Sunday, September 18, 2011

Liberalization, Voluntary Action and Environment: A Paradox

Sanat Kumar Singh and Dr. Avadhesh Kumar Misra*

[This paper was written in 1997 for presentation in a seminar and was published subsequently in ‘Advances in Environmental Bio-pollution’. Hindi translation of the paper has also been published in a few Journals. Though this was written during our learning process, it appears to have become more relevant nowadays particularly in the face of heightened civil society activism.]

The issues of liberalization of Indian economy and environmental conservation have gained a lot of momentum during the recent years The thrust of liberalization has been to minimize the role of state in economy which leaves a gap between the economic growth under this model and long cherished goal of development with equity and social justice. The social sector of development obviously needs some alternative institutional devices in this situation. A shift in the paradigm of development under the names of participatory, sustainable and /or environment friendly development has vigorously favoured the voluntary action.

The present study is an attempt to discover the interrelation of the above issues and underlying interests pursued by them.

The discussion has been started in the first section with the notion of development, western biases in the notion and its inherent lack of sustainability. The second section provides the context of international relations where the interests of already developed nations prevail. It has been argued that interests of developed nations oppose the sustainable development which is environment friendly. The third section discusses the lack of attention paid to environment in liberalization process and pressures likely to emerge from the process which will push the whole process of competitive growth in the direction diametrically opposed to environment protection. Section fourth and fifth explore the nature of support available to voluntary agencies and their role, which are supposed to fill the gap left by liberalization process in the related fields. Finally conclusions have been given.


The resurgence of notion of development during the later half of the twentieth century is a result of several factors, the main being decolonization of a number of countries and emergence of newly independent nations. In a little time these countries began to emerge as developing countries rather than being stuck to their colonial legacy of underdevelopment. An important aspect of this process was presence of the two world powers U.S.A. and Western Europe on the one hand and socialist block on the other. Thus the ideology of the elite and governments of newly independent countries was largely shaped by the achievements of the developed countries to catch up with them. A section of academicians was also coming forward propagating the large scale industrialization along with the western values to be the only way of developing these nations. This western bias in the academic disciplines regarding the notion of developments seems to be enforced due to development of systematic social sciences in the developed countries themselves, which got particular impetus from industrial revolution, French revolution etc. In recent sociological writings the term “development” has been used either to differentiate between prosperous industrial societies which are called developed on one hand and rural agricultural and poor – the so called underdeveloped on the other hand, of to describe the process of industrialization and modernization. Bottomore says, “Studies of development in this sense have concentrated particularly upon economic growth’ (Bottomore,1965). He further adds that ‘in some forms this idea has given rise to a technological determinism which ignores many important aspects of social structure.’ (Bottomore, 1965)

The ideology of economic growth drew strength from the belief that what mattered most for the welfare of the people in economically backward countries was increase in production as reflected in GNP and per capita income. The impact of this ideology marked the strategy for development of independent India as well. The emphasis of second five year plan was on the establishment of heavy industry, the so called temples of modern India. The installation of community development projects, establishing development blocks with U.S.Aid and the programmes reliance on the bureaucratic machinery at lower level for implementation are indicative of this bias very clearly. This has not been taken into an account that the condition of Britain or U.S.A. and that of India at a comparable stage of development say at the beginning of the industrialization were quite different. Industrial revolution on Europe was largely a product of capital accumulated through exploitation of erstwhile colonies. Whereas independent India and other such third world countries have to take course of their development in the face of competition and conditions posed by already developed countries and in the absence of any parallel source of capital formation.

