'In India those who want change cannot bring about change, and those who can bring about change do not want change.'
No other economist in India is perhaps more qualified to talk about the direct relation between the Indian economy and caste oppression than Dr M Kunhaman.
His autobiography Ethiru describes how it was to grow up as a Dalit in poverty, how it was to be insulted, humiliated and rejected by society in school, college and later on at work.
The book was awarded the Kerala Sahitya Akademi award last year, but he refused to accept the award.
When he passed out of Calicut University with first rank in economics, he became the second Dalit student to do so after K R Narayanan, who later became India's first Dalit President.
After working as a professor of economics at Kerala University for 27 years, Dr Kunhaman taught economics for a few years at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.
He is described as a strong voice of the subalterns, a well-known academician, a unique thinker and an economist.
"There are a few persons in India who can bring about any change in India because they are powerful and unquestioned. They are Narendra Modi, Mamata Bannerjee, Stalin, and Pinarayi Vijayan. But they won't bring about such a change because their order of priority is different," Dr Kunhaman tells Rediff.com's Shobha Warrier in the concluding segment of a two-part interview:
- Part 1 of the Interview: 'Nitish, Mamata, Stalin Don't Know India'
Is the divide based on economic lines now? It is said that with economic growth, the feudal divide in societies will disappear, but you see new groups dominating...
Yes, the divide is economic.
Do you know 10% of the households in India own 77% of the wealth?
According to the official statistics, 1% of the population control 22% of national income.
10% of the population get 57% of national income.
Now, you will get an idea of the distribution of wealth and income, and who control wealth and income.
In 1820, the German philosopher (Georg Wilhelm Friedrich) Hegel said in his book, Philosophy of Right, property is freedom. It also means poverty is 'un-freedom'.
India is the fifth largest economy in the world. And the prime minister's intention is to make India the third largest economy.
The economic growth achieved by India in the last 10, 15 years is tremendous.
Has it improved the lives of the poor in India?
That's precisely the question.
The fact is, the phenomenal economic growth is not benefitting the deprived sections of society to the extent they should.
Though there are a few rich and powerful people even in the deprived communities, a large majority of them remain poor, deprived, oppressed, marginalised and excluded.
The peculiarity of Indian society is that it permits individual inclusion and group exclusion.
Wealth re-distribution is what is needed for group inclusion.
Let me then ask you, Kerala is one state that had land reforms by the E M S Namboodiripad government in the early 1960s. Kerala is also one state that has many caste- based political parties.
How do you describe this phenomenon?
It is surprising and in a sense, paradoxical.
But you must understand that Kerala had land reforms, and not land re-distribution to the landless. The landless continued to be landless and oppressed.
Only one person talked about land re-distribution in India, and that was B R Ambedkar.
He wanted the entire agricultural land to be under the control of the state and distribute it among the farmers who work in the field.
He wanted land to be distributed equally among the landless as justice was very important to him. He said, equality is justice and inequality is injustice.
With economic growth, do you foresee caste disappearing from Indian society?
Caste will not disappear with just economic growth. You have to start with distribution of land.
I have been an economics professor for many years. But I would say, you have to discard conventional wisdom and start with distribution.
Right to Property should be part of Article 21.
Do you see any political party or a political leader of today who has that kind of a vision?
No, they don't have. They don't want change.
The paradoxical situation in India is, those who want change, cannot bring about change, and those who can bring about change, do not want change.
There are a few persons in India who can bring about any change in India because they are powerful and unquestioned.
They are Narendra Modi, Mamata Bannerjee, (M K) Stalin, and Pinarayi Vijayan. But they won't bring about such a change because their order of priority is different.
They are encouraging big capitalists, the rich and powerful as they want an investment friendly society.
With this kind of a policy approach, caste will not disappear from India.
Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com