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Social movements, technology and development: A query and an instructive case from the Third World

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I believe that the KSSP's claim that all technological issues should be evaluated and assessed only in the context of their impact on the people are borne out by the case studies. Apart from the Silent Valley and the Mothi Chemicals controversies, the KSSP had a positive role to play in other technological and environmental controversies, such as those over river pollution from untreated chemical effluent being dumped in several rivers of the State by chemical and paper companies, nuclear power plant siting, and drug policy. The KSSP's position paper on industries indicates that Kerala has a high concentration of chemical industries, and urges the government to issue no more new licenses for chemical companies. Instead they urge the government to bring in more engineering and electonics industries into the State. The State government has been generally responsive to such calls by actively promoting electronics industry in the State. K.K. Subramanian and K.J. Joseph demonstrate how a “capital-deficient” State like Kerala can stimulate economic growth and employment opportunities in the electronics sector by taking advantage of the considerably well-educated “human resources” of the State. Footnote 1

The KSSP is in the thick of a debate about the advisability of the establishment of a nuclear power plant in the State as a long range plan to alleviate the acute power shortage predicted for the year 2000. The consensus seems to be that since Kerala is a densely populated State, a continuum of villages and towns and cities from one end to the other situated on the coastal belt, there is no proper site on which a nuclear power plant can be built. However, given the fact that the power availability should be increased and diversified and also that the statistical probability of a nuclear accident is remote, a strong minority in the KSSP is picking up support for a nuclear power plant among the media and the people.Footnote 2

It appears that KSSP's campaign to reach out to the people to make science and technology instruments of change is quite successful. It is not clear how much their efforts are influencing scientists and technologists at large, who are not associated with the KSSP, to help unleash the potential inherent in science and technology to improve the quality of life of the people. Even though there are no quantitative studies to measure KSSP's contributions to the high literacy rate, low infant mortality rate, and similar indicators of social progress in the State, it is safe to assume that the KSSP's campaign of “Science for Social Revolution” has made a positive contribution to these achievements.

Though the KSSP claims to be a non-political voluntary organization, its objective is to raise the consciousness of the people in order to harness the benefits of technology to socio-economic development. The measure of success they have had in educating and raising the consciousness of the people, who might have otherwise remained ignorant or indifferent to technological issues and controversies, is evident. Given the fact that the KSSP is a totally non-governmental and voluntary organization surviving on its own resources, its success in achieving its set goals are remarkable. It is an encouraging sign that similar people's science and technology (S&T) movements are springing up in several States in India, following the foot-steps of the KSSP. After the killing of thousands of people by the Union Carbide chemical plant in Bhopal, the need for many more such people's S&T movements for democratic control of technology has become ever more urgent.

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  1. 1.

    K.K. Subramanian and K.J. Joseph, \ldElectronics in Kerala's Industrialisation,\rd Economic and Political Weekly 23 (1988), pp. 1233\2-1240.

  2. 2.

    Mani, \ldPopularising Science, Fighting Pollution.\rd

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Parayil, G. Social movements, technology and development: A query and an instructive case from the Third World. Dialect Anthropol 17, 339–352 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00243369

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  • Nuclear Power Plant
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  • Technological Issue
  • Social Revolution
  • Paper Company