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Regular version of the site
The Ideals of Global Sport: From Peace to Human Rights

Boykoff J., Brownell S., Burke R. et al.

Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019.

Book chapter
Revisiting Wittfogel: “Hydraulic society” in colonial India and its post-colonial legacies in hydropower management

Roy Chowdhury A., Rajhans S. K.

In bk.: Theory, Policy, Practice: Development and Discontents in India. L.: Routledge, 2021. Ch. 6. P. 123-140.

Working paper
Covid-19 vaccine efficacy and Russian public support for anti-pandemic measures

Borisova E., Ivanov D.

BOFIT Discussion Papers. DP. Bank of Finland Institute for Economies in Transition, 2021. No. 9.

Impact analysis of contemporary Indian social policy

Prof. Sanjay K. Rajhans from HSE public policy department visited the University of Torino in April-May 2019 under an Erasmus+ agreement between HSE and the University of Torino (Department of Culture, Politics and Society, Department of Law, Department Foreign Languages and Literatures and Modern Cultures). During the visit, prof. Rajhans contributed in many activities. He held three guest lectures within the course in Comparative Law in a Global Context taught by professor Francavilla in the master programme on Area and Global Studies in International Cooperation and held two seminars offered to master and Ph.D. students at the University of Torino.

All these activities have had a significant impact. In fact, they took place at the same time as the "Invisible India - Behind the Indian Boom" project, held in Torino between February and June 2019 and coordinated by ISA, the Institute of Asian Studies of the University of Torino. This was a project declined in various forms and modalities (photographic exhibition, conferences, seminars, documentaries/films festival), focused on the deep-rooted social, economic and religious inequalities in India that are hidden behind the much more visible development in the international field of one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

Particularly interesting were the two seminars held by prof. Rajhans at the Campus Luigi Einaudi on "The social mobility of the Dalits in liberal economy of India – Is this an uphill staircase or an elevator?” (3rd May) and on “Destitution and decadence- The multitude of the invisible’s cry in an affluent India” (6th May).

In both workshops, thematically connected, the point of departure was the consideration that the Dalits (a Sanskrit word meaning “oppressed"), living at the margins if not totally excluded from the pyramidal caste hierarchy, are in a position of deprivation, lack of protection of rights and exploitation. This position is strictly linked to the consideration of many parts of Indian society towards them. The divisions along the lines of castes and religion make it particularly difficult to raise a collective movement capable of request effective policies and genuine development.

However, it has been shown that the Indian caste system, although it reflects a rather conservative and strongly tradition-bound social reality, is more flexible than imagined. The British colonial rule introduced a system of “protective discrimination”, and the Indian Constitution recognised "Scheduled Tribes" and "Scheduled Castes", connecting to them protective arrangements and positive discrimination instruments (i.e. reserved quotas in political representation, work and education), aimed at gradually overcoming the worst forms of discrimination and empower disadvantaged communities.

On the other hand, the concept of legal empowerment, which has as its precondition social change and aims to rebalance the space of power/action, is not enough on its own to eradicate the social stigma on the Dalits. This is primarily because, as emerged from the debate that took place at the end of the seminar, what was originally conceived as a necessity,  that is to say, the acknowledgment of extremely significant percentages of the population that lived below the poverty line and oppressed by discrimination, has produced in the long term a “crystallization” of their condition if not an institutional legitimization of their “inferior” status. Secondly, it emerged that empowerment is not sufficient if it not accompanied by another concept, that of “self-esteem”. Unlike empowerment, which is a political mechanism, self-esteem is a socio-psychological process, which depending on the definitions can be traced back to either a recognition of cultural and social dignity based on comparison (Nozick) or an “individual conquest” not related to the social comparison between classes

Liberal democracy is an attractive ideal for the disadvantaged classes, but within a hierarchical system in which social and spatial compression is constantly increasing due to globalizing processes (financial liberalization, increasing privatization and competitiveness) inside and outside State borders, the political space granted or earned does not entail a corresponding gain in social and cultural dignity. Empowerment and institutional guarantees are not enough on their own, because they lose their effectiveness in the face of economic discrimination and the cultural resistance of the caste system in the public debate.

One could consider, for example, seasonal migrant workers (mostly Dalits), invisible to the State because they are taken away from local institutional structures that guarantee them certain rights and entered the private economic sector, which has become increasingly important since the 1990s, when the liberal turn started. In this context, the space for affirmative action and the State intervention is increasingly lessened.

Finally, one should not underestimate the impact of the media, largely subjected to a traditionalist and reactionary line, who reinforced and legitimized the hierarchical discourse and deliberately ignored the few but important achievements of the Dalits.

As a conclusion, the reduction of inequalities, although it must concretely involve an effort to limit the flow of economic gains to the relatively rich and expand it to the relatively poor, cannot be separated from the awareness that these inequalities are legitimate within the political discourse and for this very reason, it is necessary to focus not only on empowerment but also and perhaps more significantly on increasing the diffusion and effectiveness of self-esteem.


text prepared by Davide Conte

final-year student at the Master Degree in International Sciences, University of Torino