Saturday, January 31, 2009

Why Protest against retail failed to turn into a movement on a national scale

In the past two years we have seen protest against retails expansion in India. This protest has been quite synonymous with the protest against Reliance foray into retail.
What I am trying to explain here is that despite being initiated in various states across India viz. Maharashtra, Keala, Jharkhand, U.P, why not it took the shape of a nationwide movement. In the mobilization phase of this ‘movement’ ideology was quite in place i.e. issue of deprivation and there was of course a stress on collective participation of those who face deprivation. The strategy they adopted was fitting in the mobilisation phase i.e. gherao, strikes, bandh etc. What is seriously missing is a charismatic leader, a demagogue who can take this sporadic protests into the institutionalize stage. Every state union body were fighting independently and could not come together at the national level. Again a characteristic feature of this protest against retail majors is that it is broadly a class based 'movement' against those sitting at the top level owning the means of production. Now the people sittng at the top of hierarchy would not have simply allowed so far, the movement to take shape at national level. This they achieved through media, control over legislative bodies and other such measures.
I am looking forward for your comments on the above viewpoint so as to broaden the analysis…

What happens in the north east

"are u coming from India ? !!!" 

this is said to be one of the common queries faced by the fellow Indian traveller in the north eastern states which lies very much inside the geographical boundaries of Indian state. I wonder what is preventing the rest of India from acknowledging the north east as their integral part (after 60 years of independence)...if you are countering the statement please tell me if you had noticed any of the massacres or bomb blasts taken place in the region a few days prior to the TAJ hotel attack. ie did you come across the obscure single column 3 inch news item on the third page of the national daily.


would it be because

the very low population of the region and the weak political bargaining power owing to very small number of parliamentary seats

geographically cut out from the rest of India

the conspicuous anthropological differences

 ...i can go on....

North eastern India is having our country’s longest running insurgencies. These movements have been waging for a couple of generations and one may wonder if the ends have shifted for the means. 

"If India was the Jewel in the Crown of the British Empire, the remote North East of that country is its Hidden Jewel"
…Tony Howard

And what is the narrow thread that ties India as a state of ‘unity in diversity’. Is it is religion as the RSS claims – from Gujarat to Arunachal and from Kanyakumari to Kashmir- or speaking of it when how did a way of life became a religion...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Gram Vikas in Orissa

Gram Vikas is an organisation operating in thirteen districts of Orissa and was my host organisation during my fieldwork. It works for the health and sanitation of the villages. It is very difficult to mobilise people to adopt something new when they don’t feel the need to do so. Gram Vikas took up this challenge and has done justice to it. My village is a live example of it. Initially people were not ready for the construction of bathrooms in their houses as they hardly needed them, especially the old age group. There were some who agreed and gradually the number increased. It took two long years to mobilise people but finally it happened. Today Gram Vikas has attained 100% coverage in the village. Each household contributed for it. They are also provided with three water connections in each household and a water tank has also been built. The people who initially opposed are no more with the same opinion rather they are very thankful to Gram Vikas for improving sanitation facilities of the village. They feel that the village has become cleaner. They feel proud of the development made which they think has improved their standard of living.

