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Impact of globalization on tribal communities
Fr. John Felix Raj. S.J.


In a global context, Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization (LPG policy) are no longer an option but a fact. Whether one likes it or not, it is bound to influence all spheres of life and activities. Developing countries like India may have to learn to manage the process far more skillfully and efficiently for the development of the country.

In the broad setting of reforms in many countries in the 1980s, India was an apparent anomaly. India was at the crossroads. She was facing a macroeconomic crisis that required immediate attention. The macroeconomic crisis provided the opportunity and the necessity to address meaningfully the inefficiencies in our policy framework that had altered our economic performance and to begin constructively the task of undertaking the necessary microeconomic or structural reforms that had long been overdue. The reform process began in India in 1991.

The reform process has affected the indigenous communities of India, particularly their culture, languages and style of life. The indigenous people are largely the deprived section of India. They continue to become poorer due to the impact of reform measures. The paper studies the process of adverse impacts of reform measures on the indigenous communities of India with some case studies.

For nearly two decades, a “silent revolution” has been sweeping through the world – in developed countries as well as in developing countries. It is the revolution of economic reforms, in other words, a change from an economic system of central planning to a market based economy. Economic reforms have become a universal phenomenon and are viewed as indispensable for rapid and balanced development. It involves both macroeconomic stabilization and structural (microeconomic) reforms. Rangarajan rightly points out that.

While the stabilization policies were intended to correct the lapses and put the house in order in the short term, the structural reform policies were intended to accelerate economic growth over the medium term. Structural reform policies cannot succeed unless a degree of stabilization has been brought about. But stabilization by itself will not be adequate unless structural reforms are undertaken to avoid the recurrence of the problems faced in the recent period. Structural reforms were broadly in the area of industrial licensing and regulation, foreign trade and investment and the financial sector. There is considerable unanimity among economists about the need to reduce and, as far as possible, eliminate barriers to the entry and expansion of firms. The policy of licensing as has been practiced in the past has had no particular merit and, in fact, the Approach document of the Eighth Plan published in May 1990 had said: “A return to the regime of direct, indiscriminate and detailed control in industry is clearly out of question. Past experience has shown that such a control system is not effective in achieving the desired objective. Also the system is widely abused and lead to corruption, delays and inefficiency”. [1]

Economic reforms, as promoted by IMF and World Bank, are expressed in two concepts: Stabilization and Structural adjustments. Related to that is a rule-based operation of free trade and trade related services, globally promoted and administered by WTO through a series of multi-lateral agreements, known through such acronyms as TRIPs (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights), TRIMs (Trade Related Investment Measures), GATs (General Agreement on Trade in services) etc.

Two IMF economists [2] have defined stabilization measures as “a package of policies designed to eliminate disequilibrium between aggregate demand and supply in the economy, which typically manifests itself in balance of payment deficits and rising prices”. Actually, this implies restoring two types of balance viz. external balance of payments and budgetary equilibrium, both of which are assumed to be complementary. These balancing acts are needed to contain prices. While stabilization measures are short-term package, administered by the IMF, structural adjustment packages are long-term measures towards deregulation, liberalization and privatization largely supervised by the World Bank. The economic logic underlying these measures rests on the assumption (not yet fully tested or proved) that market–mediated growth will ensure efficient allocation of resources. Economic reforms seek to usher in Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization, what is commonly known as LPG policies.

Liberalization denotes deregulation and de-licensing of industry, relaxation of industry entry barriers and removal of restrictions on capacity expansion. “Economic Reform is sometimes equated with liberalization, but it is better described as encouragement of free and fair competition in all economic spheres as a spur to efficiency and growth. The negative aspects of liberalization are decontrol, deregulation and reduction in governmental intervention and involvement. These “liberalization” initiatives are important, but they are only a part of the agenda for increasing free and fair competition. They have to be supplemented by positive efforts to create institutions that make competitive markets function and to make sure that all sections of society have access to the market economy and the opportunities it creates”. [3] The main aim of liberalization is to dismantle the excessive regulatory framework, which acts as a shackle on freedom of enterprise.

Privatization in a narrow sense indicates transfer of ownership of a public sector undertaking to private sector, either wholly or partially. But in a broad sense, it implies the opening up of the private sector to areas, which were hitherto reserved for the public sector. Such deliberate encouragement of investment to the private sector in the economy, while emphasizing to a lesser degree the expansion or growth of the public sector will, over a period of time, increase the overall share of the private sector in the economy. The purpose is to limit the areas of the public sector and to extend the areas of private sector operation, including heavy industries and infrastructure.

“Privatization is” as Barbara Lee and John Nellis define it, “the process involving the private sector in the ownership or operation of a state-owned undertaking. Thus, the term refers to private purchase of all or part of a company. It covers ‘contracting out’ and the privatization of management – through management contracts, leases, or franchise arrangements.” [4] The basic purpose of privatization is to infuse the spirit of efficiency into public enterprises.

