Policy for nature protection

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A FIRST step towards protecting nature is to define the national ideal of lifestyle as one involving a voluntary limitation of wants, consistent with the requirements of radiant health. The question of lifestyle was bypassed at the dawn of Independence. Since a vacuum cannot exist for long in nature, it was soon filled by an acceptance of the West’s consumerist lifestyle which breathes depletion of natural resources from its every pore.

Mahatma Gandhi was correct when he said it was possible to meet everybody’s needs but not anybody’s greed. Alberto Moravia said: ‘Consumerist civilisation is excremental.’ Althelstone Spilbaus, erstwhile President of the American Association for Advancement of Science, expressed similar sentiments in a different language: ‘As the standard of living (of the western countries) goes up, the amount of waste and consequent pollution must go up.’

Though consumerism brings in its trail physical ailment and mental unhappiness, its immediate charm is compelling. Observance of simplicity and austerity brings a glow to life. It saves society from the ‘demonstration effects of conspicuous consumption’ as also society’s resources for uplifting the poor to the consumption standards needed for a healthy life. Without this ideal, both the rich and the poor destroy nature from different ends.

Since inter-species balance is a fundamental ecological principle, the growth of human species needs to be controlled. As a predator species, it is at present the most destructive of all animals. But a population control policy can be successful only if tempered by an understanding that the poor people’s uncertainty for the morrow is a great stimulus for unrestrained procreation. Distributive justice, women’s education, persistent educational campaign among and by the people, and use of harmless herbal methods of contraception are essential components of the programme. The present push-button techniques of big hoardings and propaganda through TV as a partial substitute for personal approach are often counterproductive, for these stimulate sex appetite in the target groups themselves. Their ultimate effect is destruction of nature.

It is necessary to enunciate the principle that development would need to be based primarily on biological resources and renewable forms of energy, as against the West’s primary reliance on mineralogical resources. Mineralogical resources need to be treated as fixed deposits which can be drawn upon only in times of emergency. Basing development primarily on mineralogical resources inevitably leads to concentration of economic and political power in a few hands, an increase in unemployment, increase in disparity between nations and between different strata of people within the country. Reliance on exhaustible energy has two dangers. If a country builds its life and production processes on exhaustibles, civilisation faces steep collapse when they near exhaustion. Moreover, exhaustibles – mainly fossil fuels – release large amounts of pollutants which affect the atmosphere.

Over the last one and a half centuries, we have drawn so heavily on petroleum-derived fuels that their exhaustion is in sight. Therefore, it is necessary to take a three-step policy decision regarding oil and gas, namely, (i) to rigidly control the rate of growth of their use (2-3%) for the first three or four years; (ii) thereafter, to bring their use to ‘zero growth’ level; and (iii) finally, to bring their use to lower than the present level and steadily downwards thence.

A national maxim needs to be established that in energy use there must be a ceiling and a floor for every individual. Energy use, beyond a certain limit, leads to social inequity and the concerned individual’s atrophy of limbs. Energy use, below a certain floor, becomes backbreaking and oppressive to the individual. This is the way to creating energy consciousness and curbing extravagance in energy consumption in the interest of nature conservation.

Energy use by society must be guided by the consciousness that the more energy we use, the more entropic the biosphere becomes. Without countering the entropy, the biosphere becomes unhabitable. Hence, primacy should be given to low-entropy, low-concentration energy in energy use planning. The low-concentration energy forms are, in fact, renewable energy types. Currently there is such an excessive emphasis on energy need that awareness about entropy is completely lost. It must be curbed.

A decision should be taken to disallow electricity, the premium-grade energy, for activities which can use other forms of energy. Use of electricity for cooking should be banned. Running of airconditioners, refrigerators and televisions should be on stored solar energy. If cooking is done through the use of solar cooker, the use of coal, oil, LPG and so on would be drastically reduced. Use of solar water heaters can also reduce electricity consumption. These measures will have a great influence on nature conservation. A policy of incentives and penalties – the latter in case of non-compliance – should be adopted to spur house-builders and householders into providing spaces and facilities for the installation, and even retrofitting in old buildings, of solar devices, particularly solar cookers and solar water heaters.

Energy planning needs to be changed – from the present pattern of extrapolation from levels of past consumption to a pattern of estimating the end-use and pinpointing the types of energy which can serve each purpose with the least social and economic costs. The planning for end-uses and their matching with suitable forms of energy will drastically scale down the needs for electricity generation.

