Friday, July 12, 2024

Discovering The World Of Daiva Aaradhane

[First published in YouthKiAwaaz]

 Daiva aaradhane, or the worship of spirit deities is an intrinsic part of Tulu culture. Contrary to popular belief, this is not the same as “ghost worship”. While bhoot is commonly used to refer to ghosts or something that once existed but is now no more, such a definition falls short of capturing the rick and complex cultural significance of bhutaas understood by the Tuluva people. Bhutas are the spirits of long-gone heros who continue to be worshipped to this day.

In “Daiva: Discovering the Extraordinary World of Spirit Worship”, author K. Hari Kumar dives deep into the world of spirit worship, describes his personal quest as a migrant Tuluva to learn more about spirit worship and tells the origin stories of the powerful immortals. The book is divided into two sections- ‘In Search of Satyolu’ and ‘Stories of Satyolu’. In the first section, the author attempts to unravel the mysteries of spirit world and describe the ritualistic aspects of the worship, especially the ritualistic kola dance where the spirits possess the body of the dancer and communicate through him. The second half of the book describes the origin stories of the more popular daivas– these stories were handed down through the oral tradition, and therefore differ from community to community.

The book begins with a fascinating introduction to the Tulu language. Tulu is one of the five major Dravidian languages and had a rich literary and cultural heritage. Very few people apart from native speakers of the language are aware of it, since it is not recognised as an official language by the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, but it is spoken by a significant number of people who originated from what is called “Tulu Nadu”, which spans modern day Dakshin Kannada, Udupi (both in Karnataka) and Kasargode (Kerala). It is worth reading the book just for this section, because it reminds us of how little even well educated Indians know and appreciate the sheer diversity of the country.

The author was brought up in Gurgaon, and despite his mother speaking to him in Tulu at home, was quite disconnected with the world of spirit worship. His journey to rediscovering his roots in the sacred land of the nagas and daivas is one that will resonate with many others who grew up in cities without being aware of the traditions of the land they come from. His description of the travel within Tulu Nadu, the experiences he had and the coincidences that led him to people who could tell him the ancient stories is engrossing, and almost reads like a work of fiction.

The most powerful chapter in the book is the one where he describes the many aspects of a Kola performance. The description of the atmosphere is so vivid that you can almost visualise it yourself, you are left hoping that someday you are able to witness a similar performance. He mentions how some kola performers do not take kindly to their performance being recorded- however, it is unlikely that even the best cinematographers will be able to capture the multi-sensory and multi-dimensional experience adequately.

The second part of the book has the folklore associated with the daivas and heros of Tulu Nadu. Since these stories were handed down through the oral tradition, there are many versions of the same story, some with minor and others with not so minor differences. Where the stories are drastically different, the author has written down each of the versions, and it is fascinating the speculate on how the different versions might have evolved from a common story.

Such differences are common, particularly in stories which are not written down. In fact, the author remembers how, as a child, he heard different versions of the same story from his two grandmothers and of how he would sometimes challenge them by giving them the other version. What is common to many of the stories are defining human emotions of greed, jealousy, compassion and revenge. Social evils like caste discrimination and gender biases also pop up often in the stories proving how little things have changed over the centuries. If some of the stories sound familiar, it is only because human emotions and the social order is universal.

While the author does not claim that the book is an academic work, the exhaustive list of sources at the end of the book lends it academic credibility, and the reader can go deeper into aspects that interests them the most.

You do not have to believe in daiva aaradhane to read this book. Even if you are a rationalist who does not believe in spirits or spirit worship, the book depicts a fascinating aspect of our culture and can be read as a standalone anthropological work. It also reminds us that even if as city dwellers we have lost touch with our culture and identity, it is not too late to try to rediscover them. The quest, as the author shows, will be worth it.

The book has been published by Harper Collins India. Follow them on YKA here. I received an advance review copy of this book. The views are my own.

