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Environmentalism must be a political passion: Jairam Ramesh

Congress Party leader Jairam Ramesh briefing the media at AICC HQ in New Delhi on Friday.

Congress Party leader Jairam Ramesh briefing the media at AICC HQ in New Delhi on Friday.   | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

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‘You can’t achieve satisfaction, but balanced dissatisfaction at Ministry’

Congress MP and former Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh on Friday said environmentalism must be a political passion, and sloganeering and making false claims at international conferences would not be enough.

“Of course, we need faster economic growth,” he said, but environment was a “matter of livelihoods”.

At a panel discussion at the Bhopal Literature Festival, he said, “The Ministry is the most unpopular to head. Yet, we have to discover the political courage to walk the talk.” “It’s a balancing act,” he said. “Of course, a poor country requires jobs, industry and investment. But at the same time, we need to protect our environment.”

If all stakeholders remained unhappy, the Environment Minister did his job well, he said. “Sometimes you take decisions which will please environmentalists and sometimes not. The first rule is you can’t satisfy everyone. You can’t achieve satisfaction, but balanced dissatisfaction.”

However, he pointed out, governments themselves bypassed laws in several instances. “Where there is public hearing, there is no public, and where there is a hearing there is no public. Guess who is the biggest culprit? It is the government and its agencies. Don’t blame the private sector each time.”

Mr. Ramesh asserted that the ease of doing business was a “dangerous thought”. Governments tended to make environmental laws weaker in an attempt to achieve better ranking, he said.

In a session moderated by journalist Abhilash Khandekar on Mr. Ramesh’s book Indira Gandhi: A Life in Nature, he said the former Prime Minister, during her 16-year tenure, was committed to the cause of environment. “Four major laws, including the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, were enacted during her regime at her personal and political initiative.” “Still, she didn’t see herself as a political figure, but a child of nature,” said Mr. Ramesh. “The favourite phrase of Indira Gandhi, the only Prime Minister to take part at the Stockholm Conference, was ecological balance.”

Though Ms. Gandhi had never visited a national park, apprehensive of being intrusive, she visited the Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh, he said. “She had a special connect with Madhya Pradesh, and often encouraged its Chief Ministers to conserve environment.”

However, he added a caveat: not all her actions were flawless. “She cleared the opening of the oil refinery in Mathura knowing well that it could have an impact on the Taj Mahal. That’s an example of a decision that ought not to have been taken.”

Contrasting her role with that of her father and first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, he said, “For Nehru, nation-building was of paramount importance; for her, striking a balance between environment and development was.”

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Printable version | Jan 30, 2020 1:20:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/environmentalism-must-be-a-political-passion-jairam-ramesh/article30538595.ece

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