Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Comrade in Conversation

Comrade Chaturanan Mishra, placid man in demeanor though emphatically spirited in his deeds and convictions quintessentially resemble a revolutionary in mainline. Through idea and spirit, his stout clasp over Communist ideology could be easily reckoned, along with his relentless bond with progressive ideas and practices both at personal as well as on collective level. Indeed his political journey was not came under breezed circumstances as it started during the jumbled phase of 1942, when the nation, Communist party and moreover the entire world was facing the cloud of history’s most severe trauma in terms of World WarII. His own transformation in Indian politics effaced many imperfections and remained consistent and determined to turn nostrum into real happening. Talking to this octogenarian living legend didn’t appeared daunting even for a while…very open and no frills attitude of him made my task easier to dwell with him for next few hours in a rainy afternoon at his official residence in Meena Bagh {Lutyn’s Delhi}.

Atul K Thakur:-It’s indeed a privilege for me to interact with someone who is known for all good reasons, despite remaining in politics for almost last seven decades. Would like to start here with your early life…
Chaturanan Mishra:-I was born in 1925 in village Nahar, then a part of old Darbhanga district {since 1973, in Madhubani} to a modest Maithil family. After the accomplishment of primary education, I had to move for G.M.S.S School {Madhubani} as in nearby my village, there used to be no high school for further education. So, I left the home and kept my further education continues.

Atul K Thakur:-Time was of intense pressure amidst the clamour of Indian independence from oppressive British imperialism, how you aligned yourself on those difficult times?
Chaturanan Mishra:-I came to Madhubani in early forties and in short span of time found in deep touch with Communist ideology due to prevalence of sound progressive environment created by young flamboyant revolutionary like Bhogendra Jha{who later became a very tall name in Communist party}and others like,Srimohan Jha, Tej Narayan Jha etc. This Communist group was formed by Comrade Bhogendra Jha secretly started maneuvering against the war fund in support of British…this radical opposition eventually turned stiff and grew of a plan to hoist the Indian tricolor flag in place of imperialist Union Jack on Madhubani Civil court. We successfully did it and found huge accolades from common masses and even to an extant from nationalist government servants as well. We were restless with the swift developments in 1940; I was convicted for two years-spent ten months and two months in two different terms for that charge of hoisting the national flag. Comrade Bhogendra Jha{who later became the tallest Communist Leader} was arrested in Darbhanga, besides almost of our Comrades were arrested, though our party’s {CPI} stand to remain passive with the critical Quit India Movement restrained to materialize full gain from those early initiatives. In my understanding, that was a blunder which handicapped us to come up with strong mass base on pan-India basis, though later with many good works, Communists earned mass respect but at large that blunder remained haunting us for long course of time.

Atul K Thakur: - What big changes have taken place in your life after that revolutionary quest and how you young Communist brigade were placed among the Commoner’s psyche?
Chaturanan Mishra: - As our efforts were unprecedented in terms of social representation, we received warm response from across the all caste and religion alike. That harmony was our true victory at that time besides at personal level too, it was remarkable on some counts for me. Before that incident, I was living with my lawyer cousin but his reservation against my hoisting the Indian flag on his house and particularly at court forced my self respect to shift in Azad hostel, after that I never visited him until my acquittal from jail when he remorsed vehementally and behaved placatory for his wrong behavior in past; his opinion and belief now was change in nationalistic fervor. Further in 1944, Comrade Chandrasekhar Singh came to Madhubani; Bhogendra Jha suggested him my name for trade union movement in south Bihar {now Jharkhand}. My friend Ramlakhan Panjiar and other Comrade helped me to migrate…I kept my family in dark and cited other reasons to off for two months. Finally through the material and moral support of fellow Comrades, I reached to Comrade. It was a great learning and my longest journey so far-in socio-cultural terms, it was a sort of metamorphosis for me.

