A two days National Webinar on ‘COVID -19: Socio-Cultural and Biological Issues’ was organised by the Department of Sociology, University of Lucknow on behalf of Ethnographic and Folk Culture Society, Lucknow by the organizing secretary Professor Sukant Chaudhary on 30 June and 1st July 2020. Around 600 participants from all over the world were there.
Beside the inaugural and valedictory sessions there were two planery sessions addressed by 17 distinguished speakers. In the inaugural session, Shri G.B. Pattanaik, Former, VC of the University of Lucknow and President of the Ethnographic and Folk Culture Society said that we have almost failed in demystifying the problem rather we are mystifying the problems by unnecessary things like lighting lamp and clapping. We should have taken some safety measures before lockdown. The post COVID-19 world should be a world of more caring and compassionate people. In the inaugural address Professor B. K. Nagla of M.D. University, Rohtak, said the government has created fear and panic state of mind among community people through unplanned lockdown procedure, hence large no. of people migrated from developed states to BIMARU states. He said that people have ignored the philosophy of Buddha i.e. Karuna and Pyar, which could support the society. Keynote address was given by Prof. S.M. Patanaik, Vice-Chancellor, Utkal University, Odisha, who said that the four layered structure in higher education has to be transformed: Physical, Digital, Intellectual and Emotional structure. He suggested that we have to adopt the digitalization of the education as per UGC guidelines, but the relevance of classical Indian teaching method could not be ignored, that have space of essential learning.
In the planery sessions chaired by Prof. P.S. Vivek said that public spiting has to be stopped and some other cleanliness measures have to be taken. Professor Sukant Chaudhury said that in the Indian culture, cleanliness and purity and pollution were essential part which were old normal hence today one can say that these old normal should become new normal. The society needs structural change. He said that there should be integration of online and offline modes of education. You should have more inclusive learning. There should be quality control measures in the development of e-learning and making of YouTube videos.
Professor Nadeem Hasnain said that family relations have been affected because of new devision of labour due to new corona crisis. He lamented exocentric attitude. Prof. Nilika Mehrotra of JNU spoke about the dangerous feature of stigmatizing with covid petients and COVID-19 various. Prof. Nita Mathur of IGNOU spoke about three game changers in post COVID era i.e. reverse migration, more problems of cities, different type of consumerism and digitalization. Prof. DR Sahu spoke about developing internet friendly culture and work from home culture. He stressed the importance of the role of state in terms of helping the migrant laborers and improving the health system. Prof. Vishwaraksha of Jammu University said that frustration anxiety anger and alienation increasing among the people. Social Solidarity is decreasing. Prof. Ashish Saxena of Allahabad University said that hierarchy of needs have been challenged because safety and security of individual are more important in today. Public sphere have been reduced. Prof. CD Adhikari of BHU said that stigmatization misplaced lockdown and differential losses by the communities at the main affect of COVID 19 today. Prof. Manish Verma of BBAU had said that development activities and ecological balanece have been tempered and we must follow the ethics of tolerance, empathy harmony and ecological balance. Prof. AK Pandey, BHU said about environmental degradation due to COVID 19 and it should be protected.Prof. UP Singh of Lucknow University spoke about the biological structure of COVID 19 which has led to resperitory tract infection. Prof. Sanjay singh of Dr. RML Law University, Lucknow said that the socio-cultural impact of covid 19 needs to be assessed and the social scientists must come out with proper policies and adjustment. Prof. Kalinath Jha of Sagar said that only Gandhian discourse relevant today. Dr. Vinod Chandra, JNPG College, Lucknow said that youth are facing crisis of rejection and committing suicide. Prof. Subho Roy of Calcutta University spoke about three issues i.e. biological history of epidemic and pandemic and the role of social scientist. He said that males are more affected than female because of lifestyle factors i.e. smoking and drinking.
In the valedictory session Prof. Vinay K Srivastava, Director, Anthropological Survey of India said that both the government and civil society have failed to handle the problem of COVID 19. There is a growth of individualism as well as altruism in communities. There is growing anxiety and fear psychosis among citizens. There is increased enemy approach among people that we are good and others are bad.
