The Parisar Annual Lecture for 2011 was delivered by Prashant Bhushan, a Supreme Court advocate by profession and an activist by heart, on the issue of adopting an 'An Alternative Development Paradigm', at Devang Mehta Auditorium in Pune.
He is well known for taking up many public interest causes and PILs, most often "pro bono". He has been an assiduous defender of civil liberties, human rights, environmental protection and the rights of the poor. He has also been a vocal proponent of judicial accountability and has been an active pursuer of corruption related cases. Recently, he has also become a core member of the team led by Shri Anna Hazare that is campaigning for an effective institution to rein in the rampant corruption in the country.
The lecture evolved around the concept of development, and its implications for a country like India, where economic development is being equated with all development in a rather simplistic way by official medium like politicians and businessmen alike. India is being celebrated today as a fast developing economy, a force to reckon with in near future, but the question to be asked is whether this is a reason to celebrate for all in the country. This fast paced economic development is a direct result of the policy of liberalisation, globalisation and privatisation adopted by the government in 1991. Economic globalization policies introduced in 1991 include: a shift away from an inward-focused model of self-reliance towards a stress on exports and imports, the opening up of various economic sectors to foreign investment, liberalization of regulatory regimes, and a move from public sector investments to privatization. The disastrous consequences of each of these policies has been brought out starkly by Mr. Bhushan in his lecture.
In his lecture, Mr. Bhushan elucidated how privatization had ushered an unprecedented exploitation of the country's natural resources with little or no benefit to the country or its people as a whole, but only to huge corporations involved which were only being encouraged by government policies and the resulting crony capitalism. The example of the mining activities in India are shocking not only in terms of the volume of money and natural recources involved but also in terms of the passive role the government plays in the regulation of such a strategic sector. The example of Karnataka is one out of the few that were included in the lecture. Karnataka being the richest source of iron ore in the country, if mining were carried out at the rate at which it is being carried out now, we would be exhausted of all iron ore in this country within the next 20 years. This statistic soupled with the fact that two third of our mining output is exported to other countries presents a grim picture of what is to become of India in future. With such kind of aggressive, blind GDP oriented policies, all other considerations of ecological impact, sustainanbility, inter-generational equity are neglected for the short term profit of a handful.
The lecture was alive with such examples of how the government is encouraging privatisation of strategic and important sectors, leading to multinational companies to gaining excessive power, not realising that eventually they come to dominate the ruling class itself. And in the whole process, the common man is invisible, for the policies are decided on completely different criteria, not necessarily on public welfare. Mr. Bhushan says that while our Prime Minister may keep hoping that the GDP growth rate of 9% will trickle down to the masses, indicators such as the Human Development Index suggest otherwise. For all its portrayal as a potential economic superpower, the country stands 134th in a list of 187 nations in the Human Development Index, with Sri Lanka ahead of it on the 109th position. The development model adopted by our country has been unsuccessful in bringing its people social and economic equity, access to nation building services like education and health and a morally sound transaction of everyday business. The disastrous ecological impacts of our development projects, the social consequences of the same with the creation of an atmosphere conducive to corruption are all failures of the current development model.
To conclude, Mr. Bhushan presented his vision of an alternative development paradigm which rests heavily on direct participation of all citizens of the country through a model of direct democracy. The idea driving such a model is that the stakeholders of the policy decide what shall benefit them the most. More about this model can be found in the audio recording of the lecture given below.
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A blog about the same has been written, to read it, go to;
For those interested in the details of India's current development model and the formaulation of an alternative development paradigm, do refer to Alternate Economic Survey, India. The Alternative Economic Survey, India is prepared by the Alternative Survey Group, an informal group of concerned social scientists, academicians, journalists, and social and trade union activists from all over the country. Coming together in the wake of the imposition of the Structural Adjustment Programme at the behest of the World Bank and the IMF in 1991, the Group has been attempting to present a realistic, people-centred picture of the state of the Indian economy and society, and the disastrous results of so-called economic ‘reforms’. Written for the average concerned reader, it also demystifies the window dressing and disinformation attempted by the official Economic Survey and seeks to evolve elements of an alternative people friendly policy regime.