In less than 48 hours, citizens of this country are going to cast their vote, deciding the future of the citizens for the next five years. With the bombardment of ‘Manifestos’ all around us, the political actions and priorities of different parties are in the public domain. One aspect that almost every major party is missing (as if there are many) is their focus on Environment and Climate-change.
According to a report by IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), a body responsible for assessing the science related to climate change for the United Nations, has warned that India being the fourth highest emitter of Carbon-di-Oxide will be one of the first countries to be drastically affected by the plight of ‘Climate-Change’.
Titled as ‘Special Report’, it highlights that by limiting the rise of global temperature to two-degree-celsius is inadequate for the planet and could still irreversibly alter global climate conditions. With such a diverse landscape and environment, the impact is very visible across India. The agrarian-based communities are expected to be the worst-hit due to lower rainfalls or even sudden and abrupt rainfalls that may damage the crop production. With more than half of the population depending upon agriculture, the little or no mention of the Environmental concerns in their manifestoes is worrisome for the future of this country. The fall in crop production and a deterioration in nutritional values of the food will affect a very large population of this country.
On March 15, thousands of school students of 123 nations, including students of India skipped their respective schools as a part of the global protests demanding climate action. It was done in solidarity 16-year-old Swedish student and climate activist Greta Thunberg, who protests every Friday outside the Swedish Parliament to urge leaders to fight climate change. The protests garnered worldwide attention but the political parties in India seem to be avoiding the concerns of young children about the environment.
Ornamented with the title of “Champions of Earth” by the United Nations for his promise to eliminate all single-use plastics in the country by 2022 and supporting the International Solar Alliance, to scale up solar energy, the Prime Minister appears to be doing everything for the environment. The party has promised to reduce the level of Air Pollution of 102 most polluted cities by 35% in the next five years.
“We have continuously protected and promoted the interest of forest dwellers particularly the tribal communities,”
the manifesto claimed. Ironically the same government failed to represent the forest dwellers in Supreme court. The lawyers are accused of deliberately missing the hearing multiple times. The Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act has also been used to hand tribal land over to an energy conglomerate. Over 1,320 square acres of agricultural land has been recently granted to the Adani Group in Jharkhand to construct a thermal power plant.
Not just forest-dwellers, the fisheries, and marine life are also facing the wrath of our ‘Champion of Earth’. The draconian Coastal Regulation Zone which was introduced in 2011 (CRZ-2011). The gradual erosion of the coastal ecosystem in India is because of the CRZ project which gives freedom to real estate projects and infrastructural work to create an intertidal zone along the coastline of the country.
His image as a promoter of sustainable energy is still debatable as the National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF), which was created to fund innovation in clean energy and to reduce India’s coal dependency has been deliberately ignored and ceased to function now. The supposed funds of the body were then diverted to compensate the revenue losses by the state under the GST (Goods and Services Tax). The very icon of BJP, Murli Manohar Joshi had opposed the decision of diverting the funds of Rs 86,440 crore. According to a report in Down To Earth, there is no clarity on how the government plans on funding the $21 million required for the solar alliance, or on how the target of producing 1,000 gigawatts of solar energy will be met by 2021. It has never put out in public during its five-year tenure on how it has spent environmental cesses, such as the coal cess, which was meant to mitigate climate change.
Under a title called ‘Protecting the Himalayas’, the manifesto stated,
We will ensure that the Himalayan States are provided special financial assistance in the form of a ‘Green Bonus’ to facilitate the protection and promotion of forests in those states.
The irony here is that activist Prof. GD Aggarwal, who also had a huge following in RSS and the BJP, has died in Police Custody in a hospital. He was fasting to death against the policies of the government. Another activist has opted for hunger strike against the rampant construction of Dams in Himalayan rivers and illegal mining at the banks of Ganga. The flagship campaign of Rs 20,000 Crore, ‘Namami Gange’ has been a flop.
Titled as ‘Sankalp Patra’, the manifesto has a dedicated set of promises for the agriculture and Farmer Welfare. Relying on the most powerful vote-bank, the Prime Minister has promised to double the income of Farmers by 2022. “We are committed to making an investment of Rs. 25 lakh crore to improve the productivity of the farm sector,” the manifesto says. But the Government has ignored ‘Climate’, on which the very agrarian community is dependent.
Indian National Congress
Just like the BJP, the Congress in its manifesto has also promised to take steps to curb Air-Pollution. The manifesto highlighted the fact that Congress was the first Indian political party to acknowledge the consequences of Climate Change under Indira Gandhi in Stockholm on 14 June 1972. Putting it all on the BJP for the negligence of the enviornment, the manifesto said,
“It is a bitter truth that India’s environment has deteriorated. The 2018 Global Environmental Performance Index placed India at rank 177 out of 180 countries. The BJP Government has done virtually nothing in the last 5 years to arrest this decline”.
Congress party is responsible for neglecting the environment for so many years in the past. Under UPA’s tenure, the Krishna-Godavari basin scam was executed which has done tremendous damage to fisheries and aquatic life.
Attacking the government’s policies in the coastline, the party in the manifesto has said that, “Congress promises to protect the coastal zones of the country. Recent steps that diluted the coastal zone regulations will be reversed. The coast will be preserved without affecting the livelihood opportunities of fishing communities.” Like the BJP manifesto, it has also mentioned the need to preserve biodiversity in the Himalayas along with the Western Ghats. The state governments of the party have already been accused of ignoring the environmental impacts in the Himalayas (Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand) due to rampant construction and development of huge dams.
Just like the above two political parties, many of the regional parties had to tread the bandwagon to mention very little about the Environment. The Samajwadi Party, a part of BSP-SP-RLD Alliance has exhibited the manifesto under the title, ‘Mahaparivartan Through Social Justice‘. The only mention of ‘Climate’ was visible when the party promised to, ‘Automation and Clean Energy To Destroy Caste Discrimination’.
The Aam Aadmi Party which is yet to release its manifesto is already facing huge pressure as the Air Quality in the capital has gotten worse in its tenure. The AAP has failed to keep its promise from its manifesto in its 2015 Delhi Assembly Elections. Its stand on allowing Sri-Sri Ravishankar to hold a mega even in the Yamuna basin is highly criticized. The manifesto says it prioritize, “Sewage treatment and industrial effluent treatment to prevent polluted water from flowing in the Yamuna and prevent encroachment on Yamuna river bed.”
The left aligned parties which are ideologically inclined to promise tribal authority over forests and oppose deforestation have followed the path of Congress and Samajwadi Party as far as manifesto is concerned. Just like their names the Communist Party of India (CPI) and Communist Party of India Marxist (CPI[M]), the manifestoes were very similar though the CPI(M) has promised that it will scrap environmental clearances given through dilution or violation of environment and forest protection laws. It also promises to promote sustainable development. It also mentioned that the party will “heed the demands of ongoing peoples’ struggles against nuclear projects, big dams, and other anti-people projects”.
A political lesson for all of us
The current generation which is responsible for the actions which are having an impact on the future of upcoming generations. A 16-year-old can teach us a lot about our policies and priorities which can have some worrisome irreversible changes regarding the future of life on this planet.