Sunday, July 25, 2010


(New Series No. 160, October 2001)

The present has immensely shrunk the space and time for discussions, but still, everyone, somehow arranging some time and space, talks to each other, in their own ways. Conversations happen while coming to and going from places of work. People talk during lunch-time, during tea-time, while drinking water and going to the bathroom. Even while doing work, there are discussions. People do take out 10-15 minutes for conversations before the end of the shift. In the factory, discussions about what problems are there are the time of course take place- most of the talks are on that issue, and in that discussions different ideas emerge. Many a time, the atmosphere is such that no one directly asks what is happening. Rather, they come to the issue, covering it up with this or that, during discussions. Talks in the home and the laborhood, talks when going to buy vegetabless. Normally, all kinds of discussions take place. Still, it is heard from many workers:

"Workers are not saying anything"

Agreed, that our conversations in the sphere of my-my your-yours and which are meant to make us look superior or extremely inferior are harmful for us. And, back-biting, of course, is damaging. However, thine-mine interactions, our conversations, talks and practices of helping each other and close coordinations also go on. It is thus obvious that when it is said that "workers are not saying anything," it means something else altogether.

"Workers are not saying" really means: solutions are not forthcoming to the problem being faced. Rallies, demonstrations, speech-making are not happening. Nobody is directly saying things to management, touts, leaders. The desire for a brave savior is not being fulfilled.

Herculean labors to save others (Lifting Mount Govardhan on a finger)

In fact, we are all well aware of the present arrangments. Everyone knows that today s/he is extremely insignificant. What conclusions do we draw from this true recognition of reality? Our insignificance many a time encourages us to search for saviors in an avatar, a messiah, a superhuman. We worship and perform rituals, we fast, participate in religious singing groups, listen to religious discourses, run from pillar to post behind musclemen, leader, lawyer. The wait for a true avatar, a true prophet, a true guru, a genuine savior does not carry a halt/brake on our increasing suffering. What do our experiences of the quest for a messiah tell us? May it not be that we are waiting for the Ganges to flow in the reverse direction?

One mode could also be this: each one of us can pick up one pebble rather than trying to lift a mountain single-handedly. Each one's creativity and activeness can continuously go on as per one's own convenience and style. We insignificant, inferior, subordinate persons, through our close coordinations can soon enough lift the Himalayas, Mt. Govardhan is merely a tiny hill.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


At night, Whirlpool cleanses itself and by burning rejected plastics, paints, and chemicals in huge quantities, spreads wholesale pollution...

Thursday, July 1, 2010


(New Series No. 176, Feb. 2003)

Faridabad and New Okhla Industrial Development Authority (NOIDA) are planned industrial cities surrounding New Delhi, the capital of India. Factories are in the network of the plan. The living quarters of supervisors, managers, and government officers are also in the plan. But where will the workers who are being squeezed in the factories live? The plans are silent about this. In the plans for Faridabad and NOIDA, no space has been set aside for the living quarters of workers. Good people will call this the naievete of the planners, and clever people will call it their stupidity...But, neither the naieve nor the stupid can sit for long on pyramids made out of the heads and shoulders of others.

Behind the characterization of people's very being as illegal lies an entire political economy. The basic pillars of this political economy are to foster an army of middle-men to increase the grip of control and lower the standard of life for the purposes of greater exploitation.

*Lowering the expense of the worker's housing is a means of lowering the cost of workers altogether. This lust for cheap labor is what is hidden behind allowing the construction of "illegal" shantytowns. In the name of obligation and protection, various levels of middlemen and their henchmen extort money from residents. The system of oppression and exploitation gets in these goods their "policy officers" and "lawyers" almost free of cost. When the bosses feel a need for these lands, the residents can easily be characterized as culprits for living on illegal lands, and it is then not very difficult to get these lands vacated.

