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Rabindranath Tagore and Translation Studies: The Perpetual Impact of South Asian Culture on World Literature

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By- Dr. Faisal Barkat, Islamic University of Science & Technology, Awantipora, Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir

Translation studies has bought world cultures together to be recognized as a single culture. It is this delicate and sophisticated thread that has brought world literature under one roof by transcending cultural, ethnic, religious, social, and regional barriers. South Asian writing has reserved a significant place in world literature and translation works have played a vital role in the same. The translation of South Asian literature into English by regional or foreign writers ultimately gave birth to a variety of English literature now recognized and acknowledged as South Asian English Literature. The compilation of all the great poets of  South Asian Literature has been translated into many languages and one such great South Asian literary figure is Rabindranath Tagore; his work has set records and has crossed the oceans to let other parts of the world concede the vastness of South Asian diversity. His poetry in the form of pearls has always inspired the arid and restless souls. His poetry has no limitations, it guides and consoles every restive soul and during the current pandemic times when everyone is destitute, his poetry could be the source of calmness and ultimate composure. Thus, this write-up focuses on the English translations of Tagore’s work and invariably pays a tribute to him on his Birth Anniversary.

 

Rabindranath Tagore is a world-famous literary figure who doesn’t need any introduction. He occupies a considerable place in South Asian Literature on account of his world class literary contribution. Although behind the firm recognition of South Asian Literature there are many gigantic literary figures from almost every corner of the Indian Subcontinent however, Tagore’s contribution played a major and vital role in the recognition of South Asian Literature as a part of Global Literature. His vision, scholarship, universal outlook, and profundity won him many accolades from the East to the West. His contribution to South Asian literature spans over a vast body of writings that developed a cautious and visionary balance between tradition and modernity. His iconic work Gitanjali, Song Offerings is without any doubt a masterpiece that has stimulated many Western poets.

The following poem titled, ‘Where the mind is without fear’ originally written in Bengali is one among the most discussed poems of Tagore, the choice of words used to convey a desire, a wish to see undivided India as a free country, exhibits the gist of real freedom. The golden words of this poem hold a great significance if related to our current scenario:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;

Where knowledge is free;

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;

Where words come out from the depth of truth;

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;

Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action;

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake. (Where the Mind Is Without Fear)

It was Tagore’s artistic vision that fascinated many foreign writers and readers who wanted to imbibe and interact with the poetic insight of Tagore but were unable to ensue because of the great linguistic walls. Thus, what inspired Tagore to translate his work into English was his willingness to share his thoughts, feelings, and ideas with the global audience. English being a universal language catalysed his thoughts and beliefs to reach his readers across the world. Regarding the translation of his own poems, Krishna Kripalani very aptly summarizes the birth of Tagore’s translation works: Tagore was due to sail from Calcutta, on March 19, but suddenly fell ill on the night before his departure and the doctors forbade an immediate voyage. His luggage, already on board, had to be sent back from Madras where the ship halted next. Disappointed at this unforeseen postponement of his voyage, he sought consolation and strength, as of old, by retiring to Shelidah on the bank of his beloved river Padma. It was here that he began to translate, for the first time, some of his Gitanjali songs into English.  (Kripalani, 2011, p.122)

Over time Tagore took up the translation works keenly and religiously and started to translate songs from Gitanjali. In one of his letters written to his niece Indira Devi, Tagore shares: So, I took up the poems of Gitanjali and set myself to translate them one by one. You may wonder why such a crazy ambition should possess one in such a weak state of health. But believe me, I did not undertake this task in a spirit of reckless bravado. I felt an urge to recapture through the medium of another language the feelings and sentiments which had created such a feast of joy within me in the days gone by. The pages of a small exercise-book came to be filled gradually, and with it in my pocket I boarded the ship.(Radice, 2011). It is worth mentioning here that around the 1900s Tagore’s translations were not established for publication by the British in their journals keeping in view their lack of curiosity in oriental style.

