I Miss Mahatma Gandhi
As each Independence Day rolls by, Bittu Sahgal asks what Mahatma Gandhi would think of India's race to colonise future generations' natural inheritance.
Many of us who served India for decades on environmental committees mandated to protect our natural resources have tried without success to convey to planners that they cannot so ruthlessly destroy life-support infrastructures — forests, wetlands, coasts, rivers, lakes — to create infrastructures of commerce — mines, dams, roads. We were summarily thrown off because our advice was found unpalatable. And the environmental committees kept getting changed till the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the industrial hawks that have unprecedented access to it, found a mix of people willing to do its bidding.
I am once again on India’s National Board for Wildlife (NBWL). But the PMO refused to hold meetings of this statutory board for two years (one has now finally been slated for September 5, 2012). Nevertheless meeting after meeting of the ‘NBWL Standing Committee’ were held, basically to enable pliant officials, to rubber stamp approvals for dangerous projects. The non-official members on the Standing Committee protested. They were ignored as almost 50 industrial-scale projects worth thousands of crores were cleared by the Environment Minister.
Why? Because the Supreme Court, angry that Ministries were stealing forests, instructed that NBWL permission be sought before clearing projects. So the Ministry of Environment found a wonderful way to circumvent the Supreme Courts purpose. Environment ministers, under pressure, have taken to using their heavy hand to force officials to rubber stamp virtually all projects without adequate due diligence. This affects our tiger reserves, wildlife, national parks, reserved forests and more.
Even the British were not so ruthless with their intergenerational-colonisation agenda. India’s PMO is stealing hope and survival from India’s children. Is this why Mahatma Gandhi, Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, Rajendra Prasad, Dr. B.C. Roy, Sarojini Naidu, Maulana Azad, Bhikaji Cama, Annie Besant and Bal Gangadhar Tilak fought for our independence?
Author: Bittu Sahgal.