An In-Depth Review Of Arvind Kejriwal’s ‘Swaraj’

Posted by Krishna Singh
April 16, 2018

The author starts the book to show how the people, the ones who make this country have no control over the government employees, the government, public money, government policies, laws, and finally no control over the natural resources

He even ‘suspects’ that the big corporates of India and even those of foreign origin control our politics and economy!

I quote the author on page 3, “I now question myself, ‘Do foreign powers actually control our Parliament?’” In next page, he substantiates his suspicion by quoting the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, and the Radia tape scandal.

The author has travelled widely, and the above is not bookish knowledge but part of his personal experience while working within the system, promoting his NGO, and trying to find a solution to corruption, unemployment and miseries of people.

The author’s understanding of the root causes of exploitation of people was informed by his personal experiences. It seems he had little to no knowledge of what others thought before him or the findings of his contemporaries.

On page 14, he’s written: “It is obvious that the government does have money, but it is being used on things that are unnecessary.” He further quotes various government schemes, like pensions for widows, the elderly, NREGA, etc. If people have control over the money that’s given to the government for their welfare, the road to Swaraj will be built.

On BPL the author says, everybody wants to be a beggar. Everybody wants to be on a list of beggars. There is race to be beggars. How will such a country ever progress?

So far, I think I have been able to explain the mindset of the author. It’s a petty bourgeois mindset. The mindset is middle class, honest maybe, but pseudo-intellectual.

With all his travel, work with the poor through his NGO, he has not been able to shed off his philistinism, blames people for being poor and for being parasites. Today the world has amassed wealth enough to feed more than ten times the existing population on Earth for decades and all that due to the labour of workers and peasants, and he says that they want to become poor.

His observations on land are very accurate. On pages 19-21, he gives reasons as to why land acquisition is against farmers. He talks about how it’s taken by force, at the lowest prices. He talks of tribal land and how nothing is given to peasants who had been working on these lands! The few who have land have to pay ‘compensation’ to political leaders and bureaucrats, but landless peasants’ labour gets ruined. Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are approved in the cabinet within minutes and farmers are routed.

He says the same for minerals on page 21. He says, “…. Government is selling them to private companies at unwarranted at low prices. Private companies do not use these resources for the betterment of the country. They mine these resources and sell them in international markets for huge profits.”

Forests

This chapter is heartbreaking.

“Tribals had no papers to show the ownership of the land on which they had been living for centuries became criminals on their own land that was declared government property”, the author accurately shows what ‘development’ looked like after the British left India.

This phenomenon which is not limited to India but happens across the world has been very well brought out in the chapter. However, Kejriwal fails to link this phenomenon with private property.

He is of the opinion that the remedy to the problem as mentioned above is removing corruption and not socialisation of the land. He doesn’t pay attention to the negation of original, small natural plots brought about by the dispossession of thousands of tribal people. In other parts of India, such lands have been transferred them to capitalist ventures. There’s a need to do something about these huge chunks of land in the hands of the few in the society. The government must re-establish the landless peasants and workers, as part of a commune but not as individuals who survived on small plots of land and forest produce.

Forest produce like tendu leaves, bamboo, etc. worth crores is being enjoyed by contractors, politicians and the capitalists, whereas tribal people get a measly amount to work for them. It’s the same case with water resources where water from a river had been given to foreign companies.

So, having described the woes of people, the author asks if we still have democracy in the country. Do we have control over our own national resources? The solution, as per him, is the participation of people in decision making. He doesn’t attack capitalism in this chapter though.

He says that the history of monarchy is a history of tyranny, dictatorship, inequality, degradation of women’s honour and their exploitation.

Going back to history, according to me, serves no purpose nor does promising a future that might not materialise.

He shows his philistinism by quoting Lord Metcalfe, acting Governor-General in 1830, on page 33, “…the foundation of this country was gram sabha. People would meet, and the whole village would take decisions.”

It would’ve been good if the author could revisit history to understand the deep feudal exploitation in India and how peasants and serfs suffered infinitely at the hands of landlords. The prevailing hierarchical caste system even allowed for women to be used by the masters as sex slaves.

Shortcomings of Gram Panchayats

The author lists the shortcomings of gram panchayats and points out how gram panchayats as a whole have limited power and are headed by a dictatorial pradhan. He also rues of the unlimited power of a collector or a BDO who can suspend a pradhan for being corrupt.

Today, capital is concentrated in a few hands. There are 100 Indians who control more than half of the total wealth that Indians possess. The centralised political power, judiciary and bureaucratic power help this disproportionate capital to grow further.

The centralisation of power in the state and the concentration of power in a few influential hands is not due corruption but due to the need for capital, and corruption is a by-product.

Yes, Swaraj, needs to decentralise the power, yet it has to abide by the central power, while the centre must understand the need of local units of society, as ‘different’ entity of the full nation! This is a contradiction and unity, like that of a family and a child! A family must understand the need of a child for the latter to grow, while the child will have to follow the family’s culture, economic limitations, and latter’s position, where it has reached in the history!

Swaraj, like in Ralegan Siddhi, is utopia. It receives all industrialised products from the rest of India, like electricity and even thread and needle! 1000s of Ralegan, if united, will destroy the nation, as nation needs the modern industry and agriculture to survive, nay, progress enough to be free of economic chains and act like humans, not like animals, working 24/7/356 to manage subsistence and not give time in humanly acts, music, arts, education, science, spiritualism!

Backward Region: Grant Fund

The author takes us to 2 villages, where this scheme is in vogue and exposes the whims and fancies of the Collectors of these regions in spending the grant and how corruption nullifies the ‘would be progress’!

