ARE YOUR LUNGS TURNING BLACK?

Delhi has again hit the no 1 position of being  world’s most polluted city. The sight of people wearing masks have become popular and that day is not very far when we all have to carry oxygen cylinders to keep ourselves alive. In fact, the direction of destructive development in which we all are moving, we should just cut down the forests and invest in oxygen masks! Delhi’s peculiar topography makes it more vulnerable to pollution. If the air ceases to flow towards Delhi, the particulate matter settles faster.

The main cause of panic is the presence of tiny particulate matter in the air known as PM 2.5 and PM 10. The size of these particulate matter is so tiny that they easily lodge themselves into our respiratory system. There are many causes of pollution in the capital city. The two big sources are stubble burning and vehicular pollution. The farmers of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh are forced to burn the crop residue as it cannot be used for anything else. Unlike Bihar, where the rice crop residue is a food for the cattle but the stubble in Punjab and Haryana is full of so much pesticide and fertilisers that it cannot be used as fodder. So, they are left with no other option than burning.  Delhi has the highest number of registered vehicles with 7.6 million of them. These vehicles are one of the largest and permanent source of pollution. Construction dust, industrial pollution, garbage burning are some of the other pollutants. The latest in the list was the burning of firecrackers during Diwali.

Cracker-full or  

Cracker-free Diwali

The Supreme Court ordered only ‘green crackers’ to be sold and also restricted the time of bursting crackers from 8 pm to 10 pm only. But, both these orders were openly violated by the citizens as well as the police and administration. First of all, neither the cracker sellers nor the buyers were aware of ‘green crackers’. These ‘green crackers’ with low hazardous chemicals have not been produced or sold in India yet. The cracker sellers sold their traditional crackers in the name of ‘green crackers’. Post Diwali night, Delhi NCR emerged to be the most polluted spot on the planet. There was a huge failure on the part of the police to strictly implement the Supreme Court guidelines.

Air Quality Index (AQI) is a measure used by the government to communicate to the people how polluted the air is.

An AQI between

0 and 50 is good

51 and 100 is satisfactory

101 and 200 is moderate

201 and 300 is poor

301 and 400 is very poor

401 and 500 is severe

Beyond 500 is hazardous

On the next day of Diwali, the AQI at Chanakyapuri, Central Delhi (which is one of the greenest part) was 459 and the AQI of Anand Vihar in East Delhi which hardly has any trees was 999. This, in itself reflects the role our trees play in reducing the pollution level. There is also an interesting fact here. AQI was actually more than 2000 in some parts and not just 999 but our machines are not designed to capture more than 3 digits.

But, it is not just Delhi. More than 41 cities in North and Central India recorded ‘Very poor’ to ‘Severe’ AQI post Diwali. Noida, Faridabad, Patna and Lucknow recorded worse air quality than even Delhi.

Doctors called the pollution level of Delhi NCR as ‘health emergency’. Dr.Arvind Kumar who attended WHO’s first Global conference on Pollution held in November 2018 and is one of the country’s finest chest surgeon said, “I hardly see normal pink lungs these days. Everybody’s lungs have black deposits on them which are causing a silent damage. Today, breathing kills, in a city like Delhi.”

Air pollution not just causes respiratory diseases but also leads to heart problems, brain attacks, reproductery problems and many other issues. A recent study has found that pollution also causes reduction in intelligence.Air pollution is proving deadly specially for
children. As per WHO, 600,000 children died of respiratory diseases in 2016. A 16 year old student Kabeer suffering from respiratory disorders asked, “Diwali is celebrated on the occasion of return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya. There is no mention of bursting crackers in Ramayana. Crackers were not even invented when Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya, then why do we burst crackers now?”

The most ironic part of Delhi’s Diwali was sight of people burning crackers while wearing masks. Their love for the polluting crackers was so much that they are ready to burn them while putting their lungs at risk. Apart from the patients suffering from lung diseases, Diwali is also a festival of terror for our furry friends. It is mating season for dogs. And, puppies born are only a few days old, so they undergo a horrifying situation. If you observe, on a Diwali evening, there are no dogs on streets as they hide themselves to escape the so called human way of celebration. 

The Solutions

As mentioned in my previous article on pollution, here are some long term measures the citizens and the government must take to make the air healthy.

No more trees specially those which are 40 to 200 years old should be allowed to be cut in the name of development. Trees play the most important role in controlling pollution and providing fresh air. The NBCC and CPWD projects of central government plans to cut more than 20,000 fully grown trees in South Delhi. Aravali Biodiversity park having rich wildlife and birds is in danger because of road construction by NHAI. Trees are being cut in several other corners of NCR in the name of construction and progress. But, enough damage has been done to the city. Delhi needs at least 33per cent forest cover as per National Forest Policy but it possesses only 20per cent green coverage. We are already short of 13per cent green coverage and still the government plans to cut more trees. The govt and the citizens must do as much plantation as possible and the work doesn’t end here. We need to take care of the sapling till at least one year of its growth so that it survives.

Measures should be taken to reduce further concretisation of the city. Even if there is a plan to do new construction, green building norms should be followed. This can at least be implemented on all government constructions to start with. A minimum percentage of green area should be maintained in every building. Public transport must be made more frequent. The number of public buses specially the electric buses should be increased. People should be motivated to use public transport by reducing metro and bus fare and giving other attractions.

Heavy taxes should be imposed on buying of new private cars to reduce the number of vehicles on the road. Blanket ban should be imposed on buying of new diesel vehicles. 10 to 15 year old diesel vehicles should also be brought off the roads.There should be incentive towards car pooling both by private companies and the government.Do not burn the landfills instead develop a proper waste segregation and management system from its source. Alternative technologies for crop burning like turning crop residue into disposable tableware should be encouraged and promoted by the govt.

Above are some imperative long-term measures that govt must take to prevent Delhi’s air from getting spoiled further. While, here are some temporary relief measures that an individual can take to protect themselves from pollution.

Since most people in Delhi NCR live in apartments, they can have terrace or balcony garden. Also growing indoor plants like Areca Palm, Lady Palm, Bamboo palm, Rubber Plant can help in naturally purifying the air.People should try avoiding the use of private transport to reduce emission of pollutants.

Try and stay indoors if possible. Do not burn any crackers on Diwali, weddings or any other occasion. Fitness of your lungs is more important than a fraction of excitement that you get after watching the crackers. Do exercise everyday early in the morning or late evening as exercise keeps the lungs healthy.

One can buy Air Purifiers as a temporary relief but personally I am not very much in favour of air purifiers as it may clean the air inside but it pollutes the outside air further more.

Those having asthma or other lung problems must keep their medicine handy. Tomatoes, apples, broccoli, spinach, flaxseed are some of the food items that will help in reducing the impact of pollutants on your body. So, consume them often. Wear masks when ever you move out of the house and carry them always with you.

Innovations to clean the air

Its an age of innovations and startups. Pollution has emerged to be a major problem and many innovators are trying to solve it. Some of such innovations are. Pracheer Dutta, incubated in IIT Delhi has developed a technology by which crop residue can be converted into pulp which is used to make value added products like disposable tableware. He is putting an effort to utilise the crop residue of Punjab and Haryana and make disposable plates from it. So, what is being burnt today causing so many harmful effects could be an additional source of income for the farmers and would also replace plastic.

Union Environment Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan flagged off five buses fitted with air-filters which trap the pollutants in the air. These air-filters were designed by Faridabad based Manav Rachna Innovation and Incubation Centre (MRIIC). The filters can tap upto 98per cent particulate matter thus keeping the air, pollutant free.

Chakr Innovation founded by IIT Delhi alumnus converts particulate matter emissions from diesel generators into inks and paints. The ink made from pollutants is used for computer printing.

Nasofilters uses nanotechnology to filter pollutants while breathing. It can be worn over nostrils and used for 12 hours. Unlike traditional face masks, this doesn’t block breathing. It is available on Amazon, Flipkart, Paytm and Apollo Pharmacy stores in Delhi.

Delhi based Kurin systems has come up with a 40 feet air purifier than can provide clean air to around 75,000 people in a radius of 3 kms. This air purifier has been considered to be ‘World’s largest and strongest air purifier.’ This device won’t need electric grids to function as it can run solely on solar power.

 Other aspect of environmental degradation

‘Fake’ encounter of Tigress Avni

Tigress Avni was killed in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal forest in a fake encounter on the orders of Maharashtra government. She is survived by her two young cubs of 10 months old. She was shot dead by sharp-shooter Asgar Ali, son of famous shooter Nawab Shafat Ali. The post mortem report of Tigress Avni revealed that she had not eaten for more than a week. This means, her cubs are also hungry and forest officials are in search for them.

