India’s Supreme Court backs grim plan to link India’s rivers

The World

India's Supreme Court again demonstrated its capricious tendency toward judicial activism, this time using its powers to push a controversial plan to link India's rivers.

India's Supreme Court has ordered the government to implement an ambitious project to link major rivers in the region "in a time-bound manner," reports the BBC. The news agency said that the court also appointed a committee to plan and implement the project, which is intended to end the cycles of droughts and floods that plague regions of the country's south and east.

But by backing a foolhardy, man vs. nature scheme that harks back to the heady days of imperialism, the court has this time interceded to force "action" when democracy was actually working.  It's fashionable in India to blame "too much democracy" for all manner of ills — most often the slow progress of industrial developments, highways, and the theft of land from farmers and illiterate tribal hunter-gatherers.  But the real problem is not that India has too much democracy, but that it has too little.

The river linking project is a massive, top-down project that would link 30 major rivers and divert both the Ganges and the Brahmaputra. Environmentalists have decried it as a disaster. Various Indian states have raised concerns about how the water will be shared. Neighbors ranging from Bhutan to Bangladesh have questioned how the countless dams needed to make the project work will affect their people.

And so the project went into "deep freeze" after a feasibility study was ordered in 2005 — not because the government was not working, but because it was doing exactly the work it needed to do.  Sometimes, it is far better to do nothing than to do something idiotic.  And it's even better when it saves the treasury billions of dollars.

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