Tuesday, April 18, 2006

What is Development

Modern concepts of economic development, which [economist Jeffrey] Sachs sees as the “cure” for poverty, have been in place for only a tiny portion of human history. For centuries, the principles of sustenance allowed societies all over the planet to survive and even thrive.
- Vandana Shiva in Two Myths that Keep the World Poor

Big Dams are to a Nation's ‘Development' what Nuclear Bombs are to its Military Arsenal. They're both weapons of mass destruction. They're both weapons Governments use to control their own people. Both Twentieth Century emblems that mark a point in time when human intelligence has outstripped its own instinct for survival. They're both malignant indications of civilisation turning upon itself. They represent the severing of the link, not just the link - the understanding - between human beings and the planet they live on. They scramble the intelligence that connects eggs to hens, milk to cows, food to forests, water to rivers, air to life and the earth to human existence.
– Arundhati Roy in The Greater Common Good

Why does anybody need “big dams” or “big irrigation projects” ? Arundhati, there is a very simple issue here that urban people - I hope this doesn’t sound too sarcastic - find hard to understand. Water is needed, not only for drinking, but for agriculture. “Rainwater harvesting” is not enough in such areas of low rainfall. The millions of people living in such areas are the drought-afflicted, suffering from years of parched earth and damaged crops; they are driven off their lands to the cities to live, or migrate to work as labourers, for instance sugar-cane cutters, in areas of irrigation. But they would prefer to be able to prosper in their homes just as much as those threatened by dam and project eviction want the alternative of not moving. You say that the thousands of dams built in India since independence have simply led to eviction on one hand and waterlogging on the other, but this is not true. So many farmers have benefited from irrigation water, and millions who have not can see this, and want such benefits also. …Development to so many people in India means getting out of traditional traps of caste hierarchy and of being held in a birth-determined play. It is not simply economic progress, but the capacity to participate in a society in which knowledge, grain and songs will be available in full measure to everyone. When you so romantically imply that such development is not possible, when you give all publicity and support to anti-development organisations, are you not yourself helping to close such doors ?
- Gail Omvedt in An Open Letter to Arundhati Roy

When India attained independence in 1947 there was a widespread consensus on development. Modern technology and modern economic ideas (such as “planning”) were welcomed with open arms. Industries, large power plants and dams, were built, and modern farming techniques introduced. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s enthusiasm for technology and that particular model of development, as well as his “temples of modern India” quote are well known. But Nehru was not the only one. Less widely known, but perhaps an even stronger votary of modernity and technology was Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. Dr. Ambedkar played a central role in introducing large dam technologies in India (see this or this). Both Ambedkar and Nehru were enthusiastic supporters of the idea that a technological and scientific worldview (“scientific temper”), along with modern economic development, was essential to fight the obscurantist and traditionalist mindset prevalent in India. Ambedkar’s views were, if anything, even stronger than Nehru’s in this regard. Ambedkar was especially vehement in rejecting any romantic notions of traditional Indian society. He certainly did not see India’s dalits as “thriving”, or having any special “connection to the planet they live on”. In fact Ambedkar saw the traditional social and economic system existing in India’s villages as fundamentally exploitative of the lower castes – a system to be discarded lock-stock-and-barrel – the sooner the better. In this view, technological and economic change was to be welcomed with open arms since it provided the means with which to discard the traditional social/economic system and move to a new, more egalitarian one.

To a very substantial extent I agree with the view of development outlined above, though I disagree with Nehru’s emphasis on heavy rather than light (textiles, shoes, etc.) manufacturing industries, and his emphasis on the public sector. I find that in India today the most serious problems are those that exist in traditional society and in the unorganized sector. For example, there are more than 10 million bonded laborers (slaves) and an equal number of child laborers, more than 1 million manual scavengers (who clean no-plumbing-toilets with their bare hands and carry the waste on their heads), millions of landless laborers who earn barely enough to survive, and hundreds of thousands of workers in stone quarries breathing in so many stone particles that life expectancy is only about 35 years. For the benefit of these often voiceless citizens, I believe that it is imperative to (a) improve agricultural productivity, so that farm labor income increases, and (b) increase industrialization especially in the manufacturing sector in order to increase the number of decent-paying jobs, and (c) increase access to modern (i.e., rationalistic) education. Large infrastructure projects such as dams, canals, power plants, etc. are necessary for these to happen.