The killing was done because the government sold the Yavatmal forest which was Avni’s habitat to Anil Ambani to build a cement factory. Although the govt used the excuse of Avni being a man eater tigress which had killed 13 villagers. However, there is no scientific proof of these 13 people being killed by Tigress Avni. Also, the label ‘man-eater’ contradicted the “Guidelines of Declaration of Big Cats as Man-eaters”, which state that a tiger can only be deemed a danger to humans if he or she ventures into human territory and kills someone. However, the deaths that the Maharashtra Forest Department attributed to Avni were results of humans entering tiger territory, possibly for cattle grazing in forest reserve.

As I write this, the two cubs of Avni are also being hunted. The government is claiming that they would be tranquillised and rescued but there is no assurance. I sincerely pray that the cubs don’t meet Avni’s fate. The animal lovers are raising their voice against the killing of Avni and are praying for the safety of her two cubs. Anand Siva, an animal activist who is dedicatedly working on the issue said, “Avni is an eye opener on the corrupt practices in our country. Not just the Indians but even the world is joining hands to raise their voice against the illegal killing of Tigress Avni.” Several rounds of protests were organised all across the country to show that the people will no longer stay quiet on these killings. This is the first time, that the common man is actually coming on streets in large numbers to fight for the rights of animals.

A global march and prayer was held in different parts of India and the world on 11 November 2018 to demand justice for illegal killing of Avni and create awareness and attention towards conservation of wildlife. The protest was conducted across 25 cities in India and 10 cities internationally. Anuragini Shiddhat, a young crusader who is aggressively uniting people in raising the voice said, “She is doing it for Avni and all other animals because these are voiceless creatures and they cannot speak for themselves. Also, there are several organisations workings towards human related problems but there are very few fighting for protection of wildlife and animals.”

Coming on the political aspect, before Avni was killed, there were hardly any political voices on the issue. Everyone was keeping mum including Maneka Gandhi who is believed to be the strongest voice for wildlife protection. After Avni was shot on 2 November 2018, politicians jumped in seeking their own brownie points.

Congress Chief Rahul Gandhi tweeted, “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated. #Avni.”

Union Minister Maneka Gandhi criticised Maharashtra govt and the involvement of sharp shooter Nawab Shafat Ali and his son Asgar Ali into the case. She said, “Asgar Ali was not authorised to kill. This is patently illegal. Despite the forest officials being committed to tranquillise, capture and quarantine the tigress, the trigger-happy shooter has killed her on his own, under the orders of Maharashtra Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar.” Shiv Sena leader Aditya Thackeray, too, slammed the state government for killing Avni. The Pashu Chikitsak Mahasangh also questioned the Maharashtra government for assigning the task of capturing Avni to a private hunter, who is not a registered veterinarian. Unfortunately, when Avni was being shot at, there was no registered veterinarian present to tranquillise her.

After demands for a NIA probe by the protestors, government has ordered two investigations into the Avni killing case. At the Central level, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and at the State level Maharashtra government is investigating the case. Sharpshooter Shafat Ali Khan said he is ready to face any probe into the shooting of Tigress Avni.

Plundering the Planet

Avni’s killings gained so much attention because it is not just about one Tigress. Its about the existing situation of wildlife in general. We are left with just 3900 tigers across the globe and despite that we ‘humans’ are mindlessly butchering all other species on Earth. Within just two days of Avni’s murder, another tiger was killed in Dudhwa, Uttar Pradesh where the villagers crushed the tiger using a tractor for mauling down a 50-year-old man. Royal Bengal Tigress Sundari from Satkosia, Odissa was tranquillised and brought to a Zoo in Bhubaneswar.

In most European and developed countries, hunting is legal. Consequently, a majority of their wildlife has been killed. Wildlife isn’t encroaching human habitat, its actually the humans who has encroached the wildlife’s habitat.

India has one of the strongest wildlife conservation laws. Yet, poaching has been a major issue. According to Wildlife Protection Society of India, 38 tigers died due to poaching and seizures in 2017 and 26 tigers have been poached and killed in 2018. 159 leopards were poached in 2017 and 135 leopards died due to poaching and seizures in 2018. There should be more stringent punishment for poachers.

Today, due to years of illegal hunting, a lot of forests in India have become silent forests i.e. forests with no animal presence.For example, most leopards living in the Himalayan foothills now have to regularly enter villages to pick up street dogs for their survival as the natural prey-base of the surrounding forests has been destroyed by man.

 Man-Animal Conflict, A Land issue!

So, the entire man-animal conflict is a land and water issue. Humans are intruding into the forests thus taking away the food and shelter of the animals giving rise to the conflict. So, it is not the tigers, leopards and elephants that has to be blamed for entering the human territory but restrictions have to be put on human activity. Human population needs to be controlled as the planet is left with very limited resources and humans are eating away all resources without leaving anything for all other species.

Forest corridors play a very important role in growth of tiger and leopard species as it gives
them space for improving their breed. And at the same time, most of the forest encroachments happen in forest corridors. 23per cent of India’s land i.e. 764,000-lakh sq km of forest cover has been encroached by humans for agricultural, housing and industrial purposes.

Wildlife is the greatest gift of Mother Earth which cannot be brought back if lost. Just like Africa, India should look at wildlife as its greatest asset than liability. We should be promoting wildlife and sustainable tourism. It is one of the best ways to earn green dollars and mitigate the man-animal conflict and also create the spirit of conservation among the people.

Abhishek Ray, a tiger tracker and conservator bought an entire hill in Jim Corbett, Uttarakhand and gave it to the wildlife. He allowed the forest to grow as it is with no human intervention and today a land which was a forest corridor and a major source of man-animal conflict is a thriving place for tigers, leopards, 650 species of birds and lot of wildlife. Ray who is also a music composer said, “We all must buy land and give it to the wildlife, only then we will be able to save them.”

 Re-wilding

Recent report by WWF have brought into notice that humans have wiped out 60 per cent of the wildlife since 1970. The report prepared by 59 scientists across the globe mentions that due to growing need of food and other resources, humans are massacring birds, fishes, mammals, reptiles thus destroying the entire planet. Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF said, “If 60 per cent of the human population was wiped out, it would have been equivalent to combined population of North America, South America, Africa, Europe, China and Oceania.”

Wildlife specially predators like tigers are an indicator of fresh water and air, so by killing them we are also putting our own future into danger.The only way of mitigating climate change is to re-wild and stop the diversion of existing forests.

At a time when everything seems to be gloomy, there is a Swiss philanthropist Hansjörg Wyss who is donating $1billion to save 30per cent of Earth in its natural state. He would be donating this money over a period of 10 years to keep the forests and the oceans clean.

When we don’t have fresh air to breathe and fresh water to drink, what will we do with all the amenities which we have created under the so called ‘development’ ! So, think again and invest in re-wilding.

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‘Pseudo-secular and award-wapasi gang lack the power to listen to harsh truth’

Edited Excerpts from an interview •

As soon as your name comes up, the first question arises as to whether your “hard-hitting” comments are spontaneous or deliberate? 

 See, you have pointed out rightly. All journalists ask me the same. I don’t know as to why what I say in my statements appears “hard-hitting” to others. But I certainly know that whatever I say I tell the truth. And when I tell the truth it does not appeal to the intolerant, pseudo-secular persons and those who talk of pseudo-secularism and they feel bad about it. They are dealers in votes and that is why they react to what we say. I tell the harsh truth and those belonging to pseudo-secular and award-wapasi gang lack the power to listen to harsh truth.

What is the reason that most of your comments are related to religion?

I do not know. Politics is not practiced in a planned manner. I am not to comment on those who practice politics by planning. Politics is the voice of inner conscience and I do what this voice dictates to me. It is true that India was partitioned on religion basis. Then it was decided that Pakistan would be on communal lines and the Hindus in India would not echo their voice and that would be the true definition of secularism. It seems we have accepted this and perhaps that is why people misinterpret the spirit behind my comments.

How is it that you are one of the most popular ministers in the Modi Government? 

I don’t know. It is unfortunate that I do the work of development which does not get reflected in the media. It was just in recent past days that it was mentioned that jobs were not being given. Even today I say it with authority that my Ministry provided about 2.5 crore jobs in MSME sector, two million jobs under financial inclusion and 1.9 million entrepreneurs during the past four years, However, there is no mention about it in the media.

Most of your statements are on religious issues and there has been no mention about policy vision document pertaining to your ministry. and why it is so?

