INTERNAL COLONIALISM : THE ROLE OF MODERN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY


The essential feature of Colonialism that is generally emphasized is the economic exploitation of the subjugated society by the imperialist power—economic exploitation, carried out by the extraction of 'cheap' raw materials, exploitation of the 'cheap' labourforce and the capture of the ready market of the subjugated society. What is not often stressed is the fact that, for the above process to be set in motion, it is necessary to first destroy the independent, self-reliant, economy and restructure the organization of production of the subjugated society. Otherwise, the raw materials would get consumed locally and would not be available for the imperialist power and its products, in turn, would not find any ready markets. Also, as long as the indigenous institutions remain intact, the sciences, technologies, culture and value systems survive, there is always the danger that the subjugated society could rise on its feet and overthrow the imposed social, technical order. Therefore it is extremely important, for the imperial power, to denigrate every institution of the subjugated society, particularly its sciences and technologies, culture and value systems

We can illustrate the above by the classic case of British Colonialism in India. The British were attracted to India by its wealth and the prospect of trading in the variety of products produced here. They found a relatively self-sufficient economy, with considerable internal trade, which did not need the British goods. Moreover goods produced in India were in general cheaper and of a superior quality. Thus the 'cheap' raw materials and labour could not be exploited via 'free trade'. The first phase of British Colonialism was therefore one of sheer plunder and destruction. Wealth in the form of bullion, agricultural produce and finished goods was taken away by various means. The local production process was stifled and the indigenous sciences and technologies pushed into oblivion. It was only then that the British goods could enter the Indian scene. To pay for them, the production processes here were restructured. Cash crops were introduced in agriculture The 'modern' sciences and technologies of Europe were introduced, thereby altering not only the nature of production but also the goods.

In the above process, a major role has been played by 'education' and ideology. The practices of our people were characterized as superstitious, backward and even barbarian. On the contrary, the new production processes were said to be rational, scientific, advanced and civilized. A new process of 'education', coupled to economic incentives, was adopted to evolve a class of Indians who identified themselves with the British, were totally dependent on the new 'development' process for their special status, and who clearly looked down upon the test of their countrymen.

In the post-colonial phase also, the rulers of India started with the same ideology. Their faith in the British education, modern science and technology and the Western path of 'development' was unshaken, and in fact found a fresh vigour due to arguments such as the following. The poverty and misery of our people are due to (apart from the legendary Inertia' of Indian society because of its 'decadent' culture) insufficient industrialization or modernization of our country by the British, who extracted all the wealth and surplus out of the country instead of investing them here. Now, if the same are invested in modern industry and science and technology, then the face of our country will change soon, and our people will start enjoying the high standards of living characteristic of the people of the West.

Thus, the stage was set for a Western model of development; an energy intensive centralized, urban-based heavy industry had to be developed. Initially, machinery and technologies were to be imported later the scientific institutions, established simultaneously on the lines of and with the help of Western institutions, were to mature and reduce imports. The countryside and the forests were to be modernized to supply food and fuel for the urban-based population and raw materials for the industries. The rural areas, on the other hand, were to consume the 'civilized' modern products of modern industry.

This policy has now been practiced for thirty-five years. Independent India boasts of doubling or trebling its production of food, coal, steel, electricity, fertilizers, tractors, cars, refrigerators, air-conditioners etc. But simultaneously, the percentage of people below poverty line has increased. Increase in population is often stated to be the main cause for this state of affairs. A closer look however indicates other major problems. Our per capita food production in the last twenty years has increased at a rate of 0.5% to 0.75%. On the other hand, our per capita consumption has remained stagnant or even declined slightly . The production of expensive variety of cloth has increased tremendously, but the per capita production of coarse cloth has declined. While the country has made strides in modern resources like oil, gas etc., the women in the countryside today have to walk more than 10 kms. to collect wood for fuel. To better understand the impact of this policy of development let us closely examine a few sectors.

