienation and deprivation is more than socio-cultural; it is also, more importantly, economic. A fall in the standards of eco-nomic existence as well as in the basics of human conditions has resulted in low self-esteem and identity assertion vis-à-vis a ‘mainstream hinterland, which is viewed as the main hurdle in Assam’s battle for economic survival. Agreeing with the historical validity of the above view, one can still theoretically assume the continuity of a north-east identity inherent in its geographical location and commonality of historical experiences, not to mention the uniqueness of its cultural forms and institutions. And today, it will not be wrong 4 Amalendu Guha, Medieval and Early Assam: Society, Polity and Economy, Calcutta: K. P. Bagchi & Co., 1991, p. 35.

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to also reiterate the recent trends in north-east India that not only reflect its continuity in globalisation that finds strong roots through the media glitz, economy of conspicuous consumption, and aspirations for foreign direct investment. As in the words of Milton Singer, ‘the little traditions’ are in the process of universalisation of its cultural forms. This is not just in a blind effort to emulate the ‘greater tradition’ ‘of ‘mainstream India’ but also to reiterate and construct its own niche of unique cultural forms that is the ‘north-east’. In this sense, it can be easily assumed that given the right combination of developmental strategies and policy interventions, traditional roots of dissent that are embedded in the traditional structure of identity assertions found in the multi-ethnic mosaic can be overtaken by the overwhelming forces that emanate from globalisation, through categories that create a global citizen with a global voice. In the context of the north-east, it is specifically significant to interrogate the connotations of peace in its different manifestations and its resulting consequences on the functioning of democratic governance, given the vulnerability of its geographical position vis-à-vis the proximity of rogue nations that act as catalyst to its volatile outbursts, not to mention the conflict and shifting series of loyalties embedded in its multi-ethnic structure, which makes it difficult to control the sub-national aspirations of communities that have existed as independent nation-states historically. Negotiations of democratic governance constantly face the challenge of legitimacy when confronted with issues of development. How does one govern a region where development may not always mean a desirable option and issues more complex and divisive in terms of identity and ethnicity become more dominant? The fundamental question is: Does one wait for peace to prevail before development measures are adopted by democratic governance or is developmental governance the only way for peace? Democratic governance is necessary not only to bring about changes in allocation and alignment of powers and resources within government and the wider society, but also to address root causes of conflict and create an environment for sustainable peace building. In the north-east, decentralisation can clearly become one of the significant keys for sustainable peace building given that the major responsibility for local development and community welfare now lies with local governments and autonomous councils.

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If handled well, decentralisation can support peace building by encouraging transparent and accountable actions by key actors, building local participation in public decision-making processes, empowering communities, and increasing their sense of security. It encourages social cohesion by strengthening both vertical and horizontal relationships. Making local administrations more efficient and effective enhances their credibility in the eyes of the community. But if handled badly and without proper accountability mechanisms, this reallocation of power and resources can reproduce power struggles, leading to renewed violence and trauma. Reforms can reinforce unequal power structures, enable elite capture of resources, and perpetrate differential treatment for different groups, particularly related to religion and ethnicity. While lack of transparency encourages rumourmongering, lack of accountability quickly leads to perceptions of corruption and injustice. All these risks are exacerbated when, as in the case of the north-east, local governments are characterised by an inadequate policy framework for decentralisation and postconflict recovery, poor capacities for peace building and local development, lack of meaningful community participation, and ineffective mobilisation of resources. Thus the challenges of democratic and decentralised governance in this conflictprone region are not limited to a linear journey from ‘bad’ to ‘democratic’ governance. More importantly, it also involves recognising and reconciling the inherent contradictions among different dimensions of ‘democratic governance’; for instance, ‘strengthening of indigenous mechanisms’ does not necessarily promote gender balance. Or, to cite another example, ‘efficient use of resources’ is often used as a euphemism to subvert the control of traditional community institutions over local resources. The purpose of this article is to undertake a scoping exercise to provide recommendations on strategic options for strengthening local democratic governance and peace building in the conflictaffected regions in the north-east.

Human Development: Achievements through Democratic Governance The basic purpose of development is to enlarge people’s choices. In principle, these choices can be infinite and can change over time. People often value achievements that do not show up at

220 — Sujata Dutta Hazarika all, or not immediately, in income or growth figures: greater access to knowledge, better nutrition and health services, more secure livelihoods, security against crime and physical violence, satisfying leisure hours, political and cultural freedoms, and a sense of participation in community activities. The objective of development is to create an enabling environment for people to enjoy long, healthy, and creative lives. — Mahbub ul Haq, Founder, Human Development Report

In Assam, the key obstacles to human development, povertyreduction, and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are the general ambience of dissent among the contending ethnicities and the resulting voices of autonomy and secession through insurgency, counter-insurgency, and ethnic conflict.5 The most basic condition for human development for choices to be available and opportunities in life to be accessible is a peaceful environment where one can lead a long and healthy life, choose to be knowledgeable, have access to the resources needed for a decent standard of living, and be able to participate in the life of the community. According to India’s ‘National Human Development Report, 2001’ (NHDR), which is the latest in a series of publications linked to, but independent of, the annual global ‘Human Development Report’ issued by the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), the relative rankings of the states on the Human Poverty Index (HPI) stayed unchanged over the 1980s and 1990s, with HPI in Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, and Uttar Pradesh ranging between 55–60 per cent while the better-off states like Kerala, Punjab, and Himachal Pradesh had a HPI of 32–35 per cent. Most of conflict-affected districts in Assam had poverty rates doubled and GDP growth less than the national average, according to the same report. (While India’s NHDR derives its conceptual moorings and methodology from the UNDP’s ‘Human Development Reports’, it incorporates ideas from elsewhere, including the ‘Reports on Human Development in South Asia’ published by the Human Development Centre, Islamabad.) The NHDR authors note that there is no direct relationship between the economic attainments of a society and the quality 5

Details are available at

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of life of an individual, and an even less direct connection between economic development and social development, or the distribution of benefits between various regions of the country and different social groups. But in the case of Assam, the overall presence of violence presupposes a fallen standard of HDI even if we choose to emphasise a paradigm shift — that material attainments or means of development need to be substituted by a concern for ‘outcomes that are either desirable in themselves or desirable because of their role in supporting better opportunities for people’. This article emphasises the NHDR report and reiterates the governance approach to human development, adopting the UNDP’s concept of governance. Further, it views governance as a continuous interplay between (a) institutions; (b) delivery mechanism; and (c) a supportive and subordinate framework of rules, procedures, and legislation. This conception of governance, sanitised of political content, instead of offering a framework for governance in any holistic sense, merely suggests small structural and procedural changes at the national level. It proposes an alternative model of governance in which the institutions of decentralised governance — panchayats (statutory, democratically elected, self-governing local authorities in rural areas) and civil society actors — are seen to have a central role.

Governance in North-east India: Democratic Institutions vis-à-vis Traditional Governance North-east India consists of eight states of the Indian Union — Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, and Sikkim — covering 8 per cent of the total geographical area and 3.78 per cent of the total population of the country. A large part of the north-east is governed by the Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the constitution of India. The Panchayats (Extension to the Schedule Areas) Act, 1996 extends the 73rd Amendment to the Fifth Schedule areas. Three states, that is, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Meghalaya, which are covered by the Sixth Schedule, are exempted from the purview of the 73rd Amendment. The Sixth Schedule envisages the establishment of autonomous district councils. These councils have been given legislative, administrative, and judicial powers. No law of the centre or the state in respect of the legislative powers is conferred

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on the conflict in north-east India. Autonomous district councils could be extended to those areas without the councils’ prior approval. The councils are responsible for looking after the social, economic, and minor criminal and civil matters of the tribal people. More specifically, these councils are empowered to make laws in relation to: (a) land; (b) forest; (c) water-course; (d) shifting cultivation; (e) establishment of villages and towns and their administration; (f ) appointment of, or succession to, chiefs or headmen; (g) inheritance of property; (e) marriage and divorce; and matters relating to any other social customs. The district councils are also empowered to constitute village councils and village courts. While the autonomous district councils have the advantage of legislative powers, the PRIs are exempted from it. Moreover, the autonomous district councils do not make provisions for reservations for women and backward classes. Thus in the north-east we find two simultaneous democratic institutions at work, a modern democratic system vis-à-vis a traditional system among the hill tribes. The traditional system has never recognised the rights of women as primary decision-makers in matters of community concerns like inter-ethnic conflicts, crisis management, and social sanctions. Of Assam’s 23 districts only two (North Cachar Hills and Karbi Anglong), fall under the Sixth Schedule Areas; the other 21 districts fall under the modern democratic institution of Panchayati Raj. The call for autonomy and the formation of autonomous councils was shaped by the Indian example of granting territorial autonomy to resurgent minority peoples in the north-east. However, autonomy does not seem to be a feasible solution to end ethnic conflicts when the claimed territory is shared with other ethnic groups, in-migration leads to numerical minoritisation and the areas dominated are not contiguous, as in the case with Bodos. The mismatch between demographic reality and the vision of territorial autonomy is the main reason for the relative intractability of the Bodo conflict. The territorial area of the Bodo Autonomous Council (BAC) and the Bodo Territorial Council (BTC) has less than 50 per cent of the tribal population, which also includes other tribals such as Rabhas, Mechas, Miris, Hojais, Deoris, and Saraniyas. There are also non-tribals such as Koch Rajbanshis, scheduled castes, caste Hindus, and Muslims (original and immigrants), Santhals, Mundas, Nepalis,

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Biharis, and Marwaris who form a substantial portion of the population. The Census of India,1991 showed that this area had an approximate tribal population of 34.41 per cent which had been reduced to below 30.5 per cent in 2001. It has about 2,494 villages of which 300 villages are completely tribal, 821 are tribaldominated (more than 50 per cent of tribal population), leaving 1,313 villages where the tribal population is less than 50 per cent. Barpujari wrote: It is in vain to expect that the grant in autonomy will keep the unity and integrity of the state. What is the guarantee that the Karbis and the Bodos (even accorded full autonomy) will not clamour for full-fledged statehood? How can the union and state governments resist the legitimate and forceful claims of Koch Rajbanshis and Tai Ahoms … will the tea tribes and Muslim immigrants remain silent spectators for long?6

Keeping the different ramifications of autonomous councils in mind, it can be suggested that the political aspirations of the homogenous tribal groups could be appropriated by amendments to the Sixth Schedule and the Seventy-third Amendment’s provisions for devolution of power at the local level and bringing the entire issue of local governance within the ambit of PRIs.

Decentralisation in Panchayati Raj Institutions This section begins with the details of the panchayat system and its operations in order to get a perspective of democratic governance that can successfully address issues of human development and sustainable peace in Assam. Schedule XI of the Indian constitution defines the functional items for which states may devolve responsibility to the panchayats. While states vary in the extent to which they devolve policy powers to gram panchayats (GPs), most GPs have responsibilities of civic administration in the village together with limited independent taxation powers. On an average, roughly 10 per cent of a GP’s revenue comes from its own revenues, the remainder consisting of transfers from higher levels of government. While the ambit of 6 H. K. Barpujari, North-East India: Problems, Policies, and Prospects: Since Independence, Guwahati: Spectrum Publication, 1998.

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a GP’s policy influence varies across Indian states, they perform two distinct policy tasks. The first is beneficiary selection for central and state welfare schemes. These are low spillover public democratics because the benefits are likely to accrue to individual households. These include a variety of transfer programmes such as schemes that provide beneficiary households with funds to acquire housing, water supply, and private electricity. Eligibility for these schemes is usually limited to households below the official poverty line, with a minimum fraction of beneficiaries to be SC/STs. Thus an important part of the panchayat’s job is also to identify households which are ‘below the poverty line’ (BPL). Possession of a BPL card makes the household eligible for an array of government schemes ranging from subsidised food through the public distribution system to free hospitalisation. The GP, in collaboration with the state government officials, is supposed to identify via a census, households with BPL incomes and prepare the list of BPL households. The list and subsequent selection of beneficiary households under different schemes (from among BPL households) is supposed to be ratified in gram sabha meetings. Since all BPL households are eligible for a BPL card, the procedure makes the allocation of BPL cards highly political where the success or failure in targeting needy households is a key issue. The second area of GP policy activism is the construction and maintenance of village public democratics such as streetlights, roads, and drains. These are ‘high spillover public democratics’ since the benefits accrue more broadly across members of the village. The GP decides the distribution of these public democratics and the quality of provisions both within the village and across villages within a GP. Two important institutional features of the GP which are specific to decentralisation in India are political reservation and village meetings (gram sabhas). The Seventy-third and Seventy-fourth Amendments mandated political reservation in favour of SCs/STs and women, and required that the extent of such reservation in a state reflect the SC/ST population share in that state. It also required that there be no GP reservations for the same group for two consecutive elections. The most viable methodology for conflict-resolution embedded in the panchayat system is that of the panchayat legislation requiring the pradhan or elected

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panchayat leader to consult with villagers and ward members before deciding the choice of beneficiaries and allocation of public democratics. These are done via village meetings (gram sabha) called by the elected local government to discuss resource allocation in the village. The other most vital area for grassroots-level intervention for peace building in Assam can be the gram sabha, which is the lynchpin of the panchayat system. Citizen participation at the village level can improve the workings of democracy primarily by improving the flow of information into the political process beyond that available through electing representatives. In the case of Assam, PRIs not only have the potential to improve information flows and structure democratic institutions to ensure fair and efficient allocation of funds but also to facilitate arbitration between conflicting parties in the presence of a governing body whose membership is determined by a legitimate, universal, and constitutional mandate that cuts across ethnicity and community. According to a study by Timothy Besley, Rohini Pande, and Vijayendra Rao on 500 villages in the four south Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu, the main ways in which the gram sabha can improve the workings of the government is firstly relative to elected representatives. These meetings can better reflect citizens’ preferences on issues such as how to target resources to most needy groups. Moreover, by providing a forum for monitoring the actions of elected representatives they may reduce agency problems in politics and the extent of corruption. According to an article by Gulshan Sachdeva titled ‘Demystifying Northeast’,7 besides certain areas of maybe political or psychological neglect, the facts about devolution and transfer of resources from the centre to the north-east reveal an entirely different story. Between 1990–91 and 2002–2003, the region received about ` 1,08,504 crore. Assam received about ` 43,000 crore from the centre, Arunachal and Manipur received about ` 9,900 crore and ` 11,500 crore, respectively. Meghalaya received about ` 9,000 crore and Tripura’s share was about ` 14,000 crore. Similarly, the figures for the same period for Nagaland and Mizoram were 7

Gulshan Sachdeva, ‘Demystifying Northeast’, Dialogue, 7 (3), January–March, 2006.

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about ` 12,000 crore and ` 9,000 crore, respectively. These are gross figures. A portion of that money is also given back to the central government as repayment on loans and interest payments. Still, the cumulative net devolution from the centre to the north-east for the period between 1990–91 and 2002–2003 is about ` 92,000 crore. The only grant portion to the region during these 13 years was about ` 65,000 crore. So the lack of development could not be because of shortage of funds. In fact, as economist and Congress leader Jairam Ramesh has argued, this kind of public expenditure has become very much part of the problem of the north-east. If lack of devolution of funds for development and infrastructural growth through effective democratic structures is seen as one of the primary sources of conflict in this region, it can be easily argued that PRIs have all the institutional safeguards, at least theoretically, to deal with effective fund allocation and distribution of resources, ensuring universality and legitimacy. Permeation of central funding into the grassroots can be effectively ensured by structures in the PRIs, through both distributive justice and equitable distribution of resources. If well-intended, decentralisation of governance through democratic institutions like PRIs can ensure constitutional homogeneity and equality within the multi-ethnic myriad tribal and non-tribal identities in Assam. Considering this fact, we have to now protect and nurture this institution by cleansing it of the discrepancies that plague the system. Both policy tasks undertaken by the panchayat ‘high spill-over public democratics’ and ‘low spill-over public democratics’ through reservation of socially deprived categories like SC/ST and women are effective means of ensuring distributive justice that can permeate the grassroots at large without triggering sensitive sentiments of ethnicity and identity. The feature of constitutional universality in democratic governance provides panchayat institutions a powerful weapon to mediate in a sectoral crisis. Although knowing that the scars of identity formation experienced by Assam have larger political issues that need to be resolved like state border concerns, land ownership, and immigration, as the first step to intervene in the present conflict situation would be to strengthen local governance through panchayats. It is a viable means for the Indian State to establish its credibility and regain the trust of the common people. The 2001 panchayat election in Assam implemented

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the 73rd and 74th Amendments for the first time in Assam and saw increased participation but unfortunately, functionally at least, most categories seem to be a mere filling up of numbers of the reserved seats. The study highlights the fact that the elected members (both men and women in the areas where the study was conducted) have had very little or no knowledge whatsoever of either Seventy-third Amendment or 33 per cent reservation for women as a mandatory provision in the Panchayati Raj Act. This is a result of the ignorance at every level about the Act, and the resulting duties and functions of the institution as a whole.

Towards Democratic Governance: Perspectives of Panchayat in Assam Ensuring peace and human development, in a larger perspective, means that both aims are dependent on each other and a synthesis of both is an essential prerequisite for economic growth. At the same time, unless we try to ensure sustainable and durable economic growth, both peace and human development will elude us. Based on the study conducted, we have ascertained the primary impediments to the realisation of the full potentials of the panchayat system in Assam. These include bureaucratic redtapism, fund transfers through the DRDA (directorate of rural development, Assam), which is extremely cumbersome and timeconsuming, lack of transparency in fund transfers and percolation of incentives to BPL households, and the highhandedness and condescending attitudes of block development officers (BDOs) in their dealings with women members. These impediments mean that benefits of schemes most often do not filter down to those who actually need them but get diverted to those with connections. The party affiliation of candidates, which today is an important criteria, results in powerful parties sidelining deserving candidates who are either independent or belong to other parties. Besides these factors, the indifference of mainstream politics towards the marginalised section not only impedes political participation of women but more generally of the whole community. Major government policies for overall development and capacity building of common people at the grassroots, like microcredit, literacy, infrastructural development, reproductive health

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care, and so on have more or less suffered due to lack of sensitisation of these development programmes. In this context, it is worth mentioning that though women put in at least equal, and more often, extra hours of work, there exists gross disparities in remunerations. In the case of tea gardens, women, in spite of the provision for equal wages for equal work, are discriminated against in work allocation. Heavier and thus more paying work is not given to women, on the pretext of their physical limitations. In plucking, too, the permitted weight of the tea leaf to be plucked by women was less than that allowed to men, in spite of the fact that women are considered better quality pluckers than men. These discriminations were carried out more commonly at the latent rather than the manifest level. This article strongly recommends effective implementation of the 73rd Amendment to increase women’s participation in local governance, with the objective of autonomous participation rather than numerical participation. This alone can change governance at the local level because women bring their experience of governance of civic society into governance of the state. In this way, they make the state sensitive to issues of poverty, inequality, and gender injustice. Every issue of governance taken up by women is ideally influenced by two sources of self-perception. First, their own sense of shared experience and second, from attitudes and imageries imposed on them by men in north-east India. It appears that gender can supersede class and party lines. Women can open up the possibility for politics to have not only new faces but a new quality. However, increasing the representation of women alone may not automatically satisfy the requirements of a more gendersensitive approach to issues confronting the local government. Nor will it necessarily raise the profile of women’s needs and interests in the policy agenda, given that elected women often act as proxies for men’s views at the councils, being advised by their male relatives. In spite of this, there is always the possibility that a small minority of women who are in politics because of their own leadership qualities or feminist consciousness may exhibit different priorities and values some day. Some of the ways in which women, through PRIs, can change governance are evident in the issues they would choose to tackle (as was evident in the course of our work), such as water availability, alcohol abuse, education, health, and domestic violence.

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Women also express different values. They value proximity, whether it be to a drinking water source, a fuel source, a crèche, a health centre, a court of justice, or an office of administration. The enormous expansion of women’s representation in decentralised government structures most of the time highlights the advantages of proximity, namely the redress of grievances and (most important of all) the ability to mobilise struggle at the local level where it is most meaningful. Thus women can help to radicalise the local government towards the building of a peaceful society. But this can only happen if steps are taken to ensure that basic awareness is generated to improve the quality of life of women in particular by eradicating poverty, illiteracy, entrenched socio-cultural values, and patriarchal ideologies through sensitisation and capacity building. PRIs and their democratic spirit will always be out of the common people’s grasp unless civil society ensures equal access to resources irrespective of sex. This will only be possible when there are other such accompanying constitutional rights to ensure this. On the other hand, these measures cannot be effectively achieved without proper functioning of the local self-government. We are thus faced with a situation where the number game in the politics of democracy is not subsumed by the democratic spirit of the panchayat system. Democratic autonomy of women is only possible by developing social capital and human resources at the same time. Proxy representation many a times has proved that reservation is not an end in itself but a means to an end, which is to ensure participation of women. Women who need to be brought forward are not those who are puppets and mouthpieces of powerful and unscrupulous male influences, but those who are themselves capable of making a difference to the lives of other women like them. The tussle between muscle and money power also makes it difficult for honest and dedicated leaders and participants, both male and female, to come forward to ensure effective functioning of the panchayat system. Thus the obstacles to the realisation of the PRIs’ transformative potential are many, especially for Assam, given its political instability, identity movements, and a multi-ethnic paradigm susceptible to ideologies of dissent and conflict. There continues to be a resistance to the real devolution of power and funds from centres of (male) power to the periphery. Women, as we have

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seen, still face considerable handicaps to their involvement in politics; for example, inadequate education, the burden of reproductive and productive roles, a lack of self-confidence, and the opposition of entrenched cultural and religious views. Urvashi Butalia in her article ‘Confrontation and Negotiation: Women’s Movement Response to Violence Against Women’ articulated the understanding of violence by women’s groups in the following way: We started with the basic insight that violence is inherent in all social structures of society like class, caste, religion, ethnicity etc and in the way that state controls people. However, within all those general structures of violence, women suffer violence in a gender-specific way and patriarchal violence permeates and promotes other forms of violence. Given that women have always been the first victims of a violent society, a transformative feminist politics in India is only possible when politics directly and frontally engages in caste discrimination, communalism, class-based inequalities and state repression, which are the basic structures that create a subordinated and tyrannized identity for women.8

In Assam, the transformative potential of the 73rd Amendment for feminist politics has to be fully exploited in order for women to evolve as the most important actors in peacemaking. Professor Sajal Nag in his article ‘His Master’s Voice: Women, Peacemaking and Genderization of Politics’ writes: ‘In an otherwise doomed situation in India, women in north-east India have played a very important role as peacemakers … not just between families, clans, and tribes but underground insurgents called national workers and conflict in north-east India.’9 Experiences of the Naga Mothers’ Association (the only group in South Asia to have participated in a ceasefire negotiation), the Mothers’ 8 Urvashi Butalia, ‘Confrontation and Negotiation: Women’s Movement Response to Violence Against Women’, in Karin Kapadia (ed.), The Violence of Development: Politics of Identity, Gender and Social Inequalities in India, Delhi: Kali for Women, 2002. 9 Sajal Nag, ‘His Master’s Voice: Women, Peacemaking and Genderization of Politics’, in Prasenjit Biswas and C. Joshua Thomas (eds.), Experiences of Naga Mothers’ Association in Peace in India’s North East: Meaning, Metaphor and Method, New Delhi: Regency Publication, 2006.

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Union Tura (Meghalaya), Meira Peibes of Manipur, the Naga Women’s Union of Manipur, and the Mizo Women’s Federation are indicative of the evolving of feminisation of the civic space beyond ethnic identity and imposed subjectivity for women in societies marked by extreme militarism and insurgency. The peace-building activities of Naga women’s groups have produced a social consciousness in Naga society that upholds womanhood, human values and rights, recognising peace as the prerequisite for any human development. It validates women as making a difference, especially in reaching out to bitterly divided Naga armed factions and fostering reconciliation and healing. It has persuaded the top leaders of the armed groups to recognise women as significant resources for peace building and legitimised their identity as stakeholders in a plural peace process. According to Professor Anuradha Dutta, Bodo women, in spite of being victims of violence once, are working for sustainable peace today. These women, in particular, were strong supporters of the movement for identity in the Bodoland areas organised by students under the leadership of Upendra Brahma. The Bodo women organised themselves under the banner of the All Assam Tribal Women’s Welfare Federation (AATWWF) and joined the movement for the adoption of the Roman script way back in 1974. Later, when the Bodo movement established a military wing to conduct an armed struggle, it trained the womenfolk in arms and from 1989 onwards, some women did join the arms wing. The AATWWF was not in favour of this decision — and in 1993 the AATWWF changed its nomenclature to the All Bodo Women’s Welfare Federation (ABWWF). Since the All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU) could not reach the nooks and corners of Bodoland, they took the help of women group to mobilise people in support of the movement. These women’s organisations explained the ABSU’s programme to the people, convincing people about their demands, and taught people to remain alert about army and police raids. They approached people to help the ABSU with food and shelter. Thus this group of women activists had unique characteristics. As victims, they also protested against frequent police and army raids in the villages and the arrest of innocent people. The Bodo women’s group has had a very democratic networking system in every nook and corner of different Bododominated areas.

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The Bodo women, despite being so active in the Bodo movement, have not been a part of the formal peace process. Postreconciliation also, the ABWWF has failed in finding a political space for itself. In the election to the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), the Bodoland People’s Progressive Front (BPPF), which was formed in April 2005, was divided in May. One faction comprised the Bodoland Liberation Tigers’ leaders and surrendered cadres, while the ABSU, which took the lead in the formation of the BPPF, comprised the other faction. In Kokrajhar, several leaders of the disbanded militant outfit filed nominations against the BPPF president, Rabiram Narzary. The BTC chief Hangrama Mahillary supported former comrade Manoj Kumar Brahma. Though initially the ABWWF, a key player in Bodo politics, lent its support to the new party, the BPPF, it withdrew from the party since not a single woman candidate was nominated. The influential women’s body extended support to the former BLT leader instead, who stood as a rebel candidate against the official BPPF candidate. If we see the lack of effective political leadership of women in the Bodo movement as a crisis of participation and motivation, we will overlook the latent structure and the fruitless effort in fighting institutional governance where the political potential of women has never been recognised traditionally. Being ethnically bound, these women have never been exposed to the constitutional universality of democratic governance of decentralisation as in the PRIs. The true potential of women’s political participation can be explored when fearless and sensitised women like them are provided with specific kinds of institutional support that go beyond technical training. They need support to build solidarity amongst women, through strengthening links between women’s organisations and elected bodies. They need information about innovative organisations which enhance women’s lives, such as health providers and credit institutions. It is also necessary to strengthen women’s sense of common identity by articulating the elements of a feminist consciousness and presenting it as the special quality of women’s leadership. There has been insufficient elaboration of what that leadership has to offer, which distinguishes it from men’s leadership and commends it as something special. Such an elaboration through feminist discourse and action is essential for this revolution to deliver the promise it holds for peace making.

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On the basis of our work we have chalked out possible areas of intervention where self-help groups (SHGs), NGOs, and government institutions can intervene to generate political awareness of conflict in north-east India, citizenship rights, and the democratic electoral process of the panchayat raj system: 1. Any plan of intervention should highlight the following seven categories: (a) Gaon sabha mobilisation through street plays and theatre; (b) Communication workshops; (c) Media workshops; (d) Block elected women’s representative forums (BEWRF); (e) Leadership workshops for women; (f) Public opinion-building and awareness-generation on PRIs; (g) Participation in national-level alliances and networking. 2. Training on the Panchayati Raj system, its functions and modules of activity have to be organised for everyone — general public and elected members. Issues that need to be sensitised are: (a) Complete right over the subjects mentioned in the Eleventh Schedule; (b) Compulsory elections; (c) Immediate transfer of power; (d) Quorum in gaon sabha meetings should not be substituted with a quorum of panchayat meetings. 3. Accessibility of information networks on health service providers and credit institutions. 4. Strengthening links between women’s groups and elected bodies through effective networking, in order to smoothly facilitate lobbying to accrue to panchayats. 5. Capacity building of women through awareness and sensitisation of vital issues without depending solely on reservations. 6. Formation of SHGs which aim at savings and thrift to collectively raise economic concerns before the panchayat justiciably.

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7. Most important is infrastructural development, like ensuring basic facilities of health, sanitation, and education for women and other weaker sections that cut across ethnicity, tribe, caste, and religion, in order to boost confidence and morale. In the case of women, infrastructural support can combat the burden of entrenched cultural and socioreligious values, which has for generations subjected them to a dual structure of exploitation, in the domestic domain and as part of a wider male-centric value system. 8. Forming women’s organisations or other such groups as supervisory bodies for (a) ensuring that the women are not marginalised in the revenue and expenditure committee structures that will emerge to manage the development in these bodies; (b) ensuring the devolution of project design and monitoring powers from the central government to the elected bodies, so that the people can develop their own policies, reflecting the views of their own representatives rather than those of the central government, and be held accountable for them; (c) strengthening the identity and feminist consciousness of women representatives, for example, by leadership training; (d) building global coalitions through the activist as distinct from the academic mode. This includes bringing women into political structures and supporting the backward and forward linkages of women’s presence in politics, linking household and family priorities with macro-planning processes; (e) pressing for South Asian regional economic cooperation amongst women to be based on regional support to empowering women’s role in local and national governance; (f) campaigns and training programmes to prepare women both as electors and elected; and (g) urging multi- and bi-lateral agencies to revise their own patriarchal structures.

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Need for a Strategic Framework: Peace Through Human Development PRIs and decentralisation of rural governance in Assam can be seen as the most viable means for sustainable peace in Assam, provided we can use it to build a strategic framework for peace through development (PTD), which encourages conflict sensitivity in inclusive development initiatives. This article in no way tries to trivialise the complexities arising out of ethnic confrontations over issues of homeland, autonomy, cultural alienation, and sub-nationalism vis-à-vis nation building through a stereotypical construct which sees economic development as a panacea for addressing popular discontents of all kinds, as has been part of the ‘anti-insurgency’ strategy in the north-east at least since the 1980s. While it is well-known that underdevelopment, mass poverty, and lack of access to institutions of governance and command over essential livelihoods resources fuel dissent and act as catalysts for violent conflict, it has also been argued that economic deprivation, in itself, is neither necessary nor sufficient for generating or sustaining conflicts. Having said this, it is also important to realise that the northeast hosts a huge potential of unexploited resources, both human and natural, which makes it an important frontier from both a national and international perspective. It is important to preserve, conserve, and exploit these resources in a diversified and balanced manner through a viable development model that is both egalitarian and eco-friendly. The question here is who can be entrusted to create this amicable environment that is conducive to the working of an inclusive developmental model? It is already an accepted fact that there can be no standard evaluation to analyse the neutrality of the state mechanism as arbitrators to conflict-resolution, especially in a situation which is marred by the ethnicisation of politics. The only viable and effective means of locating proactive and neutral governance thus lies in the agency of the state, through a visible and transparent evaluation of its stand in implementing neutral, practical, and pro-citizen policy making. In her paper, ‘Local Dynamics, Universal Context: Border Trading Through Moreh’, Dulali Nag makes an interesting ethnographic

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analysis pointing to the impossibility of separating the economy from the society.10 Embedding Karl Polanyi’s work The Great Transformation on the socio-economic transitions from the 19th to the 20th century in Western Europe upon the socio-economic upheavals in Manipur, she argues that ‘rationalisation’ of objects and actions in the sphere of economic activity, which gave rise to the self-regulating market, cannot just survive in its ideal form without demanding protection from labour, landowners, bankers, and merchants, whose interests were often threatened by the fluctuations inherent in a market system. Polanyi points out that in response to this demand there arose an unorganised set of movements, legislative reforms, and administrative actions to limit the effects of self-regulation. In the context of Manipur, the absolute failure of the Indian State in instituting a formal and rationalised trading sphere in the Moreh area reiterates the contradictions enhanced between the ‘market’ and the ‘state’. Polanyi’s thesis is thus founded upon the assumption of a legitimate and viable state that is empowered to negotiate with organised civil society movements, a condition conspicuous by its absence in Manipur as enumerated by Nag. In her work, Nag states that Manipur’s problems are generally described as ‘ethnic conflicts’ or ‘insurgency-related problems’ or ‘territorial disputes’ and the like. This manner of representing the problem, however, misses the point that the full-fledged armed conflicts that are consuming Manipur today are manifestations of historical economic relations that have over centuries created a relation between these ethnic communities and their geographical habitat. There is abundant evidence in the literature on the pre-colonial history of the region of wars among the ethnicities that have continually redrawn the boundaries among them. Securing a trading advantage by subjugating the people of a distant area was one of the prime motives behind most of these wars. In Manipur, according to Nag, economic security, given this history, has thus come to be merged with the issue of a historical identity which, in its turn, is fashioned around the vision of a homeland conceptualised, as the political circumstances of the time demands, with a hard territorial boundary along the 10

Dulali Nag, ‘Local Dynamics, Universal Context: Border Trading Through Moreh, Manipur’, 2010;

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line of a nation-state. One can thus understand why an agreement between the Indian government and the powerful Naga insurgent group, the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) (NSCN [I-M]) to create a greater Nagalim, whose borders would eat into the Naga-majority northern districts of Manipur, was so strongly opposed by the valley-based Meiteis of Manipur. It would have meant that the entire northern hilly area of Manipur with all its natural resources would be taken away from the jurisdiction of the state of Manipur, creating both economic and security problems for the valley-based Meiteis. The problem becomes specially acute when one takes the Kukidominated southern districts into account and realises that a greater Nagalim would virtually trap the Meitei community between two hostile hill tribes as well as make it very difficult for them to meet their economic needs, which are mostly served by importing democratics either from inland India via Assam or Nagaland or from Burma via the southern hills of Manipur that are abodes of the Kuki tribes. These territorial issues have thus made unimpeded flow of both democratics and human traffic across the state very difficult and ultimately explains the violence around trading and the predominance of illegal trading. The three major ethnic groups, the Meiteis, the Nagas, and the Kukis have each staked their claims, albeit informally or illegally, on certain crucial transit points of the transportation of democratics to and from Moreh. It is clear from this work that conflict, despite its conceptual abstractions, sometimes may have some very practical rootedness in matters of economy, distribution of resources, control of market and trade links, access to development initiatives, and control of governance. Proposing a strategic framework for governance through the model of the PTD marks this perspective as its point of departure. It is proposed that the strategic framework provided by the PTD approach be channellised through the participatory governance embedded in the PRIs focusing on the building of partnerships on long-term development, governance, and peace building among government actors, local civil society groups, and the public. The key strategic approaches recommended for incorporation in the design of the PTD as a programme in rural Assam are:

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(a) Government leadership: Government ownership is vital for the success of the programme. The programme strategy is based on strengthening existing government mechanisms and the application of existing regulations; (b) Area-based approach: Within the context of decentralisation in Assam, the PTD can be an area-based programme focused on the districts. An area-based approach allows capacity building and the experience of hands-on delivery to be combined within an existing institutional framework targeted at areas with significant conflict risks. The PTD can initially work in selected core districts in which it will provide comprehensive support. The selection of districts can be based on selected criteria and will be approved by a national committee. The provincial level will be supported in its mandated role of managing cross-district initiatives, oversight of district PTD performance, and establishing and monitoring minimum service standards; (c) Multi-stakeholder processes and collective benefits: Effective multi-stakeholder processes are of great importance in rebuilding trust and confidence in conflict and post-conflict contexts. The PTD can achieve this through effective programme mechanisms, management arrangements, and assistance aimed at strengthening processes and the skills of those involved. The effectiveness and performance of multi-stakeholder processes will be monitored and reviewed by those involved. The PTD will link multi-stakeholder processes with the delivery of collective benefits for the community that can strengthen social cohesion; (d) Building capacities for peace and development: The emphasis of the programme will be on capacities for building long-term peace and development. Capacity building should be demand-driven with careful identification of needs and formulation of capacity building responses. Capacity has been defined as ‘the ability of an individual, organisation or a system to perform functions and meet objectives effectively and efficiently’. Capacity building, therefore, concerns support to achieve performance and produce outcomes focusing on three inter-related levels: (i)

the systems level, which sets the policy, legal, and regulatory framework that includes management

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and accountability systems, resource allocation, and broad system-level processes such as planning and evaluation; (ii) the organisation (unit) level, including its core business and strategy; culture, organisational structures and competencies; internal management processes and procedures; its human, financial, and information resources; and its infrastructure; (iii) the individual level, including general and specific skills such as initiative, judgement, values, professional competencies, motivations, and work attitudes. Capacity building to support decentralisation highlights the need to build the capacity of a variety of stakeholders including the government, nongovernment organisations, and local communities. It includes four key stages: (i) comprehensive identification and formulation of capacity building needs within the context of regional autonomy, (ii) formulating priorities for capacity building initiatives, (iii) determining comprehensive plans for capacity building and (iv) allocation of technical and financial resources for capacity-building plans, including donor and government sources. The programme can focus on developing sustainable mechanisms for capacity development through the local and national institutions responsible for supervision and capacity building support. The essential capacities for long-term peace have been identified as those relating to governance and social cohesion. Social cohesion refers to the cross-cutting social and economic relations within society, including trusts, inter-group associations, networks of communication, and cultural patterns of interaction, which bond a society together, promote harmony, a sense of community, and a degree of commitment to promoting the common democratic norms. The concept conflict in north-east India through social cohesion emphasises the importance of horizontal equity between groups and places the responsibility for minimising disparities, avoiding polarisation, and facilitating balanced development.

