Sabarna Roy is a much awarded, critically acclaimed bestselling author of 6 literary books: Pentacles; Frosted Glass; Abyss; Winter Poems; Random Subterranean Mosaic: 2012 – 2018, and Etchings of the First Quarter of 2020. He is the lead author of a technical book, which has been published from the European Union and has been translated into 8 major European languages.
He has been awarded the Literoma Laureate Award in 2019, Literoma Star Achiever Award 2020, Random Subterranean Mosaic: 2012 – 2018 won the best book of the year 2019, the A List Award for excellence in fiction by the NewsX Media House, Certificate for The Real Super Heroes for spreading a spirit of positivity and hope during the COVID-19 Pandemic from Forever Star India Award 2020, the Certificate for Participation in the Indo Russian Friendship Celebration 2020, and the Literoma Golden Star Award 2020: Lifetime Achievement.
You scratch my back; I scratch yours! This now the Lavasa way of life. Consider for a moment: Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel call on Sonia Gandhi. Within 48 hours the Union Government eases all policy obstructions to the project. Sharad Pawar defends the Union Government on rise in petrol price. More surprises – the Maharashtra Government had filed criminal charges against Lavasa; whereas Prithiwiraj Chauhan (the CM) after meeting Sonia Gandhi was found lobbying with the Environment Minister (Jayanti Natarajan) to clear the project. NDTV allows prime time slot to the CMD of HCC, the chief promoter of Lavasa (a family friend of Sharad Pawar who was shown the site – Sahayadri mountain range – by the grand Maratha himself; Pawarji had spotted it while on one of his helicopter rides) pleading victim-hood in the name of having created a world class city (with world class educational facilities – ha, ha, ha, ha); he goes unchallenged on the show regarding critical matters relating to issues that had been raised against the project originally. A grand case study on nexus building as being part of modern statecraft apart from mutual scratching of scarred backs!
You can hear the distant sounds swimming in the air, and sense the strange scents and symbols.
I mean, when the tigers break free and call you home for dinner!
You know, darling, your time has come.
One of the collateral damages of the COVID 19 Pandemic is: It has left millions of young men and women stranded in isolation away from home fending for themselves. Some of them are students. Some are interns while others are professionals in various capacities. Students and interns practically have no work. Professionals are working from home with substantially reduced workload, some of them even with pay cuts. A grave uncertainty looms in front of them and on top of it the burden of passing time in extreme loneliness chews your soul and shreds you to pieces.
I have two professional children – my son is stranded in London and my daughter is stranded in Bangalore. Both of them desperately want to reach home but conditions and circumstances are beyond their and our control.
It is a mind game. Dealing with smoke-like volatile loneliness. Books, music, movies, TV Series, stand-up comedies, online chess/scrabble, chatting/texting with friends under such invisible violent conditions lose their context and perspective. Restlessness fills up the void inside your body and you are on the verge of exploding.
Debjani and I have been learning a lot tackling our children on phone and video-calls.
It is so important to talk and constantly be in touch in these unprecedented times. If a generation of youngsters lose their sparkle irrevocably that would be the greatest casualty of the COVID 19 Pandemic.
I may not be the best father and/or the best friend of my children but one thing I have understood is, parents have to lead exemplarily in these trying times. They have to be patient, imaginative, intuitive, innovative, and should never lose their mind. They have to participate. They cannot remain mere counsellors.
Rahul is ill at ease to explain the economic model he believes in.
He keeps on repeating the same line again and again to me: Climate Change will soon determine whether we will survive or be extinct. But he also stresses that: The Corporations are likely to win the Climate Change battle and destroy most of the human civilization.
So, I ask, what is that decision humans should take in winning this battle?
Rahul replies reluctantly: On the face of it this looks undo-able. But, I do not think there is any other way out. Decentralization is key. Destroying artificial but physical barriers of cities, towns, villages and nation-states will have to go. There is a natural way by which communities exist as communities over a large period of time. Communities will have to decide what they want: industry, trade or agriculture or a mixture of everything. They have to be small and commensurate with the intensity of the community shunning hierarchy and not with accumulation in mind but fulfilling realistic necessities. Currency will have to go. Barter needs to be brought back. Individual and communal. Accumulation will be restricted to tackling imaginable futuristic disasters.
