The way forward?
Telangana State: The Way Forward, Formation of The New State. In the context of the formation of the new state, the leaders and the people of Telangana have to ponder over the direction in which the new state will embark upon. In addition to sharing of water, energy and other resources
In the context of the formation of the new state, the leaders and the people of Telangana have to ponder over the direction in which the new state will embark upon. In addition to sharing of water, energy and other resources, the need of the hour is to reflect upon the idea of development. Is it simply increasing the purchasing power of the people so that they can “buy” more “stuff” which translates into GDP? Or is it important to ensure that every citizen of the society has access to a dignified life with livelihood, fresh water, air, food, and good health and education?
Is this development helping in removing the social and economic inequalities? Or is it increasing these inequalities? The problem of inequality will persist because creating inequality is intrinsic to this model of “industry centric development”
if we need to make six-lane highways as demanded by the industry, we need to have “kankar” and for the entire infrastructure all the hills of Deccan will not be sufficient to supply concrete or granite
Recently TRS has called for a bandh opposing the Central Government’s attempt to transfer the submergence areas of Polavaram Dam to Seemandhra Region. In the past 60 years for most part, when dams were built, the submergence areas were in Telangana while the beneficiaries were in Andhra region; and the issue of water sharing and who pays the price and who reaps the benefits was a major issue for the Telangana movement, as it is with the Polavaram Dam. In this context, and in the context of formation of the new state, the leaders and the people of Telangana have to ponder over the direction in which the new state will embark upon.
Once in a farmers’ meeting, a farmer from Adilabad mentioned that they were agitating for an increase in the height of the Kadem reservoir so that they get more water. But it would also mean that 10-15 villages will be submerged. When I asked him regarding this, he was nonchalant, “without some sacrifice, no gain can be made”. I wonder if he would say the same thing, if his land was to be submerged. These issues can now raise conflicts between different areas of the new state, unless we rethink our entire outlook towards agriculture. So long as long distance irrigation like dams and lift irrigation projects are seen as the only solution, the problem shall persist as much within Telangana as in Andhra Pradesh. Therefore, not just water but use of energy and all resources and how we share them should define our path of “development”. Instead if we continue with the existing pattern, there can hardly be any change.
K Chadrasekhara Reddy (KCR), who is going to take the oath as the chief minister of Telangana wants to increase coal-based power plant and coal mines, so as to reduce the existing shortage of power and to service the new Industrial corridors that are being proposed along all the National Highways. What will this result in? Thousands and perhaps lakhs of self sustaining rural farmers and rural people will be dispossessed from their livelihoods either directly or indirectly as in the case of the Kadem reservoir, like the pollution from the Pharma companies impacting Patancheru in Medak and the same pollution in the Musi River impacting downstream villages of Ranga Reddy and Nalgonda. Or, like the highly dangerous Open cast mines and Thermal plants of Sattupalli, Ramagundam and Kottagudem, have destroyed crops, toddy production, caused ground water pollution. The list can go on: the cement and chemical industries polluting Krishna River at Wadapalli, Godavari polluted all the way from Eturnagaram upto Bhadrachalam. Is this the development we want for Telangana – one that displaces people, makes them destitute while the so called “developed zones” will become suffocating, unlivable and cancer causing the way Hyderabad has become today?
Everyone says, we must bear with this in order to “develop”. But is this development helping in removing the social and economic inequalities? Or is it increasing these inequalities? The problem of inequality will persist because creating inequality is intrinsic to this model of “industry centric development”. The entire western world to which we look up to had been able to develop at the cost of their colonies. They had to go and conquer and colonize and destroy other countries in order to get cheap supply of natural resources and cheap labour. That was how the rise of the European countries and the USA has happened. This model of “growth and development” requires large amount of natural resources. And that cannot be equally given to all people alike, because in this system of ‘development’, which is “capital intensive”, ‘resource intensive” “profit” at any cost has been the only motto. Big money investments are meant to make big profits. And they were originally dependent on cheap labour, and that is why the jobs have migrated from “high cost” labour countries like USA to “cheap labour” countries like Bangladesh, China and India. And when cheap labour is not available it will replace labour with machines as is happening in many industries. Thus, not only will people not have access to natural resources which could support livelihoods like agriculture, but they will also be left to be beggars when the industry gets mechanised. This model also needs a lot of natural resources and energy, both of which have created the problem of climate change in the world today and are leading to many more problems. But primarily, this kind of “development” displaces existing communities, livelihoods, creates disharmony and depletes natural resources indiscriminately which is pauperising not just this generation but all future generations.
