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Exploring struggles and innovations for Environmental Sustainability in India and China: Book

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Solid waste harmful both for humans and nature
Solid waste causes serious health and environment hazard, Wikimedia
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Kolkata, March 19, 2017: Exploring struggles and innovations for environmental sustainability in India and China, a new book nudges stakeholders to “rethink” pressing ecological concerns arising in these nations in the context of current rapid industrial expansion and rise in number of protests for sustainability and equity.

“Environmental Sustainability from the Himalayas to the Oceans Struggles and Innovations in China and India” published by Springer and co-edited by Shikui Dong, Jayanta Bandyopadhyay and Sanjay Chaturvedi, presents a historical perspective of social innovations and struggles for environmental justice in the two ‘civilisational twins’, with ecosystems and economies that depend on the ‘Himalayan water tower’.

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“In both China and India, the number of struggles in the form of social-environmental protests and movements is one the rise, demanding information symmetry, transparency, and participatory decision-making. The system of public interest litigation introduced in India exemplifies a judicial innovation to protect and promote the social space,” the book states.

China and India need to get their acts together given their need for providing a better quality of life catering to their very large populations, said Bandyopadhyay, an expert on environmental policy.

“These countries cannot continue with the Euro-centric perspectives of human advancement through merely economic growth. The present environmental issues need to be looked at from the perspective of a new perception of modernity and industrial advancement. The accumulation of greenhouse gases are products of the earlier industrial revolution but these issues should be rethought in the present context,” he told IANS.

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Contending that China and India should lead the world in terms of both modernity and human development, Bandyopadhyay itiin the book: “The regional and global responsibility that accompanies their rise in international system further compels China and India to strengthen the collective pursuit of finding common innovative solutions to multi-scalar and incremental environmental challenges such as climate change.”

“The challenge of finding innovative solutions to the problem of environmental unsustainability in China and India is compounded by global power-political transformations, on the one hand, and the dominance of Euro-centric experiences and understandings of environment, and ‘environmental movement’, on the other.”

Bandyopadhyay stressed on the need to mend the “divorce of social from the ecological”.

He said the trend of putting up a “green” face to avoid criticism and condemnation from the civil society and the voluntary sector, has facilitated a more market-driven, techno-scientific approach to environmental sustainability that leaves “largely unaddressed” the gap between the scientific and the cultural understanding of nature and the environment.

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“A collective note of appeal is sounded in this book in favour of bridging this gap by emphasising the central and strategic importance of social innovation as the fulcrum around which various other approaches to environmental sustainability, including legal and institutional, could revolve. Leadership in science is as important as leadership of equitable social distribution of use of that knowledge,” Bandyopadhyay added.

The book provides a background of environmental history in both countries, and particularly on the deplorable environmental status of the two ‘Mother Rivers’, Yellow River in China and the Ganga in India. (IANS)

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Across Asia’s Borders, Survivors Of Human Trafficking, Dial in for Justice

The trial has been ongoing since 2013

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Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India.
Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India. VOA

When Neha Maldar testified against the traffickers who enslaved her as a sex worker in India, she spoke from the safety of her own country, Bangladesh, via videoconferencing, a technology that could revolutionize the pursuit of justice in such cases.

The men in the western city of Mumbai appeared via video link more than 2,000 km (1,243 miles) west of Maldar as she sat in a government office in Jessore, a major regional hub for sex trafficking, 50 km from Bangladesh’s border with India.

“I saw the people who had trafficked me on the screen and I wasn’t scared to identify them,” Maldar, who now runs a beauty parlor from her home near Jessore, told Reuters. “I was determined to see them behind bars.”

“I told them how I was beaten for refusing to work in the brothel in the beginning and how the money I made was taken away,” she said, adding that she had lied to Indian authorities about her situation after being rescued, out of fear.

Thousands of people from Bangladesh and Nepal — mainly poor, rural women

and children — are lured to India each year by traffickers who promise good jobs but sell them into prostitution or domestic servitude, anti-slavery activists say.

Activists hope the safe, convenient technology could boost convictions. A Bangladeshi sex trafficker was jailed for the first time in 2016 on the strength of a victim’s testimony to a court in Mumbai via video link from Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital.

Convictions for cross-border trafficking in the region are rare as most victims choose not to pursue cases that have traditionally required them to testify in Indian courts, which meant staying in a shelter for the duration of the trial.

“They have always wanted to go back home, to their families,” said Shiny Padiyara, a legal counsel at the Indian charity Rescue Foundation that has facilitated videoconferencing cases and runs shelters for trafficking victims. “And most never return to testify.”

But videoconferencing is making it easier to pursue justice. Survivors have given statements, identified their traffickers, and been cross examined in at least 10 other ongoing international cases in Bangladesh, advocates said.

“Enabling victims to testify via video conference will lead to a possible decrease in acquittal rates for want of prime witnesses,” said Adrian Phillips of Justice and Care, a charity that supports the use of video testimony to help secure justice.

Even then, it is tough. During Maldar’s three-hour deposition, she withstood a tough cross-examination, showed identity documents to prove her age and countered allegations by the defense lawyer that she was lying about her identity.

Students Combat Human Trafficking
Students Combat Human Trafficking, flickr

‘Unpardonable’

Tara Khokon Miya is preparing her 27-year-old daughter to testify against the men who trafficked her to India from Dhaka, where she had been working in a garment factory.

“I almost lost my daughter forever,” she said, sitting in her home in Magura, less than 50 km from Jessore, describing how she disappeared after work and was taken to a brothel in India, and raped and beaten for almost a year before being rescued.

“What the traffickers did to my daughter was unpardonable,” Miya said, wiping her tears. “We seek justice. I nurtured her in my womb and can’t describe what it felt like to not know about her whereabouts.”

The trial has been ongoing since 2013 when the young woman, who declined to be named, was repatriated. The charity Rights Jessore is helping the family through the process, by providing counseling and rehearsing cross-examination.

“The best thing is her father will be by her side when she talks in court,” Miya said, finally breaking into a smile.

India signed a bilateral agreement with Bangladesh in 2015 to ensure faster trafficking investigations and prosecutions, and with Nepal in 2017, and laid down basic procedures to encourage the use of videoconferencing in court proceedings.

“The procedure is very transparent,” said judge K M Mamun Uzzaman at Jessore courthouse, which often converts its conference hall into a courtroom for videoconferencing cases to protect survivors’ privacy.

“I’m usually present and victims are able to testify confidently … it is easy and cost effective for us,” he said. “But the biggest beneficiaries are the survivors.”

Silencing Victims
Silencing Victims, pixabay

The future

Videoconferencing in Bangladesh has been plagued by technical glitches such as power cuts and poor connections.

“Sometimes the internet connection is weak or it gets disconnected during the testimony,” said Binoy Krishna Mallick head of Rights Jessore, a pioneer in using this technology to encourage trafficking survivors to pursue justice. “But these are just teething troubles.”

The bigger challenge, activists say, is to ensure survivors remain committed to the trial despite delays caused by a backlog of cases and witnesses’ failure to appear to testify.

Swati Chauhan, one of the first judges to experiment with video testimony in 2010, is convinced that technology can eliminate many of these hurdles.

Also read: Imagining Panun Kashmir: Dissent And Detente in South Asia

“Victims go through a lot of trauma, so it is natural that they don’t want to confront their trafficker in a court — but that doesn’t mean they don’t want the trafficker to be punished,” she said. “A videoconference requires meticulous planning and it is not easy coordinating between departments and countries. But it is the future for many seeking justice.” (VOA)