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Home > News > Columnists > Claude Arpi

Dear Father Christmas

December 24, 2007

In the tradition in which I am born, the year-end (and Christmas) is a special time. For young and old alike, it is the occasion to spend time with the family and take stock of events which occurred during the past 365 days. It is also the time to dream. Children are busy writing to Father Christmas.

With his sledge and magic sack, he comes at midnight on December 24, and delivers through each chimney the kid's annual 'order'. Before the Internet revolution, the postal department in France [Images] had a special service to take care of the millions of letters addressed to the kind bearded old man, though many believe that he is clever enough to know the kids's secret wishes and bring them the present of their dreams. Does he forget those who had been kids one day? I don't think so. Anyway, I have decided to take my chance and write to him. I am copying here my letter:

Dear Father Christmas,

Since the last time I wrote you in the fifties, you must have outsourced your services and using a BPO company in Bangalore to handle your year-end e-correspondence. I presume that you like working with India. Indeed it is an incredible country.

I am writing to you with a special request for the New Year. I presume that you regularly read the French newspaper Le Monde. Did you come across an article which says: 'The US, China and India, the Bad Pupils of the planet.' It deeply distressed me. It was about the Bali Conference on Global Warming.

As you know Father Christmas, when I settled in India, (it was also December-end some 33 years ago), I came with a Dream. I wanted to see a resurgent India. I believed in Sri Aurobindo's prophetic words. He had spoken of 'the resurgence and liberation of the peoples of Asia and India's) return to her great role in the progress of human civilisation.'

Today, I am quite happy, India has awakened, (economically at least); and so has China. You remember Napoleon's prophecy? 'When China awakes, the whole world will be shaken.' It has become true. Wherever you go, you must have noticed that India is today recognised as a power to reckon with, she is wooed by the Great Powers.

However in the Rishi's scheme of things, India was to take the leading moral and spiritual role! I am sure that you understand why I find it extremely distressing when fingers are today pointed at India. It is especially painful to me (and probably to you) because it concerns the most immediate threat to mankind, Global Warming.

The media says: 'Anyone in doubt about the pivotal position played by China and India should glance through the latest forecasts from the International Energy Agency. Assuming government policies remain unchanged, Chinese and Indian economic development would be the key drivers in sending annual global energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide -- the main greenhouse gas -- from 27 billon tones in 2005 to 42 billon by 2030.'

They even believe that China will overtake the US and become the world's biggest emitter in 2007, and India will be the third biggest emitter in 2015.

You must have had a good laugh when you discovered that an Indian received this year's Nobel Peace Prize (along with Al Gore [Images]) for his contribution on Climate Change and Global Warming. As an environmentalist yourself (don't you use non-polluting transportation with your reindeers and sledge) you probably agree with the Indian 'greens' who do not have a very high opinion of Dr Pachauri (they say he has often been on the wrong side of the fence for environmental issues). But still, he could have done more to convince his government of the seriousness and urgency of the issue!

You probably did not find the time to read the last United Nations Human Development report? It suggests that developing countries should cut CO2 emissions by 20 per cent by 2050, while rich nations would slash theirs by four-fifths. It seemed to me a beginning. But Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, does not agree. He says 'the recommendations look egalitarian, but they are not.' He even complained: 'It cannot be fair that you are projecting a reduction that leaves us on a per capita basis much below the rest of the world.'

Frankly, I think that it is morally fallacious. Is it because the US is the bad guy in environment protection (and several other fields!!!) that India should do the same? Explain to me why is Mr Ahluwalia always using the yardstick of the worse dunce of the class?

One day he will apply the same reasoning to the defence sector! In 2006, the United States spent $528 billion (representing $1,756 per capita) while India's budget was $23.9 billions ($21 only per capita). Just think, if India were to emulate the US and spend a similar amount per capita, Delhi would have to set aside a budget of $40,300 billion. Does it make any sense?

You will agree that Ambika Soni's stand is even stranger (you may not remember her, she the tourism minister). She thinks 'the Climate Change (debate) should not end up being another form of non-tariff barriers for tourism against the developing countries.'

Did you notice what has happened in France during the 2007 French presidential elections? You know Nicolas Hulot, the television anchor who runs a programme on nature. He started an Ecological Pact campaign. I like it, it was simple. He asked the presidential candidates as well as the public to place environment at the heart of the political debate. The candidates were requested to sign the Pact. I agree with Nicolas: 'Our societies have only two possible choices and there is an abyss between the two. Either we accept to be subjected to the forthcoming changes and time will impose on us an inevitable upheaval... or we provoke and conduct ourselves the ecological mutation. Today, no reasonable being can doubt that tomorrow's world will be radically different, whether we would like it or not.'

As a man of action you must also believe 'No more talking. Let us act together before it is too late.'

Now I have a wish and it is why I bother you today with such a long missive. I would like you to speak to the prime minister of India. He may listen to you. Everybody says that he is a good man. However, some of his advisors are telling him that 'while the world's two most populous nations are the most important sources of new emissions growth, their citizens individually share little of the blame for global warming.' They argue why make a poor country like India suffer more.

You will tell me you are not a fool and that a nation which annually spends Rs 145,000 crores on weddings is not that poor. I don't disagree. But I would really like you to speak to Dr Manmohan Singh [Images].

At the beginning of the 20th century, a sage had dreamt of 'a step in evolution which would raise man to a higher and larger consciousness and begin the solution of the problems which have perplexed and vexed him since he first began to think and to dream of individual perfection and a perfect society.'

India was to lead in the world in this direction. Today, when the planet is in danger, why should her leaders use petty arguments instead of showing the way? Further, don't you agree that millions of jobs can be created in the new fields of environment? In any case, will not the planet get ultimately richer if the environment is taken care of? I don't have to tell you, but you will be one of the first to suffer if there is no more snow on earth.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, has recently decided to make his minister for environment the No 2 in his Cabinet. Is it not a good idea for India too? Forgive me if I have not written all these years, my other wishes were not so pressing.

With Love,

Claude

PS: Did you read what Sunita Williams [Images], the Indian-American astronaut, told some Indian children: 'The earth is a beautiful planet. It's hard to imagine anyone arguing down there. It really is.' Lucky you, on December 24, you will also see the planet from above, India must be shining from there!


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