Kabeer Katlat

Kabeer Katlat

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Are you thinking why without making any plan about how to help you all return home Narendra Modi suddenly announced lockdown on 24th March? What about migrant workers? Why were you compelled to walk hundreds of miles to reach your homes as no government bothered to arrange for your return? Are you wondering how they are spending thousands of crores of rupees to erect statues but have no money to spend for your food? Have no arrangement for sending you home by train, compelling you to live like cattle here and there in this phase of Corona? Why is the government exposing you to the danger of Corona in this careless fashion?

To the Workers of organised private sectors! Have you ever thought why you are not getting your wages for lockdown period? Why in spite of government order owners are refusing  to pay your wages? Why within a week parliamentary committee has given report that the owners are not bound to pay? Why even judges are commenting that if the lockdown is to extend beyond two months it would be difficult for factory owners to pay the salary to the workers?  As if it is very easy to run your livelihood without salary! 

To the workers of Public Enterprise and Government Employee! It is supposed that government is the ideal employer. So we can say government employees are most secure and well off. Since the neo liberal policies government employees are facing various types of oppression. Very recently BSNL workers have faced disastrous consequence. Now the Modi government is trying to freeze DA. Trying to cut wages citing losses due to the lockdown.  Are you not wondering why? Why is the government not imposing special taxes on the millionaires, rather than chalking out a hundred and one ways to give them relief?

Have you ever thought how the government is daring to take such steps? In this phase it has been clear that migrant workers are crores and crores in number. Though organised workers are decreasing,  still they are also some crores in number. Government employees and public sector workers are also in huge numbers. Workers are great not only in number but also hold the keys to the Nation's life. The nation stands on the toil of the workers and peasants. But are you even recognised by the government and entrepreneurs? 

First of all, this corona crisis shows all the more clearly that the nation is not run with your interests in mind. 'National interest' has come to mean the interest of a handful of bloodsuckers. The government is interested only in them, their profits. So the lockdown has been declared keeping in mind only their security.

Secondly, you are not organised. It is difficult for migrant workers to organise immediately, but even workers in the organised sector are not organised. Though there are unions in the organised sector and some unorganised workers' unions also, but these are mostly under the reformist leadership and the focus is not on anything more than some wage enhancement in your own sector. Since not getting strengthened in the social sphere, owners and bloodsuckers are snatching your bargaining capacity more and more even in your own sphere of influence.  You are seeing that now even the government, supposedly the ideal Entrepreneur,  is imposing ordinance for 12-hour work day. 

So, get organised. 

Today is the birthday of Karl Marx, the great leader of the working class. He said, "Workers have nothing lose but their chains and they have a world to win." Workers have no country, no religion, no community.  As workers, everywhere their interest is the same. Without being united you cannot lose your chains. All of you can see that if you are organised no government can dare to neglect you. You have to organise to snatch the democracy from the Millionaires, Imperialists, Communal, Fascist forces.

The great leader of the workers comrade Lenin said workers are either revolutionary or nothing. Corona situation is proving that your past glory has dimmed. You are nothing. So, wake up! Get organised! March to the revolution.

Red Salute,

CPI(ML) Red Star

5th May, 2020 

(The Indian army’s proposal for a three year volunteer enrolment could well allow the entry of questionable cadres who owe allegiance, not to India’s Constitutional values, but to majoritarianism and who are then miltarised further.)

Presently, the Indian defence establishment is ranked as the fourth mightiest army in the world after USA, Russia and China with Japan at the fifth place. It has approximately 3,544,000 on its rolls, 1,444,000 being on active duty with 2,100,000 as reserve personnel.[i] It is credited with innumerable military operations of glory like Bangladesh War 1971, the Kargil War 1999, surgical strikes in Pakistan occupied Kashmir 2019 etc. Indian Army rendered direct help to the Sri Lankan State in suppressing the LTTE; the Tamilian rebels (1987-90) and has been immensely contributing to the UN peace-keeping military operations in different parts of the world numbering more than 43. According to the Indian Army website "India is ranked, as the third largest troop contributor to the UN"[ii] contributing 2, 00,000 Indian troops.[iii]

Indian Army Keeps a Safe Distance: COVID-19 Pandemic

However, in the midst of the COVID 19 Pandemic driven lockdown when India continues to witness a devastation and mayhem only comparable to tragedies caused by the 1947 Partition, the 4th mightiest army in the world has rendered help which cannot be described even as cosmetic. This is sad but true.

Over the last two months –close to 60 days-- of the abruptly declared lock-down, the Indian State appears to have completely betrayed working class and poor Indians. In the absence of jobs, food, shelter, transport and health care millions of Indians have been left to suffer horrible destitution and even tragedy and loss. The stories are so horrendous that even the term ‘gut-wrenching’ is an under-statement to describe the prevalent hunger, the maiming and killings of migratory workers (it is a kind of racism that workers belonging to India, when they leave for work in different parts of the country, are described as migrant workers. This term is not used for those who join high-profile jobs or politicians however!)

The three wings of the Indian armed forces; the army, air force and navy have finest medical, transport and communication paraphernalia.  It is therefore puzzling that all these were kept under the locked-down in face of the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic when India was in dire need of Army doctors, hospitals, vehicles, airplanes and high quality professional communication facilities. All major cities of India have the most modern military hospitals, which if they had been opened for Covid-19 patients, would have greatly lessened the unbearable pressure on the civil health services. If a small number of military doctors and nursing staff were deputed in critical areas, the sufferings and fatalities would have lessened.

The lock-down showed how migrant workers suffered and are suffering while trying to reach to their native places; road, rail services almost incapable of help. The mighty transport capacity available with the army would have made a real difference. The centralized and most modern surveillance system that the Indian armed forces possess; with their own satellites in space (the use of which enabled India was able to identify terrorist centres in Pakistan and destroy the same-- celebrated as 'surgical strikes') could have lessened the misery of devastated millions of working Indians! The hundreds of thousands that included pregnant women, children, old and disabled persons, whom we have seen walking on roads and rail tracks (many of them getting killed while undertaking these risky journeys) could have been identified and picked up in army vehicles or airplanes.

The majestic Indian army was reduced to playing puppeteer for the government. The Army intervened only to shower flower petals on the hospitals and army/navy/air force bands playing outside hospitals, which were treating the Covid-19 patients (despite warnings from the medical fraternity that this shower of flowers may be a serious cause of spreading the dreaded virus and also violate the 'no noise' rule in hospital zones). These actions were ostensibly called for with the noble objective to honour the 'warriors' against Covid-19. Instead, even a cosmetic intervention should have deputed a small number of medical and Para-medical staff in at least the worst affected areas, the Red Zones. In fact, in many countries of the world including African countries, armed have been deployed to fight the pandemic, which continue to play great pro-active role in this fight against the spread of the virus.[iv]   

Indian Army Makes Public a 3-Year Military Training Plan During the COVID 19 Pandemic

Instead of active engagement with the civilian population since March 22, 2020, it is strange and puzzling that the Indian armed forces have remained isolated and insulated during the pandemic. Now, out of the blue, it appears that a plan of employing Indians for a 3-year voluntary ‘tour of duty’ is afoot.[v] According to a release from the Indian Army, “The proposal is a shift from the concept of permanent service/job in the Armed Forces, towards ‘internship’/temporary experience for three years. It is for youth who “do not want to make defence services their permanent vocation, but still want to experience the thrill and adventure of military professionalism”.

Explaining the rationale behind this innovative scheme the note states that the aim was to tap the "resurgence of nationalism and patriotism” amongst Indian youth and help reduce unemployment in India. The proposal also envisages that the earnings of these three years could be made tax-free and all those who would be part of 'tour of duty' could be given preference in public sector jobs as well as post-graduate courses. The note also stressed the fact that it would help to channelize youthful energy into a positive utilisation of their potential and that “rigorous military training and habits inculcated will lead to healthy citizenry”.[vi]

This crucial announcement espouses a policy decision, unheard of and not hitherto discussed or debated in Parliament or at the level of the Ministry of Defence. Interestingly, this announcement about a new mode and tenure of recruitment in the Indian Army was not made public by the defence minister, Rajnath Singh or Chief of Defence Staff of India, General Bipin Rawat but through a press-note of the Army. Army spokesperson Colonel Aman Anand confirmed that such a proposal was being discussed. The opposition political parties and media have not, so far at least, bothered to react to this proposal which may prove to be a defining moment for future of democratic-secular India.  

The surreptitious issuance of this press note during the time of the Covid 19 pandemic, raises many important questions, the answers to which will determined the future course of democratic-secular Indian polity. The loud-mouthed claim that 3-year voluntary ‘tour of duty’ would help reducing unemployment is laughable. The claim gives the impression that out of millions and millions of unemployed Indian youth few millions are going to be absorbed under this scheme. How the Indian Army will be assisting the reduction of unemployment is revealed by the fact that the Army itself plans to reduce force strength by cutting 1.5 lakh jobs. In some sections the reduction is going to be as high as 20%.[vii]

Three Year Military Training for Nationalism, Patriotism and a Healthy Citizenry

Justifying the scheme Army note said that it was in response to the "resurgence of nationalism and patriotism” and “rigorous military training and habits inculcated will lead to a healthy citizenry”. Thus nationalism, patriotism and healthy citizenry are being equated with this Army training. Such slogans world generally heard during the World War II and presently can also be heard in totalitarian states like North Korea and Zionist Israel.

Hindu nationalist (read supremacist) icons borrowed the idea of militariastaion of Hindus from Mussolini and Hitler

The fact is that such a scheme has been part of the old Hindutva project namely 'Militarize Hindu Society' zealously promoted by leaders of Hindu Mahasabha and RSS. The well-known Italian researcher of Indian politics, Marzia Casolari has done pioneering work in tracing the fraternal links between the Hindu Mahasabha and RSS founders on the one hand and Fascism and Nazism which stood for militarization of societies. According to her pioneering work relying on the primary sources of the documents of the prominent Hindu nationalists, one of the aspects of Fascism which appealed most to Hindu nationalists was this, the militarisation of society.

