An Attack on India's Sovereignty


Contents    Previous Chapter   Next Chapter



Impact on Various Social Groups

               (i) Women

               (ii) Dalits

               (iii) Tribals

               (iv) Minorities

               (v) Nationalities


Globalisation has had an adverse impact on all social groups, which have already been pushed down by centuries of oppression. Though these social groups already are included within the various class categories mentioned above, they face added oppression due to their social status, and so are being categorized separately. This section should be read in conjunction with the earlier one. Let us look at the three major groups:

i) Women

Women from all categories have been badly affected by globalisation — both economically and socially. In a paper presented by Rajani X Desai, entitled ‘Working Women of India Under IMF Rule’, April 24, 1998, she explains:

"Among this mass of exploited working people, women are particularly oppressed and exploited. In India, where food and other necessities are scarce, poor families, for sheer economic reasons, feed their girl children less than their boys, as boys are perceived as major breadwinners. This is among the reasons for the startlingly low ratio of women to men in India (927:1000). To appreciate the full brutality of the IMF-World Bank programme of ‘austerity’, during which ration prices of foodgains (and therefore also the open market prices of foodgrains) have doubled, we have to keep in mind this already suppressed and starved condition of the masses of women. The slashing of ration distribution quotas amid the worsening conditions has meant additional time spent each month standing in desperate lines for dwindling rations. On a national scale, that means literally billions of women-hours expended in meaning-less labour.

"Four-fifths of all women workers toil in the fields — agricultural labourers or poor peasants. The trends of retrenchments in the cities and industrial recession has meant that there are even ways for women to leave the village. Without a proper independent livelihood in the village (for lack of adequate land) or a job in the city, working women in the villages are even more at the mercy of the local landlord/moneylender/contractor/trader nexus.

"Over the years, the industrial workforce has grown at a crawl in India; and women’s share of that small workforce has shrunk, From one in three in 1911 to one in six in 1971. With the present wave of retrenchments, women are the first to go in all industries, reducing their share in the organised sector yet further.

"Thus women workers are mostly consigned to the ‘unorganised’ sector; the super-exploited sector Women can frequently be found in vast numbers in the export industries which earn the foreign exchange to service the country’s external debt,. stitching garments, assembling electronic circuits, cleaning shrimp, plucking tea — all at starvation, or less-than-starvation wages. For managements, the idea behind hiring women workers is that they face more hurdles getting organised than men workers. When they do get organised, of course, they get meted the same beatings the men workers do — as we saw a few years ago when hundreds of women workers of the Santa Cruz Electronics Export Processing Zone were baton-charged by the Bombay police and herded away to distant jails.

"Apart from such economic exploitation, there is an intensified cultural and social onslaught on women under the so-called economic reforms. In the last seven years, a frenzy has been calculatedly whipped up in India over ‘beauty contests’, from the local level to the international While the benefits of this frenzy are reaped by the corporations who advertise their products via these phenomena, the entire display has had its impact on the minds of urban women, particularly middle and lower middle class young women. The vast proliferation of ‘beauty parlours’ and facial creams which promise to increase ‘fairness’ bear witness to the notions being inculcated. Equally, by the logic of the ‘market’ economy, prostitution is a perfectly legitimate activity — one more industry of the ‘service sector’. The Thai government has indeed for decades actively promoted ‘sex tourism’ as its leading foreign exchange earner — probably its single biggest industry, engaging about 13 per cent of the total female labour force directly or indirectly. Now, with the collapse of the Thai currency, pressures to service foreign debts, and intensifying economic crisis, yet more Thai women will be thrust into this torture. Prostitution has similarly grown rapidly in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe under IMF ‘structural adjustment’ packages. There is clear scope for similar trends in India as the Government prepares to boost its tourism earnings."

