India 2019-47

All Indians but especially Hindus have shown themselves incredibly incompetent of governing themselves in the pre and post independence years. And governing would cover a much broader arena than just elections, politics and forming of governments. Democracy would be another discussion all together.

Till 2047 India will be occupied in an action reaction seesaw. The Gandhi-Nehru fragment from 1947 to 1992 till the Babri Masjid demolition and post that from 1992 – 2047 (more like 2012-47) the Hindutva forces, which would use the action (good excuses) of the Gandhi-Nehru fragment to justify their reaction.

It was full Hindu control in the first phase (its Hindus who made vote banks of Muslims and massacred Sikhs in 1984) and it will be full Hindu (Brahmin-Bania) control in the second phase.

And so we can give Modi a third term and potentially one more post 2030. That alone can make Hindus fully appreciate how bad their report card will show up then (post 2030).

By 2047 the demographic dividend would have begun to end and the demographic load will start to show. Most of those who are 20 in 2020 would be in middle age by then and have lived a life with sub-standard opportunities and a sub-standard quality of life. Environmentally the landscape will be a wasteland and ruins.

Grin(or be dead pan) and bear would still be the national motto. The middle and upward classes would be invested and insured in the West (non-Hindu governed), while still glorifying the motherland and carrying out their petty and egoistic experiments.

Those who had to play their games would have done so and gone or be going, having lived very satisfied lives playing their petty games and making themselves sufficiently or enormously rich in the process. In keeping with tradition their sanskars and family values will not be up for discussion.

India – A dying civilisation

Everything that is born must die, that is a fundamental law of life and nature. Lifespans will vary, humans may live for a century, some whales live 200 years, likewise for tortoises. Some trees live hundreds and thousands of years. But there is an end to every lifespan. During their childhood and youth no body thinks too much about death. It is something far away, towards middle age and old age the realisation is ever present.

If civilisations are to be considered living entities, it is logical that they must have taken birth at some time, have a youth then old age and following the rules will die at some time. Civilisations, considering the nature of the entity would have a lifespan spanning entire generations of human beings. Some people might live during the childhood of a civilisation, others during the youth, yet others during the old age and then some in the final moments before death. The spans may spread over centuries.

Taking this point forward the Indian civilisation or the Gangetic Valley civilisation is a dying civilisation or I believe an already dead civilisation. It has been around for more than 5000 years(more). Another old civilisation is the Mesopotamian Civilisation, which is also facing death, they are dying a violent death, annihilating themselves in Syria and Baghdad. My reading is that this is the last century of the Indian civilisation.

What can be the signs of old age and close to death? A certain nostalgia for the years of the youth. A lack of agility, disinterest in new ideas and projects knowing well that there is not much time left around anyways, growth of harmful cells and anti-bodies, reduced immunity, muscle loss, reduced functionality of kidney, liver, lungs and other essential organs.  An enhanced and stubborn sense of self.

India’s complete disinterest or inability in responding to any matter concerning threat to life is a pointer in the direction. Whether roads are dangerous and kill people or the air is polluted and kills people or labour standards are poor or tuberculosis we keep going from year to year without showing any distinct steps undertaken to improve the situation. The Ganga or many other rivers on which the civilisation grew (and which it worships) are all now dead. The people show no resolve or capability to save them. They are dead people who have lost their way into the “dreary desert of dead habit”. They can only support with zeal the demand for a Ram Mandir. They show zero interest in supporting people who will change the situation.

There are nations, which within a decade are able to show definite improvements in a number of issues but here it all remains the same. The people who wish to do something are all frustrated and its only highly corrupt and perverse coalitions of politicians, IAS and business interests who are rapaciously in control of the situation and worst of all a public which seems to not share the same sense of urgency or purpose.

In the natural world scavengers immediately attack a dead body and for a good reason. A dead rat on the road is ripped apart by crows. If it was not the rat would putrefy and become a health hazard. Similarly hyena’s and vultures will get to work in the jungle on a dead animal. Scavengers may look ugly and repulsive but are a very important part of the ecosystem.

