Published: Saturday 28 February 2009

Partnership for greater good

Your editorial 'The newer deal for a newer world' (December 1-15, 2008) articulated my sentiments. The irony in the government being championed as the public's saviour is not lost. If Reaganomics believed the market knew best, the current economic crisis is a stunning blow to the prevailing orthodoxy.

Suddenly, John Maynard Keynes does not seem so unpalatable nor do government fiscal stimuli to advocates of the invisible hand. If we have learnt anything from our reliance on the Anglo-Saxon model of capitalism, it is that efficiency of allocation is one thing, equality of its outcome is quite another.

Conservation, sustainability, diversity, redistribution have been the areas blighted by the inexorable shift to deregulation. Yet they remain the most significant factors determining our future prosperity. Even now, there is staunch defence of the free market as the vehicle most suited to alleviate world poverty; its negative externalities are a somewhat regrettable but acceptable element.

The emerging bloc of developing nations needs to prioritize a fully functioning social security system that includes incentives to encourage saving and sensible investing. The problem lies in the dominance of the school of classical economics and its portrayal of man as a perfectly rational, opportunistic, self-interested, utility-maximizing individual. Clearly, the behaviour of credit and capital markets, of late, has dispelled this notion. The answer lies in designing contracts and incentive mechanisms that emphasize the power of partnership.

Exorbitant executive pay packages and high-scale payoffs can only encourage self-centred behaviour at the expense of other groups. But contractual relationships that internalize the negative externalities of private actions and thus include diverse stakeholders in decision making are more progressive leading to total welfare gains.

Such relationships are particularly relevant in the context of sust-ainable energy and food. They can encompass both public and private sector partnership.


Educating the future mother

The article 'Not a matter of religion' (December 16-31, 2008) rightly points out Indian Muslims remain educationally backward because there are hardly any good schools in Muslim localities. But there are also other reasons for the poor educational standards, one of them being religious orthodoxy.

This keeps young girls from getting good education. We all know that it's the mother who imparts basic education to the child. Unless girls receive proper education, it would be difficult to create a community of educated people.

Dhiraj Dangoria

All about status

Several automobile companies in India continue to produce large private vehicles including suvs, which are actually not suitable for India ('The tale of 21st century dinosaurs', December 16-31, 2008). The roads are narrow and parking space is shrinking. But industry projects these vehicles as status symbols. The trend needs reversing.

m a haque


Kyoto Protocol is just an eyewash ('2009 is full of promise', January 1-15, 2009). The climate models used by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (while setting environmental standards under the international environmental treaty) showed that the protocol if implemented fully would make a difference of only 0.1oC.

It was given undeserved attention. As you said in your editorial, the countries that created the problem are trying to push other countries to take action through a system of credits and other means. It seems developing nations are quislings and have no effective voice or strategy.

As far as India is concerned, it has to do more to promote renewable energy using innovative methods and not failed market mechanisms.

Senior Operations Adviser (Retd),
World Bank

Down to Earth You have rightly said: "The world's addiction to fossil fuel is increasing." For rich countries, this is a classic case of don't do as I do, do as I say.

Rich countries care only about one thing--the economy. Nothing must get in their way of economic growth. Now that the economies have crashed, their politicians are seeking desperate measures without the slightest concern for the consequences to the environment and the depletion of natural resources.

Here are a few examples of how the west is failing to care for the environment in its drive to stimulate growth.

Last year the UK government received 14 applications for opencast coal mining. It approved all of the mining projects. The environmental consequences were given brush over. Not to mention, half-a-dozen coal-fired power stations already in the pipeline are without the carbon capture and sequestration (ccs) technique--a process touted by rich countries as a technological fix to mitigate fossil fuel emissions. It is to be noted that the ccs technology has not yet been commercially tried and that in the whole of Europe, Germany alone has a research power station with ccs technology.

Then there is always Heathrow's third runway, which will make the London airport the worst carbon emitter in the UK. Speculation is rife that it has already been rubber stamped so the UK does not lose out to other European countries.

Surprisingly, here in the UK, I am surrounded by a staggering amount of indifference and denial. When I tell my neighbours the dire situation we are in, they dismiss my concerns, saying things like "it's a natural cycle of earth" or "scientists are always getting their predictions wrong".

Tim Bevan

Down to Earth Government policies including the Integrated Energy Policy and the National Action Plan on Climate Change seem to address the problem of energy requirement from the supply side. Managing demand and curbing global warming are treated as subsidiary issues. But it seems corporate interests are influencing government policy.

