Field work and its shades of emotions

Field Work, interviewing a natural farmer in his shop, while he sells his non-chemical vegetable produce from his small outlet in Tanjavur

Interview with Murugan, a natural farmer in his vegetable shop

I usually try to keep my emotions aside when writing posts here at the TMN wordpress. But I have been flooded by many emotions during the field visit and also day after it. But I think emotions have been fundamental in most of the decisions I have made , especially regarding my career, work or study. I have never been practical , i.e. I never calculate “return on investment” on any activity of my life. Field visits have always made me more sensitive. But this time around the experience was very intense. I don’t know why! I am  unable to point to, what is ,what is it that I am experiencing. But , back in the city listening to myself complaining about the weather and other petty things , I  feel irritated. I want to hold on to those feelings evoked in the field even in my very urban and comfortable surroundings. I also feel lost in the city and there is a deep yearning  to  go back to places of feeling sensitive and being receptive and taking things as they come with little judgements.  This is a repetitive experience. I am trying to write down here to reflect, become aware and be conscious of the internal process.

I am back from the field visit from south of Tamil Nadu, in Thanjavur, I am lost. Its been more than 10 days away from this city and I feel lost. I am frozen. Going into field and begining work in different geography and in the rural setting happens quite seamlessly. But the switch from rural to urban settings takes effort. A conscious effort. At least one day goes in trying to understand the trouble in switching to the routine of the city.

As I try to gather myself to do work and study, I am trying to catch hold of some of the myriads of feelings that have engulfed me.

The lady : This time around in my field visit for my dissertation I had a lady volunteer come along with me from the day one until I finished it to help me get to all the farmers I had to interview. She was doing such efficient coordination, my work got done seamlessly. I was weighed down by the sense of gratitude towards her, the way she took interest and facilitated in meeting the farmers. I was so weighed down by this help of hers, I cried. I cried thanking her by the end. Just the way she was, made me wonder , if I will ever be like her ever. Offering to a cause with such dedication and intensity although it may not mean much to me. It looks like she was having a beautiful experience just being involved, although the task she was up to may or may not be of much consequence to her endeavors.

It was hot and satisfying:, 40 degree Celsius in the region, we were on a motorcycle, going from farmer to farmer meeting, interviewing and taking notes. It was tiring, physically fatiguing. On top of this I was also menstruating in this period. This was making the effort even more physically taxing. But I was satisfied, by the end of everyday, I was dead from work . What better way to end a day other than getting worn out by work!

The farmers:  were so generous with time and their offering us food, whatever they had to eat themselves, coconut water, buttermilk, bananas, and what not. This was as a part of interactions for my research where I am trying to understand the math of what farmers earn from toiling on their small land in a year.  I have not known anyone of them from before, this was the first time I am meeting them all.But without fail every one of them was offering something for us to eat or drink. One farmer meets me in between selling his fresh vegetable produce and answers my questions in the gaps between his customers, handing us some bananas to in between all the questioning. Another mechanic-farmer meets us in between his shop hours and answers patiently and shares his passion for the farming and pulls out and shows excitedly book by Fukuako’s natural farming, saying he wants to move to that form of farming next.  These people have small pieces of land,  3 acers or 4 acers. Not much really. But they have a passion to do something right. They are patient enough to share their experience between their business hours too.

Some of us may want to rationalize their willingness to meet me as a “small town phenomenon” or a “village phenomenon” where people from these regions are happy to meet us because we are from the “CITIES”. But this rationalization of the behavior can’t explain all aspects of their behavior, but the element of curiosity alone.

The hosts: I was living in a household of a doctor-teacher couple, who hosted me and took care of me so well. This is the first time I am meeting them. When in field, all of us know, a place to rest and write by the end sometimes is a luxury. They gave me a room for the entire period of stay. They were happy to host me, just because I was studying farming and its viability etc. Again I was feeling overwhelmed by the ease with which they let me into their house and handed me their house keys without batting an eye lid.

