Archive for October, 2007

A Poem on Race !!

When I born, I black

When I grow up, I black

When I go in Sun, I black

When I scared, I black

When I sick, I black

And when I die, I still black

 

And you white fellow

When you born, you pink

When you grow up, you white

When you go in sun, you red

When you cold, you blue

When you scared, you yellow

When you sick, you green

And when you die, you gray

And you calling me colored?

Why ???

@ This poem was nominated by UN as the best poem of 2006, Written by an “African Kid”

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The Nation-State in the Global Age

Ninth D T Lakdawala Memorial Lecturer by Prof. Anthony Giddens on The Nation-State in the Global Age, organized by Institute of Social Sciences on 27 October 2007 at 5.00 p.m., FICCI Auditorium, New Delhi.

Prof. Anthony Giddens has been described as Britain’s best-known social scientist since John Maynard Keynes. He is considered to be one of the most prominent modern contributors in the field of sociology. “He is the most widely-read and cited social theorist of his generation” as Prof. George Mathew, the Director of Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi, mentioned in his inaugural address.

In his hour long scintillating talk at FICCI jam-packed auditorium on “The Nation-State in the Globalization Age” Prof. Anthony Giddens made the audience mesmerized. He began his talk with the question of ‘identity’, which plays a key role in everybody’s interaction in the society, and how it has undergone tremendous changes in the globalised world today.

 

“We live in a puzzling, strange, elliptical world”, which Prof. Giddens mentioned as “Runway World”, poses lots of potential risks to every individuals. “It is one in which the prime dynamic forces have been created by our own energies, but where we are far from being fully in control of the forces which we have unleashed”, said Prof. Giddens.

 

Past two to three decades has seen tremendous changes and the word “Globalisation” gained its currency in the mid 1980s in the academic and other fields. What does ‘globalisation’ actually mean?

 

Instead of answering what ‘globalisation’ actually mean, he preferred to talk first what it does not mean.

1)      It is great mistake to identify ‘globalisation’ with simply with global market. Though there are tremendous integration of global trade and financial services, yet other important developments are ‘communication revolution’. Communication revolution helped the financial and trade services grow globally. We cannot have 24 hours financial transaction, but we can have media for 24 hours. Media perpetuate the events globally. He cited the example of 9/11, which became a global event was possible because of the communication technology.

2)      Globalisation is not just the power of USA or West. Its not just imperialism. Its not just western domination. The rise of India and China in the coming decade is a challenge to the domination of West. He said “globalisation’ is a liberating force in real term indeed.

3)      Globalisation is not a single process. Globalisation is a dialectic process. It pulls you away and also it pushes you down. 

4)      Globalisation is not just ‘big system’ of the world. It enters to our individual life and affects our personal identity. Most people have friends across country. You are an agent of globalisation process. We live in a world where we always search for identity. New identity emergence.

In this scenario, Prof. Anthony Giddens queries what will be the future of the ‘nation-states’? What will be future of ‘big institutions’? What it means to live in the ‘global age’?

He mentioned that the theme ‘nation-state’ has already been taken up by many other thinkers. In his view “it is not the end of nation state”. Nation state has rivals in the world political system i.e. imperial system. ‘Nation’s are global cosmopolitan community today. The nature is changing under he impact of ‘push’ and ‘pull’ impact of the globalisation. New forms are emerging for example, as he mentioned, the Karhmiris ‘locals’ are claiming to be ‘national’.  Local and National are directly a causal effect of globalisation. He said it is important to recognize the aspiration of ‘sub-nationals’ wanting to be ‘nationals’ without state. It is a very interesting to observe how the interaction local with the wider forces causes such an international community.

The impact of globalisation causes divisions in most of the countries, Prof. Giddens observed. How people feel about and how they manage the feeling of globalisation? Some are comfortable with the world unfolding in front of their eyes and some are not. Some are going to their reinvented past. The radical political activist with traditional political ideology tends to oppose any such changes. The rise of hindu national thinking in India and the birth of BJP and the racist politics in the west are the example of this development, he mentioned.