The western bias of development model of independent India becomes clearer if it is seen vis-à-vis the seeds of possible model of development present in the Gandhian thoughts. Gandhi recognized that a bias towards urban industrial development could result only in a one sided exploitation of the resources of the countryside. In his own words “the blood of villages is the cement with which the edifice of the cities is built (Harijan, 1946). Gandhi was well aware of the fact that the course of Indian development could not be comparable to that of western countries. It was for two reasons as neither it was possible nor desirable. He skeptically questioned, ‘what can be the fate of Indian trying to ape the west’ (Young India, 1926). Gandhian model would have been more village oriented, labour oriented, environment based and at the same time environment friendly. Ram Chandra Guha elaborates a number of elements in Gandhi an thoughts ‘that would fit nicely into the utopia of environmentalist, a clean and hygienic environment, the collective management and use of those gifts of nature so necessary for human life, water and pasture’ (Guha, 1994). In fact Gandhi was opponent of the process of mechanization to the extent it enslaved the human kind itself. However, this is not to blame the shortsightedness of the planers of free India, who were, as the majority of Indian elite at that time, appreciative of the growth model of development. This if just to indicate that how the issue of environment in the development planning got ignored due primarily to the model adopted by them. Nor the considerations were made on the suitability of that model’s success in indigenous conditions which were characterized by colonial legacy.

Similar are the experiences in this regard of many other third world countries which had once enthusiastically adopted the already developed countries’ model of development. To quote eminent Mexican sociologist and coordinator for the Latin American universities network on environment, United Nations Environment Programme, Enrique Leff:

“the underside to economic growth, boosted by progressive development of productive forces has been the inspection of man’s resource base, the pollution of the environment, social marginalization and the increase in extreme poverty deteriorating the majorities’ quality of life. This process is generating worldwide climatic changes and ecological imbalances along with the breakdown of the ancestral solidarity of the people, the forsaking of communities, cultural values and supplanting of environmentally suitable traditional practices in the use of resources. This environmental crisis resulting from the global and local impacts generated by national development policies as well as well as from technological patterns and economic rationality of the world order, threatens the possibility for sustainable, equitable and lasting development of human societies”(Leff, 1992).


It would be pertinent to look at the relationship between developed and developing countries before the process of liberalization began with the environmental frame of reference. The question of environment, as were the questions relating to the democracy, human rights, humanitarianism, liberty etc, was dealt by developed block in such a way and with such a rigor accompanied by a lot of propaganda that a general picture before the eyes of a layman would happen to be quite different from the reality. To mention but a few such instances in the arena of international relations should not be irrelevant here. North block (NATO group) used to see the violation of human rights and loss of democratic values, not only in Burma, Libya of Iran (pre gulf war era) but more in North Korea, Cuba and of course if Punjab and Kashmir in India. At the same time ignorance to the similar questions in the Saudi Arabia, South Korea, of U.S. action in tiny countries like Granada, Panama, Haiti is considerable. It is clear that spectacles coloured with vested interests of developed world are main determinants of their international relations and ideology.

It has been stated repeatedly that whereas rich countries by and large control their own destinies which is never true for developing of underdeveloped countries whose fate is vulnerable to a number of external factors and international institutions.[1] Thus it has been seen that many developed countries continued to use the third world countries as their waste disposal sites if and when the latter no longer remain their colonies. Many drugs, medicines, pesticides etc. virtually banned in the respective countries of the producer MNCs’ in the light of being hazardous not only for environment but also to the life of mankind, were continued to be supplied to the poor nations. John Medelay, the editor of ‘International Agricultural development’ in an article entitled ‘Britain and the Third World’ observes,

“Britain has continued to use the third world countries as a dump for pesticides with British firms setting formulations that contain active ingredients, such as dysulfotone and terbulos, which are either banned or severally restricted on health or environmental grounds in Britain and other countries”( Madeley, 1990).

With such a geo-political background, end of the cold war and thus power balance between two world powers, following the sudden fall of USSR, the ideas and ideology of arrogant developed world over-flooded the world. A number of jargons intangible to the majority at the first encounter were propagated; however, these are not as new as they are believed or established to be. Terms like ‘globalization’, ‘liberalization’, ‘market friendly’, ‘free market’ etc. have been propagated at such a large and global scale as if some revolution in true sense is going to happen. Structure adjustment programmes have been launched in a number of countries. Bright pictures are portrayed of the success of so called ‘Asian Tigers’ of ‘Panthers’ who have already followed structurally adjusted programmes. All this is being done by the so called international organizations namely World Bank, I.M.F., former GATT and its recent reincarnation WTO.

