— Prof. K.N. Singh (Secreatry, IRED)
(संविकास की संकल्पना – Hindi)
Samvikas (holistic development) to come straight to the point, is a vision: more than a concept. It seeks to infuse happiness in hapless humanity. The prefix Sam, denotes three intrinsic ingredients: viz, equitable and all inclusive(Samyak) balanced(Santulit); and sustainable (Sandhrit) which must blend in any scheme of development interpreted as positive transformation in the way of living of any given community.
To expand equitable and all inclusive connotes the minimisation of inequality specially in the capability of meeting the basic needs of everyone irrespective of the place of residence or the position in the social spectrum. The accident of birth must not preclude the chances of growth. Balanced development implies that in any economic endeavour, essential to support the life base, different sectors of the economy must advance pari passu. Over dominance of or overdependence on, any one, primary, secondary or higher categories, will not only affect the overall productivity as it will be unable to engage fruitfully the whole of working population composed, as it must, of different genre’s of skill and differential levels of training. As will be discussed later, full and fruitful employment is the basic condition for the potentials of development to be actualised. Sustainable, of course, means that the means of livelihood must be lasting and intrinsically elastic in terms of development of resources: as for example, in the generation of power. All the three strands have to be interwoven to bring about a fair state of happiness arising out of human welfare. Samvikas, visualises besides a fair opportunity of earning. enjoying, spending and sharing of bounty of nature and fruits of labour self actualisation. In other words, it underscores a way of living that is socially desirable, economically viable and ecologically sound and, spiritually promoting to pave the path of attaining a super mind status for humanity. Thus, it strives to blend material prosperity with spiritual ascendancy.
First the material prosperity: After WW II was over, there ensued an era of relative peace and awakening; of concern for human welfare. The institutions of UNO with the Security Council, however skewed, was created to nip nascent tensions in the bud, in an endeavor to perpetuate peace; the Bretton Woods institutions to pave the way for material progress and its diffusion to every nook and corner of the visualised seamless world. Both have, so far, failed to deliver the goods mainly because the means adopted are unscrupulous. They are nowhere near the sublime goal of rescuing humanity from the scourge of poverty, hunger, deprivations and discrimination of different sorts; the seedbeds of discontent and conflicts that could lead to conflagrations. This is so because the institutions created failed short of a vision; lofty and deep enough to be translated into the sublime objective of ensuring human welfare.
The very basic lapse is to equate human welfare with just corporal comfort. In blind pursuit to attain this mundane objective, there started a mad rush for magnifying GDP: erroneously designated as development; in rich and poor countries, in imperial as well as the erstwhile colonised nations; in the capitalist as also socialist systems. Economic growth at any cost, came to be regarded as panacea for swelling and ailing humanity. The breakneck competition to exploit the natural resources of the globe to attain ‘take off’ and ‘drive to maturity’ began to show chinks in just two decades. Under the pressure of unprecedented material accumulations cornered primarily by the ‘Haves’, the earth became filthy and the air foul; the atmosphere cracked with obnoxious gases floating around while the streams went arsenic if not dry; the earth’s bowls went vacuous; the oceans devoid of life. Not that alarms bells did not ring before, but, the saner voices like that of Gandhi, Osburn’ Carson were ignored as discordant.
The manifestations of ecological impairment, however, became too threatening to ignore by the 1970s. There followed summits after summits from Stockholm to Rio to Kyoto to everywhere at increasing frequency and multiplying protocols. The deficient concept of Development designed to ensure Our Common Future by a more scrupulous exploitation of earth’s resources was given a concrete format through Agenda 21, adopted at Rio in 1992. It remains on paper, with little to show on the ground as noted by Rio+10 review conference held at Johannesburg mainly because the basic philosophy of higher, (as against a satisfactory) material standards of living by ascending ‘a plateau of affluence’ remains in the focus. Therefore, the actual business (of consumption oriented acquirement of material perquisites; enlarging the so called defense arsenals, the humongous consumers of resources at the cost of humanity at large) goes on as usual. The vision of Samvikas becomes a way out of the dilemma of building national coffers and bleeding humanity. As the accompanying diagram illustrates, Samvikas changes the focus. it visualises human welfare as the core of development and regards enhanced GNH as the means and as such, puts faith in not just the material acquisitions but such intangibles as social equity and harmony as well as natural and cultural diversity. Thus can the satisfaction of multi layered needs of mankind be ensured with minimal and sustainable utilisation of nature’s bounty leading to human welfare? The multi layered essential needs of mankind are designated as: survival (S1) Security (S2) Social dignity (S3) Spiritual ascendancy (S4) and attainment of Super mind (S5) status. These needs may be regularly satisfied by fusing organically, the several dimensions of human development; from mundane to the sublime.
