Indian growth scepticism

In: Uncategorized

28 Feb 2010

An example of the growth scepticism of Arundhati Roy, a leading Indian writer and social campaigner, in an article in Outlook India. Roy moves from criticising the Indian government’s repressive military campaign against “Maoists” in Orissa (which she suggests is actually against indigenous people), to a discussion of the vested interests of mining companies in the region to a rejection of growth in general:

“The real problem is that the flagship of India’s miraculous ‘growth’ story has run aground. It came at a huge social and environmental cost. And now, as the rivers dry up and forests disappear, as the water table recedes and as people realise what is being done to them, the chickens are coming home to roost. All over the country, there’s unrest, there are protests by people refusing to give up their land and their access to resources, refusing to believe false promises any more. Suddenly, it’s beginning to look as though the 10 per cent growth rate and democracy are mutually incompatible. To get the bauxite out of the flat-topped hills, to get iron ore out from under the forest floor, to get 85 per cent of India’s people off their land and into the cities (which is what Mr Chidambaram says he’d like to see), India has to become a police state. The government has to militarise. To justify that militarisation, it needs an enemy. The Maoists are that enemy. They are to corporate fundamentalists what the Muslims are to Hindu fundamentalists.”

I know nothing about the conflict in Orissa but I am certain it should not be used as a general argument against development. It is not growth that leads to repression but stifling people’s aspirations by keeping them poor.