Victims of the World Unite!

K. S. Chalam

The current Covid-19 pandemic reminds me the much-deliberated work of the Club of Rome in the 1970s, ‘Limits to Growth’. I had the opportunity to listen to some of the members of the club in Frankfurt in 1983 and later found its inclusion in the academic discussions of development economics. However, the spate of criticisms against the authors, Meadows and Jorgen Randers was disastrous; some was mentioning that it was like ‘garbage in garbage out’ for their simple Computer based projections at that time. They have released the second edition in 2004 with an update noting that the, “the global challenge can be simply stated: To reach sustainability, humanity must increase the consumption levels of the world’s poor, while at the same time reducing humanity’s total ecological footprint. There must be technological advance, and personal change, and longer planning horizons. There must be greater respect, caring, and sharing across political boundaries. This will take decades to achieve even under the best of circumstances. No modern political party has garnered broad support for such a program, certainly not among the rich and powerful, who could make room for growth among the poor by reducing their own footprints. Meanwhile, the global foot print gets larger day by day.”  In fact, this study along with Al Gore, “Earth in the Balance” has influenced the thinking on the limits to environmental degradations afflicted by nations in pursuit of growth. This has also encouraged some activists rediscovering Marx and Engels as environmental crusaders. There are other studies undertaken by influential scholars who were either supported by funding agencies or business groups to hoodwink the predictions of the study commissioned by Club of Rome. Further, the new institutional economics was encouraged as an alternative to such unsophisticated studies and were awarded with Nobel Prize. But, we have today the Covid-19 before us reminding us how the ideas of limits to growth, ecological balance etc. are honest exercises undertaken by scholars and visionaries that appear to be significant today. Further, the UNO program of Sustainable Development Goals has vindicated the observations of the club and other remarks made by environmentalists.

Post Covid-19 World
The last quarter of the twentieth century and the first decade of the present era have produced some interesting studies by scholars envisioning the kind of economy and the society that would be encountered by the present generation. Some of the studies may not fit in to the established Liberal, Neoliberal, Marxian, Neo-Marxian, Modern, Post- modern etc. descriptions. Some of the results, not necessarily all of their findings are worth mentioning in the context of present health pandemic. It is also not out of place to mention the contributions of some international organizations that have cautioned the mankind about the consequences of certain trends. WHO, UNDP, UNCTAD, ILO etc. are some institutions that have produced reports and literature for us to deliberate over the harsh realities pressed on to the present generation. 

Some of the Human Development Reports, studies of independent scholars, and reports of NGOs have brought out the impending disaster both in the social domain and in ecosphere.  On the other hand, we have experts written and publicized on the unlimited opportunities with perfect substitutability of vanishing factors of production under the mechanism of splendid exchange (in the shadow of democratic institutions.) Now the post Covid -19 lockdown appears to be quite different from what the thinkers have anticipated. Some commentators projected that the World might get in to the hands of authoritarian rulers or their cronies or alternatively it may usher in a new era of equality, justice and sustainable development. As the things stand today, both seem to be possible. The recent stimulus package of Rs 20 lakh crores announced by Modi government has turned out to be a credit plan for further liberalization and pitching open offer for crony capitalism. This is different from Trump’s stimulus package that deposited$200 billion in the accounts of 130 million Americans, apart from tax rebates etc as of now. Even Pakistan, Bangladesh and other small countries have helped the people substantially compared to our package. There appears to be no change of heart in the ruling classes even after corona lockdown. Therefore, let us collectively think of an alternative World order devoid of exploitative and self -seeking individuals and institutions. We have seen that both the market economies and the so called Marxist ideology based institutions have failed us. But that doesn’t mean the scientifically verifiable or falsifiable constructs in them have failed. It may be the individuals, circumstances and historical conditions that have resulted in the present crisis.