The pricing of each form of energy should be consistent with its long run replacement cost. (For example, when we know that it will cost over $40 per barrel to deliver a synthetic replacement, viz. oil from coal, there is no point in pricing it lower.) This was a way to restrain oil consumption and pollution. Disregarding this advice, the government encouraged the use of small cars instead of mopeds and mass transit systems, in the process stepping up the nation’s oil consumption and pollution. As a result, we have landed in the present trap in which depletion of the national exchequer and repeated price increases leading to price inflation of each commodity has been taking place, apart from pollution.

The concept of a national energy grid needs to be subordinated to the concept of on-site integration of different forms of energy. This means that in every village, in every ward of a town or city, there has to be an accounting of use-needs and availability of locally producible quanta of energy – biogas for cooking, lighting or mechanical drives, solar energy through solar cooker, solar collector, solar water heater, photovoltaics, wind energy, locally producible hydel, photosynthetic energy through planting and replanting. Only the balance requirements need to be met by other sources of energy. Coal briquettes produced by low-temperature carbonisation plants should be encouraged and made cost-effective.

A policy of local integration first, based on diverse sources of cheap and renewable energy forms, would make for far greater savings to the national exchequer, far greater benefit to each family including the poor, and a cleaner atmosphere.

Luckily, ‘dramatic breakthroughs’ are reported in micropower technology, which allows the generation of electricity from small fuel cells and small gas turbines. Reports of big advances in fuel cells in which hydrogen is combined with oxygen, producing only water as waste product, has raised hopes. Pari passu, reports have appeared about solar cells (with gallium arsenide) becoming nearly competitive with primary batteries. Even if all these reports prove to be grossly exaggerated, it is possible to begin local integration in every village with what we already have.

The technology of controlled coal gasification underground needs to be perfected in order to minimise pollution in the atmosphere. This gasification must ensure that coal resources do not get wasted.

Since it is known that three units of primary energy (coal, oil) yield only one unit of electricity while the other two get dissipated as waste heat, it is necessary to build all thermal power stations on a ‘cogeneration’ principle. The generation of electricity and steam conjointly makes for the best utilisation of the primary fuel. This would also lower pollution. While electricity is to be used for lighting and driving machines, steam can be used for chilling plants, for washing clothes and in industry. For cogeneration, the plants would have to be smaller because the cost of a network of pipelines over long distances would be prohibitive. This will also be conducive to decentralised development. Thus, it will serve a triple purpose – utmost energy economy, decentralised development, and lowering of pollution.

Transitional technologies are already available, promising among which is the fluidised bed technology for burning coal, which can be scaled down to a tiny household device or scaled up to power giant industrial complexes.

The building of massive power plants needs to be discontinued. Super-thermal power plants lead to massive pollution in the production zone. Their fly ash distorts the local landscape, chokes the waterways and decimates aquatic life. Moreover, these necessitate very high voltage transmission lines whose corona discharge causes cancer around the powerlines.

Hydro-electricity is frequently advocated as a renewable form of energy, regardless of other costs. Since massive hydels involve serious ecological externalities, it is necessary to plan as many mini- and micro-hydels as possible. In Lalitpur district of U.P., a farmer, Mangal Singh, has devised a multipurpose water turbine which can be used for either producing electricity or pumping water from a canal if there is a waterhead of one metre or even less.

In industrial planning, decisions must first be taken as to which industries we need and those we do not, as also the scale. Chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides which have come to be equated with food production, need not be manufactured at all, for they strike at the very root of ecologically sound development. Biofertilisers would make them redundant. Diversity through familiar polycultural farming would minimise pests and make pesticides unnecessary. In any case, some ‘pests’ are needed to eliminate the weak plants and maintain the vigour of plant life. Such planning would be a significant step towards nature protection.

The dominant concept of integrating industrial complexes for maximum benefits to capital must yield place to the concept of integrating industrial units with local economies. This will mean smaller industries and de-concentration of pollutants. The concept of social accounting of economic and environmental costs and benefits should be given precedence over the concept of productivity of capital.

Integrative farming, i.e. integration of agri-horti-flori-pisci-sylvi-culture and poultry farming and animal husbandry should be promoted because, in this system, the waste products of one become food for another and the basic inputs become available on site. This has a symbiotic effect and is most ecological. Unfortunately, our peasant holdings are tiny, making such integration on individual farms difficult. This is why joint farming and pooling of farmers’ resources is necessary. Diversification of food habits, including sprouts and fermented foods in diets, and widening the nutrition base by exploring wild edibles will improve health and enhance nature protection.

When planning for irrigation, we need to remember that while irrigation is essential, it often becomes ruinous to soil systems if the principle of utmost frugality in water use is overlooked. According to FAO statistics, 50% of the world’s irrigated acreage has become saline and infertile. The concept of flush irrigation must, therefore, be abandoned in favour of small doses of irrigation as and when needed. It gets support from the fact that crops, excluding paddy, just need moisture, not flow irrigation. In Wardha, the Centre of Science for Villages has innovated an earthen device which oozes water to the plant roots but stops supplying moisture when the plant-root zone has reached saturation – a good example of peoples’ science.