I argue with Rahul saying, your prescription is nothing but a midway between John Lennon’s Imagine and Marx’s Communist Manifesto. Burn it!
He shoots back: What do you mean?
I mean, the guiding algorithm of human consciousness is greed and lust. All creations of human civilization can be explained on the bedrock of this guiding algorithm. Neo-capitalism has made an irrevocable quantum jump towards destruction. Neo-capitalism was a natural corollary of this guiding algorithm. I believe, neo-capitalists with an army of humanoid robots will not require people, there could be mass murders and mass graves of redundant people. Cutting down of people like cutting down of trees. The rich can have an artificial world of their own where the natural world will be completely subsumed.
Rahul snorts: Fuck you sucker; let’s have a Corona
Everybody is identical in their secret unspoken belief that way deep down they are different from everyone else.
About four decades ago, frustrated members with small and shared land holdings in Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh went to the prosperous states of Punjab and Haryana, offered to work for a fraction of the going rate.
Soon they became indispensable, and for some operations — like paddy transplantation –they remain so in spite of mechanization.
The two years before the Commonwealth Games 2010, in Delhi, huge machinery and very few men marked the construction sites as sports and other infrastructure came up in preparation for the event. There was a design behind it.
Experience of the Asiad 1982 projects showed that the labour, that had been brought in construction was not so mechanised then to the capital, stayed put, to earn a living wherever possible, however possible! They were seen as scum in the capital.
When they went back to the villages — to cast their vote or for harvesting or a wedding — they generally brought back more villagers to work in the city. They found jobs, primarily in the construction sector.
Big projects like the expanding Delhi Metro, the expressways and national highways that have made Delhi a world-class city are, however, largely the work of powerful, monstrous looking machines.
In difficult times as now, the call of the village is all that these migrants can hear.
And contrary to the way they were viewed post the Asiad 1982, now their urge to go back home has rattled urban India.
If the migrant labour manage to go back in large numbers, will they be missed?
Will they return?
Should they return?
What will be the impact of their decision on the economy, on development?
These and many other tough and yet relevant questions are what policy makers have to ask and answer as they work to make India’s migrant labour count, for their contribution to the economy.
The time for doing that has come, and it is now.
Policy analyst Devinder Sharma believes that agriculture was “deliberately killed” and farmers were by design “moved out of agriculture to participate in the building of the economy” by making farm incomes non remunerative.
The NITI Aayog, he says, points to real income growth in agriculture being less than half a per cent annually between 2011-2012 and 2015-2016, and in the next two years, it was near zero.
Citing reports of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) Sharma says that between 2000 and 2016, farmers suffered losses of Rs 45 lakh crores.
“If that had gone to them, why would they have run to the cities to work as migrant labour?” he asks.
The OECD’s July 2018 ‘’Review of Agriculture in India’’ looks, among other things, at what role will the small land holder have in agriculture.
The landscape comprising two extremes: the fire-fly like shining armor of Shaheenbags spread all across India and the farce spread by the toxic duo of President Trump – Prime Minister Modi from Ahmedabad to Agra, is enervating the rattlesnake trapped inside my soul.
The fear of statelessness is lionizing average Muslim women who were inward-bound until now. This is a flash-point in history. The opportunism of President Trump is to woo the NRIs in the USA who did not vote for him in the last election in large numbers. Prime Minister Modi by this circus wants to deflect the gradually growing protestations, throughout India, against the CAA and abrogation of Article 370.
Yesterday’s news informs us Delhi is likely to burn in the days to come. Maybe many more cities, towns and villages.
The brilliant thing about the Communists of yesteryears in Bengal was that they were scholarly, read contrary views and put question-marks even on the most transparent of matters. In 1987 during my University days, I was introduced to a Revolutionary Communist who placed before me the relevant Constituent Assembly debates, correspondence between the leaders of that time and the factual history of migration between 1947 and 1948 from West Pakistan to India and laid before me a dissection of why the Permit Card was not made applicable to migrants of East Pakistan and taught me to sift through this enormous pile of documents, at the end of which I concluded the Indian Citizenship Law by itself is flawed and practiced in a biased manner throughout history.
