The Subversion of MGNREGS

THE National Rural Employment Guarantee Act that brought the MGNREGS into being was a unique piece of legislation in the history of independent India. It stipulated that employment was to be made available on demand, within a fortnight of being asked for, failing which an unemployment allowance had to be paid. True, its scope was confined only to rural areas, and it promised employment only upto 100 days per household per year; but it made employment a right.

Entrapping within a Discourse

ENTRAPPING all intellectual discussion within a particular discourse is the commonest method that neo-liberalism uses for establishing its hegemony. There was for instance the debate recently on the question of the “autonomy” of the Reserve Bank, where one side wanted control over the RBI by the government and its coterie of “crony capitalists” while the other wanted an RBI catering to the whims and caprices of globalized finance. The question of popular or parliamentary control over the institution was simply never raised.

Criticism and Criticism

FORMER Reserve Bank governor Raghuram Rajan has come out openly against the Indian government’s measure of demonetisation of currency notes in November 2016, in a speech delivered recently at the University of California at Berkeley. Since Rajan is an economist of repute, and has been an important economic decision-maker in the country, his criticism of demonetisation is to be welcomed: it adds considerable weight to the voices that have been raised against this wanton and despotic measure of the Modi government.

A Looming Fiscal Crisis?

THE UPA-2 government, in its last three years in office, had been obsessed with ‘fiscal consolidation’ – a retreat from the limited ‘fiscal stimulus’ announced after the global crisis. The pre-occupation was with bringing down of the fiscal deficit, more so by restricting public expenditure growth instead of stepping uprevenue mobilisation. The change of government in 2014 produced no shift in this basic thrust of the fiscal policy of the central government.

The Yellow Vest Movement

NOTHING shows the crisis of neoliberal capitalism more clearly than the popular uprising in France that is occurring under the banner of the “Yellow Vest” movement. Thousands are congregating in Paris over week-ends to protest against the intolerable burdens being imposed upon them in the name of “austerity” and to demand that resources be raised instead through taxing the rich. This movement had begun initially as a protest against the diesel price-hikes, but has now taken on a more general character and is drawing huge support from the people.

The Emerging International Regime

THIRD world economies are now facing a reduced export demand for their goods and services for two distinct reasons. One is the world capitalist crisis which entails a reduced aggregate demand in the world economy and hence reduced aggregate exports for all countries taken together; the other is the protectionism of the US, which, by garnering for that country a larger share than it would have otherwise had of this reduced world market, leaves correspondingly less for others.

Vilifying the Intelligentsia

NARENDRA Modi said the other day, rather disparagingly, that the “Urban Naxals” live in air-conditioned comfort. Since all who speak or write in public upholding the right to dissent from the Hindutva positions, including even known critics of the Left, which means virtually all members of the intelligentsia who display any integrity, have been dubbed “Urban Naxals” by his government, his remark in effect amounts to targeting the entire intelligentsia.

Neo-Liberalism and the Diffusion of Development

THE level of economic activity under capitalism is subject to prolonged ebbs and flows. When the economy is on an upswing, this very fact acts as an elixir that emboldens capitalists, who begin to expect that the “good times” are going to continue; this makes them less worried about taking risks, more “adventurous”, and hence more prone to taking “bolder” decisions in their asset preference. And because of this they also undertake investment in physical assets like construction, equipment and machinery which makes the boom continue, and thereby justifies their euphoria.

The Modi Government’s Spat with the RBI

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 demonetisation 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.