(We are all trapped in the quicksand of political parties)
Elections have just concluded in 5 of the 30 states of India. There has been a record turnout of youth and women voters this election season. In Delhi alone, youth voters turned out in historical numbers pushing the total number of voters to 65% (the maximum before this was 61.8% in 1993). While the allure of new political winds ushered in by the arrival of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) (The Common Man’s Party) may have driven some of the enthusiasm in a population beleaguered by poor governance and the false prophets of established political parties, let’s hope that these demographic shifts are here to stay. And why shouldn’t youth be engaged? After all, it is their future that is being whittled away by career politicians who are happy to sell the ecological wealth on which their livelihoods will depend.
So why do Indian political parties fail to acknowledge the need for environmental conservation in their campaigns? Article 48(A) of Part IV of the Indian constitution reads: “The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.” In no political party’s manifesto is it apparent that the political class has thought clearly about the matter. If we can thank anyone for the protection of any ounce of our nation’s ecological capital (from a legal/governance perspective) it is the Supreme Court which has been cited as the greenest court in the world.
Why the empty promises of 30% reduced electricity tariffs which will only further bleed our utilities dry and leave them with no revenue to innovate for the future much less provide reliable access? Why promise 700 liters of free potable water when you have a fetid and dead river that flows through your city (and there’s hardly any ground water left)? Why promise new sewage treatment plants when billions of dollars have been spent on sewage treatment plants already and while we still have over 50% of our untreated sewage making its way to the river? Who needs “Statehood” for what should be the most easily governed unit in the whole Republic of India? You want to set up child-friendly courts for crimes against children? How about one that will ensure that these children have their right to life and livelihood protected by having a firm foundation (environment) in place by the time they grow up? You want a monorail? Did you forget about the ring rail that is hardly used? How about refurbishing that and integrating it with the metro system (and continuing to build the Bus Rapid Transit)? These populous promises mean nothing. Meanwhile Delhi and India at large are headed nowhere, very fast. Think about that the next time you are caught in traffic and choking on the ever-increasing fumes while mantri’s whiz past you in their luxury vehicles.
By Supriya Singh and Kartikeya Singh