Ease of Buz or Environment?

The Narendra Modi government should learn from former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who never put “ease of doing business” before protection of the environment, says former environment minister Jairam Ramesh.

Ramesh, whose latest book ‘Indira: A Life in Nature’ that talks about her love for the nature, says though leaders talk about challenges faced by environment, it is actions they take is what counts at last.

“Now they pay lip service (to environment causes). These leaders are chanting Sanskrit mantras to show their love for the nature. But they have put ease of doing business on the top than protecting environment,” Ramesh, who wants to evaluate Gandhi’s unknown aspects in her birth centenary year, told DH.

“This country cannot afford to follow a blind ‘grow now, pay later’ model,” he says in the book.

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Asked about how the Prime Minister views differ from that of Gandhi, he says Modi talks the language of environment, climate change and all.

“But it is actions that count. Every effort has been made to weaken environment laws (by this government) whether it is . He sees environment as a burden to be borne by private sector,” Ramesh says.

Ramesh, “who transformed from being a zealot for rapid economic growth at all costs” to someone who now insists that rapid growth must be anchored in ecological sustainability, says Gandhi gave political respectability to environment issues. and made it part of political and planning process.

“Whatever laws we have now on environment, it was during her time that we got it,” he says.

While describing her as an environmentalist but not an activist, he says Gandhi, whom he considers as a pioneer in the field of environment protection, knew she had to make political choices sometimes. Ramesh cites her decisions to give nod for a refinery in Mathura, 60 km from Taj Mahal and Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, and not allow Silent Valley project in Kerala.

“She knew she has to make political choices. She was always aware she was Prime Minister of a poor country but she also realised we have to preserve nature. Hers was a fine balancing act. She chose a middle path,” Ramesh says.

In his book, Ramesh says, “a naturalist is who Indira Gandhi really was, who she thought she was. She got sucked into the whirlpool of politics but the real Indira Gandhi was the person who loved the mountains, cared deeply for wildlife, was

passionate about birds, stones, trees and forests, and was worried deeply about the environmental consequences of urbanization and industrialization.”

“She was singularly responsible not just for India’s best-known wildlife conservation programme—namely, Project Tiger—but also for less high-profile initiatives for the protection of crocodiles, lions, hanguls, cranes, bustards, flamingos, deer and other endangered species,” he adds.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jun 28, 2017)

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