Globalization is a “process of trans-nationalization of production and capital, and standardization of consumer tastes and their legitimization with the help of international institutions like World Bank, IMF and WTO. Obviously the process is a move towards a borderless regime of free trade and transactions based on competition”. [5] It intends to integrate the Indian economy with the world economy. Globalisation is considered to be an important element in the reforms package. It “involves the increasing interaction of national economic systems – more integrated financial markets, economies and trade, higher factor mobility, and spectacular change in information technology leading to the spread of knowledge throughout the world.” [6]

Globalisation means different things to different people. In business world, it refers mainly to specific strategies in companies designed to overcome the constraints of national boundaries through the mechanism of globalized production and marketing networks. In the field of economics it is considered synonymous to economic inter-dependence between countries covering increased trade, technology, labour and international capital flows. In the political debate, globalisation refers to the integrative forces drawing national societies into a global community covering the spread of ideas, norms and values. Last but not the least, in the social field, the tidal wave of global culture is sweeping the indigenous cultures all over the world. [7]

Globalisation is defined as free movements of goods, services, capital (FDI), people and information technology across national boundaries. It creates and, in turn, is driven by an integrated global economy, which influences both, economic as well as social relations within and across countries. The opening up of an economy increases competition internally as well as externally, leads to structural changes in the economy, alters consumer preferences, lifestyles and demands of citizens. The process of global economic integration gained momentum only in the 1970s with the development of capital markets. [8] While mainstream economists suggest that globalisation process is a strong force for equalizing per capita income between nations, others say that the developing countries are exposed to threats of further aggravation and marginalization in the process.[9]

The advocates of globalization, especially from the developed countries, limit the definition of globalisation to only three components, viz., unhindered trade flows, capital flows and technology flows. They insist that the developing countries accept their definition of globalisation and conduct the debate on globalisation within the boundaries set by them. But several economists and social thinkers in developing countries believe that this definition is incomplete. If the ultimate aim of the globalisation movement is to integrate the world into one global village, then the fourth component of unrestricted movement of labour cannot be left out. But whether the debate about globalisation is carried out at the World Trade Organization (WTO) or at any other international forum, there is a deliberate effort to black out 'labour flows' as an essential component of globalisation.

Fears of Globalization
Globalization has raised fears all over the world that the market could rend the social fabric of societies. Anti-globalizationists proclaim, "The world is not for sale". Globalization, these days, is not being warmly welcomed particularly in the developing countries. Quotations from centuries past would show that fears about globalization have long been prevalent. Back in the time of the Roman Empire, Pliny the Elder was already complaining about "India, China and Arabia robbing our Empire one hundred million sesterces every year." [10]

As Robert J. Samuelson [11] puts it "…Globalisation is a double-edged sword. It’s a controversial process that assaults national sovereignty, erodes local culture and tradition and threatens economic and social stability." It brings instability and unwelcome change…exposes workers to competition from imports…undermines governments…" [12]. As Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State has said, "globalisation inevitably challenges prevailing social and cultural patterns…A sense of political unease is inevitable-especially in the developing world-a feeling of being at the mercy of forces neither the individual nor the government can influence any longer." [13]

The driving forces in the process of globalisation are incentives and integration. The most visible outcomes in the process are the development of transnational corporations and international banks having principal control over growing world trade in goods and services rather than governments (the world's 37,000 parent transnational corporations and their 200,000 affiliates control 75% of the world trade).

Views about globalisation differ widely, influenced by the particular vantage point of an individual or a country. In South Asia, for example, during the period of globalisation the absolute number of people in poverty has increased, despite the fact that India, the largest country in the region has been experiencing a growth rate of over 6.5 per cent during this period of increased integration with the global economy. Although the other indices of human development in South Asia have improved during the last three decades, they are still among the worst in the world. [14]. According to Paul Streeten, [15] globalisation has its gainers and losers. Gainers are rich countries, rich people, people with skills, large firms etc. Losers are poor countries, poor people, workers, people with low skills, small firms etc.

Globalization in India
In the broad setting of reforms in many countries in the 1980s, India was an apparent anomaly. India was at the crossroads. She was facing a macroeconomic crisis that required immediate attention. The crisis had been simmering since the mid 1980s in spite of occasional minor reform measures, attempted by the governments led by Prime Ministers, V.P. Singh and Chandrasekar respectively. The macroeconomic crisis provided the opportunity and the necessity to address meaningfully the inefficiencies in our policy framework that had altered our economic performance and to begin constructively the task of undertaking the necessary microeconomic or structural reforms that had long been overdue.