While Tagore was translating his songs, he could have never envisaged the fact that these translations are going to influence the world literature so deeply. In the year 1913 when Tagore’s Gitanjali won the Nobel Prize in Literature, Tagore transformed into a star with eternal luminosity. These translations indeed made him the poet of the world. In fact, one of the great Western poets W.B. Yeats acknowledged the universality and greatness of Gitanjali in these words: I have carried the manuscript of these translations with me for days, reading it in railway trains, or on the tops of omnibuses and in restaurants, and I have often had to close it lest some stranger sees how much it moved me. These lyrics -which are in the original, many Indians tell me, full of subtlety of rhythm, of untranslatable delicacies of colour, of metrical invention – display in their thought a world I have dreamed of all my life long. The work of a supreme culture, they yet appear as much the growth of the common soil as the grass and the rushes. (Saha, 2009)

It is also very important to note that Tagore started his translations long before he was awarded the Noble Prize. One of his friends namely Ramananda Chatterjee published a literary journal titled The Modern Review in the year 1907. This journal was published from Calcutta having many readers both in America and England. The Modern Review played a significant role in promoting Tagore’s translations to the people of the West thereby stimulating interesting discussions among them. As time passed the number of translators translating Tagore’s work increased among which included some distinguished personalities like Debendranath Mitra, Sister Nivedita, Jadunath Sarkar, Lokendranath Palit and Ajitkumar Chakraborty (Chakravarty, 1961).

While Tagore’s work was being translated by many of his admirers, the complicated task was all about the sincere translation of his poems. In view of this difficult task, Ramananda Chatterjee requested Tagore to translate his own poems into English. At the same time, Tagore felt the emptiness in the translations of his poems by translators which gradually ignited a desire in him to translate his poems more seriously. All his seriousness towards his translations paved the path for his greatest achievement in the form of Gitanjali, Song Offerings. Of the many forms of translation like word-for-word and literal translation, Tagore opted for his English version of Gitanjali a form that retained the true essence and beauty of the original text, ‘a rhythmically free’ [ and] ‘slightly biblical style of prose-poetry’ (Radice, 2011, p.282). 

Tagore confesses in his letter to Dinesh Chandra Sen about the prejudice to any work being translated by others, where he remarked, “I feel translation can never be satisfactory unless done by myself. Since the melody of the Bengali language and Bengali rhythm cannot be transferred to English, the rendering of ideas in simple English can only bring out its inner beauty. I can easily do this work without any mistake”. This clearly reflects the earnest attitude of Tagore towards his original text the originality of which could have lost if he would have not taken the task of translation on himself.

Reviewing the poems of Gitanjali, Ezra Pound expresses: “It is a little over a month since I went to Mr. Yeats’ rooms and found him much excited over the advent of a great poet, someone ‘greater than any one of us.’ It is hard to tell where to begin…We have found our new Greece, suddenly. As the sense of balance came back upon Europe in the days before the Renaissance, so it seems to me does this sense of saner stillness come now to us during our clangour of mechanism. I am not saying this hastily, nor in an emotional flurry,… I have had a month to think it over…There is in him the stillness of nature. The poems do not seem to have been produced by storm or by ignition but seem to show the normal habit of his mind. He is at one with nature and finds no contradictions. And this is in sharp contrast with the Western mode, where man must be shown attempting to master nature if we are to have ‘great drama’….” (Kripalani, 2011, p.125-126).

In conclusion, this write-up inculcates that Tagore’s literature is the repository of rare gems and pearls; each word he uses has an unfathomable meaning. The fact of the matter is that it is due to these translations that I was able to read and grasp Tagore. That being said, there is much more to explore, and his literature envisions further scope which could certainly untie many knots overlooked by scholars and philosophers so far.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Himachal Watcher or its members.

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Idries Shah: Remembering the Shimla Born Sufi Thinker

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By- Stuti Beri, Educator and Independent Researcher based in Bhilwara, Rajasthan

South Asia has been a land where cultures met, religions interacted and thrived while retaining their own identity, and yet making allowance for a spiritual merging leaving no trace of difference prevailing in the physical space or within the domain of reason. An example in this context is the Sufi Movement which invariably spread the message of love being the only means of seeking the divine. One of the greatest seekers, thinkers and teachers who spread the Sufi tradition outside this land was Idries Shah. Though he spent all his life in the United Kingdom, but he was born in South Asia on 16 June 1924, in a small Western Himalayan town of Shimla (the then Summer Capital of British India and currently part of Himachal Pradesh, India), to an Afghan-Indian father and a Scottish mother.

Deep in the sea are riches beyond compare. But if you seek safety, it is on the shore.” Idries Shah

Abandoning the shore, his early year travels with his father, Ikbal Ali Shah (An author and diplomat who penned the biographies of Kemal Atatürk and the Aga Khan III) engaged in his Sufi work, gave him exposure to prominent intellectuals and statesmen from the east and west, and greatly affected his sensibilities as a young child allowing him such opportunities of intellectual gain which aided him in becoming a man possessing a highly broadened vision of the world, and a luminary who unveiled the mysticism associated with Sufism and laid bare its practical approaches to life.

