At a time when the electoral battle is hotting up, and with political leaders engaged in pointing fingers at each other, a citizens' group in Punjab has ensured that the real issues affecting the people at large and the deteriorating environment (not only political environment) are not lost in the din and heat. What could eventually turn out to be trendsetter, a Green Manifesto for Punjab -- an agenda for Punjab's prosperity, food safety. health, happiness and sustainability -- was launched at a media event in Chandigarh on September 6, 2016.
As far as I can recall this is the first time that ordinary people have made an effort to draw the attention of political parties to what they perceive should be the development agenda. This fabulous initiative was launched by 'Vatavaran Ate Samaj Bachao Morch' (translated, it means: a campaign to protect environment and the society), a group of committed individuals and organisations from across the State. A day long session was held at Chandigarh where more than 100 people from different walks of life had come together, brain stormed, and fine tuned the draft agenda. Among those who came were religious leaders, senior journalists, economists, academicians, vice-chancellors, environmentalists, farmers, students and housewives. It was such a heartening experience for me to sit and listen to the wonderful ideas and suggestions that came up. Their collective thinking is what is clearly reflected in the Green Manifesto.
Releasing the Green Manifesto at a press conference in Chandigarh, Sept 6
The preamble says it all: " 1) Ensuring environmental sustainability and profitability in Punjab's farming. 2) Revival, restoration and conservation of environmental resources including (ground) water and tree cover, and addressing the environmental crisis of the State firmly and urgently. 3) Addressing the environmental health crisis of the State through remedial and rehabilitation measures, and by ensuring food safety and removal of environmental toxins. 4) Lay the ground for medium and long term environmental revival and sustainability by sincere promotion of environmental education in the state.
Once the food bowl of the country, Punjab has not turned in a hotspot of farmer suicides. The water table has plummeted to dangerous levels, soil health stands devastated, chemical contamination has taken a sever toll of not only human lives (a 'cancer train' runs from Punjab to Bikaner in Rajasthan carrying patients), but the environment at large. Punjab is fast heading towards a severe health disaster with reproductive problems being witnessed in both humans and animals, psychiatric disorders, intestine and respiratory diseases, premature births and other disease patterns multiplying over the years. And so on. The need therefore is pull it back from the brink of a disaster.
The controversy before the launch of the film 'Udta Punjab' has highlighted the severe problem of drug abuse. In lot many ways I see alcohol and drug abuse to be an outcome of a bigger malaise that prevails, and the genesis is often overlooked. The reasons are many, and instead of pushing them below the carpet, the challenge is to stand up and be counted. The Green Manifesto should therefore be seen as a roadmap that has been prepared by the people, for the people. It is a people's manifesto, the will of the people, and ignoring it would be like turning a blind eye to the dark period ahead.
The Green Manifesto document is here: http://www.kisanswaraj.in/