Monday, August 25, 2014

Weavers - Artisan Rally in Varanasi and Workshop at Vidya Ashram


Weavers - Artisan Rally on 18th Sept. 2014 in Varanasi
Lokavidya Jan Andolan Workshop on 19th Sept. 2014 at Vidya Ashram

Weavers of Varanasi and Lokavidya Jan Andolan have given a call for all artisans to gather in Varanasi and raise their basic demands. We must tell the governments that discrimination between unorganized and organized sector must come to an end. It is the responsibility of the Central and State Governments that all those who earn their livelihood based on their own knowledge and skills must have incomes that are equal to the salaries of the government employees. All have a right to get as much as decided upon by the Pay Commission. The gap between the present incomes of artisans and salaries of government employees must be filled by the governments.

18 Sept. : Starting at 4.00 pm from National Inter College, Pili Kothi (Weavers' Locality) the Weaver - Artisan Rally and procession will go to the Town Hall where it will turn into a mass meeting in front of the statue of Mahatma Gandhi (distance about 1 km). This is to focus on the plight of the artisans and demand for all artisans wages equal to those in the organized sector. 

 19 Sept. :  A day long workshop and dialogue at Vidya Ashram, Sarnath. The subject is " Everybody Earning Their Livelihood Based on Lokavidya Should Get Fixed and Regular Income Equal to the Income of a Government Employee". 

Weavers of Varanasi and the Lokavidya Movement jointly invite all artisans to join this program.

Out Station participants may kindly inform us so that lodging and boarding arrangements can be made.   

Weavers Welfare Struggle Committee     Lokavidya Jan Andolan
Pili Kothi, Varanasi                                 Vidya Ashram, Sarnath, Varanasi

Mob. : 8303244310                                    Mob. : 9839275124 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


This article was published in Lokavidya Prapancham issue of 1st August 2014


We have argued for the necessity of unity among the different sections of Lokavidya Samaj as a necessary condition for its survival. We have also stated that the basis of this unity rests wholly on (the faith in ) Lokavidya- this is practically the only strength of the Samaj apart from its sheer numbers. How do we re-inculcate this faith in Lokavidya within the Samaj ? This is pertinent because there have been arguments that have been put forth that state that the farmers have , for a very long time now, got 'integrated' with the capitalist market and have, to great measure, shifted production to industry-required inputs rather than those of the Samaj. Thus, their ability and willingness to lead the Samaj to a new path for survival is therefore in question.The inter-dependency between the artisanal & service sections(jatis) and the farmers has been greatly weakened or broken with the intervention of industry. For example, agricultural implements which were produced to meet the (local) requirements of the farming community by blacksmiths and carpenters have been 'replaced' by those produced and supplied by industry. Services rendered by tailors, potters, cobblers etc have also been displaced through those 'offered' by industry. Cotton produced by farmers to meet the requirements of handloom weavers has given way to cotton required by the yarn-making industry. The farmers are now being made to grow GM cotton to suit the needs of large mills and textile factories. Through all these methods the organic link between the different sections(jatis) of Lokavidya Samaj have been greatly weakened or even broken. This organic link was based on a strong sense of mutual interdependence and formed the basis for the culture of Lokavidya Samaj. Even the very existence of a real Lokavidya Samaj is in question- in other words, do the various sections of the Samaj relate to themselves as members of a coherent Samaj,[ which is generally referred to as Indian society(characterised by a unique way of life and inter-relationships)] or are they separate entities (jatis) that see their future only in the kind of relationship they build with capitalism and the capitalist market?

Local Market and its role in strengthening mutual inter-dependence

A key arena of constant interaction between different jatis comprising Lokavidya Samaj was the local market; where goods and services were exchanged/traded. This interaction was, upto about 150 years ago, based on a shared and accepted concept of 'value' that formed the basis for exchange/trade in that market. In fact, this concept of 'value' was an intrinsic part of Lokavidya. The value of goods and services that were outside the domain of the local market were influenced by supply, demand and logistics of procurement & delivery. [It is very interesting to note that, in large parts of India upto the early 19th century, a significant part of this non-local market commerce was carried out by tribals(Lambadas,Agiaries etc of central India) and it is appropriate to assume that these tribal communities had a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship with other jatis of Lokavidya Samaj]. The local market was the local area, comprising a few panchayats, which in turn were comprised of about 5-10 villages. [Apart from these common panchayats there were specific communal(jati or varna) panchayats where social issues of and within the community/jati were discussed and deliberated upon and specialized markets, such as cattle and livestock markets, where the trade was of specified articles and thus confined to some specific jatis].The relationship between different producing and service jatis was greatly influenced by the terms of trade in the local market. Labour was not stratified as such and it appears that each jati performed its labour (productive or service activity) as part of its 'dharma' and the value assigned to every and any form of such labour seems to have been based on the necessity/life-need it satisfied and not on supply/ demand or on whether it was 'manual/mental-based'. This is evident from the fact that every jati performed its socially-required function as and when socially required and there was an inherent equality in the value of different forms of labour, manifested in the exchange-value of produce/labour; which sustained a relatively cordial relationship between different jatis. The market-place (weekly market) was a venue for trade/exchange of goods, articles etc that were meant for near immediate use/consumption and not for trade or re-sale.