He authored over three dozen books ranging within a wide spectrum of spirituality, psychology, travelogues, and cultural studies. “Shah devoted his life to collecting, translating and adapting key works of Sufi classical literature for the needs of the West. Called by some as ‘practical philosophy’, – these works represent centuries of Sufi and Islamic thought aimed at developing human potential to its fullest form.”

Idries Shah’s initial works dealt with minority belief systems based on magic and occult. But one of his significant work ‘The Sufis’ published in 1964 came as a breakthrough wherein he gave Sufi mysticism a more assessable and readable form appealing to the Western intellectuals and brought to forefront the world of Sufi mysticism. He presented Sufism as constantly changing and adaptable to different modes of life, and each time taking a new form to suit different people, at different times, in different ages, thus giving Sufism a Universal position. He wrote that, “The Sufi doctrine is known in the West as a scientific method of inductive proceeding, and subsequent Western science is largely based upon it.”

Shah gave the spiritual wisdom of Sufism being more of a psychological treatment making it a scientific instrument assisting an individual in achieving self-realization, a way of human evolution, i.e., development of our conscious towards the higher realms of life. In the preface to his book ‘The Sufis’ he wrote “Sufism, the “secret tradition,” is not available on the basis of assumptions which belong to another world, the world of intellect.” It deals with connecting to an inner voice, like the one comprising of prophetic, intuitive or telepathic powers functioning beyond the dominion of reason. Further, he talked about the stark difference between scholasticism and Sufism, “Scholasticism is interested in accumulating information and making deductions from it. Sufism is engaged upon developing a line of communication with ultimate knowledge, not with combining individual facts, however historically exciting, or theorizing in any way at all.”

He also worked profusely in bringing the Sufi tradition of storytelling and folklores to the masses, while understanding the way these stories would affect one psychologically. He reincarnated the stories to accommodate his western audience, and one of his most famous and recognized stories till date are centred on a wise fool Mulla Nasrudin. These anecdotal stories full of humour and intricate wisdom also became a part of his documentary Dreamwalkers aired on BBC in1970. In Shah’s study circle people use to read, analyze, and uncover the hidden layers of meanings these stories contained. Yet these stories proved apt for people of all ages imparting the right kind of wisdom at the right time. Revealing newer perspectives these stories became a tool to churn ones consciousness and provide a new lens to view life.

Idries Shah’s works gained for him universal readership and recognition from many literary writers and his pupils like Ted Hughes, J.D. Salinger, Doris Lessing, and an endless list of admirers coming from different professions. His books were translated in many languages and were read world over.

Idries Shah’s effort weren’t limited to propagating the Sufi thought through his writings, rather he established a notable institute for charity education, Institute of Cultural Research (London), to support scholarly talks and debates on various aspects of human behaviour, culture and Sufi tradition, which later transformed into The Idries Shah Foundation. Meanwhile he also started the Society for Sufi Studies and in 1960 developed his Octagon Press to publish and distribute translated Sufi classics and his own works.

All his life he produced books with a feverish devotion towards Sufi wisdom and lived the life of a true Sufi going beyond the pain and limitation of the physical body, which his later age ailments caused him. Leaving his magnum opus for enlightening the generation to come he left his worldly abode on 23rd November, 1996 for his passage beyond the clutches of corporal life.

Doris Lessing writes about him in his The Daily Telegraph obituary, “He was a many-sided man, knowing a great deal about a variety of subjects, and that meant that listening to him was an education in more ways than one. He was the wittiest person I expect ever to meet. He was kind. He was generous.”

Staying away from the guru or cult system Idries Shah, a Sufi thinker, teacher and writer, unfurled to the world a treasure chest of Sufi Wisdom inspiring many a prominent personalities and common readers across the globe. Just like he believed, his books are a legacy he left for the spiritual seekers, scholars, readers, Sufi practitioners and for any commoner, who is searching for sanity in chaos, and is aiming at communicating with one’s truer self or knowing a deeper meaning of life while being surrounded with a sense of lifelessness. His works eco his brilliance and make it equally viable for any individual to get drenched in that brilliance and get answers to the questions arising in his quest ridden soul.