Atul K Thakur:-Impact of such change could be sensed out by those who are familiar with the cultural intricacies of Mithila and its sharp differences in socio-cultural sphere with the regions of then South Bihar. How you adapted to the changed circumstances at different levels?
Chaturanan Mishra:- My oratorical ability and critical sensuality have been noticed by the senior Comrade for my new assignment in All India Trade Union Congress {AITUC}. It became my life afterward…I spent next twenty five years in Giridih and Hazaribagh struggling for the cause of mines laborers and other pertinent local issues. Challenges were multiple and being surfaced from many side, beside miners, government and local feudals; we also had to cope with our contradictory relationships with socialist group which grew even further after the attainment of Indian independence. Initially, it was very tough to convince local illiterate tribals about their plights. So, imparting a sense among them for union took time, though it succeeded even lately. It indeed worked out there and brought out positive changes in their working condition and other rights which hitherto have been denying out by their exploitative employers. It also earned great respect for Communist party…with those new consciousnesses, I have elected thrice from Giridih constituency to Bihar Legislative Council {In1969, 72 and 79}; in next course, I also served as deputy leader and leader in the house.

Atul K Thakur: - Post independence, dynamicism of Indian politics underwent through a new direction, which was essentially directed towards making an idea of modern India-how do you rate the pros and cons of your party’s responses towards those changes…
Chaturanan Mishra: - National independence was a landmark for us and it was received positively though with heavily hearts after loosing lakhs of lives, millions displaced and an unfortunate permanent line drawn on our map with the creation of Pakistan. Anyhow many unresolved issues, initially taken out critically by the CPI and often cited the independence as false, such perception started diminishing after the introduction of first two five years plans. Especially progressive second five year plan, architectured by Prashant Chandra Mahalnobis drawn huge impact in Communist party and it paved the way for streamlining with new challenges. Though lately but appropriately, we anticipated the new challenges and good works carried out by the PM Jawaharlal Nehru to cope with them. His stand on strong Public Sector Undertakings and independent foreign policies were a pragmatic approach; in those circumstances, Non-alignment was a great tool for an emerging nation like India. I have written in detail about the various facades of Indian foreign policy in my book “Recast Indian Foreign Policy”. We kept doing good work that retrieved our acceptance among the masses…in 1957; first Communist and non-Congress government was formed under the visionary leadership of E.M.S.Namboodripad; however Nehru’s growing impatience with the Communist ideology led to its expulsion in 1959. Another blunder was waiting for us, in 1962; China attacked on us-CPI opposed the move but a section of it stood in favour of China’s stand and they split as CPI {Marxist}. From that time, unification of Communist remained a pipe dream so far, though in legislative affair, we share all deals but our separate statutory entity is a matter of grave concern.I have been raising my voice time to time for the unification of Communist movement and trade union…despite hard efforts during my stint as President, AITUC {1983-89},I couldn’t succeeded to prolong it’s merge entity with Hind Mazdoor Sangthan {HMS}; due to internal hindrances, overall merger of left led trade union movement remained a pipe dream. I attribute this division as our hindrance to emerge truly as national party; today Civil rights activists like Medha Patekar, Arundhati Roy etc raising the voice in favour of issues that originally should be our concern.

Atul K Thakur: - How things changed during the Indira Gandhi regime as she had pro USSR inclination despite remaining firm with Non Align Movement. Please share some insights about CPI’s policy in respect with those times?
Chaturanan Mishra: - Cheating in PL-480 deal and unruly behaviour of USA President Nixon deplored the Indo-USA relations to unprecedented low. In strategic terms too, USA has been pushing Pakistan against the Indian interests in Kashmir, besides that China’s betrayal forced India to reorient its foreign policy. During the 1960’s, Indian ties with USSR grew to amazing height, this policy almost become a convention in the time being, even now despite a radical orientation towards market economy in both the country. CPI shared great understanding with Congress during her stint and infact did fairly well in a major state like Bihar-in that phase, north Bihar, especially Madhubani used to be known as little Moscow…besides we also strengthened our base in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. This deal with Congress naturally delinked us from confused socialist maneuverings, like JP Movement, though we morally opposed emergency but sensing the urgency of law& order restoration, CPI did support Congress-it cost us badly in following election.

Atul K Thakur: - Collapse of USSR was big blow for all alternative thinkers across the world, then as an active Communist leader and a Parliamentarian, what stuck you most in Indian case?
Chaturanan Mishra: - I think collapse of USSR happened through falling democratic culture within the machinery-of course, new economic policies like “Glasnost” and “Pristorika”fasten that unfortunate process. India being the closest strategic and trade partner, suffered most; it led to reorient strategic and trade policy in abrupt manners. End of socialist block and failure to form such alternative, even after two decades made the world an open amphitheatre of USA’s neo-imperialism…such tendencies are alarming and needed firm opposition from capable countries like India and China. On world Federation of Trade Union {WFTU}, it impacted very adversely-in changed circumstances, I tried to align our trade unions with ICFTU, and though it was USA dominated but thought to get at least chances of dwelling with labour issues at international platform; finally it’s not worked out. Overall it impacted not only the Indian Communist movement but all such movements across the world.

