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Young Indian starts environmental organization, blog

Siddhant is a 20-year-old student who plans to be a professional environmentalist. I also asked him about New Delhi gaining on Beijing as the most polluted city: “Delhi is improving. Its one of India’s greenest metros and all the public buses are CNG [natural gas] powered. People are becoming more aware and are speaking up. The newer areas of Delhi are green, at least compared to other Indian metros.” However, I was surprised at how little green I saw in New Delhi and that people don’t use flat rooftops for pot gardening—or in used truck tires. Siddant told me his family has a terrace garden and they’re common in smaller cities. He acts on his environmental goals by writing and organizing tree planting. ”I am basically into cyber-activism [see his informative blog and Facebook page].[i] He is also a journalist for YouthLeader magazine.[ii])

As a high school student, he founded GreenGaians in 2009. The group organized a campaign in schools and government offices to plant trees. Siddhant added, “More than activism, I prefer to lead by example, trying to follow a green lifestyle.” About the role of young women, he said they are some of his best supporters: “They are loyal to the cause and don’t get distracted, that’s what I like about them.” I asked him what motivated him to be a teen changemaker; “I guess my motivation came from my love for the planet. When children used to watch Cartoon Network, I would watch National Geographic or Discovery. I became a vegetarian when I was nine due to ethical reasons.” Being a Hindu is another influence, “The respect I have for other creatures has come from my religion. We worship the elements, and therefore respect them.” His parents are both teachers and “have always been very supportive in everything I’ve done.”

Rural Village Life in Northern India

I stayed for four days with a middle-class family in Delhi in 2012, including several poorly educated helpers from Bihar villages. Rakesh, the father, is a pharmacist who was educated in public schools, the mother a housewife, with a teen son and son and daughter in their 20s also living at home. The father’s brothers live on the two floors below. In an interview with their servant boy, 16, from Bihar, he shyly said it takes two days by train to get to Delhi, but he likes to work here because he has plenty of food. At home they only eat two meals a day, chapattis and watered down dahl. He went to school for about six years and can read in Bihari but not in Hindi

Another servant, Babloo, 21, completed grade 10. He understands Hindi as well as Bihari. Tuition in government schools is 300 rupees for six months, while some private schools in his area charge 200 rupees per month. He said nobody wants to go to school because the teachers don’t come, or are only there for a few hours because their government jobs have security. They do follow caste in the village. Castes don’t mingle except to sit in the classroom together but Dalits don’t eat with higher castes. In Delhi they know people’s caste background by their last name, but don’t care about it in the city, where they’ll eat with Dalit friends.

In his family home, three or four people sleep in a room, by gender. They have five bedrooms, a lot of space. The use the fields for bathroom which provides fertilizer. With no elected council, all the elder males come together to make decisions. Babloo prays to Shiva and offers flowers to deities. His father is a farmer and they eat rice and vegetables. The family relies on the sons doing odd jobs in Delhi, especially during the wedding season when jobs are plentiful. In his family of five siblings, he feels responsible for the younger ones. His two sisters went to grade 12, and then had arranged marriages at 17 and 18. He would like to wait longer to get married than people did in the past and would like only two kids, rather than the average five, as it’s difficult and costly to raise children.

His village has 400 to 500 people. Things are changing with TV cable, but he has no knowledge of the Internet. He knows about pollution but not about global warming. Babloo said the difference with young people today is they want to earn more money, while their parents are satisfied with staying in their village. To work, he travels by bus or train, about 11 hours to Delhi. In the village, life is interwoven with relatives, as all the relatives should be there at wedding or funerals. He says a nice person lives near relatives. He enjoys his village where the boys play cricket, while the girls they stay at home, watch TV, sing traditional songs, learn how to sew and work in the household. His plan is to earn more money and then settle in his village with a small business, as the food there is are fresh and living in the city is costly.


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