Latest Event Updates

Choices, for benefit of all

Posted on Updated on

Residents of Kundanpally, near Ramagundam, are in a very very pathetic situation. This village, just below the ash pond, reservoir of ash from Ramagundam thermal plant, is not acquired. Local temple priest informed us on 17th May, 2015, that the average age of the eldest person in the village is 50 years, indicating that mortality is very high. One woman mentioned six deaths in her family in the last one and half years. There are others also who spoke about frequent deaths. Doctors do not tell them what is causing their death. Ash storms, especially in summer, spreading ash dust, leaves them choking. Uncontaminated water is hardly found. Children, old and women have breathing problems, skin rashes and joint pains. Bouts of fever hits them. As photos below show this is huge ash pond, of more than 2,500 acres, from a thermal plant with a capacity of 2,600 MW. Another 1600 MW plant is going to be added, for which a public hearing is slated tomorrow, 23rd May, 2015. Very miniscule efforts of resistance, awareness raising and enabling informed public participation. Local ‘Leftists’ and trade unions are afraid. Telangana people are wary of loyalists to ruling party. There is fusion of interests, fears and loyalties, of all influential sections, leaving the disempowered classes rudderless and clueless on what to do. No water to drink, no proper work, improper health, fear of displacement, etc., all combinedly weakened the communities here.

Alarmingly, farmers are being encouraged to spread this ash in their farmers for better yields. Local politicians, who aspire to be elected representatives, of local bodies, vie over each other, to facilities supply of seepage water from this ash pond to the farmlands. the logic goes that any water is better in a dryland area. Ofcourse, with the mighty Godavari river nearby, and natural tanks, one would wonder why the farmers still look at these waters for salvation.

A development of much more alarm is that Jaipur, in Adilabad, where another thermal plant of 1800 MW, is slated to come, to quench the insatiable thirst for electricity, is 12 km away. Thus, within a radius of 15 KM, thermal plant capacity is likely to be 5,400 MW, more than double the current capacity. Number of ash ponds, and nearby open cast mines, are surely going to signify this area. With no acquisition plans, more villages are likely to be on the path of Kundanpally. Media, as usual, seems to be playing truant.

In this age of climate change, would you vote for a thermal plant, or solar electricity? Telangana State which was formed on the basis of aspirations for better future, cannot afford to create bands of collaterals – people who have to suffer for the benefit of the powerful and elite. Can development afford to sideline people who do not know and cannot resist? Development has choices which can benefit everyone, without harming the interests of the weak, including ecological species. Telangana has announced a solar policy. If it can pursue it seriously, within the period of erecting and running these monstrous thermal plants, solar electricity can provide solutions.WP_20150517_004WP_20150517_003

Meet-the-Press Programmes – Why and How

Posted on Updated on

I always wondered about the mechanisms behind Meet-the-Press organised by the journalists unions. Elected bodies of these Unions, who most often do not see eye-to-eye on their own issues, agree to meet the famous, and famous only. I have been observing the Meet-the-press programmes for long. I used to think this is one tool that is available in the hands of journalists, to present news, which is of public relevance. Of late, this seems is now an expectation, and not the reality.

Just to compare, a Meet-the-press with the RTC Union leaders was always relevant to the times, than with MD of Hyderabad Metro Rail on 9th May, 2015, in Hyderabad. A Meet-the-Press of a weatherman is highly relevant, for farmers and others. There is lot of interest, commercial and non-commercial, on the monsoons and rains in the days to come.

Meet-the-Press is increasingly used to meet the ‘page 1′ regulars, and give them more space. It is no longer a tool to give news space to people, who are relevant and need to be given space. During elections, top political party leaders get this opportunity, and not other candidates who cannot give advertisements and do not get space in the newspapers usually.

Given this unfortunate trend, I would now wonder who picks the costs of such Meet-the-Press programmes. Who pays? Ofcourse, journalist unions may not have funds in their coffers, even if their leaders are famous and rich. If it is true, it would be worthwhile to know what pressures are on the Unions to organise Meet-the-Press programmes. The famous and rich can anyway pay for their ‘news’ by organising their own press conferences. I do not think there would be any less news value, if MD of Hyderabad Metro Rail organised a press conference.

