Published: Friday 15 September 2000

Power the people

This is with reference to the article 'Bridging the gap' ( Down To Earth , Vol 9, No 4; July 15). The concept behind the new planning process is undoubtedly great. However, the article could have dealt more explicitly with the opposition and hurdles that derailed its implementation. After Independence, the government had implemented eight Five-Year Plans which were prepared by top planning experts. But these plans did not have the participation of the beneficiaries. However, by the beginning of the Ninth Five-Year Plan, the people of Kerala got a chance to participate directly in the planning process and its implementation.

The statement of the former minister of local administration and the present chairperson of the administrative reforms, V J Thankappan, that the bureaucrats were totally against the system would be 100 per cent correct, if the readers understand that the politically powerful union members are also considered bureaucrats in Kerala. More often than not, it is lower level officials, especially the clerks, who are in charge of the administration and not the top official. Usually the head of office is bound to obey the directions of the government and very seldom they deviate. When a head of office tries to fight against government directions, he is isolated by the lower level officers who are lead by a powerful political background. The officials fear that if the people become more acquainted with the developmental activities, they will loose their manoeuvring space and grip over the ordinary citizen.

There is corruption to a certain extent among politicians. A large number of government employees in Kerala, except the teachers, are experts in the practice of the Kerala model of 'sophisticated corruption'. They know that if the schemes and their implementation become transparent, they will not be able to exploit the common person. Therefore, these officials and their organisations are opposed to the system, irrespective of their political leanings -- left or right.

It is also common for opposition parties to blindly counter any proposal from the ruling party -- whether it is good or bad. The same has happened to the people's plan also. If the public stop getting carried away in the excitement of this mudslinging exercise, things can change for the better. Corruption was there even in ancient times. Now the common person knows how and where it exists. Publicity and transparency in activities will reduce the extent of corruption.

To achieve this goal, mass awareness about issues that confront the public must be created. However, one thing is clear: the public has the right to know all matters related to governing activities and to question them....

Road to nowhere

The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve ( nbr ) is the ecological lifeline for the entire south India. Most of the rivers that flow in this region originate from the forests in the nbr . However, the nbr is today facing a great environmental threat because of a proposal to broaden the Gudalur to Bangalore highway. Already, there are many reports of animal deaths due to the increasing traffic on the highways. The Bombay Natural History Society, which has conducted a study in this region, has warned that if the road were to be broadened, it will increase the number of casualties.

I am a member of a organisation called Vivasyikal Thozhilalarkal Munnettra Sankam , which is based in Gudalur. To protest against the mindless destruction of this vital ecosystem, we have sent a memorandum to the Union ministry for environment and forests asking for their intervention. I hope good sense prevails over the officials concerned and the nbr is left untouched....

A clarification

I have been quoted in the article 'Shades of green' ( Down To Earth , Vol 9, No 5; July 31) as saying that "The joint forest management programme ( jfm) is not working due to corrupt forest officials." I never made such a statement to any reporter of Down To Earth . Being a forest officer myself, this statement has created a lot of confusion among fellow forest officers.

Our reporter, R V Singh, replies: I spoke to Rajeev Mishra during the international workshop, A decade of jfm, retrospection and introspection, held on June 19-20, 2000, at the Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi. I stand by my story....

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