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‘Chipko Movement, Narmada Bachao Andolan part of India’s proud tradition to protect environment, I bring this rich inheritance to Canada’

Prateek Awasthi talks to The Indian Express about the Green Party’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, and how the party is working hard to ensure everyone has resources and support to get through these difficult times.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Published: April 25, 2020 7:26:15 pm
Prateek Awasthi Prateek Awasthi on coronavirus, coronavirus Pune news, Pune coronavirus cases, Pune COVID-19 cases, India news, Indian Express “In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Canadian federal government has put forward an unprecedented response,” says Awasthi. (Express photo/Arul Horizon)

Prateek Awasthi, who grew up in Pune and is a law graduate from the ILS Law College, was appointed the executive director of Green Party of Canada. Son of well-known social activists Dr Ramesh Awasthi and Dr Manisha Gupte, Prateek was formerly director of policy and advocacy with Engineers Without Borders Canada and has also worked as a specialist on youth participation and leadership at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

He talks to The Indian Express about the Green Party’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, and how the party is working hard to ensure everyone has resources and support to get through these difficult times. Excerpts from an interview:

There are over 40,000 cases and more than 2,000 deaths due to COVID-19 in Canada. What are your immediate priorities?

Right now, our priority is to support the Green Party’s three MPs, Elizabeth May, Paul Manly and Jenica Atwin, who are working hard to ensure no Canadian falls through the cracks in the federal response to COVID-19, and that everyone has the support and resources they need to pull through. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Canadian federal government has put forward an unprecedented response, spending over $100 billion to provide emergency wages, subsidies and benefits to workers whose livelihoods have been affected, such as small businesses, charities, students, artists, families, and many other groups.

As executive director, your responsibility is to provide strategic and operational leadership apart from fundraising and election planning. Please comment.

My primary goal is to increase the party’s membership and prepare the party to have more Green MPs elected in future elections. Apart from working closely with the party’s federal council, I will be formulating goals and annual plans and directing all party operations, including administration, fundraising, communications, election planning, supporting electoral district associations, helping recruit inspiring candidates and campaigns to get more green MPs into the next parliament.

What are the key environment issues that the Green Party is taking up?

As a father, I often worry about the world I will leave behind for my daughters, and I must do everything I can to tackle climate change and promote economic and social justice. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with a political party that is committed to the cause. The Green Party has demonstrated leadership to ensure that any economic assistance goes to workers in the oil and gas sector, but not the companies. We have worked out a clear strategy towards a zero-carbon economy through the creation of new industries and well-paid jobs. We need to pivot away from fossil fuels to avoid a global climate emergency.

Has growing up in India helped with your various stints abroad and to prepare for challenges?

Yes. The six values of the Green Party — participatory democracy, non-violence, social justice, sustainability, respect for diversity and ecological wisdom — all resonate strongly with me. The Chipko Movement and the Narmada Bachao Andolan are a part of India’s proud tradition of people’s movements to protect the environment. With humility, I bring this rich inheritance to Canada. Growing up, I heard stories of my parents’ activism in the non-violent student movement against the Emergency in 1970 led by Jayprakash Narayan, and growing up in the tiny village of Malshiras (Purandar taluka), I was privileged to witness firsthand my parents’ transformative work with their NGO, Mahila Sarvangeen Utkarsh Mandal (MASUM). It continues to inspire me every day.

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