By Uditha Devapriya
Note: Names of students have been changed to protect their identity
Nethum, 20, loves the guitar. He plays it well and, moreover, plays the clarinet well too. In 2018 he bought a Yamaha GL1 Guitalele – secretly, without telling his father. Back then he had dreams of starting a band, doing some gigs, earning some cash. So he started a group with some of his batch-mates, and began practices at a prominent studio on the outskirts of Colombo city. They got a couple of events – two birthday parties, of a friend and of another friend’s sister – not too long afterwards.
He had other dreams also. When I met him two weeks before he decided to buy the guitar, he divulged some of them. “I want to buy a big patch of land, a big house, in my village, and get away from Colombo,” he told me, the faintest of smiles flickering through a pained face. Why not Colombo, I asked. “Because I’m fed up of living in this city,” he replied.
Since he’d spent much, much more time here than there, in his hometown, I pressed him on. He said he wanted to take care of his brother, sister, mother, and ageing father. “I can’t do that over here.” Since he was studying Biology for his A Levels, I asked him whether he wanted to do all this while pursuing medicine. “No,” he said, a little hesitantly. “I want to be a guitarist, a musician.” His father, he hastened to add, wouldn’t like the idea. That is why those dreams had to be indulged from a distance. “I’ll tell him later.”
Dinindu, 18, loves to act and to write scripts. A member of the Drama Society at his school, he dreams of authoring his own Netflix series, the first in Sri Lanka. He is a fervent lover of superhero movies, though he tends to discriminate: Batman, yes, but not the Christopher Nolan trilogy; Justice League, yes, but preferably the upcoming Zack Snyder cut. He dislikes big budget epics, cheap comedies, and melodramatic romances. These, he explains to me, are not worth it. People want entertainment. They don’t really want to see life as it is lived, and lived through, onscreen. Thus he wants to try something new, different. Having chosen Commerce for his A Levels after realising Maths wasn’t his cup of tea, however, he finds it hard to balance his dreams with his family’s expectations.
Both Nethum and Dinindu came to Colombo after they turned 10. Having sat for the Grade Five Scholarship Exam, arguably the most touted and celebrated such exam in a student’s life (after the O Levels and A Levels), they had passed with flying colours, surpassing the cut off point by a considerable margin and securing a placement at a popular school. By dint of their results, they had gained admission to the most popular such institution in Colombo. It had been much cause for celebration.
Nethum, from Walasmulla, and Dinindu, from Matugama, had never seen the city before, except in textbooks and newspapers and on television. Since it was not practical to transit from Colombo to their hometown after school every day, they were both boarded at the school hostel. They are hence what most refer to as “Hostellers.” Except for the occasional visit home during holidays, they remain in Colombo, partly because of schoolwork but more importantly because of extra classes; in Sri Lanka, not even Poya days are taken as days of rest from private tuition. For these boys, then, Colombo has become home.
Introduced in 1948, the Scholarship Exam today strives to achieve two objectives. The first is the admission of students to popular, elite schools. The second, an often overlooked aim, is the provision of bursaries to bright but disadvantaged students. The brainchild of C. W. W. Kannangara, as well as of the Left, at its inception it also sought to add prestige to the newly established Central Colleges, which boasted of teachers, infrastructure, and facilities that exceed anything even elite schools possess today. Some of our most renowned intellectuals emerged from the Central College system. Its contribution to the post-1956 socio-political landscape, thus, cannot be denied. Neither can that of the Scholarship Exam.
The quality and content of the Exam has, to be sure, changed considerably since then. In 1969, it was rebranded as the Jathika Navodya Scholarship. Prior to 1995, it consisted of two papers: First Language (Sinhala or Tamil) and Mathematics. After officials restructured it in 1995, it tested students beyond just linguistic or mathematical proficiency, delving into such abilities as observation, prediction, translation, and perception. In its present form, it is seen as a stepping stone to popular elite schools, a point underscored by the state of degradation many Central Colleges have succumbed to. The Exam has thus turned into a competition, for which students are prepared from an early age.
Those who emerge at the top invariably get the best schools, and invariably, these happen to be far, far away, in the big cities: Galle, Kandy, Jaffna, and Colombo. Not surprisingly, the highest cut-off marks are for Colombo schools. No matter how far away you may be, if you get through, you try to go there. This is underscored by the fact that in Sri Lanka, where you study is seen as more important than what you study.