“What you seek is seeking you.” says Rumi the great Sufi mystic and poet. So for anyone seeking the path of Sufism while living and facing the struggles of everyday life, absorbing the light emitting from the works of Idries Shah would act as a pivotal point in his journey, not for knowledge but for wisdom, not to live life but to know it, to experience a sense of completeness, a universality within, to go on his voyage to encounter the all promising, encompassing, maddening, unconditional and mystic love essential to seek and connect with the divine within.

The union of the mind and intuition which brings about illumination, and the development which the Sufis seek, is based upon love.” Idries Shah

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Himachal Watcher or its members.

 

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Intellectual Property Rights and Global Access to the Covid-19 Vaccine

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By- Adv. Ankit Thakur, LLM in Intellectual Property Rights, Queen Mary University of London, UK. He is currently serving as a spokesperson of the Himachal Pradesh Youth Congress

Developing as well as developed countries must sought out their ways of getting their hands on the Covid-19 vaccines as it bound to have a direct effect on the health crisis faced by many countries. The piece highlights the relation between Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and the global access to the Covid-19 vaccine around the world. It further highlights points concerning the strength Intellectual Property Rights can provide to every country which is fighting this pandemic.

 

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and its direct effect on life saving medicines is a debate that has been going on for decades. Now, we have seen COVID-19 survive for more than a year and still only a small number of vaccines have been given the green light for emergency sanction. It is becoming increasingly likely that the world may soon look quite disproportionate in one distinct way as hundreds of millions of residents in wealthy nations will be vaccinated before billions of people in developing countries get similar access. India and South Africa are leading the fight to get Covid-19 vaccines clear of the IPR protection and it is also being advocated that their contention would help mobilize additional manufactures and help address vaccine disparities around the globe. Meanwhile, some also argue that this approach can lead to discouragement of additional manufacturing investments as well as undermine long-run vaccine development programs, including to initiatives to address the emerging new COVID-19 variants. On the other hand, the current demand is to scale up the existing vaccine production as quickly as possible while maintaining strict safety and quality standards. For this argument to be true, there will be a need of additional manufacturers who could and would stand by Intellectual Property restrictions. I see no such evidence in this scenario, to the contrary, and taking such a stance towards Intellectual Property may slow down or compromise the production of life saving vaccines.

Pharma companies that have developed and produced various vaccines under enormous commercial and geopolitical pressure need to scale up production as quickly as possible to meet enormous immediate demands around the world. As per my understanding, these companies are already cooperating widely with competitors and generic manufacturers, including via voluntary licenses, contracted productions, and proactive technology transfer. Weakening the commercial incentive of the originator companies may reduce their interest in going forward with the intentional collaborations that are already responsible for total output of the vaccine.

Under the existing TRIPS agreement, signatory countries can already issue compulsory licenses to produce vaccines without taking permissions from the patent holder but not a single country has opted for this option. Voluntary licensing and technology transfer from companies who are the originators can help increase long term manufacturing capacity, especially if paired with public investment. Such companies are also involved in administering quality control standards which is particularly significant in the background of extensive vaccine use. Their cooperation is important for both speedy production of the vaccine as well as maintaining its quality.

Now, coming to the global access challenge the world is facing right now, can summed up into three main points. First, while high income countries and their governments are heavily funding R&D and manufacturing. But in their effort to get more vaccines advance purchase agreements have anticipated the supplies. Second, lack of increasing manufacturing capacity undermines national and international immunization programs. In a developing country like India, vaccine is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII) which is already manufacturing the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. However, the point to be noted here is upfront at- risk investment which requires to fulfil expectation of orders. The third reason is lack of capital in hand to pay for vaccines for countries whose income is low or just above low middle. Manufacturers costs must be met, COVAXIN, developed by Bharat Biotech, is struggling to meet its donation target to high income countries and other donors to enable it to contract for needed vaccines. None of manufacturers today are remotely capable of meeting the demands on a timely basis.

To increase the manufacturing capacity certain issues like risk-tolerant capital and a partnership platform to enable technology transfer to new manufacturing sites around the world need to be addressed. Such a platform can only succeed if both parties in technology transfer equation, the recipient and the originator companies have trust and confidence in the platform. It can be agreed that knowledge-sharing and technology transfer are the crux of the IPR, and patents and legal structures follow. Moderna, for example, has waived Intellectual Property enforcements for COVID-19 vaccines but has not widely shared its know-how, without the latter, the former action has not generated any generic production.

