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Jairam wants industrialists to act as whistle blowers

Last updated on: January 19, 2011 17:22 IST

Image: Environment minister Jairam Ramesh.
Onkar Singh in New Delhi

Environment minister Jairam Ramesh, who has been at the centre of a storm for ordering demolition of Adarsh Housing Society in Mumbai and halting Lavasa project for violation of environmental norms, asked the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) to act as a whistle blower if it finds industrialists violating environment laws.

"Why can't industrialists act as whistle blowers? Why do the whistle blowers have to come outside?" he said in response to a statement by CII President Hari S Bharita who said that there have been cases when some industrialists do not seek environmental clearance.

Additional inputs: PTI

Jairam wants industrialists to act as whistle blowers

Image: Lavasa project.
Photographs: Courtesy, Lavasa website.

Jairam claimed that in 95 per cent of the cases, industrialists do abide by the laws of the land. He denied that he was going after the big fish in order to get into limelight.

Admitting that there is a profound misunderstanding of what triggered his action, Ramesh said, "My actions are not suo motu actions. My actions are response to the representations I receive from different organisations."

Interacting with media after addressing a conference on 'Environmental Governance and Climate Regime', organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Ramesh said his purpose "is to alleviate fears and concerns of industry that environment is becoming a constraint to industrial growth".

Jairam wants industrialists to act as whistle blowers

Image: Environment minister Jairam Ramesh.

The minister said he would also participate in a function to be organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) on January 24 to alleviate concerns of the industry.

"I don't believe that environment is going to become a constraint. It is important to address their concerns and fear. The government can make the laws but when it comes to the implementation stage that the problem arises," he said," he said.

He said that he has no hesitation in saying that there have been cases where the officials were found hand in glove with the beneficiaries.

Jairam wants industrialists to act as whistle blowers

Image: Wipro chairman Azim Premji.
Photographs: Reuters.

The environment ministry recently dismissed a member of the pollution control board for his alleged connivance for giving clearance to a particular mining company.

"When the new environment secretary joined office, I told him that he should ensure probity in decision and they should be based only on professional considerations", he said.

Meanwhile, a  group of prominent personalities, including industrialists Azim Premji, Keshub Mahindra and Deepak Parekh, have expressed concern over a series of scams leading to 'governance deficit.

"They asked the government to deal with burning issues like corruption urgently," they said.

Jairam wants industrialists to act as whistle blowers

Image: A silent protest against the telecom corruption scandal.
Photographs: Parivartan Sharma/Reuters.
In an 'open letter' addressed to the leaders, they said: "We are alarmed at the widespread governance deficit almost in every sphere of national activity covering government, business and institutions. Widespread discretionary decision-making have been routinely subjected to extraneous influences.

"Environment is not impediment to faster growth", Jairam told CII.

He admitted that there was corruption but "there cannot be a bribe taker without someone supplying the bribe," he said.

Jairam wants industrialists to act as whistle blowers

Image: Tribals protest against Vedanta.
Ramesh, however, maintained that he was playing according the rules of the game.

Referring to the Green Laws enacted by Parliament that empowers him to take action against the violators, the minister said, "There is no question of diluting these laws... No question of abandoning these laws. But within the framework of these laws, can we be more accommodative of the concerns that the industry have."

Jairam wants industrialists to act as whistle blowers

Image: Volkswagen Polo.
Solution-oriented regulations soon

The government is trying to bring in relevant and solution-oriented regulations such as fuel efficiency standards for vehicles and market-based instruments such as the Perform-Achieve-Trade (PAT) scheme for energy efficiency, said Jairam Ramesh.

"India needs more regulations and an effective system to implement them, and certainly not more regulators," the Minister said while speaking on Environmental Governance & Climate Regime with the industry organised by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

Jairam wants industrialists to act as whistle blowers

Image: Coastal Regulatory Zone rules to be amended.

The minister also said government was also trying to bring modifications to existing regulations such as the Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) amendments, 2011.

He said a new scheme would be launched on Wednesday on a market-based instrument for air pollution in Tamil Nadu and Gujarat.

"This is based on research by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and would focus on tradable permits for monitoring the quality of air," he said. Ramesh said the Planning Commission has never said that they disagree with what the Environment Ministry is doing on environmental issues.

Jairam wants industrialists to act as whistle blowers

Image: Climate change, a critical issue.

Referring to the controversy over the "no-go areas" in the forests where mining activities are prohibited, the Minister said, "I don't say the Planning Commission is being on the other side on the environment and development debate."

Stating that he has the greatest regard for the Planning Commission as an institution, the Minister, who had differed with Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia on the "no go area" issue, said on issues of climate change, Ahluwalia supported his position.

Jairam wants industrialists to act as whistle blowers

Image: Women protest against land acquisition.
The Minister also said environment is increasingly becoming an issue of public health.

Citing the incidents of increased cases related to allergy, asthma and cancer, the minister said "environment is not a middle class elitist issue, a lifestyle issue. It is not a luxury."

Introducing the session, Hari Bhartia, President, CII, said the Indian industry is largely not anti-environment and promotes several initiatives to demonstrate a sustainable growth path.

"Improvement in environmental governance will streamline various processes, leave no space for ambiguity, and encourage businesses to participate in environmental betterment," he said.