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Sudhirendar Sharma       Sudhirendar Sharma
Environmentalist, development analyst and columnist

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Flip Side

Faulty development policies and unabashed exploitation of natural resources make Sudhirendar Sharma worried about the future. He puts people before progress and never shies away from raising uncomfortable questions to the policymakers. Having a flair for words, he hits hard and on the spot.


To pee or not to pee
21 Apr 2013

Sustained pollution of major rivers; continuous decline in groundwater reserves; priority allocation to non-consumptive sectors; and, growing disparity in water distribution only indicates that the worst is still to come!

Making sense of growth
04 Apr 2013

There is too much focus on meeting requirements of organized sector but does it have the capacity to employ vast numbers labelled as 'unskilled' and dependent on vocations in the unorganised sector?

Thumbs down to microfinance!
12 Dec 2012

Despite generous support from policy makers, donor and private investors in recent years, the future of micro-finance continues to remain grim.

Yamuna may remain a sewer?
21 Nov 2012

In little over a century, the Yamuna has lost its 18 tributaries that used to carry surface flow from Aravalli slopes to enrich freshwater discharge into the river. To make matters worse, Delhi alone discharges 4,456 million litres of untreated and treated wastewater each day into Yamuna.

Toilet and the idea of a toilet
29 Oct 2012

Government officials and urban elites remain baffled by widespread open defecation despite several programmes and high subsidies to end the practice. Isn’t it time they think beyond aesthetics and hygiene and instead focus on psychology?

Milestone or Millstone?
03 Jul 2012

UNESCO's decision to include the Western Ghats to the World Heritage List has brought cheer to environmentalists. But since a heritage tag doesn't advocate a new legal framework to protect the designated property, putting all hopes on a heritage tag shall be erroneous.

MoEF: For environment or economy?
08 May 2012

Jairam Ramesh as environment minister constituted an expert panel to submit report on conservation of ecologically critical Western Ghats. But his successor Jayanthi Natarajan has decided against making the report public citing economic interests of concerned states.

Shut shop of MFIs
30 Jan 2012

For long, profit-obsessed microfinance institutions had a free run behind their stated ideal of providing micro-credit to the economically marginalised sections. However, they are in trouble now as governments have begun to realise that unrestrained MFIs are no better than the exploitative moneylenders.

Chocolates, diapers and Durban
09 Jan 2012

Notwithstanding the rigid stance of the rich industrialised countries in climate negotiations, the economic meltdown, rather than climate crisis, may eventually transform their citizens' carbon-intensive consumptive pattern.

Mullaperiyar: Lives or livelihoods?
22 Dec 2011

Nearly hundred large dams in the country are over a century old. Controversy over Mullaperiyar dam provides an opportunity to evolve legal and institutional mechanism to ensure the safety of people and all such structures.

Nothing green about 'green economy'
31 Oct 2011

Market forces are keen to put price tag on natural services but such an initiative can open a Pandora's Box of conflicting situations. Can we rule out trade-off in a capitalist market once nature and its services are commodified?

The business of knowledge
26 Sep 2011

In the race to keep pace with the educational imperatives of growing population can quality of education be allowed to be compromised? Prakash Jha's film Aarakshan takes a compelling dig against privatisation in education.

Greed eyeing green
16 Sep 2011

Is green capitalism a distraction from the real issues that the world needs to address to realize sustainable development?

Price-tag for ties with nature?
24 Aug 2011

By ignoring the cultural dimension of climate change adaptation, the capital centric efforts through economic valuation of nature and people's relations with it, will alter forever peoples' attitude towards it.

Carbon Crunching
06 Jul 2011

The World Bank has signed an agreement with the state government of Himachal Pradesh for the largest carbon revenue project. However, the conditions of the agreement indicate that instead of putting the carbon revenue mechanism to the competitive advantage of the stakeholders, such projects continue to serve the interest of the clients.

Ganga cleanup: Some unanswered questions
27 Jun 2011

The euphoria and cynicism generated by the World Bank's $1 billion loan is similar to the enthusiasm Rajiv Gandhi's Ganga Action Plan had generated in 1984. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Parliament had found in 2004 that Rs 960 crore spent on the project (till then) only ended-up increasing the level of pollution in the river.

Nations divide, rivers unite!
18 Jun 2011

Rivers in South Asia flow across national boundaries and therefore, neighbouring countries remain in dispute over the usage of flowing water. Absence of effective institutional mechanisms and political accord make it expedient to bind communities with common cultural threads using multiple cultural maps of South Asia, superimposed on the river basins.

Unhappy! So what?
31 May 2011

The social pressure to feel happy has made people more miserable. The market is the sole gainer of this desperate search for happiness, offering unending items and services to make the consumer feel better.

The sky isn't the limit
30 Mar 2011

Climate Change, reducing size of arable land and availability of freshwater have forced some thinkers to explore options of vertical farms. But the capital-intensive nature of farmscraper remains a major concern.

Diversity deprived education
16 Feb 2011

As the entire education system has remained urban centric and is now becoming globalised with textbooks heavily borrowing from the western ideas and terms, the majority of children in a vast and diverse civilisation like India do not feel any relationship with the content, leading to alienation of majority.

Macro design behind micro-finance
23 Jan 2011

Microfinance has emerged as a dubious construct of the financial markets to ensure high income on the otherwise useless capital. That the poor will be trapped in this treadmill of 'poverty capital' has always been part of the microfinance design.

