ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Fresh Thinking Needed

The promise of inclusive and sustainable development can only be achieved if key policy decisions are rethought with clear priorities – on urbanisation and economic growth – with the transformations kept within ecological limits. A discussion on Ramaswamy R Iyer’s article “Environment and Development: Some Thoughts for the New Government” (EPW, 21 June 2014).

Ramaswamy R Iyer (“Environment and Development: Some Thoughts for the New Government”, EPW, 21 June 2014) has rightly stressed that we need fresh thinking on what constitutes development as well as new approaches and policies for safeguarding the environment. However, his definition of a “caring, just and harmonious society” does not include energy, the area where environment and development require trade-offs, and the recommendations on the environment focus on processes and procedures. He is spot on in asserting that infrastructure development, mining, electricity generation, cement and steel production, should not be considered in terms of projects. Actually, these are essential elements of economic growth, which will involve land use change. Fresh thinking is needed on how to meet the aspirations of the poor for this transformation while keeping within ecological limits.

We have reached a stage of development where “inclusive growth” should be defined in terms of the “Indian dream”. The American dream is employment which provides progressively increasing levels of incomes, a home in the suburbs, two cars and conspicuous consumption. The Chinese dream is shaping towards full employment, social security, a mid-sized urban apartment, accessible public transport and some luxury consumption. The Indian dream will be closer to the Chinese, consumption hopefully tempered by our concern for the environment. Development should be seen in terms of this societal transformation, and rates of growth are a snapshot rather than a vision to steadily increase per capita incomes while minimising environmental damage.

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