Globalisation & Sustainability of Rights

Concept Note


1. CRG’s Past Researches in this Area: This proposal is intended to carry forward Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group’s (CRG) ongoing work on socio-economic rights of people and the communities, rendered marginal in context of economic reforms in India. Besides providing opportunities for research, the segment will enable dialogues with researchers, rights activists and thinkers, college teachers, young researchers, and activists in popular movements towards a better understanding of interdependence and the complexities of the global processes, and their unequal impact on nations, countries, regions, and populations at various levels, also understanding the nature, causes and consequences of poverty and erosion of rights. With special focus on women, dalits, indigenous population, and unorganised labour the project will seek to address the important questions of: How can rights be sustained in face of globalisation? What is the nature of the erosion of rights we are witnessing? And what is meant by ‘sustainability’? The field studies will be significant as in the past in researches, dialogues, and orientation activities of CRG.  

2. The Perspective: Globalisation often understood as an ambivalent process (bringing both possibilities and challenges in the socio-economic realm) encompasses global processes that increase interconnectedness between people and intensify the global trade in products between them. The neo-liberal model of globalisation promoting the right of free trade and capital has a basic clash with the tenets of universal human rights. Thus there is a constant tension between the ‘social’ yearning for democratic values and ‘economic’ competition for unhindered profit, trade and movement of capital. Since the 1980s, India has moved to varying degrees, to a strategy of export-orientated development, liberalisation and privatisation and fiscal strategies of neo-liberal economic paradigm, which gained momentum in the early 1990s. India’s Economic Reforms Programme (July 1991) under the TINA (There Is No Alternative) theory was also in wake of foreign exchange liquidity crisis, declining GDP growth rate and a near stagnating economy. The reforms have continued since then irrespective of changes in the government at the Centre. The rupee is stronger, and a particular section of people had never had so many choices to spend their money on. Yet, the abundance of choices, unprecedented growth in income of the middle and upper classes, and the increased urban base - all these have come at an irreparable cost borne by a large section of population (dalits, indigenous population groups, women, and wandering informal labour), which have been rendered invisible in past fifteen years. 

3. State Policies: The government policies in this period have consistently revised or removed support structures for small farmers in Indian agriculture while promoting unsustainable, high-input agriculture which farmers, especially in dry areas, cannot afford to practice. Farmers are facing the worst ever crisis due to increased inputs cost, frequent failures of rain, erosion of government support mechanism in terms of subsidies, loans, attractive support prices and other such policies which went in strengthening the agriculture sector in past. The demand for strengthening the minimum support price system to cover the real cost of production, waiver of debt and proactive support to low-input sustainable agriculture especially in rain-fed areas has fallen on deaf year. Moreover, land is seen not as something required for meeting the food needs of population but as real estate meant for development of SEZs (Special Economic Zones), creating high class infrastructure, multi storied housing projects, export-based units, while depriving thousands of the only available source of income or sustenance. Many studies confirm that nothing less then long- term solution will solve this problem.  

4. The Issue of Sustainability of Rights in these Conditions: Globalisation is a rights-centric conflict between different interests of various actors in direct confrontation. These actors are (a) the nation states, (b) the international institutions (UN, WTO, World Bank, IMF, etc.), (c) the MNCs, and (d) the affected population groups in various countries, in this case, India. Nation states have to assert their right to retain their sovereignty. International Institutions clamour for the right to global governance. Multinational corporations claim the right of free trade and commerce. Affected population groups demand that basic human rights be achieved, and sustained. It therefore becomes necessary to understand the context in which globalisation functions and the way popular struggles see their own struggles in the broader framework of these conflicting rights of different actors. The rights question has assumed significance in such a perspective; it differs significantly from the traditional Western concept dominated human rights scenario. In the post-colonial context the rights discourse is a part of the claim makings dynamics in a democracy; it expands democratic tolerance, stresses the preservation of popular gains in face of globalisation, and emphasises socio-economic rights in the same measure as civil and political rights. 

5. The Programme: The programme has three segments: Research, Orientation and Training, and Publications. 

6. Objectives: The main aim of the programme is: To engender research in rights based approaches to development, livelihood, and globalisation; also to sensitise representatives of the government and civil society engaged in the formulation and implementation of policies about the special needs of the women, Dalits, indigenous communities, specially challenged people, and other marginalised groups in society during the crisis situation such as Tsunami, floods, ethnic conflicts, internal displacement, etc.

7. Research Segment: This segment of the programme will look in to the demands of several popular struggles and government’s responses through detailed field surveys in East India especially in West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand and North East India around following issues:  

  • A model of development, which is sustainable and more inclusive;

  • Women as equal partners at all level of decision-making and development;

  • Providing a participatory democratic, transparent, and accountable government;

  • Ensuring the spaces and respecting the people rights to non-violent protest against all forms of injustice;

  • Providing access to livelihood resources in the hands of the local people/communities so that people's basic survival is guaranteed;

  • Implementation of pro-poor policies and legislations that have been enacted but never implemented for example, Minimum Wage Act, Equal Wage for Equal Work, Bonded Labour Release & Rehabilitation Act, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Atrocities Prevention Act.   

To sum up, the proposed tasks will be achieved by primary research through selected case studies and examining them in the context of the effectiveness of the policy measures. The emphasis will be on studying the implementation and efficacy of these policy measures, and developing an alternative policy framework. The project would also study and document the alternatives developed by communities through their popular struggles against the changing socio-economic scenario in localities. The research programme will be thus part analytical, part ethnographic. 

8. Orientation Segment: To address the above mentioned concerns CRG also proposes to organize short orientation programmes on “Rethinking the Issue of Rights, Justice and Development” with participants from various parts of the country, particularly from the East and the Northeast, during the proposed duration of the programme.      

9. Publications Programme: This study will contribute to the literature on globalisation processes, its social, economic and political impacts, policy analysis and critiques, and offer findings on addressing the chinks in formulation and implementation of policy measures especially on the issue sustainability of rights of the marginalised communities which would further serve as a toolkit for training and teaching by other implementing organisations of the government programmes, and independent developmental programmes in this region. Research articles, monographs and volumes will be published on the basis of the research work. 



GC-45, First Floor, Salt Lake, Sector III, Kolkata-700 106
Tel :91-33-2337 0408 | Fax : 91-33-2337 1523

@2009 Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group