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Thursday, June 05, 2008

World Environment Day, 5th June 2008: Where is India?

The recent announcement by Prof. G.D. Agarwal to go on a fast-unto-death has created much thoughts across the globe on the kinds of 'development' we are pursuing.

For me particularly depressing has been the kind of language and attitude displayed by the Finance Minister in a recent interview with absolute disdain and ridicule towards all activists and environmentalists in particular. His choice is clear he prefers the businessmen more than the activists for the development of the country.

His opinion on Indian farming if anything is even worse. It is almost parroting what the trade secretary said about a year back in support of procuring land for the SEZ. He feels that majority of farmers ought to leave farming at the earliest for us to become better. This while his government has been struggling to implement NREGA uniformly across all states. If he is incapable of implementing any scheme through his government, he does not seem to have any problems with that. He says, 'implement the rules' as though it is the duty of the civil society and the journalists to do so. I don't see any scheme under the rule where this person is the finance minister being anywhere close to ecological sensitivity.

These past years the world environmental day has only been a series of such depressions for us in India. Whether it be the coastal eco-system destroying sethu project (which now the great rationalist CM of T.N. has tied to his personal old-age wish thereby removing all science and making it a clear sentimental issue) or mining in Goa, Jharkand and Orissa or it be hydro-electric projects in Uttrakhand or the ship breaking yards in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, SEZ almost all over...the choice of our bureaucracy, judiciary and political machinery is clear, environment is not a great priority.

With this current set-up, unless there is a major change in their minds, India will forever lose its remaining natural resources rather fast. Such mind change is least likely to happen, so, I don't foresee any good news from the system in the near future.

The changes can happen in small neighbourhoods though. Recent I was at ReStore the neighbourhood weekend shop in Chennai that sells organic food. It was good to see cheerful faces wanting to exchange concern for health and willing participate in the process of organic food sales. Similar small efforts by individuals and groups across the country and their sustenance and continuity is the only hope for a better environment. These are the glimpses of positive change that carry in them potential for a major mind set change.

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