Prof. Giddens also talked about the influence of ‘globalisation’ on cultural diversity within and across the country. The demographic changes in USA, Europe and Australia is tremendous and hence its impact on political and social doctrine. ‘Multiculturalism’ is flourishing in many of these countries, making everyone to live respectfully with their own cultural and social identity. Multiculturalism in Canada has effective policy. It is considered to be very ideal multicultural state.

The experience of migration is changing in 21st century though statistically 19th century had more international migrants. The families are scattered around the world now. The aspiring communities of the Indian are living across the world. What is the response of  ‘globalised Indian’?, Prof. Giddens asked?

Answering this he said, ‘we are all for quest for identity- mixture of ‘cosmopolitan’ with ‘tradition’, ‘national’ with ‘transnational’ forces.

He emphasized that ‘we should make effort to have meaningful dialogue with different ethnic and culture groups interact with them to make a very meaningful existence’, otherwise, we don’t know how to co-op with community in future. Which he termed as the ‘return of the enlightened attitude’.

Prof. Hamid Ansari, the honorable Vice-President of India in his concluding remark on the issue further emphasized development of a wider vision to accommodate and address the competing concerns. 

@ A Report by Sadananda Sahoo 

Poverty and International trade

The raison d’être of capitalism is maximization of profit and exploitation of cheap labour. Past forty years of Indian experience showed that socialism and mixed economy is not the solution to the problem of poverty and underdevelopment of a country. Given the vastness of population and its educational and technological backwardness, what a country needs is not isolation from world economy on the ground that developed countries are exploiting the resources and labour in developing countries but the opening of domestic market to international trade and investment which will help creating jobs and economic growth. If we say that we prefer isolation, backwardness and poverty because the multinational companies are exploiters, then there is no hope for development. What we need is investment, and international finance capital that can improve the infrastructure, increase the growth rate, instill a sense of competitiveness and create employment for the people. It is thus better to give a chance and see. There is a saying that “something is better than nothing”. In every trade exchange, the dominant party keeps its interest on the table and tries to have a larger share. However, it does not mean that the client is the looser. He may not be benefitted as it was expecting, but the benefits he get will bring its economy out of poverty and backwardness. Capitalism is not all about selfish achievement of profit. It also looks into the ways to distribute the benefits of growth among the marginal section. Narayan Murthy has called this ‘compassionate capitalism’. For the distribution of this benefits of growth, we need a state or political apparatus that is responsive and responsible.

India at Sixty

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The Legacy of Gandhi: A 21st Century Perspective

The workshop on “The Legacy of Gandhi: A 21st Century Perspective” was organized by the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS), National University of Singapore at the Orchard Hotel to celebrate Mahatma Gandhi’s 138th birth anniversary on 2 October. It began with an introductory address by the acting director Prof. Tan Tai Young where he argued that India has emerged as a strategic player not only economically but also politically and culturally and is embracing the role of a balancing power in the politics of world affairs today. In such context it is important to examine how the views and thinking of Gandhi has shaped the life and developmental trajectory of post-independence Indian nation.

The first speaker of the afternoon was Prof. Ishtiaq Ahmed [Visiting Senior Fellow, ISAS] who spoke about “Mahatma Gandhi and Hindu-Muslim Relations”. How do we look at the legacy of Gandhi? The British Historian Eric Hobsbawm described the 20th century as the “Century of the Extremes” which marked many bloody wars in the name of nationalism and dominance. Gandhi’s effort of achieving freedom, liberation and rights lied not in using force and violence but in peaceful resistance which brings shame to the oppressor. Many have predicted that the 21st century will be the “Century of Asia” and given the growth and developments, such optimism is justified. India and China have emerged as great engines of economic growth. In such context Gandhian idea of self-sufficient villages and national economies may not sound significant but Gandhi’s legacy is a saving grace for our troubled times. Instead of relying on the politics of confrontation, Gandhi defined civilization in the language of peace. He cherished a peaceful and just social order. Even the architect of Kargil war and Pakistan President General Pevez Mussaraf, during his visit to Gandhi Samadhi in Delhi wrote that “your (Gandhi’s) ideas are needed today more than ever before”.

