Alternative Model for Development

The primary driving force behind today's globalization and so-called liberalization is self-interest. It is promotion of self-interest that oils the engines of globalization and the free market is driven by the consumerism borne out of self-interest. I must have more ' more goods, more comfort, more luxuries, more of everything that makes my life comfortable ' without regard to any other human being. This is so contrary to everything that our Indian culture teaches us ' care for others, service before self, visitors and neighbors before worrying about ourselves. In fact, what would Gandhiji would have thought of this materialistic crazy world ? The path we are taking is so much opposite to what he believed and practiced.

As I said before, besides self-interest, globalization promotes consumerism and a craze for possessions. Under this suicidal hunger for more, not only we will never have enough; we will also be destroying and consuming the natural resources at such a fast rate that stark poverty of resources will stare in the faces of our future generations. We are hell bent on destroying nature and the environment under the false promise and glitter of globalization and thus leaving behind a world of conflicts for our future generations. Will our children ever forgive us ?

This globalization, urbanization, free market economy motivates us to be selfish and purely money-minded. A simple living man is looked down upon because we have stopped putting premium on scholarly pursuits like art, philosophy, music, history, etc. Economics is our only Goddess and profit the supreme deity. So where is the question of simplicity, humility and generosity ? We are supposed to flaunt our riches and mundane wealth and the newspapers today are obsessed with how many billionaires India has and has any Indian made it to the top ten richest men in the world. How come we are not concerned with how many poor people we have and what is the welfare index? A recent editorial that appeared in The Statesman is worth repeating :-

'Amartya Sen's reference to India as a country that flounders between Sub-Saharan Africa and the Silicon Valley had at least presupposed a single entity. The subtext of the UNDP's Human Development Report for 2007-08, virtually points to two countries in one. Despite the second highest growth rate in the world, the report has few bouquets to offer in terms of indices of welfare. The data on the human development index (HDI) ' life expectancy, education and income ' is chilling; it fully bears out the currently fashionable appellation of Incredible India. From the 126th slot in 2006 and 127th out of 177 countries in 2005, it has now been placed in the 128th position. So dangerous has been the process of slipping and sliding that India ranks below Equatorial Guinea and Solomon Islands in terms of the overall HDI. These places exist on the map, we know; if globalized India finds itself in their company the message quite starkly is that the orchestrated growth model and the high-voltage development mean little or nothing in tangible terms.

Specifics are still more damning. With life expectancy placed at 63.7 years, India ranks below Comoros (64.1) but may yet derive comfort from the fact that it is a notch above Mauritiana (63.2). The failure in the education sector is a national disgrace. For all the talk of a Knowledge Commission and universal education program, Malawi and Rwanda boast a higher adult literacy rate than does India. The report has even questioned the country's commitment to education in terms of public spending which dropped from 12 per cent in 1991 to 10 per cent in 2006. Health was also accorded a relatively lower priority. The public spending of 0.9 per cent of GDP was only a fraction of Iceland's 8.3 per cent. Civil strife may not have been a parameter of the UNDP report. It is now established that Rwanda is doing better in the search for learning. But if it has incurred international notoriety on account of man's inhumanity to man, India's record has been quite as dismal if Gujarat, Bengal and Assam are held up as case studies. The grot and size of human development is overwhelming. If an individual is judged by the company he/she keeps, so too must India.'

Many people congratulate us that we are living in India which is rich in ores and minerals and has an abundance of natural wealth. They tell us that with rapid large scale industrialization, India can become the leader of the world in terms of development. They all wonder why we are not doing so speedily and willingly and the country seems to be sleeping.

Many multinational industrial giants tempt us with the globalization development model that offers the false promise of tremendous employment and consequent happiness to all. If only they can be given the ores and minerals to exploit, they can make this country a glittering spectacle of modernity with large industries, expensive malls, modern townships, tall skyscrapers, etc.

The future looks very enticing and there is wonder all over why India is not enthusiastically jumping onto the bandwagon and taking care of all its pressing problems.

Let us analyze

If we aspire to become like America, the eminent historian and writer of social issues, Mr. Ramchandra Guha warns us, 'To approach the norm set by US - where two citizens in three own a car ' 600 million Indians will have to drive around in their own, enclosed, private vehicles. And where will the steel and aluminium to make them come from ? And the oil to power them ? And the roads to drive them on ? The mind boggles at the number of square miles of earth that shall have to be devoted exclusively to mining. Or at the number of oil wells that would be required to move the minerals to the smelting plants to the car factories and eventually to the showrooms. Or at the number of peasants who will be displaced to build the highways these cars make necessary. Or, finally, at the number of tons of greenhouse gases that this mining and manufacturing and driving will cumulatively release into the atmosphere'.