Further, I notice that Meet-the-Press is organised mostly, if not entirely, by Unions belonging to print media. There seems to be no such ‘cohesive’ work among video journalists. This is probably because video channels would like exclusive bites, and a common programme does not suit them. However, quickly, it does not bar them to beam the same content, across all channels, if paid, including weddings of the famous families. But with various print media houses controlled by different business and political interests, what guarantees the repetition of the same news in all kinds of print media. It does not.

Does Meet-the-press programme provide ample time for journalists to learn, question and satisfy themselves? What do the leaders on the dais do? If they are not ‘playing’ journalists at this event, why do they give so much time to such programmes? Thus, I am back to where I began to know and understand the mechanisms of Meet-the-Press programmes.

No more NCRB statistics on farmer suicides

Posted on Updated on

On 10th December, 2014, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Shri Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary in a written reply to Shri Vivek Gupta in the Rajya Sabha informed that government has decided to delete Section 309 of IPC from the Statute book. Suicide is no longer a criminal offence. Apparently, this was based on a report by Law Commission, endorsed by 18 States and 4 Union Territories. We need not know specific names of these States and UTs. The Law Commission, in its report no.201, titled “Humanisation and decriminalisation of Attempt to suicide” (October, 2008), says, “Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code provides double punishment for a person who has already got fed up with his own life and desires to end it.” In this 38-page report, the Law Commission details reasons and justification for its recommendation – “Section 309 needs to be effaced from the statute book because the provision is inhuman, irrespective of whether it is constitutional or unconstitutional. The repeal of the anachronistic law contained in section 309 of the Indian Penal Code would save many lives and relieve the distressed of his suffering.”

The decision is taken. This is probably one of the series of changes BJP has promised in its manifesto to ‘review and change anachronistic’ laws in India.

Be that as it may, a conversation with one of my journalist friends brought me the realisation. What happens to farmers suicides? We are aware that farmers suicides are happening for the past several years, increasing cyclically. The only authentic nation-wide source of such information is National Crime Records Bureau. With decriminalisation of suicide, this Bureau would not task itself with such collection anymore, and police stations would be relieved of collecting and recording suicides.

With governments not ready to accept recorded statistics of farmer suicides, by their own agency, for political reasons, they would be much more happier if there is no information collection at all. Presently, a serious issue of farmers suicides, with available statistics is buried and neglected by all the four pillars of Indian democracy. With no system of information collection, suicides can be easily be ignored and forgotten. No one can be wiser about the magnitude.

In fact, not just farmers suicides, it will be a issue for all kinds of suicides, if one sees suicides as a socio-economic problem and has policy and governance implications. In India, with a state which is ever distant from the poor and good governance, suicides are often termed as state murders, implying apathy and neglect of government. In the case of farmer suicides, the demand for compensation has been met by many State Governments half-heartedly. There are number of documents to be submitted, for the family to claim such compensations. One of them includes a record from the local Police Station. With the dropping of Section 309, the police station is relieved of such function, including filing of FIRs, investigation, and the responsibility of post-mortem. Unless, ofcourse, all suicides are recorded as suspicious deaths. Prior to the dropping of the section, affected families had atleast a suo moto procedure to rely upon. Not that it happens on its own at every place. But, atleast the police had a responsibility. Now, the onus will be on the families to get this legal procedures done, even while they are in distress over the untimely death. Which department would not collect these statistics? or record such deaths?Policy makers had a statistical burden to respond. What is the alternative?

For me, the answer lies in laws, rules and administrative systems related to collection of statistics in India. We need a thorough review of the same. We tend to rely more and maximum on Revenue Departments – anachronistic and outdated in its outlook and functioning. Like in United States and other countries, India needs to build a vibrant National Vital Statistics System. This system should be made independent of government whims and fancies and should be funded by autonomous, constitutionally acceptable financial support. Data collection and information systems at the State level are almost non-existent.

Suicides and other public healths statistics have to be made independent of the Revenue and Planning departments. As health, economic and social issues became more complex, the content of the information collected on the vital
records has to be expanded and measures to improve its quality are brought in. The function of producing national vital statistics has to be entrusted to a dedicated public research centre, and a system of regular collection, and not to be embedded in departments with bureaucracy breathing down their neck.

