By Dr Suman Sachar
For the last one decade or so the champions of open market economy have callously been drumming the half truth of pace in the Indian economy. They are feverishly clamouring that we have improved in the world markets. The glittering figure of six per cent economic growth rate is the main base for this. However, the other half truth of improvement in our social life does not find any mention. Who will take the risk of justifying social improvement with the drummed up economic gain when there is no reflection of improvement in social life?
No doubt some economists convincingly put forward the malady of 2.5 per cent increase of our population every year sapping our economic growth whatsoever and thus making it extremely difficult to carry fruits to all sections of society. Nevertheless the real growth pattern?if there is any in concrete terms?needs to be analysed against the increase in rate of employment for the unemployed in the country, the health of our indigenous industry, the condition of our rural economy, the state of our peculiar agriculture, the existence of public sector serving the poorest of the poor, and so on. And while analysing any economic growth in the open market economy, it would be naive to ignore any social changes against our traditions, conventions and cultural ethos. The opened flood-gates for unwise imports have certainly brought in a lot of dust and dirt from the so-called advanced world. We are surely paying a heavy price for earning glittering dollars. Here the words of an esteemed poet, Nirala, are relevant to quote : ^^ge D;k Fks] D;k gks x;s] D;k gksaxs vHkh** The pain of losing our self, our culture, our Bhartiyata is manifest in these verses.
The drummed up growth rate of the economy during the last 14 years of free trade has obviously failed to generate the required employment opportunities in the country. As the rate of employment has remained on the decline, it is fetish to celebrate six per cent growth rate in the economy. Before we opened up to the world for free trade in 1991, the average rate of employment generation was around 2.5 per cent. However, after 1991 this figure slid down to 1.1 per cent which is a negative outcome of open market economy. The employment opportunities in the country shrunk as a result of free trade. In other words it is apparent that multi-national companies came into India to work more with machines than with the available huge manpower in the country. The multi-nationals have only one objective, profit-making. Some of the machine-made profit goes to the government coffers as taxes or levies and most of it goes to their parent countries. As it were, the model of free trade has proved detrimental to the interests of our people. This needs to be immediately checked and corrected.
After opening up under the WTO, our indigenous industry has come under stresses of various sorts. The business arena is such a ring where a weakling faces a Sumo.
As the rate of employment is on the decline, it is fetish to celebrate six per cent growth rate in the economy. Before we opened up to the world for free trade in 1991, the average rate of employment generation in the country was around 2.5 per cent.
Industrial economies like those of America and Japan have taken up exports as priority areas for their industry. Such economies are supplying industrial goods the world over and, at very cheap rates, are destroying self-sufficient economies in the open markets. We have done hardly anything to make our industry competitive and unwisely thrown ourselves open to the cutthroat competition where survival is the first motto. The pictures of stress are clear to the naked eye. Cheap electronic goods, toys, garments, shoes, gift items, etc, have already flooded our markets. The rates have almost wiped us out of the competition and we are struggling in our own markets. As a result thousands of small-scale industries have either closed down or most of them are on the brink of closure. The trend of contrary results is obvious. Lakhs of industrial workers have lost their jobs and their families are dying. Thus there is a two-pronged consequence of free trade: Weakening of our indigenous industry and deprivation of people of their jobs.
Indian rural economy has been a casualty after we opened up and adopted the WTO regime. There are reports of very cheap milk being sent to India from different parts of the world. Our rural folk are finding it extremely difficult to compete in the price war. Lots of people have gone to the extent of killing their cattle under frustration. Our rural economic base is thus collapsing. Cheap vegetables and well-packed so-called high quality fruits are entering our markets with glossy labels of calorie benefits, fats, carbohydrates, which is easily catching the educated eye of our city-bred customers and they are unknowingly falling into the phooran traps.
Our agriculture?the solid base of our rural economy?is under real threat today. Under the shady guidelines of the IMF and World Bank (the actual agents of the countries like the US), the government has weakened the MSP system for agriculture sector. The FCI?a powerful agency between the government and the farmers?has been changing its priorities. The government is fast curtailing subsidies to the farmers on seeds, pesticides, agricultural tools and implements, thus impeding further growth in agriculture against the well-founded routes of the Green Revolution. Moreover, with strangulating ?Patent? laws, our farmers have been compelled to accept international policies on agricultural products. The farmers are being forced not to keep seed for farming under the draconian Patent Laws. They are bound to purchase seeds from the open market at exhorbitant prices fixed by international traders. The seeds, genetically tested for certain defined farming conditions, are failing to produce desired results in our soil. The farmers are being ill-advised to procure prescribed manure from markets for desired results from the failing seeds. Against our century-old traditions and prevailing scarce conditions, the farmers are further guided to heavily water their fields. After all such hackling exercises the products are thrown to the whims of the open market where the prices being paid are much lower as compared to the inputs.
Cheap electronic goods, toys, garments, shoes and gift items have flooded our markets. The rates have almost wiped us out of competition and we are struggling in our own markets.
The farmers are so frustrated that they have chosen to commit suicides. Recent figures released confirm around 4000 suicides all across the land. It was never heard of in our motherland that the feeding hands ever thought of eliminating themselves. It is against our cultural ethos. However, it has happened during the last 14 years. To avoid painful conditions some farmers have resorted to newly-introduced contract farming where the farmers are no better than bonded labourers at the hands of cruel multi-nationals. Some have wisely or unwisely opted out of traditional crops suitable to the conditions of their soil. As a result of this hotch-potch our growth rate in agriculture has come down to 1.1 per cent against peak heights of 3-4 per cent before opening up. And this 1.1 per cent growth is insufficient to feed our increasing population. Thus food crisis will be another fallout of our adopting the WTO regime.
The Government of India is taking guidelines from international funding agencies and the policies being framed and implemented in the public sector are against the wishes and desires of our democratic polity. Consequently all public sector undertakings rendering essential services of water, electricity, road, health, education are under severe surveillance. Rather than thinking of service and welfare of the people in a democracy, the government has started calculating returns and profits from the public sector. Some public sector undertakings have been closed. Most of these are being privatised recklessly, which has obviously resulted in a heavy-cost to the poor in the country. Retrenchment of employees, voluntary retirement schemes, freezing of salaries and dearness allowances, squeezing of grants are all in the pipeline for the serving sector. These measures are certainly going to wipe out social security to employees. The paradox of the situation is: The advanced countries which are dictating economic reforms to poor countries like ours, are spending more than 50 per cent of their annual budgets on social security of their people. And they have been asking us to spend below even seven per cent on social security. It is a dangerous negative trend of thoughtless economic reforms, which may drive the people to revolt against the system. The conspiring international dictators perhaps plan to push us deeper in the mire. And who knows what is waiting for us in the future? History reminds us of the East India Company. And isn'tit well said: History repeats itself? And there is another quote: Only fools forget history.
The farmers are being dissuaded from producing seed for farming under the draconian Patent Laws. They are bound to purchase seeds from the open market at exhorbitant prices fixed by MNCs.
It is now or never. We have to rethink of our plans and policies all in keeping with the ground realities in the country. No doubt we have to march with the world. We cannot ignore what is happening in any part of the globe. Nevertheless anything we adopt has to be accommodated as per the wishes of the people in this country. Bharat has always remained on the pedestal of Vishwaguru. Our rishis and munis always taught us to keep a broad outlook. In such a cultural ethos it is hasty to run after glittering dollars. Let us stop, ponder and timely correct the routes and vistas where we are going directionless. And this can be achieved only with a swadeshi spirit.
[The Writer is Senior Lecturer, GGD SD College, Baijnath (HP)]