Opinion

Ready for green politics?

Indra Shekhar Singh | Updated on July 07, 2021

A constituency of green voters is emerging in India

Embers around Baghjan oil well in Tinsukia, Assam, still burn, as an ecocide in biodiversity hotspots is unpunished. Meanwhile, amidst public uproar, Buxwaha forest, in Madhya Pradesh, is being cleared for industrial use. News reports confirm 2.5 lakh trees will be chopped to give way to a diamond mine — Rio Tinto 2.0?

Bundelkhand, which spreads across Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, has already lost over 1.89 lakh trees to a highway project. Degrading environment has made this bio-region a hotbed of extreme droughts and rising temperature. Over the last few years, thousands of people have been forced to leave their villages in Bundelkhand.

According to NITI Aayog, by 2030, 40 per cent of India will not have access to clean water. Overall, 600 million Indians will be under water stress by 2030. As the crisis exacerbates, ecosystems will fail and environment issues will need political answers soon. Yet, politicians do lip-service to the environment. Environmental manifestos either become a back-door entry for green-washed corporate designs or don’t materialise at all.

Early bird

Uddhav Thackeray has been an early bird in catching the environmental mood. By backing the forest protesters, he jabbed at Fadnavis’s government and earned a green feather. The Aarey Milk colony land is now conserved as a reserve forest, and green politics in India has registered a victory. Akhilesh Yadav, as chief minister of UP, had launched a ‘green manifesto’ too.

Broadly put, green politics is a political ideology or coalition that stands for environment, social justice and participatory democracy. The European voter saw the vision and green parties held sway in the 2019 elections. While Canadian and US green parties are nascent, green politics is not. The green constituency pressured Biden to adopt “clean energy revolution” and “climate change” to his action plan.

Green politics was forged in various environmental and Gandhian movements like Chipko, Narmada Bachao, Tehri Dam Andolan and a large number of anti-mining agitations. These churned out new leaders who applied green political principles to other areas. Seed sovereignty movement, river protection moment, or even Delhi’s march against air pollution, all have a green blueprint.

The Indian farmers’ revolution is also a precursor to a green political front. Its leaders have learnt from failures and success of the past, and now present an anti-corporate, fair-price coalition, aimed at radically engineering the economic-political paradigm.

In about six months, the farmers’ protests have transformed into a revolution, spreading from Punjab to Tamil Nadu, providing the perfect ground for new politics to emerge rooted in agriculture, environment and fairness. A constituency of green voters is emerging in India, not limited to urbanites or environment lovers, but also now include farmers and workers. Shrinking environmental resources are hurting rural India. Indian politics is undergoing a new growth, where many green issues such as clean air/water and pollution-free environment are becoming more prominent electoral demands. An inchoate third coalition is also forming, comprising motley actors carrying grassroots dissent and indignation, and carving a non-communal front for bringing a paradigm shift towards fairness and dignity. The 40-member Samyukta Morcha is an excellent example of a new form of leadership sans political differences. It has already moulded the farmers as a political class.

The farmers’ revolution has already successfully influenced politics in Punjab, Haryana and UP. And future environmental or corporate injustices will only strengthen their ranks. Even if they don’t enter electoral politics directly, they have created a new pressure group and laid the foundations for green politics.

The writer is an independent policy analyst, writer and public speaker on agriculture and environment.

Published on July 07, 2021

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