Day: November 4, 2007

Friedman, India and Development

Where Thomas Friedman of the New York Times echoes a blog post of mine from a few months back about cheap cars, development models and India.

We have no right to tell Indians what cars to make or drive. But we can urge them to think hard about following our model, without a real mass transit alternative in place. Cheap conventional four-wheel cars, which would encourage millions of Indians to give up their two-wheel motor scooters and three-wheel motorized rickshaws, could overwhelm India’s already strained road system, increase its dependence on imported oil and gridlock the country’s megacities.

No, No, No, Don’t Follow Us – New York Times

Here’s what I had to say…

Is it necessary that India and China tread the same path as the U.S and Europe? Does India have to make and use cars that are built using technology developed prior to our knowledge of global warming? The same company that gets cautious praise from the Union of Concerned Scientists for its “leadership” role in global warming will turn around and build factories in India that carry the status quo forward for another 30 years. When you’re starting from the foundation, and you know that the plans provided to you will lead to your house crumbling in 20 years, would you use the plans anyway because your contractor provides you with no alternative? The logical answer seems to be no, but is this process logic driven, or enforced by the existing power structure?

The answer should be “NO!!”. But Friedman goes ahead and offers some sensible suggestions via the very excellent Sunita Narain.

Charge high prices for parking, charge a proper road tax for driving, deploy free air-conditioned buses that reach every corner of the city, expand the existing beautiful Delhi subway system, “and then let the market work,” she added.

Good idea. Now, will Friedman turn around and offer the same prescription for the US? Apparently not. If the US cannot kick the car habit, or show other people how to, this kind of lecturing is pointless.

Blogged with Flock

Musharraf and the never ending dictatorship

Pakistani opposition leaders and activists have been detained in the wake of President Pervez Musharraf’s decision to declare emergency rule.The
acting head of the party of exiled former PM Nawaz Sharif was arrested, senior lawyers have been detained and the country’s chief justice sacked.PM Shaukat Aziz said that hundreds of people had been held, and the emergency would last “as long as is necessary”.Scheduled elections could be delayed for up to a year, he added.But no decision had been made over the date of any election, he added, insisting the government remained committed to the democratic process.

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Musharraf targets key opponents

Apparently, lessons are never learned. Just like General Zia ul-Haq before him, Musharraf pays a lot of lip service to democracy while riding his military coat tails to a permanent dictatorship. Just like General Zia-ul-Haq before him, the world thinks that he’s the last bastion standing between Pakistan and an Islamic fundamentalist state. Just like Zia-ul-Haq before him, he pretends to hold elections, then subverts the results because of “emergency conditions” and “extenuating circumstances”.

It is rather sad and depressing, Zia ul-Haq was the first Pakistan “president” I knew, always ratcheting up war rhetoric against India. The Benazir Bhutto-Nawaz Sharif years seemed more like a soap opera between two rich and influential feuding Punjabi families than the brutal power struggle that continues to this day. And now, General Musharraf, who is depicted in Western media as the last man standing between the Taliban and Pakistan.

The point? Pakistan, with its independent press, well-established middle class, a quasi-independent judiciary and politically intelligent electorate deserves better. I am not sure that Musharraf would survive without the propping up he receives from the US. But the rug needs to be pulled from under him. Behind that sophisticated veneer (imagine, a third world leader who speaks English and can wear a suit!!!) lurks just another power hungry tinpot dictator.