CAMPAIGN FOR ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE IN INDIA
Press Release: Delhi, 14th Nov 2005
In a daring demonstration of strength, over 200 participants in the Campaign for Environmental Justice – India (CEJ-I), entered the highly secure Central Government Offices complex in New Delhi and held a dharna at the Paryavaran Bhavan, headquarters of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) for over five hours from the commencement of office hours.
The participation in this Campaign for Environment Justice – India involved representation from across India. Project affected communities due to Sethusamudram ship canal and Sterlite Industries from Tamil Nadu, Polavaram dam in Andhra Pradesh, Vedanta Alumina Refinery and Bauxite mining in Orissa, Narmada dam evictees, communities threatened by dam building and mining in the North Eastern states of Manipur, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, mining affected communities from Rajasthan, Jindal Steel affected from Chattisgarh, etc. were present. Similar struggles against destructive dam, thermal power, infrastructure, industrial and such other issues were represented by a host of NGOs and campaign organizations.
The main purpose of entering Paryavaran Bhavan was to demand the scrapping of the proposed reform of the Environment Impact Assessment Notification and the draft National Environmental Policy, formulated without any public consultation by Dr. Pradipto Ghosh, Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests. Dr. Ghosh is on record that he has formulated these policy and legislative reforms in consultation with the World Bank, not the Indian Parliament or any of the Legislatures and Local Elected Bodies. Not a single consultation has been held in any part of the country with local communities and elected representatives, even as Dr. Ghosh has been very busy attending consultations organized by industrial and corporate lobbies such as the Confederation of Indian Industry and FICCI.
Entering Paryavaran Bhavan at 10 am, the CEJ-I protestors sat down in the lobby and demanded that Shri. Namo Narain Meena, Union Minister of State for Forests and Dr. Ghosh come down to receive the Death Certificate issued by the people of India. Neither Shri. Meena or Dr. Ghosh had the courage to meet the wide representation of CEJ-I. Carrying a symbolic corpse of the MoEF around the CGO Complex, the CEJ-I representative performed the last rites of MoEF replete with lamenting and chest beating.
CEJ-I representatives will now meet the Prime Minister of India to serve on the Government of India this Death Certificate of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.
The Death Certificate is a symbolic gesture to announce that MoEF is dead within the context, spirit and letter of the Environment Protection Act by which it has been constituted. In the past few years, especially during the term of Dr. Ghosh, the Ministry has actively cleared high impact projects such as dams, mining, infrastructure developments, and highly polluting industries without any adherence with the Environmental Clearance processes as mandated by law.
Instead, MoEF has colluded with investors in violating every section of the EIA Notification, in particular, and accorded environmental clearance even when its own Forest Departments and Regional Offices have actively refused to extend such permissions.
Shri. A. Raja, Union Minister for Environment and Forests and Dr. Ghosh are primarily responsible for such complicity in violating the law. As a result the Ministry has become an agent of delivering highly destructive decisions that has displaced thousands of peoples from tribal and rural communities unconstitutionally, and led to the destruction of forests, rivers, coastal, desert and mountain ecosystems across this country.
In our meeting with the Prime Minister we will demand that Dr. Ghosh must be sacked for illegally formulating law and policy that would have fundamental and devastating repercussions on the environment, forests, and peoples of India. We also demand that Shri. A. Raja, Union Minister for Environment and Forests must resign for not performing per his mandated task of holding the Ministry within conformance with the law.
The representatives of CEJ-I declared that they will not observe 14 November 2005 as Children’s Day given that MoEF has failed to ensure a world secure enough for children today and in future. The Death Certificate issued presents an opportunity to the Prime Minister to reconstitute MoEF in the true spirit and letter of the Environment Protection Act.
The Tamilnadu delegation has invited development-impacted communities from around the country to congregate in Perumbalur, Tamil Nadu, constituency of Shri. A. Raja to inform his electorate that the Minister has pledged the nation’s natural resources to private and multinational corporations. Since the key decision makers of Shri. Raja’s Ministry refused to meet the CEJ-I participants, a decision was taken to accord similar treatment to him when he visits his constituency.