The concept of big dams and trunk canals accordingly needs modification. The need is for conservation of water in situ. Just as there are fluids in each of the billions of cells in our body, there should be millions of tanks in our catchment areas and crop fields. Besides, for recharging aquifers and storing water underground in evaporation-free conditions, we need afforestation in every village. For improving the waterholding capacity of soils, we need to improve the organic matter status of the soils (popularly called humus). These are crucial for conservation of natural resource systems.

Big dams are not only ruinous to natural systems but also counter-productive in monsoonal rainfall areas. To quote P.R. Pisharoty, an internationally acclaimed Indian meteorologist, (i) ‘Half of the total monsoon rainfall drops in heavy spells, whose total duration is only 20 hours (in a year) distributed over the four monsoonal months; (ii) the median size of the Indian raindrops during the heavy spells is three to five times that of the raindrops in England; and (iii) the kinetic energy of the large raindrops in India is a thousand to two thousand times that of the raindrops in England.’ These being so, ‘once water in humid tropics gets into the river, only 30% of it can be made use of.’

The riverine reservoirs constructed by way of dams across the river, can never hold more than 20% of the flows: the rest of the riverflow during the floods has to be let off via large spillways, in the interest of saving the dam.’ Recent floods in West Bengal have shown that big dams, while containing small floods, promote mega-floods during a heavy downpour, refuting the argument that dams are needed for storing run-off water.

The big dam has no case except massive electricity generation. But this has to address the questions: Power at what social and environmental cost? Power for what use? How much power is needed for comfortable but low-entropy living? Has any fool-proof system been worked out to ensure that the power-fed industries on river banks discharge only treated/clean effluents into the river to prevent it from becoming a sewer? Elimination of big dams – which tend to kill self-flowing rivers, quicken the sedimentation process of the downstream river, build up salinity in the river basin, help intrusion of salt water from the sea into the delta – is itself a step towards nature protection.

Maintenance of wetlands amid landmass is of deep ecological import and economic value. At this time, when wetlands are being filled to extend human settlements, these need to be maintained. Economic studies have revealed that their productivity is greater than that of land surfaces.

Afforestation of the mountain slopes, hill ranges and wastelands, afforestation of river banks and canal sides, multi-species tree farming around hamlets are the most important measures for nature protection. These would increase the fertility of the adjoining lands and absorb rainwater. The restoration of ‘farm ponds’ for capturing run-off soil and recycling of soil and water, irrigation tanks in the villages, lakes at the foot of hillocks, all of which provide interfaces between land masses and water bodies, are helpful for nature protection as well as man’s economic activities.

When the craze is for high speed, we need to promote slow-speed, medium-speed and high-speed transportation. Slow-speed, water-driven, least-commercial-energy-consuming transportation systems must be rejuvenated. Not merely will this mean saving of energy, it will also rejuvenate the canals. A network of circular and criss-crossing canals, apart from minimising run-off of water to the sea, will encourage water-driven transportation, saving of commercial energy and lower pollution.

For communication, however, we need the speediest and the most sophisticated facilities. The faster and the more widely shared the channels of communication, the lower the need for transport use. Saving energy expenditure on transportation is a means of nature protection.

Solar architecture is a big step towards protection of nature. Use of solar principles for insulation and natural airconditioning and construction of mud houses on Laurie Baker’s model, frees man from ecologically destructive ‘concrete jungles’ while providing comfort. The Tata Energy Institute’s (TERI’s) model house at Gurgaon is a pioneering effort in this direction

In urban areas, mini-plants for sewerage treatment should be provided in each ward for recovery of biogas and cleaning of dirty water by microbiological treatment to keep the river clean.

For garbage disposal, a practice should be introduced for separation, in each household, of kitchen wastes, paper, metallic wastes and plastics to make recycling possible of whatever is recyclable. The use of plastics as carry-over bags and of styrofoam cups should be banned because they are non-biodegradable and highly polluting.

Sailendra Nath Ghosh


Police Sub – Culture*

A QUESTION that continues to puzzle the public as well as close observers of Indian law-enforcement agencies is why the police does not change its behaviour and functional styles even half-a-century after the end of colonial rule. Why do Indian policemen not give up their adversial relationship with and crude treatment of the citizen now that the country is governed in accordance with a modern Constitution that guarantees fundamental freedom and human dignity to every Indian? Why have our police not grown out of the overbearing, oppressive, venal and often unlawful attitude and behaviour that characterised its pre-independence forerunners, despite the tremendous political, social and economic changes since Independence?

