Local pollution, climate damage and new economic opportunities tied to climate and environment are all important to our national interests. India needs more, not less, engagement around environmental issues (Biplov Bhuyan/HT PHOTO)
Local pollution, climate damage and new economic opportunities tied to climate and environment are all important to our national interests. India needs more, not less, engagement around environmental issues (Biplov Bhuyan/HT PHOTO)

Give young environmentalists a voice

India has always argued that climate is linked to development choices, livelihoods and equity. Don’t ask activists to narrow down their concerns
By Navroz K Dubash
UPDATED ON FEB 22, 2021 06:35 AM IST

The climate advocacy group, Fridays for Future, has been in the news recently due to the arrest of one of its members, Disha Ravi, in connection with allegedly playing a role in producing and sharing a protest “toolkit”. On the face of it, producing and sharing a toolkit is usual for advocacy groups seeking to mobilise attention and action around an issue, and it is hard to understand the serious allegations being made. Since I am not privy to the details of the case, I want to flag some broader, problematic, perspectives in the public conversation about this case .

First, a prominent theme in public conversations around this episode is that climate activists should stick to narrow environmental issues. Environmentalists, some imply, should play among themselves in a sandbox at one corner of the public debate. The irony is that India and Indian stakeholders — activists, diplomats and political leaders alike — have played a leading role in successfully arguing that the climate crisis is not only an environmental issue, it is a question of development choices, livelihoods and equity.

Notably, Fridays for Future appears to have taken on board this broader view: “ensure climate justice and equity” is the second “demand” listed in a August 2019 declaration on its website (the first and third are “limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C” and “listen to the science”). This recognition of equity is essential to ensuring that poor people and poor countries do not bear the cost of climate adjustment, which India has been in the forefront of arguing internationally. The bottom line is that environmental and social outcomes are inter-connected, and one cannot come at the cost of the other.

This broad perspective on environment is just as salient domestically as it is internationally. And from this point of view, it is reasonable — and even necessary — to look at not only the environmental problems arising from farming, but also the social condition of farmers, and the political and economic forces shaping farmer choices. Calling for Indian environmentalists to limit the scope of their interests not only impoverishes the national conversation, but also contradicts a uniquely powerful Indian stance espoused by activists and government alike, and that has served the national interest well in climate negotiations.

Second, it would be deeply problematic if the grumbling about the international linkages of the “toolkit” at the centre of this issue diluted the truth that it is strongly in India’s national interests to address environmental concerns; this is not just some international fiction. Environmental issues affect Indian interests in multiple ways.

To begin with, the local environment is despoiled in much of India. The Centre for Science and Environment found that, as of 2018, 275 of 445 monitored rivers were polluted and that unprocessed solid waste is the norm even in many cities. A dire air pollution problem is taking a toll on the health of Indians, with air pollution estimated to cause 1.2 million premature deaths a year, about one-eighth of all annual deaths in India, according to Indian scientists who have contributed to the Global Burden of Disease study. While much remains to be done, some potentially useful steps have been taken, such as creation of a new Commission on Air Quality Management.

In addition, the climate crisis is an enormous threat multiplier in India, according to a comprehensive Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology compilation. It could increase the destructive power of natural disasters, affect crop productivity, impact labour productivity through heat stress, disrupt the monsoons, and affect India’s water supply. Simply put, the climate crisis will make India’s development aspirations much harder to achieve.

Not least, the landscape of economic opportunity and job creation, both in India and globally, is changing in response to the environmental and climate crises. In energy, fossil fuels are giving way to solar, wind and battery technology; in transport, the days of the internal combustion engine may be numbered — GM recently announced their phase-out; in food, meat substitutes are taking off, and all these changes are driven by environmental concerns. In some areas, the government is attentive to these changes, seeking to stimulate solar panel production, and battery technology and manufacturing.

In brief, local pollution, climate damage and new economic opportunities tied to climate and environment are all important to our national interests. While an enormous amount remains to be done, the environment has long left behind the confines of the sandbox.

What a time, then, to send a signal to the young citizens of this country — discouraging them from paying attention to, asking challenging questions about, and putting personal energy into acting on, the big issues of our day. India needs more, not less, engagement and energy around environmental issues. We may not always agree with the answers young activists come up with. We may sometimes disagree with the way in which they frame questions or seek attention for their cause. But as a society, we will be poorer if we silence them.

