Mr Modi, Wish us a Happy En­vi­ron­ment Day

Down to Earth - - COVER STORY - SU­NITA NARAIN

EV­ERY NEW GOVERN­MENT comes with bag­gage and op­por­tu­nity. The prob­lem is since the govern­ment is new, it wants to undo what has been done in the past, make new schemes and start again on the learn­ing curve. The op­por­tu­nity is that there is a new drive to do more, to deliver and to push for change.

Keep­ing these two facts in mind, we are pre­sent­ing the En­vi­ron­ment and De­vel­op­ment Agenda for the BJP govern­ment that took charge on May 26, 2014, ahead of the World En­vi­ron­ment Day.

First, what we do not want the new govern­ment to do. One, in the name of de­vel­op­ment it must not brush aside the idea that the en­vi­ron­ment, for­est and wildlife con­cerns are crit­i­cal. This does not mean we be­lieve the cur­rent en­vi­ron­ment and for­est clear­ance sys­tem is work­ing. We want a dras­tic re­form of the sys­tem so that it works for en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion. This re­quires re­duc­ing mul­ti­plic­ity of clear­ances, re­mov­ing ar­chaic laws and strength­en­ing reg­u­la­tory pro­cesses. The new govern­ment must not be bul­lied by the Supreme Court into cre­at­ing an additional en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tor. This will only add to the in­sti­tu­tional mess.

Two, we do not want the new govern­ment to dis­card old schemes which were in­tro­duced for in­clu­sive growth. All the schemes for ru­ral em­ploy­ment, wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion, hous­ing, nu­tri­tion and ed­u­ca­tion are cru­cial. With­out these, there is no idea of In­dia.

But again, we want a change. We want de­liv­ery so that people have ac­cess to clean wa­ter, san­i­ta­tion, em­ploy­ment, food and ed­u­ca­tion. We have lost too much time mak­ing schemes on paper and then fid­dling to make them even bet­ter, with­out ever fo­cus­ing on de­liv­ery.

It is our be­lief that de­liv­ery re­quires good old-fash­ioned gov­er­nance sys­tems, which need con­stant mon­i­tor­ing and at­ten­tion to de­tail. The de­liv­ery of schemes does re­quire states to get more au­ton­omy and con­trol over funds and pro­gramme de­sign. In the cur­rent sys­tem the Cen­tre makes the plan, pro­vides the money, but it is the state that has to op­er­a­tionalise the sys­tem of im­ple­men­ta­tion. There is a huge dis­con­nect. It is the state chief min­is­ter who should be ac­count­able for de­liv­ery; it is he or she who should get the brick­bats or the credit.

It is also our be­lief that people's as­pi­ra­tions have changed. They want more. They should get more. They should not be short-changed, once again, in the name of de­vel­op­ment, which ben­e­fits only some.

The new prime min­is­ter has fa­mously and rightly said that toi­lets are more im­por­tant than tem­ples. This is the real agenda for the new govern­ment.

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