Saturday December 16, 2017
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Modi government’s love for corporates is destroying our environment

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By Harshmeet Singh

It isn’t easy to control your greed when you have a bag full of gold in front of you. All the talks of ‘leaving it for the next generation’ remain on paper and the lust takes over your senses. Our environmental resources are one such bag of gold. They seem abundant at first sight, but before you realise, your ambitions sweep them off and all you are left with is regret.

If the UPA government was at fault for mishandling the environment related issues in the country, the Modi Government has only done worse. Interestingly, while the Government has been boisterous about its handful of achievements and other controversial debates, it has conveniently maintained silence over its ruthless approach in overriding environmental laws and authorities in the name of development. And before we realise, we would neither be left with forests nor the so-called development that was promised.

Prakash Javadekar, the Union Environment minister is working overtime to ensure that the Government’s ‘friends’ don’t have a tough time fighting the environmental laws. One of his first decisions was to ensure that the coal mines that produce below 16 million tonnes of coal per year and are willing to increase their production by half can do so easily without the need of holding a public hearing.

Diluting Forests Right Act – Done!

Next was the dilution of the Forests Right Act. The Government ordered that the companies need not hold any consultations with the Gram Sabhas before diverting the land for industrial uses. The other changes in the Act give companies the freedom to inspect forest lands for minerals without the consent of Gram Sabha. This move is in violation of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996, or PESA which gave Gram Sabhas the authority to self govern their natural resources.

Additionally, Irrigation projects which require less than 2000HA would not need to take environmental clearance while the projects concerning less than 10000 HA can now be given assent by State Governments. Did these changes catch anyone’s eye? The Government made sure it didn’t!

Weakening NGT? Done!

In August last year, a number of media reports pointed towards the Government’s attempts to dilute the powers of the National Green Tribunal. The significance of the NGT can be understood from the fact that appeals against the orders of the NGT can only be made in the Supreme Court. The Tribunal has often run into the Government on a number of issues in the past. The Government is now planning to convert it into an administrative body under the control of the environment ministry itself. Furthermore, the Government is contemplating changing criminal offences for violations of environmental laws into civil penalties. Government’s apathy towards NGT is evident from the fact that since its formation in 2010, the NGT has never had the full strength of its benches.

“Laws are always changing” – Javadekar

Last year, when Narendra Modi took the centre stage at the historic Madison Square Garden in the USA, he talked about ‘dismantling old laws’ to bring about a change. A couple of months later, TSR Subramanian committee on environmental laws came up with its report, which said that “the environmental laws need to be streamlined to match with the growth objectives”. The report favoured amending the laws to fast-track the process of giving environmental clearances to industrial projects. It was hard not to see Modi’s imprints in the report.

Over-ruling Supreme Court’s orders? Done!

According to a 2012 order of the honourable Supreme Court, an area coming in the radius of up to 10 km around all the National Parks and Sanctuaries must be notified as an ESZ (eco-sensitive zone). This meant that all the hotels and tourist resorts coming inside such zones shall be regulated according to an approved master plan to ensure that the natural habitat of wildlife is not restricted. It also banned establishment of mid-sized polluting industries in this region. The Modi Government wasted little time in reducing this limit to 5km and flouting the directions of the Supreme Court.

With an aim of further strengthening its control over environmental authorities, the Government realigned the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) and reduced the number of independent members to three from the earlier 15! This move of the Government is under the scrutiny of the Supreme Court that has directed the Government that “any decision taken by it (NBWL) shall not be given effect to till further orders”.

Some of the other ambitious plans of the Government include a new legal definition of the forests in the country. This definition would exclude all such forests that are not classified in government records. Once the definition comes into force, all such areas, including some forest patches in the famous Aravalli hills could be chopped off without any forest clearance.

The recent flash floods in Uttarakhand that claimed over 5,000 lives were attributed to rampant deforestation and flouting of environmental norms in the state. Yet, instead of learning a lesson, the Government has conveniently ignored such warnings from the environmentalists, which would only prepare the ground for the next disaster to hit us anytime.

Prime Minister’s desire to enhance the ‘ease of doing business’ isn’t hidden from anyone and neither are his cosy relations with corporate honchos. If the current trend is anything to go by, we could see major changes in the environmental laws of the country in the coming days. It is now up to the civil society, environmentalists and social activists to highlight these issues which the Government and the media overlook ever so conveniently. It would be such a pity if BJP’s payback to its corporate friends comes at such a high cost to the country.