Agriculture in India in the fifties and early sixties was largely a self-sufficient enterprise. The inputs in agriculture were primarily local; the growth rate achieved in food grain output was approximately 3% per annum. In the mid-sixties. Government of India, with the help of Ford Foundation and World Bank, launched the ambitious Green Revolution programme to modernise agriculture. This Scientific Revolution in agriculture required fertilizers, machinery, insecticides and even seeds, produced in the urban-industrial complex, as inputs. The expenses incurred on these urban inputs to agriculture increased from less than 10% to more than 45% of the total expenses on agriculture. Of course, the food production also increased (as it did earlier also), but now this increase had to be exported to the urban areas to pay for the inputs. The rural area was left with much less food. Thus, in recent years, while the Indian Government did not have sufficient godowns to store excess food grains and even t exported food, the per capita consumption in
fact declined

There are many other problems and myths associated with this 'Scientific'agricultural Revolution. The average rate of growth of foodgrain production did not go up but actually declined to 2.6% between 1964-65 and 1976-77 from 3% between 1949-50 to 1964-65 . Also, the share of coarse grain consumed by poorer sections of the people, and pulses an essential protein source, declined significantly. It is now generally accepted that this new technology has widened the difference between the rich and the poor in the countryside. However, even those who initially benefited from this technology are increasingly facing a squeeze, as prices of agricultural inputs continue to rise faster than that of food grains.The new technology has substantially enhanced soil erosion. More and more: fertilizers |have to ' be employed every year for the same amount of yield increasing' the cost of food production. Thousands of varieties of seeds tested in our country for hundreds of years and suitable to particular local environments are being destroyed and quickly replaced by a few new varieties, the resistance of which to various local conditions is questionable. The other byproducts of agriculture like hay, which serves various useful purposes in a village, are produced in much smaller amounts when the new technology is used. The higher water consumption in the new agriculture implies either lowering of water-table or diversion of water-flow from certain areas to others, thus concentrating the gains in certain regions. The resources mobilized throughout the country are concentrated into certain areas (as subsidies or loans for obtaining tractors, fertilizers, seeds, irrigation, pesticides) creating regional imbalances. Perhaps the most mind-boggling aspect of this technology "comes to fore when one sees data like 'while some traditional technologies required one calorie tof input for fifty calories of output, the modern agriculture requires 4 to 5 calories of input for one calorie of output' . Inherent in this technology is concentration of resources in some areas thus depriving others of their resources.

The main beneficiary of this new technology has been the urban-based modern industries and their foreign partners. Food and agricultural resources now get automatically transferred to the urban centers and the multinationals now have an assured market for fertilizers, machinery and insecticides. The profits earned are used to further enhance the living standards of tha urban elite, as their consumption pattern mirrors that of West with" cars, refrigerators, T. V., calculators and electronic games.

The same is the story of the much publicized 'White Revolution'. The Operation Flood) I dairy development programme was right at its inception, aimed at developing dairy activities in the milk-shed areas of the four metropolitan cities—Delhi, Bombay, Madras and Calcutta—and organising co-operatives of dairy producers for this purpose, the aim being to make these cities 'self-reliant' in meeting their milk requirements from their milk-shed areas. The original 5-year programme launched in 1970 was extended to 11 years before it was declared closed with complete success. The next phase of the programme is titled Operation Flood-ll.

The modern dairies in the four metropolitan cities increased their milk handling from 902 thousand litres per day in 1970 to 1796 thousand litres per day in 1978, an impressive feat. However, the share of imported milk products in the above output increased from 215 thousand litres per day to 680 thousand litres per day. Thus the import content has in fact increased so much for the self-reliance talk. Out of Rs.838 million spent on the programme till 31st August, 1979, as much as Rs. 628 million was spent in urban centers for milk processing, whereas only Rs. 210 million was spent in surrounding rural areas for milk production. Substantial portion of even the latter was spent on provision of technical inputs (including production of ready-mixed concentrates, green fodder, artificial insemination, medicines, etc.) obtained from the urban industries.