Indian policemen have been exhorted to change and reinvent themselves as friends and guides of the common man, much in the manner and style of the British Bobby by umpteen political leaders at umpteen parades, seminars, workshops and public functions. There have been any number of public protests and agitation against police misconduct and police leaders too have issued numerous circulars, orders, warnings and exhortations asking policemen to change their behaviour and attitude. And yet, the Indian police doesn’t change. Why?

More than two generations after the departure of the British, there is no earthly reason why the pre-sent generation of policemen should continue to emulate the colonialist mindset of British Indian law-enforcers. The education levels and social background of police appointees of all ranks have substantially changed since Independence and mostly for the better. Training inputs and methods too have greatly improved with added emphasis on fundamental values of integrity, courtesy, helpfulness, legality and public service. Yet, just a few years after joining the force, nearly every entrant turns out to be a perfect stereotype. The community often blames the government for failure to provide a civilised and just police to society, while governments routinely hold police leadership responsible for the highly unsatisfactory state of affairs in the belief that they could bring about a change for the better if only they wished to. For isn’t the police a disciplined service?

More than other factors like job-stress, organisational structure and the dynamics of power, it is the characteristic sub-culture of police organisations that shapes the attitudes, values, approaches, conduct and behaviour of policemen and officials. While it cannot be denied that an individual’s deviant behaviour springs from his personality traits or out of a failure to adjust to his work situation, and the basic values imbibed during early life continue to shape his actions in the subsequent years, it is no less certain that his immediate social and work groups too exercise a major influence on his behaviour.

Also, the greater the group solidarity and the greater the alienation** of the group-member from the community at large, the greater is the impact of the group on his behaviour. One major finding of various sociological studies of the American police is that police recruits are neither more deviant nor more authoritarian than people with similar socio-economic background who do not join the police. It is not so much the men in the police who are good or bad as the premises and designs of the system in which they are placed; apparently, the same is true of the Indian police.

Two main features of police work in India contribute to the growth and development of a distinct police sub-culture – the feeling among policemen of being a ‘pariah’, and the incompatible demands made on them. The occupation is accorded a low esteem, much lower than the importance of the police function and lower than that accorded to other comparable groups. The living and working conditions provided to the police are poor. In most towns, large numbers of policemen can be found living in slums because they cannot afford better accommodation. Many police stations and reserve lines are over a hundred years old and in a dilapidated state for lack of repairs and maintenance. Still, a very large number of policemen have to live in them, knowing full well that they were declared unfit for human occupation several years back.

At public functions, police officers are often accorded lower status than their counterparts in other services or departments. Also, the police come in for constant, often undeserved, criticism at the hands of the press and politicians who don’t realise that a person who complains against the police does not necessarily tell the whole truth. Such social isolation expectedly produces a ‘pariah’ feeling among policemen.

Powerful demands are constantly made on policemen to serve incompatible ends. Formally, the police are expected to be agents of law – to enforce all laws and treat all men as equal before the law. Actually, the police are treated as agents of the ruling party or the government, expected to ignore some laws and many law-breakers. The Punjab Police Commission stated, ‘We are of the view that political interference by politicians of different parties, and perhaps more so by the party in power, exists at all levels of police administration.’ According to the M.P. Police Commission, ‘The police is still considered to be the instrument of the ruling party.’ The Delhi Police Commission observed, ‘Allegations have been made before us that some politicians resort to the device of securing the assistance of goondas and bad characters who are given protection by the police. This protection is the result of influence exercised by politicians and policemen. We are not in a position to say to what extent this allegation is true, and if there is a large substance of truth in it; but the evil undoubtedly exists.’

The U.P. Police Commission found that, ‘Ample evidence has come before us, almost from all quarters, that extraneous influence at various levels in day to day police actions have become the order of the day.’ Similarly, the police is formally expected to avoid unnecessary arrests and eschew third-degree methods but in actual practice it is under pressure to somehow solve the cases; if it does not arrest suspects and rough them up, it is accused of being mixed up with criminals. In a heterogeneous society, people with different value-frames live side by side. Gambling, prostitution, illicit distillation, smuggling and so on thrive only because many sections of society support these activities as clients, while others – generally, more vocal – condemn these activities as nefarious and expect the police to put them down. The National Police Commission (1978-81) too made equally forthright and blunt observations.

The awareness that he is a ‘pariah’ and is judged in terms of inconsistent standards leads a policeman to believe that he has chosen an occupation which sets him apart from the others. To live with himself and his group, he must develop acceptable and consistent standards by which to evaluate himself which, unfortunately, do not conform to the expectations of the community. In adapting to this situation, policemen come to adopt norms different from those of the community, to develop and subscribe to a police ‘sub-culture’.

