Osama Manzar, Founder and Director of Digital Empowerment Foundation spoke with Arun Maira. Arun Maira is a former Member of Planning Commission of India and also the former India Chairman of The Boston Consulting Group. He was also a part of Tata Administrative Services for 25 years and has written several books.
“The Planet is hitting backwards and it is a situation of a human crisis within the Planet’s existence. The situation is such that we all are isolated and quarantined in our respective homes. There is a disruption in human interference and it has allowed the planet to heal. For instance, Ganga looks cleaner than before, we hear birds chirping, there is no noise of vehicles on the roads as the human activities have come to a still.
The question is—what will we do once the lockdown is lifted? We have the option to return back as we were. Never-the-less, this makes us think deeper and helps us to realize that it is an aspirational crisis, which co-exists with humans and the planet crisis. We are compelled to observe, how migrant labourers and other poor people have no shelter or place to stay and isolate themselves—and how we as responsible people can contribute towards building a better world for the underprivileged.
At present, the people value the economy of desire over the economy of needs. The human beings are progressing in terms of material growth and has opted a consumerist model. Consumption gives us satisfaction, drives the material economy, which pulls in advertising and tempts people to want things they otherwise would do very well without. The satisfaction of human beings has become relatable. People feel proud in having different variants in their gadgets. Ironically, the ones who benefit from it are the producers and the sellers.
The society is compelled to aspire for materialistic things. The whole purpose of the economy must have been to serve mankind and society and not vice versa. A shift is in the equation is required. It is good that India is not entirely driven by materialistic consumption. Shekhar Kapoor, a renowned film director, and a very dear friend of mine, while making a documentary on the lives of Indian communities realized that the people lead a very basic life.
It is true that the Indian population (Urban) train themselves in vocational studies and look for jobs in the market. The MNCs earn profit from the products we buy and invest in. The whole cycle of demand-supply is huge and this lets corporates come up with ideas for a bigger catch for the consumer’s pocket.
The focus from Consumption related economic progress should be shifted to a Need based economy.
A certain amount of pressure is built on the government to provide for the basic needs of the people. The shift from the business to controlling people is very much visible. Authorizing someone is necessary, to ensure that the collective interest is not hampered due to personal interest.
Across the globe, people have come out on the streets to protest against COVID-19 crisis. Hence, individual freedom can be proved destructive for larger population. Technology can be used to provide relief for control purposes, but the question is—who is controlling that technology.
Local dependence and local living is lost now. The trend of consuming on a global scale persists. Going back to our basics will be an intelligent step forward. But, will this pave the path for strengthening local economy? For instance, a human body works in synchronization with several organs. It is possible that someone’s lungs are in better condition and someone else’s liver can function better; but if we break this unified chain, the individuality of a human being will be lost. Similarly, in an attempt to build an effective and most efficient economy, self-reliance and diversity will be lost. Hence, we should look for local sustainability and go back to the basics to create a diverse system.”