Centre for Work and Welfare and Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi organised a Special Lecture on Money, Migration and Missing Capital in the Processes of Development in Uttarakhand on July 7, 2020. The lecture by Prof B S Butola, Professor, Centre for the Study of Regional Development, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi was initiated by Dr Simi Mehta followed by opening remarks by Prof. Shakti Kak.
The lecture began by outlining the role of migration in shaping human history. Before economics became the basis of class formation and class struggle in Marxist parlance, it was migrants who determined how hierarchies are created in places. Migration also helped in transporting local myths and making those universalised, be it religion or race, class or the nation state.
Migration is mostly explained in terms of what it achieved, but the costs of migration is often ignored. For example, the European colonialism and associated migration processes led to disappearance of ethnic culture, knowledge systems and introduced new norms and expressions. Quoting Ronald Reagan , Desmond Tutu and Rudyard Kipling, the dominance of biblical culture and civilizational norms that were imposed on the ‘crypto-barbarians’ was highlighted. Migration related processes essentially involves territorialisation, de-territorialisation and re-territorialisation of the individuals/groups.
Gerrymandering is one such practice by which the nation-states check mate the entire democratic process. Territorialised states envisioned floating population as ‘problems’ due difficulties in universalisation, standardisation and normalisation of migrant population. The treatment meted to Albanians by Italians, Rohingyas by South Asia, Gunatanmo by the USA among others bear testimony to such anxieties. Drawing from Roberto Esposito’s thought, the reduction of the migrant’s life to a ‘bare-life’ and the lack of a universal definition of a migrant was elicited.
Scholars have dealt with the spatial, social and economic aspects of migration, but the psychological dimension of a migrant’s life is often ignored. Quoting from the conversations that ensued between Yudhishthira and the Yaksha in the Mahabharata where Yudhishthira considered ‘Pravas’ or life outside one’s own territory as the most painful experience; thereby bringing out the deep emotional distress and alienation a migrant undergoes.
Migration also involves transfer of the self from one ‘legitimising authority’ to another which involves alteration of all social contracts, compelling the migrants to suffer from deficit of trust and re-establishment of trust in the new locale. The process is associated with de-skilling and re-skilling of their selves and continuous re-adjustments to regain social and cultural capital. As migrants become a part of a new community, s/he develops new ‘immunity’ as a part of that community and the constant alteration of immunity leads to development of ‘auto-immunity’ with negative consequences.
In the context of Exclusive Inclusion and Inclusive Exclusion of Uttarakhand, the region was locally ruled till 1783. The Gorkhas eventually annexed the territory and the region started experiencing out-migration. Post 1814, the British took over the territory and transformed the barter economy to a monetised labour and market economy. The history is replete with ‘begar’ and stories of exploitation and alterations in community life with introduction of ‘bride-price’ and ‘kaur’ marriages.
Assessing why and how the ‘money-order’ economy of Uttarakhand is unable to convert the money into capital is due to migration into Uttarakhand follows 5 Ps; (Placement, Promotion, Punishment, Pilgrimage and Pension related) which does not generate investment. The outmigration of skilled youth has been the reason for the absence of entrepreneurial zeal in the region. The oft-hyped potential for tourism in the state was busted by exposing heavy dependence on pilgrimage tourism which is austere in nature leading to no profit. Likewise, the Hydro-electric power generation suffers from absence of adequate demand from within the state.
Ayurveda could provide a viable option but unfortunately the processing units are often located outside the state. The lack of impetus for developing research and development of indigenous skills like handicrafts and weaving as well as learning centres for indigenous languages like ‘Bhotia’ have been some of the missing links. The need to develop spring-shed zones and popularise dry farming cultivation along with mixed farming methods could have been possible ways of enabling the people of Uttarakhand to find meaningful ways of engaging with their own land and lead to development of the region.
The lecture was concluded by re-emphasizing the concept of exclusive inclusion and inclusive exclusion by drawing the analogy of the body as a system where organs get severed through the process of migration and remains forever difficult to get re-implanted in the new body.
The migrant, like the organs as well the receiving body (community) has to forever depend on immunosuppressants in order help keep both together and this is how the fear and anxiety associated with the implant (migrants) continues to ail societies. Beyond economic, social and psychological loss, a migrant’s acquired auto-immunity through migration is the crucial issue that migration studies need to incorporate while analysing processes of migration.
Prof Awashti, Professor, Institute for Human Development (IHD), New Delhi tried to answer the why migration happens in context of literature, Marshallian Theory, Structural approach of migration. He noted the disparity in hill and terai districts in per capita income. The formation of unsustainable economy in hill areas is also a reason for disparity. The other discussants present were; Dr. Paramita Roychowdhury, Sh. Dhiraj Barman ,Dr. Swagata Basu, Dr. Siba Sankar Sahu, Dr. Tara Shankar Chaudary and Dr. Shiv Narayan.
Moderator Dr Arjun Kumar, Director, Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi has made some points regarding regional inequality in Kumaon-Garhwal region.
Vote of Thanks was given by Ms Ritika Gupta, Senior Research Assistant, Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi.
Acknowledgements: Apurva Chavhan is a research intern at IMPRI and is pursuing Masters in Economics from Gokhlae Institute of Politics and Economics (GIPE), Pune
By Dr Arjun Kumar, Anshula Mehta and Ritika Gupta, Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI)