Bad Mandates and Dirty Water
Published on: September 2, 2013
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  • Anthony

    If I understand sense of essay, then issue appears to be institutional rather than mandate sensitive. That is, contrasting China and India water delivery success or lack thereof obfuscates underlying institutional patterns (way of organizing) that enable clean water at 96% rather than 50% rationed. Getting it wrong is not about bad mandates but about the power exercised by India’s decision makers – historical social arrangements of both politics and political process.

  • Rahul Kumar

    The issue of commercialisation of water goes well beyond the economic discourse of cost recovery and effeciency.

    • bmniac

      Quite right. What is often forgotten is the damage to water ad its misuse both by industry and industrial agriculture both of which have assiduous Support from the Government!And virtually every water project is nothing but a long term fraud!

  • Andor

    In the early 80th I met the head of Indian branch of the PanAmerican Airlines visiting Budapest. At the time there was a horrible Hurricane that took lives of about 400 Indian fishermen. Naturally, I expressed my condolences to him. He looked at me, bemused, and answered, “You, Westerners, are concerned for every single human life lost. We, Indians, see such natural disasters as a good way to get read of extra hungry mouths.” The concept of every human life being unique and precious obviously is the “Western invention” to such Indian bureaucrats… Why would they care of supplying more water to the suffering masses? Their pools are filled!

    • bmniac

      The concept of every human life being unique and precious obviously is the “Western invention” to such Indian bureaucrats. One is amused at a person who thinks that an employee of a dying American airline is an Indian bureaucrat. Indian bureaucracy esp at the higher levels is singularly lacking in imagination or spine-not unlike the economic advisers who play a major role in drafting policy.But callous they are not.

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  • qet

    It pains me to acknowledge that there are occasions where a more authoritarian, coercive method of governing is appropriate, as seems to be the case here (but I do not view any problem currently plaguing the US as requiring or justifying such an approach). It is too bad that India cannot implement something resembling the ancient Romans’ institution of dictator to address the crisis.

  • I am an admirer of the clarity and sense of purpose of Chinese planning and implementation wrt poverty reduction. However, the key reason why Indian cities are ungovernable is than there is no restriction on in-migration. The unregulated access to temporary jobs and higher wages is what attracts migrants in their millions. You may know that stopping this flood of in-migration is the basis on which the Shiv Sena, a powerful local party in Mumbai (the NYC of India)has survived for the last three decades. However, the Indian approach to bridging vast disparities in income is what i call the “protestant recrimination tactic”, which is very American. Permit the poor to freely access the same location, though not necessarily the same opportunties (schools, hospitals)as the entrenched elites. If u fail in a city, where the streets are paved with gold, u have only yourself to blame not the State. This approach is what has retained social cohesion and developed a sense of nationhood in India despite the developmental handicap of a soft state. China has a developmental model which is authoritarian in the extreme. Whilst social inequity was limited, it worked. As social inequities increase and growth tapers, it will be interesting to see if developmental authoritarianism can be maintained. Hyderabad’s water may be cleaner than Shanghai’s in 2030 and more investors will probably be lining up for booking flights to Hyderabad. However, it is true that 10 million (five generations)of the Hyderabadi poor will have sacrificed their lives in the meantime. It is the cost of democracy in a fractured polity.

  • bmniac

    One can hardly disagree with S Ahluwalia who has had a distinguished and honorable record of public service.It was Mr Chidambaram who said some time back the need to move people to urban areas as it happened in developed countries with no idea of the preconditions existing there esp the presence of good local government and fairly good national Governance both of which are singularly lacking in India.Water harvesting in both rural and urban setting and good sanitary systems could have been planned a few decades back as knowledge had become available. But the policy makers had virtually no awareness of such things!And the economists and policy makers diverted resources to matters of no great priority. In any event the fiscal leaks and waste are indeed horrendous to which many eyes are conveniently closed. if the Nehru period saw wasteful “investment” his daughter and the Successive Congress Governments have corruption respectable, so long as one is secular!

  • “Like electricity, sewerage, and telecoms it is considered a necessary condition of life and thus something akin to a fundamental right.”

    You’re confusing basic rights with basic needs. Those are basic needs, not rights.

    Rights must be universal(within a democratic political system) and equally accessible to all. Needs should be paid for by those who can afford them. For those who can’t, state should provide help.

    If the things you mentioned are rights, they should be provided freely to all, rich and poor. Right to vote means rich and poor have the same right to cast a ballot.

    But the need to eat means those who can afford food should buy their own and ONLY those who cannot afford the food should rely on state aid. If food were a right than a need, rich should be provided with free food too since rights cannot discriminate; they must be universal.

  • qet

    I would be late to the party, except there is no party. A pity, because there ought to be. I don’t know how it is I have so long overlooked Berger. His “Social Construction of Reality” has been in my Amazon cart for a long time. I guess it’s past time I actually had it shipped. For good measure I just added a few others. I have to believe that were Berger a young professor today seeking tenure, blog writings like this would sink his career. As to his question–“Why this change? Could it be a very curious return of the repressed—in this case, of old-fashioned bourgeois etiquette?”–I believe I can answer that. This sort of thing is in evidence all over the place (the place being, of course, the Internet) and has been for some years (decades if you remember history BI). Modern feminist writers (because I can’t be certain of the views of feminists who don’t write, right?), 99% of whom are women (and the 1% who are men are just sickening in their unoriginal obsequiousness) devote themselves to writing about sexuality and gender, topics that in the hands of non-feminists are held by feminists to be mere “social constructs” (though I haven’t yet read Berger’s book, I suspect that he, like me, would never qualify social constructs by the word “mere”). They prescribe a host (truly) of rules for interactions between straight men and women, straight boys and girls (not so much for interactions between Ls and Ls, Gs and Gs, or Ls and Gs; and, to borrow from Berger’s repetoire: when will an L or a G sue over the use of “straiight” as a descriptor of heterosexuals?). In their obsession with sex they are no different from the Puritans, both the actual historical ones and everyone else since whose views of and rules for managing gender contact and sexual conduct tend to what is usually called “prudish.” Feminists ARE the new Puritans, and they seek power and authority to prescribe THEIR rules. And because modern femininsts are, like most modern left-liberals, pure products of the academy, they seek power in, and see power only as reflected in, the prohibition and prescription of words. Just observe the work they have put in lately to the concepts of “sexual assault” and “sexual harrassment,” most especially on college and university campuses (soft targets, those), and you will see a positively militant Puritanism on the march.

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