Therefore, by simply doing a “regime change” of replacing Andhra leaders with Telangana leaders or Andhra Contractors with Telangana Contractors, will we solve the problems of exploitation? Will the quarrying of our hills by Telangana industrialists change the situation in any way for the farmers of Rachakonda area, where close to one lakh people will get affected if the proposed mining zone of over 10,000 acres gets started? And this mining zone will have stone crushing machines in the hundreds – what they will effectively do is to destroy existing jobs while not creating much. And after 10 or 20 years once this mining stops, there will be nothing left nor will people be able to come back and live here. But more importantly, what will happen to all those people living in this very fertile region, with its plentiful of streams, lakes, forests, and rich agriculture? Where will they go? And where can they find “jobs”? Can those jobs replace their existing sense of security, peace and community life? What about the psychological trauma of the people if they have to leave their villages and if they stay back what about the health impact? It is not a simple case of giving compensation. If that was the case then why is that our government officials try so hard to stay put in one place during their job tenure – so that their children’s education is not disturbed? Don’t we see people suffering from pangs of dislocation – and especially for children it can be very traumatic? But according to our present model of “development” this seems inevitable – because if we need to make six-lane highways as demanded by the industry, we need to have “kankar” and for the entire infrastructure all the hills of Deccan will not be sufficient to supply concrete or granite. So, places like Rachakonda with all its rich natural resource based economy will have to be reduced to rubble.
For all the industrial zones and corridors being proposed, we need power and therefore coal mining, which is being proposed along the Godavari basin. If the entire Godavari basin area is to be turned into a coal mining zone, will there be any life left in that region? What about the impact on the River itself? One friend says the proposed coal mines, especially since they will be cpen cast will turn that region into a series of grave yards. Already we are suffering from climate change impacts, increasing either coal mines, thermal plants or the polluting industries will only hurtle the entire society towards destruction. We have seen how the erratic climate, like hail storms, and unseasonal rains have destroyed crops over thousands of acres in Telangana districts in the past two months. So, not only are we displacing people directly, but indirectly farmers are being pushed to give up agriculture and this shall impact not just farmers but entire rural communities which are closely linked to agriculture. In addition, this whole situation shall impact our food security.
When we raise these issues, people say, “How can we stop development?” But then, what is development? Is it simply increasing the purchasing power of the people so that they can “buy” more “stuff” which translates into GDP? Or is it important to ensure that every citizen of the society has access to a dignified life with livelihood, fresh water, air, food, and good health and education?
When these questions are asked, people say, but we need development to create jobs for our educated youth. My question is; Is education meant for personality development and social change or to simply enable young people to get a job in an industry? Is agriculture, fisheries, pottery, cattle rearing, tailoring, carpentry not a job? Didn’t people create their own employment in all these centuries? Moreover, is it possible to create “jobs” for all the educated youth of this state with the kind of resources that we have? Or for that matter in any part of India? Take for example the case of Tata’s Nano plant in Singur– it was taking away 1000 acres of prime irrigated land, and the employment they promised was 800 to begin with and 2000 jobs in 10 years. While taking a bare minimum of 2-3 people dependent on an acre of land, at least a minimum of 3000 people were making a living on that land. And if we take the issue of the bauxite mines and the thermal plants which will be needed to supply aluminium, and electricity to this car manufacturing plant, the number of people who would lose work as opposed to those who would gain work can be far higher.
In the name of job creation, people are setting up big industry and getting cheap land, water, infrastructure etc, and have no accountability as given under the SEZ act. But finally, the number of jobs they are create is not adding up. Besides there is an increase in mechanisation in these new industries, which is in fact reducing the existing number of jobs as has happened in the Singareni colleries where 40,000 people out of the 1,17,000 employees lost jobs due to the mechanisation and conversion of shaft mines to Open Cast mines which use half the people.