‘Dalithan’ Is An Autobiography That Fights For Kerala’s Dalit Community

 Writer and political activist, K.K. Kochu is one of the foremost Dalit thinkers in Kerala. Born into the Pulaya community of landless labourers in a flood prone region of Kottayam district, the fortunes of his family were tied to that of the Namboodiri landlords. Though they barely had enough to eat, his family believed in education and Kochu and his siblings were all sent to the local school and encouraged to dress like the rest of the students.

Kochu was a promising student with a prodigious appetite for knowledge, but though he consciously stayed away from joining any political party, he got entangled in the Naxalite movement and had to drop out of college before completing his degree. The rest of his life was spent working in clerical jobs while continuing to read, reflect, write, and participate in political agitations.

Kochu published his autobiography, Dalithan, in Malayalam in 2019 not only to document the oral history and life of people from his Palya community and to chronicle the social justice movements in post-independence Kerala, but to provide an impetus for people from marginalised communities to come together and demand the betterment of their community.

“Years back, …. interviewed me…. Their final question was: What is your greatest desire?’ The image that immediately appeared in my memory was of Ayyankali. So I said, ‘Ten intellectuals should take birth in my community.’

‘Only intellectuals will be able to lead the Dalit community— to whom wealth, power, status and culture have been distant dreams and who have forever been soaked in the endless rain of misery —towards hope. When such a responsibility is shouldered, while they work towards their own salvation, they will make it possible for others too. That is because no human is an island.”

Kochu was initially drawn to the Communist ideology, but he realised very early that even when political parties spoke about equality, fraternity and justice, since the intellectual leaders all came from more privileged backgrounds, their objectives were primarily to further the interest of their own communities. Though Dalit students joined the communist movement in large numbers, they rarely progressed beyond sticking posters on walls and mobilizing people for events (many of them even ended up dead).

Though he often found himself siding with particular political parties on specific issues, Kochu never joined any of them. His extensive reading, and his ability to challenge his own deep set beliefs ensured that he often abandoned old ideas and embraced new ones. Since he was not associated with any party, and because his extended family survived on the brink of poverty, he often had to undergo personal privatisations, and even borrow money to meet his own personal needs. His courage of conviction shines through in every page of the book, and when you read his political thoughts you realise that they are not empty words but ideals that he has sacrificed for.

The book also serves as a brief summary of post-independence Kerala politics. While to most people outside Kerala, the Left Front is a homogeneous entity, through this book you realise the different ideologies each of the parties embrace. We think of Communism as being “pro poor”, but Kochu shows how being “pro poor” is not enough. Given the social, economic and political oppression that Dalits have faced for generations, strong affirmative action is required before Dalits acquire the social and economic mobility that people of other castes enjoy.

In the book, Kochu also tackles the misconception that Dalit Christians do not need affirmative action. Though examples, he shows how despite the religion not recognising a caste hierarchy, the caste system continues to be perpetrated by the Christian church. How can there be social justice till social and economic discrimination is ended?

The author also provides a commentary on several works of literature that came out of Kerala in the post independence period, and draws lessons from translated literature that could be relevant to the life of Dalits in Kerala. This shows the evolution of Kochu’s own political ideology and his firm belief that the salvation of the larger Dalit community can only be achieved by the various factions coming together and demanding their rights.

The translation by Radhika Menon captures not just the ideals but the emotions of the original, and at no stage do you feel that the author is not directly speaking to you in his own voice.

This is an important work of Dalit literature, more so because it comes from a state which doesn’t have a long tradition of works by Dalit authors. One has to commend Speaking Tiger for publishing this book, which is an important work for anyone seeking to understand the situation of Dalits in Kerala.

I received an advance review copy of the book, and the views are my own.