This is a repeated experience with my work, especially in rural areas. People are generous and welcoming and caring. Whereas they need not be this way. There is certain amount of guilt for getting the hospitality from the people who are vulnerable than myself. I don’t know if I can really work towards addressing even part of ONE of the issues they face.

Can I be at peace if I get all this support for my field work by paying up the services I received from the lady, farmer to the hosts? I don’t think so, even then  I can be at peace. Even I were to pay for all these services, their way of being kind and generous in non material aspects cant be paid for at all, this was the majority portion of what these people offered.These people are doing whatever they are doing without any expectation.

When I turn back look at all my visits in the past, I see there are so many people, so many of them who have made my work happen seamlessly over the years. I am weighed down heavily by all their support over these years. I don’t know, how to go abut this feeling. The feeling of indebtedness, the feeling of guilt of not having done enough, the feeling of wanting to do all the wrong right.

All of these feelings eventually are forgotten when the awkwardness of the cities is eroded by daily living in it. I wish I don’t forget the generosity of all the people and just do my work even more sincerely and meticulously and be of some consequence to all the effort and help offered by so many people. I want to wake up everyday with a sense of gratitude and love and devotion to all of the people who have come to nurture me in so many ways. I would rather want this sense of gratitude to drive me to do my best, to do what is possible.  I sincerely want to give my best. Lets see how long this bout of gratitude from the field remains.

To be at ‘IT’ incessantly

I am being brutally honest in this post about my struggles to get back to a piece of work after a break from it due to other engagements. I end up spending hours or sometimes days gathering myself to get back myself on track with the work. Many times there are some clogs, unrelated to the job, but they really clog the mind from working on the task at hand. These clogs could be as mundane as gathering all bills or invoices together or a bike maintenance appointment I wanted to finish before getting back to the task or cleaning up the  worktable or simply make a painting or clean the cupboard or unpack and wash clothes from a trip or finishing up a long pending salon appointment. It  could be any one of these or combination of these. If I am unconscious of that clog, I take days at times to unclog my mind.

The unclogging process usually doesn’t happen by itself all the time. If I take the time on my return trip back  ( literally or metaphorically ) to my old job, to reflect on what is coming next, then things happen smooth like a flowing river. If I end up being sick or zapped after the assignment, I forget or run little bandwidth to reflect and I come all constipated mentally to the previous job. Then I seek seek inspiration. This is a conscious or a deliberate process. Where I question why I am doing what I am doing, what is the “purpose” of it, and try put a face to it. A face like this one below. I tell myself if I do my job right there is a possibility that this face can be affected positively. And the choice of not working on cutting edge technology firm or a engineering firm was to see that face smile.

Kids across are adorable. She was just going about her business of playing and being curious around us yesterday while we were going about our work. This village was recovering from #earthquake and many houses had moved into tin recovery shelters. The #sc

A child from a earthquake affected village. She knows none of the troubles of all that. You want those eyes to remain happy! Dont you?

Nepal, my Observations


A school under reconstruction post the 2015 earthquake, photo from a visit in  Feb 2017

I have been thinking to write my thoughts about this country Nepal. I have visited this country number of times for different purposes- treks, pilgrimage, family trip and just as a youngster with cash enough to explore a new country which suited my pocket.  Because of all these visits I have always been dove-eyed about this country. I have always appreciated warm, strong , welcoming Nepalese people and have been awed by the strength of the hill people.hey fly through the hills while we plain people huff and puff.  The tile and brick  building architecture, the streets of Thamel with all the gears- name any company from across the globe, the old ways of greeting people, the culture of following the old hindu calendar, the apparent harmonious presence of hinduism and buddhism and what not.

While a colleague here writes about the policy landscape of the country, I would like to reflect on seeing this country while traveling around on work.


