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Lok Sabha gives green signal to green tribunals

The National Green Tribunal Bill, after incorporating some recommendations of the parliamentary standing committee, has got the approval of the Lok Sabha.

The ministry of environment and forests framed the bill after the Supreme Court and the Law Commission had suggested setting up of a National Green Tribunal.

The Cabinet had cleared the bill in December 2009 after the standing committee examined it and submitted its recommendations in November last.

However, the draft Bill came under severe criticism and the environment law experts and activists criticised the ministry for preparing the draft in haste without consulting the public and experts.

Responding to the queries of MPs in Lok Sabha, environment minister Jairam Ramesh said, “let us give this National Green Tribunal a try. If, after a couple of months, we feel the need for amending provisions, we will come back to Parliament. I have a completely open mind on this. But I believe it is important to start the process and give this National Green Tribunal an opportunity to perform.”

The government made seven amendments to the proposed legislation to incorporate suggestions by the MPs and the parliamentary standing committee.

The amendments broadened the definition of “persons aggrieved” to allow for individuals to approach the green tribunal. It also outlined the “foundational principles” of precautionary principles, polluter pays principle and principle of equity that would govern the tribunal.

The Act will now come into force in its entirety upon notification. In the original bill the govt had the discretionary right to decide dates on which different sections would come into effect.

Another amendment has ensured that the decisions of the tribunal can be appealed against in the Supreme Court. The bill now specifies territorial jurisdiction. The amended bill has fixed the number of judicial and expert members at 10 each, headed by a chairperson.

Mr Ramesh suggested that the tribunal should be based in Bhopal. “This way, the government and Parliament can show some sensitivity to that great tragedy” the minister said.

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Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

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