Sunday, January 29, 2017

Panel Discussion on ‘Development Through Culture’

As part of VKIC Foundation Day celebration, a panel discussion on 'Development through Culture' was organized on January 29 at the conference hall of VKIC. It centred on the book by the same name by S. Gurumurthy, the noted economist.

Sri Gurumurthy had carried out field studies travelling across India trying to understand what made certain regions of the country excel in the field of production and export of industrial goods through mutual support or collaboration. His study of small towns like Tiruppur, Morbi and Ludhiana which emerged as premier production and export centres of industrial goods revealed that these successful local production systems are entirely driven by mature local institutions where personal and social relations ensure intra and inter community cooperation, trust as well as competition. He concludes that culture-driven model of development is the only sustainable model of development.

The panel discussion was undertaken to carry forward the philosophy behind S. Gurumurthy's book, and also to understand it better in the developmental context of India's North East taking into account the behavioural and cultural characteristics of the region for greater sustainability and well being of all.

The programme was moderated by Sri Kashi Nath Hazarika, former Chairman, NEDFi. The speakers were Prof. Kalyan Das, OKDISCD, Dr. Manjit Das, Associate Professor, Bodoland University and Shri Dipankar Mahanta, Member of Executive Council, VKIC.

Shri Kashi Nath Hazarika opened the session stating that the idea of initiating this discussion is to disseminate the concept that culture is an important aspect of development and not an impediment to development.  It is an attempt to sharpen our understanding of the imperatives that dictate development initiatives in the North East and also to reach out, generate and stimulate people at the policy level to design policy interventions attuned to the needs and aspirations of the people.

Prof. Kalyan Das made a power point presentation on some of the important economic activities carried out in North Eastern states. Citing examples of the agricultural sector, he opined that agricultural sector faces huge challenges like lack of efficient irrigation system, land use change and others. In handloom sector too, weavers face the problem of getting silk yarn and have to pay high prices for procuring raw materials.

He was of the view that individual initiatives in the existing production spaces need to be recognized, and efforts of the people need to be complemented by infrastructure development. Technological and financial intervention, developing inter-firm relations and at the same time linking with the larger markets is essential. He concluded from his studies that for an industry to succeed, behavioural norms, social institutions, state actions and legislations need to complement each other.

Dr. Manjit Das through his power point presentation communicated the problems faced by the bell metal industries of Assam and what can be done to resolve those. Assam has three main bell metal centers namely in Raha, Nagaon and Titabor.  Five types of laborers are involved in the production process. Each village involved in the production process produces specific designs and shapes and no two villages come out with the same design. They mainly use second hand scrap imported from Pakistan as brand new raw materials are expensive.  The artisans suffer health hazards from constant working on the metals.

Sri Dipankar Mahanta spoke about his experiences and works undertaken by VKIC guided by the philosophy of development through culture. He said that North East abounds in natural resources but it has not been harnessed properly. For instance the region is a hub of bamboo and bamboo reflects the culture and way of life of the people. However, the policy adopted by the government for enhancement of bamboo production like the National Bamboo Mission and the National Mission for Bamboo Application failed as they are not represented by the people with indigenous traditional knowledge. Folk traditions also hold the key to ecology development and most of the folk songs, dances and cultural practices carry a message for ecological protection and sustainability.

Shri Kashi Nath Hazarika added that we lack entrepreneurs in this region and industries need to go beyond meeting the local needs. For sustainable development, competition as well as cooperation is required, and at the same time this should connect with the culture of the local people.

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