The chapter introduces the students to the models of development and also talks about all the challenges of development and the Indian development model. This chapter also tells us what cost development takes in terms of the environment. We also highlight human development and the alternative conceptions of development.
Development conveys the ideas of improvement, progress, well-being and an aspiration for a better life. Through its notion of development, a society articulates what constitutes its vision for the society as a whole and how best to achieve it. In a narrower sense, the term development refers to the more limited goals such as increasing the rate of economic growth and modernising society.
The models of development that have been adopted in different countries have become the subject of debate and criticism and alternative models have been put forward.
The Challenge of Development
The concept of development gained importance after the second half of the twentieth century. This was the time when a large number of countries in Asia and Africa gained political independence.
In the 1950s and 1960s when most countries of Asia and Africa had achieved independence from colonial rule, the most urgent task in front of them was to solve the pressing problems of poverty, malnourishment, unemployment, illiteracy and the lack of basic amenities that a majority of their populations faced.
The concept of development has undergone many changes over the years. In the initial years, the focus was on catching up with the west in terms of economic growth and the modernisation of societies. Developing countries adopted goals like faster economic growth through industrialisation, modernisation of agriculture and extending and modernising education.
In India, a series of Five Year Plans for development were made starting from the 1950s, and these included a number of mega projects such as the Bhakra Nangal Dam, setting up steel plants in different parts of the country, mining, fertiliser production and improving agricultural techniques.
New educational institutions like the Indian Institutes of Technology were set up and collaboration with advanced countries in order to have access to their knowledge became a top priority.
How are the development models criticised?
There are various criticisms that have been put up on the different development models in different countries. The critics of the development have pointed out that the kind of development models which have been adopted in many countries have proved very costly for the developing countries.
The Social Cost of Development
The model of development is posed to have a high social cost. A large number of people have been displaced from their homes and localities due to the construction of big dams, industrial activities and mining activities, or other projects.
Displacement results in loss of livelihood and increases impoverishment.
Displaced people have not always accepted their fate passively. You may have heard about the ‘Narmada Bachao Andolan’ which has been leading a movement against the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the river Narmada for many years. The supporters of this big dam claim that it will generate electricity, help irrigate large areas of land and also provide drinking water to the desert areas of Kutch and Saurashtra.
The opponents of the dam dispute these claims. They claim that almost one million people have been displaced. They have lost their lands through submergence, or construction, and consequently lost their livelihood. Some even argue that the dam would greatly upset the ecological balance by submerging large tracts of forests.
The Environmental Cost of Development
Development has indeed caused a high degree of environmental degradation in many countries and not just the displaced people but all of the population is beginning to feel the consequences. It is being said that in the long term the ecological crisis will adversely affect all of us.
Air pollution is already a problem that does not discriminate between the rich and the poor. But in the short term, indiscriminate use of resources tends to adversely affect the under-privileged more sharply. Loss of forests affects the poor who use forest resources for a variety of subsistence needs like firewood, medicinal herbs or food.
Drying up rivers and ponds and falling groundwater levels means that women have to walk longer to procure water.
The Model of development is heavily dependent on the increasing use of energy. Most of the Energy currently generated in the world is from non-renewable sources like coal and petroleum.
Example: The tsunami crisis in the South and the South East Asian Coasts in 2004 caused the destruction of mangroves and the building of commercial enterprises along the shoreline.
The main reason for floods in the low-lying areas of Bangladesh and Maldives is the melting of ice in the region of the Arctic and the Antarctic because of increased emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
The development of only the negative effects will not be a valid statement to rely on. Some countries have had some success in increasing their rate of economic growth and even in reducing poverty. Poverty continues to be a major problem in the developing world.
Earlier, it was assumed that the benefits of growth would trickle down to the poorest and underprivileged sections of the society and thereby raise the standards of living of all.
If development is understood as a process that aims to improve the quality of life of people, it could be argued that measuring the rate of economic growth alone would be an inadequate and at times misleading indicator of development.
The Human Development Index
The Human Development Index (HDI) is a summary measure of average achievement in key dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable and having a decent standard of living.
The Human Development Report is annually brought out by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). This report ranks countries on the basis of their performance in social indicators like literacy and education levels, life expectancy and maternal mortality rates.
This measure is called the Human Development Index.
Alternative Conceptions of Development
Development thus became a process designed and implemented by the ruling sections in the country who have also often been the major beneficiaries of development projects. This has underscored the need to think of alternative ways of understanding and pursuing development that is equitable and sustainable. Issues of rights, equality, freedom, justice and democracy have all been raised in the process.
The benefits of development have been largely cornered by the powerful and the costs of the development model have been borne by the poorest and vulnerable sections of the population whether due to ecological degradation or due to displacement and loss of livelihood.
One of the issues which have been raised is regarding the protections that affected people can claim from the State and the society as a whole.
Another issue is regarding rights to natural resources. This particularly applies to tribal and aboriginal communities who have a specific way of community life and relationship to the environment.
Negotiating the competing demands of different sections of a population as well as achieving a balance between the claims of the present and future is the task of democracies.
The distinction between democracy and dictatorship is that in a democracy conflicts over resources, or different visions of the good life, are resolved through debate and a respect for the rights of all and these cannot be imposed from above. Thus, if everyone in a society has a common stake in achieving a better life, then everyone needs to be involved in formulating the plans of development and in devising ways of implementing them.
In democratic countries, the right of people to participate in decision-making is emphasised. One of the ways which have been suggested to ensure participation is to allow local decision-making bodies to make decisions about development projects in the local area.
On the one hand, it is argued that people have to be consulted on issues that most affect them and it should be possible to reject projects which can adversely affect the community. On the other, it is said that involvement in planning and formulating policies allow people to direct resources towards their needs.
A decentralised approach to development makes it possible to use various kinds of technologies — traditional and modern — in a creative manner.
Development and Lifestyle
An alternative model of development would also try to move away from the high cost, ecologically wasteful, technology-driven notion of development. At one level, efforts should be made to conserve natural resources and use renewable sources of energy as far as possible.
Example: Rain-water harvesting, solar and biogas plants, micro-hydel projects, compost pits to generate manure out of organic waste. At another level, there is also a need to scale down our need for non-renewable resources by changing lifestyles.
The idea of development refers to the desire for a better life. This is a very powerful desire and the hope of improvement is a driving force of human action. The issues that have arisen while pursuing the goal of development reveal that the choices we make have an impact upon others — other human beings and other species in the world.