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Environmental crimes threaten global security, says UN

As hundreds of environment ministers assemble at Nairobi for the first United Nations
Environment Assembly (UNEA), the UN has warned that high profits and low probability of
being caught is fuelling environmental crimes, which now threatens the security and
sustainable development of many nations.
Monetary value of these crimes, right from illegal logging, poaching, fisheries and mining to
dumping of toxic waste, is between US $70 billion and US $213 billion a year, said the
UNEP and Interpol in their report, The Environmental Crime Crisis. By comparison, the
worlds rich countries disburse about US $135 billion a year as global Overseas Development
Assistance. The report, which UNEP calls a rapid response assessment to provide some of the
latest data, analysis and insights into environmental crimes, was released on Tuesday during
the five-day event that will end on June 27.
According to the report, illegal logging and other illegal forestry trade have an estimated
worth of US$30 to US$100 billion annually. This is 10 to 30 per cent of the total global
timber trade. It is found that as much as 90 per cent of the wood in some individual tropical
countries is suspected to come from illegal sources or has been logged illegally. Traders are
able to smuggle the illegal timber by setting up networks of shell companies and legal
plantations to supply pulp for the paper industry. An estimated 62 to 86 per cent of all
suspected illegal tropical wood enters the EU and US in the form of paper, pulp or wood
Illegal trade in fauna and flora (excluding fisheries and timber) is worth US$7 to US$23
billion dollars annually, says the report, which highlights poaching across many species,
including tigers, elephants, great apes, Saiga antelopes and rhinos.

Poaching of rhinos fund militants in India

In Assam, which is home to 75 per cent of the worlds remaining great one-horned
rhinoceroses, a multitude of armed groups, including tribal separatists, rebels, and Islamist
terrorists poach within the Kaziranga national park and adjacent protected areas of Orang and
Pabitora. At least 41 rhinos were poached in Kaziranga in 2013, double the number killed the
previous year. Most were reportedly killed by AK-47s and .303 rifles used by militant groups.
The horns are traded for weapons and cash to fund militant activities, says the report.
Almost two dozen militant organisations are active in the region, proliferating arms and
impacting security, and creating opportunities for the penetration of transnational organized
crime. Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami and Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh, Bangladeshi terror
groups affiliated with Al Qaeda, reportedly poach tigers, elephants, and rhino in the park to
raise organisational operating funds. The groups have been claimed to have links with
criminal syndicates in Nepal, Thailand and China, the report notes.
Crimes related to wildlife and forest play a major role in financing organised crimes and nonstate armed groups, including terrorist organisations. Another such illegal trade involves

ivory, which provides income to militia groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),
the Central African Republic and horse gangs in Sudan, Chad and Niger. Given the
estimated elephant populations and the number of projected killed elephants within striking
range of these militia groups, the annual income from ivory to militias in the sub-Saharan is
up to US$12.2 million.
Transnational criminal organisations are making immense profits by exploiting our natural
resources to fuel their illicit activities, threatening the stability and future development of
some of the world's poorest regions," said Interpols Executive Director of Police Services,
Jean-Michel Louboutin. "While there is growing awareness of the dangers posed by wildlife
crime, it will require a dedicated and concerted international effort among law enforcement
and partner organizations to effectively combat this threat to global security," he added.
Beyond immediate environmental impacts, the illegal trade in natural resources is depriving
developing economies of billions of dollars in lost revenues just to fill the pockets of
criminals, said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
Sustainable development, livelihoods, good governance and the rule of law are all being
threatened, as significant sums of money are flowing to militias and terrorist groups.
The report has issued 12 recommendations to curb environmental crimes. These call for
coordinated efforts to strengthen environmental legislation and regulations, and alleviate
poverty; identifying end-user markets and implementing consumer awareness campaigns;
strengthening institutional, legal and regulatory systems to further combat corruption and
ensure that the legal trade is monitored and managed effectively.

