Sunday, 28 February 2010

Ways to Wealth: Indian Budget 2006 (POEM)

(Key Word: Economy)

"Ways to Wealth: Indian Budget 2006" is review by an ordinary person, who is not an economist. Hence it is convinient to write in poetry form! I republish this on the occasion of the day of presentation of national budget of India. It will be interesting to compare theories with reality. (See previous post.) 

The Times of India on February 12, 2010 the following report: 

Rs 1 lakh crore budget funds go unspent each year

NEW DELHI: While the government is grappling with a huge fiscal deficit and hence large borrowings to fund key social sector schemes,

staggering sums of up to Rs 1 lakh crore in a year out of the money allocated to various ministries remained unspent between 2005-06 and 2007-08.

Unspent provisions of Rs 100 crore each or more alone totalled Rs 59,000 crore in these years, according to the Comptroller and Auditor General. The CAG has so far reviewed accounts till 2007-08. The Union account for 2008-09 is still being readied.

What’s worse, the CAG has pointed out that there is uncertainty even about whether all the amounts shown as spent in government accounts have actually been spent. In 2007-08, for instance, more than Rs 51,000 crore was allocated under various flagship schemes in which the money is directly transferred to the bank accounts of NGOs, autonomous bodies and district authorities.

Whether these amounts have actually been spent by the organizations or are lying idle in their accounts is a moot point, the CAG has noted,
observing that since these fall outside the purview of government accounts and hence the Centre’s checks, this is an alarming situation.

The unspent grants are a shocking indicator of the government’s poor budgeting mechanism and the failure of its monitoring tools put in place ostensibly to keep a tab on the progress of some of the key flagship schemes.

It will be interesting to see the Union budget 2010-11 in the light of this report. And follow it though the year how does it perform? We are 110 crore people but no right persons to implement the provisions of the budget, before it proves to be white elephant?. What an irony? 

© Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Fence sitter's View: Indian budget 1994

(Key word: Economics) 

India Budget 2010 

 “COMMON MAN” – “AAM ADAMI” (in Hindi) – is a slogan of the Indian Annual Finance Budget this year. Some time back it was “Pro-Poor” as election campaign slogan. Indian politicians, of all colours and brands, are clever to coin slogans to create fanfare of melodrama – budget or election!

But they fail to implement dogooder packages – provisions –projects – promises, if any, provided in the budgets or five year plans, particularly for the masses or the informal sector of peasants or the Third and the Fourth World India.  This has been going on for decades.

As India is growing in economic power (!), or so it is said by the global vested interests, who look up to India as “market place”, farmers at home are committing suicides. It is said that about 70,000 farmers have committed suicide during the last decade.

Governments – at Centre and States – may be clever. But people are wise. It is best reflected in hung parliaments in the last few decades, where political parties form consortium to cling to the power. They – the politicians – refuse to learn their lesson, decade after decade.
Compare the present budget of 2010 with that of 1994!

"Fence sitter's View: Indian budget 1994" is a review by an ordinary person, who is not an economist. Hence it is convenient to write in poetry form! Poetry helps escape make-believe world of expertise. I republish this on the occasion of the day of presentation of national budget of India.  I republish it as we enter the 21st Century. See Link to "Indian Budgets 12 years apart (2 Poems)" Also see "Budget India ’08: A grand cover-up act": India’s Budget – A commoner’s View"

© Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

Thursday, 11 February 2010


Image 1: Changing skyline of Mumbai 

After writing this review in a decade's time Mumbai's skyline is fast changing, the fallout is many-fold. The slum-dwellers and squatters too have increased, which now constitutes half of Mumbai's population,so also, Mumbai's water woes.

Image 2: Survival - Squatters in Mumbai

These are displaced people from various regions where Mumbai has left its footprints. 
And they strive to live with dignity, which the planners, policymakers, administration and legislation continue to overlook, or look for solutions from the West, in vain.

Image 3: Survival - Squatter in Mumbai

This is a place where new waterline is being installed by the municipal for a mega-realty project. The squatters being illegal settlers have no legitimate access to water in the democratic India. 