These international organizations are international or democratic only if they pursue the interests of developed countries of at least do not go against them. Usually they work as sub-committees of ‘White House’ or ‘House of Lords’. ‘The report of South Commission states that the fate of south if increasingly dictated by the perceptions and policies of government in the north and by the multinational institutions with a few of these governments control’. The relations of developed and underdeveloped countries in these organizations became clearer at the time of more conflicts of interests. This is evident at the question of India’s permanent membership to Security Council and that of Japan’s and drastically different attitude shown by USA and other such countries. A similar pursuance of U.S. interests in U.N.O is clear from its stand on second term re-election of Mr. Boutros Ghali to the post of U.N. General Secretary. It is notable that Mr. Ghali was the most active General Secretary ever since and it has been a tradition for every General secretary but him to complete two consecutive terms in the office. United States has, after all democratic demagogy vetoed his re-election.

Thus it is not surprising that the real culprits of environmental degradation are developed nations and the policies of development propagated by them. Moreover, ‘the development of developed countries is the main reason for the underdevelopment of underdeveloped countries’(Banerjee, 1995). These are the developed countries who consume the largest share of world’s natural resources causing the environmental disaster for the whole world; first victims would be the underdeveloped countries. An economist of Wupertal Istitute of Germany Friedric Shmidst Bleak says that ‘on an average, inhabitants of industrial countries use nineteen times as much aluminum, eighteen times as much chemicals, fourteen times as much paper and thirteen times as much iron and steel as do their counterparts from third world’(Banerjee, 1995). This is when almost five times more people live in underdeveloped of developing countries than those living in developed worlds. The similar voice has been echoed by the Rio summit. Agenda 21 of the summit states that ‘the major cause of the continued deterioration of the global environment is the unsustainable pattern of consumption and production particularly in the industrialized countries which is matter of grave concern aggravating poverty and imbalances’.


The above discussion is just to provide the context of international relationship which are inevitable to have a proper understanding of the liberalization process as well as developed world’s concerns over any issue like that of environment. However, with increasing awareness of the issue of the environment particularly after Earth Summit, it is likely to expect that developed nations would pay a greater attention over this problem. The concomitant process of liberalization of world economy and increasingly felt necessity of environment-friendly development demand an enquiry of liberalization process with this frame. The questions whether are the ‘market friendly’ and ‘environment friendly’, two sides of the same coin or they are diametrically opposite?

A review of economic policy changes since 1991 when liberalization era began as structure adjustment programmes suggests that no explicit change has occurred in environmental policies of regulations. If one considers that there has been no change and every thing is going in liberalization era as it was before, then too it cannot be suggested that economic model is environment friendly. But any way this is not the case as the impact of environment is not invariant across the policy regime. An explicit threat to the environment comes from the prolongation of international relations discussed in the above section as well as the continuation of environmental policies of the pre-liberalization era. The toxic wastes of north for dumping in the third world countries being exported from developed countries has already been exemplified. ‘This may also happen in India owing to almost absence of safe-guards’( Lawrence, 1992). Dr. Mohammad El–Ashry, Chairman of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) has expressed his deep concerns about the global environment degradation in a recent interview. In his own words, ‘India in particular should guard against the exploitation by MBCs.’ ‘The primary cause for environmental degradation is faulty technology transfer from developed countries’.

However, the implicit impact that implementation of new policy on environment, is more hazardous. The trade and exchange liberalization is the key driving force behind the new economic policies. Lelle argues, ‘as renewable are under priced in status quo renewable – intensive production–forest products, some foods and cash crops and many polluting industries– will gain from the hidden subsidies and likely show up of exports’ (Lelle, 1995). The classic example of leather and shoe industry may be cited over here. This industry fits very well in the now famous ‘dirty industry’, memo of Lawerence Summer, the Chief Economist of World Bank, ‘as restriction in environmental standards with regard to industry producing very toxic pollutants and effluents get more strict in north, these industries then move south (developing nations). The leather industry whose effluent contains heavy metal such chromium is now witnessing a bloom in India’(Lawrence, 1992). The International Water Tribune in Amsterdam in its recent hearings in February,1992 pronounced the case of the pollution caused by leather tannery effluents in Tamilnadu, as being one among the ten most serious causes of threat to water resources in the world’.

