f_0018625_15951 - Viewing Global Futures Through Rural...

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The Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations Viewing Global Futures Through Rural Transformations: Lessons from India by Pratyusha Basu T he most dramatic economic and political upheavals in today’s world are linked to rural areas. The two most prominent examples of this phenomenon are the shocks experienced due to rising food and oil prices and the development of social movements against the privatization of rural resources. 1 In Asia, the future of rural populations is an especially pressing concern because a majority of the people are directly dependent on the agricultural sector for their livelihoods. Within Asia, rural India provides a significant illustration of the promises and pitfalls of contemporary rural change. 2 As an emerging economy that is linked to global networks of information technologies, India is also characterized by a deepening urban-rural divide. The economic disparities inherent in these two broad trends have important implications for both national and global development. The increasing importance of rural India in economic and political calculations at national and international levels is finding expression in two contradictory ways. First, there are concerns about the equitable distribution of economic growth. Underlining this trend is a protracted debate on the extent to which rural poverty has declined in India and its specific significance. Many argue that the economic liberalization that began in the 1990’s has greatly reduced poverty in rural India. 3 Conversely, an alternative explanation stresses that the decline is inferred from the selective interpretation of improperly defined measures, and that claims regarding the extent to which poverty has actually been reduced are exaggerated. 4 Second, a focus on rural India also encompasses the consideration of strategies for catering to the growing clout of rural consumers. Indeed, new consumers are being sought within rural segments, suggesting that rural India can no longer be characterized in terms of its exclusion from the habits of consumption usually attributed to the urban middle classes. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal asserts that, Growth has slowed in the new India of technology outsourcing, property development and securities trade. But old India, the rural sector, that is home to 700 million of the country’s billion-plus peoples has signs it can pick up the slack. 5 Pratyusha Basu is Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of South Florida, Tampa. 83
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BASU The Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations In a similar vein, Prahalad has argued for marketing to the “bottom of the pyramid” (those who earn less than $2 per day), and for including the rural poor within networks of business and entrepreneurial opportunities. 6
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f_0018625_15951 - Viewing Global Futures Through Rural...

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