Depleting forest cover: Punjab worst hit

As parks are the lungs of a city, forests are the lungs of a country. India is very fortunate to have a range of forests with rich flora and fauna. But we are fast losing our precious forests. Punjab is the worst-hit state in this regard, because of the basic nature of the Punjabis and our enthusiasm for bringing about the green revolution.

We Punjabis love merry-making and live for a particular moment without caring for the future. In Punjab, only 5.7 per cent area is under forest cover as per the Punjab Biodiversity Report, 2004, and forest cover per person is less than 0.02 hectare. In contrast, in Himachal Pradesh, it is 0.51 hectare and in Jammu and Kashmir it is 0.34 hectare.

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The meagre forest cover in Punjab today is mostly restricted to trees growing on the sides of the road, banks of canals, banks of rivers or on the sides of rail tracks. In the near future we are going to boast of having long metalled roads without a shadow of shade, without a flutter of a butterfly or a single perch for a bird. There will be honking of horns of vehicles and a blistering sun on top of our heads. All this would be courtesy the mushrooming of numerous marriage places, resorts, petrol pumps, dhabas, etc, coming up on both sides of the roads.

Everybody or anybody who possesses land adjoining the roads has got a “right” to construct these structures and fell the trees between their buildings and the road. It seems nobody needs any permission to destroy trees belonging to the Forest Department, to clear the land and to occupy it. Strangely, even the Forest Department seems to be unconcerned about the state of forests in Punjab. Why are we in the habit of sleeping till it is too late?


Who cares for the poor?

I am a teacher at Maharshi Dayanand University, where and a chowkidar once asked me why my university was selling B.Ed admission forms for Rs 750 to upper caste candidates whereas it was available for Rs 190 to others. He wanted to know the logic behind it.

He told me that his graduate son could not apply for a B.Ed entrance test as he could not afford to buy the form, costing half of his monthly wages. I mumbled something about the government policy, but truly there is no justification for charging four times the cost from the general category candidates, irrespective of their economic condition.

No one can deny that there are very poor people among the reserved categories. And nobody would suggest that reserved category candidates should also be charged exorbitant costs for forms. But there has to be some parity. Poverty and deprivation are painful to everybody.

But who cares? As long as the policy of reservation remains as the most potent populist measure to garner votes, nothing will change. The politicians as parents and their wards as candidates can never imagine the anguish and pain of the poor chowkidar and millions like him. Surely, the Indian brand of democracy and social justice can do better than this.

SUBHASH C. SHARMA, MDU PG Regional Centre, Rewari

Whose grace?

A PTI news story published in your paper on June 27 titled “PM visits Gurdwara Jagatsudhar” talks about a “hallowed list of VIPs who have graced the 78-year-old gurdwara.” Apart from Dr Manmohan Singh, the list includes Mahatma Gandhi and Netaji Subhash Chander Bose.” None of these great personalities, however, would ever feel that they are big enough to “grace” any religious place on earth. Those writing the reports should be sensitive in their choice of words.


Not convincing

India’s Left parties are in a tizzy because the UPA government wants to sell 10 per cent of its stake in BHEL. The government has agreed that profit-making state-owned companies would not be privatised. Even after selling 10 per cent equity, the government’s share will come down only to 57 per cent, which obviously means that BHEL continues to be a PSU. This is disinvestment and not privatisation, as alleged by the Leftists. The CPM is confusing the masses by citing Arun Shourie-era obfuscation about these concepts.

In any case, the Left has no business to act coy about such economics. The CPM in West Bengal is wooing overseas capital. Kerala is busy running businesses, from bidi factories to amusement parks. One is at a loss to find a logical economic reason for the Left’s opposition to the BHEL move. The elections are due next year in Kerala and Bengal. Our comrades would do well to try something more convincing to woo the masses.


Politics and religion

Apropos of the editorial “Imrana under siege,” any right-thinking person’s head should hang in shame with the treatment meted out by religious zealots to Imrana in India and Mukhtar Mai in Pakistan. The majority of politicians either have preferred to remain silent or have spoken in favour of the oppressors with barbaric tendencies deeply embedded in their psyche. The silence of human rights organisations, the National Commission for Women and other prominent bodies is also surprising.

You can hardly expect the ruling party or its president to speak against outrageous fatwas given by religious bodies, because their own Prime Minister, in the past, was instrumental in overturning the verdict given by the Supreme Court in the Shah Bano case.

But the time is not far off when this politics-religion nexus will be broken by the silent majority of India, who will teach a befitting lesson to everyone responsible for such a mess.

R.K. TANEJA, Ludhiana

One for the road

The people of Haryana are pleased to see numerous Press releases and large advertisements regarding the long-pending repair of the state roads. We are told that Rs 1,100 crore is being spent on the repair and re-carpeting of the existing roads in the state.

I strongly feel that the state government should introduce committees of eminent persons in the respective areas to monitor repair works. It is necessary to ensure that funds do not go down the drain again.

SHUBHANSHU, Charkhi Dadri


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