Sunday February 18, 2018
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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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All You Need To Know About The Rafale Deal Controversy

The fiasco that Congress is creating on the Rafale Deal is certainly not fair

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Rafale Deal is very important for both the countries involved i.e. India and France.
Rafale Deal is very important for both the countries involved i.e. India and France.

By Ruchika Verma 

  • Rafale Deal happened between India and France
  • The Rafale Deal is about the Rafale fighter jets
  • The deal is getting into controversies because of the allegations de by the opposition, especially Congress

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April 2015 made the announcement that India will buy 36 French-manufactured Rafale fighter jets from Dassault, a French aircraft builder and integrator. This came to be known as Rafale Deal.

The Rafale deal of 36 Rafale aircrafts between India and France was called a “win-win partnership” for both the countries.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi finalised the Rafale Deal during his visit to France in 2015. (FILE PHOTO)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi finalised the Rafale Deal during his visit to France in 2015. (FILE PHOTO)

But recently it has come under attack of the Opposition, mainly the Indian National Congress, which has alleged that there have been irregularities in this deal and its proceedings. However, the government has denied and rejected all the charges.

The Rafale Deal is nothing new and was also signed during the time of UPA government. The first time it came to light was during the government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee where the original proposal was to buy 126 fighter jets.

After tests and negotiations in 2012, Rafale was considered L-1 bidder and negotiations started which only came to a conclusion as the Rafale Deal in 2015 under Prime Minister Modi’s government.

NDA government has got a better price on the Rafale Deal than the UPA governement.
NDA government has got a better price on the Rafale Deal than the UPA government.

Now the UPA alleging irregularities on NDA government doesn’t seem fair to many because no deal took place under their government. The transfer of technology was a primary issue of concern between the two sides. Dassault Aviation also tried to deny to take the responsibility of quality control of the production of 108 aircraft in India. The Dassault provided for 3 crore man-hours for production of the Rafale jets in India, HAL’s estimate was approximately 3 times higher which resulted in an escalation of costs in the manifold.

Also Read: Make in India: France to set up production centers for Rafale fighters

Prime Minister Modi’s visit to France in 2015 helped bring this deal to a final conclusion. The government-to-government deal of 36 jets was to completed as soon as possible.

On costs of the Rafale Deal, NDA government has said that it got better terms than those quoted in the original bid under the UPA government. The total savings are reported to be of more than 1600 million Euros. However, the cost breakdown of Rafale Deal in the original bid under UPA government and in the 36 aircraft in the NDA’s government-to-government deal is not available for the public domain.

The Rafale Deal involves no private party from the side of India. www.worldwide-military.com
The Rafale Deal involves no private party from the side of India. www.worldwide-military.com

Under the current agreement, the  Rafale Deals support the ‘Make In India’ initiative of the Indian Government through the IGA’s Article 12. It states that France will facilitate the implementation of ‘Make In India’. These critical design technologies were already discussed between the two governments in previous meetings. The present Rafale Deal is signed between two sovereign governments and there is no private individual, firm or entity involved in the process from the side of India. The procurement process also does not include any private company or firm from India.

Also Read: IAF’s Rafale Deal with France: India confirms order

The fiasco that Congress is creating on the Rafale Deal is certainly not fair as the NDA government has proved that their deal is better than the one which was undertaken during the UPA government.