Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Where has India's "tryst with destiny" brought us so far...

August 15th is India's Independence Day. On the eve of the nation's independence, its first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru delivered his famous speech, " A Tryst with Destiny." He noted:

"The future beckons to us. Whither do we go and what shall be our endeavour? To bring freedom and opportunity to the common man, to the peasants and workers of India; to fight and end poverty and ignorance and disease; to build up a prosperous, democratice and progressive nation, and to create social, economic and political institutions which will ensure justice and fullness of life to every man and woman."

In 1947 the role of environmental policy in achieving the goals set out by Prime Minister Nehru were far from the minds of politicians. Now, sound environmental policy is quintessential for achieving "justice and fullness of life." From illegal mining of natural resources to increased lack of access to water and clean air, India faces challenges that reveal an unpleasant tryst with destiny. The nation's institutions are grappling with the daunting task of reigning in corruption and ensuring some form of equity in resource distribution. Droughts and floods beleaguer several states. Power failures are attributed to slow environmental clearances.

Yet, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his Independence Day speech primarily stressed the link between economic  development and national security. No doubt important, but inadequate. This is perhaps a time for all of us to pause and think what true independence means. I will not impose my version of the same, but will simply conclude with a thought that we can never be truly independent from nature and natural resources. So, perhaps, as we strive to achieve the goals that were at the foundation of so many nations, we should not forget the importance of sound environmental policy in achieving those goals.


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