While we were roaming around the boondocks of the country, my friend said in a surprising tone, “Development is going on rapidly.”
I asked him, “What development actually means? Does it mean industrialisation? Does it mean urbanisation? Does it mean advancement of economic and social conditions of a country? If so, then Bhutan, a landlocked country in South Asia, adopts Gross National Happiness Index to suffice the content of development.”
Defining the term is a moot topic. It cannot have a definition. For an individual living in the plains, it is different from that for a hill person. For an urban society, it caters to an essence different from that of a rural society. For an employed citizen, it means different from that for an unemployed citizen.
Development is a dynamic process. But it has been defined by organisations, institutions and scholars, but with time, it lacks substance. Whatever aspect they took into consideration in defining development a decade ago or so, now loses relevance. Mere imposition of the western model of development on developing countries without much introspection and inspection will be regression as their ecosystems are quite different. For instance, let us take a tribal conservationist. If we impose the western model of industrialisation, it will result in extreme environmental degradation and make mincemeat of natural resources. Imparting this way to generate capital will leave human civilisation to suffer. For them, development is conservation of natural resources and making a way of living out of those resources.
They are emotionally attached to the forests and other resources and there seems no chance of destruction by them. Also historically, it is being witnessed that people other than conservationists had destroyed forest and natural resources for the sake of personal greed. The Joshimath disaster is one such recent instance.
The Lok Biradari Prakalp project by Praksh Amte for the development of the Madia Gond takes an expressive view of what development should be. To win the trust of tribal people, he educated his children with tribal children and followed through with his mental map. For rural India, development is not complete urbanisation which brings multitude of constructions.
The model of education which was being adopted across the country was also implemented in Ladakh. The conclusion was crystal clear — around 95% of the students were unable to pass matriculation examinations. Why this happened? The reason was ignorance of geographical and cultural factors of the students of Ladakh. Then came Sonam Wangchuk. He experimented with school reforms in government high schools and came up with Operation New Hope. This reform in Ladakh’s educational system left a significant mark. Now 95% of the students pass the matriculation examination. It showed us that without considering the ecological aspect of a society, only with mere policies and schemes, we cannot bring real development. We can only have development on paper, not in reality.
What has been said so far makes it clear that defining development is opening a Pandora’s box. Development contains myriad angles and to realise development, we need to have an enlightened policy. And an enlightened policy can be brought only when the social, psychological and cultural aspects of the area will be taken into consideration. It is not the responsibility of state only but other stakeholders too should participate for bringing development initiatives.