Balakrishna Shivram Moonje, a mentor of the RSS founder, Keshav Baliram Hedgewar on his return from the Round Table Conference, Moonje regarded as the Dharmveer (Brave of the religion) made a tour of Italy (February-March 1931). There he visited some important military schools (Military College, the Central Military School of Physical Education, the Fascist Academy of Physical Education), highlight of the visit being a meeting with Mussolini.

Moonje praised the militarization project of Mussolini and planned to put into practice in India. He wrote:"India and particularly Hindu India needs some such institution for the military regeneration of the Hindus: so that the artificial distinction so much emphasized by the British, of martial and non-martial classes amongst the Hindus, may disappear…Our institution of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh of Nagpur under Hedgewar is of this kind, though quite independently conceived. I will spend the rest of my life in developing and extending this Institution of Hedgewar all throughout Maharashtra and other provinces."[viii]

As soon as he reached Pune, he gave an interview to ‘The Mahratta’ espousing his views. Regarding the military reorganization of the Hindu community, he stressed the necessity to ‘Indianise’ the army and expressed the hope that conscription would become compulsory and an Indian would be put incharge of 

the defence ministry. He finally made a clear reference to the Italian and German examples in his diary: "In fact, leaders should imitate the youth movements of Germany and the Balilla and Fascist organisations of Italy. I think they are eminently suited for introduction in India, adapting them to suit the special conditions. I have been very much impressed by these movements and I have seen their activities with my own eyes in all details."

According to Moonje’s diary, an entry dated March 31, 1934, he himself, Hedgewar and Laloo Gokhale had a meeting, the subject of which was again the military organisation of the Hindus, along the Italian and German lines. Moonje told the gathering, "I have thought out a scheme based on the Hindu Dharm Shashtra which provides for the standardization of Hinduism throughout India... But the point is that this ideal cannot be brought to effect unless we have our own swaraj with a Hindu as a dictator like Shivaji of old or Mussolini or Hitler of the present day Italy or Germany... But this does not mean that we have to sit with folded hands until (sic) some such dictator arises in India. We should formulate a scientific scheme and carry on propaganda for it…"

 According to Marzia Casolari, Moonje publicly admitted that his idea of militarily reorganizing Hindu society was inspired by the “military training schools of England, France, Germany and Italy.” Moonje’s ‘Preface to the Scheme of the Central Hindu Military Society and its Military School’ which he circulated among influential personalities, states this clearly: "This training is meant for qualifying and fitting our boys for the game of killing masses of men with the ambition of winning victory with the best possible causalities (sic) of dead and wounded while causing the utmost possible to the adversary."

Crucially, what Moonje meant by 'adversary' was not the external enemy, the British, but ‘historical’ internal enemy, the Muslims. In fact, this School was inaugurated by then Governor of Bombay State, Sir Roger Lumley. Moreover, this School helped the British in supplying Hindu youth for the World War II project. This military school was financed by two, well known apologists for the British: the Bhonsles and Scindias. Moonje gave a call to 'militarise Hindu society' to which these forces responded.

Contribution of Savarkar

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar went to the extent of organizing more than 100 recruitment camps for Hindus in the British Army when Netaji Subhash Chander Bose was trying to liberate India militarily from abroad. This was part of Savarkar's strategy to militarise the Hindus of India. Savarkar called upon Hindus “to flood the [British] army, the navy and the aerial forces with millions of Hindu warriors with 

Hindu Sanghatanist hearts” and assured them that if Hindus recruited in the British armed forces,  "our Hindu nation is bound to emerge far more powerful, consolidated and situated in an incomparably more advantageous position to face issues after the war— whether it be an internal anti-Hindu Civil War or a constitutional crisis or an armed revolution."[ix]

RSS Plan of the Cleansing of Muslims and Christians

The Rahstriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS) has, since its inception (1925) been working towards a one-point agenda; the cleansing of Muslims and Christians from India. Hedgewar, the founder of the RSS left the Indian National Congress because, during the struggle for India’s freedom, the leadership of the Congress stood for an-all inclusive India, within which Muslims would be, an integral and equal part of the emerging nation. Hedgewar's successor , Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar in his book, We or Our Nationhood Defined (1939) eulogizing the cleansing of Jews by Hitler made it clear that RSS would like to emulate it: "German Race pride has now become the topic of the day. To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic Races—the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for Races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by." [x] 

There was no respite in the hatred towards Muslims and Christians even after the birth of independent India. Golwalkar, a Guru of Hate penned a chapter titled 'Internal Threats' to India. It appeared in the holy book for the RSS cadres, Bunch of Thoughts, the compilation of the writings of MS Golwalkar, the ideologue of the RSS, has a long chapter titled, ‘Internal Threats’ in which the Muslims and Christians are described as threats number one and two respectively. The Communists hold the honour of being ‘Internal Threat’ number three.[xi]

With Modi's coming to power in 2014 the Hindutva juggernaut ran amok (in ecstasy), with leaders from the RSS brazenly declaring that, by 2021, India would be cleansed of both Muslims and Christians.[xii] An aggressive campaign in the name of 'love-jihad', 'ghar-wapsi' and the cow was unleashed that even led to Muslims and Christians being lynched. Perturbed by this Hindutva frenzy, within the first year of Modi's rule, one of India’s most decorated policemen, Julio Ribeiro, former ambassador to Romania and recipient of the Padma Bhushan, a prominent national award wrote on March 17, 2015: 

"Today, in my 86th year, I feel threatened, not wanted, reduced to a stranger in my own country. ..I am not an Indian anymore, at least in the eyes of the proponents of the Hindu Rashtra. Is it coincidence or a well-thought-out plan that the systematic targeting of a small and peaceful community should begin only after the BJP government of Narendra Modi came to power last May? It is tragic that these extremists [Hindutva zealots] have been emboldened beyond permissible limits by an atmosphere of hate and distrust. The Christian population, a mere 2 per cent of the total populace, has been subjected to a series of well-directed body blows. If these extremists later turn their attention to Muslims, which seems to be their goal, they will invite consequences that this writer dreads to imagine."[xiii]

Governor of a State Wants Civil War

Julio Ribeiro was right when he wrote that cleansing of Muslims was the goal of RSS cadres. This was corroborated by none other but a very senior RSS member and ‘ideologue’, also the Governor of Tripura, Tathagata Roy. On June 18, 2017, this RSS icon quoting another icon of RSS, Syama Prasad Mukherjee, wrote: "Syama Prasad Mookerjee wrote in his diary on 10/1/1946: 'The Hindu-Muslim problem won't b solved without a Civil War'. So much like Lincoln!"

Mind it; it was not some street ruffian who was baying for civil war against Muslims of India but an occupant of the highest constitutional office. When criticised for this opinion, he refused to withdraw the comment saying that he was only quoting SP Mookerjee. Incidentally, Mookerjee continues to be a great icon for RSS. Moreover, Modi government has continued patronising him (Roy) and no explanation has been sought from him.[xiv]  

RSS Builds a Network against Muslims and Christians

According to international media reports, the RSS has been building a militant alliance with fascist Buddhist organisations in the South Asia, an alliance against Muslims and Christians. The New York Times in an editorial titled 'Deadly Alliances Against Muslims' dated October 15, 2014 disclosed sensational facts in this regard.[xv]

Baba Ramdev Starts a Security Agency to Protect Country’s ‘Assets’

It Is no coincidence that controversial and popular yoga guru, a Hindutva saint, one of the richest men in India and a darling of the RSS-BJP rulers, Baba Ramdev decided to start a private security agency under his Patanjali Yogpeeth Trust. It announced enlisting, "Guards from its 11 lakh yoga centres across India. Called Parakram Suraksha Private Ltd., the company will provide employment to the young and protect the country’s assets, SK Tijarawala, spokesperson of Patanjali Yogpeeth… There is a need for 50 lakh guards in India, he said".[xvi]

Why Ramdev ventured into security business is not difficult to understand. He has been brand ambassador of RSS preached masculine Hindu nationalism. In March 1916 he gave the war-cry for beheading all those who refused to chant 'Bharat Mata ki Jai'[xvii]  It is no ordinary security agency. Ramdev started it to "provide employment to the young and protect the country’s assets". It is alleged to be a Hindu nationalist venture. With such outlets, RSS and other Hindutva organisations did not need to organize surreptitious arms training camps. Enroll into any of the 11 lakh yoga centres of Ramdev and get training in all kinds of arms. Unfortunately, there has been no state or non-state scrutiny of such Hindutva ventures.

It would be a sad day for democratic-secular Indian polity if the Indian army actually joins this project of militarisation of the majority community, facilitating directly or indirectly the Hindutva organizations' long hanging project of launching a civil war against the largest minority of India. It is crucial to understand that Hindutva’s love for religious strife suits the international enemies of India too. More than anything else, this scheme represents another serious threat to the existing democratic polity of India. In case, RSS-BJP regime loses power such cadres trained in sophisticated arms may be used to violently disrupt democratic processes that oust them from state power

After two months of unspeakable misery caused to millions of migrants in the country due to the national lockdown, which led to the loss of hundreds of lives, the Supreme Court took suo moto cognizance of the issue on Tuesday, May 26.

Till then, the SC had been in a state of denial, unquestioningly believing the executive's version that "all is well". The cases brought before it concerning several issues relating to migrant workers, such as payment of wages, food security, shelter homes, transport and access to trains were closed by the court without effective orders (detailed and documented in this article). The passive response of the apex court, and the excessive deference shown by it to the executive even in the middle of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis , had come under widespread criticism from ex-judges, senior advocates, and many members of legal fraternity, including law students. Even the ordinary citizens were anguished at the inaction of the apex court, going by many of the comments expressed in social media.

