The Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA) organized its fifth Dr. Verghese Kurien Memorial Lecture on November 25, 2016 in memory of its iconic founder. The memorial lecture was delivered by Brookings India Chairman and Senior Fellow (Brookings Institution) Shri Vikram Singh Mehta on "Attaining Energy Security for Rural India".
While welcoming the gathering, Dr. RC Natarajan, Director of IRMA said, "Dr. Verghese Kurien memorial lectures are conducted annually in commemoration of the exemplary work done by him and is generally held on his birth anniversary..." He recalled Dr. Kurien's contribution to Rural Development and termed him as a phenomenon.
Shri Mehta, reiterating the late IRMA founder's role as a visionary, said that Dr. Kurien was a man who "effected change when others gave up."
Speaking on energy security Shri Mehta said that a careful definition was warranted of the term as most people took it to mean "being energy dependent" whereas the connotation was far wider with elements like reliability, affordability, sustainability, and empowerment playing a crucial role.
"It is all about access," he affirmed saying that supplies needed to be secure, reliable, and of the right quality. "You need energy at the right time and of right quality. Besides, the supplies also need to be sustainable," he said.
Expressing concern over climate change and environmental degradation the Chief Guest touched upon issues involving energy that was both clean and sustainable. Energy security in the context of the rural population, according to Shri Mehta was all about "Access to reliable, affordable, secure, and clean energy through institutional structures that enable the rural population to control its allocation, distribution, and usage."
The energy situation confronting India today is alarming one, warned Shri Mehta, with demand outstripping supply. Citing three reasons for the current energy crisis he quoted, "Population, prosperity, and policy." About population he said, "Our per capita consumption of energy is 27 percent of the average of the world, it is 41 percent of the average of China, and six percent of that of the United States." This, obviously, translates to higher rates of energy consumption.
Speaking about prosperity as the second reason for the current crisis, Shri Mehta attributed it to aspirations of the present generation. "Our economy has quintupled over the last 20 years, with a GDP in excess of $ 4 trillion... our economy has moved from a low intensive trajectory to a high intensive one," he said.
As regards policy he said that "our current economic policy encourages manufacturing "over agriculture. As a consequence of the current economic climate, "We are now embarked on a trajectory that is relatively energy intensive."