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Does Destruction Always Have to Precede Development?

An article on development communication for the Progress Radical 2013
Destruction. Displacement. Development. These three things always seem to go together in many development programmes of the Third World. From a development communication perspective, however, it is quite possible to make progress without destroying life and property of the people, without displacing them. This is a holistic approach, using communication, to make development favourable for every human being from the most bottom layer of a society.

Imagine a life in the periphery of the society. Now you are evicted to be displaced to a promised area with a promised compensation. You cannot even protest because development comes before you. The authority further dictates that it is for the good of the whole. It is as if you are just an unproductive part, as if you are just living a wasted life that needs no consideration. Would you just go with the wind? Would you just cry over your helplessness? What would you do?

Truth be told, we live in a very unfair world. Why is a holistic approach very difficult to adopt for the policy makers and administrative executives? A simple logic situates that if they can compromise life and property, howsoever they define the meaning of meagre and wasted lives, then they can also take a detour. A plan B is highly recommended. They have to state clearly what they intend to do, mutually agree to an action plan and maintain the communication process. This might be oversimplifying things, still a humane approach can make a huge difference. We can see in the developing and under-developing world, the situation is pathetic. Our response is that there ought to be a solution, favourable for one and all.

Millenium Development Goals (Source MDG)

Case study: Take the controversies around the Loktak project in Manipur, a backward Indian state infested with insurgency and armed conflicts. Issues about displacement and eviction have created social unrest, though officials claim they were encroaching on the waste land. But how could not they convince the people if the latter are committing a mistake? Or is the truth different from what they claim?  The people are raising their voices and all the authority does is keeping mum. It is no wonder in their silence lies a deception and if not, they would be using anything, even force to have their way. Last year, media dug up a report about gross corruption and a scam pegged at Rs 224 crores. The Loktak Development Authority is so corrupt that they do not even understand what they are doing. They created a website in Russian! That was the height, utterly shameless.

Medium, no. The message is the medium. Communication is vital for both the government and the civil society as well as the affected people. But in a region bogged down by social unrest and violent people's movements, all the energy has been used up on these issues, leaving a negligible amount for others, including administration and maintaining the rule of law. So the problem is unique as much as it is complex.The obvious conclusion is there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Development is about change; and it should be about a change for the better. It is always beneficial, but its process can be counterproductive, when executed without proper management and taking consideration of the people at stake.

Image posted with permission from Anonymous ART of Revolution
Communication would fail only in just two circumstances. First, if there is no proper planning and coordination between the stakeholders. Second, if a particular development programme has ulterior motives, as evident in corporate intervention with their three goals of making profit, profit and profit.

We can start right away: All of us can do our part in this process of development communication. The fact that this is the age of instant messages make the process much easier, provided we have the willingness and initiative for the cause. We have the privilege to use the most effective media in these days of social network, just to take an example. Have a say. Join the campaigns.

The communication should be multidimensional between the stakeholders, including government agencies, civil bodies, NGOs and concerned individuals. The process, in itself, could determine the progress made by the peoples and their socioeconomic values. An effective communication is efficient equally for all the areas of development, ranging from farming to education. The professionals in the field, here the administrators and media, can take the maximum responsibility.

We have to understand poverty is artificial. Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus puts it succinctly: 'Every human being is born into this world fully equipped not only to take care of himself or herself, but also to contribute to the well being of the world as a whole. Some get the chance to explore their potential, but many others never get the chance to unwrap the wonderful gifts they were born with. They die with those gifts unexplored, and the world remains deprived of their contribution.'

Records show communication has always been the first casualty. However, if it fails in an approach, it should give us another chance to try another method.

The most important thing is to reduce destruction and displacement. A schematic, well-intended communication process can mean hitting two birds with a stone: facilitating the development works and saving lives. At the end, we should be able to say destruction need not precede, but not be present at all, in a development program. 

Useful links

10 key recommendation of the Millenium Development Goal
The Millenium Project
United Nations

The core recommendation of the Millennium Project is that the Millennium Development Goals must be at the center of national and international poverty reduction strategies, and these strategies must focus on tackling the practical ground-level challenges of development. For this to happen, developing countries need to conduct rigorous "needs assessments" to identify where they stand on the Goals and what interventions need to be in place in order to get on track for 2015.

The trade-off between food security and 'development'
By Thingnam Anjulika Samom

Most of Manipur’s population, especially people in the valley area, depend on the lake’s fish and vegetation resources for their nutrition and food security. The Loktak hydropower project has given them a few hours of electricity every day, and better roads. What is that trade-off worth, asks the third in our series on this common property resource in Manipur

The destruction of 'development' 
By Jaideep Hardikar

In 57 years, at least 50 million people in India have been displaced by dams, mines, thermal power plants, corridor projects, field firing ranges, express highways, airports, national parks, sanctuaries, industrial townships, even poultry farms. They continue to pay the price for India's 'development'

More on Loktak
Manipur: Please Give Loktak Lake A Chance! on Kangla Online by Dr Khwairakpam Gajananda
Scandalous Loktak Lake Mismanagement on the Sangai Express By Jiten Yumnam

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