Professor Paramjit Singh Judge, President of Indian Sociological Society said that Indian ways of greeting through folding hand and Namaste has to good in preventing the disease elsewhere hugging and kissing way of welcoming people have created problems. Community should not be criticized on the basis of religious background.
The National E-Seminar on “Ecological Crises and Climate Change in the Himalayan Region” organised by Society for Himalayan Environment and People’s Action (SHERPA) in collaboration with Department of Sociology, University of Lucknow and Ethnographic and Folk Culture Society (EFCS) started on 16th December,2020.
In his inaugural address Shri G. Patnaik, IAS (Retd.) President SHERPA & EFCS former Vice Chancellor, University of Lucknow said that SHERPA was created with the objective of understanding Himalayan ecology and man-environment relationship. The Himalayas are not only a geological entity but have a mystic appeal to people. The various rivers flowing through them are a source of livelihood to millions of people. But over the years, they have been denuded due to rampant deforestation and other such human interventions. We owe our existence to the Himalayas. They are not just mountains, but a symbol of our Indianness, we still are drifted to them in search of peace, serenity and tranquillity. For survival and growth, not only development but welfare is also important. Himalayas have enough to give for the needs of the people but not enough to fulfil the greed of the people. We need to ensure that Himalayas survive, flourish and thrive through the joint participation of people, government and NGOs.
In his keynote address Prof. S.M. Patnaik of Delhi University said that the idea of Anthropocene points out that there has never been so much human activity on the planet and these excessive human activities have created an existential crises for the planet. Humanity is clearly unaware of the possible death before us, that is, mass extinction. The various metanarratives around climate change which include the metanarrative of science, literature, community, state and society help us in understanding the climate change in Himalayan region. Climate change points to an alternative form of human existence which needs to be deliberated upon. Human action and interaction with the environment should be uninterrupted, unexploitative and cosmological.
The vote of thanks was delivered by Prof. Kumkum Dhar, former Vice Chancellor, Bhatkhande Music Institute (Deemed to be University) and Secretary SHERPA, who said that art and literature need to focus more towards the area of climate change. In the technical session Prof. Sukant K. Chaudhury of Lucknow University and organiser of the conference said that ecological balance is linked with the economy, ecological infrastructure, social structure, polity and culture. Global warming and climate change can be controlled with the consensual agreement with the above five aspects. Prof. P. Venkat Rao of central university of Hyderabad said that to deal with climate change, we need to work beyond boundaries and all the countries need to work together to deal with this crises.
Prof. B.W. Pandey of the department of Geography, Delhi University presented a blend of social, anthropological, economic and ecological analysis. Himalayas have a deep-rooted cultural existence in our country and the evidences for the same can be found in our religious scriptures. The adverse impact of climate change has led to the deserting of many Himalayan villages, reducing the scope of livelihood and forcing the tribals to travel large distances for their survival.
Prof. Manish Verma of BBAU, Lucknow said that with the peculiar geographical traits, Himalayas are an asset to the planet. They serve as the water tower of the world, biodiversity hotspot and a symbol of serenity. The rise in temperature due to climate change is alarming which will ultimately manifest in the form of natural disasters. The constant bombardment of dams in this region is a boon for energy producers but a bane for the people living in this region. Everything is not well in that region and we need to seriously implement policies that will help maintain the fragile ecological balance of this region.
Prof. Sanjeev Sharma of JNU said that climate change is happening everywhere but since the Himalayas are very fragile, the effect here is felt more severely. The vital importance of Himalayas cannot be emphasized enough. To end the political and economic marginalisation of Himalayas and its people, policies and laws with specific focus on this region need to be developed and implemented, so that the region is preserved and protected.
Prof. N.K. Vaid of Delhi said that the acceleration of tourism in the Himalayan zone has contributed significantly to environmental degradation. The corporates, for dam construction in the region, lure the locals with job offers. Hence, the government, people and Civil Society Organisations should work together closely to preserve the ecology of this region. The session began with a caution note by Prof. Sukant K. Chaudhury, who said that political will, reduction or halting of infrastructure are essential otherwise will face terrible destruction. It was chaired by Prof. P. S. Vivek of University of Mumbai.
