Ministry got around 1,500 comments, says Jayanthi Natarajan
A committee of experts will soon collate the comments received for the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) report, said Jayanthi Natarajan, Minister for Environment and Forests.
The Ministry had received around 1,500 comments for the panel’s report, Ms. Natarajan told The Hindu on Sunday.
The 45-day deadline fixed by the Ministry for submitting comments to the report ended on July 5. The Ministry, while releasing the report in the public domain after holding it back for nine months, stated that it had not accepted the report.
“Let the committee collate the comments and wait to see what comes out of it,” Ms. Natarajan said.
The committee will also look into the views of the State governments, including Kerala. No decision on the structure of the committee and its head has been taken. The deadline for collating the report has also not been fixed.
Meanwhile, Madhav Gadgil, the ecologist who headed the panel, and V.S. Vijayan, a member, criticised the manner in which the comments to the report were sought. They suggested that the report be made accessible to the people of the Western Ghats region for eliciting their views.
Dr. Gadgil said those who responded to the panel report didn’t represent the people of the region. The responses that the Ministry received were from a small group of people, who were biased and who didn’t fully represent the critical sections of society of the Ghats, he said.
“I don’t blame those who have responded to the report. It was those sections of society that can read and understand English and have access to the internet that responded to the recommendations. Around 95 per cent of the people in the Ghats region can’t understand English and have no access to the internet. The report thus remains out of the reach of the vast majority of people,” Mr. Gadgil said.
“Discuss at gram sabhas”
The report needs to be translated into local languages of the Ghats region and discussed at the gram sabha level. The Ministry should take the feedback from people after this process. The Ministry would have missed the views of a majority of the population in the Ghats region as only a miniscule section of society had submitted its views, he said.
Dr. Vijayan suggested that the committee go to the people to understand their reaction than attending to the view expressed by bureaucrats. Most of the people in the region might not have seen the report, which was published in the website of the Ministry in English. The report should be made accessible to the people and discussions should be held with them. The committee should not restrict its mandate to assessing or collating the comments received by the Ministry alone. Instead, it should get the views of the people, Dr. Vijayan said.