India’s liberalisation, no doubt, has changed the economic landscape of Indian lives though to various degrees and levels. It overhauled India’s economy; government policies on economy, business, education, investment, foreign collaboration and privatisation; created billionaires owning multinational companies and acquired a competitive economic growth rate that poises the nation to be a world economic leader in the coming decade next to china.
But what has it done to the ordinary people of India?
Ideally, it would have transformed them into entrepreneurs, being able to make informed choices in doing business and managing various aspects of their lives. To make choices, they should be thinking rationally and acting freely; be creative, imaginative, good leaders, managers and decision makers, good individuals, role models to family, good politicians and good citizens.
And how many Indians have become anything of that?
In 1991, when a bankrupt India was initiated into economic liberalisation, hardly few Indians knew what it entailed and from the government’s side, it did very little to create any public awareness on the topic. So in all probabilities, the public was forced to take it as it came; as the opening up of the new consumer shops across the nation, availability of foreign branded goods in the place of ugly, inefficient, non-consumer caring local products and the opening up of unprecedented job markets both locally and internationally.
It is in the Indian blood to be enthused by chances. This time the chance came in the highly advanced IT industries an industry key to the materialistic development and advancement of the liberalisation and globalisation packages. Indians’ intuitive intelligence and flair for numbers made their overwhelming entry into the industry. When job opportunities in the industries soared up locally and internationally, so did the Indians qualifying out of universities and colleges earn those jobs. The industry added another dogma to the Indian communities around which they created a new religion the digital religion.
The industry also made many millionaires out of Indians.
Even earlier to liberlisation, Indian professionals were in great demand in the foreign nations. With the advent of liberalisation and the nations across the world embarking on massive developmental and construction projects their demand multiplied. Not only professionals, its blue colour force also gained demand overseas, especially in the Gulf regions.
The new riches brought in new challenges to the Indian communities, who paid very little attention to them. I shall discuss a few of those challenges here and in my future posts.
1. Indians adopted a new spendthrift economy.
Indians in all my presumption had traditionally maintained a spiritual relationship with money. I am not talking about India’s fake spirituality that the human welfare is determined by one’s birth, but spirituality in economy. Those who earned money through hard work, had realised that its transaction should be carried out in a religious manner. That is money is not simply material, rather a disciplined and moral approach should regulate its creation and consumption.
But for the contrivances of globalisation and the market, money is purely material regulated by strange rules, morality not one among them. They tossed into Indian hands plenty money; foreign money, bribe money, charity and aid money, black money, loan money and all with such ease that they dropped their traditional sense of economy to adopt a spendthrift one.
A major share of India’s growth profile comes from the consumer spending of its newly moneyed class. It comes to them as an ego boosting gala. One is tempted to have a comparison of this modern economic gala with the old extravagance of its racist, oppressive categories – the royals, the feudal chieftains, and their satellites who were known for pillaging the nation’s wealth. How devastating its impact was on the common man’s life no words can explain. Yet to their peril those common men and women are now developing a piquant taste to follow those oppressors extravagance and lifestyle.
The post- globalisation scenario made a turn around in the economic lives of its oppressed categories. Global openings and the subsequent call for human skills gave the socially backward a new impetus to sell their skills in the lucrative markets, locally and internationally for good economic returns. But the social changes it would have brought about are in question. That is to what extent had globalism resolved the caste discrimination in India? To some extent, it replaced caste with class-the lower, middle and the upper economic classes. It does not mean that the class status made any serious dent into the feudal mentality of India’s so called upper castes.
This class hierarchy immediately gave rise to an economic rivalry. The new Indian dream has become to scale down the barriers of this hierarchy; that is each is in competition to the next level by adopting whatever means. India’s civil servants’ answer to this competition is bribe. They no longer play tactics to lure customers into paying brirb but threaten them with a -no bribe no service -slap. In the place of the bribe being a few rupees in the past, now it comes in thousands. In Kerala, the most literate state in India, almost hundred percent of its civil servants do not full fill their official duties for which they take a salary from the government, without receiving a bribe.
However, it may not be fair to single out the civil servants alone in this case. Instances of allegations against government and political leadership for taking bribe or commission worth millions of U.S dollars from foreign multinationals while signing in business deals are not uncommon. That the truth about such deals is often hard to come by even after years of court battle is a test to both India’s democracy, judiciary as well as to the ethos of globalisation. All those force Indians to take a light-hearted approach towards bribe and criminal offenses.
In short, since the advent of Globalisation, Indian society underwent massive transformation, in most cases, for the worst. In an egotistical society as that of India it was a recipe for their moral peril as well. On the face of greed, they lost their sense of right and wrong. In the social front, anti-social and immoral activities gained momentum. Means by which one earned wealth became irrelevant. Young girls were sent to prostitution often at the knowledge of parents and families. The hardworking tradition of the ordinary people was replaced with dependency. A relative, a sibling or a progeny in a foreign land was expected to bear the cost of the luxury and extravagant lifestyle of those who remained behind at home. Young men were ready to be recruited for criminal doings for money.
Though India’s economy is apparently not on a hard hit, under the current world economic recession, Indian expatriates are going to be the most affected ones. But surprisingly they are the least willing to talk about them.
From Kerala alone, 30 lakhs (3 million) have been in the overseas services, among them, 2 million in the Gulf region alone. According to an article on India Today(23rd Feb. 2009), in the last 33 years, they have remitted to the State more than RS.200, 000 crores. Their annual remittance, more than 40,000 crores was twice the State’s annual tax revenue, and one fourth of the national average. But apparently only five percent of that money was put on productive investment. As per an estimation, one-fourth of the gulf Keralaites are loosing jobs and returning home. Yet it is difficult to get a reliable statistics on their employment or return from a government or Human Resource sources.
The State government has announced a rehabilitation package costing 110 crores the details of its implementation is apparently not available. The national government is insensitively silent on the matter.
Given the situation, life would not be easy for most of the returning individuals. In the current globalised and market based society where human relationship has acquired values in terms of what their earning can buy those who are returning job-less are not going to find their home-experiences very pleasant. While a sympathetic approach to rehabilitation is needed for them, the serious question that everybody should be asking now is, can we once more believe in the economic stunt of liberalisation that it is the answer to our economic problems and means to development and progress?
it is true, liberalisation has unleashed Indian potential and created opportunities. It produced Indian millionaires and billionaires. It displaced the economic landscape of the country to the point of no return. However damaging its impacts are, it is going to stay on for a long period. It is for the Indians to rediscover themselves and practice the right economic sense their older generations had maintained once, to avoid a possible economic peril for following the economic extravaganza of their once economic oppressors.
This was a post written in 2009; but most of the points I raised then are still relevant now.