Some argue that large projects – especially dams – do not help the weaker sections of society. But the evidence indicates otherwise. Farmers – including marginal farmers – all over India use irrigation wherever it is available. A World Bank study shows that that irrigation and the green revolution have helped landless farm laborers even more than landowning farmers. Moreover, the increase in India’s food production – with the help of green revolution technologies such as hybrid seeds and irrigation – is there for all to see. We seem to have forgotten just how precarious the situation was before the advent of the green revolution. Here is a quote from Agriculture Minister C. Subramaniam in 1966-67, showing just how desperate and humiliating the food shortage was. “As a last resort, I told my officials and experts to identify the nearest food carrying ships on the oceans throughout the world. I said we would identify the nearest ships carrying wheat to other countries and appeal to the US President to divert it to India if other countries could wait for another six to eight weeks.” (link). And it is well known that in any food shortage, prices tend to rise, and the poor suffer the most.

This is not to say that the existing infrastructure technologies are perfect – far from it. Alternatives where they exist must be evaluated and studied, and detailed plans must be made. Then comparisons can be made and the best option chosen. However the alternatives that are generally suggested by the anti-large-projects movement today – use of traditional technologies – simply cannot deliver comparable benefits. After all, traditional technologies have existed for centuries but were not able to prevent famines, even thought the population was a fraction of what it is today. For a good discussion on this issue, see this.

Some take the view that dalits, adivasis and others (landless laborers ?) are happy where they are and mostly do not want change. If they do want change, it is entirely achievable through the use of small-scale local technologies and local arrangements based on their own traditions. I reject this view completely. In my view all human beings are essentially the same. Adivasis or dalit landless laborers are fundamentally no different from you or me. Adivisis and dalits – just like you or me – would like to get educated, make a decent amount of money, appreciate movies, literature, music, write a blog, etc. The fact that they are not organizing morchas, hartals and hunger strikes demanding education, health care, electricity, etc., does not mean they are happy without these. I subscribe to the idea of “capability approach” to social development advanced by economist Amartya Sen in which he holds that there exist a set of basic human capabilities that are intrinsically worthwhile for a flourishing human life – irrespective of cultural or geographical differences. In this view, simply a lack of protest does not mean that people are happy and flourishing. It follows that we must strive to spread modern education, modern health care, access to markets, etc. to all citizens, whether they are actively demanding these or not. This is simply not possible to do through the use of small-scale local technologies and local arrangements. After all, these small-scale local technologies and local arrangements have been around for centuries, but not been able to deliver the desired results.

Of course large dams and other large infrastructure projects must include proper resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R). In my view the govt. should announce a national R&R policy which formally recognizes that R&R should be such as to enable oustees to, at the very least, regain their original standard of living. And this should be applicable to all govt. initiated forced displacement – not just large infrastructure projects. For example millions of adivasis have been displaced by the creation of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries – 100,000 in just one instance as recently as 2002. These oustees should have the same rights as large-project oustees. Civil-society groups should take the lead in ensuring that the govt. R&R policy is actually implemented in all cases.

Some say that western countries have stopped building large dams, and so we should follow suit. But the situations are entirely different. In most western countries, industrialization and modern farming techniques are already widespread. Dams and canals have already been built, which are sufficient to support a high standard of living for almost all their citizens. So there is no pressing need to build new dams. However, the benefits that dams and canals have brought to these countries are there for all to see. I currently live in California, and in this area, the benefits of dams and canals are obvious. The vast agriculture industry in the Central Valley of California is totally dependent on dam-and-canal irrigation. A large part of the of the Southwestern United States, including mega-cities such as Los Angeles and Las Vegas are heavily dependent on dam-and canal networks, especially the giant Hoover Dam.

In many western countries, it has become fashionable to hold a post-modernist post-industrial view of the world. When applied in the Indian context, this view rejects the Nehru/Ambedkar concept of development outlined above, and in my view, leads to absurd conclusions. For example, this view holds that local mythology and astrology based explanations of natural phenomena are as valid in the vilage context as modern scientific explanations, that traditional medicine as practiced by the village medicine-man is as valid as modern medicine, that traditional heredity-based division of labor is as valid as modern education-and-salary based division of labor, and so on. There is much to commend in these post-modernist post-industrialist ideas, but I believe these ideas are primarily suited to those societies that have already experienced the benefits of modernity and industrialization. In my view, it will be a cruel joke for millions of people in India if we were to adopt these post-modernist post-industrialist ideas at this juncture, when most Indians are yet to fully experience the basic benefits of modernity and industrialization.

