Whitelisting instructions CSE-Bulletin Fortnightly
Whitelisting instructions CSE-Bulletin Fortnightly
Take a map of India. Now mark the districts with forest wealth, where the rich and dense tree cover is found. Then overlay on it the sources of streams and rivers that feed us, our water wealth.
The agriculture minister told parliament last week that 100,000 farmers had committed suicide from 1998 to 2003, a period for which his government had data. This means 45 farmers killed themselves each day across the country. There is now information that suicides may be on the increase. In the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, unconfirmed reports talk about three suicides a day among cotton farmers, up from one a day a few years ago. But the matter goes beyond statistics.
In 20 years, the world has come full circle: in the mid-1980s the process of globalisation intensified with the rich countries taking the lead in interconnecting countries because it was in their interest. Now in 2006, the same rich countries find the process of globalisation — economic and ecological — too hot to handle. They have become a roadblock in the way of global integration. The question is where will we go from here? Can we go back in time and close the processes of globalisation?
At a media-studded book release function, a leading editor was recounting a recent incident. He was travelling with a top Uttar Pradesh politician (who we will not name but call Mr A) in his brand new plane. The politician told him that the plane was a gift from a leading industrialist (who we will not name but call Mr AA). The editor was then told that the return gift by the politician was not meagre: it was 1,000 hectares (ha) of prime agricultural land for a new special economic zone (sez). Hearing this tale, we in the audience smiled wisely.
RECENTLY, the Rajasthan High Court, concerned about lesser tigers in the Ranthambore tiger reserve, directed that all vehicles should be denied entry into the park. The response was immediate and furious. Conservationists, tiger lovers and tourist operators combined to argue that the ban would destroy the hotel industry and hit livelihoods of tourist operators. Angry scenes of foreign tourists denied sight of the tiger flashed on national media.
Call it is one of the unknown Indian ironies. Over many years, the Indian state, through its public irrigation agencies, has systematically taken over the management of surface water systems. It has taken over the job of building irrigation systems—dams, reservoirs and canals—then maintaining these and supplying water. This has meant that over the years it has taken over water resources from the hands of village communities. The irony is that even as the state has vested this power in itself, people have taken water under their control.
The government is being severely criticised for the wheat it is now planning to import. Rightly so. India’s season for wheat ended a few months ago. When the crop was being harvested the government dithered on the price it would pay farmers; it floated tenders for import of wheat; it insisted on taxing the purchased wheat. At the end, farmers were paid Rs 850 per quintal, a price which included a ‘bonus’ of Rs 100.
Tigers or tribals? Tribals versus tigers. This is how the discussion on the tribal forest rights act is being framed. The law, which was enacted by parliament a while ago, is aimed at conferring land rights on people who already live in forested regions. The government says it wants to correct a historical wrong against people on whom rights were never settled when forest areas were earmarked for conservation. Quite right. But these homes of the poorest also house the country’s magnificent wild animals, like tigers.
The 2008 Union budget must be remembered. Not because it heralds an early election, but because it comes at a time when the world is battling four different but inter-linked developments. First, there is the impending us recession, which is already causing our financial markets to tumble. Second, crude oil price—this week, it has reached a record high of over us $100 a barrel, astoundingly up from us $35 a barrel just a few years ago.
That we need ‘green’ technologies—wind, solar or biomass gasification—for future energy security is no longer a matter of debate. The critical question, now, is: under what conditions can these emerging technologies be introduced into the market? The answer is not so simple. Most innovation and manufacture in these new sectors lie with private players. At the same time, the creation of ‘favourable’ conditions for application is at the door of government and public policy.
Earlier this year, I called the Union budget myopic (see Down To Earth, March 31, 2008). Let me reiterate why. The Union budget did not take into account the fact the world was beginning to face new challenges, all of which were devastating, and related. One, the rising cost of our food—you will recall subsequently prices did go up and food riots took place in many parts of the world.
After months of downward spiral, the dreaded r-word must be uttered. The world’s major economies are into a recession. Equally recessive is the response of leaders who, after working extremely hard to privatize and deregulate, are falling upon a Keynesian idea, first applied after the 1929 Great Depression in the us, requiring governments to spend huge amounts of public money to bail out the economy.
Let me dare to predict how regulatory and corporate India will resolve IT major Satyam’s scandal/saga. The government will stand tall, its arms and branches spread out in never-ending enquiry, to provide tactical cover. Some fall-guys might be found: now-disgraced chairman B Ramalinga Raju could be sentenced, as could the auditing company official who signed the accounts; but it takes time to prove guilt, so that they will probably live a retired life in the comfort of their homes, out on bail. Meanwhile, the media will bray for blood.
A year ago, in this very column, I discussed the myopia of budget 2008, which did not touch upon events then beginning to unfold. Since then we have seen the world collapse and, perhaps, even change forever.
Whenever election to India’s Lok Sabha approaches, two questions tend to emerge: When will India get a green party? Are environmental issues important in our elections? The answers are interlinked; they relate to the nature of the Indian electoral system as well as the nature of India’s environmental concerns.