This morning, in a Republic Day ceremony at Pondicherry’s Indira gandhi Stadium, Lieutenant Governor Govind Singh Gurjar honored our dear friend and colleague Probir Banerjee for his extraordinary devotion to voluntary service to the people of Pondicherry.
Probir serves as the president of both Shuddham, the innovative NGO pioneering simple, effective solid waste management strategies in Pondicherry, and of PondyCAN! (Pondicherry Citizens Action Network), which fights for critical environmental protection and advocates a farseeing program of integrated regional planning. He works tirelessly and selflessly to staunch the erosion of quality of life in our town and to assure that its future will be healthier, happier, and sustainable.
There were two interesting aspects to the Republic Day ceremonies award from which speak volumes about Probir’s impact on the well-being of his community. First, of the two-dozen-or-so awardees felicitated the Lieutenant Governor, Probir alone was honored for social service. Other honorees were policemen, intellectuals, athletes, students, and educational institutions. Second, the event program, which contains a lengthy exposition of the LG’s development agenda for the coming year contains the following item:
To keep pace with the developments, the Government could hardly afford to ignore environmental protection. Sustainable development is the watchword and toi ensure that development is not made at the cost of environmental degradation, the Government of Puducherry has constituted a committee to campaign and implement a “Clean and Green Puducherry” policy. The Ousteri Lake has been declared a protected place for avian fauna. The Governmentis willing to re-examine its policies toward the prevention of coastal erosion.
Most of these ideas reached the Governor’s Palace for the first time in a series of meetings, led by Probir, introducing the new head of the Union Territory government to the work of Shuddham and PondyCAN!. The stated willingness of the Government to take a serious look at Pondicherry’s massive, development-induced coastal management disaster represents a major policy shift. The politicians and administrative bureaucrats in Pondicherry have long supported port development and hard-structure “defenses” to coastal erosion in the form of seawalls and groynes, notwithstanding the patent stupidity of this approach. It’s not clear that the Lieutenant Governor’s good intentions can alter the destructive course they have set. But the mere fact that the question is on the public agenda illustrates the effectiveness of the work of Probir and PondyCAN! in less that two-short years.
So, as you celebrate Republic Day, spare a thought for Probir Banerjee – a kind of present day freedom fighter whose struggle is just beginning to etch its way into the national consciousness.