Former Supreme Court judges, Justices Madan B Lokur and V Gopala Gowda likened the Court's behavior to that of the emergency-era Supreme Court, where it had displayed a shocking lack of concern for the most basic rights of the citizens. Former HC judges, Justices A P Shah and Kailash Gambhir, criticized the Court's abdication of responsibilities. All these jurists were unanimous in their opinion that the Supreme Court let down the migrants amidst a grave constitutional crisis.

Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave, President of the Supreme Court Bar Association, minced no words in expressing disappointment at the Court's failure in holding the executive accountable. "Judges cannot sit in ivory tower and be blindfolded to the miseries of the citizens of India", he said. "This is not an emergency. The fundamental rights are not suspended. Yet, the judiciary has suspended the effective enforcement of fundamental rights", he added.

Expressing anguish at the passive response of the Supreme Court to the issue of migrant workers crisis amid the COVID-19 lockdown, Senior Advocate Jaideep Gupta commented that the top court "could have done a lot". "The migrants walk home is not a casual irresponsible act of a citizen. It's a moment of existential crisis for them. The Supreme Court could have done a lot. Only they could have", he said.

Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde commented that the Court's inaction amounted to 'social distancing from the powerless'. "Judicial abnegation by the top court is not healthy for an institution trusted as being the protector and enforcer of rights", he said.

Recently, several leading lawyers - P Chidambaram, Anand Grover, Indira Jaising, Mohan Katarki, Siddharth Luthra, Santhosh Paul, Mahalaxmi Pavani, Kapil Sibal, Chander Uday Singh, Vikas Singh, Prashant Bhushan, Iqbal Chagla, Aspi Chinoy, Mihir Desai, Janak Dwarkadas, Rajani Iyer, Yusuf Muchhala, Rajiv Patil, Navroz Seervai, Gayatri Singh and Sanjay Singhvi - wrote to the CJI seeking urgent intervention in the migrants issue.

"This situation was compounded by the Hon'ble Supreme Court's failure to intervene in mid-day when millions of migrant workers had commences travelling home on foot, or by trucks", they said in the letter.

"As a consequence of the Court's failure to intervene, even though the number of Covid cases were then only a few hundred at the time, the millions of migrant workers were unable to proceed to their hometowns and were compelled to remain in small cramped tenements or rooms or on the pavements, without any employment or livelihood, and even a definite source of food. In fact this enforced stay in cramped quarters only exposed such poor worker to a higher risk of Covid infection", they added.

Meanwhile, many High Courts showed the way by staying true to their constitutional role of acting as a check on the executive.

Gujarat HC's Model of Holding the Executive Accountable

The Gujarat High Court took suo moto notice of a host of issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown. What is commendable is that the Gujarat HC was not seeking to substitute its wisdom with that of the executive. Rather, it sought explanation from the government regarding its plan of action to deal with the issues to ascertain if it passed the constitutional muster.

The Court intervened only when it found that the government's responses were grossly unreasonable, or blatantly unsatisfactory. For example, the bench comprising Justices J B Pardiwala and Ilesh J Vora was quick to dismiss the puerile explanation given by the State for not doing enough number of COVID-19 tests. The Government told the bench that more number of tests could lead to 70% of the population testing positive, and that this could lead to "fear psychosis". The Court emphatically said that this cannot be a reason for reducing the number of tests.

Also, the Court did not shy away from highlighting the unsatisfactory conditions in the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, which was leading to high mortality rate of COVID-19 patients. 

Unlike the SC, the High Court did not turn its face away from the plight of migrants, and passed directions to ensure food and shelter to them. As regards their travel, the Court directed the railways to either waive off their one way charges, or the State to bear their fare.

Karnataka HC Nudged Govt into Action

Similar was the response of the Karnataka High Court with respect to the migrants issues. The Court demonstrated that by simply asking the right questions and making the relevant observations, the judiciary can get the government to act. Actual directions may not be always necessary. A bench comprising Chief Justice A S Oka and Justice B V Nagarathna of the HC observed that inability to pay rail fare should not become a ground to deprive migrants of their right to travel to their native places. This, the court explained, was due to the fact that their lack of income is directly linked to the lockdown imposed by the State. So, State has the constitutional obligation to mitigate their sufferings.

This led to the Karnataka Government taking a stand that it will bear the travel cost for Karnataka natives to come back from other states. In response, the Court asked if such a stand would not amount to discrimination against migrants within Karnataka, on the basis of place of origin.

Following the sustained interrogation from the Court, the Karnataka Government diluted its stance by deciding to bear the cost of migrants' travel from Karnataka to their native states.

Court Would Be Failing In Its Role If It Doesn't React: AP HC

The Andhra Pradesh High Court observed that the Court would be failing in its role, if it does not react to the issue of migrants being forced to walk hundreds of kilometers to their native places.

A division bench ofJustice DVSS Somayajulu and Justice Lalitha Kanneganti passed a slew of directions to ensure proper availability of food, toilets and medical help etc. for these migrants. The Court observed that the situation was "alarming" and that "immediate intervention" of the Court was necessary.

Later, another bench headed by Chief Justice J K Maheshwari passed directions for creating temporary sheds for walking migrants, and to ensure their travel by bus/train within 48 hours of registration with the nodal officers.

Pity to See Migrants Walking: Madras HC

The Madras HC suo moto sought an action taken report from the State Government and the Centre on the steps taken for the relief of migrants. The Court posed 12 specific queries to the Central and State Governments such as data on the migrant workers stranded in every state, the assistance being provided to them, the number of migrant workers who died on their way to their home states, the compensation for the families of the deceased migrant workers, and the assistance being provided to those who have returned to their native states, "It is a pity to see the migrant labourers walking for days together to reach their native places and in the process, some of them had lost their lives due to accidents. The Government authorities of all the States should have extended their human services to those migrant labourers", observed the HC bench comprising Justices N Kirubakaran and R Hemalatha.

The High Court of Kerala has been monitoring the steps taken by the Kerala Government to provide food and shelter to guest workers. The Orissa HC and Bombay HC had taken suo moto notice of the issue of migrants, and passed necessary directions. The Bombay HC however deferred the hearing taking note of the pendency of similar issues in SC.

The Telangana High Court made a powerful declaration that medical emergency cannot be an excuse for the government to trample upon the rights under Article 21 of the Constitution. Holding thus, the Court proceeded to quash a Government Order, which prohibited citizens from getting COVID-19 testing done from private laboratories, even if they have the requisite approval. The HC also sought report from the Government on the COVID-19 tests and regarding the measures taken to allay the plight of migrants.

Importance of Public Criticism

Over All, the situation seemed to be a re-dux of emergency era, where the High Courts asserted their independent role to protect the rights of the citizens, despite the SC choosing to bow before the powers usurped by the executive.

In the face of mounting criticism, the SC has now chosen to act by taking suo moto notice of the issue.
This development also underlines the important role of informed,constructive criticism in a democracy. A bunch of vigilant citizens, who constantly demand legitimacy and justifications from centres of power, can prevent the institutions from completely failing in their constitutional duties.

It took a considerable amount of public criticism for the SC to say that there have been "inadequacies and certain lapses" in the measures taken by the governments for migrants welfare, deviating from its earlier "what can we do?" stand.

Let us hope that this course-correction by the apex court, though belated, leads to mitigation of the sufferings of the millions of migrant workers in the country.

Text of the letter Sent by Senior Advocates to CJI

To The Hon’ble the Chief Justice of India and His Companion Judges

Supreme Court

Bhagwan Dass Road

New Delhi

Dear Judges,

It is with great anguish and dismay that we write to you as the citizens of India and senior members of the Bar. The Hon’ble Supreme Court has a pivotal constitutional role in protecting and safeguarding the fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizens of this country, and particularly the vast swathes of our population who eke out a living near or below the poverty line or minimum wages, and are even in normal times barely able to survive with dignity and respect. The Supreme Courts constitutional role and duty assumes even greater importance in the time of a crisis, such as the present when the entire country and its economy was “locked down” from 24th March by an order of the Central Government. More than 75% of the Indian work force earn their livelihoods in the informal or unorganized sector, and for them a stoppage of economic activity in the Medium, Small and Micro sectors has resulted in an immediate loss of employment, livelihood and the means of sustenance.

The “lock down” was imposed on 24th March without any consideration being paid to the plight of these poor, especially migrant labour [who number in the crores] earning their livelihood in the major cities, and for whom social distancing was and is a utopian impossibility. These poor citizens who were faced with the prospect of being cooped up in small cramped tenements/rooms or on the pavements, without any employment  or livelihood or even a definite source of food and were thus compelled to start walking back to their home States, often thousands of kilometers away, with little children, family members or elderly parents. They were forced to do so as the Central Governments lock down had precluded them from taking trains or buses back to their home towns. The movement even at that juncture involved lakhs of poor, hungry and scared migrant labour. The Government, initially, sought to prevent such migrants from leaving and returning home.

While hearing a public interest litigation on the plight of the migrant workers, Alakh Alok Srivastava v. Union of India [Writ Petition (Civil) No. 468 of 2020], the Hon’ble Supreme Court considered the  Status Report filed by the Learned Solicitor General, representing the Union of India, which referred  to the Government’s circular dated 29th March 2020 prohibiting movement and transportation of migrant labourers and a direction to shift them to relief shelter homes and relief camps instead and the Solicitor General’s statement before this Court that as of 31st March, 2020, “no migrant person was walking on the roads in an attempt to reach his/ her home towns villages.” The Hon’ble Supreme Court, vide order dated 31.03.2020, expressed satisfaction at the steps taken by the Union of India to combat Covid-19 and proceeded to observe that “the migration of labourers working in the cities was triggered by panic created by fake news that the lock down would continue for more than 3 months.” As a consequence of the Court’s failure to intervene, even though the number of Covid cases were then only a few hundred at the time, the millions of migrant workers were unable to proceed to their hometowns and were compelled to remain in small cramped tenements or rooms or on the pavements, without any employment or livelihood, and even a definite source of food. In fact this enforced stay in cramped quarters only exposed such poor worker to a higher risk of Covid infection

Moreover, the Government’s statement has been clearly shown to be contrary to the facts. Several reports suggest that more than 90% of migrant workers did not receive Government rations in many States and were suffering from dire food shortage.

