Hon. Chief Justice of India,
Other Dignitaries on the dais,
Judicial minds from India and abroad
Invitees, Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen!
I am delighted to address the International Workshop on Rule of Law and Sustainable Development. I welcome our friends from abroad and thank them for their active participation.
This workshop is being organized soon after two important international agreements which happened during 2015. One is the Paris Agreement on climate change. The other is the Agreement on Sustainable Development Goals. Therefore, this conference provides a timely and useful opportunity to discuss the way forward. This is important not only in the national context but also in the global context. I hope you will keep in mind the welfare of mankind and the concerns of the international community in your deliberations.
The role of rules and laws in achieving sustainable development goals is going to be very important in the days to come. However, rules should be such that they facilitate the achievement of these goals. Unfortunately, some times, the concern for environment is defined narrowly. We all have to realize that if there is conflict, no one’s purpose will be served. I hope that you will show us the way to build and ensure climate justice across the globe based on legal as well as social frameworks.
Last year, in September, I attended the meeting of the UN General Assembly where the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 were adopted. These goals reflect our evolving understanding of the social, economic and environmental linkages that define our lives.
This was followed by the COP-21 where we contributed significantly in shaping the narrative. Our commitments at COP-21 underline the Indian ethos which aims at changing human lifestyle along with changes in the manner in which we engage in economic activity. The problems of environment are largely the effect of our consumptive lifestyles. If we want to make a meaningful impact, we all need to look within; before we read the books of law.
I have always felt that anything which is not sustainable cannot be called development. In our culture, development means ‘बहुजन हिताय, बहुजन सुखाय’, ‘सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनो’ and “लोकाः समस्ताः सुखिनो भवन्तु’. This cannot happen unless the development process is inclusive and sustainable. Anything which compromises on the ability of future generations to meet their requirements cannot be called development. We in India have always believed in sustainability. For us, the law of nature holds great value. If we all observe it, then many man-made laws will not be required. Only the practice of सह जीवन and सह अस्तित्व will be enough to help us. In modern terminology, there is a word called stakeholder. A path becomes sustainable, if all stakeholders are benefitted. However, I must add a word of caution here. The stake should be natural. It should be inherent. It cannot be stretched to include those who may be working with ulterior motives. Nature is pure. Hence, only pure intentions can keep it intact.
We, in India, have a strong tradition of living in harmony with nature. We worship nature. We worship the sun, the moon, rivers, land, trees, animals, rain, air and fire. These elements of Nature have been given the stature of Gods in our culture. Moreover, in Indian mythology, most of the Gods and Goddesses are associated with an animal and a tree. Thus, respect for Nature is an integral part of our culture, and has been passed across generations. Protection of environment comes naturally to us. This strong tradition has been a guiding principle for all of us.
There is a well-known Sanskrit saying:
सर्वेशां पुर्णंभवतु । सर्वेशां मङ्गलंभवतु ।।
We always pray for welfare, peace, fulfillment and sustainability of all; at all places and for all times.
This is our commitment; not of today but since time immemorial. If we remember this, follow this and act accordingly, India could provide leadership in sustainable development. For example, the practice of Yoga is aimed at balancing contentment and worldly desires, to lead to a path of moderation and sustainable lifestyle. When I talk of yoga, it is not just its physical dimension. Yoga is very comprehensive. The ideas of YAM, NIYAM, PRATYAHAR teach us discipline, austerity and control.
Much before the debate on sustainable development began, Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of our Nation, had said that we should act as ‘trustees’ and use natural resources wisely. It is our moral responsibility to ensure that we leave a healthy planet for future generations.
Friends! I am sure all of us agree that poverty is the biggest challenge for environment. Therefore, eradication of poverty is one of the fundamental goals of my government. Guided by our core values, we are working towards achieving this goal with sincerity. We want to ensure a conducive environment for 1.25 billion Indians to develop, and prosper. We are encouraging education, skill development, digital connectivity and entrepreneurship to provide an enabling ecosystem for our youth to blossom. We aim to do all this in a sustainable manner.
We realize that fulfilling the demand for energy is vital to the achievement of our development goals. This is why, one of the first challenges that we took up was generation of 175 Giga watts of renewable energy. We are well on our way to achieving this objective.
We have also taken up the Swacch Bharat and Clean Ganga Initiatives. I am happy to note that millions of people across the country have joined the cleanliness drive. I take this opportunity to invite the participants to explore as to how we can strengthen this collective endeavour. I am glad to learn that this workshop will also discuss issues related to pollution and waste management. These are issues that need to be addressed proactively. I look forward to your recommendations towards strengthening such initiatives.
The problems we face in India today are not unique. Other civilizations have also faced similar problems and were able to overcome them. I believe that through our collective efforts we will succeed as well. While doing so, we must ensure that we avoid contradictions between our need to develop and develop sustainably. Our culture teaches us Union between the व्यक्ति and समस्ती. If we become one with the universal order, there are no conflicts of interest.
Therefore, my Government is treating the challenge of adapting to climate change as an opportunity rather than a problem. We need to adopt the philosophy of योग: कर्मसु कौशलम्. We must do things in a way that causes minimum damage to the environment. This is कौशल or mastery. This is what I mean when I talk of zero defect and zero effect manufacturing. I have written some of my thoughts on this theme in my book, Convenient Action: continuity for change.
Friends! The rule of law dictates that no one can be punished for another’s misdeed. We need to recognize that there are many people who are least responsible for the problem of climate change. They are also the people who still wait for access to modern amenities. They face the adverse impact of climate change more than anyone else. This includes cyclones, droughts, floods, heat waves, and rising sea levels. The poor, vulnerable and marginalized groups have fewer resources to cope with climate disasters. Unfortunately, their present and future generations are also burdened by laws and agreements on environment. That is why I talk about Climate Justice. Moreover, the rules, laws, practices and principles of one country cannot be applied to another uniformly. Every country has its own challenges and its own ways of dealing with them. If we apply the same set of rules for all countries and for all people; it will not work.
Sustainable development is our responsibility. I am confident that we can achieve it, collectively. I am also confident that we can find ways for development which are in harmony with nature. We can find them along the road travelled by our forefathers. I hope the deliberations during this workshop will help in developing a shared understanding of these imperatives.
I wish this conference a grand success.
I hope that you will show the way to build and ensure climate justice across the globe based on legal as well as social frameworks: PM Modi— PMO India (@PMOIndia) March 4, 2016
In our culture, development means ‘बहुजन हिताय, बहुजन सुखाय’,‘सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनो’ and 'लोकाः समस्ताः सुखिनो भवन्तु’: PM @narendramodi— PMO India (@PMOIndia) March 4, 2016
We in India have a strong tradition of living in harmony with nature. We worship nature: PM @narendramodi— PMO India (@PMOIndia) March 4, 2016
We always pray for welfare, peace, fulfillment and sustainability of all; at all places and for all times: PM @narendramodi— PMO India (@PMOIndia) March 4, 2016
Much before debate on sustainable development began Gandhi ji said that we must act as trustees and use natural resources wisely: PM Modi— PMO India (@PMOIndia) March 4, 2016
It is our moral responsibility to ensure that we leave a healthy planet for future generations: PM @narendramodi— PMO India (@PMOIndia) March 4, 2016
Poverty is the biggest challenge for environment. Therefore eradication of poverty is one of the fundamental goals of my government: PM Modi— PMO India (@PMOIndia) March 4, 2016
Sustainable development is our responsibility. I am confident that we can achieve it collectively: PM @narendramodi— PMO India (@PMOIndia) March 4, 2016