(Photo: AFP)
(Photo: AFP)

Opinion | Be careful what you wish for

Saving the planet is a noble cause, but our green advocates had better know what they’re talking about when they launch petitions

Earlier this week, a popular Indian Instagrammer initiated a petition on Change.org appealing to minister for environment, forest and climate change Prakash Javadekar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to declare climate change as an “emergency" in India. This comes on the heels of the Extinction Rebellion (XR) movement in London, which inspired thousands of people to take to the streets in a peaceful civil disobedience demonstration that ground parts of the city to a halt for 11 days in April. The movement has spread to the US, Germany, Australia and other places, with the result that 13 countries have now declared a climate emergency.

That the planet is at peril has been clear for many years and there is no doubt that urgent action needs to be taken to keep the globe liveable. Yet, in their enthusiasm, our well-meaning petitioners don’t seem to realize what their demand could spell. The term “emergency" is used liberally in many national contexts. In the U.S., for example, as many as 32 national emergencies are currently in effect. The US has no clear federal definition of the scope and extent of such a state of affairs, except for its president acquiring special powers. In India, on the other hand, an emergency is something that is quite specific. Under our Constitution, a national emergency is serious business—it can only be declared in case of an armed rebellion within India or external aggression.

The last time such an emergency was imposed on India was under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s leadership in 1975, and the nightmare that followed still haunts the country. Saving the planet is a noble cause, but our green advocates had better know what they’re talking about when they launch petitions.

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