ET Debates – Globalisation impedes labour mobility?


The Economic Times

Anti-immigration laws are enforced not to stop but control new settlements and to legitimise the use-and-throw logic that characterises neo-liberalism. This increases labour vulnerability economically and politically — by differentially including the immigrants and ghettoising the local consciousness against them.

Throughout the world — in Maharashtra, in Assam, in the US, everywhere — the same ghettoised psyche comes coupled with the trans-politicisation of economy, which has relegated people to passive receptors of global mobility of capital.

Specific identitarian conflicts today are various realisations of the competitive ethic that underlies a market-oriented political economy. With the entrenching of this ethic in every corner of the society under globalisation, such conflicts are bound to multiply.

What the market does essentially is that it perpetuates fragmentation and individuation, thus posing every division in a horizontal competition. Even those conflicting interests, which could be resolved only by structural transformation, are preserved through their metamorphoses into competing groups and lobbies.

Arguably the greatest Indian philosopher, Muhammad Iqbal understood this when he said, “Fanaticism is nothing but the principle of individuation working in the case of group”. In other words, regional/national fanaticism that defines anti-immigration today is the product of individuation that competition necessarily poses.

Under neo-liberal globalisation, I agree, the “global village” has become a virtual reality. However, in this village citizens are reduced to “much as potatoes in a sack form a sack of potatoes”.

They are thrown into a large “stagnant swamp”, where they desperately try to save themselves and stand up in whatever way they can — even if at the expense of others. So anti-immigrant upsurge and its legitimacy are nothing but a vent to this desperation. It is a commodified deformation, in the socio-political market, of structural conflicts.

Hence, the question is not whether globalisation impedes labour mobility, but how through various means it impedes labour’s ability to challenge capital.

“When Nepal finds its voice”


ET has published a good editorial on the changing tenor of Indo-Nepal relationship:

Fortunes have a propensity to swiftly change sides. And what seems to be the given order of things can swiftly come to be transformed. Witness the heartburn in India when news emerged that the new Nepali Prime Minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, was headed to Beijing instead of paying obeisance to New Delhi first.

If there’s one thing we haven’t yet gotten used to in our neighbourhood, it’s the sudden and complete transformation within Nepal. We were quite happy while we could treat Nepal like a province, a wee bit like a colony, and while their leaders would first and foremost be careful about our big brotherly concerns.

It was quite all right as long as the image of ordinary Nepalis only meant thinking of a pliable servant at home. Things were just fine as long as we could head up there without any restriction and virtually run the economy. Until the Maoists came along.

It is as if Nepal has discovered a new identity, an ability to stand up and speak for itself. After dumping the monarchy, which again irked us as the kings were quite part of our own royal families, the new Nepal now seems like it wants to talk on equal terms.

This could be a painful process, since as old habits die hard. And then, we were quite used to, say, a certain degree of extra attention. Now, when a Nepalese official ‘reassures’ us that India should not worry about the Nepali PM’s China visit since his nation will now pursue a policy of ‘equidistance’ with its two neighbours, it doesn’t cause much assurance.

Indeed, there’s a certain galling element to the whole notion of not being preferentially treated. And this could well reflect in ‘new’ issues being talked about when officials of the two nations meet. Already, Nepal is speaking of tricky issues like the thousands of Bhutanese refugees in its territory. What it will be like when it comes to stomach-churning things like water-sharing can only be surmised. Sigh! But for the good old days.

“an alibi”


Whoever has written today’s ET editorial on communal tensions in Orissa has rightly pointed out the McCarthyite tactics of the repressive state:

The allegation against the Maoists gives the BJD-BJP government an alibi to step up its ongoing, and under-reported, project of repressing various grassroots movements in tribal areas in the name of containing Maoism“.

NHRC has its own style


Should we be surprised by the National Human Rights Commission’s submission to the Supreme Court regarding Salwa Judum’s atrocities leaked by the Economic Times? The official human rights body “found that many of the allegations [against Salwa Judum] were based on rumours and hearsay, and devoid of facts. Again, many of the villagers whose names figured in the column comprising victims of Salwa Judum or the security forces were actually found to have been killed by Naxalites. FIRs had been registered in most of these cases and the state government had also doled out compensation to relatives of those killed. NHRC teams also discovered many of the villagers whose names figured in the list were actually Naxalites who had been killed in encounters with the security forces. A few other villagers were found to have died of natural causes, while yet another group of villagers whose names figured in the list of dead were actually found to be alive” (2). NHRC’s arguments here are quite clear and very logical –

if Salwa Judum or the security forces killed somebody, (s)he must be a naxalite; if (s)he was not a naxalite, then it’s obvious that (s)he was killed by the naxalites.