KICS Sharing Session – 42

Science and Society: A Contemporary Perspective
Speaker: Prof. Deepak Kumar

Date and Time: October 6, 2018, 4:00 – 6:00 PM
Venue: CWS Conference Hall, 12-13-438, Street No. 1, Tarnaka, Secunderabad - 500017 

This talk proposes to explore the dynamics of the science-society relationship in the context of contemporary India. As a background, it will begin with some focus on what had happened during the colonial times, especially the period of transition from dependence to independence. Modern science no doubt had come as part of the colonial baggage and was gradually accepted by the growing middle class. But this was not done without certain valid contestations. These debates informed and influenced the Indian national movement. It had outstanding participants like Gandhi, Tagore, Saha, Visvesvaraya, Raman and Nehru. Their ideas gradually led to a kind of development discourse which remains valid even today. 

What were the contours of this discourse? The inner tensions were amply reflected in the planning process which independent India had enthusiastically accepted. Science and technology had become almost synonymous with modernisation and development. What were its strength and weaknesses? Notwithstanding certain fault lines, the foundations of a new India were laid. New institutions were created, new sub-disciplines emerged and the role of scientists like S.S. Bhatnagar, P. Mahalanobis, Homi Bhabha, Vikram Sarabhai, B. P. Pal deserve notice at par with politicians and reformers of the time. The year 1967 marks a watershed, and as the political fortunes fluctuated, educational institutions began to decline. The successive governments responded by creating new institutions. The revolutionary changes in information and other technologies brought some prosperity as well as fresh challenges.  The talk will end with a tentative assessment of these changes by the end of the twentieth century, the consequences of which are too close to be properly assessed.

 

Prof. Deepak Kumar has worked and published on different aspects of science, society and government links in the context of colonial India during the last four decades. On retirement from Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi), he is currently an Honorary Professor at the University of Hyderabad. His publications include Science and the Raj: A Study of British India (OUP, 2006) and The Trishanku Nation: Memory, Self and Society in Contemporary India (OUP, 2016).

 


Sharing session is one of the regular activities of Knowledge In Civil Society (KICS) trust. These are organised around contemporary themes relevant to KICS work as an exercise of learning from each other. The objective is to deepen our shared understanding of the theme and to appreciate the key cross linkages, especially in the realm of Science, Technology & Society. You can find a list of previous sharing sessions here.

The challenge of technology and sustainability of trade unions 
Speaker: Shri. Sudhershan Rao Sarde 
Date and Time:
January 20, 2018, 4:00 – 6:00 PM Venue: CWS Conference Hall,
12-13-438, Street No. 1, Tarnaka, Secunderabad - 500017 

Workplaces are becoming increasingly flexible and various models are being evolved and developed to push strategic and resilient dimensions, with leaner and meaner business organizations, in response to competitive marketplaces. Path-breaking technological advancements in automation, robotics and artificial intelligence coupled with revolutionary strides in information and communication technology, have facilitated unhindered flow of capital, goods, services and data, promoted by an overarching neo-liberal socio-political framework. Industry 4.0 or the 4th industrial revolution is substantially impacting, and even disrupting, traditional industrial manufacturing models.

Trade unions to survive as institutions of social change have to confront and complement these challenges; otherwise, the survival of the unions is at stake --- they still have a role to safeguard labour interests, in the field of health, for example. Technological innovations and re-organization of production and manufacturing processes have evolved since the industrial revolution, with trade unions successfully adapting to the ever changing workplace dynamics, rendering them to remain socially relevant. The coming digitalization has far reaching implications without historical precedents.

Therefore, trade unions have to explore innovative methods of organizing to unite individual, crowd workers, platform workers, self-employed, home based, outsourced and informal workers in addition to the regular workers, making use of the same technologies that mark production, so as to protect and advance the rights and entitlements of the working people, and further the common good of society at large. This presentation tries to examine, whether trade unions would live up to the challenges of the technological advancements to benefit all strata of society, in any case, it is the labour who contribute to production and wealth.

 

 

Sudhershan Rao Sarde has been associated with the trade union movement for thirty eight years,and  worked with national trade unions and trade union groups across India. As Joint Convener of Central Universities Employees Coordination Committee, he worked towards rationalizing working and service conditions of Central University employees on par with Central Government Employees. As Working President of Steel Metal and Engineering Workers Federation and Member, National Working Committee of HMS strived hard for improving the conditions of Metal Workers. As Regional Director of International Metal Workers Federation (IMF), he was responsible for advancing the cause of the Metal workers in the South Asian region. Since June 2015, he has been Chairman and Managing Director of Sarde Suvarna Sustainable Development & Training Private Limited and coordinating Trade Unions with Environmental Groups and Civil Society Organizations for Health, Environmental Concerns and sustainable Development through awareness camps, rights advocacy and collective action.

