India and the Environment

Neelam Deo cites a country ahead of the environmental curve and producing more than enough food.
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TRANSCRIPT

Question: What is India doing to ensure that it participates in the Green Revolution?

Neelam Deo: Very important question. I think, for us, more than for other people’s sake. I think India is steeped in a philosophy as Mahatma Gandhi used to say that the world has enough for everyone’s need but not for every man’s greed. And that’s really, it’s an austere civilization. It’s a culture which, of course, it’s very exuberant. And today, you see a lot of consumerism, but at heart, it’s a culture which is an [austere] culture, a culture of detachment. I think that India is conscious, that it needs to be careful in the use of resources. We have just announced an environmental plan.

But I do think also that, you know, we are already the smallest user of resources in the world on a per capita basis. And India uses one-thirtieth of the electricity that a resident in the West uses, for example. So, I think, there will be an increased use of resources in India, but it’s very important for us that this not contribute to global warming, both in our own geographic location and for the earth as a whole. The fact that in our ethos, in our culture, we see the divinity in trees, in the mountains, in the rivers. I think it’s important for us to know that replenishment is as important as the utilization of resources. So, we have a Ministry of Environment at the center, every state has a Department of Environment; every major industry before it is set up requires environmental clearance. And it’s important for us to ensure that the legislation, the rules we make are fully enforced as well.

You know, the price of food in India has been rising because it’s part of a global phenomenon, but in fact, there has been no shortage in the availability of food. We have had an excellent harvest. We had the largest production of food in our own, in the post-Independence history. So, I think that at the moment, we really cannot reduce the price of food acting as a single country, as a single unit, so we really have to wait for the global price to go down.

But, certainly, the government has attempted to contain the rice, to reduce its growth by actually bringing in some [curves] on exports and on trade. But the rate of inflation and in the Indian case, it’s mostly caused by the price of food and the price of fuel has moderated very slightly. We hope that by the end of the year, prices will begin to go down. But I’m not sure that there is any specific action that the government can take in the short run which would help the situation.