If the net effect of the values implicit in police sub-culture were good, we would be one up in the game. In the absence of a strong moral bias, however, this is unlikely. Instead, what one has come to expect from policemen is an attempt to extract their ‘dues’ from society, a collective contempt for the norms of the community, a tendency to justify and defend their actions on the basis of ‘practical considerations’ rather than principles, and a distrust of outsiders who judge them on the basis of abstract values rather than the ‘reality’ of the policemen’s world. Recurring cases of use of excessive force, extortion, rude and offensive behaviour, unnecessary use of handcuffs, the perfunctory manner in which public complaints against the police are dealt with and the reluctance to thrash things out in the open, match this interpretation well.

In one training course, eminent men from various fields were invited to address police officers on various aspects of police-community relations. It was observed that at the end of each such lecture, the participant officers questioned the guest-lecturer in a way which tended to defend what the police had been doing. The overall impression from the question-answer sessions was one where police officers presented their ‘practical’ difficulties to the outsider, claiming on that basis, that the police could not but do what they were actually doing; that nothing more ought to be expected from them.

Police leadership, particularly if it can mitigate the ‘pariah feeling’, prescribe clear-cut rules for resolving the problem of incompatible ends, or instil in the rank and file a shared outlook or ethos that provides for them a common definition of the situations that they are likely to encounter and guides them in their conduct without fear of being let down, can have a major impact on police sub-culture. But police leadership today is not effective in this sense. A policeman learns, then, from his work-group the distinction between explicit and implicit values in his job: what is expected by laws and regulations and what is tolerated, accepted or, indeed, expected by his co-workers and superiors.

He learns whose car he may challan and whose not, against whom an offence of embezzlement of funds may be registered and against whom not, and how to investigate cases in such a manner that all references to VIPs and their sons are left out. The kind of norms fostered by this sub-culture in specific areas of police work depends on the degree of alienation of police from the public concerned and the general outcome (for the police) of the interactions between them.

One body with which the police are constantly interacting is the law, which prescribes the methods which police may or may not adopt to secure their objectives and which sits in judgement on their actions in arresting and prosecuting offenders. If one were to ask a policeman about his broad functions, the answer invariably would be: prevention and detection of crime, maintenance of public order, regulation of traffic and security of state. An ordinary citizen too would probably define the police functions in the same way. If one were to ask a judicial officer about his functions in relation to criminal law, he would unhesitatingly answer: protection of the rights of the individual. There is, therefore, an inherent contradiction in the approach of policemen, lawyers and judges.

The policeman wants to, and the public expects him to, prevent and detect crime and maintain public order; he likes to feel that he protects society against crime; to him the protection of the rights of criminals is of secondary importance. This role-perception is reinforced by the public. The judges and the lawyers, on the other hand, are primarily concerned with the protection of the rights of the accused (who is presumed to be innocent until proved guilty); the operational problems of the police in prevention and detection of crime and maintenance of public order are of secondary importance to them. To complicate matters, Indian procedural law prescribes such rigorous standards that a policeman who follows its dictates can hardly solve a crime and thereby win public esteem and organisational rewards.

A small police station (p.s.) situated not far from a settlement of an ex-criminal tribe used to record only one or two dacoities every year. In one particular year, the p.s. recorded 11 dacoities and none of them was worked out. The station officer’s explanation was that he was recording crimes freely (which was in pursuance of the departmental directives) and that he was not using third-degree methods in the interrogation of suspects (who belonged to an ex-criminal tribe settled nearby and who were notoriously hard to ‘break’). As courts would not convict on any evidence other than recovery of property, he was unable to prosecute any case. Would the station officer be rewarded for his conscientiousness?

In fact, Indian procedural law is unique in that it obliges the police to write the statement of each witness and furnish a copy thereof to the accused, along with the name and address of the witness. That goondas and criminals can bribe or coerce witnesses to go back on their statement pending trial (which may last for several years or even decades) and thereby defeat the ends of justice, is completely overlooked. One Police Commission, indeed, recommended that police should provide protection to the witnesses.

However, at the end of 1978, as many as 12,40,000 cases under the Indian Penal Code alone were pending trial in courts throughout the country and if one were to take into account the fact that trials last for years, that in every case there are several witnesses (possibly residing in far-flung areas) and that they can be intimidated not only by direct assault on their person but also by other threats, the impossibility of acting on this suggestion can be easily visualised.

The result is that when dealing with organised crimes such as smuggling, dacoities or terrorist activity, where criminals do not hesitate to kill a person on the barest suspicion of being an informer or helper of the police, the police come to learn about criminals’ activities only under conditions of absolute secrecy. While police might know (or think that it knows) who has committed the crime and who has aided and abetted it, it is simply unable to adduce formal evidence. Not surprisingly, it resents the laws which leads to this situation.