*Illegal migration is an open business. From Mexico to America, Turkey to Germany, Korea to Japan, India to the Gulf area, Bangladesh to India...Overall, the number of those living illegally in the world today is in the tens of millions. The label of illegality is used to increase the helplessness of the person. This is a fantastic prescription to increase exploitaton and decrease the opportunities for resistance. Illegal migration also increases the exploitation of the "citizen" worker, and when the need arises for the bosses to turn victims against victims, it almost never misses its target. In this context, terrorism is certainly an handy tool in the government's hands to further crack down on the workers.

*If we look at hawkers and street vendors in different cities, only around 2% of them have licenses. Ninety-eight percent are knowingly forced into illegality, so that the policeman on the beat, the goon in the area, the political machine can extort money and harvest votes.

*Declaring this and that as illegal and creating an atmosphere of fear by the strict implementation of laws is not a leisure activity for the bosses. By doing this, the boss of the bosses, the government of America has imprisoned 2 million citizens, and has put 800,000 people waiting for trials into jails. Prisons are being turned into factories and offices where 2.5 million are put to work for wages that have been cut to one tenth of the minimum wage fixed by the American government. To cover up the Himalayan-sized exploitation and oppression, you have space programs, mega-events, accidents...

In Faridabad, the acceleration of the government-sponsored demolition activity has raised extensive questions in the shantytowns: How do we oppose this? How do we fight? What are the paths to save ourselves from sinking further into these swamps or getting our heads bashed in? In our view, recognizing and discarding the mystification being bandied about by middlement is the point of departure. Now is the time to critique this political economy with body-mind-passion (mann). We have to go beyond shedding tears and breast-beating...


(New Series No. 176, Feb 2003)

Faridabad, India- Since January, there have been public anncouncements by government officials in several shantytowns ordering residents to vacate the land in 24 hours as the residents were illegal occupants. Many of the shantytowns have been in existence for 40 years. Though Faridabad is a planned industrial city, with space allotted for the housing of managers, supervisors, and government officials, there is no space in the plans for the hundreds of thousands of workers who work there. Workers were forced to build housing illegally on government land and are subject to extortion from all levels of officals. Now that the land has become valuable, they want it back. But where will the workers live?

There are 5,000 to 6,000 dwellings in each shantytown, many of which are pukkah (cement and brick) homes, rather than mud dwellings. Most of the residents are factory workers in companies such as Escorts, Bata, Goodyear and Whirlpool, or they are retrenched workers involved in petty trade.

In January, as soon as the announcement to vacate was made, thousands of residents blocked the national highway close to the shantytown. Police-cane-charged the crows and re-opened the highway. The crowd surged back and blocked the main railway tracks. The trains were stopped. Residents picked up stones from the tracks and threw them at the police. A few arrests were made and by nightfall, things quieted down. The next day, the police, civil administrators, and earth-moving demolition machinery arrayed themselves over a two-mile stretch of road facing the shantytown. That day, most workers stayed home, and thousands kept the police and machinery out. They were forced to put off the demolition. The exercise was illegal, even according to the existing laws. The state government assured the High Courts that it would follow the legal process, which is under way.

Since then, several shantytowns have been shut down. Legal experts and leaders, who claim that they are working to stay the proceedings, are very expensive and cost the workers a lot. One proceedings costs $4,000, when the average monthly salary of the resident is $40/month. By July, the lawyers, besides collecting their fees, started to file the same arguments for each resident, making it simpler for the designated collector to reject the complaints without a glance.

The demolition activities have intensified since July. On many occasions residents joined together spontaneously to save the shantytowns. Other times, the police took residents by surprise and succeeded in their demolitions. Still other times, the middle-men and leaders paved the way for the demolition crews.

These peices of land have become valuable because of development and their proximity to national highways. Shiny new offices, showrooms, bank and commercial enterprises have cropped up in the area, seeing the shantytowns across them as eyesores. Some of the land is also being used for construction of institutional areas and factories.