In the Indian society context, these scavengers are the very class we have come to despise – the politicians, IAS, goons, contractors, fixers and business. They have taken it upon them to scavenge upon the dead mass of Indian people, which gets moved with no public issue, which can take any amount of bad air quality, deaths on road accidents and bad governance. Keeping this analogy they are doing a good job. Why waste tax money on doing any good for a dead public?

Those who migrate to the US? That is akin to organ harvesting. it makes sense to pluck out the eyes, kidneys and other harvestable organisations and use them for younger civilisations like the US.

The Hindu right and radical organisations are the pall bearers of this dead civilisation – the procession which carries the dead body for cremation, shouting Ram Naam Satya He. I will cremate the dead body.

Spectacular disinterest on Climate Change in Mumbai

Even as New York City – and many more cities globally – saw one of the largest public congregations demanding action on climate change, the silence in Mumbai was nothing short of spectacular. I was informed of only one very small and local march in Dadar (West) but there was nothing like the big euphoria and prior planning and social media drum up before the event. There has been absolutely no coverage of even the global events in any of the English dailies and clearly the editors know their audience very well.

I had thoughts about organising something but I am now nowhere as active as I was in the last decade.

Towards the mid of last decade Mumbai too came to be swayed by the great outreach carried out by Al Gore and team in taking Inconvenient Truth to the world. To me it was annoying to see every tom dick and harry to be organizing screenings of the movie. I never saw any interest in the same people and organisations – the Rotary’s and business chambers of the world – towards any of the here and now issues.

I was involved in so many of those here and now environmental issues in the front line and trenches and could have done with some show of mass enthusiasm and support on them. Saving the mangroves, cleaning the Mithi, improved public transport to avoid emissions and congestion, energy efficient buildings, solid waste management and the usual jazz. Support for Al Gore was easy but not for one of them within the city. And then India wants to become a super power when it doesn’t have the faintest of clue or interest in what soft power is – of course I should not forget Bollywood and the influence of Amitabh Bachchan. In 2007 even the US government was recognizing some of my leadership by inviting for the IVLP program but there was no interest in any government authority here.

That was also the time when I was more motivated and enthused with the co-benefits of tackling climate change. The here and now benefits compared with what will happen a bit down the century. How better public transport is as much about climate change but has an immediate relevance in better quality of air and quality of life, how saving mangroves prevents floods now as much as provide resilience to climate change decades down the line. I had my doubts whether all those so enthusiastically screening the movie and the droves attending it had any serious interest in doing something about the issue. And it seems vindicated with the response in the past month to the People Climate March.

To me the craze with screening Inconvenient Truth and Al Gore was symptomatic of the the craze to be associated with all things white and American which this country suffers from. There were so many of these wealthy middle class teenagers and those in their early 20s organising all kind of arbitrary events on climate change – distributing solar lamps, organising talks by teen counterparts in America, equivalent stuff in the adults. There was the Indian Youth Climate Network formed.

So now when there is such a poor response in Mumbai to one of the most significant events globally, I am left wondering what happened to all those enthusiastic – though I found them very shallow- kids who were doing all the jumping around on climate change in the last decade? A lot of last decades events were given a push up by supporting US organisations and I guess that is what was missing this time around. Left on their own the folks here are incapable.

Even then it was becoming clear to me that in the youth most of the enthusiasm revolved around showing extra-curricular activity on their resumes when they make applications to the Universities in America and Europe. Very little of their enthusiasm and motivation was about any serious interest in developing India’s response to climate change. It is easier to mouth generalities working in the UN and WB than handle their city governments within. It is quite apparent that at least in Mumbai there is no significant new strong young leadership coming up to champion for environmental issues in general or climate change.

Nothing more to say except mark a milestone in my recording of India’s response to climate change  – which is quite pathetic – on which I was posting mostly in the last decade. More in the link below. I think I am quite vindicated about the poor opinion I had about all those who were so enthusiastically organizing and watching the Inconvenient Truth screenings.

https://rishiaggarwaal.wordpress.com/category/climate-change/

Bullshit at St. Martins Road

St. Martins lane in Bandra (W) is providing a clear insight into what is currently wrong with Mumbai’s planning:

1) Arrogance of the municipal corporation and other authorities, which are supposedly meant to serve the large public interest but are more conducive to serve narrow vested interests.