The increased competition on domestic industries due to opening up domestic market for international capital and MNCs has necessitated restructuring of a number of Indian industries which are bound to have little patience for environmental niceties? In view of Taylor, ‘there are serious conflicts between liberalized trade and environmental standards. India with many other poor countries may find dirty industries being added to its list of sectors (such as sweat shop manufactories) with comparative advantage’ (Taylor, 1992). Similar arguments have been advanced by J. Mohan Rao when he says that due to increased pressure for efficiency over many moribund industries, ‘problem of non compliance with standard will grow and the pollution control boards may find their limited enforcement capabilities sorely tested’.

J. Mohan Rao further argues that deregulation, privatization, knocking out subsidies etc. which are main thrust of liberalization and SAP ‘do not bode well for environment. For this he gives three reasons, first it is most unlikely that pollution control and environmental restoration expenditures will rise above the present measly levels, given a strategy wedded to tickle and maximizing the profit incentives. Secondly with the much needed dismantling of licensing, the responsibility for pollution control has been shifted largely to the wholly inadequate mechanism of state and city governments as part of their physical planning mandate and thirdly the unscrambling of subsidies is unlikely to release funds in ways that will hunt the rich and powerful rather than poor. Environmental deterioration from below may then get exacerbated’. The want of foreign currency has forced towards deliberate neglect of environmental implication of many industries. Tourism Industry in Goa is an example. Lawrence Surendra reports that, ‘the development of tourism in areas such as Goa and the relaxation of environmental standards for hotels and resorts in order to garner ‘tourist dollars’ according to Ministry of Agriculture sources are affecting the fish and prawns catch due to the presence of high levels of coliform and other pollutants’(Lawrence, 1992). A number of such examples may be quoted but the purpose here is to indicate how the ‘market friendly’ and ‘environment friendly’ stand together. If not diametrically opposite, even then the market friendly liberalization is more or less paradoxical to the issues of environmental protection.


The notions of decentralization, people’s participation, voluntarism etc. should be seen in the context of anti–underdeveloped countries and anti–environment face of the development of developed countries as well as the ideology of development sponsored by the latter. The liberalization of economies and globalization is to be viewed as a more cruel and cunning extension of the same, particularly getting benefited from the changed power balance of the world after the downfall of Soviet Union. It is not meant here that the notions discussed above mainly ‘people’s participation’ and ‘voluntarism’ have no meaning at all or they always convey some negative ideology from developing nations’ and environmental perspective. These notions may fructify in a formation comprising of truly democratic egalitarian relationship not only among various sections of a nation but also among nations. But they lose all their positive connotations when put in present national and international praxis as they are reduced to mere jargons to hide the real oppression and to contain any popular people’s resurgence against oppression.

An important implication of liberalization is the substitution of state’s role increasingly by the market. The state has been rigorously criticized for its malfunctioning particularly in the economic and developmental sectors by the advocates of structural adjustment programmes as if the state had all the bad and market all the good. The impact of liberalization has been observed as ‘governments abrogating their responsibilities for sustaining and creating conditions for achievement of basic entitlements. This is manifested in reduced expenditure on social sector spending (health, education, drinking water and irrigation, employment generation, poverty alleviation, electric supply, roads and transportation)’ (Kothari, 1992). Obviously the issue of environment is also to be left except a few regulations of the state. The people’s participation through voluntary action is repeatedly advocated to be more efficient alternative to the states’ role.

A difference must be made between the state as a democratically accountable institution and various levels of governance namely Panchayati Raj bodies on one hand and the voluntary agencies or non government organizations on the other. As the notion of people’s participation is often associated with Panchayati Raj bodies in the same way it is associated to non government organizations. In other words Panchayati Raj bodies and NGOs are considered being two means or modes of people’s participation of the same category. After all the shortcomings of the democratic institutions they are much more accountable to people than any bureaucratic structure financed and administered from top. There is nothing wrong when Miloon Kothari considers both the processes– ‘the closing of space for voices of dissent, a crackdown of trade union activities and a growing disregard for democratic institution’, ‘as well as the increased co-option of the voluntary sector’ under the same head, ‘the stifling of democratic institutions’(Kothari, 1992). Here it remains to understand whether it is real concern of developed nations for environment as a result of which they and a number of funding agencies in those countries are increasingly advocating and financing the voluntary agencies and NGOs in India and other developing countries.

