The outstanding characteristic ability of life is response. The responses need not always be rational or logical. Yet so long as there is life there will be a response to stimuli. Populations of animals and human beings also respond collectively. Such codified respondes are an important aspect of culture. Perhaps the most stirring, poignant responses are evoked when the very foundations of culture and life are threatened. For millions of people across the length and breadth of India this is what is happening right now. This is the soul stirring poignancy of movements by the Bhopal gas affected people, the Narmada oustees, the tribal people displaced by military firing ranges etc. Development, the direction, the process and the proceeds of which none of these people have any say are bulldozing them to oblivion. Their common resources are taken away, plundered, their cultural identity and their social cohesion are torn to shreds. They then can no longer respond. They are easy prey for the rapacious consumers after cheap human energy and lives.
All this is in the name of progress and prosperity for some. True. But who are those baneficiaries we realize only too late. As development becomes more sophisticated those who profit by it become fewer and fewer, even though the quantum of profit for each may be big. Yet collectively humankind has not asked itself two basic questions. The first is regarding the intrinsic injustice of this developmental model towards the weak, the poor, the marginalised, the ill-equipped, the microcultures, the old, the women, so on. The same injustice extends to the rest of the living world and to nature in general. We must ask ourselves how injustice can be corrected through changing the very model of development. The second question is regarding the sustainability of the monetary prosperity and the material progress attained through the current development. If the profits and achievements attained by even those few are not long lasting what is the real balance sheet of profits and losses. This question will also lead us to change the basic concept of development.
The Narmada valley development, both the story of the dams completed in the past and the ongoing Sardar Sarovar Project bring into sharp focus the terribly costly myth of modern development. At the cost of countless precious lives, it provides us yet again an opportunity to reset our goals.Previous Top