Partial eclipse

This piece is the abstract of an unfinished thesis on  

An analysis of cognitive relativism shows that the accuracy of a statement is always relative to a particular perspective. Yet a paradigm shift in the discussion of that statement can make it more expressive, more dominant than the others. As such, this critique is not inherent in adorning the bouquets and throwing brickbats on the concept of globalisation, but rather in studying its significance in remote parts of the world and the reverberation it has on such peripheral economies.

Trade theories and its appreciation show a country gets disrupted in its distribution of resources, and thus generates distributional conflict, when it opens itself to international trade, and world markets in general. The crises in the Northeast and Naxal-affected areas clearly illustrate the level of disparity in allocating resources and politico-economical assets of India. A fundamental contention also points out that a state develops only when it has an independent source of economy. In fact, its labour, capital and land resources allow a state to make headway towards a good future through production, exchange and distribution. This doesn't necessarily means that a society, or a state at large, should be an entity unto itself. History books are witness to the great waves of globalisation in abundance throughout. But these waves also precipitate the Western hegemony, which is getting alarming and has found many detractors.

Instead of heralding a new era of enlightenment and development, there is the shivers that globalisation is merely becoming an undesirable force in spreading neocolonialism and that greedy corporate houses are endorsing it to quench their insatiable appetite. Of course, Adam Smith saw it in 18th century that self-interest is the elementary basis of free trade. In this light, it comes as no rude awakening why there has been a violent clash of ideologies in the modern society, plus a rising gap between the proverbial haves and have-nots. There are two realities apropos to the India Inc, which is the eleventh largest economy in the world by nominal GDP, according to a report by the International Monetary Fund. On one hand are the states like Gujarat and Karnataka, enjoying the fruits of a globalised economy, whilst a substantial section, which are still confined in a cloak of poverty and backwardness on another.

Ever since the balance-of-payment crisis expedited the process of liberalisation in the early Nineties, the country has made drastic reforms on trade, industrial policy and its financial system. Now the economy enjoys vigorous offshore investments and a robust employment that is dominated by its service sector, although agricultural and allied sectors account for about 60% of the total workforce. The growing economy, however, has not been sufficient despite a centralised planning system and over a quarter of its more-than-one-billion population lives in abject poverty. The Maoist violence is one of the biggest internal threat in India – the newspapers scream everyday, with noted activist Arundhati Roy, declaring on prime-time TV that their violence must be viewed in the context of the battle between tribals and corporate houses to gain control over natural resources like minerals, water and forests. An issue brief from the World Bank in 2008 states that 85.7% of the citizens live on less than US$2.50 (purchasing power parity) a day, which is even higher than the 80.5% in sub-Saharan Africa. Now, take the case of education: as against the increasing literacy rates, and in spite of producing a record number of IT professionals, engineers and scientists, the system is far away from perfection. Only 64% of the people are counted as literate in government figures, which implies there are 304 million people who are absolutely illiterate.

The paper takes the case study of the volatile Northeast India, which lacks the innate ability to respond to the demands of our time, and is marked with gross underdevelopment, bloodshed, and utter neglect. The region is a victim of deceptive geopolitical strategy of India and the wretched chicken-neck syndrome – a term coined from the fact that it shares a meagre 2% of its border with the mainland. Of late, the region has started receiving some scant attention in the national media owing to vehement resistance against the establishment from the civil society and various separatist groups; and the Look East Policy (LEP), an initiative of the Indian government which was promoted during the heyday of its economic reforms, and which provides the region a vague hope to flow with the tide.

Though the LEP would provide India outwardly with a window of opportunity to tie up with other Asian nations, there are several issues to be sorted out: the militancy menace, the subsequent human rights crisis plus the institutionalisation of violence by state- as well as non-state actors; the abysmal industrial and infrastructural base of the region, which cannot stand the onslaught of the capitalist mode of production; the impending environmental consequences; the relentless problem of immigrants etc. It is also not without a criticism that the rhetoric on this policy is so much eyewash, which India is solely harnessing to establish its balance of power in Southeast Asia, in an apparent challenge to China.

It is worth mooting an idea on policies implemented by New Delhi, which has been pouring in funds for development in the Northeast. This is quite debatable vis-à-vis the debt crisis in Third World countries. One of the grounds that their debts should be cleared is that the lender had grant the funds despite knowing that the wretched leaders in these countries, as elucidated in the 'Confessions of an Economic Hit Man', is going to loot it. A straightforward explanation is that India gets no compound interest by putting the money up for this region; rather the policy makers are satisfied that its mainland is secured, and that oil, tea and timber are acquired as collateral. It may seem insubstantial but the view cannot be seen in isolation. It must be understood in the context of wider issues in the region's decision-making process and the political psychology of New Delhi over the years. Will India need another fiscal crisis like that of the early Nineties for an inclusive growth? On scrutiny, the Northeast playing second fiddle to New Delhi is tantamount to tiny nations having no leverage inside international bodies like the World Trade Organisation.

Apparently these regions lying in a dark mantle, without industrialisation are most prone to the ‘globalising’ salvo. There is an urgent need for development alternatives if all the economies are to stride to the same tune. It is unlikely the problem would be sorted out in the near future. The Marxian class struggle, the Platonic ideal state, Thomas Moore’s Utopia, the theory of Egalitarianism, Redistributive Justice and others have always carried the legacy of creating an ‘objective’ society. And the process of globalisation has not been impartial.


    * From the revised draft of 'Distributional effects of globalisation in developing countries' by Pinelopi Koujianou Golberg (Yale University) and Nina Pavenik (Darmouth College), Princeton Education, October 2006
    * Economy Watch;
    * 'The developing world is poorer than we thought, but no less successful in the fight against poverty' by Shaohua Chen and Martin Ravallion. The Development Research Group, World Bank, 2008
    * The New York Times, October 21 2007
    * 'The Rise of India: Problems and Opportunities' by Ingolf Kiesow and Nicklas Norling, Central Asia - Caucasus Institute Silk Route Studies Program, January 2007
    * The Institute for Research on World-Systems;
    * 'Confessions Of An Economic Hit Man,' by John Perkins, Ebury Press, 2006



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