Published: Wednesday 31 December 2008

Basic economics

This is with reference to the editorial, 'Bail us out: Consume' (November 1-15, 2008). Yes, it is surprising that our great economists do not understand the basic reason behind the economic depression. This is something even common people like us understand.

It is good that at least some people like you raise the issue. But how many people in India read the magazines that carry such reports? Even those who read have no say. People in power can manipulate everything, not only economics, but also the law of the land. We find it happening every day.

m a haque

Down to Earth I do not agree with the editorial when it says India's financial and political managers "don't have a clue of what is happening". They, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, definitely know what's happening. They very well know that with the kind of trade policies that wto offers, this is bound to happen every now and then.

They know that the reason for such debacles is the over-production of commodities. The economy is lopsided as it has been developed with the intention of amassing more money and not for developing a better world or for the benefit of people. They just want to produce more than is needed to make more money. If they can't sell, it is called economic depression. When it comes to subsidy for farmers, wto launches into raging debates, but when it comes to bailing out big companies, they don't have a problem. What is worse, it is public money (from reserve banks and other public treasuries) that is used to bail them out.

jaswinder sandhu

Down to Earth I believe that we have to go back to simple ways of living. No government will, however, be ready to encourage that.

I have been practising and writing about anti-consumerism and non-consumerism for a while now. Unless we break the corporate-political nexus, one step forward by people like you and me will be accompanied by 10 steps backward for humankind collectively.


Down to Earth The poor are, in a way, subsidizing the rich. While a continued onslaught of the disastrous effects of climate change leave the poor struggling to make ends meet, car makers come up with newer ideas and more fuel-efficient cars. More loans are given by the banks and more people rush to buy them. More money is wasted and more pollution ensues. Bigger projects are then set up to combat that pollution. More of the public treasury is emptied to fund these projects and the list goes on. Who suffers in the end? The common man.

s k chetal

Down to Earth I would like to tell you about a farmer's plight caused by the consumerist culture. Since 1996, both the nda and the upa governments have competed with each other to usher in this culture. The gullible middle class, especially the young people, have only made matters worse for themselves by falling for it. I have been cultivating paddy on four hectares of land since 1994. The land belongs to our family. Now we have taken to shared crop growing because of rise in labour costs, input costs and--as you have rightly called it--a myopic government policy.

In Tamil Nadu, the average wage for four hours of labour in the farming sector for men is Rs 150-225 and for women Rs 60-80. The construction companies pay Rs 250 and Rs 140, respectively. So peo.

Calamity and dole

This is with reference to the editorial, 'Ignorance and arrogance make for good floods' (September 16-30, 2008). Floods have become an annual event in our country. Some part or the other always gets ravaged by the floods. Right after every such occurrence there is a flurry of activities--aerial surveys, visits by politicians, announcement of relief measures, and what not. But do they really work?

The funds never reach the needy. The damage takes ages to be brought under control and before we know, the next spell of calamities comes knocking. We need more effective ways to fight such calamities. The government should always be on alert, ready to meet such emergencies which require well thought out short-time relief. This is not easy. It requires a good deal of political will, engineering capabilities and nationwide support. For starters, what we could do without is corruption.

l j prasad


A natural disaster

The article, 'The right level' (October 16-31, 2008), argues that the floods in Orissa were made worse by the fact that Hirakud dam stored water at full capacity. The calculations for storing water to meet irrigation needs are based on rainfall data from the previous year. The calculations are actually made from the amount of runoff in the catchment area. In case of incomplete figures, data is extrapolated to arrive at a near correct figure. However, these calculations cannot always be accurate.

In the schedule of dam operations, meteorological forecasts are also taken into account as per the prevailing practice. However, in this particular case, unprecedented heavy rainfall led to floods; this is something that cannot be anticipated. Hence the water stored in the dam should not be seen as a miscalculation. Unprecedented conditions led to a disaster which should be termed a natural calamity and actions should be taken to manage it accordingly.

r r yadav (Director, Dams)
s k bakhliwal (Rtd Chief Engineer)
Water Resources Department, Government of Rajasthan

Down to Earth It is true that had the water level in the Hirakud dam been maintained at a much lower level than at its full capacity of 192 m, there would have been enough flood absorption by the reservoir and the discharge through the gates would have been far less.

