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How rising inequality threatens our democracy

A vitally important issue that has altogether fallen off India’s economic-political discourse is growing economic inequality. In part, this is because of the continuing hangover of the euphoria generated by economic liberalisation, and the growth of social-Darwinist ideas and moral indifference towards the poor within our burgeoning middle class. In part, this also reflects India’s Rightward political drift, and the declining ideological-political influence of the Left and its own retreat from egalitarianism.

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No clear reason in the Kudankulam judgment

in a judgment giving the green light to the Kudankulam nuclear project, our Supreme Court tells citizens, without a hint of irony, that they must put up with “minor inconveniences” such as exposure to radiation, which causes cancer or genetic damage and is always harmful, because enormous “economic scientific benefits” (sic) will come from nuclear power, which “remains as an important element in India’s energy mix”. “Minor inconveniences”? Tell that to the families of the estimated 34,000 people who died from Chernobyl, to the mothers of thousands of babies which have early thyroid disorders thanks to the Fukushima disaster, to the 80% plus French people who oppose new reactors, or to the countless protestors against Indian nuclear projects, including Kudankulam (Tamil Nadu), Jaitapur (Maharashtra), Mithi Virdi (Gujarat), Kovvada (Andhra Pradesh), Fatehabad (Haryana) and Chutka (Madhya Pradesh).

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Modi: hype vs reality

"Modi moves centre-stage!" "Modi storms in as the BJP’s PM candidate." "It's Narendra Modi vs Rahul Gandhi!" "Modi wants to serve the nation" (read, become prime minister).

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Suspend work at Koodankulam, talk to protesters, urge concerned citizens

The movement against the Koodankulam nuclear power project in Tamil Nadu has entered a new phase with a Jal-satyagraha following the repressive police action of September 10. More than 120 eminent citizens from different walks of life have signed the following statement expressing solidarity with the protesters, and calling for serious engagement with them on vital issues of safety. The signatories include former Chief of Naval Staff L Ramdas, former Cabinet Secretary TSR Subramanian and former Planning Commission member SP Shukla, former Atomic Energy Regulatory Board chairman A Gopalakrishnan, former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court AP Shah, former Ambassador to the United Nations Nirupam Sen, scientists PM Bhargava, D Balasubramaniam, Satyajit Rath, MV Ramana and Suvrat Raju, social scientists Romila Thapar, Sumit and Tanika Sarkar, Rajeev Bhargav, Amit Bhaduri, Manoranjan Mohanty, Gyanendra Pandey, Achin Vanaik and Zoya Hasan, writers Adil Jussawalla, Arundhati Roy and Arvind Krishna Mehrotraq, dancer Leela Samson, artists Ghulam Shaikh, SG Vasudev, Vivan Sundaram and Sheba Chhachhi, and many other scholars and social activists such as Vandana Shiva, Aruna Roy and Ashish Kothari.

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Rio+20: A failure of epic proportions

Even the most incurable optimists among the globe’s spin doctors will find it difficult to dress up the Rio+20 summit of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development as a halfway modest success. Indeed, it represents a failure of epic proportions, which pro­ves that the world’s leaders have learned virtually nothing during the 20 years that have passed since the landmark 1992 earth summit, which negotiated path-breaking conventions on climate change and biodiversity and made commitments to poverty eradication and social justice.

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Book Review: Saving climate debate from a lack of vision

Praful Bidwai lays bare the contours of climate politics as it has evolved over the past two decades at the international level as well as within India. While criticising the developed world for doing nothing to cut down emissions and relying on market- based mechanisms such as carbon trade to fulfil their climate responsibilities, the author finds India’s policy equally flawed as well.

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Don’t rush through the Jaitapur nuclear project, urge concerned citizens