As we saw, even the declared objective of Operation Flood is to make milk available in the cities. One of the main activities under the programme has been to import milk powder and bottle it to supply to urban consumers. Besides, processing facilities have been set up in the cities to make various milk products. Facilities have been developed to procure milk from rural areas and bring it to city-processing centers. Some initiatives have been taken (of the type of cross-breeding and veterinary services) in rural areas to increase milk production ; however this has been done solely with the purpose of procuring this milk for urban areas. The costs involved in adopting this new technology of cross breeding, special-feeds, modern medicines etc., is such that the milk produced has to get exported to the cities to pay for the inputs.

This process of procuring milk from rural areas and processing it for urban consumers is based on an understanding that the milk in rural areas is no longer to be consumed there . To call this process of concentration of milk in the cities a Revolution, is indeed mind-boggling.

In our country there exists a large community of fishermen. Not long ago, they used to catch fish in rivers, ponds and shallow waters of the seas. They were a religious lot ; their nets were designed to let go the small fish ; they forbade themselves to fish certain species during certain months in a year. Yet, they had a reasonable catch, part of which they consumed and a part of which was sold in neighboring villages/towns. The fisherwomen did the cleaning, drying and selling of the fish.

But pained by their small catch and low standard Hiving, our policymakers decided to modernise the fishing industry. Big trawlers were imported and put at the service of this industry. Freed from the religious taboos, the fine mesh of the trawler-nets now caught fish in much larger quantities. The fish were immediately refrigerated and flown to the urban areas or exported to pay for all the trawlers and associated gear that had been .imported. Our fish output went up considerably.

It is unfortunate that the traditional fishermen could no longer find a decent catch in shallow waters ; the trawlers could go deeper. The fish cleaning and processing is now done in a centralised plant in the nearest town freeing the fisherwomen from this menial, time-consuming task. It is also unfortunate that the fishermen and women and the rural people can no longer afford to consume the fish.

The story of the lives of our tribal people is even more revealing. In an article published, in 'Hindi , N.A. Horo, an M. P. from the Jharkhand area in Bihar, points out:

'Fifty or sixty years earlier, .when big industries had not been set up in this region in the name of development, Jharkhand was self-sufficient. The needs of the people were but few and everyone had sufficient to eat and clothe and celebrate occasions like marriages. Only those few, whose land had been usurped by either the landlords or some others, were in difficult situation, and they migrated to the tea gardens of Bengal and Assam. [But ever since development schemes, worked out in Patna, Bhubaneswar, Calcutta or Delhi, have been imposed on this region, the conditions of the people have been fast deteriorating. The value of rupee has depreciated and people no longer get a decent price for their produce. Their life-style has also started changing, increasing their necessities. The traditional economy has broken down.

According to Horo, the tribal population used to produce a large number of goods for their consumption.1 Fruits like aanwia, behda, saal, mahua, chiranji were obtained from forests. Dry vegetables like chakod, shakargandh, phutkal, koynar, munga, bains, beng and brahmi were used as vegetables, lentils and medicines. Oils of sarguja, sarson, dori, kusubm karanj, red! and neem were used as cooking oil, body oil, machine oil for bullock cart wheels and for lighting. The dense forests ensured plenty of rains. The dry leaves were burned and their ash acted as an excellent fertilizer. Rivers, channels, small ponds and small dams ensured water supply to almost every field making multiple-cropping possible. Most of the implements like plough, phaal, etc., were locally made by village carpenters, blacksmiths and'other artisans. Jaggery, moori, chiuda, ropes made of bark of tree or sawai grass, shoes made of animal skin, bangles made of' chapda of Lah, clothes, blankets and utensils etc., were made in almost every village. A decent fish catch 'and cattle rearing along with use of iron ore and brass, made the village industries, the centers of production for large number of markets in the region. This self-reliant economy was based on co-operation and collective efforts. ~y According to Horo : 'Until recently, helping each other has been a tradition in the villages. If someone has to make a house, harvest, or sow or transport the crops to the granary, everyone will get together and work. No one gets paid, but is given food on the day of the work. This traditional practice, known as madaeet has not yet totally disappeared. The weaker sections in the villages thus got some help. During marriages, everyone would go to bride/bridegroom's house with rice, pulses, spices etc., to share their burden. During the month of Agahan each family would donate a part of the harvest to be stored in a godown. People in need would be given loans from this at low interests....

