Sabyasachi Patra

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 4 Issue II

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 4 Issue II

In the IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 2 Issue VIII we had talked about Democracy, Activism and the Power of “WE”. Today we revisit the topic as there have been some recent developments that can alter the way activism is conducted in this country and many other topics.

Democracy, Governance & Activism – II:

The local people have been protesting against the Kundakulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu for the last several months and at times the protests have taken a violent turn as well. In a democracy like India, people do have a write to protest if there is an issue that impacts them. Unfortunately, the recent statement of the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India that vested interests have funded NGOs and other social activists to protest against the power plant has raised many issues.

First it takes us back to the eighties when every action by a political party and even any incident was passed off as “outside influence”. I still remember a young and energetic Rajiv Gandhi boasting that he will teach the foreigners a lesson “unka nani yaad diladenge”. After the tragic assassination of Rajiv Gandhi – at the hands of foreign tamil militants – the congress Govt. that came to power had opened up India’s economy. With increased globalisation, came increased competitiveness of Indian companies with many of them buying up marquee brands abroad. The bogey of “outside influence” had become irrelevant and was forgotten. So when a present day Prime Minister, that too a person who was the architect of that liberalisation program makes a statement that NGOs funded by foreign powers are spearheading the protest at Kundakulam, one is bound to be speechless.

And when one realises that the same Prime Minister had made a statement about a month back that Indian companies are only attacking the Government, one can realize that perhaps this ruling party has become very sensitive to criticism.

The second question that comes to mind is that if democracy is really for the people and by the people, can a Government run against the will of the people? People are supposed to have a say in the Government. And in this case, the Hon’ble Prime Minister is indicating by his statement that people may not have an opportunity to express their will.

Recently in the Baba Ramdev case, the Hon’ble Supreme Court came down heavily on the police and even ordered prosecution of the officials for their atrocities committed while brutally attacking thousands of sleeping men and women who had come together at the Ramlila grounds in Delhi, to protest against the Government. Did this incident result in the change of strategy and resulted in doubting the integrity of the people who are protesting against the Kundakulam power plant? Given that any kind of show of power and crushing the protests of poor by police action can possibly invite the displeasure of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, is this a strategy to discredit the opposition to Kundakulam Nuclear Power Plant?

If in a democracy, thousands of people are not ready to take the risk of a power plant (assuming for a moment that all the protesters who are complaining about health problems due to the nuclear power plant as false and motivated), then why do we thrust it on them?

On one hand when the Hon’ble PM is doubting the credibility of the NGOs protesting against the Kundakulam Nuclear Power Plant, it is reported that the Central Government is planning to take the help of NGOs to reach out to tribal communities in parts of central India by setting up Bharat Rural Livelihoods Foundation in a Public-Private partnership model. This foundation will have a corpus of Rs. 500 crores with contributions from various stakeholders.

The Hon’ble PM had also raised his views about the need for genetically engineered crops. He had said we must make use of genetic engineering technologies to increase farm productivity. There are NGOs, often funded from US and Scandinavian countries, which aren’t fully appreciative of our developmental challenges.” Also, contrary to the Hon’ble PMs assertions, the Rural development minister Shri Jairam Ramesh has mentioned that during his previous stint with the MoEF he had not made any compromises when he placed a moratorium on the introduction of Bt Brinjal and had arrived at his decision after extensive consultation with State Governments, farmers, scientists and social organisations. Shri Ramesh had said that Unlike Bt Cotton, Bt Brinjal is consumed every day. The safety and reliability tests had not been completed, and the full protocol of tests on Bt Brinjal had not been done and there was no independent mechanism to allay the fears of the farming community.

Another question comes to my mind is whether the facts placed before the PMO is regularly updated.

During the recent National eGovernance Conference at Bhubaneswar, I heard the Hon’ble MoS for PMO Shri Narayanasamy saying that Nuclear power costs about 1.80 paisa for a unit and solar power costs about Rs. 18 and hence the country needs Nuclear Power.

However, it may be noted that during the stage two of National Solar Mission, the tariffs have already come down to around Rs. 9 (Nine rupees) per unit, which was unthinkable a year ago. So clearly, it appears to me that these vital facts about tariffs etc have not been communicated to the decision makers in the PMO.

While launching India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change on June 30, 2008, the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh stated:
Our vision is to make India’s economic development energy-efficient. Over a period of time, we must pioneer a graduated shift from economic activity based on fossil fuels to one based on non-fossil fuels and from reliance on non-renewable and depleting sources of energy to renewable sources of energy. In this strategy, the sun occupies centre-stage, as it should, being literally the original source of all energy.

We will pool our scientific, technical and managerial talents, with sufficient financial resources, to develop solar energy as a source of abundant energy to power our economy and to transform the lives of our people. Our success in this endeavour will change the face of India. It would also enable India to help change the destinies of people around the world.