Kyoto protocol: - The International Environmental Agreement as Collective Action

It is all about Emission-reduction targets of greenhouse gases (GHG) for each of the member countries and a greenhouse gas emission-trading program. The Kyoto Protocol, agreed in December 1997, set out an approach for binding international action and agreed specific commitments up to 2012
Kyoto Protocol agreement says that industrialized countries will reduce their collective emissions of GHG by 5.2% compared to the year 1990. The goal is to lower overall emissions of six GHG- carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, HFCs, and PFCs. If an Industrialized country is not in compliance with its emissions targets, then that country is required to make up the difference plus an additional 30 percent. In addition, that country will be suspended from making transfers under an emissions trading program. The major feature of the Kyoto Protocol is that it sets binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions .
Need for this agreement in the international community:-
Climate change is one of the most important issues facing the international community and Concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased markedly during the past century which had significant effects on the climate. Coming of likeminded countries forward to protect environment was in accordance with convergence theory.
Main feature of the Protocol:-
1. Emission Quotas for each member countries.
2. The principles of Emissions trading and Joint implementation by member countries.
3. Clean Development Mechanism for long term sustainability of environment.
Understanding international Collective Action to implement Kyoto protocol
Emissions of GHGs from any one country have the same effect on the atmosphere as those from any other. It also recognizes that without their involvement, international collective action may fail. Co-operation requires that nations perceive sufficient benefits that they are willing to participate in international treaties or other arrangements. USA was one of the first nations to sign and ratify treaty. Canada has set target to reduce emissions to 6%.
Why collective action of this sort?
Climate change is a Global Public Good which require stronger and more coordinated action and Co-operative action reduces costs of mitigation and adaptation. In this scenario International joint efforts are more effective as standalone efforts by any single country will not bear fruit.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


The U.S. on the plea that the detainees in the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp are wore no uniforms when caught and were not part of any recognized military force said that the inmates did not qualify for protection under the international rules of war, which is supervised by the Red Cross under the rubric of the Geneva Conventions and Protocols. These conditions result in severe restrictions and control over the rights of the inmates. Guantanamo Bay has thus, become ill famous for the mass human rights violations that allegedly take place there.
European Union members, the Organization of American States, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch, newspapers like The New York Time have collectively protested against physical condition of detainees. The newspapers, it may be argued here, are participating in this collective action purely because of rational considerations.
In June 2006, the
European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in support of a motion urging the United States to close the camp. Among the voters were U.S.s’ perennial friends the United Kingdom and other NATO allies who were actively participating in the war on terror. They seem to have taken this step to participate in a one of its kind opportunity that has arisen. The European Parliament in a sense wants to give out a message to the global community as a whole that if there is someone in the world that cares about human rights then it is them.
Finally this collective action has bore fruits and the new President, Barak Obama has assured the world that this facility would be closed in a year’s time. This shut down would lead to a more explosive discussion on what would the future hold for the 245 male prisoners left on the island? Probably some collective action by the civil society at large would again be needed to bring justice to these 245 men.


Construction of drainage canal: A collective action for self benefit

There used to be lots of water logging in the fields during the rainy season, as the construction of road had blocked the natural drainage. This problem was just limited to the farmers whose fields were located on the other side of the road because the newly constructed road was on the way of natural flow of water. Farmers were not able to take crop during one season of the year because of the water logging. Villagers complained to the block office about the same but no action was taken initially but after some amount of agitation by the villagers they agreed to put the drainage pipe on priority basis. The block official brought the pipe and left it besides the road, near the water logging area. When villagers asked why they are not completing the work now, they told that as labour is not available we will come some other day and install the drainage pipe. But many months passed by but no one came for digging road to put the pipe. Some people, who had the field on the other side of the road, told them not to put the drainage pipe fearing that it will cause the water logging in their fields. The rainy season was about to come but no work was done by the government official fearing the opposition by farmers having land on other side of the road. People repeatedly complained at block office but there was no action from there side. Now people had no option but to wait for the next season as the rains were about to start in few days. During this time some farmers, who were affected on the large scale came together and decide to put the pipe themselves. Now they called the meeting of all the farmers whose lands were affected because of water logging, irrespective of their caste. Everyone decided to contribute a human labour per family. But some well to do farmer were not ready to do physical work so they supplied paid labour for the same. Within few hours they were able to complete the whole work which was bothering them since many years.

The benefits were visible from the beginning then why people took so much time to take the collective action?

