Do big dams symbolise India's economic progress?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This is a fairly complex question.  On one hand, there is a definite argument suggesting that the construction of dams helps to bring out greater modernization and commercialization to rural India.  This was the major point of emphasis by Prime Minister Nehru in the wakes of  Independence.  The belief at the time was that the rural life of India could be brought into the modern and urban fold through dam construction.  Over time, opposition has been raised to the corrupt and collusive nature of these projects, in that businesses have influenced government decisions about dams.  Adding to this would be the environmental and social impact of dam construction that has become of vital importance in Indian assessment of dam construction and progress.  Thinkers like Roy argue that dam construction cannot be signs of economic progress if villagers and those immediately impacted by the construction of dams are not benefiting from the projects.  Economic progress, it is argued, cannot benefit the few at the cost of the many.  If one believes that economic progress is defined by construction and generating infrastructure projects, then perhaps an argument about dams and economic progress can be made.  At the same time, the collusion that has been noted as a result of dam construction as well as the negative social impacts would make one reconsider as to whether dam construction does represent economic progress.

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