An Ashtray I shouldn’t Have Gifted

Ashtray

I met Vera Jansen (name changed) in Jakarta while working with GIZ.  She worked with BAPEDAL (Ministry of Environment) as a consultant and was assisting them in the area of Environmental Impact Assessment (AMDAL as they call). Her mother was an Indonesian and father was Dutch. Vera was born in Wagenhagen and studied at the Utrecht University.

Vera spoke both Indonesian Bahasa and Dutch fluently. Her roots brought her back to Indonesia. She wanted to look after her mother in Yogyakarta and perhaps that was the principal reason why she returned. On the weekends she would travel to Yogya. My work with GIZ was on Cleaner Production – a program we had captioned as “ProduksiH Bersih”. In those days, BAPEDAL had a number of international consultants supported by various Bilateral Aid Agencies. I don’t know the situation today.

Every evening as the work used to be over, we the consultants used to meet for a drink at the Elvis Priestly Bar at the basement of Arthaloka building where BAPEDAL was located. We had a little group of four friends including me – consisting a Canadian, an American and a Swedish consultant.  We used to have a couple of beers, listen to Elvis and exchange notes on what’s happening in the BAPEDAL. This was more of networking meet to catch up.

One day as we were sitting and chatting, a tall girl by Indonesian standards and with a wheat complexion and a pleated skirt walked across to us and said “Hi Folks, My name is Vera. Vera Jansen. I work like you at the BAPDEAL as a consultant. Would you mind if I join you for a drink?”  My colleague Bob (from Canada) said “Most welcome Vera, feel free to join” and Cindy (consultant from the United States) moved a bit to accommodate Vera and pulled a stool for her to sit. Vera settled, sat cross legged and lighted a cigarette. That was in style. I passed on to her an ashtray.

Vera was really a very friendly and warm person and was extremely talkative. She must be in her early thirty’s that time. Vera lived close to Arthaloka, loved music at the Jaya Pub nearby, was single and a workaholic.  She had joined BAPEDAL just a week before and was looking for a company.

From then onwards, we became a gang of five. We didn’t realize that soon Vera took over our conversations as the leader. She had strong opinions and used to bulldoze us with arguments that we often found very difficult to confront with. Vera had opinions on everything and anything.

There used to be occasions when we hardly spoke and Vera used to give us a discourse. She used to hold her cigarette in a style while making arguments. She would raise her eyebrows sometimes to stress the point. That would lead to formation of two vertical frown lines on her forehead. Her face looked so intellectual then. I used to be simply mesmerized by this elegant and intelligent woman.


I love meeting with women who develop frown lines on the forehead when eyebrows are raised or they puff a deep smoke in grace. To me, it’s a sign of intellect. The vertical frown lines in particular exhibit rebellious attitude, independent thoughts and an outspoken behavior. And the style of smoking exhibits a confidence.

Glabella lines, also known as frown lines, are the lines that appear between the eyebrows when we frown. These little lines are formed by the repeated action of frowning due to the lack of elasticity in aging skin.

Many women who have permanent frown lines are keen to get rid of them. Most go for Botox treatment. I agree to Botox if the frown lines are permanent, too visible and make the face look wrinkled and rather “ugly”.

But if this is not the case, then why get rid of them? There are critiques who support the frown lines. “Age should not have its face lifted, but it should rather teach the world to admire wrinkles as the etchings of experience and the firm line of character.” Says Clarence Day Jr.

Alex Morritt of Impromptu Scribe quips ― “Wrinkles? Why all the fuss? Think of them as lines of distinction; marks of maturity.”

Some phrenologists have attempted interpreting the frown lines. To some, short vertical frown lines indicate personalities that show abrupt changes. When a single vertical crease is found between the eyebrows, the person is expected to be selfish, egotistical and ambitious. Two vertical creases if in parallel on the forehead represent a person who can see others’ point of view. When three vertical creases are found in parallel, the person is expected to achieve an early success and becomes a celebrity. I don’t think any of these described Vera’s personality.

Most celebrities “remove” the frown lines. But there are exceptions. Take example of Emma Thompson, Isabella Rossellini or Diane Keaton. These celebrities have maintained their frown lines in grace. And there are more.

collage_AshTray

But women who get frown lines when they raise eyebrows or smoke are special to me. Vera was that kind of a woman.


My missions to Jakarta were typically over a week or sometimes over two weeks at the maximum. During each mission, having conversations with Vera at the Elvis was an attraction. I used to really look forward to meeting Vera.

Vera was a voracious reader and so I used to get a box of books for her. She would in return book me at some of the Jazz places in Jakarta for a concert. The Cascade Lounge at hotel Mullia was our favorite. The Jazz at the Cascade was sophisticated and smooth. The coffee Luwak out there was the best. Vera used to choose this place because smoking was allowed at the corner sofas.

Cascade04

The Cascade Lounge

Our conversations used to be a lot on the work she used to do at the BAPEDAL. Vera had analyzed the Environmental Management Plans (EMPs) of some 600 AMDALs across Indonesia. Her finding was that most EMPs were boiler plate type and did not really require environmental assessments to arrive at. The EMPs were obvious best practices which should have been done anyway  Like take appropriate measures to reduce dust release during construction, dampen the noise during blasting, plant a green belt around etc.