‘Kaurs Of 1984,’ Documents The Wrongs Inflicted On Sikh Women

[First published in YouthKiAwaaz]

Trigger warning: Mentions of communal violence, gender based violence

When one thinks of the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984, one thinks of the bearded and turbaned men who were systematically massacred, many of them burnt alive with rubber tyres around their necks. What is spoken about much less is what the women went through (and continue to go through). All of then lived in fear of violent death, most were forced to witness the murder of their husbands, fathers, brothers and sons. They faced apathy from the officials who were supposed to protect them many were themselves victims of sexual violence. In the years following the violence, they struggled to rebuild their lives, and even today, none of them is able to put the horror of 1984 behind them.

Born seven years after Operation Bluestar and the anti-Sikhs violence, Sanam Sutirath Wazir was a researcher with Amnesty International when he started documenting the stories of the women of 1984. As he spoke to the women who lived through those turbulent times, he unearthed stories of sexual, physical and psychological violence which had never been documented systematically, much less pursued legally. “Main chauraasi ki ladki hun (I am a woman who has survived 1984),” is how one Sikh woman described herself to him- the term spoke of a woman who had been raped multiple times, but who had never officially spoken about it because of the stigma involved.

The book seeks to document the voices of the women who were victims in 1984

As he kept hearing these stories, the author wanted to document these supressed voices in a book, but worried if his gender would preclude him from doing so. His mother convinced him that his gender should be the last thing he should worry about while documenting the stories of rape, murder and trauma inflicted on women during Operation Bluestar and the Anti-Sikh genocide of 1984.

Kaurs of 1984 — the untold, unheard stories of Sikh women”, published by HarperCollins, is his effort to document what the victims of 1984 went through and their subsequent struggle to rebuild their lives. The book has oral histories of over 40 women who lived through the horror of 1984. Many choose to remain anonymous, others fought publicly for justice and a few even took up arms themselves to protest against the injustice. Each story needs to be told, if only to understand and acknowledge the level of violence that normal human beings are capable of inflicting on their fellow human beings.

The stories of two women who lived through 1984 will give an indication of the nature of trauma inflicted by the events of 1984.

Nirmal Kaur and her sister were given shelter by their neighbours in Mukherjee Nagar. She witnessed the mob come to their house and demand that her parents be handed over to them, and remembers the fear of knowing her parents might be massacred. Though she didn’t lose anyone dear to her in 1984, Nirmal Kaur eyes still well with tears when she recalls those days. They didn’t lose money or property, ‘but they did lose hope in a system that should have been on their side.’

Nirpreet Kaur’s father ran a taxi business and her family was like any other middle class family in Delhi till the assassination of Indira Gandhi. On November 1, 1984, she saw people she knew garlanding her father with a burning rubber tyre, and helplessly witnessed the immolation of her father. Though her family shifted to Punjab and she enrolled in college there, Nirpreet could never forget what the mob had done to her father, and against her mother’s wishes, she joined a militant outfit to seek vengeance. In the years to follow, her (militant) husband will killed, she faced unspeakable atrocities in the hands of the police and she struggled to start life anew, yet, her loss of confidence in the official system is so great that she never regrets joining the militant movement.

The book has stories of loss, betrayal and hardship

These are just two of the many stories in the book, each of which talks of loss, betrayal and untold hardships. Reading the book, one is reminded of the stories in Urvashi Bhutalia’s ‘The Other Side of Silence: Voices from and the Partition of India’. Like during Partition, in 1984 too, though men lost their lives to violence, women paid a price that was never even documented. Women paid a huge price during the violence and the aftermath of the violence, and they continued to pay the price in the years that followed. Even when they tried to rebuild their lives after the loss of their husbands and fathers, they continued being victims of patriarchy with fathers and fathers-in-law conspiring to deny them their just share of the compensation. This book is the story of those women. women who were victims of physical, sexual and psychological violence; women who are still fighting for justice.

