After the European Union and the USA spelled their plan for a new green deal, it is important that India incorporates a green program that tries to minimize environmental degradation and provide a more sustainable growth model. The Pandemic is a golden opportunity to consider the idea of Rainbow new Deal put forth by some environmental activists.
What is Rainbow New Deal (RND)?
- The Rainbow New Deal is a concept put forward by Indian Environmentalists which calls for seamless integration of ecological protection and tackling of wealth inequality and economic vulnerability of several hundreds of millions of people.
- It consists of sustainable use of forests, oceans, rivers, natural deserts, and mountains in an environmentally sound and economically equitable way.
- It is similar to the US plan of the Green New Deal which seeks to address both climate change and economic inequality simultaneously and in an integrated manner.
- The European Green Deal put forth by the European Union talks about achieving climate neutrality by 2050.
Why there is a need for RND?
- The dominant view on development has been that it consists of material well-being based on consumption through industrial and financial expansion.
- Measured in Gross Domestic Product, per capita income, it led to an unhindered and dangerous path of ecological destruction. While it led to ecological destruction on large scale, the fruits of this growth were monopolized and the inequality in the world rose exponentially.
- India too has been following this model after independence, more so since the 1990s. It has produced similar results of ecological degradation and rising inequality in society.
- If we look at the figures from India, the issues will be clear to understand.
- More than 5.5 million ha. Forest land has been diverted in the last 60 years with 10% of wildlife threatened with extinction.
- More than 60% of the land has been degraded
- More than 70% of water bodies are polluted or drained out
- 40% of the Mangroves have been destroyed.
- India contains 15% of the world’s most polluted cities
- All the above figures have impacted the livelihood of 400 million people.
- 1991-onwards, 90% of the new jobs were in the informal sector
- Inequality figures suggest that 5% of Indians earn as much as the rest 95%.
- The below poverty line figures suggest we have around 40 crore people under it.
- The decrease in agricultural productivity where half of the working population is engaged has been one of the defining features.
- The displacement of over 60 million people due to developmental projects including the forest dwellers has been an important negative aspect of the development model.
- The ongoing Pandemic has been harsh on these people exactly who have been devastated by the lockdown.
- COVID-19 is undoubtedly a public health catastrophe and certainly calls for enhanced investments in research and development that impinges directly on public health. But more fundamentally, the pandemic reflects fundamental ecological disequilibrium.
- Evidence has accumulated that loss of biodiversity and ever-increasing human incursions into the natural world have contributed heavily to the outbreak and spread of epidemic diseases.
- COVID-19 also reinforces the need to pay far greater attention to the biosciences that underpin agriculture, health, and the environment that are going to be profoundly impacted by the current pandemic.
- There is also robust scientific evidence to show, for instance, how air pollution exacerbates the impacts of COVID-19.
- We live in a world where climate change is a reality. No longer can we argue about uncertainties in the monsoon, the frequency of extreme events, the retreat of the Himalayan glaciers, and the increase in mean sea levels.
- So, it is high time that we need a new development model but what is needed immediately is a comprehensive recovery action plan that integrates human livelihood, economic justice, and ecological balance.
What the RND would include?
- The RND is a wholistic idea based on Mahatma Gandhi’s idea of Swaraj which entails self-reliant village economies. It is a socio-economic revolution that includes issues from ecology to gender. The main constituents are as follows
Balancing economy with ecology
- There is a need to move towards a sustainable livelihood model that is rooted in ecological harmony. The Balance would bring in economic justice along with ecological regeneration.
- The nearly 200 million small farmers, pastoralists, and fishers can be enabled to sustain or switch to organic, ecologically sustainable production, with their own food security as the highest priority, and with local marketing links.
Reorientation in lifestyle
- RND envisages a lifestyle that is rooted in environment with major needs of food, medicine, household, and a sustainable livelihood from natural ecosystems.
- If we take an example of just forest-based livelihood, it can support around 100 million people.
Capitalizing on Local skill base
- RND will entail reviving and sustaining India’s diversity of crafts and decentralized production of most goods and services across villages and towns.
- This will need a massive investment in the small and medium enterprises. This would gainfully employ nearly 200 million people.
- The MGNREGA could be re-oriented and extended to include such public goods and services produced in local small industries.
Massive Social Sector spending
- To do away with inequality, India needs a massive investment in public health, education, housing, transportation, and other basic needs.
- If these are run in a decentralized way, with appropriate training, they could generate many more millions of jobs.
The same could be for other services like digital networks and communications, as also decentralized infrastructure development by worker collectives
- Giving equal opportunities and empowerment of women and LGBTQ+ communities will be an important aspect of RND.
- The traditional craft and skill industry have been dependent on skilled women from time immemorial. Capitalizing on that would be very empowering for about half of the total workforce in India.
Social Justice in RND
- The RND will consist of a plan for social justice and equality for the marginalized section such as lower castes, Dalits, tribals, landless, etc.
- The land reforms and forest rights act may be a great tool to achieve these objectives.
- Many successful initiatives are already working such as the Menda lekha project. We need to expand the ideas to make them work on a country-wide basis.
