We need not have gone to the World Bank
IT IS TIME the government of India set up a high-powered committee of experts to take a decision on the Narmada project. As far as the work on the project is concerned, I frankly cannot say whether the work should be stopped. It is a very technical matter and experts alone can make a sound judgement on that.
I have not read the Morse report, but going by the methods usually employed by agencies like the World Bank and the IMF, I think the whole exercise was to coerce India to toe the World Bank line meekly. I think the World Bank may have set up this committee to threaten India and stop funding the project. The present government is so desperate to get money from them that such indirect threats work.
I think the game plan of the World Bank has succeeded because the whole debate on the Narmada dams has come to centre around what the bank may choose to do, as if we have no say in the whole matter. In a way, it amounts to compromising India's national sovereignty. But then as long as we decide to live on borrowed means, we have to suffer all this. What I find most strange is that the government is not upset at all about this whole thing.
The only way to put an end to all this is to put our own house in order. We are so rich in our resources that we really do not need to accept unfair terms set by others. I also think that there should be a global body to evaluate projects with major environmental and ecological ramifications. But the body should have fair representation from the developing world and it should have the authority to judge the developed countries' projects as well.
---A Farooqi is a member of the CPI.