Monday, January 26, 2009


This is regarding the collective action which I observed during our fieldwork. We went to ushegaon village of adilabad district. About 7 years back in  the whole village decided to construct a temple where an old statue of Lord Hanuman was situated. Being a poor tribal village this was almost a dream. But under the leadership of two people Surebhan and Manik Rao, this dream is close to coming true. It was decided that all families in the village will pay an amount of 1 rupee per week. Even this was not compulsory. But the families paid this amount regularly.

When this amount reached an amount of 5000, Surebham and Manik rao went to open an account in the bank, but the bank manager refused to open an account. Not getting disappointed they came up with an idea of rotating the money in form of giving loans to the people of the village at lower interests than the moneylenders. This had a dual advantage, the amount was increasing and the people were getting benifitted. Today except two families out of the 104 families no one depends on money lenders and the best part is that the total amount has reaches 5 lakhs. The work on temple is going to start in February this year. Thus is a clear illustration of what wonders a simple collective action can do.

Scott: Weapons of the weak. Really?

The article has indeed been written very nicely. Its free flowing and you almost agree with the content. An afterthought, which weak are we actually talking about? The 'weak' suggested have at least one job or like where he can protest passively. Do these 'weak' include day laborers, marginal farmers? In our country if someone somehow manages a job, there are hundreds lined up to take that job, why would one tolerate any 'everyday form of resistance'? The counter argument is if all resist the higher power has to give in. But if management fires two or three people everybody submits immediately or at best it takes form of the strikes etc. which is again an open confrontation, which usually happens. Many of the articles talk about the 'weak' and 'poor' but not about the 'weakest' and 'poorest'. Talking about MFIs, they also basically concentrate on 'poor' and their good intention are averse to 'poorest' which eventually are the 'weakest' as well.
Why is not mobilization of poorest is given its due attention? Probably no takers or may be too marginalised to be worth uplifting... I am not too sure.

hunger strike for a cause

We 38 students passed out from Orissa Veterinary College in the month of February in 2002. The entry level of posting in Govt of Orissa was Junior Veterinary Officer and scale was from 5500 rupees. We all appeared in the written test and inerview for the above said post and there was more number of advertised posts than the number of students. Before final posting there was a circular from the finance department that all the posting should be on contract basis. We are told be posted at 5900 ruppees on contract basis. We all then protested against this decision and our argument was that since for us the advertise was different , the new rule is not applicable to us. We all rejected the Govt offer and fought against the decision. We started hunger strike in front of Raj Bhaban. On the same day we are told that continue the strike there and we all are shifted to a police station in the evening. We are repeatedly told to withdraw from the hunger strike. At 3 o' clock in the night we are sent to Jharpada jail at Bhubaneswar.We all went to jail except the girl students. In the jail we are housed in different rooms with the criminals. In the morning we attended the prayer. Then we all are shifted to a single room. Meals were kept in the room as we all refused to take food and warned that there would be forcefull feeding. Three of our friends became unconscious and hospitalised. We are released from the jail at 8 P.M. By the strike we were able to change the Govt decision. Government then took the decision to recruit on probation for two years at consolidated payment of 7900 ruppees. Though our strike was based on self interest , it was usefulfor the for future batches.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Collective Action By Developing Nations

                When we talk of collective action, we have been generally talking in terms of individuals. But I think that the theories and principles of collective action are equally applicable to the nations as well. The reason being that, with trade liberalisation in place, the under-developed and developing countries have become very much vulnerable. The developed countries can use their clout for extracting undue benefits in the form of anti-dumping laws and other non-tariff barriers. The developing countries can challenge the existing power equations only if they come together.  

