Indian state latest to dilute social & environmental safeguards

Friday, 8 August, 2014

The Indian government has become the latest outfit accused of diluting social and environmental safeguards following in the steps of the World Bank in what many would point to as a worrying trend.

Despite Global Witness’ ominous report that environmental conflicts were on the sharp rise, the government ‘through a quick series of notifications’ announced the easing of hurdles for industrial projects, according to India’s Business Standard.

One of the key changes has been the shelving of public hearings regarding coal mines of certain sizes, or seeking to expand operations.

The hearings allegedly “have in the past turned violent at times, or seen protests leading to litigation”; that this occurs because the Indian people might have genuine grievances with neighbouring industrial projects seems to have fallen short of governmental conscience.

Their decision to do away with public hearings appears to remove the problem by simply ignoring it: does a community have a grievance if nobody can hear it? This must be the warped Zen logic of these new policies.

Reading through the complete list of regulation changes it strikes one as being particularly brutal and it’s surely a matter of time before NGOs bring out the loudspeakers.

Consent for prospecting in forests by local communities is no longer needed, forestry companies also do not need to plant compensatory afforestation. Government inspections for forestry prospecting has been done away with too, and following in the steps of Goa’s recent removal of a mining ban, the “Ban on new industries in critically polluted industrial areas [has been] lifted.”

The battle between agrarian communities and India’s push for industrial development has been one of the global post-war flashpoints with Maoist ‘Naxalites’ fighting India’s security forces resulting in thousands of fatalities. The government’s latest manoeuvre may well spark further hostilities between the state and peasantry.