But all this has disappeared or at least, is fast disappearing. The self-reliant economy has broken down. The urban-industrial products have penetrated,, destroying all trades and crafts. The villagers have no work as the production is now carried out in industries concentrated in a few cities. Destruction of forests, soil erosion, destruction of small dams and ponds have made agriculture unviable. Jharkhand has today become a raw-material supplier for urban industries and that too at throw-away prices. Lab, which was sold at Rs. 20 per Kg., in the sixties and was exported, is now sold at Rs. 2 per Kg. Big industries like Hindustan Lever, Godreand Tata (earning crores of rupees as profit) take away seeds of dor and kusum at one to one and half rupee for a basket of five to seven Kgs., to make scented soap and hair oil. Oil from various seeds now gets used to make chocolates, and pulp for fertilizers. Bark of trees is used to make medicines, paints and varnish. Ayurvedic giant corporations, Dabur and Baidyanath, obtain various medicinal plants from the area. Special mud is used for paints, white soft stone for talcum powder, fruits for ink etc. The whole region is dotted with mines. 60% of the minerals of the country is extracted from this region.

Similar is the situation with other tribal areas and forests. The national forest policy of 1952 envisaged our country's forest cover being raised from 23% to 33% of the total land area. Three decades later, it has been reduced to an ecologically mind-boggling 10%- The causes of deforestation can be gauged from the fact that the net revenue that the forest department earned from the forests has increased from Rs. 15 crores in 1951-52 to Rs. 1,144 crores in 1973-14. Today, almost every state earns Rs. 150 to 200 crores in a year from forests. This huge revenue is obtained inspite of the massive corruption in the forest.' department due to which a far larger quantity is extracted illegally. In addition, _» there are numerous cases of timber merchants and paper companies being legally allowed to take wood at ridiculously low rates like 36 paise per tonne, when the market price is over Rs. 300 per ton.

This extraction of forest wealth and resulting denudation of forests is causing havoc in the form of frequent and intense drought and flood cycles. The soil is eroding rapidly and all rivers channels and dams are being silted.' Every year top-soil, equivalent in nutrients to twice our annual production of fertilizers, is being washed away to the sea. , The estimate of loss varies from 1,000 crores to 7,000 crores.Firewood and cattle-fodder are almost unavailable. Deprived of any other means of livelihood, the forest dwellers walk tens of kilometers every day to bring a head-load of. wood to be sold in the nearby towns and cities, so that "they can get barely enough to eat.

The fire-wood crisis in the villages may not bother our policy makers much. But the destruction of forests also m3ans exhaustion of the raw materials that the industries have been getting] for pittance. And this, definitely worries them.Therefore, with the aid of the World Bank, various European Governments as well as the paper and rayon companies, they have come with a new scheme called 'Social Forestry'. The idea is to plant the road-sides, canal-margins, hillsides, porumbokes (community lands), waste-lands and even old-ponds with trees. The favourite tree chosen is eucalyptus. It is not very healthy for the environment Besides causing acidity of the top-soil, it saps sub-soil water, causes soil erosion (particularly if [planted as monoculture species). It is not of much use for our villagers. The wood burns faster than most traditional varieties. However, it is the most profitable plantation as the various poly fiber companies and paper mills are ready to pay heavy prices for it. The scheme, after all, is to provide these industries with the needed raw materials.