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Rise of PM Modi and roar of subversive forces

To counter PM Modi opposition leaders are desperately getting aligned with anti-India forces

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Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Wikimedia commons)

– By Salil Gewali

If your son makes friendship with the difficult and longtime enemies of your own family/clan then how do you describe him and how do you feel about your future? Will it not be likely to open the door to countless tragedies? But in India, such thing is now being openly celebrated. For past couple of years or more the political leaders of certain parties have been taking the wrong step forward in having closed-door meetings with the leaders of Pakistan/China. What transpires among themselves is obviously against the present government and the nation’s fundamental ethos. Those leaders have often been heard to be sympathetic towards the terrorists or those who “roar against the nation” or against its patriotic values. Yes, those leaders jump forward to defend them who wreak havoc with the “peaceful citizens”.   Some leaders are apologetic that certain NGOs/media/religious bodies should not be harassed in the name of fighting the terrorists and ISIS. This is how country’s leaders defend the dangerous postures of dangerous outfits. Will this trend not invite greater troubles to the nation in future?

One wonders how the apex judiciary of the country just allow the political parties to pour out their pent-up anger before the leaders of neighbouring countries who are always aggressively in the combative mood. Why is the Supreme Court silent on such blatant subversive activities?

Very recently, one senior leader of the national party even scoffed at Prime Minister Modi by calling him a depraved being “Neech”. What are the criteria for one being morally low? Has PM Modi fallen short any standards of the integrity since he works sincerely hard and formulates innovative plans and schemes for the greater welfare of the nation? Well, has he not been constitutionally elected by the people of this country? Why the media is less aggressive and more defensive for those “transgressors” who wield daggers behind the cloak.

Whatsoever be the political dispensation at the center, such open rebellion against the government will not augur well for the nation and its 1.25 billion citizens.

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter Handle @SGewali

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Beatles, Apple, Facebook knew India more than Indians

Famous non-Indian celebrities know more about India and its past

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The Beatles once visited India to know more bout its past and culture.
The Beatles once visited India to know more bout its past and culture. Wikipedia

-By Salil Gewali

Facebook’s Chairman Mark Zuckerberg had dropped a bombshell on the “secularists” in India during PM Modi’s visit to his campus in California. It’s all about the Facebook connection with India. Initially, it was never a bed of roses for what is now a household name “FACEBOOK” across the world. This world-famous ‘social networking service company’ had its own share of bad times. Revealing for the first time in the meeting at the Facebook office upbeat Zuckerberg told PM Narendra Modi that Steve Jobs, the founder Chairman of Apple, had advised him to visit a certain temple in India for blessings. The revelation may have caused heartburn to many. More so in India where so-called secular and snooty folks have long acquired a proclivity to look down upon their own culture, religion, and values while being appreciative of any bizarre customs and styles of the West. Yes, heeding the advice of his mentor Steve Jobs the depressed Mark had visited the temple and toured around India for nearly a month.

Facebook's CEO tells about India.
Facebook’s CEO tells about India. wikipedia

Well, the American techno-wizard Steve Jobs had himself spent over six months in India in 1974. He was here in quest of the higher meaning of life and spiritual solace. As understood, from early age Steve was quite haunted by a good deal of unanswered questions. Of course, his encounter with a book “Be Here Now” by Richard Alpert, a Harvard Professor, had opened up a gateway to the spiritualism of the East. This book had also introduced him to a mystic Yogi ‘Neem Karoli Baba’. That later inspired Steve to set out the journey for the East. As soon as Steve and his friend Daniel Kottke arrived India they directly went to meet the Guru in Kainchi Dham Ashram in Nainital. But to their disappointment, they found the Baba had already passed away some months earlier. Nevertheless, the urge to dive deeper into the spiritualism did not die away. They shaved their heads and put on Indian clothes and undertook an extensive meditation and yogic practices.

The most significant impact that had made upon Steve’s life was a book “Autobiography of a Yogi”by Paramhansa Yogananda. It is on record that he would read this book too frequently, at least once every year until his death, 2011. This book had given him the practical insight into what exactly this world is about and how a layman can prepare himself to realize the Supreme knowledge. The first-hand account of a Yogi with empirical approaches to know oneself this book by Yogananda is a smash hit manual now among the seekers of the Eastern spiritualism.

