The cover story on Bangalore ('Meltdown',Down To Earth, February 15, 2006) was a very timely one on the downside of too much "success" in economic development.
But rather than getting into the intricacies of whether and how the bureaucracy can plan appropriately, I would have liked the focus to be more on the money involved. I think it is not simply the subsidies that have attracted all these companies to Bangalore. Slashing taxes and providing other support is really easy and if that was the case then perhaps every other country would do the same. Having a huge and educated, English-speaking workforce like India has, especially in the south, is something that no other country in the world can offer.
I have been working on these company incentives for a while. Recently I wrote a report for a Finnish ngo that accused Finnish companies of benefiting from unfair subsidies doled out in India.
I find that companies as well as the general public are very good at complaining about the government's inability to provide infrastructure and cse has a good approach when discussing what happens to the poor communities that are in the way of software development. But does the state of Karnataka really have the funds required to make the massive investments needed to upgrade infrastructure even if they could get their act together and plan properly? I don't think so and this is where the same subsidies become relevant again. If companies do not provide the necessary funds (usually through taxation), then they should also not expect any much in terms of infrastructure.
One interesting thing that I read some time back is that China has four times the gdp of India but its government has more than 10 times the funds. No wonder they can build more roads, buildings and provide better infrastructure.
I have been reading Zygmunt Bauman's Liquid Love, a treatise on what he calls liquid modernity, by which he means the loss of the sense of place that is so common to the modern world. He describes the nature of refugees as being "permanently nowhere".
What I find is remarkable in your cover story is the fact that the term refugee must now also include the original residents of a city that has transitioned, thus making them refugees in their own home.
Sadly, democracy has been replaced by "dollarocracy" where, all dollars being equal, those with more of them have greater rights.
This is as true today as it ever was, despite our pretensions to democratic values.
Following your story, we have staged protests and dharnas opposing industrial pollution and urbanisation in Bangalore. We also plan to sue the companies responsible. The issue needs media exposure and a larger section of population need to know about the problems of rural Bangalore.
I would like to compliment you on the well-written article on the Kalinga Nagar killings ('It's pent up anger', Down To Earth, February 15,2006) specially as it delves into the historical and structural reasons for the resentment of the tribals.
The article has quoted extensively from a study on tribal land rights carried out by me and my colleagues. A couple of errors have crept up into the article that I would like to point out.
First, the article gives the wrong impression that the only comprehensive land survey in Orissa was carried out by the British from 1922-1928. That survey covered only coastal districts of Orissa (excluding Ganjam) -- and, therefore, was not comprehensive.
Second, the section where I have been quoted as saying that the 1920s surveyors didn't have enough manpower or the capacity to survey tribal shifting cultivation on hill slopes gives a wrong impression. The policy of not settling shifting cultivation land with tribal people actually continued till the 1980s.
In case readers are interested in more details about the complex and difficult history of tribal land rights in Orissa, they are welcome to contact me.
We are thankful for the wide coverage to our research work in your magazine ('Bamboo bonanza', Down To Earth, December 15, 2005).
The work received due attention only after the article appeared. Forestry managers of Hindustan News Print contacted me to know more about the technique. They want to adopt the technique in Assam where bamboo saplings are needed on a large scale.
K C Koshy
Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute
This is in response to your editorial, 'It's dark outside the tv grab', (Down To Earth, February 15, 2006). I consider the drive for economic growth on our finite planet scary. And the figures you mention about India's plans seem high.
It is estimated that the earth's oil reserves will run out in 40 years, gas in 60 years and coal in 90 years. Even the nuclear option is not an answer -- to my knowledge, uranium reserves will last for 60 years. Nevertheless, leaders push for growth and electrification. They say 1.7 billion people are still without electricity. Of course, I agree that countries should develop so that the poor and hungry have a decent life. But does that mean they need electricity?
The end of fossil fuels will mean that we, the rich North, will have to do away with wasteful luxuries. We would face a collapse of our lifestyles which depend on luxury gadgets. We would do better to relocalise our consumption and production infrastructures before that happens. Relocalisation means elimination of up to 80 per cent of the costs and energy for transporting goods and people. Such a measure would drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Earlier, trade had the function of distributing goods to places where they could not be produced. Today, the only function of trade is more profits.
For survival, we will have to return to local control, democracy and sustainability.
Yazali, in Arunachal Pradesh, has caught the fancy of the mainstream media ('A town damned', Down To Earth, February 15, 2006). But little is reported about many similar cases in Himachal Pradesh.
For instance, tribals in Kinnaur district have been on a hunger strike in protest against the forceful acquisition of their land by hydro companies but nobody is listening to them.
In another case, paramilitary forces have arrived in Daralaghat town of Solan district and are threatening local people fighting for justice against the Ambuja cement company. But again they are alone in their fight. The people who lost their fertile lands are getting arrested for shouting slogans. The media should expose Himachal's development hype. Regionalisation of news has reduced issues of national importance to local problems.
An environmentalist from Shimla
In the cover story 'Brinksmanship' (Down To Earth, February 28, 2006), it was wrongly mentioned that the Basel Convention has detailed universaally accepted test protocols to define hazard characteristics quantitatively. It should instead have said the Basel Convention does not have detailed test protocols. The error is regretted.
Down To Earth welcomes letters, responses and other contributions from readers. We particularly welcome you to join issues and share your opinion with others. Send to Sunita Narain, Editor, Down To Earth, 41, Tughlakabad Institutional Area, New Delhi - 110 062. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org...
Pick of the postbag
Business of vaccines
Apropos of your thought-provoking article on the current immunisation status of the country ('Vaccine eloquent', Down To Earth, January 31, 2006), the first question that comes to mind is: Who is determining what is needed most by the children of this country?
A mere glance at the immunisation chart and the marketing tactics of vaccine manufacturers would instantaneously reveal the answer. It is the interest of the marketing forces, which is closely linked to the interest of the Western world that is guiding and deciding what is to be introduced in our market. The government and non-government organisations, academic associations, and other technical bodies are mere spectators. They are forced to not only approve their products but also their marketing tactics.
With the advent of advertisement of vaccines and related products in the media and directly to the consumers, the whole scenario has become murky. Direct marketing tactics have left the consumers confused. Equally confused and passive are the paediatricians, academic bodies and health sector of our country, all of which depend, quite incongruously, pretty heavily for funds on these very companies whose policies and tactics they are supposed to oppose. Even the necessary political will on the issue is lacking.
In India, it is the diarrhoeal diseases, respiratory infections, tuberculosis, malaria, typhoid, and infections of the central nervous system that pose the biggest health threat. To curtail the morbidity and mortality of these illnesses, we need to have good vaccine against rotavirus, Escherichia coli, Streptococcal pneumoniae, malaria, arbovirus, and improved and more effective vaccines against tuberculosis, pertussis, measles and typhoid.
But what we are doing is promoting vaccines against disease such as Hepatitis- a, Hib and meningitis that cause a less severe disease burden on our children both in terms of morbidity and mortality. Hib is a major causative agent for pneumonia and meningitis in the Western world, not in our country. But because Hib vaccine is available in plenty in the developed countries, it is being forced onto the Indian market.
Ideally, we should provide enough incentives and subsidy to our pharmaceutical industry to research and develop the vaccines we need the most.
Vipin M Vashishtha
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