Indian Finance Minister Mr. P. Chidambaram with characteristic confidence declared couple of weeks ago that the National Investment Board (NIB) that he proposed to the Cabinet would be a reality in a matter of weeks. Little did he realise then that the first major opposition to this idea would come from his Cabinet colleague, Indian Environment and Forests Minister Mrs. Jayanti Natarajan.
In a five page letter that Mrs. Natarajan wrote to the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, she argued that such a Board substantially leverages corporate interests over human rights and the environment and that giving projects worth “Rs. 1,000 crore (approx. USD 200 million) or more a route for fast-track appeal,...does not contemplate giving a hearing to citizens, stakeholders, or NGOs, who may be aggrieved by the impact of the project.” She strongly opposed the proposal asserting that the NIB will “be used for the benefit ONLY of large investors, but not ordinary people, local citizens and stakeholders dedicated to preserving environmental integrity.” Her emphatic opposition to this proposal is evident in this statement: "This concept is unacceptable. The NIB has no constitutional authority to decide on the failure of any minister... when the Minister of a Ministry takes a decision, there is absolutely no justification for an NIB to assume his/her authority. Nor will the NIB have the competence to do so." (The full text of the Environment Minister's letter may be read at: http://tinyurl.com/8ttfpbx)
Soon after another Cabinet colleague of Mr. Chidambaram, Indian Panchayat Raj and Tribal Affairs Minister Mr. Kishore Chandra Deo, opposed the proposal stating: "“No environment clearance should be given to any project until there is total compliance with the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and also unless the provisions of Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) are fully met,”
NIB is the most preposterous pro-investment proposal that has emerged in India in recent times. It essentially argues that it’s okay to accord mega projects super fast clearances even when their mega environmental and social impacts and mega economic risks aren't fully comprehended and assessed. Besides, the idea is to bypass statutory procedures of reviewing such projects, thus subordinating constitutionally mandated Rights to politically expedient investment priorities.
Because of staunch opposition from within the Union Cabinet, Mr. Chidambaram has not been able to push ahead with his NIB proposal in the Cabinet meeting that took place on 11 October 2012. But there is every likelihood that with support from many other Cabinet Ministers he will pursue the NIB idea in next week’s Cabinet meeting.
If there ever was a time to stop a very bad idea, it is now. This is why we request you to immediately endorse our Petition to the Prime Minister of India to nip the NIB proposal in its bud. Kindly do this before 16th October, Tuesday, in time for the next Cabinet meeting. The Petition may be accessed at: http://tinyurl.com/9on4vbf (Full text of the Petition is attached, but please endorse only online.)
Every time you sign the petition, a copy will be delivered to the email IDs of the Prime Minister and most Cabinet Ministers. The more people that endorse this petition, the more likely the chances for our collective action ending this environmentally destructive, socially unjust and undemocratic NIB idea. Therefore, kindly share this petition widely with your contacts.
Thank you for your cooperation and support.