The talk explored the questions and misconceptions that dominate the discourse on economic development and the consequent distortions that have crept into energy planning which is a part of economic planning. For example the common assumption that higher investments lead to higher GDP and hence higher growth does not hold true when scrutinised more closely. Further if we truly wish that this so called growth should be inclusive, then we first need to factor in all social and environmental costs that are imposed by it and also have plans to mitigate them. The present planning approach is however not even accounting for these costs. Apart from such basic issues, Dr. Sarma also presented critical analysis of fallacies underlying many popular assumptions such as, per capita energy consumption is a measure of development and hence the necessity of setting up new generation projects, or nuclear energy is green and clean, or growth has no limits, or the Government is the best judge of public interest and so on and so forth. In fact, the lecture deals with eight of such popular 'myths' about the energy, development and growth debate and finally makes a strong case for how short term gains or political compulsions should not come at the cost of long term planning.
The entire script of the lecture can be downloaded here.The video of the entire lecture is given below:
The lecture was followed by a moderated session in which Dr. Sarma answered questions raised by people from the audience. The event was attended by over 200 people coming from various areas such as academia, civil society organisations, movements, students, and friends & family of Girish.
About the speaker: Dr. Sarma studied Public Administration at Harvard and then did his PhD on Energy Planning from IIT Delhi. He has held various distinguished positions in the Government of India such as Principal Adviser (Energy) to the Planning Commission, Secretary (Ministry of Power) and Secretary (Ministry of Finance). He has also been the principal of Administrative and Staff College of India, Hyderabad. Currently, he is active in campaigning against human rights violations and environmental degradation in the name of development. He is also the Convener of Forum for Better Vishakha, a civil society forum working on civic issues in Vishakhapatnam and in pursuing electoral reform at the local and national levels.
Please visit this page to see more details about Girish and tributes to him.