Ramesh Sunam and Keshab Goutam
Since its formation in 1994, the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) has gone through a number of radical transformations, shifting from a guerrilla warfare unit to a key democratising force within Nepali politics.
The party’s early history is defined by its role in launching the ‘people’s war’ of 1996, a decade-long civil war that resulted in the loss of some 16,000 lives and halted the country’s economic development. The Maoists’ original aim was to benefit the poor and marginalised sectors of Nepali society by uprooting the monarchy and feudalism.
Today, many people question the necessity of the war. But the conflict did succeed in providing marginalised populations – particularly dalits (the so-called untouchables), women, the landless and ethnic and indigenous people – with a wider political space to articulate their grievances. The result was a series of protests and rights movements across the country by the Madhesi (people from the Tarai lowland) and ethnic populations. Such incidents have in turn facilitated the democratisation of Nepali politics. In the first Constituent Assembly election of April 2008, minorities gained substantial representation for the first time in Nepali history, with dalits receiving over 8.17 per cent of seats, women 33.22 per cent, ethnic and indigenous people 33.39 per cent, and Madhesis 34.09 per cent.
Baldia fire tragedy aftermath March 22, 2013Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan , Comment
The Baldia fire happened on 11 September 2012 at a garment factory in the Baldia area of Karachi, a city in the Sindh province of Pakistan. Karachi is the largest city of Pakistan and the most important industrial and financial hub. The fire took 259 lives. This is the worst industrial fire of the 20th and 21st centuries. The highest casualties previously recorded are 146 in the 1911 Triangle garment factory in New York and 187 in the 1993 doll factory fire in Thailand.
Twenty-three bodies were charred so badly that they could not be identified. DNA matching procedures have identified six bodies. In February, 5 months after the fire, authorities have mass buried 17 bodies that, according to the government, were never claimed after the factory fire.
International labour migration and the landless in Nepal January 23, 2013Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Nepal , 2comments
Nepali youth are migrating for work to the Gulf countries and Malaysia at an unprecedented level. Over 1200 Nepali workers leave the country for foreign employment every day. For many, labour migration is not just a means to overcome economic hardship and accumulate wealth, it is increasingly being pursued rather as a way of life and livelihood. Some analysts argue that migration has contributed to saving the national economy and improving the material well being of many people. And indeed this is true in a broader sense since it has protected the national economy from collapse, accounting for the ratio of remittances to GDP some 25 per cent. Rural places are being gentrified with rural lives becoming more urbane than before despite some social tensions and contradictions. Many families have been able to send their children to private schools. All thanks to the migrants who risk their own lives and who endure being away from their families. Among the plethora of migration-triggered changes, a far-reaching change could be that the poor and landless migrants are now purchasing land.
India: corruption affecting investment and economic growth December 13, 2012Posted by southasiamasala in : Future Directions International, Guest authors, India , 1 comment so far
Transparency International released the results of its annual Corruption Perceptions Index on 5 December 2012. India was ranked 94 out of 174 countries in corruption, a claim highlighted by the scandals that have hit the Indian National Congress-led government this year.
India, and the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government in particular, have felt increasing pressure over the levels of corruption. This year’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) illustrates that although the situation has improved since last year, an underlying culture of corruption still exists in India. Such endemic corruption may cause a decline in India’s attractiveness for foreign direct investment (FDI).Doron, Assa, India, Jeffrey, Robin , Comment
Assa Doron and Robin Jeffrey
To explain the unnerving and unstoppable march of capitalism in the mid-20th century, Joseph Schumpeter coined the term ‘Creative Destruction’. Capitalism’s engine was fuelled by a voracious impulse to devour yesterday’s commodities and thus clear the way for new products for the insatiable appetite of the consumer to feed on.
In India, ‘Creative Destruction’ once referred to the cosmological realm occupied by the King of Dancers, Shiva-Nataraj, whose continuous dance of creation and destruction governs the universe. In Nehru’s newly independent India, the idea of inducing consumption for the sake of updating to the newest model was almost sacrilege. During the first few decades of independence, material pursuits were frowned upon, while progress and industrialization were founded on ideals of self-sufficiency and self-reliance.
India-Pakistan visa deal: a glass half empty? September 14, 2012Posted by aungsi in : Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan , 1 comment so far
On September the 8th, India and Pakistan agreed to liberalise their visa arrangements. The deal came during three day talks between Pakistani foreign minister Khar and Indian counterpart Krishna at Islamabad. Under the deal eight categories of visa will be liberalised, including the provision of visa on entry at the land border for the elderly and young, and most importantly, the provision of multiple entry and multiple city visas for business people with turnovers of over Rs 3 million annually.
The latter is particularly significant in view of recent trade developments. These include Islamabad’s decision to grant most favoured nation (MFN) status to India – which had been granted by India to Pakistan in 1996. Pakistan has promised by December this year to grant MFN to India by eliminating the system allowing only stipulated items to be traded in favour of a small ‘negative’ list covering defence-related and other sensitive items. India has also liberalised its regime by agreeing to remove yarn and textiles from its ‘sensitive’ list and allowing Pakistani businesses to set up in India.
