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Story


Economics of congestion

The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (siam) says India produced over 10 million vehicles in 2006. The number of cars was more than one million. As the manufacture and sale of vehicles are important parameters of the national economy, this millionth-vehicle yardstick says the economy’s fundamentals are buoyant.

Climate: the market’s Achilles heel

Last fortnight I wrote about making space for emissions. Let’s discuss how this can be done. Let’s discuss this with governments meeting, possibly for the millionth time, to discuss the global agreement to combat climate change. Let’s discuss this when we know with some greater certainty that global warming is beginning to adversely change our world. And we know that in spite of all the years of intense negotiations, governments have done too little to avert the reality of climate change.

Making space for emissions

What does the ubiquitous auto-rickshaw and the plush aeroplane have in common, other than getting us from one place to another? The auto-rickshaw, as India’s largest manufacturer Rahul Bajaj will tell you, is the symbol of democratic mobility — it provides transport for large numbers of people at what he says is affordable costs. But these vehicles are technology poor, and extremely polluting.

Another India is (not) ours

At a media-studded book release function, a leading editor was recounting a recent incident. He was travelling with a top Uttar Pradesh politician (who we will not name but call Mr A) in his brand new plane. The politician told him that the plane was a gift from a leading industrialist (who we will not name but call Mr AA). The editor was then told that the return gift by the politician was not meagre: it was 1,000 hectares (ha) of prime agricultural land for a new special economic zone (sez). Hearing this tale, we in the audience smiled wisely.

Urban growth model needs reality check

Urban India is beginning to explode. The question is if our cities will be able to manage this growth or will they just burst at the seams? The reason I ask this is because we still don’t have a clue about what urban growth will mean for us. We cannot see beyond the glitz of the malls, the swank of the private housing apartments or guarded green areas.

Climate change denial must stop

Just imagine: floods in dry Rajasthan; drought in wet Assam. In both cases, devastation has been deadly, with people struggling to cope. But are these natural disasters or human-made disasters signs of change of the world’s climate systems? Or are these simply the result of mismanagement so that people already living on the edge of survival, cannot cope with any variations — small or big — in weather events?

Divert, deny, dismiss and damn

What a line of attack! PepsiCo, in its advertisements to deny that it had pesticides in its drinks, said that there were more pesticides in tea, eggs, rice and apples. Coca-Cola, in its defence, has similarly argued that as everything in India is contaminated, its drinks are safe. They say this is being done to target them, because they are big brands and us multinationals. On the other hand, the pesticide industry, in its public response, wants the focus not to be on pesticides but on heavy metals and other contaminants.

Strong colas and weak governments

When we released our study on pesticides in soft drinks, our objective was clear: we needed action on regulations, which had been stymied because of corporate pressure. What we hadn’t anticipated was the response of the cola majors. Three years have lapsed since we published our first report on pesticides in colas. The response then had been immediate and vituperative. “There are no pesticides in our drinks and the Centre for Science and Environment cannot test our products” was the line taken by the cola majors.

Globalisers retreating into little shells

In 20 years, the world has come full circle: in the mid-1980s the process of globalisation intensified with the rich countries taking the lead in interconnecting countries because it was in their interest. Now in 2006, the same rich countries find the process of globalisation — economic and ecological — too hot to handle. They have become a roadblock in the way of global integration. The question is where will we go from here? Can we go back in time and close the processes of globalisation?

Who has framed the Food Safety and Standards Bill, the government or the industry?

When Parliament convenes for the monsoon session, the government plans to introduce the Food Safety and Standards Bill, 2005. I am sure the government will hope there is enough mayhem to distract the attention of legislators from the bill, which has been crafted carefully to weaken consumer protection in the face of the power of the growing business of food.

Food we know is a sunshine industry. And industry tells government that the regulatory regime is cumbersome and corrupt. This, it adds, strangles the industry. These arguments are correct.

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