The reform process began in India in 1991. The, then new Government of P.V. Narashima Rao moved swiftly and announced a programme of macroeconomic stabilization and structural adjustments, which initiated a series of reform measures in India. The proposed policy frame was radically different in approach and content from the one India had pursued since independence. Reforms initiated by Rao and his Finance Minister, Manmohan Singh are called the Second Wave of reforms. The major areas of reform include:

  1. Fiscal policy reform;

  2. Monetary policy reform;

  3. Pricing policy reform;

  4. External policy reform;

  5. Industrial policy reform;

  6. Foreign investment policy reform;

  7. Trade policy reform; and

  8. Public sector policy reform.

India, characterized by pervasive poverty (300 million below the poverty line) has been implementing several poverty alleviation programmes over the passed decades. These programmes have been in the form of "Garibi Hatao" (eradicate poverty), self-employment creation (SEC), Food for Work (FFW), asset building programmes and wage employment creation (WEC) programmes. These programmes were mainly targeted towards the poor or very poor families on the basis of income threshold. However, a feature of most programmes is that they are financed by the state and, as such, periodic funding inadequacies often lead to either abandonment or reduced effectiveness of the schemes. However, with the onset of globalisation the resource allocations to these programmes in real terms are badly hit. [16]

There is now substantial evidence that India's success at reducing the incidence of poverty during the 1970s and 1980s was halted, if not reversed, during the globalisation era of 1990s. Estimates made at the World Bank show that the incidence of poverty, which between 1972-73 and 1989-90 fell from 55.5 per cent to 34.3 per cent in rural India and from 54.3 to 34.1 per cent nationally, has in subsequent National Sample Survey (NSS) rounds, up to 1997 (when the incidence was 34.2 per cent national and 35.8 per cent rural) never gone below the 1989-90 level and has in fact risen to much higher levels in individual years. Other estimates (e.g., Gupta 1999) suggest an even greater increase in rural poverty during 1990s. All the estimates indicate that the gap between rural and urban areas, which had decreased during the 1980s and the 1970s, increased considerably during the 1990s. [17]

In addition to the decline in the purchasing power of the incomes of the rural poor, the rate of growth of per capita rural income in real terms has sharply decelerated. This fall in rural income is, however, not just because the share of agricultural income in national income has fallen. The share in non-agricultural incomes in total rural incomes, which rose sharply between 1977-78 and 1990-91, has stagnated since then. The reason behind all this is the inefficiency and corrupts practices inherent in the governance system of the Indian Government, which does not enhance productivity, competitiveness and development.

Given that India accounts for about a third of the world's absolute poor, the nature of her integration with the international economy has critical implications for liberalization and globalisation reducing world poverty. India can be described as a relatively large, closed or protected economy, in the throes of industrialization, with trade and foreign investment plating a limited role, low per capita income, and a significant agrarian sector, marked by sharp inequality.

The issue of poverty and inequality is far more important for India both because of the alarming and overwhelming proportion of the population living below the poverty line (however measured) and also because inequality halting growth usually leads to the self-perpetuation of a low-level equilibrium. In regard to the distributive effect in particular, economists are worried over a noticeable empirical phenomenon that suggests a considerable decline in the income of unskilled labour and/or a decline in their employment relative to the more skilled segment of the work force. [18]

Globalisation takes society from a national to an international perspective, which is typified as being consumer driven. 21st century consumers have informed value politics and a global culture. Their choices reflect the lifestyle consumerism and materialistic trend in society, where self-esteem is centered on one's consumption. "You are what you wear and eat". Globalisation is not really global. As Streeten points out, it increases the gap between different strata of people and countries. Globalisation is good for rich countries like USA, Japan and Europe. It is bad for developing countries like India. Globalisation is good for rich people with assets and skills. But it is bad for the poor people like Tribals and Dalits.

Tribals in India
The tribal population of India (67.6 million) around 7 percent of the total population is larger than that of any other country in the world. The rural and urban male population is 3,17,55,930 and 26,07,341 respectively. The rural female population is 3,09,95,096 while the urban female population is 24,00,013. The tribal population of India is more than the total population of France and Britain and four times that of Australia. If all the tribals of India had lived in one state, it would have been the fifth most populous state after Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Maharashtra. Madhya Pradesh is not only the largest state in India but also has the largest tribal population of the country.

The word 'tribe' is generally used for a "socially cohesive unit, associated with a territory, the members of which regard them as politically autonomous" (Mitchell, 1979: 232). Often a tribe possesses a distinct dialect and distinct cultural traits. The term 'primitive tribes' was often used by western anthropologist to denote "a primary aggregate of peoples living in a primitive or barbarous condition under a headman or chief" (Encyclopedia of Social Sciences, Vol. 15). Various anthropologists define tribe as a people at earlier stage of evolution of society. [19]

The forest occupies a central position in tribal culture and economy. The tribal way of life is very much dictated by the forest right from birth to death. It is ironical that the poorest people of India are living in the areas of richest natural resources. Historically, tribals have been pushed to corners owing to economic interests of various dominant groups. In contemporary India, the need for land for development is still forcing them, albeit this time to integrate with mainstream.

In spite of the protection given to the tribal population by the Constitution of India (1950), tribals still remain the most backward ethnic group in India. They rate very low on the three most important indicators of development: health, education and income. The tribals are most backward not only compared with the general population, but also compared to the Scheduled Caste (Dalits), the other backward social group with constitutional protection. While examining the effects of planned developmental intervention on the tribals from 1961 to 1981, it was observed that twenty years of intervention has not made any significant impact in improving the conditions of the tribals.

