Colonialism and post-independence capitalism took away the means of production from a broad swathe of these people. Still many of them have resisted the transformation into wage labour. By saying this, we mean that the feeble efforts of self-determination are not over and done with. Their spirits remain unconquered; even a cursory visit to the rallies of Mayawati would show streams of earthy people coming in to keep their spirits high.
In local or subsistence time, people had made and are still subjects of their own histories, their own songs, myths and memories – howsoever unsung or maligned by others. They have amongst them people who would converse, and listen and deliberate, where a collective wisdom is continually formed, often ignored and even derided by people of the advanced times. Nevertheless, new forms of communication that mesmerise are overpowering peoples’ wisdom.
The BHIM button shall now record their little money histories. Money time is set to replace the local subsistence time.
Minting money, minting people
The spurt in industrialisation in the formal sector, both public and private, had almost come to a halt in Uttar Pradesh with the end of the somewhat stable governments of the Congress and the Rashtriya Janta Dal regimes by 1977. Thereafter, with rather unstable governments, ‘money time’ created goons who accumulated wealth at will. Many small and large farmers rented out their agricultural lands and became thekedars, both small and big. The smaller ones purchased tractor trolleys, the larger ones became commission agents for various government jobs.
Akhilesh Yadav, as chief minister, tried to rein in the goons and faced a split in the party. He has made his presence felt, however, with expenditure on large and visible infrastructure and the distribution of laptops. During the assembly election campaign he has promised smart phones for the unemployed. In a sense, he has tried to steal the ‘development’ agenda from Modi. However, the agenda of Akhilesh is as fictitious as Modi’s. The role of governments in providing public goods is undisputed . The downside has been on the cultural front – epitomised by the Saifai cultural events, which became displays of vulgarity, reprised in ways big and small across the state by goons. A deculturisation of community has happened.
While this then is money time – the time for production to be sold in the market for money – this is also the industrial time of machines producing more machines, producing things, the time for fictitious commodities of labour and money to emerge, the time for finances to accumulate and for money to make more money. It is also the time when an ancient civilisation around the Ganga and Yamuna has to be made literate, has to be educated for industrialisation and the new India – the unskilled India – has to be readied for the market. The process of rationalisation and utilitarianism is still incomplete when millions throng to the sangam and other melas round the year or sit ‘idle’ at home.
The money times are characterised by people wanting money to survive and by those who have money wanting more. Those who don’t have money pull out their caste card and demand a job; tens of thousands spend years to pass a competitive exam for jobs with the government. Here, both the good and the bad of money emerge. Demonetisation led to deprivation for a very large section in the informal sector and for migrant labour. The resentment is high among migrant workers and women who have nowhere to go. This seems to be their destiny. Not enough, this identity has to take the shape of plastic cards under strict surveillance of the new technology time.
Written and published by https://thewire.in/