Skip to main content

Adopt decentralized governance to deal with emergencies like pandemic


An Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi, note, prepared by Dr Simi Mehta and Ritika Gupta, on environmentalist Leo Saldanha’s insistence at a webinar on the need for governments to be in a state of ‘ever-readiness’ to deal with pandemics:
***
Unabashed assaults by human beings on the natural ecological system have caused the virus to spread in the first place. While finding a definite cure to contain the virus, any complacency towards the environment would make the human lives more unsustainable on planet earth, said Dr Simi Mehta while hosting an IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk on the State of Environment, #PlanetTalks on Vulnerabilities of Indian Governance in handling the climate crisis amid COVID-19 and recession organized by Center for Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development at IMPRI on September 25, 2020.
Reminiscing the loss of many notable personalities such as singer S B Subramanyam due to COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Leo Saldanha stated that lives have become precarious considering the developments from the last two decades. Global warming has resulted in rapid melting of ice caps in the Arctics and the Antarctica, and at the current pace water levels would rise by several meters, thereby posing irreversible damages to island and low-lying countries and their populations. Even for India, the vast coastal population is vulnerable. The vulnerability of human lives have further been exacerbated with the sudden spread of coronavirus which is progressively becoming asymptomatic.
While applauding and highlighting the problem with the past responses of Indian governments to disasters such as 1999 cycle of cyclones and pandemics, Saldanha said governments have been using emergency powers such as police powers on ground. He believed normative governance should accept the state of ever readiness to deal with pandemics. Evident from the cycles of floods in India in metropolitan areas shows that cities are not even ready for excessive rainfall. This is a result of maldevelopment.
He opined that Indian governance system has been highly centralized since the 1990s with its neo-liberal policies. It does not recognize people’s wisdom and does not implement the plans and schemes in our constitutions that are really secured with dealing with natural crises. India is not able to deal with unnatural crises such as maldevelopment of cities due to negligence towards fundamental principles of governance. Since the fundamental principle of governance in India is rooted in democracy, therefore the government must involve the people in the operations of governance. But this is far from being true. The heavily centralized structure of the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments have been a major reason in making the villages and municipalities unmanageable.
To ensure transparency in governance, people need to struggle as evident in the case of Lokpal Bill, Right to Information Act, Forest rights Act among others. While addressing the plight of Adivasis, who have been seen as inferior since they refuse to accept the capitalist model of the private sector, Saldanha highlighted they have been denied their rights on natural resources and displaced from their lands. They possess immense amount of knowledge of forest resources and this knowledge is protected under Biodiversity Act signed in Conventional Biological Diversity as part of UN Rio Declaration. Saddened about the non-implementation for Forest Rights Act 2006, he stated that Indian governments have been suppressing the progressive models for one pretense or the other and created emergencies on the ground. He condemned the clinical trials of genetically modified organism (GMO) by central government in 9 states amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Even the Supreme Court has challenged the move stating that it is against food security because it will turn food systems into proprietorship and for worse become genetically contaminated. This is a highly unsustainable move.
Biodiversity needs to be protected from biopiracy and making speeches at international for a like the UNFCCC, etc. would not yield desired results. Addressing the unprecedented forest fires in west coast of United States and typhoons in the east coast of US, Saldanha also highlighted the 600-700 spots that caught fires in Western Ghats two years back in Karnataka, which the forest department was not able to manage it. He also addressed that when the lockdown in India was lifted many industries such as LG Polymers, oil wells in Assam among others started blowing up and released huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Unprepared industries are countering the promises made to the Conference of Parties to reduce carbon emissions.
On the farming front, efforts have been made to monetize farming and snatching the sovereign system of food from the hands of farmers over to the corporate sector. Mr Saldanha pointed to the structural displacement of democratic governance by ignoring the voices of the parliamentarians and the farmers against the three farm bills. The natural food from organic farming has also been commodified from the so-called zero budget farming. This has led the lands to slip out of the hands of farmers. Giving examples of land regulations in Karnataka where no clearance is required for diverting commons and agricultural lands for industrial activities, he coined this situation as land grab which will lead to dispossession at a time where we should encourage more natural farming, agro-ecological approaches should include revival of pastural communities and non-displacement of fishing communities. These lands are being turned into cities and cities are building disasters.
Highlighting the research study being done by the Environmental Support Group, he stated that a lot of resources were wasted in preparing for the Trump visit in February 2020, while having the knowledge of the presence of the coronavirus in India. The resources could have been invested into building health infrastructure in dysfunctional public health centers in villages to deal with the pandemic. Recalling the Disaster Management Act which was passed due to the Tsunami, he underlined that those regions with effective local governments have the greatest capacities of response, relief and rehabilitation and therefore the government could have established a decentralized response. By 2008, India had guidelines to deal with pandemics, wherein people are aware of where to get the help from and help will be provided to them but when the COVID-19 struck, these guidelines went in vain. Lessons should be learnt from countries such as South Korea who created local units as a response to SARS. In fact, Kerala must be applauded for dealing with pandemic.
The pandemic has brought the education of a large number of students to a standstill. Online education necessitated a smart phone with adequate data but believing that every student would have an access to this was erroneous. The televisions having wider reach must have been used to deliver classes and mechanisms could have been created for the same. The capitalization of public spaces and prioritization of public sector needs has essentially meant that the public sector has not been a priority for the center. Mr Saldanha was worried about the status of the money donated by the public to the PM CARE Fund, which was set up to deal with the pandemic. Further, GST was supposed to be shared between states and center but the former has been asked to borrow money, because of the latter’s incapacity to pay them their due compensation.
He is concerned that the world is moving towards an age where infections would be much more frequent and current models will not to work. The working model would be one where every village, ward and city are able to survive with their own capacity to cover themselves.
On the way forward, he advised on the need to sensitize the government system to make regulatory practices effective. India needed a decentralized approach where states are empowered and fully implementing the provisions of 73rd and 74th Amendment Acts. There is a need for intelligent ways to deliver responses to it instead of failing repeatedly and trying to communalize it. The people must keep the governance systems accountable to them — which is the crux of a democracy.