[I don’t know what will be the outcome if we were to analyze say 1000 Indian EIAs for the “gold” we could get from the EMPs. We probably will see more of “stones” than the “gold”]

Vera used to stress the importance of regional and cumulative assessments to come up with planning and policy related measures. “These measures really matter”, she used to say. The Indian EIA system today still operates on the project level and that’s a pity. I really hope that one day our EIA Notification matures and addresses strategic EIA and lays down the guidelines and procedures. We are couple of decades behind the world.

Vera used to take me along to Barik Keris– The well-known handicrafts shop for Indonesian handicrafts. She would always insist shopping something for me. Her art sense was amazing and she introduced me to some of the exotic and abstract Indonesian fabric and paintings.

Ashtray

A Moroccan Ashtray that I gifted Vera

I was in Morocco for some work and came across a nice Moroccan ashtray. I remembered Vera and picked up one for her. When I gifted her, she said “So Prasad you want me to be a chain-smoker – do you? … Ugh?” And I said “Well, I just want you to remember me every day!” And she smiled. When she turned around the ashtray, she saw my name engraved there with a scribe “Complements from Prasad”. “Oh, I like that” – she exclaimed. “I will carry this ashtray wherever I go”.

I had a conference to attend in Yogyakarta. Vera was excited. “I will be there a week before. You will stay at my house. My mother will love to meet you”. I told her that I will book a room in a hotel nearby to her house.  So I booked at the Phoenix, a boutique hotel of my kind.

I checked in the morning at the hotel, dumped my luggage in the room and left straight for the conference. I thought of calling Vera on my return.

When I came back and reached the reception, the Lobby Manager was waiting for me “Sir, you have been checked out. Your friend sitting in the lounge asked us to do so – he pointed at Vera who was sitting on a sofa smoking. My luggage was neatly placed next to the counter.

“I told you that you must stay with us”.  Vera said angrily. “I found out your hotel and I know the Lobby Manager here. So I could pull you out without your consent”. The Lobby Manager was standing next to her with an apologetic face to me “Sorry Sir, Ms. Jansen told me that you are her Guest and a Close Friend”.

So I landed at Vera’s house. Her house was a quaint place – a bungalow with garden, lots of teak wood used in the interiors, lovely paintings hanging on the walls and artifacts placed on the shelves. Vera’s mother greeted me warmly and hugged. “I know so much about you already as she keeps talking about you. Vera loves you my friend”

I stayed with Vera and her mother for two nights. The dinners were really enjoyable with all the authentic Indonesian cuisine. They had a great cook who used to follow Mothers instructions diligently. Vera and I used to sit late in the lounge discussing her favorite topic “The EIA”!! “Can you not talk about something else?” I could not resist but ask her this question. We then spoke about Indonesian and Indian versions of Ramayana and Mahabharata.

After two days, when I went to say good bye to her Mother, she pulled me towards her side and whispered “Prasad, you are a close friend of Vera. Please – please ask her to give up smoking. One day this heavy smoking is going to kill her! She doesn’t listen to me, May be to you”

I said “Mom. I will try to. But to me Vera looks great when she smokes a cigarette. And I like her style”.

Vera’s mother stared at me and said “I hope you are not serious Prasad and only joking”

I returned to Mumbai. I saw Vera again couple of times in my next missions. My Project “Produksih Bersih” was nearing the closure. My last trip happened after a gap of nearly six months. I was busy. I exchanged a few emails with Vera but later found that her responses were delayed.

So on the very first day I was at the BAPEDAL, I went down to Elvis looking for Vera. My gang of three was there. I asked for my beer and asked Bob about Vera.

There was a pause – and a silence that made all of us uncomfortable. Nobody spoke. Then Cindy held my held and said softly – “Vera passed away last month. It was a galloping Lung Cancer. She had a painful death. She asked about you when we visited the hospital”

I was shell shocked and was choked with emotions. I didn’t know what to say. How could this happen?

I remembered meeting Vera the first time. Sitting cross legged in a pleated skirt on a stool, with a cigarette in her hand and those interesting frown lines appearing on her forehead as she took a deep puff of the cigarette….

I decided to go to Yogyakarta and see her mother. When I met her, she hugged me and wept. We sat together in the Verandah and remembered her.

When I got up to say goodbye, she said “Wait Prasad, I have to give you back something that Vera told me not to forget”. She opened a drawer of the camphor chest that was carved and polished in red. There was a box packed neatly like a present that she handed over to me “Don’t open the box here”, She said this in a cracked voice.

I left for the airport. As soon as I reached the lounge, I tore the packing and opened the box. It had the Moroccan Ash tray that I had gifted to Vera.

It was the ash tray I should not have given. And I broke down.


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Professor’s Unique Beauty Saloon

Beauti Saloon

I had not met my Professor Friend for quite a while. He seemed to be either abroad or on a long leave. I dearly missed conversations with him and the coffee together.  I thought I almost lost him.

But last Sunday morning, I got a call from him.

“Where are you my Friend?” I asked (rather screamed)

“Well Dr Modak, I was busy in setting up a Beauty Saloon” Professor answered “The Saloon is really unique and boutique as it is set up in the interest of Environment”

I didn’t know what to say! Professor and a Saloon? I just couldn’t understand the relationship.

Sensing my silence, Professor said “Well, why don’t you drop in the Saloon right away and get a nice shave done. We are in the Khan Market”

I was longing to get a shave done anyway. Sitting in a chair with a mirror in front of you, a thick cream on the face, a razor blade navigating with all the care and that tinge and aroma of the aftershave… Shaving has always been such a heavenly experience. I reached the Saloon with all such expectations.