In the realm of the economy, the decreasing job opportunities and the massive retrenchments are pushing women back to their homes, thereby seriously affecting their ability of social interaction, resulting in the strengthening of feudal attitudes. Besides, women are the first to be removed from jobs. In addition the increasing economic hardship, adds to the enormous burden in looking after the home, where every small saving entails greater labour. Women, who are anyhow treated as second-class citizens in the existing semi-feudal environment, have in this period of globalisation, been marginalized even further. Particularly in the rural areas their hardships, their degradation and their humiliation has increased enormously.

Socially, too the so-called liberal westernized culture promoted by the media has not helped the process of democratization of social relations and reduction in patriarchal values. In fact feudal values have increased with the Hindutva wave and its backlash amongst the minorities. Increased religiosity in a country like India promotes all feudal values and particularly strengthens patriarchy. And when on this patriarchal thinking is superimposed the westernized consumerism, women are seen even more as chattels to be used and discarded. That is why in this period of globalisation there has been a spurt in ‘dowry’ deaths, mostly linked with greater demands for money. This similar attitude has added to the incidents of violence against women (rape, eve-teasing, etc.) with male expectations that she must bow before all his demands.

Added to this, with globalisation, there has been an avalanche of the cosmetic industry, which has aggressively promoted through the media that, for women, beauty is everything, and turned women into cheap sex objects. The cosmetic industry in India has grown ten-fold in the 1990s, from Rs 2,311 crore in 1990 to Rs 18,950 crore in 2000. The leap continues with TNC products flooding the market. The spurt in Miss India-type shows right down to the college and galli level has added to this culture. The promotion of the cosmetic industry has led to a leap in the commoditification of women. In addition, the emphasis on the promotion of the tourist industry has resulted in a quantum leap in prostitution, which has been sought to be given legitimacy by NGO-types through the campaign of referring to them as sex-workers.

So, we see that with globalisation, women have been marginalized even further, patriarchal values are sought to be strengthened, commoditification of women has taken a leap forward and their second-class status in society has been strengthened — notwithstanding the creation of women icons through the film and media world. These icons have infact been used to merely promote the above mentioned value systems.

It is for these reasons that women constitute an important force against the imperialist offensive going under the signboard of ‘globalisation’. Genuine democratization of relations between women and men can only come through an uncompromising struggle against the existing feudal/patriarchal values and the imperialist culture, promoted by the ruling-classes of India.

ii) Dalits

Dalits, at the lowest end of the economic and social ladder, are quite obviously at the receiving end of the elitist culture promoted by globalisation. Economically, the small gains made through reservations have been, in essence, reversed; and socially the elitist culture, which marginalizes the poor generally, will have a double impact on Dalits due to the Hindutva (Brahaminical) wave during this period.

. More than 75 per cent of the dalit workers are still connected with land; only 25 per cent of which are marginal and small farmers, while the balance are landless labourers. In the urban areas, they work mainly in the unorganised sector. Out of the total dalit population of 138 million, the number of dalits in services falling in the domain of reservations does not exceed 1.1 million; a mere 0.8 per cent. As per the Rural Labour Enquiry Report of 1987-88, over 63.14% of the total rural households were wage labour households as compared to 31.16% for others. In the same year, half of the dalit population was below poverty line as against 39.06% for others. The incidence of poverty was 55.12% for the neo-Buddhists among them. It was 60.5 and 50% for the agriculture labourer and for the non-agriculture labourer respectively. In urban areas, the poverty ratio among dalits was higher at 57% as compared to 37.21% among non-dalits. It was as high as 73.45% among the casual labourers and 87.23% for the neo-Buddhists in the urban areas.1

The economic dimension of the caste question is intimately connected with land reforms, as the bulk of dalits are without land. Land reforms is therefore a key question for their development. But, globalisation has not only eclipsed this agenda of land reforms it has substituted it with corporatisation of farming for the global agricultural market. The policy thrust of the World Bank-IMF-WTO combine has always been clearly for the abolition of the land ceiling laws and for liberalising investment into agriculture. Land reforms has openly been opposed.