The basic features of our Constitution indicate direction of change or modernization, if one wants to say so, of our society. Ours is supposed to be a casteless, secular, democratic and socialist polity and society. We have shaped our policies and programmes to realize this type of change. [20] Our Constitution considers every citizen as equal. Legal and administrative framework, institutional network and policies of development in general are also considered suitable for tribals. The tribals are a part of the Indian society and general problems of consciously changing or modernizing Indian society are also applicable to them. But the tribals form a special case in this wider framework and the problem is the nature and type of this special category.

Tribal development policies and programmes in India assumed that all the tribals will develop and will integrate themselves with the so-called mainstream. This has happened only in a symbolic way. As a result of the planned tribal development, stratification on secular lines has taken place among tribals and only a small section has been able to take advantage of the development programmes. The reason being that the development programmes were not implemented due to inefficient and corrupt bureaucracy. [21]

Impact of Globalization on Tribals
Displacement of Tribals: It is estimated that owing to construction of over 1500 major irrigation development projects since independence, over 16 million people were displaced from their villages, of which about 40 per cent belong to tribal population. The government and the planners are aware of

  1. the eroding resource base and socio-cultural heritage of tribal population through a combination of development interventions, commercial interest, and lack of effective legal protection to tribal and

  2. the disruption of life and environment of tribal population owing to unimaginative, insensitive package of relief (Planning Commission, 1990). Still the development process continued unmindful of displacement. [22]

A common feature shared by most of the tribal people is their remoteness and marginal quality of territorial resources. In the past, exploitation of such poor regions was found both difficult and uneconomic. But, the recent rapid technological advancement and unrivalled economic and political strength of world capitalism, and the rising power of neo-colonialism through the G-8 directly and the IMF, WB, IBRD, etc., as agencies, have created favourable conditions for the evasion and extraction of natural resources from the ecologically fragile territories of tribal people. Thus, forced evictions of tribals to make way for mammoth capital-intensive development projects have become a distressing routine and ever-increasing phenomenon. [23]

There is a heavy concentration of industrial and mining activities in the central belt. All the massive steel plants, BALCO, NALCO, heavy engineering concerns etc. are based here. Most river basin development schemes and hydropower projects, a chain of forest-based and ancillary industries and an increasing number of highly polluting industries are located in this region. Despite intense industrial activity in the central Indian tribal belt, the tribal employment in modern enterprises is negligible. Apart from the provisions of Apprenticeship Act, there is no stipulation for private or joint sector enterprises to recruit certain percentage of dispossessed tribal workforce. The tribals are forced to live in juxtaposition with alien capitalist relations and cultures, with traumatic results. They are forced onto the ever-expanding low paid, insecure, transient and destitute labour market. About 40 per cent of the tribals of central India supplement their income by participating in this distorted and over exploitative capitalist sector. Many more are slowly crushed into oblivion in their homeland or in urban slums. This is nothing short of ethnocide. Their economic and cultural survival is at stake. [24]

India happens to be the second most dammed country in the world. It has invested over Rs. 300 billion on dams and hydropower projects by 2000. The World Bank has directly funded as many as 87 large-scale dam projects in India as against only 58 for the whole of the African continent and 59 for Latin America. Between 1981 and 1990, the World Bank provided $7 billion for such projects in India, i.e., one-fifth of its total funding for 85 countries world over. Almost all major dam projects in India are intrinsically linked to world capitalism and its obsequious national stooges. Nearly 60 per cent of these large dams are located in central and western India where about 80 per cent of the tribals live. [25]
There is no reliable and complete information on the number of tribals displaced in the country since independence. The estimates range between 5 and 7 million - mostly by the dams, followed by mines and industries - or approximately one in every ten tribals has been displaced by different developments projects. It is not only the magnitude of involuntary tribal displacement that should attract the special concern but also the sacrifice of collective identity, historical and cultural heritage, and of course the survival support. Poverty, malnutrition, mortality, morbidity, illiteracy, unemployment, debt bondage, and serfdom among the tribals are markedly higher. [26]

Privatization of PSUs
One of the ways of globalisation in India is disinvestment or privatization. Many Public Sector Enterprises are being sold off to private sectors with the objective of raising revenues to meet the fiscal deficits and to improve efficiency. Profit making enterprises like BALCO, which are in the tribal belt, have been privatized. PSEs in the tribal belt were beneficial to tribal people giving them employment and livelihood. Privatization of these enterprises has adversely affected the tribal people and disturbed the regional balance in terms of industrialization.

