OPINION: PUNJAB ELECTIONS AND ISSUES THAT NO ONE WILL TALK ABOUT

Election time in every state is the time when the populist issues take center stage – whether relevant or irrelevant. Sadly, deep social and political problems are overlooked and public fails to bring it to the table with their leaders. However, people of Punjab should not ignore it further. The key uncertainties lying ahead have been aggravated by the consequences of pandemic, climate change, demography, economics, political climate, artificial intelligence and can spiral out of control if unaddressed in the coming times.

Here is my analysis:

Agrarian Crisis and Cultural Crisis

While Green revolution might have sustained the country, it has drained Punjab. It has depleted the soil of its nutrients, increased dependence on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The traditional crop diversification has disappeared from the state, leaving rice-wheat monoculture which is now an extremely dangerous practice for the state with rising air pollution and depleting aquifers. Post green revolution, the cropped area for pulses had reduced from 19% to 0.4% and for oilseeds from 3.9% to 0.5% from 1960-61. This needs immediate attention because these crops are important for fertility of the soil. Today, 50% of Punjab’s soil is carbon, with only 0.3% of organic carbon. Soils with less than 1% organic matter are found in desert. The farm laws that were needed with MSP to woo the farmer out of this rice-wheat monoculture have now altogether left the farmers helpless. The public and legislators need to come together with models and strategies to face this foreseeable crisis which no one wants to talk about.

The wealth that ushered in the state due to green revolution has eventually led to a cultural crisis too. Where once every farmer began his sowing season with utter respect and regard, throwing five fists full of seed up in the air in gratitude and love of god, nature and all good things; now the next generation of farmers has loud screeching music on their tractors, forgotten traditional practices and have lost the muscle for farming. The good old Punjabi culture is slowly dying.

Hollow Economy

The state of Punjab needs a solid engine working for it to survive. It is principally an agricultural economy which is on the brink of crisis. With state having water depletion issues, electricity deficit status, skilled workforce shortage – the future looks dismal until a major booster model is put in place to flesh its hollow economy. With Union government’s new policies the economy of the state will further weaken. It is importing pulses and oil seeds to maintain the demand supply difference in the domestic market, but not ready to tap into Punjab’s potential in catering the increased domestic demand of oilseeds and pulses in India by offering better incentives in form of MSP for these crops.

On the other hand, the process of de-industrialization across Punjab that took place was not stopped in its nascent stage. Not much effort had been made to retain the small or large scale industry which could have generated employment in the state. According to Annual Report of Periodic Labour Force (2017-18) Punjab has an unemployment rate of 7.8% which is higher than all India unemployment. One of the major reasons for loss of competitive industry and deep in debt economy is the cross-subsidization of farming, farm loan waivers and power subsidies. And yet, every election season is fought on which party will provide maximumn FREE power units. For how long is this viable? It is indeed a sad situation.

Misplaced Priorities

Every election season the blame ball starts to roll from one party to another. The incumbent Congress ministers in an effort to save their own faces before beginning the election campaign, have brought up the Bargari issue blaming it on the Chief Minister. The CM is so embroiled in this infighting that the state seems to be going to utter neglect. On the other hand, Akali Dal is milking the situation by blaming the shortage of electricity on the policies of Congress government in the state. Not staying behind, AAP makes tall claims of providing free electricity upto 300 units which is highly unlikely in the current scenario without overburdening the already burdened financial exchequer of the state. One should be mindful of the fact that Punjab and Delhi’s electricity situations are very different due to its pre – purchase agreements.

Everything from farm bills, farm loans, electricity shortage to Kotakpura Bargari sacrilege has become the hot election issue. However, topics like Buddha Nala, environmental costs, effluent treatment plants, sustainability of farm loans and solar panel subsidies – that really matter to the future of Punjab have still not found a voice. The politics of vote bank always takes over serious issues that all political parties willfully ignore – not understanding that if these issues aren’t looked into they are responsible for the onset of catastrophic times.

However, are politicians solely responsible for not talking about it when the public – the people – are not ready to raise these issues and seriously take measures for it?  The truth is the day people of the state put the right issues on the table with their elected leaders, all political parties will be at their service to do the right thing.

OPINION: The Global Environment Fiasco

Global Environment Fiasco

“Earth provides ENOUGH to satisfy every mans need but, NOT every mans greed!”

The warm and majestic green landscapes, the glory of the snow crowned mountains, the pristine maiden rivers and lakes… (wait let’s fast forward)… is a matter of history.

Does that not give you goose bumps?

The clarion bells keep ringing over the degradation of various flora and fauna, and now the scenario is only graver. The very topography of our land has been altered, or rather plundered!

Being an adventure seeker, I have been visiting various places especially across the Himalayas but it is a sad sight now. The beautiful pockets of nature are being replaced by plastic bottles, litter, dams, rapid construction, luxurious hotels and resorts – making these areas dull and grey! The irony of the situation is that the luxury and modernization that we are trying to achieve from such rampant dissection of these ecologically sensitive areas, is absolutely menacing.

