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The introductory part of this book already caught my attention. It made me see India from a different perspective and I come to understand that there are external as well as internal forces that made India stay poor and modern at the same time. This book gave me deep insight into a system that allows rich people to become even more prosperous while preventing poor people from improving the quality of their lives.
By using India as her example, Arundhati Roy was able to show how modernization and globalization have strongly affected millions of people in this country. One of the central arguments that the author makes is that the forces of globalization have made India financially dependent on Western economies and that this dependence gives many loopholes for the exploitation of these people.
In Roy’s view, the situation is aggravated even more by the fact that India is still struggling with its colonial legacy, particularly caste politics that may “tear the society apart” (Roy, p 13). Overall, this book can increase the readers’ awareness of the political, social, and cultural life of India.
The quotes, explaining the author’s argument
- Arundhati Roy gives a very skeptical definition of such process as privatization and takes a very tough stance on the globalization of India; in particular, she says, “privatization is a mutually profitable business contract between the private (preferably foreign) company or financial institution and the ruling elite of the third world… Indian politicians have virtually mortgaged their country to World Bank. Today, India pay back more money in interest and repayment installments than it receives” (Roy, 60). Roy argues against privatization because in her view this is a form of manipulation and exploitation masterminded by private companies or financial institutions in conjunction with the ruling elites of a poor country. In this case, these are the corrupt politicians of India. She then went on to say that privatization puts the Indian people at a disadvantage because the private companies who come in to build infrastructure and other projects will do so using a guarantee to lower their financial risks. Under the circumstances, the role of guarantees will be performed by the poor population of the country, rather than by the policymakers. Furthermore, a great number of Indian people are virtually excluded from the decision-making process and have to change this situation.
- Additionally, the author accurately describes various interest groups that strive to exclude poor people of this country from decision-making. According to Roy, “what they’re lobbying for is not simply the privatization of natural resources and essential infrastructure, but the privatization of policy-making itself” (Roy, 43). From her standpoint, there is a great likelihood that poor people of this country will never have an opportunity to affect the political and economic life of the country.
- Arundhati Roy provides several examples that prove the detrimental effects of globalization and privatization. She speaks about the construction of dams and she believes that “India must be the only country in the world that builds dams, uproots millions of people, and submerges thousands of acres of forest to feed rats. ” (Roy 66). These dams are very expensive and as a result, contributed to the problems of the poor because they will be the ones to shoulder the interest rates that have to be paid for the loans. In this way, she illustrates the perils of privatization, which is driven by corrupt politicians. The resistance to the dams can be seen only in the outspoken voices of writers and critics like Roy.
- In her book, the writer also mentions the rhetoric or even propaganda which politicians use to make people believe that the constructions of dams are a beneficial phenomenon. Arundhati Roy points out that “for reasons more cynical than honorable, politicians and planners have successfully portrayed Big Dams to an unquestioning public symbols nationalism – huge, wet, cement flags… Jawaharlal Nehru’s famous speech about Big Dams being “the temples of modern India” has made its way into primary school textbooks… Every schoolchild is taught that Big Dams will deliver the people of India from hunger and poverty” (Roy, 63).
The Metaphor of Rumpelstiltskin
Arundhati Roy alludes to such mythical character as Rumpelstiltskin to better describe the relations between India and foreign economies. Rumpelstiltskin can spin straw into gold, in other words, to assist the country in every possible way, but his assistance is unselfish, and someone will eventually have to pay the debt. The author argues that it is the poorest people of India, who will do that rather than politicians, who made these debts.
The writer believes that modern Rumpelstiltskin should not be viewed as a separate individual; more likely, this creature has “metamorphosed into an accretion, a cabal, an assemblage, a malevolent, incorporeal, transnational multi-gnome” (Roy 35). Immediately what comes to mind is a powerful government with global power and multi-national companies. This is because corrupt politicians and the negative influence of multinational corporations and foreign governments are threatening to weaken the nation and its people. Roy believes that India continues to pay the debts to this corporate Rumpelstiltskin.
To prove her point of view, Roy refers to the fact that the essential Indian infrastructure (including dams, water distribution system, power plants) belongs to foreign companies (Roy 45). This is the reason why such a mythical figure as Rumpelstiltskin is so important for the development of the writer’s arguments. Nonetheless, one should note that Arundhati Roy does not propose any solution to this problem and does not show how India can escape this Rumpelstiltskin.
Arundhati Roy wrote a compelling book because she did not restrain the force of her criticism and expressed what she felt for her nation and the modern world. She is one of those people, who are not afraid to speak her mind. As a result of reading this book, I am now aware of the problems that privatization brings especially when it comes to creating projects like big dams. This book throws light on the problems, faced by not only India but other developing countries as well because globalization failed to improve the quality of many people’s life. This work enables us to better understand the relations between the advanced economies and those counties which have often been labeled as “the third world”.
One of the key problems, which she reveals is that many people, living in these countries fall victim to the local and corrupt politicians, on the one hand, and foreign companies, on the other. More importantly, in many cases, they have virtually no opportunity to change the status quo. On the whole, Arundhati Roy’s book can be of great interest to the students of political science and to people who study the effects of globalization.
Roy, Arundhati. Power Politics. 2nd ed. MA: South End Press, 2001.