THE suggestion by Chief Justice of India Mr. Justice Sharad A. Bobde that lawyers may get down from their big, beautiful cars and start riding bicycles so as to reduce air pollution in New Delhi certainly presents an idea worthy of serious consideration not just by the lawyers but also by the whole country. Even though it is only an oral observation of the honourable Chief Justice while hearing a Public Interest Litigation (before a three-judge bench comprising Mr. Justice Bobde, Mr. Justice A.S. Bopanna, and Mr. Justice Ramasubramanian) seeking ban on stubble burning in agricultural farms in the National Capital Regions (NCR), he has touched upon a very critical issue that relates itself not just to the limited issue of air pollution but also to the larger issue of simple practices that would make life an easier proposition from multiple angles. The suggestion is quite in tune with the idea of simple living and high thinking as propounded by the likes of Mahatma Gandhi who tried to teach the Indian people the importance of habits and practices that would not offend the ecology. Mr. Justice Bobde, thus, has suggested that an effort be made to reduce the excessive leaning of the modern society on gadgets that bring physical comforts at the cost of environment.
Practicality of the suggestion may get discussed by the larger society in due course. But it must be stated again and again that Mr. Justice Bobde has promoted an idea that cannot be ignored easily by anybody. He is not suggesting a return to the lantern-age, so to say, but is bringing to fore an idea of simple living that had protected environment over time. The honourable Supreme Court bench has said that there are many causes of serious air pollution other than stubble burning in the NCR, vehicular pollution being one of those. Hence the suggestion -- to lawyers to begin with -- to resort to bicycles instead of automobiles that contribute much to air pollution. The suggestion is so good that the larger society, too, can give a serious thought to returning to bicycles while travelling at least short distances so that vehicular pollution can be brought under control to some extent.
There are other causes, too, of air pollution, not just around in the National Capital Regions but also elsewhere. Unplanned industrialisation is one of those causes. There is no denying the fact that economic activity brings prosperity to the larger society. But at the same time, we cannot ignore the sane advice by personages like Mahatma Gandhi (who represented an environment-friendly culture which India’s sages promoted for ages) that industrialisation should be based on appropriate technology. Against this background, the honourable Chief Justice has done well to suggest the use of bicycles as an answer to the problem of vehicular pollution in general.
It is a universal experience that senseless industrialisation has led to environmental decay all over the world. This has prompted thinkers and scientists to look for healthy, alternate technologies that would reduce the environmental stress and make human life happier in tune with the ecological need of a green planet Earth. It is in this context that we recall the word of caution by Mahatma Gandhi who said, in effect, that ‘Nature provides for everybody’s need but not for anybody’s greed’. The quality of suggestion by Mr. Justice Bobde belongs to that league of thinking. The good-old bicycle, thus, needs to be treated as a symbolism of environment-friendly living that the larger society can adopt and join hands in the combat against air pollution.
It will certainly not be easy for the modern society to shift to this cultural paradigm. Yet, the endeavour would be worth undertaking by the larger society in whatever manner and extent possible. Even a small step in that direction -- no matter by just a handful of individuals -- would act as a catalyst that the society needs badly in this regard. The bicycle is a metaphor whose meaning needs to be interpreted correctly. Chief Justice of India, Mr. Justice Sharad A. Bobde, thus, has done well to bring up this aspect in public discourse.