Yes, by dint of hard work, intuition and innovation Steve stood out as one of the most successful techno-tycoons of the modern times. As much known, Jobs was hardly possessed by the luxury of riches and materialistic vanity. He just regarded his entrepreneurship as a tool to awaken his dormant potentialities. The chairman of Salesforce.com and famous philanthropist Marc Benioff says with conviction — “If you want to understand Steve, it’s a good idea to dig into ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’.” It is this book which Steve’s family had given to all the guests as a last gift at his memorial service.

Here we can’t afford to ignore the Beatle’s fascination for INDIA as well. The band members that were basking in the opulence of materialistic riches and glory visited India (Rishikesh) in search of inner peace. They met with Sri Maharshi Mahesh Yogi and learnt from him Transcendental meditation (TM) who laid bare methods to feel true bliss within. Sri Maharshi is a big name in the West having a huge following that includes celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, David Lynch, Russell Brand, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Aniston, Modern physicist Dr. John Hagelin, to name a few. The Beatle’s Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr often assist a Hollywood Director/actor David Lynch to organize the Transcendental meditation under ‘David Lynch Foundation’ across USA and the European countries. George Harrison later took refuge in Bhakti Yoga. The founder of ISKCON Srila Prabhupada showed him the pathway to the Supreme Consciousness.

What basically pulls the rational westerners to India is less known to Indians themselves. It’s shamefully paradoxical. From early 19th Century, the philosophical literary treasure troves and Yoga of India found more admirers in the foreign lands than at home. Indeed, the philosophy of the “laws of karma” and the presence of all-power-divinity within every being and everywhere — which any human being can realize irrespective of one’s caste, creed, nationality, and color, has intensely stirred the greatest of the great minds of the West. The ancient texts hold out a whole bunch of keys to unlock oneself and know his/her relationship with the Supreme Being which in fact seems very reasonable to the West. Further, the complex studies of world-view by Modern scientists are gradually arriving at the same conclusion what the ancient sages of India expounded over five thousands year back that ‘creation and creator are ONE’. Interconnection, inter-relation and interdependence among every individual particle/object, living or non-living, in the infinite universe — which is the fundamental tenets of the Eastern philosophy, provided a new light of wisdom to the the modern physicists like Schrödinger, Heisenberg, Julius Oppenheimer, Brain David Josephson, David Bohm, John Stewart Bell et al.

Well, Indian’s contribution to the western academia is immeasurable — though deliberately undermined or less discussed in India itself. It’s very worthwhile to recall a famous proclamation by our western master whom we hold in the highest esteem. TS Eliot, one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, asserts: “Indian philosophers’ subtleties make most of the great European philosophers look like schoolboys”.

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter @SGewali.

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Narendra Modi App : Amazing Platform where Prime Minister connects with the citizens

Wanna give ideas to or interact with Prime Minister Narendra Modi? Go and download Narendra Modi app on android and iOs

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Narendra Modi App
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (FILE PHOTO)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has an amazing sense of connecting with masses. Prime Minister knows the nerve of Indian public and at various instances proves himself as a pan Indian leader. Prime Minster Modi is undoubtedly one of the most tech-savvy global leader and a big promoter of e-governance and m-governance since a long time. Within two months of assuming Prime Minister-ship, he had launched the ambitious myGov project. In continuing the tradition of citizen connect, Prime Minister Modi took another step towards connecting with the people at their convenience by launching Narendra Modi app couple of years back.

Narendra Modi app
Prime Minister launching Narendra Modi App

The Narendra Modi app provides updates on the day-to-day activities of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It presents an opportunity to receive messages and emails directly from Shri Narendra Modi. There is also an option to contribute and earn ‘badges’ through to-do tasks in various social initiatives. Through Narendra Modi app, one can tune-in and listen to the various episodes of ‘Mann ki Baat’, read Prime Minister Modi’s blogs, and get to know more about him from his Biography section. Narendra Modi app also provides comprehensive information on initiatives and achievements of the Union Government, which has an ‘infographics’ section for insights.

Such type of initiative by a global leader gives a strong message how technology can be used by governments to bridge gap between leaders and citizens. apart from this app Prime Minister Modi is also very much active on various social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. Prime Minister Modi is the one of the most followed global leader on Twitter.

So what are you waiting for. Go and share some ideas of innovation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and contribute in his vision of “Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas”.

– by SHAURYA RITWIK, Shaurya is Sub-Editor at NewsGram and writes on Geo-politcs, Culture, Indology and Business. Twitter Handle – @shauryaritwik