Do read this excellent article by Gail Omvedt.


Blogger tejal said...

A very well written article Siddharth, and I cannot deny that I agree with a lot of what you said. The fact the small traditional society is ridden with problems intrinsic to social and economic hierarchy. The fact that those dispaced or disadvantaged due to any project (wild-life parks, golf courses, dams, huge mines by Posco and Tata etc.) should be rehabilitated and compensated. The fact that the city bred elites have no right to decide wether Adivasis "want to live" the way they have been living for so long or not.
I however disagree with you on the point that smaller,local solutions to problems make sense only for countries that have already exhausted the big solutions and are already industrialized. With the impending "peak oil" crisis, all countries need to rethink policies on industrialization and oil dependant agriculture (not just for electricity, also for fertilizers, pesticides etc.). The "big projects" model of the 20th century is being severely criticized all over the world because it is fast being recognized as unsustainable. Why then should we follow down such a route? to reach the peak of industrialization, then realize that it was bad and then revert back to small sustainable solutions?
Also, our democracy is largely non-participatory. The Roys or the Medhas or even the Amrtya Sens do not have a right to talk on behalf of the Adivasis (and which I dont think they claim to be doing), but are the Adivasis included in the decision making processes? If Coke decides to build a plant in Plachimada, as much as all of us in the cities say that it is good for the country and makes revenue, if the people of Plachimada say that they dont drink coke and they dont want Coke to take their water, their wishes should come first. They decide how their resources get used and not some few "intellectuals" sitting in Delhi. Anna Hazare's Ralegaon Siddi, Bablu and Mary Ganguly's Timbaktu, Rajendra Singh's projects in Rajasthan and Haryana are examples of successful sustainable projects even though they dont fall under the "high GDP==economic development" paradigm.
Coming to the dams arguement,
In the US, though as you say a lot of damming has been done a many believe the possibilites to be exhausted, the fact that there had been increasing opposition to the dam lobby, due to dam bursts in parts of Western Mass, and other siltation probelems, the previously unquestioned technology was being scutinized when the industry moved South to Latin America .
The Hoover dam which you spoke about, down the years has created huge salination problems downstream rendering a lot of previously fertile land unusable. Due to large amount of silt deposition, the power generation capacity of larger dams reduces drastically (in terms of electricity dams provide diminishing returns). You quote the World Bank which has been the main player in all the projects that were promoted in Latin America. These however were met by a lot of protests (not by the Medha Patkars, but the people who live there). The anti-dam movement in Latin America is one of the strongest.

April 19, 2006 7:06 AM  
Blogger Siddhartha Shome said...

tejal, thanks for the compliment. However I don't agree with you that western countries have realized that industrialization is bad. The benefits of industrialization are well appreciated. Nobody wants to go back to the pre-industrial 17th or 18th century. However, having reaped the benefits of industrialization, they do want to move forward (not backwards).

Rajendra Singh's, Anna Hazare's and other's work in no way shows that irrigation is unnecessary. In fact Anna Hazare's Ralegan Siddhi uses dam-and-canal irrigation based on the Kukkudi dam. See here for a discussion of this issue.

Dams (such as Hoover) do have problems like salination, silt, etc. but the benefits are greater than the problems. Of course efforts must be made to solve the problems. This is the nature of all technological development. It would be foolish to discard aircraft technology simply because there are some air crashes. The benefits are clearly greater than the problems. Of course efforts must be made to improve aircraft safety.

April 19, 2006 7:48 AM  
Blogger tejal said...

