The transformation of the idea of justice into the industry of human rights has been a conceptual coup in which NGOs and Foundations have played a crucial part. The narrow focus of human rights enables an atrocity-based analysis in which the larger picture can be blocked out and both parties in a conflict—say for example the Maoists and the Indian Government, or the Israeli Army and Hamas, can both be admonished as Human Rights Violaters. The land-grab by mining corporations or the history of the annexation of Palestinian land by the State of Israel, then become footnotes with very little bearing on the discourse. This is not to suggest that human rights don’t matter. They do, but they are not a good enough prism through which to view or remotely understand the great injustices in the world we live in.
The poor of the subcontinent have always lived in debt, in the merciless grip of the local village usurer—the Baniya. But microfinance has corporatized that too. Microfinance companies in India are responsible for hundreds of suicides—200 people in Andhra Pradesh in 2010 alone. A national daily recently published a suicide note by an 18 year-old girl who was forced to hand over her last Rs150, her school fees, to bullying employees of the microfinance company. The note said, ‘Work hard and earn money. Do not take loans.’
There’s a lot of money in poverty, and a few Nobel Prizes too.