A study conducted in Kolar district of Karnataka shows that the result of the Social Forestry programme in this region has been to reduce the production of ragi (the poor peoples' food) from 1,75,195 tons to 13,340 tons, as the rainfed land producing ragi is being switched to eucalyptus, Also, the labour involved in growing eucalyptus tree is much less than that in ragi, making more people unemployed—all in the interest of developing our industrial sector.

Our industrial sector is penetrating deeper and deeper in the countryside. The traditional production system is getting further destroyed. Plastic and aluminium utensils and buckets have entered village homes. Our potters no longer have any work. The metal-workers in the village became unemployed even earlier. Even weaving in the villages is becoming, a thing of the past, as the big cotton mills and the synthetic fiber companies become the sole producers of
doth in our country.

One can continue, and one should take a deeper look at what modern industry is contributing in every sector. What does this process of modernization and development mean for our people? Is it just that we have in our country some.developed and some under developed regions? Or is it that the islands of development have been possible precisely because we could create an ocean of under development?

Modernization and development have become synonymous with concentration of wealth and concentration of knowledge of the production processes in the urban-industrial complex. The traditional production systems are destroyed and our rural/forest areas are converted into a pool of cheap resources and labour and a market for some of the industrial goods. Is this not a process of Colonization of our country's rural/forest areas—a process of Internal Colonization?

This Internal Colonization is made possible by the development of modern industry based on modern science and technology. Besides concentrating the resources under its fold, the modern sector also concentrates the knowledge of production process in the urban scientific, educational and research institutions and design and development departments of the industrial sector. The traditional knowledge of production, the skills of our craftsmen and women, as well as the associated sciences are not useful for its ends and get discarded into oblivion. In fact, associated with the process of Internal Colonization is a further intensification of the attack on our traditional knowledge systems and practices. Those who still adhere to these practices, in some form or other, are declared to be superstitious, irrational, backward and therefore objects of 'education'. They are time and again blamed for most of our problems. Even the most well-meaning people associated with or trained in the modern sector (in modern scientific, technological and educational establishments) repeat countless number of times that our village people, our forest-dwellers, our slum-dwellers need to be educated' so as to adopt this or that practice. In fast many advocate the use of modern communication systems to 'enlighten' our 'backward' people and free them from this or that taboo. It is obvious that, with this attitude, one will fail to find any science in our history or any scientific basis in the practices of our people and in their reactions to this whole thrust for modernization.

The modern sector basically requires modern sciences and technologies. And, where do these come from? These have been developed in the West in the course of its' attempts to concentrate the world's resources under its industrial sector This transplantation of the Western science and technology suits our modern sector fine; but of course, in the process of importing it, our country becomes more and more dependent on the U.S., the Soviet Union and other Western countries. The' Green Revolution for the first time made our agriculture sector f dependent on imported technologies and imported inputs like miracle seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, tractors etc. Today we are more dependent on West (for the import of these items) than we were white importing food. The White Revolution is making our diaries dependent on various inputs from the West. The modernization of our) fishing industry (sometimes referred to as Blue Revolution or Silver Revolution) has made us dependent on West for import of fishing gear etc., and now even our knowledge of fisheries comes from the West. Social Forestry is making us depend on the West even for the 'science' of forestry, besides making us technologically financially dependent on them.

Modern industry, basing itself on modern science and technology, comes with the promise of increasing production. The total produce is supposed to increase by leaps and bounds increasing the level of consumption of all. This is what constitutes 'advance' and this what is to make all the previous producing-societies 'backward', f It is true that modernization in our country has tremendously increased the production of several commodities under the industrial sector. What is however not often seen is that simultaneously) and as a result of this process, production of so many more goods in the traditional sector have declined or even disappeared. Rarely does modernization produce more goods totally it basically concentrates resources, knowledge etc, and produces more goods only for a few. Why this happens should not be so difficult. to see. Modernization implies energy intensive production, modernization implies cost intensive production and modernization implies waste and destruction of resources and environment, as we have seen in some of the sectors, here and in other articles, in this and previous issues of the Bulletin. These are some of the values inherent in modernization, in modern science" and technology , and clearly they go against the very concept of egalitarianism. Such science and technology and the associated industrial processes can flourish in the context of Colonialism. When it is attempted to incorporate them in the process of building an egalitarian social structure, we fear that they will undermine the very process, and tend to promote a Colonial mode of development.