Changing (and sliding) election strategies

Posted on

There are many election strategies that have been adopted by many politicians, and political parties. Many have succeeded and others have emulated such strategies. However, strategies keep changing as rivals adopt the same, or respond to the challenge and bring up their own strategies. But, over years, these strategies are becoming ploys, plots and conspiracies. They are now less and less electoral battle strategies. Election Commission as a regulator of elections and political parties, and also as custodian of democratic elections is increasingly falling behind in responding to these moves, often by most respected senior political leaders. Most often the refrain is Election Commission cannot do anything about it. Syndication and ‘coordinated behaviours’ is strictly forbidden, and is enforced by the Competition Commission of India. Not that it is effective. In recent years, cement industry had to face some song because of this. In tenders, any such behaviour is curtailed leading to cancellations of tenders and re-advertisement. But, the Election Commission is way behind in such ‘syndicated behaviour’ which prevents people from having their choices, and exercising their franchises.

this is where probably one needs to look at the legislation which governs Election Commission, political parties and election process. Maybe, amendments need to be brought in after extensive consultation process, mapping of fissiparous election strategies and anti-democratic behaviour and gathering of suggestions to prevent them.

There are many, but I am listing a few here:

1. The earliest strategy was to prevent entire sections of people from voting, It could be by delisting or not listing them at all. Setting up inaccessible booths, making voters to travel long distances, etc.. Ofcourse, most of this involved the connivance of bureaucracy.

2. Preventing the emergence of any leadership in the same party and constituency. This was done variously, either in subtle or most violent forms. Elimination of the rival physically was the extreme step in this form of strategies.

3. Influencing the choice of the rival candidate. There are a few who effectively did this and are doing even now. It did boomerang, though rarely. In one instance, a candidate even financed the rival candidate investment on B-form and campaign, and unfortunately he lost to the same candidate.

4. Supporting a independent candidate, mainly to undercut the main rival candidate, probably to stem enmasse voting from certain areas, or sections (read caste).

5. Influencing the entire unit of the rival political party. This involves years of work and investment. But there are few who are doing this, as I gather.

6. Entering into local alliances, on the sly. To beat a strong candidate, local alliances were developed and nurtured. While such alliances could be at the candidate level, there are many instances where ‘small’ parties with unflinching support in certain areas or sections, do get such favours from big national parties.

7. Alliances between political parties. This happens at the top-most level and more openly. This needs a serious debate, and there has to be some regulation. How do such pre-poll alliances help the voters?

8. Floating a new political party and financing its operations to under-cut rival political party chances is the latest move on the block. Telugu Desam party for long has held that Loksatta and Prajarajyam parties were supported by Y. S. Rajashekhara Reddy to spoil their electoral chances.

9. A winner is included in the party, after the elections. With anti-defection laws this has become redundant. However, the chances of ‘winners’ of small parties of getting included in the ‘mainstream’ parties are still bright, due to loopholes and effective ‘cash’ methods.

10. The latest is floating a political party, just before elections, not contesting the elections, but forming an alliance with another party and campaigning for that party.

There are many such trends, which are intended to confuse, obfuscate and misle voters. Agendas, manifestoes, advertisements, paid news, marketing plans, pre-poll surveys, ‘partisan’ Tv channel discussions and many such strategies continue to play havoc with the thinking of voters. These ploys do influence the ‘literate’ and prevent them from a drawing a line between good and bad, appropriate and inappropriate. Direct benefit schemes such cash-for-vote, liquor, daily wages, transport allowances and other such methods continue to be deployed.

Election Commission is probably responding to election expenditure control, cash-for-vote and a few such methods, but it is way behind in responding to syndicated behaviour. For this, to be controlled and exposed, we need smart election regulation, which is dynamic, pre-emptive and effective. Do we have such legislation and concomitant apparatus?

 

Chandrababu Naidu and Indira Gandhi – Comparative Politics (I wrote this on 25th June, 2001)

Posted on

 

 Indian political scenario has witnessed a sea change in the last more than fifty years, especially after Independence. Some say it reflects the change in aspirations of the polity that is the people. However, this is not peculiar to India. The world over this change can be seen. One important change is the political leadership, and the style of functioning. Political leadership is increasingly becoming devoid of ideological content. There is now an element of generality in every leadership, belonging to any party, region or country. Considering this situation, it becomes imperative to compare political leadership. This comparison is also necessitated because of the present conditions. Indira Gandhi and Chandra Babu Naidu represent this change of leadership style in their particular era. In both of their times, poverty has been on the rise, widening gap between rich and the poor, and accumulation of wealth at particular levels. There was a ‘threat’ to each of their political careers, and their responses have been the same and also different.