Surveying the public school in an earlier essay (“Pavilions, Grounds, and Gyms”), I quoted a keen observer of Sri Lanka’s social landscape and contended that such institutions are no longer the preserve of the elite: they have, effectively, been taken over by a new political class, and a lower middle class aspiring to join the ranks of an old order. A considerable part of this lower middle class hails, as I pointed out, from the Scholarship crowd. That, I should add here, has led us to an inexorable contradiction: a program designed to benefit the poor has ended up benefitting a more intermediate class.
Ashani Abayasekara, in an impressive but sketchy research conducted three years ago, concluded as much. While national schools “account for the largest share of scholarship exam candidates, at 95%”, she noted that “only 79% of Grade 5 students in underprivileged provincial schools” write it. Meanwhile, only 36% of those who passed the cut-off mark qualified for the bursary (for students whose families earn an annual income of less than Rs 50,000), a paltry Rs 500 per month; “as a share of all Grade 5 students,” Abayasekara observed, “this amounts to a mere 3.6%.”
These findings are eye-opening, but certainly not surprising. I say that because, more often than not, positive discrimination programmes have a habit of benefitting those who do not really need such programmes; this is as relevant in Colombo as it is in Chicago. Conceived for the poor to bypass the handicap of poverty, the Scholarship Exam has therefore come to be associated with a more privileged lower middle class.
The eminent historian Arno Mayer once enumerated the characteristics of the lower middle class: they earn their living by work “that is not pre-eminently manual labour”; by objective criteria of income, wealth, and education, they fit into neither the lower nor the upper class; they are conscious of being neither the one nor the other, “but aspire upward”; they tend to be individualistic in their pursuit of upward mobility; they can be easily co-opted by/into the upper class; they do their utmost to improve the lot of their children; they are fearful of falling down to lower class status; and they get together as a group to agitate for political reforms only when they face the threat of collective impoverishment.
The Sri Lankan lower middle class, of which I am a member, bears out these characteristics well. But that is beside my point. The vast majority of the Grade Five Scholarship holders hail from this milieu. In terms of their origins and their aspirations, they are part and parcel of, and also opposed to, that crowd. And no other section of this group displays this paradoxical attitude, to their own social conditioning, better than the Hostellers.
Ostensibly distanced from their roots, yet not cut off from them, the Hostellers live in a world of their own. Popular schools in Sri Lanka are invariably associated with traditions, habits, and beliefs; the Hostellers, a subset within the larger student body, are viewed as laying claim to their own traditions, habits, and beliefs. The stereotype almost always is of them being more intelligent, athletic, enduring. “The result,” said one boy as I questioned him, “is that compared with other students, we’re more likely to be taken into co-curricular and extra-curricular activities.” From Literary Societies to Debating Clubs, from Cadetting to Scouting, they hence figure in quite prominently.
That explains Nethum’s love for music and Dinidu’s love for drama. It also explains their intense desire to get into these fields once they leave school. Largely because their parents don’t loom over them like those of non-Hostellers, they consider themselves free to follow their aspirations, and just dream on. Yet the pressure to conform to elderly expectations becomes all the more stronger because of, and not despite, that: freed temporarily from parental supervision, many of them tend to neglect their studies – ironically what got them into these schools in the first place – as they climb up the ladder. “We procrastinate, almost always,” Mithila, 20, explained to me.
“We think, ‘We’re the Scholars, we got in because we are thought of as special’, and walk the hard yards slowly.”
By the time they realise they’ve walked a little too slowly, of course, it’s too late. “The pressure comes on gradually,” Mithila added. “We occupy ourselves so much with club and society work that at times we have to lie to our mothers and fathers.” At this point, parents get worried: in the worst case, “they take us out of the Hostel and board us in a room or an annexe in Colombo, so that we can concentrate better on studies.”
Of course, the clash isn’t just between their aspirations and the aspirations of their elders. It’s also between their culture and the culture they now find themselves in.
