14 May 2010

Why we need Mr. Paryavaran Bhavan (Jairam Ramesh)

By: Kaavya Nag

Is it that we never expected to see someone, that too a political someone like Jairam Ramesh, take the reins of his new job, hit the ground running, show such corporate-style efficiency and competence, and be so clued-in about the whole thing?

Not in our dictionary of expectations: Ability to be efficient, ability to 'see my point of view', be a Blackberry-modern thinker.

Unstated fact: we credit them with little intelligence, expect them to turn a deaf ear to issues they should care about (which includes what we care about).

But let’s face it, Ramesh is a capable and well-connected politician with a mission, one entrusted to him by the PM. 

Said Dr Singh: “India has not caused the problem of global warming. But try and make sure that India is part of the solution. Be constructive; be proactive”

Ramesh could well have taken his role in international climate politics extra-seriously, and remain the de-facto Indian ambassador for climate change. But he carries out his domestic (and real job-profile) duties with the same amount of rigour.
Ramesh has pushed for setting a framework in place – whether on policies, systems of operation or regulations. Things that will last even after he is gone from the post. One of the first things he did, to show his commitment to transparency, was to change the wooden doors of his office to glass. (If I were an under-the-table-dealings minister who took his place, would I be unable to re-install the wooden doors or what!)

So while we may disagree with some of the policies he pushes for, or with the way in which some policies have turned out, we cannot question his integrity.
Despite his wrong-place (when in China) and inappropriate statements on an issue that did not concern his ministry (it did the Home Ministry), or his many vocal statements in the past concerning environmental issues (India will win the Nobel Prize for dirt and filth if there was one, locking horns with transport minister Kamal Nath over environment clearances), he continues to do his job as environment minister with considerable efficacy. (Pray why is an environment minister (no lesser rank mind you), asking legitimate questions about environment clearances frowned upon for asking them?)

In our defense (and there are gaping holes in it), no previous environment minister has set the precedent for such efficacious and even prolific productivity. 

Citizen consultations (what’s that?) on BT Brinjal, follow-up actions (!) regarding cancellation of environmental clearance (really?), inviting comments (inviting comments – are you sure?) on ToR for Elephant Task Force, sector-specific EIA manuals that will provide users and other stakeholders greater clarity about the environmental clearance project (again, really?), a paperless National CDM Authority (not bad), pollution indices for major industrial clusters…

All of the above and many more, all on a website that is updated as fast as a private news-channel (transparency again).

We didn't expect this much yaar! That, really, is our defense.

So even if you sensationalise the man’s many foot-in-mouth statements, and dull some of the sheen on his productivity by saying not all of the output was beneficial, admit that India has never had such a capable, intelligent and go-getter environment minister. None have been as approachable or responsive, and none have been as committed to ‘doing the job’. And none have been as cool.

Never before has the environment ministry and minister made as many headlines or environment and environment issues got so much national coverage. If not a Nobel Prize we can certainly ask for a Limca record for maximum headlines from an environment ministry.

To poke more holes in our defense, Jaago Re! This is the 21st century, and we need to expect our netas to deliver on more counts than 12th standard pass, no criminal records and Lok Sabha attendance (in a white Ambi).

At the end of the day, we need Ramesh just where he is, and definitely not outside the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

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