2) Planning and decision making being taken over by a few officials, elected officials and business interests who have little or no concern for the larger consequences of the decisions they take.

2) No voice for the average citizen on how he or she would like their city and neighbourhood to be developed

(There is a picture album below the text portion which gives you an idea of the lane)

Some newspaper articles below to give an overview of the issue

Road widening irks Bandra residents – Times of India, 8th December 2013

Tree Cut, Heritage structure to be demolished to widen Bandra Road – Hindustan Times, 8th December, 2013

BMC bows to residents’ protests, may not widen St Martin’s Road in Bandra – DNA, 11th December 2013

BMC will forcibly demolish walls to widen Bandra road – 27th December, 2013

Here is the location for the road

Some salient points to the matter

  1. St. Martins Road is a shady beautiful and quiet small road in Bandra (W) which has a few beautiful bungalows from an age before. It’s quaint peaceful nature is a rarity now and needs to be preserved and enhanced, not destroyed.
  2. These are the kind of streets and lanes, through which we love walking in Europe and America. Are we in India incapable of having any aesthetic sense? Is the municipal corporation blind to how they will destroy the beauty of the street by carrying out the road widening?
  3. The lane does not have the kind of traffic flow that is being made out. BMC is sharing no data to validate its claims. Just issuing threatening notices. Licensed goondas.
  4. Parking cannot be allowed on both sides in any condition. BMC needs to regulate that first to improve traffic flow.
  5. The ambiance and the aesthetics of the streets also matter.
  6. The manner in which the exercise is being carried out is uncivil and undemocratic and unbecoming of the municipal corporation of a city like Mumbai. There are clear indications that the intention of the exercise is not to improve traffic flow (of which there is little in the first place) and more to use the new width for angular parking of vehicles. Restaurants nearby have valet parking and a wider road will provide more capacity for angular parking. Should the beauty of the lane, its livability, its heritage look all be destroyed for the sake of parking for a few vehicles?
  7. Buildings where the walls have already been pushed behind by a meter or so, cars instead of being parked parallel are now parked angular, thus in effect allowing exactly the same amount of road as before available for traffic flow.

Religion

Today at Observer Research Foundation, Mumbai where I am a Research Fellow, I found myself engaged in a discussion on inter-faith dialogue and religion. Mr. Sudheendra Kulkarni is actively involved with and supporting the visit of Islamic scholar Mr. Tahir ul Quadri in January 2014 and some of my colleagues at ORF will be actively involved in the preparations.

I found myself sharing the following views on religion:

  1. I am increasingly switched off from religion, find it boring and adding little or no value to my life. I find it suffocating and the harbouring ground for all kind of atrocities on individual liberty and large organised human rights violations by a few on the many.
  2. Mainstream religion will see rapid decline in the coming few years.
  3. Multiple belief systems will emerge in the coming years, which will be a rich mix of principles, values and ideas from  different religions and also borrow heavily from philosophy, spirituality and material sciences.
  4. The hegemony of the 4-5 organised mainstream religions will diminish and should necessarily go in the larger interest of humanity. In a sense these are like the government monopolies we suffered in the pre-liberalization era. There was no choice and you were forced to live with the bad service of the entrenched monopolies.
  5. As somebody who takes such keen interest – and has devoted life to being in action on the same – in environmental issues and sustainability and its direct linkages with human well being I keep getting absolutely shocked and surprised about the difficulty of creating any large scale interest of people in the same. Why should people not be taking interest in issues pertaining to water, air, waste, housing, sanitation, ecological systems – issues which affect them daily – and be putting so much time in rituals and readings, which are not yielding anything much?
  6. If ability to tide over and manage insecurity, lack of confidence, inability to manage anger, fear and hatred is what you are looking for then clearly you need not depend on mainstream religions  for solutions. The other belief systems I do not think have a counter -solution for the ability of the Tirupati Balaji’s and the Vaishneodevi’s of the world being able to grant obscene amounts of wealth or a Greencard etc.

