By Rohit Prajapati,
Prakash Javadekar, new minister for environment, forest and climate change, taking over the charge has promised to ensure “fast environment clearances”. This is just beginning of the implementation of the BJP’s manifesto by the the ministry of environment. A new system for online submission of applications for environmental clearances has been launched. But what about online submission of complaints against pollution? Javadekar also said that there shall be a maximum time limit for the entire approval process, with stage-wise timelines and promised continuous efforts to bring down the timelines for each stage. But what about the time limit to resolve complaints against polluting industries?
Now we are in an era where the three ministries of environment, labour and industry, individually and collectively, are increasingly concerned about better environment for industry and its profitability, industrial-friendly labour laws and prosperity of industry, so that industrialists can concentrate only on their production and profits in the “interest of gross domestic product (GDP)”. There are other ministries also equally concerned about industry and its profitability, but now environment, labour and industry ministries will be exclusively dedicated to the industry and its profitability.
Keeping in mind the above objective of these three ministries in practice, in the interest of industry, its profitability and GDP, time has come to merge these ministries in one which can be named as ministry of industry, investment, industrial-friendly environment and labour. By merging the three ministries, the government will be more transparent to overtly express its real concern and commitment to industry, profit and GDP.
Industries, their profitability and environment clearance were and are the main concerns of the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF). I have not seen the MoEF at any point in the past, as in present, showing real concern, commitment to environmental protection and to complaints of people. The ministry has at best only shown concern and worry about environment clearance, and has not paid even lip service to people’s complaints about air pollution, contamination of river, surface and groundwater, contamination of soil and agricultural production and its effect on people’s health and life.
The present government too so far has shown no commitment to environmental protection and labour rights; it seems to give the impression that it wants to get rid of the issue of environment and labour. The Modi government’s main priority is speedy environment clearance for the industries and not environment protection. The BJP manifesto, which has strong imprints of what Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to do, clearly states, “Frame environmental laws in a manner that provides no scope for confusion and will lead to speedy clearance of the proposals without delay.” This spells out assurance of the Modi government to industrialist that they should not worry about environmental laws as he will remove all their hurdles, so that just by filing some papers and giving some vague assurance they will get the environment clearance.
This is the “Gujarat model of development” which led Gujarat to become number one in pollution. To make it further crystal clear, Modi’s manifesto overtly states, “Take all steps: like removing red-tapism involved in approvals, to make it easy to do business, invest in logistics infrastructure, ensure power supply and undertake labour reforms, besides other steps to create a conducive environment for investors.” The Modi-Festo says in very clear words to mortgage the environment and labour laws.
The type of capitalist development that it envisages has not tried to arrive at even a realistic estimate of loss of livelihood, land acquisition, displacement, irreversible damage to environment and permanent loss of natural resources figures but the magnitude of the loss can be guessed from some of the facts emerging from various important research works on status of environment in Gujarat.
We should understand this new challenge and it is the time for the all the environment and trade union movements to launch collective struggle against this move of the present government.
The author is a senior Environmental activist based in Gujarat.