Such a situation gives rise to two broad areas of uncertainty.  One, can Intellectual Property waiver be recognised as a symbolic gesture, even if it will have limited impact without broader knowledge sharing? Some will say yes, as it provides legal clarity to protect generic manufactures and signals shared commitment to human life and health over company profits and interests of wealthy countries. But I feel sceptic about it. I agree with the symbolic value, and I am not opposing it, but how will it affect the vaccine access is still to be answered. Two, if originator companies freely share all the know how would generic companies start manufacturing? I think we all would agree that there are generic manufactures with the capacity to produce at least some of the vaccines for e.g., Oxford- AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax in the medium term, but in the absence of public subsidy and government’s direct help, commercial risk sustains as we cannot assess the total demand and performance of these vaccines against emerging variants.

Considering these risks, I still believe that the companies would invest up front to manufacture vaccines. Given that there is already competition between originators, my instinct is that we should continue to actively engage originators in scaling-up. Creating the right incentives for voluntary licensing and technology transfer because with COVID-19 ‘No one is safe until everyone is safe’.

In conclusion, to speed up vaccination rates around the world, especially in low and middle income level countries, we need more global manufacturing capacity for all COVID-19 vaccine platforms, but COVID- 19 vaccines from IPR will not lead to scaling up the production of the vaccine and as a result will not improve parity or access. Policy makers should undertake measures to eliminate or limit monopolies on the production of the COVID-19 vaccine, using a combination of incentives, mandates, and subsidies. Companies that have patents or biologic resources can be remunerated, through royalties or other reward schemes. There are many inefficiencies in the current market structure and many parts of this market are broken and are highly unfair in terms of global access, but the current inefficient structure can still get some things right if all like-minded communities get together on the issue of global access with the right tools, such as technology transfer facilitation, voluntary licensing and overlapping pricing. As the longer the pandemic exists, the greater the harm in terms of our health, economic and social welfare.

Image: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Himachal Watcher or its members.

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Ecosystem Restoration and the Current Situation in India (World Environment Day Special)

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By- Ankush Charavande and Sanjukta Ghosh.

Ankush is currently pursuing Integrated M.Sc. Environmental Science from the Central University of Rajasthan and Sanjukta is working as a Project Scientist at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.

In 1972, the UN General Assembly designated 5 June as World Environment Day (WED) with the first celebration, under the slogan “Only One Earth” taking place in 1974. The theme for World Environment Day 2021 is “Ecosystem Restoration” and with that the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration has also been launched. The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration starts from this year till 2030, the same timeline is also the deadline to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. Thus, this can be the last chance to act towards the restoration of the different ecosystems across the world and can hence save the planet from environmental degradation and the catastrophe of climate change.

Why Ecosystems must be restored?

Ecosystems are the web of life on this earth. The great environmental activist and leader of the Chipko movement Sunder Lal Bahuguna once said, ‘Ecology is the permanent economy’ and keeping his words in mind we must help in maintaining the ecosystem, as it comprises of all the living organisms and includes forests, rivers, wetlands, grasslands, estuaries, and coral reefs. Cities and farmlands also contain important human-modified ecosystems, they include a stable climate and breathable air; supplies of water, food, and materials of all kinds; and helps us protect ourselves from disaster and disease. In fact, the Corona virus is a result of ecosystem degradation, as it is a type of Zoonotic disease which got transferred from animals to humans. A major reason behind this is unnecessary interaction between the wildlife and human beings, and the reasons for this could be increasing deforestation; pollution in water bodies; draining of wetlands and peatlands; degrading coasts and overfishing in farmlands. Thus, these wrongs need to be undone for the world to move forward and eliminate alien species which are coming up, as well as deal with issues like climate change. Consequently, it is because of this reason ecosystems must be restored.

How Restoration can be done?

Restoring ecosystems means protecting biodiversity and helping them deliver benefits for the nature. The same can be done by protecting and restoring various types of ecosystems like Forests (which is an area of land dominated by trees), they are a source of clean air and water, and they also help absorb vast amounts of climate heating carbon. For restoration of this ecosystem more trees can be planted in areas where deforestation is being done, and conditions can be created in this respect for indigenous trees to germinate naturally. Further, concerning the Oceans and Coastal ecosystem which regulates our climate as well as generates most of the oxygen we breathe, a lot can be done. The ecosystem covers more than 70% of the earth and are a major source of carbon sink that needs to be cleaned up. Restoration for it can be done through the use of new techniques like the Phosphate Elimination and Recovery Lightweight (PEARL) membrane where an adaptable sponge soaks up phosphate from polluted waterways for reuse. The same technique can be used for the restoration of the Rivers and Lakes ecosystem which is the best source of freshwater and helps protect us from droughts and floods. Lastly, Peatlands cover only 3 percent of the world’s land but have a 30% carbon sink, and for their restoration native grasses and mosses can be grown to boost their natural regeneration.