Siddharth, i did not say that irrigation is unneccesary. I am talking about big dams and big projects which all the people mentioned above have proved to be unnecceasry for "development".
"However I don't agree with you that western countries have realized that industrialization is bad." I did not say that, however i did say that the current model of idustrailization (big industries) depends upon finite resources and cannot go on for ever. This has started being recognized world around and since harnessing of renewable sources on a large scale is very difficult and un-economical, doing it on smaller scale is being found increasing more advantageous. e.g. the wind turbines in denmark are mostly operated by farmers for their own communities. U say that the benefits of the dams far outweigh the costs. however, the cost benefits analysses done for large projects do not account for a lot of things which usually leads to many skewed numbers. Visit the page http://www.riverlinks.nic.in/fr_kenbetwa.asp for a summary of the Ken-Betwa link being planned. Even to an untrained eye, the report is seriously wanting and many aspects of rehabilitation are not considered.
Another source which talks about the arguement of small vs. large is the book "Small is Profitable" by a roup of researches. You an find more about the book here - http://www.smallisprofitable.org/

April 19, 2006 10:15 AM  
Blogger Siddhartha Shome said...

tejal, I have absolutely nothing against small-scale industries and small-scale energy generation such as wind turbines, etc. I hope their usage increases. By all means they should be encouraged. But in a country like India with a population of 1 billion, and with the need to lift millions out of grinding poverty and out of oppressive traditional heriditary occupations, these small-scale technologies are simply not enough at this point of time (may a couple of decades in the future, yes). We simply cannot give up large-scale well-proven technologies. If the planning for some project (Ken-Betwa) is not sufficient, you must demand better planning, but you should not reject the technology itself off-hand.

April 19, 2006 11:17 AM  
Blogger tanvi said...

A very well written post and equally wee voiced justfied comments y Tejal. She completes the picture.

April 23, 2006 12:27 PM  
Blogger tanvi said...

I meant a very well written post and very Well voiced and justified comments by Tejal specially in reference to Pachimada where the plant gave employment but took away water. The example shows tat even while encouraging industrialisation how important is not to go blind on the negative impact and to regulate it.I find it problematic when we justify not sharing benefits of industrialisation and modern technology with people like the adivasis in name of preserving their traditions. Certain activists have gone to the length of saying that spread of modern eduation and machinery should be discouraged in tribal regions because it takes them away from tradition. Why should a tribal not be allowed comfortable life if he or she so desires? Basic healthcare,education for employment, infrastructural facilities are rights of all citizens. Confining them to century old difficult trades amounts to wanting them to be preserved as museums of human civilisation. It often keeps them poor and marginalised. Their culture needs protection agreed and its no way inferior, just different but their concerns have to be voiced in mainstream politics for effective solutions to their problems. Dams as long as come along with appropiate R&R measures can be welcomed. However small scale solutions have to be simultaneously encouraged because they dont require huge investments the former do and have little negative side effects like large scale displacements and so on. I dont know how far can education and technology alone change mind sets and make people give up anachronistic identities like caste or religion as long as they remain attractive means to boost numbers and bargain for benefits like reservations etc in the political domain. When oppurtunities are limited as in India today logic of numbers will strengthen caste or communal politics. That is why economic growth is so important but then there is question of distribution and gaps. As benefits of industrialisation are yet to percolate to vast sections of poor yet it alone does not render industrialisation problematic. However it presses case for small scale labour intensive projects. Perhaps we should look at both small and big solutions as long as the goal is same development with justice.

April 23, 2006 1:16 PM  
Blogger Siddhartha Shome said...

Tanvi, I'm glad that you agree that large dams are not necessarily bad, as long as R&R is carried out in a fair manner. The Indian public should demand R&R as per govt. policy and Supreme Court judgements. The public should also demand that organizations (NBA) do not work to disrupt R&R. In Gujarat NGOs have participated effectively with the govt. for R&R, for example by participating in Land Purchase Committees. Ideally something similar should happen in MP. The MP govt. wants this but the NBA is unwilling (link).

Large and small scale technologies should be used based on what is appropriate for the situation. BTW, small-scale does not necessarily mean "little negative side effects". For example in India today about 20% - 25% of electricity for industry (and also many residential buildings) is generated by small/medium diesel generators. This mode of small-scale power generation is much more inefficient, more polluting, more expensive, etc. compared to large electricity generation plants.

You are right that education and technology alone cannot change age-old mindsets, but they can definitely play a very big role. In India today, as a result of education, technology and new economic opportunities, large numbers of people have been able to move away from oppressive hereditary occupations (for example see this). This is a good thing, though it may cause some social/political upheaval.

For my ideas on the anti-Coke movement see this.

April 23, 2006 11:57 PM  
Blogger tanvi said...