Born in Kurunegala, Chathuja, 22, used to be the butt end of his friends’ jokes. “When I first came here,” he told me, grinning, “I had to get rid of my regional dialect. It’s not that they looked down on me. It’s just that even those from other villages, and especially those from Colombo, thought the way I spoke strange and peculiar.” While he managed to lose his dialect, to the extent that he can’t recall it now, not all students abandon such quirks: Himal, 20, hails from Ambalangoda, and he relapses to village argot whenever he phones home. “I just take care not to use it here,” he grinned at me.
This does not mean these boys surrender themselves completely to the world they move to. Far from it: they both accept and reject the new urban world and its culture. Most of them, for instance, admit to their biggest handicap, lack of fluency in English, but many of them, as Dinindu told me, feel that English isn’t everything. “We speak it only when it is needed.” This is unlike the anglicised crowd AND the urban middle class Sinhala crowd, to most of whom proficiency in the language has become a must have cosmetic.
Dinindu remembered one time when he and other Grade Five Scholars (Hostellers as well as non-Hostellers) were put into a class with English medium students. He remembered the tastes that set them apart from the latter. “They were always poring over Goosebumps, Enid Blyton, and Tintin. In terms of what we were reading, in our language, they seemed rather infantile to me.” What did his set read at that point? Translations of Russian novels and Guy de Maupassant short stories, plus the entire repertory of prabuddha (profound) Sinhala literature: not just Martin Wickramasinghe, but also more recent writers, including Mahinda Prasad Masimbula. “I’m not saying we were superior to the English speaking kids. It’s just that they seemed below the level, in English, that we were in, in Sinhala.”
The most vivid contrast between their lower middle class “subaltern” backgrounds and the backgrounds of the elite crowd that used to, and still, attend elite institutions, came to me the other day from Mithila. An Old Boy had attended an event as the Chief Guest, and had given a speech. The speech had centred on that evergreen concern of the anglicised elite: the deterioration of norms, values, and principles (of the anglicised elite, that is). Students shout too much; they have turned ruffians; they don’t wear Western attire as well as they used to. To cut a long story short, Mithila listened in, and had a laugh with his friends. “That speech,” he described it to me, “was the most antiquated tripe I’d ever heard.”
Somehow, somewhere, I feel that sentiment has gained ground among Mithila’s friends. Paraphrasing Tennyson, the old order here has indeed changed. And how.
The writer can be reached at email@example.com
Teach students animal rights for a better world
Five years ago, I requested the Head of the Bar Council of India to get animal welfare introduced as a subject in the law colleges. He did it immediately. The result has been much more sensitive and informed lawyers, an annual moot court that is hosted by NLU Bangalore, PhDs in animal welfare (the first one was in NLU Cuttack), more people aware of animal welfare activism and far more sensitive judges. A big thank you to Shri Manan Kumar Mishra!
22 years ago, at the instance of Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee, who supported all new ideas, we built the National Institute for Animal Welfare in Ballabgarh. Unfortunately, the government fell when it was ready. The Congress shut it down, and now the BJP is in its seventh year without restarting it. The Minister for Environment gave it to JNU. They fooled around for 2 years and then returned it to the Ministry, who slept on it for two years and then handed it to Lala Lajpat Rai University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, who have ignored it for three years and only now have appointed a retired vet to make a course. I have lost all hope. In 2002, I wrote out all the courses, made some textbooks, contacted Oxford, Cambridge and the University of Edinburgh, for teachers, got a grant from UNEP for the library. But nothing has happened and nothing ever will. The magnificent seven-acre centre now houses ten people of the Animal Welfare Board of India and runs “awareness” courses of three days each for the student vets of The Lala Lajpat Rai University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (LUVAS).
But there are huge job opportunities for trained animal welfare people: shelter managers, gaushala managers, laboratory managers, forest and wildlife officers, city management of animals, elephant rescue centres, city snake rescuers, poultries, slaughterhouses, to begin with and hundreds of others. I simply cannot understand why it has taken so long for even one course to begin.
A huge thank you to the Vice Chancellor of IGNOU, Prof. Nageshwar Rao, and to Professor P. V. K. Sasidhar, for starting the first-degree related course in India for animal welfare. Prof. Sasidhar has been labouring at the modules for over three years now. The first session itself has over 800 students!