It is possible to think of the alternatives. In the previous section we have proposed the dissolution of the World Bank as an institution that promoted as per some studies, authoritarianism in the guise of aid and human rights. It has also been brought out how financialisation, use of fictitious capital, production of weightless goods and use of technology under the control of cartels brought inequalities of income and wealth. It has also been proved that “meritocracy is just myth in contemporary capitalist economies and that there is no basis for the idea that cutting taxes for the richest will have indirect repercussions that favor the poorest.” The text book presentation of the functions of the World Bank, IMF, Financial Institutions, Corporate Social Responsibility etc do not reveal the deep and often veiled criminal activities that favor solitary goal of profit of self –seekers. Let us look at some of the findings of experts that help us to perceive how badly the present system got degenerated.

Widening Inequalities
Ever since humans in the present form started migrating to different parts of the globe in search of food, fodder and resources, rudimentary ideas of economics including the concept of property started. The first phase of globalization was perhaps in search of food had a consequence on exchange, accumulation and expansion. The European colonization started in the 15th century has ensued the emergence of USA as a leader of the group by the end of second war. It has emerged as the spiritual head of Capitalism with participation from most of the developed market economies under the present OECD group. Though GATT later WTO, the World Bank, IMF etc. might appear to be international institutional structures, they are however having a single agenda. They have carried the agenda of the dominant player America (see previous section) under NATO during the cold war era with Soviet Union holding some role to contain it. But it has ultimately accepted the defeat. Now the Covid-19 pandemic as a global phenomenon has affirmed the accomplishment of the economic globalization without a rival.  The process how it has happened and the role of countries and institutions in getting it to the pinnacle, elaborated by several experts need not be repeated here. They are known to many of us. We are mentioning here only some of the consequences of the economic globalization.  

The so called structural adjustment has been religiously advocated by the World Bank experts and others. It has really influenced to change the structure of the traditional economies and prepared many of them to follow the European or Washington Consensus model. The massive growth of infrastructures to suit movement of automobiles, airways, construction of huge shopping Malls (including Singapore as a Mall) , Gigantic irrigation projects, Entertainment industry, ICT, Smart Phone, Share market, Ecommerce, Financial derivatives, aggregates etc. that required huge investment to bring mass of customers at a market place, is almost accomplished as per the plan. Some of the programs did not suit the countries with huge populations and diversity however has developed their own structures like social democracy, planning, mixed economy etc. models. They are all demolished now and the models prescribed by the neo-liberals are substituted. (Some levelheaded bureaucrats and policy makers who have been associated with some of these projects, confessed how it operates).  Now, we have seen that these huge structures that benefitted contractors and speculators (like Malls) are being considered as the road blocks in times of pandemic like Covid-19. The element of democratic participation in the decision making process is replaced with corporate models of business management and procedures. The citizens are reduced to that of customers with rights to consult the customer care and consumer court. The smart phone and 24/7 live streaming of programs do engage the young and old, employed and the unemployed and the leisure class fully occupied to increase the revenues of the providers. These wonderful models as part of structural adjustment in restructuring markets (all kinds), fiscal prudence, and free trade helped the OECD group of countries that are now (after Covid-19) in deep trouble. The neoliberal models and the lopsided market socialism strategies have widened the gap between the lower decile group and the first one percent of the population of the World.

Madison study on World Economy –the millennium perspective, noted that, “over the past millennium, world population rose 22–fold. Per capita income increased 13–fold, world GDP nearly 300–fold. This contrasts sharply with the preceding millennium, when world population grew by only a sixth, and there was no advance in per capita income. From the year 1000 to 1820 the advance in per capita income was a slow crawl — the world average rose about 50 per cent. Most of the growth went to accommodate a fourfold increase in population. Since 1820, world development has been much more dynamic. Per capita income rose more than eightfold, population more than fivefold.” It means the colonial era has changed the contours of development in favor of the West. It was estimated that at 0 AD Western Europe had a GDP of 11.1 billion (international dollars at 1990) and Asia excluding Japan had a GDP of 77.0 billion (int. dollars) and the World GDP was 102.5 billion. It means, 75 percent of the World’s wealth was created in Asia that included India and China.  By 1000 AD the share of Western Europe came down to 8.7 per cent and Asia had maintained its lead with 67.5 percent of World GDP. Africa had only 6 percent of World GDP in 0 AD has improved its position by 1000 AD to 11.7 percent. In other words, the dominance of Western Europe came only after colonization and brutal exploitation of resources in the Asian and African countries for which they have developed technologies and institutions that suited their agenda. The resurgence of Asia and other countries that were reduced to developing counties status began after the II war and with decolonization. This is reversed once again in favour of the West with the establishment of institutions like the World Bank, IMF, WTO and market based technology to change the terms of trade in their favor.