The book seeks to document the extreme wrong that was inflicted on women

In an interview, the author said, “The Kaurs of 1984 weaves together scattered stories of grief, betrayal, and loss,” Wazir says, adding that “this book is not about who was right or wrong during that period, but the extreme wrongs that we did to the women who were helpless and unheard”. It is important to read this book because it is only by understanding and acknowledging how quickly neighbours can turn into a mob and inflict immense violence on people they knew that we can work towards to curtailing such violence in future.

The trauma of 1984 is nowhere close to healing. To quote from the epilogue:

‘If anything, the trauma has descended through succeeding generations, with the children of survivors suffering the untold consequences of the violence wreaked upon their elders.’

‘they are seeking… a ‘closure’ that will help them go on with their lives. Not that they seek to forget what transpired or to stop grieving, ,but for the past thirty-nine years they have remained frozen in an unbearably horrific moment, and wish to find closely through the punishment of the perpetrators of 1984.’

While the victims and their families wait for closure, this book documents the suffering of the “Kaurs of 1984”.

[I received a review copy from Harper Collins. The views are my own.] 

Monday, June 24, 2024

Book Review: Queens Of Forest

 A forest officer was sitting down to have dinner when his wife complained of a sting between her toes. When he checked, he found that she had been bitten by a common Krait, one of the most venomous snakes in India. He bundled her into a vehicle and took her to the nearest primary health care centre, where they directed her to the nearest rural hospital which was an hour away. After receiving treatment, and recovering completely, she started asking questions- what would happen if someone from the frontline staff was bitten by a snake; would they be able to access the prompt treatment that she received? This snake bite incident set the ground for Deepali Atul Deokar to set up the Exploring Womanhood Foundation which works for frontline staff and their families working on nature conservation.

“Queens of Forest” is a collection of real life stories of the strength, dedication, challenges, resilience and unwavering commitment of the forest officer wife. The book contains 24 stories written by forest officers on their wife, without who’s unwavering support, they could not have discharged their duties. The life of a forest rangers’ wife is not easy. The initial postings are all in remote areas which lack even basic amenities, and the nature of the job is such that they are often left alone for long periods. Since the job of a forest ranger takes them deep into the forest, the wives are often not able to contact their spouses, which can be stressful because in addition to the danger from wild animals, the forest rangers could also find themselves in danger from poachers or Naxalites. They also have to deal with frequent transfers, and in discharging their caregiving duties they are often separated from their spouses for long periods.

What come across through all the stories is the strength displayed by the wives of forest rangers and how they continue to support their husband against all odds. While very few of them have independent careers (a few gave up their careers to become full time wives and mothers), almost all of them go beyond the line of duty to support their husbands professionally. Many of them work for the betterment of indigenous people and the families of frontline staff, and others are actively involved in creating awareness about nature conservation and in bringing up orphaned animals. Unfortunately, such support is rarely quantified, and it is good to have a book where the role played by the wives of forest officers is properly acknowledged and cherished.

The other significant issue that comes out in each of the stories is the fact that it is taken for granted that the women will discharge the primary responsibility of caregiving of older parents, housekeeping and childrearing. This is the case in most households, but this labour is rarely recognised, much less acknowledged. By getting the forest officials to write about their wives, the editor forces them to introspect on the role played by their wives in their professional success.

The account written by Hemant B. Kamdi is particularly significant. He is a rare man who shoulders a part of the household responsibilities, but over time he found that his lighthearted comments about being a ‘superior homemaker’ were being misconstrued into accusing his wife of being lazy. He found that despite being a working woman, his wife was being measured against the standards set for a full time housewife, which is extremely unfair. Also, he admits that his “involvement was largely for conspicuous activities which (he) enjoyed”, and that he shared photographs and videos of his activities on social media and gained “appreciation and credit”. Meanwhile, his wife “mutely contributed to do the mundane jobs which when unrecognised by others.” To have a man speak of the issue of the invisible labour performed by women is always more impactful than to have women speak of it.

