Interviews |

Medha accuses government of corporatizing growth

New Delhi, April 2 (G’nY News Service): Medha Patkar is an academician-turned activist whose research on dam oustees in India had the world take notice of how big projects render marginalized populations destitute. Her work with tribal populations rendered homeless due to the Narmada project laid the foundations of the National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements (NAPM) in the ‘90s. Talking to the G’nY correspondent, Patkar threw light on the directionless policies of the government.

Earlier this year, the present government emphasized upon its commitment to the environment. Do you think that their words are translating into actions?

Not at all. The government has never been committed to the environment. Right from the beginning, the emphasis is on development and growth. There is a push towards corporatisation. Of course, there should never be any dichotomy between development and growth; but the development paradigm being followed has been such as to create conflict. It is not equitable. It is profits that they are after. Under them, 450 projects have been cleared in 100 days.

Clearly, this has been done by bulldozing all opposition. There has been no consideration for the Forest Rights Act, the legal framework, or any sanctions. Take the Narmada issue. Despite the strongly worded report of the Devendra Pandey Committee, the government was not bothered to go by the recommendations. Lakhs of people continue to be homeless as a result. We have a good preamble to our Constitution. But, there is no political will to achieve all that it stands for.

The budget of the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change has been cut by 25 per cent? What do you think will be the impact of that?

This government is hell-bent on corporatisation at any cost. Reducing budgets at the government level is just one excuse for further corporatization. You can then say, “we have no money,” and bring in private investors with their own agenda. This is the same story, as with education, and watersheds. Equity is done away with, when you bring in the World Bank, foreign and Indian private investors, with huge concessions to them at every level. Local participation disappears when you have corporatization of projects. Reducing budget allocations is the first step to all that.

The National Action Plan for Climate Change (NAPCC) was established with several lofty targets, crosscut with environmental ministries and organizations. What do you think of its work so far?

Where the NAPCC is concerned, there is an undue emphasis on adaptation. There is little or no emphasis on mitigation or preventive measures. The first priority ought to be on green technology. For example, take the housing sector. The emphasis should be on all aspects of green measures that are sustainable, such as the use of local materials, with local participation.

Renewable sources of power ought to be promoted; instead, it talks of achieving eight lakh megawatts of power. But, already thermal power projects, planned and otherwise, have reached seven lakh megawatts by 2014.  Targets are declared without any assessment. To reduce emissions, the NAPCC requires to chalk out an alternative path for growth. At the moment, the political will to do is dying.

The trend is towards corporatization for maximum profits, maximum comforts for a select few. Money power dictates everything. Within the NAPCC, there are the semissions. There is a need for an enhanced budget for a clean energy fund to promote solar and other renewable sources of power. At the moment, the reliance is on imports. Why can’t there be an enhanced budget to promote local innovations for solar technology?  There is a need to build our infrastructure for a sustainable, green growth using solar and other renewable sources of power.

Final suggestions and takeaways. We need equity for growth and development.

There is no two ways to that. Local participation and skills, and building of our own national infrastructure are what we need. We want Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, and not private investment in education. Green growth with local participation is the sustainable path to development. Not maximum profits for the minimum few.

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