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“How could a bunch of tribal people decide what was good for them?” A co-passenger remarked during our discussion in a flight. The context was a news piece recounting the resistance of a local population against new industries and modern infrastructure in their area. The ambitious business houses get worried much with this kind of news rather than intrinsic inertia that exists in all processes that can be associated with business. The private equity drives everything from social thought to political outlook.

I was not worried about his intrinsic ignorance of traditional knowledge. I was not disturbed with his biased outlook of progress and growth. I was rather appalled at this sheer violation of the contract that any human signs with the nature since a time before their time on this earth. It’s this intangible covenant that has paved way for a sustainable life so long. It’s this hardened pact that has been the backbone of civilisation since time immemorial.

Who will decide for whom? If I decide for myself, I call it my freedom, my cherished individual liberty. If it does not interfere negatively with others around me or with those living elsewhere, it’s upheld. If it does, we go for consensus or follow a framework of democratic process to decide for or against my ‘decision’. In short, it’s well and good if we can settle into a conclusion through discussion and deliberation.

The path of peaceful negotiation can be long, frustrating and inconclusive. But that is a way to go in a democracy when we speak to a group which may not enjoy the same perspective. When we claim that we celebrate diversity, it’s fulfilling to honour diverse views. Again, the underlying objective may not be diluted – it is always possible to drive growth or to bring material prosperity for us while staying in harmony with the nature. We must honour this intangible yet the hardened contract between us and the nature.

I am not sure if I would meet my co-passenger again; but his words will continue to hurt me and anybody who would hear those. I am not sure if he would understand his folly one day or would die in ignorance. But I am sure we, as human, will recognise this unalterable truth. Nature levels, and returns everything she receives.

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