Thursday, January 08, 2009

Price? No. Value? Who cares...!!!

I am an inherently lazy person. But today I finally bring myself to write something which has been bothering me all along in IIFM, right from the time I came here: all of us here are barking dogs who never bite!

We will talk of sustainable development and watershed management, but care tuppence about the water overflowing and draining away from the hostel tank twice a day every day, for more than half an hour each time. Or for that matter, leaving taps open and imagining sweet dreams while the water flows.
We will talk of equitable distribution but lazily refuse to take only ‘enough’ food in our plates and later unabashedly empty the ‘small’ leftovers in the mess bins.
We will talk of energy efficiency and conservation and even take up electives in Energy Management, but flagrantly refuse to follow the basic tenets of switching off lights, fans and other equipments when not in the room.
Why? Because we either don’t pay for these services, or pay paltry sums – that too without realizing it. We don’t pay for the water at all, and even for the electricity, we pay indirectly, if at all, in the form of Hostel Fees (which have only from the academic year 2009-11 been increased to Rs. 13000 for the two years combined). That translates to around Rs. 620 p.m. for the entire hostel fees (not merely electricity) for the new batch which would come to IIFM next year. Obviously, we pay much smaller amounts – I don’t have the admission brochure of our batch to validate the same.
So it is perfectly fine for me as a student of IIFM to use as much energy and resources as I want, or as I want to ignore, and still get away with it without me getting affected by it – monetarily or physically. And the wastage continues...
We learn in Strategic Management that top management buy-in of a concept is important for it to trickle-down across the organization system. Is that what is ailing us here? Is the lack of a monitoring mechanism by the Institute key to us being such irresponsible consumers of public goods? Well, we do see the Institute leading us in many aspects – professors leaving lights, fans and air-conditioners on in full swing in their rooms whilst they are out for long stretches of time; CFLs of much higher lumens replacing the old tubes and bulbs in classrooms in the ratio of 2:1 – leading to at least double the electricity consumption than what is required; cultural annotations of the Sunset Point being ignored while developing faculty residences on-campus; etc. The Institute has public money to spend, budgets to meet, and unnecessary opulence flows...
I believe similar things happen in the NGO sector. Though I have never worked in one, I have heard from several quarters (reliable ones, like the erstwhile State Co-ordinator of The Hunger Project) that NGOs spend money like anything on ‘field researchers’ whenever development targets by funding agencies are to be met, in order to ensure continuous supply of funds.
But here I go too far. From the individual, I have come to a system. I guess that’s too much to ask for – dynamic refurbishment of an entire system of functioning.
But the question remains – do I have the right to continue my wastrel ways of living at the cost of deprivation to another person living outside my field of vision? Well, the non-user value concept of environmental economics seems not to have caught up yet with us. So let’s just... waste on...!
----Siddharth Iyer PFM 09