Swimming against the current

This week TEHELKA meets some peoples from across the nation. They — like Richard Wilbur’s prophet — are “madeyed from stating the obvious” but refuse to blink. And someday in the future someone will ask: did they really exist? Were they as tall as they seem? And we can answer, yes.

MAGLINE PETER, 41, leads a massive movement of fishworkers that is learning to fight everything from climate change to superstition

SATINATH SARANGI, 55, had planned to stay for a week. Decades later, he is still fighting on behalf of those affected by the gas tragedy

ALOK AGARWAL, 43, was destined for the soft life of an IIT boy. Instead, he courted arrests and broken bones to stop the Maheshwar dam

BHAGABAN MAJHI, 32, lost his faith in the law’s sincerity of purpose. But he still believes that one day Orissa’s adivasis will be a powerful force

ROMA, 44, lobbied in favour of the Forest Rights Act against a State impervious to the possibility of a civil war

ANJALI DAIMARY, 45, has waged war to control the excesses of the armed forces in the North-East

VASU HV, 34, has been working for the rights of the urban poor for a decade and scorns the class bias that thinks of his life as sacrifice

LAHA GOPALAN, 58, has been leading adivasis and dalit agricultural labourers in Kerala to stake claim to land that is theirs

DAYAMANI BARLA, 44, is Jharkhand’s first adivasi journalist. She fights India’s largest steel plant with a mass movement and a tireless stride

AKHIL GOGOI, 34, uses the Right to Information Act and non-violence to unearth corruption in Assam’s rural development schemes

As Tehelka stated that “We have hard work ahead, warned Nehru in the midnight hour. Sure, most of us responded, and went off whistling and thinking of lunch. But luckily, in the place of the giants who are gone, others have sprung, prepared to sleep on railway platforms and footpaths, to have their young bodies broken from lathis, their voices hoarse from shouting — all to preserve democracy, to protect us from ourselves.”

Inspiring stories about them here

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GDP and Beyond…

By Parag Gacche

At the end of every quarter, there is a great amount of speculation among policymakers, financial institutions, private companies etc about what the GDP numbers will be. This number is eagerly awaited by the governments as well. Why? Because it’s considered as the Nation’s report card on economic progress. So if it is seen that this particular number has increased, then obviously it is assumed that we are on the right path i.e. path towards progress. So if it is such an ‘important’ figure, then let us look at what exactly it is and more importantly what it is not.

Well, it is merely gross tally of products and services manufactured or provided in given financial term. Here is the gambit. There is clearly no distinction between whether they really add value to well being of the planet and whether they actually diminish it. There is inherent flawed assumption in calculating GDP that any monetary transaction leads to human well being.

“Marry your cleaning person, and you will make GDP fall”, this hilarious remark by one of the French Economist aptly sums up the inherent shortcoming of using GDP as a tool in gauging economic development of the Nation. It simply points to the fact that any activity which is outside the purview of monetary transactions will not be considered in this measure. If tomorrow my bike doesn’t work and if I take it to the nearby mechanic, then this will be termed as economic transaction but if I take my bike to one of my friends then such activity will not be considered as adding significantly to Nation’s GDP.

Thus even voluntary work does not get recognized in this method.

GDP treats depletion of natural resources as income. If something is destroyed and built then GDP will only take into account the process of rebuilding and not of destruction. It does not take any account of income distribution. So if the income level of top 5% of people in the country increases, GDP will eventually be termed as significant economic progress to all.

Well, I am not against calculating GDP, for that matter. What I am against is the importance given to it in the policy making decisions. It is made as a pivot around which entire decisions are made. But well beings of individuals depend upon plenty of other factors such as leisure time, environment conditions, health and distributive issues etc.

At last, any economic system should be judged based on whether it provides life enabling things to its participants e.g. food, clothes, shelter, adequate health facilities etc. or not and without any doubt that should be the benchmark.

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