We all know how rich in natural resources the Northeast (NE) of the country is endowed with. We also know the unfortunate fate of countries like the DRC (Democratic republic of Congo) of the African continent which is also endowed with the richest natural reserves in the whole African continent.
What is alarming and overtly dangerous in both instances is that some people termed as supreme leaders pronounce the need for exploitation of the natural resources with utter disregard to the effect of the same on the people of the region.
The existence of corporate greed is well-known in the world, the effect of which is evident on countries like the DRC which is exploited for its reserves like the COLTAN (an ore of cobalt and tantalum needed to produce cheap and efficient batteries for all our mobile phones) but still, DRC is counted amongst the poorest economies, and also in addition afflicted with a lot of strife and conflict.
If there is not too much similarity between the two regions it may be because Coltan may not be discovered as yet in the Northeast and also not many militant organizations control the areas rich in other natural resources either.
And to our luck, a country on the other side of the Himalayas is more efficient in the production of the electronic goods including batteries which need Coltan more than the corporations in India.
But nevertheless, the point here was not to make perfect analogies between DRC and the Northeast of our country, it was to expose the fact that all regions rich in natural resources are prone to develop and breed such unfortunate conditions of militant strife-corporate greed-government apathy-local poverty.
Once someone called a “supreme leader “ uttered some sentences and what he might have intended when he pronounced that Northeast is blessed with a lot of natural resources, might be a point of lamentation that the Northeast couldn’t as yet become the DRC of the country.
But Northeast also consists of people, some recent, some old and some the oldest (tribal). Older the people of any region more they are connected with nature in a more delicate sense. They are therefore more vulnerable to change in natural conditions of living, just like some species endemic to a forest are more vulnerable to extinction if a change in temperature or humidity or rain pattern or migration pattern or forest reserve is effected due to human interventions.
And we know from environmental destruction which is happening the world over (from thawing Siberia to melting polar ice caps to changing weather patterns in the rest of the world) that corporate greed is one of the main reasons for such calamities which need urgent address failing which the world may be pushed to a point of no return.
In this direction, India has a dismal record which can be perceived by all of us. As students, all children learn at school about the need to conserve nature and protect biodiversity, use more renewable sources of energy, control pollution, and use sustainable methods of nature exploitation, but on the ground, we see the opposite happening.
The corporate sector doesn’t profit if the exploitation is not unlimited, hence they demand flouting or dilution of environmental protection laws and guidelines.
Unfortunately, the government and allied systems allow such violations overtly or covertly because most of the political parties are funded in elections and other matters by the corporate sector nexuses.
Even a cursory look at the politics at the national level can give hints to such shady deals. For example, if one can ask the question as to one of the reasons (if not the main one) for the loss of the UPA in the 2014 election, one can deduce from the aftermath of elections to the fact that there was a spat between the then environment and forests minister Jayanti Natarajan and the so-called leaders of that party which lost the election.
Interestingly, another person of the same party (presently speaker of Rajasthan Assembly, CP Joshi) vocally supports the leader and attacks the former environment minister on charges of corruption, and the results are evident in the form of CP Joshi getting a ticket from the party and also winning the elections (in spite of being unsecular in his campaign speeches for a party claiming to be secular) in Rajasthan.
But how can one connect this to corporate greed? It is plausible because now it is also clear that the leader of that party which lost the 2014 Lok Sabha elections was also annoyed by the fact that many corporate giants had complained that environmental clearances were not granted to them during the second UPA regime and allegations were made that a bribe was demanded the same by the then environment ministry.
Presuming that the present environment minister is not asking for bribes and that the corporate sector is more comfortable to start their new ventures and also run their older companies with lesser regard to environmental concerns may be good for the economy as a whole and to CP Joshi, who attacked the former environment minister in particular.
But what is alarming that just over few years the situation is so worsened that environmental activists are seen as targets to be destroyed preemptively so as to not allow the same debacles faced by the previous regimes due to more regard for the environment (internally or externally to the party) and hence the dilution of the environmental laws for corporate sector.
The results are clear. Climate change is progressing unabated the world over. The poorest suffer the most due to sudden and drastic changes in the environment, and the oldest people (tribal) suffer due to their innocence to this whole conundrum. The uneducated masses continue to vote to people who are overtly and covertly in nexus with the corporate, the main party leaders target pro-environment policies so that corporate help keep coming for future elections.
The question is why should innocent children be misled and asked to love nature? They must be instead taught in schools that nature is just a gift to be exploited to the maximum so that profits are reaped and the system of corporate-government (or militant)-uneducated voter led business thrives and gives profit to all, until it all suddenly ends in a non-profitable state (like the Bharath gold mines limited) or a destroyed environment state (like the polluted Ganga).
It’s another equally urgent and pressing matter that corporate greed on the other side of the Himalayas may not leave any future left for the Brahmaputra to be exploited once they build dams over it in Tibet. This proves that diluting laws to protect the environment from corporate greed is not just an internal concern of one country but a global problem.
It is important to know the role of the virus in the whole story- the pandemic came and gave an opportunity to the present regime to pass laws conducive to the corporate sector quickly without debate and as an ordinance- which lead to farmer agitation against unsolicited farm laws.
Environmental activists joined to support farmers (against unsustainable-for profit-corporate farming) – the government arrested climate activists (like Disha Ravi) as a preemptive strategy- then bail was given on the basis that no proof of unlawful activity was found.
All these events are to be seen in the light of the opportunism sought by the present regime using the pandemic as an excuse which is so detestable. Nevertheless, the virus has exposed one more fact about our country- the corporate greed and government nexus with the corporate world is essentially anti-environment and the people who may be affected the most in such a situation are the ones who live in close dependence on nature for survival and they are the most voiceless of all of us.
And our Northeast is a place not only gifted with natural resources, but it also contains people, for whom the virus has exposed this fact. It needs to be seen and scrutinized deeply to decide the way forward, not only for elections but also for the future young generations for whom we are all responsible whether in the Northeast or elsewhere in the world.
DR (MAJ) HARICHARAN