One of the greatest contributions of Indian Communists in polemics was their scholarly critique of the Indian Constitution until the middle of 1980s and also of the politics of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
But whatever is left of the Indian Citizenship Law one can argue and build up a cogent case against CAA being unconstitutional as it is incomplete being subject to multifarious ambiguities.
When I talked to this Revolutionary Communist, who is very old and ill now, about the rattlesnake trapped inside my soul, transmitting venom throughout my veins and that I was in a constant fit of rage, he advised me: Do not cool down; this is the time to return in waves!
Human civilization has evolved differently at different geographical locations over time. Difference ways of governance and socio-political-economic styles have taken roots.
I have been trying to understand mathematically since 2009 the actual range of inequities including trends that can be speculated based on analysis of data – each type of governance and style have thrown up across regions and populations over time coupled with inbuilt historical inequities, like, race and caste. What happens is either I end up with too many details and cannot make any head or tail of anything or I start looking at data through various ideological spectrums, which according to me is a lazy and an incorrect thing to do. Yes, data itself is today debated to be political. Yet, I believe there are some sources of data, which are left to be polluted still.
What I mean is – Nordic capitalism is very different from the US capitalism or from what is practiced in France, Germany and the UK; oil economies are different from non-oil economies; feudalism what was in Africa or the Indian sub-continent before colonization was very different from European feudalism and they all were very different from Latin American feudalism; Australia, New Zealand and Canada possibly have to be looked from another angle; socialist practices to start with were very different in the USSR, China, Vietnam and Cuba and still remain so; post-colonial societies have turned towards different directions; feminism of the West is different from the feminism of Africa and they are both very different to feminist models in Asia. I can go to great lengths at this. Every society has inequities and the general trend is, in the majority of them they are growing at a very rapid pace than others.
While very-conservative-hyper-nationalist politics is growing rapidly across continents they are being loosely termed as fascists and Nazis. But my personal reading of Hitler’s Germany between 1933 and 1939 shows marked differences between these post-modern very-conservative-hyper-nationalist political regimes and Hitler’s Germany. Like, between 1933 and 1939 Germany radically reduced budget-deficit, inflation, unemployment by massive expansions of defense-related –industrialization and construction of autobahns and militarily conquered markets for sale of its products as well as sourcing of cheap labor and raw materials. His anti-Semitism was based on a relatively successful economic model when compared with Germany between 1919 and 1931. Otherwise, he would have failed within a year-or-two. That is my view.
So, the post-modern trend of very-conservative-hyper-nationalist politics is different. It is no longer an era of war-nerves but nerves-of-war. The post-modern regimes are failing economically on most of the parameters and yet, they are successful politically.
If one looks closely at all philosophies, economic/social/political treatises written till date and all revolutions of people and proclamations of great men and women, I will bet 70 to 80% of all is addressed towards the idea of eradicating inequity, in whatever-form-it-may-exist. Implicitly our moral view of living and existing equally – almost to the extent of being clones of each other – have superseded our critical thinking. We, as human beings, are romantic and sentimental animals. Yet, the horrendous brutality of mankind towards other animals in industrial slaughterhouses of the West to spike-up the balance-sheets of meat-companies of the West who are shaping-up our food choices in the East and thereby, creating more markets because they had to react to the movements of vegetarianism and veganism in the West demonstrates another level of cruelty by these romantic and sentimental animals, and unfortunately this goes miles above the Left and Liberals of post-modern India.
Now, let’s come to the second question, on which I have been working since 2009 as well. Are human beings growing happier with passage of time? My study practically reveals very contradictory answers. But, there is a general trend: in spite of not-so-gross inequities (because of State’s effective regulation mechanisms) of other kinds, liberal societies, where the individual tends to have a say, tend to be happier. Low crime rates. Freedom to abort. Legalized drugs. Legalized brothels. Gun control measures. Capital punishment out of the law books. State’s involvement in public health. Public education. Land re-distributed. Justice mechanism is independent. Low defense budgets. Environmental laws are implemented. There is no data to validate the romantic idea that people feel happier when they socialize and operate communally. Actually, there is enough data to validate that when political masters operate on a system that does not infringe on individual choices – LGBTQ+ and interracial and inter-caste collaborations – people tend to be happier. They do not bother much when they know they can be safe with their weird choices; what kind of economics is working behind. But these are not priorities with the post-modern very-conservative-hyper-nationalist politicians.
