Apathy, not growth responsible for India’s environmental crisis
Sanjeev Sanyal is an Indian economist, bestselling writer, environmentalist, and urban theorist. Currently, he is the Principal Economic Adviser in the Ministry of Finance, Government of India. A Rhodes Scholar and Eisenhower Fellow, he was named Young Global Leader 2010 by the World Economic Forum at Davos. In July 2014, Sanyal won the first International Indian Achiever’s Award for his contributions to Literature at the inaugural gala event in Mumbai. Radhika Tiwari tells him, You are also a rare amalgamation of economics and environment. How will you explain the relationship between these two entirely different yet linked fields? And what do you think is the reason behind the deteriorating quality of environment these days?

Yes, there is a deeper connection between economics and environment. They are, in many ways, directly proportional to one another and that is why environmental hazards affect our economy. However, these hazards are not just about the prevailing pollution in Delhi or neighbouring States. A bigger picture tells us that there are many equally severe issues like forest and river conservation and they all are connected to each other. A problem at one sphere of our ecosystem will definitely lead to another severe problem at some other level.
As an economist, I would say that to maintain India’s position as one of the fastest growing economies in the world, we need to have higher GDP that comes along with a price tag (a price to be paid). And I would also like to say that much of this problem is not because of growth but due to apathy. If we do not pay attention to it now, we will have to pay the price that need not be paid.
Being an economist you write on history. How do you manage both?
I write on different issues like history, urban design, economics and environmental issues and my view is that it is pointless to take knowledge and divide it into different silos. They are useful at school and university level, basically for teaching purposes but true knowledge does not consist of silos. What is the term Churn about?
Churn is an economic term that refers to a system which allows one to learn from feedbacks and the trial-and-error method. It is important because the growth of a nation cannot be devised from a mere grand plan. Sadly, this is how we have been planning our economy for the past 60 years and it did not work well for us. Now we need to move on from that older way of working to a new economic model of Entrepreneurship that has a room for failure and making amends.You were named the Young Global Leader 2010 by the World Economic Forum, what would you like to advise our youth?
It is very important to be open-minded, well read and learned. One should be able to learn outside of textbooks. Again, I will urge to break off the silos, because to a huge disappointment, our education system itself forces us into them. This is damaging, particularly when our syllabus is completely outdated. There is a need to break out and go back to look into the evidence from one’s own eyes and re-write history and literature. We need a better narrative of our history.

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