For a greener India

By Malvika Singh in The Telegraph ,Kolkatta

Newspaper reports tell us that the prime minister is impatient to give the go-ahead to the projects that are pending for want of environmental clearances because he believes such ‘delays’ are the primary hurdles to ‘growth’ and therefore he has directed the new minister for environment and forests to fast-track the approvals. However, many experts and environmentalists believe that to hit the ground running is fine but to be rash in doing such things is dangerous. We have been privy to the silence from this same government over the last five years on many environmental concerns because the coalition partner, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, needed to be handled with kid gloves and allowed, quite wrongly, to tamper with important concerns detrimental to the future of the natural resources of this country. Now that the Congress is in control of this critical ministry, the ministers and bureaucrats in the Prime Minister’s Office, the Planning Commission and suchlike must analyse the realities that confront them and tread with care to ensure zero damage to the environment and thereby trigger planned growth that will not destroy the habitat.

It is time to do away with the mess that envelops the state of our environment and forests, where all manner of groups with vested interests represented by strutting dalals in the corridors of the government, trying to circumvent probity and regulation, misinterpret laws and earlier acts of the parliament put in place by astute prime ministers such as Indira and Rajiv Gandhi who understood well, as did international leaders like Al Gore, the desperate need to both conserve and protect as well as to develop and grow. Conservation, protection, growth and development need to be delicately balanced by the minister and his colleagues.

Right path

They will have to make sure that the path they choose to walk down is right and not defined by the short-term demands of corporate houses and industrialists, and the percentage-targets of annual growth that the government may want to ‘show’ at the cost of long-term degradation. Stringent legal procedures will have to rule, and the government will have to be accountable to us as also to the future generations of Indians. To bury the contribution made by past prime ministers in this particular realm would be fatal.

Instead of dismantling norms and laws that were crafted to protect our natural wealth, the government should first try to streamline procedures and mechanisms that have corroded the foundation upon which the edifice of governance rests and which have, over the decades, resulted in the faulty, corrupt administration of India. First, cleanse and restructure the system for growth and development without bribery and corruption; unblock the arteries of delivery that have been clogged for decades with fresh, ‘fast-track’, unencumbered norms and rules administered honestly by officers who do not delay, blackmail or ask for bribes to do their clearly specified jobs; put in place simple procedures that leave no room for endless interpretations; then enforce ‘fast-track’ clearances with integrity and accountability. Surely, that is the first legitimate step towards progress.

A concentrated blueprint for this transformation could be forced into place within the first hundred days of this government. The order of priority is of supreme importance if this government intends to set a fresh standard defined by integrity. An acceleration of growth, a spurt of short-term economic gain within a mal-functioning system will bring insurmountable problems in future. The advanced western world is regretting the thoughtless growth that brought disease and degradation in its wake. We must learn from their mistakes and walk the right path.

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1 Comment

  1. ravi kongovi

    The points reflected are of high priority to our nation. The real progress lies first in the critical environmental legislations, but even more in the faithful implementation keeping in mind the intended purpose of such legislations.

    The point about curtailing scope for endless interpretation of rules and regulations was brought out nicely, and in my view, is of paramount significance in the current Indian situation to acheive any genuinely equitable long-term progress. Further, this needs to be noted by the Government, the judiciary and the civic society, for the nation has suffered greatly on this count.

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