To our honourable Prime Minister,
Greetings on World Environment Day! I would like to bring to your kind notice your reply highlighting India’s stance towards the climate change discussion at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Russia, in May 2017. Your speech gave hope to every Indian who dreams of a Bharat, where there is a harmonious co-existence between nature (prakriti) and man (purush). In the process, you also reiterated the Vedic philosophy that emphasises the underlying unity between all living and non-living forms of life.
However, certain measures, policies, and initiatives taken by the Indian government which starkly contradict the Vedic way of living you referred to in your reply to the US news anchor, Megyn Kelly.
In my opinion, these are the top three areas that require your immediate attention:
While the West has a different approach to solving problems that involves scientific experiments based on hypothesis, India can turn to the ancient wisdom of the Vedas that provide insights into the problems faced by the human race. For example, scientists invested enormous funds in building a Large Hadron Collider at the CERN Research Institute near Geneva, Switzerland to detect a particle that is responsible for all physical forces. I believe that in the Vedas, this particle is referred to as the Hiranyagarbha (Golden Embryo) which appears in the ‘womb’ of an atom and is believed to constitute the foundation of creation by imparting mass to elementary particles. Scientists named their discovery as the Higgs-Boson particle or the ‘god particle’.
Analogous to the above example, the world faces the challenge of increasing the productivity of agricultural produce to meet the burgeoning demand for food of the ever-increasing world population. For this, countries in the West have resorted to scientific experiments and produced GM (Genetically-Modified) seeds, which are resistant to worms and other parasites.
But this invention has adverse effects which include crop contamination, the formation of ‘superweeds’ and lowering the fertility of soil over a period of time. More relevantly, these even threaten to destroy the indigenous farming cultures in India and other nations around the world. The WHO has already declared that five of the major chemical herbicides used to grow GMO crops are likely to be (or are definitely) cancerous. As of 2015, 38 countries had already banned the cultivation of GM crops. Many other countries have started to put regulations in place to protect their population and environment from the environmental and health damage caused by GM crops.
But India is eyeing GM foods as a solution to tackle the food crisis in the country. When India has its own ancient wisdom of ‘Rishi-Krishi’ (an ancient farming technique proposed by the rishis thousands of years ago to improve crop yield and its quality), why should India ape the solutions of the West – and an incorrect one at that too? Rather, I think India should resume its practice of the Jagadguru system, by which it can provide solutions to the world to end food crisis by means of ‘divine farming’, permaculture and eco-agriculture. All of these have been a part of the Indian lifestyle for many centuries together.
GM food is the perfect recipe to destroy the Indian culture that promotes sustainable farming. Thus, the introduction of GM seeds directly contradicts the Vedic philosophy that you had proposed in Russia. Encouraging GM crops in India contradicts the commitment of the government towards the conservation (savrakshan) and development (savardhan) of the natural resources in the country.
The development of infrastructure (roads, bridges, ports, power plants, real estate, etc.) serves as a driving factor for the nation’s economy – only as long as it maintains the sovereignty of the nation’s natural resources without adversely affecting the climate. The depletion of natural resources due to rampant industrialisation, urbanisation, mining and infrastructure development is turning out to be a huge cost to the nation.
In fact, India is paying a heavy price for deforestation – in the form of heatwaves, droughts, floods, imbalanced ecosystems, loss of natural habitats and the extinction of many species.
Here, the nation can learn from the Vedas, Manusmriti, Arthshahtra and several other ancient texts about sustainable infrastructure development. Vedic philosophy propagates the interdependence of five elements of nature – earth, fire, water, air, and ether (panchmahabhut) – in the lives of humans. Therefore, it can be argued with reasonable certainty that most (if not all) development activities during Vedic era – right from agriculture to constructions – took into consideration these five elements before planning their execution. The consequences of this type of development led to the sustenance of clean air, fertile soil, unpolluted water – and overall, happy humans.
In this context, the rapidly-depleting forest cover in states like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh (among many others) conflicts with the promise made by Modi (during the St Petersberg interview) of delivering a beautiful earth to the future generations. In Mumbai, for instance, the state government has ambitious plans to destroy its only surviving green lungs in the Aarey Colony and the Sanjay Gandhi National Park by building metro car-sheds and tunnels, respectively. The mindless development of infrastructure – without considering the environmental impact – suggests that the decision-makers are completely naïve about the environmental consequences of their actions.
In my opinion, there are two ways to tackle the problem of unsustainable infrastructure development in India:
a. Sensitising the bureaucrats/public servants through compulsory training which involves developing a holistic approach to infrastructure development by understanding the scientific, socio-economic and policy aspects related to environment and resource management.
b. India needs a social-audit department (independent from the state pollution boards and environmental committees) comprising of environmentalists, scientists, local tribes, citizens and bureaucrats. The department should ideally identify and assess the environmental risk in a given infrastructure project, and grant sanctions to a project only if it meets the required environmental checks.
In absence of a proper framework to check rapid deforestation in India, India will ultimately be epitomized as a country that not only milks nature but also exploits in its full might.
The promise of gifting our future generations a beautiful earth will not be fulfilled until we educate the present generation about the fundamental philosophy that has governed our land for ages. This philosophy entails a deeper understanding of the body, mind, soul and its connection with the universe.
Popularly known as ‘spiritual wisdom’, I believe that this knowledge is fundamental to any form of education. Children are taught about the mechanism of machines, but not about the most indigenous machine they have within themselves – their body and mind. The Vedas, Yogsutra, and the Upanishads are replete with the secrets of the human body and mind as well as the universal constitution. This allows us to have a deeper understanding about the interdependence between nature (jad) and the living consciousness (chetan). Furthermore, this knowledge develops a scientific attitude (vigyan) and creativity that is essential for an innovation-driven progressive economy. Most importantly, this ancient wisdom can produce bright, sharp, enthusiastic and happy children who will be the foundation for a beautiful future.
Thus, the introduction of Vedic education within the regular school curriculum should be of utmost importance if India wants to grow as an ecologically and environmentally-strong nation.
For me, these insights can be considered as a part of people’s participation in the growth of our nation – something that marks the success of a democracy as propounded by you.
I thank you for your time.
An Indian citizen