Tribal population largely dominates the newly formed state of Chattisgarh. The land on which Balco stands is the tribal land that was bought or leased to the company, which was a public sector undertaking and for public purposes. The land was acquired at low prices as low as Rs.20 per acre. The argument is that the moment Balco is disinvested the ownership becomes private. Transfer of tribal land would be illegal as per the Land Act of Madhya Pradesh. The argument is further strengthened with the existence of precedence in the form of Supreme Court judgment in the Samatha Vs State of Andhra Pradesh case in 1996 that barred private business to be set up in tribal areas.

The Chhattisgarh government had filed a petition in the high court on the basis of the Samata (a NGO) judgement of the Supreme Court, opposing the Balco disinvestment deal. The state government had stated that as the land on which the company's Korba plant stands is ‘tribal land', the Centre could not transfer it to a private company. The labour unions had gone on strike over the issue. The case was-then transferred to the Supreme Court.

The Hon'ble Supreme Court, while validating BALCO - disinvestment and dismissing the petitions, remarked, "Thus, apart from the fact that the policy of disinvestment cannot be questioned as such, the facts herein show that fair, just and equitable procedure had been followed in carrying this disinvestment.” This judgment seems to have facilitated the path for other disinvestments in tribal areas.

In its 1997 Samata judgment [27], the apex court had prohibited the transfer of land and mining leases in scheduled areas of Andhra Pradesh (AP) to any non-tribal individual or entity. In case of Balco, the Bodi-Daldali mines in the Kawardha district and the plant in Korba fall under the scheduled areas of the erstwhile Madhya Pradesh (MP).

Following the judgment, the ministry of tribal affairs sent letters to the state governments asking them to implement the judgment. However, most of the states including Madhya Pradesh or Chhattisgarh having notified scheduled areas had not implemented the order.

Legal experts clarified that the apex court’s judgment was based on specific amendments introduced by the Andhra government in the Mines and Minerals Development and Regulation Act, 1957 (MMDRA). The state government had made a local amendment by inserting a section 11(5) to the Mines Act, which provides that no prospecting license or mining lease shall be granted in the scheduled area of Andhra Pradesh to any person who is not a member of scheduled tribes.

In addition, the state government had notified the Andhra Pradesh Scheduled Area Transfer Regulation, 1959, which put restrictions on the transfer of lands in the scheduled areas to non-tribals. In the Samata judgment, the apex court had interpreted the local amendment to the MMDRA and the scheduled area regulations and prohibited the transfer of land and of mining leases in scheduled areas of AP to any non-tribal individual or entity.

However, in case of BALCO, while certain areas fall under the scheduled areas list, neither MP nor Chhattisgarh have made any local amendments to the MMDRA prohibiting the grant of mining leases in scheduled areas to non-tribals. Also, in the present transaction, according to Central Government, the Aluminum Company is not transferring it’s rights or mining leases to a third party. After divestment, the company, as an entity remains the same. It is not more 'non-tribal' than before.

As per the apex Court’s verdict, the land remains tribal as before. Legally there has been no change. But the case has set an unhealthy precedence, which would go against tribal welfare and development.

Case Studies
The founding fathers of the Indian Constitution had, with right insight, taken into serious consideration, the plight of certain deprived and backward sections of the Indian society and brought into the constitutional framework some special legislation in order to protect their interests. In the tribal context, the protective legislations came into force with the objective of safeguarding the tribal people by the State from the onslaught of the non-tribals as; otherwise, they would be mercilessly exploited of their resources, labor and habitat. However, even a cursory examination reveals that these protective legislations have far from succeeded in protecting the interests of the tribals not only from the exploitation of non-tribals but also from the State itself.

Development carnage under the New Economic Policy and its submission to the powers of globalisation have led to a process of conscious and systematic annihilation of the first people - the Adivasis- of this country.... This process of globalisation has invaded India too since the introduction of the New Economic Policy of the Nineties, which is a complete reversal of the welfare and socialistic essence of the Constitution.

We present below some case studies to bring out the impact of globalization on the tribal communities in India.

  1. Narmada People's Struggle

    Living in the mountains and plains of the Narmada river valley, stretching for 1,300 km through Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Maharashtra, the natural resource based communities, also known as adivasis have, since 1985, mounted a tenacious struggle against displacement, state repression, and the destruction of natural resources resulting from the Narmada Valley development projects. The projects comprise 30 large dams, 133 medium size dams, and 3,000 small dams, along with 75,000 km of canal networks to direct the waters of the Narmada River. The year the World Bank has agreed to finance the project. [28]

    The people decided to oppose the displacement and question the project’s claim to ‘public purpose’. The Narmada Bachao Andolan (Movement to Save the Narmada), was formed to fight not only for rights over economy, environment, and livelihood, but also for personhood, for humanity itself. Holding firm to the policy of ‘Amra gaon ma amra raj’ (our rule in our village) the villagers resisted state collusion with globalisation forces.

    Indigenous peoples’ unity has served the villagers well in confronting the all too familiar tactic of allotting multiple families, even multiple villages the same plot of land and setting the poor and dispossessed against one another. The people refuse to be divided or intimidated by the numbers thrown at them. ‘Ham sab ek hain!’ (We are one) they declared.

