Conservative versus global idea: Relevance and practicality

By Phrangsngi Pyrtuh

The world is integrating in “n” number of ways resulting in the convergence of socio-economic processes where a hitherto closed economy is exposed to forces not endemic to the system. We have aptly called this process of intermingling (of forces) which is governed by the laws of demand and supply as Globalization. The world which has so far been divided between the developed rich and the under-developed poor would never be the same again. For instance there has been increasing mobility of people and capital (across regions and countries) as a result of this convergence. Much change has occurred due to globalization which may not have been possible had we remained confined to a cocooned world. Borders are becoming invisible as far as flow of goods and services are concerned as trans-border exchange of men and materials augment inadequate supply and simultaneously generate demand. While the physical and materialistic elements that enable man to survive are getting more integrated the other elements (human) that govern his nature are not. Globalization process provides a vent for pent up hostilities that are part of human nature to be more assertive than ever before. In different parts of the world conflicts and animosities have accelerated even as the socio-economic systems are getting integrated. And they seem to generate from a carnal desire to protect and secure one’s future against an uncertain world which ironically is brought about through the same process of integration.

Globalization is synonymous with liberalization as a short cut for quick unhindered development. This idea is quite pervasive where the intellectual world fumbles to question its dominance. If this line of thinking were true, one is left wondering why so much of conflicts and anti-development opposition is taking place in many parts of the world especially in the third world countries. Contemporary India is beset with cultural and ethnic conflicts amidst the so called economic progress occurring in various spheres. Countless social and advocacy groups have emerged to protect their respective identities and claims over land, culture et al and they are getting more vociferous while taking a steadfast anti-development stance. Underlying such opposition is the need to preserve cultural and ethnic integrity which exacerbates inter-community mistrust and suspicion. In a diverse country such as ours, globalization is yet to enhance the pluralistic nature of the Indian society. Obviously development remains our last priority when we are not sure if our culture and identity would not be traded off for economic gains.

Economic liberalization in India has facilitated flexibility and mobility of the factors of production such as capital (investment) and labour. Cultural perspective to migration varies. The flow of capital and labour especially to under-developed and emerging markets such as the North East where social attitudes are still embedded in parochialism and orthodoxy is bound to generate suspicions and the occasional sectarian violence of which the North East abounds with examples. Cultural barriers and skepticism is a formidable and insurmountable force which mitigates the process of cultural plurality. Economic prosperity sans cultural homogeneity is a shallow proposition and globalization in a diverse country like India is not equipped to bridge the two. Globalization in India is pursued more for economic gains deviated from any cultural imperatives. The latter is assumed to naturally flow or filter down from the former.

For some communities this inter-regional flow (or migration) is not new as for instance the Biharis or the Marwaris. Migration of labour is inherently natural for most communities in India driven by the need to get work and save for a better future. On the contrary communities such as the hill people are not accustomed to migrate for work as they are self-sufficient in many respects though that is hardly the case now. Development programmes in the North East (as in any tribal region of this country) has forced people dependent on land to move out and worst to migrate for work. It is argued that migration of labour is a spill-over from economic boom and better opportunities in the cities etc. But there remains the undeniable truth that development has forced people to part with their land and livelihood. The number of landless have increased exponentially in the new globalized world.

Migration is never easy and definitely not without its tale of woes. Migrants have to face the brunt of leaving their homes and face discrimination of all kinds. The moving migrant population presents a problem that is antithetic since one cannot stop migration in a world which is economically integrated. Our discourse on ways to address such problems have not adapted to meet the new challenges which is why inter-community confrontation is occurring more frequently now than ever before. Cultural sensitization is pushed to the fringes and is marginalized as insignificant. There is mistrust and misconception which is perilous when the issue of identity is spun into the mix. The recent violence on outside laborers in Garo hills is a pertinent case of such unholy blend. The resources of the state remain untapped, privatizing the economy would allow their sustainable exploitation (theoretically). Mining and construction activities require labor inflow which is almost usually accompanied with privatization and the state abounds with such activities. It has acute shortage of low skilled labourers hence the huge presence of migrants in the state. Violence inflicted on these migrant laborers is unfortunate when the law of the land exists to settle things justly. Surprisingly this incident (like many on these hapless victims) have not evoked the same sharp response from the city folks as compared to the violence on few tourists during the KSU uprising day.

Clearly the discourse to look at the larger picture of integration is missing and our organizations are reluctant to accept the fact that a globalized world entails intensive economic exchange of labour and capital. We cannot have one and shut the other. To do so is to kill the goose with the golden egg. Some of the sticking points that are being repeatedly raised to protect the community are suicidal in the context of a globalized world. If we seek to integrate then we must learn to think beyond the ILP, railway issues etc which are policies mandated for a reclusive and isolated society. Otherwise we ought to close our borders altogether and remain a hermit state. There is much to gain with an equally irreparable loss is we refuse to allow the emergence of new perspectives. Quixoticism is passé, let us be practical for once.

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