What we need for development of this country that will be on an equitable basis for all is the now-discarded model of Gandhian economy which was based on each producing the need of the other through a large cluster of small-scale and cottage industries where people's gainful employment becomes the overriding criterion. We don't need these expensive SEZ's where, in the words of our own Government spokesman, Union Commerce and Industry Secretary Mr. G.K. Pillai, 'A total of 137 SEZ's that had been notified so far in the country with allotment of land will invest a total of Rs. 1 lakh crore and this will result in 1 lakh jobs', i.e. Rs. 1 crore investment to give employment to one person. What a misuse of public money!

I am neither an economist nor a social thinker, but what I am clear on is that we don't need more slums, more displacement of farmers from farmlands, more uprooting of tribals from their natural occupations, more slavery of labor to produce more billionaires, and definitely we do not want more progress in the name of attractive label of 'liberalization'.

We have to opt for a development model which will be village based and people oriented, consisting of self-reliant and self-governing small groups. The development model therefore will have to be of people living in small communities and producing mostly for self or local consumption on small machines.

This is not setting the hand of science backwards, as Jayaprakash Narayan declared in 1957 when endorsing the Gandhian model of development. As he continued to say, 'Science and centralized large-scale production and large conglomerations of human habitations are thought to go necessarily together. Nothing could be more absurd. Science is of two kinds : (a) pure science and (b) applied science. I would call pure science alone science and the other technology. Now, the application of science does not depend upon science itself but upon the character of society. Large-scale, big machine production was profitable to the money makers, so technology took the course of that particular type of production. The money makers were the dominant class in society and their will had to be done. Government also ' irrespective of ideologies ' preferred centralized, big-scale production because that was necessary for war making (or defence, if you please), and ' no less important ' because it also concentrated great economic and, therefore, political power in their hands. Thus governments and profiteers combined to create the Frankenstein of modern society. Pure science had no say in the matter. Rather, had the scientists their way, many of them, I believe, would be happy to smash many of the engines of production and destruction that their discoveries had helped to create. But supposing, society had pursued not the aims of power, profit and war, but of peace, goodwill, cooperation, freedom and brotherhood, science could have been equally applied to evolve the suitable technology. If that were to happen, it would be not regression of science, but progression in a creative rather than destructive direction'.

The basis of the development model therefore would have to be, as so well explained by Schumacher in 'Small is Beautiful' :

  • Primary need is creation of work-places, literally millions of work-places. We have to maximize work opportunities for the unemployed and underemployed.
  • To quote Gabriel Ardant, 'It is important that there should be enough work for all because that is the only way to eliminate anti-productive reflexes and create a new state of mind ' that of a country where labor has become precious and must be put to the best possible use'.
  • Hence the new development model must satisfy the following criteria '
  1. Workplaces must be created in villages and small towns where people are living now

  2. Workplaces must be cheap enough for creation in large numbers without high capital inputs and imports

  3. Production methods must be simple, not requiring high skills

  4. Production must be mainly from local materials and mainly for local use.

Let us remember that globalization destroys the culture and civilization of a nation and has no regard for its rich heritage and history. This single-minded pursuit of self-interest and running after material prosperity has only resulted in '

  • Serious rich-poor divide resulting in continuous conflict and unrest in society
  • Destruction of nature and environment through insatiable urge for consumption of goods and luxurious comforts
  • Gradual erosion of ethical and moral values with little or no examination of means to achieve the desired ends, resulting in disappearance of qualities like generosity, kindness, humility and altruism
  • Art, music, humanities have been sacrificed at the alter of free market economies where measurement is carried out in terms of monetary value not spiritual need.

We know now that man must live in balance with nature. The degradation of environment, the unbridled consumption of our resources, the squeezing of farmlands, the mania over machine productivity and the stress on efficiency of mass production, the dehumanizing of our population, the alarming chasm of rich-poor divide ' all these can only produce a bare world devoid of emotions and relationships where human feelings don't count and man is at the bottom of pile of our priorities. This alarming scenario is staring before us and we are looking the other way.

Hence the urgent need for immediate adoption of the Gandhian model of development to prevent the impending catastrophe looming over us which threatens to destroy the life of our future generations for the promise of a short-term gain of comfort for us.

To conclude, I would like you to ponder over these prophetic words of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi wrote the following as early as 1929 and 1936 '

'I would categorically state my conviction that the mania for mass-production is responsible for the world crisis.'

'I do not believe that industrialization is necessary in any case for any country. It is much less so for India. Indeed, I believe that Independent India can only discharge her duty towards a groaning world by adopting a simple but ennobled life by developing her thousands of cottages and living at peace with the world. High thinking is inconsistent with complicated material life based on high speed imposed on us by Mammon worship. All the graces of life are possible only when we learn the art of living nobly.'


More by :  Prem Verma

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Views: 3400      Comments: 1

Comment I firmly believe in what you have written and my realisation is also similar. But how to get out of this self created cobweb? who will lead us and motivate others ?

Nikhiles Roychaudhuri
22-Jun-2012 08:51 AM

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