Further, the policeman reaches the scene of a crime soon thereafter, and is exposed to the grief and terror in the raw. If an informer is abducted by dacoits and left with his head crushed or if a class-enemy is beheaded by Naxalites, it is the policeman – not a lawyer or a judge – who reads the terror in the sightless eyes of the victim. If a child is thrown up in the air by dacoits and shot while its mother looks on, it is the policeman who coaxes the hapless woman to tell the full story and shakes in horror.

By the time the matter comes to court, the horror has worn off and the law can well concern itself with the rights of the accused without being overburdened by the weight of the crime in terms of human suffering caused and terror evoked. So, while the policeman is concerned with getting the accused punished, to justify himself in his own eyes and in the eyes of his public, he does not experience similar concern on the part of others. If the accused is let off on account of legal technicalities, or because the witnesses have been suborned by the accused while the trial is delayed through legal tactics, he feels terribly let down by the legal system: his judgement has been negated and he has fallen in his own eyes, as also in the eyes of his public.

The net result is a deep alienation of the police from procedural law. The police sub-culture regards procedural law as irrelevant and whimsical – it can be circumvented and evidence can be fabricated to satisfy its whims and secure conviction of persons whom the police knows to be guilty. And, if some criminals escape punishment under the law the police must find other ways of dealing with them, i.e., if it is to protect society against their depredations.

This alienation has other consequences also. When the British reorganized the police after the events of 1857, a prime objective was to ensure its unfailing loyalty to the government. This concern for police loyalty has remained, as reflected in passing of the Police Forces (Restriction of Rights) Act in 1966. At the same time, the confusion between the state and the government has never been resolved and police loyalty to the government of the day is regarded as sacrosanct.

In this climate, and because of their alienation from the public, the police have found it difficult to transfer their loyalty from the government in power to the state and the common citizen. Second, as sociologists point out, the more the outgroup attacks the ingroup, the greater become the differences between them and the greater is the solidarity of the ingroup: the more the public criticism grows in volume and harshness, the wider is the gulf between the police and the public and the police fraternity becomes a solidified front, united against public criticism and providing solace to members whose feelings have been hurt.

The conflicts arising out of changes in socio-economic order in a heterogeneous society also pose problems for the police who must prevent such conflicts from boiling over and disrupting public order. At least one party to a conflict invariably perceives the police as a force for ‘status quo’ and rejects its moral authority to intervene: it refuses to conform to police directions. The police must then use legal sanctions against the party. If, however, the decision to invoke legal sanctions is not backed up by the people, the government and the court, and if the people do not come forward to bear witness or the case is withdrawn ‘in public interest’, it no longer sees itself, nor is seen by the public as reinforcing the social norms of right and wrong conduct through punishment of the deviant.

The moral authority of the police is thus chipped away until only legal power, which is in itself not sufficient, remains. Anxious about his self-image as protector of the society, as much as for his career prospects, frustrated by the legal-justice system, alienated from the intelligentsia which is constantly critical, shorn of moral authority and charged with the function of enforcement, the policeman sinks into brutality.

K.S. Dhillon



* K.S. Dhillon, a former DG Police, Punjab, was also former Vice Chancellor of Bhopal University, M.P. and former Fellow, IIAS, Shimla.

** Alienation refers to a general condition where there is a lack of identification with or commitment to shared goals and beliefs.


Attention points

AFTER the Gujarat earthquake of 26 January 2001, relief work is about to start and the state rehabilitation strategy is being formulated. Learning from previous rehabilitation efforts, particularly the Latur earthquake, is at the core of designing sustainable policy initiatives and effective mechanisms that work for people.

After the Latur earthquake on 30 September 1993, SPARC-SSP (Swayam Shikshan Prayog) was appointed Community Participation and Monitoring Consultant1 for the repair and strengthening (R&S) programme covering 1300 villages and 2,00,000 households by the Government of Maharashtra. The project was supported by the World Bank, UNDP, DFID and other international agencies. After the completion of the earthquake rehabilitation project, in 1998, SSP steered women’s groups and communities involved in reconstruction towards a broad based community development strategy.2

An ‘owner driven’ reconstruction policy will allow us to use post-disaster rehabilitation as an opportunity for people to rebuild their houses and communities. At the same time, it is important to work out a timeline for rehabilitation. Relief operations should last up to two-three months and reconstruction of houses should be completed in two years. Until this time, people are likely to be housed in temporary shelters. Past experience shows that for this to happen, efficient planning should replace the current centralized planning at all levels set up in the rescue phase. Special efforts are needed to set up decentralised units with personnel trained in disaster management to handle flow of resources and bridge the gap between government and the affected people.