Politicising appointments
Recent government action is a jolt to the system
On the 40th anniversary of the Emergency - a period that saw the tragic
politicisation of the judiciary - a set of ghosts has been entirely unnecessarily let
loose. In withholding its consent to the appointment of prominent lawyer and
former solicitor general Gopal Subramanium as a judge of the Supreme Court,
the government has once again raised worries that the executive may be
preferring a "committed" judiciary. It is ironic that Indira Gandhi's actions in this
respect - the supersession of as many as three judges of the Supreme Court were loudly criticised by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in particular. Partly as a
response to the problems of the 1970s, over the past two decades the higher
judiciary has carved out a great deal of independence for itself in the matter of
appointments through the self-referential collegium that appoints new Supreme
Court judges. So it is particularly unfortunate that the government has chosen to
remind the judiciary and other observers of the dangers of executive control at
just the moment when a consensus in favour of alternative methods of judicial
appointments was building up.

The collegium had recommended Mr Subramanium's name to the government. It

has since been learnt that the other names recommended along with Mr
Subramanium's have been accepted. This was revealed through media reports of
unknown provenance. Other media reports revealed the facts the government
claimed lay behind its reasoning - such as, for example, Mr Subramanium's
relation with the lobbyist Niira Radia and his actions during the investigation into
2G licences. These events have been amply explained by Mr Subramanium.
Thus, the government's action rests clearly on questionable facts and was not
revealed transparently. Mr Subramanium himself contends that the government
merely asked its investigative agencies for an excuse to blackball him. If so, this
insults not just a respected lawyer but the judicial system itself, and politicises
judicial appointments. Mr Subramanium pointedly referred to his actions as
amicus curiae in the Gujarat fake encounter cases. It would be deeply
unfortunate if this underlay the decision to object to the Supreme Court's desire
to raise Mr Subramanium to the bench. Mr Subramanium has since withdrawn his
name from contention. But the issues raised remain, and must be addressed by
both the government and the judiciary.
This action on judicial appointments combines with several other problematic
actions to suggest a regrettable move towards politicisation of appointments and
the judicial system. For example, the investigation into illegal surveillance by
anti-terrorism squads in Gujarat is likely to be withdrawn - which should not have
happened if the BJP or the Gujarat government has nothing to hide. Then there's
the suggestion that state governors quit en masse. Reports have also emerged
that bureaucrats who served ministers in the previous government could not
serve ministers in this one: Home Minister Rajnath Singh was denied his
preferred choice of private secretary in the process. Intelligence and vigilance
inquiries on these officers have also been reportedly stepped up. This
politicisation of appointments is a cloud over a government that has otherwise
started well.

Art for the sake of urbanscape

In Indias capital cities there is not even a single landmark
development, either as a monument or a precinct, which
symbolises the spirit of the country
Civilisation literally means living in a city. The word is derived from the Latin word civitas,
which means city-state. Urban renewal is a term that describes ways of constructively dealing
with the problems that growing cities encounter. Beyond infrastructural provisions such as
housing, hygiene, transport and basic amenities for populations, this constructive engagement
also includes generating livelihoods and addressing the needs of the vulnerable. Culturebased initiatives built into the master plans and goals for the cities of the future have devised
universal indices that position their rank as creative cities. Libraries and museums as
reference centres, festival squares and galleries, and spaces for performing arts and events

including those for deprived precincts, are as important as funds for city artists, designers and
architects to develop art and a creative environment in the public domain.
Boosting local economies
Culture and the arts are often mistaken as an expendable resource as administrators look
for ways to tighten their budgets. They are far from expendable; initiatives using the two have
often assumed key roles in boosting local economies, renewing urban areas in decay, and
promoting the type of active citizen whose pride and self-esteem is an asset to any
community. To commit to these activities as an economic and social strategy is a smart form
of investment for a nation state.
The regeneration of human settlements is at the core of Indias future. It is part of a long-term
strategy where business, technology and heritage interact with one another.
Consider President Franois Mitterrands Grands Projets (Grand Project) for Paris which
included the construction of the Opra Bastille (the New Opera), the Arc extending the axis
of bold vistas, neighbourhood multipurpose institutions such as the cross-cultural Arab
Cultural Research Center, the iconic renovations and additions to the Louvre, and the revival
of the inner city with bold new agoras. This was a grand international strategy to ensure that
21st century France would remain an international hub of creativity and imagination. With a
united Europe, the goal of Mitterrands strategy was to make this ancient city a hub of interest
for the residents as well as its growing number of visitors. The President stated clearly that
business and technology were the means to achieve this multi-dimensional goal for a cultural
Surely there is inspiration here for South Asias premier capital, New Delhi, and for its state
capitals which imitate one another. Amid the glass towers and glitzy malls that are spreading
like cancer, is there a single big idea in India today that can change the dreary urban scape?
Make no little plans, they have no magic to stir mens blood, said Daniel Burnham, the
visionary Chicago architect. Winston Churchill declared inimically, While we shape our
buildings; thereafter they shape us.
Rajiv Gandhi began the much misunderstood Apna Utsav festival in the 1980s to attract
international tourists while presenting the multi-disciplinary skills of indigenous communities
from around the country. The audience composed largely of migrants. Hosting imaginative
world events, bringing art to the public domain, building cultural complexes, and reinventing
the city can help overhaul its economy. The renewal of Barcelona, Paris and Bilbao as worldclass architectural spaces; the construction of Chandigarh and Brasilia by new design or the
rejuvenation of inclusive precincts like Potsdamer Platz (Berlin), the Lincoln Center (New
York) or the Smithsonian Institution along the National mall (Washington) celebrate peoples
engagement with culture.

