New government is all set to ‘reform’ the existing environmental laws. It was believed that they will have cake walk by starting with waste. On April 7, 2015 draft rules dealing with Municipal Solid Waste, E- Waste, Biomedical and Plastic waste were released on the website of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) for consideration. Both Municipal Solid Waste and Plastic Waste rules are better than their predecessors; still there are a lot of changes which need to be made, to make them near perfect.
With E-waste it seems that the Secretary who has drafted the document has no relationship of whatsoever kind with the existing realities and has totally forgotten the fact that 90% of e-waste is being processed and recycled by informal economy workers and unfortunately they are kept out of the ambit of rules. Their inclusion is not on the cards of Ministry. It’s a different discussion and has already been highlighted in another post.
The post here is not to critique the draft rules. It is about the processes adopted later.
Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) executives thought it is a best opportunity to become the stakeholders in the process of finalizing rules, because their members are being taxed additionally for Swaccha Bharat Abhiyaan (Clean India Campaign) initiated by Govt. of India. As a part of the mandate of CII & FICCI they decided to hold Stakeholders Meeting under the leadership of MoEFCC in four cities of India i.e. Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata assuming that whole of India lives in these cities. In simple words, they became the ‘sponsors’ of ‘public consultation’. By sponsoring what they didn’t realise was that they have uncovered the true ‘suit boot waali’ image of chaiwallah’s (tea vendors’) government.
For the first time in the history of Democratic Republic of India – ‘public consultations with invite only’ are being organised with sponsorship from the corporate lobbyist organizations. Simon Commission of British Government during Raj days can feel proud of the fact their consultations were far more open and transparent than the ones being conducted in Free India. Mumbai and Delhi are already done. It was in Bangalore where foreplay and lovemaking of Ministry and CII was brutally questioned. Instead of answering the genuine queries, Ministry Secretary Biswajit Sinha called off the consultation after giving a boring civics classroom sermon on how ‘laws are made in India’.
An environment activist from an organization based in Bangalore asked the Secretary – why CII is playing the role of pimp, Why government can’t host the consultations on its own as has been done in case of Bt. Brinjal.
As an answer to the queries, Mr. Sinha very calmly gave a list of programmes which Ministry will conduct in the coming months to gather the views of citizenry. According to him, the actual hearing of public opinion will happen once the draft rules are further diluted and industry have had its say. Civil society organizations and local governments can comment and take it from there. (PUN intended). Whatever is stated here was what he implied in his long speech. Further he made contradictory statements like ‘this is a public consultation for four South Indian states’ (somebody should update him that there are five states in South India) which he retrieved later and said that this is the forum for industry alone. Mr. Sinha was totally unprepared for such a situation and was not sure whether it is public or private consultation. With unsatisfactory and jalebi like answers of the secretary, temperature in the conference room reached zenith.
Shekar Viswanathan, Chairman of CII –Karnataka, instead of using his brains, publicly stated that it is a consultation sponsored by CII, for making interventions participants in conference room should take permission. This was reiterated by Kamal Sharma and other members of CII. Well! Suit boot waali sarkar isn’t? This is CII sponsored consultation, civil society please shut up!
With that curtains came down and a statutory warning was unveiled stating – Civil Society dare to advocate for better policies and laws; those are the tasks reserved for our friends who fund the party campaigns of ‘our Masters in Power’. Soon Nira Radia will be hired by the ministry to do stakeholder consultation.