In dealing with the subject of Globalization and Gandhi I would like to first bring out Globalization, it's negative, disruptive, exploitative and marginalized aspect and the thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi as to how it can prove to bring solutions to the problems brought about by Globalization.
Globalization is defined by intellectuals and thinkers as the process of integrating and opening markets across national borders. It is a process of increasing interdependence in the world. This free flow is related to ideas, goods, services, money, values, aims, culture across the national frontiers. It is shaping a new era of interaction among nations, economies and people. As a result it has increased the contacts between people across national boundaries in economy, in technology, in culture and governance; it is also fragmenting production process labour markets, political entities and societies. While globalization has positive, innovative, dynamic aspects it also has negative, disruptive, exploitative and marginalized aspects. The entire process of globalization is highly controversial, raising great concern about national sovereignty, corporate responsibility, equity for the world's poorest people. It is a complex phenomenon and its complexities are likely to increase with the unfolding of the process.
The development of the World Bank, The International Monetary Fund (IMF), multilateral trade institutions such as world trade organization (WTO), regional banks such as European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) indicated the drift from the dominance of the state as the only authority for interpreting the international affairs.
Globalization initiated by the North is now posing new social, political and environment challenges for the South. The south with its already existing diverse problems giving into the reforms and structural adjustment policies have further aggravated them.
With this structural setting in third world countries globalization has further worsened the situation of the vulnerable sections of the society. As decisions are made by narrow state and elite interests poor people are marginalized, their voice their interest remain insignificant Large projects which are taken by the government in collaboration with Multilateral Institutions in the name of the development have displaced a large number of people leading to unemployment and underemployment they are deprived of their source of livelihood. The forces of globalization have ravaged the agricultural community leading to poverty, deprivation, destitution and loss of livelihood. Such destitution has resulted in suicides by farmers in many parts in India.
Since development in most of these countries means industrialization it has quantitatively increased employment opportunities accompanied by low quality conditions of work. This is especially the case in Export Processing Zones (EPZs) and in those labour intensive industries that have relocated to developing countries in search of cheap labour.
Globalization has further worsened the situation of poverty, hunger, unemployment, falling labour standards, exploitation of women, etc in the developing countries which is based on the concept of a single unit for decision making and development significant with economic globalization and economic growth.
Globalization and the rights of the poor:
It is believed that globalization will lead to economic development but it is not economic development per se that is important. What is important is for whom is this development? If development favours narrow state and elite interests in the developing countries at the cost o denying human rights to the vast majority of people then development is grossly misunderstood.
Development should encompass individual right to an adequate standard of living and the individual and group right to development for proper recognition of economic rights. An adequate standard of living means access to basic essentials for sustaining life, including food, shelter, clothing and health care. The right to development even though controversial as a human right means that every human person and all people are entitled to participate in contribute to and enjoy economic, social cultural and political development in which all human rights and fundamental freedom can be fully realized.
Accordingly it can be argued that economic growth will increase protection of economic rights because economic growth brings increased access to health care, food, and shelter by increasing employment opportunities and higher wages or indirectly through the expansion of these facilities to more people. For most developing states, economic growth is often fostered through large scale external investment such as inter – governmental institution including the World Bank and the IMF or transnational corporations. The claim to economic rights can thus be understood in the context of economic growth through globalization which leads to the protection of these rights such as the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to development.
However in actuality things are different in many instances in the developing states when we take the consequences of globalization in to consideration. There are three reasons which hinders the development and economic growth for the majority in these countries. They are the type of investment, the basis for investment decisions, and the type of economic growth.
Type of Investment :
Most of the times “development” in the developing countries take place by investing a large bulk in projects such as building dams, setting up of large international companies and commercial complexes. There is little or no investment in primary health care, safe drinking water and basic education. This type of investment has jeopardized the very lives to certain categories of people and seriously harmed many people in many different ways. The World Bank has recognized the risks involved. With regard to large scale irrigation projects the world bank itself has recognized that :
“Social disruption is inevitable in large scale irrigation projects ….. Local people often find that they have less access to water, land and vegetation resources as a result of the projects. Conflicting demands on water resources and inequalities on distribution can easily occur both in the project are an downstream. Altering the distribution of wealth.”
In India the Narmada dam project funded by world bank has brought up immediate issues with the type of investment which affected the lives of over a million people from 245 villages. These issues bring the rehabilitation of displaced people, their right to livelihood the rate of compensation given to them, proper administration of the rehabilitation program and treatment given by the police authorizes to the tribals who opposing the project. There are large scale violation of human rights on these immediate issues.
