Tuesday, August 5, 2014


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.


1 comment:

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