Ecology forgotten

Pandurang Hegde | Updated on April 15, 2019

BJP, Cong manifestos overlook green concerns

What do the manifestos of major political parties say on pressing ecological issues? Both the BJP and the Congress do recognise the need to protect forests, provide rights for tribals, and ensure the availability of clean air. Nevertheless, the implementation reveals a gap between rhetoric and reality.

The Congress manifesto claims “air pollution is a national public health emergency”. It promises to strengthen the National Clean Air Programme. However, it fails to address the root cause for air pollution: thermal power plants, increased vehicular traffic and polluting industries. There is no broader vision as to how developmental strategies need to be evolved.

The BJP manifesto claims, quite hilariously: “We have ensured speed and effectiveness in issuing forest and environmental clearances for eligible projects due to which we have added 9,000 sq km of forest cover of the country”.

Most people are deprived of basic amenities like clean potable water, nutritious food and rightful employment. These are directly linked to the utilisation of natural resources and the means to grow food that provide for the nutritional needs of the population.

Basic needs not met

Over the years, there has been increased food production but a fall in nutritional value. Most of the river water is unfit for drinking. As a result, we have the dubious distinction of housing the largest number of malnourished children in the world. Despite this, food and water are not a priority for political parties.

The Congress and the BJP are targeting farmers with numerous sops and cash incentives. But they are least interested in addressing the issue of soil fertility and halting the process of poisoning of the soil and our food systems.

The largest Voter Survey conducted by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), covering 534 Lok Sabha constituencies, has indicated that voter priorities were drinking water, electricity, food, education, healthcare and public transport. It found that the government’s performance was below average on these issues.

The ADR Survey concluded: “This indisputably is a result of the prevailing governance deficit in these sectors that is causing deprivation to the average Indian voter besides also leading to the denial of their fundamental rights like right to live with human dignity as embodied in Article 21 of the Constitution. For inclusive and equitable development, it is important that the government ensures that such basic services reach all sections of the society.”

Ironically, our political system does not want to learn from these ground realities. For most of them, the short-term goal of getting votes is the main focus rather than the long-term vision of securing the fundamental rights of citizens.

Rahul Gandhi, the Congress president, is contesting from Wayanad, the heartland of Western Ghats, in Kerala. While addressing the people after filing the nomination, he did not mention the disaster caused by floods and landslides in Wayanad that devastated the livelihoods of thousands of people.

Swachh Bharat and Namami Gange have miserably failed to deliver, indicating lack of commitment to addressing green issues. There is an urgent need for an alternative vision on development polices that meets basic needs without destroying natural resources.

The writer is a Sirsi-based environmentalist, promoting sustainable farming

Published on April 15, 2019

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