By Mayank Jain:
Once upon a time, there was allocation of coal blocks in the largest democracy of the world. The mining was supposed to be allowed on the basis of competitive bidding but the government chose not to. ‘Competitive’ is the key word here which the government sufficiently ignored and removed from the process. The allocation in haphazard manner which reeked of favouritism and lobbying effortsÂ reportedlyÂ cost the country INR 1856 billion. This is the amount of windfall gains that these companies received through a nudge in the process.
The development and economic growth though, was underway. Our much needed resource that is responsible for 2/3rd of all electricity generation, hence made its way to the hands of inefficient Public Sector Units and 105 Private entities thatÂ were only too happy to receive it cheaper than ever. The CAG findings were rubbished and probe committees were set up, as promptly as they have always been and the issue was now reduced to a pile of old newspaper headlines, that nobody no longer cared about.
The new government came in and promised that one thing we wanted the most: Development. Commonwealth games, 3G spectrum allocation, Coal allocation and Special Economic Zones couldn’t give us inclusive development so we turned to the new government with our eyes and minds fixated on that ‘Great Indian Dream‘.
On the other hand, reckless mass deforestation was carried out by Vedanta’s subsidiary in India, flouting the Supreme Court’s order. Even after years of industrialization and wreathing havoc with life of people, animals and biodiversity, our Gini Coefficient (that measures equality distribution of income) is 70th in the world and Human Development Index is even lower at the 136th position.
The argument given by those in favour of corporatization of the country is that sacrifices over the years will accumulate and result in huge dividends in the future. To whom these dividends will accrue, they will never tell you. The man on the streets who lost his house to a company because they wanted to build a mall or the park for kids and the elderly which got demolished to build a posh golf club for the same MNC’s employees isÂ apparently a small price for all this development.
Sustainable development is the word that’s missing from the discourse and the organizations and movements which attempt to bring the last man in the streets into focus are shooed away as if they are beggars begging for alms. A democracy places the rights to express, protest and participate in the hands of people but the organizations which enable them are shunned as being ‘anti-development’.
The recent IB report to the government which blacklists Greenpeace as well as many other NGOs for being the cause of loss in the GDP growth by as much as 2-3% every annum has developed into a controversial debate. According to The Indian Express story, the report reads, “A significant number of Indian NGOs (funded by some donors based in the US, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries) have been noticed to be using people centric issues to create an environment which lends itself to stalling development projects”.
The organizations like Greenpeace do indulge in direct action and protests for the cause and welfare of society, environment and people at large but most of these are well placed in their intentions and the idea of ‘sustainable and inclusive development’ is upheld instead of reckless ‘economic growth’.
One on hand, government seeks to increase foreign funding in business and industry of the country to give it a boost. Tax incentives are common than most things in the sectors which need the necessary push but curtailing the freedom of NGOs to work for social good betrays the intentions of an administration. If the report holds true, there is a reason to worry. Opposition is the vehicle of correction and improvement in the course and labelling it as against national interests can’t be considered a step in the right direction.
While the projects can’t be stalled forever due to protests, but banning the right to speak up against displacement, loss of lives and property that are fuelled by money making ambitions is going a bit too far in the search of ‘development’. It is time we stop obsessing over GDP and work for better and efficient ways to distribute benefits that every person lays claim to; the fact that Greenpeace has highlighted in its response to the report.Â Gross National Happiness will only rise when people understand the pros and cons of certain projects and they agree upon. China is a case study if one wants to observe shadow cities and abandoned complexes which are so expensive that they have no takers.
Even with widespread MNCs, IT hubs, resource mining and super cities flooding the country, one quarter of the nation’s population earns less than the government-specified poverty threshold of INR 32 per day. Maybe it is the right time to ask the dreaded question: “Who stole our development?”
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