South Asian Thinkers' Workshop report launched | Greenwatch Dhaka | The leading online daily of Bangladesh

South Asian Thinkers’ Workshop report launched

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To discuss and deliberate the emerging issues and concerns in South Asia in the context of fallouts of neo-liberal economic policies adopted by all South Asian countries, SAAPE in collaboration with Social Scientists’ Association (SSA, Colombo) and Centre for Labour Studies (CLS, Bangalore) organised the two-day workshop in Colombo, Sri Lanka in March 2017. The sessions of the two-day workshop mostly focused on the transforming nature of State in South Asia, informalisation of labour, the crisis in agriculture and rising religious fundamentalism.The report of the South Asian Thinkers’ Workshop can be downloaded from the following link:
http://saape.org/index.php/publications/saape-publications/proceedings?download=92:south-asian-thinkers-workshop-report-9-10-march-2017-colombo-sri-lanka
The fifth triennial poverty report of SAAPE was also launched in Colombo in the concluding session of the workshop.
Summary of the Report od South Asian Thinkers’ Workshop
South Asian Thinkers’ Workshop was jointly organised by South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE), Social Scientists’ Association (SSA), Colombo and Centre for Labour Studies (CLS) National Law School of India University, Bangalore. The two-day event was conducted in the Women’s Education and Research Centre (WERC) in Colombo, Sri Lanka on 9-10 March 2017, with participants from five South Asian countries Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
To discuss and deliberate the emerging issues and concerns in South Asia in the context of fallouts of neo-liberal economic policies adopted by all South Asian countries, SAAPE in collaboration with Social Scientists’ Association (SSA, Colombo) and Centre for Labour Studies (CLS, Bangalore) organised the two-day workshop in Colombo, Sri Lanka in March 2017. The sessions of the two-day workshop mostly focused on the transforming nature of State in South Asia, informalisation of labour, the crisis in agriculture and rising religious fundamentalism.
The report of the South Asian Thinkers’ Workshop can be downloaded from the following link:
http://saape.org/index.php/publications/saape-publications/proceedings?download=92:south-asian-thinkers-workshop-report-9-10-march-2017-colombo-sri-lanka
The fifth triennial poverty report of SAAPE was also launched in Colombo in the concluding session of the workshop.
The objective of the workshop was to discuss and deliberate the emerging issues and concerns in South Asia in the context of fall outs of neo-liberal economic policies adopted by all South Asian countries. The negative consequences of neoliberal policies were evident from the persistent crisis in agriculture, growing informalisation of labour and rising religious fundamentalism. The extended objective of the workshop was also to provide a strategic direction to SAAPE in its course of action in the period of 2017-2020. The sessions of the two-day workshop dealt with four themes- the transforming nature of state in South Asia, crisis in agriculture, informalisation in labour and rising religious fundamentalism. There was a public forum where activists from Sri Lanka discussed their experiences on the themes of resettlement of post-war communities, mega development projects and its impact on traditional agrarian and fishing practices, exploitation of women in tea plantation community and nature of resistance of people against tourism-based development. The fifth triennial poverty report of SAAPE titled ‘South Asia and the Future of ProPeople Development: The Centrality of Social Justice and Equality’ was launched in Colombo in the concluding session. The workshop began with keynote address of Harini Amarasuriya, Member of Public Committee on Constitutional Reforms, Sri Lanka, who shared her observations as she collected submissions from the people of Sri Lanka, on the kind of constitution they wanted for themselves. The public perception of problems facing Sri Lanka and the possible solution according to the people lay in genuine power sharing at the grassroots level and transparency and accountability in the functioning of state apparatus. There was a mistrust of politicians and a tendency to side-step political process of negotiation as a result of prior experience with the government. However, the faith in the State as an institution was
undiminished- the state was seen as a necessary institution that would provide support structures, public utilities and services to people. In the first session on “State in South Asia” participants discussed the changing nature of State by examining the State’s relation with capital, feudal elements in society and fundamentalist votaries of religion. The State’s relation with capital was brought through the framework of dispossession by accumulation and financialisation. The narrative of rampant financialisation with the advent of micro-credit facility in rural regions brought out the ensuing debt trap of rural communities and rapid urbanisation that pulls people into cities and offers informal labour as alternative livelihood. The participants argued that the State in South Asia has also begun uneasy nexus with feudal and fundamentalist religious outfits because the development model that accumulates benefits these classes. The rhetoric that counters resistance from people is through useful powerful language. This was evident in manufactured falsehoods and enemies of the state as well as raising the security question through increased surveillance. The discussion on “Agrarian Crisis in South Asia”, in the second session, debated the reasons for the State of agriculture today. Agriculture supports the largest segment of population in all South Asian countries with a proportionately less per capita output in national GDPs. The causes of this problem are thought to be situated in low productivity of the land and low competitiveness of the farmer vis-à-vis global agriculture. Nevertheless, questions of support structure that makes agriculture profitable in developed countries are overlooked in mainstream debates concerning South Asia. The participants argued the importance of viewing agriculture as a business enterprise like any other, with matters of profitability and assured returns on investment is the key to reviving the sector. Large state-led investment in agriculture and its allied sector was strongly recommended to revive agriculture. Confronting the problem of labour in South Asia, the session on “Informalisation of Labour” argued for complicating the definition of “work” and “worker” to acknowledge the new forms of labour emerging in the region. The neo-liberal economic model has changed the character of worker relations and has given rise to flexible, informal and unorganised labour where collectivisation of rights is not present. Challenges remain for labour movement to understand the nature of new production relations. Forming an alliance of workers transcending worker rights to demand larger rights of society is one potential pathway to revive
militancy and sustenance of labour movements and making them relevant in the contemporary setting. In the session on “Religious and secular fundamentalisms of South Asia”, the question of political religion influencing the State and its consequences on defining citizenship and rights were debated. Though none of the South Asian countries have martial or monarchical rule today, it was argued that increasing militarisation is leading to surveillance, distortion of history and educational content of schools and dissemination of propaganda that justifies violence against minorities. There is evidently less space for dissent and dialogue with the state today. The question of gender justice through religious reform was taken as a separate theme that required nuanced treatment. The four themes that analysed the changing nature of the State and its consequences for development in South Asia also opened by the space for alternatives and a language of resistance. The public forum brought out the nature of resistance struggles in Sri Lanka by the women working in garment industry, labour strikes against contractualisation of work, communities reclaiming land from the military and people protesting the growth of mega-development projects like “The Port City”. The fifth triennial poverty report of SAAPE titled “South Asia and the Future of Pro-Poor Development: The Centrality of Social Justice and Equality” was launched. The report questioned the economic and political consequences of the neo-liberal economic model that threatened not just socio-economic rights but also civil and political rights that were hard won. Problems of landlessness, informalisation of labour, rise of religious fundamentalism, worsening of gender relations and environmental disasters were highlighted in the report.

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