International child rights activist Greta Thunberg has come under attack for using her “bully pulpit” to wade into political issues, such as the farmers’ protest in India. Mohinder Gulati, Former Chief Operating Officer, United Nations Sustainable Energy for All, has written a letter to Thunberg, which is also marked to the United Nations Secretary-General.
In his letter, Mr. Mohinder Gulati wrote about how his admiration for Greta had turned into disappointment. The letter said that his heart warmed up when he heard her in 2018 and 2019 because “we had been advocating that the youth would drive the change for a better future, and you emerged as a torch bearer of that trust”. He added that her well-earned bully pulpit to wade into political issues, such as farmers’ protest in India, were not as simple as she believed. In the letter, Mr. Gulati laid down the four key issues one should consider to form an informed opinion on the Farmers Protest.
The first key issue that Mr. Gulati identifies is emissions from burning crop residue. Mr. Gulati chastises Greta on her lack of knowledge on this issue.
The letter reads, “Indian farmers, mostly around Delhi in the states of Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh, burn about 100 million tons (Mt) a year of crop residue which generates 140 Mt of CO2, 12 Mt of other noxious gases and 1.2 Mt of particulate matter choking a population of about 50 million in the area. Crop residue burning also destroys the nitrogen and carbon potential of the soil, kills the microflora and fauna beneficial to the soil, removes the large portion of the organic matter, and unavoidably leads to increased use of chemical fertilizers.”
“Smog in Delhi forces young children to skip school and stay indoors, 2.2 million children suffer irreversible lung damage. Your embassy in Delhi can inform you how they gasp for air during that period. Do you support farmers demand to let them continue to burn crop residue and add to emissions?”
The second key issue that Mr. Mohinder Gulati brings attention to is food wastage. Mr. Gulati contends that the wastage of food itself emits Carbon Dioxide and that the sheer massive scale of food wastage in India is enough to be the third largest emitter of Carbon Dioxide behind USA and China. Farmers Protest are against privatization in the agricultural sector, which is the need of the hour to build massive supply chains and storage facilities in order to curtail the shortage of food.
The third key issue that Mr. Mohinder Gulati invokes is the specter of a water crisis looming large in India. With farmers over-utilizing underground water for irrigation purposes, over 65% of Indian ground water is considered over-exploited. Excessive use of fertilizer also remains a serious issue.
The letter goes on further, as Mr. Gulati cautions Greta and the readers that strong vested interests are against the farm laws. The new farms laws would bring in transparency which would close the loophole to exploit tax free agricultural income.
Mr. Gulati closes his letter with an appeal of peaceful dialogue between the farmers and the Government, but warns against the influence of any foreign actors. “Farmers in Punjab, Haryana, and part of Uttar Pradesh have a legitimate apprehension which needs to be addressed through dialogue and not intransigence of either party. India has adequate institutions of Parliament, Courts, Media, and public opinion to allow peaceful protests and open dialogue to solve its myriad problems of poverty and development.”, the letter read.
The open letter from Mr. Mohinder Gulati, offers a legitimate environmental insight and criticism of Greta’s activism. This was not just a critique of Greta, but also of hundreds of Indian environmental activists, who don’t seem to have any plan or strategy to India’s environmental crises, but won’t spare an opportunity to contribute to the problem.