Tuesday, June 28, 2011



5TH, of June,2011 was celebrated as the 39th World Environment Day. This year, India played the role of ‘Global Host’ for the celebrations. This year was  declared as the International Year of Forests, and the theme this year was "Forests: Nature at your Service.”
There were different types of pertinent celebrations on the World Environment Day. But, at the end of the day, the Challenges remain, as ever. The questions remain as ever.

1.  Who will plant trees in the Forests and ensure that our Forests grow larger and denser?
2.   Who will ensure that people do not cut away forest trees for personal gain?
3.   How will the economy survive without cutting forest trees?
4.   Are we not going to use Forest produce, especially timber, for building our houses, furniture, boats, and also our news papers, books etc?
5.   How will we ensure that there is always a net addition to the forest cover, on each day?
6.   There are no accurate statistics on our Industrial Production itself. How are we going to produce  reliable statistics on our Forest cover?

Such questions dog our minds. There are also some contradictions and confusions in our minds. Should we use timber or plastic for our furniture, bags etc? Tree or Plastic? Ironically, we want to discontinue Plastic and use tree based products more!

The confusion has arisen because, today – we are cutting down trees much faster than we  plant them and grow them.
We cannot shun the use of trees for many of our purposes.  It is not necessary and not possible too. Today’s need is, we must plant and grow significantly more trees, much faster than we are cutting them down.
And, we are doing exactly the reverse, especially in India. We are cutting down trees blindly and almost, our planting of trees and taking care of their growth is very negligible.
With each passing day – the environment is suffering huge adverse consequences of such human Inaction, which in turn results in huge adverse consequences for the whole humanity.

We are being foolish. Collectively. 

This collective foolishness must go. In its place, a collective wisdom that tree is our biggest savior and we in turn must take care of it, must clearly arise and take roots in our deepest sub-conscious minds.

We breathe in oxygen from the air and leave out carbon dioxide into it. The tree absorbs carbon dioxide from the air and breathes out oxygen into the air for us. We have two lungs within us to breathe oxygen in and exhale carbon dioxide out.
The Tree has “our” other 2 lungs with it, to absorb the carbon dioxide we breathe out and release oxygen from it into the air, for us to breathe.
But, we are foolish enough to cutting down our very own other 2 lungs, on the tree, which are breathing for us.

The tree is our counterpart. Our complimentary existence. If it doesn’t live, we also don’t live. This is the fact that must register very deeply in us.

But, if we don’t live, the tree lives better!

The Tree gives us food, clothing, medicines, fresh air, oxygen, and protection from the Sun. And, many other things.

We are dependent on the Tree. Not the Tree on us.

Let us stop being collectively foolish, by understanding that we are stopping our own oxygen supply, our own food supply, our own medicines supply, our own clothes supply and so on.

Let us give back to the trees what we owe to them. We must allow the trees to grow in abundance.
Let us segregate trees into 2 types. (i) Trees in Forests, and  (ii) Trees in our own midst. We need both.
How do we ensure that the Forests grow well? There is only one way. Human beings should stop meddling with them. The Forest knows how to Grow – if we keep off from them. We must not choke their water supply; we must not meddle with their flora and fauna too much. It is as simple as that.
How do we take care of trees in our own midst? This, in my view, is of greater importance, as this requires our continuous action. This is also a measurable action, the result of which we can see with our own eyes – even as the trees are growing through our initiative.
Some Countries exhibit great awareness of the importance of trees in environment protection, and have initiated significant actions for the purpose.
For instance, Prime Minister Raila Odinga of Kenya has  asked Kenyans to plant at least 200 trees (each) – as the vegetation cover has come down from 12% to 1.7 percent after Kenyan Independence.
Costa Rica has been successful in increasing its Forest cover from 22 percent in 1995 to 51 percent by 2010.
Under ENEP, a “Billion Tree campaign” has been launched under the patronage of Nobel peace prize winner Prof. Wangari Matthai and Prince Albert II of Monaco. The UN says that 166 countries have given tree planting pledges. Hopefully, India is also one amongst them.
What can India do for world environment Protection?
(1)                 First and foremost – every Indian citizen must become fully aware of the challenges to his own survival and health, because of the depletion of the tree cover in India.

This year, there should be special lessons on world environment protection – especially through protection of the trees and forests - in each class of each school and college in India, without exception. We can inculcate this spirit more easily in the minds of  students, than in the minds of the middle aged and old aged persons. Our children and youth must absorb this message urgently and the result of this will be longer lasting. And, this is a simple and easy measure.

