Deepmala 43 – Environment is an Individual Responsibility

I would like to recall three incidents that I witnessed in Indonesia, China and India during the last 12 years, which have left a deep impression on my mind.

I remember being in Jakarta in Indonesia. I had gone there to help restructuring of the industrial research and development system on the invitation of the World Bank. It was a Saturday, and being a holiday I was relaxing with a book near a swimming pool. The big swimming pool also had an adjoining small swimming pool especially reserved for very young children. Many of them were Japanese children in the age group of 5-8 years. I saw something interesting. A dry leaf from a nearby tree came and fell in the pool. A small child of about 5 years of age saw that leaf. It didn’t like it because probably it must have felt that it was spoiling the cleanliness of the pool. It swam all the way towards that leaf that was floating on the surface of the water and tried to catch it. After some struggle, it managed to catch it. I thought the child will just come to the edge of the pool and throw it out. To my surprise, it didn’t do so. The child, with the help of his maid, got out of the pool. Then it went running to a dust bin which was located quite far off. It put that leaf in the dust bin. Feeling happy that it had finished an important task, it came back and jumped into the pool again. This was a lesson in environmental consciousness given to me by a small Japanese child.

When I was the Director of the National Chemical Laboratory, I remember we decided that we will compete globally and project NCL as a knowledge based consultancy organization. We bid for a consultancy contract in China. It was a global bid. I remember competing with three American companies. We finally won the consultancy bid. This was a proud moment for us. But in order to win that bid, along with my colleagues, I had to personally go to China to make a presentation of our bid. But we did not know Chinese. We took the help of an Indian friend, who knew Chinese. We were on our way to the office, where the presentation was going to be made. As we were driving along, our car stopped at a signal. My Indian friend was smoking a cigarette. At the signal, he just threw the butt of the cigarette out of the window. A little Chinese girl saw this act. She picked up the cigarette and came to my Indian friend. She said this was not allowed in Beijing and for this act, he would be fined. She took out a little receipt book and told him the amount that he should pay. My Indian friend paid it and took the receipt. Later on my friend told me that there was a campaign to clean Beijing and make it one of the most environmentally green and clean city. People’s participation in making this happen was a part of this campaign. I asked him as to what would the girl do with this money that she had collected. He said it would be deposited with the State. This was the second lesson for me, which showed to me not only environmental consciousness shown by a little girl, but how it was driven and managed by the State.

It was around three years ago that Shri Sharad Pawar invited me to visit Baramati. He was very proud of the institutions that he had built in Information Technology and he wanted me to have a look at these. I remember traveling with him from Pune to Baramati in the morning and having a fascinating discussion on what IT could do for the upliftment of the people. After we reached Baramati, he himself took me around many institutions including the library in which his personal collections of books were deposited. We then went to a modern building, which was going to part of a new institute. The building was spotlessly clean. But on the way, as we were moving around, he found that someone had thrown a crumbled piece of paper on the floor. He picked this up and held it in his hand. Later on we walked through various parts of the building for 20-25 minutes. He kept on holding that piece of paper in his hand. On our way out towards a place, where I was going to give a public address, he found a dust bin and put it in that dust bin. This was another lesson to me in environmental consciousness coming from one of India’s enlightened senior political leader.

What is common between these three individuals? I believe it is that this responsibility to keep a clean environment resides with an individual and not with the Government. Do we not have the right to dream of a clean and green India that will be the envy of other nations? We can create that India, but only if all of its 100 crore citizens were like these three individuals that I met in Indonesia, India and China.