    The people’s movements raised slogans like ‘vikas chahiye, vinas nahin’ (‘we want development and not destruction). Voices are rising everywhere against the rampage of large dams, mines, polluting industries, sweatshops, airports and expressways, designs for health care delivery – all packaged and publicized as third world aid, while destroying natural resources, traditional knowledge, and vibrant communities.

    The fight against centralization of knowledge and natural resources is a fight against globalisation, in which people’s knowledge – in their own language and with reference to their own experience – is an essential survival tool. In India the battles over patents on neem, turmeric, and basmati rice have drawn attention to the wholesale attack on people’s knowledge. Dams further reveal the extent of the attack. The desperate attempts of the people to attract finance for the Maheshwar dam (also on the Narmada) highlight the mutual dependence of resource-centralizing projects upon multinational finance, which seeks distance from the democratic processes of any single country.

  2. Bhopal Gas Tragedy

    Hundreds of thousands of survivors of Union Carbide corporate crime in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh State, still waiting for compensation for illnesses resulting from the gas leakage 15 years ago, and suffering to this day from groundwater contamination due to the leaked toxins. There is no more urgent call for solidarity than the recent decision of the New York Federal Court to dismiss their class action lawsuit against Union Carbide Corporation.

  3. Orissa State

    Several Adivasi communities or indigenous people are spread over the Eastern Ghats across the southern and eastern region of the Indian sub-continent. The macro economic and political policies of the state with their active promotion of globalisation have driven the adivasi people to the brink of survival. [29] The effects of globalisation have had far reaching consequences in the Eastern Ghats.

    Over 360 families in the Lanjigada block of Orissa's Kalahandi district in eastern India have been forcefully pushed to a cultural extinction. Their homes were bulldozed early 2004 to make way for Sterlite Industries' alumina refinery project. Orissa project is one of Anil Agarwal’s ambitions to become a global player in the mining business, and one of the 20 richest people in Britain. It has raised a whopping one billion pounds on the London Stock Exchange. [30]

    The reason for this pink project lies literally right behind the beautiful Niyamgiri hill range beneath whose thickly forested slopes sits the fortune: bauxite. The people, known as Jarene, are one of Orissa's most distinctive and traditional tribes, and live in about 90 villages. Not only will the project spell doom for these tribes and the ones whose lands fall under the alumina plant area, it would also devastate the local ecology-springs, rivers, and many endangered species. The proposed total lease area is 1073.40 hectares (ha), of which 600.961 ha lie in Kalahandi - 85 percent being reserved forest.

    Though government policy decision prescribes that "all development projects must be accompanied by a sensitive rehabilitation and employment package", these indigenous people continue to suffer as the rehabilitation measures are not adequate. "I miss my old home very much. We have lost our gods, our fields, our trees”, said 22-year-old Basanti from Kinari village.

  4. Andhra Pradesh

    Andhra Pradesh [31] is one state in India which is gaining international repute as the fast track state and the cyber state with its doors wide open to private investment, foreign capital and strives to be the up market technology hub. A state, which was created by the vision of Telugu stalwarts like Tanguturi Prakasam Pantulu, Veeresalingam and others, is now prostrating before the likes of Wolfensons and McKinseys to give it its future vision. And this is the fundamental tragedy of Andhra Pradesh today under the liberalization process.

    It is the first state in Asia to directly invite the World Bank to implement its Structural Adjustment Programme. This transformation is being realized through a frenetic exercise called the A.P Economic Restructuring Programme which not only aims at fiscal reforms through external funding and privatization, it also brings in the social sector under its reform agenda.

    Under the new economic policies of the state, revenues are to be earned from lucrative sectors like sale of liquor. The present government lifted the ban that was imposed on sale and consumption of liquor after strong protests from women across the state, to raise revenue to overcome the state deficits. The state is directly responsible for such negative policies affecting the tribal people.

    When tribal women in PND Palem village of Visakhapatnam district refused to allow the liquor mafia to set up its outlets in the tribal villages, they were brutally 'punished' for daring to defy the local powers and excise authorities. The mafia swooped down on them with the excise and police personnel, their houses were demolished, they were dragged into illegal custody, tortured physically and mentally, forced to drink the urine of the men as a result of which one of the women succumbed to the injuries. The police refused to even register the case filed by the women. Legal suits filed against the excise authorities has led to constant harassment on the women.

    Unmindful of the tragedy that is to confront the tribals, the state government is going ahead with its liberalization policies in these remote tribal areas of Vishakapatnam district by inviting multinationals and Non Resident Indians for taking up tourism, mining, film, agri-based and other industries in the name of tribal development. What happens to the tribal women and their health is of no consequence to the government as women's bodies are considered negotiable commodities inlieu of economic prosperity of a few industries and political powers. This is the gender justice and gender equality situation of Andhra Pradesh under the structural adjustment program in the post liberalized state.

