The Congress on Saturday said the Narendra Modi government was recklessly working to dilute all environment and forest laws as the regime, much like industrialists, saw regulatory rules as hurdles that had to be removed.
Arguing that the achievements of 50 years were being undone by the Modi government, Congress communications chief Jairam Ramesh said: “Indira Gandhi, who launched Project Tiger exactly 50 years ago, had insisted that there should be a balance between development and environment. Modi has disturbed that balance. It is his mindset that regulatory burdens need to be removed to enforce ‘ease of doing business’. He thinks these laws and rules create hurdles.”
Ramesh added: “When these laws were made, the public health issue had not become such a crisis as it is today. Environmental protection is a societal obligation now. No industrialist understands the importance of environment and forest conservation laws. The governmenthas the same mindset and there is an agenda to dilute the legal framework. We are compelled to raise this issue on the 50th anniversary of Project Tiger and the Chipko movement that proved to be a milestone in the history of environmental activism in India.”
The Congress leader said the Forest Conservation Amendment Bill, 2023, was sent to a BJP-helmed select committee of Parliament only because he was heading the standing committee on science, technology, environment and forest. He said the standing committee, which should have ideally examined the bill, was bypassed at the Prime Minister’s behest because Modi wanted to dilute the existing provisions. Describing it as a sinister move, Ramesh has written to the Rajya Sabha Chairman objecting to the move.
Ramesh released a letter written by Harsh Chauhan, the chairman of the National Commission of Scheduled Tribes, on September 26, 2022, strongly opposing the government’s move to dilute the Forest Rights Act. Chauhan had demanded that the rules enforced in 2022 weakening the provisions of the Forest Rights Act be kept in abeyance. The Congress too had strongly objected to the changes, particularly the dilution of the consent clause for setting up industries.
Ramesh said the government had watered down the National Biodiversity Act to benefit Ramdev’s Patanjali group by sending it to a select committee.
Ramesh added: “The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, was amended some months ago, which was opposed by the Congress. The amendments have opened the doors for trade in elephants.”
He lamented that “while we applaud when ourdocumentary on elephants wins an Oscar, in reality, the government is working against the welfare of elephants”.