Full Employment in Bihar?

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Further to yesterday’s reports in the papers that a symposium was held in Patna about the effects of global warming on Bihar, there are many measures in addition to the one’s suggested by the politicians, or at least the ones reported in the papers, that would improve the people’s ability to cope with the effects, including the one I have been mentioning many times, namely reform of the money system. If politicians really had the interests of Biharis at heart they would not continue with the present money system that causes climate change and jobless growth, in other words, poverty.

As Biharis we need to draw the politicians' attention to the basic fact that the present money system is the source of all ills. If the policy of the government was to give every adult a job then we would also be strengthening in our ability to live securely in a situation of more frequent extreme weather events. We need 100% full employment, with the skills to understand and live with our local ecology, not skills like the “affluent sectors of society” aspire to that not only ride roughshod over nature’s laws but actually pull the rug from under our life.

Whilst it is completely correct for the Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi to appeal to the elites, sorry, the “affluent sections of the society” to reduce carbon footprint, the proof of the pudding would be in legislation. Sadly, the party to which the Deputy Chief Minister belongs has not taken a single step at the Centre to outlaw the activities that very literally fuel the carbon footprint of the middle class. For how long can global warming mitigation continue to be a voluntary exercise? This problem does not affect Bihar or India alone of course. The entire UNFCCC process has been rendered null and void because the assembled governments refuse to slap strict production quotas, indeed null production quotas, on the 100 largest companies in the world that together are responsible for 75% of carbon dioxide emissions, Coal India being number 5.

For those who have not been following the intricacies of the climate change negotiations, I may recall here that developing countries including India insisted in the UNFCCC on the right to development. But let us see what this resulted in. In the 237 years from the start of the industrial revolution till 1988, 820 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent were emitted in the world,
and in the 28 years since 1988, 833 gigatonnes were released.

The period since 1988 is more or less the period after the Earth Summit when all countries signed up to protect the environment but in addition developing countries assert the right to development. What went wrong? To put it simply, any property regime whether a constitution of a country, or the rules for running a Gram Panchayat, or a treaty regulating the use of the global commons, needs to have systems to enforce the rules made by the users. I will not mention here whether the constitutional provisions regarding protection of environment are being upheld in India. But the UNFCCC did not make any rules either to control polluters or to punish them. Not only has the extraction and production of fossil fuels and chemicals that cause global warming not been outlawed, governments at the national level keep licensing commercial and nationalised banks to create money, a situation that only leads to such global private and nationalised banks continuing to lend to commercial energy producers for their own profit. These interests are the most powerful lobbies on earth opposing any limits on capitalism. It should be clear to everyone that a system that is so polluting cannot be right. And one more thing related to jobs. Since the Earth Summit in 1992, inequality between rich and poor rose such that today the world’s richest 8 men own as much wealth as half the world’s population. Over the next 20 years, 500 people will hand over USD 2.1 trillion to their heirs – a sum larger than the GDP of India. In India 57 men own Rs 1.4 crore crores, as much wealth as the poorest 70% of Indians.

Every year 100 odd companies and their few beneficiaries who own them are responsible for emitting 36 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide causing all the direct and feedback effects of global warming to happen in real time as we speak. The fact that no one except the few billionaires and one or two high standard of living countries and classes and “affluent sections of society” benefit is all the more tragic. And that their activities are not outlawed by governments is most tragic of all.

The time has come for citizens movements in all countries and states to demand full employment and outlawing of fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Nor should renewable energy be considered a panacea for all ills. The real panacea is our own labour. We need full employment in order to live productively with global warming.

As I have said many times before, the Union needs to use the sovereign power of money creation to create money directly for Gram Panchayats or any other local bodies. In parallel the commercial and nationalised banks should be outlawed. Gram Panchayats should decide what money is needed and create it themselves for circulation amongst local account holders. In this way, the power of the banks and their governments and international financial institutions that keep insisting on economic growth in India could be broken and instead a welfare index like the one in Bhutan based on a human happiness index could be used to measure wellbeing starting in villages and aggregating it at the centre.

A person, family or community has more chance of coping with extreme weather events if they have the ability themselves to buy the goods and services to restore homes, schools and shops that have been washed away, rather than waiting for budgets from faraway centres like Washington or Delhi or Patna, especially when those budgets are practically nil due to the misguided idea of fiscal austerity ideologists that taxation is the only source of government funds.

It is incumbent on the Union government in India to devise a fiscal policy that creates full employment. Only in this way will be able to deal with the effects of global warming.

Also, whilst corruption mercifully has been strongly checked under the Nitish Kumar government, it is misleading by the BJP Deputy Chief Minister to mention that Rs 68,000 crores was set aside for natural disaster mitigation and adaptation in 2016-2017, when this year in 2017-2018 the 7636 crores from the Centre for dealing with the effects of this year’s floods is not forthcoming. After all the whole budget of the State government is only 1,60,086 crore, and 10 ministries’ budgets cannot from one day to the next simply be renamed disaster management ministries. Much more fundamental changes to fiscal policies are needed, first and foremost a fiscal policy that aims at full employment first, and ecological security second. It is absurd for SGDP in Bihar to linger at around 6 lakh crores, a mere Rs 5000 per person per month. No one can live on that sort of money, let alone cope with the effects of climate change. it is a mystery how the poor people in Bihar are surviving at all.

It is certainly a tragedy that a state that suffered the most under the British land settlement laws is again worst affected by wrong global development led by the developed countries. But the present BJP government, and for that matter the previous BJP government and the Congress governments too, is not making matters any better by abrogating their responsibility for delivering full employment and handing over the power of money creation to global and national robber barons.

The “advanced sections of society” who after all are the ideologies of a country need to do a lot more that “avoid packaged food items” etc. They need to give up their obsession with economic growth and come up with a new number one aim in life namely full employment and a new money system.

Also, in response to the suggestion by Bihar’s Energy Minister, we do not need to study the impacts of climate change only, but we need to study the impacts of the wrong money system on creating poverty and causing and exacerbating global warming, and find solutions that reverse these two most important problems affecting Bihar.

And if the BJP cannot come up with a solution maybe we need to forget about the Union and launch a Bihar independence party. So far nothing the BJP is doing is creating employment in Bihar. The party is totally ideologically bankrupt on this score, because it is blind to the faults of liberalisation, economic growth, and capitalism. In fact, a party that has made it possible for the corporate sector to give money limitlessly to political parties, instead of doing the basic decent thing of assuring all political parties, within a certain framework, of government funding, can hardly be depended on to do anything right at all. Because it is quite clear who their paymasters are.

Anandi Sharan was born in Switzerland, lives in Bangalore, and worked in Araria District in 2016. She mainly writes about India and how we need a better money policy to help agricultural labourers and women especially to adapt to man-made climate change. 


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