SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT -A GANDHIAN APPROACH
(Acceptance speech given for Jamnalal Bajaj Award, November 6, 2001 at Mumbai)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation for giving me this prestigious award. It is an honor that I accept with gratitude and humility. I would also like to thank my present and past staff at NARI who have helped me in the work that the Foundation has honored.
Jamnalal Bajaj was a very
close associate of Gandhiji. To my mind Gandhiji’s ideas are more relevant
today than ever before, specially his philosophy of self-reliance and
decentralization. I feel his philosophy can show us the way for achieving
sustainable development and help make
The basis of all life is energy. Quality of life is
related to energy consumption. Majority of people who live in a developing
When there is a huge gap between demand and supply of
energy, there are possibilities of conflict and social strife. In coming years
this gap will increase, leading to worsening social situation in cities of
Quality of life in any country is a function of its
cumulative energy consumption E and its present per capita energy
consumption Epc. Cumulative
E reflects the energy that was spent in development of its
infrastructure. For historical reasons E was not available to developing
countries. Hence it is difficult to reach
The Gandhian energy model is difficult to achieve but we can strive for it. I also believe that all the societies in the world will eventually evolve according to the energy efficient model.
Hallmark of evolution of a system is its size reduction;
increase in energy usage efficiency; increase in complexity and its punctuated
equilibrium with its surroundings. All these also lead to sustainable
systems. Societies are like Prigogine's dissipative
structures and evolve depending on the quality and quantity of energy passing
through them. Sustainability demands that future sources of energy should be in
distributed form. Following this approach we can think that the future of all
societies will be decentralized, high technology-dependent and rural-based.
Intelligent and smart machines with strong man/machine
interaction may power the future production systems of rural
Sustainability is like a chair. Its four legs can be thought of as 4 E's: a) Energy; b) Economics; c) Environment; and d) Equity. All the four legs have to be equal for comfortable sitting and interconnected to provide stability. The base has to be of the right size. Too big a base will make the chair sag. Too small will make it unstable.
For a sustainable Indian Society, Taluka seems to form a right size. It's size lies between a small village and a megacity. All the above concepts can be incorporated in a Taluka model. Hence the focus should be on Taluka as a developmental unit. With Taluka level decentralized energy sources in place (they could either be based on biomass or any other renewable energy) there are possibilities of this model forming a basis of decentralized high technology societies.
Our institute NARI’s work in Phaltan Taluka has shown that it has enough biomass (as a by-product of food production) to produce from it, all its energy needs of electricity, liquid and gaseous fuels via high technological conversion systems. Our work has shown that small biomass based power plants of 10-15 MW capacity together with ethanol and pyrolysis oil production from sweet sorghum and agricultural residues can provide the required energy needs. Besides, a capital investment of Rs. 100 crores in these technologies, can provide 30,000 jobs to taluka residents and give the Taluka a net income of Rs. 200-300 crores/year. This model can therefore help stop the exodus of rural population to urban areas. Thus the 3500 odd talukas in the country have the potential of creating tremendous wealth in the countryside and can form the basis of food and energy security for the country. The Government can help by setting up a Taluka Development Corporation and should create conditions so that private sector can participate extensively in this venture. I also feel that a partnership between NGO's, Corporate sector and the Government can take this venture forward.
The creation of substantial wealth for the inhabitants of
a Taluka will lead to decentralization of economic and political power. This is
the best bet against economic deprivation, corruption and unaccountable ruling
elite. Development and democracy work best in decentralized power structure
– a message that was constantly preached by Gandhiji. Gandhiji gave us
freedom but I think, more than that, he gave the world a new thought of
self-reliance and Ahimsa. That has been a great tradition of
There seems to be a gloom in Indian society. Recent international events have exacerbated it. Yet we have most of the things in our country – our excellently trained people, land, resources and materials. Probably what we lack is leadership. I however feel that if we all pull ourselves together and try to solve our unique problems in our own decentralized Gandhian way then we can produce a sustainable society for 1/5th of mankind and show the world a new way.
I would again like to thank the Bajaj Foundation for honoring me.
©Anil K Rajvanshi, 2001