Last Updated: Friday 10 July 2015

Copenhagen, a joke

The editorial on Copenhagen climate conference (‘The polluters say they will not pay’, January 1-15, 2009) gives a clear picture of what happened there. It has exposed the intent of the basic (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) countries. Africa, by protesting at the climate conference, proved their principles are not for sale.

Western polluters have forever taken the world for a ride. The US bombed Japan twice, killing about 80,000 people each time and crippling many more. Even today, the US takes a high moral ground and pontificates on every issue possible, including nuclear disarmament. It sermonizes India on the violation of religious rights of the minorities and preaches other countries on human rights violations.


No country has a clue as to where the millions of dollars promised to Copenhagen Accord partners, primarily the basic countries, would come from. usa has a tendency of throwing money, hoping problems would get solved on their own. But now, even the US leadership confessed back home that it has no idea how and from where it would generate this fund in the middle of a deep financial crisis. So, where does the deal leave the developing countries?


Power to the young

The youth protesters in Copenhagen restored my faith in today’s young generation who I believed, until now, had been swallowed by the consumerist demon (‘Street politics of climate change’, January 1-15, 2010). They reminded me of the counterculture movement of the 1960s and 1970s when the youth came forward with their music and flower power protest against the Vietnam War. Here, the war was against rich countries. From what you report, I understand the youth in Copenhagen were no less radical. They were even willing to forgo their high standard of living so that poor economies could catch up and provide some quality life to their people. If this is not aiming at fundamental change in the structure of society, what is?


Poor countries in a fix

The cover story ‘According to usa’ (January 1-15, 2010) is useful for those who didn’t follow the event on TV or in the newspapers. The failure of the talk puts the poor countries in a catch-22 situation. The rich world refused to commit to pay for its sins. But poor countries have no choice but to keep going. They have millions to feed and can’t slow down the pace of development.


How many more Bhopals?

Multinational companies come to India, set up shop, contaminate and leave scot-free (‘Subterranean leak’, December 1-15, 2009). They do so in the name of giving a boost to our economy. Our leaders offer them concessions and privileges, even if they operate their businesses unfairly. Why?

These multinationals have our leaders completely in their sway; even when they put the lives of people in danger the leaders do nothing about it. Investigat-ions are a sham as investigators do not look for the truth. Their reports usually follow the command of the ministries. This is nothing but the sickness of the system. Or else, a company like Union Carbide would not have gone scot-free after poisoning an entire city. For how long would companies like Union Carbide dare to commit such offences in India? And for how long should we swallow the imprudence of our leaders?

Asansol, West Bengal

There is no point in studying the Bhopal site now. Human suffering is all out there and enough words have been said to state the obvious. It’s time for action. Instead of building a memorial to mark the 25th anniversary of the tragedy, t he Centre should reopen the case against Union Carbide and the new owner and get them to clean up the site. India could take the case to international courts and expose the polluters and those who looted the compensation.


Pitha, not pizza

Delicacies like haldi patra pitha are good for health; they are the true representatives of the Indian culinary culture (‘Unwrap the secret of health’, Decem-ber 1-15, 2009). Such recipes would help revive our tradition that has been overshadowed by pizzas and burgers.


Choose ballot, not guns

Your cartographic correlation of minerals, tribals and naxalites is apt (‘Time a resource curse got lifted’, December 1-15, 2009). The Centre and several state governments seem more interested in mining and not people’s welfare. Mining of course fills the government coffers and officials’ pockets. Corrup-tion and the mining mafia end up ruling over people. If naxalites are truly concerned about the welfare of tribals, they should take to the ballot, not guns. Perhaps, a Constitutional amendment is needed to ensure a portion of the mineral wealth is spent on the welfare of the people living in the area.


For the success of any development project, people’s participation is necessary. The lack of it, coupled with greed, widens the gap between the rich and the poor.


Gold mining generates US $2.5 billion in Ghana. The country is the second largest producer of the precious metal in Africa, but its public exchequer gets less than 5 per cent of that wealth. The country is also the second largest cocoa producer in the world, but the wealth generated from it benefits those in power.

The latest resource curse might be oil. During a recent visit, I was happy to learn that many of Ghana’s political leaders are talking about it, particularly since neighbouring Nigeria’s economy has been held hostage by militants who have disrupted the country’s oil output. Ghana is wary of Nigeria’s oil curse.

