Globalization and Issues of Minorities
By Prof. (Dr.) Mohd. Akhtar Siddiqui
Globalization is a concept, a process and above all an existential reality of the contemporary times that is pervading all societies of the world now. This is a term which has most frequently been used, and even overused in the recent past. It has directly or indirectly, willingly or at times even unwillingly, affected the destiny of peoples in most of the societies. Though it is a buzz word in the recent memory, it is differently interpreted by different people in varied contexts. People talk of globalization of culture, communication, information, media, religion, crime, social movements, environmental concerns, conflict, politics, diseases, etc. but at the heart of globalization are the planned processes of trade, commerce, finance and all their auxiliaries which determine the direction of its incidental impacts on societies.
Globalization may be thought of as the “widening, deepening and speeding up of worldwide interconnectedness in all aspects of contemporary social life, from cultural to the criminal, the financial to the spiritual”1
. American Political Social Scientists, Robert O. Keohane and Joseph S. Nye Jr. (2000) have looked at globalization phenomenon by dividing it into four major types viz. (i) economic globalization; (ii) social and cultural globalization; (iii) military globalization;
and (iv) environmental globalization which continuously interact with each other and leave their effect on the eco-systems of the earth, sometimes one form becoming the cause and the other or others emerging as its effect.2
For many, globalization is not a new process that is being experienced by contemporary societies. It is in existence in different degrees and forms for more than three millenniums, eversince the more enterprising among the human beings began to travel long distances to exchange their products with the ones extracted or produced by others. The famous Silk Road between China and Europe is perhaps the oldest surviving witness to this story of transnational and transcontinental trade and communication that has always inspired and encouraged traders and later, colonialists in this and other parts of the world to reach out to farther destinations and markets. George Modelski (2000) while commenting on the history of globalization argues that “at the opening of the period of globalization, at about 1000 A.D., the nearest approximation to a worldwide political order was the Moslem world. Its origins lay in the Arab conquests of the seventh century, and its binding force was Islam. For several hundred years, the Moslem world was the seat of civilization. In relation to it, medieval Europe was for a long time not only politically on the defensive, but also economically and culturally inferior. Indeed, by occupying a central position in the Eurasian-African land mass and using it for their far flung trade, Moslems had already brought together the major centers of world civilizations … After 1500 the Moslem world was strategically outflanked by Europe which now took up the work of political unification of the world”.3
The ever improving transportation systems and communication technologies have greatly enabled the trading corporations, finance companies and governments, to significantly increase movement of goods, finances, services, information and even militaries from continent to continent and from one corner of globe to the other. In the opinion of Keohane and Nye (2000) it is the process of increasing globalism that is called globalization. Globalism, according to them, is “a state of the world involving networks of interdependence at multi-continental distances”. The process of globalism has generally been increasing throughout modern society. Increase in the frequency of these intercontinental contacts may be termed as the process of globalization. Economic globalization, according to them, is particularly characterized by intercontinental trading and management relationships organized by multi-national corporations4. (It is said that today almost one quarter of all the goods and services produced in the world is exported to other countries for consumption).
Since 1990s, globalization has also become a major concept in academia and activism with different groups understanding it in different ways. To many, it means bringing the benefits of wealth to the world’s underprivileged through globalization of trade which, according to them, is the only means of sustained rapid economic development, and peace and prosperity of the world.5 Yang Guen Seok, however, explains globalization as a contemporary stage of development of capitalism. Its general characteristics are liberalization of movement of goods, services, investment and finances across national borders, and expansion of global information flows and the acceleration of information exchanges.6 It is a process of social change in which geographical and cultural barriers are reduced due to advance transportation and electronic communications. It is a process by which economies of different countries are oriented to a global market and are controlled by multinational and global financial institutions. It is also argued by some that economic development achieved through the means of globalization increases the chances that a country will embrace democracy which in turn further increases a country’s willingness to open itself to trade.