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(a) Capacities for local governance: The PTD will support the executive and legislative arms of local governments (panchayats), civil society, and the community through enhanced public awareness and participatory planning mechanisms to strengthen the capacities for local democratic governance to promote peace and human development. Although the rule of law and the role of the judicial arms of government are essential, there are limitations to the extent that work can be done within the context of the PTD as a decentralised programme — for example, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Assam. (b) Capacities for social cohesion: Social segregation and prejudice need to be overcome in the promotion of peaceful and equitable development. The PTD will strengthen the capacities of the government and civil society to promote social integration and harmony. The PTD, when implemented in conflict-torn countries like Indonesia, has shown that opportunities for strengthening intercommunity networks and relations exist and are a priority in these provinces. The PTD will focus its support to organisations and networks that promote social cohesion through meeting priority development needs across community divisions. In particular, there is scope to address the issues of currently or previously displaced people, which, in some areas, is the main barrier to sustainable peace. In all cases there is a need to analyse the issues at the local level, link them to the broader environment, and create conditions within which local solutions can be found or advocacy activities supported to resolution at a higher level. In India, for local government to be both representative and accountable, both in form and practice, the PTD approach through the PRIs needs to be sensitive to the fact that governments generally create institutions that are upwardly accountable to the central state. For reaping the theoretical benefits of community participation, however, accountability needs also to be downward towards the local population. Elected local representatives are not

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always downwardly accountable. If candidates can only be chosen by political parties, they may be more accountable to the parties than to the local populations that elect them.11 Further, even when independent candidates are admitted to local elections, there are many ways in which the local elite or political parties are able to capture the electoral process, bringing the local accountability of leaders into question. Nonetheless, elected representatives are one important building block in the construction of accountable local government. Richard Crook and James Manor indicate that locally elected representatives can make the central government more responsive to local needs.12 For the PRIs to effectively facilitate the PTD will require power, downward accountability, and durable institutional forms. It is thus proposed, as S. Hadi does in his study of Indonesia, that we accommodate a possible shift from Integrated Rural Development (IRD) to Integral Local Development (ILD) through representation, entrustment, and accountability, which is possible by moving away from forms of the PTD orchestrated from the outside or ‘above’ (joint management, stakeholder approaches, participatory rural appraisal, etc.)13 to forms that are built into local government. The PTD can merge with decentralisation and democratisation to become one — by participation through rural democracy. ILD, rural or otherwise, is an appropriate and timely approach that is based on allowing rural communities to integrate across community differences through decisions made by locally accountable local authorities — representative bodies who are downwardly accountable to the local population. It is integral rather than integrated since it depends on authority that is integral to the 11

J. C. Ribot, ‘Integral Local Development: Authority, Accountability and Entrustment in Natural Resource Management’, Working Paper of the Africa Region RPTES Program, The World Bank, April 1999. 12 James Manor, The Political Economy of Democratic Decentralization, Washington, DC: World Bank, 1999. 13 S. Hadi, ‘Enhancing Local Governance through Decentralization Policy in Managing Conflict–Affected Regions in Indonesia’, presented at the International Conference on Engaging Communities; UNDE SA/UN CRD Workshop on Decentralization: Poverty Reduction, Empowerment and Participation, Brisbane, Australia, 14–17 August, 2005; public/documents/UN/UNPAN UNPAN 020695.pdf.

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community, rather than being the product of an outside agency, integrated before delivery. It is also integral because in this model of rural development, ecology and environment are not separate from other matters of local government; rather they are part of a more organic or integral whole. That whole is the realm of decision-making under the jurisdiction of locally accountable authorities. It is integral since all sources of community revenues (taxes, stamp fees, central government grants, loans, financial development assistance) are pooled and are allocated not according to their origins, but according to the needs and aspirations of the community as expressed through the locally accountable representative government. ILD is the creation of a domain of local autonomy in which local representatives can act on the integrity of local resources and local needs and desires; IRD was based in north-east India on providing an array of interventions at multiple levels, supporting the productivity of the farm household and the development of agrarian economies and thus the approach became cumbersome quite quickly, leading to large, costly, top-down projects — these were given the name ‘Christmas tree projects’ since there were always more components that could be hung on the IRD frame to assure success. It was the mechanism of integration that was wrong. IRD is based on a farm-systems model of local needs, usually designed in faraway places to be flown in and set up around rural communities who have little influence on the process. While participatory approaches to rural development as in the panchayat system have improved the situation, mostly by soliciting local inputs into decision-making processes, they still have not systematically increased local control by representative local authorities. ILD, on the other hand, integrates through local representative bodies. This is its principal difference from the IRD approach. Finally, the PTD through the PRIs, unlike other participatory approaches to development, has avoided the state and tried to approach development by going directly to the people, thus bypassing certain impending risks involved in state alienation. While the ideal of many practitioners of state alienation has been greater inclusion and justice, the choice of this approach is part of

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a larger global narrative that pits people against the government rather than seeing the government as an effective partner in development. The growing conflict situation of Assam has led to mobilisation of various movements in order to address this contradiction between the individual and the state. This complexity while at a manifest level presents itself as a contradiction of cultural reproduction, social integration, and socialisation of neglect, at a more pragmatic and latent level it can be viewed as a democratic response to the human development deficit in the region. It is the call of the hour to demystify the neglect of a theory of cultural reproduction and integration and abhor the Indian example of granting territorial autonomy to resurgent minority groups. This has not only aggravated ethnic conflict and competition for limited resources, both political and social, but has also led to increasing contradictions between the individual and state. In a situation where people face great economic hardships through loss of livelihoods and withdrawal of investment funds from the region as a result of economic crisis and conflicts, reliance on the government is even higher and community self-reliance is very low. Years of so-called ‘bottom-up’ planning have resulted in few real welfare gains for communities or specific groups. Poor coordination between district and provincial governments results in duplication of development programmes within villages or very poorly targeted support that does not match community needs. Women’s status has not improved and educated young people are unable to find employment. The presence of internally displaced persons remains a challenge for social cohesion and human development (especially in health, education, and economic empowerment). The lack of coordination among village, sub-district, district, and provincial levels of government means that problems emerging at the village level hardly even reach the district, let alone the provincial government. Vice-versa, policies at the provincial and district levels hardly reach people in villages (particularly women and the poor). The solutions to inherent problems range from extreme inhumanity of anti-insurgency Acts like the AFSPA and suspension of democratic rights to softpedalling by granting autonomous councils or promises to solve

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almost nothing. Decentralisation of governance and local-level participation through democratic constitutional measures like the PRIs can facilitate a PTD approach, which appears a viable means of establishing trust and democratic governance in the region.14


Other publications referred to in this article are: Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1997; Anasuya Basu Ray Chaudhury, Energy Crisis and Subregional Cooperation in South Asia, Colombo: Regional Centre for Strategic Studies, 2000, p. 75; R. Chambers, Rural Development: Putting the Last First, Essex: Longman Scientific & Technical, 1983; Samir Kumar Das, ‘Extraordinary Partition and its Impact on Ethnic Militant Politics of Assam’, in Girin Phukon (ed.), Ethnicity and Polity in South Asia, New Delhi: South Asia Publishers, 2002; Samir Kumar Das, ‘On the Politics of Globalization: Managing Ethnicity in Northeastern India’ in G. Das and R. Purkayastha (eds), Liberalization and India’s Northeast, New Delhi: Commonwealth, 1988; Malabika Das Gupta, ‘The Economic Impact of Militancy on the Economy of the Jhumias of the Northeast: A Study of Tripura’, 2002, mimeo; Subhendu Dasgupta, ‘Adhikarer tattwa nirman: Ekti khasra’ (in Bengali) (Constructing a theory of rights: A draft), Aneek, 32 (8 and 9), February–March 1996, pp. 32–35; Prabir De and Buddhadeb Ghosh, ‘Infrastructure, Income and Regional Economic Development with Special Reference to Northeastern States: An Approach to Understand the Indo-Bangladesh Border Trade’, 2003, mimeo; Leo A. Despres, ‘Toward a Theory of Ethnic Phenomenon’ in Leo A. Despres (ed.), Ethnicity and Resource Competition in Plural Societies, The Hague: Mouton Publishers, 1975; Frederic Grare and Amitabh Mattoo (eds), India and ASEAN: The Politics of India’s Look East Policy, New Delhi: Manohar Publications, 2003; Russell Hardin, ‘Communities and Development: Autarkic Social Groups and the Economy’, 1996, mimeo; Kaka Iralu, ‘Is Underdevelopment the Cause of Insurgency in Nagaland?’ in C. Joshua Thomas and Gurudas Das (eds), Dimensions of Development in Nagaland, New Delhi: Regency, 2002; Anand Oinam, ‘Look East Policy and Manipur’, The Sangai Express, 27 December 2003; Nitish Sengupta and Arindam Banik, ‘Regional Trade and Investment in Developing Countries: The Case of SAARC’, 1997, mimeo; World Bank, Entering the 21st Century: World Development Report 1999/2000, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000; World Bank, The World Bank Participation Sourcebook, Washington, DC, 1996.

II The Production of Appropriate Subjects

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6 The Cultured Subjects Badri Narayan Tiwari This article deals with the connection between culture, a not so innocent domain, and governance that reconstructs the subjectivity of the people to create a governed subject. In this process, the state takes elements of ‘people culture’ and develops a homogenous ‘national culture’. In the mid-1980s, the country was going through a serious crisis — terrorism in Punjab, the assassination of Indira Gandhi, followed by anti-Sikh riots. The challenge before the then prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, was that there was no ‘distribution network’ of culture to rebuild the nation. Against this backdrop, the Zonal Cultural Centres (ZCCs) emerged as cultural institutions. We found that the ZCCs, too, started catering to the demands of the market economy, ignoring the intangible, oral, and marginal forms, the Dalit culture, much against its avowed agenda. There is a serious lack of research and field studies and new artistes and newer forms remain ignored. The aim of ‘nation building’, noble or otherwise, remains neglected. Culture is not an innocent domain — it is not merely for entertainment, but is used by the state to govern the people. Culture reconstructs the subjectivity of the people and creates a governed subject. In the process of reconstruction, it transforms and changes them. Used and controlled by the state, we see that to further composite (or national) culture, institutions and establishments are created and maintained. The dominant voices at two levels, of the state and the market, fuel its vertical growth, often and almost always at the cost of the horizontal growth of culture. Culture has multiple meanings.

248 — Badri Narayan Tiwari

For traditionalists like Anand Coomaraswamy and Gopi Nath Kaviraj, it is the exploration of the self.1 For others, it is the representation of everyday life, the culture of common people, which reflect desires, dreams, a sense of belonging, or is a vehicle for a community’s memories, time, and space. For many years culture was perceived as a homogeneous, coherent, stable, and bounded cultural whole. But during the past two decades, culture as revaluated by theorists and anthropologists was considered a site of difference, multiplicity, contest, negotiation, and also a domain of power and authority discourse.2 Due to close associations with the everyday socio-economic life of the people and communities we have multiple cultures, not one culture with a capital ‘C’. While discussing the cultural policies of India, it is necessary to view the complex, intricate, and multilayered, multidimensional cultural fabric of the country. It is imperative in a cultural continuity, which has survived through 5,000 years of history marked by periodic unrest, invasions, wars, political subjugation, economic underdevelopment, and one which has conditioned, guided, and governed the value system of a whole people, today numbering 531 million and spread over an area of 3,276,141 sq. km, comprising a bewildering multiplicity of races, ethnic groups, sub-cultures, and religious sects.3 Earlier, culture was managed by the communities themselves. In fact, culture was never considered to be the subject of management and governance in modern terms. It was growing and developing with the life of people, interacting with various kinds of influences. Popular sects and religious institutions certainly tried to regulate a few aspects of the cultural life in Indian society. The new notions around cultures, which are linked with development, managing identity and cultural freedom in a multicultural society like India, extends the meaning of culture and makes it more of a state-oriented idea, notion, and site.4 National and 1 A. Coomarswamy, The Dance of Siva, Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2006. 2 Human Development Report, Cultural Liberty in Today’s Diverse World, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 88. 3 K. M. Vatsyayan, Some Aspects of Cultural Policies in India, Paris: UNESCO, 1972, p. 9. 4 V. Rao and M. Walton, Culture and Public Action, New Delhi: Permanent Black, 2004, p. 9.

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global forces assert themselves to determine and define the politics of cultural practices in the contemporary context, which largely appears as attempts of conscious mobilisation of cultural differences in the service of larger national or transnational politics.5 In fact, colonial governance by its methods of transforming culture, as the means, as well as the subject of governance, tried to change the meaning of culture in Indian society. During colonial times, there were various attempts to collect, document, survey, count, and analyse cultures of various communities, to govern them, their collective psyche and identities. Here culture came into the orbit of state governance.6 Cultures were targeted ‘to know’ how to rule their colonised praja (subjects of a ruler). The methods and strategies being developed during the colonial governance of culture were to collect, document, and study those that were rare (anuplabdh or unavailable for colonial sahibs), amazing, and influential. The line of politics, which emerges from the folklore collections and cultural surveys by colonial sahibs, was based on documentation, study, and representing ‘the unique’, ‘the useful’, and ‘influential’.7 That means they paid attention to those cultural forms or the cultures of the communities, which appeared unique for colonial outsider masters, those who looked useful to understand the societies that were the target of their total governance, and those who were related with the communities, powerful, dominant, visible. The meaning of ‘visible’ here is — those who are socially and economically powerful and able to provide the legitimacy of the act of governance of colonial power and also of those subaltern communities who emerged as unlawful martial communities and became visible for colonial governance. In post-colonial India, a similar line of cultural governance is continued by the Indian State. Here, we are not going to indulge in the debate about whether culture should be governed or not, 5

A. Appadurai, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 15. 6 W. Crook, Popular Religion and Folklore of Northern India, New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1968; G. A. Grierson, Bihar Peasant Life: Being a Discursive Catalogue, New Delhi: Cosmo Publication, 1975. 7 B. Narayan, Documenting Dissent: Contesting Fables, Contesting Memories and Dalit Political Discourse, Shimla: IIAS, 2001, p. 55.

250 — Badri Narayan Tiwari

but to understand the policies and programmes of cultural institutions as a part of the Indian democratic state and try to analyse distributions of preference and opportunities created by states, while dealing with various communities, as communities of cultures and with cultures. We examine how the ZCCs were developed to govern the culture of the public and gradually transform culture to govern the people. The political and cultural climate of the country in which the idea of the ZCCs originated is the single most important factor in understanding the objectives for which they were set up.

Politics and Formation of the ZCCs The ZCCs were set up by the Government of India, in the mid1980s, to preserve, promote, and disseminate the composite culture of the nation. The ZCCs were meant to include various cultures, including vanishing art forms, and thereby present a mosaic of unity in diversity. This was an attempt to form the national culture, which would be inclusive and expansive. The ministry of human resources development (MoHRD), through the department of culture, set up seven ZCCs, which are cultural institutions. These seven ZCCs cover the entire nation. The seven ZCCs are: the North Zone Cultural Centre (NZCC), situated at Patiala, including Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, and Rajasthan; the North Central Zone Cultural Centre (NCZCC), situated at Allahabad, including Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Delhi; the Eastern Zone Cultural Centre (EZCC), situated at Kolkata, including Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Assam, Tripura, Manipur, Sikkim, and the union territory of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands; the North East Zone Cultural Centre (NEZCC), situated at Dimapur, including Assam, Tripura, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, and Meghalaya; the South Zone Cultural Centre (SZCC), situated at Thanjavur, including Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, the union territory of Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, and Pondicherry; the South Central Zone Cultural Centre (SCZCC), situated at Nagpur, including Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh; and the West Zone Cultural Centre (WZCC), situated

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at Udaipur, including Goa, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, the union territory of Daman, Diu, & Dadra and Nagar Haveli. The political crisis that the country was going through was the immediate cause for the creation of the ZCCs. The terrible crisis of Punjab, which had seen thousands dead in the wake of terrorism, the attack on the Golden Temple to flush out Sikh extremists, the assassination of Indira Gandhi, and the large-scale anti-Sikh riots that followed were emblematic. In fact, the report of a high-powered committee, set up by the MoHRD, to review the seven ZCCs in 1994–95 (hereafter, the Report), stated: ‘ . . . the idea of setting up the ZCCs occurred at the time of a national crisis’.8 Perhaps that was one of the reasons why Rajiv Gandhi made a formal announcement of setting up the ZCCs at Hussainiwal, in Punjab, on 23 March 1985, in connection with the laying of the foundation stone of the Bhagat Singh Memorial. The choice of place and the occasion announcing the creation of the ZCCs are of significance in shaping its noble objectives. The announcement of the ZCCs occurred while Rajiv Gandhi talked with serious concern over the political and economic crisis in Punjab. He touched upon various issues in his speech and voiced his concern: Culture has also suffered a great deal in the past years. It is our desire to see that culture gets a boost in Punjab and it looks to the future. Towards this end, we will set up a Zonal Cultural Centre for the … Northern zone in the state. We will ensure that the centre nurtures and helps to further the culture (emphasis mine) not only of the state but whole of northern India.9

In the discussions about the formation of the cultural centres in the report we come across three recurring ideas: ensuring the role of culture in nation building, fusing of numerous cultures into a composite culture, and instruments of social change to bring about national integration. It also shows how the government conceives of culture as an important instrument in the 8 Report of the High Powered Committee, appointed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India. To Review the Seven Zonal Cultural Centres, 1994–95, p. 8. 9 Ibid., p. 5.

252 — Badri Narayan Tiwari

project of nation building and transforming people into ‘national subjects’. In this process, culture gets reduced to an instrument and its autonomy as a creative domain is diluted. In this way, the state acquires justification to govern culture in the name of nation building. To pursue the agenda of nation building, it is important to note that the then prime minister regarded the portfolio for national unity and national integration as most important. It was essential for him to have all the building blocks for national unity. Through the ZCCs, the Indian government is trying to make national culture a homogeneous culture to manage regional and ethnic contestations in Indian society (the declaration of formation of ZCCs, keeping in mind the Punjab crisis). Here, the Indian government tries to develop a discourse around national culture, which may be a convergence of diverse cultural forms, ethos, and lives towards ‘a single national culture’. The discourse of national culture carries instrumentalist overtones: culture as a device in nation building. In some sense, it may be observed as a process of state building through efforts made towards nation building.10 The politics of nation building involves the marginalisation of aliens, suppression of minorities and of indigenous people, a process sometimes captured as a process of internal colonialism, which hurts the making of cultural democracy.11 The idea of using culture in the project of nation building is also reflected in the structure of the ZCCs, as conceptualised by the government. The government devised a three-tier system of control, comprising the states (member states of the ZCCs), the zones (ZCCs), and the centre (the union government). Through this system, it was felt that the separate identities of the member states, as well as their cultural kinship, best illustrated in their various arts and cultural forms, would be showcased. Through this, the zonal cultural heritage, in relation to India’s composite culture, was ‘highlighting unity in diversity of the Indian heritage’. 12 The ZCCs evolved as custodians of national culture with a patronising attitude, which may be visible in terms like ‘protect, 10 J. N. Pietersen, The Cultural Turn: Questions of Power, Development Theory: Deconstructions/Reconstructions, New Delhi: Vistaar Publications, 2004, p. 62. 11 Ibid., p. 63. 12 Report of the High Powered Committee, p. 6.

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preserve, disseminate, and nurture’ national culture. In its 2007– 2008 annual report, the department of culture also mentions that its mandate is to ‘preserve and promote all forms of art and culture’.13 It appeared as ‘production units of national culture’, by selecting nationalist elements from people’s culture, which may be helpful in the nation-building project and governance. Here, the state defines and determines, through its process of governing culture, what is ‘national culture’. Now, the Indian government is thinking of forming a national policy on culture. To frame a ‘national culture’, the department of culture constituted a committee in October 2006, comprising 19 eminent personalities including Professor U.R. Ananthamurthy, Girish Karnad, Shyam Benegal, M.T. Vasudevan Nair, Professor Mushirul Hasan, Mallika Sarabhai, Ashok Vajpai, and Ramchandra Guha. This committee, which met once in six months, was asked to study the extent and role of government in various areas of culture and also assess the mandate for various cultural institutions.14 The way to form ‘national culture’ is based on assimilation of the cultures. The need, however, is to form a mosaic of various cultures rather than assimilate and absorb these into a homogenous mass.15

State, Market and Culture At times, the state manages society through culture. This happens particularly when changes are palpable and a new society starts emerging. In the formation of the ZCCs, the challenges of a new, emerging society find expression. The felt need for governing culture for the managing state was accelerated by an accelerated process of urbanisation, prompted by the economic need of the masses. The search for ‘composite culture’ was also triggered by the large-scale migration of people, across classes. The process of uprooting oneself, for a better life, is both an aspiration of the people and their sense of loss and a feeling of rootlessness. Material comforts demand a high price and a sense of alienation sets in. 13

‘Annual Report’, Ministry of Culture, Government of India, 2007–2008, p. 3. A. Sinha, ‘Tenure Ends But No Report from Cultural Panel’, Indian Express, 3 May 2007. 15 ‘Intellectuals discuss ‘cultural policy’,, 22 July 2009. 14

254 — Badri Narayan Tiwari

Rajiv Gandhi believed that due to mass migration from the villages, a new kind of urban space was developing. There was a felt need for folk culture in the urban space for migrant people in India. That is why he tried to create cultural institutions, events (like Apna Utsav), and moments that would satisfy the migrant people and provide an answer to their gnawing alienation. This is clear in the report of the high-powered committee: Indian civilisation is distinguished by its antiquity and its heterogeneity. Nations have developed but collapsed because of insufficient resilience, inadequate flexibility to cope with subtle changes that they were faced with at that time. For the first time, millions were (and are) leaving their homes and going to different areas looking for occupations other than traditionally what has been their familial occupation and, in doing this, creating a tremendous geographic uprooting of our society. In the past, only those who joined the army or had business interests went to the other parts of the country. Mass movement is now the dominant factor which contributes to the fast pace of economic development. When people leave their villages for want of facilities and amenities and go to urban areas they get cut-off from their traditional culture and are faced in this new environment with a breakdown of their traditional values, snapping of links with old culture. It is this churning, this ‘manthan’ that causes many of the problems in our society today. Millions are now living and working with people of different castes and communities, different linguistic groups, people of different regions, a country wide mixing of this diversity and knowledge has come about but people tend to go back to their language, their culture, their religion as a support. So the challenge to national integration is in preventing this great movement that is taking place from becoming a platform for individual rivalries, community rivalries or linguistic rivalries.16

It is interesting to note that Mani Shankar Aiyar, a bureaucrat then and a politician now, who played a pivotal role in the formation of ZCCs, uses the marketing language and also goes on to compare the distribution network of culture with that of the distribution network of ITC, the tobacco company. He states:


Report of the High Powered Committee, p. xx.

Cultured Subjects  255 The ZCCs were conceived as distribution networks. However when Rajiv Gandhi had to decide how much money would have to be given to these centres, the truth dawned on him (which anybody who works for a commercial structure knows) that for mass produced goods the largest investment has to be in the distribution infrastructure. ITC, for example, and I mention this deliberately, invests much less in farms and factories than it does in distribution because cigarettes have to be made available in every village of India. Therefore, if we have a distribution network for Indian culture, we should have at least as big as the ITC reach for cigarettes. This was not appreciated as a starved and deprived but hoary cultural network. But the capital expenditure came from the budget of India.17

In the 1980s, the new economic policy and opening up of the Indian economy triggered by globalisation and a level playing field brought about rapid changes. New avenues of employment opened up. The middle class had more money at its disposal. Material comforts, prompted by the dictates of the bazaar and advertisements were commonplace. Aspirations grew. New economic terms were creeping into the vocabulary of the people. The state and the market were working together post-1984. As the state promoted the market, the terms and language of the marketplace and management were finding expression in state governance. Thus, we find that concepts like ‘association of production units’ and ‘distribution network’, which essentially belong to the marketplace are used in relation to the formation of the ZCCs. In Rajiv Gandhi’s meetings with different departments and ministries, it was found, much to the dismay of the prime minister and his men, that though there were ‘production units of culture’, as explained below, there was ‘no distribution network’. Rajiv Gandhi had become the elected Prime Minister of India at the fag end of December 1984 and Mani Shankar Aiyar joined his staff in March 1985. He had started a series of review meetings with different departments and ministries of the GoI. Rajiv Gandhi asked a question, which led to the creation of the centres. He asked, what mechanism if any, the department of culture had of reaching the best in our contemporary culture to the people? And further, 17

Ibid., p. 58.

256 — Badri Narayan Tiwari whether it was not the considered opinion of the department of culture that involving the people of India at large in the totality of the culture of India was not its overwhelming priority? The department of culture had actually no mechanism for doing so. The three Akademies that exist at the centre, and are replicated in most of the states of India are the associations of production units. There is no distribution network and therefore no representative of the distribution system present here.18

Perhaps that was the reason why Rajiv Gandhi, while making a speech to the directors of the seven ZCCs towards the end of 1987, said: We have to reach out to the people which mean (sic) not waiting for the people to come to us but going out to the people, into their mohallas, into their villages, into their homes. This must be a new phase in our cultural development.19

We have seen that ZCCs were set up for the dissemination of national culture, as was mooted by the prime minister and his men. But, as this was a new concept, prompted by a national crisis and fuelled by the dictates of the marketplace, the language of the bazaar was being voiced again and again. Furthermore, there was a total lack of its budgeting needs and other provisions in the administrative structures of the union government. Aiyar, who was a member of the evaluation committee of the high-powered committee, observed: When it came to the rupee-annas-pies column structures of governance in the country, he (Rajiv Gandhi) did not find that the importance of this building block of culture was reflected in any way in the budgeting or the administrative structures that had been devised.20

That was why Rajiv Gandhi tripled the budget for the dissemination and distribution of cultural forms, ideas, and ideologies, which might help the formation of national culture. Aiyar further pointed out that Rajiv Gandhi’s new model of national unification through culture was based on the logic of 18

Ibid., p. 53. Ibid., p. 58. 20 Ibid., p, 56. 19

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having a distribution network that would carry Kerala to Kashmir and Manipur to Karnataka. It would be much more expensive to carry Kashmir to Karnataka than to carry Kerala to Karnataka. There was at least as much need for Kerala and Karnataka to interact as for Kerala and Manipur to interact. Thus, it was felt that while opportunities should be afforded and encouraged for countrywide interaction or pan-Indian interaction, it would be useful to take doorstep interaction as the threshold from where he went further. Now, nobody insisted more insistently than Rajiv Gandhi that the states of India based on linguistic frontiers, bore no relationship to the national cultural entity. As the state was following the dictates of the market economy, while bringing about a cultural unification of the country, it was perhaps natural for it to give importance to the visual arts or the visual aspects of the performing arts. It’s a well-known adage that whatever attracts, amazes, and inspires awe, sells better. The logistics of marketing and advertisement, too, are based on the visual aspect. As discussed earlier, even during the colonial era, whatever was colourful, attractive, whatever caught the attention of the sahibs and amazed them, got more importance. At that time, the visual aspects were not always serving the needs of the marketplace. Perhaps for the urban-dwellers of the present time, who also are somewhat alienated from the rural masses, the element of amazement, the visual aspect, gained precedence. In both these cases, we find the element of ‘otherness’ as the common factor. Also, tribal, folk, and ethnic cultures are being commodified for the elites, who transformed as the ‘other’, and are now rootless and alienated. Another interesting aspect of the influence of the market economy on culture is that visual forms gained prominence and precedence over literary forms; many intangible and oral forms (idioms, misals (examples), folk tales, traditional artisanal forms, etc.) and other marginal forms (often referred to as the vanishing art forms). In fact, we should take into account the phenomenal growth of the visual media, particularly television, which, it seemed to many, would perhaps edge out the traditional media (print). It’s noteworthy that the print media, too, underwent a metamorphosis. Ugly, smudgy print on coarse newsprint was replaced by glossy, imported newsprint with attractive and

258 — Badri Narayan Tiwari

colourful newspapers and magazines (the decades of the 1980s belonged to the growth of glossy magazines in India). The marketplace, it seemed, was hoarsely demanding bright and bold visuals and the glocal (the global and local) market was getting it. The changes in the TV industry were sharp. In almost no time, black and white TVs were replaced by colour TVs. The living rooms, drawing rooms, and bedrooms of the people were bombarded by visuals. Almost every home, every neighbourhood had access to colour TV. Attractive commercials and advertisements, along with popular soaps (popular TV serials), were discussed in social gatherings, at homes and in schools. Added to that was the rapid spread and growth of the Internet (the new media) in metropolises by the late 1990s and in many smaller towns somewhat later. It seemed that every John and Jane had an access to the Internet, if not at home then at cyber cafes. Emails and browsing the news and entertainment portals was becoming popular. It was a new social phenomenon. The palpable influence of the visual medium, which is an important aspect of the market, was here to stay. We find that in the conceptual structure of the ZCCs, visual aspects thus got overemphasis, at the cost of the literary and other intangible forms of culture. It is no small coincidence that the main thrust of the ZCCs, as per their directives with regard to infrastructural facilities, was also oriented to visual representation — they were asked to set up galleries for exhibitions, facilities for performing arts, sculptural parks and auditoriums that gave importance to the visual aspects. Going through the reports of NCZCC over a few years we find that the visual and performing arts got precedence over literary forms. Its publications were sloppy and its library has little or no importance. Performing arts, like folk dances, theatres, some performances of folk songs and visual arts such as paintings, sculptures got prominence.21 During the Shilp Mela, held in December 2009, we observed that those artefacts and crafts, which were visually attractive 21

See annual reports of the North Central Zone Cultural Centre (NCZCC), 2007–2008, 2008–2009.

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and had a ready market, were displayed in various stalls. Even the performances on the stage were in keeping with the visual aspects discussed above. The Kavi Sammellan (Hindi poetry meet) too had this aspect of the popular poets, who might be described as manchiya kavi (stage poets). The NCZCC launched a magazine, Sundaram, as a ‘commercial venture’. Its aim was to make it a profit centre, catering to the market economy. However, the NCZCC did not make an honest effort in this direction. Though it was a bold step, it was shut down. In its first editorial, Arindam Roy, who was its associate editor, wrote: … the apprehension of publishing houses has been that a magazine on art does not have a big enough target-audience or popular interest-base to ensure profitable returns. We differ. And SUNDARAM shall prove this point beyond doubt. This is a commercial venture of NCZCC, a Registered Society under the Ministry of Human Resources Development. We are confident of making this magazine a profit-centre, and thereby further our objective of encouraging, propagating and preserving the essentials of contemporary art. In this lies our success.22

The terms ‘commercial venture of NCZCC’ and ‘making this magazine a profit-centre’ are clear indications of the objectives of NCZCC. It also establishes our point that literary activities were edged out of the ZCCs in general, and NCZCC, in particular. Thus, for the state, culture that served the marketplace, which was in keeping with the new terminology and language of the market and management gurus, containing within it the new elements of governance of culture, was ‘national culture’. It’s worth pointing out that the NCZCC, one of the seven zonal centres, based at Allahabad, was set-up in 1986. Since its inception, Indian Administrative Service (IAS) bureaucrats have headed it as directors. It would have been nice if eminent artistes or culture activists had headed this institution. Perhaps they might have been more responsive to the creative needs of cultural growth. 22

Arindam Roy, Sundaram, inaugural issue (published by NCZCC, Allahabad), October 1988, p. 3.

260 — Badri Narayan Tiwari

Most bureaucrats, with some exceptions, can at best ‘police’ an organisation better. Dwelling on the selection of directors of the ZCCs, the high-powered committee, in its report, mentioned that artists with administrative abilities should be preferred to bureaucrats.23

Culture, Governance and Margins During our study of the NCZCC, Allahabad, in the past few years, after going through its various annual reports and conducting a field study of the Shilp Mela, in December 2009, we found that some select art forms were being showcased again and again. A kind of pattern emerges, in which we see that the same set of people are called to either perform or put up stalls. This shows a clear lack of research and field study by the NCZCC. It did not have cultural surveys of villages and tribal communities and was quite clueless about the list of artists, artisans, and cultural forms. This shows that the way culture evolves in the structure of their programmes evidences the vertical form, rather than the horizontal dimension. While in the vertical form of shaping the culture some forms and artistes are repeated, in the horizontal form, many kinds of cultures can be showcased, wherein large number of artistes and artisans can participate. In the vertical form of culture, since a select few gain, culture is marginalised. Thus, the NCZCC (and other ZCCs) were working contrary to the agenda of dissemination of culture. During a field study, at the 14-day Shilp Mela, held at the NCZCC, from 11 to 24 December 2009, we found that popular artefacts and crafts, which have a demand in the market, had an edge over the neglected and vanishing art forms. The same art forms and crafts were being showcased. There was no attempt to document and research other art forms from that region. Furthermore, the same people were attending the Shilp Mela for several years. Talking to nine artisans, during our field study, it was found that eight had attended it between three and nine years, with one exception, who was there for the first time. Thus, the NCZCC was following the beaten track. 23

Report of the High Powered Committee, p. 22.

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Afzal Ahmad from Mubarakpur, Azamgarh, who was selling handloom saris, had been at the Shilp Mela for nine years. Sriram Modi from Jhunjhunu district, Rajasthan, was selling lehangachunri. He had been attending the Shilp Mela for five years. Abdul Rehman from Nawalgarh, Rajasthan, who was manning a traditional painting stall had been attending the mela for five years too. Jaswinder, from Punjab, was selling woollen items for the fifth year. Babu Lal Gola, from Faridabad, Haryana, was selling some artefacts cast in clay and stone, painted attractively, and had been attending for four years. Afzal, a young Kashmiri, had come from Pahalgam. He was selling pashmina shawls and was on his fourth visit. Manoj Srivastava, a central government employee, from Tribes India, Allahabad, had been attending the Shilp Mela for three years. Saquoor Ahmad and his wife, from Jaipur, who had a stall of the famous Jaipuri rajai, were attending the mela for a third year. The only exception to the rule was Eklaque Ahmad, from Madho Singh, Ghosnia, in Badhoi district. He had come to the Shilp Mela for the first time. Another point worth noting is that these craftsmen, who were attending the Shilp Mela, for anything between three and nine years, were also showcasing and selling the same crafts and artefacts. We also found that many middlemen, traders, showroom owners, and others of their ilk had become a part of the mela. For example, Sriram Modi, from Jhunjhunu district, Rajasthan, is a Bania, member of a trading community. He procures the traditional Rajasthani dresses from the artisans and sells these; he has been doing this for five years. Similarly, Abdul Rehman, who was selling traditional Rajasthani paintings, represented an NGO. He too has been attending the mela for the past five years. Manoj Srivastava, representing Tribes India, was a shopkeeper, a central government employee, selling tribal art and craft. He represented an Allahabad-based showroom and had been participating for the past three years. This resulted in the further marginalisation of the community artisans and craftsmen, who were supposed to participate in these melas. Another fact that surfaced was that some stalls at the mela were auctioned. Saquoor Ahmad and his wife, who were selling Jaipur quilts, were sad. They had to pay ` 35,000 for their stall, as there were four craftsmen in that category. They were certain that they would not be able to recover their costs. This was a sharp

262 — Badri Narayan Tiwari

pointer that the NCZCC was more concerned about profit, than the welfare of the artisans and craftsmen. Due to the auctioning process, poor craftsmen were being marginalised and thrown out of the circulation of showcasing and selling their wares.24 In fact, the report of the high powered committee to review the seven ZCCs, appointed by the MoHRD, bears testimony to our observation: It was our impression while we went around the ZCCs that in the field of crafts, textiles and handicrafts, not much research have taken place to find the genuine practitioners of these arts in the remote corners of the country. In such situations, the temptation is often to invite the same groups, who became experts in participating in Melas. A genuine effort should be made to break the formation of such vested-interest groups and find actual practitioners of these crafts, who may not even be aware of avenues like the ZCCs … a ZCC Mela ought not to be merely an outlet for sales. There is a whole way of life, and a vision of life in the practice of these crafts and it is more important that this aspect of crafts should come through as a living alternative to our modern civilization.25

The market is both an indicator and a determining force for those forms of art and craft that are a part of the habitual taste of the masses. It is safer to offer the time-tested forms to the market, as there is little or no risk of rejection. This logic, therefore, creates a kind of a vicious circle of demand and supply, wherein there is hardly any scope for newer forms to find space and emerge. Thus, many rich art forms are marginalised; as a result of which these start vanishing for lack of patronage and market. The high-powered committee suggested that more importance should be given to the folk forms, which is the ministry’s avowed policy. It mentioned that the ZCCs’ finances and resources could well be utilised by giving life to segments like folk and tribal arts, which no other organisation supports.26 But we see that even in the realm of folk traditions, some exclusion is inbuilt. The folk songs and dances that the NCZCC 24

Brijendra Gautam and Nivedita Singh, ‘Field Diary’, unpublished research report based on field work, 24 December 2009. 25 Report of the High Powered Committee, p. 13. 26 Ibid., p. 6 (emphasis mine).

