Story Of A New India
Ever since the dramatic airlifting of all 67 tonnes of India’s gold from the Reserve Bank of India to the vaults of British and Swiss banks in May 1991 as collateral for a $ 2.2 billion emergency loan, India has never been the same. The New Economic Policy (NEP) which followed a few days later and has been pursued with varying degrees of commitment by subsequent governments, heralded a new chapter in India’s history. In Indians in a Globalising World, acclaimed journalist and historian Dilip Hiro shows that the redistribution of the extra wealth created by the spurt in growth caused by economic liberalisation has been skewed, grossly favouring those who are already well off.
The Introduction of the book opens with the listing of the four dimensions of globalisation: economic, communication, financial and cultural. It then provides a brief economic history of independent India leading up to the severe crisis of mid-1991 and the steps taken to defuse it.
Chapter 1 offers a portrait of Gurgaon, tracking its transformation from a small town to a thriving city. It encapsulates the benefits and deficiencies of the NEP and globalization, illustrating how the living standards of the unskilled and semi-skilled workers have stagnated while the upper middle and upper classes, ensconced in luxurious gated communities, have prospered.
The next chapter dwells on the economic links between the Unit Kingdom and India.
Chapter 3 traces the trajectory of Indian electronic engineers and entrepreneurs working in the US, particularly the Silicon Valley.
In India, though, the vast majority of the people, living in villages, have gained the least from the NEP and globalization. That is the substance of Chapter 4.
The continuing contraction in the average ownership of agriculture land by villagers has accelerated the migration of excessive labourers to urban centres and the subsequent rise in the number and size of city slums. The boom in urban construction is another major factor to attract rural workers. The details are laid out in Chapter 5.
Chapter 6 deals with corruption of high order. It outlines the links between the Congress party and rich businessmen since the pre independence era.
The subsequent chapter covers the Naxalite / Maoist movement. It traces its history since 1967, its decline, and its resurgence which is directly related to the onset of neoliberal policies and the globalization of capital which has blurred the distinction between domestic and overseas MNCs. Among the peculiarities of Indian politics is the tactic of some high profile personality fasting unto death to pressure the government to redress a grievance or implement a reform. Chapter 8 dwells on this and other unique features of Indian democracy.
Chapter 9 is a record of how villagers, forming 70 per cent of the national population, view themselves and politics in general.
The final chapter provides an overview of all the issues handled in this book. The primary purpose of this book is to describe and analyse the impact of the 1991 New Economic Policy (NEP) of the Indian government and globalisation at large on Indians at home and in the United States and Britain. In the process, it illuminates the working of the globalization of capital per se, and how democracy operates in a mega nation of 1.2 billion. The text is a judicious mix of field trips and interviews, case studies, and book and Internet research.
By Nilabh Krishna