Alternate Paradigm for Development: A talk by Adv Prashant Bhushan

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By Mahalakshmi.G:

Parisar, a Pune based civil society organisation working on sustainable development issues had organised their Annual Lecture and Adv. Prashant Bhushan was called upon to address the audience on Alternate Paradigm for Development. He first spoke about the existing development paradigm which was formulated in the 80’s and 90’s under the banner of LPG and the Structural Adjustment paradigm adopted with claims that this “foolproof” model will usher in a new era of development and growth with a never seen before rise in the GDP growth rate, a single measure to depict growth in a country. In this bargain the “actual” well-being and Human Development Index was ignored, basic necessities became dearer and the term Liberalisation was used proudly as a term for something good, while under the garb, exploitation of natural resources, the poor becoming poorer, widening social gap was pushed under the carpet. Only the glossy exterior of “India Shining” was to be portrayed and what happened to the millions of people was not the concern of policy makers.The situation stands now where India has one of the lowest HDI indices and trails behind Bangladesh and other Asian neighbours too. He quoted examples of how access to food has now become a greater social and economic problem, of the 200,000 farmers who committed suicides and the scale of destitution which is unprecedented.

He also explained how the Government policies and the “opening up”, for example, in the mining sector has led to a tilting of balance in nature and lives of people affected. He takes the case of Orissa which has trillion dollars worth bauxite reserves and with the Govt having given 100pc FDI now to mining, many private players will take it away for export and leave no reserves in the coming 20 years, but the Govt would be happy as this export would increase the GDP growth rate in the country. Interestingly Dr Manmohan Singh’s PhD thesis at that time talks about how India trailed behind due to lower exports of minerals and this is exactly what he sought to do as the then Finance Minister and the current Prime Minister.

The mining sector has led to exploitation of natural resources as to get through to the minerals, forests have to be cut. It has also led to involuntary displacement of the indigenous tribal populations living there for many generations together. Their lives and livelihoods depend wholly on these very forests and they share a very deep connect with them. Very often we see either people moving away from their lands or fighting to save what they have. This injustice also drives many to join the Maoists and this creates a bigger monster of a problem. Mafias are created, corruption is highlighted, hardly do the people affected get jobs and alternative livelihoods. Liberalisation has led to easy transfer of assets from public to private and this is being manifested through-minerals, spectrum sale, transfer of land and SEZ’s and the private owners can cash in almost 90pc profits due to this mode of transfer.

He also reiterated how these private establishments’ with their ever powerful lobbies affect and influence decisions at the highest echelons of power and the country’s direction of growth is in their hands now. This model neglects everything and even though the PM says this will lead to a trickle-down effect, this is not happening.

The alternative says, for setting things straight and having actual growth is democratic way of participation, wherein all the people are consulted. He enumerates some pointers below:

  1. All the policies will be made taking into account the stakeholders and having a referendum, this could happen at the village Gram Panchayat level, city, state or national level. Kiosks can be set up at every village and area for time to time voting on various issues.
  2. Independent bodies to assess costs for fair conduct of referendums, deciding the issues to be discussed.
  3. Policy outcome to be environmentally and ecologically sustainable, has to be equitable.
  4. Policies must be labour intensive and not capital intensive
  5. Should be a transparent process

He also similarly outlined the procedure for food and health policies, housing and energy.

He concluded by saying that active participation of people at all levels is very necessary for the above outlined process to work and sustain and said that he is confident that people will be forthcoming in accepting the democratic way of life and build a corruption free country.

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