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After nearly seven decades of bitter conflict on ground and economic front,the virtues of economic liberalism and consumerism overpowered the idealist call for communist society. The reason for this overwhelming success of market forces is its identity association with instinctive  aspirations of human beings.The United States of America are considered the nerve center of economic liberalism and consumerism. However this idea is not native to America. It has much deeper roots. Indians discovered the power of free-trade, millenniums before Adam Smith produced his theories on Laissezfaire According to historical estimates, India remained world’s largest economy for almost the entire first millennium of Christian era.This is remarkable if we compare this with the dominance of western world; In less than 200 years of industrial revolution its might has started waning. India is again on the road to achieve its past glory.

Economist across the world agree to the fact the rise of India as a super-power is the logic of history and economics; and it is not that difficult to grasp. India is a land of festivals and celebrations; this is turn induces and maintains constant demand in the local markets. when such a situation is  aided by strong fundamentals and mass-morality in life economic growth is but natural. Celebration of Diwali is one of the greatest testimonies to this fact; and who would be worried on international front when lord Krishna himself professes the virtues of globalization through his ideals of ” 
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Vasudeva Kutumbakam

 

India has one of the highest rate of rural to urban migration in the entire developing world. Many see government schemes like MREGA as an attempt to contain this exodus. Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme  was never meant to be a development programme; it was and is meant to be a social-security / safety-net.

The genesis of this scheme is in the EGS of the State of Maharashtra enacted after the horrific drought of 1972. It was realised that there was severe shortfall of work in rural areas. Government did not want to run a scheme of merely transferring money to the poor because it, rightly so, feared leakages. This scheme was the work of a genius. It pitched the daily wage rate at just below market. It also made provisions for manual labour only. This meant that the scheme became self-targeting because no rich / powerful person in a rural setting would want to work on this unless (s)he actually needed the money. This is not to say that there were no leakages but that is another story. The main purpose of the scheme was employment which will enable the poor to access the safety net and yet maintain their dignity; which would be lost if they received dole. A by-product of this scheme was that the work would be around building infrastructure that would hopefully keep back drought. That, sadly, did not happen much. The MNREGA is more or less in the  same mould. Is it ‘populist’? Perhaps. Does it help the very poor? Yes, in spite of the leakages, it does.

At First we must understand and accept that gainful employment for every adult in a rural setting in India is not possible. Even and especially in agriculture. This is because with every passing generation land holdings get smaller and smaller as land is divided amongst the sons in the family. Considering that over 65% of all Indian farmers are already small and marginal farmers with less than 1 Ha of land, the problem gets more acute. That over 70% of agriculture is rain-fed exacerbates the situation especially as climate is fast changing and rains are becoming unpredictable.

Second, there is a limited demand for ‘services’ in rural settings. Services that we take for granted in urban areas – security, house help, drivers, creches etc have little scope in rural settings.

Third, there are severe restrictions on the number of people who can be involved in trade. Very often one or two retail shops and tea stalls is all that villages can handle profitably.

Fourth, self reliance of any community / district / State or nation in this globalized world is very very difficult. The smaller the unit, the lesser the chances. The need to trade and exchange goods and services will remain. What I am interpreting self reliance as is theability to source what one needs. 

What then can be done?

The solution is to encourage and even promote urbanisation. This does not mean we encourage people to move to large urban centres but that smaller urban centres are created all over. In any case this is the trend world over.

Romantics point to the idyll of rural life. Often these romantics don’t actually stay in rural areas. They say that the poor moving to urban centres end up in slums. True. In spite of knowing that the poor migrate. The question to be asked is “Why would anyone willing choose to live in slums in pitiable conditions and face enormous risks if they had an option?” The answer is that the poor, when faced with despair, find the lure of urban areas irresistible.  They know it is difficult but are forced to pin their hopes on migrating and improving their lives; in many cases they reason, that their lives could not get worse.

Urban areas offer improved chances of obtaining work, health facilities and eventually education for children. They improve access to media and hence information that can be useful to improving lives. They improve recreation options. Research has shown that migration can reduce poverty and stimulate economic growth.

The nature of poverty is fast changing. It is no longer only economic but is increasingly related to skills or lack thereof. In order to be better able to reduce the skills poverty, India needs to invest in improving quality of education . India also needs to invest in vocational training so that small entrepreneurs can emerge. Aligned to this is access to easy credit and good infrastructure.

It is not going to be easy; poverty alleviation never is. Till we reach a point where most of the youth have gainful employment, we are going to continue to need social safety net programmes like the MNREGA. We have to make a start though and this the time.

In the words of Martin Luther King Jr. we are faced with theurgency of now.

E57

As the festival of Navratri commences today, the entire social landscape of our great country will be immersed in faith and jubilation.But what is it that makes this festival of nine nights stand-out ? Faith becomes all powerful only when nurtured by the stream of rationalism. As the festive spirits run high, we often tend to ignore the deep historical, social and philosophical rationale associated with the occasion. especially in the light of prevailing socio-political conditions.

Goddess Durga and the continuity of ancient fertility cult ‘Durga’ is representative of the ancient fertility cult that anthropologically speaking is the oldest form of worship known to human society.Traces of mother goddess and fertility cult can be found is ancient human agglomeration across the world. Evidences suggest that “mother goddess” has been an object of worship from as early as the middle stone age, (before 10,000 BC) The totem of Brekhatram, discovered in Golan heights Israel provides evidence of worship  in stone ages. It also considered to be one of the oldest instance of worship in human society.Similar discoveries have also been made in almost all ancient agglomerations like Egypt, Sumeria, Anatolia, Greece, Rome and off-course India

The Shakti cult of Goddess Durga in India

In Hindu religion mother goddess is represented as Durga. She is the personification of material aspect of nature; all that can be seen, and felt is considered “prakriti” which is the gross manifestation of Durga. Prakriti’s union with Purusha is reconsidered the root-cause for the creation of cosmos. Purusha (the manifestation of Shiva) is the conscious, masculine element of universe.  Durga is representative of effeminate aspect of the creation

The nine days of Navratri are often associated with nine divine manifestations of Goddess Durga; i.e feminine aspect of creation; namely:

1. Shailaputri 2. Brahmacharini 3. Chandraghanta 4. Kusumnanda 5. Skandamata 6. Katyayini 7. Kalratri 8. Mahagauri 9.Siddhidatri

From Benevolent Shailaputri Parvati to the all powerful Kalratri Mahakali,  Goddess Durga manifests herself in various form. This is a silent reminder of the fact that feminine force, when aggravated has the power to annihilate the universe. In the light of above observation we may conclude that Navratri is a celebration of feminism and its creative and destructive aspects. Increased significance of Navratri in prevailing socio-political condition. Spirit of Navratri cherishes the power and dynamism of effeminate aspect of cosmos. Recent spurt in crime against women have shaken the foundations of our age old tradition of respecting women. Let’s take this opportunity to remember that there is a reflection of supreme goddess Durga in every women we may come across; and aggravating them can lead to complete annihilation.  Women in all their forms, be it Mother, Sister, Daughter,  Friend or even a stranger passing by, deserve our respect; for in its absence, continuation of life as it exists, will not be possible…

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