There are a host of alternatives for meeting the legitimate demand for electricity without building dams and nuclear reactors or burning fossil fuels. Many international studies such as the one commissioned by Greenpeace, Energy (R)evolution, and Earth Policy Institute's Time for Plan B: Cutting Carbon Emissions 80% by 2020 clearly demonstrate that legitimate demand for electricity around the globe can be satisfactorily met through effective implementation of a model that combines energy efficiency, energy conservation, demand side management and taps renewable energy sources.

At the international level, countries should evolve their own sustainable ene.

Transport for the public

Why would people want to spend money on petrol and get stressed by driving on crowded roads if public transport was efficient and comfortable ('Dear all, kindly divorce your car', January 1-15, 2009)?

The government could start its own autorickshaws and taxis with fixed stops like bus stops. Autorickshaws and taxis also need to be disciplined. They refuse passengers most of the time and charge arbitrary fares.

Only in Mumbai are they compliant and provide good service.

mahesh kapasi

Why so cynical?

I have been reading the magazine for the past 10 years. But I couldn't help feel irritated with the cynical tone the magazine has taken (December 16-31, 2008) of late. Cynicism clouds ideas and makes it harder to reach out to people who resist positive change.

girish kulkarni

Success of stories

Your magazine covers various issues of public interest quite exhaustively. But government establishments or corporate bodies do not always heed public opinion. This often leads to cynicism. It would be good if you told readers about some of the success stories that your exposes led to.

kunuthur srinivasa reddy
Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh

Deer for Sunderbans tigers

West Bengal's Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (wildlife) recently informed the state wildlife board that the Wildlife Institute of India (wii), Dehradun, would analyse the prey-predator relationship in the Sunderbans. They would further provide evidence whether any correlation really existed between the present prey base and tigers straying into human habitations.

Maybe involvement of international nodal agencies like the Tiger Specialist Group of the World Conservation Union (iucn) can further enrich the study, which would help the state wildlife board to decide whether or not it should introduce deer into the forest.

Such steps were taken earlier, but the experiences were not satisfactory. An acclimatization centre was set up at Dobanki in the Sunderbans for the deer from non-mangrove areas to adapt to the mangrove habitat before introducing them into the Sunderbans forests. But the centre was found to be infected with tuberculosis. Hence, any effort to mitigate the problem of reduced prey base will surely fail without determining the reasons behind it.

Even while considering re-stocking of deer in this fragile ecosystem, the formalities and guidelines of translocation of any species from one ecosystem to another, as suggested by iucn, should be followed.

biswajit roy chowdhury
State Board for Wildlife, West Bengal


"Companies are coming up with offers of huge capacity of 50 mw and more, but we cannot sanction them without verifying if they would be able to deliver," said an mnre (Ministry of New and Renewable Energy) official ('Pressure point', December 1-15, 2008).

As long as such officials are there, nothing will ever be achieved in India.

Alphonse benoit

Down to Earth Trading under clean development mechanism (cdm) is beyond the purview of the common man because the firms authorized to approve cdm projects charge heavily. The programme needs to be simplified in a manner so that it does not breed corruption. Or else, this effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will lead to several other problems.

C R Bhattacharjee

Romanticizing ragpicking

It is interesting to note how views differ depending on where one stands ('Why waste a chance?', January 15, 2008). To support the underserved, like ragpickers, is a good thing. But what these boys need are new skills and education. They should be sent to schools like Katha in Delhi to become more solvent.

Is not it better to transform lives rather than romanticize ragpicking?

saurabh adhikari

Nilgiri and its tea

Nilgiri orthodox tea was recently registered under the Geographical Indications (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.

The registration is recognition of the tea's unique flavour attributable and specific to the Nilgiri hills of Tamil Nadu. It is expected that the geographical indication tag will boost the exports of Nilgiri tea processed the orthodox way.

Over the past few decades, however, the orthodox mode of processing has lost favour with traders and consumers. Of the 70 million kg of tea procured from the Nilgiris annually, only 15 million kg is produced by the orthodox method. The rest are processed by the crush-tear-curl (ctc) method. Neither the Tea Board of India nor the Tamil Nadu government is taking steps to promote the orthodox method of processing of Nilgiri teas.

Unless the orthodox method is promoted, India may soon lose the international market to its tea-exporting neighbour Sri Lanka.

k v s krishna
Former tea planter, Chennai


Husbanding animals, organically

India has a large livestock population. The native breeds with natural resistance to many livestock diseases constitute a sizeable proportion and are well adapted to the Indian climate.

The exotic and crossbreeds are vulnerable to diseases and adverse climate factors. India could use its pool of indigenous technical knowledge to boost the organic livestock production system. This could also have good export potential.

balkrishna n dave

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