The Union and state Education Ministries must move in this direction quickly – as the academic session is just starting and printing of a few special lessons  on environmental protection isn’t very difficult.

(2)                 But, mere Education will not by itself lead to Growth of trees and environmental protection in the short run.

We need some easy and effective Goal-oriented actions. One simple and easy goal is - every house in India must have at least one, or more Big trees. This is where human action is urgently required. The Government – at each level, especially at panchayat and Municipality level - must reach out to each house, and if it does not already have a few trees, identify a place in the house, and make the resident plant an appropriate Tree. Not a flower Pot please. It must be a good, big, useful tree. This is the type of action that Panchayats need to undertake. This initiative will work effectively, if it comes from the Union Ministry of Environment and states Ministries of Environment.

There may be a few houses – which are totally built up already, with no vacant space at all. They must grow a tree on the road, in the space allocated by the Panchayat. If, even this is not possible, they must grow at least a few small plants in pots in their house – and contribute for growing bigger trees in the town elsewhere. No one shall be exempt from this exercise.

(3)     We have huge funds being spent on schemes like NREGS. This Financial Year, the projects on which the amounts must be spent must be –

(i)           planting trees on either side of roads – and watering them till they grow
(ii)                 Planting trees on either side of tank bunds and other water sources – even as protection for the tank bunds and the water sources – and again, taking care of their growth through watering.
(iii)                Planting trees near hills – and taking care of their Growth. We must have clear, statistics of the progress on this “Project Tree“, which should be monitored by state and central Ministries of Environment.

(4)     Wherever Possible,   Involve students on one Sunday in 3 months – which means – 4 Sundays in a year – in planting trees – and then allow the NREGS workers to take care of those plants. Their environmental lessons must not go waste. This can be improved in many ways at many places.

(5)     This year must also be dedicated to Trees in another way. For this one year of 2011, no one must be allowed to fell (cut down) any Big Tree anywhere, for any purpose, without mandatory permission from the Panchayat. Subsequently, this awareness will stay in the public mind for ever.

(6)     No Big building plan must be approved henceforth, without adequate space for Trees. These trees must be actually grown  around the Building, even when construction is in progress.

(7)     We must have a clear Goal Post, say, 50 crore additional trees, to be planted and grown (by planting, watering and manuring) in 2011, the year of the Tree.

These are all practical ideas, which can be implemented directly by the Government – as part of its projects, with normal budgetary allocations. Voluntary organizations and NGOs also must contribute well in implementing these ideas.
Union Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Environment and state Ministries must ensure sufficient Budget allocations for the purpose – and actively initiate and monitor the success of the Tree Planting Programs.

May 2011  be the glorious “YEAR OF THE TREE in India.

= Yours

June,28th, 2011

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Saturday, June 25, 2011



The minority is sometimes right; the majority always wrong – says George Bernard Shaw.

The Majority have never been right; and will never be right. This has been history and this is how, it is going to be in the future.

The majority were not right during Christ’s time. They opposed him so totally and violently.

The majority were not right during Krishna’s time. The majority stood on the opposite side to him in the war!

The majority were always opposed to the wisest men living in their times. We will use the term majority not in the singular but in the plural sense (was vs were, is vs are… etc) for many  reasons. The majority were never united to be considered a single unit. The only thing true about them is that they are always wrong.

Why are the majority never right? Here are the reasons :

Ø  The majority never have the full facts. Yes. Never.
Ø  The majority can never understand the implications of all the Facts made available to them. They are not trained to understand all the facts.
Ø  The majority do not know the alternatives available (solutions, leaders, objectives etc).
Ø  The majority can never visualize long term Goals.
Ø  The majority can be easily swayed by latest events.
Ø  The majority are very forgetful - of even the significant events of the past.
Ø  The majority  are always less logical and more emotional.
Ø  The majority do not know what they really need or want. Some one, more articulate than them – has to tell them.

We can go on and on – but there is no real need for more supporting arguments. The majority are just always wrong.  The irony is – all decisions of the state or of the society – are always made in their name, by an articulate minority.

How many times were you a participant in majority decision making?  Did you know the full facts? Did you know the full implications? I bet – never.