I went over the links you suggested. I still don't see how NBA can squarely be blamed for poor R&R in MP when it was NBA and controversial fast by Medha which brought the issue into focus,the MP government violated the SC's ruling to increase the dam height when adequate R&R measures had not been taken up. Your link from the government site talks about plans for R&R but they are yet to be implemented as proves the minister's report and the SC ruling.
I agree that the cola industry should not be targetted for being a MNC however it did violate regulations and invited criticism, its MNC status should not be an issue alone I agree but the community where it operated had every right to take action against it for deliberately ignoring their water rights and regulations. Coke becme a victim in context of MNCs having double standards in their dealings in developing and developed countries.
Of course education and technology do enable positive but limited change. Anachronistic identities like caste and religion enter the political domain not just because people are orthodox and uneducated but because this helps in bargaining for economic rewards like reservations and political gains in elections.

April 24, 2006 1:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have noticed in this and the earlier article that howsoever well-reasoned the article is, there are some who while praising the article will still try to keep to their own viewpoint, regardless of the justification provided in the article. they simply dismiss the reasoning provided in Sid's articles.

They are the ones who do not understand the problems of a huge country and like to live in a dream world with no dams, no big projects, nothing, just because in some other countries, a section of so-called intelligentia is against such projects.

April 24, 2006 5:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anonymous noone is opposing big dams here we are talking about inadequate R&R for which NBA alone cannot and should not be blamed. I

April 24, 2006 12:46 PM  
Blogger Siddhartha Shome said...

The NBA has done many things to obstruct R&R, such as:
1. Spread misinformation among oustees (see my article for some examples).
2. They have directly tried to disrupt the govt's R&R ralated activities such as surveys, etc.
3. The World Bank pushed the govt to formulate its current generous R&R policy. The NBA worked to push the World Bank out of the project. Dr. Anil Patel of ARCH Vahini (who played an important role in R&R in Gujarat) says "They have all failed to understand and appreciate that it is the World Bank's continuous involvement and close monitoring of resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R) that resulted in progressive improvement of the R&R policy, which, in turn, strengthened the hands of those seeking fair R&R for the ousted tribals" (link).
4. Even now one doesn't see any statement from the NBA along the lines of "we only want fair R&R, we are not against large dams per-se".

Of course, the NBA is not solely responsible for poor R&R in MP. Ultimately it is the govt's responsibility. There have been administrative failures, and corruption as well. Even regarding the NBA's obstruction of R&R, the govt. is responsible for not dealing with it effectively. The govt has also been unable to counter the spread of the NBA's "anti-large-projects" message among priviledged upper-middle-class city dwellers and the English language media (though not farmers, or the less-priviledged, or the regional language media).

April 24, 2006 11:05 PM  
Anonymous Mansukhani said...

I agree with sid's analysis that governments have failed (or perhaps they did not find it politically advisable) to expose NBA. You may also like to read comments of one dr. dutt in sid's earlier article.

It seems to me that the supporters of NBA and like-minded individuals and groups simply will never acknowledge that the decision on narmada project was taken and reconfirmed by governments elected by the people after extensive discussions over several decades. They will continue to claim that it is a disaster project not a development project and they might also expect that their fears come true so that they are proved right.

It was indeed a grave error on the part of the Governments not to have consulted all of them individually and collectively at every stage to ensure the "involvement of the people".

If they were consulted, such development projects would not have been approved and country would have been much happier for it and the people would have been enjoying by now milk and fruit and honey flowing in abundance in this great land of ours.

Perhaps, it is not too late (better late than never) to cancel all dams, highways, and other infrasturcture projects because of the great harm they do. Let the progress of the country and happiness of people not be delayed by persisting with such projects.

April 25, 2006 10:27 AM  
Blogger tanvi said...

Thanks for the info Siddharth.

April 25, 2006 10:52 AM  
Anonymous madan Bhalla said...

I feel people are just supporting the agitation without understanding the consequences and the harm they do to the country by delaying development works involving thousands of crores of public money which belongs to you and me and indulge in futile intellectual exercise and lengthy arguments that lead nowhere from the comforts of their homes.

They obviously do not think of the dire straits of lacs of people suffering without water.

NBA has its own agenda and they could not care less whether the country has already spent 1000 or 10,000 crores and whether the people continue to live without water, power and food. They do not have a sense of proportion.

It is high time people start
using their own sense in a mature way without getting carried away by emotional blackmail seeing Medha Patkar's drama going to fast.

btw, there is no point saying that the article is well written and at the same time continuing with one's own opinion on development which only involves blocking projects.

