Voting just the first step; must gear up for participatory citizenship now
We are reaching the end of the Lok Sabha elections. Many political parties promised to fight pollution in their manifestos. And many people were relieved. I want to say this : it’s good news, but it won’t win us the public battle for a safer, cleaner India. We need an economic and social paradigm shift for this. Nobody has promised this revolution and it can’t be done in five years anyway. So, manifestos are, at best, a tool in the hands of the public.
Consider just one issue — cancer. The Lancet’s May Oncology issue suggests that cancers in mid and lower income countries are on the rise. This includes lung cancer, directly impacted by air pollution.
The Down to Earth, quoting the Lancet, points out that cancers have gone up by 112% between 1990 and 2016. Also, that India’s share in cancer deaths is over 8%. Air pollution is among the causes.
We can’t deceive ourselves into believing that political parties can handle this environmental and health catastrophe on their own. We are essential to ensure they do.
After we vote, we must ready ourselves for a whole other kind of participatory citizenship. Some of the elements of this we’ve used before: developing a public voice based on data, campaigning, leaning on the courts and staying informed.
But it hasn’t pushed back the scale of damage. We have to find our public scale up. No matter what the election outcomes, merely voting is far from enough. It’s only the first step.
(The writer is founder and director of Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group)