To another group of people including activists, the globalization of trade and commerce is synonymous with environmental destruction, shrinking of labour and civil rights as well as weakening of national governments, the bullying of the smaller nations by bigger ones, and secret backroom decisions by elitist organizations. From this perspective, globalization is nothing less than the antithesis of democracy and the more democratic a country becomes, the less likely it is to embrace trade liberalization.7 Critiques feel that globalization is also a cultural process.
The history of globalization stands witness to the fact that it is a double edged phenomenon and carries with it both, promises and serious risks and dangers for societies and their people in varying degrees depending upon the stage of development a society has achieved and the structure of distributive justice that is in place and in operational those societies. Even in case of developed economies, globalization may not bring any succor to certain groups who are already grappling with deprivation of different kinds, if the economic processes and political system in operation do not create well planned special conditions for them which may help change their course of sufferings. Without this, as is being observed in several countries of the world, globalization is further impoverishing the poor and the marginalized and causing massive environmental destruction, besides creating other equally serious side effects like, spread of AIDS and drug abuse, and creation of monocultures i.e. the culture of the rich and the powerful at the cost of traditions and diversity in cultures, etc8. In the World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen held in 1995, participating nations took note of this double edged nature of the globalization phenomenon. The Summit observed, “Globalization, which is a consequence of increased human mobility, enhanced communications, greatly increased trade and capital flows, and technological developments, opens new opportunities for sustained economic growth and development of the world economy, particularly in developing countries. Globalization also permits countries to share experiences and to learn from one another’s achievements and difficulties, and promotes a cross-fertilization of ideas, cultural values and aspirations. At the same time, the rapid processes of change and adjustment have been accompanied by intensified poverty, unemployment and social disintegration. Threats to human well-being, such as environmental risks, have also been globalized”9.
It is clear that globalization is not a simple and quick solution to the economic problems of the people rather, if it continues in its present form, it may prove to be as less effective as it has been found till now. This is evident from series of experiences of societies where its fruits have not reached the weak, marginalized and minority groups living there.
In order to further understand the impact of globalization, we will need to look into the dynamics of the core of globalization. Whether globalization is driven by technological advances which have steadily introduced telephone, television, microchip, computer, internet, satellite based communication, mobile phony etc. that have crossed over the barriers of time, distance and nationality, or by market forces operating at the global scale or even by political events of the century like, fall of Marxism, colonialism or bipolar world order, etc. its core remains to be the trading activity in goods and services. So, the success and failure of globalization in any particular society would depend on how the entire phenomenon of international trade and commerce is being dealt with, i.e. with what degree of freedoms and restrictions.
Restrictions on international trade and commerce including finance in the form of taxes, duties and subsidies have always been in existence in developing and developed countries for the fact that they provide protection to the local producers, investors and workers. Complete demolition of these restrictions and total liberalization of trade, symbolizing “free trade” would mean exposure of these local producers and investors to a fierce transnational unrestricted competition, the supplies of which would result in winners and losers, winners having lower price levels than the losers.
In the realm of modern national economies, “losing” can mean your people starve. This would be true particularly for developing poorer countries. In these countries suddenly burdening the undercapitalized, technology-weak industries to the rigours of international competition, especially when these industries are the backbone of a national economy, can be financially, socially and politically devastating. This may be worse in those countries which are largely dependent on small scale and cottage industries and unorganized and informal sectors including agriculture. Such societies are already grappling with the problems of poverty, unemployment, undernourishment, low levels of human development and poor quality of life faced by their people, particularly their minorities and marginalized communities. Globalization in the form where international agencies like World Bank or IMF are pressurizing countries, particularly the developing and poorer ones, to do away with all their trade restrictions is going to be fatal for them and worst hit in these societies would be the vulnerable sections of their population. Developing and smaller countries with underdeveloped infrastructure and limited investment capacity, even if agree to liberalize trade barriers as being demanded by international agencies, would be at dual disadvantage due to the fact that developed countries are still supporting their producers, particularly farmers, through heavy subsidies and thus enabling them to be in much stronger position while competing with farmers/ traders in developing countries. USA and European countries are already doing this. While cautioning about the unregulated march of globalization of economies, the founder of World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab and its managing director, Claude Smadja (1996) had rightly observed that, “economic globalization was causing several economic dislocations and social instability and that the technological changes of the past few years had eliminated more jobs than they created.” They warned that “unless serious corrective actions were taken soon, the backlash could turn into open political revolt that could destabilize the Western democracies.”10
Thus, globalization is a phenomenon that people seem to differ on. Some take it as a major problem, and therefore miss the opportunities it is offering, while others have grabbed it as a movement offering potential for development and used it to advance their growth and development and their self-interest, whether it be national or personal. Even though it is agreed that globalization offers great opportunities, the fact remains that its benefits are unevenly shared and its costs are unevenly distributed among and within societies. This is more true when it is seen in the context of developing countries and their deprived minorities and marginalized communities. This issue will be discussed in detail in following sections. Costs of globalization to peoples and countries may not always be seen in economic terms only rather, these may also be found in several non monetary terms including the areas of culture, health, etc.