April 25, 2006 11:33 PM  
Anonymous r.kunju said...

sid, i really admire the effort you are taking to patiently provide logical arguments to support your position.

The fact is that howsoever logical your arguments may be and even if you give enough references including the article by gail omvedt, there are some who will never change their view.

They will demand to see 'links' to prove your points( as if all the information in the world is to be found only on the net and if it is not on the net it cannot be true). Why should the burden of proving be on you just because they do not agree wih your position?

And even if the links you do provide strongly support your point, once again they will praise you and repeat their position. They will complain about decisions being made by some intellectuals in Delhi and themselves carry on 'intellectual debates' sitting in Mumbai or Madras sipping their colas or whatever in airconditioned comfort.

I would rather endorse the comment of mansukhani above.

April 26, 2006 6:16 AM  
Anonymous Chitra said...

saying an article is well written does not means having to agree to whatever it says. Everyone has a right to opinion and disagreement. Noone demanded to see links. Siddhart gave them to clarify certain arguments emotional outburst is unnecessary money has been spent on a project does not means it can flout norms. The dam can be pro development but adequate R&R has to go along. Noone opposes the dam construction the demand is first to give relief to those it has displaced which is fair enough

April 26, 2006 7:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why should we not have the dam R&R. Both are equally important the people cannot be sacrificed in the name of development. I agree with Chitra. Those who demand R&R along with further construction have a right to it. This position has also been taken by the supreme court.

April 26, 2006 7:46 AM  
Blogger tejal said...

the post by Sid is about "development" and aren't blogs meant to invite discussion not just by people who agree with the posts but also by people who dont. Like chitra has put it, calling an article well written doesnt mean the content has to be agreed upon.
of course the R&R issue is the most important one at hand but the development debate is by no means over and in my opinion Siddharths post here was about that debate (correct me if I am wrong) and not about R&R (that post was the previous one). The debate is being engaged in, by many countries (e.g.the World Social Forum that just happened in Venezuela and has happened in other places earlier addresses such issues) and i dont see how just labeling people pro or anti development solves nething. There is a book by Joy and Paranjpe who have been involved in water projects in Kerela and Rajasthan which talks about smaller alternatives to SSP which will cause much less devastation. There have been alternatives suggested to the River Linking project also, but so far the govt. has blatantly disregarded these without justifying the disregard.

Another point in response to some of the comments- providing drinking water was not the apriori aim of the SSP project. It started being touted as that only when opposition against the project grew. If the govt's wanted to provide water to Kutch there are two rivers closer to the area (For the better common good) whose waters have been diverted to nearby cities instead of Kutch).

April 26, 2006 7:48 AM  
Blogger tanvi said...

I agree with Tejal and Chitra. You can't have evryone standing at one side of the spectrum and the other side not expressing opinion.

April 26, 2006 7:57 AM  
Blogger tejal said...

Siddharth u quote the example of small scale electricity generation causing problems. Although they do suffer from voltage fluctuation problems, smaller engines and turbines (used in Combined Heat and Power) are very much more efficient that large centralized plants. CHP applications can attain efficiences upto 60-65 % whereas traditional plants have thermal efficiences uptp 30% in the best case scenario. A recent EPRI study quoted that by 2015, 25% of all new generation will be distributed (on a much smaller scale than large centralized plants).

April 26, 2006 8:02 AM  
Anonymous partho said...

I do not agree with chitra. she is not aware that some people have been insisting on links.

I also do not agree about R&R being the main issue with NBA. Their goal is to stop dam and preferably abandon the same.

Whatever noble thoughts reasonable people like chitra have on continuing with dam as well as R&R, the same are not shared by NBA.

April 26, 2006 9:35 PM  
Blogger Siddhartha Shome said...

I do not realistically expect that everybody will agree fully with my point of view (though of course I’d be very happy if they did). But I do enjoy getting compliments from everyone. So even if you do not agree with me, please feel free to compliment me as much as you want on my article :-). All compliments are greatly appreciated. And if do you agree with me, that’s even better :-D. Even if you don’t agree, I do hope that you (and I) will learn something from this discussion – maybe even enough to challenge some of your (and mine) long-held assumptions.

tejal, I doubt that we are talking about the same kind of diesel generators. These small-scale generators are used widely in India. For example in my company’s development center in Pune, we have a couple of these. This is a modern office bldg with A/C, lifts, etc. 7 stories. About 700-800 people. Whenever the electric board (MSEB) supplied power supply is shut off (load shedding, etc.), these diesel generators swing into action. As soon as MSEB restores power, the generators are shut off. Just the running cost (forget about installation cost) of these generators is much, much higher than MSEB supplied power. Had it been more efficient (cheaper) compared to centrally-generated-grid-distributed power, our company (and others) would surely have used its own generators all the time instead of bothering to get power from the grid.