In all the above examples, local and outside populations have played a pivotal role in reviving
depressed economies. Conserving decaying monuments while creating a new vocabulary is
recognised as a critical attractor it sparks popular imagination, generating both confidence
among local residents and bringing in influential visitors. The Centre Pompidou in the middle
of Paris did precisely this. It also had the courage to invite an Englishman and an Italian to
design its revolutionary concept that brings more tourists to the city today than the Eiffel
Tower. Another example is Anish Kapoors Cloud Gate, which has given Chicago an icon
that can be instantly recognised by the world.
A visionary plan
In Indias capital cities there is not even a single landmark development, either as a
monument or a precinct, which symbolises the spirit of the country. Delhi covers 1,486
square kilometres; yet hardly one kilometre is reserved for celebrating our cultural heritage.
Our historic monuments, increasingly being subsumed by illegal growth, are more fragile
now. What can be done to convey the dynamic living force of an emerging nation, linking the
old with the new, without throwing the baby out with the bathwater?
Over the last 20 years, a visionary plan the South Asian Design Arts and Technology
Kendra (SADAK) has been growing in the Delhi Development Authority that could excite
the imagination of the whole subcontinent. This design-led cross-disciplinary enterprise could
become a centre of excellence. The master plan includes the setting up of national museums
of architecture and design, museums of photography and visual image, and institutes of
textile and fashion technology, amid a clutch of unprecedented world-class facilities along the
public-private partnership model. SADAK is a pivotal concept seeking redevelopment of a
precinct, an area however derelict, with innovative and indigenous rejuvenation. Its sensitive
implementation will of course involve concerted engagement with neighbouring countries,
ministries, and more critically, the corporate and NGO sectors. An appropriate and clear site
in the heart of the city would not be difficult to find. Maybe a new government will dust the
SADAK file and take it out of the hands of an apathetic bureaucracy.
The South Asian subcontinent needs to critically redefine its own concept of civilisation.
Indias overemphasis on the expansion of its towns and cities without questioning their
failings, and ignoring their inherent qualities, is a peculiar process of urbanisation. Tourism as
a subset of culture is a growing field that employs millions of people. It will have to articulate
an integrated view of changing demographies and diverse communities living together. Urban
India, a vast network of neighbourhoods which link rural migrants to a resurgent and vibrant
countryside, is a large part of our future as a nation.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, speaking from a western perspective said: I wish for rural strength
and religion, and city facility and polish. I find with chagrin that I cannot have both.
India is in a unique position. The synergy of its past and present can help it accomplish both.

