P Sainath reports on the furtive way the laws regarding the water economy in one state in India are being changed in favour of full cost recovery, one stage on the way to privatisation, to which Montek Singh Ahluwalia - the World Bank's point man in the Indian government - has already committed the country.
Ahluwalia, who was appointed the Deputy Director of the Planning Commission, an institution that had fallen on hard times after the present Prime Minister and economist Manmohan Singh had decided to follow the World Bank's advice on liberalising the economy in his capacity as Finance Minister in the early nineties. Ahluwalia's appointment was supposed to revive the Planning Commission and have it function in accordance with Manmohan Singh's current priorities of "water, drinking water, the havoc caused by flood water, food, drought and education".
But this is like hiring a hyena to guard the goats, since Ahluwalia's priorites are more clearly reflected in his anxiety to make India's public resources available to steel and mining companies and large projects. Peasants and other untermenschen who have lived off these resources for centuries are assured of short shrift when they seek to participate in the making of decisions that mean life or death for them. Priority will be given to McKinsey & Co and the World Bank for their international perspective, which apparently includes the view promoted by the senior adviser at the World Bank on water privatisation that water rights are a "fantasy".
Here and here are two contrasting perspectives in India. Both accurately depict whatever they are describing, but the subject of each is related to that of the other in ways which neither piece actually illuminates. The fact is that, for most of the pro-globalization middle class in India, the poor are just a statistical phenomenon, if not a visible insult to prevailing notions of a "shining" and aggressive India. It takes a Sainath to straddle both worlds and reveal the connections between the subjects of the pieces by Dreze and Gurcharan Das.