By Jagori Dhar:
As a group of youngsters carrying colorful banners, wearing equally psychedelic clothes, gather at a public meeting in the heart of the national capital, they attract sympathizers as well as curious onlookers.
“Aaj kis baat ka protest hai? (Why are they protesting today?) 377? Anti-rape protests? Why should we participate? I am not gay, and not even a woman. It does not affect me,” shrugs off an ignorant onlooker.
But you live on this planet. Duh. And we are protesting to protect it!
It’s a first for Nandini as well. A 19-year-old teenager who not only studies philosophy at Delhi University’s Miranda House, but also believes in implementing it in her life. “Ultimately it’s the youth that will move the Government into action,” she says.
Being an animal rights enthusiast, caring about the environment comes very naturally to her. But it is the recent string of natural calamities unleashed on India that made Nandini take to the streets and draw the attention towards the living threat of climate change — a harbinger of disasters.
For the overtly, upwardly mobile youth of today’s India, environment and climate change perhaps does not strike an immediate cord. Living in their plush south Delhi flats, they choose to think the adverse impacts won’t touch them, even after floods unexpectedly ravaged Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand in two consecutive years.
“Why should I care? I am not leaving Delhi ever! ”
But someone else will be leaving Delhi, not permanently, to participate at the United Nations Secretary General (UNSG) Ban Ki-moon’s summit on climate change in New York on September 23.
As India’s first climate change minister, Prakash Javadekar has the tricky job of representing world’s third largest carbon polluter (according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Sadly, in the run up to this all-important global meet, India has not even been making the right noises. On the contrary, their actions so far have done very little to enthuse confidence that they are serious about tackling this grave issue.
Drowned in the cacophony of achieving economic growth, the climate change minister seems to have misinterpreted his mandate: he has been worsening the impacts of climate change by fast-tracking environment clearances, especially to coal mines and coal power projects, at the cost of India’s rich forests. He seems to have taken off from where his predecessor Veerappa Moily had left, and the break-neck speed at which he is clearing files, he will soon outdo Moily. After all this new government has won on the platform of “ache din” for all, but are keen to ensure its “acche din” for the industry — the health and rights of the people are not as important it seems! So, he has to deliver the promise of “Make-in-India”, sold on many occasions by the Prime Minister, and the short-cut route Javadekar has taken is to steamroll environmental clearances in a bid to ramp-up industrial growth.
At the summit, the minister is expected to showcase India’s achievements on climate change, and rest assured, Javadekar has an impressive score card to show off – 240 industrial projects given the green nod in the first 90 days in office!
Once hailed as a pioneer in climate change initiatives, the Indian PM has decided not to share the stage with world leaders from 120 countries, including US President Barack Obama, at one of the largest and biggest summit on climate change. Even after the UN Secretary General made it very public that he “really wanted” PM Narendra Modi to participate in this crucial meet. It’s not just his absence at the global leaders’ summit that suggests his possible change of heart, but also his confused remarks while engaging with India’s young leaders on Teacher’s Day. “We should also ask is this climate change or have we changed,” the PM told a concerned future leader.
A country that has been ravaged by the severe lashes of nature’s fury today stands at the crossroads and has to decide what path it wants to tread upon.
It has been well established that global warming caused by excessive use of fossil fuels is the force behind extreme weather conditions; India has been slacking on protecting the lives and livelihoods of Indians from the catastrophe called climate change. By its coal addiction for meeting its energy needs, India is not only contributing further to global warming, but also depriving rural India from electricity. The age of cheap coal is over in bringing economic growth. India needs to wake up to cleaner and greener renewable sources of energy to bring sustainable and equitable development.
“It’s not too late for India to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change. As youngsters, if the government gives us the right to choose who we want to represent us, then they should also care about the issues we are raising. I strongly believe when people come out in large numbers on the streets of Delhi, the government will be forced to wake from their slumber and take note of our demands.”
Nandini finishes her impassionate speech to the gathered young protesters, urging them to join the world’s biggest march to fight climate change on 20th September. “The response from my peers is very positive,” beams Nandini.
The writer is Media Manager, Climate & Energy, at Greenpeace India.