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organises bear testimony to this fact. Established folk songs like kajri, chaiti, aalha, birha, with a few performances of Pandavani, etc. may be part of the programme. Similarly, the same artistes are called again and again to perform. This reportedly creates a strong nexus between the small-time artistes and organisers. These artistes are locally based, and are often used as fillers in major programmes, if no independent programme of theirs is held. In fact, the report also deals with the possibility of a nexus, talking of the possible hold of vested interest groups in the realm of folk and tribal arts. It notes that it is quite natural again that vested interest groups will begin to monopolise invitations to such melas and hence a certain uniform pattern will set in. It is necessary to carefully research new talents in these fields and break the monotony that may soon set in. What is important is to keep alive the genuineness and spontaneity and the unsophisticated vigour of these arts, which are truly alive in their own indigenous setting.27

Dealing with ‘folk art’, it is pertinent to point out the British policy on the subject and the subsequent formation of the state policy of Independent India. The development of the idea of a national cultural tradition was an important factor for the consolidation of folk art first among the elite, which was to influence the formation of the ideology of larger society, subsequently. The origin of the concepts of ‘art’, ‘folk art’, ‘craft’, ‘classical art’, ‘fine art’, ‘decorative art’, in the Indian context owes much to the 18th- and 19th-century voyages, geographical discoveries, and consequent colonisation when the Western notion of art was extended to them.28 Thus, handicrafts constituted a spacious cultural category in which the imaginary notions of art, tradition, originality, a 5,000-year-old history, etc. got assimilated. This called for the protection of the craftsmen, who needed to be saved for the corrupting influence of modern materialistic culture, which could harm the much coveted traditional aspect of the folk culture. The craftsmen and the folk artistes then got huddled into 27

Ibid., p. 13 (emphasis mine). J. Jain, ‘Indian “Folk Art” Tradition, Revival and Transformation’ in P. Pal (ed.), Reflections on the Arts in India, Mumbai: India Marg Publications, 2000, p. 61.


264 — Badri Narayan Tiwari

assembly lines of handicraft and workshops with little scope to retain the inherited artistic vision or for creative experimentation inspired by exposure to the contemporary situation. All over the country, in tribal areas and in villages, large tinshed craft factories sprung up, where craftspersons worked on a daily wage basis (often less than the minimum official daily wage rate fixed for unskilled labourers) to deliver bulk replicas of sample(s) provided by a ‘promoter’ of handicraft.29 In the ‘promoter’ we see the emergence of the middleman. Soon after Independence, the industrial and rural-development model of the economy was cast in the five-year plan mould. In the First Five-Year Plan (1951–56), the importance of village and small-scale industries was recognised as a means of employment. Handsome financial provisions were made for their development within the budget of the central government’s ministry of commerce and industries. Ever since, the handicrafts’ component (inclusive of folk arts) has stayed within the purview of commerce till date, and has gone through the regular drill of economic development through mass reproduction/marketing through middlemen, modern designer inputs, and export. In the initial stages of the plan, it was understood that a ready market existed among foreigners. Emporia and international trade fairs were conceived as suitable venues for promoting the art-craftculture industry.30 Thus, we find that the dictates of the market economy, first in foreign countries and later amongst the elite class within India, continued to promote those art forms that were in demand. The ZCCs were (and are) no exception to this thumb rule. We find that many marginal art forms of the Dalits, like Chamraundha, a dance form of the Chamars, and Dalit folk ballads, like Reshma-Chuharmal, Dina-Bhadri, Shobh-Nayaka Banjara, Behula-Lakhandar, etc., which are very popular among them, are never presented by the NCZCC. The two possible reasons for this are that, first, these forms do not have a ready market, as these are not a part of the habitual taste of the masses. These art forms might soon crumble and vanish. Second, no members of the Dalit community participate in any policymaking body of the NCZCC. In the cultural arena, Dalits have 29 30

Ibid., p. 63. Ibid., p. 65.

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no voice though they have found space in the political sphere in north India, especially in Uttar Pradesh. Furthermore, except some oral narratives and traditions, which are intangible, major traditions in Bhojpuri, Maghai, Awadhi, Braj, Bundeli, Maithili, etc., too, do not find space in the scheme of things in the NCZCC. This creates another kind of marginalisation of the oral traditions. It is quite evident that the NCZCC is not prepared to take creative risks or be creatively entrepreneurial and create a space for these marginal oral forms. The high-powered committee’s report also states that many of the rich folk art forms are on the verge of extinction because of lack of support and it is only the ZCCs which can save it.31 It was expected that the ZCCs would fill in this gap with field studies and research but these cultural institutions, too, have become prey to babuism. Our study shows that the ZCCs were another ‘me too’ in the culture market.

Culture and Audience The state wants to govern its subjects through culture thus making culture a tool in its hegemonistic scheme of things. It promotes only that kind of culture that fits within its scheme of things. The colonial masters promoted one kind of art — the ones that suited market demand. It was decided that the ZCCs would move ahead, making a departure from the colonial masters, finding unity in diversity. The attempt was to find ‘national culture’ — or that common thread which would help the state to govern its people through culture. The reality, however, is very different. The officials of the ZCCs have little or no understanding of culture. To make matters worse, there is hardly any research or fieldwork, thus it’s just another job for a bureaucrat, who till a short while ago could be managing some food corporation.32 Whenever there are events or Shilp Melas, one finds that there is a serious lack of a ‘real audience’; most people come for the tamasha. Even cultural meets change into some kind of a mela. The audiences there are more interested in their dresses, ornaments, chatting, gossip, 31 32

Report of the High Powered Committee, p. 11. Ibid., p. 22.

266 — Badri Narayan Tiwari

eating, and having fun. It’s like a party. As it has little or nothing to do with culture, this audience is not the one that the state is interested in. Moreover, for any market to survive, the demand side (audience/target audience) is of paramount importance. In fact, the supply side has to constantly monitor, change, and adapt according to the shifting tastes of its audience(s). Unfortunately, in the context of the ZCCs, both the supply side and the demand side remain vague and nebulous. Lack of field study and thorough research means that the ZCCs have neither understood their audience nor made any serious effort to create a market (read audience) for the consumption of the culture that it serves. Perhaps, therefore, the objective of the state to govern through ‘national culture’ remains obfuscating. With all the ZCCs being city-centric, culture — or whatever remains of it — too is very urbane. The chinks appear, when in this urban setting the ZCCs try to promote folk culture, albeit the ones that suits the ‘market’ (in the colonial sense). Therefore, despite its so-called best intentions, the result is arty — more synthetic and plastic, rather than vibrant and alive. The lack of understanding of culture by the bureaucrats (as mentioned in the high-powered committee’s report) and their offices is paralleled and mirrored in the audience that comes to attend the functions and fairs. Let’s sample our experience in the NCZCC. When this centre was being set up, with its officials (including top functionaries) operating from tinsheds — as the building was being renovated at the time of its first director, H.N. Srivastava — till the time it moved into the freshly done up building, it was mandatory for the office staff to be present. When the crowd was thin, the need for volunteers too was small; therefore, the ‘surplus staff’ (not monitoring the programme) was made to sit, shake their heads, and applaud as audience. If the audience swelled — as it did for some select programmes like, say, a Kathak recital — this ‘fake audience’ got converted into ‘volunteers’, sporting their badges brazenly (hitherto hidden in their pockets for the bigger events), while there was no such need for smaller functions. Friends and family members of the office staff too had to attend functions like the ‘Chalo Man Ganga Yamuna Teer,’ during the Magh/Kumbha Mela. There was an almost mad rush for bringing in large numbers of people by

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the officers and staffers of the NCZCC. It seemed that each of them had become a ‘shepherd’ in the Christian sense, collecting and exhibiting their ‘small flock’ to the top bosses. Free khana (food) was an incentive, so were the free tents (a prize during the Kumbha Mela). Hordes of people from the villages of the staffers could be seen attending the event as audience in the evenings, on the banks of the sangam or confluence of the holy rivers. A second category of this ‘fake audience’ were top bureaucrats — with their wives and children in tow — who would come to ‘party’ in the evenings, with free songs and dances as icing(s) on the cake(s). These bureaucrats were from the district/adjoining districts, friends or friends of friends of other bureaucrats. It also included top officials from the ministries, when sycophancy was worn like a shining badge. Officers of the NCZCC were jingoistic about khatirdari and in all such cases the actual cultural events went for a toss. At different levels, the effort was to ‘please’ the boss, or in this case, boss’s boss. Such blatant misuse of public funds was perverse. A ‘different culture’, the one that helped cultivate powerful people for personal gains was seen then, and perhaps, it can be seen even now. At about the same time, a third category of audience was getting ready. These were the ‘rich, bored with-nothing-to-do-athome’ kind of women, wives and kin of rich citizens, bureaucrats, lawyers, businessmen, et al., who stayed in the vicinity of the NCZCC. Though a shift from a ‘fake audience’ to a ‘semi-real audience’ began, it was quite clear that this was still not the ‘real audience’. For this category, these events were an occasion to meet and gossip. It was an extension of their kitty parties and clubs. They came dolled up, exhibiting their expensive dresses and ornaments. It is quite likely that some of the ‘semi-real audience’ might have finally transformed into ‘real audience’. But, in the initial years, most of the audience was hunky-dory.33 It is likely that a similar situation, with some differences in degree, might have existed in the other ZCCs. Thorough studies about the audience of these ZCCs need to be undertaken. However, the report of the high-powered committee did not mention a word about this aspect. It’s strange how this aspect escaped the notice of the top bosses. One only hopes 33

Interview with Arindam Roy, associate editor, Sundaram, 30 December 2009.

268 — Badri Narayan Tiwari

that it was unintentional and that there was no attempt to keep the skeletons in the cupboards hidden. At times like these, we need to hear more carefully ‘what is not said’ than ‘what is said’.

Conclusion For the purpose of nation-building, the Indian State created cultural institutions, the ZCCs, to function as the ‘distribution network’ of ‘national culture’. The elements of ‘national culture’ were to be drawn from various peoples’ cultures, to create a subject (Indian citizens) that could be governed through the creation of a homogenous national culture. It involves the politics of nation building, through the marginalisation of Dalit cultural forms, suppression of the cultures of the minorities and indigenous people, thereby creating a kind of ‘internal colonialism’. It ruins the autonomy of culture and transforms it as state-managed domain. The mandate of the ZCCs is to promote, preserve, and to disseminate folk art and craft, thereby nurturing culture, for the purpose of governance and nation building. Though Rajiv Gandhi’s intention was noble, the ZCCs failed to become a meaningful distribution network of culture. Though the highpowered committee in its report suggested that vanishing art forms should be promoted and field visits and research should be conducted for this purpose, marginal and oral forms remain neglected.34 There is very little emphasis on lit-erature and other intangible forms. Such kinds of state-managed ‘national culture’ are meant to cater to the needs of the urban people, who are often alienated from their roots. Thus, we see that the NCZCC, in particular, and the ZCCs, in general, cater to the needs of the market economy. All that is bright, shiny, and dazzling, all that catches the imagination and attention of the market, amazing the target audience, continues to be repackaged and served, year after year. Nexus, nepotism, and corruption notwithstanding, the aim of rebuilding the nation, noble or otherwise, has been torn to shreds.


Report of the High Powered Committee, p. 6.

7 A Well-behaved Minority Population Ranabir Samaddar

The Grammar of Government Even though we shall once more work with some historical material on the dual phenomena of sovereignty and the governmentality, this time the context of rights, specifically speaking, minority rights, will only intermittently intrude into our narrative. Even though there are hundreds of essays and books on the minorities in India, there is a need to examine yet again the theme of minorities — not in the usual context of rights, but in the context of rule, government, and of governmental rationality. This is, of course, not an altogether different story from that of rights; in fact we can say that the two narratives are interwoven, but given the present situation of Indian democracy, it is important to trace the way in which conceding the ‘rights of the minorities’ became one of the modes in which communities were to be ruled, and inter-community relations were to be governed. Rights created the liberal space for governing minor groups of society and creating an unequal political society. Plus there is the fact that we are making this review at a time when in one of the neighbouring countries, Sri Lanka, a minority rebellion has been finally crushed at an enormous cost of human lives, even family members of the rebellion’s leader murdered. In another neighbouring country, Nepal, the republican vision of a leftist guerrilla group has to now reckon with the existence of and demands for sharing of power by minor communities. We must, therefore, make at least a brief review of the evolution of governmental thinking on the issue of sharing of sovereignty, which will tell us how sovereignty, law, and governmental power have interfaced in the actual process of rule, and lodge our story of rights there — in that process of a conflictive interface.

270 — Ranabir Samaddar

Issues of sovereignty and legality were discussed traditionally in circles of political and legal theory. Then in the second half of the 20th century there were significant historical researches on the origins of governmental power and functions, which lay bare the historical evolution of these powers and functions. These new researches showed the connection between ideas of sovereignty and legality, and their actual life forms that depended very much on governmental functions and reason. Yet in scholarly tracts there is still little discussion on the significance of these as problems for popular politics, especially problems that the popular politics of the minor groups has to encounter in their urge to seek justice. The minor groups, as the Indian experience shows, face the following four realities: 1. Supremacy of authority or rule as exercised by a sovereign or sovereign state; 2. Governmental rank, authority, or power; 3. A territory existing as an independent state. 4. The attraction of the ideas of complete independence and self-government as an exit route for the minor groups. Sovereignty is the claim to be the ultimate political authority, subject to no higher power as regards the making and enforcing of political decisions. As we know, the doctrine of sovereignty developed as part of the transformation of the medieval system into the modern state system. We also know that in some ways the emergence of the concept of sovereignty ran parallel with a similar emergence of the idea of private property, both emphasising exclusive rights concentrated in a single holder, in contrast to the medieval system of diffuse and many-layered political and economic titles. Within the state, sovereignty signified the rise of the monarch to absolute prominence over rival feudal claimants such as the aristocracy, the religious-clerical institutions, or an imperial power. It presaged recognition of a polity on the basis of legal equality, and therefore, it laid the basis of diplomacy and international law. In political theory, it signified the ultimate authority in the decision-making process of the state and in the maintenance of order. Yet we must remember that sovereignty had an intimate connection with the idea of a political community, which would be often held as

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associated with a state rather than a pre-determined country. There remained only one flaw in this almost precise and iron-clad concept, which was that it implied the unbound right of a state to wage a war that denied any binding nature of international law. Because states were limited by treaties and international obligations and were not legally permitted by the emerging association of nations to wage indiscriminate wars, there remained a paradox, which we can see still remains even in face of the laws of war and the existence of the United Nations. Yet notwithstanding this flaw in the idea, the fact remains that this idea of absolute centralised impersonal power to run a political society allowed the art of government to develop. Governments, rights of states, and rights of citizens developed almost in the same epoch. Governments began to be considered as making both sovereignty and rights possible. Thus, governments began to be generally held as immune from suits for consequences of their sovereign acts (those acts the government was constituted or empowered to perform). This ‘sovereign immunity’ could be waived only under rare circumstances in order to bring a suit against the government. In this way, the government reinforced the mechanics of sovereignty. Government officials, in pursuance of their duties, were to be immune from having to give evidence before a tribunal or inquiry. We can see that this kind of arrangement of power is quite a physical scenario. The first three features of the four realities listed above thus suggest physical phenomena, such as the right and power to command, decide, rule, and judge, and therefore issues of authority, command, and control. They also suggest the mechanics of dominion, domination, jurisdiction, mastery, prerogative, and sway — and to repeat, in all these ways, they make government, including social governance, possible. Not surprising then, almost as if the question is one of laws of mechanics, that these realities suggest (exactly opposite to what has been mentioned above) for the minor groups of society conditions of being free, namely, autonomy, freedom, independence, liberty, self-government, and finally, co-existence and dialogue, that is the freedom to co-exist and dialogue. Much of what I have described in the simplest of terms is known. Yet why do we then need to recall these facts when discussing how governmental style has developed in India on the

272 — Ranabir Samaddar

issue of controlling the minorities, that is, the minor groups? There are several reasons. First, the government has to re-negotiate the question of minorities at regular intervals to maintain sovereign power. Second, in the wake of globalisation this need to renegotiate has become pressing, particularly in view of the changing circumstances of global capitalism in which communities find themselves and the functions they have to serve. These circumstances include various movements of belonging associated with increased intensity and extensity of connections enabled by global constellations, development initiatives and the new technologies, institutions such as the United Nations or the European Union, and above all, migration. The formation of trans-national connections now reinforces minor identities clamouring for autonomy. Finally, with globalisation, ironically, place-belongingness has only become stronger, the process being reinforced by a variety of discursive constructions of the ‘place’. One has only to take note of the political process when a territory is newly opened to a flood of mineral prospecting, and as a consequence, the region is reinserted into the global whole as a new resource frontier for capital. The place also, at the same time, begins to be actively imagined as a ‘community’, built in the mundane and material acts of immediate daily life. These are all minor places, such as the Chittagong Hill Tracts or the Chhattisgarh mines in South Asia. In short, modern capitalism and the effects of globalisation have renewed the problematic of community as a question mark before the unlimited sway of sovereign power. Hence, governmental technologies are once again reinventing to tackle the ‘community’ phenomenon. We have to see in this light the reemergence of the minority problematic in the decolonised countries of Asia. But as I go into an analysis of the phenomenon, we shall find an essential paradox in the notion of sovereignty continuing through centuries. Briefly speaking, the paradox consists of the asymmetrical relation between domination and hegemony — one would require coercion, and the other would call for techniques of persuasion, in particular social legislation and social jurisprudence, whose aim will be to produce the consensus needed to make persuasion successful. The minority issue since its birth hangs between the two, symbolised by its two markers: identity and development. If minor groups are

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strident about ‘identity’, and if governmental policies of cultural pluralism (mainly in the form of select cultural rights) fail, then the sovereign power must coerce them to fall in line. But lest that should result in rebellion, what is required is ‘development’ of these minor groups and places. This indicates policies for social legislation, social governance, and social jurisprudence. In short, what we call policies of hegemony. The grammar of government, in this way, vacillates. It seems to me that the main weakness in this grammar of governing the minorities lies in the difficulty of finding adequate forms of coping with various reactions and responses of the minor groups in society (which are driven, as mentioned at the outset, by the attraction of the ideas of complete independence and self-government as an exit route for the minor groups). This is because exactly as the minor groups face the problem of power of the sovereign, the sovereign also faces the power of the minor groups, and indeed, how can it ignore the power of the minorities given the attraction of the latter for the ideas of independence and complete self-government? This enigmatic thing, as Michel Foucault once described the phenomenon of power, ‘at once visible and invisible, present and hidden, ubiquitous’,1 cannot be exhausted by theories of government. What gives power to the minor groups? How do they exercise it, and in what sphere/s? So, even though a government with reasonable certainty may know, who the minorities are — and we know that elaborate mechanisms exist in India intended to know ‘Who India’s minorities are’ — these mechanisms do not tell us what they want. Therefore, governmental reason oscillates between policies of domination and of producing a consensus among the minorities on issues of social governance. In this, in fact, lies the persistence of the minority problematic. Conquest speaks of race, domination, war, suppression, mutiny, revolt, etc. — all these resulting in production of minorities; on the other hand assimilation, integration, multiculturalism, differential inclusion, etc. speak of policies of managing the minorities that are now born. The power of the sovereign is caught in the paradox of rule and governance. Caught in this paradox, the grammar of rule 1 Donald F. Bouchard (ed.), Language, Counter-memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977, p. 213.

274 — Ranabir Samaddar

can be based on neither suppression nor full cooption. Instead, it must be based on the practices of governing the minorities. It will mean henceforth that the minorities must remain as an ineradicable feature of the society. They cannot be erased; they cannot be effaced. They must be trained in the art and restraints of representation and imitation. They must not be allowed to make insidious use of how they eat, speak, see, marry, lead a family life, listen, read, write, get together, pray, make use of their faiths and beliefs, and confabulate — the simplest of the acts of existence, which now become concerns of the government. In the eyes of the government these become significant practices, potentially dangerous. Their conduct must be governed.

The Rebellious Minority and the Colonial Perspective This was precisely the concern of one of the chief officials of colonial India, W. W. Hunter, who wrote The Indian Musalmans (1871),2 in response to an inquiry mooted by Lord Mayo, ‘Are the Indian Musalmans bound by their religion to rebel against the Queen?’ The context was the Wahabi rebellion and the Great Mutiny of 1857. We must recall here briefly the context of the rebellion and the Mutiny to understand how a minor population group was born. As we know, a little more than 150 years ago, between 1830s and 1880s, the colonial authority in India was busy with tracking down the Wahabi rebels particularly after the death of Syed Ahmed Barelvi, the founder of the Wahabi movement in India in the battlefield at Balakote on the frontier on the west on 6 May 1831. Town by town, village conglomerate by village conglomerate, and more important, company garrison by company garrison, the relevant information-gathering, apprehending, jailing, convicting, banishing, and if necessary, killing the rebels went on. Two factors propelled colonial promptness to track down the rebels. 2

W. W. Hunter, The Indian Musalmans (reprint, New Delhi: Rupa, 2002); original title, Our Indian Mussulmans: Are They Bound in Conscience to Rebel against the Queen? All citations are from the 2002 edition, and noted as taken from hereafter IM.

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One was the frontier unrest and wars in the North-west — the ferocious Anglo-Afghan Wars and the frontier wars where the Wahabis threw themselves in wave after wave against the British Indian army, and then as wars on the frontier began, the Wahabis spilled into the mainland of the subcontinent — following the trail, legacy, and links of the earlier Faraizi and Tariqah-iMuhammadia movements. But these were also the years immediately before or after the Great Mutiny of 1857, which had ended with the victory of the colonial power and the imposition of direct rule of the British administration at a huge cost of bloodbaths, mass murders, razing of cities and settlements to rubble, brutal pacification, and silencing of the towns and the countryside. The rulers were afraid that the Wahabi revolt had contributed to the Mutiny, and could directly draw further from it, acquire legitimacy, take advantage of the discontent consequent to the bloody pacification, and could easily vanish in the Indian countryside in the course of organising their followers, leaving little trace behind. The second factor was that the Wahabis were not simply peasant rebels; they were more organised in a network (some say, from Dhaka to Peshawar, and indeed that was the claim of Hunter).3 The administrations of the three Presidency Divisions (Calcutta now Kolkata, Bombay now Mumbai, and Madras now Chennai) — the backbone of the colonial administration formation in those days — had to employ detailed governmental methods of inquiry, reporting, comparing, taking actions on findings, and then preparing action taken reports (ATRs) for higher authorities with regard to the Wahabis. The inquiry into their activities led the colonial authorities to a trail that reached down to Vellore, its mufti of the court, Wali Muhammad, and the sadr of the collector’s office Habibullah, who were receiving a Persian newspaper from Rajab Ali in Kolkata, the Caliph of Muhammad Ali Rampuri, earlier expelled from Chennai on account of treasonable activities in the Carnatic area, today’s Karnataka. The said Persian newspaper Suttarah Akhbar spoke of the impending war between Dost Muhammad and the British, and prophesied that the British (actual word used, ‘English’) would be soon be driven out of the country. Emboldened, it was 3

IM, pp. 3–5.

276 — Ranabir Samaddar

told, Maulavi Rampuri would assemble the believers inside the mosque near the Chennai Fort; would speak of jihad, and Rampuri’s speeches at the Fort mosque would be copied at other mosques — particularly in Piran Sahib’s mosque where the imam was a discharged sepoy.4 Contemporary chronicles report of their network, the combination of centralised and decentralised functioning, honesty, moral preaching, systematic raising of resources including money, use of code words and ciphers in message transmission, publication of newspapers, non-cooperation with the British-instituted law and court system, the consequent stress on adjudication of disputes within the community or the village, and finally, complete dedication. All in all the Wahabis remained the classic spectre haunting British India, spread over a large region from Patna (at times reaching Kolkata) in the east to Peshawar in the west.5 Caliphs like Syed Muhammad Hussain, the two Ali brothers — Wilayat Ali and Enayat Ali — and Farhat Hussain, Ahmadullah, Mubarak Ali, and Abdul Rahim (who went to the Andaman Prisons and on return on amnesty 12 years later, again became a key figure in the Wahabi network) are names featuring in government reports, accounts of W. W. Hunter, George Bruce Malleson, and John Kaye. Who were the people flocking to these Wahabi preachings? We can get some idea from government records containing reports of ground officials sending their higher-ups reports on Wahabi meetings, such as, ‘Abjee Ashum is a Wahabee, and has about one hundred followers. Kilchavalla Shalee Sab has about one hundred followers’. ‘Abbasally, the Imam of tailor Massom’s mosque … Abjee Saib, a bricklayer … Massom Saib son of Sabas Saib, a native doctor; Lookmanee Saib, vendor of condiments; Massoom Sab, lives near the three bazaars; Hussain Sab, a carpet 4

Qeyamuddin Ahmad, The Wahabi Movement in India, Kolkata: Firma K. L. Mukhopadhyay, 1966, p. 159. 5 Hunter repeatedly mentions qualities of the Patna Caliphs (the two brothers) and others as, ‘indefatigable missionaries, blameless in lives, supremely devoted to the overthrow of the English infidels, admirably skilful in organising a permanent system for supplying money and recruits … it had been given to them to stir up thousands of their countrymen to a purer life and truer conception of the Almighty’, IM, p. 68.

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maker’, etc., etc. The report went on to say, ‘All these people profess the Wahabee religion; but your servant has named only a few of them’.6 The Wahabi preaching meant in the main strict reliance on manners faithful to the ways prescribed by the Almighty, and hence ethical virtues, reading and propagation of certain select texts, refusal to admit any intermediary in the relation between God and the pupil, and hatred of wealth, easy manners, pomp, and corruption. It also meant readiness to die at the service of the Almighty, and take life, if duty called for that step, of the infidel, who could be a corrupt Muslim, or an oppressive Sikh, or a local tyrant in the service of the colonial administration, or a British, or a European. Thus it was a race war, the war between two races, respectively, the faithful and the sinners — in it were congealed all the attritions of the time, namely colonial rule, subjection, racial differences, clash of moral virtues, contrasting organisational styles (of the administration and the Wahabis), and finally, the new organisational techniques of the government for rule. What were these techniques? To name a few, building an espionage network, combining police and military procedures, utilising the social basis of the British rule to build up the comprador basis of administration, procedures of inquiry, annexing subsidiary material to reinforce the main findings, taking note of the social profile of the suspects, cross-checking, and if as expected at times that normal methods might fail in tackling the Wahabis, then the institution of special methods to apprehend, expel, and punish these dangerous people. The government was building up in this way by combining the routine, detailed, the sudden, and the special. It was happening in an occupation zone. The entire country was under the armed occupation of a foreign power. Government meant the physical tasks of watching, disciplining, deploying, annihilating, besides the paltry task of the welfare of the bodies and the minds of the colonised. It was not only a scenario of bio-politics, but also one that witnessed a particular form of bio-power. Colonialism sat at the heart of the development of modern rule. 6

Muin-ud-Din Ahmad Khan (ed.), Selections from Bengal Government Records on Wahabi Trials (1863–1870), Dhaka: Asiatic Society of Pakistan, 1961, pp. 134–35; hereafter Wahabi Trials.

278 — Ranabir Samaddar

Wahabi preachers became the first clerics to preach jihad against the British. One of the few who escaped Delhi after its capture by the British in September 1857 was Sarvar-ul-Mulk, who in his memoirs testified to the Wahabi influence over some of the major figures of revolt in Delhi.7 Historians also tell us of the presence of a coalition of militant preachers such as the Wahabi maulavis, militant Naqshbandi faqirs, pious civilians, weavers, artisans, cart-pullers, loaders, who remained a constant feature of the crowds and the jihadis in Delhi in those days.8 Wahabi revolutionary pamphlets called for killing the infidels, yet talked at the same time of the need of unity between ‘din and dharma’ and to stop all fights over ‘cows and pigs’. Jihadis regularly poured into Delhi in those months, and Muslim clerics took particular pains to assure the Hindus with these magnificent words, whose import has to be understood still today. William Dalrymple quotes Maulavi Muhammad Baqar as appealing to the Hindus: If God brings all magnificent kingdoms to an end after a short period, why do you not comprehend that God has sent his hidden help (to defeat) this hundred year old kingdom (of the British), so that this community (of the Christians) who regarded the children of God with contempt, and addressed your brothers and sisters as ‘black men’, have now been insulted and humiliated? Realise this, and you will lose your fear and apprehension. To run away and turn your back now would be akin to denying divine help and favour…9

Not only that, the colonial army officials noted that the Wahabis fought more heroically than the ordinary company (mutineer) soldiers, and that they fought ‘without any apparently defined object’, they were ‘gazis’. Yet, when Delhi was finally falling to pounding cannons, rifles, and bayonets of the British army, these gazis united with the soldiers, and fell first in the battle, or advanced recklessly out of the city on horseback with open 7

See on this, William Dalrymple, The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi, 1857, New Delhi: Penguin Books, 2007. Dalrymple uses Sarvar-ul-Mulk’s My Life (translated and published from London, 1911) extensively to reconstruct Delhi in 1857. 8 Irfan Habib, ‘The Coming of 1857’, Social Scientist, 27 (1), January–April 1998, pp. 11–12. 9 Dalrymple, The Last Mughal, p. 269.

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swords to attack the enemy positions and die in numbers. It is said that Bakht Khan after reaching Delhi while commanding the rebels from Awadh had walked straight into the emperor’s private chamber with his shoes and said, ‘Old Man, we have made you the king’.10 Charles Ball, in the immediate aftermath of the Mutiny writing of the events, tells us of the contempt with which the soldiers treated the bankers, moneylenders, and the Bania traders in Delhi.11 Ball’s account in fact vindicates what many Wahabis had thought, that the colonial army had confronted the Mutiny as a religious war, the appellation ‘Christian’ abounds in this massive book (in God’s name, Christian virtues, Christian courage, Christian inhabitants, etc.). The fact is, of course, that Wahabi influence did not end with defeat of 1857. Exactly as was the case in the revolt of 1857, in its aftermath too the Wahabi remained a shadowy figure almost everywhere. In the Ambala Trial (1864), the government pressed charges against the accused of supplying ‘men, money, arms’ to the North-west. Yahya Ali and Abdul Rahim of Sadiqpur, Patna, Abdul Gaffar, Rahim’s servant, Muhammad Shafi, a meat contractor to military cantonments in north India, Muhammad Jafar of Thaneswar, Qazi Mia Jan of Comecolly, district of Patna, and five others (altogether 11) were put on trial. The accused remained quiet, only one crossexamined the witnesses; Muhammad Shafi and Muhammad Jafar were sentenced to death, the rest transported for life with all their properties confiscated. Yahya Ali muttered all through the proceedings, ‘no one should care how one died, for one always returned to God’. All of them said on hearing the verdict, Allah was merciful, and when God would decide to take one’s life, nobody would be able to stop that, and if Allah so decided, the life of Sir Herbert Edwardes, the British judge, could also end, in fact earlier than the life of the faithful sentenced to death, if He were to decide so. It so happened that Sir Herbert died of 10

Ayesha Jalal cites contemporary sources in reporting this while discussing the Muslim political culture and the Muslim public sphere of that time; see Jalal, Self and Sovereignty: Individual and Community in South Asian Islam since 1850, Lahore: Sang-e-Meel Publications, 2001, p. 31. 11 Charles Ball, The History of the Indian Mutiny: A Detailed Account of the Sepoy Insurrection in India, and a Concise History of the Great Military Events which have tended to Consolidate British Empire in Hindostan, 2 volumes, 1858–59, rpt, Lahore: Sang-e-Meel Publications, 2007, vol. 1, p. 144.

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pneumonia within months of his return to London immediately after the trial was over, and Muhammad Jafar saw it as God’s punishment, while the administration decided in fear of the backlash that instead of executing the three, they be sent to the Andaman Isles across the sea. In the Patna trial, the sessions court sentenced Ahmadullah to death, a verdict that the High Court changed into transportation for life and confiscation of all property. Qeyamuddin, based on the records left by the convicted after they were released from the Andamans, details their extreme physical torture by colonial police and intelligence officials in the mainland and in the ships.12 The chronicler Hunter appreciated the qualities of the conspirators, such as, ‘admirable sagacity … capacity for complicated operations … genuine and bonafide work … cunningly mixed with anti-government activity … fidelity of the great majority of the workers to the Movement.’ Yet as the war of races was being fought, we must also note that suspicion of the colonial power regarding the conduct of the insubordinate race was playing a critical role in making the Indian Muslims a minority. The Wahabis not only claimed that they were never subjects of the Queen — as they maintained when brought to trial in the sessions court at Ambala in the month of June 1864, and therefore the trial of the Wahabis for waging war against the Queen and for sedition was based on a legal myth — they also maintained certain principles as the basis of their conduct that symbolised a challenge to sovereign power. These principles briefly were: (a) reliance on one Supreme Being; (b) repudiation of all forms and ceremonies and reliance instead on the scripture; (c) the duty of jihad, or holy war against the evils or infidels; (d) and the expectation that some Imam or spiritual leader (like Syed Ahmed, or a Caliph) would lead the faithful in the war against alien rule. Pursuit of these principles, which should have looked innocent on paper, evoked enormous suspicion among colonial rulers, simply because they indicated a separate set of norms for living, a distinctly separate goal of life, a separate behavioural code than what the colonial rule understood or was ready to accept. All these indicated their (that is, the Wahabis’) determination to mark themselves (that is the subjects) as a race apart from the rulers. It was the raw 12

Ahmad, The Wahabi Movement in India, p. 248.

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arrogance of counter-racism that angered Viceroy Lord Mayo who commissioned Hunter to write the report. He had expressed his determination to ‘put down Wahabeeism in India as (he) had put down Fenianism in Ireland’, and had engaged Hunter to conduct the inquiry into whether Muslims were bound by their religion to rebel against the Queen. Mayo’s brief to Hunter was clearly around the ‘vexed question of loyalty’ in those transitional times.13 We do not know if there was any immediate use of Hunter’s report, though as we shall see subsequently that Hunter’s reasoning marked the beginning of the governmental logic of ‘handling the minorities’, and provided a lasting blueprint for colonial rule and even post-colonial politics to tackle the minority question through effecting a shift in politics from one of identity to that of development. All we know as regards the immediate years is the wild manhunt and the determination of the colonial rulers to wipe out the Wahabis and Wahabism in the aftermath of the Mutiny. The sack and genocide of Delhi was the beginning. Not only were the people of Delhi was slaughtered, the most violent of the British officers (for instance, Lytton) led the attacks on the Wahabis and the most war-like measures were adopted by a civilian administration against a section of the subject population, but town after town on the frontier on the west was razed to the ground. In the Black Mountain Expedition (1880–89), reminding the readers of today of US bombings on Torah Borah, and the adjacent area featuring towns of Peshawar, Swat, Chakdara, Malakand, Tirah — the frontier was ablaze in the closing years of the 19th century, and all these places with burning houses and destroyed crops could only reap an enduring hatred and a mood of revenge against the alien rulers. Of the colonial officials, Sir William Hunter was one of the first to realise this when he wrote of the ‘chronic conspiracy within our territory’. It is interesting to see against this background what Hunter actually said and prescribed in order to bring the conduct of the insubordinates to compliance and submission.14 13

Ayesha Jalal formulates the issue in this way; see Self and Sovereignty: Individual and Community in South Asian Islam since 1850, pp. 59–61; she also shows the incompatibility of the two attitudes of the colonial government — ‘Muslim as rebel’ and ‘Muslim as (a) category’ of subject. 14 IM, Chapter 2. Ironically, his argument in this book that the British deliberately kept the Muslims away from all positions of profit and privilege

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Colonial Governmental Wisdom The first thing to note is Hunter’s remark that the source of persistence of the rebellion and mass insubordination was a ‘mystery’. This was a ‘chronic conspiracy’.15 He referred to the economic breakdown of areas in the frontier region and the travels of Syed Ahmed to Mecca and other places, but significantly repeatedly mentioned the mystery of faith, to which Syed Ahmed, whom he mentioned as the ‘Prophet’, would successfully appeal to — so much so, that even if some recruits would die in the holy war, others would join or at least help with money and other resources. Therefore, beneath the mystery of conduct remained the question of faith. But Hunter did not stop there, and this is the second point. He thought that he had found a way to break that mystery of conduct. He proceeded to first show how the style of congregation, and here he was referring to the Patna centre of the Wahabis, prevented the officials and outsiders from entering and learning about what was happening inside the seminary. He spoke of the ‘labyrinth of walls and outhouses … and side doors, and little secret courts in out-of–way-corners’.16 Secrecy led to conspiracy, which would become ‘chronic’. As we know, the Patna centre was razed to ground by an order of the colonial administration after the Patna and Ambala trials. Third, Hunter undertook to carefully analyse how clerics and Islamic jurists had interpreted the duty and the call to jihad, and he argued at length that in India there were both moderate, saneminded clerics and ‘fanatic’ ones interpreting the faith. Hunter noted the impact of the punitive policies of the administration on the clerics, and pointed out the need to understand the significance of the division within the clerics. In anticipating a because of their supposed leadership of the rebellion of 1857, was avidly seized upon by Muslim publicists and elite; and it was remarked when the first edition of the book came out, ‘No prophet of Muslim nationalism could have drawn attention to the economic plight of Muslims in more eloquent terms than the author has in this telling account of the Indian Muslims around the third quarter of the nineteenth century’. 15 I am summarising here his arguments in Chapter 2 of IM. 16 IM, p. 61.

