Image courtesy: www.newslaundry.com
Abir Joshi
The Tyranny of the Jhollawallahs
This article originally appeared in centreright.in. CRI content has now been subsumed in swarajyamag.com. The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of swarajyamag.com

The latest theory to emerge from the far-left, attempts to characterize India as some sort of neoliberal regime. Now, as much as I would like us to have a free-market-capitalism driven developmental paradigm, sadly, in India, we are socialists through and through. To suggest otherwise, is a sloppy and slanderous attempt by the jhollawallah-left to disguise the repeated failure of their policies and the sheer bankruptcy of ideas in their little black red book. 

My leftist colleagues would have you believe that pervasive poverty, malnutrition, unemployment and poor human development indicators in India are the result of ‘market forces’, ‘greedy industrialists’, Narendra Modi and ‘neoliberal policies forced upon us by imperialistic powers’.

Being only a simple-minded right-winger, I could never profess the all-knowing wisdom of a jhollawallah, therefore please indulge my ignorance when I ask, where exactly is this neoliberal utopia? What right-wing establishment as the jhollawallahs incessantly protesting against?

It’s not as if we have a right to property, a key precondition for a functional capitalist society. The jhollawallahs, in the finest traditions of Marxist contempt for private property, had this deleted from our constitution.

What is most ironic though, is that when poor villagers are forcibly evicted from their homes to make way for highways or factories, it is always the capitalists that are blamed and not the jhollawallahs, that claim to stand for the poor, but at the same time, deny these poorest of our citizens any safeguard over their land and possessions.

Jhollawallah lachrymosity at the alleged dismantling of the License Raj is just another fabrication. Every editorial, every speech and every comment by a jhollawallah bemoans the ‘fact’ that the government has ‘sold out’ by removing important regulations. Again I ask, where has this actually happened?

Agriculture in our country is grossly socialized with the state forcibly telling farmers, what crops to grow, how much to grow, when to grow, whom to sell too, at what price to sell. Every agricultural decision is taken by the state acting ‘in the interest of the farmers’, exactly as desired by the jhollawallahs. Yet, does the left ever accept the blame for farmer suicides, low productivity and massive wastage of food grain?

Another example is our education police. Despite huge shortages in the number of institutions, it still takes nearly 34 licenses to start a college; a process that can take anywhere from 5 to 7 years. Where exactly has the license raj been dismantled?

Additionally, in our supposedly capitalist society, can education entrepreneurs legally make a profit? No. The vacuous logic and outrage of the jhollawallahs, at someone daring to make money of something as important as education, have ensured that education in India can only be a non- profit enterprise. As a result, it is nearly impossible for anyone that truly cares about education to start an institute. Bank loans are not an option due to the mandatory non-profit status and the to 7 year wait time to obtain the each of the requisite licenses is prohibitive for clean educator. It should come as no surprise then, that the majority of educational institutes being established in India today, are owned by political families with the connections to expedite or bypass licenses, and deep pockets to provide the start up capital. 

This is a system created by the jhollawallahs, and despite them being responsible for stifling the growth of much needed colleges and universities; the blame for ‘not caring’ about education is always placed on the right. Despite them having carefully constructed this license raj, the fault for political involvement in education and the subsequent poor quality is dubiously linkedto ‘crony capitalism’. 

Yet another ludicrous assertion of the jhollawallahs is the supposed abandoning of the state of its ‘core responsibilities’, leaving development at the ‘mercy of market forces’. Once you move past the brazen incredulity of their assertions, you realize that the ‘mai-baap’ state carefully constructed by our nation’s jhollawallahs provides free education, free food, free housing, subsidized fuel, and guaranteed employment, reservations for minorities, marriage allowances and pensions. Is it possible to think of even one need, from cradle to grave, not fulfilled by the Indian state?

Despite almost 70 years of a gargantuan government not having made even a slight dent on poverty, jhollawallahs sanctimoniously argue for a further expansion in the role of government. Welfare programs must be replaced by larger and most centralised ‘pro-poor’ schemes. Despite all evidence pointing to their every solution, not only having miserably failed but being the very reason for the pathetic state in which most Indians live their lives, jhollawallahs are never wrong!

The latest in a long list of assertions against capitalism is sexism. Jhollawallah Kavita Krishnan argues here, with uninspiring logic but in stunning prose, that patriarchy is a fundamental tenant of the capitalism system, ‘part and parcel of the structural edifice of capitalism’.

It is hard to argue with someone with the talents to convert such ridiculous logicinto over 2000 words of commentary, complete with class struggle references and clichéd anti-capitalist potshots, so I invite you to form your opinion.

The author attempts to convince you that patriarchy was only enforced in human civilization with the advent of capitalist production, and that the only way to secure women’s equality in society is with a violent revolution to overthrow of the capitalist state. Going by this twisted logic, the author’s ideal for women’s emancipation is a female naxalite suicide bomber.

Actual evidence however, points in the opposite direction. There is a clear link between economic freedom, strong property rights and gender equality. The 2010 Gender Inequality Index, published by the UNDP, ranks Finland, Norway, Denmark and Germany as the amongst the most gender equal societies in the world. It is no coincidence that each of these countries also ranks among the top 5 countries that have the strongest protection for private property rights. Moreover, each of these countries has some of the freest economies in the world. (As detailed by the 2012 Index of Economic Freedom.)

While jhollawallahs may insist that it is a capitalist mode of production that restrains female sexuality, the highest prevalence of female genital mutilation (FGM) – the most direct and brutal form of repressing female sexuality is in Guinea and Eritrea – two of the least free economies in the world. In Mali, an increase in economic freedom over the past decade saw the prevalence of this practice significantly decrease across the same time period.

It is clear that property rights and economic freedom facilitate a society based on voluntary exchange, competitive cooperation and the highest respect for individual rights. Within a framework where the rights of an individual are paramount, crude differentiations such as class and gender no longer matter. But who will explain this to the jhollawallahs?

From our policies on education, economics and poverty alleviation to the role of government in society, women’s rights and the environment, the failures of India are necessarily the failures of the jhollawallahs. In the battle of ideas on how to take India forward, they have been in the driving seat for the past 65 years. They have gotten their way on the entire post-colonial economic and social narrative of our country, while the right has been ignored and vilified. Its ideas and thinkers have been demonized, attacked and restricted to a few sections of the online world. Yet, every failure and unresolved challenge of our country is blamed only on us with them being the saviors.

This is the tyranny of the jhollawallahs.