Despite the so called “hi-tech” development even today, agriculture is still the major employment provider in the country, close to 60% which is followed by handloom and small trade and all of which utilise less amount of energy and resources. Together the resource guzzling big industries and software industry provide employment to perhaps 30% of the population. Yet, the focus of governments, in the past two decades especially, has been to create policies that are pushing people out of their traditional livelihoods, be it agriculture, handloom, small traders, fisheries or forestry. And we are seeing the result – increased number of people living in the urban slums, in sub-human conditions, where the cities and towns are unable to cater to the burgeoning populations. There is a limit to the carrying capacity of every ecosystem. And an area including a city has its carrying capacity – which means provision of basic needs like water, air, food and shelter. These issues can only be solved by decentralisation. The way forward is to go local and promote small scale industry which will provide more “real work” for the people at their home and agriculture which will always be on the top position as far as providing gainful work for people is concerned.
Has the GDP and economic growth, been able to remove social injustices? Even inside the high walls of hi-tech world, we find that caste; communalism and gender inequalities have become a deep rooted malaise. If indeed economic change was to bring social justice this shouldn’t be the case. While on the other hand, we still continue to have only certain communities cleaning the sewerage in our cities. If I am right, most of the time this job is reserved for dalits. Can there be a more disgusting example of how wrong this entire system is? This centralisation, urbanisation, model of “development” can only continue the inequalities, where a few people will surely become “comfortable” at the cost of the majority which continues to suffer. The solution is to decentralise and localise our economies and production and consumption processes, including disposal of our wastes, which alone will ensure justice for all.
The people of Telangana have a chance to usher in a new kind of development: one that creates a society of brotherhood, beyond caste and communal politics, with an ecological based economic model, where a young educated person feels proud to be a farmer or a cattle rearer, a shepherd, or a poultry farmer, or a potter, a tailor or a carpenter or a teacher or a mechanic, or a small trader, according to their interests and not necessarily hanker to join an “engineering college” or try and get an “MBA” only to be left job less, when the economy fails, as is happening now. The problem is that the traditional professions have been robbed of their dignity and therefore, young people are made to think it is something lowly to take up work that involves working with hands and working with the earth. What they are not told is that these livelihoods will keep them independent, self-reliant. Am I propagating the caste hierarchy? Not at all! But why must we throw the baby with the bath water? Why get rid of the rural livelihoods, while what we must be getting rid of should be the social stigma and social segregation, which can only be removed by social reform, not by economic reform, wherein each and every member of the community is respected for their contribution to the community and to the economy.
However, inhuman “jobs” like collection of waste, cleaning of toilets, sewerage systems and shoe making which involved skinning dead animals or the cremation of dead bodies: are things that we must do away with. And these can be solved in two ways – localisation and decentralisation as in the case of waste management where in each household is responsible for their waste disposal using mechanisation or electrification in case of handling the dead and cremation activities. Using technology and mechanisation where it is absolutely needed and in a justified manner will surely improve the condition of the people. We certainly need big industry, but that should be depending on our needs, and not become an end in itself.
Building more dams or lift irrigation projects to provide irrigation in dry land regions can only lead to more problems. Instead we must rethink our agriculture systems and improve rain-fed agriculture supported by good water harvesting systems as was done by the ancestors of Telangana. Supporting rain-fed crops with good support price will encourage farmers to take up these crops. But for that to happen, even the people of Telangana must be ready to eat millets instead of rice, which is a main cause for the demand for irrigation and also for farmers’ suicides from attempting to dig more and more borewells and ending up in debt traps. This coupled with support for natural farming practices will improve the soil and give a healthy environment, healthy food and therefore, health for all. This improves the condition of farmers and reduces energy use and climate change.
Restoring rural economies minus the caste segregation, with an education that is meant to “educate the minds” and not necessarily create machine like people for the industry, will generate multiple livelihoods, protect natural resources, and create a just society that can bring “happiness” to people.
- (The writer is an organic farmer practicing rain fed agriculture and a documentary filmmaker)