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How The Last Week Turned Out To Be One Of The Saddest Weeks In The Environmental History Of India

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By Kabir Arora:

Mr. Modi’s recent speech, which received a standing ovation from the Indian delegation in a largely empty United Nations General assembly, is a representation of our collective ignorance. The popularly elected Prime Minister hinted that yoga is a way to mitigate climate change. One is not sure whether he was ridiculing the threat of climate change or mocking the ancient science of Yoga. This is not the first time Mr. Modi has shown his ignorance about climate change. His past statements are well documented where he declared that climate is not changing, our lifestyle is.

Picture Credits: Tawheed Manzoor
Picture Credits: Tawheed Manzoor

A request out of utter humour was posted on the Indian Youth Climate Network Page – “Our sincere requests to our ‘popular’ Prime Minister- please don’t make unnecessary linkages. Yoga is good for health but definitely not a strategy of mitigating climate change. Changing in lifestyle as you stated is needed and should start from your own very self, maybe you should learn from your counterpart in Uruguay. Too much to ask for, is it?!” received absurd responses, which were later removed by the admin.

Many of them actually made connections between yoga and climate change mitigation. According to one of the commentator, yoga helps to still the mind, and that ways we can face climate change. Most people who read it were not able to make any sense of it. It shows our collective ignorance and failure of scientific understanding.

India was founded by its makers to promote scientific understanding. Constitution starts with the declaration of ‘we the people’ and not with invocation of God or Almighty, or any particular religious or spiritual tradition. It seems that as Indians, we have missed the point altogether. We have failed to inculcate scientific values and prefer giving copies of Bhagvad Gita to everyone. While we have low understanding of science, we have become over-obsessed with technology. Let me make myself clear here – technology doesn’t always translate into science, rationale or logic. There are differences which we will not get into now.

Let’s move back to environmental governance and ignorance of the political class in India. A day before the Prime Minister’s visit to New York UN Assembly, Mr. Javadekar, Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change sang the old raga of ‘historical responsibility’ of emissions and just made a fool of his very own self in the UN summit on Climate Change called by Ban Ki Moon. The variability in climate will not cause natural disasters in historically responsible developed nations alone. For the weather patterns, these artificial nation state boundaries mean nothing. We all need to take firm commitments, whatever we can afford. And India has a vast potential to take shared responsibility on her shoulders. We have an opportunity to take a leap from the dirty polluting model of development. A pragmatic view is what we are lacking in our leadership. This is something which we need to remind our Environment Minister of.

While all this was going on, another saddening development happened i.e. unveiling of intention of government to bring changes in the environment protection framework. Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change recently set up a High Powered Committee under the leadership of T.S.R Subramanian, former Union Cabinet Secretary, to review almost all the environment related acts i.e. Air Act, Water Act, Environment Protection Act, Forest Conservation Act, Wildlife Protection Act. The committee is visiting different cities to collect suggestions and recommendations to propose amendment in the act. Mr. Subramanian, in his words, has confessed that the industry was not happy with environmental ‘obstructions’ and for the same reason, a committee was set up to review the laws once for all. The credibility of the committee is already being questioned.

Still, many of us felt that we should meet the members of committee during their Bangalore visit to make our voices heard. On the first day of consultation in the city, committee members declared that they have not yet finalized their stand and have not discussed much in their internal meetings, and are very open to ‘specific’ suggestions, recommendations and comments. When someone in the audience questioned Mr. Subramanian on the same and said it is very shameful that the committee had no internal discussion on the issues pertaining to recommendations given in the other cities, the chairperson took a defensive tone. He said that they have already taken a stand and will not put it out in public, but they have very much finalized it. This made a mockery of the whole process.

First Mr. Subramanian announced that they are open to suggestions and have not taken a stand, but later declared that the stand is already taken and cannot be made public. And the mockery of public affair didn’t end there.

When I started listing down recommendations for solid waste management rules which were notified under Environment Protection Act, the committee members showed ignorance of the subject and stated that they are not sure whether the solid waste management rules and environment protection (act) are anywhere related. That was far more disheartening. This didn’t end there, the next day, the committee members walked out from the consultation altogether when environment groups raised questions.

The ignorance which the Prime Minister and Environment Minister have shown was very visible in the attitude of arrogant committee members. All three developments in the same week are definitely not at all positive. All in all, it was the saddest and darkest week in the environmental history of India. While the global leadership is moving towards a greener future, we have development fundamentalists at home who are all set to destroy environmental and economical sovereignty and security of India.

Kabir Arora is a board member of Indian Youth Climate Network and National Coordinator of Alliance of Indian waste pickers.

