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The Environment Ministry starting to become something other than a rubber-stamp body




For a long time, the Election Commission of India was a rubber-stamp body, about which nobody took any notice, and about which political parties really did not take too much notice. And then came the man called TN Seshan, who was to all practical purposes, a former cabinet secretary, put into a smooth official job after retiring from his top secretary status. And boy, did he shake the system. He defied all political parties, putting the Election Commission in the midst of all sorts of action, controversies, and so on; and even then he was frequently censured by the Supreme Court, he established a much more empowered body whom no political party takes for granted, and whose top posts are a matter of debate and controversy.
A similar position is that of the Union Environment Ministry, which was typically seen as a body where politicians were posted who were not being given the top post of home, finance, industry, commerce, food, etc, a ministry which was seen as having somewhat of a low profile; and somewhat irrelevant in a time when there was a lot of frantic development happening, a lot of industrialization happening, and so on.
And then came a number of factors, but I would consider three essential factors – the emergence of the Maoists, the emergence of global warning as a significant issue, and the arrival of Jairam Ramesh as the new environment minister. The Maoists are primarily based in the more tribal, more forested and wilder areas of the country, and in many of the areas of conflict, there is a conflict between the needs of industry and that of the dwellers of the area. Over a period of time, there has been a growing emergence of thought that it is not so simple to simply take resources wherever they are based, but the rights of the tribals and other natives is important, and the environment ministry is a powerful voice in that area. And Jairam Ramesh has not been in the least hesitant to jump into such fights, even when other ministers in the Government are frustrated by the apparent objections shown by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

The emergence of global warming is a very powerful international factor that caused a jump in the profile of the Ministry of Environment and Forest, given the controversial nature of the discussions and the intense negotiations. It gives the Ministry a powerful voice in terms of deciding energy policy, and puts them in the role of playing an important role in the economic development of the country. For example, setting automobile emissions has a great deal of impact on the development of the vehicle industry.
And Jairam Ramesh has jumped into this role with great enthusiasm, fighting a number of battles and not letting the size of the opponent deter him in any way. So, whether it is fighting with the Vedanta group, or with the HCC group in the Lavasa project, or fighting with numerous other groups, Ramesh is not letting the size of the battle stop him, and in turn is raising the profile of the Ministry.
In the long run, this is good news, since we expect the environment ministry to be leading the effort to safeguard the environment for the future.




1 comment to The Environment Ministry starting to become something other than a rubber-stamp body

  • Pratik Rach

    It is good to see that people want to take up the responsibility. Global Warming is the effect of our overuse of the environment. I read this blog (http://bit.ly/gW7zoy) that might interest you. It discusses Global Warming and the measures to tackle it.

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