According to Rajiv Sikri, [Former Secretary (east) – Ministry of External Affairs], though many have believed that Nehru has shaped India’s foreign policy, its roots lie in the freedom movement which is influenced by Gandhi. Indian foreign policy, in reality, was inspired by Gandhi and directed by Nehru. Some of the ways in which Gandhian ideas inspired Indian foreign policy are – (1) Non-Aligned Movement, (2) Moral and Economic support against Colonialism and Racism, (3) Non-violence and Nuclear Disarmament, and (4) India’s role as International Peace Maker. The renowned biographer of Gandhi, B.R. Nanda has written that Gandhi has fought against three things – (1) Revolution against Racism, (2) Revolution against Colonialism, and (3) Revolution against Violence. He has been successful in the first two revolutions and his ideas and legacies are still fighting against the third one. As a legacy of Gandhi and as an example of the relevance Gandhi’s ideas October 2 is celebrated by the United Nations as the International Day of Non-Violence.

How has Gandhian ideas influenced the economic policies of the Indian nation state? Speaking about the economic views of Gandhi Prof. D.M. Nachane [Visiting Senior Research Fellow, ISAS] argued that there were three historical conditions that shaped Gandhi’s economic thinking at the time – (1) the neglect of agriculture by the British, (2) the neglect of textiles by the British, and (3) the checking of Indian entrepreneurship by the British because it was thought as a challenge to British Industrialization. He also mentioned that there were four intellectual influences on Gandhian economics – (1) pastoral romanticism – Rousseau, (2) belief not in materialism but in the morals of the people – Ruskin, (3) values – true economics do not militate with ethics, and (4) writings of Karl Marx which mentioned about the exploitation of labour. However, Gandhi deviated from Marxist methodology of revolution and violence and advocated for “trusteeship”. Based on the socio-historical and intellectual influences, Gandhian economics got expressed in four basic ways –

  1. Swadeshi – which is the outcome of the decline of handicraft industry and colonial exploitation
  2. Opposition to industrialization influenced by his exclusive emphasis on village community as the ideal form against the western individualism and modernity. He operationalized his model through “charkha” and “khadi” and khadi mentality represented the decentralization of production into the villages.
  3. Opposition to technology – he was not against technology as whole but towards “western” technology because it was labour-displacing and labour-degrading. Instead, he advocated for what he called the “appropriate technology” which became the developmental catchword in the 1980s.
  4. Austerity or limitation of wants – he described the consumerist society as the anti-thesis and urged for the voluntary restriction of wants.

Many in the west have misunderstood Gandhian ideas of austerity and thrift with Protestant Ethics. But it was different. While for Protestant Ethics, thrift is meant for higher capital accumulation; for Gandhi, thrift or frugality was not meant for profit. Gandhi opposed centralized planning and heavy industrialization but never opposed capitalism as such. He opposed multinational accumulation of capital but was not against private ownership of capital. Thus Gandhian ideas were reflected in Nehru’s planning and his concessions for small and cottage industries and labour friendly policies. In real sense Gandhian economics was highly implemented during the times of Indira Gandhi and the Janata government. Banks were nationalized to reduce rural poverty; agriculture was emphasized and import substitution policies were adopted during the period. But, Gandhian economics was widely abandoned since 1986 with economic reforms. Though the reforms have generated outstanding growth rate for Indian economy and produced billionaires like Mukesh and Anil Ambani, Ajim Premji and Laxmi Mittal, the benefits of this economic growth has not percolated down to the poor and marginalized and as a testimony to this 30,000 farmers commit suicide every year.