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  1. Aabhas

    I love provoking ideas and that too when they appeal for a change. For that very reason, I read the post top to bottom whole heartedly. Congratulations for writing for the real “vogue.”
    Though, I have few differences for the opinion presented.
    You said, “The popularly elected Prime Minister hinted that yoga is a way to mitigate climate change. One is not sure whether he was ridiculing the threat of climate change or mocking the ancient science of Yoga. ”
    My dear friend, you are educated in Geography, and definitely know more about it than me. But just to remind you of one thing, the point is not to cure a disease but to prevent it. If the globe is enriched with the yoga ideas, then lesser shall be the use of chemicals. People will be less prone to diseases if the science of Yoga shapes up every one’s routine, and hence lesser the use of highly chemical doses called drugs. (It’s quite logical, isn’t it? In-case you are not convinced, tell me, I shall help you further with substances)
    Next you quoted, “This is not the first time Mr. Modi has shown his ignorance about climate change. His past statements are well documented where he declared that climate is not changing, our lifestyle is.” But my dear friend, what is wrong in that? You seem to be an avid blogger, activist, and you must have used a lots of cynicism to spice up your posts, so why an orator can’t use the tool of humour? It’s so true, climate is not changing, but rather it is being changed for the lifestyle we go through. And you have accepted it in the earlier post pertaining to the ministry and the climate change, if that is so then why “YOGA” seems nothing but an abysmal void toward ECO-FRIENDLY APPROACH. If we are so called the concern people towards environment, then why blog-posts that too engined from a server that runs 24X7Xmonths and so on, million miles away from us? Isn’t energy being blindly consumed for that, isn’t the massive storage device burning out lots of energy every hit the blog gets? The point is, no we can’t stop blogging, transmitting e-data as they come from our own armoury, irrespective of the fact that it too adds to increase in carbon footprint, but we have to find loopholes in other very clearly visible carbon-footprints. And the process of blame game goes on.
    Next, you said, “India was founded by its makers to promote scientific understanding. Constitution starts with the declaration of ‘we the people’ and not with invocation of God or Almighty, or any particular religious or spiritual tradition. It seems that as Indians, we have missed the point altogether. We have failed to inculcate scientific values and prefer giving copies of Bhagvad Gita to everyone. While we have low understanding of science, we have become over-obsessed with technology. Let me make myself clear here – technology doesn’t always translate into science, rationale or logic. There are differences which we will not get into now.”
    Dear friend Kabir, you are a Geographer and hence the student of humanity, and I assume that you must have read History and Political Science too. Despite that I will just like to remind you of something, please open the “Government of India Act 1935” and please open “The Constitution of India” and tell me if you don’t find any similarity between the two for the first twenty seven pages? This might seem a little irrelevant right now for this post but coming back to what you said, Bhagwad Gita is assimilation of terrific scientific and political wisdom which has nothing to do with the religious values. It is unfortunate that it is being characterised by a book of religion. For the richness of information, in reality there never existed the concept of religion when “Gita” is assumed to be spoken off. It was the era when people worshipped anyone, anything which meant to be a reason for one’s sustenance. “Gita” is a part of “Mahabharata” a book which speaks of the lost history of India. It speaks of the ancient times, nuclear science, aerospace engineering which was even admitted by Robert Oppenheimer, Heisenberg, Schroedinger and many more, though they were Christian by religion. “Bhagwad Gita” speaks of the glorious wisdom which prevailed in the India which was once upon a time looted by “Lodis” “Gaznis” “Khiljis” “Mughals too for few times (quite contradictory opinions exist).” It’s really unfortunate that we didn’t start where Vedas, Bhagwatam ended but we did begin were the looters left us.
    (I’m not speaking without substance friend,tell me in-case you need any).
    It was long back when Vedas had spoken off the concept of sustainability as the Rig-Veda even find the explanations for the existence of life in plants.
    My dear friend Kabir, there is no such thing mention in any of the Vedas, Bhagwatams, the Upanishads, Puranas that you are suppose to follow the so called “Almighty” because it talks about the concept of “Param-Brahma” which is nothing but assimilation of all energies of the universe; scientifically speaking, the COSMOS.

    1. Raman

      Kabir, your post smacks of prejudice and is naive to say the least. Aabhas in the earlier post has given a great reply to this childish post of yours…please stop blogging or get your head straight…

    2. Abhik

      @kabir… One more doubt… you are Arora or Khan

    3. pravi013

      I think the whole point of YKA is to confront any thing on the basis of our own perception (which is shaped and probably tainted by our past and present).Aabhas had certain issues with some of the views of Kabir and he didn’t hesitated to point them out. Fine…..
      But i think he got sidetracked and missed the elephant in the room.In a nutshell Kabir pointed out was the ignorance and/or negligence from the part of authorities regarding environment related issues and that they really are going to review the environment related act .

    4. suman

      Rightly said. The inculcation of elements like yoga, the Gita and so on might bring about changes in livestyles, which inflict damages to the environment and society at large…

  2. Saarthak

    “India was founded by its makers to promote scientific understanding”

    Wow, where did you get this gem from? Do enlighten us who were our founders and makers?

  3. ABU BENEDICT

    sad to see that today we have no much regard for our mother nature… all we want is am easy way out in everything and expect others to adjust and be committed to saving of environment all we have is excuses and personal problems… a day will come and which is soon at hand that mother nature will have no regard for us…
    eg: tsunami, ozone tear, recently discovered deadly diseases etc…

  4. harisyam_s

    The author sounds his concern about the new development policies which may be adverse to the environment .
    I support this and I am also concerned about the nature and there are no second thoughts about protecting it .
    But I feel the real intention of this article is more than his concern of environment .
    Staying behind the veil of environment , the author is cleverly training his guns on the new government and its PM , whom he dislikes for various reasons .
    His dislike of Mr.Modi is very clear in the initial part of this article .
    If the author is not aware , each FB post or blogging needs backend servers to run and produce lot of heat energy which is a major contributor
    to the climate changes . So if we are really worried about environment try to
    reduce the number of FB posts like informing the world about every coffe breaks and tea sessions with friends .

    And what is distributing of Bhagavat Gita doing in this article about environment .
    We cannot blame anyone if anyone asks a question about the motives of the author here .

    The author , to be frank , is playing the role of a clever fox here .

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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