Professor was waiting for me. The Saloon was already full with customers. It had a large room on the ground floor with left wing for men and right for women. The first floor was for therapies like massage. Professor was explaining.

“Of course I don’t have to tell you that the Saloon is Eco-friendly in all possible respects. The furniture, the lights, the curtains, the glass mirrors we used have least carbon footprint. We procure the creams, sprays, solvents only if they hold a respected Eco label” Professor said.

“Why didn’t you take CII’s GreenCo instead? That would have been much easier and cheaper. Someone told me that you just have to pay the fees to CII and you get the certificate” I told the professor. The Professor ignored my advice with a smirk on his face.

“You will have to wait a bit” He said to me in an apologetic tone. “Why don’t you read newspapers in the meanwhile?” He directed me to the sofa.

I picked up a stack of newspapers from the rack. I had never come across these Newspapers before. The Newspapers carried only the Environmental news. Green Times of India, The Green Express were some of the English newspapers and Hara Hamara Bharat, Shashwat Dainik etc. were the Hindi newspapers.

I started reading the Green Times. It had headlines like “20% of NPAs in the Banks are due neglecting environmental and social matters in investments”; “Most Waste to Energy Plants in India don’t work!” etc. I got bored as most of these headlines were not really not the news – they were the facts. Most of us knew about these issues and also knew that nothing would change or happen.

I started looking at the Green Express as I thought this newspaper will be carrying something sensational. The Green Express had headlines such as “Did you know that 30% of drinking water at Mumbai’s taps is contaminated?”; “20% of India’s land will need remediation”, “Air Pollution is more Indoors than Outdoors”, “Should Renewable Energy Projects need Environmental Clearance?”  I liked these headlines as I saw a need for discussions and actions. I decided to ask Professor about who publishes such Newspapers and keep only the Green Express in the Saloon.

“Well, I edit and publish these Newspapers. They are available only in my Saloon. My customers love reading these. Many come to the Saloon not for the haircut but simply to read. I let them read and carry home a copy or two. I print a lot of 500 of each every day and that gets exhausted by evening”

That’s so thoughtful of you I said.   “I am sure those visiting your Saloon will inspire and transform India”. I noticed however that most newspapers carried advertisements from business groups such as Reliance, Ambani, Vedanta etc.

I looked around and I found that the Saloon was full with Page 3 personalities of India’s (or Delhi’s?) Green World.

I saw that the Ex-Union Environment Minister, Jayaram Ramesh was discussing with Professor’s Chief Barber on what style of haircut he should do. Jayaram has plentiful of hair, thick and rolling with lots of curls with a mix of shining white and grey. So many options of hair styling are possible. Jayaram was not sure which style to choose and he kept changing his mind confusing the Chief Barber. Professor took me on one side and whispered “Jayaram Ramesh is discussing what hair style he should do for the past one hour with no decision. He just discusses and my Chief Barber is now fed up”. I said “I am not surprised” and reminded Professor of cases of Environmental Clearance of Posco and the BT Basmati rice and BT Brinjal. These cases showed his appetite for options and analytics and love towards switching the decisions.

Jayaram Ramesh

Jayaram discussing with the Chief Barber

As we were talking, Sunita Narain of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) walked in for a haircut. She asked the Professor for a catalogue. Passing her one of the latest catalogues of hair styles in Sweden (where she travels frequently), Professor said in a mischievous tone “Sunita, don’t forget to do a manicure. It’s a high time that you do. You have been “nailing” the Government and the Industry lately rather too much! So do get rid of your long nails”. Sunita smiled. [Sunita has a good Swedish connection. Do you know that she received the Stockholm Water Prize for the good work CSE did on water harvesting?]

Sunita_Narain

Just then Union Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave walked in and asked Professor for a facial. This facial was to be special. Dave wanted to change his face from a conservationist to a face that is “pro-development”.  Professor walked across and gave instructions to his staff about this complicated facial. ‘Use creams from Philadelphia and masks from Washington. He then turned to me and said “I will be using materials and techniques of the United States of America. This is the country where faces often change – so what you see is not what you should or want to see”

Anil Madhav dave

Looking for a facial

Dr Mukesh Khare of IIT Delhi was sitting in the chair getting his hair cut done. When the hair cut was over, Professor asked him “Mukesh, are you satisfied?” Dr Khare got up from the chair, pulled out a tiny air quality monitoring device that was under the chair.   He looked at the reading. “I am satisfied Professor. The indoor air quality in your Saloon meets the ASHARE standards”.

Indoor_AQ_Instrument

Dr Khare’s monitoring of Indoor Air Quality in the Saloon

“Oh, I was asking you about the hair cut” Professor said.

