PROFIT OVER PEOPLE: Another disaster in the making
The BJP-RSS government’s capitalist roadmap has been on full public display ever since its return to power, with public sector undertakings being sold to the highest corporate bidders, including essential services like the railways. We are already witnessing the decadence of the public healthcare system, gasping for breath under the impact of the ongoing pandemic.
Policies like NEP are being introduced as a massive attack on public education through privatization and the saffronization of the country’s entire education system. At such a juncture, it becomes imperative for all rational and reasonable forces to expose the sham of the Prime Minister’s ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat‘ in the guise of which private corporate players are brazenly being invited to shear off natural resources which belong to the people of the country.
It is in keeping with this trend that the Central Government has proposed the Draft EIA Notification, 2020, which dilutes the existing EIA Notification, 2006 (which is backed by the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986). An Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) evaluates and makes a scientific assessment of the likely impacts of a project, such as a mine or irrigation dam. The key provision of this policy is a public consultation, including a public hearing where the local community and interested persons can give opinions and raise objections, based on the EIA report.
The draft EIA Notification, 2020, does away with these critical processes. It paves the way for regularization of projects without environmental clearance, exempting public consultation, and decreasing the frequency of monitoring of projects from 6 months to annual monitoring. It also allows for post-facto approvals of environmental clearance, which would turn the assessment for these projects into a mere formality.
In other words, the policy is willing to give a free-hand to corporate companies to plunder natural resources without worrying about the damage that the project is likely to cause to the environment and the people.
Any step in the direction of easing regulations in an already watered-down policy is going to spell disaster for the environment. Apart from pushing various species of wildlife to extinction, it will also profoundly impact the climate, which will, in turn, lead to several calamities where the poorest and the marginalized will be the biggest sufferers. In the light of the climate change discourse being pushed to the fore globally yet again, it is shameful that India continues to ignore this movement and, instead, is privy to an act that will inflict irreparable damage to the ecology.
We must remember the Baghjan fire, which continues to rage on its 74th day. It is a flaming reminder of what transpires when safety regulations are ignored- death, loss of property, and irreversible damage to the environment. OIL had decided to extend its drilling to seven locations at the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, bypassing public hearings. We must remember the landslide in Munnar and the incessant annual floods in Assam and Bihar, and the havoc they wreak in the lives of people who already struggle to eke a livelihood.
At the highest stake in this policy, is the lives of the Adivasis, who will bear the maximum brunt of these dilutions. Adivasis have already been persecuted and harassed through land grabs for mining and dams. We must not forget our dark past of committing atrocities and injustices on Adivasis in Narmada Valley, Niyamgiri, and Bastar.
By diluting the regulatory mechanism for environmental protection, the draft EIA Notification, 2020, is essentially violative of the constitutional rights guaranteed to people of Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dweller Communities under PESA and Forest Rights Act.
It seeks to drown their voices under the muscle power of ruthlessly exploitative corporate capital. What will inevitably follow is the criminalizing of any and every dissent voice under draconian laws, so that the entire community is given the message to witness the loot of their lives silently.
We must call out the farce of ‘development’ that has been drilled into the minds of people, which has led several to think that dilution of environment regulation will somehow benefit the country. BASO appeals to every person to reject the Draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2020 and write to the MoEFCC en masse, to let those in power know that we are well-aware of their sinister schemes and that they will not succeed in profiting off the lives of people to appease their corporate masters. Not without a fight.
Bhagat Singh Ambedkar Students Organization (BASO), JNU, New Delhi
Featured image: Mumbai Mirror