Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Reply and the Learning

This is a follow up to the article that I wrote about How to file and RTI. You can read it here!! I got the reply to the RTI application that I had filed. Mr. Joglekar who gave me the relevant documents was a very friendly person and was the first Public Information Officer for IIT when the RTI Act was passed. He explained to me how an organization can be proactive and make as much information public so the the need for filing for information does not remain. For example IIT can maintain a website where all the developmental activities that it is doing can be put up for people to read.

Reply Summary

About 250 trees have been felled at various locations across IIT. The purpose of felling of these trees is for new constructions such as hostel extension, new department, convention centre etc. What is interesting to note is that if we have to cut a tree then we have to inform the Tree Authority of BMC first, then they survey the area and mark the trees that need to be cut. Only after that can the trees be cut. Also for every tree that is cut, two new saplings need to be planted and a deposit of the order of Rs. 5000 per tree is to be kept with the BMC. A regular update of survival of these trees is to be given to the Corporation and after a period of three years, if the survival rate is found adequate, the deposit is returned. This was some of the factual information.

Whether any alternate solution was studied, the reply plainly says that no alternate solution was found.

This is the section which used to be completely covered with trees


This experience brought up so many points that I wouldn't have learnt otherwise.

  • Functioning of a government machinery
The government machinery has a clear hierarchy in its functioning. If we want that something be done in a different way, we have to make sure that we are heard by the most upstream person in the decision making. For example, in case of the cutting of trees, it is the Dean of Planning activities in IIT who takes these decisions. The Horticulture department will execute the orders given by the Dean. They are not directly responsible for taking any decisions.

  • With not Against
Many a times certain things have to be done. For example, the capacity of students in IIT needs to be increased. Now its the responsibility of the Dean to fulfill this requirement. The Dean has no other option but to build new buildings which means cut more trees. So its necessary to have communication with Deans without which it would be unfair to assume that the decision makers are not concerned about the environment. It would be more fruitful if we can convince the Dean and work with him.

  • Development Vs Environment?
The classic question!! A difficult answer. If we want to stop certain developmental activity because we feel it is harming the environment, we must have an alternate solution ready. Otherwise our argument has not strength. But, will there always be an alternate solution? Maybe not.. And then what do we do?

  • Politics? hmmm....
With this one act of filing for information, I realized the power of being in a position of power. What if the Dean was a proactive person really concerned about environment. What if he put efforts to study the campus, demarcate areas which will be maintained green, develop a proposal which will study how much expansion is possible in the campus, make sure all new buildings coming up are built taking into account energy efficiency.

More importantly what if I was the Dean? Why do I not want to be in a position of power, if that is the best possible position to be in to make a difference? I don't have the conviction to answer this question.

  • One small step by thousands of people?
This brings me to a borrowed dream seen by many people in the past!! How will an individual be the change agent. How will every person stand up for the environment. But even before I start so many obstacles come in. Poverty, caste issues, religion, violence, population... and then when all of these are solved, we can start thinking about environment. Very true, sitting in my room in front of a laptop its very easy to lament about the state of the environment because I don't have to struggle for food everyday. Really, this world is complex and necessarily exploitative in nature. One can survive only at the expense of the other.

Its so difficult to find meaning to life, ain't it?



mrig said...

Hi Priyadarshan, This is Mrig. Your blog was quite helpful. I am a total environment Freak. I have some ideas to share about: to save trees and avoid plastic.

Life is meaningful if we give life to it.


Bhavik Garg said...

Nice PD