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policy of division and playing on it in order to ensure loyalty of the subjects, he of course had to answer the question: who were the ‘fanatics’? Here he was not only indicating a governmental strategy, he was basing himself on a long tradition of Enlightenment in calling a line of thought ‘unreason’ or ‘fanaticism’. His entire prescription of what Her Majesty’s government should do depended on this fundamental diagnosis, his analysis of the ‘decisions of the Muhammadan Law Doctors’.17 Fanaticism, Hunter found, was an emotion filled with excessive, uncritical zeal for one’s faith; it emerged when in mindless pursuit of aims, efforts were re-doubled, and the follower refused to change his mind and subject. Therefore the fanatic displayed very strict standards and little tolerance for contrary ideas or opinions. Hunter noted the high levels of intensity, enthusiasm, commitment, and zeal shown for particular activities. Like today’s psychological experts in the business of counter-terrorism, Hunter too, used terms indicating attitudes and behavioural proclivities, at times indicating a kind of cultural syndrome or deep psycho-pathology only, which could explain the resistance of the Wahabis, their ‘Islamic’ intolerance, and by inference, their ‘illiberalism’. Wahabis, therefore, could not be subjects of ‘rule of law’, their revolt had raised the spectacle of fanaticism. It was in the oriental mind, and appeared as an invariable in the colonial context. In understanding why Hunter had to take this line of reasoning, we must recall how in modern European thought faith played a big role in defining racism. In this context we have to remember the long tradition in modern European thought, beginning with Martin Luther who called Thomas Muntzer, the peasant rebel leader of his time, a fanatic on whom Frederick Engels wrote the famous tract on Peasant War in Germany (1850). Fanatics practised iconoclasm. They formed a crowd, a mob, a mad group determined in their purpose of vandalism and destruction. Voltaire, too, had linked fanaticism with a particular faith and culture. However, it was in Immanuel Kant that we find the most sophisticated argument. He distanced himself from any culturalist argument, and placed the question as a matter of subjectivity, and thus related to the relationship between knowledge and practice. In his Critique of 17

IM, pp. 100–37.

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Practical Reason (1788), Kant distinguished between religious fanaticism, which related to the knowledge of God, and moral fanaticism, which confused morals with sentiments, beliefs, and faith, and the moral fanatic, who in this way became a moral extremist. The moral fanatic was a subject who refused to agree to the universality of duty, and therefore, as Hunter argued in the case of India, could become killer and destroyer. Hunter did not, of course, make the fine distinction that Kant had made between religious and moral fanaticism. To him the Patna emirs were symbols of both. But Hunter noted with satisfaction that not all Islamic jurists were fanatics, and therein lay the hope for British rule in India. Yet he gave caution with these words: … it has always seemed to me that the best men are not on our side. Hitherto they have been steadily against us, and it is no small thing that this chronic hostility has lately been removed from the category of an imperative obligation. Even now the utmost we can expect of them is non-resistance. But an honest government may more safely trust to a cold acquiescence, firmly grounded upon a sense of religious duty, than to a louder-mouthed loyalty, springing only from the unstable promptings of self-interest.18

But Hunter did not end there. He opened the next chapter of his report by saying: The Indian Musalmans are therefore bound by their own law to live peaceably under our rule. But the obligation continues only so long as we perform our share of the contract and respect their rights and spiritual privileges. Once let us interfere with their civil and spiritual status so as to prevent the fulfilment of the ordinances of their Faith, and their duty to us ceases. We must enforce submission, but we can no longer claim obedience. It is the glory of the English in India, however, that they have substantiated for their military occupation of all former conquerors a Civil Government adapted to the wants and supported by the goodwill of the people…

Thus government would mean complementing military administration by civilian efforts at administration, moving away from the tactics of occupation, listening carefully to complaints 18

IM, pp. 136–37.

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and grievances, because persistence of even ‘minor grievances’ could attain the ‘gravity of political blunders’. He said that the colonial government must realise that it had already committed such blunders and in no small measure, while it was true that the full force of arms must be brought to bear upon the recalcitrant and the ‘traitors’ to British rule.19 Hunter, in this way, arrives at the developmental argument for governing the minorities — an argument with which we are familiar today in more than one form. He said that reforms such as the Permanent Settlement had done enormous harm to the Muslim men of substance. Muslim peasants, and here he was specifically referring to the deltaic land of Bengal, had become dispossessed of land and wealth. British rule had damaged the Islamic system of education thus ruining the leading stratum of Muslim society. The colonial system of administration had no scope for the educated men of Islamic society. Recruitments in the army for the Muslims were completely closed. Disaffection was thus bound to spread. He used the two terms, Islamic and Muslim, interchangeably in his analysis. Muslims as the ruling race had lost power along with the British conquest, and could not compete with the Hindus in absorbing modern education, and lagged far behind in competition to get into the modern educational system, bureaucracy, and other establishments. In the modern professional avenues also they lagged behind. Worst, the administration had taken away all the wealth of the various Muslim charity foundations and institutions meant for education, relief, and redress of grievances. Hunter suggested that particularly in the field of education and professional training, the government must pay special attention to the condition of Muslims. All these were tasks of a civilian government, and if the British were not to remain only an occupation regime, it must understand civil needs, the needs of the society. Else deaths (of the Muslim fanatics on the battlefield or through court orders, that is by hanging) would turn many more believers into followers of the radical clerics.20 Today these arguments seem banal, but through these 140 years the basic reasoning has remained same. Identity and 19 20

All citations in this paragraph are from IM, Chapter 4, p. 138. Ibid., pp. 202–05.

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development — these two are the intersecting axes of the task of government of the minorities.21 As we shall see in the following pages, this line of reasoning would lead soon to a combined strategy for governing the disaffected groups — one, the strategy of representation (that is, mechanisms of representation of a minority group to make the latter obedient subjects) and second, shaping the civilian way of doing things in the same orderly way in which military affairs are conducted. Indeed the civilian will begin at every stage of government from the military roots, and if possible, with the military model in mind. As I have demonstrated elsewhere, the entire 19th century development of constitutional government in India (including the enactments such as the Evidence Act, the Indian Penal Code, establishment of the Governor-general’s Council, the Indian Criminal Procedure Code, the Indian Police Act, etc.) depended at every stage or phase on a successful resolution of a conflict by armed means.22 The Ambala and Patna trials to which Hunter made copious references in the Indian Musalmans were possible because of the recent developments of the instruments of the ‘rule of law’, made possible in turn by the preceding Law Commissions set up in the wake of insurgencies and the mutinies between 1830 and 1860. In short, Hunter conveyed the lesson in his report that government must run strategically. On both these lines of thinking, Hunter left enough hints in this classic tract.

Subsequent Development of Colonial Governance of the Muslims We shall pass the next phase very quickly. Within 40 years of Hunter writing the Indian Musalmans, the first conscious move 21

The famous Bengali Muslim essayist Qazi Abdul Wadud in his Saswata Banga, Dhaka: BRAC, 1983, repeatedly refers to Hunter’s report and describes how Hunter’s book influenced the educated Muslim discourse in India in the early part of the 20th century. 22 R. Samaddar, ‘Terror, Law, and the Colonial State’, in R. Samaddar, The Materiality of Politics, vol.1, London: Anthem Publishers, 2007, Chapter 2; also, Samaddar, ‘Crimes, Passion, and Detachment: Colonial Foundations of Rule of Law’ in Kalpana Kannabiran and Ranbir Singh (eds), Challenging the Rule(s) of Law: Colonialism, Criminology and Human Rights in India, New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2008.

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by the administration was made towards this direction, first in the form of the partition of Bengal and then the Government of India Act, 1909 or the Indian Councils Act of 1909, commonly known as the Morley–Minto Reforms. We need not re-travel the story of the first partition of Bengal. Only we must recall the rationale cited by the government for the order to partition. On 19 July 1905, a Gazette Extraordinary published the resolution of the Government of India on the partition of Bengal. By this resolution a new province was to be created … with the status of Lieutenant-Governorship consisting of the Chittagong, Dacca, and Rajshahi Divisions of Bengal, the District of Malda, the state of Hill Tipperah, and the present Chief Commissionership of Assam. Darjeeling will remain with Bengal, in order to maintain associations and links, which are highly valued in both areas. (Entitled as Eastern Bengal and Assam) the capital of the new province will be Dacca with subsidiary headquarters at Chittagong. It will comprise an area of 106,540 square miles and a population of 31 million, of whom 18 millions are Muhamedans and 12 millions are Hindus. It will possess Legislative Council and a Board of Revenue of two members; and the jurisdiction of the High Court of Calcutta will be left undisturbed. The existing province of Bengal, diminished by the surrender of these large territories on the east and of the five of the Hindi states of Chota Nagpur, but increased by the acquisition of Sambalpur and five Uriya states, will consist of 140,580 square miles with a population of 51 million, of which 42 millions are Hindus and 6 millions are Muhamedans. In short, the territories, now composing Bengal and Assam, will be divided into two compact, self-contained provinces, by far the largest constituents of each of which will be homogenous in character, and which will possess clearly defined boundaries and be equipped with complete resources of an advanced Administration.23

On the basis of this resolution Bengal was partitioned on 1 September 1905. In 1903, H.H. Risley, secretary to the Government of India, in a long memo to the chief secretary to the government of Bengal, articulated different possible positions in favour of and against the Bengal partition. In that memo, he not only carefully considered the various situations if the 23

Gazette Extraordinary, 19 July, 1905, rpt, Rathin Chakraborty (ed.), Bangabhanga Pratirodh Andolan: Satabarsha Smarak Sangraha, Kolkata: Natyachinta, 2006.

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reorganisation of the Bengal Presidency was undertaken in terms of trying to achieve the right fit between size of the territory and population (number and mix) as constituent units of the Indian Empire, he also conjectured on the resultant political picture.24 In protest, one of the earliest modern nationalist public meetings was held in the Town Hall of Kolkata on 18 March 1904. The resolution of that protest meeting contested paragraph by paragraph the proposal of Risley, and showed how even by the yardstick of scientific and rational administration Dhaka, Mymensingh, and 24 Parganas are integral parts of Bengal, how the Assam administration can be made to pay on its own without addition of territory to it, and how the charge of under- or mal-administration of the eastern part of Bengal was untrue. The case against the break-up of Bengal was argued on all possible grounds, including the fact that caste-marriages across the proposed Bengal divide would become difficult (Paragraph 44) in case Bengal was divided. Hierarchy would return in intra-Bengal relations, language would suffer, and only an alien administration would stand to gain.25 As we know, undeterred, the colonial administration divided Bengal on 1 September 1905. The first large protest meeting was held on 7 August 1905 in the same place of the first protest — the Calcutta Town Hall. The meeting called for a dialogue and reconsideration of the government stand. The chief secretary of the Bengal government, R.W. Carlyle, issued a circular to all subordinate officers on 10 October 1905 to ensure that educational institutions in the city and the districts would not be turned into protest venues. The Anti-Carlyle Circular Society was born on 4 November 1905 and the All India Muslim League was born next year in Dhaka. Hindu nationalists and Muslims did not totally agree on the partition issue, but not all Muslims supported the partition unconditionally. Rabindranath Tagore and many others protested against the partition, while they also saw the entangled nature of the issue, complicated by high landlordism (mostly Hindu landowners), religion, access to education and public employment, and other such issues. Likewise, Muslim leaders like Akram Khan, Maulana Maniruzzaman Islamabadi, and Ismail 24

Risley’s letter published on 12 December 1903 in India Gazette, rpt Bangabhanga Pratirodh Andolan: Satabarsha Smarak Sangraha (hereafter BPA), pp. 38–53. 25 BPA, p. 58.

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Shiraji associated with nationalist endeavours while continuing dialogues with the Congress, the predominant nationalist forum of the Hindus.26 Similarly, the militant nationalists, who were the early terrorists, also worked in the mainstream opposition to the partition. Finally, the partition was annulled in 1911 in the face of continuing militant public protest, but Assam became separate from Bengal. Led by Tagore and joined by several others such as, Krishna Kumar Mitra, Jagadish Ch. Bose, Maulavi Ekinuddin Ahmed, Arabindo Ghosh, Surendra Nath Banerjee, Pramatha Chaudhury, Sister Nivedita, Ramananda Chattopadhyay, Kumudini Mitra, Bipin Chandra Pal, Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, Akram Khan, Maniruzzaman Islamabadi, Maulavi Abdul Karim, and Pulin Behari Das, the debate and the dialogue became what social historian Charles Tilly has chosen to call ‘contested conversation’. Dimensions of organisation, agitation, pamphleteering, petition, secret activity, fundraising, publicly arguing, mobilising, boycott of foreign goods, bomb throwing, assassinating, processions, night vigils, public fast — all kinds of political practices were discussed. The strategy of right sizing of the territory and right shaping of the population by creating a Hindu and a Muslim Bengal within the Bengal Presidency by itself showed how far the colonial rule had advanced in terms of the techniques of government. Right sizing and right shaping were important policies towards securing consent of at least part of the population. Thus, the Government of India’s Resolution of 19 July 1905 did not forget to mention, The Governor-General in Council is fully aware of the opposition, which these proposals (of territorial reorganisation) have encountered and has no desire to undervalue the sentiments upon which it has been based. Ties of mutual association grow up so quickly and become so closely interlaced, that territorial redistribution can rarely be accomplished except at the cost of a disruption, which is often painful and generally unpopular. On the other hand when old connections are severed, new ones almost immediately take their place growing with a rapidity that in a very short time is found to invest them with sanctity scarcely inferior to that of the associations, which they have superseded. 26

I have written on their response elsewhere, ‘Leaders and Publics: Stories in the Time of Transition’, Indian Economic and Social History Review, 37 (4), October–December 2000.

290 — Ranabir Samaddar The Government of India are encouraged by previous experience to hope that such will be the case in the present instance. They will be greatly disappointed if there are not found in the new Province elements of cohesion, which will speedily endow it with a stability and individuality of its own. In any case the Government that is called upon to decide such cases must regard them from a wider standpoint than that of purely local, in all probability transient considerations … All (proposals) have been duly considered and have not been rejected until they were found to contain flaws or drawbacks, which were inconsistent with essential aim. On the other hand the scheme, which was preferred to them, has received the practically unanimous approval of the leading officials of the three Administrations whom it directly affects as well as the final sanction of the Secretary of State. The second condition above referred to, is that, as far as possible an attempt should be made to remove every well-grounded cause of complaint and to satisfy every reasonable demand on the part of those who will be personally affected by the new arrangement … The result is the creation of a new Province, founded upon that, which is the secret of all good administration, namely the close contact, in so far as this is possible in areas of great size, of the Governors, with the governed.27

We of course know today that the first Bengal partition had to be annulled in 1911, and violent protests and secret societies became a part of nationalist movement. Both John Morley, the Liberal Secretary of State for India, and Earl of Minto, the hard right-wing Governor-General of India believed that suppression of terrorism in Bengal was necessary but not sufficient to establish stability of rule. They believed that a noteworthy step was required to retain the loyalty of the subjects or at least the wealthy among them, and retain the Muslim aristocracy on their side. They produced reforms known by the name of the Indian Councils Act of 1909, which did not cover any significant distance towards meeting nationalist demands for home rule, but introduced elections of Indians to various legislative bodies for the first time. Limited electoral power also had the provision of separate provisions for the Muslims. The Act of 1909 was, therefore, important for the following reasons: It effectively allowed the election of Indians to the various legislative councils 27

BPA, pp. 60–61.

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in India for the first time, though the majorities of the councils remained British government appointments, and the electorate was limited to specific classes of Indian nationals. Second, the introduction of the electoral principle laid the groundwork for a parliamentary system with an acknowledgement of the existence of minor groups. Third, the Act of 1909 stipulated that Indian Muslims be allotted reserved seats in the municipal and district boards, and in the provincial councils and in the Imperial Legislature, and that the number of reserved seats was in excess of their relative population (25 per cent of the Indian population). Finally, only Muslims were to vote for candidates for the Muslim seats, to be known soon as the infamous separate electorate system. As we know, while majority-centric nationalist opinion all along thought that this was a divisive ploy; as further constitutional reforms were introduced in 1919 and 1935, Muslims became ever more determined to hold on to, and if possible expand, reserved seats and their weight. This was the classic instance of an aporia where a solution of a problem was found wanting in terms of the structure of the problem. In this case the problem was that governmental reason (here it was related to the logic of representation) wanted to find its own feet and a way to rationally administer the society, including inter-group relations, while the solutions that it found took it back in one way or another to the problematic of sovereignty. Governmental reasoning of course did not stop there. In exactly 10 years another major attempt was initiated to strengthen civilian administration through another round of constitutional reforms, known as the Montague–Chelmsford Reforms, once again to introduce gradually self-governing institutions. Edwin Samuel Montagu, the Secretary of State for India and Lord Chelmsford, then Viceroy of India joined hands to author a report that became the basis of the Government of India Act, 1919. They met Indian leaders like Gandhi and Jinnah to discuss possibilities of introducing limited self-government and protecting the rights of minority communities. The changes introduced at the provincial level were significant, as the provincial legislative councils contained a considerable majority of elected members. In 1921 another change recommended by the report was carried out when elected local councils were set up in rural areas, and during the 1920s, the electoral basis of the

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urban municipal corporations was widened in order to Indianise them, which meant that the divisions introduced a decade back would now become deeper. The Report had stated that there should be a review after 10 years. John Simon headed the review committee, popularly known as the Simon Commission. It recommended further constitutional change. Three round table conferences were held in London in 1930, 1931, and 1932 with representation of the major interests. Gandhi attended the 1931 round table after negotiations with the British government. The major disagreement between the Congress and the British was on the issue of separate electorates for each community. The Congress opposed it, but it was retained in Ramsay MacDonald’s Indian Communal Award. As the nationalist leadership had failed to come up with a constitutional solution of the communal issue, the British prime minister, Ramsay MacDonald, announced his own formula for solving the problem. The Communal Award was announced on 16 August 1932. By this, the right of separate electorates now not only belonged to the Muslims of India but also to all the minority communities in the country. The Award also declared the Dalits as a minority and thus the Hindu depressed classes were given a number of special seats, to be filled from special depressed class electorates in the area where their voters were concentrated. Under the Award, the principle of weight was maintained with some modifications in the Muslim minority provinces. The principle of weight was also applied to the European community in Bengal and Assam, Sikhs in the Punjab and the North-west Frontier Province, and Hindus in Sindh and the North-west Frontier Province. The Award could not satisfy any section of the Indian population. Muslims were not happy it as it had reduced their majority in Punjab and Bengal to a minority. However, they were prepared to accept it. On the other hand, the Hindus refused to accept the Award; they could not accept the Dalits as a minority. The Congress rejected the Award completely. Gandhi protested against the declaration of Dalits as a minority and he undertook a fast unto death. However, he signed the Poona Pact with B.R. Ambedker, the leader of the Dalits, to meet many of the untouchables’ demands. To repeat: this is a familiar story, except that when we look at it as a story of governmental reason, we can see how within the business of governing the society the seeds of violence, and

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at times extreme violence, lie. Thus, the Montagu–Chelmsford Reforms were linked to the Rowlatt Act, the massacre in Amritsar, the Khilafat agitation, and the non-cooperation movement, while the Simon Commission’s working was accompanied by once again ruthless suppressive policies and protest agitations, and the link was displayed most vividly in the communal riots in the 1930s and 1940s, leading up to the civil war of 1947 in the subcontinent. The elections of 1945–46, the formation of government, and the beginning of the constituent assembly — all were marked with extreme violence. The developmental strategy that Hunter had counselled could never arrive free of bloodstains.28 Therefore, not surprisingly, in the overall milieu of coercion and civil war we find in the constituent assembly discussions on how to govern the minorities taking new turns again. It is not that meanwhile riots, divisions, and the manipulative features of administration of inter-community relations vanished. They have continued in post-Independence India as nationalism, ethnicity, centralisation, majoritarianism, and determined minority responses in the form of demanding minority rights mark the society that this government wants to administer. In fact, it is the governmental reason that shapes what liberals call a plural society, and prescribes multi-cultural methods to administer it. As Independent India’s experiences show, the discourse of minority rights that emerged at the beginning of the last century within an overall framework of governmental strategy continues to develop along the same intersection of two axes, namely that of identity and development. Yet we must note the shift also — the shift from colonial governmentality to post-colonial governmental reasoning. Indeed, the lives and actions of all the great Muslim personalities (leaders of the largest minority community in India) in the 20th century, such as Jinnah or Fazlul Haq, had been shaped by the interface of colonial governmentality and


There are several studies on this, though mostly fragmentary. For some of the comprehensive ones see Ram Puniyani (ed.), Religion, Power and Violence: Expression of Politics in Contemporary Times, New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2005; Tapan Basu, Pradip Dutta, Sumit Sarkar, Tanika Sarkar, and Sambuddha Sen, Khaki Shorts, Saffron Flags, Hyderabad: Orient Longman, 1993; and Christophe Jaffrelot, The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics, 1925 to the 1990s, New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.

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the resistance put up by the minority group.29 But their politics, pertinent and potent in the colonial period, proved increasingly of little relevance as the post-colonial political journey began. We can already get from the constituent assembly deliberations an idea of this shift in situation, and therefore, the discontinuities in the governing strategy relating to the minorities. Certain continuities were there. What is of interest, however, is the new turn dictated by the politics of representative democracy and nationalism featured by a multi-cultural method. What were the contours of this multi-cultural method that the constituent assembly deliberations anticipate?

Post-Colonial Governance: Protection of the Discriminated The constituent assembly deliberations finally gave shape to the strategy of protection — protecting the unequal minorities. Protecting the weaker, the vulnerable, and the backward sections of the society was accepted as an essential task of government. It was to be the governmental strategy to cope with the inequalities of society. If the government could not make all equal, at least it could protect them: this became the norm of governance of the minorities, because the category of ‘minority’ congealed in it all the weaknesses, backwardness, discrimination, and inequalities of society. After all, the reality was that all peoples (people as a legal category) could not be equal, some would be in a majority and some in a minority. In this specific form of power relations where constitutionalism could soon become inadequate in facilitating resolutions of conflicts arising out of the negotiation of claims by groups and populations for recognition from a state that builds up its political power on the basis of producing majorities and minorities, protection became the governmental strategy of universal rule. Minority rights, therefore, in such milieu become mainly the right to get the protection of the state, 29

Except Zakir Hussain (1897–1969), all other lives chronicled by Rajmohan Gandhi in his Muslim Mind (reprint, New Delhi: Penguin Books, 2000) are relevant in this context: Muhammad Iqbal (1876–1938), Muhammad Ali (1878–1931), Muhammad Ali Jinnah (1876–1948), Fazlul Haq (1873–1962), Abul Kalam Azad (1888–1958), Liaqat Ali Khan (1895–1951), and Zakir Hussain (1897–1969), besides Sayyid Ahmed Khan (1817–1898), a 19th-century figure.

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and protection became the core of the state’s support to the right of the group to maintain a specific culture. Protection in this way came to redefine citizenship. Since minority rights, as most of the constituent assembly members thought (and therefore, the proposed special section of minorities was dropped from the draft of the constitution) appeared as a problem for democracy, one of the most effective governmental strategies was to protect the minorities as unequal groups with their specific cultures in an overall nationalist agenda.30 The constituent assembly discussions focused on the nature of the claims for protection, and indicated the legal-institutional path of protection of minorities in a context of violence and everyday forms of domination of minorities. Grant of autonomy in special cases became a part of this strategy of protection by the same government that was carrying out a majority-centric rule also. It impacted on the type of federal governance obtaining in the country. In some cases, autonomy became the governmentalised form of protection; in others, the government took the initiative to set us rights’ institutions such as the National Minorities Commission, the National Human Rights Commission, etc., and in still others, cultural pluralism became the official doctrine. Article 371 A to Article 371-1 of the Indian constitution contain special provisions, Article 370 is also a special provision relating to Jammu and Kashmir. Besides the operation of the Sixth Schedule in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura, Manipur and West Bengal have such councils outside the schedule. Yet, as indicated above, this proved inadequate. Therefore, apart from the well-known recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission, soon there were demands for statehood from many groups that are essentially minority groups so that political units corresponded to ‘ethnic boundaries’. ‘Ethnic boundaries’ are now in this way being reproduced in various ways and various forms. The federal question is now a part of the nationality question, which contains the minority question. The claims and conflicts around the federal and nationality question remind us of Michael Walzer’s argument (Spheres of Justice, 1983) on democracy that the 30

I have written elsewhere in details on the issue of autonomy; see for instance, R. Samaddar (ed.), The Politics of Autonomy, New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2006, ‘Introduction’.

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democratic political arrangement is clearly one of the political ways of allocating power. In discussing the institutional nature of minority protection in the country, we have to therefore again and again revert back to the more fundamental question relating to the protection-based discourse that appears as a rights-based discourse under conditions of post-colonial governance. As we know, the proposal for political safeguards for religious minorities during the final stages of the making of the constitution was withdrawn at the last moment. The issue of safeguards of minority rights had been referred in the constituent assembly to an Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights, Minorities, Tribal and Excluded Areas whose creation had been mandated by the Cabinet Mission Plan in 1946. Under the republican and liberal slogans of universal adult franchise, equality as individuals and equality as justice, non-discrimination, national integration, and cohesion, the constituent assembly decided to scrap the proposals of group representation because they were thought to be contradictory and harmful to territorial representation. Preferential provision was arranged for scheduled castes and schedules tribes to help them overcome their historic social and economic disabilities, but the scheduled castes and tribes were not to be regarded as minorities. This provoked differences within the minority groups, who now competed among themselves to prove why they were more eligible than others in getting protection either on the ground of numerical preponderance or cultural distinctness or political distinctness. The backward castes, for example, claimed that they were a part of the Hindu society, but they were ‘political minorities’, and different from religious minorities. Some thought that political safeguards were not necessary, but affirmative actions were needed to remove the historic disabilities. Secularism and republicanism were the signs of high nationalism. While the term ‘minority’ was popular among and, therefore, invoked in the constituent assembly by all groups claiming special provisions, the term ‘minorities’ was removed altogether from the constitutional provisions dealing with group preference.31 A benevolent majority community cast in the 31

One member in the constituent assembly remarked, ‘I only wish, Sir, that the phrase “minorities” should be wiped out from the history. The ten years that have been given to them is a sufficiently long period and I hope that when we meet in the short period within ten years, these minorities will

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mould of easy-going, responsible, protective, self-sacrificing, and accommodative, was going to be the best guarantee of minority protection.32 The same model of protection was adopted to protect rights of a weaker section or an individual within a group. The Shah Bano case of 1985 and the Muslim Women Act of 1986 both indicate this reproduction of the form.33 Similarly, in states reorganisation, the same form was repeated. The report of the States Reorganisation Commission, which was formed in 1954 and whose report came out in 1956, also based itself on the same strategy, namely quarantining the minority problem within a broad framework of equality and rights, and thus in this case while it went some way in recognising the political identity of linguistic groups, it territorially contained linguistic minorities. Thus while it is true that in constitutional thinking there were two parallel ideas of nationalism and democracy,34 the disjunction we are speaking of here cannot be solely or mainly traced to this — it has to be traced rather to the way in which nationalism and democracy in their respectively republican and nationalist versions combined to root out communitarian ideas, and along with this, an effective programme of equality of groups. The new governmental strategy was forged in this milieu. Protection became another form of a quarantining strategy of the government. come and say “we are happy, we do not want anything’’’, speech of R. K. Wadha, 27 August 1947, Constituent Assembly Debates (hereafter CAD), Official Report, 1946–1950; vol. V, p. 209. 32 Rochana Bajpai notes in detail the process in which the minority issue was marginalised in the resolutions of the constituent assembly as a result of the contradictory coexistence of two constitutional spirits — republicanism and the spirit of group interest. See Queen Elizabeth House Working Paper 30, ‘Minority Rights in the Indian Constituent Assembly Debates, 1946–1950’, December 1999. 33 Kalpana Ram in an essay, ‘The State and the Women’s Movement: Instabilities in the Discourse of “Rights in India” in Anne-Marie Hilsdon, Martha Macintyre, Vera Mackie, and Maila Stivens (eds.), Human Rights and Gender Politics: Asia-Pacific Perspectives, London: Routledge, 2000, pp. 60–82, discusses the case, and points out how state takes the role of the male custodian in defining the protection that the woman needs, and how this contributes to the identification of a religious community as a site of female identity. 34 Bishnu Mohapatra notes this in ‘Understanding the Discourse on Minority Rights in Contemporary India’, unpublished paper presented at a seminar on Minority Rights in India, organised by the International Center for Ethnic Studies, Colombo in New Delhi, 25–26 August 2001.

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Again, one can go back to the constituent assembly proceedings to trace the roots of a quarantining strategy. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had expressed satisfaction that a ‘general consensus of opinion between minorities themselves and the majority’ has been found in the context of the division of opinions between minority groups themselves. He further added, ‘We have not tried to take advantage of these differences ... we have tried to see that the minorities instead of being divided among themselves try to present a united front in order to safeguard their interests.’35 Patel further expressed satisfaction that ‘the Parsis have voluntarily abandoned any concession’,36 that ‘Muslim minorities had in many places tyrannized the majority’, and one should not think of only Muslims, for ‘May I ask Sir what place has been given to the millions of Jats, millions of Ahirs, Gujars, Kurmis, Kunbis, the Adibasis and millions of others’.37 This was in perfect harmony with what the leader of the indigenous communities was to remark in the assembly: Our position has nothing whatever to do with whether we are less than the Hindus or Muslims or more than the Parsis. Our standpoint is that there is a tremendous disparity in our social, economic and educational standards, and it is only by some statutory compulsion that we can come up to the general population level. I do not consider the Adibasis are a minority. I have always held that a group of people who are the original owners of this country, even if they are only a few, can never be considered a minority. They have prescriptive rights, which no one can deny. We are not however asking for these prescriptive rights. We want to be treated like anybody else. In the past, thanks to the major political parties, thanks to the British Government, and thanks to every enlightened Indian citizen, we have been isolated and kept, as it were in a zoo. This has been the attitude of all people in the past. Our point now is that you have got to mix with us. We are willing to mix with you, and it is for that reason, because we shall compel you to come near us, because we must get near you, that we have insisted on a reservation of seats as far as the Legislatures are concerned. (emphasis mine)38


CAD, vol. 5, p. 198. CAD, vol. 5, p. 200. 37 Ibid., p. 201. 38 Ibid., p. 209. 36

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In this world of negotiations and games, governmental protection became a gift of the majority to the minorities, a language of bargaining between the dominant majority claiming to represent the state and the disparate minority groups who were not sure individually and collectively how to address their powerlessness in the face of a strong majority-centric political class determined to maintain the power-structure transferred to it by the colonial rule. Patel thus missed no opportunity to drive home the point by commenting on this before the constitution was to be given final shape, and remarked on 26 May 1949: It is not our intention to commit the minorities to a particular position in a hurry. If they really have come honestly to the conclusion that in the changed conditions of the country that it is in the interest of all to lay down real and genuine foundations of a secular state, then nothing is better for the minorities than to trust the good sense and sense of fairness of the majority, and to place confidence in them.39

And then he said: What do the minorities desire? Do they want to have any share in the Government of the country and in its administration? I tell you, you cannot have a genuine seat in the Cabinet if you segregate yourself from the rest of the community, for the cabinet can only act as a team in a harmonious manner and unless every member of the Cabinet is answerable to a common electorate the 39

CAD, vol. 7, p. 272. Patel’s remarks brushed aside the weak voices of the Muslim representatives who admitted that times had changed, that they had showed their integrity to the nation, and therefore separate electorates should be maintained. It is clear that the truth games about the minority problematic were being played out in the shadow of partition, the Kashmir war, and the memory of massacres and the continuing migration of thousands and thousands. Speech of Md. Ismail, Ibid., p. 277; also p. 283; this opinion however met with objections of some other Muslim members. For views identical to those of Patel, see the lecture by another constituent assembly member, B. Pocker Sahib Bahadur, who had exclaimed in exasperation, ‘The majority is a majority, and the minorities are minorities,’ and further, ‘... the idea of getting representation from religious groups is simply ridiculous ... The minority must remain a minority. Now before a minority there is only one alternative: It is to be loyal to the majority, and cooperate and gain the confidence of the majority’ (CAD, vol. 7, pp. 212, 218).

300 — Ranabir Samaddar Cabinet cannot function in a fruitful manner. Are you prepared to give up your right of representation in the Government ...There cannot be any divided loyalty. All loyalties must be exclusively centered round the State. If in a democracy you create rival loyalties ... then democracy is doomed.40

Jinnah was the evil whose ghost was to be exorcised in order to make the nation and purify the national space. Shibban Lal Saksena, a member from the United Provinces objecting to treating the scheduled castes as a minority said: I would like to draw the attention of the Assembly to one important declaration. It is this. It will be remembered that Mr. Jinnah has often tried to include the Scheduled Castes in the minorities; and on June 26, 1946, in a letter from Maulana Abul Kalam Azad to Lord Wavell, and the latter’s reply thereto, Lord Wavell is reported to have said, ‘... if any vacancy occurs among the seats allotted to the minorities, I shall naturally consult both the main parties before filling it.’ Mr. Jinnah has thus included the Scheduled Castes among the minorities. But so far as we are considered, we consider the Scheduled Castes as belonging to Hindus, they are not a minority; they have always formed part of us.41

To make sure that scheduled castes and tribes did not form a part of the minorities, Patel was quick to point out, ‘There is a separate Committee going into the question of the aboriginals and other tribes and its report will come up. The question will be considered when we consider the report.’42 So was also the matter about Sikhs, as K.M. Munshi said, ‘In view of the special situation in Eastern Punjab the whole question will be considered later.’ But the fallacy of disaggregating minorities, and dismembering them, was quickly pointed out when another member, Rizwan Allah spoke: Sir, I beg to raise a point of order on this amendment. This is a report of the Minorities Committee. Different provisions have been laid down in this report about various minorities. So far as the Sikhs are considered, no decision has been arrived at in the Minorities Committee Report about them. It is stated in this 40

Ibid., pp. 223–24. Discussion on the Schedule, CAD, vol. 7, p. 234. 42 Ibid., p. 234. 41

Minority Population  301 Report that the matter about Sikhs will be decided later on. Now an amendment has been tabled to replace a Province instead of Sikhs and thus in place of a minority an issue about territory is brought in. This is a report for the minorities and has nothing to do with any province ...43

In this interplay of ethno-politics and geo-politics, which partition had brought about and of which partition had been the child, the strategy of the government took shape. Thus, H.J. Khondekar, an assembly member, referring to Ambedkar’s politics of the preceding 20 years of demanding separate representation of the scheduled castes and opposing the inclusion of the scheduled castes in the minorities, made this significant comment: The first name is that of Dr. Ambedkar, and you all know, that from the time of the second Round table Conference till the Minority Sub-Committee of the Advisory Committee assembled, he relinquished the demand for joint electorates. On the question of this demand his message to all Harijans of his country, who belonged to his party, went to the extent that they were not even Hindus that they wished to have a colony separate from the Hindus, that they were not within the fold of the Hindu religion, and it was for this reason that they desired separate electorates. This thing has been going on the country for the last fifteen years with the result that a sort of discord has been created between caste Hindus and Harijans of Dr. Ambedkar’s party ... I feel happy to state that when this matter relating to joint and separate electorates came up before the Minority Sub-Committee, Dr. Ambedkar did not press the claim further but withdrew it on the ground that he had no argument in support of the principle ... It was because of Lord Morley Minto that Muslims got separate electorates and the result was that our country was divided into two ... If this is accepted either for Harijans or for our Muslim brothers, then it would mean fulfillment of what my friend Mr. Jinnah has always said, ‘Muslims of India and Muslims of Pakistan’ — which means the preparation for Pakistan within India. Much suffering has caused already. India has been divided into two. Brother Muslims have got what they wanted and was for their benefit. Having got that, they should be good enough not to try to create Pakistan within India and should not bring an amendment of this sort in this House.44 43 44

Ibid., p. 240. CAD, vol. 7, p. 266.

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If this was not enough to mark out in a disciplinary note that the minorities were to behave properly and not make political demands for protection of their rights, Sardar Patel was blunt. Warning all those, who were speaking of the need for political protection of the minorities, separate electorates, and including the scheduled castes in minorities, for not reposing faith in the nation as defined by the majority, Patel said in a barely concealed language of venom: ... But now the separation of the country is complete and you say let us introduce it again and have another separation ... If the process that was adopted, which resulted in the separation of the country, is to be repeated, then I say: Those who want that kind of thing have a place in Pakistan, not here. Here, we are building a nation and we are laying the foundations of One Nation, and those who choose to divide again and sow the seeds of disruption will have no place, no quarter, and I must say that plainly enough ...Why go on saying, Oh Muslims were not heard; Muslim amendment was not carried ... If that is going to pay you, you are much mistaken, and I know how it cost me to protect the Muslim minorities here under the present condition and in the present atmosphere ...You have got a separate State and remember, you are the people who were responsible for it, and not those who remain in Pakistan ...To the Scheduled Caste friends, I also appeal: Let us forget what Dr. Ambedkar or his group have done. Let us forget what you did. You have very nearly escaped the partition of the country again on your lines ...45

It was in this way that the institutional process of protection of minorities was defined and set in motion. Four elements proved critical in the formation of this governmental strategy. First, the deliberations and the resultant provisions invoked the spectre of territorial division of the country again and again, thereby making ethnic politics the core of nation building with the help of geopolitics. Second, one weaker group was separated from another, thus doing away with the general problematic of minorities in terms of the constitutional framework. Third, the protection strategy was accorded more importance in place of a justice-andrights-based strategy as the core of a democratic guarantee for


Ibid., pp. 271–72.