[By the way, do you know that India does not have Indoor Air Quality Standards? China introduced these standards as early as in 1976. Korea introduced Air Quality Standards even for A/C Buses. In India we don’t care much about the Indoor Air Quality. We show concerns only for the Outdoors. Much of our life today is indoors]

The Saloon was getting a bit noisy as almost everyone was talking, except those who were undergoing steam treatment or sleeping with a mask during the facial. “This is rather expected” Professor explained. “My staff consists of top doctoral students researching on environment in India as well as from overseas. They come to me as interns and we train them on hair styling, skin treatment etc. over three months. Once hired in the Saloon, they want to take advantage of “the connect” they get with the top environmentalists, academicians, bureaucrats and industrialists of India. So while delivering the service, they want to talk about some of the challenges we face today. So conversations happen. In some sense, my Saloon functions like a think tank or a workshop place. These students, as they are so habituated, post the conversations on Facebook and What’s App taking these conversations to the millions in the World”

“Oh, this is much more effective than the meetings FICCI holds!” I exclaimed. “You must now work on setting up franchises across India”

“So do you see any action on the ground after folks leave the Saloon?” I could not hesitate asking.

Well Professor said “It’s happening slowly. But I do have a shining example to share. Our Ex-Union Environment Minister Prakash Javdekar used to visit us regularly for beard trimming. Each time, my staff trimmed his beard, he trimmed the Indian Environmental Legislation. He used to say that he got all the inspiration for such trimming and listening to the conversations in our Saloon. Don’t you think that India’s environmental legislation has a “smart look” today! ”. I couldn’t disagree with the Professor.

Prakash Javdekar

Beard trimming – Secret behind India’s Smart Environmental Legislation

So why don’t you get your shave done – your chair is ready – Professor ushered me to one of his staff, who was a doctoral student from UC Berkeley.

“Sir, I have the honor performing a shave for you today”. The student said in an American accent.

Then while wrapping a GOTT certified apron around my neck, he bent down and whispered in my ears “Is it OK if I discussed with you my research on tree transplantations during the shave? I understand that you have done transplantation of trees around the roadways with hardly any survival”

I realized that this was something I was least expecting on a Sunday morning. I also realized this student would be asking me questions all the time and my shave wasn’t going to happen in all tranquility that I was expecting or was longing for.

“Thank God, I am not here to do a hair transplant” I said to myself while getting off the Chair.


Cover image sourced from here

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Green Products Green Living

Anvaya3.0_Pict2

Our environment is constantly changing. Across the Globe people are facing environmental challenges every day. Many challenges have been or are being addressed innovatively, however there are no channels to communicate or publicize these commendable solutions. Anvaya: Ekonnect’s Short Film contest, was initiated as a platform for communicating these impactful solutions through the creative medium of films.

Anvaya (meaning positive action in Sanskrit) is a short film competition initiated by Ekonnect Knowledge Foundation (Ekonnect). The program was launched with an aim to bring to the fore, positive and innovative solutions to critical environmental issues.

Objectives of Anvaya are

  • Awareness raising & encouraging citizen involvement on issues affecting environment
  • Sensitizing citizens and promoting action through a creative medium such as short videos/films
  • Dissemination of films created through citizen groups, professionals and municipal corporations to showcase innovative solutions on various environmental issues in their locality
  • Creating a platform for like-minded citizens to network and action for a better environment

We have successfully completed two events on Anvaya, on the theme of ‘Waste to Resource‘ and ‘No Water No Life’. In Anvaya 1.0 the winning film was screened in Davos, Switzerland. For details about Anvaya 1.0 & 2.0 you may visit the webpage of Anvaya. You can also view the short films on our You tube channel . Do download the films and use in the awareness programs that you may conduct.

Anyava 3.0 is now launched on the theme of Green Products Green LivingThe aim is to educate people about alternative lifestyle choices that are environmentally friendly and socially responsible and help lower the carbon footprint.

The contest is open to Green Product Manufacturers, Green Product Users and Green Procurement Services.

Green Product makers will have an opportunity to ‘Review their products’ through Green Purchasing Network of India (GPNI) at no costs. The Green Product users will be able to rate their ‘Low Carbon Living Index’ based on Ekonnect’s calculator.

All participants will be offered a one day training at no costs to understand the subject and learn how to make short films. Spice Institute in Mumbai is our media partner.

Apart from the one day training on the domain and film making skills, we are also planning an exposition of green products and services. The final screening day will feature screening of the shortlisted films, green product stalls & exhibits, discussions with experts & the award ceremony.

Films can be made under both these categories:

Green Products/Services:

  • Energy efficient, durable and often have low maintenance requirements.
  • Free of ozone depleting chemicals, toxic compounds and produce zero toxic by-products.
  • Made of recycled materials or content or from renewable and sustainable sources.
  • Obtained from local manufacturers or resources.
  • Biodegradable or easily reused either in part or as a whole.

Stakeholders: Manufactures, Designers & Service providers.

Examples: Paper, Pharmaceuticals, Electrical Appliances, Water coolers & purifiers, Office furniture, Mobile phones, Public works & many more

Green Living:

  • Sustainable lifestyles
  • Consumption Patterns (Food)
  • Alternative modes of transport & energy consumption

Stakeholders:

Consumers / Users

Examples: General public shifting to greener options, Green food consumption, Corporates using Green procurement services etc.