It is a PG Diploma in Animal Welfare (PGDAW) and the admissions are open for the January 2021 Session. The Online Admissions ink: www.ignouadmission.samarth.edu.in/.
The PGDAW programme is meant for animal welfare volunteers and professionals across India, and for graduates / post-graduates interested in studying animal welfare. I have seen the learning module and I like it. I wish I had been able to compile the 3000+ articles I have written on every aspect of animal welfare. They could have been part of the course. But my editor has been fooling around with the 7 volume compilations for 5 years now, and I have no idea when she will be done. National Book Trust had offered to print them all, but not even the first volume is ready.
The IGNOU course has four core components: Animal welfare science and ethics, Animal welfare issues, Animal welfare laws and policies, and Animal welfare practices and standards.
Animal welfare is concerned about the welfare of all animals that are managed in some way by humans. Farm animal welfare means the care of animals grown for milk and meat, and that is where animals suffer the most. Welfare issues, pertaining to working, performing, companion, zoo, lab and street animals, need a great deal of attention as well. The PGDAW programme, in 85 modules, has covered welfare, science, ethics, issues, laws and standards, of all farm and draught animals – cattle, buffaloes, sheep, goats, pigs, poultry, working animals like donkeys and horses, performing animals, pets, zoo and lab animals. These modules have been developed in collaboration with The Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education, University of Edinburgh, UK.
It’s a one-year course, and graduates from any discipline can take it. It has two objectives: To impart science-based animal welfare education through open and distance learning. To build the capacities of stakeholders to take socially responsible decisions concerning animal welfare. The total fee of the course is Rs. 5400/-.
Who should take this course : Obviously all young people interested in animals, Employees Working in Animal Welfare Organizations/NGOs/Gaushalas, Faculty, Researchers, Technical Staff & PG/PhD Students in Universities, Research Organizations and Veterinary Colleges, Veterinarians / Para-veterinarians in State Central Government/RVC & Para-Military Forces, Members of State Animal Welfare Boards/SPCAs, Members of CPCSEA/ Institutional Animal Ethics Committees /Animal House Facilities, Civil Servants, Officials and Researchers Working in Forest Departments, Zoos and Wild Life Institutes, Faculty and Research Scholars under Zoological Survey of India and Zoology Departments, Law Professionals and Police Personnel dealing with Animal Welfare Laws and their Enforcement, Graduates Seeking Career as Animal Welfare Professionals.
Ideally, I would make it compulsory for all schools – if we want a better India.
The Programme Coordinator, Prof. P.V.K. Sasidhar, School of Extension and Development Studies, IGNOU, New Delhi (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org), has great credentials himself. He has been in the Agricultural Research Service of ICAR (2003-09), a Norman Borlaug Fellow of USDA, Tuskegee University, USA (2008), USAID Fellow, Michigan State University, USA (2015), and an OIE Performance of Veterinary Services Evaluator, OIE (2018).
If you want to join this, now is the time. Also, if you have suggestions to make it better, write to the Professor. I would recommend it for activists in Sri Lanka and Nepal as well, as the issues are the same.
( To join the animal welfare movement contact email@example.com, www.peopleforanimalsindia.org)
SUPUN JAYASINGHE’S RITES OF PASSAGE
A tale of a boy’s courage
By Uditha Devapriya
Situated at Stanley Wijesundera Mawatha, the Planetarium continues to captivate and fascinate, yet unless you strain your eyes, you can easily miss it. It’s one of those places you go to, through a prior appointment, and emerge from wishing you could go back in again. I must have been in Grade Five when I visited it on a class trip in 2004. Supun Jayasinghe was in Grade Five, too, when he went there with the rest of his class seven years later. The only exception, apart from the year of the visit, was where he came from: a 100 miles away, in Dambulla. It was the first time he had been to the city.
Intriguing and exhilarating as such a trip may have been, he had other things in his head. A few months later, he wouldbe sitting the Grade Five Scholarship Exam. How would he study for it? What marks would he score? Where would he go, if those marks turned out to be high? These questions nagged him, yet for the moment he let them off.
In any case, the ride had been exhausting: having started at four in the morning, it was about nine when the bus entered the city. It made its way to Independence Avenue, and from there towards the University of Colombo.
