2010 was the year of scams – 2G, Commonwealth Games, Adarsh etc.
2011 has emerged as the year of the fight against corruption – with Anna Hazare’s fast for a Lokpal Bill and Baba Ramdev’s fast to bring back black money stashed away in foreign banks.
The midnight police crackdown on Baba Ramdev’s Satyagraha with 100,000 followers was yet another signal of the undemocratic tendency of the government to crush social movements and social protests. At the same time when Ramdev’s Satyagraha was attacked in Delhi, 20 battalions of police force was being used to crush the anti-POSCO movement in Orissa and destroy the betel and vine gardens which are the basis of people’s prosperous living economy which brings the small farmers Rs. 400,000/acre.
Violence and the use of force has become the norm for the government dealing with people’s protests.
In a democracy, which is supposed to be by the people, of the people, for the people, protests and movements are supposed to act as signals of what people want or do not want. Listening to people is the democratic duty of governments. When governments fail to listen to the people and use force against peoples’ peaceful movements they become undemocratic, they become dictatorships. When in addition, governments who are supposed to represent the peoples’ will and interest in a representative democracy start to represent the will and interest of corporations and big business, government mutates from being of the people, by the people and for the people to becoming of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations. The state is becoming a corporate state. And this mutation transforms democracy into fascism. Neo-liberal economic policies have political fallout in terms of inducing this mutation of government from being a democratic representative of peoples’ interest to being an undemocratic representative of corporate interests. Not only is neo-liberalism leading to the privatization of seed and land, water and biodiversity, health and education, power and transport, it is leading to the privatization of government itself. And a privatized corporate state starts to see people fighting for the public good and economic democracy as a threat.
It is in this context that we need to read the repeated statements of government ministers that peoples’ protests and social movements are a threat to democracy. Social movements are raising issues about economic justice and economic democracy. Corruption is a symptom of the deepening trends of economic injustice and undermining of economic democracy. We need to connect the dots between the diverse social movements of tribals and farmers fighting to defend their land and natural resources, the movements of workers fighting to defend jobs and livelihoods, and the new anti-corruption movements whose faces are Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev.
Corruption is the unjust, illegal and private appropriation of public resources and public wealth, be it natural wealth, public goods and services or financial wealth. The ecology movements, tribal and farmers’ movements are fighting against the corruption involved in the massive resource grab and land grab taking place across the country for mining of bauxite, coal and iron ore, for mega steel plants and power plants, for super highways and luxury townships. Farmers fighting the land grab along the Yamuna Expressway were killed on May 7. While they received a mere Rs. 300 per sq.mtr for their land the developers who grab the land in partnership with government using the 1894 colonial land acquisition law sell it for Rs. 600,000 per sq.mtr. This is corporate corruption.
I have just received a SMS –
Lush Green Farm Houses in Noida Express way
*10 minutes from South Delhi
*Clubs, Swimming Pool, Cricket Stadium
*Government Electricity and Roads”
Farm houses of farmers are burnt and destroyed to create “farm houses” for the rich. Farms are destroyed to create Formula 1 race tracks and swimming pools for the elite. This obscene, violent, unjust land grab is the cruelest face of corruption in today’s India.
The privatization of our seed, our food, our water, our health, our education, our electricity and mobility is another facet of corporate corruption. In the case of the privatization of seed, farmers are paying with their very lives. Seed costs rise and farmers are trapped in debt. Farmers suicides need to be seen as part of the web of privatization as corruption. The government of Maharashtra has signed MoUs with Monsanto to hand over seed and the genetic wealth of farmers’ research and the knowledge wealth of society to a seed MNC. This is corporate corruption. The Government of India wants to totally dismantle the public distribution system to benefit agribusiness and corporate retail. Undermining the right to food is corporate corruption.
The appropriation of public and national wealth through bribes and black money is the third facet of corruption.
It is when all their streams of the fight for economic justice and economic democracy join as one, we will have a strong and vibrant movement for defending and deepening democracy. Social movements are the life blood of democracy. Social movements are the life blood of democracy.
The government will of course try its best to crush democracy to protect the powerful economic interests it represents.
The two faces of government who most frequently make statements about social movements subverting democracy are Kapil Sibal and Chidambaram, both of whom have represented corporations against the public interest in their legal career. They carry these corporate loyalties into their political career. They will do their very best to use every undemocratic means to crush movements for democracy and justice. Operation Green hunt in tribal areas, and the midnight crack down on Baba Ramdev’s Satyagraha are just two examples of the use of violence to protect corrupt corporate interests.
The corrupt militarized, totalitarian power of the corporate state is not democracy. Peoples’ vibrant movements fighting the concentration of economic and political power, and the corrupt means used for concentration of that power are at the heart of democracy.
It is people and social movements who have kept and will keep democracy alive in India.