This failure to intervene in March, subsequently resulted in a massive migration of millions of workers by early May, when migrant labourers who were fed up with being virtually incarcerated for the previous 6 weeks, without employment or wages decided that they would be better off trying to go back to their homes. Significantly by this time the Covid infections in the country had crossed 50,000 and a significant number of these migrant workers were also infected with Covid.  Even at this stage, the Government initially sought to obstruct their travel/movement on foot or by trucks. Subsequently the Government agreed to their movement by bus and trains [shramik specials]. However, even when the arrangements were made by the States to transport the migrant workers who wish to return home after having been cooped up for over 30-40 days, onerous conditions were sought to be imposed on them, such as obtaining a medical certificate after getting themselves tested at great cost to themselves. When arrangements are made to transport them by road, they were often left at the borders of the receiving states, which at times were unwilling to make any further arrangements for them to let them enter or reach their homes, or provide transport, almost as if this was not one country with a common citizenship.  The right to life, liberty and freedom of movement of these hapless poor millions was rendered virtually meaningless in such circumstances.

Civil society had risen to the occasion and attempted to provide succour, food and shelter for these poor migrants. However, having regard to the millions involved and the distances to their hometowns civil society cannot, in real measure provide an adequate measure of succour or redress.   As this situation had been brought about by the executive orders of the Central Government imposing a lock down, prohibiting public transport and interstate travel, it was necessarily the duty and constitutional obligation of the Government of India [with the State Governments] to ensure that these millions were expeditiously enabled during lockdown1 itself to travel home safely. However, both in during lockdown 1 and in lockdown 2 no steps were taken to redress the horrendous plight of these poor millions.

On 15th May 2020, a three-judge bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court dismissed an application seeking immediate directions to all the District Magistrates to identify the migrant workers who are walking on roads, provide them with appropriate food and shelter facility and facilitate their travel back to their home states free of cost. Without going into the merits of the said application was dismissed and left it for the State Governments to sort this out. We respectfully submit that this institutional deference to statements made on behalf of the Government and the Court’s apparent indifference to this enormous humanitarian crisis, would if not rectified immediately, amount to the Court having abdicated its constitutional role and duty to these teeming millions of poor, hungry migrants.

Indeed, the current migrant crisis is symptomatic of how the constitutional promises of equality, life, freedom and dignity have been totally ignored by the Government while imposing arbitrary executive measures. The Hon’ble Supreme Court’s unwillingness to hold the Government to account and to provide succour to these poor millions, will severely erode its constitutional role and status as the guardian of the fundamental rights of the people. The Hon’ble Supreme Court has a glorious tradition of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that changed the face of Indian constitutional jurisprudence forever, ranging from eradication of bonded labour, prison reforms, environmental compliances, and right to food, amongst others. Each of these PILs has resulted in far-reaching legal and policy changes positively affecting the lives of the millions of people. The Hon’ble Supreme Court’s deference to the Government and it’s unwillingness or expressed helplessness in the face of the above situation, casts a long shadow on our Country’s constitutional structure.

In the midst of the executive imposed Covid-19 lockdowns, the Hon’ble Supreme Court cannot retreat into a self-effacing deference, leaving millions of Indian citizens, especially those who are poor, vulnerable and impoverished, to the mercy of the executive, reminding us of ADM Jabalpur when detenues were left to the tender mercy of the executive with “Diamond bright Diamond hard” hope that something would be done.

The rights of citizens, especially the poor, are being violated with impunity by the executive in the name of addressing the pandemic. Millions have been forced to remain cooped up in slums or small tenements for weeks on end without employment or livelihood and in total denial of their rights to life and liberty.

The deference shown by the Hon’ble Supreme Court to the Government’s bland assertions and the expressed helplessness of the Hon’ble Supreme Court on the grounds of  “issue being policy decision” or “inability to monitor” in the face of an unfolding human disaster, where millions of migrant workers are on the road, walking thousands of kilometers to reach their homes, is a matter of  involving the violation of fundamental rights of millions of our poor citizens on account of executive action, that needs urgent attention by the Hon’ble Supreme Court on its judicial side.

The migrant workers’ issues are not a “policy issue.” They raise constitutional issues requiring a strict scrutiny of the executive action which has resulted in this situation. The core issues are of protection of the fundamental rights of these millions of poor migrant workers to life and liberty and their right to move freely throughout India and to return home, with safety and dignity guaranteed under Articles 14, 19(1) and 21 of the Constitution. If the Court is to fulfil its sacred constitutional role and duty, it must necessarily hold the executive accountable and require it to take steps to fulfil its obligations under the Constitution.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court has developed the jurisdiction of continuous mandamus to monitor executive action to ensure that orders of this Hon’ble Court are indeed followed. The apparent deference to executive action and the reliance on bald [and patently incorrect] statements made on behalf of the executive and the expression of helplessness on this part of the Hon’ble Supreme Court to monitor executive action, severely impairs this Courts constitutional status and duty.

This Hon’ble Court has the power bestowed by the Constitution of India under Article 142 to undertake any measure to do complete justice. The show of helplessness does no justice to the motto of this court “Yato dharmastato Jaya

We address this letter because we believe that the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s failure to protect the rights of the hapless millions of migrant workers in March and its failure to scrutinize carefully the executives actions, which resulted  in them being compelling to stay in cramped unhygienic accommodation without employment and wages and often without proper food and with a much higher risk of Covid infection that severely and excessively impaired the fundamental rights of the poorest sections of our citizens. This situation was compounded by the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s Courts failure to intervene in mid-May when millions of migrant workers had commenced travelling home on foot, or by trucks.

We believe that the survival of Indian democracy and the rule of law, particularly in the current Covid-19 pandemic, is dependent on the Hon’ble Supreme Court actively fulfilling its constitutional obligation of being the guarantor of the fundamental rights of citizens against State action.

The migrant workers crisis is continuing even today, with millions still stranded on roads at railway stations and state borders. We urge the Hon’ble Supreme Court to intervene and ensure that adequate transport arrangements, food and shelter are immediately provided for by the Central and State governments free of cost. At this time, we recall the words of Martin Luther King Jr. who said “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.

Signed : Chidambaram, Prashant Bhushan, Iqbal Chagla, Aspi Chinoy, Mihir Desai, Janak Dwarkadas, Rajani Iyer, Yusuf Muchhala, Rajiv Patil, Navroz Seervai, Gayatri Singh, Anand Grover, Indira Jaising, Mohan Katarki, Sidharth Luthra, Santosh Paul, Mahalaxmi Pavani, Kapil Sibal, Chander Uday Singh, Vikas Singh, Sanjay Singhvi

 

At a time when our country has been facing the disaster from the attacks of Corona Virus (COVID 19) along with the whole world, the crisis is further aggravated by the attitude and the steps taken by the rulers of this country. When danger was breathing down the neck with the first Covid case identified in our country on January 30, the World Health Organisation (WHO) was issuing alerts time and again, the rulers instead of paying attention to the danger, jumped with full vigour, energy and enthusiasm into the election fray to win the Delhi Assembly. Then they had their servile program of “Namaste Trump” (24-25 February) and so arranged a crowd to gather there while the WHO was repeatedly appealing to maintain ‘social distance’. And the Sangh Parivar jumped simultaneously into carnage of Muslims in North-East Delhi. They then plunged into the business of purchasing the Congress MLAs of Madhya Pradesh and toppling the Congress Govt. there to establish their own; and for that purpose only, they kept open parliament till 23 March despite the opposition's plea to close it down because of the dreaded virus. And making mockery of social distancing by a “janata curfew” on 22nd, the Prime Minister, all of a sudden, declared lockdown of the entire nation on the 24th night, on a notice of only four hours without any preparation, with the sermon: “this is no hour of politics”. Then the Tabligh Jamat was made the scapegoat for the spread of Corona infection. Attempts were made to incite communalism on this issue too. 

With almost no kits to test, no personal protection equipment (PPE) for even the doctors, the nurses and other health workers serving the infected persons, having no other essentials in hand, the abrupt declaration of the lockdown made the whole country reel. The migrant workers are perhaps the worst hit lot. Having lost their jobs, they were forced to beg for food. In the absence of govt. relief they had no option but to accept private relief with heads bowed. All transport was suspended making their return home virtually impossible. Still many tens of thousands of them along with the aged and children came out on to the streets in a bid to reach home hundreds or more than a thousand miles away on foot with almost no food. The torture they faced on their way, repression, extortions by police and others, deaths by series of ‘accidents’, dehydration, hunger etc have by now surfaced to the world, though that is only the tip of the iceberg. In spite of all this, the obnoxious events taking place later in arranging some trains for them will bow down the head in shame of any shameless chap.

Alongside, an aeroplane at the expense of about Rs. 8,500 crore rupees for personal use of the PM had reached subsequent to the pact with Mr. Trump for importing weapons valued Rs. 320 crores. Besides, a new private relief fund, PM CARES, with no transparency and accountability, is floated with the PM’s repeated appeals to donate and alluring with lofty tax reliefs for donors despite the existence of one official national relief fund (PMNRF). Allegations are rampant that this PM CARES is for strengthening their party fund with the eyes on the upcoming assembly elections. This fund raising has been accompanied by film making on behalf of the PM   of extremely low taste and low quality and circulating in a few regional and foreign languages. But no space is there to dispute because the parliament is no longer a place to debate, here only the ‘vision’ of the PM is propagated, the media are mostly sold out, and the lesser spoken of the judiciary, the better.

What about the other poor people of the country who too have lost their jobs—whose official figure being 14 crores? Most of them are also not getting wages. How they are doing? From before the corona episode, there were about 25 crores of people living half fed (according to World Health Program of the UN), what’s their condition? The Central Govt. and also the respective state governments deemed nothing more to do after announcing that everybody will be supplied with adequate food. But many of them till now got no food. Their number is huge. What is going on is, massive loot of the meagre food materials issued on the one hand and half or full starvation on the other. Hungry people are taking inedible food and hence falling ill, even some are dying. It’s absurd for them to wash hands with soap frequently or maintain ‘social distance’.

