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Does Modi's Vibrant India lack vibrancy?

 

Picture Source: Livemint

Bhubaneswar,

Last updated 06 Jul 2016 01:02 IST

  Narendra Modi, Vibrant India, Environment

Modi government is yet to give due importance to the environmental factors while pushing for development. Rather, the government has attempted to dilute the existing environmental norms that the investors and corporate houses believe are putting projects into a delaying process. While the government has already issued circulars to avoid the norms of holding public consultations at the site of industrial projects, which is mandatory under Forest Rights Act of 2006, it also is planning to modify the other laws to set “short cuts” to create an investor friendly environment.

 

The event of Vibrant Gujarat Summit, an idea that took shape when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was Chief Minister of the state, started this year, on January 11, 2015, as the pitching ground for the idea of a Vibrant India. Attended by the global leaders like United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State John Kerry and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and leaders from a few other countries, the very first day of the event rather looked like a global event about the economic growth and development of India. But experts doubt if Modi’s vibrant India has real vibrancy in it.

In order to attract investment to India for industries and other sectors, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pitched his idea of vibrant India. Presenting India as the easiest place for doing business and assured the investors saying, "If you walk one step, we will walk two steps for you."

Mentioning his government’s efforts for faster but inclusive growth, Modi reassured the international business community saying, "The ease of doing business in India is a prime concern for you and us. We are working very seriously on these issues."

In order to create an investor friendly environment, the NDA government led by Narendra Modi has expedited the process for implementation of Goods and Service Tax (GST) and to set a system where businesses can become operational without much delay.

As the Business Standard observed, PM Narendra Modi had set the tone by referring to the event as the biggest gathering on earth where a budding entrepreneur had the opportunity to see the president of the World Bank, and a young farmer could listen to the UN secretary-general's views on food security.

"We are here as a family, not only in terms of space but because we recognise someone's dream depends on someone's direction. The objective is welfare of all," said Modi in the summit.

Modi’s idea was applauded by world leaders who joined the summit on the inaugural day to strengthen economic ties with world’s largest democracy.

 

Quotation starts

Ban Ki-Moon’s specific mention of “Sustainable Inclusive Development” seems to have wider implication in view that growing industrial strength has been pushing the earth towards tipping point, as mentioned by Sam Kutesa, President of the United Nations General Assembly, at Lima during the last climate talks.

Quotation ends

Terming Gujarat as synonymous to "possibilities, change and energy," US Secretary of State John Kerry said, "If we work united, I am sure the world's oldest (democracy) and the largest democracy can help forge a new era of shared prosperity and security, not only across Asia but across the world. We can end extreme poverty in our lifetime."

Kerry's sentiment was echoed by Jim Yong Kim, who said, that the World Bank group's deep interest in promoting policies and projects to maximise sustainable and inclusive economic growth would not be realised until India, a country of 1.25 billion people, follows a path of rapid economic growth that benefits all Indians."

Commending Modi's initiative for smart cities and the vision on use of renewable energy efficiency and looking at 2015 as a year for global action, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said, "We should not only build industrial strength but sustainable inclusive solutions."

Ban Ki-Moon’s specific mention of “Sustainable Inclusive Development” seems to have wider implication in view that growing industrial strength has been pushing the earth towards tipping point, as mentioned by Sam Kutesa, President of the United Nations General Assembly, at Lima during the last climate talks.

But, as it seems, the Modi government is yet to give due importance to the environmental factors while pushing for development. Rather, the government has attempted to dilute the existing environmental norms that the investors and corporate houses believe are putting projects into a delaying process. While the government has already issued circulars to avoid the norms of holding public consultations at the site of industrial projects, which is mandatory under Forest Rights Act of 2006, it also is planning to modify the other laws to set “short cuts” to create an investor friendly environment.

Now, a High Level Committee, instituted by the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEFCC) on 29th August 2014 under chairmanship of former Union Cabinet Secretary T. S. R. Subramanian, recommends for “fast track” procedure for “linear” projects such as roads and railway lines, as well as power or mining projects and projects of national importance.

Observing that corporates seek "short cuts" to get clearance for their environment projects, the high level committee has suggested setting up of a 'single window' clearance system for green projects to significantly reduce the processing time, said a report by India’s news agency PTI.

Yet another concern is giving project proponents the benefit of doubt by accepting their word in “utmost good faith”. It is common knowledge that proponents are economical with the truth when it comes to specifying environmental safeguards. Time and again, environmental impact assessments are cut-and-paste jobs, with consultants paying obeisance to their clients. Combined with the penchant of the present government to push projects through recklessly, this is a recipe for disaster,” says Darryl D’Monte, Chairperson of Forum of Environmental Journalists of India (FEJI), in his article Environment get the Axe.

This Committee was given a comprehensive mandate: to review all laws and judgments pertaining to environment, wildlife and forest protection, and also those relating to pollution control, and then produce a report with specific recommendations for reforms in law and governance.

What critiques comment on the whole process of examination of laws and judgments and on the production of the report is that neither sufficient time was given to the committee to make the report nor the public consultation was given adequate importance.

“This report, thereby, is an outcome of a comprehensively democracy deficit effort, and promotes a schema for environmental reforms, which, if adopted could result in widespread chaos in environmental governance and jurisprudence,” said Environmental Support Group, a Bangalore based organisation working on Environmental, Social Justice and Governance Initiatives.

So, Modi’s pitch of a Vibrant India looks less vibrant with less green, less vibrancy!

In this context, the smaller Himalayan nation, Bhutan, rather looked more committed and more vibrant as its Prime Minister PM Tshering Tobgay, while pitching for a Vibrant Bhutan, invited investors saying, “Bhutan is open for business,” and made his stand about investment clear by saying, “But (it is open) only for clean, green and sustainable businesses, like hydropower, organic agriculture etc.”

As the world is battling to minimise warming and overcome the disastrous impacts of climate change, Modi and his development advocates mustn’t ignore the clues left by the Himalayan nation while giving a shape to the idea of a Vibrant India.

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