FEATURE ARTICLE: Notes from the field: feminisation of agriculture in the eastern Gangetic plains August 14, 2012Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Lahiri-Dutt, Kuntala , 3comments
… if women enjoyed the same access to productive resources as men in the world, farm yield could be raised by 20–30%…
The driver of the Tata Sumo I was travelling in not only stopped and honked several times, but, on at least two occasions, left the vehicle to physically push off the cows who were lazing on the road and relishing the midday heat of summer. More reluctant than the cows, however, were the black, white and brown goats on our path that were just lazily hanging around without a specific destination in mind. The road had lost its smooth tar cover and the large potholes of unascertainable depth meant that we were driving at not much more than walking speed. Whilst the bovine behaviour of acting as speed bumps is not unfamiliar to those who have travelled in rural India, the number and variety of goats and their goatish behaviour were noticeable at once. They were busier than the cows, chomping away on the leaves of the jute stalks that had just been cut and piled on the roadside before being dumped into the water for retting, or, on one occasion, a single goat was lying on its side, with its head on the tar, like a dead body. The goat had deliberately adopted the posture – actually to scratch its ear.
In an extremely poor area in the eastern Gangetic plains, running roughly from Champaran in North Bihar in the west to Cooch Behar near the Bangladesh border in the east and including the narrow flat stretch of Terai in Nepal, goats have become the new ‘feminine asset’.
Why Pakistan is lagging behind India August 12, 2012Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan , 4comments
Before the creation of Bangladesh in 1970-71 the then West Pakistan was economically more vibrant than India. There were a number of reasons for this.
It drew resources from the former East Pakistan to sustain its relatively large army. In addition during that period the Army, which even then determined whether it had direct or indirect control over the political apparatus, allowed its entrepreneurs drawn mostly from the Gujarati immigrants, a free reign and they drove economic growth. Fundamental Islam was weak and, muzzled by the army, Pakistan was politically and economically more liberal. This ensured a greater mobility of labour and capital, leading to greater efficiency in their use.
India’s economy, however, was highly regulated by the state. The government decided what should be produced and directed resources for this purpose. Economic efficiency was poor. This was reflected in the loss of competitiveness of Indian textile mills, which became ‘sick’ in the early 1980s. Even in steel production, which was a priority industry, the rate of increase was slow as it was limited to the public sector, and input of imports was difficult and low because foreign exchange was limited.
The loss of Bangladesh (but more so from 1980 onwards), brought economic change. It meant that Pakistan’s army could not be sustained at its then prevailing level. Cuts created dissatisfaction and were difficult to justify politically after its humiliation by India in the 1970 war. Its defence budget had to be bolstered after India’s explosion of a nuclear device in 1974, as Pakistan devoted resources to gain parity with India in nuclear defence technology. A redirection of defence resources from the army resulted in an alienation of the army that eventually led to the overthrow of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP), the elected government.
Had economic growth lifted it would have been easier to raise defence outlays without reducing those for the army. But Bhutto embarked on a nationalisation program. He stymied Pakistan’s economic dynamism by attacking its successful entrepreneurs who slowed investment, leading to a fall in investment and growth rates. Bhutto strengthened the power of the unions, which benefitted a very small segment of the labour aristocracy but created rigidities in the labour market. (more…)
Reconciling growth with equity in India May 2, 2012Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , Comment
‘Growth versus equity’ is a theme that continues to occupy most of the policy debates in India, particularly after two decades of experimenting with economic reform.
The outcome of the reform process has been mixed: India’s commendable trend rate of economic growth is unfortunately accompanied by a sustained and increasing degree of inequality. New debates on official poverty estimates have flared up, and so have concerns about uncontrolled inflation, though the intensity has subsided a bit in the recent past.
The coexistence of prosperity, poverty and inequality is not specific to India. Rich countries such as the US have experienced very little growth in recent times because of serious financial crisis-led recession, and inequality in various forms has been on the rise there as well. In a way, growth or no growth, the world has become a more unequal place — a feeling shared by experts and non-experts alike. Equity should be a contentious issue, and far more so than it is usually allowed to be.
Indian economic reform from the bottom up April 25, 2012Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , Comment
Madhu Purnima Kishwar, CSDS
‘Development’ and ‘underdevelopment’ are politically loaded terms. Most ‘underdeveloped’ societies have a colonial past in which their people and resources were economically exploited and their social, cultural and political institutions were wrecked. These terms are designed to create amnesia about the politics of colonialism and convince people in these societies that their poverty is due to their own ‘backwardness’. Whenever we see people trapped in poverty, instead of seeing them as objects of charity it is best to find out who is using what power to prevent people from earning a dignified living.
An important reason for the continuity of wide-scale poverty despite the growing wealth of the Indian elite is that India’s economic reforms have been confined to the corporate sector, which employs no more than 3 per cent of the country’s working population, compared to the 92 per cent of workers in the unorganised or informal sectors. The vast majority remain poor because they are the victims of bureaucratic controls. They include farmers, who yield enough crops to make the country self-sufficient, and whose produce — wheat, basmati rice, long staple cotton, and a whole range of exotic fruits and spices — has ready buyers in the national and international markets; and traditional craftspeople and artisans, including ironsmiths, goldsmiths, a range of metal workers, and those who make exquisite art objects and icons.