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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 6/6/10

The Need for a New Economic Vision

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The recent spate of attacks by the Maoists in India once again raises questions on how to deal with such extremism bordering on terrorism. Suggestions are being made that the government should go all-out against the Maoists till they are eliminated; the progress of the state cannot be held to ransom by a few extremists.

While the government of the day has to fulfill its constitutional obligation of preserving law and order, it would be prudent to take a more detached view of the entire matter. It is necessary to understand the root causes behind the Maoist discontent and avoid a piece-meal approach to the problem. The phenomenon of the perpetual poverty in rural areas and the growing rich-poor divide is actually worldwide. In this process one has to go into the fundamentals and take a universal view of matters.

First let us understand the current economic system prevailing in most of the developed and the developing countries including India. What is the meaning of development and progress that is understood by an average family? To be able to fulfill the worldly needs starting from basics like living in a comfortable house and to be able to buy whatever is needed in day-to-day life. This is the model accepted at the family, social and national levels thus forming the basis of the prevailing economic system at the global level.

It is assumed that such a materially oriented life would bring wellness (or happiness), which is only partly true. In reality the feeling of wellness comes from within oneself. One feels happy when there is fulfillment of the 'inner being'. However wellness is mistakenly thought to arise from external objects. Knowingly or unknowingly, everyone is drawn into a similar pattern of thinking. The economy of a nation is, as a result, cast in this mould. The global economic mechanism has been structured so that such a development model is sustained. It is presumed that for healthy economics, the demand for goods (or services) and the growth rate of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) need to be kept up.

Apart from making wellness to be dependent on externals, such a materially oriented model has proved to be socially divisive. Since the emphasis is on the GDP, the less productive sectors are down the list of the government's priority. Consequently, by design, there is little prospect for inclusive growth and prosperity. People are forced to migrate towards cities where economic activity is more rewarding. Thus rural areas remain impoverished while urban areas face the problem of overcrowding and pollution. It is easier for the rich to become richer and the rich-poor divide gets accentuated. Social tensions worsen.

To sustain this kind of materialistic development, there is over-exploitation of natural resources with ecological factors getting sidelined. Environmental degradation with build up of green house gases leading on to imminent disastrous climate change is a direct result of such a development model.

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Vijayaraghavan Padmanabhan is former Professor of Medicine, Madras Medical College. Based in Chennai, India. His interests include Spirituality, Politics, Economics and Medicine.

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