Globalization and Developing Countries
Many developing countries of Asia have already started feeling the impact of globalization in its present unbalanced and manipulated form. For example, indigenous peoples in Chile and Philippines feel that “they have suffered from the negative impacts of the development of free trade and the increased economic cooperation in various forms. The aggressive entry of foreign investments in the indigenous territories in the form of infrastructure development for energy and power, transportation, among others, is made to fall to capitalist greed and profit.11 Similarly, in Latin American country Santiago, globalization has increased the risks for indigenous peoples who are living on the lands that contain strategic resources for market exploitation like gas, oil, forests, minerals, etc. In this regard, the Chilean Political Scientist Sandra Huenchuan Navarro (1999) has rightly observed that “though indigenous people do not know it, the most powerful determining factor of their destiny is the New York Stock Exchange or transnational companies’ logic of global investment which is increasingly and negatively impacting their lives as many of their lands have already been targeted by multinational corporations for exploitation.”12 Farmers in poorer countries, whose governments can’t afford the luxury of farm subsidies, are simply being run out of business. For example, corn farmers, the foundation of Mexican agriculture for long, are strongly withering away under the onslaught of cheap, mass produced American corn now sold under the trade framework of NAFTA.13
Corn farming by indigenous farmers in Philippines also got seriously affected due to liberalization of import regime and increased import of subsidized, cheap corn which has battered the corn industry. Same fate is likely to be met by poultry industry when import of chicken and chicken parts becomes a norm. In Alaminos and other parts of Philippines both the industries are owned by small-scale corn or poultry growers who are facing the heat of this trade liberalization.
In India owners and workers in several small scale industries and unorganized sector as also those engaged in farm sector activities have begun to be negatively affected due to import liberalization. For example, due to import of cheap Chinese silk the silk worm growers and silk yarn domestic and cottage industry have been seriously affected as the imported silk is available at almost one third the price of the indigenous silk. Large number of items of stationery, electronics and toys from China have flooded the Indian markets which has virtually caused closure of many such small manufacturing units producing these items, suddenly rendering their owners and workers unemployed.
Minorities and Globalization
Minorities in any society are generally those groups who live on the margins and due to prejudices and discrimination lag behind the majority group in economic, educational, social and political development. Their weak existence in these spheres of life forms a vicious circle, one form of weakness often feeds on to the other. Before proceeding to the discussion on issues arising out of globalization for minorities in a society, it would be relevant to have a brief clarification on the very concept of minority community as this would further help us in focusing our discussion on the issues in question. Junckerstroff (1961) defines minority as a non dominant group of people in a society, though in sociological terms number alone is not the criteria to distinguish a minority from a majority rather, the members of minority community should possess certain such characteristics which may serve as an objective basis of distinction e.g. language, religion, etc.14 The Report of the Third Session of the Sub Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities set up under the auspices of Human Rights Commission (1950) refers to this meaning of minority, when it clarifies that the term would include “only those non dominant groups in a population which possess and wish to preserve stable ethnic, religious, linguistic traditions or characteristics markedly different from those of the rest of the population”.15 However, mere smaller number of a group of people in a society possessing certain distinct characteristics may not always be enough to call it a minority group unless, according to Wirth (1965), this group is subjected to discrimination and unequal treatment and as a result of which the group regards itself as an object of collective discrmination.16 Thus a feeling of deprivation, inferiority or inferior status due to continual discriminatory treatment meted out to the non dominant group at the hands of dominant group is another distinction mark or feature of a minority community in a society.17
Besides the above clarification, it may further be added that due to a discriminatory approach of the dominant group in a society, who also occupies the positions of power and decision-making in various spheres of activities affecting all people, generally the minorities get neglected in the process of development and gradually become backward economically, socially and politically. This happens because often their voice is either not represented in the decision making structures or, if at all it reaches there, it is so weak and seldom without support from others that it fails to impact decisions in their favour. So, their state of powerlessness and deprivation continues to keep them at the receiving end for long periods of history until the majority community itself rises up to the occasion and decides to look into the issues of their underdevelopment in larger national perspective and thus acts in their favour through some positively discriminatory policy formulations. As long as this does not happen they remain weak and more vulnerable than other communities to the risks inherent in any major change brought in the society.