If we turn to the sphere of education we find that as a result of various reform movements and particularly because of the Ambedkar’s role many dalits took to education. Fundamentally this is now negated under globalisation, which has given impetus to the ‘human capital’ understanding that measures the education system exclusively in economic terms particularly in responding to market needs. The new Policy Framework for Reforms in Education, drafted by a committee convened by Mukesh Ambani with Kumarmangalam Birla as members, seeks to drive privatisation and introduce rampant commercialisation of higher education along the lines of the USA. It envisages foreign direct investment in education, progressive reduction of government funding for universities and making them adopt the route of self-sufficiency, and concurrent development of a credit market for private finance to meet the cost of higher education. The latter is a clear smoke screen to diffuse its elitist intentions; as everyone knows that more than half the population of this country are just not creditworthy. Higher education, thus, is to be entirely market oriented and clearly out of bounds of the commoners, not to talk of dalits. The commercial ethos that entered the education field through globalisation has further created a divide between haves and have-nots. The pay seats in the educational institutions have fortified the class basis of education. Dalits who have been barely able to afford schooling with the aid of freeship and scholarship are now being squeezed out from both ends. Firstly, education has become increasingly inaccessible and unaffordable to them. Even if they persist with it, they have to face several hurdles on the way to get education that would get them gainful employment. The increasing opportunity cost of schooling is dissuading many dalits from education resulting in increasing numbers of dropouts. Even if they crossed all the hurdles as an exception, they would face a far bigger hurdle in the job market that tended to value your family background more than your scholastic performance. The economic globalisation has brought in a fundamental change in the composition of a major section of the job market. The manufacturing sector that valued the formal educational inputs has been shrinking whereas the service sector that required such attributes as one’s looks, mannerisms, ‘communication’, connections, relationships etc. that could be summed up as one’s class attributes, did not value educational qualification. This class divide cannot be easily crossed by dalits.

In the sphere of jobs the wholesale privatization of the public sector taking place and the massive retrenchment of government jobs the question of reservation in the sphere of jobs has become irrelevant. And as the private sector has no job reservation policy the job opportunities that had been available to dalits during the past three decades will now totally dry up. The general population is facing the horrors of unemployment; this will be more deeply felt by dalits.

In addition, the government, which has been systematically cutting expenditure on the people’s welfare at the behest of the World Bank/IMF, has also cut its expenditure on schedule castes and scheduled tribes. The outlay for SC, ST and OBC welfare has declined from 8% in 1990/91 to 6.7% in 1994/95.8

If we turn to the sphere of social oppression, untouchability, which is intrinsic to the brahminical order of Hindu religion, has been strengthened in this period. Globalisation in India, took a leap in 1991, with the SAP conditions imposed by the taking of the IMF loan. Hindutva took a leap in 1992, with the destruction of the Babri Masjid and the anti-Muslim pogroms that followed. The phenomenon of emergence of religious fundamentalism in many countries and particularly in our country in the era of globalisation is not a chance happening. It is the imperative of globalisation that the large multitude of masses is held in a conformist mode. The rise of Hindutva, demolition of the Babri Masjid, review of the constitution, denigration and harassment of minorities, saffronisation of education and generally communalisation of the polity, are not to be taken as unconnected events. They are very much complementary to globalisation. Though the minorities, and particularly the Muslims, may have been the main target of this wave, Hindutva strengthens feudal values in all spheres of life, and so it, defacto, promotes untouchability, and whips up caste hatred against the lower castes in general, and dalits in particular.

So, we see Dalits too are victims of Globalisation in both the economic and the social sense. So they too constitute an important force in the anti-globalisation, anti-imperialist struggle in the country.

iii) Tribals

Never before have such extensive reports come of starvation deaths amongst tribals as during this period of globalisation. But, what finally comes to light is the mere tip of the iceberg. Kept in a state of extreme backwardness for over four decades, the tribals of India have been further marginalized during this period of globalisation. As with dalits, the systematic cuts in welfare expenditure, the privatization of the public sector, drop in investment in agriculture, dismantling of the PDS, etc. have all hit the tribals very hard. With nothing to turn back to, and with no money even for medicine, thousands of tribals, many of whom are little children, are dying of starvation, malnutrition and simple diseases. Ironically no such deaths happen in the vast tribal tracts under Maoist influence.