BTW, nobody is claiming that the SSP is perfect in all respects. What I (and others) am saying is that the benefits of the dam are likely to be very substantial and much greater than the costs – even after providing fair R&R to all oustees. The Narmada project idea has been around since the 1940s/50s. The basic design was decided upon (i.e., the idea converted to a plan) by the early 1980s after many years of study and deliberation. Since then it has been reviewed by numerous committees, agencies, the World Bank, and most importantly, the Supreme Court, and most (including most crucially, the Supreme Court) have not found anything to question its basic viability. The decision to build the dam has been taken in a fair and democratic manner, as has been the decision to simultaneously provide fair R&R for oustees. This does not mean that the SSP is the last word in water infrastructure design. “How to build a better dam” and “how to build better irrigation/drinking-water/power infrastructure” are ongoing quests. As long as people accept the practical need for more irrigation/drinking-water/power, and make good-faith attempts to develop new ideas to achieve these (as Joy & Paranjpe seem to have done), it is a good thing. Though of course it is a long way (feasibility studies, financial estimates, etc.) to go from an idea to a detailed quantitative viable plan. To redesign the entire SSP from scratch right now would push back the project by another 15 – 20 years or more, though small changes can surely be made.

April 27, 2006 1:44 AM  
Blogger tejal said...

Siddharth, true that we are too far ahead on SSP to go back in time and redesign and that is not whatI am suggesting. However, this is the first time that the debate of whether these structures are really as good as they are advertised to be is being thrown open and we should all engage in that debate. We should bring people from other developing countries who have been involved in similar situations (Brazil, Columbia) and guage the experiences. The government should subsidize alternative research as it subsidizes big project research today. An idea will not be taken forward if the onus of "proving" everything lies on the shoulders of the people like Joy and PAranjpe. They shuld be encouraged just as Relaince and GE are by the governmet. But sadly this is not happening.
About the generation, the cost of generation cannot be directly attributed to efficiency as the power that we get from MSEB is highly subsidized (the generation is highly subsidized in terms of oil/coal/gas). Anyway, but 'Distributed Generation' as a concept is started being adopted widely with smaller machines as opposed to engaging in building centralized generation plants. NTPC has a branch that deals just with it.

April 27, 2006 5:32 AM  
Blogger Siddhartha Shome said...

tejal, we should definitely look at other countries. Not only Brazil and Columbia, but also countries like China, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, etc. Countries like China and South Korea have been much more successful in pulling hundreds of millions of their citizens out of poverty in recent yrs. (South Korea since the 1960s, China since the 1980s). The improvement in the quality of life of ordinary citizens (as measured by education, life-expectancy, income, etc.) of China & South Korea has been extraordinary, and much greater than in Brazil/Columbia, though of course Brazil/Columbia are worth looking at as well.

April 27, 2006 10:10 AM  
Blogger samarth said...

Sid and Gail Omvedit both are writing far more reasonably and without arrogance of ‘greater’ intellectuals like Miss Roy. She simply brooks no argument and her omniscient knowledge is far wiser then combine debated analysis of Gujarat govt., Suprime court or any water resource management body. They have caused the whole nation an immense damage with their one point agenda. Let me tell you my first hand experience. I have been brought up in Rajkot.This madam from Kerala simply does not acknowledge our water thirst arising out of a scant 12 to 15 inches of rain (in a normal year! Don’t bother a drought year). Let alone rural areas, in my own city I have witnessed many years when whole households have strived back breakingly to fetch waters from the govt. sent tankers at 4 a.m. in the morning. I have drunk well waters which is so hard that remaining thirsty would sometime appear better option! Same bucket of water would be used thrice-sponging the body. (Bathe?!?!), then washing the clothes and ultimately mopping the floor. While visiting Bombay, I would keep on drinking glass upon glass of water just because of its soft sweet taste. I would seat in window and watch falling rain lustily for hours envying Bombay’s 80” + rain. And now? For all her mispropaganda (She has written somewhere ‘That billboard -Saurashtra, Kutcha”) about not reaching Narmada water to us…It is already there, even if through pumping so far.and we have already seen the transformation. Our water salinity has dropped ( ask any Ahmedabad citizen).This supplement(yes it is only supplement so far thanks to NBA’s efforts)has already started changing the whole life standards of middleclass. and at least we are not cursed to see impotently millions and millions gallons of sweet water of Narmada flow wastefully into Arabian Sea so as to allow 35000,500000,(or 70000?) families of Narmada valley to improve their bargain positions. You see, they own Narmada River. While stalling work for so many years they have literally broken the backs of millions of women in arid Saurashtra, North Gujarat in condemning them to wander miles in search of WATER. Thanks to their single mindedness, today I am ashamed that Gujarat is part of Union of India.

