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 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 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 are often ignored. For example, European colonialism and associated migration processes led to the 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 imposed on the ‘crypto-barbarians’ was highlighted. Migration related processes essentially involve territorialisation, de-territorialisation, and re-territorialization of the individuals/groups.
Gerrymandering is one such practice by which the nation-states checkmate the entire democratic process. Territorialised states envisioned the floating population as ‘problems’ due to universalisation, standardisation, and normalisation of the migrant population.
The treatment meted to Albanians by Italians, Rohingyas by South Asia, Guantanamo by the USA, among others, bear testimony to such anxieties. Drawing from Roberto Esposito’s thought, reducing 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; the deep emotional distress and alienation a migrant undergoes was brought out.
Migration also involves the transfer of the self from one ‘legitimizing authority’ to another, which involves alteration of all social contracts, compelling the migrants to suffer from a 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. The constant alteration of immunity leads to the 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 into a monetized labour and market economy. The history is replete with ‘beggar’ and stories of exploitation and alterations in community life with the 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, Hydroelectric power generation suffers from the 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 centers 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 the 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 remain 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 to 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 analyzing processes of migration.
Prof Awashti, Professor, Institute for Human Development (IHD), New Delhi, tried to answer why migration happens in the 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 an unsustainable economy in hill areas is also a reason for the 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 the Kumaon-Garhwal region.
Vote of Thanks was given by Ms. Ritika Gupta, Senior Research Assistant, Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi.
Acknowledgments: Apurva Chavhan is a research intern at IMPRI and is pursuing Masters in Economics from Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics (GIPE), Pune
The article has been by Dr. Arjun Kumar, Anshula Mehta, and Ritika Gupta from the Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI)