June 08, 2014

Address People’s Concerns before Implementation


THROUGH a statement issued from New Delhi on June 2, 2014, the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) took serious note of the media reports suggesting that the BJP government is likely to go ahead with the implementation of the recommendations of Madhav Gadgil led Western Ghats ecological expert panel (WGEEP). The AIKS cautioned the government against rushing through implementation of the said recommendations without addressing the serious concerns agitating the minds of the people in the Western Ghats region. The AIKS statement also noted that the recommendations of the WGEEP as well as of the high level working group (HLWG) on the issue were a matter of contention in the just concluded Lok Sabha elections, and that there was seen an intense debate on the issues involved in Kerala. An independent candidate, who articulated the concerns of the people of Western Ghats region, emerged victorious in a constituency that saw the most intense debate on the matter. Implementing any such proposals hastily would therefore be construed as a wilful violation of the opinion of the people. The AIKS therefore demanded that a scientific assessment by a broad-based committee comprising social scientists, environment experts and organisations of the peasantry must be set up to look into the matter and that adequate representation must be given in this committee to various shades of political opinions in the affected states. Broad-based consultations and public hearings involving the people and all stakeholders must be held before arriving at any comprehensive plan for protection of fragile ecosystems and livelihoods. The AIKS said it strongly believes that the fragile ecosystem in the Western Ghats as well as other parts of India needs to be protected for the present and for posterity. Illegal and indiscriminate mining, quarrying, poaching and felling of trees should be effectively countered with strong deterrent action. However, these regions have for generations been home to millions of tribal people, other traditional forest dwellers as well as settlers who have been living here and earning their livelihoods from agriculture as well as allied activities in this region. Also, some of the areas have victims of multiple displacements who have been rehabilitated in these regions as part of a government policy. There are also many tribes on the brink of extinction in these regions. These sections have serious concerns and misgivings about the possible impact of the WGEEP and HLWG recommendations. In the context of the two reports having contradictory recommendations, unilaterally preferring one over the other has only led to pitting the issue of precarious human livelihoods in the region against the ecologically sensitive nature of the region. This is as if the people who have lived in this region for generations are wilful destroyers of the fragile ecosystem. The AIKS said these reports ignore the fact that the people in these regions have been the most effective conservators and have coexisted with as well as actively protected the wildlife and biodiversity of the region. The two reports are at best a bureaucratic exercise without any democratic approach and are not grounded in a scientific assessment of the human-environment relationship in the region. The government should understand that the support and conscious intervention of the local peasantry and local people are crucial for the protection of the Western Ghats. Thousands of villages in the six concerned states would, the AIKS noted, be demarcated as ecologically sensitive zones (ESZ) and agricultural as well as basic developmental activities would be restricted. The recommendations of the WGEEP on landuse in the ESZ --- prohibiting the use of land for any purpose except for extension of the village settlements with the increasing population --- will restrict even a creation of basic amenities like hospitals and schools for the people of this extremely backward region. This is not at all acceptable. Restriction of agricultural activities by banning monoculture plantation which may include coffee, prohibition on use of chemical fertilisers and mandatory organic farming etc, are also unacceptable, the AIKS asserted. The AIKS also rejected, emphatically, the approach that considers the question of environment in isolation from the needs of human civilisation. Any environmentally sound development cannot attack the livelihood of the people of the region and their economic options. In its recommendations, the WGEEP report failed to address the socio-economic aspects of the issue. Also, both the reports did not study the impact of the degradation of environment on the life of various social sections here. They failed to suggest fruitful solutions necessary to protect the life and crops of the peasants by solving the human-animal conflicts, to conserve flora and fauna in the protected areas and to preserve the paddy fields and water bodies in the entire Western Ghats. The doubts and insecurities in the minds of people of the region have been created by the state and central governments, the AIKS statement outspokenly said, adding that effective steps have to be taken to reassure the millions of people that their livelihood security would be ensured and genuine developmental activities in their habitats promoted. The AIKS also demanded that the government must set up a fund for protection of fragile ecosystems and people’s livelihoods, and that it must ensure that steps are undertaken for protection of environment and promotion of awareness in the region as well as to create new livelihood opportunities for the people. The AIKS has called upon all its units as well as all democratic minded organisations and individuals with genuine concern for the fragile ecosystem and people’s livelihoods in the Western Ghats region to unite and resist any attempt to undemocratically impose, without the consent of the people, any recommendations which have a bearing on the generations to come. The AIKS said it would actively involve itself in any democratic process to arrive at a consensus on a comprehensive plan for protection of fragile ecosystems and livelihoods through widest possible consultation with the people of the Western Ghats region. AIKS MOURNS COMRADE’S DEMISE ON June 3, the All India Kisan Sabha expressed grief and condoled the untimely death of Comrade Thangjam Tarpan, a peasant leader and president of Manipur Loumee Marup (affiliated to the All India Kisan Sabha) who passed away in morning on that very day at his Moidangpok Khunou residence. He was 67 years old and suffering from throat cancer. He is survived by his wife, son and two daughters. The AIKS conveyed heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family and all his fellow comrades. Comrade Tarpan was known for his simplicity and his commitment to the cause of the peasantry. He was also a leader of the CPI(M) in Manipur and contributed to the building of the Left movement in the state. In his death the Kisan Sabha said it has lost a valuable comrade who held aloft the red flag in the state even under the extreme hostile conflict situation.