Former environment minister and Congress leader Jairam Ramesh says prime minister Narendra Modi-led government considers environment as a speed-breaker in its plans to make India a $5 trillion economy. The clear philosophy behind the much debated draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification seems to be Ease of Doing Business (EoB); it has nothing to do with environment protection, says Ramesh.
"Ease of doing business is the one line mantra. Over the last five years the government has progressively diluted environmental laws," Ramesh says in an exclusive interview with Business Today. He cites instances of dilution of pollution norms for thermal power stations, dilution of rules that govern development of coastal areas, and opening up of rich forest areas to coal mining in recent auctions as examples. "A large number of coal mines allowed in Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Odisha, are in rich forest areas," he adds. The Congress leader, who heads the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change, also complains about the systematic weakening of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) which had been set up through an Act of Parliament in 2010. "The draft notification is not an accidental notification. It is part of a process that has been going on for quite some time. And the philosophy is very simple. Environment is a speed breaker," he says.
PM Modi, says Ramesh, believes if India wants to become a $5 trillion economy, one should loosen all environmental, land and labour laws. "This draft notification has been in the works for almost one year now. Various drafts have been floating around. And the main objective has been Ease of Doing Business. Environmental regulations are a roadblock for faster industrialisation or urbanisation, therefore do way with environmental laws. This is the mindset that has governed Modi government since 2014," Ramesh says.
The former minister, however, adds that he has no problem with simplifying environmental laws and making laws and its enforcement more transparent. "I welcome that. But, what we are seeing is systematic effort to dilute the laws and regulations, which is disastrous," he says.