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the minorities in order to open up the political society.46 And, finally, the policy thought to be crucial was a combination of positive discrimination for some groups (not defined as minorities, but as weaker groups), a qualified protection of cultural rights of the minorities, and some autonomy provisions for certain areas/ groups (again not defined as minorities), thereby distancing the issue of autonomy from the general framework of the rights question, making it exceptional, and attaching it to the strategy of protecting ‘exotic’ species. In this governmental outlook lay the strategy to achieve the universality of citizenship on the basis of two contradictory aspects of life, namely, formal equality of all and the everyday deficit in the realisation of power of the weaker groups, individuals, and communities. As we know, in the 60 years of post-Independence India, this strategy did not stop riots or marginalisation of minor groups and weaker sections of society; yet the strange interface of democracy and governmentality produced resistance also on the part of the minor groups that at times could be contained in the electoralrepresentative-juridical framework of rule, and at times exceeded the bounds of government of minorities, and became a problem for rule. Each such excess meant violence and counter-violence — the sharpening of the claim-making process in society — and each such excess was faithfully followed by yet another innovation in governmental technique. It is in this process of mutation that 46

In the overwhelming context of partition, protection in the place of ensuring justice appeared as the paramount governmental task. Bilateral agreements to protect minorities were concluded in this context. The most important example of such agreements was the Nehru–Liaquat Ali pact, known as the Delhi Agreement concluded by the two prime ministers of India and Pakistan on 8 April 1950. It seemed at that time that the two countries were going to fight the second war within three years of their existence over the issue of protection of minorities, whom they probably saw as ‘stranded nationals’. The agreement aimed to alleviate the fears of religious minorities on both sides, to promote communal peace, and create an atmosphere in which the two countries could resolve their differences. By the agreement, the two governments committed themselves to ensuring complete equality of citizenship irrespective of religion, a full sense of the security of life, personhood, and property. The agreement guaranteed fundamental human rights for the minorities, such as freedom of movement, speech, occupation, and worship. Other agreements were concluded on similar issues in course of time with other South Asian countries.

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we arrive at the recent but already famous Sachar Report (2007), which seeks to record the backwardness of Muslims in India, and solve once for all the paradox of identity and development as the kernel of the problem of governing the minorities. We are back to the classic question that Hunter had faced nearly 150 years ago — should the government try to preserve and protect the identity of the Muslims, a minor people in India, or should it harness its efforts to develop them? And in the event the second answer is valid, what would constitute development? We are also back to another question that Hunter raised: Who deserves to be protected? Who deserves to be developed? And exactly as Hunter showed that some Muslims were fanatics and thus did not deserve protection, likewise in the post-colonial period too, the question has been: Who deserves protection and the fruits of development? And who deserves the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Prevention Act (TADA)? In the 19th century, the inquiries into riots had a sense of innocence in them, and governmental rationality, we can say at least in the colonial conditions of India, had an air of reflecting ‘ground conditions’. Commissions became the artefact of modern policy making. Thus it was not only Hunter, who refused to condemn the entire community of ‘Indian Musalmans’, in the inquiry of agrarian riots also, ‘peasant distress’ was the theme. For instance, in the inquiry report of the Deccan Riots of 1875, as historians Vinay Lal and Neil Charlesworth show, agrarian conditions were real causes, and the conspiracy argument held little relevance for the commission in explaining the riots and devising solutions. Vinay Lal has written: Quite to the contrary, the commissioners were emphatic in their pronouncement that the ryots had not been ‘acted upon by persons of higher position and education’. The Deccan Riots Commission’s affinity to the commissions of previous years becomes all the more evident when we consider that it was invested with the authority, which it exercised, to recommend legislation that, if accepted and implemented, would affect cultivators not only in the affected areas, but throughout India.47 47

Vinay Lal, ‘Agrarian Unrest: The Deccan Riots of 1975’, http://www.sscnet., accessed 16 April 2010); on Deccan riots, also see Neil Charlesworth, ‘The Myth of the Deccan Riots of 1875’, Modern Asian Studies, 6 (4), 1972, pp. 402–409.

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Commissions had to have relevance to the dynamics of policy making. The neoliberal ideological milieu where security is tied to economic well-being and welfare was still more than a century away. In that age, which we can say in some sense continued till the 1970s–80s, riots used to occur over places of worship (for instance, in 1890 in Aligarh, where there was obstruction of places of worship, because apparently a pot of flesh was thrown at night in a mosque, and then beef was hung inside two Hindu wells), animal sacrifice (1896, Patna; 1953, Bhopal), playing music and beating drums before the holy places (1941, Kolkata, occasion of Muharram), defiling of sacred texts (1939, Asansol, where the Ramayana was defiled, apparently by a Muslim), ‘competing religious festivals’ on the same day (1871, Bareilly, where the Muharram and Ramnavami festivals fell on the same day), etc. In these riots, race was the important but suppressed question, and with each round of riots, the project of constructing the ‘Hindu race’ or the ‘Muslim race’ would receive one more dose of boost.48 In some sense this continued even after Independence for some decades.49 In this continuing chronicle of riots no one was a terrorist, no community was a danger to nation. It was more a case of race, when living together but separately became impossible because of ‘racial’ (bio-cultural) differences. The pattern changes with or after the Babri Masjid-related riots, when in place of contested cultural practices, deliberate and engineered historical issues become the cause of riots. The virtual nature of the issue becomes clear, when the issue of security overshadows all other issues. The bio-political nature of the minority question changes from this time. On one hand, the government appears determined not to allow conflicts of the old type. Minorities are given protection in the form of autonomy of their cultural practices — at least to a degree. Laws, regulations, commissions, and ministries and departments are set up so that the old riots do not come back to haunt the country. In return, the minorities 48

See, for instance, the study by William Gould of UP, Hindu Nationalism and the Language of Politics in Late Colonial India, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004; on Bengal, see Patricia A. Gossman, Riots and Victims: Construction of Communal Identity among Bengali Muslims, 1905–1947, Boulder, Co: Westview Press, 1999. 49 On the continuity, see the collection of essays, Ashgar Ali Engineer (ed.), Communal Riots in Post-Independent India, Hyderabad: Orient Longman, 1984.

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must not even appear to do something which can be construed as terror or a threat to the security of a resurgent India in a globalised neoliberal world. It is this changed terms of conditions of life that the agenda of developing the minorities comes to the fore. But before we see what the committee headed by Justice Rajendra Sachar has recommended and its line of thinking, it is important to note at least in a few words the significance of the transition from colonial governmentality to liberal governmentality marked by post-colonial realities, which makes post-colonial governmentality probably a separate category of political reason and functioning. I have already indicated some change in this respect. But we must ponder a little more. Post-colonial experiences prompt us to ask, why must the government spend special efforts to govern the minorities? In what concrete ways, do the aspirations of minor peoples get into the policy-making processes of the government? And precisely therefore, as rights keep on articulating claims and aspirations of the minor population groups, what makes government of minorities necessary? In the answers to all these we get an idea of society, which is not timeless and natural with groups happily co-existing, but a society that is marked by the historically predicated existence of unequal groups, and therefore, a society that needs administration of group relations by the government through law and executive actions, further a society that finally encourages the notion, namely, that with wise doses of autonomy and reservation of socio-economic opportunities (jobs, seats in educational institutions, etc.) for the minor population groups, the government can manage this unequal relation. In this political reason, while there is no trace of an idea of society that encourages dialogic relations and promotes dialogic justice at the ground level up to the level of law or recognises the existing practices of friendship, we have certainly clear marks of a functioning democracy; in other words, a society exhibiting the impact of a rights-claiming process. Such a government is also liberal in the sense that it forever tries to erase the reality of the minor groups in society while it does not want to tamper with the society too much, and thinks consequently that society should be left free to continue in its ‘wise’ ways. Perhaps only market relations and social responsibilities of the government can interfere with the nature of society. The governmental principle

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is thus paradoxical. This principle allows the art of government to improve, to critically reflect on its own past; at the same time it tells the government that it must not interfere too much with either society or the functioning of the market. The result is that the entire society is always marked by a debate over whether ‘too much’ or ‘too little’ protection is being given to minorities by the government; ‘too much’ or ‘too little’ of reservation is being provided; and ‘too much secularism’ or ‘too less’ secularism the government practises. The public debate goes on in this way, while the political life of the minor peoples can continue only as an ‘excess’— beyond the governmental practices.50 In this way we find the specific problems of life of a population group posed within the framework of a governmental technology.

Post-Colonial Governance: The Life Problems of a Population Group The committee headed by Justice Rajendra Sachar was the ‘Prime Minister’s High Level Committee on Social, Economic, and Educational Status of the Muslim Community of India’. Appointed on 9 March 2005 the committee submitted its report on 17 November 2006. Six other experts were members of the committee. In the report the committee did not raise any new issue except in a secondary way; the reason for its quick fame has to be sought elsewhere. As I have just mentioned, it was because of the way the committee tried to cover all aspects of the life of a minority group vis-à-vis governmental duties, obligations, and practices, that the report became well known in a short time and began to be discussed in the public sphere. In election campaigns, political parties used the report in their own respective ways. The entire life of a minority group, almost all its socioeconomic aspects, was brought possibly for the first time within the framework of a governmental technology. At the same time, the destiny of the Muslims as members of a minority community 50

On this I have argued at length in Chapter 3, ‘The Politics of the Political Society’ in my The Materiality of Politics, vol. 2, Subject Positions in Politics, London and New Delhi: Anthem Press, 2007; also in my introduction to R. Samaddar (ed.), The Politics of Autonomy.

308 — Ranabir Samaddar

under a majority-centric rule, communalisation of security and law and order forces, and the schizophrenic milieu involving the three nations belonging to an erstwhile united subcontinent, was kept out of discussion and hence the report. The underlying thought comes out as one of a developmental logic, namely, if the socio-economic indicators of the Muslims improve, then there can be an end to discrimination; therefore the need for socio-economic investigation, report, analysis, and appropriate specific recommendations. The committee, of course, did not ask why discrimination persists? Does powerlessness lead to discrimination or the other way round? However, we need not go into that circular thinking, but see how the committee has viewed the governmental need to develop a minority community in strictly developmental terms, which means, basically, socioeconomic terms. The committee examined population size, distribution, and health conditions of the Muslims; their educational conditions; economy and employment; access to bank credit; access to social and physical infrastructure; poverty, consumption patterns and standards of living; their situation in government employment and programmes; Muslim Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and the need for affirmative action and leveraging community initiatives; the special case of wakfs was discussed. The committee recommended on the bases of investigations of these dimensions. Significantly, the report began with two entries (chapters one and two): one on the context of the report, approach, and methodology, and the second on public perceptions and perspectives. I have already mentioned that the report avoids direct political discussions on the powerlessness of the minorities. On one exceptional occasion the report, however, does refer to the ‘terrorist’ tag on the Muslims.51 However, the report does not enter into that discussion and the profound implications of the tag. We can give one instance, namely, what happens to a community when it is branded as a security threat, if not formally but in all kinds of practices, and the insecurity the members of the community face? The committee thus ignores the implications of 51

‘Prime Minister’s High Level Committee on Social, Economic, and Educational Status of the Muslim Community of India’, 2006, Prime Minister’s Secretariat, New Delhi — hereafter referred to as SR (Sachar Report), p. 11

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the policy of the national security establishment to build what I have termed elsewhere as the architecture of macro-security, which precisely due to its nature provokes micro-insecurity at all levels. In fact, while the report on one hand demonstrates the pervasive socio-economic insecurity of the Muslims in all conceivable aspects, it does not draw lessons from groups turning against groups, communities against community, and the brazen manner in which sections of the indigenous population were marshalled against the Muslims in Gujarat, and the perpetrators of the carnage got away because after all, they were dealing with people who were security threats. It is this aspect — the fact of ignoring threats and actual acts of murders and pogroms (consider the Srikrishna Commission Report on the Mumbai massacres in 1992–93),52 that results in ignoring the pervasive micro-insecurity of the lives of vulnerable population groups. The bio-power that the committee wishes to invoke to save and develop the Muslims remains fundamentally at odds with the bio-politics of security/insecurity. We can push this point little more. Consider the issue of race — a sensitive theme in India since the colonial time.53 It is a sensitive theme to all who study minority situations and the minor peoples. But here I am not referring to racial stereotypes. Democratic politics did away with many stereotypes, but brought in new uncertainties in its wake. Thus the Sachar report had to engage in an elaborate exercise and explain its methodology for that exercise, namely: Do Muslims form a backward community, in governmental language, an OBC group? How do they compare with the Dalits or indigenous population groups, or even with ‘other’ OBCs? What about differentiation within the Muslim 52

The Commission was appointed in 1995 by the Maharashtra government to probe into the riots and violence against the Muslims that rocked Mumbai on 6–10 December 1992 and then again 6–20 January 1993. The Commission submitted its report on 16 January 1998. The recommendations of the Commission were never implemented, and the guilty identified were never prosecuted. The report has been since then a mobilising point of human rights activists all over the country against a government they perceive to be quick on appointing commissions and committees but singularly failing in acting on their findings, and implementing their recommendations. 53 On the connection between the idea of race and communal identity, Zaheer Baber, ‘“Race”, Religion, and Riots: The “Racialization” of Communal Identity and Conflict in India’, Sociology, 38 (4), 2004, pp. 701–18.

310 — Ranabir Samaddar

community? More important, given all the similarities and dissimilarities, do Muslims form a community in a wide ranging sense, or is it that only as believers in the same faith and observing certain common practices that they can be considered as forming a community, while in many other socio-economic aspects they may be considered as parts of other communities or classes? The committee’s report, therefore, is perched on an anxiety as it sets out on its mission to bring out a ‘general’ picture — one can say capturing the Muslim as occupying an almost homogenous subject position. This is the tension between the identity argument and the developmental argument. The report tends to take the later line of analysis. The question thus remains, and to give an instance to clarify the point: What sense will the government make of a woman called Shah Bano, who fights a long legal battle to win maintenance after being dispossessed and evicted from home, then spurns the low maintenance award given by the court and goes up to the highest court of the land only to denounce later the Supreme Court’s verdict as interference against Muslim personal law? Then she again seeks restitution this time of her mehr (contractual gift) under the newly reconstituted Muslim Women Act as a Muslim woman; in short, what will the government make of someone who refuses to occupy a single subject position (the situation being complicated by class, gender, religion, and sexuality)?54 This is exactly the same sensitive nature that we can notice in any discussion in India on race, and the report goes to extreme lengths to avoid this in order to establish the developmental paradigm. The goal is to make sense of the impoverishment of the Muslim masses in socio-economic terms, yet establishing at the same time that the impoverishment is due to discrimination. What invisible histories will one need to excavate to combine both the arguments? What sense shall we make of the last 60 years of riots, dispossession, suppression, cordoning, and manipulation to arrive at today’s socio-economic backwardness and the developmental recipe? The first two chapters of the report are thus extremely significant from the view of studying the emerging governmental technology, and future historians of minor peoples may well say 54

On this, Ashgar Ali Engineer, The Shah Bano Controversy, Hyderabad: Orient Longman, 1987; also, Zakia Pathak and Rajeswari Sunder Rajan, ‘Shahbano’, Signs, 14 (3), Spring 1989, pp. 558–82.

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that the Sachar report is a landmark in the erasure of the political problematic of minorities in a democracy and puts an indelible stamp on the issue as a rational question of development and economics and sanitised demography. The first chapter thus invokes the principle of equality, and significantly sets out the three items of inquiry, namely, issues relating to identity, those relating to security, and finally issues relating to equity.55 Yet the inquiry is almost along transcendental lines — all the issues finally, are resolved in the developmental argument. As I have said the strategy is that of a comparative perspective. In this perspective the report places the facts of ‘ghettoisation and shrinking of common spaces’ and the relation between ‘political participation, governance and equity’.56 Yet this is not all, for while the report requires a perspective, the main goal is to capture the entire life of a minority group (Muslims in this case) in the frame of underdevelopment and backwardness, which would then call for developmental measures. This is a classic case of the emergence of bio-power as the core of governmental rationality. Hence the population size of a group is important, it is sensitive particularly when it is compared with that of another, but must be discussed in developmental terms. So as the report states, the birth rate among the Muslims is higher, but as development happens, it will come down and approximate the national average, with the national average also coming down in turn. Educational conditions show that Muslims are at a double disadvantage — the literacy rate is lower than other sociocultural groups, the madrasas do not function and are starved of funds or are irrelevant for technically oriented jobs, and finally, Urdu-medium schools languish. Of course the committee does not inquire what happens when Urdu does not happen to be the mother tongue, and or when, except in two states elsewhere, Muslims take to the local language strongly (Tamil, Malayalam, or Bengali, for instance). The report notes the pattern of ownership of physical assets and human capital, and the known fact that most of the Muslim poor like most other India poor (population groups) are in small-scale employment concerns, and in broadly what can be called the unorganised sector. 55 56

SR, p. 3. SR, p. 24.

312 — Ranabir Samaddar

Who is then a Muslim today? With the extravagance of sample surveys shown over the television channels, but with the explicit exclusion of the political-security dimensions of life in those presentations, we do not have much choice in this definition. Characterised by faith in Islam and near dispossession in many ways, the minor group must get money (and other resources from the government) to get life. In this way, the lives of the minor groups are more than ever shaped by governmental reason. An agenda of inquiry inspired by radical history will be able to sift through the material of the last 60 years on intermittent wars between Hindus and Muslims, pogroms against the latter, increasing legitimacy of the dynamics of group representation, and the political economy of reservation for backward communities in order to make sense of the rationality the Sachar report represents. Indeed in two sig-nificant chapters — 10 and 11 — the report discusses at length the issues of ‘Muslim OBCs and affirmative action’ and the need of ‘leveraging community initiatives — the case of Wakfs’. The significance lies in not only reinforcing the community identity a group, but precisely because it is now a community, therefore establishing that principles of social justice must apply here.57 In this background, it discusses three different experiences of affirmative action for Muslims OBCs — in Kerala, Karnataka, and Bihar. What else will strengthen the community besides affirmative action? The report as an answer turns to the issue of wakfs, refers to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on wakfs (1996–2006), and speaks of the strategic significance of community institutions and initiatives.58 In short, in a context dominated by immense difficulties for a state to combine individual rights and group rights,59 (and this difficulty is much more than it is in Western Europe), this rationality does not represent the classic liberal governmentality based on rights and rules (which take it as their primary aim to combine individual rights and group rights); it tells us instead 57

SR, pp. 190–95. SR, pp. 217–14. 59 On this see Dietmar Rothermund, ‘Individual and Group Rights in Western Europe and India’, in Imtiaz Ahmed, Partha S. Ghosh, and Helmut Reifeld (eds), Pluralism and Equality: Values in Indian Society and Politics, New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2000, pp. 320–43. 58

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more of the post-colonial reason of governance, where development, democracy, and multi-culturalism must go together, and democracy’s legitimacy, by inference the government’s legitimacy, can be secured only with developmental language meant to develop a community. Life’s security must be achieved through life’s development; and forms of claim-making must conform to this principle. The right of the minorities to develop must be seen in this perspective. Yet the issue remains, if the sovereign power has to agree to different forms of life, and thereby settle for a much nuanced way to rule. How will it combine the strategic task of governing, which calls for a substantial extent of uniformity of the subjects of rule — the classic homogenous juridical subject of the rule of law, in other words, the citizen — while agreeing to the community mode of life of the minor groups? The tension will torment democracy throughout its life.

Post-Colonial Governance: Addressing Vulnerabilities of Life The Sachar report’s analytics are to be found in the report of the Ranganath Mishra Commission also. The National Commission on Religious and Linguistic Minorities was led by Justice Ranganath Mishra, the former Chief Justice of India, and Dr Tahir Mahmood submitted its report to the prime minister on 22 May 2007. The Mishra Commission recommended 15 per cent reservation for Muslims in education and employment; it also recommended the inclusion of Muslim and Christian Dalits in the Scheduled Caste List. Some of its major recommendations show the full development of the thinking so rigorously pursued by the Sachar report. The Mishra Commission recommended among others: Term of Reference No. 1 (original): Criteria for identifying socially and economically backward classes among the religious and linguistic minorities: 16.15. We recommend that in the matter criteria for identifying backward classes there should be absolutely no discrimination whatsoever between the majority community and the minorities; and, therefore, the criteria now applied for this purpose to the majority community — whatever that criterion may be — must be unreservedly applied also to all the minorities.

314 — Ranabir Samaddar 16.16. As a natural corollary to the aforesaid recommendation we recommend that all those classes, sections and groups among the minorities should be treated as backward whose counterparts in the majority community are regarded as backward under the present scheme of things … 16.18. To be more specific, we recommend that all those social and vocational groups among the minorities who but for their religious identity would have been covered by the present net of Scheduled Castes should be unquestionably treated as socially backward, irrespective of whether the religion of those other communities recognises the caste system or not. 16.19. We also recommend that those groups among the minorities whose counterparts in the majority community are at present covered by the net of Scheduled Tribes should also be included in that net; and also, more specifically, members of the minority communities living in any Tribal Area from pre-independence days should be so included irrespective of their ethnic characteristics. Term of Reference No. II (original): Measures of Welfare for Minorities including Reservation: General Welfare measures A. Educational measures 16.2.4 As the meaning and scope of Article 30 of the Constitution has become quite uncertain, complicated and diluted due to their varied and sometimes conflicting judicial interpretations, we recommend that a comprehensive law should be enacted without delay to detail all aspects of minorities, educational rights under that provision with a view to reinforcing its original dictates in letter and spirit. 16.2.5 The statute of the National Minority Educational Institute Commission should be amended to make it wide-based in its composition, powers, functions and responsibilities and to enable it to work as the watchdog for a meticulous enforcement of all aspects of minorities, educational rights under the Constitution. 16.2.6 As by the force of judicial decisions the minority intake in minority educational institutions has, in the interest of national integration, been restricted to about 50%, thus virtually earmarking the remaining 50% or so for the majority community — we strongly recommend that, by the same analogy and for the same purpose, at least 15% seats in all non-minority educational institutions should be earmarked by law for the minorities as follows: (a) The break up within the recommended 15% earmarked seats in institutions shall be 10% for the Muslims (commensurate with

Minority Population  315 their 73% share of the former in the total minority population at the national level) and the remaining 5% for the other minorities. (b) Minor adjustments inter se can be made in the 15% earmarked seats. In the case of non-availability of Muslim candidates to fill 10% earmarked seats, the remaining vacancies may be given to the other minorities if their members are available over and above their share of 5%; but in no case shall any seat within the recommended 15% go to the majority community. (c) As is the case with the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes at present those minority community candidates who can compete with others and secure admission on their own merit shall not be included in these 15% earmarked seats. 16.2.7 As regards the backward sections among all the minorities, we recommend that the concessions now available in terms of lower eligibility criteria for admission and lower rate of fee, now available to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, should be extended also to such sections among the minorities … 16.2.9 As regards the linguistic minorities, we recommend the following measures: (a) The law relating to the Linguistic Minorities Commissioner should be amended so as to make this office responsible for ensuring full implementation of all the relevant Constitutional provisions for the benefit of each such minority in all the States and Union Territories. (b) The three-language formula should be implemented everywhere in the country making it compulsory for the authorities to includes in it the mother-tongue of every child — including, especially, Urdu and Punjabi — and all necessary facilities, financial and logistic, should be provided by the State for education in accordance with this dispensation. B. Economic measures 16.2.10 As many minorities groups specialize in certain household and small scale industries, we recommend that an effective mechanism should be adopted to work for the development and modernization of all such industries and for a proper training of artisans and workmen among the minorities — especially among the Muslims among whom such industries, artisans and workmen are in urgent need of developmental assistance. 16.2.11 As the largest minority of the country, the Muslims, as also some other minorities have a scant or weak presence in the agrarian sector, we recommend that special schemes should be formulated for the promotion and development of agriculture, agronomy and agricultural trade among them. 16.2.12 We further recommend that effective ways should be adopted to popularise and promote all the self-employment and

316 — Ranabir Samaddar income-generating schemes among the minorities and to encourage them to benefit form such schemes … 16.2.14 We further recommend that a 15% share be earmarked for the minorities — with a break-up of 10% for the Muslim (commensurate with their 73% share of the former in the total minority population at the national level) — and 5% for the other minorities in all government schemes like the Rural Employment Generation Programme, Prime Minister’s Rozgar Yojna, Grameen Rozgar Yojna, etc. Reservation 16.2.15 Since the minorities — especially the Muslims — are very much under-represented, and sometimes wholly unrepresented, in government employment, we recommend that they should be regarded as backward in this respect within the meaning of that term as used in Article 16 (4) of the Constitution — notably without qualifying the word ‘backward’ with the words ‘socially and educationally’ — and that 15% of posts in all cadres and grades under the Central and State Governments should be earmarked for them as follows: (a) The break up within the recommended 15% shall be 10% for the Muslims (commensurate with their 73% share of the former in the total minority population at the national level) and the remaining 5% for the other minorities. (b) Minor adjustment inter se can be made within the 15% earmarked seats. In the case of non-availability of Muslims to fill 10% earmarked seats, the remaining vacancies may be given to other minorities if their members are available over and above their share of 5%; but in no case shall any seat within the recommended 15% go to the majority community … 16.4.4 We recommend the following administrative measures which in our opinion are required either for the implementation of some or our recommendations or otherwise in the interest of the welfare of minorities: (a) Establishment of a Parliamentary Committee to consider and decide in the light of the Constitution policy matters relating to the minorities; (b) Establishment of a National Committee consisting of Chairpersons of NHRC, NCW, NCBC, NCSC, NCM, NCMEI, NMDFC, CLM, Central Wakf Council and Maulana Azad Foundation along with nominated experts for monitoring the educational and economic development of the minorities … (h) Appointment of Minority Welfare Committees consisting of official and local experts in all districts of the country to act as the

Minority Population  317 nodal agencies of NCM, State Minorities Commission and all other Central and State-level bodies working for the minorities.60

These recommendations carry forward the analysis of the Sachar report relating to the backwardness of the Muslims vis-à-vis OBCs. It also makes clear the logic that the principle of recognition of vulnerability should be henceforth the main basis of governmental thinking and policies on reservation. Thereby it invokes and re-interpreted Article 16 (4) of the Indian constitution. We already know that the justification for provision of reservation of posts and seats for Muslims is provided by the finding of the Supreme Court in the Indra Sawhney case, namely, that the entire Muslim community can be declared backward for the purposes of Article 16 (4). Given further the recognition of the fact by Justice Sachar Committee that the Muslim community of India as a whole is more backward than the Hindu OBCs, there was no reason, as if the Mishra Commission was arguing, to deny the Muslim community the benefit of reservation just because partition had happened once upon a time, and that the time had come to bury its ghost altogether. Reservations for Muslims was socially justified on the basis of their historical backwardness and current neglect and exclusion. It was not that the Commission argued for privileging any religion, in this case, Islam, but correcting a situation marked by under-representation of a community in public life, services, and elected bodies. In doing so, the Commission had to agree: (The) Policy of reservations in the field of employment and education has a long and complex history in India. There is a range of reservation policies. While there is a single central policy on reservation, different states in India have devised their own policies and many of these differ significantly from the Central policy. To ensure proper implementation of reservation system, the constitution of separate body — a High Powered Commission is recommended.61 60

‘Report of the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities’, New Delhi: Ministry of Minority Affairs, 2007, Chapter Ten, pp. 114–53. See also, accessed 10 January 2010. 61 ‘Report of the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities’, p. 138.

318 — Ranabir Samaddar

Indeed, in one sense, the Mishra Commission’s thinking is more rigorous in terms of guiding governmental actions. It saw the link between the policy of reservation and that of secularism. Social justice requires fairness on the part of the state towards all communities. It therefore says: Social justice requires that fundamental human rights of the members of all communities are protected by the State. To promote inter-faith harmony and a secular ethos in all parts of the country, central and state governments from time to time pro-actively encourage training for the police, armed forces, administrators and other functionaries, to sensitise them to the relevant issues. Efforts are being made to promote citizens’ inter-faith groups, meetings with religious leaders of all communities, neighbourhood peace committees, and other similar measures, particularly in areas that are prone to communal tension. The New 15-Point Program for Minorities outlines a framework within which the welfare of minorities can be ensured through due democratic processes, with the involvement of civil society groups and enlightened members of minority as well as majority groups. Secularism can best be implemented when people are committed to principles of equality, social justice and respect for diversities. Indian secularism emphasises absolute and unconditional equality of all religious faiths in the country. The framework of religious and cultural pluralism is being consciously preserved, so that India continues to have a mosaic of different religions, cultures and languages. Preserving the composite culture, and promoting harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood is enjoined on all citizens of the state.62

In this way, these two reports lay down the blueprint of a future government strategy based on secularism (that is, a non-religious attitude in state policies and actions) and selective measures aimed at coping with vulnerable life. We are yet to understand fully the ramifications of this line of thinking. Take for instance the question of reservation (quota) that the Ranganath Misra Commission raises for protection of justice to the minorities. In what way can the government combine the religious and the secular in determining a policy of reservation for a religious community? For after all, vulnerability is a secular question. How is 62

Ibid., pp. 73–74.

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the government going to determine the extent of backwardness and vulnerability of a community spread geographically in this huge landmass and divided into several socio-economic categories? What is the specific logic behind treating a community’s position as resembling that of the OBCs? Are we then witnessing a further evolution of the concept? Consider this report, which stands as an instance: KOLKATA, 21 MARCH: After announcing ten per cent reservation in jobs for Muslims in the other backward class (OBC) category, the state government has taken the initiative to expedite the process of including the maximum number of eligible Muslims under the OBC category within one year. Officials believe nearly half of the Muslim population in the state is eligible to come under the OBC category. But so far, only around 3.4 per cent of the Muslim population has been listed under the OBC category. The initiative has been taken, the officials said, to ensure that the maximum number of Muslims in the state is eligible to enjoy job reservations. According to senior officials at Writers’ Buildings, the West Bengal Commission for Backward Classes — the body that examines request for inclusion of any class of citizens as a backward class in the lists and makes recommendations to the state government in this regard — is currently hearing applications from about 21–25 communities. A majority of these communities are Muslims. It was also learnt that the state government expects that at least 20 more Muslim communities could be included in the OBC category within one year — or at least ahead of the crucial 2011 Assembly polls. A few days ago, three Muslim communities — Khotta Muslims, Beldar and Sardar — have been included in the OBC category. With these three, the number of Muslim communities in the OBC category has reached 15. All these 15 communities together constitute only about 3.4 per cent of the total Muslim population in the state. ‘An initiative has been taken to reserve jobs for Muslims in the OBC category. But so far, less than 4 per cent of the Muslims have been included in OBC category. This would mean the facility would not reach the maximum number of Muslims, particularly those for whom the job reservation is intended. That’s the reason why more eligible Muslim communities could be brought under the backward category,’ said an official. He also added that the commission is currently hearing applications from more than 20 Muslim communities like Abdal,

320 — Ranabir Samaddar Basni, Kan-khalifa, Dhukre and it is expected that these communities could be brought under the OBC category very soon. ‘If 40–45 communities of the Muslims could be included in the backward list, about 50 per cent of the Muslim population in the state would be able to get job reservation. Earlier, Muslims did not show interest in applying for inclusion in the OBC list, but now several applications in this regard are being submitted. A majority of the Hindu backward communities already figure in the OBC list,’ he said. After announcing ten per cent reservation in jobs for Muslims in the OBC category, it may be noted, the state government had decided to constitute a committee to find out ways to ensure that the reservation is implemented smoothly and all legal hurdles are avoided.63

It is not that there is no opposition to this thinking. There is an alternative argument also that the governmental policy of pro-tection through reservation and instituting a quota system for various vulnerable groups is destroying the democracy that the liberal market and welfare system had established. Here is one such analysis: There is a constitutional revolution underway. It has long been in the making. But its full logic is unfolding now. This new type of regime it will beget defies classification. It cannot be captured by the categories bequeathed by those who understood different regime types: Plato or Polybius, Aristotle or Kautilya, Montesquieu or Madison. This new regime is not a monarchy, aristocracy, republic or a democracy. It has its distinct identity, values and institutional frame. Behold all, the rise of Quotocracy! ... The principles behind quotocracy need to be carefully understood. It arises out of a democracy and often gets confused with it. But make no mistake. Quotocracy is distinct. A democracy values choice. Voters are free to elect whoever they wish. In a quotocracy, voters by turn are obliged to vote for someone with particular ascriptive characteristics … A general will is a conceptual impossibility. Montesquieu said each regime has a principle that sustains its best form. In despotism it is 63

Pranesh Sarkar, ‘Government to Bring more Muslims under OBC: Initiative to Expedite Process for Job Reservation’, The Statesman, 21 March 2010, http:// 18&catid=35, accessed 22 March 2010.

Minority Population  321 fear, in aristocracy it is honour, in republics it is virtue. Quotocracy has its own principle: victimhood. No quotocracy can be sustained without it ... Democracies occasionally make exceptions to redress gross injustice. In a quotocracy, the exception is the norm. OBCs want quotas for themselves, but not for women. Women want for themselves, but not for OBCs. And no one wants for Muslims. Some say, ‘Why do women need quotas? Why don’t parties give tickets?’ But in a quotocracy this question is not legitimate. However, those who deny the legitimacy of this question use this same argument when the demand for sub-quotas is made. ‘Why not give OBC women tickets under the quota?’ But don’t confuse this with hypocrisy. Hypocrisy can exist only in a democracy, when ideals do not match reality. In a quotocracy, exception is the norm … Quotocracy creates a new distinction between public and private. Privately you may oppose quota, but you politically act on that belief at your own peril. Quotocracy has its own conception of justice. It is not equality, or capability or fitness or fairness. It is simple arithmetic: 33 here, 22 there, 50 for the rest. And since arithmetic can be complicated there is no point doing fractions and subdivisions. Simple quota is just what justice is. In a democracy, where you came from should matter less than where you are going. It seeks to make de jure rights and privileges we have less and less dependent upon our identity. A quotocracy is the reverse. It makes de jure rights dependent upon identity. A democracy prizes individuality (not to be confused with its bad cousin, individualism). Quotocracy prizes group think. You are your group … Quotocracy creates new identities by using state power to create incentives … Democracy strives for deliberation. For quotocracy getting numbers right is paramount. Democracy is bound by constitutionalism. It is hemmed in by a diversity of values. Quotocracy makes constitutionalism subordinate to itself. So what if some states exceed 50 per cent and the courts for fear are unable to pronounce a verdict. Quotocracy redefines the scale of values: excellence is a ruse for domination, self-reliance a tactic for injustice and so forth … But democracy and quotocracy have this in common: they are never complete. They are always a work in progress. Democracy has to continually dissolve hierarchy. Quotocracy has to continually create new quotas. In a democracy, all animals are equal but some

322 — Ranabir Samaddar more equal than others. In a quotocracy, some deprived groups will get their deprivations recognised more than others …64

But this idea of democracy is as contested as the idea of a quota-based polity, which if one comes to think of it, is also an old idea, and hence should not cause surprise. The imperial system, too, relied on quotas to balance all the rival claimant groups clamouring for attention and protection from the ruler. More significant will be the question: what specific rationality is this that can combine what Pratap Bhanu Mehta, the author of these lines, calls democracy and quotocracy? How does one combine the relentless and eternal dream of a seamless field of governance and the imperatives of ruling a social terrain marked by countless vulnerabilities, ‘thousand plateaus’ as Gilles Deleuze would have called? Apart from the minority groups, we also have the instance of governing the indigenous population groups. With reference to these population groups, if we take the instance of the evolution of governmental policy from the colonial time to the post-Independent time when these groups finally appear collectively as ‘scheduled tribes’ in governmental thinking, we get a better idea of how the life problems of a community appear in the governmental mirror.65 Riots and other forms of recurrent violence are only aspect of these life problems.66 In more than one sense, the path that these two commissions open up for governmental thinking on minorities is intriguing, for not only does it remains silent on how to deal with one major aspect of the life problems for a community, that is, the security aspect (hence the question of the persistence of riots, violence, physical discrimination), but it also fails to shed adequate light on 64

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, ‘Our Wonderful Quotocracy’, Indian Express, 15 March 2010, 590788/0, accessed 18 April 2010. 65 I have earlier written on this in The Materiality of Politics, vol. 2, Subject Positions in Politics, London: Anthem Press, 2007, pp. 128–31; see also the remarkably precise discussion, Virginius Xaxa, State, Society, and Tribes: Issues in Post-Colonial India, Delhi: Pearson Longman, 2008, particularly Chapters 2 and 8. 66 On the physicality of the communal question see Upendra Baxi, ‘The Second Gujarat Catastrophe’, 27 May 2002. GujaratCatastrophe.pdf, accessed 2 April 2010.