 

There are lots of things common among them. Both of them are autocratic, in the party and also in the governance. They have always never allowed anybody to speak except themselves. They ruled with an ‘iron’ hand, and talked very emphatically. However, both of them were vulnerable, like any dictator, always living under the fear that they will be thrown out. This fear psychosis prevented them from confiding in anybody, not to trust anybody. However, their ‘policies’ and responses are different. While Indira Gandhi nationalized major financial institutions, reflecting the supremacy of ideology in political decisions then, today, Naidu talks of privatization of everything reflecting the void in political decisions. Indira Gandhi tried to be populistic, Naidu armed with modern communication facilities is trying to popularize his approaches by adopting Goebbels strategy. Despite the ‘best’ strategies of both these leaders to hoodwink the democratic processes, both of them could not prevent dissent and revolt. Ultimately, Indira Gandhi had to impose emergency to safeguard her rule, which became her undoing. Naidu is using police, repression, secrecy, and media to browbeat democratic aspirations and processes. It is already becoming apparent that it would not be easy for him in future, and is looking into angry faces both in the party and society. Ms. Gandhi and Naidu both tried to take support from outside, and always wanted ‘certificates’ from everybody. They went to any length to win accolades and praises. While Indira Gandhi talked about Garibi Hatao, Naidu is bent upon ‘Garib ko hatao’.

 

Chandra Babu Naidu’s rule is coming under increasing scrutiny by supporters and adversaries. Supporters of his ‘policies’ have been looking at his leadership as a model, while adversaries are critical about the impact of his policies on the polity. His strengths so far has been his ability to utilise the media, Corporate power and the World Bank. This is a powerful combination with which he is able to fend off any criticism. Added to this, he promoted himself as a messaiah, talking of all the ‘good’ things in life. A novel approach, this has endeared him to the middle class and upper middle class sections. These sections have been ‘vexed’ by the vote politics and quibblings of other politicians and parties. Shrewd as he is, Naidu has always been careful not to antagonize these classes in his speeches and public posturing. He became a champion of modern, sophisticated technologies which made him a dear boy of middle classes and upcoming millionaire classes.

 

Modern communication mediums like newspapers and Televisions, full of middle class people, have been very supportive of his programmes, irrespective of the quality of their implementation. A feature of his time is that today politicians are now falling over each other to be seen in the company of big corporate leaders, unlike in the past, where meetings with them were almost private. Today, a politician with a vision is one who can be accepted by the corporate leaders in their clubs and meetings. It is increasingly becoming apparent that government policies are being framed in the corporate boardrooms than in Secretariat and legislature. Unlike the previous generation of politicians, Naidu is ‘openly’ championing the corporate interests in the name of globalisation and liberalization. The financial muscle of World Bank and other multilateral institutions can be clearly seen in the promotion of Naidu as ‘leader with a vision’. Principal support for him, not surprisingly, is only from outside. Today, a common man is not in a position to understand this web of deceit in the politics and policies, leave alone providing an opinion on the rule of Mr. Naidu. They are merely awed by the publicity he receives, but never misled by the ground realities of raising prices, increasing crime, deteriorating law and order, drought and water shortages, and unemployment.

 

Meanwhile, the World Bank through an army of consultancies and consultancy firms is ready to help Naidu by churning out studies and performance reports which show his policies in favorable light. Thus, the AP economy continues to be ‘bright’ while there are suicides and hunger deaths. World Bank-led reforms in power and irrigation sectors have nowhere been able to deliver the services promised in terms of efficiency and quality. But, people have now to pay for the same mediocre services through their noses. Tail end farmers are yet to be assured of irrigation water, under any dispensation, but the water cess has increased many more times. Consumers of electricity have to pay inflated bills, while there is no assurance of assured power supply. Overall, the mark of Naidu’s rule on APs economy is so deep that there are more number of people looking for employment, more industries are being closed down, more number of farmers are committing suicides, more number of people are being killed by police, or lathicharged, and there are more number of poor people and lesser number of millionaires. His vision of Swarna Andhra Pradesh helps a few sections of contractors, politicians, officials and consultants, while millions of children are under the threat of losing their vision due to malnutrition and food insecurity.

 

Overall, there can be no comparison between Indira Gandhi and Chandra Babu Naidu, basically because of their personalities, times and circumstances. Yet history, past and recent, has proved time and again that ultimately people and the democratic institutions will prevail over every powerful combination of vested interests. It is just a matter of time. Personalities never mattered before or even now.