But why not all are having rations? Is there any shortage of food in our country? The Govt. food stock in our country is huge—(the Food Corporation of India informs that in March 2020, the stock waps, among others, about 31 million tons (mt) of rice, 27.5 mt of wheat and 28.7 mt of paddy)—which is sufficient to feed all the people of the country with two square meals for two full years. Moreover, this current season has produced crops very well to raise the stock to store. Still why such hunger? Many people accuse the loop holes in the distribution system and corruption for this imbroglio. But that is a very weak excuse. Govt. could stop it easily, if they wanted. The political mafias, so to say, are actually busy collecting money for the coming elections in the name of serving starving people. Despite this all could be fed well, but sadly that is not the case. Why?      

Here lies the peculiarity of the bourgeois system.

Capitalism has unleashed productive forces over the last two hundred years. This is true for food production too. Per capita food production has also increased. But the number of hungry people is also increasing. This is nothing strange in capitalism. Many products are required in a society, people need those, lots of people can be employed in the production, but those are not produced if less profitable, instead only those goods are produced which would fetch higher profit. Those may be from precious luxury goods to weapons of mass destruction. Tens of millions of people remain jobless to supply cheap labour power. Housing in the society grows tremendously, yet billions of people remain homeless. Similarly, millions of people go to bed hungry, die of malnutrition and various diseases, when food rot in warehouses, often even thrown into the sea. This is capitalism.

People are advised austerity. The petty bourgeoisie teaches everyone to feel guilty for their own relative well-being. It's a childish idea that comes from a very vague perspective. Their austerity will not satisfy the hunger of the poor, unemployed people. According to the United Nations World Food Program, there is a famine ahead, a famine of the kind the world has never seen before.

Actually, the problem lies with the system itself. Everything that is produced in this system is for the market. Demand is what will be sold in the market. That is, demand is determined by people's purchasing power. There is hunger in your stomach—it is not demand; it is how much you can afford to buy that is the demand in capitalism. If production exceeds that demand, the ruling class, with a small portion of it donating to alleviate the anger of the people, mainly does business. If there is no market in the country, then shipping abroad. And, if you can't find a market anywhere, you waste it. This is the rule of capitalism.

As a result of the corona virus outbreak in the country, 140 million people will lose their jobs (says the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy), so the unemployment problem will increase from 6% to 26%. But even before this attack, one third of the people of the country used to go to bed hungry (Amartya Sen). They do not have enough food to survive.

It's not just in our country. Hundreds of millions of people around the world live in such a state of hunger in the midst of the vast luxuries around them. And today, in the "open market" of world trade, in this age of globalization, food too, like all other commodities, rushes where there is more profit.

Today, people are confronted with the question—which is the better option: dying in Corona or in starvation? They are becoming increasingly desperate. Like the workers in Surat, they are coming out breaking lockdown restrictions. They are not ready to die starved, rather risk the other devil’s attack. Food riots are erupting in many places. It will perhaps happen more and more, gradually, and it will happen all over the world. Even in developed countries like Italy, people are fighting for a piece of loaf. The situation in France and England is not good either. 

This crisis was due. The system, run by the IMF, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization, has been plagued by decades of debt, the way the speculative market has swelled, the swelling of fictitious money, and the occasional bubble-burst crisis making billions of dollars vanish. As a result, the danger in the society was increasing. Together the flagrant attacks on nature for hunting profit have brought about crisis of existence. So people can no longer think that capitalism is the best system. They want a change. Today, the attack of Covid-19 may be playing a catalytic role in that desired change.

Today we have entered an era of perhaps the most turbulent times in world history. One violent push after another is coming. The whole capitalist system has become unstable, which means that this system can no longer function as a world system. That is why there is so much conflict, terrorism, as well as the rise of counter-revolutionary forces. The roar of the far-right forces around the world means that even though the system has become obsolete and diseased, it is not willing to die easily.

Now it is the job of the working class leadership to call on all unemployed, hungry, humiliated people to change the system on the basis of a comprehensive democratic program aimed at overthrowing the corporate monarchy. Today the world is waiting for that call. If they do not get this call, they will go and crowd in the fascist camp. That is, either revolution—formation of a new society, or fascism. There is no other alternative. The corona virus that has shaken world capitalism today and the devastating effects it is going to have will probably not allow capitalism to turn around again.

Introduction

COVID-19 pandemic, its emergence, global spread and the crisis there from is inseparably linked up with the character of neoliberal accumulation today. As is widely recognised, its origins are rooted in profit-driven corporate capital’s unbridled plunder of nature and consequent invasion and intrusion in to wild life ecosystem leading to spill-over of viruses to humans and their subsequent mutations. That is, most of the zoonotic viruses and consequent highly infectious diseases coming up one by one during the neoliberal period are rooted in increasing disruptions in ecosystem and biodiversity. The entire health care system under capitalist-imperialist system being driven by profit motive, this pandemic has given rise not only to a health crisis but also to an unprecedented economic collapse given the globalised character of world today. Many concerned and well-meaning scholars, political scientists and economists the world over envisage the outcome of COVID-19 pandemic as more deadly and destructive than that of all previous crises including even world wars.  In particular, while the world is celebrating the 75th year of the end of Second World War, COVID-19, with both US and UK under its highest death tolls, has exposed the political-economic and social bankruptcy of the Anglo-American led capitalist-imperialist system of more than two centuries. Many observations and hypotheses on this aspect based on the emerging trends are pouring in from various quarters.

Coming specifically to the political-economic situation, with GDP growth rates in US and Europe being in the negative territory and everything including production, trade and commerce, travel and tourism, etc. coming to a halt, world economy has entered in to a frozen state that is more dreadful than the Great Depression of 1930s prompting analysts to characterise the situation as an “Ice Age”. From a political economy perspective, COVID-19 has totally disrupted the foundations of globalised production, both its supply and demand chains. Initial estimates by Bretton Woods Institutions made in April indicate a contraction in global GDP by around $ 9 trillion (equal to the combined GDP of Germany and Japan) during 2020. However, according to latest IMF forecast, while the GDP of China, which could bring the pandemic under control and resume economic activities earlier, is set to grow by 1.2 percent, world GDP will be minus at around -6.0 percent with France, Germany, UK, US and Japan witnessing negative growth rates of -7.2, -7.0, -6.5, -5.9 and -5.2respectively. On May 6 at Brussels, Paulo Gentiloni, EU Economic Affairs Commissioner has drawn a more damaging picture of the Eurozone economy with the growth rate reaching – 7.7 percent in 2020. According to more recent estimates, the GDP of Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, is expected to shrink by 6.3 percent in 2020 - the biggest contraction since 1949. And the case of the neo-colonially dependent Afro-Asian-Latin American countries inhabited by world’s poorest, the situation is gruesome.  An analysis in the third week of May by Goldman Sachs predicts a historic shrink of the Indian economy by 45 percent in the second quarter of 2020 and a 5 percent decline of its GDP during the financial year 2020-21, whereas India’s Reserve Bank puts the country’s growth rate in the negative territory in the current financial year.

The consequences of this economic pandemic including unemployment, poverty, deprivation, etc. among other things are turning out to be unimaginable and unmanageable within the imperialist system. According to ILO predictions, global unemployment will be 1500 million this year while the number of absolute poor who lack even the minimum income to have a meal is going to reach the staggering figure of 1000 million, 40 percent of them being Indians. It also envisages a dreadful situation of $3.4 trillion drop in working class incomes across the world. Interpreting the pandemic as a “child rights crisis”, UNICEF has warned that an additional 6000 children could die daily from preventable causes over the next six months (1.2 million deaths in 6 months) as COVID-19 weakens global health systems. On the other hand, global inequality today is the highest with 8 superrich corporate billionaires led by Bill Gates (Microsoft), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) and Jeff Bezos (Amazon)  gobbling up as much wealth as that of the bottom 50 percent of world’s population.  In the same vein, highlighting the destructive levels of inequality prevailing today, Oxfam Report (2020) estimates the total wealth of world’s 2153 billionaires as equal to 60 percent of the world people at the bottom. And neoliberal-corporatisation policies that continue unabated even during the pandemic are constantly channelling more wealth in to corporate coffers.

In this context, though concrete studies are yet to come, many trends in global political economy and international relations which were evident on the eve of the pandemic have become more pronounced and well-defined now. Obviously, while World War II ravaged the entire world including the economies of all other imperialist powers including Britain, it did provide an excellent opportunity for US imperialism whose war-damages were minimum to gain maximum out of the war. For, during World War II, the entire US economy had geared toward the most concentrated application of science and technology for war-oriented production ranging from agricultural and industrial products to weapons of mass destruction. As a result, together with the confluence of many other factors, when the war that wiped out 75 million people from earth came to a close, US accounted for almost half the GDP of the capitalist world together with three quarters of the total global gold reserves. It finally enabled US financial oligarchy and its think-tanks to devise the political-economic and military blueprint required for transforming US as the supreme arbiter of post-war neo-colonialism replacing Pax-Britannica with Pax-Americana.

Now the pandemic has become a historic turning point that exposed the bankruptcy of this pre-eminent role of US imperialism both in terms of the highest number of casualties and on account of its abject inability to take leadership role in a critical situation that brought the whole world to a standstill. It also laid bare the unbridgeable gap between the agenda of a tiny ruling elite leading neoliberal-corporatisation on the one hand and the interests of the working and oppressed majority of the world over on the other. At the same time, in view of the weakening of US, the situation is also witnessing a reduction in the power gap between the US and China, the latter so far exporting medical ‘aid’ to more than 80 Covid-battered countries including the US. However, in the absence of a well-defined global power leadership, the emerging post-pandemic situation points to a bipolar imperialist configuration led by China and US in the immediate future and towards a further weakening of the latter thereafter, a trend which is fully in conformity with the twenty-first century trends associated with the laws of motion of finance capital. 

