The Period 1971 to 2011: A Short Summary

The mining and energy regime in India was pushed through various phases of re-structuring in the rhythm with the general cycle of capitalist development and crisis. The industrial crisis from the mid-1960s onwards and particularly the oil-shock and global inflation in 1973 pushed many developing capitalist nations into dictatorial policies towards the working class, not at last towards workers in the energy sector. In India this ‘crisis-regime’ took the form of nationalisation of the mining sector in the early 1970s and the state of Emergency from 1975 to 1977. The ‘state of Emergency’ in 1975 nationalised banks and introduced a severe regime of central planning of proletarian re-production (e.g. through enforced mass-sterilisation), at the same time it ‘opened’ the Indian economy further to the world market and relieved big ‘private’ capital from taxes and custom duties: it ‘liberalised’ the economy. The 1980s in India were characterised by a ‘stuck development’. In the mining industry this ‘stuck development’ was best expressed in the emergence of the Munidih Project in Dhanbad, Asian’s first fully mechanised mine, in combination with a general degeneration of Coal India’s profitability. The 1980s culminated in the state foreign debt crisis in 1991, which widened the attack on the working class by debt management and controlled application of market forces in order to lower wage levels. In the mining areas of Dhanbad no worker was hired on a permanent bases since 1992 and the outsourcing process of mines accelerated. Each push of re-structuring was managed by a combination of World Bank or other external loans and a re-adjustment of the legal frame-work. In each phase the regime tried to make use of both the pressure of ‘market-forces’ and the centralising command of burocracy and ‘plan’.

In the following sections we first locate the ‘NATIONALISATION’ within the crisis attack on the working class. We then see how the ‘nationalisation’ of the central mines solidified the ‘uneven development’ within the mining sector in legal terms: the law drew a sharper line between the official and the ‘ILLEGALISED MINING SECTOR’, while the actual production process integrated both. The merger of trade union collaboration and ‘illegalised economic sector’ created the back-bone of the DHANBAD MAFIA. The mafia was intrinsic part of the mining regime during the 1970s to 1990s. The specific composition of the (local/migrant) mining work-force can partly explain the populist success of the JHARKHAND MOVEMENT, the other main form of class collaboration in the Dhanbad mining area. While mafia and regionalism controlled the reproduction of the impoverished rural proletariat and the labour intensive mines, MECHANISATION in the central mines attacked the core work-force and at the same time deepened the separation between workers in the centre and the periphery of the mining industry. The crisis 1991 the re-focussed the attack on the labour costs through CASUALISATION and OUTSOURCING.