 

Sharing session is one of the regular activities of Knowledge In Civil Society (KICS) trust. These are organised around contemporary themes relevant to KICS work as an exercise of learning from each other. The objective is to deepen our shared understanding of the theme and to appreciate the key cross linkages, especially in the realm of Science, Technology & Society. You can find a list of previous sharing sessions here.

 

KICS Sharing Session #39 Challenges in the Socio-Environmental Regulatory Governance of Thermal Power Plants in India (with specific reference to TPPs in Telangana) 
Speaker: Meera Sanghamitra 
Date and Time: October 21, 2017, 4:00 – 6:00 PM
Venue: CWS Conference Hall, 12-13-438, Street No. 1, Tarnaka, Secunderabad - 500017 

Coal-Fired Thermal Power Plants (TPPs) contribute a lion’s share to the installed power capacity of this country, contributing about 76% of the total electricity produced. Over the decades, the social and environmental impacts and implications of these plants have been a major cause of concern, both to the government and civil society. The past two decades, also witnessed the slow evolution of a legal and regulatory regime that governs these plants.  While on the one hand, climate change and cheaper availability of renewable energy sources are pushing governments and project proponents to re-consider prioritizing thermal plants, we are still, as a country, grappling with the socio-environmental costs of numerous TPPs that have come up in the past decades as well as quite a few plants that are in the offing. At the heart of this, lies the role of the regulatory institutions that have a mandate to ensure compliance with law, protection of environment and rights of affected communities.

The Speaker would like to share her preliminary findings, questions and concerns on this aspect, based on her work in the past 9 months, with specific reference to the social and environmental regulatory processes of Bhadradri, Yadadri, Ramagundam and Kothagudem TPPs in Telangana. She would like to present the status of regulatory governance with regard to some of these projects and thereby raise questions about the violations and gaps in the regulatory mechanisms. This is based on her analysis of relevant documents and discussions with sector actors, civil society activists and field visits. Some of the key issues that would be covered include environmental impact assessments and monitoring, environmental clearance, land acquisition and rehabilitation, covering the entire project life including planning, construction and operation. 

The sharing session will begin with a presentation of key highlights and status of regulatory governance with regard to the above projects and thereby raise both specific and larger questions about the violations and gaps in the regulatory mechanisms that merit review. Along with sharing some of her own suggestions to improve and strengthen the regulatory mechanism, to ensure greater compliance on the social and environmental aspects of TPPs, the speaker shall also invite feedback and inputs from the participants to fortify the regulatory mechanisms as well as informed participation of civil society.

 

 

Meera Sanghamitra was trained as a lawyer in Hyderabad and has had an abiding interest in environmental and social justice issues since college years, when, along with a few other friends, she co-founded a small group called Grassroots. Between March 2008 -June, 2016, she has been associated and travelling with activist Medha Patkar and was involved full time with the Narmada Bachao Andolan – understanding and engaging on an everyday basis with the democratic struggle of thousands of oustees for decentralized development; right to land, livelihood, rehabilitation, environmental justice; touching at multiple levels, the interface of The People, The State, The Society.  She has also been involved with various activities of the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) during this entire period, in different capacities, including as a National Organizer and National Convenor. As she continues to be part of NAPM, she is also presently working as an independent researcher on the social and environmental regulatory aspects of Thermal Power Plants in Telangana, as a Girish Sant Memorial Fellow-2017 (co-ordinated by the Prayas Energy Group).

 

Sharing session is one of the regular activities of Knowledge In Civil Society (KICS) trust. These are organised around contemporary themes relevant to KICS work as an exercise of learning from each other. The objective is to deepen our shared understanding of the theme and to appreciate the key cross linkages, especially in the realm of Science, Technology & Society. You can find a list of previous sharing sessions here.




Chitra Krishnan was trained as a civil engineer at IIT Madras following which she worked on water resource issues in rural Kerala before pursuing her Master’s in Environmental Engineering in USA. Her working stints in different rural contexts and an organic farm in the USA influenced her markedly in her research quests. She completed her PhD from IIT Delhi on the traditional irrigation system of South India (tanks and anicuts). Her research publications include “The State and Drought: Villagers’ Experiences” and “Irrigation Infrastructure: The Case of the Tungabhadra River”. She is currently practising dryland horticulture in Tumkur district, Karnataka and is involved in research studies looking at design and implementation issues of green infrastructure.


Sharing session is one of the regular activities of Knowledge In Civil Society (KICS) trust. These are organised around contemporary themes relevant to KICS work as an exercise of learning from each other. The objective is to deepen our shared understanding of the theme and to appreciate the key cross linkages, especially in the realm of Science, Technology & Society. You can find a list of previous sharing sessions here.