The captitalist market and its role in the disruption of Lokavidya Samaj

The advent of an expanding (capitalist) market, for trade in manufactured goods, in colonial India created a 'value' hierarchy that was alien to Lokavidya. 'Value' in this capitalist driven market was based on the 'socially necessary labour required to produce the goods' and, with the advent of machines in manufacture, the 'value' of common goods such as food grains, cloth, cooking oil, food articles, utensils etc was determined by the hierarchy of labour value that underlay the capitalist market. So a mill worker in Manchester would get much more for his labour(to produce the same amout of cloth) as would a handloom weaver in an Indian village. This market logic caused Khadi to become more expensive than mill cloth! In other words the labour/skills of the handloom weaver were devalued by the external market forces. This soon led to a hierarchy in the value of goods traded in the local market i.e lack of parity in prices of commonly-needed goods. This had a bearing on the service industry and those sections of society(jatis) engaged in providing (non-goods producing) services found themselves in the lower rungs of a new social hierarchy. This is NOT to state that caste-hierarchy did not exist prior to the advent of colonialism and the capitalist market. It did exist in social, cultural and to an extent, in economic contexts. There is no evidence to suggest that this hierarchy was so debilitating as to disrupt the entire fabric of social relationships of mutual inter-dependency, at least in pre-colonial India, for an extended period of time. However, this hierarchy is neither to be ignored nor dispensed with lightly. This hierarchy has to be transcended on the basis of a new-found consciousness of equality and fraternity based on new relationships between the various jatis that comprise Lokavidya Samaj. This alone will lead to its unity and resurgence and provide it with an impetus to survive the onslaught of capitalism and capitalist market forces.

The role of local market in fostering equality-based unity

If the farmers, who comprise the largest section of Lokavidya Samaj, are to lead the Samaj through a social transformation based on a new socio-political imagination, what would they and the other sections of the Samaj, have to do? It is obvious that the farmers will have to 'rewrite' their relationships with the other sections of the Samaj such that it is able to transcend the hierarchical caste system and the exploitation of the capitalist market. The farmers have to redefine their relationship with the other jatis by 'revaluing the labour' of the other sections from one of dominance to one of equality. This can be done if the farmers reorganize their production activity to be more food-centric and use local seeds, fertilizer, local services and labour. They would also have to take the lead in redefining the 'terms of trade ' in a local market . Every other section of the Samaj is in one way or other economically connected to the farmers and so it is also necessary that these other sections(jatis) respond to the call of the farmers to setup and sustain a local market in the spirit of total equality and fraternity. This alone will allow the farmers to lead the Samaj to a new horizon.

Dry land farmers, who constitute about 70% of the entrire farming community, can take the lead in pursuing and promoting eco-friendly agricultural practices, revive and help sustain a healthy diet based on millets, coarse grain and non-GM vegetables and fruits. The farmers of the irrigated areas should look inward at the Samaj rather than take leads from industry-propelled agriculture. These measure will help promote the much needed unity of Lokavidya Samaj.



This article was published in Lokavidya Prapancham issue of 1st August 2014


For the past few decades we have been witnessing the continuous suicides by farmers and weavers, especially in the states of Maharashtra, Telengana and Andhra Pradesh. Recently some suicides were reported from Gujarat too. Farmers and weavers constitute the largest proportion of producing sections of Lokavidya Samaj. Other sections such as Potters, Blacksmiths, Tailors, Cobblers, Dhobis, Goldsmiths, Carpenters, Barbers, Masons etc have almost all abandoned their livelihood 'trades' and either joined the ranks of 'unemployed' labour in the cities or have picked up some new skills and are ekeing out a living in the cities. Some of them such as masons, carpenters, tailors, dhobis and cobblers have shifted their trades to urban areas.  Productive sections such as potters, blacksmiths and (now) goldsmiths have been driven out of their livelihoods because big industry has started producing pots, farm implements, jewellery etc. ,while carpenters, having been displaced from building construction-related carpentry work by big industry, are largely involved in making furmiture for urban houses.

These sections of Lokavidya Samaj (including their families)constitute about 80% of the country's population. They are all facing displacement from their livelihoods and the knowledge-base that supports their livelihoods(Lokavidya) and are rapidly being reduced to 'unskilled' labour.
Farmers and weavers are being forced to adopt or compete with modern methods of farming(seeds, fertizers, pesticides, irrigation) or weaving( synthetic yarn and dyes, jet looms). These modern methods are alien to these sections and are based on knowledge produced by Institutions of higher learning(Universities)- to which young men and women of these sections have not had access to in sufficient numbers and for sufficient time , so much so that the new knowledge (connected to these livelihoods) has not percolated through the large number of members of these sections. The inability to cope with the demands of this new knowledge(technology) in food and cloth production and of the capitalist market, have led to increasing indebtedness and loss of self-confidence leading to a continuous spate of suicides by farmers and weavers.

