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Arthic swaraj or economic slavery? - The Observer

Vandana Shiva ()
February 3, 1998

Title: Arthic swaraj or economic slavery?
Author: Vandana Shiva
Publication: The Observer
Date: February 3, 1998

The economic section of the Congress election manifesto is titled
'arthic swaraj'. However, this manifesto for swaraj comes right
out of the pages of the World Bank, IMF and WTO.

It offers globalisation and liberalisation as a miracle cure for
poverty when the high costs of economic globalisation have become
visible through the South East Asian crisis.

The manifesto states: Swatantrata andolan mein Congress ne
swadeshi ko apnaya tha jab hamara shatru videshi tha.... Parantu
ab swadeshi aur aatma-nirbharta ki paribhasha badalne aur use
vartman sandarbh ke anuroop naya arth dena zaruri ho gaya hai.
Hamara shatru hamare bhiter hi hai. (Congress had adopted
'swadeshi during our freedom struggle because the enemy was
foreign rule. However, we need to redefine swadeshi and self-
reliance in the contemporary context. Now the enemy lies within
us).

This characterisation of swadeshi and of the contemporary
situation is, however, totally flawed. Swadeshi is the ability to
meet our needs using our resources and our skills. Swadeshi is a
self-referential concept in which economic freedom is founded.

It is also misleading in suggesting that now there is no threat
of domination and control by external forces and the 'enemy only
lies within'.

The South East Asian countries carried out all the steps
prescribed in the Congress manifesto.

Today, their banks and financial institutions, their industries
and their natural resources have been taken over by western banks
and TNCs.

Gerald Segal, Director of International Institute for Strategic
Studies, has recently written: "Next, a Western Era with Europe
Sharing the Leadership" (IHT, January 27 1998). After the Soviet
Union collapsed, we spoke of a post-Cold War world. What we can
now foresee, amid Asia's financial crisis, is a period dominated
by the West. Today, Congress, which played a major role in the
independence movement, has adopted this agenda for recolonisation
in its election manifesto. What is worse, it has named the
arrangement of new economic slavery rthic swaraj' or economic
freedom. The manifesto states: Aaj hamare dushman hein kam punji
nivesh aur kamzore buniyadi dhancha.

This is a bad translation of the idea that 'today our enemy is
not enough foreign direct Investment and weak infrastructure'.

What we are seeing in South East Asia is the result of the
package that Congress is trying to sell to the Indians as
'economic swaraj' but which has only one outcome - total economic
bondage and economic take over.

On December 5-6, 1997, The Wall Street Journal wrote that the
restructuring of Thailand's financial system is expected to
result in foreign majority ownership in many of the country's 15
commercial banks.

In Korea, too, IMF requires that foreign investment in the
capital markets will be liberalised and direct foreign investment
procedures will be simplified and made more transparent.

When a major party in the country states in its election
manifesto that the threat of foreign take over no longer exists,
and there is no enemy outside, only an enemy within, and hence
the concept of 'swadeshi' is no longer relevant, it is either
ignorant of world's economics or it is deliberately misleading
the voters. If the former, it is unfit to rule. If the latter, it
is guilty of being anti-national.

Instead of taking lessons from countries which have implemented
trade liberalisation and financial liberalisation and are today
in deep crisis as a consequence, the Congress manifesto states:
Hame duniya se darne ki koi zarurat nahi hai. (We should not be
afraid of the world.)

To be aware of the consequences of liberalisation on the basis of
the South East Asia cannot be interpreted as fear and blindness
to facts is not fearlessness, it is foolhardiness. To put your
hand in fire and insist it will not burn is a sign of stupidity,
not smartness.

The assessment of unemployment in Thailand and Indonesia as a
result of the crisis is 4 million.

South East Asia is looking towards India for finding models that
provide economic alternatives. The concept of swadeshi is today
even more relevant than during the independence movement. It is
the key to genuine economic freedom in a period of economic
totalitarianism dominated by World Bank, IMF, WTO and TNCs.

Swadeshi leads to 'arthic swaraj rthic swaraj without
swadeshi is like a building without foundation. It must
collapse.

Since swadeshi is so fundamental to our past and our future, to
our economic freedom and our economic survival, it would be a
mistake to allow it to be perceived as the ideology of any party.
In fact, swadeshi should be in every party's election manifesto
because it helped us achieve economic freedom in 1947. It is the
concept that can help us preserve our freedom.


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