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Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur organized a two-day workshop on Just Energy Transition (JET) under the leadership of Prof. Pradip Swarnakar, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur. More than twenty representatives from labour unions and journalists of India participated in the event. It is one of the first important steps towards justice in line with the India’s commitment to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that aims to reduce carbon emission to reduce global warming.
Inaugurating the event, eminent academician Prof. Arun Kumar Sharma (Emeritus, IIT Kanpur) welcomed the participants said that IIT Kanpur began study of social sciences long back and was different than others in the sense that it studied civil society, corporate and government. He further set the dialogue forum by saying the transition of energy requires Economic, Sociological, Cultural and Tribal issues in mind.
With the start of the event, IIT Kanpur also launched its JET center as an arm of existing Center for Energy Policy and Research Lab founded by Prof. Pradip Swarnakar at IIT Kanpur.
Bhavna Joshi, PhD student in CEPRL lab told that CEPRL was established in 2019 and about 22 members are associated with the lab including the current transition center. She told that the lab works on analysis of media reports, social networks, environment and climate change issues.
Elaborating on the just energy transition center, Dr. Mudit Singh, Postdoctoral Fellow briefly discussed the plans of JET to research and give policy recommendations with respect to the ongoing efforts to reduce carbon emission by reducing fossil fuel (mainly coal) dependence. Prof. Swarnakar set the context for the first session of the event by telling about climate change, justice and international, national linkages of climate change. The panelists for the morning discussions were Ashim Roy, Founding Journal Seceratary, New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI), Prasant Chowdhary, General Secretary, Electricity Employees Federation of India, and Amarjeet Kaur, General Secretary, All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC). According Ashim Roy, if we need just transition to be realised, we need to understand what the concepts in this field and workers aspirations. He pointed out towards the knowledge gap existing in terms of Local area of economic transformation. He explicitly underlined need to build knowledge about transition in coastal areas and financial restructuring for energy transition.
Amarjeet Kaur added to the discussion by highlighting that Trade unions have been working hard for workers safety since long- even before independence. Business firms will look for opportunity to make profit but its our responsibility to look out for people working in several sectors like services and industry. Informal community will only understand the importance or even the meaning of just transition when they will know how that is going to benefit them. She highlighted that we need to look at informal economy workers. Informalisation of formal economy is happening by cutting the jobs of people from the forma sector. To satisfy the appetite of capital-intensive business, environment laws are weakened, collective bargaining is being challenged; social security norms are being weakened. International investments should respect law of the land. All transition talks must happen with the worker in the centre.
Mr. Chowdhary pointed out the discrimination on the basis of religion, income, caste etc. is very prominent in india. Referring to the practice of environment, he said that Ravindra Nath Tagore famously said , Give back the forest and take back your city, a 100 years ago. Developed countries have been promising contributions at 1945 when UNO was formed and that even at Paris agreement to meet the environmental concerns and energy transition but that never got materialised. Biggest powerful country (USA) did not honor Kyoto protocol. He further said that guidelines are there for coal mine wind up but those are not being followed. Since labours are economically weak, we needed a separate labour law that has evolved over time but in order to keep transition in mind, we need to see how adherence to such laws is ensured along with required improvement in the laws.
There were other participants from media and state level trade union representatives from Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana and West Bengal who told about the ground level socioeconomic, cultural and political realities of coal mine workers that were in agreement with the points discussed by the panellists.