In addition to this, the skewed development policies of successive governments have displaced lakhs and lakhs of tribals from all over the country. In the name of ‘development’, tribals are being driven off their lands, their forests are being submerged, their sources of income are being sapped, and they are thus being virtually pushed to death. This can be seen with the on-going Narmada and Tehri projects. What was skewed earlier has got even more lopsided in this period of globalisation, where their only concern is extending the market for their products. And if tribals have to be sacrificed at the alter of the ‘free market’ God, so be it!! They could not care. Earlier at least they made a pretense of caring, with their ‘garibi hatao’ slogan; today even that pretense does not exist. General starvation, droughts and famines may kill by the thousands; yet this may at best find a 4 to 5 line report hidden in some inner page of the newspaper.

A large section of the tribals are already organized with the revolutionary movements. It is only a matter of time before they all join. The enormous efforts of the Sangh parivar to brainwash them and keep them within the fold of the existing order, in the name of opposing conversion to Christianity, can have only temporary effect, as shown by the tribals of North Bastar.

iv) Minorities

As we have already seen Hindu chauvinism is part of the admixture of growing fascism in the country. Though the Indian State always had an upper-caste pro-Hindu bias, from the very earliest Nehruvian days, we find it becoming an important aspect of state policy from the mid-1980s, and particularly in the 1990s — i.e. particularly in the period of globalisation. This is not a mere coincidence, but part of a conscious plan. In a period when some reforms were possible, the garibi hatao slogan acted to dupe the people to some extent. But, with globalisation, Structural Adjustments Programmes, Economic Reforms, etc., these were nothing but a direct and intensive attack on the living conditions of the people. Let alone reforms, what little existed, began to be snatched from the people. The mask of garibi hatao, already worn thin, had to be replaced with something more aggressive — something that would turn peoples’ growing discontent away from the perpetrators of the suffering, into internecine strife. It has been the standard formula of fascists, from the times of Hitler, to use racism, communalism, etc as an integral part of their terror tactics of rule. Hindu chauvinism and the anti-minority/anti-Pak baiting was the ideal alternative with which to divert the attention of the majority population (the Hindus) from their day-to-day problems.

The aggressive Hindu chauvinism, whose eggs were laid by Indira Gandhi’s, Hindu Ekatmata Yagna (1983) and the anti-Sikh hysteria, hatched into a venom spouting reptile with Rajiv Gandhi’s opening of the locks at the Babri Masjid, propagation of the Ramayana on TV, the butchery of Sikhs, the Shilinyas, etc., and grew into a dangerous monster with the destruction of the Babri Masjid and the new BJP dispensation at the Centre. The recent Gujarat riots has shown the extent to which this monster can go, with no action whatsoever taken against the perpetrators of the genocide.

And as economic reforms proceeds apace, so also will this monster bloat, unless fought back by the masses of the country. While that section of the ruling classes, tied to the Sangh Parivar, are the most aggressive promoters of Hindu chauvinism, the Gujarat incidents have shown that all their allies (including the BSP and the AIDMK) were nothing but pretenders who traded blood for power and posts, even meekly accepting the maniacal mastermind of the butcheries, Advani, as the deputy prime minister of the country. The Congress(I) in its bid to garner the Hindu vote, has always swung from soft Hindutva to even shades more aggressive, thereby adding to foul the environment. And as for the so-called left and many a liberal, they adopt the policy of appeasement, rather than of confrontation. Parliamentary semantics and ‘peaceful’ co-existence being the bedrock of their secularism, they, in effect, disarm the masses in the face of violent aggressions, turning themselves into impotent moaners (or mourners) after each successive holocaust.