Navroz K Dubash is a professor at the Centre for Policy Research, and the editor of India in a Warming World: Integrating Climate Change and Development

The views expressed are personal

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Without either the wealth and connections or profile of India’s film industry, Faruqui has shown more courage and almost zero cynicism. It doesn’t matter if you found his jokes funny or not — the jail-time he was subjected to was an abomination. (ANI)
Without either the wealth and connections or profile of India’s film industry, Faruqui has shown more courage and almost zero cynicism. It doesn’t matter if you found his jokes funny or not — the jail-time he was subjected to was an abomination. (ANI)

What Bollywood could learn from Munawar Faruqui

PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 06:09 PM IST
In this patchy, roller-coaster of a fortnight for India’s fundamental freedoms, some individuals have stood up, while others have failed our citizens
Close
The Digital Media Code has been formulated rather speciously, under Section 87 (1) & (2)(z) & (zg) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (as amended) (“IT Act”) i.e., the rule-making power. Rule-making or subordinate legislations are intended to carry out the purpose of an enactment. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The Digital Media Code has been formulated rather speciously, under Section 87 (1) & (2)(z) & (zg) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (as amended) (“IT Act”) i.e., the rule-making power. Rule-making or subordinate legislations are intended to carry out the purpose of an enactment. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Creating a sustainable, legitimate digital regulatory regime

By NS Nappinai
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 05:55 PM IST
The Digital Media Code fails to conform to, and, in fact, confounds, every settled constitutional mandate for lawmaking — the very obvious premise that law is to be made by the lawmakers i.e. the legislature and not the executive.
Close
Six decades after the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961, the continuing prevalence of dowry remains India’s national shame. The 2019 National Crime Records Bureau data tells us that a woman is subject to cruelty by her husband and in-laws every four minutes. (Reuters)
Six decades after the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961, the continuing prevalence of dowry remains India’s national shame. The 2019 National Crime Records Bureau data tells us that a woman is subject to cruelty by her husband and in-laws every four minutes. (Reuters)

Dowry remains India’s abiding shame

UPDATED ON MAR 05, 2021 05:47 PM IST
In the run-up to the International Women’s Day, it’s good to celebrate the undeniable gains on our road to gender equality. But it’s also worth remembering just how far we have to go — and how little has changed.
Close
Indian nationalism has always been inward-looking and focused on national development, which was always strongly imbued with welfare and social justice goals (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)
Indian nationalism has always been inward-looking and focused on national development, which was always strongly imbued with welfare and social justice goals (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)

In defence of rooted Indian nationalism

By Abhinav Prakash Singh
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 07:38 PM IST
Indian nationalism does not seek to conquer or colonise other countries. Instead, it supported national struggles in other countries under imperialist rule, emphasising sovereignty and democracy.
Close
A more careful look at how the BJP has risen in Bengal, and how the ruling TMC has sought to counteract its growth, is instructive in understanding the new dimensions of the BJP’s appeal and possible templates to defeat it (Samir Jana / Hindustan Times)
A more careful look at how the BJP has risen in Bengal, and how the ruling TMC has sought to counteract its growth, is instructive in understanding the new dimensions of the BJP’s appeal and possible templates to defeat it (Samir Jana / Hindustan Times)

Why the battle of Bengal matters

By Neelanjan Sircar
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 07:38 PM IST
The BJP’s rise is remarkable. If the TMC still wins, it will offer a template on how to challenge a hegemon
Close
Ratings, of BARC type, are indispensable for the broadcast industry (Hindustan Times)
Ratings, of BARC type, are indispensable for the broadcast industry (Hindustan Times)

BARC plays a valuable role. Preserve it

By Paritosh Joshi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 07:38 PM IST
BARC has its problems. But the solution is unlikely to lie in denouncing it. It is still the best bet for hundreds of broadcasters to remain viable, and hundreds of millions of viewers to enjoy the fruits of their exertion
Close
There have been major state-level differences in the burden and mortality from Covid-19. Deploy vaccines accordingly and prioritise affected areas (Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)
There have been major state-level differences in the burden and mortality from Covid-19. Deploy vaccines accordingly and prioritise affected areas (Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)

Refine the Covid-19 vaccination strategy

By Rajinder Dhamija
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 02:13 PM IST
Research has shown that the pandemic has disproportionately affected regions witha high per capita income and a high burden of NCDs
Close
Having women leaders leads to improved provision of public goods and focus on education and health (Shutterstock)
Having women leaders leads to improved provision of public goods and focus on education and health (Shutterstock)

Where are India’s women leaders?

