Strategies against the Threat to Rural Poor

- A.Maria Alphonsal and J. Delphine Prema Dhanaseeli
Department of History, Jayaraj Annapackiam College,
Periyakulam - 625 601, Tamil Nadu, India.
Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 13 (2003), 181-3.


Introduction

The new economic policy of India includes the three elements - Globalization, Liberalization and Privatization. Globalization integrates Indian economy with the global economy through the reduction in import duties and export restrictions, promotion of foreign investments and permission for free flow of foreign technology and skills (Buggi et al., 2001). Globalization is itself global and all encompassing. It acts through structural adjustment process and aims at growth oriented, revolutionary and enormously promising development. When Globalization encourages multinational corporations, all the corporates including public, private and service sector have no other way but to restructure their firms. As competition from global companies is increasing, in India several entrepreneurs have chosen to sell out to such companies or join forces with them. Though globalization is a powerful vehicle for economic growth, it poses threat to economic and social stability, challenges national sovereignty and tradition.

Globalization brought both opportunities for growth and challenges for overcoming the weaknesses on all fronts of the national economy. Post globalization reveals that tourism is coming up as the growing industry (Sah, 2003). With the advancement of science and technology and the improvement of markets, the earth has turned into a global village (Sharma, 2003). Even after fifty years of independence, India still keeps the dichotomy that has created two distinct geographical, social and economic areas of the country - rural and urban, which are characterized by their individual identities (Subramaniya, 2003). The resource optimists have started convincing the people that the laizsez faire market economy, property rights, technological progress and globalization will solve the problems.

 

Globalization impact

Globalization brings about profound changes in the life styles and working habits of people in their own native countries. As national economies are inter-linked, a crisis in one country may rapidly spill over into other countries which is disruptive. It also results in the emergence of global mass culture due to the increase in consumerism. It may make increasing similarity in life styles around the world evading local cultural heritage. Globalization also calls for a paradigm shift in higher education, from the classical mode of education to need-oriented education. It has an impact on our social and political fabric. It results in new markets, increased investments and opportunities and benefits for the population at large. But it increases competition and loss of some jobs. In the agriculture sector, it results in the abandonment of channelizing the trade to determine the value or the nature of imports and exports, dismantling of most of the quantitative restrictions on agriculture and reduction in tariffs (Buggi et al., 2001).

According to the National Accounts Statistics (NAS), real per capita consumption has been growing at about 3.2 percent a year since the economic reforms while the National Sample Survey (NSS) data have shown little or no growth throughout the 1990s (Deaton, 2003).

 

Impact on Agriculture

The emerging trends towards urbanization in a more spatially dispersed pattern in the Indian context is not good. This involved reduction of labour force in agriculture and contributes less to national income and a corresponding increase in the non-farm employment in rural and urban areas (Subramaniya, 2003).           The five basic problems of global concern are rapid growth of population, abuse of natural resources, reduction of agriculture production, increased industrial production and heavy pollution.

Globalization resulted in the neglect of agriculture that adversely affected the vulnerable classes of rural society in their employment conditions, income and consumption pattern, their education and health status. The small and marginal farmers are affected as there is a reduction in the fertilizer and chemical subsidies and in the budget for poverty alleviation programmes as well as shift of area under food production to export oriented commercial crops (Buggi et al., 2001). The disintegration of rural economy brought about by globalization lead to the disintegration of village communities, their society, culture and religious aspects.

The Human Development Index shows wide gap between the developed and developing countries. India stood 135 in the HDI value list of Human Development Report, 1996. According to Swaminathan (2000) "more people are watching T.V, and talking on phone and communicating on line, but it is also true that the world today faces huge backlogs of deprivation and inequality that leave huge disparities within countries and regions". India's growth rate was 5.8 per cent between 1980 and 1990 while it was 6.9 per cent between 1990 and 1999. But there has been an increase in poverty also. Increase in growth rate has no much significance when it can't help the poor people of India (Verma, 2001).

 

Indian villages

74 percent of India's population lives in villages. Their livelihood mainly depends on agriculture and related activities. The village economy had been independent throughout the ages and even the industrial development has not reduced its importance. It played a crucial role in the economic development of India by providing food and raw materials, employment to 2/3 of work force, capital for development and surplus for national development (Buggi et al., 2001). The Indian agrarian structure is dominated by 90 per cent of small and marginal farmers. The extent of landholding is associated with caste and social status. The small and marginal farmers and agricultural labourers constitute the vast majority of rural society.

 

Rural poor

In the villages, farmers are not much aware of global economic system. Most of the food crops are converted into cash crops. Sugar cane farmers are getting advance loan from banks and MNCs. They used to supply hybrid seedlings, fertilizers and highly advanced equipments. This equipment utility reduced the human labour force. Hence the rural people are shifting from place to place for want of labour for their livelihood. Natural manure is replaced by synthetic fertilizers. As there is a shift from food crops to export crops, the prices of food items went on high, and the poor people couldn't buy from their meager income. Similar trend continued for clothing, housing, transportation, health etc. So people were forced to consume less of even basic necessities.

Bhargava and Dave (2003) argue that in a democratic set up it is important that fruits of development are equitably distributed between regions and among the various echelons of the society. Industrial and agricultural transformations occurred during the nineteenth century helped the rich than the poor people (Rathakrishnan, 2003). The industrial development not only widens the gap between the rich and poor but also it promotes urbanization and flow of rural poor to urban areas and diversion of potential cultivable land to urban activities. As a result the food production is slowed down and availability of food per capita also undergoes decline. Earth friendly economic development must be our aim.

