Misguided vision

  • 14/09/2006

Misguided vision Newly formed states such as Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand are leaving no stones unturned to get the tag of "developed states'. And to get this tag, they are industrialising rapidly, putting at stake the basic livelihoods of people. The regulatory structure is, however, weak. Gautam Bandopadhyaya of the Nadi Ghati Morcha says, "Industrialisation is chaotic. Zones are coming up without any evaluation of whether the area has the required resources, like water and power, to support industries and the people living in the region. There is no exhaustive and long-term cost-benefit analysis done either.' Most community-based organisations and ngos have a very poor opinion of the state pollution control boards. Environment impact assessment is conducted poorly and communities are kept in the dark about the nature of the project till the very end (see box: Chhattisgarh impact).

That the boards in both these states have failed to regulate industrial pollution is clear from the way sponge iron factories flout all the regulatory norms. There are widespread allegations of corruption against board officials. A raid in January 2006 at the residence of A K Sharma, member secretary, Chhattisgarh Environment Conservation Board (cecb), uncovered more than a crore of rupees in unaccounted property. The interference of politicians in the working of boards is also quite apparent. The Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board is headed by an mla against whom there are allegations of misconduct.

In its 2003-2004 annual report, the Central Pollution Control Board summed up the poor performance of cecb: "... many of the existing sponge iron producing industries have expanded and increased their production without obtaining necessary approvals. (State boards) have to exercise strict vigil to ensure that such plants should not come up without proper and adequate pollution control systems'.

Besides regulatory failure, the industrial policy of both these states contributes to the disarray effectively. The Chhattisgarh industrial policy wants to "take the state to the category of developed states to bring prosperity to the people. It is necessary that the rate of industrial growth increases substantially'. By assuming that industrialisation is an indicator of a "developed state', policymakers have failed to acknowledge the need for a balance. The policy also claims that creating employment opportunities is one of the priority areas of the state government, and talks of promoting entrepreneurs from the tribal community to become partners in industrial development but fails to follow up this promise with tangible incentives. The policy says that small-scale and cottage industries will be given special incentives to create employment opportunities. At the same time, a list of "negative industries' has been issued, which includes most rural-based cottage industries, which are not entitled for any incentives. Says Lalit Surjan, chief editor of Deshbandhu, "The government is not concentrating on promoting traditional industries like rice mills, shellac and beedi manufacturing. These industries are socially and economically important.'

Jharkhand's industrial policy has made mining and mineral-based industries one of the thrust areas for industrialisation. It promises

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