- For all the above to happen, we must look beyond the popular idea of development. The industrialization and MNC culture must be reviewed for its real efficacy.
- As we go to be Atmanirbhar, there is an emphasis on greater exploitation of natural resources. The Coal mining that is to happen now onwards is in the ecologically sensitive area.
- There must be more focus on Handmade in India rather than Made in India. Soap, footwear, furniture, clothes, energy, and myriad other items of everyday use can be produced by community-run units across the country.
- Suresh Chhanga, sarpanch of Kunariya village in Kachchh in Gujarat, proposed that they can save ₹ 40 lakh a month on such items by producing them locally.
- Elango Rangasamy, former Dalit sarpanch of Kuthambakkam village in Tamil Nadu, proposes a ‘network economy’, in which clusters of villages can be self-reliant for most basic needs, and exchange with neighboring clusters what they cannot produce or grow
- Ela Bhatt, founder of SEWA, has proposed the ‘100-mile radius’ as a region within which the objective of self-reliance can be met.
What are the benefits of such RND?
- The Rainbow New Deal is an idea that hopes for a substantive re-orientation of the concept of development. It has great benefits if applied to India’s developmental strategy.
- The RND will provide a dignified, local and sustainable livelihood to the people of India.
- By integrating the economy with ecology, it can materialize the sustainable development concept in the truest sense.
- It capitalizes upon the traditional skill base of India and creates the potential for a Brand India with unique sustainable natural products.
- By finding solutions to daily needs in natural resources, it negates many industrial products such as plastic, chemical products that are harmful to human and ecological life.
- It entails a component of social justice through gender justice, empowerment of socially marginalized communities like tribals and Dalits, and bring them into a productive economic supply chain.
- It gives a programmatic shape to the Gandhian ideas of back to Villages by making them self-reliant economies that could propel development and national product through the hub and spoke model. It also entails his idea of the dignity of labor when it puts handicrafts as an important component of economy and growth.
- Essentially, if RND is implemented, it will usher in a unique yet rooted orientation to the popular concept of economic growth and pave way for a sustainable Indian future.
What are the government programs that inculcate the values of RND?
- India has been a vocal supporter and active partner in the realization of sustainable development goals that are to be achieved before 2030.
- India has pledged its support to the Paris Climate deal and decided to reduce its fossil fuel dependence.
- India is massively invested in solar projects and leading world movement in the form of an international solar alliance.
- The solar sector has the potential of heavy lifting when it comes to India’s energy needs and can provide around 70,000 direct and indirect jobs.
- The schemes like Stand-up India are examples of the empowerment of the marginalized section through the provision of easy loans for their entrepreneurial ventures.
- The Vocal for Local campaign encourages businesses to go for local products and artifacts instead of big multinational brands. It is a part of Atmanirbhar Bharat which calls for making India self-reliant.
- The Schemes like USTTAD and Hunar Se Rozgar Tak are important push for traditional industry.
- The Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana focuses on Organic farming practices that help sustainable agricultural practices.
- The Aspirational District program is envisaged to take the development to the most underdeveloped districts. It focuses closely on improving people’s health and nutrition, education, financial inclusion, basic infrastructure, etc.
- The forest rights act is an important tool for tribal development that is rooted in their own lifestyle through land and other economic rights. It has been a reversal from what the British system created- an exploitative model that denies tribals their traditional rights.
- Indian developmental model has a critical component in local self-help groups and cooperative societies which work on rural development based on local industries.
- The RND will be successful only if we make fundamental changes in our developmental planning.
- We need to move away from Washington Consensus-based neo-liberal growth model and towards the traditional industry-based ecologically sustainable development model.
- India has many existing local models that can be implemented. One such model is the Kudumbashree in Kerala and Jharcraft in Jharkhand. These models show how they can be significantly scaled with state support.
- Such a massive reorientation would need huge investments in public health and health research, education, etc.
- As can be seen, India already has many programmes for distinct components of RND. The need is to approach in an integrated way as envisaged by the RND.
- Economist Prabhat Patnaik suggests that a wealth redistribution model is necessary for India. a mere 2% wealth tax coupled with a 33% inheritance tax on the richest 1% of India could generate more revenue than the total recovery package the Government of India announced in May 2020.
- The scientific evidence with COVID-19 linking with Air pollution must push the government towards climate action and pollution control.
- The existing mechanisms by the government can be tweaked for their compliance with the RND and can be made implementable.
- Indian Constitution calls for the Gandhian model of development through the directive principle of state policy.
- The pandemic and climate change have created never before the need for implementation of these directive principles of village-based cooperative industries that are ecologically sustainable and economically equitable.
The Pandemic has provided an opportunity for India and the world to reconsider their developmental strategy. More so for India, which is home to around 400 million poor and socio-economically backward population, it is an opportunity to rethink its recovery strategy. With Atmanirbhar Bharat being implemented, it needs an ecological tweak to make it more sustainable for the future. The Rainbow Recovery plan is a model to be considered in such an endeavor.
Practice Question for Mains
The pandemic has provided a chance for India and the world to reorient their developmental strategy. Suggest measures to make development more sustainable. (250 words)