Orphaned by our education system

Cutbacks in funds for hostels under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan have pushed children of
migrants out of schooling
The seasonal migrant labour population of India is estimated by some scholars to be as high
as 100 million. They face barriers in accessing social services and settling permanently in
urban areas; they often prefer to keep their link with the village, especially during the
agricultural season. As a result, they circulate between their villages and various
destination areas for work, spending significant portions of the year away from home.
While migration can open new economic possibilities for families, it also comes with high
risks. These risks are disproportionately felt by the children of migrants who are often
compelled to travel to worksites with their parents. Some have estimated that around six
million school-aged children in India participate in family-based labour migration every year.
Millions more are impacted indirectly, forced to take on most of the household
responsibilities in their parents absence. Unfortunately, neither the Central nor state
governments have made migrant children a priority.
Student hostels
Consider the case of the migratory hostel programme run by the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan
(SSA), the flagship programme for universalising elementary education. The idea is simple
but effective: at the request of the local school, students who would otherwise be forced to
migrate with their parents are allowed to stay in the primary school building for the sixmonth migration period. SSA provides for two wardens hired from the community, meals,
and some basic supplies. The programme is cost-effective because it uses facilities that are
already available at the local school. Besides, children can focus on their studies and stay
within the safety of their own villages.
Unfortunately, due to a change in priorities, the Central government has decided to deny
funding to Rajasthans 80 migratory hostels for the upcoming year. Closing this programme
a small component of SSAs budget will have deep repercussions for many vulnerable
families in Rajasthan.
Evidence from my fieldwork in southern Rajasthan, as well as a review of social protection
strategies for migrants, shows that source-based intervention, such as setting up migratory
hostels, in the areas where migrants originate are needed to prevent child migration and child
The urban areas of central Gujarat have long been a popular destination for poor migrants
from Scheduled Tribe communities from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat itself. They
work in the brick kiln, construction, cotton ginning and agricultural industries.
High numbers of women
A 1997 study on migration in the area led by David Mosse found that 42 per cent of the
migrant workforce from the Bhil area was female. My survey in villages in Banswara district
of southern Rajasthan revealed that 75 per cent of women and 82 per cent of men had
migrated to Gujarat for work at least once in their lifetime. While almost all ST families in

this area own some land, their landholdings are small and often unproductive. Massive
deforestation in the region has also limited opportunities for these communities which, at one
time, sustained their livelihoods off the forest.
While some have been able to harness their earnings from migrant labour to move ahead
economically, most remain burdened with economic insecurity and indebtedness to local
moneylenders. Nor has the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme
(MGNREGS) had much effect on the migration patterns of families in southern Rajasthan.
While 79 per cent of adults surveyed reported that they had participated in the scheme, only a
few families said it had impacted their migration behaviour; 75 per cent of adults who
reported they had migrated within the past year had also participated in MGNREGS at least
Reliance on migrant labour as a livelihood strategy has major costs to the family. For
instance, among the most marginalised communities, the whole family must migrate to the
worksite because they have no place to leave their children in the home village. The Prayas
Centre for Labour Research and Action estimates there are 8,40,000 out-of-school children at
brick kilns alone. In Banswara, 34 per cent of the migrant households had taken at least one
child with them to worksites that year. Even five-year-olds start working in the brick kiln
industry where the piecemeal wage system encourages child labour.
Risks to children
Children brought to worksites face the risk of injury, illness and exploitation, while missing
out on educational opportunities. Various NGOs, many with funding by the American India
Foundation (AIF), have piloted educational outreach for children at worksites. Worksites
cannot be easily made into education-friendly environments, however, making any benefits
from such interventions marginal. Accordingly, AIF, which supports migratory hostel
programmes for high-migration areas in three states, has shifted its Learning and Migration
Programme (LAMP) from a dual focus on source and destination areas to one entirely source
With both parents migrating, there are increasing incidences of child-headed households in
southern Rajasthan. In their parents absence, children as young as 12 must manage all
household responsibilities and care for younger siblings, leaving them little to no time to
attend school. Many schools I visited had a dropout rate of around 25 per cent.
Many of Rajasthans 4,10,957 out-of-school children have exited due to migration pressures.
Re-integrating them into the school system is done through the SSAs special training
programmes (STPs), bridge courses to prepare them academically for entry into the age
appropriate standard in school. This is a daunting task both for the hired contract teacher and
for the students, who may have already been in the workforce for a few years. It is not
surprising, therefore, that many STPs fail. During the year I conducted fieldwork in
Banswara, over a third of the STPs in the district had to be shut down. The most successful
STPs were the ones with residential facilities like the migratory hostels.
Since migration-induced dropouts account for much of the out-of-school population,
particularly in the ST areas, it makes sense to invest in dropout prevention. The migratory
hostels, as well as the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya programme of girls residential

primary schools, have both proven to be effective in preventing migration-induced dropouts.

Research across India is beginning to piece together a picture of an increasingly mobile
labour class. Addressing the risks faced by this population, especially those felt by the
children, must be made a key priority in order for India to meet its development targets.