The calamity that has struck Uttarakhand and other parts of the Himalayas has brought in its wake destruction and misery on a scale which is unprecedented. While the causes of such extreme weather events may be natural, the severity of the impact of such events in terms of loss of life and property is entirely the outcome of ecologically and environmentally perverse activities promoted and justified in the name of ‘development’.
The Himalayas are not just an important part of the ecosystem, but THE most important ecological asset and resource on which the survival of the entire Indian sub continent, its economy and its sustenance is critically dependent.Conservation of the Himalayas, its protection as the single most precious economic asset that we have, is a task of such overwhelming primacy that all other developmental concerns have to be seen as secondary. Therefore, unless there is radical rethinking of our approach to ‘development’ in the Himalayas and a complete overhaul of systems, structures and processes of governance and politics in which communities and people exercise greater powers over what is done in their name, we shall yet again pave the way for the next, bigger more severe disaster with consequences which can be unimaginably horrifying- not just for the Himalayas but for the sub continent as a whole.
To this end we demand that a national dialogue be conducted at multiple levels - in the Parliament across political parties, with Civil Society organizations/ environmental groups and activists, with local communities, especially women, with knowledge institutions which have been working on problems and issues concerning the Himalayas with a view to:
Fixing of political responsibility for the developments which have led to the present state of misgovernance.
Taking stock of the man made developments which have contributed to the present natural disaster and substantially aggravated its impact.
Achieving consensus across all concerned segments on redefining the concept of development in relation to the Himalayas and the kind of political and administrative framework required within which communities and local governments play a major decision making role.
Evolving consensus on appropriate institutional mechanisms for the formulation and implementation of policies which are fully aligned with the needs of sustainability.
Prime Minister, we believe that instead of lurching from calamity to calamity as we have been doing so far, we seize the opportunity offered by the current crisis for radical ‘reform’ of governance ,politics and economy in its truest and fullest sense. As a reformer and as the Head of the Government we believe that you should lead a national initiative towards this end and let the Himalayas have the privilege of charting out a new path to keep our tryst with destiny.