There are several scholarly studies on the problem of inequality not only among social groups but also among countries. It is noticed that the GDP of 18 countries of OECD and China, India, Russia is 78.34 per cent of World GDP that have a population share of 60 per cent in 2019.The Oxfam study has estimated how 26 billionaires’ worth is equal to half of the planet and the Credit Suisse data (previous period) further supported it by saying that roughly 1 percent of the population hold 44.8 per cent of World’s wealth.  The more shocking part of the latest Oxfam Report was the contention that the bottom half’s wealth fell by 11 percent, whereas a few thousand billionaires saw their wealth increase by 12 percent. The latter isn’t too surprising — billionaire net worth’s tend to be bound up in individual companies’ stocks and are thus incredibly volatile; Jeff Bezos alone gained $24 billion in 2018 — but the idea that the bottom half’s wealth fell by 11 percent seemed odd and curious to some development economists. The world’s 10 richest billionaires, according to Forbes, own $801 billion in combined wealth, a sum greater than the total goods and services most nations produce on an annual basis, according to the International Monetary Fund. The globe is home to 2,153 billionaires, according to the 2019 Forbes ranking. Between 2009 and 2018, the number of billionaires it took to equal the wealth of the world’s poorest 50 percent fell from 380 to 26. The UNDP Human Development Report 2019 is subtitled as ‘beyond average, beyond today-Inequities in human development in the 21st century’.  It is noted that, “1. Disparities in human development remain widespread, despite achievements in reducing extreme deprivations .2. A new generation of inequalities is emerging, with divergence in enhanced capabilities, despite convergence in basic capabilities. 3. Inequalities accumulate through life, often reflecting deep power imbalances. 4. Assessing and responding to inequalities in human development demands a revolution in metrics and 5. We can redress inequalities if we act now, before imbalances in economic power are politically entrenched.”  The following Table 1 from HDR 2019 shows the inequities in HDI among the rich and poor countries. The Table gives data on number of doctors, nurses and beds per 10000 population and per capita GDP spent on health, indicating the disparities in health care.  But it doesn’t reflect whether the marginalized receive as much attention as the rich in times of pandemic as seen in Covid-19 lockdown due to the operation of market institutions. The report has suggested measures, within market paradigm to converge basic capabilities, while reversing divergences in enhanced capabilities and eliminating gender and other group-based (or horizontal) inequalities. Second, jointly advance equity and efficiency in markets, increasing productivity that translates into widely shared growing incomes— redressing income inequality. The two sets of policies are interdependent, with those that advance capabilities beyond income often requiring resources to fund public health or education, which are financed by taxes. And the overall resources available are, in turn, linked to productivity, which is linked in part to people’s capabilities. Further, technological change will reshape labor markets, particularly in explaining how automation and artificial intelligence might replace tasks now being performed by human labor. Technological change has been disruptive before, and much can be learned from the past. One key lesson is to ensure that major innovative disruptions help everyone, which requires equally innovative policies and perhaps new institutions. The current wave of technological progress will require other changes, including stronger antitrust policies and laws to govern the ethical use of data and artificial intelligence. Many of these will require international cooperation to succeed. One analysis suggests that up to 50 percent of global extreme poverty could be ended if developing countries adopted higher top tax rates.  The above policy prescriptions are known to every economist but political economists might know better, how difficult it is with the known characters of ruling classes, accepting them. They are well entrenched in the countries that possess the major share of wealth in the name of market democracy, are capable of changing governments and bring puppets to follow their dictates.