Globalization is certainly heralding a major change in socio-economic, cultural and political spheres in societies which is impacting all groups of people but in different ways. Minorities are generally educationally, financially and technologically weak and have limited capacity to respond to the demands of globalization. Globalization calls for production of goods and services of high quality at competitive costs, by using capital intensive new technology and new competencies developed through educational processes. Minorities are unable to cope with these demands of globalization and are adversely affected in varying degrees and forms, irrespective of the fact that it is happening in a developed or developing society. In the next few paras this particular issue will be discussed in some detail. In order to understand the impact of globalization and trade liberalization on minorities in a society, particularly in a developing country, a few basic facts have to be understood. One, that in developing countries generally a large part of the work force is engaged in unorganized and informal sectors of economy which offer low levels of wages without any security of employment and employment opportunities and wages are highly flexible. Predominant sections of minorities in these countries are engaged in unorganized and informal sectors. A large number of them are also a part of the unskilled labour force for being largely illiterate or uneducated. Many of them either work as farm labourers, or as petty urban workers in small scale enterprises with low capital intensity and widely fluctuating production capacity. A word on characteristics of informal sector will help in further understanding the vulnerability of the minorities employed in this sector in the globalized economies of developing countries.
The informal sector, as explained by Thomas Sebastian (2001), is one where flexibility of labour finds its most concrete shape. “In this sector work is done on wage labour or on one’s own account to generate income, but is not regulated by any explicit (written or oral) contract establishing mutual rights and obligations. The worker in such sectors cannot insist on fair labour standards, enjoys no protection and, in most cases, is not registered in official records.”18 This definition includes the huge army of those who work in the street or in their own homes, industrial workers employed in small-scale enterprises like diamond ateliers, handlooms, powerloom workshops, etc. Sebastian claims that the urban informal sector (self-employed sector) has a significant role to play in globalization. The informal sector is functionally integrated into the formal economy, and, through the network of market, into the global production chains. The MNCs outsource specific production and service tasks to local sub-contractors who undertake production in the petty small-scale sector. Thus informalization and labour flexibilization is a critical component of capitalist globalization which works to undermine organized labour and facilitate global capitalist accumulation.19 Sebastian’s above contention about informal sector’s significant role in globalization needs further investigation with reference to specific economies and occupations/industrial activities.