Though the book is a tribute to the wives of the forest officers, it would have been wonderful if there were more details on the challenges faced by the forest department. From battling against poaching and deforestation, to managing man-animal conflicts and Naxalite activities, the life of forest officials is full of challenges. Unfortunately, most city dwellers do not have much information on the many (often counterintuitive) issues involved in forest conversation, and this book could have touched on those areas more.

“Queens of Forest” is meant to celebrate the wives of forest officials, who in their own way are also at the forefront of nature conservation. It reminds us of the love and commitment that goes into preserving nature for future generations.

Book Review: The Colours Of Nationalism

 [The book review was first published in YouthKiAwaaz]

The dedication page of Nandita Haksar’s memoir, ‘The Colours of Nationalism’, reads “I humbly dedicate this book to all those who are still fighting to make India a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic committed to Justice, Equality and Liberty for the people.” The dedication is fitting, because the book traces the growth of India from a country that was striving to build itself on the ideals enshrined in the constitution, the challenges faced along the way, to a point where the very existence of those ideals are being questioned.

The book is divided into several chapters (each named after colours)- what does patriotism mean, the history of communism, the rise of Hindutva nationalism, the many challenges faced by the feminist movement, the fight against human rights violations, the many challenges faced in the North East- each of which follows a similar trajectory. Each chapter starts with an incident/s which made the author aware of the issue and a brief historical background. The bulk of the chapter describes how the issue played out over the next few years, told mainly through stories which the author herself was involved with. The chapters end with the current situation, which in every case is extremely grim.

Nandita Haksar embodies privilege. She is upper caste and upper class. She comes from a well educated family, and her family members held important positions in government- her father, particularly, was extremely well connected. She was born in London, speaks English and has studied in the best institutions. While she could have easily led a life of relative riches, she chose to work in the world of the disenfranchised. Her career choices- journalist, activist, human rights lawyer- were all made with the intention of exposing systemic inequity and seeking social justice for the disenfranchised. She seemed quite comfortable forming genuine friendships with people from a very different background from her own, and she respected their right to make their own choices. It is this empathy, clarity and honesty that comes through very strongly throughout the book.

Nandita was born at a time when the nation was in the process of building itself on the ideals enshrined in the Constitution, she lived and worked through the decades where those ideals were constantly challenged to a point where they are today under threat. The book traces the journey of a young woman born into a family that embodied the values on which the nation was formed, to one who encounters and fights the many inequities that continue to flourish, and who continues to raise her voice as the nation moves away from those ideals. Her’s is a quest which takes her on a journey to rejecting Hindutva politics, to understanding the various communist movements, to embrace identity politics, to struggle to fit feminism into the mainstream narrative, before returning to the vision of an India which embraces its diversity and is true to the ideals of the Constitution.

While the book is a memoir and largely restricts itself to what the author herself experienced, its importance goes beyond the personal. It is important because it serves as a witness to issues which have now been largely forgotten. At a time when history is being rewritten, and the past is being recast through the lens of the person defining the narrative, it is important to know the various forces that were in play while the nation was being built, and of how a lot of what we see today is a result of the differences that were not adequately addressed in the past. It is always a good time to read a book like this one, but now is a particularly good time to do so.

The part of the book that I found particularly fascinating was the chapter “Living in a Rainbow Chaos”, which dealt with the North East. Most of us have a very sketchy idea of the North East, and even the better read among us will struggle to do more than locate each of the states on the map and name their capitals. Nandita gives us a brief history of the region, speaks of how they were incorporated into the Indian Union, and of the challenges of ensuring they remain a part of the Union. She doesn’t shy away from describing the role of the Indian Army, and of how the people live in fear of the soldiers. Her musings on “unity in diversity” is important in the context of the North East- which is more important- the idea of nationalism or identity politics. This is a question that keeps popping up throughout the book, and while the author knows what she believes, she doesn’t force her opinion on the reader.