The technology that is eulogized by some as the outcome of market mechanism seemed to have failed to offer sustainable therapeutics to Covid-19 indicating its deep flaw while the social investment made by small countries like Cuba is providing the hope. The so-called democratic institutions and market that is amenable to manipulations against the declared gains have helped in creating oceans of plenty for few and hardly any opportunity to the bulk of the subaltern victims. The grammar of corporate Capitalism going in favor of the USA can be seen in Table-2. The top 10 global companies were held by four countries, USA 4, UK 2, China 3 and Brazil 1 in 2011 and now all the companies except 2 are landed in USA by 2019. China has lost one company to USA by 2015. It is not out of sheer merit and market efficiency that all these companies landed in USA without the tacit support and scheming extended by the state and market. These two institutions publicized as independent entities are being influenced through the institution of Regulatory authority. The regulatory authority and the rules framed by the state under the aid of lobbies and paid attorneys do always go in favor of the manipulator, not necessarily the risk bearer. Libertarians have innovated concepts like rent- seeking to cover up such immoral activities as exceptions. Interestingly all the top multinational companies are not the manufacturers or creators of real wealth but business and finance companies, some of them were in the news for their manipulations like data abuse both for political purposes and business expansion ( Facebook for instance). In other words, the excitement created in favor of these institutions as wealth creators and job providers by sponsored research projects appears to be partly false and partly unethical revisions. The value of capitalization of the few mammoth companies that surpass the GDP of groups of countries has in fact created terrible inequities not only in the economic opportunities but in social and cultural domain. The manipulation and creation of institutions with deceit and dishonest strategies have helped to create 26 super rich operators in the World sidelining billions of poor and ignoring (by now) the present deprived people untouched.


In this context, the role played by international organizations like the World Bank and UNDP can be seen operating in cross purposes. The UNDP has been working to understand the obstacles to achieve equity and development was guided by the vision and human perspective of Amartya Sen. Human Development Reports and the perspectives that they give in each report has helped the UNO to reason out the need for enhancement of human capability as a universal value.  They became recognized strategies to achieve millennium development and sustainable development goals. The perspectives of UNDP and the World Bank can be contrasted in terms of the Human Development Report 2019 and World Development Report 2020. While HDR looks beyond income and the present to lessen the inequalities, the World Bank looked at Trading for Development through Global Value Chains. Though both the institutions believe in the paradigm of market, World Bank makes harsh proposals like dividing the process of production and distributing each tiny method to a country so that the service business of coordinating all of them can be in the USA (like Amazon, Facebook etc.) and earn super margins. In other words, one proposes the other disposes. Both are seen sharing certain values like sustainable goals perhaps to endure a consumer to brace affective demand. They are only palliatives. But, the perspective of the World Bank as noted by several experts with concrete evidences of helping accumulation has landed the whole humanity in situations like Covid-19 pandemic, without a solution. It is the WHO that takes care of our health while World Bank is bothered about the wealth of the few and influential corporates. The PSRP papers and other reports of the Bank have created more distress than solutions; one amongst the many imperfections is creation of victims of human neglect.

Victims as Neo-Untouchables
The neoliberal agenda to strengthen institutions that help to influence the free play of market forces has promoted scholars to bring out some studies. The authors have identified institutions, groups and processes that impede freedom. The libertarian fantasy of few other thinkers has vehemently opposed the practice of authoritarianism and created countervailing perspectives to demolish it. Interestingly some of them have failed to realize how the market has emerged in the last part of the twentieth century as another fundamentalist institution under the regulatory mechanism of the state. Now the institutions, market and bourgeois state are on the verge of collapse without ever touching the important chunk of humanity that remained the victims. They are now, to use a traditional Hindu term, became untouchables of the capitalist World order.  Nearly around one third of the population of the World belonging to Nomads, Tribes, untouchable castes, minority groups and several others who are not being considered in the mainstream academic or activist debates. Even the all-pervasive Marxist-Leninist concept of exploited seem to have not touched these neglected groups who are perhaps not amenable to their definitions. They have remained neglected even in the hay day of Soviet experiment partly developing dissent for disintegration and the present Chinese aborted effort to bring the minority Uighur Muslims in to its fold. The typical Adivasi, dalit, Azral Muslim groups in India have remained outside of both the market and state processes of development, except crumbs (for vote bank politics). The same is true with similar groups in South Asia that are being considered as another collectivity of social and economic exclusion.

