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Exploring An Alternative Development Paradigm To A Capitalist, Globalised World

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Written by: Dr Simi Mehta and Ritika Gupta, Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI)

The inevitability of the birth of alternative development framework is inherent within the metabolism of the capital system. It is important to examine how the alternative development paradigm unfolds as a new epistemology out of resistance movements and other radical transformative initiatives like globalisation and socio-economic system and institutions; which create and co-create unequal distribution of power and perpetuate discrimination and domination by humans over others as well as over nature. Prof Sunil Ray articulated his views on alternative development paradigm in a webinar jointly organised by Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi and Centre for Development Communication and Studies (CDECS), Jaipur, on November 12, 2020.

The Keynesian package that was first provided to withstand the onslaught of the Great Depression of the 1930s cannot be applied for every economic crises. Since it has been repeatedly been resorted to, the global economy has shrunk- thereby aggravating the crisis. Added to this is the commodification of nature, which ultimately leads to the decline in production conditions.

The contradictions of capitalism have enormous social costs. Human misery is aggravated and is imminent through socio-economic inequalities, deprivation, loss of employment and income, loss of control over assets and resources and, importantly, loss of social cohesion. Essentially, the costs of contradictions of capital system are being borne by the people, especially those in the lower rungs of the society.

Prof Ray highlighted that individualism, private property and a representative democracy that lend credibility to the mainstream development paradigm, which are actually rooted in the same capital system. These are increasingly proving to be the enemies of civilisation.

Therefore, anti-systemic movements and the radical transformative movements around the world have embraced a clash against the mainstream development paradigm in an effort to aid in the escape of the humanity from an impending catastrophic through the creation of another world. It is important to point out that these movements are expressed globalisation, environmental degradation, racial discrimination, gender discrimination- in essence, the exploitative systems.

Examples of such movements include: anti-globalisation movement organised by ATTAC that initiated the first world social forum in the Porto Allegre in 2001, the global justice movement that counter-poses an alternative conception of welfare and development vis-à-vis the ones advanced by the International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization, the Zapatistas in Chipas, Mexico, attempted to bring about holistic transformation for sustainable agriculture, which would have water, energy and food sovereignty for all. They sought reconstruction of the state as an institution from the grassroots.

These are not only resistance movements against globalisation and the exploitative systemic order but also have different cosmovision that provides alternative development epistemology. Several other countries of Latin America joined these countries subsequently to crush the hegemonic impact of the mainstream development paradigm on developmentalism by their pragmatic understanding with holistic ‘cosmovision’ that transcends modernist met narratives of both capitalism and socialism.

The Zapatista movement provides lessons to build diversity and heterogeneity by rejecting the homogenisation principle of the mainstream development paradigm based on which the main market model of globalisation is built. Another lesson that can be learnt is imbibe the concept of well-being as it promotes co-evolution of human beings and the nature, which does not consider economic growth as the means of development.

Therefore, the commodification of nature should be replaced by the principle of sufficiency to attain economic development, which would emerge as the basic tenet of the alternative development paradigm. This never allows natural resources to be exhausted beyond the limit. It is only within this framework that one may have reasons to argue why sustainable development is realisable.” Economic development is sustained not on the basis of the notion of unlimited quantitative growth. Qualitative growth that includes social, ecological and spiritual dimensions is equally important to be associated with development.

Such transformations have the potential to give rise to the process of ‘Cohesive Development’. It is a social cohesion among individuals with a sense of community and commitment for collective understanding and shared consciousness. The latter binds individuals together despite differences that might exist between them. It refuses to fall in line with the power structures that are undemocratic, exploitative and discriminatory, as they lead to powerlessness and deprivation.

It enshrines the principle of reciprocal altruism, and rejects self-interest maximisation and individualism as the core axiomatic truth of human behaviour. Reciprocal altruism fosters an integration between humans on the one hand and, between humans and nature on the other, resting on the principle of solidarity between them.

According to Prof Ray, the principle of sufficiency can be further complemented by four other epistemological tenets in the transformative mode of production the new logic of capital; a culture of cooperation, new organisational forms and expansion of commons; reciprocal altruism; and qualitative metamorphosis.

In his concluding remarks, Prof Ray said that the inexorable forces of history would witness how this incongruous evolutionary process is rectified by cohesive development,  the process which he termed as the alternative development paradigm in the 21st century.

This lecture was followed by discussants’ remarks. Dr Amrita Datta, Assistant Professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad, based her discussion on the conceptual framework of the economics of solidarity and pointed out to several empirical tensions that we are witnessing today amid the Covid19 pandemic, the capital and labour ought to be a catalyst for the economics of solidarity, but in reality, there is the domination of former over the latter.

For instance, we have a situation where national economies are shrinking globally and at the same time, we have a company like Amazon, which tripled its profits from $2 billion to $6.3 billion dollars in the third quarter of 2020. On the other hand, International Labour Organisation (ILO) reported that the world work is being profoundly affected by the pandemic and that there is economic and social disruption not only in low-income countries but also in middle-income countries.

She also highlighted that despite an economic crisis and consolidation of capital during the period of pandemic, altruism, goodwill and solidarity at the individual level have seen to be intensified. She also underscored that by allowing the market mechanism to be the sole director of fate could lead to the demolition of society.

When we talk of contemporary capitalism, both the welfare state and prosperity emerged from a certain kind of capitalism. There were the post-war golden years of capitalism where both the market and the state were very strong, and this is very different from the present paradigm of neoliberal economic development where the state has abdicated its welfare function.

Dr Niranjan Sahoo, a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation echoed Prof Ray’s vision and remarked that there were a lot of problems with representing the democratic model especially with the capitalistic order that has a kind of plutocratic influence. This requires an urgent change. Since the last two centuries, representative democratic systems have not witnessed any alternate paradigms, though there have been some small-scale NGO-driven alternatives. Further, there is not much empirical evidence to suggest whether these could be scaled.

Highlighting the solidarity movement, Dr Sahoo mentioned that in the prevailing times, there appears to be a strong pushback against community-driven initiatives. NGOs and civil societies that had flourished in the previous three decades, are faced with a major backlash, mostly directed by the states and a powerful capitalistic system.

Dr Ambika Vishwanath, co-founder and director of Kubernein Initiative and a non-resident fellow at Agora Strategy Institute of Germany, focused on the concept of cohesive development on aspects of water security and also on the finance and delivery systems. In the process of looking at both these aspects, there has been a linear way of thinking. For instance, in terms of water, the circular thinking about its use and implications on the environment are now coming into the foray. Similarly, the finance and delivery systems are being observed from a much larger perspective, that is, incorporation of all the actors- the source to the end-user and back.

These have enormous relevance when we brainstorm on the ways to achieve water security or environment security either in any setting- local or national or global. Dr Vishwanath reiterated on the need to create a change in the role of the state itself by considering it in the list of top security challenges and not relegate it to the sphere of non-traditional security challenges. For this, it is important for the government and governance structures, non-governmental actors, the private sectors, the innovators, the thinkers and other stakeholders to come together to make this movement from linear thinking to non-linear thinking.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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