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Human security is true‘development’

Human security is much more than national security. Only when its four vital elements—material sufficiency, human dignity, democracy and participatory governance—coalesce can there be true development

SRIPERUMBUDUR Parliamen-tary constituency, adjoining Chennai in Tamil Nadu, is a ‘developed’ one if the neo-liberal ‘development’ criteria are adopted. This is the home of some state-of-the -art ‘infrastructure’ projects, special economic zones and giant MNCs—Motorola, Samsung, Dell, Ford, Hyundai, BMW, Nokia, Saint Gobain, Nissan, Caterpillar, to mention a few. But, as pre-election surveys show, the locals are left wondering as to what the ‘development’ is all about! For them the roads are bad, bus services are poor, power cuts are frequent, the environment has sharply degraded, water sources are drying up and pollution is increasing. What is worse, there are hardly any job or income opportunities for the poor. Bereft of ‘human security’, they fall back on the freebies and charity handed down by the State government.

To propitiate such ‘development’, the Central and State governments extend massive concessions and facilities to these MNCs who, in turn, pay fabulous salaries to their expatriate managers and are earning profits in billions, most of which is repatriated to their home countries. This is ‘neo-liberal’ development at work! This is also true, perhaps in a largermeasure, of Gurgaon, adjoining Delhi, that has morphed into a ‘monstrous city’. At the height of the globalisation rampage, the late Caroline Thomas, Professor of Global Politics at the University of Southampton, wrote a book Global Governance, Development and Human Security (Pluto Press, 2000). It was well before the warped concepts, ideologies and methodologies that dominated Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation (LPG) made an unrelenting onslaught on the Indian economy due to the predatory policies and practices unleashed by UPA II, supposedly under an ‘economist’ Prime Minister. These policies, perceived mostly in a macro and material context, are related to structural reforms, allocation of natural resources, big-ticket projects, foreign investment, GDP growth and world trade. Poverty alleviation is expected to take place as a ‘trickle down’ effect.

The book dealt with the “growing inequality and widespread poverty that characterises the era of ‘neo-liberal’ development” and “uneven distribution of the benefits of the globalisation process, and the general failure of that process to attend to the human security of the majority of humanity.” The UPA triumvirate of Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan and P Chidambaram had no use for this book or what is written in it. In the event, by their LPG policies, they created an India of “growing inequality, widespread poverty, galloping prices and increasing unemployment.” At the hustings they are going to pay for it very dearly.

At the global level, the UNDP Report, 1997, describes the “uneven distribution of the benefits of the globalisation process”. It depicts a global society bereft of conscience or concern for human suffering. While one-third of the human race was reeling in poverty and penury, a microscopic minority of the global population wallowed in opulent wealth and splendour. Subsequently things got worse as ‘global governance’ tightened its grip on hapless Third World nations. In an inhuman system, where over one-third of the world’s population does not have a secure life, harping merely on ‘GDP growth’ and ‘unrestricted world trade’ as the central theme of LPG is indeed perverse and blinkered. This is precisely what happened in India in the past 10 years, resulting in nearly two-thirds of the population living in poverty and penury.

WITH a new government coming in, there is a need for a realistic and holistic approach to evaluate the LPG regime of ‘development’ and the system of governance that went with it, and provide a talisman that could measure its effectiveness. ‘Human security’ could be the talisman with individual dignity and poverty reductions as the core theme. The ‘human security’ talisman makes a fine distinction between ‘income poverty’ and ‘human poverty’. The neo-liberal reforms under the LPG regime seek to address only the ‘income poverty’ while virtually ignoring ‘human poverty’. This is what has led to the skewed, unsustainable ‘development’ that has taken place in India. ‘Human security’ is much more than ‘material growth and sufficiency’ (income security) and is described as “a condition of existence in which basic material needs are met and in which human dignity, including meaningful participation in the life of the community, can be met”.