Attempts have been made by intellectuals to identify disadvantaged groups in the past. It is generally attributed to Marx and Engels to have used the epithet “Workers of the World Unite”. It is however contested by many that the words used by Marx were “proletarians of all countries unite”. It is also noted that Lenin used, “workers and oppressed peoples and nations of the world unite”. In other words, there is some ambiguity in the terms to capture the victims of the capitalist system. In fact, the definition of “Worker” is undergone a change by the end of 20th century when services sector started dominating the workforce in different parts of capitalist world. The term appears to have not covered all the toiling masses. It has pushed the political parties to categorize them and innovate terms like agricultural worker, industrial worker, service worker etc. Nicos Poulantzas’ concept of ‘New Petty Bourgeois’ has also failed to include the victims under economic, political and ideological criteria of class. It is difficult to qualify the alienation of groups as they were excluded from the mainstream production and distribution for a longtime. The most intriguing part of the term is that some of the groups that we are going to discuss now are not part of the capitalist system of production, to investigate how they could create surplus value. While this can be solved with some understanding of the transformation of the economy from pre capitalist to capitalist and the nuances involved, there are however, large chunks of people who have remained exterior to both the systems. The tribals or Adivasis , fisher folk, dalit castes, Roma ( dalit migrants) in India have never been considered as workers in the mainstream economic activity except a few in the modern period. The universal concept of feudalism did not capture not only these groups but also the indigenous races in the USA. There are several such groups that remained outside the paradigm of the left and the right. They may constitute one fourth of the mainstream population considering Indian dalit and adivasi population as a model.

It is not only in India but also in every other nation , several indigenous people amounting to about 400 groups covering 370 million ( excluding 300 million adivasis and Indians as India opposed the term) were found to be never part of either the socialist or capitalist classification. Indigenous or Aboriginal peoples are so-called because they were living on their lands before settlers came from elsewhere; they are the descendants—according to one definition—of those who inhabited a country or a geographical region at the time when people of different cultures or ethnic origins arrived. (Morgan study that became a reference point for Marx and Engels seems to have not touched this point).The new arrivals later became dominant through conquest, occupation, settlement, or other means. Most indigenous peoples around the world have retained social, cultural, economic, and political characteristics that are clearly distinct from those of the other segments of the national populations. Throughout human history, whenever dominant neighboring peoples have expanded their territories or settlers from far away have acquired new lands by force, the cultures and livelihoods—even the very existence—of indigenous peoples have been endangered. They are further ruined after globalization.

Around the world, Indigenous Peoples have been denied self-determination - a binding principle in international law which refers to peoples’ right to freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. Instead, Indigenous Peoples have suffered violence and oppression by both colonizers and mainstream society. Amnesty International noted that, “although they comprise only 5% (?) of the world’s population, Indigenous Peoples safeguard more than 20% of the carbon stored above ground in the world’s forests is found in land managed by Indigenous Peoples in the Amazon Basin, Mesoamerica, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Indonesia. Their sophisticated knowledge of the natural world means that where Indigenous Peoples have control of the land, we must support Indigenous peoples and preserve this knowledge as a vital tool to protect the environment and tackle climate change. There are studies to show how these groups are forced to adopt the language, culture, and ways of living and adopt thinking of the capitalist or socialist establishments. It was only recently that the UNO has recognized their presence and passed resolution in the historic decision taken during its first session by the Human Rights Council—the body that succeeded the Commission on Human Rights—to adopt the Declaration in 2006. Just over a year later, on 13 September 2007, the General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which marked a major milestone in the work of the United Nations and indigenous peoples´ struggle for the protection and promotion of their rights. Though India during the NDAI was reluctant to join the convention, it was later became a part of 143 nations voted in favor of the declaration and 4 countries, USA, Australia, Canada, New Zeeland voted against it. We know the reasons how the surviving American Indians even today are thrown in reservations as tribal gangs encouraging them to indulge in gambling and other demeaning activities. They are physically and socially distanced from mainstream before Covid-19 can be called them as the Neo-Untouchables. Recent media reports indicate some of these groups are affected by Covid-19 and are seen as unreachable.

