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Climate change, environment last priority of Gujarat govt, MLAs: 'performance' report

By Rajiv Shah* 

Despite official propaganda, in a significant revelation, MLAs of the Gujarat state legislative assembly and the Gujarat government appear to be totally indifferent towards issues related with environment and climate change, a study by two advocacy groups, Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP), released in Ahmedabad, has said.
The study, titled “Performance Report of Members of Legislative Assembly Gujarat”, seeking to analyse questions asked the the Gujarat assembly by MLAs, finds that out of 38,121 starred and 10,224 unstarred questions for which answers were sought from various Gujarat government departments over the last five years, only 55 starred and just three unstarred questions related with climate change.
The Gujarat government – which formed climate change department with great fanfare when Narendra Modi was state chief minister – appears to be equally indifferent towards the questions related with climate change. Thus, out the 55 starred questions related with climate change, the state government rejected 28 of them, and refused to answer the remaining 27 questions.
The indifference on the part of the state government stands out against the backdrop Modi taking "keen interest" climate change by authoring a book on it in 2010. Called "Convenient Action: Gujarat's response to Challenges of Climate Change", the book was criticised for being a collection of press notes issued by the state government, said to have been put together in book form by a Gujarat cadre IAS official, who now serves in the Prime Minister's Office. 
The study, which found that the highest number of starred questions related with agriculture and cooperatives (4,343) followed by industries and mines (3,374), and law and order, a home department subject (2,851), gives no reason why climate change is the least priority of the MLAs or the government.
The study, which is heavily loaded with government data, refusing to consider the attitude of MLAs towards issues related with religion, caste and the Constitution which nag the nation today, confines its analysis of the MLAs on the ground to the amount they spent in MLAs’ Local Area Development Fund Scheme (MLA LADS) -- worth Rs. 1.5 crore each. The MLAs’ “development activities” are to be cleared by district Planning Boards.
Stating that Rs 1,365 crore budgetary allocation was made over the last five years for the scheme, the study says, “In Gujarat works worth Rs 1,004.15 crore were recommended by MLAs during 2017-22, out of which Rs 849.64 were released and Rs 677.5 crore were spent till March 2022. This amounts to 67.47% of the total sanctioned amount. Only 76 % of the works were completed.”
Analysing the use of the MLA funds in tribal areas (in Dang, Narmada, Valsad, Tapi, Bharuchh, Panchamahals, Dahod, Mahisagar, Chhotaudepur, Banaskantha, Sabarkantha, and Aravalli districts), the study says, out of Rs 252 crore funds made available, work worth Rs 230.37 crore was sanctioned, and only Rs 177.40 crore was spent.”
The study, heavily loaded with government data, refuses to consider attitude of MLAs towards religion, caste, Constitution which nag the nation today
A third criterion assessed in the study – number of times MLAs spoke in the Gujarat state assembly – shows that “95% (172) out of 182 MLAs participated for less than 50 times during the last five years in any discussions, despite their attendance in the state assembly.” Of this, it added, “36% (66) participated for less than 10 times.”
Answering a Counterview question as to why issues related with religion, caste, Constitution, etc. find no mention in the study, and whether these are not considered part of performance or democratic reforms, ADR founder Jagdeep S. Chhokar, former faculty, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, said, any analysis of these issues was bound be “subjective” in nature.
“We do not analyse subjective data. While there is scope for discussion on these issues, and opinions are bound to differ. Hence, we confine ourselves to objective data”, he asserted, justifying the use of government data alone while taking up issues analysing the MLAs’ “performance”.
Pankti Jog of MAGP and Gujarat coordinator, ADR, however, told Counterview that a major reason why caste, religion and Constitution-related issues, important as they were, could not be touched upon was, “We do not have enough resources to gather data on the ground level.” She agreed, “ADR should have made public the methodology of the study.” Added Major General (Rtd) Anil Verma, head, ADR, “Elsewhere, we have analysed hate speech as an issue.”
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*Editor, Counterview

Comments

all men on stage. we need women ministers in gujarat to bring the issue of environment and climate change.

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