So much for now.

 

The crowd funding of Karan Johar and Amitabh Bachchan

This is not a new retort of mine except that after having said it the nth time around I thought this should be recorded.

I was at an evening event at the US Consulate where over the course of discussions I met this lady who wanted to know what I did and on learning of my involvement with environmental activism was very appreciative and grateful that somebody in the city does this. It was maybe a first instance for her that at a networking event she had met somebody with such a vocation. She was a businesswoman running two successful businesses.

The conversation proceed further which is when the discussion came to where it usually does in such conversations. She wanted to know how such activities sustain themselves.

I told her how doing activism is a difficult path. About how I had over the past few years significantly reduced my participation for want of resources and was focusing more on my personal needs and profession.

About how one hopes and relies that the citizens at large all of whom benefit from activism – whether saving the mangrove forests or improving the walking infrastructure of the city – would at sometime respond with volunteering their time or giving small donations to sustain expenses. And then I added about how the public are so singularly disappointing in extending any support.

And bang as could be predicted came the standard grouse that one never knows how the money will be used and it is difficult to trust NGOs.

I gave her the analogy of Bollywood and how the same people never demand their money back if a movie from the Bollywood stable turns out to be an utter waste of their time and money. That their money value has been completely destroyed (and time value) is not as much a matter of concern to people as giving money to an NGO. I gave the example of Walking Project where the most nominal amount of Rs. 365 is an annual individual membership. It translates to Rupees one a day, something the poorest can also subscribe to.

But in one year to the Project we are still not able to get memberships in this bracket. Whereas people spend any multiple of that amount on multiplex, on movie tickets and all other associated expenditures. Yes, I understand that people want to be happy and entertained and our willing to be pay for it but does not something like a Walking Project not bring any value to their life and should they not have any interest in making even a small contribution?

Is there no happiness in enjoying a great walking environment in your city? And will you not do even a little bit to support a group of people who get on with it? Much as you would support Karan and Amitabh to entertain you (which can be of quite dubious quality a number of times)

Millions of people are more than willing to make their contributions from Rs. 50 to 500 towards supporting Karan Johar and Amitabh Bachchan, which is what sustains their ventures. These gentlemen do not put money from their pockets, which can end up being the case a lot of times in NGO work.

It is this large hearted public support which enables Mr. Johar and Mr. Bachchan to add to their stables of bungalows and cars, while Walking Project or mangroves with which I have been associated for more than a decade cannot even afford a full time project manager and a peon.

I think the example struck a very strong chord and the lady immediately realised what she had been doing with her money all along and Walking Project got a small donation.

She did not know me from before the evening and so was justified in her skepticism but this entry is not about her, it is about the abject lack of community service and philanthropy in the Indian middle class. It is about how they can and do crowd fund Bollywood and hundreds of similar activities but will not support community activities.

There must be 10,000 people who know me personally or my work in the past decade and no one (very few exceptions) has every bothered to engage in a kind gesture. Lokhandwala Complex where I have been housed for the past two decades presents a desolate dreary desert for any such goodwill. It is a complex  of the wealthy and few of them who commit actually make a donation, not to speak about those who skillfully evade any such discussion.

The 300 acres of mangroves here (which were completely responsible for saving the complex from the flood of 2005) of which a 100 acres I was clearly able to save in the first half of the last decade , the saving of the Lokhandwala Lake in 1999 by and me and numerous other activities are clearly not as valuable as what Mr. Johar and Bachchan have to offer and need to be continuously justified.

Thoughts on the Uttarakhand floods

The Uttarakhand floods have not seen me in remorse or much concern over the fate of the pilgrims and locals stuck in the disaster and I thought of capturing some of my thoughts and utterances.

I have not been very religious all my life choosing to slip away into atheism most of the times but ever since childhood Shiva was my favourite God with the characteristics and stories associated with him. His simplicity, love of mountains and the cool and straightforwardness were clear attractions for me. Also was the fiery side of him. Shiva is the destroyer of the ego and ultimately the universe and the slayer of demons.