Besides, a Gujarat carnage is only the culmination of poison sown in society every day, and Modi’s speech at the rath yatra is only an extreme form of the anti-Muslim derogatory nonsense spouted by even many a liberal. The anti-Pak, anti-Kashmir hysteria, big nation chauvinism, anti-terrorism, anti-secessionism, etc. are all a part of this Hindu chauvinist agenda which seeks to ‘unite’ the country under the jack-boots of a strong Centre. And on these questions all the ruling-class parties (including the revisionist CPI/CPM) are one, each seeking to out-do the other in their competititive ‘patriotism’. But, today big nation chauvinism is an intrinsic part of the RSS Hindu Rashtra concept. In other word, by playing to the anti-Pak/anti-ISI/anti-secessionist hysteria, the various parliamentary outfits are, defacto, promoting the RSS agenda. No wonder the latter’s arrogance and boldness has multiplied, when they see the ‘opposition’ playing a similar game, or when they merely make much noise, but do little to fight them back. Appeasement only whets the fascist appetite further.

As a result of all this, the attacks on minorities, particularly Muslims, have grown qualitatively during this period of globalisation. And as the politics and economics of economic reforms continue apace, the Sangh Parivar seeks to take the Gujarat experiment to the rest of the country. The vehemence of such attacks makes the minorities a strong potential ally in the anti-imperialist/anti-globalisation struggle in the country. We have already witnessed some Muslim organisations call for boycott of TNC products, and many have already taken steps to stop marketing Coca cola and Pepsi.

v) Nationalities

India is a multinational country, and in an ideal democratic set-up the relationship between nationalities should be one of equality, based on the right to self-determination of all nationalities. In a People’s Democratic India all powers, except defence, currency and international affairs would vest with the nationalities (at present, mostly divided along State lines).

But, though India is said to be federal, in effect the structure is Unitary, with all powers in the hands of the Centre. State governments are at the mercy of the Centre, in all aspects — economic, political, social. Particularly with fiscal powers concentrated with the Centre, States have little maneuverability. Even taxes meant for the States, like Income tax, is collected by the Centre and handed back to the states on the basis of certain formulas, set every five years, by the respective Finance Commissions. In this framework while all state governments have barely municipal rights, a number of struggling nationalities, like J&K, the North-East etc., many of whom never considered themselves to be a part of India from 1947 itself, are being crushed with ruthless ferocity. In these regions, the Government of India (GOI) acts as nothing but an army of occupation. The brutalities perpetrated here by the GOI are worse that any foreign occupation force.

Not only does the Indian ruling classes centralise all power in Delhi, crush struggling nationalities under its jack-boot, it also seeks domination of neighbouring countries through a policy of expansionism. All these three aspects have been intensified during the period of globalisation.

The reason for this is that the big-bourgeoisie in India (and the TNCs based here) desire a total all-India market unhindered by national divisions. Besides, because of their size, they seek a market throughout South Asia and even beyond, which gives them their expansionist character. During the period of globalisation huge amounts of foreign capital have come in to India, and a handful of comprador big-bourgeois houses (like Reliance) have grown to gigantic size. An example of the FDI flowing into the region is that in the year 2001, of the $4 billion FDI that came into South Asia, $3.4 billion (i.e. 85%) came to India alone. All this capital would be desperate to not only have unhindered sway over the Indian market, but to also gain unhindered access to markets of South Asia.

First, to look at the question of the centralisation of power at Delhi. The 11th Finance Commission which came out with its policies in 2000 only perpetuated the existing state of affairs, notwithstanding the fact that there is a large representation of the State governments at the Centre. It raised the quantum of the devolution of Central taxes to the states by an insignificant 0.5% from 29% to 29.5%. In actual fact it reduced the overall quantum to the States by as much as Rs 2,181 crores. 3

The warped character of revenue collecting powers can be seen from the fact that, whereas the states collect only 37% of the consolidated government revenue, they account for 62% of the consolidated expenditure — this includes 87% of the expenditure on social services and 83% on infrastructure. The top-heavy financial structures are even more accentuated at the local levels, where revenues gathered by them, cover barely 5-10% of their expenditure.