Between Independence Avenue and Stanley Wijesundera Mawatha, the Race Course faces Royal College. Intrigued by the Arcade, then the College, Supun and his classmates turned to their teacher. Standing up, he looked at them and described what they were, laying emphasis on the school more than the complex. Having described it in detail – the oldest public school, the most popular such institution, and so on – he brought the discussion back to his audience. “You have your scholarship exams this year,” he reminded them. “Try scoring as high as you can, because if you do, you’ll get a chance to come and study there.”
The memory of those words remained in Supun for a long time. The moment he heard them, he vowed to get as high a mark as he could, to get that chance, to come here.
Whatever the shortcomings of the Scholarship Exam may be, there’s no denying that it has opened up a world of opportunity for an aspiring lower middle-class. Supun’s father, a businessman, and mother, a teacher, hailed from this middle-class. Having attended a local Montessori and a Model School, he spent the whole of 2011 studying for the exam, forfeiting what little free time he had poring over books under a tree in his front yard. Yet, while he hit the books as hard and as much as he could, he did not push himself to compete with his peers. He’d told everyone he would ace the paper, but that owed less to a desire to be the best in the class than to a yearning to enter the best school he thought there was.
In any case, he got what he wanted. The marks came home somewhere in December 2011: having aimed at 180, he had scored 186. An even better piece of news came soon afterwards: the cut-off mark for Royal in 2012 happened to be 182. This meant only one thing: he would be boarded at the College Hostel, the following month, the following year.
The decision to go to Colombo did not come easy. Supun’s mother had opposed it at first, claiming it was too far. The marks were what convinced her. Even so, going to a city he’d only heard about and seen just once, and choosing to stay there for the better part of the next seven or so years, was a challenge. How would he fit in? What would he have to adjust to? Did people act there the way they did here? Did they differ in how they studied, read books, wrote answers? How they ate, drank, walked, and talked? He had much to think about, and as the weeks drew the year to a close, not much time to think them over.
Before everything, of course, there was the question of visiting the Hostel. On January 8 a letter arrived at his home, notifying them that the new term would commence a few weeks later, and that an orientation would be held before it did, on January 20.
Excited as he was, Supun nevertheless felt uneasy. On January 19, he and his father made their way to a rented house at Mount Lavinia, where a not-so distant relative lived. The next day came slowly, excruciatingly slowly. “I couldn’t sleep, I did not want to,” he remembers it today. Somehow, the night passed, and the following morning, having consulted and checked out at an auspicious time, the two of them made their way to Colombo.
Sri Lanka’s public schools, in particular those whose origins go back to the 19th century, are distinctly British in their architecture. The historian K. M. de Silva not unjustifiably calls it bland, unremarkable, and passé, when compared with Portuguese and Dutch architecture. For all their blandness, though, the British invested these buildings with an aura of expansiveness, with corridors giving way to gardens, quadrangles, and still other corridors.
Finding their way through an endless maze of entrances and exits, Supun and his father could not locate the Hostel. When they finally did, they were ushered into an orientation. Supun remembers two things from that day: his new class (6N), and the school song. The latter awed him: he hadn’t listened to many English songs, let alone school anthems, until then.
Having returned home after the orientation, father and son were told that the new term would begin five days later, on January 25. The second time around they came to Colombo in a car. Starting the journey of more than a hundred miles at four in the morning, they arrived at their destination at one or two in the afternoon.
At the Hostel the usual procedure was followed. The seniors directed him to his room. Each room had bunker beds. Not used to sleeping on them, he chose the first compartment, sharing the bunker with three others. When the last of the parents left, he predictably felt his nerves on the edge. The old fears returned: would he be able to fit in?
As with all public schools located in the city, the history of Royal College has woven itself into the history of its surroundings. Confusing at first, its topography extends from one end to another, covering a great many sites. To socialise into and familiarise himself with such an environment physically was not, however, tough for Supun. The real challenge lay elsewhere: the all too ubiquitous presence of English, and the melange of race and religion within the classroom. In other words, language proficiency plus cultural assimilation.
Glancing through his achievements from then, it struck me how his resolve stood out in them all. Back in Dambulla he had neither let the achievements of his peers ruffle him nor allowed himself to be overtaken by a desire to do better than them. He always, for instance, came first at his first school, but not because he wanted to beat everyone else to it; he just wanted to do something, and when he put his mind to it, he tried to do it somehow, on his own.