''Disregarding calls for caution arising from the ongoing nuclear disaster at Fukushima, the Indian government has announced that it is going ahead with the Jaitapur nuclear project. This will mean imposing reactors of an untested design upon an unwilling people and a uniquely precious ecosystem. There has been no independent and credible review of India's nuclear power policy, nor a proper safety audit of our nuclear installations after Fukushima. Public-spirited citizens are again called upon to urge the government to reconsider its stand, and to demand that the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board be given a truly independent and powerful mandate and that its members be selected with great care and prudence. More than 60 eminent citizens from different walks of life have signed the following statement. The prominent signatories include former Chiefs of Naval Staff Admiral L Ramdas and Vishnu Bhagwat, former Major-General SG Vombatkere, former Planning Commission member SP Shukla, former Atomic Energy Regulatory Board chairman A Gopalakrishnan, former vice-chancellors Deepak Nayyar and Mushirul Hasan, former Ambassador to the United Nations Nirupam Sen, social scientists Romila Thapar, Sumit and Tanika Sarkar, Ramachandra Guha, Rajeev Bhargava, Amit Bhaduri, Achin Vanaik and Zoya Hasan, and scientists PM Bhargava, Satyajit Rath, MV Ramana, Suvrat Raju, writer Arundhati Roy, dancer Leela Samson, artistes Krishen Khanna, Ghulam Shaikh, SG Vasudev, Vivan Sundaram and Bharti Kher, veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar, and many others, including scholars, and social and environmental activists such as Vandana Shiva and Aruna Roy.''

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Halting the Jaitapur juggernaut

If Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan thought he could convince the people of Jaitapur, in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district, of the virtues of the giant nuclear power complex which is being built there, he must have been sorely disappointed by his February 26 visit to the area. He harangued and taunted the 8,000-strong crowd, told people they were being misled by “outsiders” who “don’t want to see India progress”, and unleashed the aggressive, abusive industries minister (and former Chief Minister) Narayan Rane upon them. Rane had earlier declared: “No outsider who comes to Jaitapur to oppose the project will return (alive).”

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People vs Nuclear Power: the Environmental Struggle in Jaitapur, Maharashtra

The first thing that strikes the visitor to Jaitapur-Madban in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district, about 400 kilometres from Mumbai, is the sheer beauty of the place. The second thing that strikes you is the profusion of posters, banners and slogans which say “Areva Go Back”, “NO to Nuclear Power” and “Radiation Kills” in Marathi. These are the work of a grassroots movement against a project. This is planned to be the world’s largest nuclear power station.

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Real costs of false prestige

A rash of scandals has broken out over contracts for the construction of infrastructure and sports facilities for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. This raises disturbing questions about transparency, accountability and governance failure and the existence of an Indian kleptocracy which sets no limits to how low it will stoop in looting the exchequer. But the Games must also be criticised on grounds other than corruption. They will be a hollow, tawdry 12-day spectacle, which does nothing to promote sports, or to earn India any goodwill or prestige, which the elite craves.

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Double standards on aid

Indian leaders trumpet their nation’s recent global ascendancy in a variety of ways. They: highlight the importance of India’s membership of the G-20, claim a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and demand India’s inclusion in what they for long, derisively, termed “cartels” like the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group. Not least, they build gigantic, spectacular, exorbitantly expensive projects like Terminal-3 at Delhi airport. In line with this is their boastful aspiration to transform India from an aid recipient to a donor.

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A perverse notion of modernity

The subcontinent’s leaders never learn from mistakes—their own, or one another’s. Nawaz Sharif’s White Elephant M-2 expressway was one of the greatest scandals in global infrastructure development history. Now, India is about to produce its match—in aviation, by building a $4 billion (Rs12,700 crore) new terminal at Delhi airport. Terminal-3, to be opened soon, is claimed to be the world’s fifth-largest airport terminal, and bigger than Heathrow’s Terminal 5 and Singapore ’s Changi. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh euphorically described T-3 as signifying the “arrival of a new India , committed to join the ranks of modern, industrialised nations …”.

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Defending Livelihoods, Promoting Equity: UPA-2’s litmus test at Year One

It’s no aberration that the first anniversary of the return to power of the United Progressive Alliance should coincide with a tsunami of grassroots protests: from Orissa to Maharashtra, and from Tamil Nadu to Uttarakhand, through tribal Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. The protests represent popular resistance to UPA-2’s industrialisation and mining policies and its zealous promotion of gross domestic product (GDP) growth as an end in itself. Central here is the displacement and dispossession of vulnerable people.

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Need-based development in a free, just society: the lasting legacy of Mahatma Gandhi

If one were asked to name “purely” indigenous texts from different cultures and countries which contain original political thought, vision and ideas, the choice in India would logically be narrowed to only two works: Kautilya’s Arthashastra and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj, written in 1909.

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Anti-Naxal Operation Green Hunt: Waging war against the people

The Indian state will diminish itself and undermine its claim to being minimally civilised if it resorts to organised, large-scale and deliberate violence in which civilians will be the main casualty.

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