Alberto Alesina of Harvard University has been working on the ethnic homelands in about 173 countries. The studies have brought out how ethnic minorities are marginalized in different parts of the world although some may have emerged as the dominant groups like the English American.  Alesina, Michalopoulos, and Papaioannou (2014), show that there is a strong inverse link between ethnic inequality and public goods within 18 Sub-Saharan African countries (and that this effect partly stems from political inequality and ethnic-based discrimination). Ethnic inequality may also impede institutional development and the consolidation of democracy (Robinson (2001)). In line with this conjecture, Kyriacou (2013) exploits survey data from 29 developing countries and shows that socioeconomic ethnic-group inequalities reduce government quality. They have used the standard Gini ratios of income across ethnic groups   and found wide disparities among them. To construct proxies of ethnic inequality for the largest set of countries, they combined information from ethnographic/linguistic maps on the location of groups with satellite images of light density at night that is available at a fine grid. The construction of the cross-country measures reflecting inequality in development (as captured by luminosity per capita) across ethnic homelands within 173 countries has been presented in the study. The luminosity of a region where multiple groups reside contributes to the average luminosity of each group. The size of ethnic homelands varies considerably. The smallest polygon occupies an area of 1.09 km (French in Monaco), and the largest extends over 7 335476 km (American English in the US). The median (mean) group size is 4 183 (61. 213) km. The median (mean) country in their sample has 8 (11.5) ethnicities with the most diverse being Indonesia with 95 groups. There is no specific mention about Indian castes in their study.

Sub-Saharan Africa and East and South Asia host the most ethnically unequal countries. For example, with the Ethnologue mapping, the mean (median) baseline ethnic inequality index for Sub-Saharan African countries is 0.63 (0.728), while for South and East Asian countries the corresponding mean (and median) value of the ethnic Gini index is 0.59 (0.69). In contrast, Western Europe is the region with the lowest level of ethnic inequality (mean and median values of ethnic Gini around (0.24).

Acemoglu, Robinson, Ronald Coase, Douglas North and several others of the new institutional economics do try to convince us about the efficacy of the institutions that can function within market and capitalist system through property rights. How is it that the institutions that help create inequities due to inheritance of wealth and a manipulated market help the victim. Did the so called market democracy ever helped the people on the borders of the countries (Acemoglu) without seeking their labor power? In fact, some of the traditional social institutions that used to provide help to the needy (not social capital that create divisions) got disturbed by market regulations have grown into impractical propositions. It seems some of these institutions under the tutelage of powerful market forces did not help the victims. We can examine some cases here as to how these institutions failed to deliver at the time of calamities like Corona. The migrant and the informal sector laborers constituting 50 percent of the labor force in India need to be considered as victims since bulk of them are untouchables, seen walking miles without food or shelter during covid-19 lockdown.

The present Covid-19 seems to have encouraged the Modi government to come out with open agenda to further privatize the economy. The post independent economy that was built by Nehruvian –Ambedkar-Fabian inspired Public sector built over a period of time is given to cronies. It is interesting to note that the cadres while praising swadeshi, bharat mata are silent when the family silver is being privatized; FDI is invited even in Defense sector. Further, using Rs 20 lakh crores stimulus package as credit plan to further liberalize Indian economy, converting it as a dependent nation is unpatriotic. The strategy adopted under the conditions of undeclared emergency during covid-19 lockdown appears to be a serious flaw in a democratic republic. Further, the investments that were made in the public sector have been drawn from the savings or forced deferment of education, health and welfare of the poor. No other country during this period has dared to do it except India. This might point to the deep panic that the few who are now managing the economy, society and polity appeared scared. It is nothing but the fear of the fact that they may lose their hegemony once normalcy prevails. This attitude is malice of the criminal mind that fails to see the beauty of sharing with fellow humans. The economic policies and packages in other capitalist countries like USA look different from India. The ruling classes or castes failure to realize the dangers of accumulation and discrimination in the name of merit would turn out to be counter -productive in the long run.

