Monday, 28 May 2007

‘PRO-POOR’ – Election slogan by UPA-2004

“Good intention remains abstract until worked out in deeds and products.” — Christopher Day, ‘Places of the Soul’

WE OF THE RULING MINORITY have been using ‘economy’, alike religion, to corrupt and exploit people. We have been capitalizing on the poverty of the Third World India, and convert the ‘wants’ of the First World India using the mantras of ‘economy’. Invariably in virtual economy we fail to convert money into needs in real life.

Now that the United Progressive Alliance has come to power at the center in India, the citizens must watch carefully how all the instruments – laws, policies, planning and finance bill/s – are made relevant to the notion of ‘pro-poor’ at the micro-level on the ground in the coming years.

Of course the people – one billion people – need to be taken in confidence, to participate and to be educated in the national interest about the instruments of development and governance that are already in force and the proposed ones, until next election. We take two instruments for example:

1. WATER IS CRUCIAL ISSUE. The proposed project of ‘Interlinking Rivers’, even if it must be scrapped, should be taken to the public forum to the notice of one billion people, alike the state and national elections. Government should take it out of the safe custody of the experts, planners, legislators and executers. Let it be debated in all its aspects, mainly its Environmental–Ecological–Energy cost, not merely financial cost, and how this instrument would – or would not – reach the poorest of the poor. Obviously the project finances should be translated in real deeds and products at micro level on ground; how the money will be disbursed and what fraction shall reach to the land and people in the forests, hills, deserts, plains and cities; and how much of it will be consumed as administration (bureaurocrisy)) cost?

2. THE INSTRUMENT OF MEDIA also could be used for the purpose of educating the people. Radio (Akashvani) and television (Door Darshan) should help the illiterate who very between 60 to 90 percent in different areas. We, however, are aware that these instruments are not accessible to many people where even basic needs are not met. Leave aside illiteracy; even malnutrition and starvation deaths are not unknown. The question is how these instruments shall reach the people. Reaching out to billion people means to make it relevant to them to establish its credibility. Needless to say when such projects as “Interlinking Rivers” are placed before the people for the information and scrutiny it must be made sure of the ‘language’ they understand. Certainly they understand the language of environment, ecology and energy in the way and where they live. What’s more, even the plants and animals do understand them. In this course, perhaps, the experts and the bureaucrats etc. need to educate themselves in the “People’s Language”. They should also bear in mind where the majority in India lies, that it is neither in the corridors of power nor in the stock exchanges, it is there in the 700 – 800 million peoples of India.
The likes of Kalam and Singh, and many others inside and outside the governments, irrespective of their brands, ideologies, colours and monopolies, faiths and the two examples of instruments mentioned above are made to order to see and perceive reality through telescope. However in the matters of land, water and people it is necessary to complement their vision with the view of the reality through microscope. It is of vital importance to make all the instruments accessible to the people beyond metropolitan cities and towns in the six lakhs villages across the country.

We wonder on this two-point agenda of ‘Interlinking Rivers’ and Media, as water and education are crucial issues, and when the people are adequately informed and educated, then who shall win the elections and where? Perhaps the corporate world with its vested interests in the projects would wholeheartedly vote in a large majority. And yet there may be a time when even the alliances may not work. Viva Democracy!

(This article was published by the Journal of Indian Institute of Architects, and by CBS Forum on its website online)

Remigius de Souza

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