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another crucial part of the ‘problems of life’ of a minor group — that relating to personal laws. After all, personal laws, on which the commissions remain largely silent, tell us the codified aspects of the reproduction of the life of a community, and the power relations in it, namely: How do its members eat? Where can they eat? Where can they pray? How should they congregate? How can they marry? How can they maintain a family to beget life? How can they bequeath property and whom can they bequeath to? What should they read? Where should they read? With whom should they read? All these conjure up the idea of a race, and Hunter was only too smart if he thought that with his two-pronged approach the colonial government could rid the society of the problems of life of a community soon to be recognised as a minor group. Even when he was composing his tract, the courts of the country was busy with grappling various complexities arising out of the question of the personal law of a community. That complexity remains even today. During the colonial time, the courts were directed to apply indigenous legal norms in matters relating to family law and religion, with ‘native law officers’ advising the courts on the determination of those norms. A number of Hanafi sources were translated into English. These advisory positions were abolished in 1864. Legal commentaries on the development of ‘AngloMohammedan’ law developed. The effort was to introduce principles of English law and procedure through judges trained in the English legal tradition and through interpretation of the positions taken in customary law. As we all know, the status of the personal laws of the minority communities has remained a matter of much debate, even though Article 44 of the constitution speaks of the gradual establishment of legal uniformity in India. Nonetheless, Muslim personal law is applied by the regular court system. Also one has to remember in this context that the courts of first instance for personal status are generally the Family Courts, organised under the Family Courts Act of 1984. The Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937 directs the application of Muslim Personal Law to Muslims in a number of different areas mainly related to family law. The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929, introduced under the British provided penal sanctions for contracting marriages below the specified minimum age. The Registration of Muslim Marriages and Divorces Act, 1876, has been still in operation in some states of the country. After

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India acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the government is committed to the principle of obligatory registration of marriage. There is also the issue of polygamy. The Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939 introduced changes to the extremely restricted rules on judicial divorce at the petition of the wife. With regard to maintenance upon divorce, the law was modified by the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986. The Act entitles the divorced Muslim woman to ‘a reasonable and fair provision and maintenance’ to be made and paid to her by her former husband. The details of this legal history are probably well-known. Yet, how much of the ‘questions of life’ of a minor group, in this case the Muslims, is regulated by this legal world? Take some random instances: In Bareilly, violence against Muslims flared up this March (2010).67 Such instances happened in Hyderabad this year too. Muslim clerics issued a fatwah forbidding Muslim women from appearing in fashion shows.68 Urging the Bombay High Court to uphold the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA), 2006, over the Muslim personal law, Awaaz-e-Niswan, a public form of Muslims, files an intervention application in the Bombay High Court on 16 March 2010.69 Well-known jurist Flavia Agnes asks, ‘Why do some “secular” feminists keep harping about the legal injustices that Muslim and Christian women are subjected to because of their personal laws but remain silent on similar aspects of Hindu law As you can imagine, many women criticized me (when I raised this), but several others supported.’70 In 2009, the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board decides to oppose an amendment to the UP Zamindari Abolition and Land Reform Act, 1950, which entitles only unmarried daughters of property owners the right to inherit property.71 In 2006 Imrana, a young Muslim woman, is raped by her father-in-law. The pronouncement by some Muslim clerics that Imrana should marry 67 ‘Violence-affected Bareilly back to Normal’, World News, 5 April 2010; http:// Violenceaffected_Bareilly_back_to_normal/, accessed 20 April 2010. 68 Muslim_women, accessed 20 April 2010. 69, accessed 20 April 2010. 70, accessed 20 April 2010. 71, accessed 20 April 2010.

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her father-in-law leads to widespread protests and finally, the father-in-law is given a prison term of 10 years.72 Claims and counter-claims on the best and the most desirable ways to lead life continue. In the light of all these incidents, the questions one has to ask then are: Who is a Muslim in India today? Is the Muslim a rights’ bearing subject, or an object of governmental policy of welfare and protection? Or shall we say that the Muslim subjectivity is being shaped by particular governmental reasoning? Are these reports (Sachar, Ranganath Misra) then testaments of rights or are they like advice to the rulers about how to conduct themselves vis-à-vis particular minor population groups in society? What is the basis of welfare? And more significantly, what is the route through which to judge backwardness and the legitimacy of the life claims of a social group? All these questions, of course, constantly remind us of the unspoken others of this account of governmental reasoning of development — the claim-making dynamics in society, claims of the minor population groups on social goods and public rights, claims by the state on their loyalty, and the language of rights in which these claims express themselves. This article, of course, did not attempt to write a comprehensive history of how minorities are treated by the state or the government of the day, or even specifically, how a minority group, in this case Muslims, has been treated by the Indian government. Instead, in the first place, this article has attempted to reflect on how a particular minority subject position is created through the operation of governmental reason. Yet, and this has been the second point of the article, precisely because the subject refuses to be exhausted in governmental reason and exceeds the limits of governmental reason that this reason has to change from time to time. Third, the article shows how the politics of anti-colonialism and democracy in turn influence governmental reason. Our understanding of how bio-power becomes characteristic of governmental operations and the dominating strategies is not complete without a related understanding of the bio-political foundations in the making of the subject. Fourth, the essay argues that the ideology of a subject position plays a critical role, 72, accessed 20 April 2010.

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for instance, the ideology of development, or of security, or of secularism, or as this article shows, besides all these, the importance of the ideology of representation. The question of how Muslims will represent themselves (in legislatures, services, educational institutions, or in self-administered institutions of the community) has been the silent other of a secular government policy of developing the Muslims, a policy that at its pure form comes out in the Sachar report. One can also in equal measure say that the countless riots, pogroms, and loss of lives remain once again the silent counterpart of this clarion call for the development of the ‘Muslim community’. In this governmental exercise, the real world of discrimination and racism recedes; the real conditions of the existence of a minor people can be now expressed only in ideological terms — secularism, security, development, representation, and the restitution of the community mode. Minorities are governed in this ideological milieu. Fifth, this article shows that governmental policy on the minor subjects is not a demonstration of an uninterrupted continuous reason. What began with Hunter went through several changes, discontinuities in the colonial time itself — the greatest problem being the intermittent riots among the subject populations, which made imperial peace, law, and order extremely difficult to maintain. The great instance of this was the Nagpur riots of 1927 that marked the rise of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) into prominence as the defender of Hindu lives. Partition constitutes a separate chapter in this governmental narrative, simply because with a bit of exaggeration we can say that the government stopped existing. The first few decades of post-Independent rule, as this article shows, was concerned with protection. And, then came the latest phase — that of development. Each phase shows how the life species called the Muslims was governed, and therefore, what one can say was a bio-political ordering of the groups in society. Each phase also shows how life itself made an earlier governmental technique impossible to continue and as a result, old techniques at least had to be combined with new ones, in cases, radically revised or discarded. Finally, and this comes as an implication of the previous point, the article is a commentary on the whole question of sovereignty. Without the government functioning in a rational way, the sovereign power cannot operate for long. Yet as the insistent existence of minorities qua minorities poses a challenge to sovereign power, it appears that sovereignty cannot exist

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without being shared. This is where a governmental operation becomes critical. It creates the impossible: sovereignty seems to dissipate in the deep waters of micro-management of society without necessarily dissolving the power to coerce. That is the moment when development appears as the deux ex machina of modern governmentality. Yet as I have indicated throughout this essay, the developmental strategy conceived first by Hunter in the second half of the 19th century and put in place properly by the post-colonial state, calls for a certain uniformity of rule, that is to say, uniformity of the subjects of rule. We have, therefore, passionate politics around issues of the uniform civil code, scope and extent of affirmative action, leveraging community institutions, securing adequate representation of minor groups in society (hence the issue of delimitation of electoral constituencies), but most importantly, transforming the minorities into subjects safe for the polity. If the government treats the task of ensuring security of the subjects of capital and commerce as the most important, it must turn the people into a population — that is, groups of people administered according to government rationality and classification of governmental tasks. Then it cannot ensure uniform development. But if the politics of claim-making makes it imperative for the government to make development the cornerstone of ruling, then it must agree to uniformity, but only in a killing way. This is because it must develop the minor group/s, and hence concede its special community character, while development would imply also certain general standards and principle of rule to which the minor groups must comply. As I complete this article, a news item appears, bringing out in full force the irony of this double-faced situation. It says, ‘Govt. can’t ask corporate sector to give jobs to minorities’, and continues: The Companies Act does not empower the government to advise India Inc to provide jobs to minorities, but the corporate(s) should take the initiative on their own, Corporate Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid informed Lok Sabha on Monday. ‘The provisions of the Companies Act do not empower the government to advise the corporate sector for providing jobs to minorities ... the government has started the process of developing a common perspective on the issue of voluntary affirmative action by the corporate sector,’ Khurshid told Lok Sabha in a written reply. Earlier, the government had said creating more jobs is needed for uplifting the weaker sections of society rather than reservation.

328 — Ranabir Samaddar The minister had said empowerment and capacity building are the answers and not reservation ...73

In short, the article shows that while sovereign power remains, its reason as the reason of the state dissipates in the myriad details of the task of governing. Laws on minorities, though of relevance to the making of a governable society, must now be guided by other rationalities, of which a significant one is the rationality of development. Innumerable court judgements on affirmative action, etc. show the dual legal need for advising uniform standards as well as conceding a group a special status. This paradox would not have been there, were the law not to be guided by developmental reasons. And, on the other side, the paradox is there precisely because development cannot take place in this world whose fault lines are constituted by insecurity of all kinds, discrimination, segregation, racism, and repression, and thus without negotiating the subjectivities moulded by these fault lines. The minorities under this new reason are not conceived as collectives of subjects of rights, or conversely as a set of disempowered units, but as groups who lack and hence require development. What is evoked as a result is a constantly present possibility of the minor groups in society to alternately appear as subjects of law and order or as subjects of development. The virtuality of development now matches the virtuality of riot and sedition. [I am indebted to Arun Patnaik, Bishnu Mohapatra, and Subhas Chakrabarty for their comments on earlier drafts of this essay. I am also grateful to the participants of the two research workshops held under the CRG programme on ‘Development, Democracy, and Governance’, where this article was placed for discussion. In course of writing this article, I also consulted the invaluable resource holding of the South Asia Citizens Watch — SACW — on minority rights. My thanks are due to Harsh Kapur, the tireless supervisor of SACW.]


PTI, 13 July, cp-documentid= 3073180, accessed 13 July 2009.

8 The Educated Subjects Anup Dhar This article looks at the connection between higher education and governance in contemporary India. To understand the connection one has to understand the connection in the context of the shifting contours of both higher education and governance.1 Taking off from contemporary debates on higher education and governance, where an across-the-board governance model is at times suggested for a homogenised category called ‘higher education’ (when both governance-models and imaginationsphilosophies of higher education are variegated and disaggregated), the article looks at the (‘original’) idea of the university and of higher education and the changing philosophies of education. It also looks at the shifting ideals of the political (here understood as the dimension of governance) and the economic in the larger context of the cultural. Nation building post-Independence (when developmentalism with growth and welfare was the goal) and post-globalisation (when the fostering of a neoliberal order is the goal) also feature in this article as relevant to the understanding of the connection between higher education and governance. The article argues that the relation between education and gov-ernance can be explored from at least four possible angles: (a) where education can be seen as being (itself) a form of governance (where education is governance; it is also to 1 Or have the fundamental contours not shifted much in the last 200 years? Are we working with frameworks and debates that have remained somewhat unchanged? The article works through continuities and breaks in both philosophies of education and governance.

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render the biped mammal governable; it is to produce the ‘governed’); (b) where education is not in itself governance but is for governance (where education is a means to produce ‘governors/administrators’ for the developmental state or ‘managers’ for post-globalisation India); (c) one could look at the relation in terms of governance issues in higher education institutions (what are the existing and possible institutional models in higher education? How to govern them and whether at all? How to understand issues of state-control, autonomy, accountability, and relevance) and of individuals occupying such institutions/spaces — whether as service providers (say teachers) or as recipients (say students); (d) one could turn the table and look at governance as itself ‘education in citizenship’. It is in terms of the above four angles that the governanceeducation relation is revisited in this article. The governance question also assumes significance in the contemporary context because the philosophy of higher education is undergoing rapid changes, if not upheavals. And within the general philosophy of education, natural science education and human science education are facing two separate sets of challenges. Natural science spaces are being increasingly urged to connect to industry and set up governance frames in accordance with this new association (management and financial experts are being roped in). Human science spaces are being urged to connect to social justice questions, or questions (of say ethics) already incumbent upon natural science spaces. The nature of the connection is also necessitating a commensurate governance structure (the earlier idea of the university-centred academic is changing fast; earlier governance structures that drove the university are not looking relevant at present).

‘Developmental Democracy’ through Education Education is … the greatest and most difficult problem with which man can be confronted, since insight depends on education and education in its turn depends on insight. … Two inventions of man

Educated Subjects  331 must surely be viewed as the most difficult: the art of government and the art of education. Immanuel Kant, 1963

Given the fact that education is one the greatest and most difficult problems with which humans have been confronted, given the fact that we have tried to attend to this difficult problem by reducing more often than not the complicated ‘art of education’,2 to the ‘science of government’, a science that is behaviourist (such is the history of education, history of its reduction to governance-related concerns! Or is education all about aiding and creating subjective-conduits for the governance conditions of the period in question?), given the fact that the history of higher education in India is the history of the reduction of the art of education to the language, logic, and needs of governmentality, more specifically to the needs of colonialism (and the civilising mission), development, and globalisation, given the fact that the governance of ‘developmental democracy’ is organised through higher education (at least education constitutes a crucial node in governance), this article will be a critical reflection on the history of such multiple histories of higher education in India. It is in terms of this history of multiple histories that we shall try to make sense of the contemporary. We shall see how higher education is becoming (or has been) the conduit for the production of altogether new configurations of learning and be-ing. Through an in-depth study of higher education institutions, fieldwork in the corridors of policy formulations, analysis of government publications, review of public documents, interviews of leading scholars, and ethnography produced through and in higher education centres, this article shall try to see how governance and education feed into one another (this article would thus try to study ‘the processes 2 The complexity is marked by a host of questions: what is education? What is a ‘theory of education’? Why education to ‘cultivate his mind’ or to ‘bring the moral law to bear upon himself’? Who to educate — for ‘the uncultivated man is crude, the undisciplined is unruly’? How to educate? What is the intersubjectivity at work in classroom pedagogy? What is learning? See Immanuel Kant, Kant’s Thoughts on Education (über Pädagogik, 1803, trans. Annette Churton, introduction by C. A. Foley Rhys Davids), Boston: DC Heath and Co., 1900.

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of governing in Indian democracy’ through higher education initiatives); as also how higher education generally becomes the condition for the production of the citizen-subject and more particularly the (1) subject of aesthetics (the shikshito bhadralok) (2) subject of empowerment in third worldist backwaters as also (3) for the ushering in of the ethical and the just (we have in mind government-sponsored social justice initiatives in higher education through affirmative action). Further, as governance goes through transition (‘paternalism/benevolence’ and ‘welfare’ gets supplemented by a ‘market-friendly state’ and as ‘people’ become claimants of ‘rights’), as ‘policy explosion’, ‘securitisation’, and ‘illiberalism’ emerge as nodal points of governance, and as ‘democratic governance introduces a new spatial divide’ between spaces that are ‘sacred’ and spaces that are ‘isolated’, how is higher education (with its own organisation of space — the space on the one hand of the IIM-educated, efficient, globally competitive, digitally learning elite and on the other hand, of the employment-seekers coming out of undergraduate spaces and at times availing of the social justice measures put in place by the government) featuring in this process? How is the imagination of higher education contributing to governance? How is the imagination of governance contributing to higher education? However, one can also ask: Why should governance structures be at all interested in education? Why should education be at all a governance issue? Where is the connection? To understand the connection this article will look at the interface of higher education and governance in a number of ways: One, it would look at education as governance (where the act and art of education is itself governance). Kant’s Thoughts on Education does make us see the connection between education and governance.3 It appears from at least a part of the text that education is itself governance. Kant recognises the need for education — ‘Man is the only being who needs education’ — and by education he understands: (a) nurture (the tending and feeding of the child), (b) discipline (Zucht) and (c) teaching, together with culture. 3

Kant, Kant’s Thoughts on Education.

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According to Kant, ‘man is in succession infant (requiring nursing), child (requiring discipline), and scholar (requiring teaching)’. For him: Discipline changes animal nature into human nature … It is discipline, which prevents man from being turned aside by his animal impulses from humanity, his appointed end. Discipline, for instance, must restrain him from venturing wildly and rashly into danger. Discipline, thus, is merely negative, its action being to counteract man’s natural unruliness. The positive part of education is instruction.

If education is indeed governance (and not for governance), then is the whole and elaborate process/method of pedagogy a ruse for the production of governed subjects? The goal laid out by Wilhelm von Humboldt (based on proposals by Johann Gottleib Fichte and Friedrich Schleiermacher) does point in that direction. For Humboldt, education was the ‘spiritual and moral training of the nation’, to be achieved by ‘deriving everything from an original principle’ (truth), by ‘relating everything to an ideal’ (justice), and by ‘unifying this principle and this ideal in a single Idea’ (the state); the end product would be ‘a fully legitimated subject of knowledge and society’ — each mind an analogously organised mini-state morally unified in the supermind of the state. More insidious than the well-known practical cooperation between university and government is its philosophical role in the propagation of the form of representational thinking itself, that ‘properly spiritual absolute State’ endlessly reproduced and disseminated at every level of the social fabric. In this understanding, questions of citizenship also emerge as important (education is as if for ‘inducting the student into a community of participant citizens.’4 Two, it would look at education for governance (where education is a means to produce ‘governors/administrators’ for the developmental state or ‘managers’ for post-globalisation India); the movement from the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) to 4

See ‘Report of the Committee to Advise on Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education’ (hereafter to be referred as the Yashpal Committee Report), p. 18.

334 — Anup Dhar

the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) to the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) is demonstrative of this shift in the idea of governance and the role education could play in it. Three, it would look at governance in higher education institutions/spaces (it would see how the governance question features in higher education and why at all it becomes an issue in higher education; what are the existing and possible institutional models in higher education? How to govern them and whether at all? What has been our understanding of issues like state control and the autonomy of higher educational institutions? What to make of modern concerns like accountability and relevance?) and of individuals occupying such institutions/spaces — whether as service providers (say teachers) or as recipients (say students). There are thus structural issues pertaining to institutional culture (hierarchical or democratic) and human resource issues pertaining to the attitude of the personnel occupying faculty or administrative positions in higher educational institutions. Four, it would try to understand whether governance is itself ‘education in citizenship’, where education is not for producing ‘subjects of governance’ (as was the suggestion above) but governance is to produce ‘subjects educated in citizenship’. In (1) while education looks like governance, in (4) governance looks like education. Why does this happen? Why are they collapsing at times into the other? What is the cause for such conceptual affinity? Why are they not emerging as conceptually distinct? Is there something in the philosophy and history of both education and governance that make them look apposite? Five, it would like to see whether education is sometimes the conduit for usual governmental questions — say for example, questions of access/welfare/rights/inclusion/social justice/ entitlement/peace. Most studies show a ‘positive correlation between educational expansion and poverty reduction: by providing a meritocratic basis for status attainment, educational expansion narrows social inequities resulting from differences in the background of social groups; it affects demography via its impact on fertility rates and human health; by contributing to personal empowerment and enjoyment, education improves democracy and management at various levels; education plays a major role in reducing corruption through its impact on GDP

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and governments’ effectiveness.5 The above argument can take three (related) forms: (i)


Is everybody getting access to education? How good is our education system? Is it serving all sections of society? Do the socially disadvantaged need special protection/ rights to access education and make good use of such access? Are our higher education institutions plural and diverse enough in terms of social representation? Is the classroom a representative microcosm of Indian society? Or is it heavily skewed in favour of a community or group or class/caste/gender? Here the assumption is that the Indian society is hierarchised; however, whatever the hierarchies in the Indian society, the educational institutions in the same soil should not bear the burden or mark of such hierarchies; the fish in the pond (the educational institution) should at least be free of the moss and the mess of the pond (social hierarchies). In fact, they should be exceptions in the general pool of hierarchies and should in turn try to undo the hierarchies (in a somewhat micro-way) that the social harbours; by resisting the percolation of social hierarchies in the educational institutions, the culture of educational institutions would thus in turn mitigate against and perhaps minimise social hierarchies. Here educational institutions are, as if, taking up in a micro-way a larger task, the task of ushering in social justice, a task that governance-related institutions should have or perhaps have already undertaken. The other is to see education as an answer to social ill/evils/ hierarchies. Through employment, or empowerment, or entitlement, or the generation of capabilities-functionings, education would gradually do away with inherited and existing social problems; the assumption is that the ‘educated’ would not be as much a victim of social hierarchies as the ‘uneducated’; the added assumption is that the ‘educated’ would in the last instance try to erase

5 See S. P. Singh, Advisor, Planning Commission, Revamping Higher Education in Uttarakhand.

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or do away with such hierarchies. Here the relationship, nay the ‘basic connection between public reasoning on the one hand [generated through education], and the demands of participatory social decisions [generated through or ushered in by governance conditions], on the other, is central not just to the practical challenge of making democracy more effective, but also to the conceptual problem of basing an adequately articulated idea of social justice on the demands of social choice and fairness.’6 Sen invokes Nicolas de Condorcet to emphasise the role of education (and enlightenment) as central to the idea and ushering in of a just society. (iii) Kant, on the other hand, in The Conflict of the Faculties sees the university as the ‘primary context wherein, through the education of the public in an approach to law that is grounded in reason, the drama of the evolution of the human race from a random collection of warring nations to a single, peacefully coexisting partnership of nations with radically conflicting ideas, would evolve’ (Stephen Palmquist in ‘The Philosopher as a “Secret Agent” for Peace: Taking Seriously Kant’s Revival of the “Old Question”’).7 Six, it would see how education is also the site for governance questions and governmental interventions; here questions of quality/excellence/relevance/employability feature prominently; whether education is a commodity or is a public good become important. We have discussed the distinction between education being a ‘private good’ and a ‘public good’. We have also asked: what is education for — for nurture; disciplining; instruction; development of judgment; moral training? Is it for the production of citizen subjects? Is it for the generation of self-knowledge? What is the philosophy of education that is at work in India now? What is its relevance frame: to self-knowledge, to the state and/ or to the market (the distinction between knowledge economy and knowledge society could come up as crucial over here)? What is the cost-benefit analysis of education; cost benefit from 6

Amartya Sen, The Idea of Justice, Harvard: Belknap Press, 2009, p. 112. Immanuel Kant, The Conflict of Faculties, London: University of Nebraska Press, 1992. 7

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the perspective of the service provider and the recipient/user? One has to relate the questions above, questions related to education to changing paradigms of governance as well: how does the question of ‘deregulation’ now feature in higher education? What is the role of private entrepreneurship and private philanthropy in higher education? How do they look at governance? Is autonomy becoming the defining metaphor for governance? In the process, is the whole question of governance getting reduced to the management and financing of higher education institutions? With respect to the governance question in the Indian context, does the question of developmental democracy become crucial? One then needs to ask: What is development? What is democratisation? What is developmental democracy in a neoliberal order? How does education feature in the neoliberal frame? What role does education have in setting up the neoliberal frame? While both are overdetermined, what is the specific philosophy of education and governance that is informing the contemporary? This takes us to a deeper question: What is knowledge? Should we understand it in terms of use-value? Should it be understood in terms of exchangevalue/‘labour power’; intellectual labour power that could then be commoditised? Or should we make an aesthetic argument? With the change in the justificatory principle the governance paradigm will also change — or perhaps both go hand in hand. Actually over the last 200 years the arguments for education and governance have gone through a series of shifts (U-turns at times) and has adjusted to the others in interesting ways. One has to track this non-linear chain of shifts and understand the governance education connection in the contemporary in terms of these shifts. The other point one needs to keep in mind is whether the space of higher education necessitates further disaggregation in terms of the distinction between on the one hand, natural science and technology spaces and on the other, social/human science spaces; are the questions different in these spaces. While natural science (with 20 per cent of the students) and technology spaces (with 7.5 per cent of the students) have largely catered to market-industry-security questions, social science spaces (with 45 per cent of the students) have contributed to planning-policydevelopment related questions. This also warrants a disaggregation of governance questions; one needs to see whether it is

338 — Anup Dhar Figure 8.1 The Education Conundrum Accountability






lb Self? Market? Society?


Self? Market? Society?

(a) state-centred or (b) corporate-centred; or whether it is nonstate, non-corporate in structure; and how such structures relate in turn to the teaching of natural or social science or technology. Also, as education is increasingly emerging as a resource-building process — resource-building in terms of converting humans to human resources (like the way nature is converted to natural resources — one needs to see how what was a human resource for the developmentalist state, is becoming human capital albeit with major displacements) in the neoliberal order. Governance frames are changing accordingly; or the change in governance frames is making possible the emergence of humans (as) capital (Figure 8.1).

Higher Education and Governance in India: Multiple Histories It is in terms of the history of multiple histories of higher education in India that this section attempts to arrive and understand the contemporary. This history has broadly three phases, each tied to concerns of governance. In the first phase it is the ‘civilising mission’ sponsored by the coloniser; in the second it is ‘state-sponsored development’; and in the third, that is post1989 (1989 being marked by the fall of the Soviet Union), it is the ‘democracy of the market’ and the ‘marketing of democracy’.

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Higher Education (HE) in India inherits the legacy of colonial legislation. In a 1797 paper on the need for the diffusion of Western knowledge in India, Charles Grant, an official of the East India Company, condemned the cultural practices of the Indians, arguing that only the propagation of Christianity would redeem them. Grant’s proposal was not implemented at the time because of the Company’s anxiety about tampering with the customs of its subjects. T. B. Macaulay’s Minute of 1835 and William Bentinck’s support of its recommendations caused a long-drawn-out controversy between those wanting the propagation of oriental education and those arguing for Anglicisation. From the 1830s on, the government instituted several enquiries into the practicability of introducing and strengthening vernacular-language education, but time and again these initiatives failed to take root because of the deep ambivalence of officials about the purpose and mode of instruction. It is evident that the present-day Indian education system’s inability to address the problem of regional language educational resources stems from this complicated history. Drawing from the educational concerns of Dalhousie, the GovernorGeneral of India from 1848 to 1856, the Education Despatch of 1854 stressed the necessity of imparting English education (‘the improved arts, sciences, and literature of Europe’) to the Indians; this would give the Indians access to the ‘moral and material blessings which flow from the general diffusion of useful knowledge’. The Despatch also emphasised the importance of vernacular languages in the diffusion of European knowledge. In 1857, affiliating universities were established in Madras, Calcutta, and Bombay on the model of the University of London, with a chancellor, vice-chancellor, and fellows. Interestingly, there was very little representation for teachers in this system of governance. New career opportunities, especially in the government, compelled students to opt for English-medium instruction, so that contrary to the recommendation of the Education Despatch of 1854, vernacular-language instruction was not easily available after middle school. The Indian Universities Act of 1905 appeared to consolidate the dominance of the British government in the field of higher education, and led to widespread disaffection amongst nationalists who had started many educational institutions of their own, and who now started a debate on what might be the content of a national education, including primary education.

340 — Anup Dhar

Clearly, in its first phase, the philosophy of education and governance had arrived from the west; they got planted on Indian soil; the ‘plant’ was alien to Indian ‘soil’; Indian soil was also alien to the plant; what emerged out of this process of implanting an alien order of things on native soil is worth exploring. Perhaps such exploration could give us a sense of the debates around crisis and rejuvenation of higher education in India. Post-Independence, India set out to develop an education system that is now massive (it is recognised by UNESCO as the second largest system in the world). This includes over 378 universities, including deemed universities, and about 18,064 colleges; with 4.92 lakh faculty members and 140 lakh students. The colleges, which were often much older, were increasingly drawn into a formal relationship of ‘affiliation’ with the universities, which were endowed with the authority to regulate teaching, set syllabi, conduct examinations, and give degrees. Although the affiliating system originated in England, it now survives only in South Asia. Elsewhere, varying degrees of autonomy for colleges has been necessitated by the enormous growth of the system. At present, universities sometimes have over a 100 affiliated colleges, which do the undergraduate teaching. The university usually does only post-graduate (PG) teaching, apart from carrying out its regulatory functions. Although the university departments are supposed to combine research and teaching, with some scattered exceptions they tend to concentrate on teaching (and supervising the research of PhD students) while the research institutes set up in the 1950s and after are supposed to concentrate solely on research. The major challenge for the HE sector lies in crafting initiatives so as to forge a vertical integration of the three ends of the HE spectrum: (i) the research institution, (ii) the university and (iii) the undergraduate (UG) college; what governance structures can make this possible is worth exploring. One of the challenges for the sector is that much of what is happening at the UG college level does not impinge in a bottom-up manner upon research or pedagogy in the university; and much of what happens in research institutions and in universities does not reach the UG college. Further, UG colleges are no more elite institutions that cater to a few but have transformed themselves into public institutions; the UG college is both a social space that marks the

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rites of passage for the youth and a space of both education and knowledge production; the demographic profile of an undergraduate classroom has also changed over the past few decades making colleges a microcosm of contemporary Indian society; they represent the heterogeneous reality of the Indian society. They also bear the brunt of the global and local demands on the institutions of higher education, contend with the dire effects of neglecting and underpaying teachers, demonstrate the impact of stagnation in curriculum, reflect the urban and rural divide in educational practices, and constitute the site where contests over knowledge, professional skills, access, cultural rights, and political mobilisation are periodically staged. The research institutions by and large are not concerned with teaching, and the universities — remaining for the most part outside the inter-disciplinary debates that animate research institutions — have not been able to equip themselves to deal with curriculum revision. The other problem is that disciplines, cocooned as they are, have not tried to speak with each other to think innovative initiatives; in the process, critical intradisciplinarity and inter-disciplinarity have both suffered. Post-Independence, the report of the University Commission (1948) headed by S. Radhakrishnan, proposed a distinction between facts (nature), events (society), and values (spirit) (which in turn would be the subject matter of the sciences, social sciences, and humanities respectively); and this tripartite division of the space of higher education generated what the Yashpal Committee Report, has called the ‘cubicalisation of knowledge’. The Radhakrishnan report set training for citizenship as the goal of education. Education was also supposed to include theoretical contemplation, aesthetic enjoyment, and practical activity. The disciplines fell into place along this tripartite division. This tripartite division and this model of disciplinary compartmentalisation have ruled the understanding of HE in India. Governance structures have catered to this division and have over the years got tuned to this division. With the shaking up of this division in the contemporary (‘inter-disciplinarity’ is the buzz word these days!), and with hitherto insulated spaces setting up linkages with the industry-market (as also social justice questions), how governance structures shall adjust to the change will have to be seen; at present we are struggling with

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an antiquated governance structure and an emerging/changing philosophy of higher education. However, Radhakrishnan’s emphasis on ‘general education for citizenship’ was soon replaced by an emphasis on education for the ‘development’ of the nation, especially through the inclusion of ‘science and technology’ or ‘area studies’, which in turn would provide key inputs for state policy. During the 1950s and the early 1960s in India, most of the key educational institutions and statutory bodies for regulating higher education were set up, as well as institutions meant for the identification and recognition of artistic practice. The University Grants Commission (UGC), an autonomous body to control higher education, was formed through an Act of Parliament in 1956. Developmental aid from the Soviet Union, the USA, and West Germany helped set up the first Indian Institutes of Technology, which were granted recognition as ‘institutions of national importance’ through the IITs Act of 1961. The first management institutions or business schools were set up in Ahmedabad and Calcutta in 1961. The setting up of these specialised institutions further reinforced the separation of skill-based learning from ‘general education’, that was already evident in the medical, architecture, and engineering colleges from colonial times. The Kothari Commission (1964) also emphasised the need for vocational courses at all levels, including that of higher education. This vocationalisation was intended to stem the inflow into arts courses, which were still based on the colonial model for creating lower-level government officials, and which thus attempted to provide only a broad ‘general education’. Even when there were revisions in education policies, as for example in the New Education Policy [NEP (1986)], the tripartite division of disciplines based on facts, events, and values found in the Radhakrishnan report did not change substantially. The NEP’s main recommendation was indeed once again vocationalisation, proposed as the antidote to the colonial emphasis on the liberal arts, which were supposed to equip graduates only for the civil services. Another aspect of the NEP relating to higher education was the recommendation to develop autonomous colleges and do away with the affiliating system [institutions that have become autonomous during the Tenth Five-Year plan: central universities (2), state universities (39), ‘deemed-to-be’ universities (50), and private universities (10)].

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Fifteen years after the NEP, and following on the heels of the Revised Programme for Action (1992) that endorsed the formulations of the NEP, the heads of two major industrial houses authored the Birla–Ambani report. The report renewed the plea for vocationalisation, but now in the context of a rapidly globalising economy: knowledge in this report came to be redefined as technical knowledge and managerial competence. The assertion was that ‘Education must shape adaptable, competitive workers’. The report declares that India must invest in ‘Upgrading education content, delivery and processes — we have to change from seeing education as a component of social development to treating it as a means of creating a new information society’. Here, however, we have a redefinition of vocationalisation to mean professionalisation in both its senses: focus on technical and managerial skills rather than on general education, and focus on ‘delivery of services’ rather than on exploring forms of knowledge. The Birla–Ambani Committee points to the need to evaluate the utility of current arts and science courses, and link them to employment opportunities. ‘Economic value’ is proposed as the measure rather than the ‘intrinsic merit’ of education. The concern with ‘useful knowledge’ — first expressed in the colonial period (the period of the ‘civilising mission’), then in the context of a developmentalist state, and now after the fall of the Soviet Union in the context of globalisation (presumably with different referents) — resurfaces in the current critiques of higher education. Also by the 1990s, we were witnessing a palpable sense of crisis in the developmental initiatives of the state. It was a crisis brought on by the large-scale transformations of the economypolity through structural adjustment programmes, as well as by sustained political critiques of the extant state (and its form of governance) by socially disadvantaged groups. The social and political crises were paralleled by disciplinary crises. While in areas such as English, literary studies, and history there was a re-thinking of the conceptual and methodological foundations of the disciplines; in some other instances, the disciplinary crisis manifested itself as an institutional crisis. A crisis in developmentalist institutions (often dominated by economists) leads to the imagination of ‘new structural specifics’ (in terms of new institutional designs). These non-conventional institutions

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(some of which were autonomous) usually had an activistacademic beginning — where one was redefining both activism and academics — where one was also critically working one’s way in relation to both (global) capital and the state (the state, too, was acquiring new functions in the post-General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) period). Started by a close well-knit group, collective research for most of these new institutions meant ‘applied research’; it was research with a certain amount of accountability to the public at large; there was also a desire to intervene at the level of policy. New institutions often went hand in hand with new thematic specifics (new fields of research and teaching), and new thematic specifics have at times necessitated the founding of new institutions. Interdisciplinarity and collaborative institutional work was the strong point of most of the new institutions. Post-1989 these new institutions have brought into the field of higher education knowledge and governance attitudes hitherto not common in research centres and universities; they were as if ‘living organisms’ (and not just brick and mortar structures), learning and unlearning, mutating and metamorphosing. These institutions have ushered in different/ new products (that is, new knowledge pools, cultural studies being one and migration, film, media, and women’s studies being others) and/or different/new methods of approaching knowledge production. These institutions offer a view of higher education beyond the mere narrative of decay and decline; they usher into the field of higher education, a different philosophy of research and education. We see in the university a series of significant new phenomena: the gender and caste composition of the student body is changing in the UG space, especially in regional universities; and with the changing student profile, social exclusion and social justice are emerging as issues. Elite students no longer enroll in the natural and social sciences, and the pattern of professional education as the most lucrative career option is only being reinforced. Non-elite students demand that the university still function as a source of accreditation. The linguistic problems caused by the discrepancy between the language of instruction and the social background of the students are growing. Simultaneously, one witnesses an emptying out of faculties, with social science and humanities teachers choosing to avail of new job opportunities abroad or new economy jobs in India.

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Higher education could thus be seen as standing at a strange crossroads — the crossroads of (a) a classical Humboldtian approach (the classical approach was however displaced by colonialism/‘the civilising mission’), (b) a reformed developmentalist approach (at times ‘top-down statist’, at other times even if rarely, ‘bottomup people-centric’) and (c) what could provisionally be called an efficiency approach (an approach modelled around global competition and productivity; and represented by the IT sector, and IIMs and business schools). Given the crossroads, which way will the field of higher education go now? What are the problems that afflict the sector? What are the solutions? What are the promises, if any? How is the government responding to these questions? What is its philosophy of education? What is the relation of such a philosophy of education to its philosophy of governance? Is the philosophy of governance subsuming the philosophy of education? Or are they mutually constitutive? It would not be out of context to look at the main recommendations of a seminar on the ‘Governance of Higher Education’8 1. The governmental control in the universities must be reduced, so that the university autonomy and accountability are strengthened and academic decisions are taken on merit. 2. New methods and procedures of financial regulations should be devised and direct interference of the finance department in the financial management of universities, which is counter-productive, should be stopped. 3. As the colleges are the feeding sources of the universities, a better coordination in their working and activities is very much required. The participation of the teaching faculty in a democratic process should be ensured. 4. Complete transparency should be maintained in the working of executive academic bodies and other governing councils of the universities. 5. Students’ involvement in the area of university/college governance should be encouraged. 6. Higher Education should be developed as an infrastructure for social and economic growth of the country. 8 Stephen Palmquist, ‘The Philosopher as a “Secret Agent” for Peace: Taking Seriously Kant’s Revival of the “Old Question”’, StephenPalmquist/Papers/862841.