The Collapse of the ‘American Dream’

By the 1870s, the US had transformed as world’s leading economic power through the concentration and centralisation of production and growth of finance capital though Britain was still holding its “empire upon which the sun never set”. The formation of US Steel Corporation and Standard Oil as world’s first billion-dollar companies led respectively by Morgan and Rockefeller catapulted the US as the world leader in finance and manufacturing by the turn of the 20th century. Along with its industrial and financial superiority, surpassing Britain by this time, the US also became number one in world trade, capital export and as world’s creditor together with the concomitant political and military dimensions. As the most powerful capital exporting imperialist power and as world’s major creditor, dollar also became a major reserve currency along with pound sterling and WW II saw only its logical culmination when  the former completely replaced the latter’s role as international vehicle currency and as one of the main instruments of US neo-colonial hegemony for seven-and-a-half decades. Now this position is being challenged, a process that started much before the pandemic.

On the eve of COVID-19 itself, i.e., by the end of 2019, based on Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), China with a GDP of $27.3 trillion had surpassed the US having a GDP of $21.44 trillion. While China’s trade volume was estimated at $4.43 trillion, that of US was $3.89 trillion, around 80 percent of the former. In 2000, 80 percent of the countries of the world was trading with US; today it is only 30 percent while China today has 60 percent of the countries of the world as trading partners. By the first quarter of 2020, the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership--  composed of  10 ASEAN countries plus China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea) and Russia had become China’s largest trading partners comprising around 50 percent of its global trade. Of course, China’s capitalist transformation as cheap labour-based “workshop of the world” and its comparative advantage in global trade over the US  following its integration with global market as world’s biggest exporter are all much-discussed topics. The recent US threat of cutting off Chinese supply chains including the reported move to shut out Huawei’s 5G out of US seems to be rhetorical only. For, the supply chains of almost 80 percent of US industries at present have direct or indirect links with China. In the sphere of medical supplies, the US dependence on China is even up to 90 percent, an aspect well-exposed in the context of COIVID-19.

In the sphere of capital export too, China with its specific neo-colonial interests has overtaken the US as is evident from the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative which in terms of its size and extent is larger than the erstwhile Marshall Plan (or European Recovery Program) of the US that acted as the driving force for post-war reconstruction of war-torn Europe. Envisaging a capital export worth $1 trillion that lasts till 2049 and spanning Asia, Europe, Africa and even Latin America, the OBOR aims at infrastructure build-up such as roads, ports, airports and so on in host countries along with the usual neo-colonial controls underlying such deals. At a time when Trump and his think-tanks were characterising the pandemic as “Chinese virus” and “Kung Flu”, Chinese export of 31 tons of much-needed medical equipment including ventilators, masks and protective units when Italy was at the zenith of the pandemic had been of immense help to it which was effectively reciprocated by Italy by signing the OBOR initiative characterising the same as a “train that Italy cannot afford to miss.”

A number of regional economic arrangements and trade agreements led by the US are either crumbling or weakening in the background of the relative decline of it in international affairs. In the context of the pandemic, several international groupings likeG7 and G20 supposedly led by US are also in disarray. The collapse of the Tans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is just another example. Even the US-led NATO is losing its cohesion and EU is planning its own independent European military arrangement. On the other hand, China after joining WTO by the turn of the 21st century is ingeniously working on many regional and international arrangements led by it or is coming to the leadership of many using its emerging political-economic clout. In fact WTO provisions also favour regional trade agreements as a “gateway” to internationalisation of capital and market. In this context, a best example is that of RCEP, one of history’s biggest Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) that came into being towards the close of 2019.Now, as the leading imperialist power in the grouping, China is in a position to dump its cheap products in RCEP that encompasses one-third of global GDP. Though at a different level, Chinese imperialist interest is predominant in Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), BRICS, etc. while the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) led by it is a powerful entity several times bigger than ADB, the Asian economic arm of US. Chinese imperialism has even started emulating Rockefeller-Ford philanthropies as is evident from the prompt provision of a medical aid comprising 500000 test kits and 1000000 masks to Africa by the Alibaba-funded Chinese Charity. 

Of particular relevance, however, is with regard to the collapse of the “oil empire” so assiduously built up by US imperialism since the turn of the 20thcentury.  More than a century of US history comprising West Asian geopolitics led by it is interwoven with the specific role of oil right from the days of Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, erstwhile biggest international monopoly, as already mentioned. American finance capital from the very beginning has been maintaining its profit rates high by indulging in oil speculation.  No doubt, the formation of OPEC in 1973 and the sudden four-fold increase in the price of oil at the zenith of the Cold War was a temporary setback for US imperialism. However, within a short time, the US succeeded in manipulating the dependent West Asian countries of OPEC by persuading them to hold their earnings in US banks in the form of “petrodollars”. This enabled US not only to revive dollar from the stagflation of the 1970s but also to boost the profits of US military-industrial complex on the other. 

Obviously, this situation is altering at an alarming speed now. The days of “oil imperialism” are numbered. Contrary to previous predictions on oil as leading energy source lasting for another two-three decades are now called in to question. Research and economic application of non-polluting, alternative and non-conventional energies such as solar and wind are fast advancing. Biggest US and European hedge and pension funds that turned to oil speculation as a reliable source of profit in the aftermath of the 2008 global meltdown are in crisis as crude oil prices are secularly deteriorating. Following abrupt fall in demand in the context of the pandemic, during the third week of April 2020, the world for the first time witnessed the historic fall of crude price below zero in US futures market for oil.  While the sustenance of oil producing countries is at stake, many financial oligarchs mainly in US whose principal source of neo-colonial plunder has been artificial hike in petroleum price and its speculation are in crisis. To be precise, the collapse of the “oil empire” will have far-reaching repercussions for US imperialism whose emergence and transformation as the biggest imperialist power has been intertwined with the history oil.

The whole set of institutional arrangements such as the UN system, the Bretton Woods institutions,  global military alliances and world-wide military bases that framed the political, economic and military foundations of the US-led post-war neo-colonial phase of imperialism are also facing a relative decline in their striking power. Probably, this is more evident in the UN system together with its Functional and Regional Commissions and a number of Specialised Agencies such as ILO, WHO, FAO, UNICEF, UNESCO, etc. which the US tried to use as political-ideological tools in the neo-colonial-neoliberal offensive. With veto power in the Bretton Woods twins (IMF and World Bank) and the US hold over them is conspicuous, the same over UN institutions and agencies was often camouflaged and subtle either through intervening in the selection of their CEOs or manipulating the funds due to them.

However, in recent years, new trends are emerging. A best example is that of WHO which in this critical time of the pandemic has refused to toe the US line and of late has overtly displayed its affinity towards China, following US accusations of it being too China-friendly. In continuation of US flouting many crucial WHO guidelines regarding the pandemic, trump administration has suspended its UN-mandated $50 billion annual contribution to WHO. But this has led to a further isolation of US imperialism in international community and even the western US allies including EU and Germany in particular have vehemently disagreed with Trump and issued statements in support of WHO. At the same time, promptly taking advantage of the situation China came forward injecting an extra-$30 million in to the agency, a quantum jump from its pledged contribution of $ 20 million. This is not an isolated case. While China is very prompt and regular in accomplishing its payments to UN and its affiliated agencies, the US seems often refraining from committing its mandated contributions. For instance, the existing US due to UN budget is $1165 million while its dues towards various UN peace-keeping tasks come to around $1332 million.  In this situation, when even erstwhile allies of the US have openly expressed their displeasure over Trump’s handling of the UN and its agencies, China is tactically making use of the situation towards its global reach.

Of course, the US still remains as history’s mightiest military machine in terms of both the stock of weapons of mass destruction and the readiness to deploy it in accordance with its imperialist agenda. Hiroshima and Nagasaki had unequivocally proved that no ruling class on earth can ever surpass the criminality and terrorism unleashed by US imperialism. This characteristic of the US is not specifically connected with WW II or that of post-war neo-colonialism led by it. For, the whole trajectory of US ascendancy as the supreme imperialist power had always been filled with loot, plunder, horror and genocide. It perpetrated holocausts upon holocausts on defenceless and innocent people as documented in the extermination of Red Indians, slavery on African- Americans, mass genocides on people of Pacific Islands and in superimposing “imperialism without colonies” over Latin America before ascending as supreme arbiter in the post-war neo-colonial world order. During the post-war period too, with 800 military bases in 80 countries and a nuclear arsenal large enough to wipe out the world many times over, the geopolitical tensions, terror and wars, both cold and hot, imposed on world people by US imperialism have surpassed everything that preceded.

Even today, when US imperialism is confronting a historic downturn which is inherently connected with the laws of motion of capital and the specific form of neoliberal accumulation, its annual military expenditure (2019 estimates) with $732 billion comes to 38 percent of the world total. China with $261 billion comes second and India, US’ junior partner with $71 billion is third in the list. However, in view of the crumbling political and economic foundations of crisis-ridden US imperialism, its capacity to sustain this huge military expenditures and maintain its military hegemony is doubtful. Protectionist trade wars as well as geopolitical tensions in the Indo-Pacific between US and China have sharpened during this period. For the first time in history, a US Navy Destroyer in South China Sea was forced to retreat following Chinese military intervention. Of course, no one can deny the fact that with accumulated weapons of mass destruction and backed by huge military expenditure, the US still remains as the biggest war machine in the world. As history underscores a decaying empire will never go down from its dominant position without a fight.  No doubt, the situation definitely calls for appropriate global level intervention on the part of progressive- democratic forces

Probably, the most crucial issue that accelerates the decline of US imperial reach is with regard to dollar itself. Omnipresence of the dollar that provided American finance capital an unparalleled opportunity for neo-colonial control has also been the most conspicuous expression of US hegemony. Being the only generally acceptable currency for international transactions, countries had to hold dollar as unit of account, medium of exchange and store of value. While other countries have to forego real resources for dollars, as the issuing country of dollar, the US could print any amount of dollar and purchase from or invest in any part of the world. US could finance its aid programs and military adventures out of the printing of dollar. Governments and central banks the world over were bound to keep their reserves in dollars and so on. However, obviously and logically, there is another side of the picture. That is, this dollar-denominated international arrangement has become an obstacle and at many times came in to conflict with the interests of other imperialist powers contending with US imperialism. Moreover, the underlying and badly needed symbiotic relationship between dollar as vehicle currency on the one hand, and US as world’s leading trader and capital exporter on the other, has already been broken—a repetition of what happened to pound sterling during the final decades of colonialism when Britain was still continuing as formal colonial leader. To be precise, today dollar continues as the international currency not based on the economic strength of US but only because of the absence an alternative arrangement. 