Press Blocked from entering CGO Complex:
In a highly questionable move, Dr. Ghosh instructed the CISF forces who guard the CGO complex from allowing the Press to enter to cover the event. This is unprecedented when the CISF allowed a mere Secretary of a Ministry to direct it from blocking entry to the media, in total abrogation of legal and constitutional provisions protecting the press. We demand that action must be initiated against Dr. Ghosh and the CISF Paryavaran Bhavan official Shri. S. P. Ram for blatantly abrogating press freedom.
On 13 November, CEJ-I held a Public Hearing on Stocktaking of Environmental Impact Assessment Notification and Environmental Clearance Process in India at the Constitution Club. Over 25 cases involving all sectors were presented before an experienced panel involving Justice (Retd) Sukumaran, Supreme Court; Mr. Ramaswamy Iyer, former-Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources; Usha Ramanathan, legal researcher; H. Mahadevan, National Council Member, CPI and Deputy Gen. Sec. AITUC; G. Devarajan, Secretary (Central Cmt.), Forward Bloc; Dr. K. Krishnasamy, Puthiya Thamizhagam; Jairam Ramesh, MP (Rajya Sabha) and Member, National Advisory Council; Mahua Raichowdhury, NDTV Journalist; Shekar Singh, Centre for Equity Studies; Nilotpal Basu, MP (Rajya Sabha), CPI (M); Ashok Ghosh, Member (National Working Cmt), RSP and State Sec., United Trades Union Congress.
Details at www.esgindia.org
For Campaign for Environmental Justice in India
Souparna Lahiri, Delhi Forum
Leo Saldanha/Bhargavi S. Rao, Environment Support Group, Bangalore
Madhumita Dutta/Nityanand Jayaraman, Corporate Accountability Desk (Delhi/Chennai)
Kanchi Kohli/Manju Menon Kalpavriksh (Pune/Delhi)
Ravindranath, River Basin Friends, Assam
Manshi Asher, NCAS, Pune
Ravi Rebba Pragada, Samatha, Hyderabad
Vimal Bhai, Matu People’s Organisation, Uttaranchal
Rana Sengupta, Mines Labour People’s Campaign, Jodhpur
Deepika D’souza/Arun/Bedoshruti, Environmental Justice Initiative (Human Rights Law Network- Mumbai)
Bharat Jairaj, Citizens’ Action Group, Chennai
And the enclosed signatories of the Death Certificate of MoEF
Enclosed: Death Certificate of the MoEF
Campaign for Environmental Justice in India
We, the people representing a wide range of tribal, rural and urban communities, the rivers and forests, wildlife and coastal regions, deserts and mountains, declare the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests dead as it has failed to protect our environment.
This death befell the Ministry by its own act of commission, omission and collusion in order to support the agenda of destructive development in India prescribed by agencies like the World Bank, IMF, and our own technocrats. Financed by grants from such institutions, Ministry officials have casually and carelessly given clearances to all and sundry, including to those investors with plans causing environmental destruction at any cost.
The cause for the Ministry’s death is rigor mortis. Normally this condition visits the dead after death has occured. But the Ministry suffers from a very rare disease of the living dead. The cause of which is its penchant to twist law and policy to advantage investors at any cost. A related cause was its compulsive habit of treating with disdain the simple and wise opinion of ordinary folks across the country, who have asked for that kind of development that would benefit all. That kind of development that would not compromise the survival of wildlife and its habitats, and the livelihoods of present and future generations.
We must not mourn this death, however. Instead we must celebrate this death. For the living dead are a terrible affliction on the truly living.
For this is an opportunity for us to create anew the kind of Ministry of Environment and Forests that this great country, with its wonderful diversity of ecosytems and peoples, deserve.
Delivering this Death Certificate to the Prime Minister of India, we present the Government of India an opportunity of bringing to life a Ministry of Environment and Forests that will uphold the law of the land and serve to protect the country’s environment and human rights.
Issued on the approval of peoples’ groups across India, by the Campaign for Environmental Justice – in India, following a Public Hearing entitled “MoEF Suno”, 13th November 2005, at Delhi.