In the neocolonial countries of Asia and Africa including India informal sector occupies an important place. India is one of the largest developing economies of Asia and the world. A study of the impact of globalization on growth rate of small industry and employment in India (which includes partly unorganized manufacturing sector employment as well) during 1980-2001 reveals that small scale industry growth came down from 18.40 per cent during 1980s to 5.62 per cent during 1990s and employment in small scale industry came down from 5.84 per cent to 4.00 per cent during this periold.20 Thus, India is a good case to refer to from the point of view of impact of globalization on workers and people belonging to different denominations including minorities employed in different sectors of the economy. As per Census 2001, 80.5 per cent of India’s population belongs to the Hindu majority community and 19.5 per cent to different minorities like Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, etc. Muslims being 13.4 per cent of the country’s population are the largest minority in the country.21 They are economically, socially and politically most backward in the country as has been reflected in the reports of Gopal Singh High Power Committee (1981) and Justice Rajinder Sachar Committee (2006). 66 per cent of them live in rural areas and 34 per cent in urban areas. 50 per cent of urban Muslims live below poverty line.22 (Poverty line is defined as the inability of a household to buy the minimum things required to keep body and soul together.23) It is said that in India 80 per cent of workforce engaged in unorganized sector comes from Muslims and scheduled castes and scheduled tribes of the country. According to the last National Sample Survey, NSSO-1999-2000, in India Muslim minority is in much greater number employed in unorganized sector than the rest of the communities. 55 per cent of their males and 69.7 per cent females in rural areas and 50.7 per cent of their males and 67 per cent females in urban areas are self employed. Only 7.4 per cent Muslim males and 2.5 per cent Muslim females in rural areas and 30.0 per cent of their males and 17.5 per cent females in urban areas are engaged in regular wage employment. As many as 37.5 per cent Muslim males and 27.8 per cent Muslim females in rural areas and 19.3 per cent Muslim males and 15.5 per cent Muslim females in urban areas are employed as casual labour24.
These data suggest that the Muslim minority groups in India are predominantly employed either in unorganized and informal sector or as casual labour in rural and urban areas and it is this big chunk of minority population which is getting negatively affected by the process of globalization enforced in the country. As explained earlier, their share in formal organized sector is almost negligible. The unorganized and informal sector keeps fluctuating between states of employment and unemployment thus constantly affecting this minority adversely. The situation of other minorities like Christian (1.9%), Sikhs (1.2%) and Budhhists (0.8%) is not as bad as that of Muslims. For example, Christians are living in larger proportion in urban areas and 53.3 per cent of their males and 62.9 per cent of their females in urban areas are in regular wage employment whereas only 28 per cent of their males and 24.6 per cent females in urban areas are in self employment and 18.7 per cent males and 12.5 of their females are in casual employment.25 Thus this minority enjoys a better employment status and is likely to be less badly affected by globalization process.
The employment status of minorities in India as also in other countries depends, besides other factors, on the access and status of their education. Muslims in India have been declared by the Govt. of India as an educationally backward minority as for various reasons, they have continued to lag behind the majority community in the field of education since independence of the country.
A majority of the self-employed members of the Muslim minority in India is working as local artisans producing traditional goods and services based on local traditional technology. Trade liberalization has begun to bring in such alternative products which are cheaper and better in quality than the products made by these artisans and thus these imported products are in greater demand than the ones produced by indigenous manufacturers and artisans. For example, the import of mechanized and electronic toys from China at much cheaper price which are now flooded in Indian markets, has severely hit the toy manufacturing industry in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and other provinces; import of cheap China silk has rendered many Muslim artisans dealing in indigenous silk and silk cloth jobless in Varanasi and Bhagalpur districts in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar provinces. Import of expensive sophisticated embroidery machines with computerized designing facility from Germany and Japan has seriously affected small looms producing silk cloth based on manual designs. Import of cheap glassware products has hit glass manufacturing units in Ferozabad, Uttar Pradesh., which are largely run by Muslims.