 

Organogram of a successful Politician

Posted on

Politicians have their own role models. Young and upcoming individuals follow some of the role model politicians. Obviously, the most successful politicians would be the role model. Success of a politician can be rated in many facets: money, income, networks, sustenance capacity, and floating always even in the most adverse political storms (like a sea float).

 

Common people are farthest in this network of income and expenditure, payments and receipts and balancing self and other interests. The most efficient means of reaching the people are the media and connections with persons, whom the people love (film stars, godmen and women, etc).

 

So, you have successful politicians, who can be businessmen, when they are in opposition, and leaders of businessmen, when they are in power. Their power remains the same, being elected or not elected. They can be influential in their own party, and also in the opposition party. They can decide who can be their opponent in their own constituency. In fact, they would promote their own opponent. Some are bigger than the party, of which they are a member. Party would be dependent on them, than the other way. It can be in the constituency or outside. The key is becoming bigger than the party is to accumulate more and more money and create ‘own’ networks (most often caste) independent of party cadre. In future, you may need to start your own party.

 

Best way is to have loads of money is to have a finger in the business, which is not linked with costs of production. Thus, usually it would be a business in natural resources which cannot be valued, and the value depends on the demand. Many made a killing out of deforestation. With trees on the wane, they turned to sand and stones. As business grew, this sand mining politician would grow into major minerals, such as coal, iron ore, etc. Funds from these would help them to venture into infrastructure projects. Roads and culverts are for small time contracts for followers. Now, it would be airports and 8-lane toll highways. Power projects would be an added advantage. Ofcourse, one can start with min-hydel, biomass (cutting trees) and then graduate to thermal. This graduation would bring them on par with corporate honchos. But, do not forget land. Start with cubic feet, grow to acres and hectares. Government land would be the best possible start, to do business with.

However, you have to be honest. You cannot earn money through extortion, harassing women, crime and anti-social activities. You cannot afford to go to jail on those counts. That would be very bad. Leave that to your followers, who need their livelihoods to follow and support you. You can go to jail on corruption and there is no bar. In fact, it would be an added advantage. Once your stars turn, you need not advertise your services. People with necessities would come to you. Price for your services can always be negotiated.

Heading a association of a particular business is now the latest trend. So, if you are a cabinet minister, and being the president of ‘xyz’ manufacturers association is a matter of pride and no shame. In fact, if you are in trouble, members of this association would come to your rescue, and you can always be their godfather. In fact, this way you can also connect with ‘opposition’ politicians, who have same business interests. You can be pally with them when it comes to business. But beware that necessarily you have to maintain political distance in the public domain.

Then, another phase of life begins. Becoming connoisseurs of art and artful living. Attending filmy functions and sports opening & closing ceremonies would give them the positive image. Being a President or office bearer of any sports association would be an added advantage, of removing them from the everyday grind of politics. Earlier, it was only boxing or wrestlers association. Class is also important – more classy sports are also advantageous. They would also do social work, through a trust or society. This would be the conduit for corporate tax savings and constituency development funds. Maybe it will help during and after the elections. It would give them an image makeover at the cost of state funds.

 

These days owning a news channel would be helpful. It can be an instrument, to cow down opponents, cajole the ‘subjects’, earn pots of money and keep regulatory authorities at bay. If you cannot, ensure that you have a relative or a supporter in the media. Starting a chain of colleges would also help. The formula is to ‘reform’ a sector, encourage privatisation and reap the benefits.

If you become a national figure, do not forget foreign lands. The best way is to support a existing a business group, foreign multi-national, or Indian multi-national. They can route some profits to you. Additionally, there are thousands of hectares of land up for grabs in Africa. There are tax havens, as well. You can always visit and monitor your business. However, be sure to link it with a official tour to study waste management, travelling in a metro car, traffic lights, etc. Do not select heavier topics, after all you need to enjoy the trip and manage your business. Back home, you may be ‘harassed’ with questions, as studies always involve reports.

You may consider what one Union Cabinet Minister did. Start a consultancy service in New York, and provide ‘intermediary’ services for approvals and permissions back home. Not to confuse your potential customer, name it after the party you are heading. No one can object, in the land of contradictions. Election Commission would be least bothered. This would help you in earning money, and also bring you closer to who is doing which business and how in India. Arm-twisting them later can get you more money later.