It is unfortunate that whenever I say and even now I am saying, you are twisting the argument and asking me the same thing. I am saying with authority that they (UPA) provided 1.1 million jobs in the MSME sector in 2010-2014 under financial inclusion. It is not an oral statement but is supported by the data and I provided jobs to 1.9 million people. Is it not a development? Is it not a document? They (UPA) accomplished 17 clusters and my department under the leadership of Modi ji accomplished 103 clusters. Is it not a vision document? You just discuss with us about vision document, the MSME sector has weathered many storms, especially the demonetization and the GST and my department and the government gave this sector a supporting stage as a result of which it didn’t falter but continued to march ahead.

Have you been officially authorised by the party as far as your line of thinking on the Hindus, Muslims and religion is concerned, because the party has to breathe heavily while defending your statements and, in the end, it lets off by stating that it was a personal statement.

Individually, there are some personal issues in political and social life. If you talk of Hindus, you are a communal and if you talk of Muslims then you are a secular, because the Muslims are in minority. If I say that the Muslims should be divested of the minority status, you will immediately brand me a communalist. I am putting it on record today that this is what pains me. 

The problem is that your own coalition government gets trapped into trouble in your own home state because of your statements.

Watch, I have never bothered as to who gets into trouble, I have the right to put forward my views logically and I do so. The day I realise that I am no more useful for the party and the politics, I will leave politics as well the party. 

Do you feel that you are still in the Cabinet despite being the most controversial person in the entire cabinet?

I reiterate once again that two streams of thought are flowing in the country. One stream of thought is that of pseudo-secularism. Nobody objects to the release of the movie PK and the sexy portrayal of Goddess Durga; nevertheless, even the misplacement of a hair of the Holy Prophet could results in great commotion. Is it the real meaning of secularism? How much sufferings would the Hindus have to undergo to save India from the breakdown. One partition of the nation has already taken place, can I not express my agony? When I talk about India’s population, communalism creeps in and when I articulate my personal feelings then also communalism seeps in. Do the people in this country want Hindus to be subjected to abuse, continue to suffer and we hold up the flag of secularism. This is what is called pseudo-secularism. 

Can everything be weighed in the similar manner? In 2015 you had stated that Rajiv Gandhi married Sonia Gandhi and had Rajiv Gandhi married a Nigerian woman, would he have not got the same respect? Is this the respect of women in your eyes and is it the basis of humanity? 

Please see that while sitting at home if I am talking about something and that talk is presented in a distorted manner, this is called yellow journalism. Did I say I’m sorry to say something on this? This was yellow journalism. You live in the house and if someone puts a CCTV camera in the bathroom and then claim that you are taking a bare bath, they will say that Giriraj Singh lives without clothes and this is what happened here.

In 2014 when Prime Minister Modi’s campaign for Lok Sabha election was going on, you made a statement that all Muslims should go to Pakistan.

I apologise to you and other journalists as well. I say with challenge that first watch the full video and then only ask the question. If you have not seen the entire video then write my version. I had stated that a wind was blowing with the country and outside to stop Modi wave. There ae countries that want to prevent Modi from becoming India’s Prime Minister and Pakistan is one of them, which is indulging in nefarious activities to prevent Modi from becoming prime minister of India. There are some people in India for whom Pakistan is no less than Mecca and Medina and such people also want to prevent Modi from becoming India’s prime minister. Place for such people should not be in India, but in Pakistan. I have accused none in this way and that those who will not vote, ought to go to Pakistan.

The whole statement was twisted in such a manner that indicated that if the country’s Muslims having no belief in this ideology should go to Pakistan. 

I am throwing a challenge and I challenge you also to see my statement and tell me if I am wrong. Do I need to offer clarification to each and every one who presented my statement in a distorted manner in the media? I am giving my clarification to you as well and don’t know whether you will write it or not.

You say time and again that patience of the Hindus is getting exhausted and what does that mean?

You people take out the wrong meaning of the right word. I cannot argue with you, because you have a mentality that if someone speaks in favour of the Hindus then he becomes a communalist. And if he speaks in favour of the Muslims then he becomes a secularist. I have no antidote to this malady.

Many a times, your statements refer to polygamy among the Muslims and that they produce more children. So, the split in the society starts from here.

I repeat it again that you facilitate the division. Journalists like you do it, whose thinking is preoccupied with the notion that the Hindus are a second-class citizen and it is their duty to endure everything. It is their duty to follow secularism. 

The manner in which there are discussions about Ram Temple these days and the issue is in the Supreme Court for hearing, what do you want and what is your blueprint for it?

Construction of the temple the sooner the better.

Temple construction with the help of law or according to the public opinion?

Construction of the temple the sooner the better

Before elections or after elections?

Construction of the temple, the sooner the better.

Will the government bring an Ordinance?

Construction of the temple the sooner the better, people hope that the Temple of Lord Ram would be constructed soon. The people know that a grand temple of Lord Ram could not be built despite so many years after country’s independence. It is a betrayal by the Congress. If Nehru had built the temple at that time then there would not have been such a misery as is today.

There is a nominated member who has said that he will introduce a Private Members’ Bill in the upcoming session of the Parliament.

It is very good. I congratulate Rakesh Sinha, who has talked about bringing Private member’s bill and he will bring it. He has complete knowledge of Sanatan system and religion. He will place it before the nation and the entire nation will witness as to who is in favour of Lord Ram, who is in favour of construction of the Ram temple? Do the 120 million devotees of Lord Ram not have that much authority to have grand temple of Lord ram in India?

Would you bring legislation in the upcoming session of the Parliament?

Now let’s see, which way the wind blows.

The matter is in the court take a long time and there is no religious suit in the court. There is only a title suit in the court.

The public only wanted the court to resume day-to-day hearings in the case.

Is this the most important issue before the country?

Yes, it is. Was the issue of Yaqub Memon the biggest issue before the country?

Is corruption in the CBI not an issue?

The temple issue is most important. Is the issue of the faith of 1.25 billion people not an issue?

Is the Supreme Court not doing justice to this issue?

Whether the court doing justice or injustice is being watched by the people. The people are hopeful that justice will be done. Speedy hearing is not taking place. Therefore, there is resentment and disappointment in their minds as things are not happening according to their expectations.

Is there a date being fixed by the party or the Sangh? 

I do not know, it would have been better if you could have asked the Party President.

What will be the issue in the forthcoming elections?

Development.

Development is good to talk about, but elections are not won the plank of development.

I don’t know, it is up to the people that on which issue they would prefer to vote.

Did Modi get elected on the plank of development?

Of course, he established himself as a development man throughout the country.

Did he win on the anti-corruption wave?

Corruption and development were both issues. Modi had an image of a chief minister of a state who had an image of not compromising with corruption nor allowing the pace of development to slowdown. Therefore, corruption was also an issue along with development.

During your recent tour of West Bengal, you had raised the issue of Mathua. Do you think that the West Bengal government has suppressed this segment of the societyand injustice is being meted out to them?

Look, it seems as if the Hindus do not have the right to religious faith in West Bengal. Sometimes people ae subjected to blows by lathis on the occasion of Ramanavami, shots are fired, people ae implicated in false cases. Doors of the court have to be knocked for the immersion of the idols of Goddess Durga. The people of Mathuya Samaj came to India in 1947. Now the Government of India has enacted an act that allows Hindus coming from other countries or either displaced to settle in India and not to be treated as intruders and they will have equal rights. The people of Mathuya Samaj are there since the days of the Partition of Independence of India. No body can harm the interests of the members of the Mathuya Samaj as long as the Bhartiya Janata Party is in power. They cannot be deported out of West Bengal. NRC is for those who fall under the purview of the NRC and Mathuya Samaj does not come under the purview of the NRC.

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What’s in a name? Renaming spree as politics takes over the ground

“WHAT’S IN A NAME? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” The present political dispensation does not seem to agree with William Shakespeare’s observations in Romeo and Juliet. A few weeks ago, the UP Cabinet approved the proposal to rename Allahabad as Prayagraj. The Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath defended the name change as the undoing of the “wrong” committed by Mughal emperor Akbar in 1575. 

Earlier, the name of the historic Mughalsarai railway station, among busiest railway junctions, was changed as Deen Dyal Upadhyay junction. As a Diwali gift, Faizabad was renamed Sri Ayodhya. A medical college to be set up at Ayodhya would be named after king Dashrath, father of Lord Rama. While making the announcement, the chief minister said that “Ayodhya is a symbol of our ‘aan, baan aur shaan’ or honour, pride and prestige. 

Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel has said the State government was willing to rename Ahmedabad as Karnavati. So Ahmedabad could be renamed as Karnavati, Hyderabad as Bhagyanagar, Aurangabad as Sambhaji Nagar while Taj can be trivalised. The Haryana government has already renamed Gurgaon as Gurugram. Going through the atlas to identify cities and changing their names would serve no purpose as such moves only reflect a jaundiced view of history and disregard for our plural identity. The year 2019 when the country goes in for general elections is just around the corner and it will be the time of reckoning. 

Changing names of cities and roads that asserted British imperial was okay Cawnpore becoming Kanpur was a welcome move, but what is being done today is different. It is stepping out of the secular frame. What should matter to us most today is the astonishing survival of India as a secular state. We are not a monochromatic nation but a secular democracy. We should, in fact, make further efforts to protect and strength the secularism of which we people and India as a nation feel proud. There is a need to foster individual liberties. 

Similarly, the government should do well to drop its plans to ban meat and liquor in Ayodhya district. Criminalizing or changing dietary habits of people is not the job of a progressive nation. Such moves only aggravate schism and divide between communities and are undemocratic. There seems to be no other justification than the prejudice in these moves, which only undermine our stature in the world. It is not an attempt to restore the glory of the Indian past, but a retrograde step.

Lord Ram to return in 2019 polls?

Lord Ram is going to play an important role in the upcoming polls of Lok Sabha. The Bharatiya Janata Party and its mentor RSS have started chanting his name with all vigor and they are likely to take up one or two programmes that may continue up to 2019 elections. The Sangh Parivar is also creating an atmosphere that may give them an opportunity to bring up an ordinance to bypass the Supreme Court. Even if they do not come out with an ordinance, the talk of it will attract people towards the temple issue. This is also to force the parties to discuss the issue in ongoing elections of five state assemblies. The parties, at least, Congress has understood the game plan and trying not to directly join the issue with the BJP. Other parties are also maintaining the caution. It is another issue that avoiding confrontation with the issue may not be the right course of politics in a country like India where Muslims constitute a sizeable part of the population. It requires no elaboration that taking refuge in issues like Ram temple indicates an obvious failure of the BJP in addressing vital issues the country is currently facing. In addition to collapse of institutions, the country is faced with a challenging situation on economic front. Issue related to security too demands an urgent attention, But, the Modi government is embroiled in restoring its fast eroding credibility as the coordinator of a federal polity as has been seen the case in sending the CBI director on leave or in trying to dictate terms to Reserve Bank of India. 

However, the assumption that the government may soon promulgate an ordinance to build a Ram temple at Ayodhya has also some loopholes. It would be hardly difficult for the people at the helm of affairs to anticipate the hostility which may arise in the judiciary after the ordinance. The move itself may come under judicial scrutiny and mishandling may jeopardize the very attempt that is aimed at polarizing the people. The open hostility generated by the move may also adversely affect the balance between the government and the judiciary. There Supreme Court could come out with some drastic steps as well because Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was one of the participants of the historic press conference  organized by the four senior most judges to tell the citizens of the country that the judicial autonomy of the country.

The dilemma of the government was visible during debate on a national TV channel that was attended by the law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. He could not avoid commenting on the delay in hearing of the Ram Temple case. Though he added that as a law minister, he is not supposed to comment on the issue, as a BJP leader, he has to talk of what is going on in the minds of people. The law minister showed some restraints because of the position he is holding, but BJP president Amit Shah could not show such restraints and attacked the Supreme Court in public meeting in Kerala by saying that the court is giving verdicts that could not be implemented. These attacks are bound generate hostility between the government and the judiciary.

The announcement of a grand statue of Ram at Ayodhya by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister may be an exit route. Instead of taking recourse to such an adventure of issuing an ordinance, the BJP may try to change the narrative surrounding the issue and concentrate on building up a grand statue of Ram. It will serve more than one purpose. On the one hand, it could boast of making tireless effort to restore the dignity of Lord Ram and on the other, it could postpone the issue of Ram Mandir. This will also allow it to continue with Ram temple issue. However, there is some possibility of Prime Minister Modi’s choosing to risk an ordinance to win the elections because he has advisers who are used to taking extreme steps.  

Here, there is an interesting development too which points to a perceptible change in the political strategy of BJP as far as the Ram Temple issue is concerned. This is the change in the RSS attitude towards it. In his ambitious reach out program at Delhi, Mohan Bhagwat told an audience at Vigyan Bhavan that the Ram temple should be built at the earliest, but he left it to

He had also said that a final decision rests with the Ram Mandir Samiti, which is spearheading the campaign for the construction of a Ram temple.  He had said that he had no knowledge of whether an ordinance on Ram temple was being contemplated ted as he is not a part of the government.

“As a Sangh worker, head of the Sangh and as a part of Ram Janambhoomi andolan, I want that a grand Ram temple should be constructed at the earliest at the birth place of Lord Ram,” he had said.

“It should have happened by now. The construction of a grand Ram temple will help in ending a major reason for tension between Hindus and Muslims, and if the temple is built in a harmonious way, then there will be no more pointing of fingers at Muslims,” he had said in Delhi on September 20, this year.

However his wordings got changed within a month and ‘harmonious’ way of resolving the issue changed its course. He asserted on October 18 at Nagpur that the government should bring a law to build a Ram Temple. He was addressing his his cadres on Vijaya Dashmi. “The government should clear the path for construction of the grand temple through appropriate and requisite law,” he said.

“There is an obvious game plan of a few elements to stall the judgment by presenting various newer interventions in the judicial process,” he alleged. He also reiterated the old slogan that the temple was necessary for the “self-pride”. The reversal in his stance shows the urgency for getting an emotive issue. The development and other secular agenda seem to have exhausted their utility for Modi and Shah and this led Bhagwat to change his stance. The urgency was also reflected in  another instance. He had supported the Supreme Court judgment on Sabrimala but later changed his stance and criticized the verdict for not taking into account the traditional belief while deciding the matter.

The apprehension that change of stance has been made to help  Modi and Shah in pursuing Hindutva agenda.

However, there are problems for BJP in mobilizing its own allies on the issue. While most docile of its allies, JDU was first to dissociate itself from the stand BJP has taken. Another ally, Shiv Sena is taking more aggressive stand in order to out beat BJP. It wants to share its pride in demolishing the Babri Masjid. 

In the noise of Ram temple, most of us might have missed the transformation of Ram from a warrior-king who will restore the lost pride of Hindus to a patriarchal deity who is ready to preserve the pride of caste Hindus. Yogi Adityanath is trying to reinvent Ram and wants the Lord to come in for his rescue. He seems to have his own idea on using the issue which is evidently different from that of the Sangh Parivar. One can see Ramvilas Vedanti on his side, a member of the Ram Janmbhhomi Nyas Samiti. An MP of two terms, he has been a Thakur leader. This could be seen in the background of the fact that backward caste leaders like Vinay Katiyar was not given prominence in any of the celebrations to commemorate the return of Ram to Ayodhya.

It is clear that the image of Ram will have a transformation and his earlier political avatar as a symbol of pride will transform into a warrior king who will fight a caste battle in north Indian states. This time not only Muslims will be targeted, but also Dalits and others. Muslims has already been punished for their sin of building a mosque at his birthplace. Yogi is also narrowing the narrative to suit local requirement. He  has announced airport in the name of Ram and a medical college in the name of Dashrath, his father.

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Infighting continues between Chautala’s clan

Haryana, where centuries ago battle of’ Mahabharat was fought between Pandavs and Kauravs, for supremacy, is witnessing yet another Mahabharat like sitiation, this time between Ajay Chautala and Abhay Chautala, grandsons of former deputy prime minister of the country, Devi Lal. The battle is for controlling the Indian National Lok Dal Party which Ch. Devi lal had nursed with his labour of decades followed by efforts of his son Om Parkash Chautala, former chief minister of Haryana. On one side of battle are Ajay Chautala, his MLA wife, Naina Chautala, MP son, Dushyant Chautala and Digvijay Chautala. Other side is represented by Abhay, leader of opposition in Haryana assembly having tacit blessings of father Om Parkash and trusted followers.

Om Parkash Chautala, in his capacity as national president of the party has suspended both Dushyant Chautala  and Digvijay Chautala from the party for causing indiscipline in party’s Gohana rally, organised to commemorate the birthday of Devi Lal. Earlier, show cause notices were issued to both of them and matter was referred to party,s disciplinary committee headed by party leader Sher Singh Badshami.The story has all the ingredient of a Mumbai potently film with intrigues and  conspiracies to grab power

Dushyant claims that ‘Duryodhan’,( referring to his uncle Abhay) has conspired against him and he is like ‘Abhimanyu’. When approached by Tehelka  for clarifying his ‘Duryodhan’ remarks, like a seasoned politician, Dushyant replied that being a seasoned and veteran journalist you know better as “whom I was referring.”

Dushyant has described it as conspiracy against him, his brother Digvijay and father Ajay, hatched by some one who wanted to grab the control of the party. Dushyant told Tehelka, “some  Jaichand in the party has tried to trap me in Chakravayuh like Abhimanyu of Mahabharat adding that they should not forget that I, with the help of party workers, is capable of breaking that’ Chakrvyauh. Training his guns on his estranged uncle Abhay, who is leader of opposition in Haryana assembly, Dushyant thundered that someone are playing role of B- team of ruling party in Haryana assembly, a charge which former Haryana Chief Minister, Bhupinder Singh Hooda often level against Abhay Chautala for his alleged soft corner towards the ruling BJP, Government.

At age of plus eighty, Om Parkash, former Chief Minister of Haryana, who has successfully faced many political challenges including Mehyam in Meham during by-poll of Meham assembly in Rohtak district of Haryana in nineties when he had to resign from chief minister ship following poll violence, and is currently undergoing ten years imprisonment in alleged bungling in recruitment of teachers ,is facing toughest challenge of his life. Even while in jail he had made party united.But now his grandsons Dushyant and Digvijay has revolted against him although they both say that they held our grandfather in high esteem but also throw’s hints that he was under captivity of Abhay. In the battle their father Ajay and mother Naina Chautala, MLA, are siding with them .Naina is also drawing huge crowds of women during her mass contact program. Naina alleges that there is conspiracy against her family.

Interestingly, history is repeating itself in Devi Lal clan as three decades back both sons of Devilal, Ranjit Singh Chautala and Om Parkash Chautala  had fought against each other for attaining legacy of Ch. Devi Lal. In that battle Ranjit Chautala was loser with Devilal putting his weight around elder son Om Parkash Chautala Ranjit Chautala had later joined Congress party.

At that time Ch. Devi Lal used to watch the popular’ Mahabahrata’ seirel on T.V.Such was his craze for the serial that once while he was coming to Chandigarh from Delhi via train, a TV set was installed at Ambala  railway station so that he could watch the’ Mahabharata’ serial. From Ambala to Chandigarh Devi Lal has traveled by Car skipping the train journey.It is said that now Devilal is watching the ‘Mahabharat between his family from the heaven.

Interestingly Ajay Chautala has called himself as ‘Pandav’ and his brother Abhay Chautala as Duryodhan’. Ajay Chautala who is on fourteen days parole from jail is touring the state meeting his old associates.

If accusations of Dushyant Chautala of conspiracy are to be taken at face value, then it is shocking commentary on the state of affairs going in family for controlling the control of the party. Dyshyant Chautala while narrating sequence of events right from Gohana rally and their ultimate suspension from the party told Tehelka “In Gohana rally which was organised on occasion of birthday of Devilal, some over enthusiastic workers were expressing their happiness which was dubbed as sloganeering by Abhay Chautala as part of a bigger conspiracy to oust us from the power”.

Dushyant Chautal further clarified that show cause notices were issued to him and his brother Digvijay Chautala for disturbing the rally and when he sought evidence, which was denied. Later he and his brother got suspension letter purportedly signed by Om Parkash Chautala alleging that report of so called disciplinary committee was prepared in a closed room and signature of Om Parkash Chautala were procured. Dushyant Chautala told that it is hard to believe that Sh. Om Parkash Chautala has signed the letter of their  suspension.

Dushyant Chautala even alleged that taking advantage of imprisonment of their father Ajay Chautala who is also undergoing imprisonment along with Om Parkash Chautala in alleged bungling in teachers recruitment, some’ Jaichand’ conspired to throw them out   from the party.

He regretted that he came to know about his and his brothers suspension from media. He regrets that he was serving the party since he was fifteen years old but now he is being accused  and suspended for the anti party activities from the party which he, his brother,Digvijay Chautala and father Ajay Chautala had nursed with their blood .Digvijay Chautala is active among youth and students.

According to political observers, party is on verge of vertical split with Ajay Chautala calling meeting of his supporters in Jind (Haryana ) to seek workers support and it is widely believed that on that day a new party could be launched  Choice of Jind is significant as from here Ch. Devi Lal has launched his agitation against Rajiv-Longowal accord in 1986 and ultimately caricaturing power in Haryana.

All eyes are set on outcome of Jind meeting and reports reaching suggests party workers and supporters will force them to declare launching of new political party. Family members including daughters and sisters also tried for patch-,up but in vain.Former Panjab Chief Minister and Akali leader, Parkash Singh Badal with whom Chautala family had family relations is also trying for some sort of patch-up between estranged brothers but it is widely believed that stage has reached to flash point and there does not seems hope of patch-up as it is battle of power.

Wooing masses: Naina Chautala is drawing huge crowd during rallies

While Ret, Brigadier. O.P.Chodhary, former Vice-Chancellor and party leaders has joined hands with Ajay Chautala, Retired IAS officer and party leader R.S.Choudahry who is also national General-Secretary of the party, is firmly standing with Abhay Chautala. Commenting on revolt by some party leaders, RS Choudhary told Tehelka, “Indian National Lok Dal party is like a tall tree adding that during storm, some leaves and branches of a tree are shed but tree remains intact.”

The BJP and Congress party are also watching the developments with keen interest INLD has entered into electoral alliance with Bahujan Samaj party and with anti incumbency of BJP and fierce infighting in Congress party, it was widely believed that INLD-BSP. alliance will perform well in ensuing Lok Sabha and state assembly polls. But due to vertical split at this crucial time, there are questions mark over party,s performance.

Till date party,s alliance with B.S.P is intact and after this infighting, Abhay Chautala had met B.S.P, supremo, Mayawati.But it is to be seen whether alliance remains or breaks in future.

Four years back Ajay Chautala was natural successor of legacy of Om Parkash Chautala and he was calling shots in the party.

But situation changed with Ajay Chautala and his father Om Parkash Chautalas imprisonment. Ajay Chautala and Om Parkash Chautala could not contest elections and Abhay Chautala won assembly polls and was elected leader of Opposition in Haryana assembly with facilities of a cabinet rank minister.During this period, Abhay Chautala made all out efforts to galvanize the party with launching agitation on issue of construction of S.Y.L, canal which will bring Ravi-Beas waters to arid fields of the state.

In meantime Dushyant Chautala and Digvijay  Chautala also started taking active role in activities of party under banner of Indian National Students Organisation and Dyshant Chautala attained stature with winning Hisar Lok Sabha seat. Youth started attracting towards them.

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BREATHING IN GAS CHAMBER

The first Monday of November saw the air quality in Delhi dipping to its worst low of the season. Just two days before Diwali and barely a week after the Supreme Court put cursory restrictions on the sale and use of crackers in the national capital, the pollution levels inched towards ‘severe plus emergency’ category due to change in wind direction and rampant stubble burning in neighbouring states. After breathing the cleanest air in three weeks on the preceding Sunday, people woke up to a gloomy Monday, with a thick haze covering the sky. According to the data from the Central Pollution Control board (CPCB), the PM2.5 (particles in the air with a diameter less than 2.5 micrometers) and PM10 concentrations touched 365 and 503 respectively. Most of the NCR region recorded ‘severe’ pollution, with Gurgaon recording ‘very poor’ air quality. This is just another warning sign of the rapidly deteriorating Indian climate in a year that was inundated with dust storms, floods and vast variations in daily temperatures.

The official sources attribute the sudden shift in air quality to the change in direction of the wind which has started blowing from the north-west towards Delhi, thus bring with it dust and smoke from stubble burning in the neighbouring states. Despite several government measures, subsidies and court orders to curb the burning of stubble residue at the end of harvest season, there has been limited progress in controlling the harmful practice. Each year, the air quality deteriorates after paddy is harvested, specially in states like Punjab and Haryana. Most air monitoring stations are in urban areas, while stubble is burned in rural areas. So far the states have not been able to put a reliable mechanism in place to quantify the actual extent of the problem. Despite the increase in forest fires, dust storms and smog after harvesting, the ‘official’ Air Quality Index (AQI) has remained within ‘moderate’ category in most of these regions.

 Climate change is real:

Pretending that climate change isn’t real, or doing nothing about it has landed trapped us in a vicious cycle which is getting increasingly tough to get out of. For decades, scientists have warned that climate change would make extreme events like droughts, floods, hurricanes, and wildfires more frequent, more devastating, or both. In 2018, we got an up-close look at the raw ferocity of such an altered world as high-category hurricanes, typhoons and cyclone battered the the coasts of U.S. and South East Asia while wind-whipped fires scorched California; the earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia and the mudslides in Japan were equally horrifying. Closer home, the dust storms in Rajasthan and the floods in Kerala were the worst reminders of our continuous and atrocious indifference towards the environment that surrounds and sustains us.

Over the last thirty years there has been consistent warming over Indian landmass. It has been documented that the land-ocean thermal contrast and the monsoon circulation have weakened during the recent few decades, while the frequency of cyclonic disturbances, tropical cyclones and severe tropical cyclones has reduced over the Indian Ocean as well as Bay of Bengal during the monsoon and post monsoon seasons. The overall monsoon does not show any significant change mainly because the decreasing trend in moderate rain events has been compensated by an increasing trend in heavy rain events. India receives almost 75% of the annual rainfall in the summer monsoon which plays a vital role in agriculture, water resource management and power management. The survival of the large population as well as the economy of India depends highly on the quantity and distribution of rainfall received during the summer monsoon season. A large year-to-year variability is characterised by years of excess and deficit monsoons. Deficit monsoons have large adverse impact on crop production, while it is observed that excess monsoons do not compensate for the loss in crop yield during droughts.

The recent report from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the world has just 12 years to get matters under control or the effects will be irreversible. If it doesn’t, entire cities may have to be walled in to protect them from sea-level rise; other cities may simply have to relocate to areas where there is less flooding or drought.We’re also seeing with greater clarity how these dangers are interlinked, building upon one another toward perilous climate tipping points. And yet for all the growing risks, and the decades we’ve had to confront them, we have yet to address the problem in a meaningful way. In fact, despite all our climate policies, global accords, solar advances, wind farms, hybrid cars, and Teslas, greenhouse-gas emissions are still moving in the wrong direction. And as long as we’re emitting any at all, we’re only making the problem worse.

Startling Statistics:

In the past 25 years , there is a raise of 0.2 degree C (24 degree C to 24.2 degree C) in the surface temperatures of the Indian landmass. The minimum average temperature rose from 24.2 degree C to 24.5 degree C, a 0.3 degree C rise in just 15 years. Moreover, number of heavy rainfall events are increasing almost over the entire landmass. By 2030s, data from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MOEF) projects 1.5-2oC warming in the annual mean temperature over the Indian landmass while winter and spring seasons show higher warming. The annual mean surface air temperature may rise from 1.7°C to 2°C . The cyclonic disturbances over Indian Oceans during summer monsoon are likely to be more intense and the systems may form slightly to the south of normal locations. The ensemble mean changes in the monsoon rainfall are in the range of 2 to 12% while the annual temperature changes are of the order of 1.4 to 1.9o C.

The GHG Platform India, a collective civil-society initiative, documents GHG emissions at a more granular level and offers recent data aggregated from reliable sources. From 2005 to 2013, India emitted 20.54 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), with emissions growing annually by 5.57 percent. Emissions per capita grew, too, by 4.07 percent annually. In the year 2013, India emitted 2.8 gigatons CO2e – less than the U.S. or China. Per capita emissions also track well behind these nations. 68 of India’s emissions between 2005-2013 came in from the energy sector, more than three times the second-largest (the industry sector). Energy-related emissions continue to dominate, with its percentage share within overall national emissions remaining more or less constant (62 percent in 2005 to 63 percent in 2013) over the years. Within the energy-sector, about 77% comes from electricity generation, mainly due to the current fuel-mix within domestic installed capacities.

Four-fifths of industrial GHG emissions came from coal consumption. Changes in fuel prices over time in some states accelerate shifts towards cleaner fuel. States like Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra lead in the uptake of natural gas due to the availability of gas pipelines. However, the Indian industrial sector uses gas as feedstock and heating fuel, traditionally due to limited domestic gas availability. Hence, transitions to cleaner fuel were not strong enough to make a significant cut in the share of coal use by industries. emissions from agriculture, forestry and other land-use (AFOLU) declined slightly, by 1.95% annually. Aggregated numbers show that India has maintained forest and tree cover, resulting in a growing land carbon sink. The nation aims to create a total carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 gigatons of CO2e through afforestation. Solid waste and wastewater management remains poorly addressed across India. Waste sector emissions grew 4% annually from 2005-2013.

Change in climate is changing Indian cities:

For years, developing countries have faced the paradox of curbing greenhouse emissions while sustaining the economic growth required for development. The big question the conspiracy theorists have always asked is whether the cost of adopting and sustaining a green economy is worth the long term dividends. But the nature itself is providing the answers. The great Himalayas have not escaped the fury of climate change. While cold desserts like Ladakh as well as Lahaul & Spiti have faced increase erratic rainfall events despite being rain-shadow regions, there has been considerable decrease in snowfall in the higher passes. Such variation in weather has affected the fragile mountain ecosystem and many glacier are on the brink of disappearance. Rampant and unplanned construction, deforestation and industrial activity on riverbanks has led to frequent landslides and flash floods. For years, states like Uttarakhand have been facing flood like situations every monsoon due to isolated extreme rain events, even during drought conditions.

Disappearing and shrinking beaches at several other coasts are causing loss of work for fishing communities. So far, Odisha has lost 153.8 km, or 28 per cent, of its coastline due to coastal erosion, shows a study by the National Centre for Coastal Research, released in July 2018. This has dealt a massive blow to the state government’s plan to promote beach tourism. In Lakshadweep, the sea level rise has been up to 0.6 m in the past 20 years. It has lost 5 per cent landmass between 1989 and 2006, suggests ISRO’s Shoreline Change Atlas in 2014. El Niño events of 1998, 2010 and 2016 have weakened the coral colonies, warns a study published in Springer in September. The report suggests that absolute coral cover has reduced by around 40 per cent during the period. A 2014 report submitted by a panel led by Justice R V Raveendran to the Supreme Court says there has been flagrant disregard to the fragile ecosystem of the island in the developmental priorities and projects that have been undertaken on the islands. The report adds that poorly planned infrastructure and coastal embankments have increased erosion.

The Road Ahead

In June 2008, India announced its National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC). When it happened, we were just one of the 10-odd countries in the world to have a consolidated policy instrument to tackle climate change. Alas, we are yet to see any significant action under the same. The Namami Gange Programme launched with much fanfare, in 2014 with much fanfare has met the same fate. There is no significant data to measure the success or failure of these programmes. The lack of reliable data and negligible change on ground speak more about the current state of affairs. In September this year, a new draft bill to clean the Ganga river was released, with plethora of punitive measures for offenders. And yet we have witnessed that climate change and pollution cannot be fought with punitive action proposed on paper. We need a shift in attitude along with a practical shift in government policy. The dearth of mechanisms to record and reveal reliable data has been a constant roadblock in ensuring quantifiable change.

With every new initiative Emissions are expected to decline due to various considerations outlined by the National Electricity Plan, including adoption of cleaner technologies, a moratorium on adding new coal-based capacity, the ambitious goal of updating the fuel-mix to 40 percent non-fossil modes by 2030 and overall packages on resource and energy efficiency. India has committed to reduce the emission intensity of its gross domestic product (GDP) by 33 to 35 percent by 2030 against 2005 levels. At the same time, through the Make in India Initiative, the Government of India aims to encourage domestic industrial production. Enhancing efficiency gains along with a shift towards cleaner fuel can help
decouple emissions from industrial growth. Additionally, revised Municipal Solid Waste (Management & Handling) Rules in 2016 and an increased focus on “waste to wealth” should result in reduction of GHG emissions in this sector.

Several recent international reports as well as the national economic survey point towards the far reaching effects of climate change on a growing economy like India which can hamper its development. Extreme climate events are most detrimental to the weaker sections of society, unable to secure themselves against the wrath of nature. Moreover, the recent economic survey warns that climate change could affect crop output, thus lowering farmer incomes by as much as 25%. This will also affect the national food security. Such events can indirectly threaten national peace and security due to rise in anti-social elements due to dearth of resources. On World Ozone Day, India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEFCC) released the draft India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP), aimed to fulfil the cooling requirements of the growing economy in the face of global warming. Now we have to ensure that the plans become more than just symbolic exercises to secure international standing and media coverage, if we want any chance for redemption for our ongoing abuse of the gifts of nature.

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AT LAST, JUSTICE LANDS AT MUMBAI’S DOOR

The landmark decision of National Green Tribunal, ordering the shutdown of Aegis Chemical Solutions and Sea Lord Containers has come as a great relief to the Mahul residents.

The hapless people of the twin localities — Mahul and Ambapada, right in the heart of cosmopolitan Mumbai had literally put everything at stake in order to win the court battle against the poison spewing Aegis Chemical Solutions and Sea Lord Containers. Their ten-year-long and painful struggle ultimately bore fruit. The NGT ordered the shutdown of the two companies sometime back this year. The companies’ shutdown would bring the noxious emissions to end. Ironically, the order is received by them but not implemented yet.

The residents of the two localities have coughed-up almost `4.5 crore during this 10 year-long legal struggle. Undergoing extreme financial hardships, they had to mortgage their houses, hotels and businesses in order to collect the money to fight the court battle.