Image 4: Survival - Squatter in Mumbai

The children of the displaced families  that live under the newly erected flyovers have found 
their sources of leisure. These come from families of different languages. They don't care
what the chauvinist politicians have to say about language/s. 
Water, work, education, leisure, health care etc are supported by the people's skills and creativity and imagination. This is in stark contrast with impotency of planners, policy-makers
and administrators. Planners don't show the areas occupied by the  slum-dwellers and squatters, i.e., the land use painted as gray areas,on the development plans of Mumbai 

(This article / event review was published in the Journal of Indian Institute of Architects, January 1995, Vol. 60, No. 1, P. 35-36. This is an edited version added with images.)

A workshop on Working and Living in Cities was jointly organized by Max Muller Bhavan, Bombay, Urban Design Research Institute, Bombay and Habitat Forum, Berlin on 25-26 November 1994 at Convocation Hall of Bombay University, Bombay.

Many scholars, architects, planners etc. from Bombay (India) and abroad attended the workshop. About 100 participants were students. The workshop characteristically displayed specialization typical of modern urban elite society.

The focus of the workshop was on Bombay (read Mumbai) and New Bombay (read Navi Mumbai) with reference to the prospects of globalization of Bombay, the highly populated megalopolis, the trends of shifting population, slums, land, housing, trade, transport etc. in the end there seemed to be no conclusive outcome of the workshop. Yet there could be some conclusions and observations, thanks to the clarity offered by the resource persons and the lively discussions.

For a rural migrant such a workshop would be a revelation. The experts in the highly specialized branches of learning [education] were present. Perhaps the number of participants was less than the number of specialized branches, sub-branches, sub-sub-branches in different disciplines which seemed most identical to the complex caste system prevailing in India. He/she would have felt himself/herself to be a ‘neo-Shudra’ in the august gathering of ‘neo-Brahmins’. Education and Science have yet to become globalize (or universal?). The workshop seemed to have forgotten this fact in spite of boost to Information Technology. Here everyone was concerned about globalization of Bombay – a political entity.
The workshop certainly helped to understand a very small fraction of what global economy is: That the Dollar, Pound, Yen, Mark have higher exchange value than Indian Rupee. And the economic disparity and imbalance in the regions, between North and South, West and East, Urban India and Rural India, First World India and Third World India

Where does the propagation of such disparities and imbalance begin?  The question of affordability and relevance remains hanging in the development projects in India. It is futile to compare Bombay on the basis of its size of population with cities elsewhere, particularly from the developed countries.

One, therefore, cannot think of an issue connected to a city by isolating it from the region. It is also fashionable to use phrases like ‘integrated development’, ‘holistic approach’, ‘public participation’ etc. These do not work at a global level. Neither one could ignore disparities in spite of best intentions.     

At one time during the workshop, the planners washed of their hands for the ills of planning, which were pointed by the participants for some supposed undesirable elements creeping in the plans/cities. They clarified that these elements were imposed, forced upon from outside (?), or by external (?) pressure. This indeed is a real life situation revealed in the workshop. It is reminiscent of the trial of Jesus of Nazareth some two thousand years ago, when Pilate had washed off his hands. His godfather, Caesar was then in Rome. Where are the godfathers of the planners?

At the end of twentieth century, a large number of people of India were sentenced to carry the cross of displacement, in the name of common good, in the name of development, through legitimate process of legislation under democracy, or due to riots, floods, famine, unemployment to reach a final destination of rotten environment of slums in the cities, or are moving out of the city core.

It is an accepted fact from the pre-historic times that the movement of people is primarily connected with survival. Scholars and planners were concerned about providing better housing to the slum-dwellers while the poor kept on pouring in big and small cities and town. The experts have been concerned about congestion in the city. But the question of decentralization of power remains unresolved. Could it ever be resolved when the centralized power is the very foundation of a city?

