138 x 92 cm: Archival digital prints

The Birla Textile mill in Delhi was set up in 1920. Here G.D.Birla, one of the doyens of Indian industry, and a lifelong supporter of Gandhi, had a base. In 1996, the mill was ordered shut, along with other such mills, by the Supreme Court citing pollution laws. Lakhs of industrial workers were uprooted. The usage of the 90,000 sq meters of prime land was disputed till settled by the court in 2010. A shopping mall and commercial offices are now proposed here leading to a gain “of a few thousand crores,” for the company.

Capital has been a central idea in contemporary times. Markets, development, progress are all defined in economic terms. However for Gandhi, Capital does not exist in isolation to the relationship it has with humanity and ethics. He thought of it idealistically, as a means of servicing mankind, and posed it subservient to values like love, happiness, peace etc. In his world, Capital primarily derives power from an individual’s relationship to it, and not as an external entity alone. If “I like money” then can the idea of Capital be located outside that starting point?

The works, Capital in Transition as well as Re-Value explore ideas of Capital, space and human values. While G.D. Birla’s first mill is now going to be turned into a shopping mall in Delhi, does it imply that Capital always wins, and that all decay is only a transitory space for its resurrection? Or is it that the ideas of Capital need to be rethought in Gandhian terms, in times when everything is revalued as a tradeable stock?

Ravi Agarwal