Targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his assertion at the Conference of Parties (COP-28) Summit that India struck a balance between ecology and economy, the Congress on Friday accused Mr. Modi of following the principle of “maximum global talk, minimum local walk”.
In a statement, Congress general secretary (communication) Jairam Ramesh said, “This is yet another of his trademark falsehoods”.
Mr. Ramesh, who was a former Union Minister for Environment, accused the Modi government of making the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 “completely hollow with a 2023 amendment”.
“It does away with provisions for the consent of forest communities and with requirements for forest clearance in vast areas.... It is paving the way for the Modi government to exploit forests and hand them over to a select few chosen corporates,” he said.
Further, the Congress leader accused the Modi government of weakening the Forest Rights Act of 2006 — protecting traditional rights of Adivasis and forest-dwelling communities — through a 2022 notification. The National Biodiversity Act, 2002 was diluted to allow private companies easier access to forests without benefit-sharing with communities, he alleged.
39 amendments passed
“When the entire world was dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Modi government passed 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,” Mr. Ramesh added.
Referring to the recent Silkyara tunnel disaster in the Uttarkashi area, the Congress leader noted how Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) norms have been continuously weakened since 2020 and the recent disaster “is only a symptom of the larger malaise”.
Mr. Ramesh said the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had been consistently weakened since 2014 and, now air pollution had turned into a public health crisis under the Modi government.
He claimed that between 2015 and 2020 alone, the share of Indians exposed to PM 2.5 above 100 has doubled, reversing improvements over the previous years.
“The Modi government has not only been ineffective in dealing with worsening air pollution across the country, but it relaxed norms for coal transportation and emissions scrubbing. How can anyone take what the Prime Minister says globally on environment seriously in light of his disastrous track record in India?” Mr. Ramesh asked.