Leave nothing to anyone. Philanthropy, philosophy, press, power, people and pelf would all be part of the same. You would be a fool, if you think they will leave past ‘money spinners’. Jobs, transfers, small contracts, tenders, etc., are all done by their followers. All this requires trust and trusted people. Who can be more trustworthy than sons, daughters, wife and their relatives? But, they would not be enough. Identifying self interest of the other one and integrating with one’s own would be the key strategy. Caste, religion, region, etc would be additional helpful links.

In the following maze of success, you can begin anywhere. You can be a successful businessman, and enter politics and complete all the formalities of success. Or, you can be a film star, and become successful as above. However, the story is you have to complete all the links, to become successful, wherever you begin. However, you need to start with criticism, and end with ‘mysticism’, making people guess where you are in this complex political scenario. You would not have to worry about disqualification, or burning bridges, everyone knows that in politics, criticism cannot be taken personal. If you are successful, even your rivals would follow you, court you and would welcome you with open arms. It would be so thrilling to move between rivalry and friendship, as frequently as possible. It tickles everyone, more so the media, the intellectuals and the ‘fanatic’ followers. They all know you are doing it with a purpose. They would come up with a rational explanation of why you behaving like that.

But, ultimately, connecting with the people is important. After all, they provide you the bread and butter. No worry about dissent and disgruntled people. Do not worry about average citizen. They all know that you are beyond ‘repair’ and they would worry about themselves. You can keep connecting with different people, not the same set always. You can chose your constituency.Managing citizens should not be a big issue.

Ultimately, when you die, you need not be worried as well about those ‘four’ persons who can carry you to grave. Being a successful politician, you are entitled to government-organised funeral services, with 21-gun salute, etc. So, bingo, go ahead and do not look back.

చిత్రం

 

 

NEED FOR ALTERNATIVE AGENDA AND PERSPECTIVES

Posted on

It is striking that in the after so many years of India’s independent existence, there is no change in the political parties agendas. With growing levels of literacy even among the political class, competition has not improved quality. In fact, it has only deteriorated; deterioration to the abysmal levels. Manifestos lack the perspective to address various problems afflicting the society and the vision
to lead us into the coming Century. Last sixty years of experience has shown that in the name of economic progress and development we did cross some major milestones but in the process we have also depleted and degraded our resources, both natural and human. Even the gains achieved at the cost of our resources have been disproportionately shared among various sections of society. In general, the gains are oriented towards the industrial, trading and urban sections as well as the educated sections of the society, in that order, thereby disfavoring the lower sections of the population, and/or the people of the `inaccessible’ regions. The discussion now centres on the development `achieved’, who gained from such a development, what are the gains, and how those gains were achieved. The time has come to question the direction of development itself.

Modern development in the name of liberalization and automation accentuated the fissures in the society in the name of caste and religion. No doubt modern development had improved the GNP of the country, but this GNP has not only been at the cost of the natural resources. It has also emaciated the poor sections of the society. Today, poverty is on the rise both in urban and rural
areas. And worst, poor people are being robbed of their right to existence by alienating them from their resources in various forms: by industrial pollution, depletion and degradation and by laws. All in the name of development, modernization, liberalization and globalization.

Political parties preoccupied as they are in their internal bickering, one-upmanship and race to grab power have ignored these `fundamentals’ of the economy, irrespective of their professed ideological leanings: extreme right to extreme left. Instead the political parties and individuals in these elections are asking votes either in the name of caste, creed, religion, individual charisma
or in the name of development which is meaningless to larger sections of society today and tomorrow. The approach of almost all the political parties is sectarian in the sense that they are addressing only the divisible blocks among the community of citizens. Secondly they operate with a shortsighted outlook hence their policies and programmes are focused to achieve political mileage with immediate effect. Thirdly all these parties and individuals without exception are operating broadly in the same development perspective which is increasingly proving to be a failure for a third world country like ours. Fourthly all the political parties are endorsing the policy of globalization and liberalization to suit the big industrial classes and MNC’s without introspection into the genuine requirements of the country. Almost all the political parties are endorsing the need for investment of transnational capital, which brings together far-flung and heterogeneous areas and people (foreign) into an integrated, hierarchical division of labor. The consequences of this course could be the continuation of neo-colonial relations, technocratic management of a `materialistic’ economy, and a permanently unemployed underclass.