Basis for Investment Decision:
Economic decision making process is being taken away from governments and put in the hands of financial “experts”. People and governments in developing states are not effectively involved in decisions affecting their lives. This has impact both on state sovereignty and human rights. People are not able to exercise their right to development because they are not afforded the opportunity to participate in decisions concerning their development.
Decision about investment by these globalized organizations are based almost exclusively on financial concern including generating profits for banks in the developed states and for other transnational corporations. As such, these concerns are external to the state in which the investment is made, and subsequently fail to focus on social welfare within the state.
Economic decisions most of the times have severely affected the vulnerable sections in society. With the imposing o structural adjustment programme by the IMF, which drastically cuts down the social sectors like health, education etc thousands of people lose their jobs as government is the largest employer in most of the developing countries. Those who are the most affected when governments are forced to change their priorities are usually the poor, women and agricultural workers : Many developing countries used to provide free education until the adherence to an IMF structural adjustment programme for e.g. Education of girls in rural China since then has become problematic. Schools have introduced fees, and the opportunity cost of sending a girl, who can now be earning income, to school has increased. The result is that many girls have been compelled to drop out of school, despite the legal requirement of nine years of education. In rural China 80 percent were girls, mostly from rural and remote mountainous areas and from minority groups, and there are still more than twice as many illiterate women as men.
This happens as parents tend to make gender based financial choices. This occurs despite the clear evidence that educating a girl in a developing country is an intelligent investment. Cut in investment in people through education, health care and other social services will have negative repercussions for years.
Type of Economic Growth:
This relates to the impact of damaging forms of economic growth. It is that growth “which does not translate into jobs that which is not matched by the spread of democracy that which snuff out separate cultural identities, that which despoils the environment and growth where most of the benefits are seized by the rich.
Damaging economic growth is where crops are planted for export to gain foreign exchange revenue while the people are deprived of their staple diet. This happens in all developing and poor countries.
This can undermine food security. For example, in the Philippines by a Government decision an increasing amount is land is diverted to producing live stock and horticultural products for exports. Those who are displaced were growing traditional crops such as corn and rice. They are expected now to go into the expanding export production center. This does not necessarily happen with a consequent decline in poverty levels and marginalization of many households. In India agro business companies are acquiring land holdings from small and marginal farmers with bigger firms going for production of items such as coffee, tea, sugar, flowers or shrimp for the export market. The agricultural sector instead of planning to increase domestic production to ensure food security, has shifted to increasing trade in non - food agricultural commodities. This may seriously affect domestic consumption needs.
This kind of damaging economic growth is contrary to the right of self determination which provides that “in no case may people be deprived of its own means of subsistence.”
Gandhi's solution to the problem of Globalization
In Mahatma Gandhi's view all human beings are always responsible to themselves, the entire family of man and to God or truth (sat) for their continual use of all the goods, gifts and talents that fall within their domain. Nature and man are alike sustained and renewed by the Divine. There is effective self-regeneration at all levels- individual, social, national and global. Men and women can fully incarnate their latent divinity by deliberately and joyously putting their abilities and assets to practical use for the sake of all (Sarvodaya). The finest examples of global trusteeship are therefore, those who treat all possessions as though they were sacred or priceless, beyond are pecuniary or earthly scale of valuations.
Mahatma Gandhi's solution to the economic division is termed Sarvodaya (common welfare or equal distribution of wealth in a harmonious society) Gandhi's theory of trusteeship in the logical step to the preamble of the economic reconstruction of the world. He doubts the efficacy of socialism in ushering of a happy society. Evils of an acquisitive society are unredeemable to him. While the rich man would be left in possession of his wealth, he would use only part of it which he requires for his personal needs and will act as a trustee for the rest to be used by the society at large. This is his approach to maintain peace. This was a peaceful method to bring about social revolution, persuasion of the rich to share their wealth with the poor out of their volition.
He would not depend on verbal remark and persuasion, writing in the ‘Harijan' on 25th August, 1940 and said : “If however, in spite of the utmost effort, the rich do no become guardian of the poor in the true sense of the term and the latter are more and more crushed and die of hunger, what is to be done. In trying to find out the solution to this riddle I have considered non-violent, non-cooperation and civil disobedience as the right and infallible means. The rich cannot accumulate wealth without the co-operation of the poor, they would become strong and would learn how to free themselves by means of non-violence from the crushing inequalities which have brought them to the verge of starvation.
