Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday Masala: Narain and Adve on Copenhagen; and something about schools

A major survey by the NGO Pratham confirms there are problems with our village schools. It finds, among other things, that only half of all Class V students can read Class II books.  You can look at the bottom line results, including a couple of bright spots here.  And tomorrow, we're running a guest post from Bhagwad Jal Park that deals with our educational system from another angle.  Schools matter to all of us, because without good schools, how will our children solve the problems we leave them?


Looking back for a moment at the Copenhagen fiasco, Sunita Narain of CSE explains who was behind India's support for the "Accord":
 We need to know who is really pushing the Accord and their interests. We know that the key proponents of the Accord in India are the people who are powerful in the establishment of the country – from managers of the Planning Commission to key industrialist to top market economists. Interestingly, people, you would (and rightly) think are the last ones to push a green accord in the country. In fact, as an environmental campaigner, I can safely say that these are the same people who would stymie any real action on environmental improvement in the country. They will oppose fuel efficiency standards, tax on big cars, or tough penalties for polluters.  But they will still talk glibly about low-carbon economies. They will of course, dismiss out of hand, any discussion on the need for ‘radical’ and out of the box solutions for equity and sustainability. These, they will tell you are mere evangelical thoughts of some fringe activists.
You can read the full post here.  Meanwhile, Nagraj Adve, who's written for us before, covers some of the same ground in a piece he's written for OneWorld South Asia.  He opens with some difficult questions:

When people half a century from now reflect on this ‘Age of Stupid’, one key question they may ask is: why did political leaders not act with greater urgency at Copenhagen when the writing on the wall was so clear? However, an even more crucial question would be: why was the narrative like a chronicle of a death foretold; why did one know, even before it began, that this 15th Conference of the Parties would end in failure?
After laying out the problems we face--and they are dire, Adve says we have to look at three core, related issues: "capitalism, class and equity."  Though we spend a lot of time comparing India's consumption to the rest of the world, the real picture is more complex, he says:


[Over the past 15 years] in India ...real wages for factory workers stagnated (they actually declined as a proportion of production costs), while returns for agriculture fell for most, while 836 million people, an official report revealed, consume less than Rs 20 a day! Now, at Rs 20 or less daily, one cannot contribute much to global warming, however hard one may try!

So when the government claims that ‘India’s’ per capita emissions, at 1.3 tonnes a year, are too low, they are being too clever by half.
and this:
Class – the second core issue missing in most debates – is present in the Indian government’s stand only in the most devious way. They have refused to commit to emission cuts saying, if we cap our emissions, how would we provide energy to the poor? Which climate deal stopped them from doing so in the last 62 years?


They gloss over the fact that much of the rise in recent energy use has been directed towards the rich. One instance of this is the recent reported study in Mumbai that air conditioners consume nearly 40% of electrical power in the city, in six lakh homes, offices and malls (Times of India, 23 Dec 2009)!
This article is worth reading in full.  You can find the rest here.
 *****
We've got a great week coming up at the Dhaba: in addition to Bhagwad Jal Park's Tuesday guest post on education, we'll have a great interview with environmentalist photographer Ravi Agarwal on Thursday.  Don't miss it!

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