Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific is proud to announce the formation of Friends of the Earth India.
Friends of the Earth has member groups in over 70 countries, uniting over 2.2 million members and supporters. During this year’s Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) Biennial General Meeting (BGM), held online in July, Friends of the Earth India was officially welcomed as the newest member of the FoEI federation.
Recently, we spoke with FoE India to find out more about their organisation, what it means to them to be a part of the Friends of the Earth International network, and what are the current environmental and social justice struggles they are facing in India.
Who is FoE India?
FoE India is a membership-based “not for profit”, “non government”, “non party”, autonomous environmental organisation. It is a network of social movements, trade unions, people’s collectives, and other social and environmental justice organisations working to establish an alternative to neo-liberal development paradigm, protect environment, biodiversity and mother earth rights and achieve a dignified livelihood and peace in the society.
What are the biggest environmental and social justice issues facing India in 2021?
With the beginning of the neo-liberal economic reforms in the 90s we are witnessing a clash of ideology and approaches on ‘development’. The three decades of economic reforms have increased inequality and accelerated the process of primitive accumulation in the country, posing a big challenge for the social movements today.
Common property resources, such as forest, water, land and minerals are being acquired by the state in the name of ‘development’ and handed over to private capital for unabated profit-making and exploitation. Unsustainable economic development and inequitable growth based on an economy dependent on the use of fossil-fuels and extractive industries — which intensified in the last 70 years — have led to sharp rise in carbon emissions, much beyond what the Earth can absorb. The biggest victims of climate change are the poor and the marginalised as their everyday lives, livelihood means and habitats are often at risk: particularly the urban working poor, the Himalayan and other hill people, fishing communities, coastal and island residents, small and marginal farmers and agricultural workers, Dalits, women, Adivasis, LGBTQI+ and forest dwellers. They have faced multiple displacement, dispossession, impoverishment and the wrath of harsh climatic conditions, drought, floods, landslides and increased number of cyclones on the coast. The continued big infrastructure plans such as the network of industrial corridors, sagarmala (chain of ports), petrochemical regions (PCPIR), mining, thermal power plants, nuclear plants, dams, highways and tunnels in sensitive Himalayan region and push for industrialised farming poses a big threat to the communities today.
Amidst the pandemic, the people faced issues of social security, lack of healthcare facilities and above all, with the rise of populist and megalomaniac authoritarianism we are witnessing targeted attacks on religious and ethnic minorities, environmental and human rights defenders, journalists, political dissenters and adversaries. This has been coupled with the introduction of various controversial legislations, which are against the democratic rights of the people and nature, which will eventually destroy the environment and livelihoods of indigenous communities and people dependent on natural resources.
Amidst this challenge we are witnessing strong resistance from the farmers (against three controversial farm legislations), students (against exclusionary online teaching and fee hikes), human rights defenders (against draconian laws and communalisation), academicians (for freedom of thought and speech), young climate activists (against Draft EIA 2020 and other hazardous development projects), and workers and trade unions against the changes in labour laws, despite constant threat of incarceration, surveillance and in some cases, torture in prison.
What does solidarity mean to you? What does it help us to achieve?
Collective action and solidarity are core to the struggle for social and political transformation. Active solidarity has played a crucial role in bringing together a whole array of radical social movements and processes involving women, peasants, fish workers, dalits, adivasis, LGBTQ and others in the country. We have witnessed this coming together in movements from the Swadeshi Movement (1905) to Save Silent Valley Movement in Palakkad (1973), Namanatar Andolan (1978), to Jungle Bachao Andolan (1980s), Narmada Bachao Andolan (1985) to International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal. All these movements wove a web of solidarity cutting across disciplines, issues and transcending the geographical boundaries through their collective struggle, songs, slogans, writings, films, art,etc.
We aim to continue this tradition of partnership and solidarity by bringing together various struggles for social, economic and environmental justice through deeper dialogue and collective actions and mobilisation.
What does it mean to be a member of FoEI?
Being a member of FoEI means joining the wave of global solidarity and collective action to defend the rights of mother earth and reverse the climate crisis and ensuing inequity and inequality. We believe the struggle for social and environmental justice is intertwined with the struggle for political freedom, democracy and people’s control over decision making processes. As a member, we seek to amplify our struggles and movements, extend solidarity, build alliances, collaborate and contribute to the global processes and struggles and hold accountable the corporations and states which are pushing human civilisation to the brink of collapse.
You can read more about Friends of the Earth India in their member profile here.
Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific and our member groups from across the region look forward to working alongside FoE India, in our collective struggle for social and environmental justice.
“Our neighbouring nation India has the second largest population in the world with many diverse and vibrant community groups. As FoE Sri Lanka we are very happy to welcome FoE India to join the Friends of the Earth International, the world’s largest grassroot organisation. I believe this relationship will allow FoEI to amplify the voices of those communities and learn from each other.”
Hemantha Withanage, Chair of Friends of the Earth International
“It’s so exciting to welcome FoE India as members of the international federation. As environmental defenders, Indigenous Peoples, communities and social justice campaigners face ongoing threats to territories, vital ecosystems and human rights throughout the Asia Pacific, FoE India is bringing civil society together to champion system change in one of the largest countries in the region. Together in solidarity, we can work towards a more just and sustainable world.”
Pat Simons, FoE Australia, International Liaison & Majelis member on behalf of FoE APac
“We are indeed most thrilled and delighted at welcoming FoE India into the FoE family and to FoE APac. We are sure that your contributions and engagement in FoEI’s and FoE APac’s programmes will enrich our learnings and strengthen us even further and help us realise our dreams and objectives!”
Meena Raman, President of SAM & Majelis member on behalf of FoE APac