Analysis of Gandhian Method to Solve Environment Problems in India

Environmental injustice in the past few decades has become a widespread phenomenon across the globe. It has raised the socio-economic conflicts and the mobilizations by the local communities and social organizations which sometimes have national or international outreach. Environmental injustice; though as a slogan rise in the 1980s but it has its roots in the past. If one goes through the work of Gandhi one can find the ecological vision of Gandhi which advocates for good for all including the weakest. Gandhi quotes, that the modern economy is “Propelled by the frenzy of greed and indulges in the orgy of envy” it makes a man more materialistic at the risk of the majority and the environment. From the above statement, one can interpret that Gandhi considers the modern economy which is based in industrialization and market economy as the root cause for the environmental problems. He believed the idea behind such development is based on greed which benefits the few and doesn’t comply with the principle of the benefit of all. It also led to the plundering of the natural resources and unrestricted developmental activities which will eventually lead to the destruction. Instead, Gandhi was in the favor of sustainable development, he said nature has provided us with enough and we should use it in a judicious manner; the vested interests should not be concentrated to the few and the way to achieve this Gandhi visualizes through, rebuilding the villages.

Though Gandhi persuades us to protect natural resources but, in present times, we are using natural resources at an alarming rate, which will only lead us to destruction. In the previous years, there has been a massive construction of projects, dams, big industries, and other big plants throughout the country which has raised the concerns of various dimensions and has impacted the local environment and the people. These developmental activities have created multiple problems which comprise of the destruction of forests, water scarcity, acceleration of soil erosion, siltation in the water bodies, and expansion of arid areas which endangers the environment. In the context of Kinnaur the development activities which mainly comprise of the constructional activities including dams, tunnels, etc; it has done major toil to the natural environment and the people in the region are the sufferers, this can be termed as an instance of structural violence. At many locations, people have vacated the houses and even the villages where their forefathers have lived for the ages. Considering the physical setting of the region, if more projects which are in the planning phase will be constructed they will ruin the entire surroundings and the losses would be unbearable for the local community. In such a scenario Gandhi encourages us to rethink the model of development which is looking only at the point of economic greed, Gandhi asks us to follow the model of development which is for the good of all.

In India, most of the environmental movements had begun against the development paradigm that threatens livelihood, land, water, and ecological stability, and the most acknowledging fact about these movements is that they adopted Gandhian methods. In recent years there has been a different argument regarding methods of struggle against the injustices, and the widely adopted method is through Non-Violence. Gandhi believes that violence is the tool of cowardice and it is through nonviolence one can achieve a just end. The nonviolent scholars argue that it is the means which determines the ends, or simply “Means determine the Ends”. They argue that unleashing “violence is like letting Genie out of the bottle, once release; it is not easy to put back”. So through such means, no peace can be restored because it led to the continued application of the violence.

In the case of the struggle for the protection of the environment, the Gandhian method is widely used in India and throughout the World. The major examples of such movements are the Chipko movement, the Narmada Bachao movement Chilka lake protests in Odisha, and Silent valley protests, etc. Chipko movement was the first major movement that took its inspiration from the Gandhian methods; it involves the people of whole strata of the society which includes men, women, local groups, and organizations. In July 2014 the Gandhi Peace Prize was awarded to Chandi Prasad Bhatt, who established “Dasholi Gram Swarajya Sangh” in Gopeshwar in 1964 which is the mother organization to the Chipko movement. In a similar way, the Narmada Bachao movement was led by Medha Patkar and Baba Amte which follow the Gandhian methods. The Silent valley protests which started against the dam proposed on the Kunthi River in the 1970s in Kerala and mobilized the activists and the conservationists throughout the country and also at the international level had left a significant mark in the history of the struggle for environmental justice in India. The movement is marked as a significant milestone in the Indian environmental movement which eventually led to the cancellation of the project. IUCN 1978 also focused on the threat to the endangered lion-tailed macaque and passed a resolution to preserve the Silent valley at the 14th general assembly meeting at Ashkabad (USSR). Later in 1984, the silent valley was turned into a national park that ceases future developments that could threaten the environment. These movements have led to the rise of environmental journalism in India. If we closely analyze the environmental movements in India they do not directly show reference to Gandhi but the method they adopt in their discourse often contains Gandhian elements.

In the Kinnaur case, the local people and the organizations are also following the same course i.e. the Gandhian methods for fighting the battle against environmental injustice which they are bearing. The struggle of the people has also been listed in the environment justice atlas, which provides the Global platform for the cases of environmental justice. In 2016 Paryavaran Sanrakshan Sangarsh Samiti of village Lippa protested against the threat of damage that they had apprehensions about. The people resorted to filing the appeal against the project which violates the FRA 2006 act provisions. The project also has serious implications on the settlement and the forest which accounts for 63 hectares of the forest land to be diverted for the project. Later the forest department notifies that the FRA does not apply for carrying the essential developmental activities which makes the people more fragile to the environmental hazards. The state government also played the role in favor of the projects by replacing the word non-conventional by renewable in FRA which gives exemption to the non-conventional energy sources whereas hydropower is generally considered as the conventional source. The government also has listed the projects above 25 MW as renewable through a parliamentary standing committee which makes them eligible for the subsidies and concessions thus the ecological burden is transferred to the local community and the ecosystem. The people in the Kinnaur are struggling against such injustice for a long who mainly comprise tribal populations. The people now are resorting to the way and new means to fight against developmental activities through the means which have the Gandhian elements intrinsic in them. The people are trying to stop the further proliferation of projects and they are resisting through not granting the NOC. In 2015 the case of laborers working in the Karcham-Wangtoo also shows their resentment against the management of whom they were demanding their rights of housing and fair wages and safety of the workers which led to the strike for more than a hundred days. The laborers were also joined by the local people who collectively demand the damage of the locals and better and more secure rights for the laborers; they organize the mass gatherings which were joined by about 1300 people and gives the slogan of ”Kinnaur Bachao”. This shows that the victims of the projects are not only the local communities but the injustice has also been done with the workers who are working for the development authorities and the enterprises. 

07 July 2022
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