The recent arrest of a few activists and citizens for stopping and questioning the deputy commissioner (DC) is appalling. All they asked the DC was to intervene in the MSEZ?s alleged dumping of soil into the Phalguni river near Kulur.
This is the same official who, after taking charge as the DC of Mangalore, had informed the media in an informal interaction that he would be available for people at all times except for when holding court proceedings (source: Times of India, 16 May 2011).
It has been noticed in a few other environmental cases in India that when public servants want to please their political and corporate caretakers against people?s protests, they roguishly accuse citizens, farmers and activists of provoking breach of peace, instigating riots and so on.
The aforementioned case seems to be no different, and it also raises serious questions about the DC?s laxity towards the Phalguni river issue. The primitive egoistic approach that was adopted to handle citizens? concerns, and to consider people?s questions as disturbing and peace-provoking, undoubtedly reveals the lack of transparency, empathy, and diplomacy.
Certainly, the DC is aware that the environmental laws are based on criminal procedure code and that if efforts are not made to protect the district?s water resources and other common goods, he can be directly accountable and responsible.
The DC also chairs the resettlement and rehabilitation committee for MSEZ – a chair that perhaps demands utmost patience, strategic thinking on environmental sustainability issues, empathy for people?s lives, trust-building capacities, and love for the local culture.
This is because rehabilitation is not a child?s play, where one could express anger on the local people like a child and dictate the seizure of their lands. It involves the need for immense capacity to address the psychology and pain of the local people. People are giving away their ancestral land, not peanuts.
Besides, the MSEZ proudly claims in its brochures and website that it has sorted out all environmental clearances so that the potential investors can take a backseat on environmental responsibilities. This tone of presenting itself is disturbing and dubious. It reveals how environmental commitments are treated by the MSEZ. A hidden assurance, which is being given to the investors that they can enjoy when it comes to environmental clearances, is an indication of how casual and relaxed is the MSEZ concerning environment.
By now, one can realize that the district administration cannot do much on ensuring that the MSEZ meets its environmental responsibilities. On the contrary, the response shown by the DC to those who are battling for Mangalore?s better environment has been inhumane and immature. The environmental future of Mangalore is in the hands of its citizens. At this critical juncture, if we do not support the ones who are battling for a sustainable Mangalore, we might have to end up telling our children and grandchildren that here once flowed the beautiful Phalguni river.
Author: Kedar Uttam