Searching for Appropriate Model

Bharat Dogra

Persistence of large-scale deprivation amidst accentuation of inequalities has often drawn attention to the need for an alternative development model. Two new factors have brought urgency to this. Firstly there is the many-sided ecological ruin including some irreversible threats led by climate change and its related threat of worsening disasters. Secondly there is the growing irresponsible behaviour by dominant sections leading to recent financial and economic crisis.

Efforts should therefore be made to identify some essential features of an alternative development paradigm. First and foremost, it is clear that the highest priority should be given to meeting the basic needs of all people in a sustainable way as well as protection of environment.

The preoccupation with GNP should be reconsidered. As has been seen time and again, the growth of GNP can co-exist with increasing inequalities and even increasing deprivation of many significant sections of population. Even more prominently increase of GNP has co-existed with and also contributed to such extreme forms of ecological ruin as to create survival threats. A relatively neglected aspect is the co-existence of increasing GNP with increasing social disruption.

So setting aside narrow considerations of GNP growth one should take a broader view of creating a better world in which one of the main considerations will be whether people's basic needs are being met in a better way. A much higher priority has to be definitely accorded to meeting the food, clothing, shelter, health and education needs of people including the weakest sections.

This should be attempted on a sustainable basis which implies that long-term considerations of protecting the natural resource base should also get the highest priority. The biggest survival need, even more than food and shelter, is for clean air and water and this also is linked closely to protection of environment. A very important aspect of environment protection relates to what can still be done to check climate change. This as well as ensuring better protection from extreme weather conditions should get a very high priority.

But all this is possible only if excessive concentration of wealth and income can be checked and more resources become available for real priorities. Therefore reduction of inequalities at all levels, at the international level and within various countries, is extremely important or else resources for high priority tasks may never become available.

While meeting the needs of weakest sections should certainly be emphasised, a related question can also be raised whether injustice exists only at the economic level. Clearly there are also various social aspects of injustice and inequality such as discrimination on the basis of caste, race, colour, gender, religion etc. and high priority should also be given to reducing and eliminating these social discriminations. The key concern should be to create a society based on equality and justice. Social harmony and cooperation can best grow in such conditions.

Distribution of resources between military and civil expenses, urban areas and rural areas, luxuries and necessities has to be in conformity with broad objectives of peace, justice, equality and environment protection. So everything cannot be left to market forces and some planning at national and world level is needed to ensure that the necessary resources become available for real priorities.

Protection of rural communities is essential for food security, protection of environment and protection of livelihoods of a very large number of people. So a development model that necessarily involves displacement of rural communities and increasing concentration of people in rnega cities cannot be accepted. Development should emphasise protection and strengthening of rural communities along with greater availability of more diverse livelihoods nearer to villages. In this context the protection of indigenous communities should be re-ernphasised.

Decentralisation can open up creative ways for strengthening of rural communities. In future globalisation should be opposed and instead decentralisation should be increasingly emphasised with growing self-reliance and strengthening of rural communities.

Vol. 46, No. 35, Mar 9 - 15, 2014