Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

jairam ramesh - tehelka cover story

the man who is running the indian environment ministry - jairam ramesh - is featured in this brilliant cover feature by shoma chaudhury on tehelka.

some transitions in his thinking...
“Twenty years ago I was a gung ho growth-wallah. Today I’m just a growth-wallah: I’m no longer gung ho. I’ve realised if it is to be a choice between 9 percent growth and negative impact on environment and livelihood security and 7 percent growth with ecological security — it’s much wiser to opt for the latter. Twenty years ago I may have chosen the former. Today I would choose the latter.”
the PM and sonia with their reasons for picking him...
When Jairam asked the prime minister, “Sir, why me?” the prime minister replied: “The ministry has acquired a bad reputation for corruption and rent-seeking. I want you to clean up the system but I don’t want environment to be a hurdle to growth. You understand the compulsions of growth better than most.”

Sonia, however, had another, simpler, message altogether. Asked for her vision for him, she said, “Acquit the mandate the environment ministry was set up for. Protect India’s natural resources. Safeguard people’s livelihoods.”

some startling statistics...
Consider just one statistic put out by Vikram Singh Mehta, chairman of Shell India, and the shocking truth of this will hit home: it takes 9,200 litres of water to produce one litre of diesel.

On employment too, Claude Alvares has a staggering statistic. According to NCAER figures, the formal economy in India employs only 28 million people today. Back in 1950, it was 25 million. That’s just a three million increase in jobs in the formal sector over 60 years. At an average, each of those jobs has been generated at an investment cost of Rs.1 crore. This means more than 80 percent of India is employed in the non-formal sector and is looking after themselves, outside the supposedly golden halo of the growth story.

He (Pavan Sukhdev)
reels out fascinating statistics in support of this: 450 million people in India live off subsistence agriculture, wetlands and forests. Nature provides them 90 percent of their income. How was industry going to provide all these people jobs if they are driven off their land? “Those who think they have a purely industrial solution to India’s poverty are living in cuckoo-land,” he says. “What are we going to do, make them Ferrari makers? What is the economic model that is going to generate alternative employment for 450 million people?”
what i always maintained about MMS and MSA is reiterated...
Former power secretary R Vasudevan has similar things to say. “The GDP is the narrowest possible measure of growth. We cannot worship growth just as a percentage,” he says. “We have to ask ourselves, is all this really enabling us? The problem is both Manmohan Singh and Montek Singh Ahluwalia have had only World Bank exposure. They have never worked on the field so they do not understand ground realities.”
while he has had to maintain his poise over much much pressure, it is sad that he may not last long.
Over the past 20 months, Jairam has grown more shackled with every passing day. He’s almost lost his job thrice and has had run-ins with almost all his colleagues: Ministers for surface transport, shipping, coal, power, steel, aviation, agriculture, water and science. Queues of detractors line up routinely at the prime minister’s door asking for his ouster. In the last cabinet reshuffle, in fact, he was a “goner”, says a Congress source, had Sonia not intervened. Despite this, he may still lose his job by May.


Anonymous said...

Great article, atleast there is someone with wisdom and guts. Recently there was an article where MS Swaminathan wants to avoid "intellectual dwarfism" ( due to malnutrition, but it seems that there is a greater danger of "intellectual clownism" by those people who work in sterile corridors of power, with no real connections to the environment, fattened by industrial food and pharmaceuticals, who simply can't understand the degradation of our environment, and the destruction of the foundations of life. The very integrity of food is threatened by genetic engineering, loss of topsoil due to "modern practices" of tilling, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. Such band-aid techno-fixes have left food bland, and without any nutrients. Can anyone claim medicinal qualities for ginger, or coriander or turmeric grown soaked in fungicides, herbicides, and pesticides.
A farmer connected to the land and life, who adds sprouts, leaves of various plants and ferments with jeevamrutha, believing that the enzymes will enhance microbial life in the soil is a real scientist, and not the ones in lab coats in sterile cages, with limited intellectual capacity, unable to think beyond simple linear models.

Unknown said...

Read Vaidyanathan (IIMB) or for an assessment of the Indian economy. You will realise how useless FDI, the corporates, in fact anything that the pink papers and business channels cover are.