The state, on its part, has played a role in actually giving a thrust to this miserable condition of Lokavidya Samaj directly through large scale displacement of farmers, tribals and fishermen from land, forest and waterbodies. Those displaced have never ever been 'rehabilitated' adequately or sufficiently (even in Govt terms) while the real situation is that, as a rsult of displacement, these displaced sections have also been deprived of the opportunity to put their knowledge(Lokavidya) into practice and have been reduced to coolies and beggars.  All artisans have been similarly deprived of putting their knowledge into practice by the systematic destruction of their livelihoods through modern industry and market forces- they too have either been forced (or face the threat) into the ranks of the 'dispossessed' (coolies and beggars). Lokavidya Samaj has, through the onslaught of the capitalist mode of production and market , been displaced from livelihood and their knowledge base(Lokavidya) so much so that it has now become extremely difficult to re-inculcate the confidence in Lokavidya among Lokavidya Samaj and they see themselves as 'backward' citizens of this country.

In modern economic parlance the artisans of  Lokavidya Samaj are being refered to as ' the informal economy or as un-incorporated (i.e not registered under the Companies Act) SME (Small and Medium Enterprises) and OAE (Own Account Enterprises). The recent budget speech of the Union Finance Minister refers to these SMEs and states that “they form the backbone of our Economy....  most importantly a majority of these enterprises are owned or run by SCs, STs and OBCs......there is a need to examine the financial architecture for this sector...” There are an estimated 57.7 million such units that operate in rural areas. More than two-thirds are enagaged in trade and services and about a fourth in manufacturing. The OBCs, SCs and STs  own about two-thirds of this sector, operate about 71% of manufacturing units and 60% of trading units. The OBCs run 48% of the 57.7 million units while the SC run units have risen from 10 to 14  million in the past 6 years. This sector generates OBC,SC and ST entreprenuers. In other words, by their own estimates, Lokavidya Samaj is able to create jobs in contrast to the IIM's which produce job-seekers. Obviously the term 'backward' is a total mis-representation of fact and the sooner Lokavidya Samaj recognises its real strengths, the sooner will be their own 'liberation' from this so-called backwardness.

Where does the strength of Lokavidya Samaj lie? The strength of Lokavidya Samaj lies in its knowledge-base i.e Lokavidya. This knowledge and the skills that accrue from it are neither static nor closed. Lokavidya is continuously enriching itself through the work and experiences of the Samaj and  from its interaction with the modern sector and its knowledge-base(Science & Technology). Its is an ever-growing ever-regenerating knowledge-base. The tragedy is that Lokavidya Samaj has become unaware of this strength and has assumed a 'weak and backward' position in Indian society. Rather than dwell on this so-called backwardness, Lokavidya Samaj should take steps to rally its rank and file on the basis of its strength(Lokavidya) and become, once again, a truly dominant productive force in national life and economy.

The children of farmers must be made to understand that the knowledge (of agriculture) required to produce food for the entire population exists with them. The children of weavers must be made to understand that the knowledge required to produce yarn and cloth of all varieties and meet the basic requirements of the entire population, exists with them. So also, the children of all other artisans must be made to realise that the knowledge in their particular productive area, exists with them.
The dalits and tribals should also assert their knowledge-strengths. A united assertion of this inherent strength by Lokavidya Samaj will herald a new unity of the ranks of the dispossessed in their struggle for creating a new society that will also liberate man from the constricting bonds of capitalist production and market-values.

As a first step in assisting the assertion of this strength, LJA has given a call for equal pay/wages for every working person irrespective of the knowledge-base on which he/she basis his/her work. This wage/pay should not be less than the minimum wage decided by the Pay Commission for Government employees. The right to live and work by Lokavidya should be declared a Fundamental Right and be enshrined in the Constitution.

This demand, appears, to most people, as unachievable. Questions such as 'who will pay ? ' etc are used to begin the counter-argument. However, what is to be realised is that this demand strikes at the very root of the capitalist system and the hierarchy of knowledge on which the current phase of imperialism is based. It is therefore a demand that, if pusued in earnest, will sharpen the demand for radical social change. We must also note that the demand for equal pay for ALL labour/skill is actually a demand for recoginition of the inherent equality across Lokavidya Samaj. This consciousness would also help cement the unity of Lokavidya Samaj in this long struggle.

The need of the hour, therefore, is unity of Lokavidya Samaj. This translates into the coming together of ALL peoples' movements on a common equality-based platform with the conscious recognition of equality of ALL forms of labour/skills/knowledge. LJA had set this agenda at Multai in January and the subsequent events, furthering this demand, are slowly but surely leading to unity of Lokavidya Samaj.