It is epitomized in the diagram integrating the various dimensions in a holistic framework. The diagram presents a development edifice which depicts Human Welfare (H.W.) as the ultimate objective of any development effort, of course in a contextual sense. H.W. may be interpreted in a comprehensive sense, as the enhancement of the quality of community (area bound people) life. It involves as its minimum the three ingredients viz…. Survival, (SI), Security (S2) and Social Dignity (S3) of human existence.
Survival of the individuals comprising a community hinges on meeting the basic needs of food including safe potable water, shelter, health and education. Security depends upon ensuring the right of life through adequate legal and physical protection cover, not only from unruly and criminal elements in the society but also insulation from the foreseeable/preventable natural hazards like floods and droughts, cyclones and quakes. These two may be achieved to a certain extent by ensuring the individual/family/community social dignity which flows basically from gainful employment. It is the lack of stress on creating employment opportunities for active population groups vis-a vis the GNP that is mainly responsible for the futility of the grand theories of development advanced during the last half a century (Thiel 1999). The “freedom” regarded by Sen (op. cit.) as the summum bonum of development flows basically from the availability of adequate employment opportunity. It is the “Dutch disease” or “Arabian Ailment” (failure to availability of adequate opportunitie despite economic boom following the discovery, extraction and export of Gas or mineral oil) that is responsible for frustrating the efforts to eradicate poverty and hunger from Bolivia to Bhutan (Brauer; Klein, Thiel, 2003) or the exodus of people from emaciated rural to bloated urban areas throughout the Third world or from the anemic Third to the obese First.
Full and fruitful employment and thus human welfare at the community level depends to a large extent, on the number and quality of people in a community/nation. The first aspect relates to the of optimum population while the second is related to the building of human capital through appropriate education. While there is great ambiguity about what constitutes the optimum number and how to achieve it, there is hardly any scope of difference that education and professional training to each and every individual is a sin a qua non to the human welfare. In fact, education and health are the basic ingredients of human welfare. Optimum number is reflected E in the population pyramid of a region. A more balanced age-sex pyramid, tall and proportionate at all stages, as in Fig. I, is a sure indicator of demographic optimality, in developed and developing countries alike. Any measure of demographic control / incentive must have the balanced pyramid as a yardstick. Taller the pyramid, healthier the people. As for the number in different age and sex groups, appropriate socio-economic measures of regulating the birth rate, particularly through education and public awareness backed by fair distribution of national income, more through the creation of employment opportunities commensurate with the education and skill in the long term, and less through the short term fiscal control, may achieve the desired numbers. Stability Ecological Integrity: Demographic stability in the long term, with maximum human welfare at the material plane, would depend on the ecological integrity although the biosphere, beginning from the local biome. It depends basically on the awareness and recognition in one and all, that the harmony and reciprocity with nature must inform every human activity in the spirit of veneration for the mother earth (a la Veda & Gaia). This may come about not by approaching nature with the vanity of a conqueror but “only if nature is recognised not as a concatenation of objects but as community of living subjects, a complex intertwined society of beings who like ourselves are active, animate agencies. We human beings are by no means the sole, or even the primary, agents of the world’s construction… And reciprocity, the simple practice of mutual respect-becomes an imperative. Humans are recognised not as disembodied minds but as material, bodily subjects animals in cur own right and thus as participants in the same world that salmon (for example) inhabit.” (Arban op.cit.)
At the solid ground plane, there must dawn the awareness about the basic functioning of nature-the flow pattern of energy, the bio-geo-chemical cycles and the significance of bio diversity in maintaining the health and integrity of nature. Rather than fire-fighting pollution of all sorts through ill conceived cosmetic measures, the ecological resilience of nature must be strengthened by allowing unhindered functioning of the bio-geo-chemical cycles and harness the dividend, not the capital, to the benefit of mankind. An irreparable damage was inflicted when land was recognised as a factor of production and replaced by technological innovations by the Neo classical school of development. Innovations and technology are best applied to prevent creation of waste in the process of production, distribution and consumption and effectively recycling by consigning to the bio-geo-chemical cycles of whatever waste is inevitably geri to convert into wealth.
Appropriate Spatial organisation (reorganisation) of activities in space, laying stress on decentralisation of economic activities and achieving sectoral integration via. Growth Pole hierarchy (Singh 1979) and so dear to geographers during the 60s of the 20 century, but which was sacrificed at the altar of economic efficiency and validated the externalisation of environmental and social costs by the private entrepreneurs, particularly by the neo-liberal economists has to be revived for sustaining (not sustainable) Samvikas. The theory of “public goods” recently advanced by Stiglitz (op.cit) and elaborated by Kaul (1999) is a step forward in the right direction.