It is in this context that imperialist China’s efforts to deal with US interference in international monetary transactions assume strategic political importance. China had already started using its currency Yuan along with local currencies in trade with its closest partners comprising almost half of the global trade volume. The transactions here are settled through the CIPS (Cross-Border Interbank Payments System bypassing the SWIFT(Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications headquartered in Belgium since 1973) network payment system that uses dollar as the medium of cross-border settlements and therefore alleged to have a partisan approach to US in sharing financial information.  Along with this, China is in the process of launching a digital or crypto-currency called e-RMB (e-Renminbi) for circumventing the role of dollar in global transactions. The digital currency/cyber money developed with the involvement of Chinese digital giants like WeChat and Alipay has already become acceptable in many Chinese cities and is widely used for almost all transactions including salary payments. In the present international monetary system in which dollar is the numeraire, many countries are already fed up with US interference in their transactions.  For such countries, the internationalisation of digital Yuan will be very attractive.

Revealingly, with the application of ‘digital intelligence’ through such technologies as blockchain, the Chinese digital currency is designed in such a manner as to accomplish total non-interference from the Chinese Central Bank and this is expected to strengthen the general acceptability of ‘Chinese digital Yuan’ among the international community. If the Chinese initiative becomes successful and digital Yuan starts functioning, it will erode the role of dollar as world’s main reserve currency. Parallel to this, China is also planning to divest its trillions worth of dollar-denominated foreign exchange through outright write-off of loans of its closest partners or purchase of foreign assets or as OBOR investments abroad.  Meanwhile, as per reports, the US also is planning a counter-offensive by developing a digital dollar project. No doubt, as manifested in the assassinations of Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi, US imperialism will go to any extent to eliminate any threat attempting to replace the dollar with another viable international medium of exchange. The multi-faceted and concerted China-bashing and Sinophobia now unleashed by Trump administration is to be viewed in this perspective. However, according to latest information, France has successfully tested a digital euro, and similar experiments are going on in Japan, Canada and UK. No doubt, the outcome of such simultaneous emergence of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) including their use in global interbank settlements will be nothing short of a “gunning for the dollar” from rival contending centres.

A Pandemic Turned in to a Catalyst Towards “Digital Imperialism”?

This international situation forms the background to the emerging post-pandemic political-economic trends. When the COVID-19 battered world economy came to an abrupt halt, the only sphere that worked overtime was that of the internet and digitisation. To put it differently, in the absence of cross-border digital flows, the economic outcome of the pandemic would have been more horrific. That is, when COVID-19 disrupted everything and disconnected the world, it was the digital or cyberspace that kept the world moving. Of course, in the beginning of the pandemic itself, China with its advancements in robotisation, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and blockchain technologies succeeded in designing a suitable App to track and trace corona patients. In the course of the global virus-spread, several countries subsequently emulated it by devising their respective apps (Arogya Setu App in India is an example). Along with this many digital spheres including cashless payments and transactions also got a boost during the pandemic days.  

 Among the fast-emerging frontier technologies including robotisation, AI, medical and bio-technologies, probably, digitisation is today’s fastest-moving. Though emerged in 1990s,digital flows were practically non-existent till the close of the 20th century, while during the past two decades, digitisation has undergone an exponential growth. With just 100 gigabytes (GB) per second in 2002, world digital flows (Global Internet Protocol Traffic) rose to 2000 GB per second in 2007. The aftermath of 2008 global meltdown imparted a further boost to this process such that digital flows rose by more than 20 times during the past decade reaching 46000 GB per second by 2017. According to UNCTAD, it is expected to shoot up to 150700 GB by 2022. However, in view of the specific developments during the pandemic, the digital growth rate is likely to outstrip UNCTAD’s estimate made in 2019.

Today, US and China together account for around 75 percent of all patents related to digital/blockchain technologies and digital companies from both hold 90 percent of the market capitalisation value of the world’s digital platforms. As per a Mckinsey study, the value of China’s e-commerce transactions is larger than the value of those of France, Germany, Japan UK and US combined while as a percentage of GDP, China’s digital economy at about 30 percent is still below that of US. Digitally deliverable service exports now comprise more than half of total global service exports. Share of digital economy now ranging up to 16 percent in global GDP is a bigger contributor to GDP than the centuries-old transport sector comprising road, rail, shipping and air traffic. And every economic activity having a digital component today, digitisation has become inseparable from social life. That is, in addition to transmission of data or streams of information and ideas in their own right, digital flows have become essential for enabling the movement of tangible goods, services, finance. Obviously, in the pandemic situation, digitisation has been unleashed as a strategic tool with governments and health officials in using digital interactions as a substitute for physical interactions. It enabled not only tracking and tracing patients but even for remote-location diagnoses by using new avenues of robotisation and in measuring body temperature, pulse rate and even oxygen levels through AI and for treatment through telemedicine. The pandemic time also witnessed an unprecedented transmission of valuable streams of information and data flows-enabled movement of goods, services and communication along with the use of video conferencing, remote or home-based work, and a host of online/mobile services. However, behind this apparent and open use of digital technologies by far-right and neo-fascist regimes, from a political economy perspective two aspects are of crucial significance – one, how digitisation is used as a political tool in the move towards a deep state and two, how it intensifies corporate accumulation through an unprecedented super-exploitation of the working class.

Regarding the first, political use of the crises as an opportunity or excuse for circumventing the established democratic procedures is not all new with fascist regimes.  As already noted, China could contain the initial virus-spread in Wuhan by developing appropriate phone apps by grasping the extent of infections through tracking, locating and quarantining corona patients. It was also made mandatory on the part of people to download it enabling the authorities to track their entire movements. Within a short while South Korea, Singapore, Israel and Italy followed by various neo-fascist regimes of Europe also evolved similar softwares/apps attached to mobile phones. Interestingly, such digital interventions aimed to help medical and health personnel are now effectively used by police and intelligence agencies which may later be used as coercive instruments for serving the fascist agenda of the far-right regimes against political opponents and struggling people. Many governments that developed such phone-based softwares in gross violation of people’s privacy for tracking their movements and involvements in the guise of the pandemic have hinted at the continuation them as a surveillance tool even in the post-COVID situation.

A best example is that of the Indian regime which has already declared that it will continue with the Arogya Setu App developed in the context of COVID-19. The Modi government which is systematic in its drive towards a deep state has now made this App mandatory for citizens to download it as an e-pass for travel across India. That is, those who lack the required smartphone capable of downloading the App will be denied the constitutional right of free movement as a citizen.  Thus like the CAA and NRC, the Arogya Setu App also implies a disenfranchisement and outright denial of citizenship rights to 75 percent of Indians who lack smartphones. According to latest information, world’s leading digital giants Google and Apple are actively engaged in a mobile software updation enabling governments to develop appropriate Apps for a foolproof tracking of their citizens.

Secondly, along with this direct political use of digital software as an effective fascistic tool by neo-fascist regimes, the multi-dimensional economic repercussions arising from digitisation is far-reaching. The role of the internet in internationalisation of production and global corporatisation or financialisation with the advent of neo-liberalism is a much discussed issue. However, unlike the 20th century, along with imparting new dimensions to financial speculation, it has also become possible by 21st century imperialism to instantly transform physical activities like manufacturing into fluid digital data that can be stored, retrieved and distributed globally. This has enabled profit-driven finance capitalists and corporate MNCs to bring about qualitative changes in both global production and international division of labour. The consequent reorganisation of production while leads to unprecedented wealth concentration in “Silicon Six”(Google, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Apple, Microsoft) and similarly placed Chinese companies like Alibaba and Tencent, the working class under new forms of surplus value extraction is going to be subjected to hitherto unknown levels of super-exploitation.

Corporate media has already started talking on how post-pandemic work-place is to be re-arranged. It is argued that many professions can be moved online avoiding face-to-face-meeting and travel; that daily commuters will be told to work from home through video-conferencing or video calls or via other online platforms and in self-isolation, that wages also can be made digital through mobile biometric payments and so on. Online shopping and e-commerce, cloud business and services are to get new booming and as a manifestation, the fortunes of Amazon like companies that already gained much from the Corona crisis are sky-rocketing. A pervasive digital culture pertaining to education and research and a flourishing of online courses are also in the offing. Even the film industry is planning to re-orient towards direct to home releases using online platforms like Amazon. This emerging trend in many social realms is likely to continue in the post-Covid situation without any let up. 

As is obvious, in the guise this ‘digital culture’, corporate capital is unleashing a systematic disruption in the collective bargaining power of the workforce. That is, on account of the specific character of the service sector (that today comprises more than two-thirds of the global GDP) having relatively more white-collar professions, digitisation (with its emphasis on home-based work, etc.) has made it easy for capitalists to deal with employees on an individual or personal basis. Together with this, digitisation coupled with the new advancement in processing technologies that makes it possible to decentralise or decompose production into several stages has enabled corporate capital to devise a neoliberal version of the “putting out system”(pre-capitalist production system widespread in Western Europe in which merchant employers “put-out of materials to rural producers who worked in their homes)of transplanting ‘toxic’ and cheap labour-based stages of production to the dependent countries. This is speeding up  a new division of labour in material production both at the global and regional levels  leading to super-exploitation of workers and toiling masses through various arrangements for organising labour such as ‘flexible specialization’, outsourcing, assembly lines, etc. To be precise, through what is called ‘informalisation’ or ‘disorganisation’, of the workforce, “digital imperialism” is swiftly reinforcing its global reach ensuring the highest rate of profit at minimum cost mainly through pushing down wages using digital platforms and tools.

