Are Marxists feeling heat of global warming?

March 23rd, 2008 - 11:42 am ICT by admin  

By Monobina Gupta
New Delhi, March 23 (IANS) Comrades in the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) have started feeling the heat of global warming. So much so that the hitherto environment indifferent Communists have included a substantive chapter on environment in the political document to be adopted by the CPI-M at its coming party congress in Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu.

“The party should build pressure on the government to adopt suitable emission reduction policies in India through regulation rather than through market mechanisms under the neo-liberal policy framework,” said the document.

Once you cut through the political and economic jargon, it is clear that the CPI-M is more serious than ever on environment - a subject always outside its ambit of routine discourse. “It is true India has almost 1/20th per capita emissions of the US. But it should be noted that inequity within India too is pronounced with rural and urban poor availing only a fraction of average Indian energy use,” said the document.

Every five years the CPI-M puts together a new political document, which helps to formulate its tactics and strategies.

The latest one takes a quantum leap as far as environment is concerned. It devotes four paragraphs and 371 words to the subject - in sharp contrast to the skimpy one para and 113 words in the 2002 report.

Does the CPI-M’s sudden interest in environment signal a new commitment? Environmentalists do not believe so.

“Has the party come up with any concrete local and national agenda?” asked Anumita Roy Choudhury of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), an NGO.

In the absence of a plan of action, “it is then just a political gimmick”, Roy Choudhury told IANS.

The CPI-M bats for development even if it is at the cost of environment.

For instance, the party regards Medha Patkar, who has been crusading against big dams, with a great deal of suspicion. Critics say its protests in Kerala against Coca-Cola, which has been sucking out the state’s groundwater, is driven more by politics than environment.

Shamik Lahiri, a CPI-M MP in the Lok Sabha, however, insists that his party has always taken an interest in environmental issues.

“Even the last time environment figured in our political document. We passed a resolution on the issue at the (last) party congress,” he said.

Prodded further, he grudgingly conceded that the party does have a political motive behind underlining the threat of global warming.

“If we have highlighted the phenomenon of global warming in our political document this time, it is because the issue has political overtones,” Lahiri explained to IANS.

According to him, countries with the finances and the resources are turning the screws on lesser developed nations, including India.

He ended up lending credence to Roy Choudhury’s scepticism that the CPI-M regarded global warming more as a concern of politics than environment.

Roy Choudhury, however, stressed that political parties, at least the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have become sensitive to environment. “There has been a sea change in their attitude between 1998-2004,” she said.

“In Delhi’s last assembly elections (in 2003), both the Congress and the BJP literally vied with each other to get the green vote,” she added.

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