By Apoorva Pal:
When we talk about progress in India, we focus on growth — and we mostly assume that it means economic growth. Most of our policies, strategies and our budget, all focus on maintaining a GDP growth of 8 — 9%. Where does Development feature in all this? We all know that while the words may be interchangeable in the dictionary, in reality they have come to mean very different things. The world is constantly talking about Sustainable Development, since the time it was brought to the forefront by the Brundtland Report in 1987. And Sustainable Development does not mean only economic growth. It is an integrated approach to development, encompassing the environment, society and economy.
We need to understand that all the three are intrinsically linked, and we cannot hope for any progress for our nation or the world without tackling all of these aspects. Is it possible to have a society that only takes into account the health, education and income of a privileged, small percentage of its population? Can we continue to give land for constructing corporate, luxurious hospitals, when millions still die of preventable diseases like Malaria? Should we keep expanding our roads and adding flyovers, without investing in footpaths, cycle tracks and public transport? Is it fair to keep marginalising the already marginalised? What choice will the poor have, but to turn to crime. And then we lament the sorry state of law and order in the country.
In the same way that we forget to address social equity and social inclusion issues in our quest for development, we have also continuously ignored the environment. The case of the Nirma Plant is only the latest in a long line of examples, and the construction of such highly polluting industries in a sensitive wetland area needs to be carefully weighed, considering the environment and local community instead of focusing only on industrial needs. If we continue to indiscriminately degrade our natural environment in the name of infrastructure and development, we will make the already stressed earth inhabitable for us, and our future generations.
It is time we woke up and faced facts, and concentrated on Sustainable Development instead of mere economic growth. Let us not let social and environmental issues become mere political agendas to be used by our leaders at election times, but do what is best for the overall progress of our nation.