In India, irrespective of the places I visit; be it a restaurant, a temple or even when I walk on roads, I’m sure to encounter poor kids, malnourished babies tied in the saris of their teenage mothers, old couples, roadside dwellers and other similar beggars (that is what we refer to them in our social jargon). Be it the cosmopolitan Delhi, Pune, Mumbai or the infamous BIMARU states, beggars are ubiquitous.
Sadly, poverty that forces people to beg for food, clothing and shelter, is not just a state specific phenomena, it is a national happening. I find it difficult to blame everything on globalization. But then, who is to be blamed for such a sorry state of affairs? The status quo in India guarantees right to livelihood for everyone. However, a significant fraction of our population lives on utter penury. I certainly have no issues with the liberalization of the 1990s. As a nation, we have undoubtedly come a long way but still the journey is way long and we need to act faster. Still, after decades of independence, we are unable to feed our entire population and that too when massive quantities of food is wasted in our country because of poor storage facilities.
While policy failures have caused immense setback to our dreams of social welfare, we must also not forget that unchecked globalization leads to social disintegration. That is the root cause of the striking inequality prevailing all around us. While free trade has made the Indian market economically advanced, still we find that the poor and less fortunate ones are not protected by efficient social insurance policies. There needs to be a fine balance between free trade and protectionism of the interests of the people, especially those who are at the bottom of the pyramid.
The ugly side of globalization is exploitation and we have seen it everywhere, right from Africa to Asia. Under the complex free trade agreements laws, foreign corporations have reaped rich benefits from doing business in a country but they have wreaked havoc on the local people and their natural resources. One of the classic examples is Zambia where foreign companies purchased the state-owned mines but not even a fraction of the revenue generated by the natural resources of Zambia has gone into the country’s pocket.
In India, when corporate bigwigs like Vedanta and POSCO are facing endless protests, they must realize that exploitation at any cost is not tolerable by people. It is the duty of the government and the policy makers to find out the fault lines in our financial and social system so that the inequality in our society reduces and millions of families are able to live a life of dignity. That will be the real achievement of this largest democracy in the world.