Aegis Chemical Solutions came into existence in 2007 in Mahul locality of Mumbai and flouting Pollution norms established 11 chemical storage tanks in these high-density population areas adjoining Mahul and Ambapada.

About 36 types of noxious chemicals are filled in these tanks every day. The residents suffer breathing and other health-related problems due to the air pollution caused by these chemicals. Besides being spurious to health, these gasses smelt like rotten eggs. Every day, the company empties around 700 tankers into these storage tanks. Prior to their fillings, the tanks are cleaned before the chemical is stored every time. The Nitrogen is used to clean these storage tanks; this Nitrogen causes many respiratory disorders to the residents.

Aegis Chemical Solutions Company is located at the rear side of the residential colony. The poisonous impact of air pollution is so intense that the women in this locality have been getting menstrual cycle twice a month. Many among the 20 thousand populations in the two localities suffer from multiple skin disorders, eye-inflammation, kidney disease, cardiovascular disorder, paralysis, abortion, etc. and these are constantly on the rise.

“We had complained to almost more than 26 different authorities but no one addressed our problems. Many residents have been diagnosed with cancer since the establishment of the company. Around 50 deaths were reported due to the air pollution in 2017,” Dayaram Mahulkar, Petitioner of Mahul-Ambapada Committee said. Along with him, the petition was filed against the company by Charudutt Koli, Mohan Mhatre and Dattaram Koli.

Fish population dwindled due to pollution

The sea water isn’t spared either. After cleaning the storage tank, the Aegis Chemical Solutions Company releases polluted water into the sea. The residents of Mahul-Ambapada have complained about the dwindling population of fishes along the coasts in the vicinity and put the onus for this on the company. Recently, the raid conducted by the State PCB under Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam’s stewardship found that the untreated effluents were directly released into the sea. The raid also noticed that there wasn’t any effluent treatment plant which processes the water used in the industrial sector prior to releasing it.

KEM targets Aegis Chemical Solutions Company for bronchi-respiratory disorders!

The KEM hospital has conducted ‘Respiratory mobility survey’ in Mahul and Ambapada areas and found that many people suffer from chest pain and breathing trouble.

Survey in Mahul

67.1 percent of people complained about respiratory inhalation

86.6 percent of people complained of eye-inflammation

84.5 percent of people complained of pain in the chest

Survey in Ambapada

66.5 percent of people complained about Phlegm

61.3 percent complained of eye-inflammation

51.4 percent people complained of pain in the chest

53.3 percent people complained of cough and cold

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Haryana’s ambitious Panchgram project to build five super smart cities along KMP Expressway

Haryana has launched one of the most ambitious projects ever with the creation of five super smart cities along the 135-km Kundli-Manesar-Palwal (KMP) Expressway in the National Capital Region (NCR). The five super smart cities project, known as ‘Panchgram’ will be on the pattern of Singapore and it will be bigger than Chandigarh.

Vipul Goel, Haryana Minister  for Industries and commerce said the KMP Expressway and the five cities to be developed alongside will completely change the industrial scenario in Haryana. The present BJP government in Haryana has provided facilities to entrepreneurs to give boost to the industrial sector in the state to create five large scale job opportunities, he said. The five proposed cities will take the load off Delhi and Gurugram which have become overcrowded. The five cities will have residential commercial and industrial sectors for people’s convenience.

Under panchgram project, the first proposed green field city will come up close to Gurugram. The cities have been planned to be developed on the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model. The Panchgram project will be developed within 2-km of the KMP on both sides of the road. Each city will have a different name.

One Gurugram has worked wonders for Haryana, five such cities will certainly bring more prosperity to the state, feel experts. The Haryana State Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (HSIDC) has been given the responsibility to develop the five cities.

According to the new proposed plan, the government is preparing a new master plan 2024 to develop areas outside the Gurugram-Manesar Urban Complex. Accordingly, the area from Manesar towards Rewari as well as the areas around Pataudi will also be incorporated in the new project. Meanwhile the HSIIDC has issued Request for Proposal (RFP) for selection of the consultant for the project.

According to the RFP, the authority has also decided to prepare a master plan for a new Greenfield city adjoining Gurugram to be spread over a huge areas encompassing five hectare. Accordingly, the master plan will include review of the existing planning framework, land use, transportation, demographic and socio-economic characteristics.

The plan will also provide medium and long-term population projections as well as a concept master plan consisting of social infrastructure requirements, transportation network plan, land use plan. It will also have zoning regulations, according to the request for proposal (RFP). 

The selected consultant of the all important project will prepare the master plan for the new city in around 6 months. The location of the new city will to the south of the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi and will share its boundary with the Gurgaon-Manesar urban area in the north and will face the picturesque Aravalli Hills on the north east.

The consultant is still to be selected by the Haryana government for the project. The government has around six months time to finalise a consultant. The five new cities will be well-connected to the urban centres all around Delhi through National Highways-48, State Highway 13 and 28 and KMP Expressway. It will also be connected to other major district roads, according to the  RFP.

According to sources in the HSIIDC, procedure of selecting the consultant has already been initiated. Bids have also been invited. It is not as if the entire stretch of the KMP Exresswat falls in Haryana. Out of the total length of  21five kms, as much as 13five kms falls in Haryana state and the rest of around 80 kms in Utar Pradesh (UP). In Haryana the KMP Expressway covers the districts of Sonepat, Jhajjar, Gurugram, Mewat and Palwal. Areas on both sides of the Expressway are proposed to be developed by the Haryana government in the PPP mode for the Panchgram project.

Goel is excited about the KMP Expressway and the Panchgram project. According to Goel, in the coming days, the KMP Expressway will transform the industrial scene in Haryana by giving it a big boost. He says the Manohar Lal Khattar led BJP government in Haryana has provided several facilities to entrepreneurs  to boost the industrial sector in the state.

Goel is very hopeful of the highly ambitious project undertaken by the Haryana government. He said the industrial and commercial townships are being set up op on 3300 acres of land at Kharkhoda in Sonipat district. He said this would be an unique township in Haryana. Another industrial model township has been developed on 1400 acres of land in Sohna of Gurugram district.

Later,  both of these townships will be linked to the KMP Expressway. In fact Sohna township will be linked to the Gururam-Sohna-Alwar Highway. This will bring more prosperity to Haryana, said Vipul Goel.

The industrial corridor along the KMP Western Expressway will be modernised and it will have world class facilities. The minister said that the micro, small and medium category of industries are the backbone of the industrial sector. These units actually strengthen the entire ecosystem of the region and are very important, he   said.

According to a senior official of the Haryana government, the new development plan of Haryana will reflect the quality of life which a resident if  Panchgram region could expct to lead in the years to come. The Haryana master plan will also define the several zones into new townships and cities comprising the Panchgram region These regions will then be segregated in various zones for the purpose of development of the entire region. The project will be very beneficial to the industrialists as well as businessmen.

According to Haryana’s Additional chief secretary (ACS-industries and commerce), Devender Singh,   the new urban centres of Panchgram project will open several opportunities for trade and housing in the state. He said The KMP and Kundli-Ghaziabad-Palwal (KGP) Expressway would give these centres good connectivity as well.

Devender Singh said that Gurugram of Haryana, close to Delhi has a reputed brand value and has attracted investments worth crores of rupees. Similarly the Panchgram also which are close to Delhi, will help the state bring major attractions as well as investments.

“Also, there is a great demand for warehouses and logistic facilities and traders want to set them outside Delhi,” Devender Singh said while talking about the possible opportunities from the ambitious project.

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A row over summons to film star Akshay Kumar

Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has made it clear that his government had no role in the summoning of the former chief minister, Parkash Singh Badal and his son and former deputy chief minister, Sukhbir Singh Badal, and actor Akshay Kumar by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the 2015 sacrilege and police firing incidents.

The SIT was an independent entity and was functioning without any government interference, he said in response to a question while addressing the media after inaugurating the Homi Bhabha Cancer Hospital. His government’s job was to form the SIT as per the unanimous decision of the Vidhan Sabha, which it had done, and now the onus of investigation was on the SIT, said the Chief Minister.

While it has led to animated discussions about the actor, in a statement also posted on Twitter, the actor denied “rumours and false statements” about his involvement with Ram Rahim Singh.  Calling reports of a meeting with Sukhbir Badal “fictitious”, Akshay Kumar said: “I have never ever met Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in my life, anywhere. I learnt from social media at some point that Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh resided for a while at some place in my locality Juhu in Mumbai but we never ever crossed each other’s paths”.

