Jayanthi Natarajan priorities as environment minister could help the ministry steer away from its confrontational position vis-a-vis growth proponents.
Natarajan’s priority areas include greater convergence between forestry and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme, bringing in an environmental component in ministries like rural development, health, water resources and agriculture, river cleaning, creating a bio-diversity index that would form the basis of afforestation efforts and building up climate change or environmental warriors to deal with issues at the grassroot or panchayat level.
The shift is clear – the focus is on areas that don’t necessarily put environmental protection against the government’s plans for a 9% plus growth path.
The environment minister has repeatedly clarified that she has no intention of undoing the “good work” that the ministry has done. At the recent GoM on “go/no-go” forest areas for coal mining, Natarajan agreed to review the ministry’s clearance-related orders.
However, even as she agreed to review, Natarajan made it clear that she was not willing to suspend or scrap the orders in the interim. The environment minister has said that she supports the idea of environmental audits for companies, and would push forward the move asking companies to disclose information to share holders on environment related issues.
For Natarajan, the way forward it would appear would be to opt for a non-confrontational path, even so the pushing would count for environmental protection and capacity building. Focusing on convergence between the rural employment programme and forestry schemes would feed into the efforts to concentrate on the marginalised and tribal population.
Her focus needs to be seen in conjunction with the attempts at the ministries of rural development and tribal affairs to push address developmental and rights issues in left-wing extremism affected areas, which are both forest and tribal dominated. Economic Times