While we may not all agree with the authors social, economic or political beliefs, I think this is a book we should read to understand the challenges that the nation had to face because the ideals of the Constitution were not always in synch with ground reality. In hindsight we realise that the nation may not have always made the right choices, but it is important to understand the compulsions that led to the choice being made. History is always nuanced, and “The Colours of Nationalism” attempts to use her personal experiences to describe some of that nuance.

I end with the last paragraph of the book-

“In 2018, Oxfam brought out a report where they calculated that it would take 941 years for a minimum wage worker in rural India to earn what the top paid executive at a leading Indian garment company earned in a year. The Preamble to our Constitution had promised to build India into a “Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic.” We seemed to be going in the opposite direction, towards a capitalist, non secular, authoritarian republic for the rick upper-castes. The promise of the Tiranga had been betrayed, I felt.

This book is published by Speaking Tiger. I received a review copy. The opinions are my own.

The Mood In WA Groups Is Changing: Will We Now Learn To Speak Up?

 [This was written the day after the election results were declared. First published in YouthKiAwaaz.]

Over the last 24 hours, the mood in WhatsApp groups has changed. Many people who were earlier silent are now coming out and hailing the vote against hate. I always suspected that the silent majority was not as bigoted as the vocal ones, and that they chose silence because they want to avoid confrontations. But I wish they now realise that their silence actively enabled hate. 

The word “secular” is no longer an insult

It is easy to dwell on how some of us were forced to fight long and lonely battles because of the silence of others, but negativity serves no purpose. Let’s focus on the positives. It is no longer infra dig to be secular!

Once upon a time, being it was sexy to be secular, and even those who were not were forced to pretend they were. That changed in the last decade; being secular became something to be ashamed of and you felt you had to otherise others to be accepted. At least, now, being called secular is no longer perceived as an insult.

The role of independent media

The other big thing I see is the number of people who were silent for the last few years and who are now saying “I hope that at least now journalists do their job”. Yes, mainstream media willingly converted itself into the PR arm of the government, but I do want to ask the people who are now talking about the death of journalism whether they did their bit to support independent journalism. Maybe people were too scared of the repercussions to speak out themselves, what stopped them from donating to news outlets and fact checking agencies? What might have been a couple of coffees for them would have helped them greatly. Knowing how much can be lost when we have a pliant media, will we now support independent journalism?

Discharging the responsibilities of a citizen

The same people who were silent all this while are now talking of how quickly democratic agencies can succumb to dictatorial tendencies. Don’t they realise that each of us is individually and collectively responsible for that? Constance Vigilance is needed for a democracy to survive. We cannot depend on others to do it- we need to hold our elected representatives responsible, we need to ask questions, The day we abdicate our responsibility, we too become culpable.

Our ancestors fought for independence. It is upto us to continue fighting to uphold the ideals of liberty, equality, fraternity and justice.

How To Go Beyond Token Symbolism On World Environment Day

 With World Environment Day (WED) around the corner, corporates and other institutions would be looking for ways to celebrate the day. Here are a few popular events that they should stay away from if they really care about the sustainability and climate change.

1. Tree plantations 

This is probably the most popular way to celebrate WED. It is a fabulous photo-op, and gives a dopamine high. But there are several reasons why it should be avoided. WED is in the first week of June, and unless the saplings are watered regularly till the monsoons strike, the effort remains tokenism. From a biodiversity standpoint, too, care should be taken to plant trees that are suitable to the location, and which support local biodiversity.

While planting a tree is better than not planting a tree, one should realise that merely planting tree doesn’t have a substantial positive impact on the environment. What more important is to preserve existing trees, and to educate people about the harm done by cutting trees, or excessive pruning.