    270 villages and over one-lakh acres of land in Khammam district will be sub-merged if the Polavaram project was constructed. A major danger is in the form of Polavaram lurking in the region, as it will engulf the entire Telangana, he added.

  5. Special Economic Zones: At Any Cost?

    No other economic 'reform' in India has seen such a rapid expansion of militant protests and conflicts as Special Economic Zones (SEZs) [32]. Local inhabitants, particularly in Raigad (Maharashtra), Jhajjhar (Haryana) and Nandigram (West Bengal) cutting across caste, class and party affiliation rose up in revolt, with Nandigram seeing the most militant uprising leading to at least 14 deaths in police firing on 14 March 2007. These come in the wake of growing struggles against land acquisitions for industries met nonchalantly with deadly state terror, as in Kashipur, Lanjigarh and Kalingangar in Orissa, Singur in West Bengal or Bastar in Chattisgarh turning central India into a war torn zone.

    The intensification of the expropriation of livelihood resources of the masses since the 1990s with the launch of the New Economic Policy, followed by LPG policy, facilitated by the troika – the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization – has seen an outburst of conflict between the state and the people.

    SEZ that promises to usher in a new era of rapid growth and employment as never before evoke intense debate. The West Bengal government has put all SEZ's on hold. The Orissa government has dropped the plans for a large multi product SEZ in Kalinga Nagar. Punjab and Haryana are revising rehabilitation policies. Maharashtra government is planning to reduce the size of the planned MahaMumbai SEZ. The Finance Ministry and the Reserve bank of India are unhappy with the SEZ policy on grounds that the policy offers excessive exemptions, which will lead to revenue loss and spur real estate speculation. The Rural Development Ministry objected to the large-scale acquisition of agricultural land threatening spinning off further food insecurity. The IMF and the Asian Development Bank have criticized the tax exemptions being provided making SEZ ‘business-friendly’ rather than ‘market-friendly’, inherently violating market principles and market reform which they ardently promote.

Gains and Losses of Globalization
A number of studies suggest that during the 90s, when policies of liberalization, globalisation and privatization (LGP) were implemented in various degrees, income distribution, has worsened, and as a result is having a dampening impact on long-term economic growth and on the prospects for poverty reduction, necessary to meet the UN Millennium Declaration Goal of halving the number of people living in extreme income poverty. Extreme income poverty has affected some 150 million people in India. Tribals make up about one third of the income poor. An assessment of progress has been less than anticipated. The trade aspects of globalisation also alter the context of many issues and areas affecting tribals, in some cases intensifying problems and in other cases affecting the policy actions required to address the problems. [33]

Globalisation affects tribals differently. Urban and educated tribals may benefit from the increased opportunities for work that come with the influx of foreign companies and investments. These employment avenues are complemented by greater opportunities to receive education and skills training of a higher quality. The new technologies that define this era, in particular the computer and Internet may be accessible to this group of tribals. In general, the liberalization of trade and financial markets also promise benefits for this group, including a greater variety of goods at cheaper prices due to increased competition and much more attractive interest rates to undertake business ventures.

Conversely, poor, uneducated, credit-constrained, informal and agricultural sector tribals will benefit in a much less direct manner. Tribals in general benefit from long-term economic growth brought about by correcting price distortions in factor and product markets. By making markets competitive, higher agricultural growth is expected and this in turn is expected to increase rural income. It is also expected that the expansion of the industrial sector would increase employment in the urban as well as in the rural areas. The proponents of globalisation argue that the process may entail some short-term difficulties in terms of reduced income and consumption; unemployment might also increase. But eventually the reform process would lead to greater gains all around. But we cannot close our eyes to serious undercut in domestic production of goods and services and risks to the health status particularly of the poor, tribals, women and children.

The gains of globalisation have so far accrued to those who already have education and skill advantage, easier market access and possession of assets for use as collateral to access credit. For the tribals, globalisation is associated with rising prices, loss of job security, lack of health care and tribal development programmes. Globalisation may also weaken the Constitutional protections, in terms of education and job reservations, given to tribals.

Conclusion: Globalization with a Human Face
Markets are not very friendly to the poor, to the weak or to the vulnerable, either nationally or internationally. Nor are markets free. They are often the handmaidens of powerful interest groups, and they are greatly influenced by the prevailing distribution of income. In a capitalist economy, all are not in a position to compete in the market. Some like Tribals and Dalits who do not have enough education, health and nutrition to compete will fall outside the market place. That is why much better distribution of income and assets, of credit, of power structures and certainly of knowledge and skills are vital to making markets work more efficiently. Markets cannot become more neutral or competitive unless the playing field is even and playable.

If globalisation were superimposed on a poorly educated and poorly-trained tribal people, particularly in states like Bihar and Jharkhand with poor systems of governance and infrastructure, it would not lead to growth nor reduce poverty. Globalisation may no longer be an option, but a fact. However, it must be implemented with a human face.