Durbar Square, Feb 2017

Most development work driven by grants: I am living in India, a developing nation or a middle income country based on which ever terminology one wants to use. I am looking at Nepal from a lens that is not developed but not really “under developed” as well. It was quite fascinating to see that the sizes of the budgets; to lay roads or water pipelines; for this country mostly comes from multilateral grants rather than their own tax payer money. Also the quantum of operating budget the government departments responsible for delivering basic services is too low. The 4 way junctions have boards saying ” From the people of Japan”, the main highways that act as arteries to the country is from Japan International Cooperation Agency, some water project in the hills is from a Norwegian fund, the main outer ring road of Kathmandu is from a world bank money and built by a Chinese company. Restoration of earthquake affected architecture is also supported by some Japanese funding.

Election driven by international aid: May be its my ignorance about LDCs, but this one came as a surprise to me. Yes, I have read about external funding of elections in Sudan, but I never expected this to be the case for Nepal. What will be the percentage of democracy that will pan out with a country’s election being funded by external agencies. These agencies are not answerable to any people of any other country too. This is influencing  the country’s fate at a very different level with no accountability or answerability by these agencies.

Tourist driven: For me it is interesting to find snickers, variety of international brand of beers, and many other international products find their way from Kathmandu, Pokhara and all the up to Annapurna Base Camp and all the villages that dot the trekking routes. The trails to treks are well paved, exactly they are all paved with well laid stones all the way to the camps. If given a chance they will pave it with the stones even up to the hostile peaks of Himalayas. Although tourism contributes to less than 5% of the economy, there is a heavy focus on this sector.

Upper himalayan region bias vs Terai region ( more like the plain regions): In India the development and attention of the governments usually is more to the plain regions than the hill regions. I always thought the reasons for this could be : logic of number of people reached with a given budget and easy of implementation. In the case of Nepal the focus is upper Himalayan  communities and the communities in the Terai region are neglected.  This challenges my understanding, and makes me wonder why? Few of the reasoning why this could be from what I observed are:

  • First one, Nepal and its image to the granting/aid agencies is that of the Himalayan country, so agencies want to fund the so called Himalayan areas , which are difficult to work in too. “A village nestled in some high hilly region, where some meaningful work got done” makes a pretty picture.
  • Second one, because the hills are what tourist get to, the government also wants to pay attention to the upper regions first.
  • The terai region people have little  representation in Kathmandu, in the government, in the aid sector. The number of aid agencies working in Terai region is far less than the ones working in upper Himalayan region.  Thus funds do not get channelized to this region.

Natural disaster distracting long term development work: Himalayas is one of the most volatile of geographies. Natural disaster of some form or the other keep happening all the time. The country has almost no contingency plan to address disasters if and when they happen. This haphazardness actually stalls and affects the other development work that should have been continues in spite of the disasters. The bandwidth allocation of work gets skewed with most of the money and human resource getting diverted to address effects of natural disaster and the other unaffected  regions hence suffer.

Aid sector is mature, but is driven by funders at every level: In a LDC its not a surprise that aid sector and INGOs are present in good numbers and almost work like governments and are mature in their operations. But the INGOs drive every aspect of all the programs they implement through local NGOs. There is very little capability with the local NGOs.They only do the job of taking orders and doing whatever is told to them by their funders.

Heavily primary sector driven : The country has almost very little secondary or tertiary sector. Most of their vehicles ( cars, trucks, bikes, vans ) come mostly from India and China and people end up paying almost 100% import duty on it.

Air pollution in Kathmandu

Air pollution in Kathmandu is just out of control: Kathmandu’s air is now rated one of the most highly polluted in the world. While on one side the city establishment is rushing to finish the 15 year old Melamchi water supply  project , on the other side the Chinese company is rushing to finish paving the outer ring roads. I keep wondering and worrying about  what is going to come of generation of toddlers who are born and raised in such dusty conditions early in their life.

In short, after visiting this country on work, I don’t know if I can still be dove-eyed about it all and enjoy the snow peaks like my friends who visit this country for its natural beauty and adventure sport. But, having visited the country enough number of times in my twenties, I would like to see it stabilize and achieve better living conditions for its people.

