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Mainstream, VOL L, No 1, December 24, 2011 (Annual 2011)

On the Threshold of a Milestone


Tuesday 27 December 2011, by SC


With this Annual Number Mainstream completes fortynine years of its eventful journey through crests and troughs to step into the fiftieth year of its modest existence.

It has doubtless been a purposeful voyage with all the trials and tribulations it had to encounter on its path which was indeed quite arduous due to its resource-constraints in particular. The difficulties have continued to mount over the years as the nation’s politico-economic scenario has undergone a sea-change with money power dominating the course of events and the basic principles of the freedom struggle relegated to the background, if not jettisoned, in the name of ‘pragmatism’, a word which camouflages the betrayal of past values at the altar of profit-seeking self-serving ideas borrowed from the West. Self-reliance has given place to dependence on the sole surviving superpower which uses its brute fore to crush the recalcitrant states’ sovereign right to shape their own destiny. In these conditions the mere survival of a periodical propagating distinctly different ideas and objectives is in itself a daunting proposition. But we have been able to sustain the publication of this journal thanks to the generous assistance and unstinted support of all those who still feel that progressive forces of all hues need to exchange views and opinions with the purpose of forging common bonds among them—the goal for which this weekly was born in the second half of 1962.

The country was facing stupendous challenges at that point in time. The nation’s borders had been flagrantly violated as a consequence of China’s unwarranted and wanton attack that the Indian leadership never anticipated as has now been proved beyond any shadow of doubt. The people’s morale was low and our first PM had to bear the entire burden of this catastrophe, certainly not his own making but the outcome of a conspiracy of circumstances. Indeed the progressive forces were pushed into a corner as Reaction bared its fangs. And yet despite the heavy setback which the country suffered thereby weakening the strength and stature of Jawaharlal Nehru on the national plane and international arena, the nation had the capacity to protect its ideals of self-reliance and non-alignment. That was a tribute to that intrepid fighter for freedom and champion of democracy even though there is no gainsaying that the Chinese perfidy tragically cut short his life.

At that juncture when the independence of our country was threatened the prospect of destabilisation loomed large on the horizon and an uncertain future lay ahead.

This was the time when Mainstream made its first appearance. Not just the skeptics, and they were not few in number, but even those associated with the publication were not sure how long it would last. But it did survive many a storm and hazard to continue its chequered life. That was possible mainly due to the goodwill of its well-wishers to whom we have no words to express our boundless gratitude.

This month we observe three major anniversaries—the fiftieth anniversary of the emancipation of Goa from the shackles of Portuguese colonialism and its merger with India in 1961, the fortieth anniversary of the liberation of Bangladesh from the jackboots of west Pakistani military rule characterised by severe oppression and exploitation in 1971, and the twentieth anniversary of the dissolution and disintegration of the mighty Soviet Union in 1991. When Goa was freed of the Portuguese colonial yoke Mainstream had not been launched. Yet subsequently during its life-span the legacy of the Goan independence was carried forward by our leadership despite the twists and turns we had to negotiate. Bangladesh’s liberation, with India’s all-out backing to defeat the Pakistani war machine, heightened India’s prestige not only in the region but the global setting as well leaving behind the ignominy of the 1962 debacle and, what is more significant from the democratic standpoint, it was instrumental in the collapse of the prevailing military junta in Pakistan. The 1991 episode is, of course, etched our memory because while it did bring about democratic transformation of a totalitarian state, the collapse of the bipolar global structure had negative consequences for the world as a whole and the developing states in particular, India included. The special relationship which India enjoyed with the erstwhile Soviet Union also suffered a major jolt and our current proximity to the US cannot be a substitute for the USSR which had offered us disinterested help without seeking any material benefit linked to profit-motives.

Mainstream has played its role in all such momentous developments providing valuable insights into both the evolution of Bangladesh and its aftermath, the Indo-Pak war of 1971 as well as the rise and fall of the Gorbachev phenomenon alongside the liquidation of the Stalinist statist regime in the Soviet Union.

