Government continues to push privatisation of essential services

New Delhi : Despite the unravelling of 25 years of neo-liberal policies in India, the NDA government continues to push privatisation of essential services, according to journalist Sukumar Muralidharan .

“It continues to promote large scale infrastructure projects such a s mega industrial corridors, nuclear parks and mega-ports and de-regulate labour, land and environmental laws in the interests of capital,” Muralidharan said during a panel discussion on “Voices for Peace and Justice – People’s perspectives from BRICS countries”.

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Any resistance against this by students, labour unions, academics, writers and peoples movements is often crushed by the government, he said.

The 8th BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Summit will be held in Goa from October 15-16. Set up in 2009, in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis, with four countries and then expanded to South Africa in 2010, the emergence of the BRICS was seen in many circles as a concrete step towards constructing a multi-polar world.

This was underlined with the setting up of the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB), the China-led Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) that were supposedly direct challenges to the hegemony of western dominated institutions such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“It was soon evident that these new initiatives, while allegedly eroding the dominance of the Bretton Woods Institutions, would in reality work in a complementary and collaborative fashion with the latter,” he said.

“The summit is happening in the midst of multiple global and national crises. The world continues to struggle with the impacts of the 2008 global economic crisis and conflicts in West Asia and the Arab world show no signs of resolution,” Muralidharan said.

According to Maren Mantovani (Stop the Wall campaign, Palestine), the BRICS have on occasion taken progressive positions on geo-politics.

“It has played a role in opposing unilateral military intervention in Syria (prior to the Russian intervention in 2015) and calling for a just solution to the question of Palestine,” she said.

“India and Brazil kept alive hopes for inexpensive life-saving medicine by rejecting Intellectual Property monopoly, helping South African AIDS-treatment activists beat their own government ten years ago, leading to a 10-year improvement in life expectancy,” she said.

“At best, the BRICS is a contradictory forum posing immense challen ges with some opportunities for critical engagement,” she added.

In May 2016, Brazil’s democratically elected President Dilma Rousse ff was ousted through a constitutional coup, with no objection from her BRICS allies.

“The rightwing interim President Michel Temer is now actively pushing for the potential privatisation of state companies, such as Petrobras, electricity utilities, ports and airports,” Mantovani said.

“Israel says to India that they are going to make the desert blue,” she said, adding,”when I saw the situation of the farmers in the northeast and Gujarat I realised that what Israel is actually doing is exporting very expensive high technology, water technology, and agriculture technology that is not helping any poor farmers…”