Suppose there is an Indo –Pak war (I hope, not), whom do you think that majority of the citizens of Pakistan will support? India? Definitely not. They will support Pakistan. Does it mean, Pakistan is right and India wrong? No. The majority in Pakistan will have no patience or opportunity to sit, find all facts, analyze, and come to a careful, correct conclusion and decision. In any case – they will not get the full facts at all.

I am not saying – Indians will do all these.  Majority of Indians will support India – blindly. Like Pakistanis.

Majority takes sides – blindly – almost always. Even in a cricket Match. Even in a corruption scandal.

Do you ever know the majority opinion?

Let me tell you an old story. Once a Brahmin bought a goat in the market and was taking it to his home – for some auspicious purpose at his home. 4 rascals see this  man and decide to deprive him of the goat. One of them goes to the Brahmin and tells him – O Brahmin, how can you take an ugly dog like this to your home?  Will your people not object?

The Brahmin is furious. He scolds the rascal – “Idiot! Can’t you see ? Are you blind? This is a goat, not a dog.”

The rascal excuses himself, saying, sorry, I thought it was an ugly dog; I still see it like that. But, I am sorry. You are an intelligent man. You may be right – So saying, he goes away.

After some distance, another rascal accosts him – and says – why, Brahmin, why do you need a dog? Your relatives will object when you take it inside your village and into your home?

The Brahmin is very furious and replies bluntly – What a fool are you! open your eyes and see properly. I bought this goat for 100 rupees. And, how dare you call it a dog?

The rascal says – sorry. You may be right. But, some how, I feel, it looks like a dog, not like a goat; you may be right. It may be a goat, after all. You are a learned man….  So saying, he excuses himself and goes away.

After some more distance, the third rascal comes up and looks at the Brahmin and his goat with wondrous eyes. The Brahmin grows suspicious and asks him why he is looking at him like that. The rascal coolly asks – why do you need that dog for? Are you not afraid of what your relatives will say if you keep such a dog in your house?

The Brahmin is now hesitant.  He tells the rascal to prove that it is a dog, not a goat.  The rascal goes on proving with tens of comparisons. The tail is like this. The eyes are like this. The face is like this… and so on.. and says – I am able to see it very clearly.. but what is the purpose. You are a learned man.. why are you asking me to prove all this…Any way..why do you need the dog?..

The Brahmin becomes pensive now. He is beginning to think that the seller cheated him. To his own eyes, it still looks like a goat – but now, he is beginning to see some dog’s features in it himself. He goes on walking further with all doubts in his mind.

The fourth rascal comes up, just when the Brahmin is about to enter the village and looks at him and the goat up and down, as if he is seeing a contemptuous sight.  Now, the Brahmin hesitantly goes to him and asks – what does he think of his goat? The man laughs aloud – and asks – what has happened to you? Where is the goat? Wherefrom did you get this dog? Show me a goat, and I will tell you how it looks.

The Brahmin is now totally crestfallen. He has been cheated by the  seller – he is now very sure. But, by god’s grace, now he knows. Had he taken the dog inside his home, the whole family would have cursed and abused him. The whole village would have made him an outcaste. It is good to discover it – before he entered the village.  He leaves the goat there, takes a clean bath in a nearby pond, and goes home, thanking all the rascals in his mind. You see - majority are not required to call a goat a dog. A façade of a majority will do.

The façade of majority opinion can fool you into believing that the best decisions you make are bad decisions! Or, the most honest man you know very well is not an honest man. Or  a dishonest man is actually an honest man.  A violent man is actually a non violent man and a nonviolent man is actually a violent man. Any nonsense can get proved to you with ample proof – manufactured by this  façade of majority opinion.

There is this saying that – you can fool a person all the time; you can fool many people some times; but, you can’t fool all the people all the time.

Well. You don’t have to fool all the people all the time. But, you can fool many people some times, which is enough for you. Very soon, the context will change. The times will change. The ‘many people’ are again up for getting fooled in the different context. So, the majority will never be right. They can get fooled a lot of time; and agree to decisions they would never have agreed to – if they knew the full facts and had considered them dispassionately.

So, if at any time – you think you are agreeing with a majority decision, or, you want a majority decision implemented – it is time to pause and examine yourself.

Is there really a majority which really decided;…is this, that you are being asked to agree with, really the decision of this real or pseudo majority;… who tells you so;…. how does he know;… a host of such questions will easily prove to you - that what you are agreeing with is not.. is definitely not…a majority decision.

Majority never takes a considered decision; but, they may, through silent, or vocal approval, abide by some one else’s decision,  and give it the colour of majority decision.