The Supreme Court has recently reminded the people that they have ‘Right to Live with Dignity. Does this have any bearing to planning at any level in any area: physical, economic, development…? Dignity is a tall word, but who is to exercise this right; the planners or the government or the people? Who is accountable: people, planners or powers? Theoretically the three are not supposed to be separate.

During the discussion, an often-heard statement was quoted: “Look at the major part of the revenue of this country that is contributed by the city of Bombay…” It seemed the professionals present were not aware of “Energy”, or perhaps ignored it. Typically almost everyone, anyone speaks of economy, prices, speculation, inflation, revenue etc. Revenue essentially is understood as currency. What is the value of currency anyway?

But no scholar or expert has ever told us about how much of the resources of the country are daily consumed by the city of Bombay, besides other cities? No statistician has ever told us about how much of the contributed revenue to the country was ‘ploughed back’ under different garbs by the city of Bombay? Leave aside the parallel economy, if it really exist, created by, or have a share in creating it, apart from the scams, extortion etc. by/in  the city of Bombay, the financial centre of the country? Why then Bombay has to borrow from World Bank etc. for the basic needs of the city: water, shelter, and roads?
But the question that remains untouched is “Energy”, and the price of energy consumed by the metropolis. How much energy would it consume when Bombay turns out to be a Global City – the pride of nation, and at whose cost?  

The millions in the villages and forests had rarely seen currency. They still hardly see it. They know of the energy – man energy, bull energy, sun energy, wind energy, tree energy… They worshiped it in blind (sic) faith. They knew of this million-year-old ‘currency’ named ‘Energy’ and they worshiped it in various forms. These people are named backward, ignorant, superstitious, uneducated, illiterate, uncivilized… And here in the city the learned of the West and the East with backing of science, technology and dollars etc. endlessly talk, talk, talk of numbers, economy, revenue… under the portals of Bombay University.

It is an obsolete and outdated thought/concept to talk of city planning or any physical planning, in terms of economy by ignoring Energy and Entropy in the growing threat to environment and ecology. How long the planners will continue to ignore entropy? 

The highly specialized (or compartmentalized?) scholarly views tend to drop the news of the people, and we miss the holistic approach and finally fail to resolve any of the issues in planning, accept some piecemeal adjustments for personal gratification. Bombay therefore has to live on the externally supplied lifesaving drugs, while diagnosis fail, the curative measures fail, because these are at cross-purpose with people. The issue of slums is several times larger than the riots though its impact is not felt. The root cause is elsewhere.

In the city of Nagpur, on the eve of workshop, on 23rd November 1994, there occurred tragic death of 113 tribal persons – not merely numbers – on the threshold of the State Assembly of Government of Maharashtra, when it was in session. No one cared, or dared, to mention it at the workshop, leave aside protest, or observe two-minute-silence in respect to the dead. As if it was an alien world!

And there are host of such events. Bhopal Gas Tragedy, one and half lakh textile workers rendered jobless, 107 martyrs of Sanyukta Maharshtra Movement, Due to Thal-Vaishet Development project several farmers were shot dead… Some of these events are cases of homicide by the government.  To a specialist these events belong to a different department or compartment. But in the process of development planning these cannot be isolated; these are vital links.

The scholars may write great number of discourses in volumes. The planners may design great complexes for the corporate society. But how could such professionals ever plan a city for the People without noticing the news of the people? It was a desperate lot gathered at the most appropriate place: the Convocation Hall of Bombay University.

In conclusion I have a wishful thinking that some day some clever brain will hijack this note and another workshop on energy would materialize, and thousands, perhaps millions, of Dollars shall be spent. The people, however, may continue to live with their woes while planners and scholars shall pamper their inflated ego. But even if the paper used for this note is recycled, it will be a great achievement.

The workshop was certainly a thought-provoking event. Many more such workshops are welcome – but with wider audience and in the Context of People not the glamor of Western wealth?

