Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

May 2010
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EDITORIAL

Liberalization gone berserk
Signs that the economic liberalization has run berserk and structural reforms have gone horribly wrong are too palpable to miss. Rather than being people-centric, the reforms are getting only market-oriented and money-centric. There are enough evidences to prove that people are being viewed more as consumers than individuals with a conscience. Doctors treat the suffering individuals as clients, not as cure-seekers and patients. Educational institutions are being headed by CEOs and manned by customer relationship officers. Quality of education is measured by the degree's worth in the market, rather than human quality of professionals being turned out of the portals. Pregnant women urge to be taken to mega hospitals that could strike awe among visitors rather than nursing homes that ensure safe, secure delivery.

Racier are the sports, bigger is the promise of moolah being reaped by the sponsors. Cricket, the patriotic pastime of yesteryears first got reduced to gambling and now heads for a slot reserved for money-launderers looking for a mega-opportunity.

Virgin forests and lands pregnant with minerals are being doled out to bidders who could grease the palms of the politicians and nation's natural heritage is being sold dirt cheap to private companies to amass fortunes and ultimately control governments with their money power. Tribal habitations are being denuded of forests endangering their livelihood and their cultural milieu. Rivers are being sold out to cold drink makers. Oustees from the dam sites and powerhouses invade cities and help proliferate slums which are then targeted by the communal outfits to stigmatise the new entrants as 'foreigners'. Xenophobic hatred thus triggered provides the cannon fodder for elections to the outfits that thrive on demonizing 'others'.

Branding, packaging, distribution, advertising, transport and marketing of products claim as much as 90 per cent of the product cost, while only 7 per cent of the market price of manufactured goods constitutes the labour's wages. While actual makers of goods wallow in poverty, the image-makers on the billboards reap millions.

Media has outlived its utility and is a handmaiden of the consumer lobby and industrialists. Most news is being decided by the advertisement managers rather than news editors. Mazdoor unions find no space in newspapers but models provide the steady stuff for page three. News space is now up for sale and lines between news and publicity are getting increasingly blurred. Most advertisements on television sell lotions for skin or polish for hair.

Hundreds of business schools have mushroomed out into cities and small towns. But not a single school teaching humanities or social sciences has emerged on the scene in the last two decades in the country. People care a damn for courses in humanities but willing to squander millions on business management degrees. Talking of social justice with growth is out of fashion.

'Looking good' is huge business. From drapery to garments to sanitary ware, the emphasis is on uplifting one's image rather than adding substance to the individuals. Middle class homes end up spending more on soaps, shampoos, purifiers, perfumes, tissue papers, floor cleaners and polishes than food and beverages.

Kids are encouraged to eat more of junk food than cereals. Phone, mobile, internet and pay channel bills outstrip money spent on newspapers, journals and books. Kids are turning into couch potatoes imbibing TV visuals with no profound value or knowledge. Early dawn of consciousness about assignments that pertain to adulthood and mature minds, is robbing away innocence from children.
Lives are empty of higher purpose and sterile of cherished values and people vie with each other in putting up better looks, attaining comforts of life, and unabashed pursuit of luxuries. Social status is measured in terms of wealth and hard assets one possesses, not in terms of knowledge, skills and value one could add to the institutions and intellectual life of the community. 'How are you?' is reserved for the rich and the influential. Others merely deserve the ridicule of being queried 'who are you?'.

Jails are replete with inmates who cannot pay for the legal bills. The ones neck-deep into corruption, who have defrauded people of their hard-earned millions, who suck blood of poor and the needy, get out within no time.

The government has clearly abdicated its obligation of making food, water, health and sanitation accessible to the underfed, unwashed multitudes and is smug with satisfaction that major economic indices are upwardly mobile. It no longer feels compelled to ensure the welfare of the masses. Providing better business opportunities to the entrepreneurs seems to be the overriding concern. Is it not the time to ask as where we are headed for?