What has Social sciences exposure done to an engineer!

I have not followed the  elections this time around as usual. The news articles on who won, who lost and who is appointed as a Chief Minister in all these states. A friend ( Suhas)follows all election results with devotion. When I say devotion  what it means is,staying in front of the TV flipping news channel after news channel. If it takes a leave from work for this, he shall do that or more. in my case,  I stay a little far from all of this. I know I can get charged up and gets really fiery if I participate in these things.

But, see now that I am in a law school where all the students are studying law, they write emails freely airing their opinion on politics, policies and everything related to governance. Somehow these would-be lawyers from this elite school have this sense of know it all from reading news papers, sometimes its so apparent to someone like me how off they are on their understanding of realities.

I sought an exposure to social sciences as I felt my understanding of grassroot work from work is no more enough. If the work has to be lasting and be done at scale, I needed a different knowledge base. Its been a rewarding experience with social sciences.

But sometimes I wonder why did I set out to study public policy. There are not many instances of this, but there definitely are some instances when I feel strongly and ask myself ” Why did I call upon myself this course?”. I am writing this post while I go through an email chain with comments from the students airing their opinion on the newly designated Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. The comments on him are so negative. I am not saying that person is a favorable one for the post. His past records have no reason for anyone to believe that he will be a “good” man.

I was talking to a friend here about giving a chance to this new CM of Uttar Pradesh and ended up having a heated argument. When we stretch it further and breath governance and politics day in and out, it leaves one really polarized. It leaves one really cynical, bitter, enraged. Why do we study all forms of social sciences, is it not to understand the society better, is it not to address the issues in the society better, is it not to make some progress ?

When we read, form opinions and discuss things as a social science person, I feel fatigued in the process, let alone contribute to anything positive. I started out as an engineer in awe of people from social sciences, now I feel I was better of having my head in the ground working on solutions without really spending all my mind in understanding the “social fabric”, “political context” and yada yada yada….

I know we human beings are not objective beings, we are mostly formed by the things we are exposed to, by the things we see, we learn, we read. But why does the thoughts and all things of my mind become so big and so important compared that we begin to harbor such ill feeling of rage, anger, of superiority that we forget the larger scheme of things and much important fact that this time on earth is not for ever. Why can the discourses come from a place of respect of acceptance of the other view. I know its so easy to speak stuff like it, because when someone disagrees with me with condesension, I only stoop lower by trying to trivialize that point of view.

I want to go back to being a engineer, may be a  positive policy engineer or a happy society engineer. May sound naive, but its such a beautiful place when everyone sports a smile on face and try to work on hard issues but still smile and be hopeful. Smile , be the smile engineer. Lets all try and be the smile engineer.

In the Himalayas!


Starting from today we ( a colleague and I ) get on a trip to Nepal to see the ways of working in the Himalayan country and see how we could contribute to better the situation of water and sanitation in the mountains. Coincidentally, I happen to visit few villages in Uttarakhand few days ago as a part of my policy internship with Tata Trust. The purpose of the visit was to understand the challenges in the Himalayan state in provisioning water and sanitation to its people, especially in the rural areas. The villages I visited are the areas where Himmotthan works. Himmottthan, a nonprofit organization working for the development of Himalayan states.The visit was facilitated by the WASH team (Vinod, Dr. Sunesh, Malvika and other field members) at Himmotthan. I learnt a lot, thanks to the team and their work. I thought it will be useful to reflect on the time in Uttarakhand as it shares some similarities to Nepal, especially due to their shared geography and hydro-geology and ecology.

Larger context (to my profession at present) : To be honest, I have experienced saturation in learning from work in the water and sanitation sector in India. The pace at which my lessons were happening has flattened out. Especially from the field side the lessons have begun to become repetitive. But the gap in service delivery still remains. The efforts from the field front are a stop-gap solution. The ways charities can have higher impact is to showcase best efforts in addressing the WASH service delivery gap to governments. By this means they could assist the governments in quality scale up of the context specific solutions from their partners in the field.

