India is the largest the democracy in the world. Unfortunately, India suffers from massive poverty and strong socioeconomic inequality thanks largely to its traditional caste system. When looking at such a complex and confounding number of interactions between all the various subcultures within India, democracy seems incapable of balancing the diverse interests of the Indian Peoples. Despite India’s ongoing struggle to overcome deeply entrenched political, economic, and social problems, India is able to remain stable and democratic when the democratic government addresses the few common interests that all Indians share.
Facing up to 150 million or more workers protesting “pro-business” economic reforms, the Modi-led BJP government faces what is probably one of the largest democratic upheavals in the world. If handled poorly, such an outcry could easily lead to greater civil unrest and national instability. Not only would this hurt the global economy and the International Community, it would be a major regional threat to stability in China as well as Pakistan. Given concerns that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has grown accustom to suppressing dissent, which is a tendency all too familiar in Asia, it is important to recognize that to ignore or stifle the concerns of workers will only driven greater outrage.
Based on American standards, India embraces too many socialist policies, but India should embrace policies that reflect its interests. To ensure freedom from government overreach, India does need reforms when it comes to its extensive reliance on social welfare programs and state-run companies. India also needs regulatory reforms to create a more pro-business environment that is properly regulated, but Indians need labor rights to ensure the interests of workers are represented and addressed. Recognizing the 150 million protesters, who work in the banking, manufacturing, construction, and coal mining industries, are represented by 10 major unions, India enjoys the kind of diverse and strong union participation that a capitalist economy needs to function properly.
The truth is that India appears to have a fairly positive economic outlook, especially when compared to the economic woes seen throughout the global economy. By embracing necessary, constructive reforms, as well as the modernization of the Indian infrastructure, India can help bolster its economy and deal with its massive issues with poverty. The challenge for the Modi government is the need to demonstrate to the Indian Peoples why particular reforms are actually helpful to the Indian People. The government must explain why “pro-business” reforms are not just pro-business. They must also be willing to recognize not all of their pro-business reforms can be accepted by the Indian Peoples. Because people can endure a great deal of hardship, but struggle to overcome loss, the Modi government must avoid stripping people of their rights and replace the potential for financial loss with the potential for gain.
When it comes down to it, the Modi government is pushing “pro-business” reforms, because India is part of a competitive global economy where the lowest bidder tends to see strong economic investment. Where governments may not intend to undermine their own Peoples, the economic environment of the world pressures countries to embrace policies that do hurt workers. Poor countries, in particular, suffer from a lack of economic sovereignty. What workers fear in India, as well as the rest of the world, is the inability to ensure a basic standard of living and the opportunity to improve one’s lifestyle, even in the face of strong economic growth. The greatest challenge in resisting economic forces that neglect workers is a lack of leverage. As such, the Modi government must demonstrate that it is not deleveraging workers to boost economic growth and business profits.
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