Guest post by SAGAR DHARA
The Aam Admi Party (AAP) has won a spectacular victory in the Delhi assembly elections and will form a government shortly. The party’s manifesto 2015 (http://www.aamaadmiparty.org/AAP-Manifesto-2015.pdf) promises to do many things—some positive, e.g., passing a Swaraj Bill and some that are not so positive, e.g., setting up pithead power plants to supply power to Delhi. Here are a few practical suggestions that may help AAP and its supporters to strengthen people’s participation in grasroot self-governance.
AAP’s proposed Swaraj Bill is aimed at strengthening grassroot self-governance in Delhi mohallas and community neighbourhoods. Mohalla committees are designed to deal with local issues. However, they can also be used as platforms for Delhi’s polity to participate in decisions that that affect all of Delhi through a process called participatory budgeting.
Participatory budgeting first began in 1990 in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre. In the first quarter of every year, communities hold open house meetings every week to discuss and vote on the city’s budget and spending priorities for their neighbourhood. Later, city-wide public plenaries pass a budget that is binding on the city council. The results speak for themselves. Within seven years of starting participatory budgeting, household access to piped water and sewers doubled to touch 95%. Roads, particularly in slums, increased five-fold. Schools quadrupled, health and education budgets trebled. Tax evasion fell as people saw their money at work. People used computer kiosks to feed communicate suggestions to the city council’s website.
Participatory budgeting is now being done in 1,500 towns around the world—Europe, South America, Canada, India—Pune, Bengaluru, Mysore and Hiware Bazar in Maharashtra. Twenty five years ago, Hiware Bazar was like any other drought-prone village in Marathwada. Today its income has increased twenty-fold and poverty has all but disappeared. Continue reading AAP Victory and Some Tools for Popular Self-Government: Sagar Dhara
Guest post by SAGAR DHARA
Contrasting outcomes of recent global warming meetings
Two recent meetings on global warming, one scientific and the other political, are of great public interest as they have a bearing on human society’s future course to become a sustainable global community. The meetings stand in sharp contrast with each other in terms of the clarity of their outcomes.
The first meeting was held by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a body of over 2,000 scientists. IPCC released its fifth assessment’s synthesis report in Copenhagen end-October 2014. The report states unequivocally that “Human influence on the climate system is clear.” Further, it warns that the emission of another 1,000 Giga tonnes1 (Gt) of carbon dioxide (CO2), referred to as the carbon space, is likely to raise average global surface temperatures by 2oC above pre-industrial times. This is considered dangerous to the environment and human society.
Since the industrial revolution began in the mid-18th Century, humans have used 35% of the known 1,700 Gt of conventional fossil fuel reserves, and cut a third of the then existing 60 million km2 of forests to emit 2,000 Gt CO2. The consequent 0.85oC average global temperature rise over pre-industrial times has triggered significant changes in the physical, biological and human environments. For example, rainfall variation has increased, extreme weather events are more frequent, pole-ward migration of species is noticeable and their extinction rate is higher, human health, food and water security are at greater risk, crop yield variations are higher, a 19 cm mean sea rise and a 40% reduction in Arctic’s summer ice extent have occurred over the last century, glaciers have shrunk by 275 Gt per annum in the last two decades, and social conflicts have increased. Continue reading Climate Change – Keep the Climate, Change the Economy: Sagar Dhara
Guest post by SAGAR DHARA
On 2 Dec 1984, Bhopal’s unsuspecting population was hit in the stealth of the night by methyl isocyanate (MIC), a killer gas that leaked from the Union Carbide plant located on the northern edge of the city. The official immediate death toll was 2,259, though journalists estimated it to be thrice that number. Government of India now admits that the cumulative number of deaths is more than 20,000.
At first glance, the event looks like an engineering accident. Wash water seeped through a closed valve, got into MIC Tank 610 and triggered a runaway reaction that ruptured it and spilt 42 tonnes of MIC. Low wind speeds made the heavier-than-air gas cloud hug the ground at high concentrations as it drifted towards nearby slums. The highly corrosive gas caused massive edema in the lungs.
Economics is root cause for accident
The cause for the accident can be traced to low product sales that made the company disinvest in safety and environmental systems. Prior to 1980, Carbide formulated Sevin, a carbamate group pesticide, with imported chemicals at their Mumbai plant. Because of Sevin’s popularity, Carbide built a new plant in Bhopal to manufacture it. By then synthetic pyrethroids, the next generation pesticide, started pushing carbamates out of the Indian market. Consequently, the Bhopal plant never produced more than 50% of its installed capacity and its financial returns were unhappy. Continue reading Bhopal Victims Neglect a Consequence of Disinvestment and Low Value of Life: Sagar Dhara