The panellist Prof. B. S. Bisht of Kumaun University said that Himalayas are an important geographical and ecological entity. They regulate the rainfall, climate, temperature and also act as a protective barrier. The region is a rich biodiversity hotspot and houses some of the most exotic plant species of the world. However, rampant and destructive human activities in the form of development, commercialisation, poaching and deforestation have caused huge ecological imbalance in this region and has also hampered the life of the nomadic tribes who depend on the Himalayas for livelihood. Hence, the government should intervene for the preservation of the region and also make suitable policies for safeguarding the rights and interests of the nomadic tribes.
Prof. D. R. Sahu of University of Lucknow said that Radha Kamal Mukherjee was a pioneer of social ecology and the researches in social ecology are taken forward following his footsteps. In the context of ecological crises, T.K. Oommen has given the concept of “ecocide” which explains how massive industrialisation, advanced technology and human activities have destructed the environment. An alarming trend is the states behaving like corporates and going for heavy industrialisation. The need of the hour is collective action by the community, just like the environmental movements such as Chipkoo Movement, Narmada Bachao Andolan etc. The priority should be “putting people first”.
Prof. Sarit Kumar Chaudhuri of Anthropology department, Rajiv Gandhi University, Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh said that the collective knowledge systems of the tribal communities are withering away. The tribal people are highly concerned about the environment and usually demand a ban on environmentally degrading activities. The dam construction activities have been detrimental to the environment. What we need is more evidence-based research in this direction and interdisciplinary studies to combat the challenge of climate change.
Prof. Sanjay Salunke of Aurangabad said that Himalayas are a biosphere reserve of plant and animal species, fresh water resources and mineral resources. Their ecological importance cannot be emphasized enough. The challenges facing the Himalayas are wide and complex. Human intervention has made the region vulnerable to destruction. The result is soil erosion, deforestation, melting of glaciers, landslides and cloud bursting. However, the major problem here is unplanned urbanisation and it needs to be checked by policymakers.
Dr. Farhat Naz of IIT Jodhpur said that increased climate variability exhibits extreme weather events and increased water insecurity. Climate change leads to occurrence of natural disasters and the Himalayas are very prone to it I the form of floods, cloud bursts, landslides as we have encountered in the past. The way forward is greater role of civil society and NGOs and there is also the need for human capacity development and empowering the local community. Adaptation and mitigation together can help tame the crises.
Prof. Nilika Mehrotra of JNU said that it is extremely important to look at how the indigenous knowledge system is getting affected. The vulnerabilities in the form of tourist burden on the region is a huge problem. The unplanned urbanisation in the region due to setting up of service industry is seen as an income generator but the environmental cost of such activities is very high. Environmental awareness should be a part of school and college curriculum. Civil Society Organisations and NGOs bring hope in the form of environmental movements, spreading awareness and educating the local people. A lot of social science and interdisciplinary researches can be taken up in this direction.
Sri Ravindra Singh, IAS (Retd.) former secretary, Culture, Government of India in his valedictory address said that Prof. T.N. Dhar was a scholar, administrator, passionate for the Himalayas. Early Indians were nature worshippers and the sacredness of Himalayas is an example of man-nature interaction. With modernisation and industrialisation, tourism is going to become the dominant activity of this region and it is going to change everything. Modern technology has improved the environment to a great extent. Things are complex and changes taking place are positive as well. People are becoming conscious and there is the concept of ecotourism. However, we need to prepare ourselves for the upcoming challenges of climate change.
Prof. P.S. Judge, President, Indian Sociological Society said that India started late on the path of development as compared to other nations but still it did not take the environmental damage into account and forgot to learn from other nations. This led to India facing some serious ecological crises in the form of natural disasters. The Himalayan region is extremely fragile and susceptible to natural disasters like landslides and floods. NGOs can help in raising consciousness but its only the people who can bring a change and the government which can make beneficial policies for preservation of this region.
Shri G. Pattnaik said that people’s action is essential for preventing degeneration of the mountains.
Prof. D.R. Sahu delivered the vote of thanks. The seminar ended with national anthem.