Of course, for the material welfare of any individual or community a regular income is necessary (though not sufficient) condition. Without a regular income flowing from gainful employment, none of the three basic ingredients ofhuman welfare can be obtained. For this maximum possible efficiency in economic pursuits, particularly in using of natural resources has to be achieved through the application of technology. The technologies from the viewpoint of enhancing economic efficiency, (E.E.E. the upper left arm of the diagram) may be categorised as, (i) resource management (ii) biotechnology (iii) transport and spatial organisation technology, (iv) information technology and (v) waste recycling & hazard management. Although these technologies are intertwined and cut across all activities, the grouping has been made with the viewpoint of their dominant role in, respectively, natural resource extraction (fishing, forestry, mining, agriculture) and utilisation (soil, water, biodiversity) resource through industrial location and their spatial spread, tertiary and higher activities and the prevention of environmental degradation in the process of production. Of these spatial organisation so dear to geographers of the positivist mould during 1960s and hence, rationalisation of location and distribution of economic activities but brutally subdued for the sake of reaping agglomeration and scale economies at the expense of huge social and environmental costs in the neo-liberal paradigm of economic growth, has been the most neglected. This technology must be resuscitated for the sake of achieving a trade off between rapid growth of GNP and spatial equilibrium ensuring equitable employment opportunities as well as maintaining ecological integrity through space. Hand in hand with the constant enhancement in economic efficiency there must be corresponding growth of gainful employment from primary through secondary and tertiary to Quaternary and quinary sectors. Thus can be ensured economic buoyancy, so necessary for sustained human welfare, of course in consonance with other more important dimensions of Samvikas.
Forms one of the two basis pillars of human welfare. It is the means and end of human welfare, at the same time; as has been underlined by the thinkers like Sen (op.cit.) and Stiglitz (op.cit.). Basic to social equity is the building of institutions to serve the cause of the poor, the weak, the deprived and downtrodden sections of the society in particular. Among such institutions, those catering to the educational and health needs are of paramount and universally important. Without ensuring the opportunities of basic health as also, adequate and appropriate education the members of a community can not participate in the economic pursuits. Nor can they realise the higher goal of unfolding and realising the creative potentials of all. Next in order are the other social amenities designed to ensure a happier community life. Easy access to infrastructures like transport and communication networks at affordable costs, homes for the hapless aged, amenities for the elderly. Gender equity is of crucial importance and hence above all, institutions fostering gender indiscrimination are singularly important. For all this to be achieved an appropriate polity has to created. It is here that the decentralised (national, state, and local) Govt. apparatus and a fair and effective judiciary have a significant role play. Ultimately, an egalitarian society must emerge. This is the key to harmonious social milieu which is one of the basic ingredients as well as objectives of Samvikas.
One of the basic presumptions of Samvikas is the maintenance and fostering of the cultural diversity. No one culture is superior to any other. Economic prosperity is not synonymous to cultural superiority.
Therefore, cultural heritages which are basically a product of ecological peculiarities and diversity must be respected as also the values and the ethos of each culture maintained. Cultural diversity is as important for a healthy human community as is ecological diversity for the health of an ecosystem. To ensure all this cultural ethics of diverse societies has to be respected. At the same time, it is imperative to put indigenous mechanism in place to ensure the discarding of the deadwood (like caste stratification and cleavages, denigration of the female, child marriage, dowry system, civil codes misfit to the ethos of democracy) and serve the cause of ‘spiritual modernism’ (Sri Aurobindo 1922 p.53). Everything from the past is not worth retaining; everything from outside is not worth emulating. There should be no inhibition in changing cultural, in the sense of way of living, mores in tune with the times and in the interest of building a harmonious sound social set up. The ancient civilization of India founded itself expressly upon four human interests; first desire and enjoy next material economic and other aims and needs of the mind and body, thirdly, ethical conduct and the right law of individual and social life, and lastly spiritual liberation: Kama, artha, dharma, moksha. The business of culture and social organisation was to lead, to satisfy to Support these things in man and to build some harmony of the forms and the motives… fullness of life must precede the surpassing of life. The debt to the family, the community and the gods could not be scamped; earth must have her due and the relative its play, even if beyond it there was the glory of heaven or peace of the Absolute (Sri Aurobindo op.cit.69) This must inform the ethos of samvikas.
It is obvious that an uninhibited interaction among the positive elements of all the dimensions outlined above can help attain the objective of Samvikas i.e. holistic and abiding welfare of a community, material as well as spiritual, Good governance, free from underhand dealings, on the one hand and conscious and active civil society, on the other working in tandem can and are inevitable to bring that about. Geographers must regard themselves as an integral component of the civil society and contribute their mite effectively using their science and skill of the interpretation of the socio-cultural morphology and shaping the humanised landscape to the betterment of community’s quality of life. The Vision geography 2020 must dedicate to the ‘remapping’ of the education opportunity, health requirements, building a discrimination-free society, strengthening the infrastructure, expanding the employment avenues, and maintaining the ecological integrity and releasing the positive forces inherent in the earth and people to cater to the basic needs of the community as well as contribute to the welfare of the nation at large, effectively using their using unique capacity of synthesis of physical, biological and human elements.