Caste and Globalization

The emergence of new economic relations during 1970s made the agricultural labourers and poor peasants aware of their economic plight and they started breaking away from the domination of powerful caste organizations like the agricultural labourers organizations, the dalit organizations and sometimes under caste-influenced class forms. Despite a number of constitutional safeguards the condition of the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes continues to be pathetic.

A clear and precise definition of globalisation is crucial to advance contemporary knowledge and policy. When taken to mean internationalisation, liberalisation, universalization or westernisation, ideas of globalisation reveal little new. Important novel insight is opened when globalisation is understood as the spread of transplanetary and in recent times also increasingly supraterritorial connections between people. That said, this conception needs to be carefully qualified in order to avoid globalist excesses.

Globalization is the spread of products, technology, information, and jobs across national borders and cultures. Globalization is the process of interlinking the world on the basis of fraternity and equality to acclimatize regions in the area of trade related to goods, services and exchange of ideologies. In economic terms, it describes an interdependence of nations around the globe fostered through free trade. On one hand, globalization has created new jobs and economic growth through the cross-border flow of goods, capital, and labor. On the other hand, this growth and job creation is not distributed evenly across industries or countries.

Capitalism, having experienced a golden period from 1948 to mid-1960s, due to massive reconstruction of the world devastated in World War II and unleashing pent up aspirations of new colonies that were freed during the period, faced severe crisis of overproduction, fall in profits, lack of investment opportunities, and consequently social unrest all over the world. Globalization in India is about modernization and westernization which leads to changing the perception of people to look towards each other through a vision of class instead of caste which gives a chance to the deprived to increase their value in the society.

It also brings with competition and through competition comes the way for education and development to the entire strata of the society. When new ideas are exchanged and emotions shared, people learn about modernization and the way to break the strands of caste based on categorizing people.

Over the years economic progress has not been sufficiently dynamic among the scheduled caste and the lower strata of intermediary castes, leaving both states in a state of backwardness. As castes are considered a part of economic structure, operative ideology and culture of Indian society, it is necessary to examine globalization from these three corresponding aspects.

Globalization has helped in breaking caste discrimination but exclusion based on income inequality, distressed migration should be checked for better implementation of social schemes. Globalization prefers talent over caste and some lower caste people have already made their mark in different fields. Caste is no longer a barrier in opting for any profession. It has also helped in breaking the popular norms prevalent in society such as inter-caste marriage. Due to adaptation of western culture there is decline in Indian traditional culture. Thus, globalization definitely offered positive spill over to the country, decreasing the castes and class barriers and still has a lot more to offer to address other issues of concern.

The globalization of the economy does not necessarily imply global convergence. Globalization brings about convergence in economics, cultures, values, technologies, etc. It has been seen that globalization is leading for greater divergence than convergence. The convergence encompassing economics, politics, culture and values fragmented within nation states would certainly imply that caste like institution would naturally fall apart from the ‘global’ schema and would gradually vanish. It also presents a contradictory tendency. According to Humid Mowlana, globalization has brought more surface homogenization than fundamental changes (commercial secularism).

There are two phenomena of globalization-structural globalization and ideological globalization. Structural globalization denotes processes that at any given time have a dynamic of their own, which conditions and constrains human action, whereas ideological globalization denotes attempts by particular social groups and political communities to turn processes to their own advantages.

Globalization is capitalism, albeit representing its advanced phase and hence at its very essential level its ideology is that of capitalism. There are three important components of capitalist ideology: individualism, competition and profit-making. The ideological components of capitalism do not have any place for the weak and poor, as they followed Charles Drawin theory of fittest where people who adapt to changes and western culture will only survive and those who cannot, will vanish. Thus the cultural drive of globalization, while it would certainly impact the native cultures in many complex ways, may not influence castes.

Everyone (Brahmins and Marathas including) are demanding reservations as though it was getting for free. No matter who demands for reservation only dalits are chosen to get the benefits. That’s the reason upper castes have grudges against dalits and are neglected from the villages. Consequently, Human Rights violations were reflected in growing inequality in the world during the globalization period.

The impact of development policies and the globalisation process on the inherently inequitable social structure, Nehru’s top-heavy, capital-intensive model of development produced a skewed industrial base and some intellectual/ technological islands. The model did not generate much employment, and this attributes to the Congress party being what is called a “bourgeois (bania)- bureaucrat (Brahmin) force.” Globalisation may have more than doubled the rate of growth but it has also heightened caste tensions and widened social inequalities, leading inevitably to protests, especially by Dalits and ‘Shudras.’ Hence, globalization is the result of medieval and modern economic order. Globalization has unleashed elitist orientation and commercial ethos in every sphere of public life. Therefore, dalits do not get admission in higher education and they face humiliation. Also when it comes to the private sector, lower class people didn’t get jobs because they required skills and a high level of education.

Politics has become a big business in the period of globalization. During this time the most affected caste was dalits, they faced a lot of problems. The rural devastation, because of throttling the investment into non-far sector, which reduced the non-farm jobs and created pressure on farm jobs, thereby lowering the farm wages, has impacted the dalit population in villages very adversely.

Globalization also led to an increase in migration from rural areas to urban areas in search of good jobs and a good standard of living, because of which there was a fall in the agricultural sector and the government did not support lower caste people. This has increased the vulnerability of Indian farmers. Farmers are also increasingly dependent on seeds and fertilizers sold by the MNCs. Therefore, Globalization does not have any positive impact on the agricultural sector.

The traditional norms that upper castes exploit most of the resources first, followed by the intermediary castes has not changed even today and this pattern would tend to continue for years to come. Unless there are any significant organized attempts made by the central and state governments to change the old equations of castes and class in rural areas. However, when we talk about globalization as a whole we ignore the discussion of caste completely and it is also seen that due to the force of globalization caste has been destroyed and there is a strong feeling that castes will be weakened with the spread of globalization.

There is neo-liberal myth that globalization will eradicate caste. The myth propagated by economists that the caste- based exploitation of dalits will wither away with their economic and associated with cultural developments. There is also a myth…that if dalits are placed in the bureaucracy and indeed in every sphere, they will de-caste the system and orient it into doing justice for them. All these myths have been demolished after Khairlanji and the events in its aftermath. ( Khairlangi massacre refers to the 2006 murder of scheduled caste citizens by members of the politically dominant caste-kunbi).

The Indian media did not cover this incident as it was about dalits and lower caste people until the Nagpur riots took place by the scheduled caste citizens. There is no point denying such differences because the media concern is basically driven by the commercial consideration of revenue, which is expected to be more if they deal with middle classes, wielding purchasing power vis-a-vis dalits.

The article outlines the contours of the impact of ‘neo-liberal globalization’ policies on the majority of India’s population- the poor and dalits. No story in or of India can escape the nagging need to say something about caste and casteism. Against the usual refrains about how caste is a thing of the past, his writing has provided us a way to think about how caste adapts itself to changing political-economic contexts historically and yet retain its pernicious power. His writing has exposed the hypocrisy of the votaries of neo-liberal capitalism, caste deniers and hindutva triumphalists (proud of one’s belief or culture and having a feeling of superiority). Social consequences of the economic miseries associated with these reforms are indeed ominous (threatening) for the dalits. Castes however not only survived but have grown in their nuisance power inasmuch as they still haunt the progressive Indians.

The empirical impact is visible over the last one and a half decades but there has not been much insight into how caste per say is impacted by globalization. The general expectations of a section of the public including the motivated claims by the globalists are clearly miss-founded in theory as well as in practice.

Aishwarya Says:

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