The author wants us to believe that once power is ‘transferred’ to Gram Panchayat, things will be alright, as these people will sit together, decide what they want and do wonders with the grant they are getting! Forget about class contradiction, the need of capital to grow and exploit the working class, the root of corruption, law of uneven development, etc which is an essential part of capitalism; is obliterated; knowingly or unknowingly is not important!

Example of Other Countries where People Participate in Decisions Making!

Now, the author wants us to believe in the US democratic system, he says, “In America, no decision is taken without the participation of the people, be it at the local, city, municipality, or even the country level…….” Page 49!

I can’t believe, is the author so naïve or does he want us to be naïve or is he a real agent of capitalism and imperialism?Do I need to cite examples of US democratic norms in domestic matters; there are 1.6 million children in US who survive on food stamp and on country level, millions of people were in street against Vietnam War and before invasion on Iraq, who took the decision? And recent attack on Syria is with the consent of American people?

Next example is Brazil, he says literacy rate due people’s participation is 100% and other progress has been stamped by World Bank! What lie, literacy rate is high but close to 92% and he wants us to believe in World Bank and not what millions of workers and students were on streets against unemployment and corruption! Arvind Kejriwal is spreading superstition!

Even, the example of Switzerland, as a ‘best democracy’ is misplaced! One must understand the meaning of ‘super profit’, these nations make by squeezing their own workers and peasants, in addition to those of 3rd world nations through finance capital, FDI (By the way, AAP opposes it) and even through outright military aggression! These nations bribe the labour leaders and the upper stratum of the labour aristocracy. These minority sections of working class, do enjoy a portion of ‘development’ and other facilities jointly with the elite capitalists and us, the Philistines, envy them and try to emulate them!

Form of Swaraj or people’s participation is understood by his model, visible in p56-57, where he wants people to select doctors, teachers (Teachers from village itself with Rs 5000/month!!!!!!) and if needed be fired by them only and not by a panel of experts, appointed by governments! Poor villagers, what will they do, appoint a panel of experts to appoint the expert to serve them! It’s not simple childish but its opposing the technical, organisational, social, scientific expertise that the humanity has achieved; instead of moving ahead of the present, with all the knowledge acquired by us, but he wants us to move backward in history, which is impossible, and that too with the ill knowledge of past feudal India, that was a historical ugly spot in our progress in civilisation, which saw endless miseries and exploitation, known as “Asiatic Barbarism”!

Author gives an example of a village in Chennai, where a Sarpanch plans to start production of soap, oil, bricks, etc (P 60-61). He does not consider economic viability of small scale industry and also does not talk of consuming entire products or will he be asking them to sell them, antithesis of production is distribution and if so, who will buy these expensive and qualitatively ‘poor’ products (Mass scale production, permits higher technology and cheaper and better products)! Petty bourgeois romance in name of Swaraj!

Small scale industry was negated by big scale industry for higher rate of profit due technology, management, lesser cost due mass production, comparatively smaller size of area needed, and better quality and this phenomenon is not national but international! Bigger industry destroyed smaller ones en-mass world over, yet there are ‘day-dreamers’ who fantasise reverse to take place, even they try so, and like philistine, take pride in few success, whereas 100s of them get destroyed due competition or get merged into the winners!

Author, now, rues on lack of democratic norms in political parties, against their leaders’ high handedness, that of Sonia Gandhi, Mayawati, Gadkari, etc. He is right but he would have never known what is Central Leadership or Democratic Centralism; lack of that understanding forced Shazia Ilmi to quit AAP and now I am happy to note that the author, as Delhi CM has understood its meaning by his personal experience and implementing; Yogendra YadavPrashant Bhushan who did not ‘obey’ the leader, are out of AAP undemocratically! Latest casualty is Kumar Vishwas.

Solutions as per the Swaraj

Having seen the problems cited by the author; basically the corruption, allotment of resources in wrong hands and bureaucracy are the root evil and naturally the solution, as per him, lies in decentralisation of power and resources, at least at smaller level. The author will like to see Panchayat control over Land, Mine, Forests, Water. The tasks and authority must be clearly be defined between the state and Panchayat sphere of action!

He is not for change in constitution but only for reforms and feels, if people have power, the politicians’ corrupt ways will be curtailed (P-70-71)!! Few examples do follow but cannot be verified by me, yet taking it to be true, we must also have more examples where such villages who did well under Swaraj but perished later due stiff competition against monopolised market and other administrative reasons!

Where does all this Swaraj help? Author wants us to believe education, health, Naxalite problems, Alcoholism, poverty/hunger/unemployment will be tackled in favour of masses!

Book is unnecessarily made lengthier by adding chapters like “Baseless Fears…..”, where he says Dalits won’t suffer by Panchayats. He gives his full support to Gram Sabhas against Khaps ( Khap in Modern India  ), Social evils will not increase, infighting will reduce, etc.

Well, the book shows concerns of author, his analysis but inadequate and unscientific solutions, where he wants to cure the symptoms! I believe large number of copies are sold (Have seen thousands of them were distributed free, or from the party fund), rate is only Rs 10/copy), but same time I know, very few AAP supporters and volunteers have read it, forget about understanding it!

Hope mass leaders and mass itself get freedom from imaginary Swaraj, Ram Rajya; where the society wants to move back in time and gains even worse society based on deeper exploitations by capital and henchmen!

(There is no mention of Fascism, which has engulfed the country, as its new phenomenon in India, since 3-4 years back. Though, there is no statement by AAP or its leaders, where one may understand about fascism and how to combat it!)