Finally none of these individuals seem to be promising an agenda with a vision to herald a more humane, more prosperous and more peaceful development, which can only be sustainable development. The factors of environmental degradation are necessarily the factors of modern development. Issues of environment intertwined with those of economic growth, equity and welfare, arise mostly out of the pattern of `development’ followed.

Advanced industrial development, in Europe and North America, brought to the fore problems of over consumption (of resources and goods), enormous amounts of garbage, acid rains, pollution, etc., with concomitant effects on living species’ survival and on environment. The world over,development resulted in disparities in terms of socio-economic conditions between rich and poor
countries. Besides degrading the environment through pollution and deforestation, present economic trends had benefited a privileged minority and had done little to meet the basic needs of the vast majority.

The cost of progress achieved so far, in terms natural resources had been very adverse. We have either depleted or deteriorated every possible natural resource, which is within our reach. The air, water, and land along with its flora and fauna of our country had been damaged and continue to get damaged. The air in almost all the major cities and their adjoining regions has been polluted.
The quality of water both surface and ground has changed drastically either because of industrial discharges or because of the intensification of chemical based agriculture. Due to depletion of renewable and non-renewable resources from the land and the rapid changes in the land use patterns has resulted in dangerous alterations in the landscape. In the following we will examine some consequences of our actions in recent past over the nature.

In the 1950s, faced with the problems of achieving development, thrust of the government policy has been to increase agricultural production by intensifying cultivation. Green Revolution as a policy prescription marked a distinct change in the history of agriculture and management of resources. Launched in the 1960s, it was hailed as a means to overcome hunger and poverty. Consequent changes in farming system and application of specific technology had a negative impact on food consumption, nutrition and production. Encouragement of monoculture and hybrid seeds eroded the species and genetic diversity of crops. Chemical fertilizers caused hardening of the soil, pesticides killed natural preys, resulting in attacks by pests and diseases not known before. `Cash’ came to represent the over-riding factor in agriculture, at the cost of the wholesomeness of food and life. One major consequence of the Green Revolution has been its negative impact on nutritional levels as a result of the decline in production of pulses. Genetic
erosion is equally evident in cereals, fruits, vegetables and root crops.

Green Revolution demanded enhanced capital inputs and investments from the farmer whereby governmental intervention became a necessity. But it led to dependency of farmer on government at every stage of agricultural activity. This dependency is not only at the production stage but also while marketing the produce. Further, the market oriented economy is heavily influencing the farmers to shift to cash crops like cotton, tobacco, oil seeds, mulberry, etc. Cash crops demand heavy fertilizer and pesticide inputs and the rates of agricultural outputs are decided else where thus farmer is forced to incur heavy losses which sometimes results in suicides of farmers as witnessed recently in Andhra Pradesh.

 

Expansion of irrigation sources was an essential activity of developmental programmes. It was believed that irrigation plays a vital role in enhancing agricultural production and in minimizing adverse effects of vagaries of climate, particularly in the arid and semi-arid regions where the rainfall being scanty, erratic and uneven. However, poor irrigation efficiency led to widespread water logging promoting excessive weed growth, impaired microbial activity, caused disorder in nutrient availability, affected soil health, exerting harmful effects on plant growth and had created unhygienic conditions for human beings. The yield of food grain crops in irrigated areas is less than the average yield level under well-managed irrigation systems. While the irrigated regions are facing galore problems the dry land region are continuously hit by drought conditions. Traditional water management systems are in a state of disrepair and mismanagement.

In fact, it was found that many villages, which had not yet benefited from government water schemes, had some water to drink as they still had their traditional systems intact. The `developed’ villages, however, are starved of water – tube wells had either no water or no electricity to pump it.

 

Forests, minerals, water, air and land have been meeting the needs of humans since time immemorial. While depending on these resources, somewhere in the history, humans have crossed the capacity of natural regeneration. Modern developmental processes enabled humans to exploit natural resources indiscriminately. Increasing rates of consumption led to faster depletion of resources. Even there is human interference in natural recycling processes affecting the continuous availability of resources. Illustratively, there is extensive deforestation of mangroves affecting the biosphere and depleting marine resources. Consequently, many fisherman families dependent on these are facing problems of survival. Extinction of mangrove forests, a natural barrier against sea erosion and cyclones, has exposed the land to devastation and degradation.