Visit to Uttarakhand: I visited Himmotthan’s WASH vertical and interacted with the team there and also visited few villages in the region to understand their work in provisioning WASH in remote villages of the state. The following are the set of challenges along with the uniformly present challenges for WASH across India:

  • 4 times more expensive than plains: The cost of providing WASH per person in the hills is at least 4 times that of what it takes to provision W ASH to people in the plains. This is because of the lack of road connectivity and difficulty geographical terrain which can never be addressed. Along with difficulty terrain it is also the frequent landslides and earth quakes, makes providing a permeant road infrastructure in the region near impossible. This means the transport of the raw materials for provisioning Water facilities and toilets has to be done using men and mules. This costs a lot.
  • Source of water: The source of water to provide drinking water access in the region is springs. These are form of ground water too. But the source is so fragile that, it dries up when the catchment is tampered with either due to anthropogenic effect or due to natural phenomenal like landslides or earthquakes. (As I write this post, there was a news only 12 hours ago about earthquake in Uttarakhand).
  • Lack of springs in the National Water Policy: Springs as a source of water, do not even have a mention in the National Water Policy of India. While springs are a form of ground water resource, there is very little acceptance at the policy and bureaucracy level about them being a ground water resource that needs regulation too.
  • Ground Water Regulation Unlike the case of rivers, lakes and other surface water bodies, ground water in India is yet to be regulated. And even if ground water gets regulated, springs is not accepted as a ground water source until now. At present in India grond water regulations are in the making. But the present form of regulation reads as follows (oversimplified!): Anyone who owns a piece of land, owns the water under it.
  • Springs -Forest-Land entwined complexity: In Uttarakhand around 85% of state is reserve forest. And of the total reserve forest, 75% of the forest is owned by the government. And many times the spring source of water that can be used to provide water in a village falls in the reserve forest. To get access to the reserve forest and augment, secure the source is a uphill task in itself. The forest departments in India have not been very famous for their cooperation with any of the other departments This is the case across the country.
  • Sustenance budgeting- This aspect of any development project has been for ever neglected in the discourses on performances of Charities and also government. Once a facility is installed, the village that has been provided access goes out of the list of needy ones, and it is assumed that it will remain to the case for ever. A very important issue in non-governmental programs implementing provisions of access to services is getting communities interested and committed to the maintenance of systems installed. IRC’s study on this specific aspect on ” what does it take (both budgetary requirements and community agency) to sustain WASH facilities in the  long term?”,   throws light on this specific issue. At present in the budget heads under WASH for state there is very little budgets to sustain infrastructure that are erected to provide access to WASH. And from the IRC study it is observed that, to ensure that the infrastructure put in place is functional, there is a minimum requirement of finances. Himmotthan with its long term engagement with few villages in their work area have been able to provide concreate numbers on budgetary allocation required to sustain WASH facilities in Uttarakhand and similar Himalayan conditions. This sustenance budget in fragile geographies like Himalayas become even more relevant and important to success of any project.

Springs are  complex geological entities. They are dynamic entities in themselves, that are intricately related to forest and land policies. And the springs happen to be the main source of water in the hills. To understand and maneuver through this complexity a systematic policy level intervention makes a lot of sense. To begin with this can happen by introducing a section on springs and source of water for the populations in the Himalayan region within the National Water Policy. Secondly facilitate means for non-profit organizations, governments and other stakeholders to engage, deliberate and dialogue on the above listed challenges and come to a common consensus. Thirdly, the most repeatedly raised issue of siloization and non-cooperation between government departments. This needs change.

Given this reflection, when I relook at the WASH sector, I think there still remains a lot of aspects about it which still needs attention, especially in the Himalayan region. And I am good to relook at WASH in this region and otherwise at the whole sector. But this time around with a keen eye to push for state adaptation of the solutions that are successfully implemented by Frank Water’s partners. Secondly to push a system’s or ecology approach to addressing the issues for WASH access too.