There is another general trend: the human civilization is increasingly becoming hyper-technocratic and the access to which is with the 1 or 2% of the powerful-and-rich and the benefits of technology are getting costlier with every passing day. Like, for similar kinds of pathological tests 15 years back, we have a huge bill today when comparing with the past even after factoring inflation. So, technology is making our operative life costlier, squeezing labor hours and therefore manpower – it is instructive for any industry today to grow at a greater pace with less manpower and it is possible in every kind of industry today because automation technologies will rule for the next 20 years by when we will have possibly man-less industries.
Where did we leave farming and food production, by the way? Industrialized farming, yes, that is the way.
As the human civilization is getting brutal and more brutal with every passing day and possibly, no credible rebellion looks impending on the horizon (likely because the multitude of people who have been left-out over very long periods – in their sub-conscious – could have possibly concluded that the human project is to finally end with grotesque inequities and unhappiness), including that inequities and unhappiness are by themselves acts of nature for we as a race learnt to exist and took great pride in creating a civilization by fighting against the onslaughts and furies of nature.
To me, the mystery of the human project lies in its consciousness – the way its nervous system evolved over centuries. It is restless, deeply combative, individualistic, only collaborates under external force or self-misery, relatively hedonist, will produce billions of lies to be on the top of power structure of any kind. This has been the fountainhead of arts, literature, ideas, philosophies, politics, societies and institutions.
We may have been fooled into the cunning of the produce of our nervous system – the human project that it will survive!
COVID 19 has given us a scope to think expansively.
Now that we are comparatively at relative rest, one of the questions that has been lingering on my mind is, what can be our Civilizational Goals in the years to come.
I started making a few notes for myself:
- Technology and Innovation should be fully channelized towards Public Health, Public Education, Weather Forecasting and Public Safety.
- Can we progress with Industry and Manufacturing in the years to come? I think, with some limited knowledge, if we start implementing the Paris Climate Accord and seriously plan to bring down Carbon Footprint incrementally then, in the end, we may have to contradict the Industrial and Manufacturing path head-on. Let me give you an example. Ferrous and Non-ferrous production and related mining are one of the greatest polluters. So is Cement. So are hydrocarbons. So are fossil fuels, like, coal. So is nuclear armament. Empirically, it can be established that Industry and Manufacturing are contradictory to a sustainable climate on this planet.
- It is not easy to dismantle Capitalist Institutions in which we are deeply embedded and entrenched. Industrialization needed massive Institutionalization so that the Powerful could run their oligarchies legally.
- If human beings envision a life that satisfies their needs of hunger, shelter and clothing and communal accumulation for foreseeable disaster management then we would have migrated out of the trappings of development economics and gravitated towards a decentralized pastoral economics where transactions would be based on barter. That would require deep land reforms down to the last landless peasant. How much land realistically in a densely populated country like India will be available to a peasant? This question of quantity will not matter when we reverse operations based on collaboration and not competition.
- Is it possible to live without Arts, Literature and Science? The answer is: No. Then, the greatest wonders on this planet were not built in the industrialized world. There is nothing to demonstrate that in a more sustainable world we cannot have Arts, Literature and Science. In fact, my belief is, more people will be drawn towards Arts, Literature, Science and Philosophy in a sustainable society.
- With the dissolution of Capitalist Institutions, will Nation-states dissolve?
- Will Armies and Military Contractors dissolve?
- Will we move towards complete disarmament?
When I reread the above brief points the first thing that struck me was the impossibility and improbability of the proposal. Secondly, greed and lust are very much integral to the human gene and consciousness as benevolence and brotherhood. The powerful will not unseat themselves from Institutions and Nation-states for the sake of humanity. Thirdly, how will we initiate such a mammoth overhauling process?
If nothing is going to take off, will a bi-yearly lockdown of a fortnight during the onset of spring and the conclusion of autumn heal the planet to some reasonable degree? It will also give us some time to think and ponder. Could be new imaginations, intuitions and innovations might emerge!