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Govt of India's high GDP growth policy 'critically impacting' nature, communities

Counterview Desk 

Karnataka-based power and climate policy analyst Shankar Sharma, in a letter to Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, has wondered if the finance ministry, the PMO and NITI Aayog have done a diligent analysis of the multiple impacts of such a relentless pursuit of the high GDP growth rate paradigm on our natural resources -- flora, fauna, wildlife, general environment, fresh water sources -- and the associated impacts on pollution/ contamination of air, and impact on community health across the country.
“In particular, are the ongoing policies of our government in line with the UN recommendations to triple the speed of the shift to renewable energy; moving investments and subsidies from fossil fuels to renewables; and adequately protecting forests and ecosystems as powerful climate solutions?”, he asks.

Text:

Please accept my hearty congratulations on your recent election as a member of Rajya Sabha from Karnataka. I wish the very best for the country in this term of yours.
May I also draw your kind attention to a statement attributed to you, as in this newslink, during 'Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav Iconic Week' of the Ministry of Finance, which was celebrated from June 6-12?
I assume that your statement also reflects the positive approach of the entire Union government and hence, it deserves the appreciation by all rationally thinking people. It should be a true characteristic of any democratically elected government that peoples' concerns are satisfactorily addressed regularly.
However, I may please be excused to state that I have never received even the courtesy of a simple acknowledgement to a number of representations/ 'right questions' from any of the Union Ministries under the present NDA government during the last 6-8 years.
My relevant representations/ 'right questions' were generally addressed to the ministries of: (a) Environment, Forest and Climate Change; (b) Power and NRE; (c) Coal; (d) Finance; (e) PMO; and of course to NITI Aayog. If you desire so, I can forward a copy of all my recent representations addressed to various ministries to you, so that satisfactory responses to them can be arranged through the initiative of your Ministry.
One such representation of interest to your ministry is as in an email of 2nd October 2019 addressed to Hon'ble PM and the members of the Union government. As can be surmised from the contents of that email, my concerns, and hence the associated questions, are all on various policies of the Union government which have been deleteriously impacting the critical elements of nature such as forests, fresh water bodies, fertility of soil etc., and the consequent social, economic and health issues for our people.
Specifically, my concerns have been with regard to the high GDP growth rate paradigm, which has been relentlessly pursued by successive governments since the 1990s. Some of my questions addressed to your ministry, and also to PMO, have been generally on the following lines:
  • Has the finance ministry, the PMO and NITI Aayog done a diligent analysis of the multiple impacts of such a relentless pursuit of the high GDP growth rate paradigm on our natural resources: flora, fauna, wildlife, general environment, fresh water sources; and the associated impacts on pollution/ contamination of air, water and soil; and on community health across the country? If so, what does the associated study state on the sustainability of such a policy paradigm in the present day Indian context?
  • Has the Union govt. and in particular, your ministry, taken true cognisance of the findings of a World Bank report of June 5, 2013 with the title “Diagnostic Assessment of Select Environmental Challenges, Economic Growth and Environmental Sustainability: What Are the Trade-offs?” in the case of India? This report had highlighted how the environment has suffered in India consequent to the previous decade of rapid economic growth. A subsequent joint study by the World Bank and University of Washington released in 2016 had estimated that in 2013 the environmental degradation costs to India, including welfare costs and lost labour income due to air pollution, was of about 8.5% of its economy.
  • Taking an objective view of this World Bank report, and other such reports (such as "The Economics of Climate Change: by Sir Nicholas Stern; “Prosperity without growth? - The transition to a sustainable economy” by the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC), UK Government; the report ‘The Limits to Growth by The Club of Rome, in 1972; the draft 'National Resource Efficiency Policy' (NREP), 2019 by MoEF&CC; various IPCC reports etc.) will the Union govt. continue to believe that a rapid economic growth based on a high GDP growth rate paradigm is in the best interest of our people, and that the associated deleterious impacts on critical elements of the environment, and on our communities are negligible and/or acceptable?
  • In the context of the global scenario of "Climate Emergency", as being highlighted by the UN (“Secretary-General Warns of Climate Emergency, Calling Intergovernmental Panel’s Report ‘a File of Shame’, While Saying Leaders ‘Are Lying’, Fuelling Flames”: ), is it the conviction of the Union government that the associated policies which will lead to continued rapid economic growth, even at enormous net economic cost to our society, will be consistent with the UN goal of effective climate action? In particular, are the ongoing policies of our government in line with the UN recommendations to triple the speed of the shift to renewable energy; moving investments and subsidies from fossil fuels to renewables; and adequately protecting forests and ecosystems as powerful climate solutions?
  • There have been scores of such associated concerns and 'right questions' in the minds of our people, most of which have been raised in my email representations, and in print and electronic media. If you desire so, I can list a number of such specific questions, which are in dire need of urgent clarification from the Union government.
  • Two such high level questions, which can effectively encompass most of such concerns are: (a) has the Union government prepared/ updated the National Action Plan on Climate Change as relevant to Year 2022, keeping in view the "Global Climate Emergency", and the climate related natural disasters which have been devastating our communities during the last few years?; (b) why the draft National Energy Policy of 2017, by NITI Aayog, which should have effectively considered the green energy pathway for the country and the associated policy interventions, not finalised yet?
A discussion paper with the title "High GDP growth rate-based economic paradigm in the context of true welfare of our communities", has raised many such 'right questions'.
In the context of all these issues, it will be a great service to the nation, if satisfactory clarification to all such 'right questions' of pan India nature can be obtained from the concerned ministries, and shared with the people of our country; through effective intervention by your ministry.
A frequently raised issue for the people of Karnataka with regard to the Rajya Sabha MPs elected from the state, specifically with regard to those MPs who are not the normal residents of the state, is the lack of easy access to such MPs.  Many of the burning problems of our people, which could be well addressed by the Union government, are not being effectively raised in the Parliament. 
 Whereas, Lok Sabha MPs of the state can be generally noticed as busy with only few localised issues relevant to their constituencies, it is a general expectation that Rajya Sabha MPs are well equipped to take up larger state level issues and many of the Pan India issues, with specific relevance to our state, effectively.
In this context, can the people of Karnataka hope that our concerns/ 'right questions' as discussed above, will be effectively responded to by your office, and that we can hope to get satisfactory clarifications/ actions needed? Can I also hope that your office will act as an effective channel for me to air our grievances of state/ national importance, and to get redressal of the same?

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