Relief as a basis for rehabilitation

As we enter the relief phase, we need use this stage to lay the foundation for a community driven rehabilitation strategy, instead of viewing relief as a temporary phase before we embark on a permanent rehabilitation plan: Building temporary shelters; Building public/community facilities to demonstrate earthquake resistant technology; Addressing health and psycho social issues; Strengthen community institutions; Assessment and documentation – deaths and damage to structures.

Disaster proof temporary shelters provide the much-needed ‘breathing space’ for affected people to stabilize their lives. In villages where all the structures are destroyed, temporary shelters may be the only accommodation that people live in for the next one to two years. Region specific technology and material options need to be explored before recommending alternatives. Community involvement in putting up temporary shelters is the start of involving people in rebuilding activities.

At this stage, together with providing shelter, access to basic services, health centres, schools, childcare, community centres, and fuel, rations and electricity, water and sanitation etc. is crucial to recovery. Similarly, exploring livelihood options, retraining labour and skilled artisans for earthquake safe reconstruction are crucial steps.

Building public/community facilities with demonstration of earthquake resistant technology: Demonstration of earthquake resistant technology in public buildings is a kick-start to all the reconstruction that will follow in the area. Restoring schools and health centres is usually a priority. We would strongly recommend community centres as part of building confidence in communities. This could act as a leveller in breaking existing social/religious/caste barriers.

Addressing health and psychosocial issues: Health prevention includes provision of safe water and sanitation, tackling health epidemics, and restoring access to services, especially for disabilities. A simple yet effective way of tackling post disaster trauma would be to: (i) Provide community centres where women could meet and voice their concerns; (ii) Involve people in community rebuilding activities; (iii) Volunteers from youth groups, Mahila Mandals can be trained in primary health volunteers; (iv) Provide minimum facilities for trauma counselling linked to primary health centres.

Strengthening community institutions: Form village committees (with members of gram panchayats, women’s groups) to assist in survey and finalizing list of beneficiaries, in documentation for compensation, damage assessment; Empower existing women’s groups to play a key role in reaching out information and resources to affected people; Recognize and strengthen the role of committed citizens and local women/community groups in distribution of relief.

Assessment and documentation in relation to deaths and damage to structures: The process of listing could exclude beneficiaries belonging to minorities, vulnerable groups such as women-headed families, migrant labour, landless labour, disabled, destitute women, orphan girls and boys. Policy planning for the entitlements of affected include grants, loans, house and land titles, credit and livelihoods programmes. Addressing gender issues in planning and distribution of aid is extremely important.


After the issuing of death certificates, compensation packages will be announced by the government.

Technical teams will assess the extent of damage to structures and categorization of the affected villages will occur.

Listing of beneficiaries in these villages.

Gram panchayats or village development committees need to be involved in this process. People need to be informed through gram sabhas or village assemblies.

NGOs can assist in organizing camps to inform communities and set up lok adalats/peoples’ courts in villages for redressal of grievances on the beneficiaries list. (After the Latur quake, several resurveys were done. This went on for over one year. The list of beneficiaries grew with each survey. Inclusion in these lists became the focus of tremendous political pressure and conflict in the area.)


Community driven rehabilitation strategy

The key elements are:

* Build local capacities and skills instead of adopting a ‘brick and mortar’ approach to reconstruction.

* Form village development committees with participation of existing community institutions and women’s groups as facilitators to manage entire rehabilitation.

* Community level monitoring of earthquake safety standards – village committees to monitor progress, women’s groups trained to supervise earthquake safe construction, house owners informed on safety measures.

* Set up grievance redressal mechanisms at village cluster (5 to 10 villages) and taluka levels to address conflicts on listing of beneficiaries and later for problem solving and effective feedback to government.

* Decentralization of administration so that financial and technical assistance is within the reach of affected communities (not mediated by intermediaries).

* Plan for effective role of local governments/gram panchayats in planning and monitoring of rehabilitation ensure information flow and problem solving and provide infrastructure and services.

* Ensure information on earthquake safety measures and entitlements to all house owners by effective use of media and other strategies.

* Use of local skills and labour (retraining artisans on earthquake resistant technology).

* Enhance social effectiveness of women by building capacities to move from margin to mainstream.

* Joint ownership of house and land titles – in the name of men and women.

* State and district level government-NGO planning and coordination mechanisms for entire project period.

* State and district administration to facilitate vertical and horizontal convergence of internal structures to optimize use of public schemes.

* Facilitate public-private partnerships for economic and infrastructure development through convergence of resources and people.

Reconstruction: State-led rebuilding of completely destroyed villages and towns – in situ construction; Adoption of villages by private sector agencies.