No doubt, while the capitalist-imperialist system is engaged in a global reorganisation in all spheres of life through digitisation,  and when the international Left in general is weak, the poor and oppressed people are increasingly driven to the peripheries and are denied access to even means of life. That is, the so called “digital relations of production” have become a concrete expression of the class relations at the international and national levels. The “digital divide” (a term used to highlight the situation of vast majority of people in Afro- Asian-Latin American countries who lack internet- a 2017-18 Study on internet availability in India amidst Modi’s “digital India” hype found that only 27 percent of Indians have internet accessibility with wide variations across classes, gender and regions) or the “digital gap” between and within countries that is subsumed under the neoliberal-corporatisation and under existing property relations is leading to more and deprivation of the poor and widening of inequalities. To be precise, digitisation and robotisation that are being shaped by informal/unorganized, unpaid/underpaid and hence super-exploited workers and oppressed people are now becoming inexhaustible avenues of plunder and exploitation by finance capital today. At the same time, there is a concerted attempt in corporate media to manipulate political opinion and superimpose a culture of silence to disguise this biggest-ever extraction of surplus value by capital.

However, while acknowledging the due role of the rapid advances in digitisation, robotisation, AI, IoT (Internet of Things),  and blockchain technologies, a closer analysis will make it amply clear thatthe centrality of production, commodity trade, military-industrial complexes, etc. are decisive and the determining force in society. At the same time, while there are no substitutes for material production and physical interactions among people, the relevance new technologies that enable imperialism to bring about a reorganisation of production cannot be glossed over. The consequent new division of labour superimposed on the working class and the possibility intensified surplus value extraction according to national and local specificities and many diversities today are resulting in an unprecedented growth in the ranks of unorganized or informal working class including refugees and migrants as the most “wretched” social class on earth today. It is the urgent task of the revolutionary left to have a concrete analysis of this globalised production process and growing accumulation of monopoly profits from super-exploitation of workers from a Marxist perspective. The problem is not that of new technologies, but of social relations or, as Stephen Hawking had said, the manner in which the gain from technological efficiency is appropriated by capitalists and how it is denied to the workers and broad masses of people. The most urgent political question and organisational task that the Left and democratic forces have to take up today centre around this crucial issue.

Conclusion

As outlined in the preceding observations, the emerging international situation is being shaped by a bipolar configuration between US and China in which the other imperialist powers will perform the role of third parties in consonance with their self-interest. Though US imperialism is much weaker, declining and relatively isolated, as history shows, declining empires will not go down peacefully. On the other hand, the ‘neoliberal virus’ has totally exposed the political-economic and social bankruptcy of capitalist-imperialist system as a whole. The pandemic has laid bare the diverging gap between interests of the billionaire financial elite indulging in terribly destructive plunder of nature and labour on one side, and the needs and sustenance of the working class and broad masses of people on the other. In this context, the likelihood of bureaucratic-capitalist led imperialist China with its specific neo-colonial methods of operation ascending to number one position in imperialist hierarchy leading to more intensified global scramble for markets, spheres of capital export and sources of raw materials will only result in a change in the form of neo-colonial plunder while, in essence, the laws of motion of capital shall still be prevailing. That is, the crisis is systemic and is integrally linked up with the overall dominance of the imperialist financial relations over world people and a mere retreat of one imperialist power yielding space for another will not alter the loot and plunder that are going on. Of course, we cannot be oblivious of the extreme destruction that may emanate from the sharpening of inter-imperialist contradictions irrespective of whether the global set-up is bipolar or multi-polar. And international Left and struggling forces must be prepared to effectively utilise the contradictions among the ruling classes both internationally and nationally.

Meanwhile, regardless of a probable shift in global power balance, the pandemic in all its details has clearly revealed that the continuation of the rotten and exhausted imperialist system itself will be threatening to the very sustenance of humankind. Since space for manoeuvre within the system is fast-depleting, scope of neo-Keynesian proposals seems to be very limited. What is required is a counter-offensive with a comprehensive political program from people-centred, bottom-up approach on the part of the Left and struggling forces to overthrow the more than three-century old capitalist-imperialist system that is reversing the hard-erned rights by people on the one hand, and at the same time rotting and becoming anachronistic on the other. Such an alternative shall be capable of effectively and appropriately coordinating both international solidarity national struggles against imperialism and its local chieftains. No doubt, until being thrown away, the system will keep linger on to the end putting heaviest burdens and untold miseries on the backs of humankind. 

In These Days when the whole human9ty is in the grip of Covid-19 pandemic, we remember how relevant was the warnings of Stephen Hawking, a great scientist and philosopher, in his last interview before death last year. According to him, the arrogant attitude of the political class he saw around him shall lead the intensifying ecological destruction to a catastrophe, to possible destruction of this species itself. But the capitalist-imperialist system which has succeeded to lead the re-creation of the whole world in its own image to its highest stage under aggressive neoliberal globalization during last four decades, boasting about reducing the world in to a globalized village with digitalization and utilization of intelligent machines reaching  commanding heights. They were happy about the accumulation of most of the wealth of the society and nature with the top 1%, about development of the most advanced weapons including nuclear weaponry capable of destroying this earth a hundred times, and the great cities with glittering malls, highways and techno parks they have developed. They were laughing at all suggestions that climate change, global warming like phenomena are manifestations of the ecological destruction caused by their brand of development, shall lead to global environmental catastrophe.

So, it was not surprising if Trump walked out of Kyoto Protocol, or last year, all imperialist leaders and junior partners assembled at Madrid almost dumped the talk about environmental dangers as rubbish propagated by ecological fundamentalists!  At the same time, in order to pacify the masses who were suffering under ever-intensifying climate change and global warming which had started all fields of life, all governments have their ministries of environment, not for protecting environment, but to find way outs to help the loot of what is left of the natural resources

But Covid19 threat has shattered the globalized world, forcing everyone to their corners, with continuous reminders of the need for body distancing, repeated hand washing, against touching your face with your hand, etc. What happened? Is nature finding out ways to wipe out a species which was claiming to have conquered it, how the SARS break out in 2003, MERS in 2012 and now more dangerous novel corona virus which spreads very fast are different from earlier pandemics in long human recorded history of five or more millennia, can  earlier viruses can mutate  under increasing climate change and paralyzing the humans, are the scientists who have warned against the appearance of more dangerous viruses which were dormant for many millennis with the breaking of the huge glazier in both poles under global warming correct etc were coming under for few days even in mainstream media.

But, as what is happening in China soon after it partially recovered from the Covid19 pandemic, and what we are seeing in US and almost all other countries including India, shows that the capitalist chieftons and their partners everywhere in power have once again pooh-poohed all these talks as happened with the SARS virus in 2003, MERS in 2012, or when super cyclone Amphan like serious natural calamities becoming very frequent, or when environmentalists put forward the dangers inherent in the devastating development policies they are pursuing, and have gone back to business as usual after impatiently waiting for the end of the lockdowns and even before any effective vaccines and medicines to control Covid19 are developed or the Covid spread in their countries are brought under control, Trump like neo-fascists are showing the way and still continue to lord over the working class and the oppressed people again, with all incentives from the state going to the corporate houses and elite classes, while the whole burden of the pandemic is being thrown to the backs of the masses once again as we are witnessing all around us. The bourgeois intellectuals may even claim it as another end of history!

Our Party Program points out (Chapter 2, first para)” …during this period (after 1947 transfer of power when our country came under neo-colonial domination), especially after the crisis of the 1970s, with the mad rush for exploitation of natural and human resources utilizing the unprecedented 

technological advances under the imperialist perspective of development, ever- intensifying ecological devastation has started becoming a major factor both at the international and the national level. It has given rise to a new, fifth major contradiction, at both international and national levels, the contradiction between capital and nature, along with the other four major contradictions…”, applying Marxist teachings to our concrete situation.

“3.7 Under neo-colonization, due to the policies implemented in the name of development which actually serve the interests of imperialists and their lackeys, ecological devastation has become an ever intensifying factor… 'Global warming' like phenomena and the nuclear catastrophe created by the nuclear arms race, existing nuclear plants which are 'nuclear time bombs' as once again proved by the meltdown of Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. Refusing to learn from the intensification of the contradictions with Pakistan following the nuclear arms race started by it from Pokhran nuclear blast, presently Indian government has signed the nuclear agreement with the US imperialists, further surrendering whatever sovereignty the country had. The construction of new nuclear plants under imperialist dictates threatens further environmental disaster. The imperialists are dumping industrial and nuclear waste in countries like India. All these developments have made the struggle for ecological protection one of the basic components of social progress”

Again, while explaining the program of PDR, it is stated: “6.16 Based on the understanding that the contradiction between capital and nature has become a major contradiction at both national and international level, concrete plans should be worked out to protect environment and to develop the perspective on development taking this important question in to consideration”.

History teaches that, just because its barbarous character is more exposed, just because the vast masses of people are facing more brutal plunder and oppression, the ruling system is not going to change on its own will. As pointed out above, this truth based on facts is once again glaringly exposed before us, from the mad rush towards starting economic activities even when the burden of fighting against the pandemic is also almost thrown to the back of the people The only way out before the working class and all oppressed classes and sections, not only for putting an end to the present inhuman social system, but also for reversing the process of intensification of ecological catastrophe to save the human species from its extinction, is to overthrow the global capitalist imperialist system and its junior partners everywhere. Only through the accomplishment of this task, the working class and oppressed people can advance towards the only alternative before them, socialism according to present concrete conditions, to achieve a society without exploitation and based on people’s democracy

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The Communist movement in India has a history of almost a century after the salvos of October Revolution in Russia brought Marxism-Leninism to the people of India who were engaged in the national liberation struggle against the British colonialists. It is a complex and chequered history.