Posted in India

Indian Independence and Globalization

As someone born long after India gained Independence, one heard of Jawaharlal Nehru’s first Independence Day speech only from one’s elders and betters and got to actually hear it years later, only after the advent of the Internet. That scratchy recording from the radio archives; that emotion-laden voice, on the verge of breaking; those extempore words in an alien language…

“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment, we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.”

And what a pledge it proved to be! Nehru had inherited a partitioned land, a ravaged countryside, little or no manufacturing industry and famine stalking the masses at every turn. His first task was to interpret independence as self-reliance and address the abysmal poverty of the common Indian. Hence the Green Revolution to provide basic food security, and setting up of mega industries in the public sector, to provide employment in urban areas.

In tandem was the establishment of the Indian Institutes of Technology, the Indian Institutes of Management, the National Defence Academy, and scientific research institutions like the National Laboratories, TIFR, BARC, ISRO and many more.

Internationally, Nehru’s vision of Non-alignment protected India from the worst excesses of the Cold War, wreaking havoc all around us – South-East Asia, Africa and Latin America. Of course, the devil is always in the detail, and man is mortal, so Nehru could not redeem his pledge in its entirety, but he did leave behind a legacy of vision and daring.

So what happened to derail Project Independent India? In a word – globalization. Ever since India chose this path, one has not heard any Prime Minister either make a pledge to the people of India, or show the courage to go it alone in the interests of the country. We are all too busy chasing Foreign Direct Investment and let the devil take the hindmost…

In reality, the globalized world economy has deeply fragmented production processes, labour markets, political entities and societies, creating a plethora of interest groups and lobbies which have undermined the integrity of civil society and its rights and entitlements across the world. This is becoming increasingly visible in rich and poor countries in the form of growing disparity between places, people and groups. In India, globalization is manifested in much greater income inequalities and growing agrarian distress.

In the international realm, the once proud Indian foreign office bows quietly to Washington in voting or abstaining on UN resolutions, and surrenders quietly to tough terms of international trade. Globalization, spearheaded largely by MNCs, now decides which domestic land laws need to be amended and which social issues can be ignored – like child labour, informalisation of urban economies, land rights of indigenous people, deteriorating health and education, pollution, environmental degradation and so on…

Advocates of globalization claim that greater international connectivity has enhanced accountability of governments. True. But the global elite still get away with murder – they call it collateral damage, of course. The UN bodies, International Courts of Justice and other fora are as biased in favour of the West as before, so what has really changed for the better?

The recent referendum in Scotland was precisely about this – globalization or independence? As is the ongoing ideological conflict in Greece. And look what happened there – economically weaker countries have quietly given up the battle and taken their humble places in the new global pecking order, and all’s well with God’s Earth! Even that bastion of hope – Cuba – is in a hurry to jump on to the globalization bandwagon… apparently globalization is as inevitable as death and taxes.

So as India celebrated its 68th Independence Day this August, isn’t it time to take stock of where we are headed and why? To whose benefit? And at whose cost?

It is time for India to break out of this global thraldom, and awaken once again to life and freedom…


I am a trainer of Government Officials and Elected Representatives, specializing in the urban and municipal sector. I have also written extensively on Urban Governance, Poverty, Development, Social Accountability and Municipal Management in the Indian context, and wish to share these writings with you through this blog.

One thought on “Indian Independence and Globalization

  1. Hi Nasrin, I do so agree with you!! What humanity has done done is to make money the God of all. Once money is put first, the human interest goes to second place. Fact of the matter is that the money religion is mainly American. Its a country I more and more despise. When I look at South Africa where I am I can see the following: Jobs in the textile industry have been lost by the thousands, Chinese are cheaper. The whole textile industry has been detryed. Farming jobs have been lost by the ten thousands, chicken, maize etc etc can be cheaper imported. I can carry on…….
    I think the time has come for humanity to take a step back… just take a step outside of the present paradigm and look again. Lets think again and put humanity first.
    Your column is appreciated!!
    Stephan K


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