Financing For Indigenous People, Land Reforms And Protection Of
Forests And Other Natural Ecosystems in India - Part II
By Anandi Sharan
18 June, 2016
Other than the fact that elections are being conducted it cannot be said that there is Government in India. The upper caste, which constitutes barely 5 to 7% of the population of the country, has hijacked it.
In 2015 2 crore Indians travelled abroad, or around1.6% of the population. If each of these 2 crore people had one crore in cash then this 1.6% of the population would have had command over all the 1.34 crore crores GDP in the country. Obviously this is not quite right. But even if they each only has half a crore each on average, it leaves only 0.7 crore crores for 120 crore people, which is just Rs 56’000 each for everyone else in 2015. If these rest of the people earn Rs 17’000 in the market economy somehow, that means around Rs 39’000 per person for this balance population comes from Government: the Union budget this year was Rs 13525 for every Indian barring those 2 crore who travel abroad. And a typical State budget per person was Rs 25534 in Karnataka in 2016.
This explains why the Union budget in 2015-2016 for the NREGA was only 34’000 crores for the country, and why people in rural areas and the majority of the population in cities have suffered a collapse of health and wellbeing. There are no funds for any public expenditure in India. Considering the ecology and environment has also collapsed this is a disaster of unprecedented magnitude.
The Green India Mission had promised to spend Rs 46,000 crore for 10 million ha of land to be reforested with NREGA money. But that turned out to be fiction. Because of lack of money only half the number of employment days were generated in NREGA in 2014-15 compared to 2009-2010. But NREGA is not supposed to have an upper limit on funds provided the states demand the funds. In 2014 the number of days was increased to 150 for tribals. In 2016 it was increased to 150 days for drought prone areas. But in reality 70% of workers had delayed payments, and the NREGA stopped working in many States. (See article by Ankita Aggarwal in May 2016 EPW). “When funds dried up towards the end of that financial year, workers were denied work without any compensation in the form of unemployment allowance.” (Ankita Aggarwal, p.38).
Labourers get such inadequate or no wages they are forced to eat food from the public distribution system. In 2016 nearly half the children in India are underweight or stunted. From 1990 to 2015 236.3 million children below the age of five died.
In such a serious ecological and humanitarian catastrophe it does not make sense to carry on with this present political system. A new approach is needed that builds up a person’s livelihood by giving them undisturbed occupation of land, regular wages under NREGA and technical support to make annual village plans. The main element of this new approach has to be access to land and to money creation. We need Gram Sabhas to own the land so that outsiders cannot grab it and families must be supported to continue or be given new land to work according to a common plan to the extent needed. In those places where common land restoration needs to be done there needs to be Gram Sabhas with untied funds that can make money circulate amongst everyone in a village, trading food and craft products and services with each other. Districts, Taluks, and Gram Panchayats need untied funds for the 29 line activities they are supposed to take care of, which means hospitals, schools, irrigation and drinking water, power and other energy services, social forests and management of community assets and welfare of the physically and mentally handicapped amongst other things.
Though the Scheduled Tribes And Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition Of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 came into effect in 2007 out of 107 million Adivasis only 1.7 million family and community rights have been vested. The full number should be more like 20 million. The Gram Sabhas that are given the rights and responsibilities over recognizing rights and then looking after the forest and the ecology in their jurisdiction have no funds with which to train and appoint people to carry out the work.
Why can the Government of India not boost local markets with an injection of money so that all the tasks needed to ensure survival with dignity can be carried out? The Fiscal Management and Budget Responsibility Act must be urgently scrapped. Government should create money electronically at the local level for all families and all local Governments and send coins and notes for added currency.
In this context the financing mechanisms under the three Environment Treaties of the United Nations are irrelevant both in terms of quantum of money and even more so in terms of the ideological apparatus that comes along with the meager quantum of money. The Green Climate Fund wants to disburse 1 or 2 billion USD in 2016, say ten thousand crores to 180 odd developing countries. The Global Environment Facility that is the financing mechanism for the CBD and the UNCCD has even less. The purpose in life of the GEF is to “leverage” money from development banks, by paying for that part of a project that does not provide national benefit but rather something plucked out of thin air that the GEF calls “global benefit”(but which in any case is actually probably illegal under the Conventions). In a book called “World in Transition, Fighting Poverty through Environmental Policy”, the German Advisory Council on Global Change quantified the fund transfers happening and thought the GEF had received and spent around 1 billion USD from 1990 to 2010 for the CBD and the UNCCD, the World Bank around 18 billion and so on. IUCN calculated that in 2015 under GEF 6 the total money for CBD was 1296 million USD.
On the other hand India’s Intended Nationally Determined Actions may cost the country 2 trillion USD in the next ten years. And what about India’s own plans in health, family welfare, education, and all the normal stuff of government? It is very weird when the industrialised countries start wanting to stuff nutrition, health, education, gender rights, family welfare and all the other normal government services into a co-funded environment project as a co-benefit. Something is very wrong with all this, especially when the industrialised countries continue to promote industrial production that causes the emission of greenhouse gases in developing countries in the name of development to service the overconsumption in the industrialised countries.
India cannot afford to wait till the US Empire and western civilisation collapses before picking itself up and going it alone. Too many are starving. The time to chuck out the upper castes and make India fit for purpose is now.
And a final note for today, today on World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought Canadarejoined the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. The Harper government had dropped out to save money. Now the Trudeau government is back in. What’s in it for them? Well, it probably looks good to appear charitable. They are putting $216 million into the so-called GEF replenishment, the main funding channel of the UNCCD and the CBD, making Canada the sixth-largest donor.MeanwhileCanada like the US and the other industrialised countries continues to be in breach of all three Conventions by damaging the environment of other States by mining, emitting Greenhouse Gases, tourism and export of uranium amongst other things emanating from within their jurisdiction. “We are committed to joining world action on climate change, land degradation and desertification,” they cried.
Part III of Financing For Indigenous People, Land Reforms And Protection Of Forests And Other Natural Ecosystems in India follows tomorrow
Anandi Sharan is a historian and blogger based in Bangalore. She was at one time running an NGO funded by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Clean Development Mechanism to pay for biogas plants and improved cookstoves in Kolar District and some Photovoltaic Lights in Tumkur District. Now she is a board member for a two year term of the Convention on Biodiversity Alliance. She also has a consultancy assignment to provide photovoltaic lighting systems for an NGO in Araria District. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.