Mumbai on its way to globalization reminds me of the world-famous museum piece, Fatehpur Sikri, a ghost town. built by Emperor Akbar. The reason was there was no water supply.  He abandoned his newly built capital city during his life-time. The rulers and their wise consultants continue to fail to learn the lessons of history. He had also founded a new religion - Din-i-Ilahi  (Divine Faith): Thankfully, he was its founder and the only faithful; which otherwise added to the present extremism prevailing in India. Fatehpur Sikri is declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site, by the agents of feudal powers of the past, to keep centralized powers in the contemporary times! Would anyone in future regret Mumbai is lost?

NOTE: Urban planning must be inclusive of region of the city: Larger a city larger are its foot-print on the regions far and near. (Previous post: Urban Renewal in Regional Context)

Remigius de Souza

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© Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Ivan Illich and friends: Declaration on Soil

 Ivan Illich and friends: Declaration on Soil

Published by International Foundation for Development Alternatives in IFDA DOSSIER 81, April/June 1991, p. 57-58. Now this issue is available online, reproduced below. See previous post “Urban Renewal in the Regional Context”, where it is mentioned.

(Our friend Ivan Illich sends us the following Declaration on Soil drawn up by some of the participants in a meeting on agriculture in Oldenburg, Germany, held in honor of Robert Rodale.)

The ecological discourse about planet earth, global hunger, threats to life, urges us to look down at the soil, humbly, as philosophers. We stand on soil, not on earth. From soil we come, and to the soil we bequeath our excrements and remains. And yet soil - its cultivation and our bondage to it - is remarkably absent from those things clarified by philosophy in our western tradition.

As philosophers, we search below our feet because our generation has lost its grounding in both soil and virtue. By virtue, we mean that shape, order and direction of action informed by tradition, bounded by place, and qualified by choices made within the habitual reach of the actor; we mean practice mutually recognized as being good within a shared local culture which enhances the memories of a place.

We note that such virtue is traditionally found in labor, craft, dwelling and suffering supported, not by an abstract earth, environment or energy system, but by the particular soils these very actions have enriched with their traces. And yet, in spite of this ultimate bond between soil and being, soil and the good, philosophy has not brought forth the concepts which would allow us to relate virtue to common soil, something vastly different from managing behavior on a shared planet.

WC were torn from the bonds to soil - the connections which limited action, making practical virtue possible - when modernization insulated us from plain dirt, from toil, flesh, soil and grave. The economy into which we have been absorbed - some, willy-nilly, some at great cost -transforms people into interchangeable morsels o f population, ruled by the laws of scarcity.

Commons and homes are barely imaginable to persons hooked on public utilities and garaged in furnished cubicles. Bread is a mere foodstuff, if not calories or roughage. To speak of friendship, religion and joint suffering as a style of conviviality - after the soil has been poisoned and cemented over - appears like academic dreaming to people randomly scattered in vehicles, offices, prisons and hotels.

As philosophers, we emphasize the duty to speak about soil. For Plato, Aristotle and Galen it could be taken for granted; not so today. Soil on which culture can grow and corn be cultivated is lost from view when it is defined as a complex subsystem, sector, resource, problem or "farm" - as agricultural science tends to do.

As philosophers, we offer resistance to those ecological experts who preach respect for science, but foster neglect for historical tradition, local flair and the earthy virtue, self-limitation.

Sadly, but without nostalgia, we acknowledge the pastness of the past. With diffidence, then, we attempt to share what we see: some results of the earth's having lost its soil. And we are irked by the neglect for soil in the discourse carried on among boardroom ecologists. But we are also critical of many among well-meaning romantics, Luddites and mystics who exalt soil, making it the matrix, not of virtue, but of life. Therefore, we issue a call for a philosophy of soil: a clear, disciplined analysis of that experience and memory of soil without which neither virtue nor some new kind of subsistence can be.

Hebenshausen, 6 December 1990

Signar Grocneveld, Lee Hoinacki, Ivan Illich and friends

University of Kassel, Faculty of International Agriculture, GhK, POB 1252, 3430
Witzenhausen l, Germany

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© Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.