Concerns: Relocation of villages could lead to creation of new infrastructure and services at enormous cost.

Private sector may alienate the local leadership and communities and be insensitive to gender issues and participation by poor and lower caste groups.

Government is unlikely to hold private sector agencies accountable to affected people.

Where construction of new earthquake safe houses will be carried out by private agencies/religious trusts/donors/NGOs or government agencies, there is a need to effectively monitor: Right to information on entitlements to affected people; Distribution of houses and assistance especially to women headed household’s minorities and weaker sections; Consultation with affected people on site location, housing and settlement layout, adequate provision for cattle and other animals, storage of grains, etc.; Functioning of village development committees; Women’s participation in community level planning; Training and employment of local artisans including masons and skilled labour in earthquake resistant technology; Construction of earthquake safe houses by the agencies.


Repair and strengthening of houses

Repair and strengthening of damaged structures, reconstruction of safe rooms, retrofitting of vulnerable structures.

It is likely that an owner-driven effort to provide cash and materials to house owners will be initiated in the less affected areas across several districts. It is recommended that one time subsidy to house owners in the form of cash and materials be given (instead of several instalments) where the damage to structures is high/medium. In addition, low interest loans should be made available for those wanting to construct safe structures as part of a larger mitigation strategy.

The policy and programme support needed:

* Appoint engineers for technical assistance to make plans and estimates with house owners for options on repair strengthening and reconstruction of homes.

* Facilitate effective community participation by appointing community facilitators from women’s groups (similar to Latur rehabilitation effort) for reaching out much needed information on entitlements, motivating people to contribute time, labour and skills, monitoring reconstruction of houses and providing on time information and feedback to the administration.

* Empower gram panchayats for community problem solving – lack of masons, labour, lack of water, transport and delays in receiving assistance from the government, and so on.

* Build local capacities and skills of artisans, informing house owners on earthquake safe technology by mass scale information and training strategy.

* Demonstration of low cost, community led alternatives from the relief phase, temporary shelters, to repair/reconstruction of houses and building earthquake safe model houses/community buildings.

* Ensure building codes and set up monitoring agencies at gram panchayats.

* Install flexible legal procedures to facilitate NGOs, CBOs groups of home owners to undertake repair and strengthening of houses.

* Local organizations and NGOs can play role in developing capacities of local artisans, women’s groups, etc.


Issues/concerns that need to be addressed in planning

Retrofitting/strengthening of structures: The magnitude of work related to housing structures in the region is massive and retrofitting as a strategy is made very difficult because of the traditional houses which are built of stone and mud mortar. Even in houses constructed of cement concrete, retrofitting is a specialized operation.

Ensuring use of earthquake resistant technology: Mass level training of masons in earthquake resistant technology; Mass level training of community volunteers to supervise ERT construction; Creation of supervisory cadre among youth and women’s groups trained to monitor earthquake safe construction; Use of mass communication strategies to educate house owners on new technology/materials and how to implement earthquake safety measures.

Institutional mechanisms for pilot and scaling up of EQR construction and innovations: Demonstrate alternatives in the areas of retrofitting of houses, low cost building materials, and training of skilled labour. The project will benefit from the creation of decentralised mechanisms such as area resource centres (which would function beyond the project) to disseminate information on reconstruction using earthquake safe technology.

Use of local labour, resources and building materials: Given the large scale nature of such intervention, construction materials, labour, planning and development activity will be externally determined – making affected people passive and forced into dependency. Experimentation, demonstration of the use of local materials – bricks, stone and mud – and design should be encouraged. Training of local artisans and increasing skilled labour pool. This will prevent rendering local artisans jobless, and setting up of construction related business and services by outsiders.

Information dissemination: No amount of information given to people at this stage is too much. People do not have means to acquire knowledge about safety measures to counter the after shocks. Similarly, there is a steep rise in myths and rumours as fears of earthquakes continue. Dissemination of scientific and correct information, demonstration of safe construction and mass level campaigns need to be done.

Employment generation linked to reconstruction: Priority for use of local materials, local labour, skills and resources; Employment exchange – listing of skilled personnel, artisans; Programme for retraining of engineers, artisans and other personnel; Policy support and legal measures to facilitate implementation of contracts for reconstruction, repair and strengthening by CBOs, NGOs, cooperatives, and so on.

Prema Gopalan



* Swayam Shikshan Prayog, Mumbai,

1. This consultancy was implemented by Society for Promotion of Area Resource Centres through its rural programme, SSP.

2. Today, SSP continues to partner with 594 self-help groups involved in addressing practical issues around credit livelihoods, monitoring health, education, water and sanitation projects through active involvement in local governance and development in Latur and Osmanabad districts in Maharashtra.