How to register for Anvaya 3.0 (Please visit www.ekonnect.net )

All individuals and organizations who will be applying to register will be required to go through a process as per the category as follows:

For green products/services: GPNI’s Peer Rating Service

For green lifestyle: Ekonnect’s ‘Low carbon living’ index

  • Both the above processes will be conducted at no charge.
  • Each will provide the applicants a rating on a scale arrived at by assessing performance against pre-determined criteria.
  • Suggestions will be made to improve the performance

Timeline for Anvaya 3.0

Launch & Registration: Sunday, 5th June 2016

Last Day for Registration: Sunday, 4th September 2016

One day Training event: Saturday, 10th September 2016

Final Screening day:  Saturday, 1st October 2016

About Ekonnect Knowledge Foundation

Ekonnect is a section 8 nonprofit company offering awareness, education, training and counsel on Environmental Management, CSR and Sustainability. We work with all stakeholders including students, young professionals, NGOs, CBOs, trade and industry associations, corporates, government agencies, academic institutions and the general public. Our aim is to increase knowledge through networking for action on environment. Please visit www.ekonnect.net

About GPNI

Green Purchasing Network India (GPNI) is an evolving network of professionals interested and active in the general area of sustainable consumption and production – more specifically: Green Purchasing and Public Procurement.

The objectives of GPNI are:

  1. To create awareness amongst key stakeholders about Green Purchasing and Procurement (GPP) and Sustainable production and Consumption (SPC).
  2. To encourage and facilitate implementation of GPP and Greening Supply Chains (GSC) projects to enhance the competitiveness of the Indian industries.
  3. Advocate and influence GPP related national policies and regulations.
  4. Conduct research, build database and devise methodologies to support and propel best practices in GPP.

Please visit www.gpnindia .org

Sponsors and Partners

We are looking for sponsors and partners who would be interested in being a part of Anvaya 3.0. The program is innovative and provides high potential for brand building, generating goodwill as well as a channel for allocation of CSR spend.

Please contact Sonal Alvares or Disha Mahajan on email sonal.alvares@ekonnect.net / disha.mahajan@ekonnect.net

Silence of the Lambs

The-silence-of-the-lambs

In a major reshuffle of the Ministers on July 5, India’s Prime Minister Modi elevated the present Union Environment Minister Mr. Prakash Javdekar and inducted Mr. Anil Madhav Dave. Mr. Javdekar will now handle portfolio of Human Resource Development. Mr Dave is a well-known nature conservationalist and I am happy that he has been brought in.

Many said that Mr. Javdekar deserved this promotion as his performance at the Ministry of Environment & Forests & Climate Change (MoEFCC) has been rather bold and outstanding. Amongst the several changes he brought in, his reforms on fast track environmental clearance have been extremely innovative, tech-savvy and very much lauded. These reforms opened gateway to large projects and investments to India – something that Modi Government wanted to achieve and had promised. We need economic development – don’t we?

After all, political governance in India has a vision of only 5 years (I call this not a narrow but focused vision) and so what Mr. Javdekar did was rather fitting and appropriate. Many times thinking of sustainability over longer horizons does not make a sense. Who cares if the so called modernization of environmental governance leads to irreversible and expensive damages to India’s natural assets in the future? As future is anyways so uncertain with growing terrorism, economic and social disparities and above all the indifference that often muffles  the voices on environment. Should environment matter at all?

Just before his departure, in May, 2016 Mr. Javdekar amended the EIA Notification with a new instrument called “Environmental Supplement Plan (ESP)”. The ESP is for companies that violated India’s regulations on environmental clearances. These companies would now simply be fined and then allowed to continue whatever they were doing, instead of being charged with a criminal offense, as they had been before.

The concept of ESP is not new. In the United States, as early as in February 1991, a policy on the Use of Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) was introduced.  This Policy was subsequently revised in May 1995 and later in May 1998. The 2015 Updated SEP Policy  supersedes earlier versions.

Under the 2015 SEP Policy, most federal actions against businesses or individuals for failure to comply with the environmental laws are resolved through settlement agreements. As part of a settlement, an alleged violator may voluntarily agree to undertake “an environmentally beneficial project” related to the violation in exchange for mitigation of the penalty to be paid. A Supplement Environmental Project (SEP) furthers EPA’s goal of protecting and enhancing the public health and the environment. It does not include the activities a violator must take to return to compliance with the law. Some have criticized the SEP but these are again short-sighted people who don’t appreciate United States philosophy of “development”.

According to an investigation by the Indian Express newspaper, it is the United States’ Supplemental Environments Project Policy where India got the idea of ESP.

Jay Mazoomdar, the author of the article in the Indian Express, found that a full 2,900 words of the 3,850 in the Indian ESP were lifted word for word from the American version. This is extremely encouraging. Such approaches of lifting words and strike commonalities should foster the relationships between India and the United States. This what we say as “being on the same pitch” or “sharing of the same thoughts”. We must praise Minister Javdekar for this strategic approach.

Mazoomdar cited following instances of alleged plagiarism:

1. US (Introduction A): Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) is an environmentally beneficial project or activity that is not required by law, but that a defendant agrees to undertake as part of the settlement of an enforcement action.

 

India (Clause 1): An Environmental Supplemental Plan (ESP) is an environmentally beneficial project or activity that is not required by law, but that an alleged violator of Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2006 agrees to undertake as part of the process of environmental clearance.

 

2. US (II D): SEPs provide defendants with an opportunity to develop and demonstrate new technologies that may prove more protective of human health and the environment than existing processes and procedures.

 

India (4 iii): Innovative Technology: Environmental Supplemental Plan will provide the proponent and the Expert Group with an opportunity to develop and demonstrate new technologies that may prove more protective of human health and the environment than existing processes and procedures.

 

3. US (IV A III): The project must demonstrate that it is designed to reduce:

a. The likelihood that similar violations will occur in the future;

b. The adverse impact to public health and/or the environment to which the violation at issue contributes; or,

c. The overall risk to public health and/or the environment potentially affected by the violation at issue.

