Why do we wait till small problems become gigantic?

Why do we prioritizing  the important over urgent? Why do today in the age of social media, a message gets priority over  a pending mail, and a mail gets priority over a paper letter? It has nothing to do with content of message, or mail. Same way many of us in our real life do the same. We ignore the issues important for society and get persuaded by one or the other urgent concern, no matter how trivial. Let us look at these issues. And the logic of making the relevant trade offs.

Let us assume that we need to fix several leaking taps or pipes, which drip drop by drop daily. We may postpone fixing them indefinitely. But if a pipe burst takes place, we will get it fixed urgently. Else, the house may get flooded.

Why do we wait till small problems become gigantic? The whole country knows, ministry of agriculture knows, and so all agri experts that we have mined soil of their nutrients by extracting more than what we replenished. And yet soil health does not become a priority. The adverse effects are not yet catastrophic. Only the cost of growing corps has been increasing for farmers every year. We use various palliatives but will not attack the problem at its roots.

Majority of the states in green revolution belt but many other regions are overdrawn. We have overdrawn more ware than rains replenish every year. Just after a few spells of low rainfall, as is expected this year, the groundwater depletes further. But the problem is still not catastrophic. So we will defer any major effort for  deepening ponds,  storing rain water both in rural as well as urban areas, rationing urban water supply or changing cropping pattern, changing water supply policies, overcoming tendency for supplying free electricity, charging per horsepower or fixed rate rather than metered rate. Farmers in their own interest need to economize water use. But the important is not urgent yet.

Same logic applies to soil fertility. Depletion of micro nutrients, organic carbon, destruction of soil microbial diversity, etc., and Dr N R Dhar had predicted the desertification in 1949 if we did not pay attention to application of FYM to soil. So had warned Dr K M Munshi. But the decline in soil health has not assumed alarming proportion yet. What will make farmers take a proper decision?

Decline in agrobiodiversity, honey bees, friendly insects and all other natural ways of keeping pest population in control, is no less serious. We have forgotten that, “ a change not monitored I a change not desired”, an insight learned in1 984.

Unless the government puts in place a comprehensive state of eco-system health for each block, district and sub-agro-climatic zone, we will not get annual update of the seriousness of the deteriorating situation. Just like financial budget is presented every year to the Parliament, a nutrient, biodiversity  and water budget should also be presented every year.

The conservation agenda should not be seen as  a hindrance to rapid economic development. We must recognize that as climatic fluctuations increase, farmers’ ability to cope with the consequent ecological. Economic and institutional stresses will also decline.

Let us make important as urgent, and institute new institutional processes in place. May be new Natural Resource conservation and farmer and worker welfare commission needs to be set up.

May be we need a thorough update on the seriousness of the situation and take hard policy decisions in the larger and longer interest of Indian economy and society. Only then the  important will become urgent.


Visiting Faculty, IIM Ahmedabad & IIT Bombay and an independent thinker, activist for the cause of creative communities and individuals at grassroots, tech institutions and any other walk of life committed to make this world a more creative, compassionate and collaborative place