In Colombo this remained his philosophy. Whether it was winning creative composition and literary criticism prizes, becoming Junior Prefect (2015) and Junior Steward (2018), right before winding up as Steward (2019) and Chairman or Secretary of a great many clubs and societies (to list just some: Philatelic, Science, Library Readers), he let himself into whatever he took a fancy to. He did not, however, abandon his academics; studying for his O Levels, he ended up with nine As. Needless to say, on the field and in the class, at studies and sports, he confronted, and got over, those two challenges of proficiency and assimilation.
Supun’s story, I realise when I read through it, at once reflects and deviates from the norm. Reflects, because it conforms to the general pattern (initial difficulties at getting used to life in the city being followed by assimilation into the cultural and social patterns of that city), and deviates from, because his willpower is hard to find among his peers, or at least most of them. There is a reason for that: born with congenital anomalies on his right hand and leg, he has refused to let them get in his way, having won medals at the Para Games (2018) as well as for volleyball, boxing, table tennis, hockey, baseball, scouting (with a President’s Badge in 2019 to boot). By all accounts, this is to be admired, as it should be even now.
Steven Kemper dedicates the last chapter of his book on advertising in Sri Lanka (Buying and Believing) to a Sinhala lower middle-class family, residing in the outskirts of Colombo, who manage to realise their aspirations through their second son gaining entry to Supun’s school. Kemper, ever sensitive to the vagaries of class, points out how two-pronged entering a better school can be: a “singular opportunity”, yet one that comes with the price of accommodation “in a hostel.” Boarding their son, the family later relocates to Colombo. They make that move because they have to: the son is their link to the city, and to all it represents.
This country is home to a great many families who aspire for a better life, and one way through which they seek that life is education: not merely what you study, but where you study. Supun’s case is therefore illustrative: it’s the story of every other middle-class child. What’s interesting is how their integration to the city has brought about a transformation in the country’s elite schools. In that sense Supun’s story, as with that of the family in Kemper’s book, is not only illustrative, but also instructive. A Senior Prefect today, waiting for his A Level results, he finishes the conversation with a simple personal credo: “I’ve always aimed high and big, and I think I’ve always got there.” I am inclined to agree.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cleaner production – an urgent need
By Dr. Debapriya Mukherjee
Former Senior Scientist
Central Pollution Control Board, India
If we look into the areas close to the industrial sector, production of pollutants particularly from Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) has damaged the natural environment by excess emission of wastewater, gas or other solid waste. Environmental agencies are failing miserably in controlling pollution from most of the SMEs across the country. SME contributes asignificant fraction of total environmental burden in developing countries like India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh. Despite enforcement of environmental acts and regulations, the consumption of huge quantities of resources and energy, within a remarkably short period through industrial production had a far-reaching influence on natural environment. Reducing this burden needs environmental improvement at the micro level, a goal which has been stubbornly elusive in India.
According to my observations, the major problems in SMEs, are old technologies, poor management practices, limited availability of funds, inadequately trained officials, lack of appropriate inspection and monitoring and overall sustainable gap between enforcement agencies, industries and communities because impassivity of top management in environmental sector and political will have impeded sustainable environment management. Regulatory pressure on the SMEs could not implicate positive effect on environment to maintain sound ecosystem as observed in many areas close to SMEs such as foundry, sponge iron, electroplating industry, food processing, tannery and others.
Environment Sustainability (ES) to maintain wholesomeness of the environment by controlling production of pollutants has been practically jeopardized. The possible reason is that several industrial complexes have been established without considering environmental and social impacts and thereby sustainability of industrial development is not gaining momentum. This dismal ES remains well hidden because social aspects (such as human rights, corruption, poverty, child mortality, land degradation, illiteracy and health problems) and their interrelation with economic and environment aspects are not considered with due emphasis by the regulatory agencies. The traditional approach of enforcing environmental acts and regulations is unable to explain and address the complex dynamic inter-relation among economics, environmental and social aspects with time. Though environmental impact assessment and environmental management system as per the Environment (Protection) Ac are mandatory to establish and to operate any project but, ES, and social benefits are always questionable. Industrial growth without ES under prevailing socio-economic condition is definitely neglected and delayed.
