हिंदी में पढ़ने के लिए नीचे देखीये ।
The name 'Vikalp Sangam' is Hindi for 'Alternatives Confluence'.
As the world hurtles towards greater ecological devastation, inequalities, and social conflicts, the biggest question facing us is: are there alternative ways of meeting human needs and aspirations, without trashing the earth and without leaving half of humanity behind?
Across India (as in the rest of the world), this question is being answered by a multitude of grassroots and policy initiatives: from meeting basic needs in ecologically sensitive ways to decentralised governance and producer-consumer movements, from rethinking urban and rural spaces towards sustainability to struggles for social and economic equity. (Watch a slidehow showing how our lifestyles are trashing the earth and some of the alternatives that have come up.)
Unfortunately, documentation and public awareness of such initiatives in India is poor. There are very few attempts to consolidate and present in a cohesive manner, the range of these alternatives.
We offer this website as one response to these gaps. It hopes to feature alternatives in the full range of human endeavour as they take place in India, and through this to help build bridges amongst them, learn from each other, and together present a challenge to the mainstream system. This is part of a larger process in which the co-host organizations are involved, at networking alternatives in India and internationally.
Alternative initiatives featured here can be practical activities, policies, processes, technologies, and concepts/frameworks. They can be practiced or proposed/propagated by communities, government, civil society organizations, individuals.
It is proposed that alternatives are built on the following spheres (or overlapping spheres) seen as an integrated whole; in this or other forms these have been expressed by many in the past, but are re-emerging in the new contexts of the 21st century:
Ecological wisdom, integrity and resilience: maintaining the eco-regenerative processes that conserve ecosystems, species, functions, cycles; respect for ecological limits at various levels, local to global; and the infusion of ecological wisdom and ethics in all human endeavour.
Social well-being and justice, including lives that are fulfilling and satisfactory physically, socially, culturally, and spiritually; where there is equity between communities and individuals in socio-economic and political entitlements, benefits, rights and responsibilities; where there is communal and ethnic harmony; where hierarchies and divisions based on faith, gender, caste, class, ethnicity, ability, and other attributes are replaced by non-exploitative, non-oppressive, non-hierarchical, and non-discriminatory relations; and where collective and individual human rights are ensured.
Direct and delegated democracy, where decision-making starts at the smallest unit of human settlement, in which every human has the right, capacity and opportunity to take part, and builds up from this unit to larger levels of governance by delegates that are downwardly accountable to the units of direct democracy; and where decision-making is not simply on a ‘one-person one-vote’ basis but rather consensual, while being respectful and supportive of the needs and rights of those currently marginalised, eg some minorities.
Economic democracy, in which local communities and individuals (including producers and consumers, wherever possible combined into one as ‘prosumers’) have control over the means of production, distribution, exchange, markets; where localization is a key principle, and larger trade and exchange is built on it on the principle of equal exchange; where private property gives way to the commons, removing the distinction between owner and worker.
Cultural diversity and knowledge democracy, in which pluralism of ways of living, ideas and ideologies is respected, where creativity and innovation are encouraged, where the generation, transmission and use of knowledge (traditional/modern, including science and technology) are accessible to all, and where spiritual and/or ethical learning and deepening are central to social life.
Of course no single initiative may have all these features, but even if they have one they are worth featuring here, so long as they are not seriously threatening the others. For instance, we may not put up a brilliant new green technology that is so expensive it will be usable only for the rich, unless it also has potential to reach the poor. Or a greening initiative by a communally fundamentalist organization. Or a radical political experiment that is bent on clearfelling a forest to make its point. There will always be greys in the spectrum of alternatives, but we will learn as we proceed how to distinguish genuine attempts from superficial or counterproductive ones.