Dec 21, 2011

Punjab makes an effort to bring environment in political discourse


The diatribe between the two major political opponents seems unending. In a build up to the impending Punjab elections, there is hardly a day when we don’t get swamped by charges and the counter-charges. While the underlying idea seems to settle political scores, there is hardly anything refreshing in the way charges are being traded.  

Claims and counter-claims notwithstanding, I came across an initiative taken by several social, religious and environmental activists and organisations, which comes as a whiff of fresh air in this murky political climate. On December 14, more than two dozen environmentally conscious groups and individuals have formed a Vatavaran ate Samaj Bachao Morcha (Save Environment and Society Morcha). So as to protect health, environment, agriculture and the society from any further deterioration, the Morcha aims at making it mandatory for the political parties to present a time bound programme to improve the state of polluted environment, water, deteriorating health and at the same time take appropriate steps to prevent farming from turning poisonous.

There couldn’t have been a better and timely initiative. Punjab being the seat of Green Revolution, excessive use of chemical fertiliser and pesticides all these years has turned the soil infertile and poisonous, and at the same time leaching of chemicals into the groundwater has contaminated the water source. Political parties however have remained insensitive to the destruction wrought on the environment as a result of which deadly diseases like cancer are proliferating. Indiscriminate use of drugs and intoxicants too has played havoc with human health. A recent UNDP study had shown that as much as 74 per cent of the youth in Punjab had consumed drugs at one stage or the other. In other words, both the soil as well as the human population has been drugged.

The Morcha’s aim is reach out to all political parties and leaders and apprise them of the growing destruction of the natural environment. It will impress upon these parties to accord environment protection highest priority in their manifestoes and in their respective governance agenda. The task does not end here. Not only the Morcha, it is also the job of every conscious citizen and voter to raise these concerns whenever they get to meet the prospective candidates or raise their voice in political rallies and meetings. Remember, you cannot leave the task of environmental protection, which is so crucial for your future generations, into the hands of a few environmentally-conscious citizens. You too have a role to play.

This is where we need to draw some lessons from Anna Hazare’s campaign for removing corruption. When a few of us had sat down in October last year planning for raising the issue of a strong janlokpal, we did not leave the task to our elected representatives. As founding members of the India Against Corruption campaign, we took upon ourselves the responsibility to fight corruption. We were hardly ten people in the beginning. Since we were determined, we were able to galvanise the nation to stand and fight for ending corruption. Similarly, you too can make an effort and make a difference.

I don't know if there are such initiatives also in the other states which are ready to go for elections. I am talking of environmental protection here. Environmentally-conscious citizens must make an effort to bring together sensitive and caring people from different walks of life, build up a charter of expectations, and then create wider awareness so as to reach the political parties. Unless people exert more pressure, environmental and social problems cannot be addressed effectively.   

You can probably start by following the activities of the Vatavaran ate Samaj Bachao Morcha, which is headed by Sant Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal. Some of the well-known personalities of the region form the advisory group, and it includes: Prof Jagmohan Singh, Dr Nirmal Singh Panjabi, Dr Bibi Inderjit Kaur, Balbir Singh Rajewal, Pishaura Singh Sidhupur, and Dr GPI Singh. The core committee comprises among others Umendra Dutt and Singh Sahib Giani Kewal Singh. This is your opportunity to save Punjab

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