Liberalism and India

Eighteen years ago, or to be more precise, on July 24, 1991, India was ushered into new era of economic liberalism. Circumstances forced us opt free market over Fabian socialism.

Many of us fretted the decision. It drove us believe that decision was fatal to nation’s economy. Newspapers those days were full of reports pounding words like ‘Gatt’, ‘WTO’, ‘Swadeshi’.

I still remember: We had a debate organised at school. Whether or not conscious about the facts, participating in debates was my birth-right. I cajoled that right and entered into debate.

All participants opposed the so called liberalization. Everyone with more or less tone said, signing Gatt would push India into east India like company’s hands. The teachers applauded our understanding. And since there was no one to oppose our views, the debate, as a “debate” didn’t actually take place. With no clear winner, the prize then was distributed among all participants.

At playground, cricket followed discussions on why India should oppose “ghost of liberalization”. We did not either know what nationalism was but made us believe so by opposing liberalization.

Gradually liberalization brought in privatization, globalization and deregularization. The changes across the fields became discernible among certain class. Phrases like ‘License raj’ and ‘hindu rate of growth’ stopped cropping up in the discussions while trade unions – like the one I am associated with – partially reduced to cultural organizations. We embraced all latest technology.

As the economic liberalism made us prosper, libertian values quickly became sellable. We preferred calling ourselves libertians. Cultural block in the mindspace opened up. A new elite class was created Proponents of sex gathered momentum when they talked about open society. 'Pink Chaddi’ became sign of liberalism. Stories full of moralizing started getting secondary treatment.

On July 24, Manmohan Singh’s tiny? step completed 18 years. The man at the helm in the meantime has gathered more power. Clamor of opposition has reduced to zero. The left have already exited from the government. The right-wing RSS too is all “Jai ho” about open market – RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat recently said “Whatever is good in this world, is all swadeshi for us”. And while all this was happening, the Wall street bubble burst.

Some problems have been sorted out, some persist. We have prospered in liberalism yet we reserve our right to embrace it in its full form. We probably know it give us fruits, but with the bitter taste if eaten even before they are ripe. Not bitten yet shy, the India today is.


Samyak said...

"As the economic liberalism made us prosper, libertian values quickly became sellable.... 'Pink Chaddi’ became sign of liberalism."

Add bloggers to in this list.
Had there been no blog-like thing, you would not written on liberalism.

Nice post.


Yogesh said...

Appreciate your views, Mr S.