The mea culpa moment

Special Assembly session on Thursday witnessed a speech by VS Achuthanandan which listed the mistakes Kerala has committed in pursuit of development.

Thiruvananthapuram: Senior CPM leader and Administrative Reforms Commission chairman V.S. Achuthanandan has said it is time for Kerala to atone for meddling with nature, adopt a sustainable development paradigm and restart the dismantling of illegal constructions and encroachments, not just in Munnar but across the state.

Participating in the special session on the state's response to unprecedented floods, Mr Achuthanandan, who had launched the Munnar operation as the chief minister in 2007, said the operation was the outcome of a cabinet decision and it is time to review why the exercise had be abandoned midway.

He said the reason for the floods was the torrential downpour. But it is undeniable that landslides and earth cave-ins worsened the calamity and human interventions aggravated landslides.

In self-criticism, he said, the error lay in the state's policy formulations. "We have been ignoring all scientific studies in pursuit of our narrow interests. We are now focused on rebuilding Kerala and our development mantra should not be a brazen slogan,” he said.

"Now is the opportunity to determine afresh the contours of development and sustainable growth. Razing the hills, flattening paddy fields and setting up weirs for carrying out illegal and unscientific constructions cannot be condoned. It is tantamount to wrecking lives and livelihoods of thousands of people. The enthusiasm shown in mitigation must also be evident in disaster prevention. The government should use the opportunity to scientifically redefine the development perspective and check reckless interventions in nature in the name of development. Strengthen the laws and plug the loopholes,” he said.

The government should wind up illegal quarries, which are to blame for earth cave-ins and landslides. “Do not force nature to teach us again what a fragile ecology means," he said, calling for the immediate withdrawal of concessions and exemptions granted to quarries.

He asked whether the government had not noticed big businessmen encroaching on forests and backwaters, constructing high-rise complexes and getting away with it by paying fine through courts. This practice should end.

It is no secret that the blocking of traditional rainwater and river runoffs had led to the floods. Restore them during the reconstruction of houses, bridges and roads.

This is also the time for a scientific reassessment of the possible disastrous impact of mega schemes such as Vizhinjam. "We are paying for violating the pristine Western Ghats through unscientific developmental activities. Nobody is against development, if it is done on the basis of precise planning and a master plan rather than personal agendas".

The LDF slogan should be development that does not run afoul of nature. Do not bend laws for the sake of individuals. It's time to end the paradox of planning that dissociates development and nature protection. People who stand for sustainable development are being criticised as being anti-development and votaries of environment fundamentalism by those with vested interests.

The government should seek the expertise of the youth and experts from outside state while drafting a master plan and setup a karma sena comprising doctors, engineers, lawyers, teachers, bureaucrats and social activists. The government should draw up the terms of reference for the inclusive karma sena.

All rebuilding programmes on the basis of the master plan should factor in the fact that fishers were in the forefront of rescue and relief operations, he said. Although the Chief Minister was sanguine about the central stand, this is the time for all people to come together and exert pressure on the Centre for more assistance, he said.

Kerala now faced the twin disasters: Sangh Pariwar political deceits and nature's fury. Seven human rights activists were arrested in a brazen display of governmental tyranny and their crime was they continued to converse with the people, he said.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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