New environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan has assured the corporate world that steps will be taken for promoting growth and “one window” fast clearances for big projects.
Ms. Natarajan, who succeeded Mr. Jairam Ramesh as Environment and Forest Minister, at the same time, said she would “do everything” to protect the environment.
“I think, certainly there should be some sort of one window clearance and there should complete clarity,” she told Karan Thapar’s Devil’s Advocate programme on CNN-IBN. Asked whether she will assure it, the minister said, “absolutely”.
She said that there will not be “any change” once clearance is given to a project.
“That will be my major endeavour. That will happen in future. As far as I am concerned, I will make sure that there will be no confusion and complete clarity,” Ms. Natarajan said.
Without referring to Mr. Ramesh’s decision to clear coal blocks even in the ‘no go’ areas in the forests, she said, “In the past, perhaps there was something that came up later that necessitated the change.”
“The past is over. Now, I will ensure that complete clarity on this issue,” she added.
The minister was reacting to a volley of questions on the Environment Ministry’s uncertainty in clearing big projects like Posco, Vedanta and Lavasa.
Asked whether she could assure speedy clearances for such projects, Ms. Natarajan said she will do so but environment should be protected at “all cost” in all its “dimensions.”
Dismissing the perception that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appointed her as a result of a compromise to appease corporate India, Ms. Natarajan said, “My actions will show that there can be no compromise on either issue that I will always act for the best welfare of the country.
“I will act according to the conscience of an environment minister. I think it is very unfair to say that the prime minister gave into compulsion.”
Stating that she was not under pressure to move fast on projects like Vedanta, Posco and Lavasa, she said she would judge them on their merits and was not worried that her decisions could create serious opposition from one side or the other.
“There is no real growth unless the environment is taken into consideration,” the minister said.
Observing that environment was never the reason why there was a slowdown in growth and will not be in the future, Ms. Natarajan said, “I will do everything I can to protect the environment and facilitate growth.”
Asked whether she wished that Singh had given her any other portfolio, she said “no” and added she was “grateful” to the prime minister because “it is an incredibly wide canvass and it has got incredibly important issues.”
“I feel absolutely honoured to be able to contribute. I mean it from my heart,” she said.
Ms. Natarajan also hailed Mr. Ramesh, saying her predecessor did “an absolutely spectacular job” in mainstreaming environmental concerns.