An analogy may be sought of such a real concern of developed nations in their concern on the “social clause” issue enforced by W.T.O. The WTO’s sudden humanitarianism in singling out India’s highly competitive carpet industry is noteworthy. The logic of WTO is that such a move is necessary to ban child labour. A similar enforcement is being attempted to increase the minimum wages of Labour. Who can suspect the intention of World Trade Organization? However, it is interesting to note the arguments and worries of president of World Economic Forum, Charles Schwab who says that ‘there is new type of low wage – high productivity countries and growing presence of such countries in world market is making it impossible for developed rich countries to maintain the standard of living.’ Curiously D.R. Pendse observes that ‘the World Trade Organization (WTO) just formed to promote freer world trade, will come in handy’ with its ‘omnibus social clause which in effect means that all export must comply with certain social criteria’ (Pendse, 1995). Is the case not similar in promotion of liberalization and voluntary action as perhaps both the processes of are “made for each other”?

An amount of over 2000 crores comes in every year from foreign donor agencies for rural development purposes, the environment being a major thrust area or component of this and over 10000 registered voluntary agencies receive this money. It is notable that neither there is any proper inbuilt mechanism for self-discipline by voluntary agencies receiving and spending such a large amount nor is there any state enforced public accountability in this regard. This is obvious that some groups are building colossal empires through corruption and the voluntary spirit has remained a matter of papers and formal discussion. A number of voluntary groups ware opposed to enactment of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) as it was thought to enforce some restrictions in receiving the foreign money, however later these restrictions came to prove inefficient. Bunker Roy on the basis of his long experiences as the organizer of Social Work and Research Centre, Tilonia, Rajasthan and twenty five years long interaction with foreign funding agencies has demanded an amendment in FCRA imposing some strict restrictions in the transactions. He writes, “It’s been over 10 years since the FCRA was put into effect and we like to think we have learnt from this experience. It was unfortunate that when the FCRA became law an open debate on the need for the code of conduct was agitating the voluntary sector and unscrupulous groups who were against any code comprising their life style deliberately confused the issue thus successfully delaying the code from being adopted unanimously? Those opposed to any code enforcing discipline and accountability in desperation framed Voluntary Action Network of India (VANI) and individuals who opposed the code of conduct at that time were backed by massive foreign money. Today they still receive crores of rupees and life style of those living in the urban cities could match with any senior company executive in a multinational firm. If poverty was big business in 1980s, volunteerism is big business in 1990s with every non gazetted officer (ngo) starting an NGO. What a sad and tragic state of affairs that government should believe such an immoral and hypocritical people to speak for grass-root groups” (Roy, 1996).

A question that is likely to arise why these funding agencies belonging to developed countries are so anxious for development – sustainable and environment friendly? We don’t want to explore the question of real concern any more, as it has been exposed enough in above paragraphs. However, it seems that this liberal funding serves three aims of these nations. First to provide a rationale to the process of liberalization, which in effect completely ignores the issue of environment friendly and sustainable development, addressing particularly to the needs of poor and working classes? In the absence of such rationale it would be if not impossible, very difficult to adopt policy of liberalization in third world countries including India. Secondly the promotion of voluntary action by developed countries is aimed to create a safety net so as to contain any probable popular mass resentment against the established power structure which is conducive to their interests. This need is multiplied in liberalization era as the hardships of the grass-roots are likely to increase due to liberalization process. Also the continued existence of poverty and mass unemployment augment the possibility of any progressive movement. Thirdly, if any thing in real terms is to be achieved through this easy money and some noticeable betterment in living conditions of the people is about to occur, they (people with somewhat improved living conditions) are going to add up in the market for their produce (developed countries) in liberalization era”.