Thats that!


The WORLD : Brexit, Trump, Italian vote against constitutional ammendament referendum and finally the Austrian rejection of Norbert Hofer, Syrian war on IS rebels – Allepo and the trobuled Rohingyas of Myanmar.

In India : Our own Amma in critical condition in Tamil Nadu, demonitization stories – of people loosing lives, IB chasing black money horders, stealers of new currency hoarders and a dash of regular rape reporting , Kashmir  and Heart of Asia – Isthanbul process – improving Afghanistan -India relationship.

I have been very irregular with news and read what flashes on some news apps on my phone. But never spent conciously to read news. I have been trying to do that for few days now. Above bits is what my head is filled with now.

When I read the news every morning, I start to crack my fingers toes, back, neck and all crackable parts in my body. But I work in a space where I better be aware of where the world is going, so that the work I do is meaninful in the larger context and also some possibility to imporve my business. But, its not a very plessant feeling to be in a world that is closing up into a shell and moving from a globalized world to a individual- nationalist one. It is a move from universality to individuality every way.  From our own daily lives to the country level this is the direction we are moving in.

When one thinks of what could come of the world the stomach churns. But in the larger scheme of the things if one sees , the cycle of opening up and closing up of worlds have been happening for ever. To break this cycle , we need a evolved humanity. How is that to happen, I wonder!


Liberal Democracy-Ecological Conciousness -Ecocentricism

Examine the notion that liberal democracy curtails emergence of ecological consciousness in the society. How can ecocentric critical mass evolve out of these limitations?

Liberal democracy is a liberal political ideology and a form of government in which representative democracy operates under the principles of classical liberalism.

The word to be further detailed and cloosely looked at in that definition  is classical liberalism.

Classical liberalism is a political ideology and a branch of liberalism which advocates civil liberties and political freedom with representative democracy under the rule of law and emphasizes economic freedom

A very individual centric approach of the liberalism when tries to impose on the democracy , trying to still hold on to the democratic principles it becomes quite a confused concoction. “Economic freedom”  aspect of classical liberalism, especially is the one that on the face is in compliance with democracy, but definitely is that one which will infringe upon the “economic rights” that democracy as a form of governance  bestows upon its people.

In my opinion the “classical liberalism” and “democracy” have their own bits of contradictions. If these ideologies are put together to form liberal democracy. The liberal aspects of classical liberalism – especially the individualistic aspects mask the community/ commons aspects of democracy. And therefore the liberal democracy is loaded with individualism as a way of existence. In this paradigm of thinking a human being becomes centre to his own ways of thinking and living. Its a paradigm of exclusion , where one wants to be “different”/”special” and differentiated from the other. This mode of operation pushed for a a self centered mode of existence.

Ecological consciousness to come from the inside requires a very evolved and sensitive selves to see the other lives equal to that of our own human life. Or it comes from a very logical and rational understanding that our lives depend on whole lot of things that stem from the earth, air and water and all these elements themselves too. This makes sense even in the individualist paradigm. But the individualist paradigm has a limited understanding of what is best for individuals. That is, the consumeristic attitude propelled under this ideology has only allowed a very limited expression of individualism. A complete expression of individualism in the most evolved form will be in line with the approach an ecologically conscious person would approach the ecology. The understanding of the ecological dependency of the human race is still as the complex mesh of dependency and causation is still beyond our understanding. So the logical mind of the people who believe only in human wellbeing is difficult to be convinced.

At some level if the sense of mortality, fragility of our lives  prevails on individuals along with a sense of  the scale of existence we exist becomes clear to us, there is possibility that we live more gently. Our interactions with our fellow humans and the environments we live in will become gentle. At some level in today’s time when we people  ( especially the urbanites) seem to hardly have any connection with the land, water, air that breaths life into us. And we think its our jobs, the money we earn and the gadgets we carry is our world. We seem to forget the fragility of life due to the improved quality of life that we urbanites) enjoy.

The question of how can ecocenticism evolve in this context? Can it be systemic or should it be from the people? It is very difficult to get something changed t systemic level given the mammoth size of systems. Whereas at individual level the number of units (people) that require change is millions and billions. But what is possible by individuals who are interested in ecocentric perspective?  If anything is possible it is only at the level of effecting other individuals. There needs be effort people to understand and empathize with humanity and the world. There needs be a sense of home when it comes to this planet. And this when achieved there will be no need to tell anyone about not destroying the planet. SO the ecocentricism requires an inner awakening of the human population. Reestablishment of the connect to mother earth.

So in short it needs to be a grassroots movement to achieve this ecocentricism. About the context of liberal democracy, it will play out well if the people who are part of it are sensitive and conscious of their responsibilities they owe to this planet.

Ideologies – Are they a requirement for one to do what is necessary?

This will be the last post that I would submit to the course on Democracy and Ecology. I found this course quite revealing. It exposed me to issues I have not known about and some other issues from different perspectives.  This course is the only one in the entire Masters program that has exposed me to the most of outside world through expereiences shared by real people form different walks of life. This was especially valuable during the time when I conciously holed myself inside a place to just push myself to read and write. This course brought the world into the classroom.

One of the agendas of the class seemed to be that to push us all to have an ideological position.  Another very senior professor in the course also thought that one must have an ideological positoin.Few of the friends in the class say that my ideological position is ‘left of centre’. I somehow am not covinced enough about this whole concept of having an ideological position. At some level it feels like one is so lost in the idea that one forgets the reason why idea or an ideological position emerged in the first place?

The dictionary meaning of it is :

“a system of ideas and ideals, especially one which forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy.”

I have heard the right side of the ideology ( both cultural and economic) I have issues with them, when taken to extreme we have failed states and fundamentalism taking a fullswing position, which is quite scary. I have also heard the left side of the ideology  and I have issues with them too, they want everything to be equal, we humans are not made equal. We are unique, capabilities are unique to each one and in an attempt to equality and equitablity one can not stiffle the capabilities of individuals. USSR was a classic story of such failure. And China cant be an example of left as they left behind their left past long ago and are more capitalist than we are. And the violence that emerges from both sides is so not worth it.

Why not we function on the fundamental principles as a society rather than obsess with ideologies? Why not work out of humanity? It is so difficult to keep the personality aside and just do what is needed at that point in time. Can compassion not be the driver of all the work? Social democrats like Ambedkar also seem to have certain baggage along with being anhilator of certain evils like caste system. There are aspects of all the lefts, rights and centre ideologists which are perfect to address certain issues from certain realm. Why not do  what is right according to what the situation demands?


Kaveri dispute- Karnataka and Tamilnadu – Part 2

I had a late evening bus on 24th night from Bangalore ( Karnataka) to go to Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu). In the last minute the bus got cancelled as the buses with Karnataka Registration were not being allowed in Tamil Nadu. This was as a consequence of Karnataka declining to share the water until 28th of this month post the Supreme Court verdict.

I had taken this new masters course in public policy partly to zoom out of my present frame of reference which is established from my work at grassroots. The other reason was to work in areas of environemnt other than water. Since the Kaveri issue has resurfaced this year, it looks like water is become a centre to many crisis of our times. Some researchers and activist have been talking about the dooms day being just around the corner. Especially verdicts on water being the centre of future wars. Scholars like Peter Gleick, Asit Biswas and other have been writing extensively about crisi and how to go about it. I thought we would pick what these people say and work it out somehow.

I somehow always felt this will not be the case. We will some how figure it out, get our act as a species. No! This Kaveri/ Cauvery water issue is only making all these doomd day verdicts come true.