In this period of globalisation, the States have gone to a situation of total bankruptcy, where, as many as 13 states do not collect sufficient money to pay the salaries of their staff. 4 In just the three years from 1996/97 to 1999/2000 the total debt of all the States nearly doubled from Rs 2.4 lakh crores (2,400 arab) to Rs 4.1 lakh crores (4,100 arab). 5 The reason for both the above factors being that the transfer of resources from the Centre to the States has actually dropped from 7.6% of the GDP in the early 1990s to 6.4% of GDP in 1998/99. 6

An added factor is that globalisation has added to the disparities between the States, with private capital only concentrating on those developed States that have the infrastructure that guarantees quick returns. So we find that the ratio of the per capita income in Maharashtra, the richest State, to that of Bihar, the poorest, which had fluctuated between 2 and 2.5 in the 1980s, shot up to 3.8 by the end of the 1990s. 7

Also in this period there has been an increased cultural onslaught against the various nationalities. With the spread of the electronic media, hindi/english domination has swamped the regional languages even further. In the sphere of education, its Sanskritisation by the saffron brigade, creates a homogenous brahminical interpretation relegating to the background the vitality of local folk traditions, culture and history. So, all the existing spheres of domination by the Centre have only got accentuated in this period.

Regarding the nationality movements they have sought to finish them through the policy of the carrot and stick. Particularly in the North East they have big plans to extract its huge natural wealth, particularly its oil and gas. They have plans to open out the North East to trade with the entire S.E.Asian region. So, while intensifying the repression on the fighting groups, they are also seeking pacification through talks, as with the Nagas, and no doubt baits to take a few crumbs from the potential booty. Globalisation has promoted the tourist industry on a huge scale. Both Kashmir and the North East have enormous potential in this sphere and the powerful tourist/hotel lobbies in India and abroad, hover around the region like vultures, waiting for its pacification.

Finally, regarding South Asia the Indian expansionists have been trying by various means to enhance their domination over other countries of the region. Through bilateral deals and multilateral forums like the SAARC, they have been resorting to arm-twisting and bribery (not to mention outright subversion through RAW), to push through trade deals that remove all barriers from the region. It is the Indian ruling classes that have particularly been trying to push through the SAFTA (South Asia Free Trade Association) right through the 1990s. Due to resistance from the neighbouring countries, SAFTA has not yet got off the ground, but the Indian ruling classes and their TNC/imperialist backers continue their attempts through various devious means.

So, we see that in the period of globalisation the Indian ruling classes, are seeking greater concentration of powers at Delhi, not only over all the nationalities of India, but also over neighbouring sovereign nations. In this period the Centre has furthered its control over the States, and it has actively sought the crushing/diffusing of nationality movements and the subversion of neighbouring countries. Against Pakistan it has been overt war-threats. In such a situation all the affected nationalities throughout South Asia have enormous potential to be part of any movement against imperialist globalisation. The way the imperialists have, of late, tried to stab the Kashmir movement in the back, would open the eyes of the Kashmiri people, for the need to fight not only the Indian expansionists, but also its imperialist backers.



1. Paper on Globalisation: Assessing the impact on Dalits in India, by Anand Teltumbe

2. Paper on New Economic Reforms: Its Effect on Dalits by G.Nancharaiah presented in Pune university, Dec. 1996

3. Business World; August 14, 2000

4. Outlook; June 25, 2001

5. India Today; Feb.14, 2000

6. Reserve Bank of India Report

7. Outlook; June 25, 2001




Contents    Previous Chapter   Next Chapter


Home  |  Current Issue Archives  |  Revolutionary Publications  |  Links  |  Subscription