Since the reservoir was almost full, it couldn't contain the damage. It should be noted that outflows through the reservoir spillway gates would only correspond to the inflows into the reservoir. Hence, had the dam not been in existence, the disaster would still have taken place. The dam is in no way to be blamed.

t hanmantha rao
Engineer-in-chief (Rtd)


Whose government is it?

This is in continuance of my earlier letter ('Why no check on quarries', September 1-15, 2008). The Himachal Pradesh government has now devised clever methods to befool the gullible and simple people of this hilly state.

Earlier in March 2008, a notification to acquire land for setting up a cement plant by the Birla group near Sunder Nagar town was made 'for public purpose', meaning the plant would have the state government's direct involvement ensuring employment to the displaced farmers. However, after acquiring land from the unwilling farmers, the language of the said notification has now been changed through another notification on September 19, wherein thewords 'public purpose' have been replaced by 'for company'.

Now the government wants to absolve itself of any responsibility towards the farmers. Well-known environmentalist Sunder Lal Bahuguna also visited the town and requested the chief minister to shift the plant to a far-off place. The state government must respect the sentiments of the people and preserve the ambience of this place.

l r sharma
Sunder Nagar, Himachal Pradesh

Motivate them

This is with reference to 'City bus: In demand, out of supply' (October 16-31, 2008). If the average speed per day could be increased, there would be a better chance of profits. That might motivate auto companies to sell more buses.

nicholas westman

Down to Earth If production of buses is to increase, its CO2 emissions will also increase and that will have an adverse effect on the environment. Instead of manufacturing diesel buses, can't we just go for cng buses? If bus manufacturers concentrate on the above, it would help reduce pollution.

In other countries, cng buses are running well because of good roads. In India, the quality of roads is very poor even in urban areas. I think the government should also concentrate on quality of roads.

ravi shastri
Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd, Nashik


Highlighting a cause

M/s Adani Power Ltd has been granted a lease of 1,890 ha of land for a coal mine near Chandrapur city in Maharashtra. A major portion falls under Lohara reserve forest, which has a high density of flora and fauna including two tigresses and five cubs. Other wild animals like leopard, sloth bear, sambar, cheetal and schedule I birds like the sarus are located in and around the proposed land.

Our organization Srushti Paryavaran Mandal has been working towards getting the coal mine shifted to another location where it will not cause any destruction to nature.



The feature on the forest service 'They also serve' (November 1-15, 2008) is excellent. I hope the foresters and the political leadership, especially the administrative reform commission, take note of it. You have raised some very important issues like the conditions the forest guards work under and the changes required by the ifs.

I served in the forest service for 36 years and have witnessed changes in the profession. The ifs officers in the Ministry of Environment and Forest act as willing tools in the hands of the ias lobby for vested interests. There is a hidden understanding among the ias emanating from the highest level to block the entry of brilliant ifs officers. The top-level positions are kept vacant deliberately and given to cronies. The National Commission on Forests and Tiger Task Force reports are gathering dust because the ias lobby fears losing control.

The way ahead for the forestry sector is to promote merit alone. The government should overhaul the service and make it a real vehicle of change.

r r daya
Dehradun, Uttarakhand


The dateline of 'Not ready for rabi' (November 16-30, 2008) is Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh, not Haryana as mentioned.

We regret the error.


A 'private' hill station

I read your article on the Lavasa project ('Howl of the hill', September 1-15, 2008) and the land grabbing activities and lack of permissions surrounding it. I wanted to highlight another such project called Girivan, developed by Sujata Farms Pvt Ltd.

The company is developing the private hill station, located 40 kilometres from Pune in an agricultural zone, without any permission or plan from the Collector's office. The firm has erected an illegal gate, preventing local farmers from entering their own land. When the farmers enquired, they came to know that Girivan has sold off most of the land. A farmer got his land measured by the Land Records Office only to find that someone had built a bungalow on it. Now the farmer is forced to take loans to fight a legal battle to get back his land. There is no support from any government agency. The developers have already laid roads through the agricultural zone and put up signboards.

In some cases, Girivan has dragged farmers to court, indirectly forcing them to sell their lands to it. The farmers have been fighting for the past one year.

sujit godbole

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