22/11/2006
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In India it’s not business as usual. Economists claim that India is hurtling along the superhighway of growth and audaciously predict that along with China, Russia and Brazil, it will be one of the giant economic forces in the coming century. The Outlook magazine recently (November 6 2006) carried a cover story with the title ‘Taking over the World’ waxing eloquent on India Incorporated and how the axis of corporate power is now shifting from Europe to Asia. While there is quite a bit of corporate spin and hyperbole surrounding these prophesies they should not be underestimated by progressive forces. From a business point of view India is firmly on a corporate-led reforms trajectory that seems irreversible there will be more Special Economic Zones (SEZs), new world class infrastructure in urban areas, super highways, five-star hotels, airports, super markets and shopping malls and less of government intervention in public policy.
The Congress led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has closely worked as an agent of big business. Nothing epitomises this better than a banner sponsored by the UPA Government and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year under the ‘India Everywhere’ campaign which said ’15 years, six governments, five prime ministers, one direction’. Reality is not far from this. Corporate India is on the warpath; between January and October 2006 Indian companies spent thrice the money buying foreign firms compared to what MNCs have acquired here.

But alls not well with the Corporate India project. Mobilisations across the country, by farmers and
social movements against SEZs, have dampened the government’s enthusiasm. The stalemate in
the World Trade Organisation and the likely collapse of the Doha round of trade talks is good news
for the world’s poor and bad news for corporate India. Trade liberalisation is down but not out yet
and India has been pushing for bilateral free trade arrangements in South and South East Asia. The
spectre of urban chaos looms large with schemes such as the National Urban Renewal mission.
Urban groups across the country have questioned the anti-democratic and pro-corporate nature of
the mission and are working on alternative visions for people friendly cities. The Bush-Manmohan
nuclear deal will heighten geo-political tensions in South Asia and beyond. The deal is under fire in
the US Congress and there are fissures among members of the UPA government.