Thus voluntary action in this sense is going to become a multipurpose weapon in the hands of developed countries to be used “for their interest” which in other words is ‘against the interests of developing countries’. Prakash Karat in his article on “Action Groups/ Voluntary Action Organizations : A Factor in Imperialist Strategy” observes that ‘there is a sophisticated and comprehensive strategy worked out in imperialist quarters to harness the forces of voluntary agencies / action groups to their strategic design to penetrate the Indian society and influence its course of development. It is the imperialist ruling circle which has provided through their academic outfits the political and ideological basis for outlook of a substantial of these proliferating groups in India’(Karat, 1984). Karat further adds, “By providing liberal funds to these groups, imperialists have created avenues to penetrate directly vital sections of Indian society and simultaneously used this movement as a vehicle to counter and disrupt the potential of left movement.”


As already has been mentioned, the above section does not mean that any kind of voluntarism, people’s participation etc. will essentially have the same intentions and purposes. The above discussion is to clarify the role and purpose of foreign funds appropriated by the voluntary groups in India and other third world countries. There may undoubtedly be some voluntary organizations, voluntary in true sense with a real participation of people. But most of the voluntary organizations receiving funds from foreign sources or from above are fulfilling only first two purpose of developed countries mentioned in above section. The money thus appropriated by these groups is used only to provide a rationale to the policy of liberalization and to create a safety net to contain any mass movement. Moreover, majority of voluntary organizations not only receive foreign funds but are totally dependent on these funds. They have no other source of income. They have not even thought of raising and generating funds of their own from within the countries and as a result have become professional beggars running around raising money by any means for what ever cause just to keep their defunct organization alive”(Roy, 1996).

Similar are the experiences of P.K. Bajpayee , Honorary President of ‘Utthan’ a voluntary organisation who had ‘not come across any NGOs withdrawing from the community they have worked for years together. Though when they propose their projects to funding agencies, they usually carry a plan of withdrawal over a period of time by empowering and enabling the community to manage its own affairs without outside help’. Bajpayee calls it ‘professional cleverness’ (Bajpayee, 1995). In fact the very formation of voluntary organization makes it, compulsory for them to function as micro level Weberian bureaucracies. Formal organization, formal head, professional social workers/activist or so called volunteers, written rules and conducts, need of a lot of book keeping etc. make these organizations a matter very far from local initiative, popular participation or from representation of local needs and aspirations. This is the inherent problem of their formulation; vested interests, aristocratic leadership, consideration of a number of much condemned factors such as caste, religion or region etc. as the manifestation of specific historicity simply add to the already faulty structure. The colonial legacy of the context in which they function and lack of any accountability towards the people facilitates them to lay the “Iron law of oligarchy” converting themselves into self aggrandizing and self fulfilling parasitic bodies. ‘Voluntary organizations are generally political and administrative formations concerned mainly with retaining powers with themselves and therefore their intervention in this regard have only had a pseudo impact giving power and pelf to a few’(Bajpayee, 1995).

It is beyond doubt that despite receiving a lot of funds from above the voluntary organizations have done nothing significant for the poor, for the protection of environment with sustained development or for any other objectives, they profess. Ironically this is caused by very funding from above. This funding is the main force that not only bureaucratizes these organizations, but also breeds an arrogant despotism among them. ‘The voluntary groups have been splintered, they have lost their idealism and identity, and they have compromised their values, their simplicity and their integrity, all because too much foreign money is available too easily’(Roy, 1996).

Much recited and long cherished goal (though it should be the mean) of people’s participation through voluntary action has met with same fate. People’s participation is concerned with achieving power, the power to influence the decisions that influence once life situations. This depends upon the sharing of power with people that voluntary organizations appropriate and generate. However, ‘although academics, voluntary organizations, governments and funding agencies and U.N. agencies have promoted and supported the participatory concept of development and much has been written and spoken about participation, authentic participation by the poor has hardly taken place in real life situations’(Vettivel, 1995). This should not be thought that this happened due to some faulty methods or mistaken procedures. This happened because no body – no group has tried to involve and empower the people. It was caused deliberately by these formations and ideology underlying them. Bajpayee holds that it is because of lack of honesty on the part of NGOs whom he calls ‘traders of development’(Bajpayee, 1995).

