ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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High-Level Committee on Environmental Regulations

T he article by Manju Menon and Kanchi Kohli (“Executive’s Environmental Dilemmas: Unpacking a Committee’s Report”, EPW, 13 December 2014) on the High-Level Committee (HLC) on environmental regulations was instructive, conveying the gist of their recommendations to the general public. The government is caught between two difficult extremes: if it wants to go ahead with the modernisation of the country, environmental concerns may have to be overruled in many instances; and if the existing environmental regulations and special conditions in clearances already issued are applied and enforced rigorously, the country will come to a standstill in a manner which would render even the erstwhile “licence-inspector raj” something to remember with nostalgia.

The executive has to continually make choices and take decisions, and a single technical (or even regulatory) body cannot abrogate to itself the power to dictate the path the country has to take in all respects. That is why the rejection rate of proposals has been so low, and why project clearances are issued with so many general and special conditions as an acknowledgement of both developmental and environmental concerns. At least for the next 20 years, as India struggles to find a place of honour in the world, this tension between ideals and aspirations is bound to be there.

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