The national scene today presents a complex picture. Parliamentary proceedings continue to be disrupted at regular intervals over issues,
big or small, thereby demonstrating the persisting trust-deficit between the government and Oppositon. However, unlike last year when the entire winter session of both Houses of Parliament could not transact any business, today there has been some positive turn in the sense that the there is now a distinct possibility of the Lokpal Bill being passed in this session. However, one is not sure what shape the legislation would take but that the government has decided to adopt it in Parliament is a direct outcome of the remarkable and consistent pressure exerted by the anti-corruption crusade of the civil society spearheaded by Anna Hazare and his associates. Anna has threatened a renewed stir through his weapon of fast if the legislation falls far short of the expectations. At the other end the ruling combine is dead-set to counter his moves while offering the fig-leaf of a Lokpal for public consumption before the UP elections, a step whose serious implications cannot be minimised.

The economic downturn with the 5.1 per cent fall in industrial output in October, runaway inflation, incessant price rise, the steady decline of the rupee to hit a historic low against the dollar is of grave concern. But in this scenario when the government’s image has considerably suffered due to a variety of reasons, including and most notably the series of scams that have hit the headlines compelling the judiciary to go for timely intervention to the detriment of the Manmohan Singh dispensation, the UPA-II leadership soguht to go for FDI in retail trade. Why? In order to show to the corporate honchos, both indigeneous and abroad, that it was determined to carry out ‘second generation reforms’ backed by the influential corporate-driven media. Totally unmindful of the fate of crores of small retail traders, this ill-conceived project has thankfully been kept on hold due to not just the Opposition protests but strong reservations among the Congress’ own allies in the UPA, the Trinamul Congress headed by the West Bengal CM in particular. But for how long? That is the moot question since the PM is totally sold to the FDI idea.

A year ago it was written in these columns in the Annual Number 2010:
While all these happenings expose the face of India in all its ugliness, what is happening in Bharat representing the bulk of our people in the countryside? The latter continue to suffer various forms of indignity—destitution, deprivation, poverty—as also oppression that takes different shapes. No wonder the Maoist movement is not only sustaining itself despite the paramilitary operations in our tribal heartland, but in effect steadily growing.

At present there has been no change on this score. At the same time the efforts for negotia-tions between the Maoists and government for a political solution of the vexed problem has suffered a setback of late while the moves to contain the Maoists through large scale paramilitary operations have not registered any significant success even if top leaders like Azad and Kishenji have been shot dead.

The global economic crisis has been the most important phenomenon in the international sphere next only to the Arab Spring revolt and it is only now the world is waking up to the perils of neoliberalism. The Occupy Wall Street movement has given a spurt to the anti-capitalist struggle across the continents and it is heartening to find this sweeping Western Europe besides the US. This should help raise a similar struggle in India as well but as of now that has not happened.

The terrorist depredations in Kashmir and large parts of the country apart, the regional scenario is complicated by the situation in Afghanistan, the US-Pak face-off on drone attacks on Pakistani territory, the military civilian stand-off due to Memogate in Pakistan itself. The decision to resume India-Pakistan talks on substantive issues provides a ray of hope but then these negotiations too are hostage to domestic politics in both the countries. The recent official public pronouncements from China have also queered the pitch for normalisation of relations between the two major Asian states.

Against such a backdrop the progressive forces in our country stand divided and are in disarray. Therefore the question that naturally comes up is: What is to be done in these conditions? The answer lies in pooling efforts to comprehend the reality and unite these forces for national regeneration. In this context the upsurge of the civil society under Anna Hazare for a corruption free India should be welcomed and carried forward while striving for the aforementioned unity that has eluded all these years. In that endeavour Mainstream pledges to rededicate itself to the best of its ability.

December 20 S.C.

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