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Within the recommendations lurks the philosophy of and necessity/justification for higher education in the contemporary world (see 6 earlier in the discussion) — higher education is to be seen as the infrastructure for social and economic growth; what, however, is meant by ‘social and economic growth’ is not specified; also social and economic growth are two completely different areas requiring a different set of interventions — one doesn’t lead to the other — and the convergences between the two are hard to imagine; for Karl Marx, on the one hand, a change of social circumstances was required to establish a proper system of education, and on the other hand, a proper system of education was required to bring about a change of social circumstances; Amartya Sen has stressed the difference between the two; also an argument in favour of economic growth shall take us in the direction of knowledge economy-related questions; and the an argument in favour of social growth shall take us in the direction of knowledge society-related questions; a knowledge economylike argument would look like this:9 India is undergoing rapid economic change with sustained high growth rates for more than a decade making skills increasingly scarce. This has brought about a substantial increase in demand for skilled labor. Despite significant improvements in the education system, it has not been able to achieve similar rapid pace of change as the national economy. As a consequence skilled labor is becoming scarce. Returns to education, in particular to Higher education, are rising. Labor costs are rising, eroding Indian competitiveness. Key growth sectors, such as the Business Processing Optimization (BPO) sector, other IT services and the manufacturing sector, are complaining about lack of qualified manpower. India’s main competitors in Asia — China, but also the newly industrialized economies (NIEs) including Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan — are increasingly investing in large and differentiated higher education systems. They are providing access to large numbers of students at the ‘community college’ level while at the same time building research-based universities that are able to compete at the top-level globally. India has significant advantages in building a large, high quality higher education system. It has a large higher education sector — the third largest in the world in student numbers after China and the 9

Educated Subjects  347 United States. It uses English as a primary language of higher education and research. It has a number of high quality institutions that can form the basis of a world-class higher education system. Nevertheless, the system only enrolled 9 million students in 2003/04 (equivalent to a 9–10 percent enrolment rate as estimated by the Ministry of Human Resource Development). This compares to with more than half of the young people in major developed countries and about 20 per cent in China. Similarly, the worldclass institutions in India that are known globally — mainly the IITs and the IIMs — are small, enrolling well under 1 per cent of the student population. The Government will take strong steps in the 11th Five Year plan to increase opportunities in Higher education, relieve skill shortages in the economy, and increase competitiveness. The goal for the 11th Five Year plan for 2007–2012 is an increase of five percent in the enrolment rate of higher education equivalent to the creation of approximately 8 million new seats in Indian higher and technical education. Some of the steps are: (i) establishment of a central autonomous university in each state, (ii) higher education institutions in each district of the countries, (iii) private institutions may be granted deemed university status, (iv) creation of more Inter-University Centers, and (v) funding of up to 150 new polytechnics autonomous colleges. Further, all institutions are asked to make higher education more inclusive, more responsive to economic needs, and raise quality. Therefore, the public and the government are likely to increase investment into higher education, and in return demand accelerated change in the higher education sector.

The report also emphasises the fact that ‘governance of the Indian Higher education sector is changing’. Like the Indian economy underwent a liberalising in the 1990s, the report suggests that the education system is gradually being opened up for decentralisation; there is a movement towards deregulation and discretionary privatisation. The nature of financing is also changing.10 The ratio of private share and public share in subsectors within higher education at present are: 10

See the ‘Report on Governance of Higher Education in India: How Best to Strike the Balance between Autonomy and Accountability’ prepared by the Development Unit (SASHD) of the World Bank, the Indo-US Collaboration on Engineering Education (IUCEE), the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), and Infosys.

348 — Anup Dhar Table 8.1: Ratio of Private and Public Share in Higher Education Sub-sectors Private Share Engineering Pharmacy Hotel Management Architecture MCA MBA Medicine

88 94 90 67 62 64 46

Public Share 12 6 10 33 38 36 54

The percentage of seats in private engineering colleges was 15 in 1960 whereas at present it is 86.4; the same for medicine was 6.8 in 1960 and is 40.9 at present; of the total number of seats in business schools 90 per cent are in private institutions. This de facto privatisation of higher education (which also comes with a different philosophy of higher education — of the 1,253 institutions of medicine set up by private entrepreneurs, only two are in public health!) is necessitating a governance frame different from the one that has hitherto been incumbent upon state institutions; and autonomy is emerging as the buzz word for governance (however, no one is specifying: autonomy from what — from state control or from public scrutiny?). The Yashpal Committee Report has also made a case for autonomy: Autonomy is arguably the lifeline of any institution that deals with education, creation of knowledge and learning of all kinds. Of equal importance however is the need for governance structures which ensure the preservation of such autonomy under all circumstances … Universities remain one of the most undermanaged organizations in our society. The governance structures are archaic and have not changed with changing environment to meet the expectations of its various stakeholders. While most other organizations in society have adapted themselves in terms of organizational design, mechanisms for conducting their business and motivating people, use of technology to bring effectiveness in operations etc., universities have not changed much. Hard rules that were framed for a past era still dominate rather than soft-processes and collegial consensus making. All of these have led to centralization of decision-making and low involvement of faculty and students in most policy decisions affecting academics. These may have been the direct outcomes of low autonomy as

Educated Subjects  349 well as low management skills amongst administrators at these institutions. There is an urgent need to improve governance by developing expertise in ‘educational management’ and avoid burdening good academics with administrative chores. One way to go about this is to encourage universities to start programmes in management of educational institutions. A separation between academic administration and overall management (including fund-raising) may be desirable. In this context it will be necessary for many state governments to abandon the trend of appointing of civil servants as university administrators. In general the Governance structure of centrally funded institutions, such as the Central Universities, IITs, NITs, IIITs, IISERs etc., are relatively more autonomous than the state funded institutions. Even among state institutions, National Law Universities enjoy high levels of autonomy as compared to other state universities. The governance structure and autonomy of the IIMs are one step ahead of the IITs, which — in turn — were beyond the traditional universities. This progression needs to be continued. … In academic matters, the teacher should have complete autonomy to frame her/his course and the way she/he would like to assess her/his students. This autonomy should also be available to the students who should be allowed to take courses of their choice in a relaxed manner from different universities and then be awarded a degree on the basis of the credits they have earned.

In order to achieve autonomy, Indian institutions of higher learning need to: (a) Be freed from control of both government and ‘for-profit’ private agencies in matters of not just academics but also finance and administration; (b) Collectively frame for themselves a transparent set of rules to guide their regular functioning and submit themselves to an internationally recognised process of evaluation; (c) Foster a culture of independent assertion of ideas, guarding of institutional prerogatives from external interference, transparency, and accountability for decisions taken. The Yashpal Committee Report also offers a roadmap for the ‘recovery of the idea of a university’; it avers that ‘the Indian higher education system, given the enormity of the challenges it is facing, needs a drastic overhaul’; the report ‘is therefore making

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definitive recommendations pertaining to the overall structure of the system of higher education in the country’. Interestingly, most of the recommendations are governance-related. It first makes a case for a ‘new regulatory framework’ — a holistic view of knowledge would demand a regulatory system, which treats the entire range of educational institutions in a holistic manner. All of higher education has to be treated as an integrated whole. Professional education cannot be detached from general education. It would be, therefore, imperative that all higher education, including engineering, medicine, agriculture, law, and distance education, is brought within the purview of a single, all-encompassing higher education authority…

Instead of multiple regulatory frameworks (presently there are 13 such professional councils created under various Acts of Parliament); all the more because ‘there is convergence of disciplines which were stand alone in the past’. It is, therefore, proposed that the academic functions of all these professional bodies, be subsumed under an apex body for Higher Education, to be called The National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) … The National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) would perform its regulatory function without interfering with academic freedom and institutional autonomy. It would not take recourse to inspectionbased approval method. From the current inspection-approval method, it would move to a verification and authentication system. As a matter of fact, we envisage universities and institutions to put out self-declarations mandatorily in the public domain for scrutiny. Universities are to be seen as self-regulatory bodies and the Commission is to be seen as a catalytic agency which is more interested in creating more and more space for the individuality of each university and protecting their autonomy.

The objectives of the NCHER have been enumerated as follows: 1. 2. 3.

Be responsible for comprehensive, holistic evolution of the HE sector; Strategise and steer the expansion of higher education; Ensure autonomy of the universities and shield them from interference by external agencies;

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4. Acts as a catalyst and also as a conduit to encourage joint/ cross-disciplinary programmes between and amongst universities and institutes; 5. Spearhead continuous reforms and renovation in the area of higher education; 6. Establish robust global connectivity and make it globally competitive while creating our own world-class standards; 7. Promote greater engagement and enhancing resources to state universities with an aim to bridge the divide between the state and central universities; 8. Ensure good governance, transparency, and quality in higher education; 9. Connect with industry and other economic sectors to promote innovations; 10. Devise mechanisms for social audit processes and public feedback on its performance and its achievements. From the 1797 paper by Charles Grant and the 1835 Minute of T.B. Macaulay to the Yashpal Committee Report on higher education, where have we arrived? What does this history of multiple histories tell us? Is there a fundamental, underlying, and unchanging unity in this apparently and purportedly changing frame? Is one idea of the university being taken forward, albeit resistances, from other cultures; and that other cultures (nonwestern ones in this case) are not getting themselves totally and wholly attuned to the (alien) idea. Which is why there are resistances; the implant is not taking root; and all sorts of measures are being taken to see to it that the idea gains ground in another soil. Also, are the resistances being addressed in terms of minor changes to a foundational frame? Are the changes merely surface changes; such that an original idea of the university is being retained? What does the Yashpal Committee Report mean by a roadmap for recovering ‘the idea of a university’? Which idea is being recovered? Why does it need recovering? What got lost that it needs recovering? The next three sections of this article shall take note of original/lost/recovered/displaced/changing ideas of education and governance in light of three moments in the history of our country: (i) developmentalism of the top-down statist kind, developmentalism marked by a certain capitalocentrism

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and orientalism, (ii) modified developmentalism of the bottomup kind, developmentalism marked by capabilities-functionings and (iii) globalisation in neoliberal conditions.

The Logic of Development Discourse: Capitalocentrism-Orientalism If in post-Independence India, it is the logic of development that has framed both the imaginations of higher education and governance, one can ask: what is the logic that has framed the development discourse? How has this logic fed into education and governance paradigms? Development in India can be understood as the dual register of ‘growth through a process of industrialisation’ (symbolising in turn the coming of modernity) and ‘poverty eradication/alleviation or need fulfillment’;11 While these are a set of activities the state tries to usher in, development at a deeper level is the transition of the ‘third world’ qua the traditional underdeveloped social into the developed modern, where the traditional and the modern are represented respectively by two homogeneous wholes: pre-capitalist and capitalist. Consequently, development in post-Independence India came to symbolise the transition of a pre-capitalist, premodern third world to modernity and capitalism. Two aspects in this development discourse help to flesh out the logic of development: these are orientalism and capitalocentrism. The capitalocentric-orientalist worldview has dominated the representation of the southern economies, producing in turn the notion of development that inhabits much of our understanding of the transition of these societies and drives the policies formed around that understanding. As we shall explain, the policies concerning education and governance are no exception to this trend. First, we have deployed for ourselves education and governance frames that were not of our own making (Tagore and Gandhi were aware of this problem and tried somewhat unsuccessfully to force their way beyond inherited frames of education and governance); second, we have deployed education for either the production of workforce for 11

N.V. Varghese, ‘Reforming Education Financing’, Seminar, 494, October 2000.

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‘growth through industrialisation’, the founding of the IITs and now ITs-IIMs being a case in point, or we have deployed it for social justice-related ends, where education is seen as a conduit to the basic need-fulfillment of an impoverished and backward third world mass.

Orientalism and the Presumed Backwardness of the Third World Orientalism is a style of thought based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction made between ‘the Orient’ and (most of the time) ‘the Occident’. Orientalism is … a collective notion identifying ‘us’ Europeans against all ‘those’ non-Europeans … the idea of European identity as a superior one in comparison with all the [backwardness of] non-European peoples and cultures. Orientalism … as the corporate institution for dealing with the Orient … Orientalism as a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient.12

For Said, orientalism is a ‘style of thought’ and also a ‘corporate institution’ that, on the one hand, has to claim universality for the occident, that is to say, the occident cannot be restricted by time, space, or other cultures or traditions (in other words, one has to de-occidentalise the occident and hypothesise the universal — a universal that in turn occidentalises the orient —occidentalises the orient in terms of a ‘shared telos’ and a ‘shared worldview’). On the other hand, orientalism has to, at the same time, retain the exclusivity and particularity of the occident — an exclusivity and particularity retained through a positing of the occident as an advanced order of things in the shared telos, as a step or two higher in the ladder of linear history.13 Taking off from such a posited universal, the occident first transforms the orient into an image (albeit lacking) of itself and then shows that the orient is the same as the occident, but not quite. Thus, orientalism is that which at the same time produces sameness and also a 12

A. Chakrabarti and A. Dhar, Rethinking Dislocation and Development: From Third World to World of the Third, Routledge: London and New York. 13 Edward. W. Said, Orientalism, Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, (1978) 1985.

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certain difference and distinction between the occident and the orient; on the one hand, it homogenises and, on the other, it hierarchises the occident and the orient. Based on the ‘Orient’s special place in European Western experience’,14 orientalism is ‘a way of coming to terms with the orient,’ coming to terms with the orient in terms of occidental categories, where the ‘orient’ is also one of the ‘deepest and most recurring’ images of the ‘other’. The orient as a European invention — invention in terms of extant European categories; the orient that has thus helped to define Europe (and the west) as its same but contrasting image; the orient as an integral part of European material civilisation, culture, and self-description/definition. At a more mundane level, orientalism is a mode of discourse with supporting institutions, vocabulary, scholarship, imagery, doctrines, even colonial bureaucracies and colonial styles. Thus a very large mass of writers, among whom are poets, novelists, philosophers, political theorists, economists, and anthropologists ‘have accepted the basic distinction between East and West as the starting point for elaborating theories, epics, novels, social descriptions, and political accounts concerning the Orient, its people, customs, “mind”, destiny, and so on’.15 Historically, orientalism is a process of producing both the west and its other. It followed the newfound confidence that Europe started gaining with the coming of the renaissance, reformation, and also modernity. Europe, until then a sad little promontory of Asia, until then a composite of disparate geographical spaces, was rediscovering itself as a ‘modern unified being’; its trading requirement, desire to export Christian values (in a word to ‘Christianise the pagan’),16 and a penchant for discovery led it to explore other geographical spaces, and also the (conceptual) space of the other. Thus began a long journey of constructing the west as a historical, not a geographical, construct. Taken in its historical dimension, the globe is a sphere in rotation — there is no west and no east to the globe. West and east are historical constructions imputed, and imparted, to a geo-sphere in uninterrupted rotation. 14

Vivek Dhareshwar, ‘The Trial of Pagans’ in Cultural Dynamics, 8 (2), July, London, Thousand Oaks, CA, and New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1996, pp. 119–35. 15 Said, Orientalism. 16 Ibid.

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Through such a discourse, a space came to be constituted as the other of the Western/modern. The formation of the other is fundamentally not what the space of the other was all about, but what the other was all about to the Western/modern. The other thereafter came to be defined as fundamentally/foundationally lacking; the set of images that colonised the produced knowledge of the other, evacuated the otherwise concrete differences and also the contradictory moments within that space. Following Said and Chaudhury,17 we understand this dualism à la orientalism as an impulse not necessarily rooted in white Western Europe; the brown/black/yellow could be orientalist too. Beyond the boundary of continents and nations, beyond boundaries of identity/colour, orientalism has evolved into a dualistic perspective in which one aspect of the whole is presented as inferior in order to posit the superiority of the other aspect. It would not be inappropriate to end this section with a quote from Michael Foucault — a quote that represents the culpability and remorse of a ‘European pagan thinker’:18 Among all the societies in history, ours — I mean those that came into being at the end of Antiquity on the Western side of the European continent — have … alone evolved a strange technology of power treating the vast majority of men as a flock with a few as shepherds.19

Indeed, one of the important insights we want to bring to light is how a difference bordering on discrimination between the ‘flock’ and the ‘shepherds of development’ emerged to determine the contours of both education and governance; also, education was a means to generate an orientalist mindset; where the educated saw themselves as third worldish and saw education as a means to overcome such third worldism. Governance frames in post-Independence India were geared to overcoming third worldism and education provided both the subjects and objects of such governance frames. Even in the contemporary world, the 17

Dhareshwar, ‘The Trial of Pagans’. Said, Orientalism and Ajit Chaudhury, ‘On Colonial Hegemony: Toward a Critique of Brown Orientalism’, in Rethinking Marxism, 7 (4), 1994. 19 M. Foucault, ‘Politics and Reason, in Laurence D. Kritzman (ed.) Michel Foucault: Politics, Philosophy and Culture, London: Routledge, 1988. 18

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buzz around higher education is about catching up with the west and that too, catching up in terms set by the west; as ‘lacking others’ we have to become like the west; we have to model our educational and governance frames in line and in tune with models already in place in the west.

Capitalocentrism: The Centricity of Capital If orientalism is a description of the southern social from the perspective of the modern west, capitalocentrism is a representation of the southern economy from the perspective of capital. Capitalocentrism posits the economic in terms of the dual template (‘capitalist’ versus ‘non-capitalist’) that is in turn premised on the assumed centricity of capitalism.20 Thus, like orientalism, capitalocentrism too telescopes the logic of one, here of capitalism. In terms of our analysis, what are not capitalist modes-of-being, no matter how diverse these are clubbed into a homogeneous category ‘non-capitalist,’ and then the noncapitalist economy is defined in relation to another homogenised whole, capitalism or its representative form of capital. Capitalism becomes a centre, an essence or a nodal reference point in terms of which non-capitalism is conceived, discussed, and policed (by a set of policies). What gets erased in the process are the multifaceted, non-capitalist modes-of-being and the diverse possibilities they may reveal. J.K. Gibson-Graham sums up the generic problem with such representations of capitalism as: Its (capitalism [emphasis ours]) definitions and operations are independent of articulatory practices and discursive fixings; it can therefore be seen as ‘an abstraction with concrete effects’ rather than as a discursive moment that is relationally defined … it exists outside overdetermination.21

Once such a capitalocentric definition of the economy (and of social life) is put in place, it is commonplace to find educationists using terms such as employability, efficiency, productivity, competition, profit, market etc. that in turn emerge as aspirational common sense. In the process, capitalocentrism 20

J. K. Gibson-Graham, The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It): A Feminist Critique of Political Economy, Oxford: Blackwell, 1996. 21 Ibid., p. 36.

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along with orientalism emerge as the hallmark of our approach to education and governance; both education and governance get geared to a frame that overvalues both the west and capital. The unilateral focus on capitalist growth, however, has started to shift since the late 1960s and, by the 1990s, poverty management has come to occupy a permanent place in development discourse. Development discourse now encapsulates two somewhat opposing yet related theses: growth through capitalism-induced industrialisation that is aggressive and ruthless and poverty management that is benevolent and tied to the need-fulfilment of poor third world victims. Educational initiatives in post-Independence India had come to imbibe these two somewhat opposing yet related theses: on the one hand, there was a focus on professional education, competition, quality-excellence, and campus uptake in elite urban centres (akin to touching the capitalocentric ideal) and on the other, social justice measures in liberal education through reservation of seats for the disadvantaged in non-metropolitan spaces (akin to poverty management). It is in this sense that education in India has been driven by the dualism of development discourse. The other more mundane use of the space of education has, of course, been to generate bureaucrats for the Indian Administrative/Foreign/Police Services that in turn took care of governance questions for the developmentalist state; thus education was for producing governors; at the same time it was a conduit and site for larger governance questions (say social justice initiatives); and at a more subtle level, education was itself governance — it produced subjects tuned to the capitalocentricorientalist logic.

Education and Governance in terms of Capabilities–Functionings A camel may not have the speed of a horse, but it is a very useful and harmonious animal — well coordinated to travel long distances without food and water. Amartya Sen

Karl Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Programme (written between April and early May, 1875 and which was first published in the

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journal Die Neue Zeit in the year 1890–91) addresses the question of the production and fair distribution of social goods (like education).22 It is in this text that Marx makes a plea to rethink the issue of surplus distribution. Among other forms of distribution of surplus, Marx mentions: (1) the general costs of administration not belonging to production (Marx thus makes a case for distribution that is not exclusively geared to production; and this could be a crucial learning in the context of understandings of education in the contemporary when the whole process seems to get geared to a logic of production and exchange, exchange of use-values the processes of production generates); (2) that which is intended for the common satisfaction of needs, such as schools, health services, etc. (for Marx, from the outset, this part grows considerably in comparison with present-day society, and it grows in proportion as the new society develops; and education comes under a common set of [basic] needs that need to be fulfilled; why it needs to be fulfilled is of course another question — it could be fulfilled because it needs to be fulfilled — where education is an end-in-itself; it could be fulfilled because it would usher in structural change [expand development and deepen democracy] and/or subjective change [empower the marginalised and ensure entitlements]); and (3) funds for those unable to work, etc., in short, for what is included under the so-called official poor relief or poverty eradication programme today.23 Amartya Sen, who is no less committed to distribution, has pointed to the putting aside of Marx’s emphasis on the relation of distribution with the question of need.24 In this context, Sen retorts: … while exploitation has played an important part in Marxian economics, it would be a mistake to think that deserts (roughly the created wealth) took priority over needs in the Marxian analysis of distribution, or that Marx was not clear on the distinction. In fact, he made the distinction very sharply and accepted the ultimate superiority of the needs principle.25 22

Karl Marx, ‘The Critique of the Gotha Programme’, in D. McLennan (ed.), Marx: Selected Writings, New York: Oxford University Press, 1977. 23 Ibid., p. 17. 24 Amartya Sen, Inequality Re-examined, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1997, pp. 87–89. 25 Ibid.

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Sen takes off from Marx’s understanding of distribution and need and turns social choice theory into what he referred to as the capability’s approach.26 In the process, Sen ushers in a near-paradigmatic break in the thinking of the social (and in the process the way we think of education); he also generates an understanding of development different from the capitalocentricorientalist one. It is in this context that Sen shows how utilitarianism has hitherto shaped welfare economics.27 ‘Bentham had pioneered the use of utilitarian calculus to obtain judgments about the social interest by aggregating the personal interests of the different individuals in the form of their respective utilities. [However, by] the 1930s the utilitarian welfare economics came under severe fire.’28

John Rawls had taken the critique forward by putting to question the utilitarian neglect of distributional issues and its concentration on utility sum-totals in a distribution-blind way.29 Rawls’s ‘two principles of justice’ characterise the need for equality in terms of — what he has called — ‘primary social goods’. These are ‘things every rational man is presumed to want’ including ‘rights, liberties and opportunities, income and wealth, and the social bases of self-respect’. Rawls’s fundamental principle is that of individual rights over primary goods that they are assumed to need: ‘each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with a similar liberty for others’. For Rawls, ‘injustice ... is simply inequalities that are not to the benefit of all’.30 According to him, if individuals are rational and risk-averse, they will choose only two principles of justice among many available.31 The first principle is the ‘liberty principle’ that calls for individuals having the right to basic liberty; which includes political liberty, freedom of speech, thought and assembly, liberty of conscience, freedom to hold 26

Ibid. Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. 28 Ibid., p. 352; John Rawls, A Theory of Justice. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1971. 29 Sen, Development as Freedom, p. 358. 30 Rawls, A Theory of Justice, p. 62. 31 Ibid., pp. 60–65. 27

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private property, freedom from unrest and seizes, and freedom to live within a rule of law. The second is the ‘difference principle’, which applies to the distribution of wealth and income as also to the structure of social organisation premised on a chain of command. Rawls himself privileges the first principle over the second; though for distributional concerns the ‘difference principle’ acquired importance and became the subject of an intense debate. The main object of distribution is in terms of social primary goods that individuals are in need of. Primary goods are of two types: natural primary goods, which are affected by social institutions but not provided by them (vigour, health, intelligence, etc.) and social primary goods (education, income and wealth, power, rights, etc.), which are distributed by social institutions. Rawls’ justice principle called for articulating principles that would provide people the best possible access to primary goods through social institutions. For Rawls, the starting point is the hypothetical situation of equal distribution of social primary goods to all the citizens. This provides a benchmark to measure the value of equality/inequality. Inequalities will be accommodated as long as it allows for superior distribution of primary goods to the worst off in society in a scenario where individuals are free to move from one position to another by virtue of equal opportunity. Thus, even if breeding inequality, the difference principle by virtue of facilitating the worseoff by enabling them access to primary goods that they need is adjudged as fair. Later, Rawls’s primary goods approach was further displaced (perhaps extended also) towards a resourcebased distributional theory by Ronald Dworkin and John Roemer. The principle of ‘facilitating the worse-off by enabling them access’ to education and creating governance conditions (reservation of seats for the socially disadvantaged) for such access has been informing the Indian state’s social justice initiatives for some time. In this context, Sen,32 based on an ‘internalist evaluative inquiry’, ‘sees persons from ... different perspectives’ through the invocation of the conceptual space of well-being and agency (neither of which can subsume the other), functionings and 32

Amartya Sen, ‘Well-being, Agency and Freedom’, The Dewey Lectures, 1984 in Journal of Philosophy, 82 (4), 1985a; Sen, ‘Capability and Well-Being’, in A. Sen and M. Nussbaum, The Quality of Life, Oxford University Press, 1993.

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capabilities, and freedom as against the ‘commodity approach’ (an approach circumscribed by a certain ‘commodity fetishism’ to use Marx’s term; an approach that overemphasises goods and neglects people), the ‘utilitarian approach’ (an approach that overemphasises people’s mental states and neglects other aspects of their well-being) and the ‘Basic Needs Approach’.33 According to Sen,34 at any time, a person is endowed with a combination of ‘doings or beings’ that is named as functioning. Well-being is conceptualised as the quality of the person’s living. Living is constitutive of a space of inter-related functionings that people value in doing or as being. If living is constituted by functionings, then capability captures the freedom enjoyed by a person so as to achieve well-being. More specifically, capability captures a person’s freedom to enjoy one type of living over another represented by alternative combinations of functionings (of doings and beings). The actual freedom enjoyed by a person is then represented by the person’s capability to make a choice among different ways of living, that is, different combinations of doings and beings or functionings. Of this possible menu of living, a person’s achieved state of living is a chosen combination of functionings. Clearly, in Sen’s framework, a person would enjoy greater freedom if she were capable of choosing a greater range of different ways of living that she values. As we understand, Sen would define ‘development as freedom’ in the form of an expansion of the ‘capability’ of citizens to choose from a greater number of available combinations of functionings. We achieve greater development with greater freedom and reduced development if freedom is curtailed, in which case we encounter ‘capability truncation’ or worse ‘capability deprivation’ qua poverty. In this context, justice qua equality would be achieved if members have equal capability to achieve functionings. It is perfectly feasible to imagine a society in which everybody is poor and yet the poor members have equal capability to achieve functionings. This implies that justice a la equality and justice a la poverty eradication are not the same, a point we believe Sen had recognised in his studies on poverty and inequality. 33

Sen, ‘Well-being, Agency and Freedom’, pp. 169–221. Ibid.; Amartya Sen, Commodities and Capabilities. Amsterdam: NorthHolland, 1993; Sen, ‘Capability and Well-Being’ (1985, 1993).


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Following his capability framework, Sen makes a sharp difference between ends and means in order to differentiate between his theory of distribution and other theories of distribution.35 He points out that the criteria underlying the definition of ‘development theory-practice’ must be particular ends and not necessarily the means; for example, the commodity approach’s good idea goes bad, insofar as mere means are transformed into ends. Instead of focusing on what goods (or resources) ‘can do for people, or rather, what people can do with these goods and services’, the commodity approach often collapses into a valuation of goods themselves as intrinsically good. For Sen, a concept of well-being that focuses on goods rather than on persons neglects the ‘variable conversion’ of goods into valuable human functionings and capabilities; that is, what the person succeeds in doing with the commodities. The ethical and political connotation of distribution lies in the connection of the perceived virtues of distribution to the needs of society that, in Sen’s approach, unlike most of the other discourses, cannot be simply rooted in income or commodities or goods. Sen critiques three particular types of equality: (1) utilitarian equality, (2) total utility equality and (3) Rawlsian equality to arrive at the ‘basic capability equality ... as extension of the Rawlsian approach in a non-fetishist direction’ keeping intact the culture-dependent nature of Rawlsian equality. ‘The main departure is in focusing on a magnitude different from utility as well as the primary goods approach’.36 Of the three approaches: (1) the objectivism of the commodity approach, (2) the subjectivism of the utilitarian approach, and (3) the basic needs approach, Sen positions himself strongly against the first two and lovingly against the third to offer a fourth approach that could perhaps be represented as (4) the capabilities approach. The fourth (that is, Sen’s approach) definitely puts into question the first two approaches and extends the third in philosophically informed directions. For Sen, ‘“Needs” is a more passive concept than “capability”, and it is arguable that the perspective of positive freedom links naturally 35

Amartya Sen, ‘Justice: Means versus Freedom’, Philosophy and Public Affairs, 19 (2), 1990, p. 85. 36 Amartya Sen, ‘Utilitarianism and Welfarism’, Journal of Philosophy 76 (9), 1979.

Educated Subjects  363 with capabilities (what can the person do?) rather than the fulfillment of their needs (what can be done for the person? [somewhat like what the World Bank can do for the third world woman/poor victim]’.37

Thus, in summary, for Sen, commodities, ‘even Rawlsian social primary goods, are necessary but insufficient either for positive freedom or for human flourishing. Utility at best captures part of the good life but at worst justifies severe deprivation and inequality. A basic human need approach is concerned that development benefits human beings in ways that go beyond the subjective preferences and satisfy certain fundamental needs. This perspective, however, either falls back on commodities or utilities’38

Hence Sen offers the normative foundations of a new paradigm for development — the capability ethic. Sen’s foundationalism, however, is not premised on some metaphysics of (human) nature; it is not an ‘externalist’ account of a transhistorical human essence; it is not ‘scientific realism’; it is ‘not a knock-down proof of something from some fixed area of external fact’; it is not a God’s eye view of the way human beings are. It is ‘an “internalist” foundationalism that aims to surmount the dichotomy of absolutism and relativism’ of objectivism and subjectivism.39 (Sen has argued for ‘positional objectivity’ in The Idea of Justice — seen from a camel’s position and perspective, than from that of a horse, the philosophy of and need for education looks different).40 Sen’s approach can have major consequences for an understanding of both education and governance; all the more because Sen takes us beyond the ‘objectivism of the commodity approach’ (education is a commodity — buy it — sell it — it comes with a price; education is for employability; measure the use-value of 37

Amartya Sen, Resources, Values and Development, Oxford: Blackwell, 1984, p. 514. 38 D. Crocker, ‘Functioning and Capability: The Foundations of Sen’s and Nussbaum’s Development Ethic’, Political Theory, 20 (4), 1992, p. 607. 39 Ibid., p. 588. 40 Sen, The Idea of Justice, pp. 155–73.

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education against exchange-value; assess a person’s advantage in terms of his or her income, wealth or resource), the ‘subjectivism of the utilitarian approach’ (individual happiness or pleasure or some other interpretation of individual ‘utility’ is a way to assess how advantaged a person is and how that compares with the advantage of others) and the do-goodism of the basic needs approach (educational is a need — ‘what is to be done’ to fulfill the educational needs of the marginalised rather than what the marginalised can do with education?); the ‘utilitarian’ tradition, which works towards beating every valuable thing down to some kind of an allegedly homogeneous magnitude of ‘utility’ is problematic for Sen; also problematic is the growth-centred (that is, capitalocentric) model of development; in the process, he takes us beyond the GNP/GDP-driven understanding of (national) growth; this in turn takes us beyond the given imagination of (higher) education, an imagination reduced to providing human resource or manpower for such growth (the human resource or manpower argument dominates much of the justification principles for state-attention to higher education at a time when China is resurgent!); education for Sen is thus neither ‘utilitybased’ nor ‘resource-based’ — instead it is capability-based; and this could be one interesting way of looking at education where individual advantage emanating from education is judged by a person’s capability to do things he or she has reason to value. The focus here is on the freedom a person actually has to do this or be that, things that he or she may value doing or being; in the process, one could also think about what governance paradigms could be commensurate with such an understanding of education; would existing governance frames be rendered redundant? Would we need altogether different governance imaginations, imaginations commensurate with the widening and deepening of capabilities-functionings, such that governance does not remain governance in an earlier sense? However, all the interesting possibilities (around education and governance) that the capabilities approach could have opened up soon got marginalised by the force of globalisation under neoliberal conditions; and both the idea of education and governance got redefined by neoliberalism.

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Neoliberalism, Governance and Education: Changing Paradigms? This section deals with the space of education and governance in its connection with neoliberalism. To see the connection one has to first understand what neoliberalism is; and then see what effects it has on the philosophy of education and governance. Tracing the evolution of the Anglo-American form of neoliberalism (as described by Foucault,41 and expanded upon by the governmentality school),42 we find the best explication of neoliberalism in the political rationale for the governance of social life; and education plays and will have to play a major role in such governance. This is, in fact, a political rationale for regulating the behaviour of individuals and institutions, including the state. Such a political rationality works towards representing the entire social domain as economic by creating an entrepreneurial society modelled on competitive market principles. Instead of governing through direct interventions in the economy, the role of the state is to ‘conduct the conduct’ of actors, social and individual, and in the process create and secure conditions to facilitate an 41

Michel Foucault, ‘Afterword: The Subject and Power’, in H. L. Dreyfus and P. Rainbow, Michael Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics, Chicago: University of Chicago, 1983; Foucault, ‘Governmentality’ (lecture at the Collège de France, 1 February), in Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon, and Peter Miller (eds.), The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality, Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, (1978) 1991; Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the College de France 1978–79, Graham Burchell (trans.), Basingstoke, Hants: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008. 42 G. Burchell, C. Gordon, and P. Miller (eds), The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality, Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991; P. Miller and N. Rose, ‘Governing Economic Life’, Economy and Society, 19 (1), 1990, pp. 1–31; N. Rose, ‘Government, Authority and Expertise in Advanced Liberalism’, Economy and Society, 22 (3), 1993, pp. 283–99; N. Rose, ‘Inventiveness in Politics’, Economy and Society, 28 (3), 1999, pp. 467–93; B. Hindess, Liberalism, Socialism and Democracy: Variations on a Governmental Theme’, Economy and Society 22 (3), 1993, pp. 300–13; Hindess, ‘Politics and Governmentality’, Economy and Society 26 (2), 1997, pp. 257–72; Thomas Lemke, ‘“The Birth of Bio-Politics”: Michel Foucault’s Lecture at the Collège de France on NeoLiberal Governmentality’, Economy and Society, 30 (2), 2001, pp. 190–207; Lemke, ‘Foucault, Governmentality, and Critique’, Rethinking Marxism, 14 (3), 2002.

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entrepreneurial society that fulfils the objective of maximum growth. Foucault relates the uniqueness of neoliberalism to the exercise of ‘political power modelled on the principles of market economy’:43 The thrust of neoliberalism has been its critical reflection on governmental practice; it professes a formula based on the principle ‘one always governs too much’.44 Neoliberalism thus puts to question an idea of the political grounded on the sovereign qua the state; because the dominant rationality of the state was governance-for-itself, its legitimacy and strength lay in its own expansion; the state was thus inclined to maximise spaces and populations; and the state’s essential technology of power over populations remained sovereign-driven; the state’s domain and object of policing was infinite. It is in relation to the state that we locate the point of departure from previous rationality and manner of governance. Under neoliberalism, this rationality is turned on its head by virtue of a change in the object of governance, namely society. This shift becomes meaningful against the backdrop of the questions: ‘Why must one govern? …What makes government necessary, and what ends must it pursue with regard to society in order to justify its own existence?’45 Under neoliberalism, the state exists to govern for society and not for itself. This changes the basic premise of the existence of the state: is state intervention required for society? ‘Society’ is the self-limiting principle that determines the necessity of the state. Rather than considering the efficiency and optimality of state intervention, the central issue is whether it is necessary and hence legitimate at all for the state to intervene in society. The driven goal of the state — the ‘good’ of society indicated by economic growth and welfare of individuals — introduces two new dimensions in the art of governmentality: self-regulation of governmental practice and a self-critical approach towards governmental practice (driven by the question of whether the state is governing too much). Under neoliberalism, this shift in the idea of the governmental practice of the state becomes a general formula for governance; and questions worth exploring 43

Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics. Ibid., pp. 318–19. 45 Ibid., p. 319. 44

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in this context would be: what happens to the idea of education in the light of this ‘general formula’? What happens to the education–governance relation; do they go hand in hand; or is a fundamental contradiction instituted by the shift in governance frames? What role does education play in the perpetuation of this general formula?