Note:

* The Economic Development of India', RaKrishna, Scientific American, Vol. 243, No. 3, (Sept '80) p.1 66.

* India's Economic Development—Aspects of Class Relations, Ranjit Sau, Orient Longman 1981.

* A.K.N. Reddy, EPW, Annual number, Oct. 1976.

* The data on WhitB Revolution is taken from Bharat Dogra, 'The White Revolution : Who gets the cream?, The Economic Scene, No. 7, 1981.

* This cross-breeding, like almost all other modern 'Scientific' practices, is also destructive; it destroys the village cattle. An article by Claude Alvares titled, 'Milk; The Commen of Anand' (published in Indian Express), points out that the Operation Flood completely ignores the fact that the local breeds of bull also contribute drought power to agriculture. The exotic new bulls can only be fed and handed over to the butcher. Asa result of emphasis on these exotic bulls for cross-breeding purposes, the local breeds are getting scarce and expensive.

* The price of milk in the rural areas (as also the urban areas) has gone up tremendously. If at all, the villagers may now consume the powdered milk which the urban processing centers make or import.

* Mazdooi Kisan Niti, Special issue on Internal Colonialism, June 1982.

* 'Plunder'Blunder', by RaChengappa, India Today, March 15, 1982, The social, economic and ecological impact of social forestry in Kolar' by Vandana Shiva, Jayanta Bandopadhyay and H. G. Sharatchandra.

* By the concentration of knowledge, we do not mean that the knowledge as it existed with the producers in the traditional sectors is now pooled together in the modern sector. We are only referring to the fact that the producers, .who earlier possessed the knowledge of production processes, are now made completely dependent on the modern scientists and technologists as their only source for knowledge. A classic case is (hat of Green Revolution which has made our farmers, for the first time in history, to look upon the Agricultural Departments and Colleges for all necessary Information.

* The assault on our traditional knowledge systems and technologies started more than two hundred years ago with the British rule, as has been discussed in various articles of this and earlier issues of the PPST Bulletin.

* How far this ideology goes in strengthening the process of Internal Colonization wilt be a much useful study.

* The scientific and technological institutions established in our country on the lines of the West have
not reduced this dependence. In fact, our dependence on imported pocesses and technologies continues
to increase. Our industries may have been able to establish Internal Colonies, but the industrial sector
in the West is still the center to which our industrial sector contributes through the generation of raw
materials and cheap labour and the provision of markets. How, under these circumstances, can our
scientific and technological establishment become independent

* See the Green Revolution article in this issue.

* The other bias of modern science and technology is its orientation towards the urban way of life. In spearheading the concentration in urban-industrial complex, it takes for granted that urban life is the more desirable one, and would constitute the aim of all in the society.

* See, for example the article 'Traditional and modern energy resources in the previous bulletin.

* This examination of the role of modern sector, modern science and technology is likely to raise an accusing finger towards us that we want our people to.live in poverty and backwardness. What we have tried to examine is the role that the modernization is playing in our country. What we want to emphasize is that modernization is concentrating the resources in the hands of a small section of our population and increases foreign dependence, that it is destroying whatever source of livelihood our people have, etc. It is indeed very essential that the livelihood of our people should improve, but this seems hardly possible via the process of modernization. If efforts to bring out this aspect of modernization are understood as supporting 'backwardness', it only reflects on the process through which such definitions of 'advanced' and 'backward' have emerged.



Author: Madras Group


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