The efforts to become competitive often hurt the social sectors first. It is most often these sectors that face budgetary reductions when liberalisation policies are implemented. Conservative monetary and fiscal policies are often undertaken and these too, independent of reductions in the size and scope of social sectors, can indirectly reduce allocations to social services and basic provisions. Such cuts in social spending are likely to hit the tribals the hardest who already have limited access to education and health facilities. [34]

It has been accepted as an undisputed fact that rural and tribal particularly women, have a very intimate and symbiotic relationship with the ecology around them as they are untenably linked to the natural resources. In India, people adversely affected by development have been mainly dalits and tribals and among them women, who suffer even severe forms of discrimination. Repeated displacement, migration and drastic changes in livelihood patterns have socially and culturally denuded the status of the indigenous people, increasing violence and abuse against them.

The tribals are part of the Indian society, at the same time they are different. Special policy and programmes are required to address and redress these differences especially in the context of globalisation. When we plan for tribal development, we have to regard these differences, take a special note of their situations and capabilities and provide them facilities to develop on the line they want to take. Outsiders cannot develop tribals; they can become only facilitators if they want to do so. If they have to unfold from within, they must have participation in any development decision. Their felt needs should be transformed in development programmes. The tribals can participate in their development programmes only if they are considered to be equals [35] and if unique identities are respected.

Rangarajan C., “The New Economic Policy and the Role of the State”, in Uma Kapila (ed.), Indian Economy Since Independence, p. 69.

Khan Mohsin S and Malcolm D Knight, 1981, “Stabilization Programme in Developing Countries: A Formal Framework”, IMF Staff Papers, March.

Government of India, 2001, “Economic Reforms: A medium Term Perspective”, Recommendations of Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, in Raj and Uma Kapila (ed.), A Decade of Economic Reforms, p.355.

Lee Barbara and Nellis John, 1990, “Enterprise Reform and Privatization in Socialist Economies”, World Bank Discussion Paper 104, p.3.

Oommen M A, 2001, “Globalization and Poverty: The Indian Case”, Malayala Manorama Year Book, p.563.

Kapila Uma, Understanding the Problems of Indian Economy, p.482. Also refer Globalization and Inequality: Historical Trends by Kevin H. O’Rourke in Annual World Bank Conference on Development Economics 2001/2002, p. 40.

Mahbub ul Haq Human Development Centre, Human Development in South Asia 2001 (OUP), pp. 10-11

Ibid, pp. 11

Annual World Bank Conference on Development Economics, p. 69

Ibid, p. 70

Samuelson, Robert J. International Herald Tribune, January 2000)

World Bank, WDR 1999

Henry Kissinger, 1999

Human Development in South Asia 2001 (OUP), pp. 15

Streeten Paul, "Globalisation: Threat or Opportunity", Copenhagen Business School Press, 2001.

Ibid, pp.56

Ibid, p.73

Rajat Acharya and Sugata Marji, "Globalisation and Inequality":, EPW, 23 September 2000, p. 3503

Joshi Vidyut (ed.): "Tribal Situation in India", Rawat Publication, 1998, pp.15

Ibid, p.13

Ibid, p. 14

Sah, D.C., "Displacement and Rehabilitation" in "Tribal Situation in India", (ed. Vidyut Joshi)

Pathy, Janganath, "Impact of Development Projects on Tribals" in "Tribal Situation in India",. Vidyut Joshi (ed.)

Ibid, p. 279

Ibid, pp. 279-280

Ibid, p. 280

Manual of Disinvestment in Public Sector, pp2.94: The Samatha judgment had interpreted the Andhra Pradesh Scheduled Areas Land Transfer Regulations, 1959, and held that any transfer of land in the areas notified as per the Fifth Schedule to the Constitituion (Scheduled Areas) in favour of non-tribals on mining lease was void in Andhra Pradesh. The Samatha judgment also gave certain directions to be followed by other States that had areas notified under the Fifth Schedule. In the State of Chattisgarh(or the erstwhile State of Madhraya Pradesh), necessary Regulations have not been made by the State Government under para 5(2) of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution as was done in Andhra. The MP Land Revenue Code, 1959 also does not ban the transfer of land by way of a lease. Besides, land allotted to Balco continues to remain with Balco. As such, disinvestment in Balco is not attracted by Samatha judgment.

Aravinda, L.S., “Globalisation and Narmada People's Struggle”, Economic and Political Weekly, November 11-17, 2000, Mumbai.

Samata, Plot No. 169, Ravi Colony, Tirumalagiri, Secunderabad - 500015, A.P, India,

Rakesh Kalshian, “Sterlite Brings Darkness to India's Indigenous Peoples”, India Resource Center, June 16, 2004, URL:


C.R. Bijoy, Special Economic Zones: At Any Cost?, 22 October, 2007, www.countercurrents.org

Human Development in South Asia 2001 (OUP), p.50

Ibid, p.53

Joshi Vidyut, pp.25

The author is professor of Economics and Vice Principal, St. Xavier’s College (autonomous), Kolkata – 700 016, INDIA. Email: felixrajsj@rediffmail.com.



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