The third CPPR Quarterly lecture series based on “Science, Democracy and Ecology” was held on 15th April 2013 at Kochi, Kerala .The occasion was illuminated by the presence of Prof. Madhav Gadgil, renowned Scientist who prepared Report on Western Ghats for the Central Government on the environmental health of the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats range. Prof K .C. Abraham (Academic Director, CPPR) welcomed the gathering and introduced the topic by elaborating the significance of science, democracy and ecology in this era. Noted environmentalist’s, activists, NGO representatives, media personnels etc took part in the Lecture Series.

Prof. Madhav Gadgil commenced his lecture by saying that today’s world is shaped by science and products of science based technologies. He added that 21st century promises to be an age of knowledge and a century of worldwide awareness of ecological concerns where knowledge prospers in the free atmosphere of democracies and democracies also take far better care of their environment.

He says that given our democratic strengths, India should eventually take a leading position in the community of nations despite the current higher rate of economic growth in China and also poses a question as whether we are doing justice to our democracy, our traditions of learning and our heritage of ecological prudence. He however is against unblinded market worship where we currently seem to be launched on a path of development that is based on the premises that free markets ensure economic efficiency and lead to economic growth with wealth flowing down to all segments of the society, and therefore all interference with market forces, including regulations towards protection of environment and sensitivities towards what the people at the grass-roots want.

He draws in notice towards the narrow-minded pursuit of economic growth that encourages rent seeking and making unjustifiable economic gains that leads to exhaustive use of natural resources, unacceptable pollution loads, failure to build human capital because of misuse and abuse of science and technology, persistent malnutrition, poor health care, and high levels of unemployment and under-employment, and an erosion of social capital with increasing levels of social disaffection and strife.

Referring to Kalhanas Rajatarangini he mentioned the duties of the state as to abide by Dharma and to ensure Abhaya. Dharma of Indian secular state uphold basic objectives and values of the Indian Constitution like sovereignty, socialism,secularism, democracy,republican character,justice, liberty, equality,fraternity, human dignity ,right of freedom of expression, assembly, beliefs, & to livelihood.

He doubts as who is enjoying ?Abhaya’ in today as India as there are no inspection has been carried out resulting into fear-free environment which has caused loss to the ecology ,environment, agriculture, ground water, natural streams, ponds, rivers, biodiversity, etc by mentioning the Justice Shah Commission Report on Illegal Mining in Goa.

Fostering inequality promotes concentration of economic and political power in the hands of a few, distorting democratic processes, promoting poor governance, poor administration, poor law making, poor implementation of laws, and poor administration of justice, added Gadgil. He distinguished the fourfold capital stocks as man-made capital, natural capital, human capital and social capital.

Gadgil pointed out that India has become an inequitable society in which private appropriation of public resources is rampant where there are land grabbing, water grabbing, forest grabbing, mineral grabbing and Information grabbing

He said examples of how we deal with mandatory economic and environmental cost- benefit analyses by citing the Athirappilly hydel project. “The project is clearly undesirable, not just on environmental, but on technical and economic grounds”, said Gadgil. And he put forward issues like not enough water, will destroy irrigation, will destroy tourism, will destroy last low elevation riverine forest .It also violates Forest Rights Act. Yet there is a great clamor that Kerala needs it and he sarcastically made a point that only a few contractors and not the state will benefit from the project.

While speaking on the controversial Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel report, Gadgil accused the government for hiding scientific data and information from the public. “No central or state government official had discussed with report”, said Gadgil.

He discussed about the employment rates referring the National Sample Survey statistics where 63 million new jobs were created during the period 1999-2004.It was expected that at least 50 million new jobs would be created 2004-09.However the number of new jobs created was a meager 1 million. Notably no account is being taken in all this statistics of old jobs destroyed by environmental degradation.

He concluded his note by saying Intellectuals, Social scientists, especially public policy researchers must take up the challenge to bring about a change in the system

The Lecture was concluded with a Question and Answer session with the audience and media persons, where he clarified his stand on his Report and mentioned the need for taking feedback from the people. He also mentioned that the current Kasturirangan Review Committee has faulted in getting feedback and he will view it from a scientific point of view.

Please view the complete Gadgil Committee Report here… Gadgil report

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