He wanted to evolve a new social order based on love and self sacrifice. Every opportunity should be given to an individual to rise to the ideal as proclaimed by our sages in their writings and to the highest of his personality. That is his non possession theory. He believed himself to be a revolutionary but he likes it to be based on non-cooperation. According to him it will not be difficult for the moneyed man, speculators, land holders, factory owners and the like who based their wealth on violence to see that the holding of millions is crime when millions of their kith and kin are striving and therefore must give their wealth. The aim of the non-violent worker would be to convert but he would not wait endlessly. Sri Aurobindo also says “All wealth belongs to God and those who hold it are trustees not possessors.”
The trusteeship theory of Mahatma Gandhi aims at transforming a capitalistic society into a welfare society that gives a chance to capitalism to reform itself for the gain to be enduring and at the same time abiding to all. It recognizes the personal right to property for the sake of social good. It endorses legislation for regulating ownership and use of wealth which means not for self but, for common good. It accepts the need for a minimum wage and a ceiling on overall maximum incomes.
The theory is against unrestricted freedom of competition though it favours the realist property which is fundamental to capitalism under this system the state will not wither away as in Marxism but it will move on to regulate the property rights. It seeks out to achieve the ideal of enriching the community without providing the individuals or without setting them against each other and involving them in a long drawn destructive a loss struggle. The rights and their corresponding duties for a citizen under it are made to run parallel together and balance each other so that there prevails no danger at any time of throwing the society out of gear. The society as machine must run smoothly.
Mahatma Gandhi accepted that many men who had acquired property had some special abilities for increasing production and many men of talent had some contribution to make. To destroy them by force means much less of production and amounts to that of willing the goose that lays the golden eggs.
He told the tenants and workers that their exploitation was possible because of their failure to recognize their own strength and the consequent passive acceptance of their exploitation.
He warned the poor to know that the rich cannot accumulate wealth without the cooperation of the poor in society. Therefore he recommended non-cooperation and Civil disobedience as a means of changing their attitude and become trustees in the public interest instead of continuing as exploiters. The rich should either be converted into trustees or be completely isolated.
One glaring aspect of Globalization is the creation of inequality by Gandhi was too much attached to the concept of equality in politics, society, economics etc. A clear shape and line of action was given by Mahatma Gandhi. Equality is an idea which consists in the belief that things can be alike and alike should receive similar treatment.
Mahatma Gandhi admits that there are natural inequalities in men, he says that there should be economic equality and this type of equality comes from equal distribution. Equal distribution means that each man should have the necessary supply all he naturally wants and no more.
How to bring about equal distribution? He speaks for changes in the personal life of the individual. The individual should reduce his wants to a minimum. His earnings should be free of dishonesty. The desire for speculation should be eliminated. His habitation should be in keeping with the new modes of life. There should be self restraints in any sphere of life.
The principle of equality says that the mental equality can be established by the principle of trusteeship.
He does not speak of equality in general terms. He speaks of equality of status and equality of opportunity. This is one of his greatest contributions. The Mahatma's insistence on the concept of socialism and equality had a profound effect on the Indian constitution which recognizes no distinction based on sex, wealth and religion. The chapter on fundamental rights affirms this and the chapter on Directive principles strengthens it.
The movement started by Gandhi for equality of states and equality of opportunity has produced amazing results and profoundly affected the structure of society. His ideal of equality is not that of absolute equality but of ‘approximate equality'. The spiritualistic humanistic world view provides a personality integration which is a requisite for democracy. The concept of Sarvodaya ensures political equality by practicing grass root democracy, Panchayat raj and Gram Swaraj from the bottom upward. The concept of economic equality is multi-dimensional enough to cover up the entire socio-economic aspects.
Gandhiji belonged to the category of gifted men whose mind and heart have affected the foundations of thought all over the world. To a world torn by conflict and violence Gandhiji gave his message of ahimsa. To a world of materialism came Gandhiji with his message of truth and non-violence. To a world beset with prejudice and racial arrogance in underdeveloped world came Gandhiji to demonstrate the path of love and understanding. Only he had the capacity to change the attitude of exploiters through non-violence and non-cooperation.
Courtesy: This article has been reproduced from the ISBN Publication - Gandhi in the New Millennium - Issues and Challenges' published by Khandwala Publishing House.
* Dr. Tabassum Sheikh is a H.O.D. of Philosopphy, G. M. Momin Women's College, Bhiwani, Mumbai, MS, India.