The globalisation debate has been raging ever since it formally began in the mid-20th century with the opening of institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In a technical sense, India opened up to globalisation much later, in 1991, when it was felt important to liberalise market norms and allow privatisation to encourage the growth of its long-stagnant economy.
Historically, however, India has long preached the ideals of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family) and Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah (may all be prosperous and happy), thus, carving out the Indian model of globalisation.
Last year, India marked the silver jubilee of this venture which can be explained by concepts like Marshall McLuhan’s “Global Village” and Kenichi Ohmae’s “The Borderless World“. It can also be expressed in terms of time-space compression, elaborated upon by theorists like Anthony Giddens.
When thinking about the impact of globalisation, it becomes important to mark at the outset that it has affected different countries differently. The impact of globalisation has divided scholars across the world into its defenders and critics.
While Marxists criticise it for expanding capitalism on a global scale, Islamic and Asian societies sometimes interpret globalisation as an attempt to impose Western values.
Noam Chomsky attributes the loss of many lives to capitalist wars, fought to force other countries to open their markets for the bourgeoisie in capitalist countries.
Scholars like Immanuel Wallerstein blame globalisation for the poverty in Africa or wars in the Balkans. He sees globalisation as a ramification of capitalists’ quest for markets and acumen of capital.
Globalisation, however, must not be confused with capitalism. According to Jagdish Bhagwati, globalisation has brought an unprecedented level of growth in poor countries. The percentage of people living in developing countries on $1 per day has halved in the past 20 years and life expectancy has almost doubled in the developing world. Child mortality has declined in every developing region and literacy levels have risen.
India has largely benefitted from the impact of globalisation. When India opened up to globalisation, growth accelerated to almost 7% on an average, compared to 4% in the first 35 years after independence.
There has been a remarkable reduction in poverty, especially in the last 15 years, though it’s still too high. Entrepreneurship has surged with many new entrants in the corporate sector. The current account has been opened fully while the capital account in India’s trade is substantially open to FDI and portfolio flows in a calibrated manner.
Globalisation has brought with it new technology with quality products that have made jobs more productive. Thanks to globalisation, medical tourism has become a growing sector in India estimated to be worth more than $3 billion. This garnered attention recently when an Egyptian woman shed more than a 100 kilograms of weight in Mumbai.
Most of all, there is a tangible self-confidence in India’s foreign policy as evident from India’s stance in the ongoing standoff vis-a-vis Doklam against China. However, even from an economic standpoint, there are many challenges which have remained unaddressed.
Globalisation has led to increasing casual employment and the weakening of labour movements. We have failed to adopt a strategic policy in agriculture for an enhanced and sustained growth. Education, and especially health, have received inadequate attention despite intermingling with the globalised world. Globalisation is also responsible for a surge in practices such as commercial surrogacy and human trafficking.
Our real challenges are issues such as competence in governance and a slowdown in private industrial investment. Therefore, in the face of globalisation, the need of the hour is to have less centralised, more competent and independent regulators and swifter resolution of disputes by the judiciary.
What we also need is greater administrative decentralisation and adequate empowerment of city administrators. Economic changes naturally lead to social changes in a society. The advent of globalisation has led to a more integrated world and many emerging smaller communities that are in turn connected to many others.
With information and communication technology, one has access to a vast resource pool. People have begun to develop a global psychology. Members of the Irula tribe in India were hired by American wildlife professionals to get rid of their python problem. This is a classic example of how globalisation has impacted the social fabric of our society. It has also benefited horticulture and cash crop producing farmers, demands of whose products have surged globally.
On the flip side, however, globalisation has led to distress in the lives of small farmers and tribal people who are often displaced to provide land for multinational corporations (MNC). Besides, the World Trade Organisations (WTOs) free trade norms are such that they benefit farmers of wealthy nations.
What’s also important to register is that while globalisation can bring such a magnanimous shift in the social lives of people, it’s restricted to only the “haves”. The “have-nots” remain unaffected since they are bracketed out of the resource pool due to a lack of access and agency.
The rapid expansion of globalisation and capitalism has also given rise to consumerism which has now begun to target vulnerable segments such as teenagers.
Consumerist culture has also led to the objectification of women in advertisements and has commodified their bodies.
Globalisation has had an implication on women in the economy too. While MNCs have given a plethora of equal work opportunities to educated women, an ILO report points out that the labour force participation rate among women in India has been dropping to one of the lowest in South Asia.
While more women in India are enrolling in secondary education, it’s not a secret that due to lack of road infrastructure and basic facilities such as toilets, women are forced to drop out, and hence, lag behind when competing outside domestic spheres.
In wealthier households, women have even lower employment rates. To find the missing women, we must give them full access to labour markets for full utilisation of human resources. This will also address the skewed work-family equation for women in India and create a family structure where women are not the sole child-raisers.
The most obvious impact of globalisation has been felt in the cultural landscape. Global restaurants and international cuisines are served on the menus of Indian restaurants today. We’re exposed to international music and dramas in literature, foreign festivals and languages. More and more students are getting involved in research on foreign languages and histories and societies of foreign countries.
Similarly, Indian cinema shot in foreign locations with foreign talent is expanding its reach across the globe as it completed its centenary.
We wear western clothes, travel in German cars, use Japanese technology, Korean smartphones and have Indianised many such products.
Many scholars have also criticised the blind adoption of western values with terms as “aping the West”. English has begun dominating Indian languages not only for official purposes but also in everyday parlance. Many Indian art forms such as Kalchattis, stone pots from Tamil Nadu and performing arts such as Burrakatha are no longer in vogue.
Thus, a more balanced approach to globalisation would make it a more affable process. This will happen when yoga becomes a common exercise the world over, Indian basmati becomes the preferred variety of rice and when chess is played in international games such as the Olympics.
Globalisation, hence, has impacted every aspect of Indian society, its culture and economy. As elucidated above, India has largely benefited from globalisation, though it can benefit even further when it becomes a net exporter of cultural and technological goods and services.
Today, it’s felt that India is more dependent on the world than the world is on India. This reality needs to change to favour Indian needs.
We must create a kind of globalisation that not only makes the rich richer but equips the poor to enrich their lives. That will be the true merit of globalisation.