Governance for Society: The Importance of Competition Two aspects stand out in neoliberalism. First, neoliberalism is about the political being modelled on market principles and second, the state governs not for itself but for society. What then is the link between society and the market principle? What does it mean to say that the political is modelled for the market? What is the market? Which market are we talking of? What is the nature of this market? Is it different from all previous forms of the market? The linkage is relevant because neoliberalism is a ‘political rationality that tries to render the social domain economic’,46 economic in the sense of being modelled on market principles (and by extension on exchange and consumption principles of a certain kind). This requires a state (and a general formula for governance) whose nature of intervention is vastly different from those in earlier historical epochs. Neoliberalism is distinct (even from liberalism) not because it privileges commodity exchange between equals (the naturalism of laissez faire); its uniqueness resides instead in (i) considering competition (which is a ‘formal game’ between unequals) to be the essence of market functioning and (ii) the regulation of the choice-action of agents by a competitive market regime. The choices made by institutions and individuals are marked by competition (whose formal structure is only put in place by the state). Humans govern themselves and others by responding to a competitive market regime. That makes the regulation of individual and institutional behaviour social rather than state-determined, explaining in the process the emphasis of neoliberalism on voluntary disclosure and a movement away from top-down regulation/control (the obsession with the given good of autonomy in higher education governance can also be 46

Lemke, ‘The Birth of Bio-Politics’; ‘Foucault, Governmentality, and Critique’.

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understood in the light of the above). Rather than intervening within the market, the task of the state is to intervene with respect to those conditions of existence that allow the market indexed to competition to flourish in a manner satisfying the privileged social policy: economic growth.47 Moreover, notwithstanding the formal structure of competition, one should be required to acknowledge, in historical time, its fragility, which necessitates a permanent state of vigilance.48 Noteworthy is the point that while governance of society through the market transpires without direct state-intervention in the market, the state creates the condition (and it creates it through education) under which the autonomous individuals conduct themselves. The state keeps a distance away from the choices of institutions and individuals, away from the way they conduct themselves directly with reference to a competitive market economy, and yet by intervening at the level of conditions of existence of a competitive market economy in whose terms governance would happen, it ‘conducts the conduct’ of institutions and individuals. In a society subjected to competition, the individuals need to wear the spirit of competition on their sleeves long before they appear in the market (and how could this be made possible; it is our contention that education is one of the important avenues through which this is made possible; in that sense it is not just about governance in and of higher education sectors and institutions; it is about education producing the governed; it is about education producing governance conditions; it is about structuring the possible field of action of others). Their assessment of performance, their modes of choice and action, their very manner of organising life is regulated by the need to be competitive. However, who is this competitive man? What are his characteristics? What can make the production of this subject possible — what else but higher education?

Homo Economicus as Entrepreneur In the neoliberal frame, homo economicus is not fundamentally a person involved in exchange but an entrepreneur — an entrepreneur of oneself with exchange value.49 He can rationally choose 47

Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics, p. 144. Ibid., pp. 131–32. 49 Ibid., pp. 215–88. 48

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(deploying cost-benefit analysis to allocate scant resources that satisfies self-defined objectives), he can create and innovate; he is the organiser of his life. He is an ability-machine who is an ‘entrepreneur of himself, being for himself his own capital, being for himself his own producer, being for himself the source of (his) earnings.’50 Nowhere is this phenomenon better exemplified than in the representation of labour power through the theory of ‘human capital’ — where the human is itself capital — where capital is embodied not in goods and services but in the human itself; such that labour power of individual humans does not just generate capital — the human is itself capital begetting capital. The displacement of the discourse of slavery to human capital is an interesting one; in slavery one was sold off; in the discourse of human capital one sells oneself — at what rate depends on how well one engages with the competitive market regime; and how does one become saleable? Perhaps through education and education then in turn has to create conditions for the production of saleable selves. Human capital is the individual’s capacity to be an abilitymachine, which can generate income in order to be, in turn, remunerated by income. The greater the capacity of this abilitymachine, the higher will be his/her productivity, the more income he/she generates for society and for himself/herself; how then he/she produces this capacity, shapes and utilises it constitutes his/her domain of self-governance. The capacity of the ability-machine or human capital could depend upon a host of factors including natural factors (like genetics) and mobility/ migration but the factor that has been emphasised is investment in generating skills (investments for this purpose include the aspect of nutrition, parenting, education, professional training, and so on); the emphasis on generation of skills gives to the philosophy of higher education a particular spin and institutions and governance structures seem to get increasingly geared to such serve such a philosophy.51 Notwithstanding the varied factors, the development of the ability machine has the effect of creating and cultivating conditions of innovation, of entrepreneurship that finds 50

Ibid., p. 226. T. W. Schultz, ‘Capital Formation by Education’, Journal of Political Economy, 68, 1960, pp. 571–86; Schultz, ‘Investment in Human Capital’, American Economic Review, 51, 1961, pp. 1–17; Schultz, ‘Reflections on Investment in Man’, Journal of Political Economy, 70 (5), 1962, pp. 1–8.


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its route in higher productivity, technological development, and higher income: in this model, the wage labourers are no longer the employees depended on a company, but are autonomous entrepreneurs with full responsibility for their own investment decisions and endeavouring to produce surplus value; they are the entrepreneurs of themselves.52 Guided by cost-benefit calculations between leisure and labour (not necessarily seen as inimical), a wage is seen by workers as a return to capital personified by their ability, skill, and knowledge.53 Consequently, since the state governs for society whose ‘good’ is identified through economic growth and welfare of individuals, the appropriate policy and practice of the state is to create conditions for the individuals to produce, transform, and enhance their capacity to be the ability-machines. That is, the state’s policy should be geared to produce, augment, and spread the scope of human capital across sectors of society; the newfound obsession with higher education is a result of this shift in state policy; the crisis in higher education is a crisis instituted by this shift in policy; one, therefore, needs a two-prong diagnosis of the crisis. On the one hand, the crisis is because an original European/western idea did not or could not find root in an alien culture — in the sense, the crisis is permanent — and the way out of the crisis is perhaps not in finally realising the hitherto elusive fit between an idea and an alien culture, but in looking for ‘other ideas’ or ‘ideas elsewhere’ (say in Tagore or in Gandhi and why not, among the Greeks perhaps); on the other hand, the crisis is temporary (temporariness however does not discount the seriousness of the crisis). The crisis is contingent upon (and is due to) shifts in idea, worldview, policy, material conditions etc. and this requires a different engagement with the question of crisis; tectonic plates keep shifting and it is in terms of such shifts as also in terms of unshifting continuities that one has to understand education-governance relations.

Homo Economicus and State: Partners in Governmentality ‘Homo economicus now becomes a correlate of a governmentality which will act on the environment and systematically modify its 52

Lemke, ‘The Birth of Bio-Politics’, p. 199. G. Becker, The Economic Approach to Human Behaviour, Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1973.


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variables’ — says Foucault.54 Homo economicus, somewhat paradoxically, becomes a partner of the state in governmentality. Rather than seeing homo economicus as imbued with a pre-given understanding of human nature as was the case with earlier forms of liberalism, in neoliberalism homo economicus as an ability machine has to be cultured-cultivated; and this gives a definitive spin to the idea, role, and relevance of higher education in today’s world; this also explains the growing interest and increasing expenditure in higher education. The neoliberal disposition towards governance is telescoped in the rationality ‘limited governance is good governance’. Producing what Foucault called a ‘mentality of governance’, it thus marked a shift in the idiom of governance from its sovereign character (the policemen mentality) that treats humans (and nature too) as docile bodies as also from its constructionist character (the ideological production of subjects) to one in which governance comes to be based on responsibility materialising through the individual’s organisation of his/her own life. Here the ‘notion of government addresses itself specifically to the domain of the political, not as a domain of State or a set of institutions and actors but as a certain mentality of rule. Governmentality is a way of problematizing life and seeking to act upon it.’55 Governmental activities pertaining to the welfare of ‘society’ and concerning public utilities such as water, health, or education (which are increasingly being privatised and/or made marketable), poverty management and public distribution systems are increasingly being subjected to the scrutiny of a competitive market regime. In short, the state must not be simply seen as being a service deliverer but also enterprising. The state must be seen as being equal if not better than private providers of service (in terms of speed, quantity, and quality of service) if it wants to justify its existence. Instead of merely subjecting others to its rules and objectives, the state brings its own existence and operation into the realm of critical assessment. India is witnessing this change now in governance. With the neoliberal presumption that individuals personify ability machines, ‘society’ can be seen as virtually the sum total of these ability machines (where and how the knowledge economy 54 55

Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics, pp. 270–71. Rose, ‘Government, Authority and Expertise in Advanced Liberalism’, p. 288.

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and now the knowledge society argument feature in this is worth examining; what is the nature of ability that is being discussed here? Is it ability of the knowledge economy kind? Or is it ability consonant with the knowledge society argument?). Within ‘society’, institutions (including family, corporations, NGOs, etc.) too are seen as consequence of choices and actions of these ability machines. Governance of ones’ own self and that of the relations between contending homo economicus comes to be guided on impersonalised means such as accounting, auditing, regulation, and disclosures;56 evidently, the importance of a juridical system based on a contractual bond becomes self-explanatory. In this society there is no provision for market fragility since market dynamics per se contains inherent self-correcting mechanisms initiated through the rational decisions of agents; any bumps in the economy are optimal corrections resulting from the intervention of agents. There is no question of economic breakdown since all broad changes stem from the shifting plans of independent and autonomous individuals responding to the environment in which they operate; individuals on their own produce the result (say to be unemployed) and are responsible for all the consequences. ‘Neoliberalism encourages individuals to give their lives a specific entrepreneurial form …This participation has a “price-tag”: the individuals themselves have to assume responsibility for these activities and the possible failure thereof.’57 The market by itself cannot produce distortions or fragilities. The sum total of these decisions and actions may give way to a rise or fall in GNP, high or low unemployment (one can also shift the index to knowledge development index). This shifting movement appears through the exercise of freedom by homo economicus. This inherent self-correcting mechanism is backed by an argument that the rational individuals can choose anything including matters that are non-economic (marriage, crime, etc.) or are even attached to the body (such as health care, education, etc.); the bios is an economic matter; so is the mind (witness the explosion of psychiatric and counselling angles in our lives); so is crime and punishment; so is family and so on; anything, 56 57

Ibid.; Rose, ‘Inventiveness in Politics’. Lemke, ‘The Birth of Bio-Politics’; ‘Foucault, Governmentality, and Critique’.

Educated Subjects  373

including education, can be viewed as a possible arena of choice and hence, via the market, be produced and exchanged; homo economicus as a producer of various social conditions of life has the ability to structure them in terms of a competitive market structure.58 Being ability machines, individuals are considered to have the capacity to calculate the good (benefit) and bad (cost) from any action or event which thus provides them with an evaluative technology to choose and act in a systematic, that is, rational manner. Moreover, since choices transpire in an uncertain environment and with the likelihood of risky outcomes, cost-benefit calculation must subsume, by definition, possibilities of risk. The art of governmentality includes assessing and managing risks as well as the responsibility of the individual. Risks are no longer social; they are individualised and so are the consequences of risky outcomes. Economic breakdowns are by definition impossible in a neoliberal frame and by default, state interventions to correct economic breakdowns are not a necessity.

State of Exception and Shifting Political Rationalities As the financial instruments (driving debt-driven income) and US consumer demand collapsed, the ensuing economic crisis in the USA soon spread to the rest of the world. Enveloped in a global crisis, both capitalism and neoliberalism were attacked and vilified for having created this situation. Some critiqued both neoliberalism and capitalism while others (including many Keynesians) are more intent on critiquing neoliberalism without touching on capitalism. Our interest though is on the former and to analyse whether and if so, how the practice of neoliberalism is undergoing a transmutation. The effect on neoliberalism is best addressed at the level of governmentality and that, too, in the realm of the state. That is, since the immediate response to the economic crisis was direct state intervention — a case of sovereign intervention — it would be meaningful to uncover the nature of this intervention and ask whether this signifies a shift in the political rationale of neoliberalism that came to 58

Becker, Economic Approach to Human Behaviour, p. 93; Schultz, ‘Capital Formation by Education’; ‘Investment in Human Capital’; ‘Reflections on Investment in Man’.

374 — Anup Dhar

constitute a new art of governmentality in American society (one could also ask in this context: with respect to education is this change reflected in the movement from knowledge economy to knowledge society?). Even within neoliberalism, the state could be repressive when dealing with what are referred to as ‘security’ issues. Because the state does not directly intervene in economic matters or generally, in societal matters practised in economic terms, such a form of governance ensures the liberty of individuals. The threat of ‘security’ is a threat to this liberty principle. Here the state of exception is external to the entrepreneurial society (because the latter’s rules do not apply here) and is yet internalised. The state of exception is thus both inside and outside law. Once identified as a danger to entrepreneurial society, the state would consider it legitimate to protect the biopolitical form of life. When its role is measured in terms of the sovereign, the state driven by neoliberal rationality is thus one and at the same time somewhat inactive (at the level of the biopolitical) and extremely active (in the context of the state of exception). Even in its original Anglo-American form, neoliberalism remains constituted by two parallel political rationales (or governance frames), which operate in tandem to create and secure, in the last instance, entrepreneurial society. In other words, calls for Keynesian-style state interventions at present are being supplemented by arguments for maintaining the freedom of the homo economicus. This represents a dilemma since invoking direct state intervention in the economy contravenes the process of securing the entrepreneurial society that demands no such intervention. The case of regulation or of social justice interventions as one form of state intervention are examples of this dilemma. Social justice through education is one other example; it is state of exception within an IIM-driven higher education; it is neoKeynesianism in a neoliberal milieu. Two aspects stand out in this new formulation of the state of exception. First, while appearing to be all encompassing and exhaustive, the state intervention rationalised by the announced presence of the state of exception is selective in its application and tries its best not to alter the basic political template of neoliberalism in the sense of disturbing the homo economicus-driven entrepreneurial society. The art of governmentality exercised by the free

Educated Subjects  375

mass of homo economicus is being left fundamentally intact or even if momentarily arrested in some situations never denied or usurped in any permanent fashion. There is a thin but critical line between governing for society and governing over society and unlike the Keynesian solution after the 1930s, state interventions in this crisis seems to be carefully crafted; this is giving an interesting character to governance. The effort is to render society susceptible to state intervention in the sense of the latter being a saviour of the last resort; this defines a new meaning of the existence of the state; the competitive market economy literally needs the state to survive and function. Second, what is particularly glaring is the attempt to contain state interventions within a definite time span and quit once the economy is ‘back on track’. The use of the sovereign concerning the state of exception is contemplated as limited and specific. Nowhere is this better exemplified than the policy emphasis that the present rising fiscal deficit is a temporary shift that will be rolled back once the recovery becomes visible. Caught between these two contrasting rationales (both inherited), an altered or third rationale of governance seems to be emerging. On the one hand, with no or minimum regulation, there is a felt need for facilitating the continuation of an entrepreneurial society. On the other hand, the rethought meaning of sovereignty is stretching the interventionist role of the state right into the economic sphere. How far this shift is going to affect the idea of homo economicus and whether it will pave the way for a new correlationality and partnership between what we hitherto understood as the state and homo economicus is yet to be discerned. One can ask: is the current crisis in neoliberalism restricted to this episode or does it signal a movement towards a crisis of the general apparatus of governmentality as a whole? Does it then fundamentally change the principle of governmentality? The dual role of the state in higher education, the dilemma between two contrasting rationales (both inherited), and a possibility of a third emerging are all effects of the above. In this sense we are perhaps working with both dual philosophies of (higher) education and dual philosophies of governance.

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About the Editors Ranabir Samaddar, author of the classic study The Marginal Nation — Transborder Migration from Bangladesh to West Bengal (1999), is Director, Calcutta Research Group (CRG). His research interests include critical studies on contemporary issues of justice, human rights, and popular democracy in the context of post-colonial nationalism, transborder migration, labour, and technological restructuring in South Asia. Among his recent publications are The Politics of Dialogue (2004) and Emergence of the Political Subject (2009). Suhit K. Sen completed his doctoral dissertation in 1998 on the transition of India from a colonial to constitutional regime. He was a journalist for 10 years before returning to academics, first as Fellow at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata and currently as Senior Researcher, Calcutta Research Group, Kolkata. He has published several articles in the Economic and Political Weekly.

Notes on Contributors Sutirtha Bedajna was Research and Programme Associate, Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group. Currently he is a civil servant with the Government of West Bengal. Anup Dhar is a faculty member at the Ambedkar University, New Delhi. Sujata Dutta Hazarika is a sociologist, and is currently the Deputy Director, Indira Gandhi National Open University, North East Centre for Research and Development, Guwahati. Manish K. Jha is Associate Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. Amit Prakash is Associate Professor, Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Dipankar Sinha is Professor of Political Science, University of Calcutta and Honorary Professor, Institute of Development Studies Kolkata (IDSK). Badri Narayan Tiwari is Associate Professor, Social and Cultural Anthropology, G. B. Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad.

396 — New Subjects, New Governance

Index AADHAAR, 79 across-the-board governance model, 329 action taken reports (ATRs), 275 Alampay, Erwin A., 89 All Assam Tribal Women’s Welfare Federation (AATWWF), 231 All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU), 231 All Bodo Women’s Welfare Federation (ABWWF), 231 All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, 324 All Jharkhand Students’ Union (AJSU), 43, 60 Anglo-American form, 374 evolution of, 365 of neoliberalism, 365 Anglo-Mohammedan law, 323 Anti-Carlyle Circular Society, 288 Assam European community in, 292 panchayat, perspectives of, 227–34 peace through development (PTD), 237–38 area-based approach, 238 building capacities for, 238–39 government leadership, 238 multi-stakeholder processes, 238 rural governance, decentralisation of, 235 Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASHOCHAM), 202 audience category of, 267 crowd, 266 cultural, 265–68

fake, 266 of ZCCs, 267 autonomy, 21 Nagaland, 25 parliament, issue of, 38–46 Axiom of Technological Abundance, 160 Babri Masjid-related riots, 305 backward classes economically, 313 reservations for, 222 West Bengal Commission for, 319 Bengal European community in, 292 Intra-Bengal relations, 288 partition, 290 Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), 39 Bharatiya Lok Dal (BLD), 45 Bharat Sevak Samaj (BSS), 120 Bihar colonial developmentality, 114–18 compensation, rehabilitation, and resistance, 132–36 Dalit/Maha-Dalits, 140 developmental tools, 136–37 disasters, 109 Kosi area, 111 worst floods, 140 governing, through voluntary institutions, 126–32 Janata Party government, 136 Kosi embankments, 135 civil society, 135 Ghoghardiha/Sarauni, 123 governmental rationality, reservoir of, 119–22 literacy rate of villages, 135 making/breaking of, 122–26 political, 123

Index  397 politics, grassroots, 119–22 in Saharsa and Darbhanga districts, 121 Sarvodaya leaders, 136 Kosi floods governmental response in 2008, 137–45 migration and deprivation, 145–50 Kosi region, 114–18 Dalit woman, case of, 149–50 folk song, 145 Jan Seva Express, 148 Kabeer, Naila, 149 Nepal government flood waters monitoring, 138 politician–bureaucrat–elite nexus, 113 post-colonial, political life of, 122 tribal population of, 27 Bihar Reorganisation Act, 60 Birla–Ambani Committee, 343 block development officers (BDOs), 99, 142, 227 Bodo Autonomous Council (BAC), 222 Bodoland People’s Progressive Front (BPPF), 232 Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), 222, 232 Business Processing Optimization (BPO) sector, 346 Business Process Re-engineering (BPR), 82 business to consumer (B-to-C), 93 Cabinet Mission Plan, religious minorities, 296 Calcutta Flood Conference, 116 capitalist vs. non-capitalist, 356 capitalocentrism, 356–57 Central and State Pollution Control Boards (CPCB), 177 Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), 4

Child Marriage Restraint Act, 323 Christian Dalits, 313 religious war, 279 women, 324 Christmas tree projects, 242 civilising mission, 338, 343 civil society, 74, 81, 87, 92, 107, 132, 154, 200, 202, 205, 211–14, 221, 229, 236, 240 Coastal Management Zone (CMZ) Notification, 200, 205 colonial governance, 323 culture, transformation, 249 subsequent development of, 286 colonial governmental wisdom, 282–86 Command and Control (CAC), 197 Committee on Jharkhand Matters, 1990 (COJM), 34 cultural traits of, 37 policy-delivery mechanism, 38 commodity approach, 361–63 Common Information Centres (CICs), 100 Common Services Centres (CSC) Scheme, 94, 96, 99, 100, 105, 106 Communal Award, 292 communal riots, 293 violence, 137 Companies Act, 327 Concurrent List, 175–76 Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), 202 Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India (CREDAI), 202 conflicts ethnicity, 236 in north-east India, 215, 239–40 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), 324

398 — New Subjects, New Governance Council of Scientific Industrial Research (CSIR), 180 culture(s) and audience, 265–68 colonial governance of, 249 Gandhi, Rajiv, 255 governing, 9 market, 265 market economy, 257 meanings, 247 national, 253, 265 nation building and transforming people, 251 using, idea of, 252 ruling process, 249 Shilp Mela, 258 Dalit/Maha-Dalits, 140 culture, 247 democracy, 2, 23–24. See also democratic governance; developmental democracy implications for, 211 democratic governance, 2, 7, 9, 10, 81, 85, 113, 211, 212–15, 218, 219, 223, 226, 227, 232 achievements, 219–21 Assam panchayat, perspectives of, 227–34 challenges of, 13 legitimacy, 218 cultures, 9 India, challenges of, 13 institutionalisation of, 211 in north-east India, 215 developmental activities, 4, 8, 205 developmental democracy, 7, 331 governmental processes, study of, 2 public policy, 14 through education, 330–38 developmental discourse, 6 logic of, 352–57 people’s participation, 133 rights of land, 6

Digital Opportunity Task Force (DOT Force), 74 directorate of rural development, Assam (DRDA), 227 disasters in Bhopal, 110 Gas Leak Disaster, 181, 197, 198 in Bihar, 109 Kosi area, 111 sorrow of, 112 developmental, 195 gas leak, 173, 181, 197, 198 geo-climatic conditions, 110 Gujarat earthquake, 110 tsunami, 110 district collector land revenue (DCLR), 142 e-Choupal, 94, 100–106 business model, 101 corporate model, 100 CSCs, 105, 106 in West Bengal, 104 e-Citizen (EC), 82, 83 ecological economists, 168 to sustainability, 168 ecological stability, 158, 165, 190 economic policies, 255 governmental management of, 6 Indian economy, 255 economic sustainability, 169, 206, 210 e-gov. See e-government e-governance, 69, 72, 78, 86, 88, 89, 91 analysis of, 72 conceptual growth of, 72 corporate model, 100–106 Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde syndrome, 106–8 and e-government, 81–86 experimenting ‘e,’ 91–94 business to consumer, 93 e-certificates, 93 e-Choupal, 94

Index  399 e-Gram, 93 government to citizen, 93 Gujarat State Wide Area Network (GSWAN), 93 National e-Governance Plan (NeGP), 91 private sector, 91 state/government(s), 91 sustaining power, 93 focal domains for, 83 foundation of, 71, 86 fundamental problem, 86–91 information society, transnational root of, 72–81 PPP model, 94–100 symbolic and substantive acceptance of, 71 e-government (E-gov), functional variables, 82 e-Gram, 93 electoral constituencies delimitation of, 327 Engineering Exports Promotion (EEPC), 209 environmental conservation, 158, 178, 179, 181, 195 environmental governance, 6, 157, 158, 159, 170, 171, 181, 185, 189, 195–201, 205–10 biotic/abiotic components, 158 in India, 154 Environmental-impact assessment (EIA), 177, 200, 201 Environmental Information System (ENVIS), 184 Environment Protection Act, 203 e-Payments, public utility bill, 85 ethnic conflicts, 236 boundaries, 295 insurgencies, 212 politics, 213, 301 ethnicity, political theory, 20 European Western experience, 354 e-Village. See e-Gram

e-Village panchayats, e-services, 93 Extreme backward castes (EBC), 140 Faraizi and Tariqah-i-Muhammadia movements, 275 farm-systems model, 242 Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), 202 floods, in Bihar, 119 governmental response in 2008, 137–45 Kosi, dam, 118 migration and deprivation, 145–50 folk art, 263 folk songs, 145, 258, 262, 263 Foreign direct investment (FDI), 4 computer and software industry, 4 equity inflows, 4 globalisation, 218 Gandhi, Rajiv, 255–57 ‘garibi hatao’, 190 Gas Leak Disaster Act, 181, 197, 198 Gazis, 278 G8 countries, information society, 74 geo-politics, 301 Global Information Infrastructure Commission (GIIC), 76 Global Information Society, 74 globalisation development, 2 effects of, 272 Indian economy, 255 north-east India, 218 governance, 23–24 crisis of, 24 democratic governance, deficit in, 215–19 dual philosophies, 375 education capabilities-functionings, 357–64 with neoliberalism, 365–75

400 — New Subjects, New Governance foundational premises, 71–72 of higher education, 345 illiberalism, 8 in north-east India, 221–23 social justice, 14 socio-economic change, 24 technologies and themes of, 2 governance-education relation, 330 governance paradigm identity vs. development, 22–24 governance theory Stoker, Gerry, 22 governmental management changes, impact of, 6 of economic policies, 6 governmental processes developmental democracy, study of, 2 governmental rationality, 112, 119, 133, 143, 269, 304, 311 governmental technology, 307 evolution of, 3 government to citizen (G-to-C), 85, 93 government to government (G2G), 85 Governor-general’s Council, 286 gram panchayats (GPs), 98, 223 BPL households, 224 policy, 224 reservations, 224 SC/STs, 224 gram sabhas, 98, 224, 225 Great Mutiny of 1857, 275 Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 163 growth rate, 199 Monthly Economic Report, 209 growth with justice, 190 handicrafts, 263, 264 Harijans, 301 Hartwick–Solow approach, 167, 168 market prices, 168 to sustainability, 166, 167, 207

Higher Education (HE), 339 autonomy, 367 corporate institution, 353 and governance in India, 338–52 Indian institutions of, 349 private/public share, ratio of, 348 High Tide Line (HTL), 203 Hindutva, 26 homo economicus, 370–72, 375 as entrepreneur, 368–70 entrepreneurial society, 374 and state, 370–73 Honneth, Axel redistribution-recognition, 17 human capital (Kh), 167, 369 human development governance approach, 221 interrogating issues of, 215–19 peace, 235 human economic activity, pattern of, 168 Human Poverty Index (HPI), 220 identity Jharkhandi, implications for, 30 socio-religious factors, 26 Indian Board for Wild Life (IBWL), 180 Indian constitution, principles of, 2, 171, 172, 233, 295, 317 Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), 334 Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), 334 Indian National Congress Party (INC), 45 Indian Penal Code, 286 Indian Police Act, 286 Indian terrain, typology of, 25–46 Indira Awas Yojana, 150 Indo-Nepal Friendship Treaty, 138 Indra Sawhney case, 317 Information and Communication Technology (ICT), 71, 73, 83, 86, 88, 89, 90, 93

Index  401 Integral Local Development (ILD), 241 Integrated Rural Development (IRD), 241 Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), 4 International Labour Organization (ILO), 73 International Telecommunication Union (ITU), 73 intra-Bengal relations, 288 jatis, 28, 29 Jharkhand Ain-i-Akbari, 28 Bharatiya Lok Dal (BLD), 45 identity, 30 Independence, 63 Indian National Congress Party (INC), 45 Jharkhandi identity, implications for, 30 Jharkhand Mukti Morcha pro-autonomy, electoral support for, 47 separate state demand, 40 Jharkhand Party (JHP) electoral support for, 44 Lok Sabha seats, 46 redistribution-recognition politics, 27–30 constituencies of, 54–55 evolution and change, 27–30 political parties, performance, 1991, 48–50 1996, 50–53 1998, 56 1999, 57–59 2004, 59, 61–63 2009, 65–67 relationship, 67–68 1990s, 27–30 States Reorganization Commission (SRC), 30–32

Jharkhand Co-ordination Committee (JCC), 46 Jharkhand Janadikhar Manch (JHJAM), 64 Jharkhand Jan Morcha (JHJM), 64 Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), 33 leadership, 34 pro-autonomy, electoral support for, 47 Sarkaria Commission, 34 separate state demand, 40 Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM), 64 jihad, 276, 278, 280, 282 jihadis, 278 Joint Parliamentary Committee on wakfs, 312 Keynesian solution, 375 Kosi barrage, 130 Kosi basin, 116 Kosi Control Board (KCB), 121 Kosi embankments, 135 civil society, 135 Ghoghardiha/Sarauni, 123 governmental rationality, reservoir of, 119–22 literacy rate of villages, 135 making/breaking of, 122–26 political, 123 politics, grassroots, 119–22 in Saharsa/Darbhanga districts, 121 Sarvodaya leaders, 136 governmental response in 2008, 137–45 migration and deprivation, 145–50 Kosi Kranti (revolution), 136 Kosi Project, 119, 133 Kosi Sufferers’ Development Authority, 121 Kothari Commission, 342 Kuki tribes, 237 Kuznet’s Curve, 164

402 — New Subjects, New Governance law commissions, 286 liberal democracies features of, 23 principle of, 19–20 liberal democratic states, 24 liberal theory, limitations, 68 Linguistic Minorities Commissioner, 315 Lok Dal, 36 Magh/Kumbha Mela, 266 majority-centric rule, 308 Mandal commission recommendations, 130 Mandi system, 102–103, 105 for price discovery, 103 Manipur ethnic conflicts, 236 Naga-majority, 237 manmade capital (Km), 167 market-clearing methods, 155 Marx, Karl, 358 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), 156, 220 ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), 179, 183 CRZ notification, 203, 204 organisational structure of, 186–88 sustainability, 206 ministry of human resources development (MoHRD), 250 minorities, 296 category of, 294 desires, 299 government of, 286 power of, 273 Minorities Committee Report, 300 minority community Muslims, 307 personal laws of, 323 rights of, 291 electorates, 292 scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, 315

minority rights, 294 political theory, 20 Minority Welfare Committees, appointment of, 316 Mishra Commission, 313, 317, 318 Montague–Chelmsford Reforms, 291, 293 mukhias, 126 Murmu, Bhagwat, 28–29 Muslim communities, 285, 308, 317–19, 326 Muslim Marriages Act, 324 Muslim marriages, registration of, 323 Muslim minorities, 298 Muslim personal law, 310, 323 Muslims, 6 colonial governance, development of, 286–94 Dalits, 313 educational conditions, 311 Other Backward Classes, 308, 312, 317 socio-economic backwardness of, 27 Urdu, 311 woman, 310 Muslim Women Act, 297 Nagalim, 237 Naga society, 231 National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), 200 National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER), 350 objectives of, 350–51 National Committee on Environmental Planning (NCEP), 179 National Committee on Environmental Planning and Coordination (NCEPC), 177 National Conservation Strategy, 179 National E-Governance Plan (NeGP), 91

Index  403 National Environment Policy (NEP), 200 National Human Development Report, 2001 (NHDR), 220 National Human Rights Commission, 295 Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) (NSCN [I-M]), 237 National Minorities Commission, 295 National Minority Educational Institute Commission, 314 National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) scheme, 96 national security, policy of, 309 natural capital (Kn), 167 New Education Policy (NEP), 342 Non-governmental organisations (NGOs), 91, 95, 181, 200, 202, 206, 233, 372 North Central Zone Cultural Centre (NCZCC), 250, 258–59 north-east India, 221 autonomous district councils, 222 conflict in, 239–40 democratic institutions vis-à-vis traditional governance, 221–23 governed by, 221 local government, 240 public expenditure, 226 women, representation of, 228 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 73 Other backward castes (OBC), 140, 319 Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), 214, 222, 223, 225, 226, 228, 229, 232, 235, 237, 240–43 decentralisation, 223–27 Panchayati Raj system, training, 233 Panchayat leaders. See mukhias Panchayat pradhan, 99, 100 Panchayats. See gram sabhas

Parliamentary committee, establishment of, 316 Parti Parikatha, 135 peace through development (PTD), 235–44 perspectival dualism, 16 Piran Sahib’s mosque, 276 Plan Holiday, 190 political legitimacy, 24, 43 components, 24 political rationalities state of exception, 373–75 politics of autonomy, 25 Bihar, embank the Kosi, 119–22 of dams and embankments, 129 democracy in north-east India, 215 democratic, 309 embankments, Kosi, 123 Hindutva, 26 Muslims, 26, 27 recognition by exclusion, 26–27 of region, 26 by representation, 27 redistribution-recognition Jharkhand, 27–30 regional identity, 26 of socio-cultural recognition, 25–26 ZCCs, formation of, 250–53 post-colonial governance, 294–313 vulnerabilities of life, 313–28 Post-General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) period, 344 Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA), 324 public distribution systems, 371 Public interest litigation (PIL), 197 Public Liability Insurance Act, 181 public policy, 14 public–private partnership (PPP), 76, 77, 92–94 Common Services Centres, 94

404 — New Subjects, New Governance quotocracy and democracy, 321 public and private, 321 Ramsay MacDonald’s Indian Communal Award, 292 Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), 326 Rawls’ justice principle, 360 rebellious minority, 274–81 recognition vs. redistribution, 25–27 redistribution Marxist scholars, 15 vs. recognition, 14–22 redistributional processes, social justice, 14–15 redistribution–recognition Fraser, Nancy, 16 Honneth, Axel, 17, 19 Jharkhandi leaders, 32 politics, 47–67 rehabilitation package, 133, 134 religious minorities, Cabinet Mission Plan, 296 religious war, Christian, 279 Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) report, 5 Right to Information (RTI) Act, 107 Rowlatt Act, 293 rule of law, 1, 23, 27, 154, 155, 157, 200, 205, 207, 213, 240, 283, 286, 313, 360 Sachar report, 311, 312, 326 Safe Minimum Standards (SMS), 166 ecological approaches, 169 Sahaj Tathya Mitra Kendra (STMK), 96 lack of a systematic approach, 98 Sampurna Kranti Manch, 135 Samyojak, 103, 104 sanchalak, 103 sanchalaks, 102–104 of Bhagwanpur, 104 secularism, 296, 307, 318, 326

securitisation, 8, 332 self-help groups (SHGs), 233 Sen, Amartya, 89, 90, 346, 358 Service Centre Agency (SCA), 94 shikshito bhadralok, 332 Shilp Mela, 258, 260 folk songs, 262 lehanga-chunri, 261 pashmina shawls, 261 study of, 260 tribal art and craft, 261 shramdaan, 126 Simon Commission, 292, 293 social conflicts management of, 212 social jurisprudence, 272 social justice, 7, 14 redistributional processes, 14–15 social justice interventions, 374 social legislation, 272 Special Economic Zone Act, 109 Special Economic Zones (SEZ), 7, 8 Srei Sahaj e-Village Limited, 97 Srikrishna Commission Report, 309 state autonomy Jharkhandi demand for, 34–46 Sarkaria commission, 32–34 State Designated Agency (SDA), 94 State List, 175 States Reorganization Commission (SRC), 30 development/redistribution, politics of, 32 Jharkhand Party, performance, 30, 31 Stoker, Gerry, 22 subject production, 1 sustainability, 169 ecological economics approach, 168 sustainable development, 156–58, 163, 164, 165, 182, 183, 192, 200, 201, 207 Tagore, Rabindranath, 288 Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Prevention Act (TADA), 304

Index  405 Union List, 174–75 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), 73 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), 73, 154 governance concept, 221 Human Development Reports, 220 University Grants Commission (UGC), 342 Village Level Entrepreneur (VLE), 94 village meetings. See gram sabhas vocationalisation, 343 volunteer coordinator. See sanchalak Wahabi preaching, 276–78 Wahabi rebellion, 274 action taken reports (ATRs), 275 Anglo-Afghan Wars, 275 factors, 275 wholly owned subsidiaries (WOS), 5 Wild Life Protection Act, 177 women democratic autonomy of, 229 Mizo Women’s Federation, 231 movement response, 230 representation of, 228 reservations for, 222 World Bank, 73, 154 World Economic Forum’s Global Digital Divide Initiative (GDDI), 76

World Summit on Sustainable Development Plan of Implementation (WSSD), 157 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) ‘Declaration of Principles’ and ‘Plan of Action’, 75 Yashpal Committee Report, 348, 349, 351 zilla parishad (ZP), 214 Zonal Cultural Centres (ZCCs), 247 conceptual structure of, 258 culture market, 265 culture, understanding of, 265 distribution networks, 254 Eastern Zone Cultural Centre (EZCC), 250 folk culture, 266 formation of, 250–53 North Central Zone Cultural Centre (NCZCC), 250 North East Zone Cultural Centre (NEZCC), 250 North Zone Cultural Centre (NZCC), 250 South Zone Cultural Centre (SZCC), 250 West Zone Cultural Centre (WZCC), 250 Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), 180