Atul K Thakur: - You have served for fourteen years as Parliamentarian, also rose to Union Agriculture Minister in United Front government in 1996; will you elucidate on some main points of your long stint…
Chaturanan Mishra: - In1984, my party CPI decided to nominate in upper house as I had served in Trade Union for decades. In 1990, I received another chance to remain in upper house-after that, I successfully contested Loksabha election from Madhubani constituency and became Union Minister for Agriculture in United Front government. From my own experience, I could say that, we shouldn’t have been alienated from participation in government-if Jyoti Basu could have served as Prime Minister in 1996, things would have different today. It was neither short of a blunder, we lost a big chance to convey and demonstrate politically at a larger platform. We again replicated similar mistake by not participating in UPAI government; subsequently we frisked our support from UPAI on Civil Nuclear deal; what we are doing today to pitch for better safeguards, we could did same by remaining a part of government. Peoples needed Communists intervention in key policy maneuvering, we can easily differentiate the work of UPAI and UPAII, so in my view, Communist party should give the heed to peoples mandate.

Atul K Thakur: - Our relations with neighboring countries needs a new look as our roles seems loosing touch with actual issues, what you opine over it…
Chaturanan Mishra: - Transferring the Kashmir issue to UN was a historic mistake of Nehru-even in last six decades; Indian policy instead to shaping Kashmir as our domestic issue and parting it from bilateral relations with Pakistan, kept giving heed to separatists and pro-Pakistani elements. Its dangerous stand, we should strive to ensure civil rights and contemplating plans of autonomy within Indian Union- in crux, we should directly deal with the peoples instead to relying upon incredible mediators. With Srilanka and Bangladesh, our relationship is stable now but political instability in Nepal is cause of concern. In Nepal, we need to give serious diplomatic and political push without interfering in their due processes…resolving water problem with Nepal and strengthening trade relations through the border of Bihar and UP can revamp the economy of both side. It will equally curtail the illegal trafficking after legalization of no-frill trade across the border.

Atul K Thakur: - Our mineral and agricultural policies certainly cause grave discontents from affected segments. Naxalism has lot to do with this gap prevailing over the policy enactment and existing practical plights; as a veteran politician, how you see such state of affairs?
Chaturanan Mishra: - Consistent marginalization of rural and tribal population, along with the blind exploitation of natural resources leading alienation to an unprecedented scale. Disruptive forces like Naxals getting easier by it to promote their own interests-here mainstream Communist parties needs to foray in newer territories, including in service sector. Working pattern of Agriculture Minister, Sharad Pawar is unfortunate as he hardly getting reasons to redress the grave issues of malnourishment, rural unemployment and indebtedness, hunger, suicides etc. Such faux pas on the Supreme Court’s recent order regarding distributing rotting foods through the Public Distribution System {PDS} is alarming; even Prime Minister too sounds in same tune now. As per another recent Supreme Court order, local peoples must be given 20%of profit from mining companies…same access based delivery system must be introduced in other sectors too. During ministerial stint, I introduced Kisan Credit Card, Corps insurance, and institutions like Krishi Vigyan Kendra to lift the status of agriculture-these programmes must be carrying on with the collaboration of Commercial banks, RRBs, and Co-operative banks which have greater footprints in the rural areas. That will sure ease the rural indebtedness and enhance employment potential in hinterlands; modernization of agriculture should be given proper place. Here we can learn a lot from Brazilian transition-how they turned up from an importer to a major exporter of agriculture and dairy products.

Atul K Thakur: - I have gone through almost your all published work-in 1940’s, you have written a Maithili novel “Kala” that covered the contemporary conservatism in Maithili society. My observation is you always come with solution either in writing or politics-should it be seen as diehard optimism?
Chaturanan Mishra: - After matriculation, I hadn’t time or resources to endure my formal education albeit I had stout wishes to learn informally, so I developed pastime for avid learning besides field trips and extensive travel across the world in my long public life enabled me to see things in right frame. I have written for many news sources, also penned all my political and practical experiences on paper…I tried to address my concern both as being a leader and a concerned citizen. Even at this stage, I think in same spirits for my country, party and birth place in Mithila region though health is not supporting now.

