re-think issue

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 24 May 2018 11:34:13

THE ugly development in Tamil Nadu involving killing of 12 persons in police firing on mobs protesting against the Sterlite plant by Vedanta Group in Tuticorin makes a strong case for a serious re-think on various dimensions of the age-old debate of development versus environment. Most unfortunately, the debate has got trapped in a rigid frame that suggests that the human society has to accept only one thing -- either development or environment. Because of this rigid segregation is actually hurting both causes -- of development as well as of environment. In view of this near-impossible situation, the best approach could be a serious re-think of our economic and developmental model and evolution of a response that would not militate against both concerns. 

Bring in the concerns about massive job-loss across the world, expressed so vociferously at this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) at the Alpine resort of Davos in Switzerland, and the ugly picture gets uglier. The industry stalwarts, economic experts, policy planners and political leaders used the WEF platform to air their conflicting views on the issue of development versus larger human good. All those concerns manifest themselves in several events such as the one in Tuticorin, adding only to the intellectual muddle on one of the most serious issues humanity is faced with currently. For, when one group insists upon development at any cost -- including that of environment -- and the other wants to talk of only environment no matter what would happen to the developmental side, then the end-result is a senseless violence that we witnessed at Tuticorin and countless other places around the world.

It is against this backdrop that the modern human society will have to look for solutions in its history. Personages like Mahatma Gandhi were good enough to give a profound and serious thought to the conflict between development and environment that they foresaw clearly well over a century ago. Their profound meditation on the issue led them to propose “appropriate technology” that would not be stemming from conveyor belt approach -- one-size-fits-all -- but be designed on a need-specific basis. Gandhiji envisioned a developmental scenario in which human individual would be at the centre of all thought that would go beyond the material gains and travel into the metaphysical and collective need of the larger society.
Because the developing human society ignored that fundamental thought, it invited for itself complex problems whose solutions cannot emerge even at forums like the WEF. But all this must be brought to en end. The WEF did express serious concerns about advent of robotic technology that is claiming as many as 50,000 jobs every day around the world. Thus, it is obvious that a blind plunge into new technology would never solve the human concerns on a lasting basis. What is necessary, therefore, is a resort to Gandhian concept of appropriate technology in which there is a fine balance between economic needs and environmental essentials.

If such an approach is taken, if the modern human society and its governments decide upon rationalising the scales of economy involved in industrial development, the environmental concerns could be taken care of with due respect to multiple dimensions of human existence. It is necessary for the modern man to know that development is no development if it hurts the divine gift of an all-encompassing environment that accommodates all. The current conflict -- of interests -- has come up only because the modern man started looking at the world only through one eye, having steadfastly closed the other eye. The Sterlite violence, thus, needs to be put in a larger perspective to arrive at a lasting solution to an unnecessary conflict.