The failure of voluntary actions particularly in India is a well known fact. It is general scenario in independent India with a few exceptions. But the advocates of voluntarism who are obviously the advocates of liberalization at the same time are quite offensive to ignore the reality due to which the most of voluntary action has gained nothing and is bound for the same in future. Thus it is clear that the nexus of the forces of liberalization, mainly the developed countries and international organizations and those favouring voluntary action viz. funding agencies from developed countries, their recipients in the third world and allied academics, despite a lot of hue and cry over the environment friendly, sustainable development are in essence paradoxical to latter.


It may be safely concluded that the notions of development and progress have a developed nation’s bias. This bias inhibits the indigenous and localized paradigm of development that may be sustainable and environment friendly. Liberalization promotes or rather reinforces the above bias although in disguise and through a chain of newly created jargons. Liberalization and structural adjustment programmes in India are advocated by IMF and World Bank under the pressure of unipolar world. Thus liberalization and issue of environment stands diametrically opposed to each other. The international capital and ruling class in India have joined hands to hide this irresolvable contradiction in the given world situation. The voluntary action is just a safety net to contain this situation. The analogy may be seen in the contradiction of policies pursued by World Bank and IMF for liberalization on one hand and endeavours to enforce ‘social clause’ on the other.

The trend in recent years has been to get rid of social sector expenditure by national government and emergence of NGOs as pivot of this sector. A large part of voluntary action is promoted by international funding agencies. The issue of environment has become the responsibility of more or less micro level and scattered voluntary organizations. The myth of people’s participation in this type of voluntary action ‘forced upon from without’ and acted by externally employed and professional voluntary activists and social workers’ is evident from the experiences of number of programmes. However, this is not to deny that some times some spontaneous and unaided voluntary activism may also emerge but occurrence of this phenomenon is negligible in case of ‘funded from above’ ‘voluntarism’.


Bajpayee P. K., 1995 ‘People’s Participation in Development’ paper presented in a national seminar on Social Development and role of NGOs’ organized by Udaipur School of Social Work on May 16 -17 .

Banerjee Shubhankar, 1995 ‘Protecting Environment from Disastar’ Kurukshetra Dec.. 45.

Bottomore T.B.;1965 Sociology – A guide to Problem and Literature, Bombay. 286.

Guha Ram Chandra, 1994 “Gandhi, The environmentalist, 97, seminar January.

Harijan 23rd June 1946.

Karat Prakash,1984 “Action Groups / Voluntary Organizations: A Factor in Imperialist Strategy” the Marxist vol. 2.

Kothari Miloon, 1992 ‘Living conditions’ Seminar July x, 25.

Lawrence Surendra,1992 ‘Environmental Implications’ Seminar 395, 47.

Leff Enrique,1992 ‘Environment and Democracy’ in “Democratic Culture and Governance, Latin America on the Threshold of Third Millenium” bu Luis Albaba – Bertrand, Coordinator UNESCO, HISPAMERICA.

Lelle S.M.,1991 ‘Sustainable Development; A Critical Review’, World Development vol. 19, 607-21,

Madeley John,1986 ‘Britain and the Third World’ in ‘ Green Britain on Industrial Wasteland’, edited by E. Goldsmith and N. Hildyard, polity press

Pendse D. R.,1995, ‘Jungle Law Seeks to Pen Asian Tigers’Times of India, March 13.

Roy Bunkar, 1996 “Foreign Funds and Threat to Voluntary Sector” E. P. W., 3161.

Rao J. Mohan, 1995; ‘Economic Reforms and Ecological Refurbishment: A Strategy for India’, Economic & political Weekly, 749.

Taylor L.,1992, ‘The World Bank and The Environment’, ‘The World Development Report, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge,

Vettivel, 1992; ‘People’s Participation in Social Development: Role of NGOs.

Young India – 7th October 1926.


1. For more detailed discussion over this topic a lot of literature is available e.g. ‘Food Security, Environment and Equity Issue’ by Kamla Chaudhary, Mainstream Annual Issue, 1990.

2. See ‘Gandhi and Agenda 21’ by Kamla Chaudhary Mainstream annual issue 1994 . 76.

*Dr Avadhesh kumar Mishra is a Reader in Department of Hindi, Christ Church College, Kanpur.


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