For the past many weeks, there has been a major national debate on whether India is becoming an intolerant nation. The proponents of this argument cite two trends: one, the recent string of attacks on journalists and freethinkers; and two, the extremism of the anti-beef lobby. The opponents of the argument brand the proponents as anti-Government and politically biased.
Controversial statements by certain political leaders have added fuel to the fire. A growing number of celebrities and civil society activists have given their opinions on the topic. Also, many Sahitya Akademi awardees have returned their awards in protest – and others opposed the same in what has come to be known as ‘Award Wapsi’.
While approaching the issue of intolerance, it is important to note a few valid points with a broad mind:
• No country on earth can claim to be fully tolerant; all countries have friction between communities.
• India is not like any other country – we are a staggeringly diverse nation. As such, it is practically impossible to expect zero cases of communal violence in a nation as dynamic as India.
• We are a robust democracy, but still a young democracy.
• It is the right of every Indian to protest non-violently for anything, even if the cause is unnecessary; free speech is constitutionally guaranteed.
Understanding the aforementioned points, let us now try to accept two very important and hard truths:
• There are elements in Indian society which wish to inflict disorder and which are inherently intolerant.
• However, for a democracy of 1.26 billion people, a dozen religions, three thousand castes and countless ideological factions, India is relatively peaceful.
The debate on intolerance is both important and flawed: important because any debate that involves the country is worth having, and flawed because of the direction it has taken. Problems arise when people give it a religious dimension; India has communal elements, but they are fringe elements. The majority of Indians are not driven by religious divisions; our Constitution is highly liberal and so is our legal system. There are loopholes and imperfections, but ignoring the bigger picture would be unwise and agenda-driven. If India was a religiously intolerant country we would not have survived 70 years of being the most diverse democracy on earth.
• India, like every country, has both tolerant and intolerant elements in it.
• India is not religiously intolerant. We are a diverse nation and we are largely proud of our diversity. A few violent fringe elements do not represent the rest of us.
• Opposing people who return their awards by asking them to “Go to Saudi Arabia or Pakistan,” is uneducated and stupid.
• The media has largely failed in giving people the full picture, leaving them to come to their own, half-informed conclusions.
• Anytime we have a national debate, it is important to approach it in as apolitical a manner as we can. Otherwise, we risk losing whatever we can accomplish by having the debate.
Even at 76, Pradip Burman, the zestful chairman of Mobius Foundation radiates a contagious enthusiasm when he is talking about sustainability. The environmental crusader, better known to many as the great-grandson of Dabur founder Dr S.K.Burman, has devoted substantial attention towards promoting the concept of sustainability in all aspects of life. He refuses to conform to the convenience and comfort in today’s world which ultimately adds on to the adverse effects of climate change.
Talking to The Logical Indian, Burman emphasised why sustainability as a concept is indispensable for us. “We ought to be aware of what lies ahead of us. Soon we will finish the oil, iron, tin, and coal, and our next generations will be left with nothing. Recycling, banning plastics, stop felling trees for paper… This should become a part of everyone’s lifestyle,” he urges.
Traditional wisdom and modern research
A mechanical engineer from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA, Burman had always nurtured a keen interest in helping the society, as evident from his graduation project of designing a sonic aid for the visually challenged, which detected obstacles in the way using ultrasonic wave signals.
As an executive for the nature-centric company Dabur, Burman has always opted for natural alternatives to solve his everyday problems like taking Ayurvedic medicine to cure his Arthritis. He later launched the veterinary wing for Dabur – Ayurvet – which provides nature-friendly solutions for animal health care.
A patron of the ancient scientific wisdom of India, Burman always hailed the confluence of “traditional knowledge and modern research”, which he advocated as the Ayurvet motto.
As part of the CSR initiative of Dabur, Pradip Burman founded SUNDESH (Sustainable Development Society) which has been tirelessly working for last 25 years in remote villages for uplifting the rural communities in an environmentally sustainable way.
An advocate of sustainability
Burman believes that sustainability is the indispensable mantra for the world at present. Due to uncontrolled utilisation of the planet’s resources by human beings, the world today stands at a juncture of destabilisation. Today the human race has reached the pinnacle of progress but the advancement is happening in a very unsustainable manner.
Through energy-efficient use of everyday essentials like transport, communication, altered habits of diet, clothing and daily living, some crusaders of sustainability try to reduce their carbon footprint. Pradip Burman’s Mobius Foundation is one of the forerunners toward sustainability goals.
Mobius Foundation aims to change the sustainability dynamics
In 2015, Burman paved the way for the start of Mobius Foundation, focused on sustainability. Named after 18th-century German mathematician August Ferdinand Mobius, the famous Mobius strip has an important philosophical significance. The extraordinary shape symbolises balance and union.
Similar is the essence of Mobius Foundation which wishes to enhance the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” principle to a widespread basis in India, helping generations to come.
Founder Pradip Burman wishes to achieve notable development in education, population stabilisation and renewable energy projects.
A dream school in the making
At Coorg, Pradip Burman’s Mobius Foundation is constructing the World Environment School, Coorg (WESc) where the curriculum will surpass the boundaries of books and classrooms, with a special focus on hands-on learning in close collaboration with the environment. Amidst the pristine natural beauty of Coorg, the school will nurture young minds to grow up into future green leaders. As of now, the school will be open to teenagers, welcoming students from standards 6 to 12.
Needless to say, World Environment School will be the first-of-its-kind not only in India but also in entire South Asia. The school is expected to start from March 2020.
The school promises to nurture the responsible behaviour of citizens of our future.
The Sustainability Conference of 2019
In 2019, the Mobius Foundation has planned an international conference, on the lines of the celebrated earth summits over the past decade. The 2019 International Conference on Sustainability Education (ICSE 2019) aims to bring together environmental activists, practitioners of sustainable development as well as climate change experts to help develop a sustainability-focused curriculum.
It is surmised that the conference will give a platform to innovative concepts of Sustainability Education including an essential change in the existing education system ensuring a wholesome personal development for a student.
The Sustainability crusader
The Mobius founder strongly believes that it is high time to sprout sustainability awareness among a society drowning in consumerism and unknowingly doing irreparable harm to the planet, every second. The best way to achieve this goal is through education which is available to all. At present, the education system is predominantly career-oriented, making the learners a victim of materialism, and thus, their dreams are also outlined in those colours.
Living beyond the limits
When asked about his wish to attain the age of hundred, he strongly asserts that more than becoming a centurion, he wishes his life and work continue to better the society even in his absence. “I have lived my life. I wish that whatever I start before I go, will continue – for the betterment of my country,” says Mr Pradip Burman.
He is also a trustee of the Climate Reality Project – India (affiliated to Mr. Al Gore of the Climate Reality Project Foundation, USA). Climate Reality Project, India, has been actively engaged igniting the spark and spreading the message of climate change amongst educators, policy makers and civil society. The India branch looks after more than 500 trained Climate Leaders, and more than 900 volunteers spread all over the country.
In his journey, Pradip Burman has been a beacon of hope for millions, motivating many to join the movement for sustainability. We wish he continues his tireless efforts for promoting sustainability awareness and inspire generations to come.