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Former COO of UN aligned body slams Greta Thunberg for misguided activism against India, informs how his admiration turned into disappointment

In his letter, Mr. Gulati wrote as to how his admiration for Greta had turned into disappointment.

An erstwhile Chief Operating Officer of United Nations aligned Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) recently wrote an open letter to infamous climate activist Greta Thunberg. In the letter, Mr. Mohinder Gulati, expresses his disappointment with Greta’s politically charged activism vis-à-vis India. On 3rd February, Greta Thunberg accidently posted a toolkit on her Twitter profile which was deleted within minutes. This toolkit revealed the extent of the global pressure campaign against the Indian government.

In his letter, Mr. Mohinder Gulati wrote as to how his admiration for Greta had turned into disappointment. The letter reads, “When I heard you (Greta) in 2018 and 2019 my heart warmed up since 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. However, I am writing to you with some disappointment that you have started using your well-earned bully pulpit to wade into political issues, such as farmers’ protest in India, which may not be as simple and as straightforward as you may have been led to believe.”

In the letter, Mr. Gulati lays 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.”

It adds, “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 letter reads, “FAO estimates show that two-third of food is wasted in post-harvest transportation, storage, processing and distribution before it reaches the consumer. If food wastage was a country, it would be the third largest emitter after the US and China. Embedded carbon in the wasted food in India is about 60 Mt of CO2 equivalent. India desperately needs to modernize its agriculture, strengthen market linkages, and invest in the whole supply chain. This cannot, and should not, be done by the governments and should be left to a competitive, efficient and well-regulated private sector. Do you support India to continue with the current archaic systems and waste food that could feed 100 million hungry every year?”

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 reads, ‘India extracts about 230 km3 of groundwater every year of which 90% is used for irrigation. World Bank estimates show that by 2030, 65% of Indian groundwater would be considered over-exploited i.e. extracting more than is recharged by nature. Fifty years ago, farmers in Punjab and Haryana valiantly rose to the challenge of food insecurity and started growing rice in a semi-arid agro-climatic zone to feed the country. It has come at a very heavy environmental cost of severe depletion of groundwater, deteriorating water quality, excessive use of chemical fertilizers and cancer-causing pesticides. India is now food surplus and needs to create incentives to make agriculture less resource intensive and demand driven. Agitating farmers want the government to lock into the current system of growing resource intensive and chemical ridden agriculture. Do you support that?’

Finally, Mr Gulati hones in on the issue of corruption plaguing agricultural markets. The letter reads, “You(Greta) may not be aware but the current system forces farmers to sell their produce through government-established market yards where they have to pay a brokerage of about 2 to 3% and market tax of about 5 to 6%. Market Committees collect this tax supposedly for “rural development”, are controlled by politicians, and their accounts are not audited for years. The revenue is often swindled by corrupt politicians controlling these Committees. The new laws give a choice to the farmers to either continue to sell in the existing market yards or sell to anyone anywhere in the country and that too without paying any tax.”

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.

The letter explains, “Normally, the market price is lower than the MSP. This is what creates a great opportunity for the broker-mafia. Brokers and politicians purchase wheat and rice from farmers in other states at a lower price (about 60% of MSP) and pay them in cash, bring it to government procurement stations in Punjab, Haryana and UP, sell it at a higher price (MSP) and get paid by check. This is counted as their agriculture income which is tax-exempt.”

“So these brokers, often politicians or campaign financiers, not only earn the huge arbitrage but also convert the cash (generally crime money) to legitimate tax-free income. New laws would bring in transparency and make it difficult to legitimize crime money. No wonder farmer agitation is so well funded. I feel the innocent farmers may not even know the source of this questionable “philanthropic” funding. I wonder if you would support a system of legitimizing crime and corruption money in the hands of corrupt politicians and their cronies,” he adds.

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.

Mr. Mohinder Gulati then signs off, warning Greta that her credibility to effect legitimate climate policies will suffer if she continues to involve herself in local politics she does not understand. “You are doing a great service to the cause of climate change, an existential threat to humanity that needs to be addressed urgently. We need global consensus for implementation of the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals. Walking into the thicket of local political issues, often mired in a battle with corrupt and vested political interests, would undermine your ability to keep the moral high ground to exhort World Leaders into action for a sustainable future. I would urge you not to expend your political and moral capital on controversial local political issues.”, wrote Mr. Gulati.

The open letter from Mr. Mohinder Gulati, former COO of SEForALL, an organization launched by the U.N. Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon, offers a legitimate environmental insight and criticism of Greta’s activism. This is 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.

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