How far, in the name of Going Far??
Kakoli is a photo journalist. You may have seen her; with her gadgets in hand and bags slinging from her shoulders; a small bodied woman; frail but quick, in the midst of the maize of tear gas smoke running and shooting with her weapon! Her camera. The other day Kakoli had made an appointment with me to come and show me her work that she holds very close to her heart. These are pictures unpleasant; at times juxtaposed with pictures pleasant and have to do with our environment. I seldom saw how colourful the pollution or pollutants looked. That, perhaps, is the reason why our powers that be do not see things in the perspective that they ought to be seen. Besides her empathy for people adversely affected by the scourge of pollution and the beauty of nature she also has an opinion and holds it with conviction. This is about our apathy towards ecological balance when we consider development. We come in the way of the need of nature. Primary amongst which is to impede the flow of water and the wind. She told me that much of what are the causes of our sufferings in terms of pollution and undesirable change in the way we would want the nature to behave is our callousness while considering developmental work. We want the nature to change its course. Her comment reminded me of a recent exchange of words I had in a conference situation with some one belonging to the seat of power. He, in his speech as the Chief Guest, had said that our infrastructure had travelled quite 'far' and was now fully ready for foreign investors to think of easily coming forward with their investments. I thought that the honourable Chief Guest could not be more correct. But the problem emerged when he, in his enthusiasm, went on to site our roads crisscrossing the country as, in fact -- the only example of the infrastructural development we had achieved. I thought, here we go again! Was this the only sign of readiness the honourable Chief Guest was capable of showing for investments to come? In the question and answer session I could not check my temptation to seek certain clarifications. I asked him three pointed questions. One, didn't his honour think that an unplanned weaving of the land by mushrooming of roads could be one cause for depletion of agricultural land already under the threat of extinction by a gigantic growth of all kinds of polluting low tech ventures? (The recent statement of UN Secretary General on prioritising of agriculture may be referred). Two, didn't he think that such a change as he had mentioned to be the infrastructural growth alone (i.e. roads that spider webbed without proper planning) could also be counterproductive from the point of view of pollution and dangerous for environment? And three, now that he was privy to classified information as an insider; did the preceding governments or his own develop any programme for arresting such unplanned growth? The Chief Guest first reprimanded me for harbouring a feudal mind set. He said that one should not have a mind set of a 'Zamindar'. He, of course, subsequently went on to hurriedly add that 'yes, unplanned growth was undesirable'. I do not obviously blame the gentleman for his embarrassing quandary. For, after all, firstly he was addressing the august gathering of probable foreign investors. Therefore, he had to sound unflinchingly positive. And secondly, he would only be around for a few more days. Why should he be committing himself to addressing such questions as those that have to do with democratic or quasi-democratic governments that had ruled (plundered?) or would rule (plunder?) this country in the future? That said, I was reminded by the pictures of Kakoli and also looking at an old (April 28,08) issue of the Time magazine, where the mast-head was printed in green instead of the usual red because it was an issue dedicated to environment, how close to danger; if not the 'dooms day', we were. It is cardinal, therefore, that whichever government is in charge now or would be in the future should stop unplanned growth, motivate people against its hazards and focus on an environment friendly programme of development. This, I am afraid, also holds well about development in and around the cities. Habitat builders must be restrained by the government and the people from creating ecological imbalance by unplanned growth of stone jungles in the cities, towns and the peri-urban areas. In fact, I am aware of the fact that some builders and 'developers' themselves are conscious of this and I would ask them to motivate their colleagues in business towards this very primary of responsibilities. To conclude, I would only look forward to a liveable land for our children and the generations after that to proudly tread on.
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