Wednesday, May 11, 2011

PM under attack: Thanks to Jairam Ramesh

The fact that the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has come under attack for allegedly putting pressure on the environment minister to clear questionable projects including the Maheshwar project speaks highly about the emerging political game.

Jairam Ramesh is a known Rahul Gandhi loyalist and the minister's reported remarks that he was under 'pressure' points out that all is not well between 7 RCR, Dr Singh's official residence and 10 Jan Path, the residence of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
Now, the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) and social
activists Kuldip Nayar (famous anti-Congress journalist) and Prashant Bhushan made a blistering attack on the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh for allegedly “pressurizing” the Environment Minister Mr Jairam Ramesh to
give clearance to certain projects including Maheshwar power project
in Madhya Pradesh.
The activists felt the minister need not resign even as they
threatened a campaign to demand a “true environment regulatory body on
the lines of Lok Pal”
“For Prime Minister and his office it seems today, development means
only siphoning the public money and assets for the enrichment of big
corporate houses and to ensure GDP figure go up incidentally,” eminent
lawyer and a member of Lok Pal drafting panel Bhushan told a press
conference at Delhi's famous Indian Women Press Corps office.
The NBA leaders, villagers from affected villages from Madhya Pradesh
and senior journalist and former Rajya Sabha member Kuldip Nayar
alleged that Union Minister of State for Environment Jairam Ramesh
had lifted the stop-work order on the Maheshwar Hydel Power project,
whose promoters are S. Kumars, “yielding” to pressures from the Prime
Minister and senior Madhya Pradesh politicians Mr Digvijay Singh
(Congress) and Mr Shivraj Singh Chauhan (the BJP chief minister).
They were referring to Jairam Ramesh’s recent statement that he had “no
option but to agree to lifting” of the stop-work order.
To a question, both Bhushan and Nayar fell short of demanding Mr
Ramesh’s resignation saying at least by staying on the minister is
“showing some resistance”.
“Resignation would not change the status of the issues involved. There
is a sinister design in allowing smooth transfer of nation’s public
finances, land and mineral resources and these need to be checked,’ Bhushan said.
“We also demand a CBI inquiry on what led to the lifting of stop-work
order by the ministry,” NBA activist Alok Agarwal said even as Mr
Bhushan compared the project with the controversial Enron. “At times,
they even influence CBI, so I demand a SIT should be set up soon,” Mr
Bhushan said.
Mr Kuldip Nayar said the manner in which the PMO is seen “interfering
and calling shots” in the running of a ministry like Environment shows
that there is a tendency to “centralize” the power.
“There is a need for an independent environmental regulatory body,” he
said. Agreeing with him, Mr Bhushan said the episode shows gross
failure of the environmental ministry to live up to its mandate and
therefore there is a need for “a true independent regulatory body”.
“We may demand a regulatory body on the lines of Lok Pal which could
be more accountable and not play second fiddle to executive
superiors,” Mr Bhushan said.
He also maintained that irrespective of party affiliations there is a
“big fraud being played with the land, mineral resources and public
finances” only to serve the interest of corporate houses and private
operators. “The very concept of private-public-partnership (PPP) is a
big fraud,” he said and maintained that gross abuse of the system has
surfaced practically in all the states under different parties.
“It is the same syndrome and approach we find in Maheshwar project in
Madhya Pradesh and the land acquisition in Noida. All parties
including the centre only seem helping only the big houses,” Mr
Bhushan said.

Radhyeshyam Patedar, a local villager from Madhya Pradesh and an NBA
activist, said, out of 61 villages affected by Maheshwar Project
villages of only one village Jalud were given rehabilitation package
by S Kumars.
Mr Bhushan alleged that the clearance of the stalled works and the
circumstances provide an ample opportunity to file a FIR at the
earliest under the provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act.

The government and the Congress party had been on evasive mood and
sought to steer clear of Mr Jairam Ramesh's statement suggesting that
he had to act under pressure from the higher ups and a party leader on
the issue of Maheshwar project.
Reportedly, the MP Chief Minister Mr Chahuhan, Congress general
secretary Mr Digvijay Singh, ironically a semi-shadow of Rahul had been lobbying to revoke the orders of
the Environment ministry and the PMO also had taken active interest in
the case.
“The interest shown by all those influential people show something
malafide as the project would in no way solve the electricity shortage
problems of Madhya Pradesh,” NBA activists said.
As minister with independent charge, Jairam Ramesh reports to the Prime Minister and thus the "pressure" would suggest that PMO needs to come clean.
"I am guilty in some cases to have condoned environmental violations," said Ramesh referring to power plants and ports being built in the country violating environmental laws.
"Many times I am forced to regularise it (violations). But at some stage the signal has to go (that) laws are laws (and that) they cannot be violated," Ramesh said.
Green activists for long have been charging Ramesh with giving only lip-servuce to environmental issues, but actually ending up clearing the projects like Posco to serve business interests.
So Ramesh statement in more ways than one means, he has tried to come clean but to suggest he has been acting under pressure tells - all is not well!

The controversial nuclear power project at Jaitapur was another instance of the minister and UPA government's blow hotblow cold' approach.

Environmental clearance for just six projects was rejected during August 2009 and July 2010, compared to 14 projects rejected during 2006-07 to 2007-08, sources say.
Incidentally, 8 river valley hydro electric projects were submitted for environment clearance and all were approved in the one-year period. As many as 49 thermal power projects were also approved, besides 31 coal mining projects.

A clueless Congress had tried to steer clear of Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh's statement suggesting that he had to act under pressure from the government.
"Minister of Environment and Forest is fully competent to any clarification regarding any statement, which he may or many not have made. It will be appropriate to direct these questions to him," party spokesperson Manish Tewari had said expressing his helplessness.
Dr Honest Manmohan Singh needs to speak out, rather clearly!
(ends)

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