Presently, traditional systems are being recognized as extremely important even in this world of modern science and technology. Their ecological rationality remains valid in the modern context. A fresh evaluation of the traditional systems can also have major political and cultural repercussions. Indian Universities and numerous social science and scientific research institutions have totally neglected traditional knowledge systems.Effluents from industries of various categories are improperly treated or not treated at all, thus contaminating a large number of neighboring wells, lakes and streams. Major rivers of the country are polluted by sullage and sewage from towns situated along their banks. Even small streams are not free from pollution. There are numerous lakes which are polluted, occupied, reclaimed and are generally abused, and decimated. Sea is also being increasingly used to dump municipal wastes, refuse and industrial wastage. Industrialization along the coastline has serious connotations for the survival of marine resources and coastal environment. Air in the urban and industrial areas is laden with dust and other tiny particles. Particle pollution is particularly serious considering its effect on the lungs of children, women and old people. Liquid and gaseous materials of industrial processes have made the lives of residents miserable – asthma, bronchitis, and lung-related problems are rampant. In areas of excessive pollution, there have been reports of miscarriages of pregnant women, and delivery of stillborn children.

Ground water is polluted in various part of the country due to unplanned industrial growth. In fact, the present usage of mineral water increasingly indicates the extent to which the drinking water supplies are polluted in entire India. This is continuing and problem continues to grow. Automobile pollution is one of the accompanying problems associated with unplanned urbanization. Growth of cities has put tremendous pressure on urban transport services leading to proliferation of motor vehicles, and thus, air pollution. Yet the government and parties encourage increased usage of personalized transport and exotic automobiles.

 

The cost in terms of human resources is even greater in magnitude. There is near total erosion of values and ethics both in the public as well as private domain. The cherished virtues like honesty; humbleness tolerance and simplicity of lifestyle have paved way for dishonesty, intolerance, and arrogance born out of material possession and consumerist lifestyles. This resulted in all kinds of unethical means of amassing wealth, as visible in various scams being unearthed today. The self of the individual got corrupted irrespective of the fact that whether they are operating in the public or private domains. As a result, there is an ever-increasing level
of violence in the country today.

Environmental Movements

 

Several environmental movements, with the initiative of individuals, communities and institutions have tried to respond to the crisis of environment and the perils of modern development in different ways. Government has also initiated certain steps to correct the
situation. Environmental movements exposed the dichotomy between agriculture and industrialization, people’s participation and state control, laws and traditional practices, economic growth and ecological balance, inter state water disputes, etc., asking for a fundamental change in the patterns of governance. Freedom of information has become the basic slogan for every environmental action and movement. The main concern of most movements is about the use of the natural resources: how should they be used and who should use them and benefit. For sustainable development, it is very important that the voices of local people are strengthened and brought forward.

 

The need of the hour is to evolve alternate perspectives, which require a total shift in the policies and programmes and an introspection to understand the genuine needs of the larger sections of society of today and tomorrow.

 

Concept of Sustainable Development

 

Environmental problems arise both from the lack of development and from the unintended consequences of some forms of economic growth. An ecosystem is a concept from nature wherein there are patterns of interdependency, and a network of flow of energy. In human-made environment, this dependency is more to be seen in economic terms.

 

Environment and development are not separate challenges, but linked together in a complex system of cause and effect. Environmental stresses and patterns of development are linked to one another. Thus agricultural development policies are the causal factors of land, water and forest degradation.

 

Crisis in the development policies implemented during the last five decades coupled with the present recognition of environmental problems prompts a fundamental reconsideration of the policies in general and of planning in particular. Environmental policies are important for facing the ecological challenge. Local, national and international measures must be formulated and implemented; finding the most appropriate level of action necessary to cope with the various environmental threats is also important.

 

Policy Options for the Future – Requirements of A New Vision

 

Today, both the opportunities and the needs are greater than ever to make social, economic,environmental and other systems more compatible. We should address the need to achieve a political system that secures effective citizen participation in decision-making.
Incentives to develop and promote new, cleaner technologies can also contribute to sustainable development. There is also a need for society’s institutions to redefine their work to solve the problems of other institutions as well as their own. The best opportunities for improvement lie with people whose activities are at the source of the “development”, who have access to particular technologies, or who control a point of linkage among other activities.

Ultimately, Green politics provides the basis to the project of modernization that involves the buildup of India as a economic, political and technological model for the rest of the third world which are reeling under similar problems, and it can be the political alternative – both conceptually and in day-to-day politics – much beyond the current “vote bank” politics.