A Governor out of line
The Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s extremely divisive recent observation needs to be seen against the background of increasing arrogance of big money in economic and political life.
It may be pertinent to begin with a short story written by the eminent Dalit writer Annabhau Sathe in the 1950s, the period of the Samyukta Maharashtra movement when there was tension between the Marathi and Gujarati speaking people.
Though Sathe was a leading member of the cultural troupe of the then strong communist movement, his story Adhunik Ashwatthama sensitively portrayed the insecurity of a chawl dwelling, Gujarati speaking elderly man about his two young daughters.
The governor’s remarks were far from off the cuff, he is seen enjoying making the statement and is looking for applause
Although, in real life Gujarati girls faced no such threat, Sathe had the sensitivity to probe the psyche of the father. Writers like Sathe severely condemned capitalist exploitation but were sensitive to problems of all people.
Governor Koshyari had made a statement at a function in Mumbai on July 29 that if Gujaratis and Rajasthanis were taken away from the city and Thane, there would be no money left in these cities, and Mumbai would not remain the financial capital of India. He issued an apology following his remarks which were seen as deeply insulting and even the Chief Minister and deputy Chief Minister distanced themselves from the utterance.
It is clear from the video of the speech that the governor’s remarks were far from off the cuff, he is seen enjoying making the statement and is looking for applause.
All suggestions in the past about a separate Bombay or Mumbai, have been vehemently opposed. Mumbai is eighth richest city in the world with 51 resident billionaires
Before the formation of Maharashtra in 1960 there was a bilingual Bombay State which included parts of Maharashtra and Gujarat. Morarji Desai was the Chief Minister from 1952 and Y.B Chavan from 1957. Chavan later in 1960 became the chief minister of the present state of Maharashtra.
There were furious protests following the report of the Fazal Ali commission on the reorganisation of States and when Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru announced that Mumbai should be made a union territory. The idea of the seceding of Mumbai from the Marathi speaking areas was widely resented by the Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti which had become a major political force. The SMS was seen as a representative of ordinary, working class people while the Congress was seen as a party under the influence of capitalists.
Many since then fear that the capitalist class still harbours plan to cede Mumbai from Maharashtra and the feeling persists to this day. All suggestions in the past about a separate Bombay or Mumbai, have been vehemently opposed. Mumbai is eighth richest city in the world with 51 resident billionaires
His statement on the economy betrays a typical upperclass bias and prejudice about wealth creation and there is a sinister ignoring of the contribution of workers who create the surplus
Coming back to Annabhau Sathe. He walked some 230 km from his village in Sangli district to Mumbai as he had no money for transport. He had little education, did petty jobs for a living and yet in his short life of 49 years he left a very rich body of work from novels and film scripts and lok natya, folk theatre, to poems and ballads. His work has been translated into some 27 languages including European ones.
He got his inspiration from the active Communist movement of the 1950s and 1960s. With Shahir Amar Shaikh and Gavankar he formed a powerful trio that thrilled audiences of thousands with militant songs.
Koshyari with his cap and dhoti looks like the common man of cartoonist R.K. Laxman. But he is far from that. He has become extremely unpopular with his acts of commission and omission and utterances. Also seen as outrageous are his recent utterances against the eminent social reformer couple of 19th century Maharashtra, Mahatma Jyotirao Phule and Savitribai. While inaugurating a statue of Savitribai Phule earlier this year he had mocked at her marriage at the age of ten. At that time child marriages were common. His remarks against Jyotirao and Savitribai Phule, who are revered in Maharashtra, were condemned by the Congress and other parties.
The governor and his ilk believe in myths, old ones that have been around for centuries and new ones fabricated by vested interests
His statement on the economy betrays a typical upperclass bias and prejudice about wealth creation and there is a sinister ignoring of the contribution of workers who create the surplus. Additionally, there are a number of other factors including infrastructure, creative, artistic class and so on. To single out one or two communities for the success of an economy is to betray colossal ignorance of history and the present situation.
American capitalism owes its success in large measure to its exploitation of slaves, says the distinguished scholar Sven Beckert whom I heard at the Jaipur literary festival and in Mumbai sometime ago on this topic. He was widely quoted in the New York Times. Some of the observations from the newspaper in this regard are worth quoting.
Nearly two average American lifetimes have passed since the end of slavery, only two. It is not surprising that we can still feel the looming presence of this institution, which helped turn a poor, fledgling nation into a financial colossus. The surprising bit has to do with the many eerily specific ways slavery can still be felt in our economic life. “American slavery is necessarily imprinted on the DNA of American capitalism,” write the historians Sven Beckert and Seth Rockman.
A couple of years before he was convicted of securities fraud, Martin Shkreli was the chief executive of a pharmaceutical company that acquired the rights to Daraprim, a lifesaving antiparasitic drug. Previously the drug cost $13.50 a pill, but in Shkreli’s hands, the price quickly increased by a factor of 56, to $750 a pill. At a health care conference, Shkreli told the audience that he should have raised the price even higher. “No one wants to say it, no one’s proud of it,” he explained. “But this is a capitalist society, a capitalist system and capitalist rules.”
"This is a capitalist society": It’s a fatalistic mantra that seems to get repeated to anyone who questions why America can’t be more fair or equal.
In a capitalist society that goes low, wages are depressed as businesses compete over the price, not the quality, of goods; so-called unskilled workers are typically incentivised through punishments, not promotions; inequality reigns and poverty spreads. In the United States, the richest 1 percent of Americans own 40 percent of the country’s wealth, while a larger share of working-age people (18-65)live in poverty than in any other nation belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (O.E.C.D.), the newspaper noted (NYT 14-08-2019)
Coming back to Annabhau Sathe he put the issue in a more succinct way when he said the earth rests not on the thousand headed Shesh Naga of mythology but on the hard labour of workers. Unfortunately, the governor and his ilk believe in myths, old ones that have been around for centuries and new ones fabricated by vested interests
(The writer is a senior journalist)