2. Clean up drives

This is another very popular activity on WED, and groups of volunteers armed with rubber gloves and grabbing sticks descend on lakes, beaches, and public parks. to pick up trash. In popular spots like Marina Beach in Chennai, it is not unusual to find groups of employees from half a dozen institutions jostling to find a patch of beach to clean on WED. This activity, too, is largely symbolic, because by the end of the day, the patch that was cleaned up gets littered again. Also, such activities generate more trash in the form of the single use rubber gloves used by participants.

One could argue, that by participating in a clean-up, employees better understand the need to avoid and to stop using single use items which invariably end up as trash. However, for this message to be driven home, the organisers need to facilitate a proper post event debriefing session- if that is not done, there is no tangible outcome from the event.

While conducting clean ups, it is also essential to educate the participants to ensure that they do not inadvertently disrupt the ecology or livelihood (on beach clean ups, for instance, enthusiastic volunteers often disturb rocks that are used for breeding purposes, or dig up vegetables that the food vendors bury in the sand to keep them safe overnight).

3. 5k Runs to create Awareness

This is done by corporates, and by race organizers which the stated purpose of generating awareness about environmental issues. The link between the message being delivered and the activity is extremely tenuous because of which the message rarely registers. Worse, even the most mindfully organised runs generate a lot of waste in the form of water bottles, goodies bags, signage and post run breakfast. While some of these are replaced by marginally more sustainable alternatives (water from dispensers, tee-shirts made from recycled plastic bottles, bio-degradable signage, breakfast served as a buffet on biodegradable plates, etc), they still end up generating avoidable waste.

Since there is no direct link between the run and the message, does it serve any purpose conducting the event to commemorate the day?

4. Cycling events

This is increasingly gaining popularity, with the stated objective being to promote cycling as a replacement to using vehicles that burn fossil fuels. Like in the case of runs, these events too generate a lot of trash, which can at best be managed but not eliminated completely. This event, however, has the positive outcome of enabling people to rediscover the joy of cycling after many years, and might therefore get them to think about cycling more often. However, the desire to cycle to work is not sufficient in the absence of adequate cycling infrastructure.
Instead of merely organizing cycling events, corporates should focus on lobbying for cycling tracks and feeder electric bus services from metro stations, so their employees are encouraged to move away from using fossil-fuel powered vehicles.

5. Talks, photography exhibitions, nature walks, etc

Many corporates invite experts to talk about climate change, biodiversity and other environment related issues, organise photography exhibitions by wildlife photographers, or get naturalists to conduct nature walks for their employees and their families. While all of these are good things to do, in order to have a meaningful impact, care should be taken to ensure that each of these activities is directly linked to meaningful ways in which individuals can take action. Care should also be taken that the collaterals printed for these events do not generate excessive trash.

What can Corporates do instead?

While this is a long list of things that corporates and institutes should not do to celebrate World Environment Day, what is it that they can do?

A. At the individual level

Corporates can encourage their employees to adopt more sustainable habits in their daily life. They can create awareness about the carbon footprint that each of us generates, and create support groups to empower individuals to form habits that reduce their individual carbon footprints.

B. At the office level: 

Corporates could reduce the carbon footprint due to commute by encouraging work-from-home and carpooling. Usage of central air-conditioning should be regulated. Video-conferencing should be used as much as possible, and travel should be discouraged unless absolutely unavoidable. 
A proper inventory of corporate practices needs to be done to ensure that the office doesn’t generate more non bio-degradable trash than absolutely necessary. Since most people do not know how and where to give objects for recycling, offices can tie-up with recyclers and encourage employees to drop off recycleable objects.

C. At the corporate level

Corporates should divest from fossil fuel, and should use their corporate might to pressure other companies to divest from fossil fuels. Corporates can also donate to organisations that are working on environmental issues- while this is not as glamourous as participating in an event, it has a much greater impact.

The objective of World Environment Day is to create awareness and encourage action for the protection of the environment. Corporates and Institutions can and must go beyond token symbolism and commemorate the day in a manner that has a long term positive impact.


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