Survey of these industries reveals that SMEs are mainly dependent on end-of pipe(EOP) technology and their functionality are not consistent. Regulatory pressure compelled these industries to install a pollution control system for compliance with standards. But non-compliance is a common feature due to non-availability/ non-operation/ failure of pollution control system. Though regulatory agencies inspect the industries once or twice a year they are unable to ensure consistent control of pollution. Also, the regulatory authority cannot evaluate the different compliance level and thereby violation of standard to any extent is subject to the same penalties as it is marginal violation. Environmental managers can easily control the pollution level within a permissible limit during inspection by manipulating raw materials feeding and/or by operating the pollution control devices. It is not always feasible with limited trained/experienced personnel to conduct in-depth study on material and water balance in order to justify the quantity of pollutants emitted to environment based on the monitoring data. Enforcement agencies put emphasis on performance evaluation of EOP technology as per the stipulated standard without considering ecological crisis and social problems in the area closed to the industries. As a result, owners of the industries are not serious to initiate CP despite economic benefits associated with its implementation. On the contrary, owners of the industries are well versed on how to tackle an adverse situation temporarily and make their units in operation. Regulatory agencies issue time to time closure notices or directives to improve the performance of pollution control system to the non-compliant industries. In response to these notices, owners of the industries with the help of outside experts, find out temporary solution with little financial investment just to fulfill the legal requirement and not “real” requirement. As a result, actual compliance status over time remains well hidden and thereby environmental and social problems remain unattended. One ofthe reasons may be vested interests of the concerned officers entrusted for verification of the report. Otherwise why water, air and soil are still so much polluted?
In this context it may be mentioned that the majority of residents are poor and do not have access to higher authorities for solving their problems as well as they are not well educated to explain their sufferings to the media/press highlighting ecological crisis created by these industries. Government has already launched various projects to remove poverty, to educate the people, to provide health facility and to create environmental awareness among the people to highlight the pollution problem, but implementation status of these projects is not always satisfactory. This has resulted environmental and social problems reaching alarming proportion in many industrial clusters in India and simply visual inspections supplement these findings. Limitations in government’s actions to solve the problems are not disseminated via media for public awareness for various reasons. Moreover accountability of government employees for implementing the projects in terms of success and failure is not properly evaluated because knowledge and hardship required for evaluating degree of success are practically lacking.
This problem in regulatory organization, may be attributed to top management persons because they often recruit either new scientists/engineers or retired government engineers/scientists on the basis of political connections or bribes or nepotism to look after activities related to environment management but their style of management clearly exhibit impassivity towards CP implementation because of their poor technical capability. Whereas huge potential offered by the country’s young population is far from being leveraged. Also many highly qualified young scientists/engineers refuse to take up the challenging works related to environment management in these organizations because of the lack of knowledgeable and skilled experts to guide the newly recruited personnel, hostile environment and bureaucracy.
This is really a disturbing situation. Thereby, India needs innovative minds to meet its formidable challenges. For this, both the state and central governments should take urgent action and must appoint highly qualified, broad-minded top most officers, who will recruit qualified competent engineers/scientists and give them state-of-the-art technology based on sound scientific evidence with no external interference. Fixing our organization system will require a complete overhaul of the recruitment system, changes in environment policy and implementation of CP concept in these SMEs. According to UN Environmental Progrmme (UNEP) CP is the continuous application of an integrated, preventive environmental strategy towards processes, products and services in order to increase overall efficiency and reduce damage and risks for humans and the environment. However this will be difficult with the present disconnect between science and policy in these organizations.
My experience clearly established the economic efficiency of CP through incremental innovation based on production process optimization and thereby the payback period of investment towards CP technology was short. Unfortunately, in India actual level of implementation of CP in industries in particular all SMEs as found in other countries to deliver environmental advantage is not determined. Therefore, evaluation of actual environmental and economic performance improvement is an emergent need to maintain sustainable industrial development, social welfare, social equity and sound ecosystem. In India, the manufacturing industries and the government can play a major role in this sustainable development. However, community pressure followed by enforcement of environmental acts and regulation has slowly changed the attitude of these industries but overall success towards consistent compliance is still a distant dream.
Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’
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