 

KICS Sharing Session #38
Conserving Slow Growing trees in a Fast Moving Economy
Observations from an experiment in Karnataka

Speaker: Chitra Krishnan

Date and Time: March 18, 2017, 4:00 – 6:00 PM
Venue: CWS Conference Hall, 12-13-438, Street No. 1, Tarnaka, Secunderabad - 500017 

 

Why trees need to be conserved is a question with many scientific answers – carbon sequestration, temperature regulation, protection of soil from erosion etc. Where should trees be protected is a question on which scientific attitudes have been changing. Earlier it seemed that having “islands” of protected areas such as forests was enough. Now it is increasing felt that “it is not feasible to protect a few islands rich in biodiversity in the midst of degraded landscapes. The biodiversity-rich islands would be far more secure if a serious attempt is made to create a biodiversity friendly, ecologically restored matrix around them (Gadgil, 1994).” This reasonable argument implies that we need to consider conserving trees (or rather, biodiversity) in and around our villages and cities too.

That brings in the most challenging question, how can trees (and tree diversity) be conserved, given the fast moving economy? Is there a general answer? Can it be left to the local government authorities? Or experts? Or does it require the involvement of a large number of ordinary people? If so, is information and awareness enough to nudge people into conserving trees? Or does it require that we connect with trees – in our everyday lives? How much do popular social attitudes affect conservation?

 

The sharing session will begin with describing some native tree species of semi-arid parts of south India. It will then dwell on an attempt, over a period of about a year, by two small farmers to tackle dwindling tree-cover in their villages in Tumkur District, Karnataka. Their efforts included an intensive tree census, and, subsequent engagement with tree owners, the local community and the Forest Department to conserve existing trees. The risks involved in and the lessons from this attempt have a wider applicability that will be remarked upon. Lastly, a few other attempts in south India at tree conservation will be brought in.



Chitra Krishnan was trained as a civil engineer at IIT Madras following which she worked on water resource issues in rural Kerala before pursuing her Master’s in Environmental Engineering in USA. Her working stints in different rural contexts and an organic farm in the USA influenced her markedly in her research quests. She completed her PhD from IIT Delhi on the traditional irrigation system of South India (tanks and anicuts). Her research publications include “The State and Drought: Villagers’ Experiences” and “Irrigation Infrastructure: The Case of the Tungabhadra River”. She is currently practising dryland horticulture in Tumkur district, Karnataka and is involved in research studies looking at design and implementation issues of green infrastructure.


Sharing session is one of the regular activities of Knowledge In Civil Society (KICS) trust. These are organised around contemporary themes relevant to KICS work as an exercise of learning from each other. The objective is to deepen our shared understanding of the theme and to appreciate the key cross linkages, especially in the realm of Science, Technology & Society. You can find a list of previous sharing sessions here.

 

 

 


 

Sharing Session – 37

Hyderabad: Anatomy Of The Urban Flood
Speaker: Anant Maringanti


Date and Time: November 5, 2016, 4:00 – 6:00 PM

Venue: CWS Conference Hall, 12-13-438,
Street No. 1, Tarnaka, Secunderabad - 500017

For nearly two decades now, Hyderabad has seen unplanned, tremendous growth in built up area. This has seriously disrupted storm water drains, and tremendously increased surface runoff. This violation of urban development norms is responsible for flooding in several points across the city.

The fault lies in forgetting our agricultural past and ignoring climate change. It took us centuries to develop the complex systems of values assigned to lands in the agrarian settlement. These values are based on soil conditions, gradient, location relative to other geographic and geological features such as ground water, surface water, drainage patterns etc. Urbanisation has altered this agrarian imprint with new logics of efficiency and economy of service delivery. New logics of revenue categories, new processes of record maintenance, reservation of land parcels for new purposes and installation of new infrastructure have erased the agrarian birthmarks of land.

With increasing pressure for land monetisation, governments and public utilities are vying with each other to capture and convert land parcels to new uses. Ridge systems, stream paths, accumulation points in the valleys — which used to play critical roles in managing precipitation and drainage — have been flattened.

In this sharing session, the speaker will discuss the untold story of urban floods and explain the need to re-centre our policy and to re-train our engineers into acknowledging our agrarian past. Urbanisation needs to be managed with careful observation, data gathering over long periods of time, modelling the behaviour of nature in the altered context. The speaker will elaborate the ways to review and revise revenue laws and rules that govern land categories and shape land use change. 



Anant Maringanti is a geographer with a PhD from University of Minnesota and has taught graduate courses at the National University of Singapore and University of Hyderabad. His research and teaching interests centre on questions of urbanization and globalization from the South Asian vantage point. He is currently the director of Hyderabad Urban Lab, a multi disciplinary research programme run by the Right to the City Foundation. He has widely published in national and international academic journals on social movements, politics of development and urbanization.