While in Ghana, I saw corruption and poverty were widespread. I was reminded of India, especially Karnataka, where the rich and powerful own the most notorious mines; so many mining scams have been reported in the state. The people get nothing.

Mysore Grahakara Parishat, Karnataka


Age-old wisdom

This is in response to the article ‘Stars don’t foretell anymore’ (December 16-31, 2009). While working in the tribal-dominated district of Sundergarh in Orissa, I got a chance to interact with several octogenarians in the tribal hamlets. They have not documented their observation like the people in Sahyadris, but they too can predict the weather pattern and give suggestions on making the most of their fields and forest.

The red sky means an imminent dust storm. Looking at the shade, they can predict how long the storm would take to hit their village. The blooming of certain flowers means the rain would be scanty that year and accordingly they suggest whether to sow paddy or millets. Since these villages mostly depend on non-timber forest produce (ntfp), they can calculate the periodicity of produce such as kendu leaves, mahua flowers and char seeds.

Kendu leaf harvest, for example, is poor every three years, and growth of mahua flowers declines every alternate year. Their prediction does not affect the pricing system of the state government, which revises the rate of each ntfp every year. But it does help the villagers to make the most of the available produce. For instance, the year the village elders predict a kendu leaf boom, they repair the kendu leaf storehouses so that not a single leaf goes waste. The forest department is supposed to maintain the storehouses, but they remain dilapidated. This damages the stacks of kendu leaves kept in the stores during the entire season of three-four months. This affects people’s incomes. Similarly, the year the elders predict a mahua boom, the villagers prepare the ground by plastering it with dung; this keeps the place dry and protects the mahua flowers from insects. The younger generation say the prediction of their elders has never failed them. It is time to document their knowledge.


Toilet training

The article ‘Toilet Talk’ (January 1-15, 2010) highlights what goes into making an initiative successful: the government’s willingness to accept people’s perspective and a little bit of innovation. Or else, community toilets in Deulgaon Mali village in Vidarbha would have been yet another case of hit and miss.

I hope Mahila Gappa Shauchalya (women’s chatting toilets) sets a trend for the government machinery.


50 trees at one go

During my morning walks, I often see branches lying around at the Gidney Park in Pune, known for its lush greenery. Whenever I spotted those who chop the trees, I gave them a piece of my mind. I have also tried explaining to them the importance of preserving the green cover. But recently I found at least 50 trees had been hacked. The authority has not taken any action and it is rather surprising that such events happen in the open and no one says anything.

Salisbury Park Environment Trust, Pune

Waste and consumerism

Why is India so gung-ho about going green? Urbanization and population density create stress on resources. People have taken to increasing consumption under the garb of green luxury. And the new mantra of ‘don’t repair, throw the old out’ has resulted in waste. Irreparable damage to resources thus cannot be avoided. Consumerism is largely to blame for the shift from maintaining consumption habits that are sustainable.


 It’s my fault

The more I read the magazine, the more depressed and grim I become. I blame myself, and people like me, for not protesting the wrong. We have a battalion of self-centred politicians and corrupt bureaucrats, busy amassing wealth. Corruption is just about everywhere, whether it is the climate summit at Copenhagen, Bt brinjal trials, or Bhopal victims.


Priorities messed up

Rather than attending to water and power crises in the state, the Tamil Nadu government, it seems, is just interested in special economic zones (sezs). What else could explain its unreasonable act to grab land from poor farmers for sezs (‘Is this state sponsored land grab?’ November 16-30, 2009). People must protest.



Syrup in a glass bottle

Ours is the largest glass container manufacturing company in India. We cater to packaging requirements of various industries, including those manufacturing pharmaceutical formulations. But of late, pharmaceutical companies are replacing glass bottles with pet (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles.

Chemicals leaching from plastic bottles have been linked to diseases ranging from cancer to endocrine disorders; several studies have established this. PET bottles are banned in the US and Canada. High temperatures and frequent recycling of pet bottles increases the chances of leaching. We have evidence for this. Recently, we have approached the Indian Medical Association (IMA) to help us create awareness among pharma companies and consumers.

Glass is the most inert, environmentally friendly and safest material for pharmaceutical packaging.

Assistant vice president (Marketing)
Hindusthan National Glass & Industries Ltd, Mumbai

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