I was sitting one day thinking how do we go about these issues of crisis of water. I felt its quite complex the whole issue of water. Its so entertwined with every aspect of life and activities we humans conduct. To be honset we have done enough to understand the root  causes of the crisis – the loop holes in the way we address drinking waer security, the change in croping patterns and crops in the command area of Cauvery river and other water uses. In short it is flawed decissions on water usage and mismanagement of resource and also mismanagement  within institutions using the water for different purposes. There have been solutions studied and proposed to address all these matters both technicaly, and institutionally. The paradigm of integrated water resource management gives a framework to work on all issues simultaneously.

But still, Why are these solutions not picked up? Where is the inertia, what is the threat in changing to newer paradigm of operation? It feels like its in our minds. The inertia is in our heads. I wonder, how do we go beyond the finger pointing excercise and think for our own selves and look for a solution which  will make sense to ourselves in the long run too?

The Century of the Self by Adam Curtis

A proposition that seems to come to me again and again is that of “propaganda” as the mode of operation. Why dont we use skills of the O&Ms and Lowe Lintas kind of agenceis to work on the heads of the population to address issues of this kind? Why do we engage them to change mindset of people only to make “fairness” a fad thing or to sell chocolates? I am tempted to drop this documentary that I have been studying for the last few weeks to push the idea of propaganda. It speaks a lot on what can be done to manipulate the “crowds”. Why not use the same for a meaninful purpose. If not done responsibly this can spin out in a wrong direction and out of control. But for now this is all is coming to me as a solution again and again.



Kaveri dispute- Karnataka and Tamilnadu


Kaveri Pipeline work. Courtsey:

The water dispute of Kaveri between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu is more than a century old. Somehow the issue is racked up only in period of scarce monsoon. Else both states sit quiet and continue to do what they were at without giving a hard look at what are they are doing with their agriculture. 

There have been many agreements between the states, tribunals set up to resolve issues, and supreme court intervening in the case and giving some random judgements without much scientific reasoning. These have been during the periods of distress again. 

When I looked at this issue in 2008 I thought we could solve the matter with tribunals. But when I look at this matter again – the canvas looks much different. The legal aspects and general managerial aspects of the canvas were then not quite clear. But now there seems to be a nuanced understanding. First of the legal aspect of it – why is there no judgement / tribunal verdict on water sharing specific to “rainfall shortage years” or “distress years”? If the clause and details of the hearings were based on scientific studies conducted on the basin, one can come up with the possible sharing quotas based on the yearly rainfall that the basin sees. Second is, why are both states not seeing that- the paddy ( in Tamil Nadu) and sugarcane (in Karnataka) are not the crops one would grow using a non-perineal river source. There as a reason why raggi was grown so prolifically in these parts of the country. Raggi and other millets did not need so much water like paddy or sugarcane needs.

Also, another matter is that of the classic conflict between upper riparian and lower riparian states. The upper riparian state like Karnataka always have the control of – how much water they CHOOSE to give, and lower riparians have to seek courts and tribunal’s intervention to get water to meet their state needs. 

When I spent sometime this morning looking at the tweets from kanadigas on the #cauveriverdict, I could only laugh at their ignorance. On both sides there are farmers, both sides need water for drinking water purpose. It is not easy to say who is correct or not. While Karnataka has around four major rivers flow in its state, Tamil Nadu’s rivers are not as many. The Kaveri that is damned in Karnataka is not even serving all the four districts equally. It is Bangalore that gets most of the Kaveri when developed in stage I, II and III. This without rectifying the 65% unaccounted for water loss ( through rusted, old pipelines built by British) in Bangalore is not a fair argument. Bangalore’s lakes which were augmenting the water requirements of the city are fast vanishing to meet the real estate needs of the city. Had the lakes been in place, the pipelines in good shape and compulsory rainwater harvesting done by all, the dependency of  Bangalore on Kaveri/Kabini would have been reduced substantially. This would have eased the conflict too. While the larger managerial issues are never addressed, all people do by the end of the day to go on strikes and burn public properties to make their point and get what they want. This is no rational way to arrive at any solution. 

Situation in both the states , its political response and people’s response is quite saddening and disappointing to the least! 

PS: I am a Tamizh. So read this article with a pinch of salt.