The Tribune - Spectrum

, March 10, 2002

Punjab-centric analysis of an ideological battle
Ranbir Singh Sarao

Globalisation and Punjab: Impact on Economy, Polity and Culture edited by Prakash Singh Jammu. Punjab Academy of Social Sciences, Literature and Culture and Punjabi Bhasha Academy, Jalandhar. Pages 247. Rs 250.

GLOBALISATION is primarily a trading system which, according to its protagonists, is capable of coping with the vicissitudes of nature, culture, geography and raw materials. It has made the ideal of global inclusion a tangible reality. Its modus vivendi is too powerful and seductive to be controlled and manipulated by any tyrant or dictator. It stands for a movement of goods, services and people across national boundaries.

The basis of this movement is provided by the interdependence of humanity that has been emphasised in abstract terms by thinkers and theologians throughout the ages. The politicians have been acutely conscious of it since the Second World War. It is only recently that it has come to pervade all aspects of life of the common man living in a world where walls have been pulverised, distances annihilated and information and entertainment globalised. This has happened as an inevitable result of the inexorability of the market forces and strategies, largely represented by American business.


Simon Maundy, an eminent writer of the UK, holds the view that American business is only interested in its own success. It is beyond the pale of social influence and democratic political control. Hence it has become all-consuming, free from any social commitment and concern for egalitarianism. "It is the East India Company on a world scale".

Globalisation has appeared as a new avatar of capitalism and imperialism in the form of financial institutions and multinational companies, largely controlled by American business. These gigantic establishments threaten to convert the underprivileged countries into private property, subvert the cause of social justice and endanger environment. They have spearheaded an ideological and cultural offensive against the underprivileged and released forces of global cultural exploitation. Thus globalisation has acquired the potential to erode national sovereignty and made nation states economically irrelevant and politically moribund.

Bill Clinton, in a recent article (The Tribune, June 14, 2002) has drawn attention to the terror, spawned by globalisation, in the form of suicidal attacks on the bastions of American economic and military power. He looks upon the terrorist attacks as much as a result of globalisation as is the explosion of economic growth. It implies that international terrorism is the price that has to be paid for the benefits of globalisation, being aptly described as the second industrial revolution. Bill Clinton argues that "we cannot claim all the benefits without facing the dark side of the coin".

In this broad context, the book under review studies the impact of globalisation on the economy, polity and culture of Punjab. The Punjab-centric book has grown out of a seminar held under the aegis of Punjab Academy of Social Sciences, Literature and Culture.

The book comprises of 13 well-researched papers out of which eight address the issue of globalisation in terms of its impact on society, culture, economy and polity of Punjab. Out of remaining five, three deal with the question of state autonomy, and two focus on rural health and education in Punjab. The opening chapter reproduces the summary of the GATT agreement in 1994 that has thrown up WTO on the world canvas providing for multilateral and plurilateral trade agreements. The GATT agreement serves as a launching pad for the exploration of the central theme of the book. The introduction by P. S. Jammu and H. S. Deol presents an review of evolution of cultural/economic policy formation in post-independence India and gives a comprehensive resume of the papers, collected in the volume.

In the theme paper Harkishan Singh Surjit presents an incisive critique of the twin phenomenon of globalisation and liberalisation. The colossal shadow of the Fidel Castro looms large on the analysis which is marked by a deep theoretical understanding of capitalist and cultural globalisation. It opens out into larger meanings of cultural invasion of globalisation. To conclude the analysis Surjit makes an impassioned plea for mobilising resistance to the relentless forces of marauding globalisation.

H. S. Deol's two papers constitute the tour de force of the volume. The first paper, focuses on the ambivalence of globalsiation in the context of opposition between realism and idealism' multinational corporations and national establishments; economic liberation and socialism; global village and heterogeneity; and universality and particularly. Deol hammers home the point that "nothing is national these days". He is of the opinion that gloablisation must be freed from Americanism just as modernism had been salvaged from westernisation in the 50s of the 20th century.

The second paper by Deol discusses the issue of state autonomy on the basis of the contention that the federal structure of Indian Constitution is not in harmony with the generally accepted principles of federalism. The centrifugal tendencies, inherent in the authoritarian hegemony of the Centre and presents a cogent case for the revision of the Constitution.

In "Studying Punjabi Culture in the Context of Globalisation" I. D. Gaur interprets Punjabiat in the light of Sarbat da bhala which he asserts is in tune with global spirit. He takes into consideration the forces that have been posing a challenge to the ideology of welfare of all at different to the ideology of welfare of all at different points of time in the history of Punjab the latest being globalisation.

Paramjit Singh Judge in "Globalisation and Punjabi Society" contends that culture and religion operate in separate spheres and the overlapping of two tends to jeopardise the cohesive of social life. He looks upon pluralism and multiculturalism as the handiwork of globalisation.

Harkrishan Singh Mehta in "Globalisation China and India "traces the similarities between India and China and makes a plea for Sino-Indian collaboration. He pleads that India must shed bias against public sector, enforce decentralisation of authority and narrow the gap between incomes and take a leaf out of the book of China in this regard.

Satya P. Gautam in "Globalisation and Culture Some Considerations" asserts that culture and not ideology will form the leitmotif of international relations in the future. The interpretation of local and global culture in the post-modernist society accounts for the primacy of culture. Gautam, is his second paper, "Political and Cultural Autonomy in Indian Society - Some Considerations" studies the concept of autonomy in a philosophical perspective and denounces the colonial interpretation of Indian history and culture.

Prithipal Singh Kapur in "The Constitution Review and Anandpur Sahib Resolution" argues that the Indian ruling class has subverted the federal structure of the Constitution by retaining in its the core of the Act of 1935. He opines that Anandpur Sahib Resolution is more sinned against than sinning and hails the resolution as a landmark in the emergence of federal consciousness in India.

Sucha Singh Gill and Ranjit Singh Ghuman in "Crisis of Punjab Economy the Alternative Options and the Role of the Government" regard the slow economic growth and fiscal breakdown as indicators of crisis in economy which has promoted corruption and maladministration. They have suggested strategies for the rejuvenation of paralysed institutions, toning up of administration and improving the performance of the government. The conceptual superstructure of the paper is raised on an empirical base. Gill and Ghuman in "Rural Health: Emerging Punjab Scenario" view the problem in the overall context of rural development and link it with agricultural reduction. The suggested measures reveal their deep concern for the amelioration of the lot of the village people who are being discriminated against in the matter of providing facilities for better health care.

Ranjit Singh Ghuman's "Impact of World Trade Organisation on Punjab Agriculture" is in the nature of a response to the formidable challenge of WTO which will soon stalk the Indian scene as a spectral manifestation of globalisation. Ghuman pleads for adoption of protective measures inbuilt in WTO regulations.

R. P. Goyal in "Challenges to Education in Punjab" dwells upon the factors that have thwarted the goal of universalisation of elementary education in Punjab. He pleads for the allotment of more funds to elementary education and suggests measures for strengthening college and university education.

The papers taken together represent a progressive/radical standpoint in highlighting the perils of unfettered global capitalism. The main thrust lies in promoting the realisation of bridling economic globalisation for economic social justice. The central argument seems to echo Noam Chomsky's view that unrevised global capitalism is seen to concentrating the world's wealth in fewer hands. The writers share the celebrated linguists' fear that US could one day use weapons of instant mass destruction, targeting the growing masses of have nots that globalisation is expected to produce. Thus, the book under review appears to take Punjab as a point of departure to map out an ideological battle plan to contain globalisation. Herein lies its significance.