Today those demons are the Hindus themselves, stubborn, unrelenting, unprincipled and with bloated egos like no body else. What the Lord did at Kedarnath was to turn these demons around and give them a hard kick on their backsides telling them to fuck off from his valley. The resilient pests that humans are and the determined Hindus will return back I am sure and in another two years everything will be back in the same form.

Today it seems Shiva is playing the dance of death but that compares no where to the dance of death being played by humans themselves. 7 billion of them have been reducing many other species to remain just in their thousands and many of those are also on the way to annihilation.

Hinduism as a religion owes everything to nature. It observed nature, learned everything it knows from it and in turn paid obeisance to it in the form of various rituals. One would expect that the followers of such a religion would have a better understanding and respect for nature. Remove love and respect for nature from Hinduism and it turns into a bundle of useless two paisa worth rituals and mantras, which is the state today.

Since childhood it has been my observation – the more mainstream Hindu you are the more selfish, unprincipled and a scumbag you will be. The pilgrimages themselves have become an industrial assembly line operation. There was a time when those who made it for the pilgrimage were revered back home and people touched their feet, because of the enormous difficulty associated with making one. Now all you need to do is call your local tour operator.

Pilgrimages then were a walking project, which naturally kept a control on how many people could enter this fragile ecosystem. At most mules were used. This helped by not creating a buildup of GHGs locally. Now jeeps and buses and trucks liberally add GHGs locally. More people means more heating and cooking requirements, which means more fossil fuels and more gases. For all the love of their religion ask people to do the pilgrimages like the Sadhus do or how even how ordinary people did it once and it will not be taken well.

A hundred years ago India’s population was about 250 million (for a unified India) and only a marginal percentage of that population made it for a Char Dham Yatra. Today the population is a 1000 million plus and a phenomenally larger percentage of the population makes it for the Yatra. Does it make any sense? Clearly there is a need for strict annual entry quotas. A percentage should be auctioned to raise funds for investing in local ecology.

Most Hindus of the type attending these pilgrimages will not understand what words like fragile ecosystem and carrying capacity will mean. Worse still they will not be interested in learning or doing something about it. They have got a laundry list of demands to be made from the Gods – Do Not Disturb. Marriages have to be made, children to be born, their American education to be prayed for, the current stock of gold in the family should double by next year, careers, businesses, the lists goes on. There is no time for some thought for the environment and policy.

The whole of the mountainous Uttarakhand region was celebrated as Dev Bhoomi due to the unparalleled richness of biodiversity and life that was found here – floral and faunal. It was always a fragile ecosystem which was never meant to be trampled in herds. The lack of roads meant that there was a natural check on how many people could enter the courts of the Gods. Today those rich forests which sustained the rivers we revered are being hacked away. The rivers themselves have all been dam(n)ed and channeled and re-channeled. I dont even think there is anything left to worship and celebrate over there. The Dhams should actually be shut down.

People are generally bad at participating in or influencing public policy. In the absence of the public playing any role it is the vested interests with short term interests who take over. The tour operator and the priest now shape public policy. The Brahmins are supposed to uphold Dharma but that is in the texts.

For all the 90’s and 00’s when environmentalists were shedding tears at the mindless destruction being wrought on the mountains, no where were these pilgrimaging (pillaging) Hindus to be seen. Not without reason do some people like me find themselves happy at the turn of events. Nature is hostile to life, ruthless and cruel but the celebration of life there can never be rivaled by anything that the human machinery creates – much of which is pretentious anyways.

For those who would like to make this into the usual retort that environmentalists care more about the birds and the bees and less about humans I think the time for that retort is interestingly and finally coming to an end. We are entering a phase where all those who celebrated themselves as some great lovers of humanity forever moved by the conditions of humanity will be eating their words. If anything it is abundantly clear that environmentalists are far more compassionate and have a long term sustainable well being of human – and more importantly other species as well – in mind.