Deaton (2003) opines that more than one fourth of the World's poor live in India. India's economic liberalization in the early 1990s resulted in high rates of growth, whether it reduced the numbers of poor or benefit only an increasingly wealthy urban elite is a question. Because of growing inequality, consumption by the poor couldn't rise as fast as average consumption and poverty reduction was only about two-thirds of what it would have been had the distribution and consumption remained unchanged (Deaton, 2003). The gap between rural and urban areas widened because of the vast differences in the levels of literacy, availability of living facilities such as water, drainage, housing, power, lighting, food and transport etc.

 

Tribals

There is an urgent need for improving the social and economic conditions of the tribal community and to solve their problems. India has failed to have a national policy of tribal development, to provide them with basic facilities like clean drinking water, education, employment and access to health facilities. Due to widespread corruption and negligence, there was ineffective implementation of programmes for development of tribal communities. The tribals became oustees due to the construction of large dams. They lost their habitats and livelihood. Tribal women had to walk several kilometers for safe drinking water. Thousands of them die every year due to starvation and epidemics. As the tribals are uneducated and ignorant, land protection was not possible for them. When foreigners are allowed to exploit their traditional knowledge about medicinal plants their livelihoods are in danger.

 

Multinational Corporations

Companies are now making their efforts to operate in the international market. Even a small concern has to accrue new potential avenues abroad as a result of extensive competition in the local market. Developing countries like India began to open the door for foreign investments through global corporations to welcome large inflow of technology, machinery, equipments and technical know-how. Hence the multinational corporations (MNCs) are playing a major role in the changing global business scenario. In a MNC, the holdings management, production and market are extended to several countries, and it owns huge resources between various countries with a view of increasing profitability under centralized ownership and control. The MNCs from USA have the largest share of foreign direct investment in India. The cost of production is cheap in MNCs and they capture foreign market against international competitions and offer competitive advantage internationally. MNCs will accelerate wealth generation globally and such wealth has to be property distributed to the needy developing countries (Mohamed and Nazer, 2003). Due to globalization food items are being exported to India in the form of increased consumption of meat, western fast food and sodas which may result in public health crisis as speculated by certain researchers. The rich biodiversity of India has yielded many healthy foods prepared from locally available organisms. But the marketing by MNCs with large advertisement campaigns lead the people to resort to their products (Mascarenhas, 2003).

 

NGOs role

NGO's have a moral obligation to call upon our political leaders, businessmen, labour leaders to make economic decisions, so that first priority is given to the basic needs of the vast majority of the people for food, employment, housing, education and health care. Through organization, collecting the small farmers, conducting formal and non formal education for the adults to create analytical mind to be aware of the existing economic system, how it affects their life directly or indirectly must be explained. NGO's should come forward to organize a net work system - at District, State, Regional and National level. They respond at a macro level.

 

Strategies

In the era of globalization, the rural societies can adopt certain strategies for safeguarding their existence, livelihood and culture. The strategies include:

Mobilisation of the small farmers for regional campaigns.

Bulding good coalition with different likeminded organizations (NGOs) and trade unions.

Establishing a mechanism, to challenge the MNCs

Having deliberations with bankers and industrialists in order to consult them with NGOs.

Setting goals with specified objectives so that they reach the grass root level of the rural societies.

Planning at grass root level with full people participating in different levels.

Collecting more information on economic policy and disseminate it to every individual for collective responsibility.

Keeping gender balance.

Forming net work among leaders in various levels with solidarity and commitment.

Creating common understanding and purpose among the people in all the sectors of the society.

 

Rural people must be encouraged to stay back in their rural areas and to start their enterprises to get the same degree of satisfaction, an urbanite gets while leading his day to day life. The dichotomy between urban and rural societies must diminish leading to total elimination. Modern industries could be split into various components which require simple industrial skills and then have them manufactured in rural areas by giving them training in addition to their own traditional skills. Planning for rural, urban growth should be such that dichotomy vanishes automatically.

 

References

Bhargava P and Dave A, Inequalities in Rural Development: study of Rajathan, Southern Economist, February 1, 2003, P5.

Buggi C, Reddy S and Gowda G, Impact of Globalization on Agrarian class structure. Its implications of Indian villages. Third Concept, January 2001, P 17-19.

Deaton A. Is World Poverty falling? Southern Economist, January 2003, P. 21.

Mascarenhas M. Unpalatable truth. The Hindu, June 22, 2003 p.1.

Mohammed C and Nazar M, The Role of Multinational corporations, Southern Economist, February 1, 2003. P.24

Rathakrishan, Myth and Reality of Limits to growth, Southern Economics, February 1, 2003, P.10-2.

Sah R.K., Indian Economy in the Post Globalization Mileu. Southern Economist, January 2003, P.5

Sharma S, Markets, stable and society in the new age: Towards Holistic Development and Management, Southern Economist, January 1, 2003. P.9

Subramaniya S, Doing without rural urban Divide: issues analysed, Southern Economist, Feb 1, 2003, P1-3.

Verma J.M.S., Globalisation and Economic Reforms in India, Third concept April 2001, P.22-23.


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