Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Cross this Wall.

We all know that progress comes at a price. Many a times the generation that sacrifices for the sake of progress will not even get to savor the fruits. Take for instance the city of Bagalkot in North Karnataka. When the Almatti Dam was built a few years back, and later the height of the dam was raised, entire city with a population of half a million got submerged in the waters. Every single household was evacuated and asked to shift to a new township that was built on higher grounds about 20km away.

Ask them today and you will hardly find a handful who will say that their sacrifice was worth it. Most grumble that they still don’t get potable water or continuous electricity. The government has not even started to work on the irrigation canals and farmers continue to depend on rain. Some are yet to get compensation and feel that even after moving from pillar to post, they may not get it. Yet such a dam was required in North Karnataka. Assuming that the Government gets its act together, one would witness a remarkable pace of development in this area over the next 10 years. Projects of this magnitude take time to fructify.

In God’s Own Country, there is intense debate going on between whether an express highway should be put up or not. This highway which is 500 odd km long is planned to be built about 10mts from ground level and would allow one to travel the entire stretch of Kerala in 5 hours. Environmentalists and NGO’s have already jumped the gun and have gone full steam to oppose this project. They feel it is another Berlin wall in the making.

But is it? When will these so called environmentalists and NGO’s wake up to the stark realities of sacrifice vs progress? Do they expect the ever burgeoning population to make do with the existing infrastructure? Not to mention that Kerala records an astounding 15% growth in vehicle registration since 2000. Imagine the job opportunities, direct and indirect, that will crop up if the highway project gets underway. According to 2002-03 economic survey, Kerala has unemployment levels of 20.97% - what do the NGO’s have to say about this?

At every stage of evolution there will be walls; and only those who can cross these walls will survive. If at all there is a Great Wall - then it is between the optimist dreamer and the pessimist spoiler.

Personally I feel that a law or a rule should come into force – where in if NGOs and environmentalists oppose a project, they ought to come out with a detailed white paper putting forth their reasons. Likewise the sponsors of the projects should publish the benefits of such a project. And a parliamentary commission should adjudicate the project within a timeframe. Ah, but I live in my darling India and I don’t ever see that happening. For all I know, the likes of Medha Patkar and Arundhati Roy would be the first to oppose such a rule.

Cry my beloved Country.


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