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Modi government’s love for corporates is destroying our environment

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By Harshmeet Singh

It isn’t easy to control your greed when you have a bag full of gold in front of you. All the talks of ‘leaving it for the next generation’ remain on paper and the lust takes over your senses. Our environmental resources are one such bag of gold. They seem abundant at first sight, but before you realise, your ambitions sweep them off and all you are left with is regret.

If the UPA government was at fault for mishandling the environment related issues in the country, the Modi Government has only done worse. Interestingly, while the Government has been boisterous about its handful of achievements and other controversial debates, it has conveniently maintained silence over its ruthless approach in overriding environmental laws and authorities in the name of development. And before we realise, we would neither be left with forests nor the so-called development that was promised.

Prakash Javadekar, the Union Environment minister is working overtime to ensure that the Government’s ‘friends’ don’t have a tough time fighting the environmental laws. One of his first decisions was to ensure that the coal mines that produce below 16 million tonnes of coal per year and are willing to increase their production by half can do so easily without the need of holding a public hearing.

Diluting Forests Right Act – Done!

Next was the dilution of the Forests Right Act. The Government ordered that the companies need not hold any consultations with the Gram Sabhas before diverting the land for industrial uses. The other changes in the Act give companies the freedom to inspect forest lands for minerals without the consent of Gram Sabha. This move is in violation of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996, or PESA which gave Gram Sabhas the authority to self govern their natural resources.

Additionally, Irrigation projects which require less than 2000HA would not need to take environmental clearance while the projects concerning less than 10000 HA can now be given assent by State Governments. Did these changes catch anyone’s eye? The Government made sure it didn’t!

Weakening NGT? Done!

In August last year, a number of media reports pointed towards the Government’s attempts to dilute the powers of the National Green Tribunal. The significance of the NGT can be understood from the fact that appeals against the orders of the NGT can only be made in the Supreme Court. The Tribunal has often run into the Government on a number of issues in the past. The Government is now planning to convert it into an administrative body under the control of the environment ministry itself. Furthermore, the Government is contemplating changing criminal offences for violations of environmental laws into civil penalties. Government’s apathy towards NGT is evident from the fact that since its formation in 2010, the NGT has never had the full strength of its benches.

“Laws are always changing” – Javadekar

Last year, when Narendra Modi took the centre stage at the historic Madison Square Garden in the USA, he talked about ‘dismantling old laws’ to bring about a change. A couple of months later, TSR Subramanian committee on environmental laws came up with its report, which said that “the environmental laws need to be streamlined to match with the growth objectives”. The report favoured amending the laws to fast-track the process of giving environmental clearances to industrial projects. It was hard not to see Modi’s imprints in the report.

Over-ruling Supreme Court’s orders? Done!

According to a 2012 order of the honourable Supreme Court, an area coming in the radius of up to 10 km around all the National Parks and Sanctuaries must be notified as an ESZ (eco-sensitive zone). This meant that all the hotels and tourist resorts coming inside such zones shall be regulated according to an approved master plan to ensure that the natural habitat of wildlife is not restricted. It also banned establishment of mid-sized polluting industries in this region. The Modi Government wasted little time in reducing this limit to 5km and flouting the directions of the Supreme Court.

With an aim of further strengthening its control over environmental authorities, the Government realigned the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) and reduced the number of independent members to three from the earlier 15! This move of the Government is under the scrutiny of the Supreme Court that has directed the Government that “any decision taken by it (NBWL) shall not be given effect to till further orders”.

Some of the other ambitious plans of the Government include a new legal definition of the forests in the country. This definition would exclude all such forests that are not classified in government records. Once the definition comes into force, all such areas, including some forest patches in the famous Aravalli hills could be chopped off without any forest clearance.

The recent flash floods in Uttarakhand that claimed over 5,000 lives were attributed to rampant deforestation and flouting of environmental norms in the state. Yet, instead of learning a lesson, the Government has conveniently ignored such warnings from the environmentalists, which would only prepare the ground for the next disaster to hit us anytime.

Prime Minister’s desire to enhance the ‘ease of doing business’ isn’t hidden from anyone and neither are his cosy relations with corporate honchos. If the current trend is anything to go by, we could see major changes in the environmental laws of the country in the coming days. It is now up to the civil society, environmentalists and social activists to highlight these issues which the Government and the media overlook ever so conveniently. It would be such a pity if BJP’s payback to its corporate friends comes at such a high cost to the country.

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Glory to PM Modi and Country Angers Certain Forces

A few months back, the UN as well has crowned him with the Champions of the Earth, the highest environmental honor

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A few months back, the UN as well has crowned him with the Champions of the Earth, the highest environmental honor.

By: Salil Gewali

Many will not disagree that the PM Modi is fairly unpopular among a certain popular elite within the country. However, he has earned an immeasurable number of admirers outside the country. The fact why he is an eyesore for certain groups of people and celebrities while they are bowled over and ever supportive of specific dull-witted and inexperienced leaders is something very weird and contrasting. This phenomenon defies the long-held assumption that “education” makes one rational and free from the psychological shortfall. Nevertheless, PM Modi is least bothered what his smart detractors think and do against him.  He hardly wishes evil upon anyone. He has multiple of reasons to stay buoyed and cheery. The flood of praises coming from outside the country has always swelled PM Modi’s chest. Therefore, even in the foreign soil he goes, without a hitch, shouting at full throttle —‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’.  

Truly, it’s totally wrong to ignore many achievements associated with PM Modi. Yes, he has been chosen to be honored with the highest civilian award – Order of Zayed by the UAE government.  Not just that, the countries like Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Palestine also have come forward to honor the Indian PM with their respective highest awards. A few months back, the UN as well has crowned him with the Champions of the Earth, the highest environmental honor. His unfaltering dedication and devotion to execute formulated policies and planes have yielded positive results, though some section of powerful people try to undermine and demean them all.

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Modi government has been able to pull off many thorny external affairs and issues too quickly.

What is most attractive in PM Modi is that he is smartly clever to strike the personal kinship with any individual foreign leaders and diplomats. Yes, due to his personal touch and warmth, the Modi government has been able to pull off many thorny external affairs and issues too quickly. Of course, this is doubtlessly praiseworthy. Yes, good truths should be not suppressed and falsehood should not be exaggerated.

However, a very strange vibe is noticed in the country. It is nothing but an unenthusiastic silence maintained by the popular media when Modi receives some accolades and appreciation. Many choose not to mention it at all, not even as news-item. This all makes everything all the more conspicuous. Well, this, in fact, only prompts the swarm of netizens to be more active in social media, their battlefields. They are seen furiously vocal. The ranting, raving, and name-calling against the backdrop of the importance given to a certain class of leaders make the situation less pleasant and logical. Not just that people in the social media are quick to throw up contrasting examples citing how media goes gaga over a “less intelligent lot” while keeping deafening silence over things that bring glory and fame to the nation. This is doubtlessly a bizarre development. This way the detractors or opponents always run the risk of losing their own integrity.

ALSO READ: Modi Suggests Pakistan to Stop Exporting Terror for Peace

A business done by sacrificing integrity ends up in disaster. Opposition to ideas and political parties is always welcome, which is democratic, but the biased attitude against the “truth” and positivity can only dilute the sanctity of the enterprise and professionalism. As concerned citizens, should we not first want that the light of glory and joy dispel the gloom of darkness and despair in the country? Let’s not waste our precious life by struggling to call the untruth as truth and vice versa. This exercise only contributes to polluting our mindset and the country becomes less peaceful and more vulnerable.

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great Minds on India’.

Twitter:  @SGewali