Prof. Partha Nath Mukherjee [S.K Dey Chair at ISS, New Delhi] argued that Gandhi today is not getting forgotten. His legacies did not end with the end of his life. If we are to describe Gandhi in one sentence, it would be the quote that Einstein made – “generation to come, people would disbelieve that such a man flesh and blood ever walked on earth”. It might be true that his idea of communitarian habitation and Swadeshi will not prevail in globalize era but his principles do influence the world. Some of them are – (1) the power of truth and non-violence, (2) participatory democracy – not representative democracy which was the contributions of the west, (3) appropriate technology – because of western technology’s exploitative and alienating nature, (4) emancipatory power of women, (5) rejection of the institutionalized inequality like caste and race, (6) human being as part of nature, (7) rights should be embedded in obligations, and (8) non-western civilizational perspective on “nation”.

One of the central questions Mukherjee tried to look at is how has Gandhian ideas influenced the democratic decentralization process. To him democratic decentralization in India has moved from independence to interdependence through the panchayati raj system and village republic. There are 700,000 villages in India. According to Gandhi, Panchayats or villages will be the “units of self-government”, but paradoxically we inherited the British institutions of democracy and centralized planning which discarded the “village” and adopted the “individual” as the unit of democracy. There were many dilemmas and ambiguities prevalence during the time about the appropriate nature of policies and Nehru was trapped in one such ambiguity between the western modernity on the one hand and the rich civilizational heritage of India on the other. Instead of making “village” as the agencies of change, in Nehruvian period, “state” became nodal agency of social change, development and fast social transformation with “centralization” as the major strategy. However, there has been major shift in development planning over the years. It has been moving from “government programme with people’s participation” to “people’s programme with government participation”.

Despite this, Indian democracy suffers from certain problems which pose challenges before democratic decentralization in India – (1) elite capture of resources, (2) non-elected resource rich NGOs competing with panchayati raj system, (3) rent seeking behaviour, (4) proxy panchayats where husbands of women representatives control panchayat affairs, (5) rigid bureaucracy, and (6) political clientlism.

Dr. Gyanesh Kudaisya [Acting Head, South Asian Studies Programme, NUS] spoke about the global relevance of Gandhi and his legacy in conflict and conflict resolution. He defined conflict not in the traditional way as it is defined in International relations theory but in the way it was understood by Gandhi. Gandhi understood conflict in four basic ways –

  1. conflict between man and man
  2. conflict between man and woman
  3. conflict between man and machine, and
  4. conflict between man and nature

He quoted Salman Rushdie that “Gandhi today is up for grab” indicating the example of Telecom Italia’s use of Gandhi in their advertisement. To him, Gandhi communicated through his body, through his dressing. He was the greatest communicators in the world. Gandhian politics was dialogical that fought against oppression, hierarchy and technology. Explaining the African American struggle for civil rights, he quoted Martin Luther King that “I found in the non-violence resistance philosophy of Gandhi …the only morally and practically sound method open to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom”. He also quoted Nelson Mandela to explain the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, “we in South Africa brought about our new democracy relatively peacefully in the foundations of Gandhian thinking regardless of whether we were directly influenced by Gandhi or not”. Mandela also mentioned that “man’s goodness is a flame that can be hit but never extinguished”.

He also explained how Gandhian thinking has influenced various environmental and anti-authoritarian movements. Gandhian ideas and views have provided sustainable economic alternatives to centralized development planning. One of Gandhi’s favourite quotes on sustainability is “the world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for anyone’s greed”. Ang San Sun Kyi’s resistance against the Burmese authoritarianism is one of the recent examples of Gandhian method of passive resistance against the oppressive forces. Kyi mentions that the younger generation believes that non-violence will not work in the case of Burma. “Some people think that non-violence is passiveness. It is not so”.

