20 plus social & environmental NGOs refute the statement made by IIT Mandi Director Laxmidhar Behera

 As many as 20 Youth and Civil Organizations refuted the statement made by IIT Mandi Director Laxmidhar Behera blaming the slaughter of animals for the recent monsoon deluge.

According to a Joint statement made by Climate Front India, Climate Front Hyderabad Climate Front Jammu, Climate Front Kashmir, Himalaya Niti Abhiyan, HP Himdhara Collective, HP, Himlok Jagrati Manch, Kinnaur (HP), Himachal Pradesh Ghumantu Pashupalk Mahasabha)HP) National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), Parvatiy Mahila Adhikar Manch, Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity, West Bengal, People for Himalayan Development, Kullu, Right to Food Campaign, New Delhi RTE Forum, HP, Sambhaavnaa Institute, HPSave Kumaon and Sattal Conservation Club, Uttarakhand, Scientists for People, Hyderabad, Spiti Civil Society, Kaza HP There Is No Earth B, Haryana, Zila Van Adhikar Samiti, Kinnaur (HP)Youth For Himalaya, stated on Saturday that it is development’ Paradigms, Not Food Practices are responsible for ‘Himalayan Crisis.

The statement said that last week, Dr. Laxmidhar Behera, the Director of IIT Mandi, made remarks to students regarding the purported “negative consequences” of meat consumption, wrongly attributing dietary practices to landslides and cloudbursts in Himachal.

The organizations believe that by making such irresponsible statements, the Director is trying to deliberately divert attention from the main causes of the disaster, the rapid changes in land use due to mega projects and haphazard construction, which is shameful and unscientific.

These organizations have issued a statement expressing their solidarity with the people affected by the recent disasters in Himachal Pradesh.

 They have highlighted that “The people of the state are still overcoming the effects of this tragedy and for the head of a leading public educational institution to make such a statement on food choices is insensitive and deplorable and we condemn this unscientific promulgation.” 

In their collective statement, the Director’s comments have been characterized as unfortunate and concerning. It is worth noting that IIT Mandi has been entrusted with the responsibility of conducting scientific and technical analyses of the underlying causes of the ongoing disaster and providing suitable mitigation solutions.

 A reported sum of Rs 3.5 crore has also been allocated to the institute for ongoing scientific research on disaster management.

In their joint statement, the current Himalayan disasters are attributed to rapid changes in land use, driven by large-scale projects and indiscriminate construction in the region. 

Additionally, they underscore the region’s vulnerability to disasters due to the climate crisis. The organizations contend that only policy adjustments and governance measures can effectively address such crises.

The statement asserts that a combination of scientific rigor and local community knowledge, especially concerning the characteristics and diverse ecosystems of each watershed, is essential for substantive analysis and the establishment of a robust disaster management system for the future.

Further, it emphasizes the significance of nomadic animal husbandry, a pillar of Himachal’s rural economy, noting, “the state of Himachal Pradesh is home to transhumant pastoralists and sheep herders who contribute to the thriving and sustainable local wool and meat economy.

Recent international research is looking at the benefits of sustainable mountain pastoralism for ecological conservation.” It is stated that “this is a time for collective brainstorming on multi-disciplinary approaches that contribute to both conservation and livelihoods of the people of the Himalayan region.”

 They maintain that “such statements as given by the IIT Director are bound to create alienation and mistrust amongst common people in a state where meat eating is part of cultural practice. We believe that we need to teach our students to respect diverse ethnicities and food choices.”

The statement concluded with the demand for an immediate and unconditional apology from Dr. Behera for his insensitive and inappropriate comments, along with his removal from his position.

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