There is an increase in the occurrence of natural calamities and higher likelihood of pandemics. Man has been reckless in the past decade – ignoring guidelines, exploiting natural resources and taking full advantage of the political bureaucratic nexus! It has aggravated the conjectured dire consequences. Development is taking place at the price of the destruction of nature. The spoilage of the Dal Lake causing the locals to abandon their means of livelihood, the soil erosion due to flooding of the Brahmaputra, loss of life and property due to floods almost every few years across various states!

Not only within the country but all across the globe, there is a drastic change in the climate due to devious human activity, thereby altering ecosystems callously. The tsunami in Thailand, the hurricane Katrina and the Sandy Storm in the United States are some examples. There is increase in population and decrease in natural resources. Today deforestation and global warming have reached to such a level that there is a constant environment alarm beeping, via natural disasters.

The World Bank report on climate change warns that a warmer world will trap millions in poverty. Underdeveloped nations will majorly bear the brunt. A scientific report commissioned by the World Bank named “Turn down the Heat”, looks at the possible impact of global warming on the most vulnerable regions of the world. According to it there will be unusual summer heat extremes and water availability in Pakistan and Nepal will be too low for self sufficiency in food production by 2050. Most coastal reefs are projected to be extinct, with the loss of associated fisheries and coastal protection. There would be loss of 41-51% of unique plant species in South Africa and Namibia. The report also projects that 33% of the Kolkata metropolitan area is projected to be exposed to flooding of more than 25 cm in the event of extreme rainfall pattern by 2050.

It is high time to protect our environment.  The power and beauty of the natural world cannot be tamed – man is a fool to do so! There is much said and written about environment catastrophe but it is time to pull up the socks. Little things of common sense can go a long way in making a difference. For instance, using buckets and pails for bathing is better than using showers, turn off your vehicle’s engine at red light, reducing red meat consumption or vegan dietary habits, reusing and recycling, using eco-friendly products or reducing the flow of water when washing something can help in restoring the lost environmental balance. Another interesting concept to save our environment is using creativity as a tool to fix the problem. Great creativity can make something out of nothing, a monotonous idea into a great novelty!  We need to think differently and out of the box, thereby attracting and involving the human mind to do various things to save our environment.

 Apart from this, green societies should be given impetus. These are an association of persons, business and organizations that create local and global support systems developing sustainable resource based communities. Grooming green societies is grooming culture of optimum utilization. Last but not the least, both our central and state governments should not merely provide financial help but also devise an adequate plan and policy. A workable solution is the need of the hour because – TO MOULD THE HISTORY OF OUR FUTURE, WE NEED TO MOULD THE ENVIRONMENT OF OUR PRESENT HARMONIOUSLY!

SUNDAY FEATURE: Go Creative, Go Green

It is time to step up into a conscious living but with a twist of creativity.

Nature is an oasis of tranquility, beauty and rejuvenation. It has given us uncountable gifts from its healing power to everyday goods that make our life comfortable. But what have humans done in return? Humans have looted the very life source and plundered the dexterous working mechanism of our Mother Earth.

 It is certainly the time to get into action for bringing a change. There are many remedial measures being suggested but until and unless we accept these from within us, they would hardly serve as a solution to the countless environmental catastrophes! The time for discussions is over. It is time to step up into a conscious living but with a twist of creativity.

We generally underestimate the power of creativity that can make something out of nothing. Creativity can turn a simple idea into a great novelty and a dull school routine into the best thing an educationist ever did!

It is creativity that subtly forces out of the box thinking (and to be scientifically precise it is the right side of our brain responsible for this magical skill!), thereby directing our mind into unexplored positivity and possibility. We need it in our daily attitudes, approaches, theories, campaigns and initiatives of saving environment. John Cleese, the famous English actor and comedian, had once rightly remarked that creativity is not a talent but the way of operating.

 So here are some creative, fascinating, quirky and imaginative ‘trash to treasure’ converting formulas that each and every one of us should adopt – each day every day!

  • THEME IT ECO STYLE!

When it comes to styling your rooms and lounges, the primary concern is to create an aura that is de-stressing and comforting. One thing is for sure – nothing can calm down the nerve better than the relaxing vibe of a natural theme. And what’s better about it is that you can go the DIY way, making it easy on the pocket as well as the environment. There are a plethora of things you can do with almost any disposed off material. The empty jam jars can be used for decorating your outdoors with scented candles. You can also plant some flowers in a group of bulbs and hang them on a tree in your garden or in your balcony. You can also make miniatures, photo frames and showpieces from old newspapers and cardboard for your childs room. From crockery and bathroom fittings, wooden boxes, wine bottles, tins, old magazines to the embroidery on your suits and sarees – everything can be used to do up your place in the most economical and eco friendly way.