Comments

TRENDING

CAG’s audit report creates a case for dismantling of UIDAI, scrapping Aadhaar

By Gopal Krishna  The total estimated budget of the biometric UID/Aadhaar number project and its cost: benefit analysis has not been disclosed till date. Unless the total estimated budget of the project is revealed, all claims of benefits are suspect and untrustworthy. How can one know about total savings unless the total cost is disclosed? Can limited audit of continuing expenditure of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), an instrumentality of Union of India be deemed a substitute for total estimated budget of the biometric UID/Aadhaar number project of UIDAI? It has been admitted by CAG that the audit of functioning of the UIDAI is partial because of non-transparency. The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India arising from performance audit of functioning of the UIDAI for the period from 2014-15 to 2018-19 is incomplete because it is based on statistical information “to the extent as furnished by UIDAI” upto March 2021. There is also a need to compa

Women for Water: WICCI resource council for empowering women entrepreneurs, leaders

By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  The Water Resources Council of the Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry is formed for 2022-24. A National Business Chamber for Women, the Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry ( WICCI ) is a premier association empowering women entrepreneurs and leaders in all walks of life through advocacy, pro-active representations to government, implementing projects for women via funds allocated by various government agencies and corporates, plus bringing awareness on all issues that concern women. WICCI boosts and builds women’s entrepreneurship and businesses through greater engagement with government, institutions, global trade and networks. WICCI enables fundamental changes in governmental policies, laws, incentives and sanctions through proper channel, with a view to robustly encourage and empower women in business, industry and commerce across all sectors. WICCI is supported by the massive global networks of ALL Ladies League (ALL), Women Eco

75 yrs of water in India: whither decentralised governance to sustain the precious resource?

By Shubhangi Rai, Megha Gupta, Fawzia Tarannum, Mansee Bal Bhargava Looking into the last century, water resources management have come a long way from the living with water in the villages to the nimbyism and capitalism in the cities to coming full cycle with room for water in the villages. With the climate change induced water crisis, the focus on conservation and management of water resources if furthered in both national and local agenda. The Water management 2021 report by NITI Aayog acknowledges that water and sustainability are of immense importance for the sustenance of life on earth. Water is intricately linked to the health, food security and livelihood. With business as usual, India’s water availability will only be enough to meet 50% of its total demand and 40% of the population in India will have no access to drinking water and sanitation by 2030 . Its Composite Water Management Index 2021 states that ‘India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history and mil

Grassroot innovations in water management: Policy challenges amidst climate change

By Shubhangi Rai[1], Megha Gupta[2], Mansee Bal Bhargava[3] India despite of having a vast traditional water management history continue to struggle with water crisis from disasters like floods and droughts but more with social distress leading to asymmetric access to water goods and services. The rising water crisis in a country that is abundant in water resources and wisdom is worth questioning and resolving. The knowledge that was passed on by our ancestors who used a diverse range of structures that helped harvest rainwater locally besides replenish and recharge the groundwater along the way. Formal and informal rules were locally crafted by the community on who to use the water, how much to use, when to use, how to penalise for misuse, how to resolve conflicts and many more. As a nation, we need to revive our dying wisdom of the traditional water management systems and as water commons, enable the governing mechanisms towards sustainability. In the session on ‘ Grassroot Innovatio

