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Public Lecture and Book Release

‘Save Silent Valley’ has Contemporary Relevance: Shri Jairam Ramesh M.P

There exists no substitute for the role of political decision-making and democratic process where environmental conservation in India was concerned, former Union Minister and Rajya Sabha MP Shri Jairam Ramesh observed in a public lecture titled ‘Indira Gandhi and Silent Valley Revisited’ organised at the Centre for Development Studies (CDS), Ulloor, Trivandrum  on 21 January 2017.

While acknowledging that a host of stake holders such as the civil society, media, academia and expert committees had played key roles in framing the debate surrounding the Save Silent Valley movement of the 1970s and 80s which led to the creation of the Silent Valley National Park in Palakkad District of Kerala in 1984, the political perseverance of former Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi was the deciding factor, he observed. Mrs. Gandhi was able to accommodate democratic process without compromising on biodiversity preservation, he noted. On the basis of archival evidence in the form of correspondences between Ms. Gandhi and key figures in the Silent Valley episode, Mr. Ramesh’s lecture attempted to also highlight the need for efforts at environmental conservation to also address the need for alternative solutions for energy, industrial, housing and livelihood needs. Contemporary conservation efforts could benefit from understanding the factors which drove outcomes during the Save Silent Valley movement, he stressed.

Prof. K.J. Joseph, Acting Director at CDS, delivered the welcome address. The function was presided over by Prof. K.P. Kannan, former Director at CDS and Member, International Panel on Social Progress. Mr. Ramesh also released a book titled ‘Globalisation, Development and Plantation Labour in India’, a collection of edited essays edited by Prof. K.J. Joseph and P.K. Viswanathan, Professor, Amrita University, Kochi, during the session. The book was received by Dr. A.B. Rema Shree, Director of Research & Development at Spices Board who also spoke at the event on the topic of the book. Adv. Lalaji Babu of the All India Plantation Workers Federation (CITU), P. R. Muraleedharan of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh and Shri Thomas Kalladan of the Indian National Trade Union Congress also spoke at the event.

In an informal interactive session with students and research scholars at CDS earlier in the day, Mr. Ramesh highlighted the transformation that the Indian economy as well as the nature of discourse which surrounded it had undergone in the last three decades. The primacy of GDP growth as the singular metric of performance in the post-liberalisation period pushed earlier discourse surrounding planning, poverty, agriculture and labour to the fringes, he said. While high growth rates led to a significant decline in the rates of poverty, it had been accompanied by a concurrent rise in the levels of inequality which was associated with unequal levels of access to education, healthcare and nutrition. Demographic transition, internal migration and government policy with regard to the informal sector were key issues which would drive economic outcomes in the present and for the foreseeable future, he said. He also answered questions on economic and social inclusion, pointing out that scheduled tribes had borne a disproportionate cost of the development process in India even under the most progressive and inclusive of regimes, as is observed in the tribal belts of Kerala.