 

India (5): The project must demonstrate that it is designed to remediate the ecological damage caused due to violations and it will reduce,

a. The likelihood that similar violations will occur in the future;

b. The adverse impact to public health and the environment to which the violation at issue contributes;

c. The overall risk to public health and the environment potentially affected by the violation at issue.

 

The above are only samples quoted by the Author.

MoEFCC officials in India have defended saying that idea like ESP is in vogue in many western countries and the language used of Indian draft is different. (Although they haven’t stated, but I am sure that out of the 2900 words lifted from 3900 words include words like “and”, “but”, “however” etc. Such overlaps are unavoidable and do not really convey plagiarism. Mazoomdar has been rather harsh therefore on the Ministry).


Let us understand a bit more MoEFCC’s ESP.

MoEFCC (Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change) issued a draft notification as required by sub-rule (3) of rule 5 of the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986 on 10th May, 2016.

Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 empowers the Central Government to give directions which reads as “Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law but subject to the provisions of this Act, the Central Government may in the exercise of its powers and performance of its functions under this Act, issue directions in writing to any person, officer or any authority and such person, officer or authority shall be bound to comply with such directions.”

The draft notification on ESP proposes that,  “In case the projects or activities requiring prior environmental clearance under Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006 from the concerned regulatory authority are brought for environmental clearance after starting the construction work, or have undertaken expansion, modernization, and change in product- mix without prior environmental clearance, these projects shall be treated as cases of violations and shall be appraised for grant of environmental clearance and the project proponent to compensate may implement the Environmental Supplemental Plan to remediate the damage caused or likely to be caused, and take out the undue economic gain due to non-compliance and violation.”

The process of appraisal of the project for grant of environmental clearance and preparation of the Environmental Supplemental Plan would be carried out simultaneously.

Any person interested in making any objections or suggestions on the proposal contained in the draft notification may forward the same in writing, for consideration of the Central Government within the period so specified, to the Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Indira Paryavaran Bhawan, Jor Bagh Road, Aliganj, New Delhi-110 003


Indeed, ESP has been devised consistent to what the Government has been already doing (not just Modi Government but the Gandhi Government as well) i.e. the process of “regularalization” that blesses the corporate illegalities. Someone heard Mr. Javdekar saying in the MoEFCC corridors that if Arun Jaitley is offering schemes like Dispute Resolution then why not the Environment Ministry? And I like Javdekar’s straightforwardness of ensuring “evenness” across the Ministries. It’s really so heartening to see the congruence and consistency between the Ministries despite political and personal differences in the interest of this country.

Many argue that ESP as a license to violate. I disagree. These are only mistakes carried out by the developers in enthusiasm while meeting national development targets. How can we create obstacles for them by asking them to follow timely and comprehensive EIA process? The quality of EIAs in India is any case so poor that doing or not doing EIA does not make any difference to the outcomes. Its kind of Javdekar that he did not scrap the EIA process itself mainly to protect the livelihoods of the EIA consultants in India. I salute him for this consideration.

The ESP appears like a crude form of ‘pay and use’ service. Many argue that these payments in reality may not be made. My good friends – Kanchi Kohli and Manju Menon say – “Take the case of the fine of Rs.200 crore on the Adani SEZ in Gujarat, or Rs.5 crore for the Art of Living event on the Yamuna floodplains. Even if one were to be more optimistic about these collections, the government’s ability to use these resources to restore the environment, or provide justice to scores of affected people, is severely lacking. The example of crores of rupees collected to compensate for forest loss, and the Comptroller and Auditor General’s damning report on how these monies have been spent, will help change one’s mind”.

I think that Kanchi’s and Manju’s views are rather biased and incorrect as they do not know the reality. Some tell me that the moneys or fines are and will actually be paid out – but mostly for supporting the political parties. This contribution will support the sustainability and stability of the Government. So in other words fines collected from ESP will help achieve “all rounded” sustainable development in India. Most environmental NGOs don’t appreciate this deep thought and consideration!

When Mr. Javdekar ushered new Minister Mr. Anil Madhav Dave into his cabin, Mr. Dave apparently asked him “Prakash saab, how did you manage to introduce and implement these drastic changes in India’s Environmental Governance and in such a short time? May I ask the secret of your success?”

Mr Javdekar smiled (as he often does – and sometimes without any reason). He said “Mr Dave, there are no organized associations on the subject of Environmental Management in India who can rise and question us. They are either small or dead (like Indian Environmental Association), or narrowed to a subject (like water – e.g. Indian Water Works Association). These associations are busy with conferences and exhibitions. Further, they fight internally on matters that are petty and do not discuss the national interests. So don’t worry and carry on further the good work I did. There is no chance of any opposition”

I must say I appreciate Mr Javdekars observation. Indian environmental associations, experts and activists are yet to wake up in India on a collective basis.

I call the situation as the Silence of the Lambs.

[Wish one day we could form a group that the Government recognizes, honors and consults … a Think Tank and a light house that mainstreams and improves environmental management in this country]


Cover image sourced from http://the-silence-of-the-lambs.wikia.com/wiki/The_Silence_Of_The_Lambs_Wiki

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Life without a Smart Phone

 

SmartPhoneLife

Lord Indra, the King of Gods, received the 2015 Earth Report. The focus of the Report was on how a human being on Earth typically spends time in a day. The Report showed that most of the time humans spent was for using a Smart Phone. The statistics showed that the number of Smart Phones on the Earth had reached a staggering figure of 7 billion and on an average humans spent nearly 5 hours a day on the Smart Phone. For 2016, the usage was expected to be even higher – reaching 7 hours on average each day.

