20 July 2014
Peaceful Forest Protest in India © Udit kulshrestha / Greenpeace
The controversial IB Report that demonizes many NGOs and targets Greenpeace India has been in the news a lot. It is clear to us that the report is biased and totally misleading. Having worked with Greenpeace on various issues including that of the Mahan Coal Block which was mentioned in the IB Report, we know that the claims made by the report are totally incorrect. We had previously travelled to the forests of Mahan and the villages surrounding it such as Amelia and Budher. These villages will be affected directly by the clearance of the forests of Mahan. We were eager to visit the villages again to meet the villagers and find out whether the IB report had affected their views. Soon enough, we got the opportunity to visit Mahan again in June.
We met the villagers and spoke to them at length about various issues that were affecting them. Our conversations with them made it clear that the faith the villagers had in Greenpeace was deep-rooted and unshakeable and their resolve to continue the fight to save their homes and livelihoods was stronger than ever. Unlike many of our friends who believed the report blindly and didn't question the legitimacy of the claims of the IB report, the villagers didn't accept the allegations of the report against NGOs such as Greenpeace.
As young citizens of India today, we question the definition of development that the IB seems to have. Is it development when people's lands are taken away without their consent? Is it development when it is at the cost of the disadvantaged? Furthermore, the power generated in these regions doesn't even reach the people who are displaced to make it possible. It goes far away to industries owned by corporate giants. What is the point of development when it is for the benefit of a few sections of society while the rest are victimized by it?
Are we prepared to pay the cost of development when over 5 lakh trees are going to be chopped down to make way for a coal mine? Are we prepared to face the consequences this would bring to the country's climate, resources and future generations? Can it still be called development when a section of society is denied justice and equality?
Each and every Indian needs to begin thinking as an aware citizen, about the cost of these activities to the nation as a whole. This is because if you actually wish to see India become a developed nation, it is possible only when each and every citizen has an equal right to justice and livelihood and our forests are safeguarded along with its wildlife, trees and communities.
Ardhra Karayil, Ajay Arockiadass & Rizwan Zubair are volunteers with Greenpeace India.