Further, in relation to the Land/Terrestrial ecosystem which concerns human beings a lot can be done, aiming mostly at reduction of the desertification of land. Some important points that need to be taken into consideration in this relation is the conservation of the soil and its nutrients. Also, the method of agriculture practice can play a very important role in this. The use of pesticides and insecticides deteriorates the quality of the soil and hence leads to desertification. Soil conservation is not a new concept rather it has been practiced from many years in many cultures, terrace farming is one such an ancient way of farming practiced mainly in the mountainous regions, this technique helps in boosting the water conservation and helps in reducing the runoff rate in the terrain. FAO has categorized some of these environment friendly systems of agricultural practice as Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) which can be used in a lot of such places. This ecosystem deserves more attention as due to increase in the human population, the requirement of food has also increased and if projections are to be believed the world would need to increase the food production by 50 % which could lead to an additional 600 million hectares of farmland by 2050.

Hence, smart, and sustainable techniques of farming need to be developed and one of such sustainable agricultural practice is regenerative farming. Regenerative farming shies away from using synthetic products like fake manure or pesticides, and refrains from using heavy machinery, which can ultimately do more harm than good.  In this technique, rather than disturbing the soil by ploughing, the soil is left alone to naturally create more organic matter and become productive. Another modern and smart way of agriculture is vertical farming.  Vertical farming can also help increase food production with use of minimal land, and as it has been estimated that by 2050, two out of every three people are expected to live in urban areas this method may be helpful in producing fresh and green vegetables indoors by controlling light, temperature, water and often carbon dioxide levels as well. Such techniques could help meet growing global food demands in an environmentally responsible and sustainable way. Thus, through these ways restoration of ecosystems all across the world is possible.

Where does India stand?

In this period of turmoil after the outbreak of the second wave of COVID-19 virus in India all of us are majorly focused on the health care which is the primary matter of importance during this time. But the environment is also something which needs to be discussed in numerous forums. The government of India should focus on having better policies and laws concerning environment protection and restoration. But the reverse is happening as there are so many projects which have been approved by the central and state governments which are not in the best interest of mankind. Be it the Central Vista project or the numerous hydropower projects in especially the tribal areas of the North-East and Far-North (Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh and J&K) or for that matter the legalized mining activities being carried out in several tribal areas of Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand, all are being given the nod by side-lining the adverse environmental affects they could bring. Further, the major issues concerning the recent draft of the Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation, 2021 (LDAR 2021) also need to be highlighted in this discourse. The provisions of the LDAR gives unchecked powers to governmental bodies to interfere with a citizen’s right to possess and retain property. This means the government can choose any land — either common or private — for development activities like mining, quarrying, building and all this would invariably threaten the fragile ecosystem of Lakshadweep.

Moving on, India is among the top ten countries of the world by forest area and as per the latest forest cover report released by forest survey of India, the total forest cover is 7,12,249 sq.km which is 21.67% of the geographical area of the country. There has been an increase of 3976 sq.km of forest cover and 1212 sq.km of tree cover in 2019 as compared to the 2017 report. But after the release of that report the current policy of the government has tilted more in connection with restoring animal biodiversity than degrading land area (forest, grassland) and marine region (corals), which is probably not the right move and they could have worked more in that direction till a considerable increase in the figures is not attained. Also, more needs to be done in connection with wetland conservation, though ever since joining the Ramsar Convention successive governments have done great work in promoting the conservation and judicious use of wetlands but still a lot can be done as restoration of 15% of such lands could avoid 60% of highly endangered species from getting extinct.

In conclusion, what can be said is that the ecosystem provides us with priceless benefits. They give us a stable climate and breathable air, fulfill our needs of water, food and material of all kinds, and protection from disaster and disease. It is easy to lose hope when we think of the sheer magnitude of the challenges we face and the avalanche of bad news that we wake up to every morning but just as we caused the climate crisis, the biodiversity crisis and the pollution crisis, we can also be the cause for the restoration of ecosystems and can reverse the damage that we have done. We can thus be the first generation to Reimagine, to Recreate and to Restore nature and kick-start the movement for a better post-covid world.

Feature Image: NASA

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Himachal Watcher or its members.

 

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