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Interrogating Indian labour's political subjectivity through the lens of postcolonial Marxism during COVID times, this chapter draws on evidence from the ‘cyber-field’ to explore the fraught processes through which labour may ‘become’ working class. Reflecting on Marx's various writings on the formation of collective political subjects, the chapter traces the uniqueness of the Indian case and the ways in which such uniqueness has abruptly surfaced during the disruptions generated by the COVID-19 lockdown, which has suddenly displaced the lives of millions of migrant workers, forcing them on the move to reach their rural homes. The analysis also reflects on the merits and limitations of studying social processes from afar, using the cyberspace as a novel archive and fieldwork terrain.
Introduction: The Field and the Archive in COVID Times
On 25 March 2020, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared on national television at 8 p.m. and declared a complete and indefinite national lockdown in effect from midnight. This resulted in an immediate closure of factories, workshops, shops and all other sites of work, and also all vehicular, rail and air transport. Hardest hit were millions of labourers who migrate seasonally or for longer periods from some of India's most ‘economically backward’ regions to centres of high growth. From the announcement of the lockdown to now, images and voices of, and information on, migrant labourers have received extensive coverage in media and social media. While this is too immediate an event, and the experience, one could say, is too ‘raw’, this moment of rupture from the ordinary presents an opportunity to reflect both on ‘field-based research’ and on certain elements of Marx's writings as they relate to the collective political subjectivity of ‘labour’ becoming ‘working class’.
In ‘normal’, that is, pre-COVID times, questions on migrant labour, their relation to capital, to the state, to unions, their conditions of work, their contract, their social and everyday life, their relation to new technology, their migration itself and so on would have been investigated via ethnography and time spent in ‘the field’: However, ‘locked down’ indefinitely, the ‘field’ is not accessible to us for fieldwork or ethnography.
Background: The multidrug-resistant fungus Candida auris is emerging as a major cause of healthcare-associated infection globally. Understanding the epidemiology of these infections in vulnerable groups such as cancer patients is important for hospital infection control and their effective management. In this report we present diagnostic, clinical, antifungal resistance and outcome data of 11 cases of C. auris infection from an oncology center in India. Methods:C. auris strains were identified by Sanger-based DNA sequencing of the internal transcriber spacer (ITS) gene. Antifungal susceptibility testing (AFST) was performed using the broth dilution method. Identification and AFST were checked by the WHO Collaborating Center for Reference & Research on Fungi of Medical Importance. Patients had both empirical as well as directed therapy with antifungal agents based on AFST results and clinical assessment. Results: Between November 2018 and March 2019, 11 cases of C. auris (8 from patients with solid-organ tumors and 3 from hematological malignancy) were detected. Two distinct genetic clusters were identified by ITS gene sequencing; one of these clusters showed 100% homology with a previously unknown C. auris isolate (GenBank accession no. MK881076) and the other cluster had a 100% identity score with isolates from Japan and South Korea (GenBank accession nos. MH071441, KY657027, and EU884189). All 11 strains were resistant to fluconazole. With voriconazole, 1 isolate was susceptible, 3 were resistant, and 7 showed dose-dependent susceptibility. Two isolates were resistant to amphotericin B. Resistance to caspofungin or anidulafungin was noted in 1 of 11 isolates (9%); most showed intermediate susceptibility (63% to caspofungin). Among all of the patients, 72% were from the intensive care unit (ICU) or the high-dependency unit. The 30-day all-cause mortality was 5 of 11 (45%) in the C. auris group and 4 of 11 (36%) the control group (ie, infections with other Candida spp during same period). Duration of ICU stay in the C. auris group was 12 days and in the control group it was 6 days. The median cost (in terms of hospital bill at the time of discharge or death) for management of Candida auris infection and the primary medical condition was US$10,121 for the C. auris groups and US$8,608 for the control group. Most cases (10 of 11) were detected in wards without isolation rooms, and 8 of the 11 C. auris cases (73%) were detected in patients in the intensive care unit. Conclusions: Morbidity, mortality, ICU stay, and healthcare costs are significant in C. auris infection.
On 2 October 1952, marking Gandhi's fourth birth anniversary after his assassination in 1948, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of postcolonial India, launched the Community Development (CD) Programs. Dedicating the programs to Gandhi's memory allowed Nehru to claim symbolic legitimacy for them. At the same time, this centerpiece of Nehruvian policy in the Indian countryside was heavily interventionist, billed as “the method ... through which the [state] seeks to bring about social and economic transformation in India's villages” (Government of India 1952). In its heyday, CD preoccupied the Planning Commission, was linked to the office of the Prime Minister, had a ministry dedicated to it, and formed part of the domain of action of the rapidly proliferating state and other development agencies. Fifteen pilot projects, each covering 300 villages, were launched in all the major states. Planning documents of the day register high enthusiasm and optimism for these programs. However, by the mid-1960s, barely a decade after the fanfare of its launch, the tone of planners toward CD turned first despairing and then oppositional. They called for abandonment of its ambitious aim of the total development of Indian villages in favor of more focused interventions to achieve a rapid increase in food-grain production.