Coalition of 20 NGOs unite against IIT director’s remarks

Shimla, Sept 16,

Students should be taught to respect diverse ethnicities and food choices.”  While stating this a coalition of 20 Youth and Civil Organizations have issued a strong rebuke against Dr. Laxmidhar Behera, the Director of IIT Mandi. In a address to students, Dr. Behera attributed the recent monsoon deluge and related disasters in Himachal Pradesh to meat consumption, sparking outrage and condemnation from various quarters.

The organizations jointly released a statement on Saturday, expressing their solidarity with the affected people in Himachal Pradesh and vehemently criticizing Dr. Behera’s remarks. They contend that his comments are an attempt to divert attention away from the real causes of the ongoing disasters, primarily rapid changes in land use due to large-scale projects and unchecked construction in the region.

The collective statement characterizes Dr. Behera’s comments as both unfortunate and concerning. It is essential to note that IIT Mandi has been entrusted with the critical task of conducting scientific and technical analysis of the root causes of the ongoing crisis and offering suitable mitigation solutions. A substantial sum of Rs 3.5 crore has been allocated to the institute for ongoing scientific research on disaster management.

The organizations are unanimous in their belief that the current Himalayan disasters can be attributed to the rapid transformation of land use, driven by extensive projects and haphazard construction in the area. They also underscore the region’s vulnerability to such disasters due to the overarching climate crisis. In their view, addressing this crisis effectively requires policy adjustments and governance measures.

The statement emphasizes the need for a comprehensive approach, combining scientific rigor and local community knowledge, especially concerning the diverse ecosystems of each watershed. This approach, they argue, is crucial for the development of a robust disaster management system for the future.

Furthermore, the organizations stress the significance of nomadic animal husbandry, a cornerstone of Himachal’s rural economy. They highlight the role of transhumant pastoralists and sheep herders in contributing to the sustainable local wool and meat economy. Recent international research also examines the benefits of sustainable mountain pastoralism for ecological conservation.

The organizations contend that Dr. Behera’s comments have the potential to create alienation and mistrust among the common people in a state where meat consumption is deeply rooted in cultural practices.

The joint statement by these organizations demands an immediate and unconditional apology from Dr. Behera for his insensitive and inappropriate comments. Furthermore, they call for his removal from his position as Director of IIT Mandi. The coalition of organizations remains committed to addressing the Himalayan crisis through scientific analysis, policy reform, and community engagement, focusing on sustainable solutions that respect diverse cultural practices and the region’s delicate ecosystem.



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