Saturday, September 19, 2009

From Mangalore to Sagara in a week

My first family trip came to an end today. It was one of the most memorable trips ever.
We landed in Mangalore airport on Sunday. A very small airport, it is located on a hill and the rains had ensured that the airport was green as it could get. From Mangalore we went to Mulki and then to Karkala to pay obesiance to family deities. Karkala is known for its Jain temples and is most famous for the Gomateshwara statue. The tranquility of the place was unbelievable. From Karkala we went to Sagara which is my mother's hometown. The place is changing rapidly with commercial complexes replacing old houses. These complexes are multi storeyed and even have elevators in them. These are places which are going to experience exponential growth rates and will be engines of India's growth.
I also happened to visit my ancestoral farm. Ten acres of the farm was lush green with paddy. Only one crop is grown in a year. There is no rabi crop. The most surprising aspect was that there was no need for electricity as the entire farm was rain fed through canals. There was no need of pump sets. Also no pesticides or fertilisers were used. Only cow dung was used as manure. The only problem was the high labour wages prevailing in that area. Agricultural labour cost Rs 100 plus food for one day. Women were paid Rs 80 and food per day.
I also happened to visit a farm where the farmer generated his own electricity by installing his own hydro electric system. His monthly bill by using the state electricity board's electricity was a mere Rs 30. All his agricultural produce was organic and was sold to ISKCON. He never bought vegetables as he grew them in his farm. I had lunch at his home and realised what "fresh" meant in the real sense of the term.
His backyard had two streams whose water he harnessed for hydro electricity and for consumption purpose. A sight to marvel for city dwellers like us who install artificial water streams in our houses for tranquility.
Some other trips were to Jog falls, gudvi bird sanctuary and Harnemallu which is known for its adventure sports like kayaking, camping, trekking etc.
This trip made me realise that India has the potential to be a global tourist hub as it caters to every need and taste. If only the authorities act on the abysmal state of infrastructure and involve the local community in managing these places, we will earn billions of dollars in foreign exchange from foreign tourists.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Out of my comfort zone

IRMA's strength lies in its demanding curriculum. The fieldwork segment is one of the most demanding of the components of PRM course. This component requires participants to spend two months in a village which is usually devoid of electricity, proper sanitation facilities, physical infrastructure and is situated in remote locations and accessibility to the near towns is difficult.
I will be heading to Toranmal village in Nandurbar district of Maharashtra this year. Toranmal is the second highest hill station in the state. We will be living in a hut which does not have any electricity. We have been asked to be careful of mosquitoes and tigers. Since it is a forest area tigers are sighted in that village.
Tiger repellant anyone?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Globalisation or Localisation???

The last day of Term 1 was signed off by a seminar on Localisation by Dr. Helena Norberg-Hodge.
A Swedish environmentalist, Hodge has worked with communities in Ladakh and Leh for more than three decades. She believes that localisation and not globalisation is the way forward. Local products for local people.
As part of the interaction she showed us a movie titled "Paradise with side effects" where two Ladhaki women travel to UK and see the lifestyle in London. The crux was that the west is not paradise. And we (developing countries) should not follow their lifestyle. We need to have our own lifestyles that is community centric.
Also her post film discussions were centred around how globalisation was only big business, big economies etc etc. The usual ranting that one would expect at the World Social Forum.
To quote from her institution's website,, "
A consistent theme in ISEC's educational work is the need to shift direction - away from dependence on a global economy dominated by huge corporations and supranational institutions, towards economic structures that are more decentralised, diversified, and ecological. One way we disseminate this message is through lectures, seminars, and interviews with ISEC Director Helena Norberg-Hodge. We also organize workshops and conferences on global-to-local initiatives."

In these recessionary times one would have to be careful while talking about virtues of globalisation, but I believe that globalisation is no longer a 'either-or' phenomena. Globalisation is a movement which is here to stay. What matters is how to use this movement for larger good.
Localisation is an utopian concept. If local produce is used only for local community, it leads to higher costs and the overall community suffers as a result. What is local? Is it at the village level, district level, regional level or at the national level?
Coming to globalisation, is it only about big business? Do only big companies, MNCs win in globalisation? We in India followed "import substitution" for many decades post independence. What ensued was cheap quality products in short supply and at high prices. When the economy opened up in 1991, the domestic manufacturers suddenly found themselves competing with MNCs who flooded the market with better quality products and at lower prices. Did all domestic manufacturers close shop? Some did but India now boasts of companies like Infosys and Bharthi which were post 1991 companies.
There are ills about globalisation. If left to developed economies, it will become a highway where less developed economies are like cycles competing with the big trucks. We need to fine tune globalisation to make sure that everyone has access to opportunities to make a decent living.
Localisation is not something that will succeed.Good to hear and nice to dream about but something that is not workable at all...atleast not at the level to challenge globalisation.

Friday, September 4, 2009

And the pressure cooker has been switched off

The first term at IRMA got over today. Three months of pressure. Apart from sundays, we were only allowed two days of holidays.
It is surprising the wide range of experiences that I had in these three months. Right from the one week in Moti Koral as part of induction work to the unsolvable Economics paper in the end term, it was a roller coaster ride.
From being thrown in mud water during janmashatami to submitting an assignment at 11:57 when the deadline was 12:00, it was a memorable ride. I no longer care about how bad a test went. Cause you know that the feeling would be shared among the entire batch.
From being praised for a presentation to being thrashed on another presentation, I have seen it all.
One more week of fieldwork preparation and I head home to do what I do best...sleep!!!!