Cabinet Approval for National Investment Board (NIB) will make Dr Manmohan Singh the most environmentally catastrophic Prime Minister
Finance Minister’s ecologically destructive proposal for NIB by electoral finance of investors
NIB will unleash a reign of terror from environmental diseases by handing over environment & forests to wolves
New Delhi/19/11/2012: Amidst ongoing extinction of plant and animal species and destruction of river valleys and forests, a despotic clearance agency like National Investment Board (NIB) is unacceptable. This proposal of Union Ministry of Finance to get government’s business of transaction rules altered to usurp the jurisdiction of Union Ministry of Environment & Forests is structurally ecologically destructive and is formal declaration of war on natural resources, land and water of the people by electoral finance investors.
NIB is being proposed despite the fact that Union Ministry of Environment & Forests draws its mandate from the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) of which Union Finance Minister is a member. CCEA members include Dr Manmohan Singh, A. K. Antony, Sharad Pawar, Palaniappan Chidambaram, Ghulam Nabi Azad, M. Veerappa Moily, S Jaipal Reddy, Kamal Nath, Ajit Singh, Kapil Sibal, Anand Sharma, Dr. C. P. Joshi, Pawan Kumar Bansal and Jairam Ramesh with Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Prof. K V Thomas and Manish Tiwari as special invitees. The anti-environment and anti-tribal stance of Indian National Congress led United Progressive Alliance Government is evident even from the fact that CCEA does not have the representation of Ministries of Environment & Forests and Tribal Affairs. The track record of CCEA members has consistently been insensitive towards environment.
To save the environmental rights of coming generations, the Prime Minister should put the Cabinet Note on NIB proposal which is with the Cabinet Secretariat and the Prime Minister's Office on hold, to avoid being branded as the most environmentally catastrophic Prime Minister of independent India. During 11th Five Year Plan period, 8,734 projects have been granted forest clearance. Forest land to the tune of 1.98 lakh hectares has been diverted. Since 1981, this accounts for about 25 per cent of all forest land diverted for development projects.
If the Cabinet Note on NIB proposal is put before CCEA, it should disapprove it by acknowledging centuries of ecological services rendered by environment and forests. The proponents of NIB should be asked why environment and wildlife should not be saved just because they are voiceless.
Driven by investors in the electoral finance, the proposed National Investment Board (NIB) for exploiting ecosystem is situated in the Companies Act, 1956 and the proposed Companies Bill 2011. The proposal of NIB is pregnant with terror of hitherto unacknowledged terror of environmental diseases. While efforts are on to monetize natural resources, it does not internalize the cost of inter-generational and intro-generational adverse health impacts.
This is contrary to globally acknowledged preventive route to reverse the trend of mortality and morbidity as has been confirmed by World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Global Burden of Disease project which has underlined that one-quarter of the global disease burden, and more than one-third of the burden among children is due to modifiable environmental factors.
Even a conservative National Environment Policy, 2006 revealed, “It is increasingly evident that poor environmental quality has adversely affected human health. Environmental factors are estimated as being responsible in some cases for nearly 20 percent of the burden of disease in India.” When country’s environmental health infrastructure is almost non-existent and admittedly public health system has collapsed, NIB proposal is an invitation for public health disaster.
The proposal for an all-powerful National Investment Board to clear large projects has stirred opposition, including from within the government. The opposition has been about riding roughshod over the concerns of some ministries. But the NIB proposal also throws up larger issues. Has India's economic growth really meant "development" in the true sense of the word, and how sustainable and equitable is it? Measures like the NIB may well help in taking the growth rate a notch up, but is this necessarily good? Who is the real "terrorist": those who "delay" investment projects in the name of the environment or people's rights, or those who impose such projects in the name of development?
The deafening silence of almost the entire opposition party, members of United Progressive Alliance despite the protest by citizen groups, Jayanthi Natarajan, Minister of Environment and Forests and V Kishore Chandra Deo, Union Minister of Tribal Affairs even in the face of NIB proposal reveals the impact of electoral finance in dictating creation of docile investor friendly institutions that favor ungovernable business enterprises seemingly beyond legislative will. If their silence is viewed in the context of provision for corporate funding to political parties in the form of 5 % of annual profit to companies under the Companies Act, 1956 (amended in 2003) and 7.5 % of annual profit to companies under the proposed Companies Bill, 2011 (recommended by Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance), it does not appear surprising. The Bill also provides for contributions to NGOs. The purchased silence of a large number of NGOs in this regard is not inexplicable either.
While the current Finance Minister and the Prime Minister will be remembered in the history as the most environmentally destructive individuals, the collusion of almost the entire political class and the so called voluntary organizations (who have been volunteered by corporate donations) will remain enshrined as an act of collaboration with terrorist activities against the ecosystem and the elements that constitute the substratum of human and non-human living existence. When billions of hazardous wastes and thousands of kilometers of ‘mined’ land is abandoned with impunity, it is not an exaggeration to refer to such acts of ‘development processes as developmental terrorism. NIB is an act of subordinating health and ecosystem of Indian to 2008 National Mineral Policy, 2008 in particular which advocates a regime of self-regulation. If that logic is accepted then instead of enforcing Criminal Procedure Code and Indian Penal Code, criminals will have to be given the task of voluntary compliance with the rules laid down in the Codes.
From the very outset, Ministry of environment & forests has consistently been kept structurally weak now the premature obituary of the ministry is being authored by the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister in lieu of electoral finance for the upcoming parliamentary elections for which parties have started declaring their candidates.
It is increasingly becoming clearer that NIB like proposals are artifacts of investors in electoral finance. The proposal of NIB is an act that envisages devouring the present and future generations of Indians and their ecosystem.
The structural dependence of ministries environment and forests and tribal affairs on Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs makes their opposition a pro forma act. Given the fact that a junior environment and forests ministry and under a junior minister gives clearance to some 100 projects every month and some 25 of its officials are supposed to monitor compliance of environmental clearance conditions for over 6,000 projects which have been accorded clearance, its formal opposition does not inspire even an iota of confidence.
It is clear that India’s ecosystem is all set to be handed over to wolves. Forewarning future democracies, Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd President of the USA said, “Cherish therefore the spirit of our people, and keep alive their attention…If once they become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress, and Assemblies, judges and governors shall all become wolves.” Jefferson was one of the Founding Fathers of USA and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence of USA.
If investors in electoral finance have not totally hollowed out the legislative will as yet and legislators remain homo sapiens, the winter session of the Parliament still can ensure that NIB does not see the light of day. Failing which peoples’ movements will have to gear up to give the proponents of despotic NIB a fitting reply in the 2014 elections.