PM's 'global talk' on environment at G20 completely at odds from 'local walk': Congress

01:50 PM Sep 10, 2023 | PTI |

New Delhi: The Congress on Sunday dubbed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks on environment at the G20 Summit as ”sheer hypocrisy”, and claimed his ”global talk” is completely at odds from the ”local walk”.


Congress leader Jairam Ramesh accused the Modi government of comprehensively dismantling India’s environmental protections and snatching away the rights of the most vulnerable communities dependent on forests.

”The PM’s statements at the G20 and other summits globally are sheer hypocrisy. While destroying protections for India’s forests and biodiversity, and diluting the rights of Adivasis and forest-dwelling communities, he talks of environment, climate action and equity. ”The ‘Global Talk’ is completely at odds from the ‘Local Walk’,” Ramesh said in a statement.

He said during a Doordarshan chat with students in 2014, the prime minister had said, “The climate has not changed, we have changed.” ”The self-styled Vishwaguru has come a long way in hypocrisy.The prime minister has used the G20 Summit to make big, empty statements about the importance of the environment,” he alleged.

G20 countries on Saturday said they will aim to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030 and expedite efforts to phase down coal power in line with national circumstances but did not commit to a phase-out of all polluting fossil fuels, including oil and gas.


The Congress leader claimed that at the G20 Environment and Climate Sustainability Meet, the prime minister said, “We have consistently been at the forefront in taking action on biodiversity conservation, protection, restoration, and enrichment. Protecting and caring for Mother Earth is our fundamental responsibility.”

Ramesh said the prime minister stated “Climate action must follow antyodaya… we must ensure the rise and development of the last person in society.” However, ”The truth is the Modi Government is comprehensively dismantling India’s environmental protections and snatching away the rights of the most vulnerable communities dependent on forests,” Ramesh alleged.

He further claimed that in contrast to the PM’s claims of biodiversity conservation, the Biological Diversity (Amendment) Act of 2023 is a ”massive dilution” of the original 2002 law.

”The 2023 Act does away with any criminal offence provisions, allowing those who destroy biodiversity and engage in biopiracy to get away scot-free. The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), formerly an independent body with the powers to act as a check and balance, has been completely put under the control of the Environment Ministry,” the Congress leader said.

Rather than having courts enforce fines, the new Act puts government officers in charge of penalties, he claimed.

”Through various exemptions from benefit-sharing provisions, the law disadvantages those with traditional knowledge of biodiversity in favour of those who exploit it commercially. The Act enables the Modi Government to continue the reckless destruction of biodiversity across India,” Ramesh alleged.

Further, he said the claims of emphasising equity are shown to be ”completely hollow” by the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Act of 2023. ”This Act will be disastrous for the Adivasi and other forest-dwelling communities in India, as it undermines the Forest Rights Act of 2006. It does away with provisions for the consent of local communities and requirements for forest clearance in vast areas,” the Congress chief Whip in Rajya Sabha said.

Ramesh, who is also the chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forests, said the National Commission on Scheduled Tribes raised objections to this in 2022. Tribal communities in the Northeast are particularly vulnerable, as this Act will strip protections from forests within 100 km of the nation’s borders, he claimed.

Despite being under NDA rule, Mizoram has passed a resolution in the Assembly opposing the Act and Nagaland is soon expected to do the same, he noted. ”The new law removes protections for up to 25 per cent of India’s forest cover, in violation of the 1996 TN Godavarman Supreme Court judgment. It is only paving the way for the Modi government to exploit forests and hand them over to a select few crony capitalist friends,” Ramesh claimed.

He also cited several other instances alleging that the dismantling of environmental protections doesn’t stop there.

He claimed that as per a report from the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, the Modi Government used the cover of the COVID-19 pandemic to pass 39 amendments to rules under the Environment Protection Act. ”Illegal and regressive changes were made to relax environmental protections – pollution control measures were removed, penalties for violations were lowered, criminal prosecutions were stripped, and public notice requirements were waived,” the Congress leader claimed.

”The Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Supreme Court has now been swallowed up by the Modi Government. The CEC has been operating since 2002 under the control of the SC, to report to the Court on enforcement of its environmental decisions and make recommendations for environmental protection. This crucial body is now entirely to be filled, controlled, and funded by the Environment Ministry, making it unable to check the environmental destruction ordered by the government,” he also claimed.

Ramesh also alleged that the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has been consistently weakened since 2014 and vacancies have been left open for years, reaching 70 per cent overall in 2018 and leading to the shutdown of the Chennai NGT bench. The Madras HC had to step in in 2019 and instruct the Union Government to fill vacancies. Bureaucrats, rather than scientific experts, are being appointed to key posts, he claimed.

”The reason for these actions is obvious—the PM’s cronies have set their eyes on exploiting India’s rich and biodiverse forests. They want to clear the Northeast’s rich biodiverse forests to set up palm oil plantations and deforest Central India’s hills and forests, including those considered sacred by Adivasi communities, to commence mining,” Ramesh claimed.


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