              An example  is the case related to gasoline imports. Venezuela lodged  a complaint against United States in 1995 under the dispute settlement mechanism of WTO regarding violation of WTO norms.. Brazil also joined Venezuela in 1996 with a seperate complaint. Some other developing countries  joined the two later. Much pressure was created by this united block of developing countries and finally the judgement went in their favour. Doha Round of WTO talks was also a good example when the developing countries through their collective action were able to raise their voice and resist the existing regime of agriculture subsidies by developed countries. So if the developing countries come together, they can resist the existing power structure of present political and economic order which allows much space for developed countries to exercise their disproportionate power vis-a-vis developing countries.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

media as a social agent for change

We all know about the importance of media in the society. Media is known as the “fourth pillar” of the society. Its job is to inform aware and educate the masses. It has to act as a people's representative while dealing with the system. Media also spreads awareness about the existing facts which influence the society. Precisely, media is an integral part of the society, which functions nonstop for its betterment.
It also voices people's grievances against the system. Here comes the role of media as a “social agent for change”. Wherever the executive or the legislation falters, it's the media who takes up the issue as in a democracy it's the people who have the power in their hands. But sometimes, this power of being able to reach to the masses and the ability to shape the public opinion is not aptly handled by the media. For instance(as discussed in the presentation also) as we saw in the case of Jessica Lal, Priyadarshini Mattoo, Nitish Katara, Shivani Bhatnagar and the Aarushi murder case, media has played an immense role in charting out the cour e of justice.
Not saying that taking up the cause of justice for someone in particular is wrong, but is the media right in being subjective? Should it try making and judging opinions rather that just providing information? Is it justifying its role when it tries to play the judiciary in these cases?
Please reveal your thoughts on this…


We all (PRM-29) are contributing our best to organize ANAND RUN. Organizing such an event requires collective action and cooperation from whole batch as well as from the faculty members and seniors. This also needs a lot of planning regarding the management, finance, sponsorship, logo, design of T-shirt, banners, marketing, registration fees etc. To manage all these we have formed committees of competent persons who can perform these activities. We all know that all these activities are time consuming and finding time from the academic schedule is a trade off between studies and ANAND RUN. From the very beginning we faced the problem of funds and sponsorship the condition became worst when our last hope of getting sponsorship from GCMMF doesn’t full fill. We all look ANAND RUN as a part of the history of IRMA and PRM, and we want to be the part of the history at any cost. This rational of being a part of the history motivated all of us to contribute financially, mentally and physically for the success of ANAND RUN. Due to this motivation and cooperation we are able to collect Rs 42 thousand with in a day. This collective action is a form of extra rational motivation. It is the desire to be there, to take part in the history, to have oneself developed through the participation in significant.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The beggar analogy

An interesting point was covered in the class today. Sir told us that he never gives money to the beggars as it would demobilise all the beggars and they would not form a cooperative (which he wants them to form).

In a similar way we can argue that welfare funds or the grants which are given by the state to promote development in the country will never serve its purpose as it would demobilise all the people involved in the said activity.

Also, evertime we help or train a person for an activity we are actually increasing his "loss" and so everyone should learn on his own. Or, we can also discuss that the class will never serve its purpose and there should be no kind of teaching or whatsoever!

Please comment on this paradox.

Everyday forms of struggle in today's context

James C. Scott talks about everyday form of resistance at the individual level and the sum total of these actions leading to a massive change in the system. He supports such actions in those situations where outright defiance may either not lead to any revolution or such an action may be foolhardy. He says that such actions may require little action or co-ordination. As we discussed in yesterday’s class that informal rules have the potential to bring about changes in formal rules, in the same manner small acts of defiance on the part of individuals have the capability to bring about changes in the policies being implemented to subordinate the weak. Although Scott argues that these covert and subtle forms of resistance are more effective than direct confrontations, I would like to know whether this is actually true in today’s context. Don’t you think that in this age of mass media and communication, direct and visible forms of collective actions tend to be more visible and hence are more likely to garner public support than Scott’s everyday form of resistances?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Is Popkin again proved right???