Majority in Alqueda support Osama . No one in Al queda will not dare – not to. Majority in USA will support Obama –  each for his own reasons.

No one really has a clue to – whom the majority of Indians support.

Take, for instance, the election process. Only about 70% of Indians vote – and their votes are split amongst 3 to 5 (or more) opposing candidates. So, the winning candidates never get over 25% of the total votes that should have been cast. The winning candidate may get around 25%, the best losing candidate around 20 percent, with many others splitting the other votes cast, and with 30% votes never cast at all.

So, the famous American Journalist, critic and Essayist, George Jean Nathan, says – “Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.” It is true for USA; it is truer for India. In Indian Parlance, the American term of ‘official’  is equal to the MPs, MLAs etc who are elected to legislatures and Parliament.

And, for some strange, inexplicable reason, we don’t want to make it compulsory to vote, though, vote is the very basis of representative democracy. The façade of majority will give you a hundred reasons why casting the vote should not be compulsory. But – if we make it compulsory – we will see a more vibrant democracy.

In this voting process, in view of the above circumstances – a slightly more enlightened  minority in India wants one OPTION as an alternative   – I don’t like any of the candidates and do not vote for any of them – to be  printed in the Ballet Paper.

But the elected representatives are reluctant to introduce this option – probably out of the feeling that our Parliament and legislatures  will be without elected representatives from many places, if we introduce this option.

I, for one, really want both the above – (i) compulsory Vote and (ii) option to reject all candidates in the Vote (ballot paper) itself – not outside it in some elaborate ritual.

All must Vote – and every voter must have the option to reject all. But, it is not there right now – and there are no hopes of their coming in near future.

So, think now  – Where is the majority decision ?

Even in the style of a representative democracy functioning in the legislatures and Parliament – many Bills get passed with more than 30 percent representative (elected members) being either absent or not casting their votes.

So many Bills get passed – without real, total majority vote.

We understand that. So, we have committees and sub committees which supposedly discuss in detail.

In the small committees again – the majority may not always be right! Many of their recommendations are later proved wrong ;  and uninformed!

So, even in small groups, majority may tend to be wrong.

Let us take a look at another factor.

Every Nation consists of at least 4 generations –if we take 20 years gap as equivalent to one generation . And, each generation has different aspirations, different ways of looking at any problem and different ways of looking at decisions required. So, there are minimum 4 different perceptions and decisions possible – in many cases.

We also find – that the definition of a generation can be as narrow as 10 Years – from this perspective. Also, men may look from one perspective. Women may look from another. What women want vehemently, some men may oppose and vice versa!  So, often,  if we change the people who should decide, the decision changes automatically.

Thomas Jefferson says - we may consider each generation as a distinct nation, with a right, by the will of its majority, to bind themselves, but none to bind the succeeding generation, more than the inhabitants of another country.

So, most laws have a validity of just about 10 to 20 years and need change – every 10 years. But, in India, that’s not happening. We still make laws based on presumptions which are a 1000 years old, a 100 years Old, or at least 60 years Old. And, we have laws which are a hundred years old. The majorities of several earlier generations are binding all of us.

Also, different linguistic, religious, caste, regional groups have different perspectives.

So – what is the majority decision? There isn’t any thing like a majority decision anywhere in the world.

Is there a minority decision? There isn’t anything like a minority decision as well – as minority also is a majority within a big group, which is merely statistically smaller than the majority.

In India – attempts are some times made to define majority and minority. No, only minority is defined. Majority is not defined and quantified. And, the minority defined – if quantified, seems to exceed 70 percent or more - very easily, most of the time.

So, who actually decides?

One man with courage is a majority, says  Thomas Jefferson.

Mohan Das Karamchand Gandhi, with huge courage and strong principles in his heart was “the majority”,  who wanted total freedom for India from the British. Whether the majority of Indians really, really wanted the freedom –is an open question that will never get a realistic answer. A few, led by MK Gandhi wanted. And, we all got Freedom.

If we have sectarian leaders, representing small groups  and not all the people – we will always get biased and bad decisions from them.

So – we need principled persons with huge courage in their hearts, like M.K.Gandhi, as decision makers for the society; Which means – we need a few wise men who look at all people as their own – and decide what is best for all, as leaders who take decisions.  

So –what should you and I do? Let us choose wise people who think of all and talk for all – when the time for choice comes periodically.   That is the only time, we really participate in a crucial, majority decision.

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