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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Development Definition

July 4, 2009

Source: IMPHAL FREE PRESS Posted: 2009-07-01

The development debate is destined to carry on. But it is unlikely the
debate will ever be resolved. The most intriguing question remains, is
development solely about good roads, good infrastructure better incomes and
all the other attributes which are normally associated with classical models
of development? These definitely are vital and unavoidable. Without
liberation first from the dehumanising shackles of poverty, malnutrition,
unemployment, diseases and illiteracy etc, there can be no development. But
is this all about development or is there something more? Those who have
been watching the progress of events in The Tibet Autonomous Region of China
would be in two minds on this question. Nobody will doubt everything
classical development theories say about development, has happened in Tibet.
Eight lane highways crisscrossing even barren landscapes; a state of the art
rail line that uses specially engineered engines to make up for the poor
combustion factor of high altitudes, running right up to the Tibetan capital
of Lhasa; swank shopping malls; neon lit night streets; quantum jump in
literacy rate; modern health care for all; basic amenities assured; better
income; state of the art telecommunication facilities... Yet, is this all
there is about development is still the question? The Chinese government
obviously would say yes. But would the ethnic Tibetans echo the same
sentiment? From all indications, a majority of Tibetans, or at least a
sizeable section of them would not say so. The Tibetan government in exile
in Dharmsala in Himachal Pradesh, headed by the Dalai Lama, definitely has
not been saying so. What then is development?
The question is relevant, indeed urgent, for the Northeast especially
against the backdrop of the developmental push envisioned by the Vision 2020
of the NEC. The 36-page document has nothing very much to split hair on,
stating as it does nothing more than what are obvious. Usher in peace,
improve infrastructure, attract investment, tap service industry such as
tourism, encourage self employment, build institutions etc without being
specific about any of these or drawing up blueprints for action (yawn!). The
document is also typically silent on measures to be taken for child welfare
and gender empowerment. But most deafening of all, it has nothing to say on
the Look East Policy except by occasional inferences. It also does not seem
to think there is any relationship between ecology and development even
amidst the present day frenzy about climate change and how it can
drastically affect livelihoods around the globe. But leave aside the blind
spots of the writers of this document, it also sees no further than the
constituents of classical models of development.

A few examples borrowed from the writings of some very well known
economists, in particular two Nobel Prize winners, Amartya Sen and Joseph
Stiglitz should demonstrate quite convincingly why the traditional indexes,
although vital are still not adequate. In "Development as Freedom" Sen makes
a comparison between Black Americans and denizens of the developing world.
In general, Black Americans, although they earn much less than White
Americans, are still way ahead of the average men and women in the
developing world even after taking into account cost of living etc. Yet,
crime rate, divorces, school dropout rate etc, and all other known indexes
of an unhappy society are much higher amongst the Black Americans. Similarly
Joseph Stiglitz, incidentally the economic advisor to President Bill Clinton
while he was in office, points out a similar example in "The Roaring
Nineties" the bestselling sequel to his earlier bestseller "Globalisation
and its Discontent". He says although America's Gross National Product, GNP,
remains unassailable by any other nation, this rich country also has the
largest number of people in jail. What scenario can be a more vivid example
of a dysfunctional society than this? Even the riches country in the world
(they say if all the state of the USA were independent economies, five of
these would still rank amongst the top ten richest in the world) the
development model still seems to lack something. Development in our opinion
is a state of economic being in which the people find a sense of purpose.
Economics in this sense cannot divest itself too far from philosophy. So why
must we insist on being blind to this approach to development altogether.

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