The seminar was followed by a question answer session where many important questions were asked. How was Gandhi perceived in the Muslim world? How great was Gandhi (great man’s theory)? Was he a product of his milieu? And what are the failures of Gandhi? The speakers provided many insights on these questions. Dr. Gyanesh Kudaisya defined Gandhi as a “yugparivartak” – who transformed the time of his age not only in the terrain of politics but also in other spheres of social life. To him, though can not be called as a failure, the difference between Gandhi and Ambedkar on the issue of untouchability was important. While he went on fasting saying untouchables as the part of Hindu society, Ambedkar defined them as separate from Hindu society asked for separate representation like the Muslims. Others also provided many insights on these issues. Gandhi was criticized for his failure to communicate with the Muslims and ambiguity on his religious and secular principles. Some others saw his domestic life as strenuous and troubled, especially with his son. Many also argued that the lack of respect for law and the destruction of public property in post-colonial India have roots in Gandhian idea of civil disobedience movements. Some others also argue that one of the major political blunders Gandhi committed was that he betrayed the nationalist cause by not supporting the case of Bhagat Singh due to his over emphasis on non-violence. Gandhi failed to convert the Congress into a mass organization of the people as its leadership was drawn from the landlords and upper middle class populations.

Would India have achieved independence if Gandhi was not there? If Tilak was not there, how difficult would it have been for Gandhi to enter into national movement against colonialism? The social and historical conditions did produce Gandhi as Mahatma. His experience in South Africa and his training in British law had major influence on him. As Marx had rightly said “men create their own history not independently but in the context of existing history and circumstances”. Gandhi thus was a product of history. Had there been no British colonialism and oppression there would have been no Gandhi.

How would have Gandhi reacted if he was alive to see the large gap between two Indias – the rural and the urban? What would have been his reaction to this divide and exclusionary growth process? How is he relevant today? His “never give-up” attitude influence Indians today. His relevance is reflected through movies like Munna Bhai and others which has “demystified Gandhi” and described him not as a great man or leader but as an ordinary man whom we all can follow. He is present, in a way, in all of us.

Civil or Political Society

Partha Chatterjee is one of the most ardent critiques of the Western political theory. He criticises the Western conceptions of civil society on various grounds and argues that the political mobilizations of the poor and marginalised in India cannot be categorised under civil society movement because of the problems with Western conceptions of rights, freedom and governmentality. To him, what we see in the Post-colonial Indian society could be best referred as “political society”. Some of the Critical points could be – (1) Western conceptions of civil society as a voluntary sphere is not applicable to India because of the involuntary nature of its organisations and associations like caste which determines most of the individual lives, (2) civil society as a sphere of citizens is flawed in Indian case because though the Indian Constitution has guaranteed fundamental rights to all its citizens, many of them are yet to realise and have access to it, (3) the difference between the idea of association and community, (4) the difference between Individualism and commnitarian notions of rights, (5) the absence of the values of Western enlightenment in the Eastern societies, and finally (6) the notions of “governmentality” which often defyes the notions of legitimate citizenship rights in post-colonial societies.

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The Relevance of Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi is considered as the father of Indian Nation who, with the moral force of satyagraha or passive resistance freed India from the shackles of colonialism. The violent and oppressive structure of British rule crumbled before this moral force after 200 years of exploitation. The method Gandhi adopted was not violence or tit-for-tat, but the force which was more stronger than violent means was the moral force of passive resistance to oppression. According to Gandhi violence or torture is not the means to solve any problem in the world because instead of solving the problem it increases violence and creates a revenge mentality in the minds of the enemy. He argued that “torture is ineffective not just because it rarely produces useful information but also because it corrupts the moral character of a society that allows it to be used”. As we have seen, the “global war on terror” or the “struggle against radical Islam” has not brought any solution to the problem of terrorism and violence in World. Non-violent, peaceful negotiation and understanding of the problem, according to Gandhi, could create appropriate space for global terrorism. As we also have seen, the war on global terrorism, instead of targetting the problem has targetted the persons. Terrorism is not a problem created by Muslims but is problem of a complex reality which can only be solved if we learn how to “empathise with the enemy”.

gandhi-and-terrorism.pdf