“This is just crazy” Lord Indra said. “This is no life – and simply a waste of time! This was not something Gods intended”

BreakUpTimeSpent_Mobile

He called for an emergency meeting inviting the core committee consisting Lord Vishnu (God of Conservation and Protection), Lord Shiva (Lord of Destruction) and Lord Bramha (Lord of Creation).

Lord Shiva said that this problem can be easily solved by destroying the Smart Phones. “I will simply open my “third eye”” he said – and all the Smart Phones on the Earth will catch fire and get destroyed.

[Lord Shiva opens his “third eye” to destroy all that is unconscious, dark, and dualistic, in this dancing universe. Essentially, Lord Shiva’s third eye opens to end all illusions like the Smart Phones!}

Lord Vishnu said “But this is not the solution – The Smart Phone makers will make new phones in no time and give a replacement at a competitive price so as to grab the new market of 7 billion mobiles. And don’t forget that the pollution generated by putting 7 billion Smart Phones on fire. Each mobile phone is like a mine of metals and so there will be release of at least 10 million tonnes of hazardous metals to the environment. Very few mobile phone users know that.”

Lord Brahma said that he has been observing the increase in the use of Smart Phones over the past few years with a great concern. “Use of Smart Phones has major health impact due to the radiations. Usage in a day over 2 hours can cause headaches and Alzheimer’s disease.”

Lord Yama (God of Death and Lord Brahma’s son) was taking notes of the meeting. He said that according to a Swedish research which is published on International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health Journal, people who use mobile phone about an hour per day in ten years will be affected by brain tumor. There is an American researcher, who states that using mobile phone is a cause of cancers. Very few Smart Phone users know that”

Lord Indra – The King of Gods – immediately summoned Lord Yama to initiate a questionnaire to understand cause of death of every arriving soul focusing on the lifestyles. The questionnaire you earlier used for smoking of cigarettes should work, as usage of Smart Phone is like an addiction and it seems to have similar order of impacts”

“But Lord Vishnu, what is the solution?” Lord Indra was getting impatient.

Lord Vishnu had another point of view. He said “As a first step, let us realize why humans on the Earth have started increasing usage of the Smart Phones. Smart Phones are today so effective that they have replaced basic gadgets like alarm clocks and now even the high end digital cameras. Smart Phone is clearly disruptive technology. And it’s not just the hardware, but the “software” or the Apps that have made the real difference! Everyone is hooked on the social platforms like LinkedIn and Face Book (FB) that provide a new digital identity, flood megabytes of news and pictures (whether wanted or otherwise)”

“Every day new invitations keep pouring in and the statistics shows that on an average a FB member on the Earth has 338 connections. And don’t forget the “dating” related mobile applications where most teenagers are spending time. So all we need to do is bring in a behavior change

Mobile_in_Traffic

“My suggestion is to attempt a Pilot. Why don’t we pick up say five people on the Earth and “vanish” their mobile phones with our divine power for a week and see how they live life without a Smart Phone? We will ensure that any mobile phone that they will attempt to touch, will also “vanish” in the air. Basically, they will be devoid of a Smart Phone over a week. We will meet after a week to take a review of the Pilot study. Lord Shiva – please take responsibility of this operation Vanish” “

Lord Vishnu was always known to come up with clever ideas. So the Committee agreed to his suggestion.

“Who should be the five people?” Lord Shiva asked.

Lord Brahma recommended some interesting names.

At sharp 8 15 am, Mr. Mukesh Ambani of Reliance got into his BMW 760li. He took out his Smart Phone to make important calls as he would speak in peace and in all privacy. These calls or instructions would decide the business in India and for that matter of the world. But today the moment he touched his Smart Phone, it simply disappeared. He was shocked. He had three spare mobiles in his car, but each mobile he touched, the mobiles vanished. In desperation, he asked his driver to lend him his mobile, and that faced the same fate too.

Mr. Ambani did not know what to do how to spend next 30 minutes in the Car. He looked outside the window to see the slums and poverty in Mumbai. He was aghast as he never looked outside and used to look only at his Smart Phone’s screen. He then looked at the photos of his three children Akash, Isha and Anant that he carried in his wallet. “Oh there is so much to do for this City” he said and then ended with a sigh “I really don’t connect much with my children. I must spend quality time with them as a family”. He decided to keep off use of Smart Phone for “some while”. “Smart phones absence is making me think differently” – he muttered to himself.

A Young Collegiate, Sunny was to date with Julie at Café Mondiger at Colaba at 6 pm. This was to be their second meeting after a brief encounter at a party in Bandra. Sunny was riding the A/C Bus from Malad. The traffic was crazy and Sunny was getting late – as much by 30 minutes.

He picked up his Smart Phone to “text” Julie and let her know the delay. As soon as he touched his Smart Phone, the phone vanished – courtesy the powers of Lord Shiva. “Shit, what’s happening?” Sunny exclaimed. He searched for the Phone in his bag pack. There was no trace.