His full statement goes like this that “It has come to my knowledge that some rumours and false statements are being loosely made on social media about my involvement with a person named Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in the context of a fictitious meeting involving Sukhbir Singh Badal. With all humility, I would like to state the following facts that 1. I have never ever met Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in my life, anywhere. 2. I learnt from social media at some point that Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh resided for while at some place in my locality Juhu in Mumbai, but we never ever crossed each other’s paths.  3. Over the years, I have dedicatedly made films promoting the Punjabi culture, and the rich history and tradition of Sikhism through films like Sing is King, Kesari (based on Battle of Saragarhi etc. I am proud of being a Punjabi and have the highest regard for the Sikh faith. I shall never do anything that would even remotely hurt the sentiments of my Punjabi brothers and sisters, for whom I have utmost respect and love”. He asserted that his statement above is the utmost and absolute truth and challenged anyone who can prove it otherwise.

Inquiries reveal that the Special Investigation Team (SIT), probing police firing incidents at Behbal Kalan on sacrilege issue, has summoned former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on November 16, his son and former deputy chief minister, Sukhbir Singh Badal on November 19 and actor Akshay Kumar on November 21. Akshay Kumar has been asked to come on 21 November to the Circuit House in Amritsar.  The summon orders have been issued separately for the three by SIT member and IG rank officer Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh, according to an official release.

The SIT is probing police firing incidents at Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan in Faridkot in 2015 after a series of sacrilege incidents in the state. In police firing at Behbal Kalan, two persons were killed.

Notably, the actor’s name was mentioned in Justice Ranjit Singh Commission report on sacrilege incidents.  According to the report, a meeting between former deputy chief minister Sukhbir and Dera Sacha Sauda sect head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in connection with the release of latter’s movie ‘MSG’ was held at Akshay’s flat in Mumbai. The Ranjit Singh Commission report mentions that the meeting was held before the pardon given to Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in a blasphemy case. The summons have been issued under Section 160 of the CrPC, requiring attendance at investigation, relating to the Bargari sacrilege case and the Behbal Kalan and Kotkapura police firing incidents.

The notice says the presence of the aforesaid person is necessary for the purpose of an inquiry into the above-mentioned offense and the person summoned needed to give such information relating to the said alleged offense as he may possess.

The SIT had earlier examined ADGP Jitendra Jain, then IG Bathinda; IGP Paramraj Singh Umaranangal; then Commissioner Ludhiana; IGP Amar Singh Chahal, then DIG Ferozepur Range; MS Jaggi, then DC Faridkot; SS Mann, then SSP Faridkot; VK Syal then SDM Faridkot, besides Mantar Singh Brar, then Kotkapura MLA.

The Justice (Retd) Ranjit Singh Commission, constituted to investigate sacrilege cases in the state, had submitted its final report on the Bargari sacrilege incident and the resulting police firing at Behbal Kalan, as part of its first set of findings on June 30, 2018. He had handed over the report to Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh who forwarded it to the state Home Secretary and the Advocate General for examination, in a time-bound manner, so that the guilty could be brought to book at the earliest.

The Commission was constituted in April 2017 under Section 11 of the Commission of Inquiry Act 1952 by the Congress government to probe cases of desecration of the holy Guru Granth Sahib and other religious texts at Burj Jawahar Singh Wala, Bargari, Gurusar, and Mallke. The incidents led to massive protests in different parts of the state and at Behbal Kalan and Kotkapura, two people were killed in police firing. The CM had earlier, rejected as “inconclusive” the findings of the Zora Singh Commission set up by the previous SAD-BJP government.

The Commission led by Justice Singh had a mandate to inquire into the detailed facts and circumstances and chronology of events of what actually happened and to identify as a matter of fact the role played by various persons into the incidents of sacrilege in Faridkot and other places. The Justice (Retd) Ranjit Singh Commission report on sacrilege incidents of religious scriptures in 2015, tabled during the Monsoon Session of the Punjab Assembly is being seen as a major setback for the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.  But the cropping up of the name of the film actor, Akshay Kumar along the former CM and his deputy CM son has far wider ramifications.

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When democracy starts relying more on judiciary

Judiciary is the guardian of our constitution and the last hope for the citizens seeking redressal of their grievances. It continues to command huge respect but certain recent actions and directives have raised questions over it going beyond its jurisdiction and encroaching into the domain of the other two pillars of democracy.

There have also been instances of the government abdicating its responsibility or shifting it to the judiciary as in the case of its stand on the abolition of Article 377 when it left the decision to “the wisdom of the court” but such instances are rare. The judiciary, on the other hand, had been taking up issues of governance with increasing frequency and that too at the level of Supreme Court and various High Courts.

This is when three crore cases are pending in various courts of the country, including about one crore before the higher judiciary, for several years, even decades. Something that is of equal significance is that about 40 per cent of the posts of judges are lying vacant in high courts across the country. The number of cases pending is increasing each year with, ironically, the government as the largest litigant.

Yet, the higher judiciary revels are taking up issues arbitrarily and even where there is no violation of laws. Very often the judges come out with scathing observations which come out in the media but do not find any place in the final judgments. Some of these cases are too technical and complicated for the judiciary to come to any well thought out and reasoned verdict.

Its latest decision to enter the domain of the government is the directive to provide details of the price of the fighter aircraft from Rafale “in a sealed envelope”. There is no doubt that the deal has kicked up a major storm and there are allegations of nepotism and favouritism in finalising the deal. The sudden decision to purchase 36 state-of-art fighter aircraft and to facilitate a 30,000 crore contract in favour of Anil Ambani surely reeks of a scandal.

The government has been on the back foot and had been stonewalling the details about the deal on the grounds that the price at which the agreement was aimed was a “secret”. It had also been taking the plea that disclosing details about its capabilities and weapon systems would compromise national security and safety.

Congress is seeking to make it a major plank to take on the Modi Government in the general elections did next year. The government is also fighting with its back to the wall and has refused to make public the details of the deal.

It is under these circumstances that the apex court asked the government to furnish the price of each fighter aircraft without disclosing to technical details which could jeopardise the safety and security of the country.

The highest court has, however, not indicated as to how would it come to any conclusion about the correctness of the aircraft prices unless it has comparisons to study. Again, does it have the competence to study such a deal with the specifications unknown to it. How will it come to any reasoned conclusion of an illegal deal. The government too has not taken any stand till the time of this edition going to the Press. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India would be in a far better position to judge the details.

There have been several other instances in the recent past where cases are taken up arbitrarily “in public interest” while serious cases remaining pending for years together. In one recent instance, a group of policemen accused of killing members of a particular section of society in Muzaffarnagar were convicted and sentenced after a gap of 31 years!

In another case picked up by the courts suo moto, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had been spending hours of its time over scores of dates to question the functioning of the Chandigarh International Airport. The court had been lambasting the airlines for not starting flights, has been asking some of the airlines to better shutdown and even threatening to order the closure of the airport. If there are questions of violation of laws in such cases, these are being stretched a bit too much.

Then there is a tendency to hastily pass directions and then take those back. One such recently the decision was to ban liquor shops, advertisements and bars from within an area of 500 meters from the highways. This led to the closure of hundreds of shops and bars and the disruption of thousands of lives. There were reports that guzzlers would take a detour of 500 meters and then get liquor to consume in their vehicles – certainly a worse situation than that existed before the court directive. Experts also pointed out that those who like to drink don’t make up their minds after coming across a shop or getting attracted by an advertisement. Surely there were other ways to curb the menace than the diktat to remove shops and hoardings from the highways. Subsequently, the directive was taken back and it is back to business as usual.

Similarly, the directive to compulsorily play the national anthem before the screening of a movie was a bizarre move. Attempts to find a precedent like this in another country were futile. It could be happening in North Korea but there is no way to cross check.

If the idea behind the order to play the national anthem before the screenings were to inculcate the spirit of patriotism and nationalism, it was a misplaced idea. There were certain incidents in which people who didn’t stand up were roughed up by the so-called patriotic people. The court apparently wanted all citizens to wear nationalism on their sleeves to prove their patriotism.

The Apex court could have done better by implementing the order first in Supreme Court, all the high courts and the subordinate judiciary and should have ordered playing of the national anthem at the start of their working hours. It would have made good sense if the order was to all educational institutions, including colleges and universities, to start working hours with the national anthem. And why not all government departments where ministers and bureaucrats should have been directed to stand in attention at the opening of office hours.

Possibilities were endless but the court directive picked up only the place where people go for entertainment. Subsequently, another bench diluted the directive by saying it was not mandatory for cinema owners to play the national anthem.

One can go on and on citing such cases even when the issue of vital public and individual interests are pending. How can the judiciary, for instance, justify a delay of over 30 years in bringing to book those responsible for the attacks on Sikhs in 1984.

The judiciary, which recently witnessed the spectacle of four senior-most judges of Supreme Court to publicly raise their voice against the Chief Justice of India, must look inward and set some of its priorities right. Citizens of the country can’t afford to lose faith in the institution of judiciary.

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