One of the worst hit industry in India by globalization is the safety lock manufacturing industry located in Aligarh district of Uttar Pradesh with 9000 small, tiny and household units employing more than 2 lakh persons. This industry was flourishing there for more than a century26. Though these units are owned by both Hindus and Muslims, more than 80 per cent of the lock manufacturing activity in these units was carried out by Muslim artisans and labourers. About 80 per cent of the work force in this industry was casual labour. Their economic condition over the decades had improved due to their better employability for possessing excellent skills needed in lock manufacturing units. However, during the last more than a decade, increased imports of locks from China due to trade liberalization has started affecting this industry in Aligarh town and has already caused unemployment and dislocation of factory owners, labourers and artisans, a majority of whom is the marginalized minority community. The old technology used by these units, their poor infrastructures and non availability of finance are some of the reasons due to which these units are not able to produce locks of international standards and are facing closure.27 Due to prevailing recession in the job market these displaced workers cannot go to other places for want of job opportunities.28
After trade liberalization employment opportunities are appearing in service sector in BPO centers which require qualified youths only. The Muslim minority groups are not able to take advantage of these employment opportunities for being educationally backward. This new service sector demands that prospective workers should at least possess first degree education with good skills in communication and computation in English medium. Muslim minority groups still lag behind in these competencies due to poor rate of their entry into higher education. Only 3.6 per cent of them as per census 2001 are graduates with a majority of them in general courses.29
Income inequality for minorities
Minorities are facing inequality in income due to having unequal opportunity for economic development. The present trade liberalization has also helped in widening the income disparity by offering unequal opportunities of economic development. At greater risk of this increasing inequality syndrome are the poorer members of the society. Generally minorities are economically backward and suffer from poverty which is likely to be further accentuated. Petia Topalova (2005) has rightly observed that trade liberalization could reduce the wages of unskilled labour even in a labour abundant country, thereby widening the gap between the rich and the poor.30 This has been shown by Thomas Sebastian (2006) in his work on ‘Impact of Globalization on the Indian Masses’. He argues that inequality between the rich and the poor in India has been growing.31 Also due to globalization there has been lack of employment opportunities in the formal organized sector. (Organized sector is defined as all public sector establishments and all private sectors non-agricultural establishments employing ten or more workers.) Though it has been claimed that after trade liberalization in 1991 the proportion of people living below poverty line in India has come down from 36 per cent to 26 per cent, critics feel that this reduction was not really caused by any advantage of globalization rather it is due to fudging of poverty related data by the concerned organization.32
As stated earlier, large chunks of the backward minorities like Muslims and Neo-Budhists, and Dalits in India are abysmally poor. In urban areas a majority of Muslims lives in slums who have migrated from rural areas as landless labour in search of employment. Their educational status is also very poor, as they are generally illiterate unskilled persons. Earlier they were finding work in small informal industrial units many of which are already hit by globalization and so, chances of their economic emancipation in near future seem to be bleak. For Indian Muslim minority, John and Muttakar (2005) rightly observe that they are the poorest and marginalized community of India but wherever they are associated with skills of producing goods, their condition has improved.33 Provided that industries utilizing these skills are not hit by gloablization.
The above mentioned country specific examples apart, rapid growth in global trade and investment during the last more than a decade has resulted in increased inequality internationally and within countries. The UN Development Programme reports that the richest 20 per cent of the world’s population consumes 86 per cent of the world’s resources while the poorest 80 per cent consumes just 14 per cent of these resources. In fact, the bottom 20 per cent people of the world survive only on 1.4 per cent of these resources.34 A large number of these poorest people are drawn from minorities in Asia, Africa and Americas. As the massive economic resources are being shifted from the people and communities in the third world countries to the first world companies in the North there are dangers of tremendous income losses in future as well which will further pauperize the poor communities of the South and marginalize them further in future. Minorities again being the worst sufferers in this case also.
Inequalities may not always remain confined to economic sphere. As Shuurman (2001) argues, globalization will surely contribute to new forms of inequality – inequality of access to power, to resources, to a humane existence or in short, inequality of existence, all due to the less effective and hollowed existence of the (nation) state, hollowed from the above due to privatization and liberalization and from below due to increasing phenomenon of local governance.35 Hady further adds that since multinationals have acquired political and economic power from the state, this has undermined the powers of the democratic state36 making it less effective in any process of equalization of opportunities for the weak.
Minority culture and language
Besides the economic issues arising out of the rapid trade liberalization and globalization, globalization also impacts languages and cultures of the societies particularly those concerning the minorities whose cultures and languages are already under tension with majority culture and language and at times facing the danger of extinction or submergence.
Minority communities in any society generally face the problem of preservation of their culture and languages. There are chances of these cultures getting overshadowed by majority community’s culture and language. Democratic societies make provisions to ensure that these minority cultures and languages are not only preserved but also allowed to be promoted. For example, Constitution of India through its articles 29 and 30 provides to protect the minority cultures and languages and allows these communities to organize their own institutions to preserve and inculcate the same among their community members.
