It’s easy to believe when someone says that Indians have no pride in their history be it political, economic, social or art. I used to believe it until I realized that the problem lies more with how boringly history is taught in India not only in schools but also in colleges and universities. It’s tragic because there’s no dearth of high quality, well-researched literature on any segment of India’s history, including its environmental history. If history is taught boringly, the problem lies with unmotivated teachers and ridiculous text books India churns out in every state.
Meghaa Gupta’s book Unearthed – An Environmental History of Independent India’, published by Puffin Books, has done a terrific job of capturing complex history in easily readable language. Generous and sharp illustrations by Aditi Shastry makes it a winner from the first page.
While the book’s target readership is the teens, even the grownups will be surprised how little they know about various facets of India’s tryst with its environmentalism. The beauty of the book is that it manages to cover several aspects like the milk revolution, the green revolution, the nuclear debate and offers multiple perspectives – historical, economic, business challenges, activism, political ineptitude, and more.
This book trains its readers on how to perceive a historical ecological movement like the Sardar Sarovar agitation from various angles. What this book also smartly achieves is it make the readers know and appreciate about immense sacrifices of activists who have given up plush careers to take on powerful political and business lobbies in their fight for Nature and justice for people affected by it.
The reader would be proud of Indian judiciary which has stood by these activists in achieving several successes largely against governments which rarely care for the long-term interests of the country or the environment. The range of topics covered shows the author’s expanse of knowledge and the art she possesses of articulating it well.
This book’s timing is perfect. All the good work done so far faces grave threat from the current political dispensation’s unwillingness to think beyond short-term economic growth and the interests of a few business lobbies. The good news is that in its exuberance of wanting to be seen as progressive, the central government has committed itself to several tight global sustainable goals. To its credit, this government didn’t take a cue from Donald Trump to discredit global environmental agreements like the 2015 Paris Pact.
This book should be made a mandatory textbook from class 5 to 10 in all schools in India so that as governments dither, and climate change-related conflicts get intense, they will be well informed to become responsible citizens. The hope is some of them could become activists.