A Heart-Rending Episode Prabhat Patnaik

This year marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Bengal famine of 1943, a heart-rending episode in which 3 million persons died, and which epitomized the callousness of imperialism. The scale of devastation can be understood if we remember that in the United Kingdom, taking civilian and military casualties together, the total loss of life during the entire Second World War was just 0.45 million and in the U.S. 0.42 million. In Germany itself the loss has been estimated as anywhere between 6.6 and 8.8 million and in the Soviet Union which suffered the most at around 24 million. To say…

The Modi Government’s spat with The RBI Prabhat Patnaik

The Modi government’s spat with the Reserve Bank of India, like its sudden resurrection of the Ram temple project, indicates the desperation it feels at its dwindling electoral appeal. Having dealt a huge blow to the small-scale sector through its measures like demonetization and the GST, having aggravated through its inaction the impact on the Indian economy of the world capitalist crisis, and of Trump’s protectionism that has followed, it is now quite desperate to salvage some support for itself as the Lok Sabha elections approach. Since mere grandiose announcements such as Ayushman Bharat or doubling agricultural incomes can no…

The Government-RBI Stand-Off Prabhat Patnaik

The stand-off between the Modi government and the Reserve Bank of India has generated a false discourse on the one hand and an illusion on the other. In this discourse the RBI’s position, articulated  by its Deputy Governor, is that central bank policy has to be guided by financial markets rather than by a government headed by politicians with electoral compulsions and “populist” agendas. This is obviously an  undemocratic position, for it amounts to saying that crucial decisions affecting people’s lives should be outside their sphere of intervention through the electoral process. It is also a dangerous position, since financial…

The Time is ripe for Unity Prabhat Patnaik

On September 5 an event of great significance occurred in the capital: more than 1.5 lakh workers, peasants and agricultural labourers staged a rally on Parliament Street. The capital has certainly seen much bigger rallies in the past, but not in the recent past. In fact, one had almost forgotten the Boat Club rallies of yore, and come to believe that a new era had come when, notwithstanding great hardships, people were reluctant to hold mass demonstrations, at least along class lines. The September 5 rally was significant not just for removing this impression; it brought together for the first…

Ayushman Bharat Prabhat Patnaik

The fraudulence of the claim made by the Modi government with regard to the “Ayushman Bharat” scheme launched recently surpasses all its previous efforts. This is hardly surprising for a government for which what matters is not what it actually does but how it creates perceptions about what it is doing. The Ayushman Bharat scheme consists of two separate parts. One is the creation of 150000 “Health and Wellness Centres” which are simply the old primary health centres given a new fancy name, and for each of which the 2018-19 Union budget allocates a mere Rs.80000. This obviously cannot even…

The Fall Of The Rupee Prabhat Patnaik

The rupee’s current tendency to fall is hardly surprising. India’s growth experience, unlike China’s, was built on the quicksand of a more or less persistent trade and current account deficit on the balance of payments. But there was always enough financial inflow not just to cover the current account deficit but even to add to our foreign exchange reserves. Initially this inflow was stimulated by the sheer fact of the economy’s being opened up to such flows: wealth-holders abroad got a chance to diversify their portfolios by buying into hitherto- unavailable Indian assets. Later, the higher interest rates in India…

The Indian Economy in A Tailspin Prabhat Patnaik

The Indian economy is in a tailspin. This cannot be attributed only to innocence in economic matters of the command-centre of the NDA government. While that is indubitably a contributing factor, the current travails of the economy point to something deeper, namely the dead-end to which neo-liberalism has brought the economy. Without moving away from the neo-liberal trajectory, the economy cannot come out of its current difficulties. India’s success in raising the GDP growth rate, the main selling point for the neo-liberal regime, was, unlike China’s, built upon the quicksand of a persistent trade and current account deficit on the…

Finance versus The People Prabhat Patnaik

Sometimes even a tiny news-item can reveal volumes about capitalism. The Indian stock market, as is well-known, is booming at present: the 30-share Sensex closed at a new high of 38,278.75 on Monday the 20th of August, and the broader-based Nifty crossed the 11500 mark for the first time on the same day. One of the financial sector executives explained the reason behind this boom as follows (The Hindu, Aug.21): “The only difference between now (versus a few months back) is that politics looks more stable---prospects of an Opposition coalition are looking a little shaky”. These financial sector executives know…

Begging and Criminality Prabhat Patnaik

On Wednesday August 8, the Delhi High Court decriminalized begging in the capital. In the course of its hearing it had raised the question how begging could be an offence in a country where the government was unable to provide food and jobs; its final verdict is in line with this thinking. Of course there was no central legislation, or legislation relating specifically to Delhi, that had criminalized begging earlier; but the capital region like several other states had simply used the provisions of the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act to treat begging as a criminal activity. India’s record in…

Ranking Universities Prabhat Patnaik

The proposal to eliminate the University Grants Commission and to tighten political control over the higher education system in India, has been mooted at the behest of Narendra Modi who is apparently concerned about the dearth of Indian names among the top-ranked universities in the world. This concern is not confined to Modi alone; it is shared by large numbers of persons in the country’s political establishment, and by many in the general public. This concern is, to an extent, understandable: it is akin to the concern over the lack of medals for India at the Olympic games; but at…