Regarding today's class, the failure of Bulgaria's collective irrigation programme is a failure of another collective action.
Did not it lay out well defined rules for CPR which is necessary according to Ostrom Institutional theory??...Ostrom opined that self-governance and self-organization are the two main components for any collective group action. But the irrigation system of Bulgaria had all these things, but still it failed to attain its objectives. It is said that it was due to power dynamics, assymetric power distribution and as a result of which people who held the power defined  the formal rules according to their own to reap maximum benefit out of it.
Is not it we are again saying that it is all about self-interest which drives people, which Popkin described in defining peasantry using political approach. Whereever the collective action is happening it is also because of self-interest which sometimes becomes rational.
So ultimately everybody is carried by self-interest........Is not it?? Don't you think that Samuel Popkin was very much pragmatic???

Is Popkin again proved right???

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Logic behind market price

A question always comes to our mind that how prices are decided in the market place. A buyer goes to the motive with the objective of getting product at lower cost where as a seller comes to the market with the objective of earning maximum profit. But as a seller, cannot charge higher price in a competitive market according to his whims and wishes. He has to take into account other player selling the similar product in the market as any one sided increase in the price can lead to loss of market share. At the same time a buyer cannot demand a product at cost lower than its manufacturing expenses. So over a period of time, equilibrium is reached where interest of both buyer and supplier is taken care.

To tackle the problem of low price these firms form a cartel where they fix the minimum price of at which a firm can sell the product in the market. Opposite happens in the sellers market where they decide the maximum price they are going to offer for a product. Some where down the line a equilibrium gets establish.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Women's movement for Environmental Cause: "Chipko Andolan"

The Chipko movement began in early 70's, among the people of the Uttarakhand, as an collective action to prevent the destruction of the natural habitat and thereby save the environment.The method employed by those participating in the movement to stop the felling of trees is to place themselves bodily between tree cutters and the trees-a tactic in the Gandhian tradition. This technique is known by the indigenous term chipko, meaning literally "to stick to" or "to hug," and usually translated as "hugging the trees".
The striking feature of this movement was that it had diversified support and a great social impact. It cut across social and cultural barriers that usually many politicians have attempted to exploit to fulfil their own ends. One major success factor of this forest struggle was the participation of women as they were the chief victims of the deforestation, having to travel over large distances for fuel and fodder as the trees vanished.The important factors, which led to large-scale participation of women in the areas according to my understanding are as follows:

· Because many men in hilly areas are away from their families and villages seeking employment in the plains women often remain responsible for their families and villages. These women have become accustomed to leadership in meeting the requirements for community survival.
· Even when men are present, it is the women who go to the forest to gather fuel wood or water they therefore feel most immediately and acutely the impact of the destruction of the forest. They are alert to the devastation of the environment and respond readily, knowledgeably, and confidently to the need to protect against it.
Thus I consider this movement a great accomplishment in post -Gandhian India where rural women united for a common and social cause for direct non-violent action.
Comments and other such examples are heartily welcomed.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A rational for India's growth despite…

This is based on a article in the newspaper in I recently happened to read and would like to discuss on this forum… it really generates an array of thoughts... at least to me !!!
This thought crosses my mind quite often that with regular terror attacks, poor infrastructure and relatively unstable political scenario, how India managed to be the 2nd fastest growing economy in the world (didn't we hear it quite often)... There even goes a common saying that “Our economy grows at night when the government is asleep." As if to illustrate this, the mumbai stock market rose in the period after the recent terrorist attacks. Markets were closed next day but re-opened on Nov 28 and defying speculation of fall, it actually closed 66 points higher. Also in recent elections, incumbents were ousted on the basis of economic issues, not security. The fastest growing country is China, understandably with its quite efficient state. Scores of other nations have same sort of economic reforms as India, so why is it that Indian economy has become world’s second best. Answer may lie in the much reviled caste system. Vaishyas, members of the merchant caste, who have learned over generations how to accumulate capital, give the nation a competitive advantage. Not surprisingly, Vaishyas still dominate the Forbes list of Indian billionaires. That explains in some way, while growth in China is much induced by an efficient state; in India’s case, it may well happen despite the state.

Welcoming your views on this...