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Yogendra Yadav and Vandana Shiva call for a green party in India

Vasanth Srinivasan of The Hindu quotes former AAP leader Yogendra Yadav as saying, “there is a crying need for environmental politics” in India, but with the following caveat. “If green politics does not restrict itself as urban environmental activism but emerges as a binding agent of various marginalised groups and concerns, it definitely has a future in India.”

The prospect of Indian environmental interest groups coming together on a broader national platform could lend them the political heft that green parties even in the West lack

Vasanth Srinivasan, The Hindu

Even as governments of the world were grappling with the nitty-gritty details of the Paris Agreement, social media platforms were abuzz with discussions on the Chennai floods and the National Green Tribunal’s curbs on the plying of diesel vehicles in Delhi. Two sentiments dominated these discussions. One, a sense of betrayal, with political parties being painted and panned as ruthless villains. Two, the need for a planned course of action for all those who want to change the narrative of a civilisation that is on a constant warpath with nature. These discussions threw up the idea of a Green Party — a political party with ecological wisdom and participative democracy as its roots.

As far as innovations go, the idea of a Green Party is not exactly a brainwave; Western countries have seen their share of political parties and alliances that have been established on a ‘green’ platform. For instance, the German Green Party (now called Alliance ’90/The Greens), established in 1980, is one of the oldest and most prominent of these groupings. Many of these parties have made it to their respective Parliaments and some even to the European Parliament.

Need of the hour

But is there really a need for a Green Party? Can’t the existing parties, which anyway seem one too many, reorient, recalibrate and attune themselves to emerging needs? The answer, it seems, is both a yes and a no.

Yogendra Yadav, senior fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies and a renowned psephologist, social activist, and former Aam Aadmi Party leader, says there is a “crying need for environmental politics”, as our flawed economic developmental model has left a trail of shattered homes.

However, M. Pushparayan, social activist and one of the principal forces behind the anti-Koodankulam movement, says that while he agrees with Mr. Yadav’s overall assessment of the need for a green party, he keeps his counsel on its near-term viability.

Mr. Pushparayan’s scepticism is not entirely unfounded. Many of the current discussions around environmental issues and green politics are restricted to the now and here, with broader contentious topics such as industrialisation and exploitation of natural resources continuing to divide people.

“In Chennai, at least, the new-found sensitivity to environmental issues is more of a knee-jerk emotional response to the floods. [What people don’t understand is] that when we talk about things like a cleaner sea and garnet mining, we are speaking for the world at large and not just for the local communities,” he says.

If this is the way Chennai would look at what is happening in Kanyakumari or Tuticorin, then is it reasonable to expect people to make common cause with the happenings in Odisha or the Northeast?

But Mr. Yadav does not see this problem as insurmountable. He says this yawning divide between various interest groups is, in fact, a basic and unique feature of our democracy that we must take into account while coming up with a political response to new social mores.

“Forget about the disconnect between the people living in urban areas and those living in rural areas. Today, fishermen are disconnected from the Adivasis. The Adivasis are disconnected from the small and medium farmers. The small and medium farmers are disconnected from the locals,” he says.

Given these unique challenges, the strategy of the green parties in the West seems inappropriate in the Indian social milieu. Warns Mr. Yadav: “We should not try to ape the Western model. There, the environmental concerns are the concerns of the urbane and the educated. They are post-materialistic. In India, the environmental concerns revolve around necessities. They are the concerns of the rural poor, the Adivasis, the fishermen, the tribals and even the urban castaways. If green politics does not restrict itself as urban environmental activism but emerges as a binding agent of all these groups and concerns, it definitely has a future in India.”

This coming together of various interest groups on a broader national platform could lend them the political heft and the electoral sting that green parties in the West seem to lack, despite their early start.

Also, with the near unanimous view that existing political parties are not the solution but are part of the problem, one has to look beyond conventional politics and politicians. Says environmental crusader and author Vandana Shiva, “We need fresh infusion [of people] and fresh formations which can act as the political and ecological conscience of society.”

Conventional mainstream political parties may eventually wake up to the ground realities and may add elements of sustainable development and environmentalism to their agenda. But before that, they need to be convinced that ignoring these issues is indeed making a huge dent in their vote base, says Yadav.

Looking West

It is not as if there are no lessons that we can learn from the green parties of the West. Says Dr. Shiva, who works closely with many green party members of Parliament and members of the European Parliament on global issues: “We fight genetically modified organisms and Monsanto. They fight Monsanto too. We fight the takeover of the city by the builders’ lobby, which is cementing the soil and water bodies, and they too are.”

Green parties will also push the boundaries of democratic space, which is currently being hemmed in by various forces. “With corporates trying to shut out ecological movements, Greenpeace being a recent example, there is a need for a broad green alliance,” Dr. Shiva says.

It looks like green parties in India are just a seed of an idea, but an idea that holds a lot of promise.

