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Friday, August 27, 2010

Climatic Arthashastra

By Swapan Dasgupta

In Agatha Christie's celebrated ABC Murders, the plot centres on the search for a serial killer who selected his victims by the letters of the alphabet: a Mrs Ascher in Andover, a Miss Barnard in Bexhill-on-sea, Sir Carmichael Clarke in Churston and a cinema goer in Doncaster. The case tested Hercule Poirot's "little grey cells" until he realised that the series of apparently purposeless murders were aimed at drawing attention away from one particular killing.

Whether the Union Minister of Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh is an avid reader of crime fiction isn't something that is public knowledge. In recent weeks, however, the Minister has earned himself the name Minister for Non-Clearance for the alacrity with which he has put a spanner in many projects. Apart from the big No to Vedanta's plans of using its plant in the Kalahandi district of Orissa to emerge as the foremost aluminium producer in the world, Ramesh has put on hold the land acquisition for the Rs 51,000 crore POSCO steel plant in the Jagatsinhpur district of Orissa, articulated his scepticism of plans to build Mumbai's second airport in Navi Mumbai and his Ministry has made public its plans to have another 'environmental' look at the new privately-promoted, picturesque Lavasa township in Maharashtra.

On the face of it, Ramesh has opened a multiple fronts, a feat that has won him the gushing praise of international jholawalas and all those in India in search of a big stick to beat 'big money' with—and this includes the Left-leaning editorial classes. Those activists who were put out of gear when Ramesh narrowly failed to subvert the national consensus at the Copenhagen summit on Climate Change have suddenly found something to cheer about. The inscrutable functionaries of the People's Republic of China haven't as yet reacted publicly to their favourite Indian minister's preening triumphalism. But considering Beijing's vested interest in what The Economist has described as "a colonial-style trade relationship that is hugely favourable to China", any measure that curtails India's own value-addition to its own mineral wealth will be viewed with satisfaction in China.

Politically speaking—although Ramesh steadfastly denies any political agenda—the Minister has chosen his targets with care and due diligence. On the face of it, he has targeted two states: one ruled by the anti-Congress Biju Janata Dal and the other by a Congress-NCP coalition. But this apparent even-handedness seems an elaborate eye-wash since it is unlikely that the Centre will compromise the future economic viability of Mumbai or risk an open confrontation with its NCP partner. Like the ABC killer, Ramesh has tried to conceal his real target through decoys.

Bearing the brunt of the Ramesh offensive is the 11-year-old Orissa government of Naveen Patnaik. Unlike most other modernisers, the soft-spoken, aesthete Chief Minister does not flaunt his commitment on his sleeve. Having aroused the hopes of a backward state that is not on the radar of the babalog elite, Patnaik has proceeded with extreme sensitivity to the delicate question of land acquisition. Despite extreme provocation from politically-inspired agitators, he has refrained from heavy-handed police tactics and put in place an extremely generous rehabilitation policy.

The owners of 1,877 betel vines in the 4,004 acres required by the POSCO plant, for example, have been promised Rs 17 lakh per acre of acre of agricultural land plus a dole of Rs 2,250 per month till a family member secured employment in the steel plant. It may be mentioned that 3,556 acres of the 4,004 to be leased to POSCO is government land. Oriya appetite has also been whetted by the state government decision to ensure that 90 per cent of the jobs created go to people from Orissa, a decision that has left the South Korean promoter dissatisfied.

The report of a sub-committee of the N.C.Saxena committee which formed the basis of Ramesh's peremptory 'stop work' order has found niggling faults with the POSCO land acquisition process. These objections, predictably, will be set aside in the coming months. But the delay is certain to give a fillip to the anti-POSCO brigade, disrupt all schedules and even raise costs. These don't concern Ramesh. He is looking to create a situation whereby public faith in Patnaik's ability to manage Orissa's development is called into question. More important, by seeking to identify Patnaik with 'big money', he is aiming to hit at the Chief Minister's credentials as a leader of unimpeachable integrity. This would explain why the inexplicable order on the POSCO project has been carefully linked to the denial of bauxite mining rights to Vedanta in Niyamgiri hills.

In his triumphalist media interactions last Tuesday, Ramesh made it seem that a pathetic Patnaik had come to him pleading for Anil Agarwal. "I merely listened, smiled, and did not say anything", he said with an air of smug superiority. The subtext was gin clear: 'who the hell is the Orissa CM?'

Ramesh's arrogance arises from two factors. First, by getting a member of the activists-dominated National Advisory Council to do his hatchet job, he has painted the war on Orissa as Sonia Gandhi's project. Secondly, he carefully timed his decisions to coincide with Rahul Gandhi's rally in Kalahandi. These are clear signals to the Prime Minister to refrain from protesting too much. Ramesh's admirers also say he has also got his own back on P.Chidambaram who once sat on Vedanta's Board of Directors.

India needs to take environmental concerns seriously and follow laws—although laws can't be applied retrospectively and goalposts can't be constantly shifted. It's also a great idea institutionalise a local stake in the region's future growth. But these causes aren't going to be served by converting the Environment Ministry into an instrument of blackmail and recrimination. Indira Gandhi used planning to settle political scores and dish out favours. Environment clearances are turning out to be the new instruments of political control in a market economy. Today it is Orissa; tomorrow it will be another non-Congress state.

Deccan Chronicle, August 27, 2010







Jay Kumar said...


Denying Doctorate to chess champion Vishy how you see it?

Do you still believe that it is dual citizen ship issue as media and congress (Sibal) or so called secular cow are shedding crocodile tears?

