The Growth Conundrum
The March 2017 issue of Finance & Development, Quarterly Journal of the IMF, contains an article titled ‘Rethinking GDP’ by Diane Coyle.

A seamy side of modern economic development is its insouciant attitude to quality of life. Temperatures, are on   the rise.  Water and air pollution,   degradation of forestry, damage to soil fertility, droughts and floods have assumed ominous dimensions. True, there have been international conferences on these issues. But, the situation is worsening.

A study of GDP growth is   justified. It shows how scarce resources are utilised to promote ‘economic welfare’. Yet, capricious use of resources continues as revealed by the Human Development Reports (HDRs) released annually by the UNDP.

Economists say our GDP estimates are faulty. For instance, these estimates  do not take into account environmental externalities such as pollution or damage to species since nobody pays a price for then, so is the case with the depletion of resources or loss of diversity.

The article by Diane Coyle clearly shows that the euphoria over higher growth rates achieved is not justified. These growth rates do not make allowance for income and wealth inequalities. How can welfare be enhanced in a climate of increasing inequalities?

There is a kernel of truth in the observation of Diane Coyle: ‘‘Although inequality has begun to diminish in some countries, sluggish growth, debt overhang, and high unemployment in  some  cases have made for a lackluster recovery  and simmering discontent with economic policy that follows business as usual.” (P– 9)
Coyle’s article concentrates on the hurdles in estimating GDP growth. It does not deal with how higher growth rates can be converted into higher levels of hunan welfare.

What is palpable is that the production and consumption patterns of most countries, particularly rich countries, are preposterous and perilous.  Boosting enployment, and raising the income levels of the masses alone can achieve the laudable objective of growth with social justice. Lack of political will is the root cause of present pathetic predicament of poverty amidst plenty. 
I Satya Sundaram, Hyderayad

A Human Catastrophe
The Hon’ble Supreme Court has decreed that rehabilitation will be done by governments by providing land-for-land as compensation – even though this does not protect the rights of landless people and fisherfolk – but that has been effectively negated over the years, by officials of successive governments. Officials of the Government of Madhya Pradesh (GoMP); Government of Maharashtra (GoM) and Government of Gujarat (GoG), have provided false Action Taken Reports (ATRs) of resettlement & rehabilitation (R&R) to the Hon’ble Courts.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court had ordered that raising the height of the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) dam was to be executed in lifts (stages) only after the R&R mandated for the previous stage is completed. However, false ATRs showing completion of R&R have resulted in the Hon’ble Supreme Court permitting raising of the SSP dam height in stages, when in fact the PAFs are not actually rehabilitated. Thus the PAFs’ constitutional right to life has been and continues to be violated by the very governments which are sworn to protect them.

In addition to the apathy, indifference and callousness of government officials in the R&R processes, there has been massive corruption in the R&R of PAFs. Rightly taking cognisance of reports of corruption, the Hon’ble High Court of Madhya Pradesh constituted a commission of inquiry under Hon’ble Justice S S Jha (hereinafter, the Jha Commission) in August 2008. The Jha Commission submitted its report in January 2016, after over 7 years of detailed investigation into corruption in the R&R process involving government servants. It revealed massive fraud amounting to about Rs 1,000 crore.

However, the Jha Commission Report stands withheld due to GoMP raising technico-legal objections presumably because the facts therein incriminate several GoMP officials. Thus, the PAFs are denied the justice which the Jha Commission Report would have provided to them. The PAFs now openly speak of GoMP covering up corruption by government servants. They demand that the Jha Commission Report be placed in the public domain, not merely to expose the humongous corruption, but more to show that it is criminal corruption which has derailed the R&R process and denied them the compensation which the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has decreed, and violated their right to life as guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution.

But today, and very urgently, for all the foregoing reasons, with the monsoon starting in a few weeks, the people of the Narmada River valley are in imminent danger of being flooded out of their homes and lands or drowned, due to the water levels rising in the reservoirs behind the hundreds of small, medium and large dams, which have been constructed on Narmada river and its tributaries over the years.

In particular, the SSP dam at its finished height of 138.68-metres with the sluice gates installed, threatens the lives of around 40,000 PAFs (about 2,00,000 people) in Madhya Pradesh. There is a human disaster-in-the-making, since the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) has decided to close the gates and raise the water level to 138.68-metres, submerging hundreds of villages and one full township.

There are several other very serious ill-effects of the dams in the Narmada valley, but these can be addressed later. As of now, the existential threat to the upstream PAFs due to the SSP dam height being raised to 138.68-metres and installation and planned closure of the sluice gates, in dishonest and deliberate violation of the orders of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, needs to be addressed with extreme urgency.

This writer met people at grassroots levels, and find them to be greatly disillusioned that their pleas, pleadings, prayers, and peaceful demonstrations and agitations over the past three decades to various levels of governance at State and Centre, has fallen on deaf ears. The voice of poor Adivasi and Dalit people who live in Narmada’s remote valleys is not heard in the distant corridors of power of the States and Centre. Nor does the general public know much about them, because the print and electronic media gives their problems and pitiable condition little or no coverage, possibly because of government influence and the geographical remoteness of the PAFs. They even speak that Courts of Law hear cases of the rich and famous immediately and pass orders within days, but their causes and cases wait for years even for a hearing, let alone a decision, often enough because some government lawyers stall the true dispensation of justice. This situation is undeniably bad for democracy.

In the current context of planned closure of the SSP dam sluice gates (understood as planned for 09 May 2017 by NCA), about 40,000 PAFs (2,00,000 people) in Madhya Pradesh alone, along with their villages and one township, will be drowned. Their forcible evacuation by police action is being planned and is imminent.
S G Vombetkere, Karnataka

Vol. 49, No.48, Jun 4 - 10, 2017