  • THE PLASTIC MANIA

The plastic bags and products are the worst enemies of nature all across the globe! So learn to unleash your vibrant and creative mind to make use of plastic products that would otherwise only add to the garbage heaps. The noted designer Clement had introduced stylish tote bags, made by weaving several plastic bags together, in the fashion industry long time back. Well, why can’t we make DIY products from plastic bags then? We can certainly make beautiful baskets, door mats and attractive African styled ‘Inkuku’ chairs by weaving plastic bags in a basic framework – just needs a little patience!

  • THE ECO-FASHION

With increasing awareness regarding environment degradation due to unchecked human activity, the world of fashion has apparently changed its gear for the better. From international designers like Stella McCartney, Mark Liu to Desi designers and fashionistas like Sonam kapoor and Dia Mirza, all have been zealously promoting eco-friendly collections. So the next time you buy a fabric – say no to synthetics and polyester and give a thumbs up to pure fabrics like organic silk and khadi. Ask your local boutiques to use and promote organic dyes instead of chemical dyes and bleaches. Try to mix and match things. You can make a really cool outfit from your old military or floral bedsheets! It not only encourages the creativity in you but also helps in keeping the environment greener.

  • THE MYSTICAL SOUP!

Before allowing good food to spoil, allow your belly to enjoy it. As they say, wasting food is like saving every dime to have a ride of hell. So even if you have leftovers and vegetables in your refrigerator, who are getting tired and old but haven’t yet given up – cook them into a delicious soup right away! You can use leftovers like herbs, pieces of meat, bits of bread, pieces of cheese and lots more. Use your magical mind to explore various recipes of soups from different leftovers or waste ingredients that have been still stocked up in your cooling box since the last weekend! It would be quite an experience.

It is time to do our bit, at individual and collective level. The GO-CREATIVE, GO-GREEN approach does not tax your resources in any way, rather encourages the creativity in you. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Almost always the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.” Only this time the minority should turn into the world majority.

Published in The Post India (thepostindia.co.in) on 1/8/2020

OPINION: THE ECHO-BEEP!

Is an environmental apocalypse approaching India?

The warm and majestic green landscapes, the glory of the snow crowned mountains, the pristine maiden rivers and lakes – can soon be a matter of history! The clarion bells keep ringing over the degradation of various flora and fauna, and now things have got only graver. The very topography of our land has got altered, rather plundered! Thanks to the human rat-race.

The Irony

Being an adventure seeker, I have been visiting various places especially across the Himalayas and it pains my heart every time to see the deteriorating condition of these places. The beautiful pockets of nature are being replaced by plastic bottles, litter, dams, rapid construction, luxurious hotels and resorts – making these areas dull and grey! The irony of the situation is that the luxury and modernization that we are trying to achieve from such rampant dissection of these ecologically sensitive areas, is absolutely menacing.

The Devastation

We need to understand that things are not so smooth anymore. Clearly, there is an increase in the occurrence of natural calamities now. Man has been reckless in the past decade – ignoring guidelines, exploiting natural resources and taking full advantage of the political bureaucratic nexus! It has aggravated the estimated dire consequences to the pinnacle. Development is taking place at the price of the destruction of nature. The spoilage of the Dal Lake causing the locals to abandon their means of livelihood, the soil erosion due to flooding of the Brahmaputra, loss of life and property due to floods almost every few years in Assam and the recent devastation in Uttarakhand testify the above mentioned fact!.

Beep-Beep!

Not only within the country but all across the globe, there is a drastic change in the climate due to devious human activity, thereby altering ecosystems callously. The tsunami in Thailand, the hurricane Katrina and the Sandy Storm in the United States are to name a few. There is increase in population and decrease in natural resources. Today deforestation and global warming have reached to such a level that there is a constant environment alarm beeping, via natural disasters. According to the United Nation Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “we are close to a 6 degree increase” in global temperature (at the Council on Foreign Relations; February 2013). If this is the current path then may be sometime henceforth, the polar ice might be thin enough to float, triggering a colossal chain reaction of collapse!

Call for action…

It is high time to protect our environment.  The power and beauty of the natural world cannot be tamed – man is a fool to do so! There is much said and written in this regard but it is high time to pull up our socks. Little things of common sense can go a long way in making a difference. For instance, using buckets and pails for bathing is better than using showers, turn off your vehicle’s engine at red light, reuse and recycle, use eco-friendly products or reduce the flow of water when washing something. Another interesting concept to save our environment is using creativity as a tool to fix the problem. Great creativity can make something out of nothing, a monotonous idea into a great novelty!  We need to think differently and out of the box, thereby attracting and involving the human mind to do various things to save our environment. This increases the power and effort in this direction manifold, with the streak of enthusiasm.  

Apart from this, green societies should be given impetus. These are an association of persons, business and organizations that create local and global support systems developing sustainable resource based communities. Grooming green societies is grooming culture of optimum utilization. Last but not the least, both our centre and state governments should not merely provide financial help but also devise an adequate plan and policy. A workable solution is the need of the hour because – TO MOULD HISTORY OF OUR FUTURE, WE NEED TO HARMONIOUSLY MOULD THE ENVIRONMENT OF OUR PRESENT!

Cover Feature article of Identity India magazine in its September 2013 issue