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CMs want green clearances power


Chief ministers of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala have pushed for allowing state governments more leeway in giving environmental approvals, pointing out that delays in clearances were stalling economic growth in their states.

While Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan called for a debate on giving more powers to states, especially in environmental clearances for industrial projects, Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Kerala CM Oommen Chandy listed projects that were held up because they hadn’t received environmental clearances from the Union environment ministry.

The chief ministers were participating in a discussion at the World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit on ‘The new role of states: Catalysts for growth’.

Chavan said: “Whether environmental clearances for industrial projects should be given by state governments or the Centre is a debate we should have.” However, he also said that “states have had a poor track record in protecting the environment, especially in mining projects where state governments get royalties”. A week ago, the Centre had prevailed on Maharashtra to file a criminal case against Lavasa Corporation for allegedly violating environmental laws.

Terming the five-hectare limit for projects that can be cleared by the state government inadequate, Chouhan said getting clearances from the Centre is often next to impossible. “The coal blocks and the go-no-go policy have caused critical delays in power projects because coal is not available. We have irrigation projects stuck for nearly 20 years on account of not getting forest department clearances,” he said.

Chandy said the Athirapally hydropower project on the Chalakudy river had been awaiting clearances since the earlier government pushed for it. “There is some ground, no doubt, but the Centre has been adamant about it,” Chandy said.

Agreeing that the focus had shifted from the Centre to the states in terms of investments and opportunity, the chief ministers were unanimous that sharing best practices and policy innovations will be key to growth, even while promoting competitiveness among states.

The discussion brought up views on the decentralisation of power to the district level, assistance and quick responses from the Centre to states’ grievances, putting economic considerations ahead of political compulsions as well as growing self-assurance in the states.

Moderator Shekhar Gupta observed that chief ministers had grown in power over the years, and that the country’s continued 7% growth, at a time when the western economies were on the brink of recession, were the result, in large measure, to good governance in states.

Agreeing that there were political benefits in ensuring economic opportunity for citizens, the three chief ministers also mentioned various initiatives to adopt innovation from other states. Chouhan described his efforts to convey to all chief ministers the success of Madhya Pradesh’s Public Service Delivery Guarantee Act, while Chandy said he sent a team to Andhra Pradesh soon after assuming office to study the Arogyashri health insurance scheme. He said Kerala is also keen to replicate the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor from Kochi to Coimbatore.

Even as Chavan declined to admit that Gujarat may have advanced ahead of Maharashtra in terms of industrial development and investments, he said state government officials are studying a Gujarat scheme of water conservation through building farm ponds for possible replication in Maharashtra. “We are completely open to ideas even from BJP-ruled states,” Chavan said.

Source: FE

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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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