By Soumya Kapoor Mehta and Steven Walker
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 02:14 PM IST
Women are less involved when it comes to participation in campaigns and contacts with public officials. Women candidates also have less education and experience, on average, compared to male candidates. There are also different societal expectations from political leaders of different genders
Close
Japan’s prime minister Yoshihide Suga, announced a minister of loneliness to his cabinet last month, closely following a similar announcement in January 2018 by the United Kingdom (UK). Loneliness is rarely acknowledged, deeply misunderstood, and alongside anxiety and depression, presents a massive opportunity for rectification as India copes with Covid-19 and beyond. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Japan’s prime minister Yoshihide Suga, announced a minister of loneliness to his cabinet last month, closely following a similar announcement in January 2018 by the United Kingdom (UK). Loneliness is rarely acknowledged, deeply misunderstood, and alongside anxiety and depression, presents a massive opportunity for rectification as India copes with Covid-19 and beyond. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

There is a looming epidemic — of loneliness. Take it seriously

By Saumyajit Roy
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 02:14 PM IST
India has a real opportunity to showcase solutions to a global audience towards using the best of tech and expertise in reducing loneliness. While a dedicated ministry for loneliness may just be the impetus, all we need is to look for are basic ways and means to help people who are on the brink of feeling lonely.
Close
India ranks very low in the list of well-administered nations and rank high amongst corrupt nations. despite several efforts to overhaul the administrative processes(HT Photo)
India ranks very low in the list of well-administered nations and rank high amongst corrupt nations. despite several efforts to overhaul the administrative processes(HT Photo)

Scratching the surface hasn’ helped. It is time to strike at the core issues

By VS Pandey, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2021 03:02 PM IST
  • India's administrative structure led by All India Services such as the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and the Indian Police Service (IPS) adopted an approach of 5% vs 95%.
Close
While there may be a temporary easing of military tension, there has been criticism in China of the disengagement. China could well attempt another military adventure in its bid to frustrate India’s rise (AFP)
While there may be a temporary easing of military tension, there has been criticism in China of the disengagement. China could well attempt another military adventure in its bid to frustrate India’s rise (AFP)

Disengagement will not lead to friendship

By Jayadeva Ranade
UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2021 04:07 PM IST
Notwithstanding the recent exchanges between the Indian and Chinese foreign ministers and military commanders at the border, India-China relations remain at a critical stage
Close
Muslims have been the most educationally backward group in India. In comparison to their population, they have the lowest enrolment rates at elementary, high school and higher secondary school education, as well as higher education (Raj K Raj/ Hindustan Times)
Muslims have been the most educationally backward group in India. In comparison to their population, they have the lowest enrolment rates at elementary, high school and higher secondary school education, as well as higher education (Raj K Raj/ Hindustan Times)

Provide data on the education of Muslims

By John Kurrien
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 06:55 PM IST
Monitoring the educational progress of Muslims was hamstrung by the absence of official data, leading to their downward spiral that went unnoticed for decades
Close
Negative interactions between humans and wildlife intensify when local communities feel that wildlife needs or values are given priority over their own needs (Manoj Kumar/Hindustan Times)
Negative interactions between humans and wildlife intensify when local communities feel that wildlife needs or values are given priority over their own needs (Manoj Kumar/Hindustan Times)

The pandemic has added to the urgency of protecting wildlife

By Dipankar Ghose
UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2021 04:14 PM IST
Wildlife conservation needs to be prioritised, and development plans at country, state and district levels need to take cognisance of wildlife needs
Close
Technology, communications, and data play to our strengths. These are the areas redefining every industry and we have the technology talent; our standards will be closer to the US, and we have continental-size data. (REUTERS)
Technology, communications, and data play to our strengths. These are the areas redefining every industry and we have the technology talent; our standards will be closer to the US, and we have continental-size data. (REUTERS)

The India-US tech partnership decade

By Janmejaya Sinha
UPDATED ON MAR 01, 2021 07:30 PM IST
US support enabled China’s high-growth trajectory. But the rift between the two offers India an opportunity
Close
The Panchamasali Lingayat community is one of the largest sub-sect within the Lingayat community.(ANI/Twitter)
The Panchamasali Lingayat community is one of the largest sub-sect within the Lingayat community.(ANI/Twitter)

Who is stirring the caste cauldron in Karnataka?

By Venkatesha Babu, Bengaluru
UPDATED ON MAR 01, 2021 07:08 PM IST
  • The Karnataka government has blamed the opposition for fishing in troubled waters by trying to take political advantage of the agitations but Yediyurappa may have to look within.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP