As the new decade starts, I’m sure you have dreams, aspirations that you’d like to see accomplished. This post is dedicated to all those who’d like to make a difference in this world – a positive one, to all those who want to see a change for the better. Like myself, I know there are many people out there who are concerned about the state of the planet and want to do something about it. Many a times though, we might feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of problems facing us, feel helpless against such massive sweeping changes. At times like these, I recall a former manager’s advice – “Bloom where you are planted.” There may be a million things that cannot be done, but I guess life’s goal is ‘to seek out what CAN be done and then DO it!’ I seek strength from people who refuse to give up, refuse to accept that today’s world is the best world we can build for ourselves, our children and our fellow non-human companions. I find inspiration from those who seek strategic levers that change the entire game.
Today, I’d like to write about such a person. A person who may not have set out to change the entire world, but who had the courage to fight for the little things he believed in. Consequently, his work has improved the quality of life for billions of others. It would be superfluous to mention the number of awards he has received, for such laurels follow as sure as night is followed by day. But if you think that might motivate you, more information is available here.
Thanks to this man and countless others who worked with him:
- All Indians (and for better or worse, that means 1.18 billion out of 6.76 billion people!) enjoy the ‘right to a healthy environment’ as a part of the ‘right to life’ guaranteed by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution
- India’s crowning glory – the Taj Mahal, ‘the most visited monument in India ever!’ and one of ‘the 7 wonders of the world!’ was saved from ruin for the benefit of future generations and all world citizens who value it. Read more here. The Archeological Survey of India says that the number of visitors to centrally protected ticketed monuments has grown from 10956764 in 1996 to 31466731. In 2008, 2635283 domestic tourists and 591560 foreign tourists visited the Taj alone. Read more here. Can you imagine the revenue this has generated for the nation and its people and how this might have been impacted otherwise? To all those who are in love, can you imagine losing this treasure? Can you put a number to that loss?!
- Delhi went from having the dubious distinction of the ‘world’s most polluted city’ to become the first city in the world to have its entire public transportation fleet run on CNG (compressed natural gas). Credit here must also go to CSE (Center for Science and Environment) that initiated the multi-faceted campaign.
- The Indian media (Television Networks, Cinema Theatres etc.) today has a legal obligation to increase environmental awareness and education or they stand to have their licenses cancelled. Thanks to him, since 1992, environmental education has also become a compulsory subject in schools up to the 12th standard.
- When a river caught fire (yes, you read right! – The Ganges, supposedly the holiest river in India that millions use for drinking water and bathing, caught fire due to industrial effluents in the water), he filed a petition in the Supreme Court against polluting factories and the scope of this case was broadened to include all industries and municipalities in the river basin. Read more here.
- He has almost single handedly obtained 40 landmark judgments and several orders from the Supreme Court against polluters. This record is perhaps unrivaled by any other environmental lawyer in the world. So much so that for many years, a courtroom was set aside just for his cases. (Amazing!)
There are several more accomplishments, but i’ll stop here for now and let you explore further if it interests you. If you haven’t guessed already from the tags above, the man in question is Mr. M.C. Mehta. Considering the global impact of this man’s work, his ordinary beginnings too can certainly be such an inspiration! Born in 1946, he hails from a small village in the Rajouri district in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. For a few years, he traveled 15 kms from his village to school and back and had to cross two rivers along the way. Read more here. His life and work seem to be a testimony that one can certainly bloom where one is planted!
Words from M.C.Mehta that strike me:
- “I am not against anyone at any time, as I am often perceived to be. I am just for the environment at all times.”
- “It was more a matter of choice than chance. I was provoked into filing the (Taj Mahal) case by some dinner party patter about lawyers being mercenaries, unconcerned with social or environmental issues.”
- “I don’t get anything for fighting environmental cases. And the battle for a clean cause is dirty most times. But you do what you have to regardless,”
- “It’s time people realised that if they don’t come forward to protect their fundamental right to live in a wholesome environment, no one else will.”
I hope this man’s story has inspired you and more importantly, I hope you will turn that inspiration to action. I intend for this to be a series of write-ups about many individuals who inspire me, so do visit this blog regularly and don’t forget to comment. That inspires me to action too you know :-). Would like to leave you with one of my favourite quotes:
“I am only one. But I am still one. I cannot do everything, but I can still do something. And because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” – Hellen Keller
Power and success to you my friend!