Transnational trade brings with it cultures and languages of the countries of its origin which creates threats to local cultures and languages of the societies it is entering. The minority cultures and languages being more vulnerable are at greater risk of being polluted by the Western or transnational culture of the developed world. Globalization may tend to lead to a global or world culture which experts call as monoculture. The notion of world culture or global culture not only carries the danger of eroding the cultural distinctiveness of different societies and that of their different denominations, it may also very well produce a sense of dispossession and loss of identity in those exposed to it.37 However, Zwingle asserts that in transnational trade and commerce, goods move, people move, ideas move and cultures change.38 Husnain and Gupta (2006) also agree that this process of change of cultures has happened in the past and will continue to happen in future. But they refuse to accept that there would ever be a global culture, in the sense of a homogenous entity, simply because local and global constantly interact. According to them, ethnic, religious and local belief systems always exercise a tremendous pull on individuals and communities across the world making a global culture inevitably fragmented and pluralist.39 They do agree that if ideas, cultures, images move they should move both ways, instead of almost entirely from the west to the rest of the world. Such a two way movement of cultural goods will create greater cultural diversity. Even in case there is a one-way onslaught of Western culture on the cultures of the developing world, and despite the “cultural pollution” which is said to have set in as a result of globalization, there has been a process of “nativization” as well in which Western culture is relativized and pluralized though in the process of nativization also the supremacy of the Western culture over the local culture is somehow upheld. Japanese marketing term “glocalization” captures this relationship between the local and the global quite well. Glocalization in its original definition means, “a global outlook tailored to local conditions”. But the way glocalization has been done in southern societies by Western trade corporations it still shows the supremacy of the western culture and products as floated in rest of the world. Thus, even this innovative idea of nativization or glocalization is fraught with dangers of cultural invasion and cultural pollution which continues to cause loss of cultural heritage. Language being an important organ of culture it also faces similar kind of danger. It is this lurking threat to the sovereignty of local cultures and native languages including the minority cultures and minority languages in any society which was clearly reflected in the observation made by J. Suderson, the Minister of Culture and Education in Indonesia: “national and local institutes of arts and media face powerful monetary and material temptations that ultimately will lead to distortion of their priorities and often result in erosion of the age-old cultural values in the log run”.40
The solution to this impending issue is that in a multicultural setting, while preserving one’s own cultures and languages, an understanding and reverence towards others’ cultures has to be expressed explicitly and future citizens be made ‘to learn to live together’ in such multicultural settings without, of course, compromising on their own cultural values. As the globalized societies will be more multilingual than before, there would always be a need to study the widely used languages in combination with the local languages in a bilingual or even trilingual curriculum41 as is the practice in Indian schools. Acquision of mother tongue based literacy skills in such multilingual settings will always be desirable for a child’s initial academic as well as cultural development which may be followed by a gradual transition to a common language as is being done in many Indian classrooms. To protect and preserve minority cultures and languages the framers of Indian Constitution made some far sighted provisions in the Constitution in 1950 by incorporating articles 29 and 30 in the Directive Principles to the State Policy contained in the Constitution. These provisions protect the right of minorities to preserve and inculcate their culture and allow them to establish and administer their educational institutions for this purpose.
