Monday, April 17, 2006


You must have heard the term quite recently being bandied about by seasoned netas in the news channel. So, shall we take a look at this term? What does it mean? Who is it being attributed to?

The term depends on one's understanding of what 'development' is? And development is a matter of perspective. What do we call developement? Is it just an imporvement in the infrastructure or a rise in the standard of living? Is it the swanky new cars that have started to invade the Indian market or the plethora of airlines vying for customers by offering cheaper and cheaper air fares?

The thing about development is that it has improved the quality of life of a section of the population in India. Whereas there is this huge section of Indian polulation that has been affected inversely due to all these developmental activities that cater to the needs of a few.

In the last decade, there has been an increasing trend of farmers committing suicide because of mounting debts and lack of protection. In an unque approcah to protest against the government lack of concern for them, villages in Vidharba were put on sale. What is scary is that the suicides are not endemic but are quite widespread in regions like telengana, karnataka, maharashtra where the produce is heavily dependent on the monsoons. No monsoons, no produce. A couple of years of bad monsoons and you dont have a means to survive. In a land where its farmers (the food-producers) are facing a crisis of survival, the future is indeed bleak.

The post-Manmohan Singh era of economic liberalisation has seen India opening up its markets to the world's capitalistic companies. India is a huge market for these companies that are running to invest in India. Though globalisation is touted as a phenomenon that levels the playing field, it is arguably not so. Only a corporate can think of manufacturing seeds which would work for only one generation, making the farmers buy them again and again from the same company. The MNCs of the world see an opportunity to do business in India. It must be noted that big busnisses of the world have the capital and the cruelty to destroy the local small businesses and take over the entire market.

22 years ago, we saw one of the world's most horrible chemical accients happening in India. The CEO of UCC at that time never responded to the summons of the Indian court and was declared a 'fugitive from justice'. It does really help to do business in a different country without concerns of punishment, doesnt it? The people still dont have potable drinking water even today and you know what the government does to their pleas? thats right, it ignores them!

Another contentious issue that has been going on for approximately the same amount of time is the Narmada Valley Development Plan, which basically involves construction of a huge number of dams on the Narmada and its tributaries. NBA (not the sport) has been accused of being anti-development but there is a lot of abuse that goes on behind the scenes that NBA actually is protesting against. For example, whenever you build a dam, you are going to drown out a humungous area that acts as the reservoir. An area inhabited by people! The fact that these people are adivasis and marginalised communities does not make any less important, because thats what our constitution says (all men and women are equal). These people need to be rehabilitated, something that the government ignores to do or does so reluctantly. To protest against rasing the dam's height without rehabilitation of the people is anti-development! because somehow these people are not important, not as important as the bourgeois who live in the city and have ever increasing energy needs (ACs, TVs, Computers, etc).

In case you didnt know, both these groups were protesting in the capital recently. What depresses me is the fact that the no major media reported their protests till the hunger strike by Medha Patkar precipitated action from the ministry or till Aamir Khan came out in support of them. The latest news from the PMO is that they will go ahead with the height increase of the dam despite a Supreme Court order that supports the NBA. If the government goes ahead without rehabilitating the people, shouldn't it be taken as contempt of court and the PMO held accountable? Not so sure of the legal stuff but I think something can be done there.

Are these people anti-development? Bullshit! How can you just develop one section of India and 'develop' at the expense of the other??? And how is protesting against this inequity anti-development??

When MNCs are let to run amok in the country, cases like Plachimada and Bhopal would keep happening.

I consider the 'anti-development' argument as very stupid and ridiculous;an argument that aims at shutting dissenting voices by invoking jingoistic ideas.


sriyansa said...

That the development pattern in India is not uniform is a hard fact. But equally difficult to repudiate are the lessons from history, which show that no society anywhere in the world has progressed at an uniform pace. And are you sure the development of the "few" is at the cost of the "many"? Or are their just different rates of "development", however one may choose to define it?

It is futile to argue that markets are perfect or that globalization is a ultimate leveller. They are not. But is there a alternative? I would love to see someone define "progress" and create a abstract society which achieves it. The world has seen lenin, stalin, mao, deng, hitler, churchill, thatcher and now Dubya attempting it. Whose ideas have made the world a better place?

MadHat said...

See, I am fine if the develeopment pattern was not uniform across India and there were different rates of development in different parts of the country. But displacing people from their lands and not rehabilitating them is not fine. These are some of the facts of the Narmada issue. And this is a high profile case which is in public view. The other high profile example is the farmer suicides. Development is not happening for them. In fact, things are going from bad to worse for them. That I say is not acceptable. And dont point to globalization and say this is what is going to happen. If that is so, why does the States heavily subsidise for its farmers and impose huge tariffs on food imports from the developing world?

'Progress' is not an achievement for a society. 'Progress' is a process for a society to reach the distant utopian dream. One cannot just be cynical and say that since so many people tried and failed to create the perfect society, it is impossible. The perfect society is not something that can be achived in a generation or five. I would say all those 'leaders' contributed to the world. If stalin showed that Communism is a flawd concept, Dubya shows what a theocracy can do to the world. It will take more than that. Perhaps, it is impossible to achieve the perfect society and that I think is a good thing.

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