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Last Updated: Monday, 21 May 2007, 23:03 GMT 00:03 UK
Winners and losers as India booms
By Karishma Vaswani
Business correspondent, BBC News, Mumbai

On a dry, arid patch of land in Western India, a group of farmers make a political and economic statement - we are selling our farms, they say.

Indian cotton farmer and his sons at Yavatmal outside Nagpur
Many farmers have been hit hard by globalisation
Under the searing heat of the Indian sun, the head of the village, Dharampul Jarundhe, whose family has farmed for generations, wipes the drops of sweat from his brow.

"No more agriculture for us", he says. "It doesn't feed us, it doesn't feed our children. We will move to the cities and work as tea bearers, and live in Mumbai's slums if we have to - it is better than starving."

Seventy per cent of India's people make their living on the land. Millions of farmers, spread out across rural India, have had to watch the value of their products depreciate on the international markets.

There is a segment that is growing up in India right now that is ready to reap the benefits of what globalisation truly is
Pavithra Suryanarayan, independent economist.
A lack of subsidies mean they are at the mercy of the whims and fancies of economic terms like the demand and supply curve, subjects they never studied in school, phrases they don't understand.

All they know is that they are caught in the cycle of debt and drought, and year after year life gets worse.

Higher expectations

Like many of India's farmers, Dharampal has heard the legendary tales of Mumbai. In the village next to his, there is cable television, brought thanks to the growing incomes of some of the villager's young who have gone to India's financial capital to make a living.

People in rural India
The gap between rural and urban India is enormous
On the TV sets, images of a rich, urban, glittering India are beamed into the tiny mud-patched homes of the Indian countryside, fuelling resentment, giving rise to an unimaginable fury that has manifested itself in demonstrations and protests scattered across the nation.

Critics of globalisation say the forces of free market style economics are to blame for the rising income inequality between the India of the haves, and the India of the have-nots.

"Is this what you call progress?" asks Jaideep Hardlikar, a farmer activist and a journalist. "I think it's loot by a few of the majority.

"No doubt software professionals are earning money their fathers and forefathers had never ever imagined in their life., but the kind of deprivation you see in parts of India that were once prosperous is shocking and unfathomable."

I am making more money than my parents could have ever dreamed of, and as an Indian woman that is so totally liberating
Devika, call centre worker, Mumbai

But economists say that globalisation is a useful bogeyman and should not be blamed for India's ills.

"This is not the fault of globalisation," scoffs Pavithra Suryanarayan, an independent economist.

Garuda shopping mall, Bangalore
Shopping malls have proliferated in India's cities

"Arguably, even if India had never liberalised, you would have seen the same results.

It is the fault of a lack of reforms in the agricultural sector. You cannot blame the faults of the government on globalisation. It is a convenient phrase that is bandied about and blamed for everything."

Big benefits

During loud protests on the streets of Delhi outside parliament house, globalisation gets blamed a lot.

It is the reason that many say India's social and cultural values are being eroded. It is what small shopkeepers say is bringing in American supermarket chains like Wal-Mart to India, threatening their livelihoods. And it is what is being blamed for rising pollution levels in the country, as a result of rapid industrialisation.

Software company in Bangalore
India's outsourcing industry has produced wealth for some
But ask 25-year-old Devika, who works at a call centre in Mumbai, whether her life has been changed for the better because of the free market and she will give you a resounding yes.

"It's a cliché now, isn't it, but it's still true. I am making more money than my parents could have ever dreamed of, and as an Indian woman that is so totally liberating.

"I don't need to depend on my parents for money, I don't need to depend on a husband for money. I can choose to get married later if I want to. I may not even need to get married. The opportunities that have opened up for me are mind-boggling."

Ms Suryanarayan agrees.

"There is a segment that is growing up in India right now that is ready to reap the benefits of what globalisation truly is, and what it can do," she says.

"They can tap into global markets, they are being given opportunities now to be part of a really global world. It is this generation in India that will see the benefits of a globalised economy."

Balancing the opportunities of the haves with the misfortunes of the have-nots, though, will be a priority for India as its economy develops.




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