In desperation, Sunny requested his neighbor in the Bus for his phone explaining the “emergency”. The neighbor, who was a kind retired person, lent his Smart Phone. But as soon as Sunny touched his Phone, it disappeared too! And that led to a serious problem!! Sunny had to not just apologize profusely but give the Gentleman his contact address, deposit his college ID card and driving license with a promise that he will compensate or return the Smart Phone, the very next day. The old man who was earlier kind, was raged as his Smart Phone had photographs of his 50 years of wedding anniversary. “How do I get these?” He was in tears. Smart Phones have become now places to store the memories..

Sunny reached Café Mondegar by 6 45 pm, forty five minutes late than the dating appointment. He knew that Julie won’t be around. There was no way any girl would wait – with no SMS to her from his side. As he entered Café Mondegar however, he found Julie siting at one of the round tables. She was wearing a white shirt with an embroidery and a dark skirt and sitting crossed legged. “Oh Sunny, why so late? You must be stuck in the traffic” she said in an understanding tone “But I knew you would come and so I kept waiting”. While taking his seat at the round table, Sunny apologized profusely and then looked into Julie’s eyes. Her eyes showed the happiness, trust and an interest to go ahead.  “Oh indeed, there was no need for all that panic!” Sunny said to himself ordering a draft beer and Akuri. Not having the Smart Phone helped both Sunny and Julie to know that they really liked each other. They eventually married.

Deepika Padukone, the famous and one of my favorite actors, was in a shopping mall. She finished her shopping and took out her Smart Phone to call her driver to come at the Point of Exit. And the Smart Phone disappeared! “Oh I must have left the Phone in the Car – Lately I have really become so absent minded” She said to herself. She then approached the information desk for help. The lady at the information desk dialed her driver’s number (and several times) but the response she got was “out of reach”

“This happens when cars are parked in the last basement” The lady was apologetic “I am sending one of my boys right way to the basement to fetch your car”. After all the lady knew that she was talking to Actor Deepika Padukone. In order to keep Deepika busy and entertained for a while, the Lady asked Deepika whether she would be interested to take a look at a small exhibition area set up by the Mall to display products made out of waste materials and crafted by poor women. Deepika went across to see. Being herself a committed person for the good of the society, she was really overwhelmed as well as inspired. Two weeks later, she announced a program to encourage such initiatives in Bangalore and chose to become an Ambassador. “Losing my Smart Phone the other day – showed me a new opportunity” she said in a Press Interview.

There we two more individuals that were tracked by Lord Indra. They included Politician Subramanian Swami (who really didn’t know what to do in life in the absence of a Smart Phone) and a Share Broker in Bombay Stock Exchange (who thought of committing suicide when his Smart Phone vanished)

The Committee of Lords met after a week for review of the Pilot experience.

“So life without Smart Phones seems to be a good idea – despite its advantages” said Lord Vishnu. Both Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma seemed to be in agreement. To come to an acceptable conclusion and follow up action however, the Committee decided to do a Godly Consultation (means Public Consultation in the “Earth” sense!).

Around 100 Gods and equivalent attended. Several ideas were proposed on how to discourage increasing use of Smart Phones and encourage people on the Earth to reduce time spent on mobiles. Some said that reduce life of the mobile batteries so that the talking time is restricted to only 1 hour a day. Some said that we should  ban certain mobile applications altogether to that people live life in “reality”, meet and talk to each other, don’t keep staring at the screen and get a disturbed sleep at night;  don’t over shop (i.e. consume for the sake of consumption). Some asked for withdrawal of What’s App where humans keep sending silly messages and pictures only for the sake of “digital identity” and because it’s free.

Muni Narad (son of Lord Brahma) came with an idea that we should simply make behavior of the Smart Phone apps completely unpredictable to unreliable. Imagine if you logged into your FB account and saw each time total strangers shown as your friends! Or when you log into LinkedIn and see somebody else’s profile instead of yours! What a crazy world it will be! Muni Narad had a devilish grin when he said this.

Lord Vishnu reacted negative. This is typical of Narad Muni he said. This recommendation will lead to the human kind to become lunatic, mentally depressed and completely dysfunctional.

[Narad Muni is the son of Brahma and a devotee of Lord Vishnu. He is known for gossiping and knows all the news from around the universe. He is also known for creating fights among people by spicing up the facts. Rather, Muni Narad is believed to be the first journalist on the Earth. It is said that he still guides the Indian Journalists!]

All this while, Lord Brahma was listening to all patiently. “I don’t have an immediate solution but something we could look at a long run. Given the addiction of the human kind for the Smart Phones, let me “engineer” in the Human Genes few innovative molecules that will build a Smart Phone capability in the body itself. Armed with this feature, humans of “future” will be able to “send SMS”, “make calls” or “go on FB” or “shop” by simply using mental powers. Two people at a thousand kilometer distance for instance can meditate a bit, close their eyes, and do a conversation without a Smart Phone. By introducing this change in the “human evolution”, we will address the health related issues of the Smart Phones as well that of the mounting E-Waste!”

“This is an excellent step for action. I congratulate you Lord Brahma” said Lord Vishnu. “Just copy part of the DNA structure we have. We all communicate with each other through our Mind Power– and without any of these Smart Phones for thousands of years – Isn’t it?” And I thought he was just right.

The Godly Consultation on Smart Phones ended with a Vote of Thanks


Cover image sourced from http://www.stuff.co.nz/technology/digital-living/75959892/Life-without-a-smartphone-is-liberating


 

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