Atul K Thakur: - We wishes for your good health and of course better time for mainstream Communist parties…
Chaturanan Mishra: - Thanks, in my life time, I have stout wishes to see consolidation among Communist parties to cope with the massive challenges standing around the corner. Besides will suggest my fellows in party to avoid the short cuts and retrieve the old good habits of Communist ideology…struggle must be our mode for all action.
Atul Kumar Thakur
September2, 2010, Thursday, New Delhi

Optimizing Value in Economic Governance

Dharm Narayan, an agriculture economist of repute whose concern for growing agricultural crisis amidst the rapid growth of Indian economy have already made deep impact in the realm of policy and research. Listening twelfth Dharm Narayan Memorial Lecture in his fond memory at India International Centre {September4, 2010, New Delhi} was insightful as the theme lecture delivered by Kaushik Basu {Chief Economic Advisor, Ministry of Finance, India} touched and apprised on generally considered forgotten issues.
In the era where value and social norms as an underlying of mainstream economics being frequently forestalled and reality shunned more than anything else-only wiping out of misunderstanding from the world of money can minimize the chances of impending consequences.

Kaushik’s meticulous choice between following the Greek philosopher Piero’s mode of skepticism and J.S.Mill’s very dear quotation “you have to live with waves and winds to live better” is indeed appears a fine forethought until we found ourselves in the company of credible theorists-away from vileful practices of popular politics. Though in standard economic theory too, large scale trade maximizes the conditions of monopoly and oligopoly-like political machinery, economic machinery equally rely on confederates to attain prefixed tempting goals. Interestingly, sometimes politicians and economists together spent decades to unlearn the lessons of historic blunders and shown determination to repeat all the previous mistakes.
For proving that, we don’t have to roam too much, as great depression of 1930’s could be assume as reference point and present ongoing world wide financial crisis as silly repetition of same basic flaws. In a country like ours, where90%of total work force of about 433million is employed in unorganized sector with poor pay no socio-economic security; there is an immediate need to rationalize the existing labour laws with anticipating the modern challenges of economy.

Economic theories can convince the government and also realize expected goals from it albeit to an extent only. Real driving force ultimately come through the social ideas and beliefs and that have no parallel in value term over shaping the economic policies-Indian economy sitting on the cusp of economic surge needs an equal makeover of value system based on own expertise and specific needs without blindly chasing the bandwagons and tailor made principles of western countries. Nehru rightly sensed it in his 1920’s speech-power of idea can move.
John Maynard Keynes too came with similar thoughts in 1926; at least in theoretical domain, two epoch-makers of politics and economics laid stress on better place for rational ideas than extraneous greed’s. Absence of practical support in machinery remains kingpin to handicap such positive stances…many of us may not have pastime for parable but we shall not extrude rationality from our basis thinking-unfortunately such behaviors could be the flash-point of managed chaos.

Among our many fault lines, inadequate professionalism and relentless growing corruption are haunting us like never before; our acceptance in next phase at world arena wouldn’t be succeeded with such rogue practices. We needed radical shift in overall governance that can ensure us a public life without grappling with the culture of hype and sinister loitering in an alien uneven terrain.
Despite not being a die-hard admirer of Chinese policy, for me it was amazing to see their hard efforts over the decades to improvise the governance standard in their country and configuring a balance work culture without nurturing the sycophants and Hippocrates like ours in every sector whose endorsement taken as sacrosanct for any move. Present system is quite conducive for developing arachnids, who through hidden treaties with like-minded outwitting the real spirits of business and ethics…these stereotype figure always shown as legend but finding anything substantial wouldn’t be an easy task for any fair person.

Our aspiration is under heavy strain by such odd prevailing practices; if such tendencies wouldn’t be checked with due means of governance, then rough time would wait for us. I always believe in economics as a discipline and an emphatic stakeholder in governance-desirable change in governance requires an optimization of value from economic point of view. As a surging economy, and a stable economy; we can’t dwell with unethical practices, if really have to touch our potential height in all terms. As an Indian citizen, I will be rather happy with modest yet disciplined approaches than chasing deceased sophistication…if we can address our needs through practical means, than there is no need to fade with unsure Nash equilibrium of complex Game theory.
Atul Kumar Thakur
September8, 2010, Wednesday, New Delhi