Second September, 2016 was a dark day for most people associated with ecological and environmental movement in India. Dear V B Eswaran breathed his last on that day in New Delhi. He is survived by his good wife Girija jee, sons Somanathan and Sridharan, daughters-in-law Rohini and Divya and grand children.
For all those who have some links with research and development of policies on environment and ecological sustainability, Shri Eswaran was the doyen on this front from India. He belonged to the Gujarat cadre of Indian Administrate Services, having served there in various capacities. Later on, he moved to the Central government, and retired as Expenditure Secretary in the Ministry of Finance. But all along his career as an able administrator, his own first love was conservation of energy, development of sustainable water and forest ecosystems and making natural resources available to the poorest of the poor in the country.
His earliest entry on these front began, perhaps around 1980 when he used to visit Sukhomajri and other surrounding villages in Haryana, He very quickly understood the power of people in protecting and conserving natural resources- be they the desert lands, watersheds, forests or wildlife resources. He supported vehemently the then very active social movement of Chakriya Vikas Pranali (CVP), in Haryana and also in the present day Jharkhand. In fact, he was one of the founder members of the NGO called Society for Hill Resource Management School, with the mentor and patron Shri P R Mishra.
After his retirement from regular government services, he served the Society for Wastelands Development, as Director initially, and later on as its Chairman. He also served in various other capacities in India as Chairman of a Committee on Training on Watershed Development in India in 1994. The recommendations were then taken up by several states in India to promote the concern and actions on watershed development. He also served on a Committee set up by the honorable Supreme Court (briefly termed as NPV Committee), to recommend a methodology, methods and measures of forest values for diverting forest resources to non-forest uses. Till today, the Committee’s recommendations stand out as the guiding principle for fixing such values by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in India.
In between, Shri Eswaran also served as Chairman of Seva Mandir in Jaipur, and as advisor to MoEF and many others on many occasions. Among many of his contributions, one distinctly recalls his works in the field of watershed development in India, forest conservation, and development of ecosystem services.
He was one of the founder members of the now famous Indian Society for Ecological Economics (INSEE). Coming from a rich administrative background and experience, he was very instrumental in structuring the constitution of INSEE. He was very instrumental in developing INSEE’s original corpus funds, to give this organization a strong financial base, so that many academic activities could be geared up immediately. On behalf of INSEE he organized a national seminar on water resources in 2003 at New Delhi; and also helped to organize many such events. During 2002-04 he also served INSEE as its Vice-President.
The scientists, and social scientists in the field of ecology and environment cannot forget the numerous days and times working with Shri Eswaran on several occasions, walking with him, talking to him in the fields of Sukhomajri in Haryana, Chapri, Tandwa and sakhanpidi in Jharkhand. Visits to his house in Vasant Vihar house was always treasure to refresh one’s own social responsibilities to conserve natural resources in India.
An unassuming person, who helped and encouraged young scholars and administrators on the development of ecological economic thinking in India, is no more around us.
Gopal K Kadekodi
Past President, INSEE