I see it as congress suffering from Modi phobia, as Vishy recently went to Gujarat for promoting chess in the state and he went in midst of circumstances when countries secular cow didn't wanted Big B to go to Gujarat for tourism promotion.

I see it as Anti-Brahmin step from congress, even we can question DMK govt of Tamil Nadu, when TN govt can confer Doctorate to one his actor Vijay at youngest age while there are many other who contribution state film industry why Vijay was given Doctorate just to garner this actors fan. Moreover this actor is christian. Why today karuna silent on this issue we all know anti-Brahmin ideology of Dravidian party.

This fact needs to come out that Vishy met the same fate what Late Kishore Kumar met in mid 70's and what Big B met very recently.

Umashankar Das said...

The hypocrisy of this action is that Vedanta is targetted by jairam ramesh and Rahul Gandhi. But the chief Minister of andhra pradesh is working overtime to snatch the University in Puri to that in Andhra pradesh.

Concerned said...

I have been reading your blog for some time now and this is a very perceptive take on events as usual! In today`s newspaper Rahul Gandhi has assured the Kondh tribals of his support, which sounds very fishy coming after the Vedanta ban. The way things are going I fear very much for other non-Congress ruled states. If things go on as they are, I think we will very likely see Rahul baba as our next PM in 2014.

Umashankar Das said...

An interesting perspective on electoral calculations in Odisha post the Niyamgiri scenario. A bit hard hitting if not the most suave language. Please read this.

Anonymous said...

Naveen patnaik deserves this since he had his contribution to bring UPA Govt back in power by breaking his alliance with BJP. This will be the fate of all non-Congress parties who think by distancing themselves from BJP are helping themselves.

ravinder said...

See Swapan da,

Every body fears this rahul baba. Why can't you BJP walas do something. Dont you know how to capture the imagination of this country. With what you did last time you produced imbicles like Jay Kumar above. Dont your blogs give you some ideas. Are you people so blind that you cant notice any trends. Why dont you people stand up for the Army. Flag waving is excluded, i want some real action.

ravinder said...

BTW why dont you people consult some VEER RAS POETS. They know the peoples better then you writers and columnists.

ravinder said...

And we have lived under these Congressis for too long. We already know what they are upto.
Last time the people voted for these corrupt people because the right could not give them a fight. It was not their win it was your loss that saddled us with these corrupt and incompetent Congressis.

Dinesh PC said...

If Anil Agarwal has had a sycophant, arrogant Congress-man such as Chidambaram on his board, he deserves the kicks he is getting now.

Once Naveen Patnaik is weakened enough, it may create some inroads for the BJP also in Orissa, along with the Congress.

But the BJP is pretty satisfied with the load of cash they get being the clumsy opposition that they are - the selling out on the Nuclear Liability Bill is one big blot on this non-performing party.

aw said...

I would suggest that BJP leadership take up Orissa's projects as important Infrastructure projects with MMS. Yes they have been on the wrong side of the relationship with Naveen Patnaik but that would be a good long term move and also coincide with BJP's pro-infrastructure credentials.

Sanjay Uvach said...

Its quite clear that Jairam Ramesh's 'No' to Vedanta & Posco had political overtones. Clearly the politicians are there to play politics and not to safeguard anyone's interest. What is however confounding to the public is why do our processes take years to come to such conclusion that too after a foreign investor decides to locate a project here. Why can't the concerns between state govt & central govt be thrashed out before the red carpet is rolled out to the investor. Why is it customary for the investor himeself to walk the minefield of the political corridors to get the necessary clearences after he commits an investment.

sudhindra said...

Not only orissa karnataka has also borne the brunt of mr Ramesh. As anticipated he rejected the proposal to build a hydel power project in gundia in coastal karnataka

Jay Kumar said...

No one from BJP is having any kind of fear from rahul.
BJP has more capable leaders to take on Rahul it is media and some of you congressies like you and vinod Mehta, think that BJPwalas are afraid of Yuvraaj.

Your Yuvraaj sleeps with Dalit but celebrates b'day in foreign soil. This itself shows how much he cares for them.

Hope you remember when a BJP's Shahnawaz Hussain was denied US Visa how country cried that he is Muslims so he was denied visa why same arrogant environment we see it for Vishy.

Anonymous said...

When Sonia was living in India with Italian passport, that was fine. But, Vishy is a traitor.

ravinder said...

@ Jay Kumar,
I know "No one from BJP is having any kind of fear from rahul."
Because every body in BJP is feeling "Me Tarzan, Me Tarzan".
1 Jay Kumar = 10 Indians

Yes you also guessed it right unlike you I am not married to BJP.

I am a Hindu Rightist. And I do know Hindu Right is much bigger then BJP or even the whole sangh.

I am afraid of Rahul Baba, because I belong to the 60% of India that are not infatuated with either Congress or BJP, but do find in BJP the seed of what is right compared to the rotten Congress.

But BJP is saddled with people like you who see "Anti-Brahmin step from congress" or "anti-Brahmin ideology of Dravidian party" in everything. What is the difference between you and Pakistanis who see a Hanood-Yahood-Isaayet conspiracy in everthing.
Why the hell should any body have any view on Vishy issue, if at all it is an issue. Why is that more important then what Swapanda is saying in this blog-post. Does "Climatic Arthashastra" has anything to do with "Denying Doctorate to chess champion Vishy".
Do you even have an idea what "Climatic Arthashastra" means or are you just trying to avoid the responsibility that this one revelation puts up to you. How is "I see it as congress suffering from Modi phobia" more important then what is the truth at hand.
Are you married to Modi.