ByÂ Renuka Saroha:
While Indian politics is seeing a new turn, the ruling party at centre is sticking to its old mantra of vowing corporations before election. From making campaign funding rules even more flexible to changing the Environment Minster, the UPA government is leaving no stone unturned to gather maximum support from industrial lobby before general election. In last few months the Ministry of Environment and Forest has been blamed for everything which went wrong. Be it rehabilitation work in UttarakhandÂ or the low Gross Domestic Production, MoEF has been portrayed as the biggest hurdle in India’s development. If roads are not being built it is because of MoEF, if there is power shortage it because of MoEF, if industry is not investing it is only because of MoEF. The poor ministry has been hit left right centre by everyone and anyone. While out of 32,997 proposals received for approval, only 1,794 projects have been rejected by ministry, the public image of MoEF is worse than that of Coal ministry after coal scam.
The MoEF has always been structurally weak so that whenever there is conflict between unsustainable economic growth and environment, the former is given priority over the latter. The fact of appointment of Mr Moily, the promoter of environmentally destructive projects as the environment minister underlines the fact that MoEF is not considered to be an important ministry and government sees it as biggest threat for UPA in upcoming elections.
As Oil & Petroleum Ministry, Mr Moily has been writing to MoEF against expanding boundaries of Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary in Dakshin Kannada, supported controversial Netravathi Diversion project (Yettinahole Diversion Project) for his constituency of Chikkaballapur. As environment minister he is under structural compulsion to disregard environmental concerns for electoral gains. It is not surprising that industrial lobby wishes to hurry up the process of deciding fate of 2000 year old forest and thousands of families dependent on it within few minutes. But it is surprising is that our government is more determined to support this unsustainable quest of few industrial giants. It is willing to lose thousands of hectares of our pristine forests and resources to win an election, which as per current poll,s they have already lost.
The Prime Minister has all the rights to shuffle the cabinet and appoint minsters, but there should be some logic behind doing so. There is clear conflict in both the roles he is trying to juggle. It is hard to assume that he can balance work of two different ministries which have nothing in common. While MoEF should work on principals of sustainability, Oil ministry survives on exploitation of resources.
We need to tell Dr. Manmohan Singh that the public is unable to see the logic and necessity to appoint Mr Moily as Environment and Forest Minister while he is Minister of Oil and Petroleum as well. We must express our concerns over this decision and ask him to find a better replacement for Ms. Natarajan who has conveniently decided to serve party over nation.