May 04, 2006 1:06 PM  
Blogger Synical said...

Mr Samarth, I am glad you have tasted lesser saline water and have seen the Dam as such a panacea. But, stop and think about your verbal onslaught on Arundhati Roy, or any other such activist. Maybe, just, maybe, it is because certain voices decide to keep a check on the govt machinery, in its ideology and logistics, that u are able to taste this water...Maybe, just, maybe, thanks to movements like the NBA, the government feels ACCOUNTABLE.

Mr. Shome, I have to say a big THANK YOU to you. You have made me realize that facts are meaningless in front of ideology. Even as your interpretation of the sources you quote could be attacked by other equally credible sources (Joseph Stiglitz, when it comes to World Bank's emancipatory role in the developing world), I realize the exercise is relentless.. We differ in our lens, in our way of reading the facts... and thats where ideology plays a role. Keep blogging, so I can keep up to date with the thought of the maintream political economics.
Thank You again!

May 06, 2006 9:49 AM  
Anonymous Sangeeta Suri said...

The previous writer displays lack of understanding of the development process.

Compliments to Sid for a very objective analysis of development which deserves comments of a higher level.

May 07, 2006 11:58 AM  
Anonymous Chitra said...

I think synical has finally lost it.

I don't agree to a lot sid says but thhis is no way to respond its plain stupid if I may say that.

May 07, 2006 11:45 PM  
Blogger tejal said...

i dont think synical has "lost it" at all. I realize now too, that two people with different ideologies will not read the same piece of paper in the same vien. An example - there were reports on Enron, written by various organizations based on the same documents of the deal that everyone had access too. But the opinion as to what the deal will do to MSEB were so polarized that it was impossible to believe the deductions were based on the same piece of "data". So i agree with synical when he/she says that we can never agree as long as our ideological lenses are different (however much logic there is in anyones arguement). Sid assumes that the World Bank's word has a lot of credibility in this debate, whereas based on the despicable role of the Bank in the third world, i will never give the World Bank's assessment even an iota of credibility. So if we are on two different pages we can just pretend to have an arguement but the arguement will never have an outcome.

May 08, 2006 8:00 AM  
Anonymous Kamala C. said...

Lot of high sounding comments are made by some readers.

However, when one studies them in detail, there is very little substance and logic to support what the reader is saying.

May 10, 2006 10:42 AM  
Blogger tejal said...

on the debate of "development", Collapse by jared Diamond is a great read if you are interested and havent already read it.

May 15, 2006 10:34 AM  
Anonymous Madhukar said...

the quota system being pushed is also anti long terms interests of the country and all those Indians lviing abroad wh do not want the countrymen to be distinguished on caste lines should send their protest to govt of india

June 02, 2006 11:20 PM  
Blogger papi said...

Its time we walked out on development.We could still survive it.
The west is bound to go down under its own weight of development and will take the rest along.
We still could make it if we tried to walk back.And in the best spirit of brotherhood, we could also be ready to provide refuge too, to our western brethren, who will and many already do, see the writing.
I ,in all sincerety , do not have the time to substantiate my statement.
Just this.
The very need to substantiate such statements or comments as I make,is alien to the spirit of a walk back.
None of us have the time left any more.If just you could open your eyes and see, its all out in the open now.
And if you think I have been dogmatic, you may be missing the woods for the trees.
Sorry, but no offense at all.

June 26, 2006 9:25 PM  

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