While glitzy shopping malls (left) are perceived as a sign of ‘development’ by policymakers, people continue to suffer from inefficient civil works like bad roads (above)

While material sufficiency lies at the core of human security, the concept also encompasses non-material dimensions to form a qualitative whole. Human security is oriented towards an active and substantive notion of democracy, and is directly engaged with discussions of democracy at all levels, from the local to the global. This is fresh and positive thinking, harnessing four vital elements­—material sufficiency, human dignity, democracy and participatory governance—that constitute the core of a civilised society. One without the other is incomplete and unsustainable.

In the Indian context, a fifth dimension could be added. While the economy is expanding and getting globalised, politics is shrinking and descending from national, regional and state levels to communal/caste/tribal outfits, causing tensions and conflicts that never existed before. This phenomenon is taking placeprimarily because of a growingperception that global and national governance, as being practised today, does not provide adequate human dignity, identity and security.

IT is time human security replaced threat-centred security, which is the obsession of all countries. This makes sense because for most people today, a feeling of insecurity arises more from worries about daily life, rather than from the dread of war or any cataclysmic event. Job security, income security, health security, environmental security, security from crime, safety for women–these are the concerns of human security.

The LPG/neo-liberal model of development will never be able to achieve such security because by nature it is exploitative, with its very roots in crony capitalism—an economy that is nominally a free market but works on preferential regulation and other favourable government intervention, based on money power and personal relationships. This is what has been in practice in India ever since the LPG era of the early 1990s.

The LPG policies of the UPA triumvirate of Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and P Chidambaram have created an India of ‘growing inequality, widespread poverty, galloping prices and increasing unemployment.’

The blatant manifestation of this crony capitalism was described by former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi while delivering the 15th DP Kohli Memorial Lecture at the CBI’s year-long golden jubilee celebrations: “Corporate greed has crossed all bounds…. We used to talk of black money as a parallel economy and so it continues to be. But Reliance is a parallel state. I do not know of any country where one single firm exercises such power so brazenly, over the natural resources, financial resources, professional resources and, ultimately, over human resources, as the company of the Ambanis. From Ambedkar who spoke of economic democracy, to Ambani, who represents a techno-commercial monopoly of unprecedented scale, is a far cry indeed.”

This is the kind of ‘parallel state’ that has facilitated one person to live in a `5,000-crore mansion in Mumbai with all the security money can buy while millions sleep on pavements and in abandoned pipes, deprived of even basic safety and dignity.

Substituting Ambani with Adani is not the solution. India needs to go back to the basics–the economicidea of India envisaged by the Founding Fathers of our Republic. In this ‘idea’, development of independent India would be sui generis, a society unlike any other, in a class of its own that would not follow the Western pattern of mega industrialisation, urbanisation and individuation. India’s would be a people’s economy that would chart a distinct course in economic development. India would pursue need-based, human-scale, balanced development while conserving nature and livelihoods. In a self-respecting nation every citizen should get the strength, resource and opportunity to stand on his/her feet and earn his/her livelihood with honour and dignity instead of endlessly depending on corporate trickle-downs and government freebies and charity. God-given resources—land, water, jungle and minerals—belong to the people and these must be managed as such. Only then will there be human security.

The election manifestos unveiled by the political parties come nowhere near this ‘idea’. The Congress party talks of ‘internal security’, ‘law and order’ and ‘modernising the police’. It also talks of ‘securing from external threats’ and modernisation of Armed Forces with imported weapons. The BJP, in addition, talks of ‘food security’ and ‘energy security’.

There is hardly any holistic approach. However, General VK Singh, former Chief of Army Staff who joined the BJP and contested the Parliamentary elections, came nearer to the ‘idea’ when he said in an interview to rediff.com: “If you look at national security, it is not just external challenges. National security is external, internal, environmental, economic – anything that affects the health of the nation is national security.”

Human security is much more than national security. Only when its four vital elements—material sufficiency, human dignity, democracy and participatory governance—coalesce can there be true ‘development’that would spread prosperity across the board! Will such an era ever dawn on India?

The writer is a former Army and IAS officer. Email: deva1940@gmail.com

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