Philanthrocapitalism often acts as a smokescreen to cover 'business-as-usual': Michael Edwards
15 Nov 2010

Business will achieve much more impact in the world by fixing itself than by trying to fix philanthropy and the not-for-profit sector, where it has little expertise or experience, says Michael Edwards to d-sector.

Use soap, even if it pollutes water!
15 Oct 2010

The handwashing campaign pushed by the international development agencies conveniently ignores the fact that contamination by soap will put additional stress on limited availability of clean drinking water and will leave poor more vulnerable to diseases.

'Right' is right but what is left...
24 Sep 2010

UN General Assembly in July 2010 adopted a resolution to recognize water as a fundamental human right, but does it make any difference to the nearly 900 million people without access to clean drinking water?

The Politics of Raajneeti
23 Jun 2010

Raajneeti is not an epic but a film that mirrors the political reality on one extreme and the masses disconnect with reality on the other. Behind its unexpected success lie its disturbing undercurrents.

My words, it's still fun!
05 Jun 2010

On the eve of the World Environment Day, Sudhirendar Sharma reminiscences personal account of environmental journalism of the past three decades. Self-critical and somewhat amusing, it unfolds many layers of what constitutes 'environment' and how indeed it has been perceived.

Does soccer give GDP a kick?
28 May 2010

People's sport football has come to symbolize political power, national pride and economic prowess. Can South Africa make expected socio-economic gains by hosting the world cup?

Nature's call isn't a dial away
30 Apr 2010

A recent UN report expresses surprise that India has more mobile phones than toilets but the fact remains that the issue of sanitation in India is more complex than viewed from the western perspective.

Not so well-intentioned welfare
12 Apr 2010

In Well Done Abba, Shyam Benegal deals with the serious issue of political economy in an entertaining way and leaves the viewer thinking about the manner our welfare machinery works.

Hydrological madness runs deeper
25 Mar 2010

With the world water day gone by and a hot summer in the waiting, the case of groundwater anarchy should be back into contention.

Art, science and commerce of Brinjal
08 Mar 2010

If a large section of mainstream media is to be believed India may soon witness mass hunger, demoralised scientists and economic recession if Bt brinjal is not allowed to be commercially cultivated.

Calendars speak for the commons
20 Jan 2010

The role of calendars has widened beyond commercials and now they convey crucial statements about social and cultural movements.

Nightmare on the road
28 Dec 2009

With increased influence of auto-industry over policy making, massive expenditures have been made to expand space for private cars. However, the near monopoly of car owners over road has not improved the transport either.

You can forget, internet won't!
23 Dec 2009

Psychologists believe that forgetting is good for mental health. But the expanding reach and capacity of information technology, particularly the internet, to store and remember all types of information can have critical consequences for humanity.

Consume, throw and then blame
09 Dec 2009

As rapidly growing mountains of trash raise a stink across the globe, it's time to discard the 'use and throw' culture which has no concern for environment and humanity.

No less than a coup
21 Oct 2009

In the revised and updated edition of "Big Business, Poor Peoples", John Madeley tells us how big corporates have used their might to influence international negotiations to sway government policies; and the poor of developing countries are paying the price.

Not so green legacy
06 Oct 2009

While Dr Norman Borlaug is revered for his contribution in bringing Green Revolution to India, one can't ignore the deterioration of the plant ecology and destruction to the environment due to excess chemical inputs used to increase yield.

Celebrate Corruption
02 Sep 2009

Despite sincere efforts of honest people and sufficient laws, corruption in India has reached all corners and acquired innumerable hues; still the majority doesn' seem to be bothered. Isn't it time to start celebrating the creativity behind corruption, instead of criticizing it in public and then indulging in it privately?

Naya Daur in New Age
15 Aug 2009

A movie like Naya Daur, first released in 1957, is still relevant to India more than four decades later for its gripping presentation of people v/s profit conflict.

'Out of toilet' solutions!
18 Jul 2009

Given our cultural history equating cleanliness to distancing of 'refuse' from human habitation, many Indians are not keen on using the toilet. But then toilets offer no better solution if the municipal sewage continues to contaminate our shrinking water resources!

Food Security Act: Implementation, not intention, holds the key
09 Jul 2009

India may soon have a right-to-food Act to ensure that everyone in the country gets sufficient food to eat. But will this Act fulfill our long cherished dream to feed the hungry or end up as another failure like Public Distribution System ?

Need for a Ministry of Development Impact
01 Jul 2009

Since the planners are primarily concerned about faster growth, post-project assessment of current development can only help us understand the real value of environment.

Development at discretion of MPs
23 Jun 2009

Since its launch in 1993, the MPLAD scheme has remained controversial amid charges of corruption and inefficiency; still the new government wants to increase the annual allocation from Rs 2 crore to Rs 5 crore.

Environmental costs of transporting water
05 Jun 2009

With increased emphasis on fulfilling individual requirement for water, the ecological impact of water transfer from distant sources is not taken into consideration.

 

 

 

Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

Lead View
People, Partition and the Pain
By Rina Mukherji
15 Aug 2013

Dr Jayanti Basu's book analyzes the complex feelings of hatred and longing for the homeland that have contributed to shaping the personalities of a generation of people who were forced to ..
Book Shelf

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