We have presented the above studies extensively to show that neither the neo-classical theory nor the Marxian political economy have ever tried to look at the large chunk of populations categorized as tribes, ethnic minorities, Lower castes etc. to bring them in to the mainstream analysis. The issue became popular topic of study only when Turkish and Italian scholars have flagged it. It is true that about 1 billion people mostly in Asia and Africa have remained outside the pale of development in the twenty first century. They are all now on the verge of endangered groups without help or aid from mainstream governments. The tragic scenes of lakhs of migrant laborers with pregnant women and infants walking hundreds of kilometers to reach home under the Covid-19 pandemic in India are only a part of the story. We have seen earlier the tragedy of other migrants arriving from Mediterranean region in to Europe, is partly diverse.  There are several millions of people in different parts of the World struggling to survive to eke out a living, did not move the so called largest democracies in the world USA and India. Some evidence from the social and ethnic backgrounds of the victims of Covid-19 in these countries suggests that 35 per cent of the victims in USA are from blacks and another 15 per cent from Mexicans confirms that the dominant groups do not bother about the marginalized even in a democratic polity (Barak Obama pointing out the issue in his press briefs). The same is the story in India. It is reported by news agencies that internal migrant laborers range from 139- 450 million in India. The international migrant laborers from India mostly to GCC countries amounts to millions are drawn from states like UP, Kerala, Telangana etc. (see Table-3). Interestingly the club of the capitalist world ‘the World Economic Forum’ noted as follows. “Over the years they have come to be identified with specific sectors – tribal migrants from Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan form the construction workforce; seasonal migrants from Bihar are head-loaders and cart pushers; migrants from Uttar Pradesh dominate as factory workers and drivers; Oriyas are mostly associated with plumbing work, and the diamond cutting industry is made up of people from Saurashtra. A large majority of them hail from historically marginalized groups such as the SC STs, which adds an additional layer of vulnerability to their urban experiences.” Thus, the tragedy of migrant laborers is that of the untouchables in India seem to be the same with other victims of the Globalization, capitalist or otherwise. They may all be grouped together with a familiar Indian term Untouchables or Neo-untouchables of the World.


Interestingly, the trade unions, social activists and above all the fragmented civil society have very little understanding of this problem of victimhood; much less the class oriented theoreticians who fail to fix them in any of their known or parroted nomenclatures. Therefore Covid-19 has brought an opportunity to understand and revisit our theories and whims ultimately to get the marginalized organized along with the economically alienated to revolt against the present systems that made them Neo-untouchables or victims. Victims of the World Unite, you have nothing to lose, except your social stigma.

Is there an alternative? 
It is really a very serious and problematic question to answer. Some young scholars questioned how it is possible to dissolve the World Bank, the high priest of World Capital and globalization. The sophisticated neo classical propaganda is so expansive that even informed citizens wonder how is that World Bank can be dissolved as if it is an elected UN body. It is known that the World Bank is not part of UNO and is only an associated unit. The economic development programs of UNO come under the Economic and Social Council. In fact, the amount of loans that the bank gives to countries to capture them with their conjuring techniques is peanuts and the results devastating. For instance, the loan that India got from the bank was $ 2 billion in 1991 while our GDP was Rs 578667 crores with a population of 84.6 crores or nearly one billion, means two dollars per capita (around Rs. 8 per dollar). It was not such a big amount given our economic strength, rate of growth and import substitution policy etc. at that time. But it was strategically planned to import oil consuming automobiles in the 1980s so that in the next few years problems would arise to import oil with foreign currency in dollars. It has worked to their advantage so that by 1990 the paid bureaucrats slowly got in to their trap recommending what the neoliberals advocated. This is all part of history as some European scholar has rightly remarked as ‘reforms by stealth’.  In other words, we need not overwhelmed by the sophisticated works and recommendations of some of the neoliberals as their recommendations have landed not only India and several others in trouble. We can pursue innovative alternative models of development and emancipation, based on past experiences.