Need to destroy dowry, annihilate greed and toxic patriarchy in India

By IMPRI Team Talking about an evil ever-persistent in our society and highlighting the presence of toxic patriarchy, #IMPRI Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi organized a panel discussion on Destroy Dowry: Annihilation of Greed and Toxic Patriarchy in India under the series The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps on May 4, 2022. The chair for the event was Prof Vibhuti Patel, Former Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai and a Visiting Professor, IMPRI. The distinguished panel included – Asha Kulkarni, General Secretary at Anti Dowry Movement, Mumbai ; Kamal Thakar, Sahiyar Stree Sangathan ; Adv Celin Thomas, Advocate at Celin Thomas and Associates, Bengaluru; Shalini Mathur, Honorary Secretary, Suraksha Dahej Maang Virodhi Sanstha Tatha Parivar Paraamarsh Kendra, Lucknow and Secretary, Nav Kalyani Foundation, Gender Resource and Training Centre; and Dr Bharti Sharma, Honorary Secretary, Shakti Shalini

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: Implications for India and emerging geopolitics

By IMPRI Team In the backdrop of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, #IMPRI Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi hosted a panel discussion on Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine: Implications for India and Emerging Geopolitics. The event was chaired by Ambassador Anil Trigunayat (IFS Retd.), Former Ambassador to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Libya, and Malta; Former Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of India, Moscow. The panelists of the event were Prof Waheguru Pal Singh Sidhu, Clinical Professor, Center for Global Affairs, New York University; H.E. Freddy Svane, Ambassador, Royal Danish Embassy, New Delhi; Maj. Gen. (Dr) P. K. Chakravorty, Strategic Thinker on Security Issues; and T. K. Arun, Senior Journalist, and Columnist. Ambassador Anil Trigunayat commenced the discussion by stating the fact that wars are evil. He opines that no war has ever brought peace and prosperity to any country and

Impact of climate change on Gujarat pastoralists' traditional livelihood

By Varsha Bhagat-Ganguly, Karen Pinerio* We are sharing a study[1] based learning on climate resilience and adaptation strategies of pastoralists of Kachchh district, Gujarat. There are two objectives of the study: (i) to examine the impact of climate on traditional livelihood of pastoralists of Gujarat state; and (ii) to explore and document the adaptation strategies of pastoralists in mitigating climate adversities, with a focus on the role of women in it. In order to meet these objectives, the research inquiries focused on how pastoralists perceive climate change, how climate change has impacted their traditional livelihood, i.e., pastoralism in drylands (Krätli 2015), and how these pastoral families have evolved adaptation strategies that address climate change (CC)/ variabilities, i.e., traditional livelihood of pastoralists of Kachchh district, Gujarat state. Pastoralism is more than 5,000 years old land-use strategy in India; it is practised by nomadic (their entire livelihood r

Making Indian cities disaster, climate resilient: Towards actionable urban planning

By IMPRI Team  Three-Day Online Certificate Training Programme on “Making Indian Cities Disaster and Climate Change Resilient: Towards Responsive and Actionable Urban Planning, Policy and Development”: Day 1 A three day Online Certificate Training Programme on the theme “Making Indian Cities Disaster and Climate Change Resilient: Towards Responsive and Actionable Urban Planning, Policy and Development”, a joint initiative of the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) , Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, was held at the Centre for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi. Inaugurating the session Ms. Karnika Arun, Researcher at IMPRI, welcomed the speakers and participants to the program with an introduction to the eminent panellists. Day 1 of the program included Prof Anil K Gupta, Head ECDRM, NIDM, New Delhi and Mr Tikender Singh Panwar, Former Deputy Mayor, Shimla; Visiting Senior Fellow, IMPRI as conveners, an

Gender gap: Women face disproportionate barriers in accessing finance

By IMPRI Team Women worldwide disproportionately face barriers to financial access that prevents them from participating in the economy and improving their lives. Providing access to finance for women is crucial for financial inclusion and, consequently, inclusive growth. To deliberate and encourage dialogue and discussion for growth, the Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC) of IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, organized a web policy talk by Mr S. S. Bhat, Chief Executive Officer Friends of Women’s World Banking India, Ahmedabad on ‘Access to Finance for Women’ as a part of its series The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps. The session was started by the moderator, Chavi Jain, by introducing the speaker and the discussants and inviting Prof. Vibhuti Patel to start the deliberation. Importance of access to finance for women Prof. Vibhuti Patel, Visiting Professor, IMPRI, New Delhi; Former Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, began by expre

Environment governance in small cities: Need for external intervention, capacity building

By IMPRI Team  The debate over environmental degradation has acquired substantial traction in recent years. Governments, civil communities and international organisations are all working to mitigate the environmental costs of economic expansion and growth. These reforms have also brought to light the concept of environmental governance in emerging towns, which refers to political changes aimed at influencing environmental activities and outcomes. It is under this backdrop that the #IMPRI Centre for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies (CHURS) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi hosted a talk on Small Cities and Environmental Governance in Gujarat and West Bengal: Need for External Intervention or Capacity Building? as a part of #WebPolicyTalk series- The State of Cities – #CityConversations on January 28, 2022. The talk was chaired by Dr Soumyadip Chattopadhyay, an Associate Professor, Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan and a Visiting Senior Fellow, IMPRI, New Delhi. The