Access to Asset of Education
Inequality between minorities and the rest arises due to their unequal access to assets that generate income. Most important income generating asset in this global information age is the “asset of education”. It has repeatedly been proved that acquisition of education may diversify income-earning opportunities of people. For example, in the case of Basarwas (Bushman) marginalized minority groups of Botswana, who are dependent on common pool of natural resources of forests, a negative relationship between years of schooling and output produced from forest resources was found i.e. less educated people harvest more of common pool resource commodities of jungle than those with high level of education because more educated have more options to exit from forest and harness diverse income earning opportunities available to them in the society.42 Thus, no access to asset of education or illiteracy, as argued by the Nobel Laureate, Amartya Sen (2000) also, can be a major barrier to participation in economic activities that require production according to specification or which demand strict quality control (as globalized trade increasingly does)43. The pioneering example of enhancing economic growth through social opportunity, especially in basic education, as quoted by Sen (2000) is of course Japan. It is sometimes forgotten that Japan had a higher rate of literacy than Europe had even at the time of Meiji restoration in the mid nineteenth century, when industrialization had not yet occurred there but had gone on for decades in Europe. East Asian economies went comparatively early for massive expansion of education, and later, also of health care, and this they did in many cases, before they broke the restraints of general poverty. And they have reaped what they have sown44. Raj (2003) also recommends that in order to integrate their economy into the global economy the very first important principle, to be followed by countries is of promotion of education as has been done by governments of the US and East Asian countries and it should be coupled with investment in research and development which will promote technology, the core factor behind technological progress in developed countries.45
Globalization does not address the socioeconomic heterogeneity and so it does not ensure improvement of welfare of minorities in a society. The states need to be more proactive in removing continuing neglect of their elementary and higher education and deprivation of other social opportunities so that this benefits them as well and gives them the strength and capacity to improve their economic and social condition. So far as the native and minority cultures are concerned, some impact of globalization on them is inescapable. Again, culture being a dynamic social phenomenon it keeps evolving. However, in the process the core of all subcultures including those of minorities always needs to be consciously preserved in order to safeguard the identities of different cultural groups. This will have to be done by consciously cultivating these cultures through the means of formal and informal education. Mahatma Gandhi stated this quite beautifully, “I do not want my house to be walled on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any”.
The issue of economic disparity between minorities and the rest in a society will also require an appropriate response which will include concerted efforts to make globalization less destructive of employment and traditional livelihood and emphasis on achieving gradual transition. For smoothening the process of transition, appropriate opportunities have to be created for retraining workers and artisans and helping them acquire new skills (for they would otherwise be displaced).46 In fact, due to fast expansion of knowledge and innovations in production processes in the globalizing societies, the skill sets of all kinds of workers at all levels would need continual renewal which would be possible by arranging equal and least expensive access to life long education for all. Minorities and marginalized groups would rather need greater state support in this process of education, training and retraining in order to continue to remain successfully engaged in the market economy. As stated earlier, among the minorities in many societies, some have reached a forward state of their economic and socio-political development while other minorities are still languishing in abject poverty and backwardness as is the case of Sikh and Christian vis-a-vis Muslims and Dalits in India. These minorities have to be specially empowered through making special arrangements for their education, and thus enable them to come up in social, political and economic aspects of life. We find an example of this specific consideration for minorities in the educational policy formulations in India. While finalizing the National Policy on Education in 198647 and during its revision in 199248, the Government of India launched some special short term and long term programmes to improve access of backward minorities of the country to education and training. These progammes also included schemes of retraining of artisans from these minorities in specially organized community polytechnics located in minority concentration areas. Similarly, instructions were issued to provincial governments and banks to grant soft loans to enable them to set up their own small business and industrial enterprises. However, apart from these important policy provisions favouring minorities in cultural and educational spheres, what is equally important is to see how far these policies related with minorities educational and economic uplift in the globalizing society are actually being implemented and their benefits are really reaching the backward and needy minorities and to what extent these are really ameliorating their educational, economic, social and political situation.
Globalization is an irreversible and inescapable phenomenon of the modern world and its impacts, positive as well as negative, are being felt in societies differently by various segments of people. The weaker sections and minorities, who were already suffering from various handicaps even prior to the onset of globalization, are facing greater heat of this expanding social reality. Being generally engaged in the informal sector of economy which is too weak to bear the shock of globalization, they suffer economically more than any other section of society and hence need discriminatory attention of the state to empower them to face the challenges of this global activity which is generally blind to heterogeneity in a society, be it social or economic. Scheme of rehabilitation of minority groups, and support and safeguard mechanisms may be provided to them. Most important among all the support systems would be to ensure their access to the lasting asset of education through policy measures and ensuring that benefits of all these provisions are really reaching the minorities and that their desired impact is really emerging. Besides, they may also need financial support so as to be able to take up any economic enterprise successfully in the new environment. Only these steps would succeed in insolating the minorities from the adverse socio-economic impacts of globalization and in enabling them to harness the opportunities being offered by it.