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7 Responses “Yogendra Yadav and Vandana Shiva call for a green party in India”

  1. T. Vijayendra
    29th December 2015 at 7:54 pm

    I think several other people have in recent years talked about the Green Party. I recall the leader of anti Koodankulam Nuclear project talked about in his visit to Calcutta. May be you should cover this topic bit more. The time is slowly ripening for such initiatives. May be it will appear with a different name than Green Party – like a coalition of groups like NAPM but with a more explicit articulation of the a green agenda.

  2. H.R.Prakash
    29th December 2015 at 8:05 pm

    I am with you Yogesh and Vandhana. I believe the conventional mainstream political parties with their corrupt tendencies, their nexus with Corporates whose business is based on exploiting the depleting limited natural resources and polluting the environment to the point extinction living being and towards ultimate destruction of humanity are part of the problem.
    We will have periodic international meets to address the problem of carbon emissions and climate change and pass resolutions to act. We will respond with humanitarian concern pouring out philanthropy and relief for the affected people when Chennai flood disasters occur taking pride and spin-offs from gestures to be able to do our destructive action for profit and furthering a consumeristic society never acknowledging the floods are a consequence of our GDP based economic development mind-set.
    The people who have come to understand this situation have concern and commitment to bring change in it are apolitical people shunning party political and keeping at a distance democratic institutions and abdicating from playing a role or influencing governance.
    The Green party offers an platform where can group ourselves’ slowly snowballing in our mass gaining the might influence changes that are imminent to save gaurd humanity for the future.

  3. Ashok Kundapur
    29th December 2015 at 9:17 pm

    This type of party is long over due. But to day the Elections have become a big business. I am reminded of a ‘dialogue’ between two politicians of today. One said ‘Brother I hear some Greens are standing for elections what if they win?’ Other experienced Politicians said ‘let them win elections ‘. Not trying to discourage, but only trying to project reality. We should also explore other possibilities.

  4. Ashok Kundapur
    29th December 2015 at 9:20 pm

    Oh! one more comment please – Green in Hindi is Hara and hara also means defeated – so we should also be careful in selecting a Name for the party!

  5. Ishwar D Khajuria
    2nd January 2016 at 8:08 pm

    A Realistic Response To This Existing Global Trouble Lies In
    Restructuring The Corporate System On The Concept Of
    A Pro-Nature Pro-Human Political-Economic Model.

    The nature of our planet and the 21st century’s social reality of the interdependence of nation -states provide the nature-human centric paradigm the vision of One world,while the 1945-UN charter gives the vision of sovereign and independent nations, a vision contrary to the existing reality. where people and the environment at the centre of global activity ( i.e to serve the peoples interests, on the one hand and to take care of the environment conservation on the other.
    This vision provides us the way to make judicious use of human and environmental resources.
    The mindsets of corporate system ;
    * conquer the nature
    *man is the master of nature
    * nature is unlimited
    should changed as there did’nt corrospondind the reality
    Man is not master, but a part of nature in accordance with the nature law. This characterises human community or a human being
    as a bio-social phenomenon with a two sided-biological and social character.
    Causes of Enviro-bio Crises rests with this world corporate system and this furious crises now shaking the world.The fault of this basis require to be properly studied in all the four dimensions of this system–i.e sociological concepts,systemic principles,operational norms and historical experience.
    lastly but more importantly the corporate system and its developmental model underminees the multi-lateral processes of sustainable development,provides a handle to the corporations to manipulate and exploit the environmental and human resources for profit maximisation thus carrying the eco-bio crises to the dangerous point

  6. Beant singh,village Mehma Sarja ,Bathinda
    11th January 2016 at 7:24 pm

    I will support Green Party.i am a worker of Kheti Virasat Mission,i am anti natural farmer.i am already in touch with Swaraj Abhyan Bathinda team.

  7. 19th March 2016 at 9:47 am

    I think I should advice Yogendra and Vandana not to launch a Green Party of India now. I have been a member of the Green Party of Germany from 1982 to 1987 and did a study of the origin and development of the same (I was asked to do it by Rajni Kothari, the then director of CSDS). And, being an Indian, I have continuously followed the people’s movements in India with interest. So I think I am qualified enough to give them this advice.

    In the German electoral system, a new party needs only 5 percent of the votes cast in any national, provincial or municipal election to win some seats in the respective parliament. That made it very easy for the German Green Party, founded in 1980, to win over forty seats in the federal election held in 1983. That being different in the Indian electoral system, I see absolutely no chance in the near future of the envisioned Green Party of India winning any seat in any election. The whole effort and the election campaigns would only sap the energy of activists who then will be absent in the ecology movements.

    What is worse, a newly founded green party, if it scores some quick success, would attract all kinds of opportunists, who had till then failed to win any post in the established parties. They would soon take over the party and quickly change its character. Since long, the Green Party of Germany is anything but green. Its moral and programmatic degeneration began soon after 1983.

    I request Yogendra and Vandana to first concentrate their efforts on building genuine ecological consciousness among the masses.

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