From a goal of changing the destinies of the people around the world – which in management jargon we refer to as a Big Audacious Goal – we seem to be completely forgetting the goal and running after Nuclear Power.

The reason why our Hon’ble PM Shri Manmohan Singh had a change of heart between 2008 when he had made the statement about Solar Power and his emphasis on Nuclear Power now is anybody’s guess.

The National Action Plan on Climate Change also points out: “India is a tropical country, where sunshine is available for longer hours per day and in great intensity. Solar energy, therefore, has great potential as future energy source. It also has the advantage of permitting the decentralized distribution of energy, thereby empowering people at the grassroots level”.

In view of this it would be good if the Government can make a mid-term course correction and increase the focus on Solar Power rather than pursue Nuclear Power.

Incentivise Organic Farming:

In the previous budget Shri Pranab Mukherjee had said that the Government will promote organic farming. However it is said that a large part of the budget for the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna (RKVY) has been spent towards hybrid crops. Such efforts and the efforts towards genetic engineering which our Hon’ble PM has mentioned earlier, doesn’t directly go towards our farmers rather it benefits the large seed producers who are ironically from the developed countries. In such a scenario, creating incentive schemes or bonus for popularising ecologically sustainable farming would be beneficial as it can be easily replicated and also will reduce the pollution of our ground water sources.

I sincerely hope that the Government wakes up to the reality and bans synthetic fertilisers and pesticides around National Parks and wildlife sanctuaries. For more details please check here:

Three Wishes from the Union Budget:

With the Union budget session round the corner, it is anybody’s guess as to whether there would be any allocation for the cause of wildlife and conservation arena.

  • Will there be sufficient allocation for the resettlement of villagers who are currently inside the sanctuaries? Earlier the centre had declared that there are an estimated 50,000 (fifty thousand) families waiting to be resettled from the core areas of our tiger reserves. At ten lakh rupees per family, it will come to five thousand crores of rupees. Though the Government is not likely to release that amount of money, at least the Government should show its commitment towards the poor people by releasing thousand crore rupees (Rs. 1000 crores) towards it this year.
  • Buying land for contiguity and corridors: Among much hype the Elephant was declared as the National Heritage animal. The Task force had recommended ecological restoration of existing natural habitats and migratory routes or movement paths of elephants and had recommended allocation of Rs. 200 crores for securing the elephant corridors and a total of Rs. 600 crores for all activities towards project elephant in the 12th Five Year Plan. Wish the Government creates a special provision for this in the coming budget. Since the cost of land increases every year, it is important that the Government releases a thousand crore rupees (1000 crores) towards this so that elephant corridors as well as contiguity between other critical wildlife reserves can be established.
  • Wish the Central Government brings back the allocation of funds for protected areas atleast to the previous level. A hundred crores would be more important and better utilized than the amount earmarked for bringing exotic African cheetahs to India.

Auction for all Natural Resources?

It appears that the Supreme Court ruling cancelling 122 telecom licenses has an unexpected impact on the mining and hence the conservation arena. In course of its ruling, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has mentioned “while transferring or alienating natural resources, the State is duty bound to adopt the method of auction.” This can have severe impact on the way mining leases are being doled out in the various states. Last year, the Hon’ble Supreme Court had stopped the illegal mining in Bellary in Karnataka. Due to active collusion between the ruling dispensations in various states and mine owners, a huge amount of forest cover is vanishing.

It appears that the Union Government is preparing for a presidential reference on auction of natural resources to clarify the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s ruling. However, I believe that the auction of natural resources like mining blocks would be a better idea as that would bring in the much needed transparency. However, one has to be careful about the kind of companies that are participating in the auctions, else there would be too many front companies created by a few vested interests to control the auctions.

Other Conservation Issues and News:

Rediscovery of Miller’s Grizzled Langurs:

Signs of tiger presence at Athirumala:

Migratory birds turn their back on lakes:

Rise in Vulture population in Panna:

Wildlife Photography:
Images shared by our members between Jan. 10th 2012 and Feb 9th 2012 that depict interesting behavior, habitat, is of a rare species or is just plain beautiful are linked below:

A winter morning by Jitendra Katre

Egyptian Vulture at Ayodhya Nagar by Mangru Minz

Lesser Flamingo by Dipankar Mazumdar

Red-necked Falcon by Prashant Jois

Queen in Rimlight by Joel Gouder

Flying Squirrel by Kaling Dai

Grassland Funnel web spider by Abhishek Jamalabad

The Sentinel amidst the Salvania by Abhishek Jamalabad

Standing Mantis by Joshi Bhavya


Film festival screenings of our movie “A Call in the Rainforest”

I look forward to your support and inputs in preserving the last tracts of wilderness and wildlife left in this beautiful country. For other interesting articles and photographs please check:

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