The greatest insight that Covid-19 conveyed to us is that there are victims of the systems that are not being captured by mainstream rhetoric or political thinking. Therefore, it is not unconscious to say that the future struggles must be humanitarian in content and approach. The rich traditions of thousands of years of human civilization gave us solace and survival skills to encounter calamities and persist. This will remain our forte against the rapid progress that the technology driven present century under capitalism has brought us at the risk of miscarried agenda of accumulation and failed to identify our own human species as victim. If we fail to recognize this folly as a great tragedy to be compensated, human survival will be dreadful. Therefore, future economic and social transactions must rely on the status of the victims giving them the benefit of human development to a stage that the advanced groups have already achieved. It means that the transactions between the victims and others must be based in such a way that each transaction benefits the victim. Here the status of the victim is measured and identified in terms of their disadvantages as a quantity so that in each transaction between countries or groups, the benefit will be passed on to the victim being a human contribution. It is not comparative advantage between two transactions based on factor endowment, but the reverse of it to benefit the weak. As the advanced countries and races have already reached the optimum in a way at the cost of the original people, this humanitarian approach would go a long way for our common survival.  It is also possible to create places of opportunity in the technology era in such a way that the amount of working day can be reduced and the balance time can be given to the unemployed and underprivileged. Thus, the quality of life enhances for both the groups. The ideas can be elaborated and concretized with the indulgence of humanist, cosmopolitan and social economy scholars.

The economic progress achieved during the last one hundred years with the help of technology, as measured by OECD and other studies, point out the huge magnitude of the problem unparalleled in human history. It is also noted that 26 families and 500 billionaires have accumulated as much wealth as the humanity could collect over centuries. This appears to be an occasion to think of transferring the socio-economic and political process to these few individuals who are so super humans and privatize the state that failed us? Alternatively, we can appeal to these few prodigious persons to part with their wealth for the betterment and creation of capabilities of fellow humans as benevolent gift, after all it is all contributed by billions of people and let them preside over the destiny of our common future. The CSR funds or voluntary philanthropic contributions are insufficient to tackle a huge problem. Or abolish private property as it is this single institution that signifies man’s inner greed had been responsible in landing humanity in deep risk now. The elucidations that these institutions have been responsible in creating wealth are exactly the point that we have enough to share now. It is time to use all our common sense to develop alternative systems of common property with incentives for the accumulator. This appears to be utopian in the present Corona context but can be tried.

The following issues may be considered to arrive at an alternative policy as it is expected that by the end of Covid-19, all dominant nations either would collapse or come to their primordial human spirit of helping the needy and ‘the other’ as a value.

1 Creating opportunities to the least disadvantaged victims, giving preference for proportionate representation to all groups

2 Opportunities are to be directed to improve group’s welfare and not the individual

3 Public and social expenditure to create common properties to give free access to education, health care to all and create wealth for the future generations

4 identify country specific resources and facilitate exchange with others not to benefit from trade, but to transfer opportunities to help the poor and disadvantaged

5 Environmental considerations to protect the globe from further damage

6 Identify groups and individuals that are historically neglected, the victims and untouchables not only to help them but also withdraw programs that harm them

7 Use of the term victim as a category rather than Class that might slowly loose its relevance, be used for development

8 Market as a mechanism to exchange can be continued but not to take advantage of the victim and the powerless with advantage of technology to exploit the other

9 New International bodies and organizations either in place of the UNO or to strengthen those that are helpful to the above plan should be developed or promoted 

10 It is time to rethink and reevaluate the productive or unproductive use of disruptive technologies like use of smart phone, entertainment 24/7 accessible everywhere to contain degeneration of the young while using the same for worthwhile uses through regulations.

However, the above strategy can be achieved only through people’s participation, building a strong force, both physical and moral to take the agenda forward. 

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May 28, 2020

Prof. K S Chalam

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