Tag Archive for Gujarat pollution

Independence Day speech: Modi’s art of doublespeak

Narendra-Modi-Independence-Day

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political record in Gujarat and at the Centre exposes the emptiness of his Independence Day’s speech. Presenting a detailed rebuttal of the Modi rhetoric

By Rohit Prajapati

In his first address as the Prime Minister on India’s Independence Day, Narendra Modi declared: “I am present amidst you not as the Prime Minister, but as the Prime Servant.” This was one of many clever uses of populist rhetoric to appeal to the heart of his audience on 15 August 2014. While it may be the duty of the PM to represent the aspirations of all the people of India, Modi’s actions and those of his government’s demonstrate that in reality, he is committed to serving only the capitalist class for the sake of the GDP.

The contradictions between Mr. Modi’s political record and his speech were numerous. In an instance of blatant flattery for political ends, Modi stated, “My dear countrymen, this nation has neither been built by political leaders nor by rulers nor by governments. This nation has been built by our farmers, our workers, our mothers and sisters, our youth.”

This recognition of the importance of farmers and common people stands in stark contrast to the Modi Government’s recent moves, which are anti-small-marginal-farmers, anti-working class and anti-people in general. Instead of going for more deserving amendments in ‘The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013’, the Modi Government is planning to dilute the act to get rid of almost all major progressive provisions by way of amendments to allow for more land-grabbing. The Modi Government has begun the process to amend present labour laws to make them more investment-friendly so that industries have free reign as promised in the election.

The Modi Government is internationally famous for espousing a business climate for the profit and prosperity of mega industries – the government’s patrons – and not for ordinary people. Modi was clear in his Election Manifesto: “Take all steps: like removing red-tapism involved in approvals, to make it easy to do business, invest in logistics infrastructure, ensure power supply and undertake labour reforms, besides other steps to create a conducive environment for investors.”

It is thus all the more ironic when Mr. Modi rhetorically asked, “Brothers and sisters, can someone please tell me as to whether he or she has ever introspected in the evening after a full day’s work as to whether his or her acts have helped the poor of the country or not, whether his or her actions have resulted in safeguarding the interest of the country or not, whether the actions have been directed in country’s welfare or not? Whether it should not be the motto of one and a quarter billion countrymen that every step in life should be in the country’s interests?” His loyalty to building an “environment for investment” leaves people in the lurch. This is a question, which Modi, instead of posing to the nation, should first ask himself and his party cohorts.

The Modi Government is busy in building up the environment for the profit and prosperity of its patrons and not for ordinary people. Government’s almost all actions are “honestly” in this direction. For Modi the word ‘Environment’ means “Environment for Investment”

Mr. Modi astutely observed, “Brothers and sisters, when we hear about the incidents of rape, we hang our heads in shame. People come out with different arguments, someone indulges in psycho analysis, but brothers and sisters, today from this platform, I want to ask those parents, I want to ask every parent that you have a daughter of 10 or 12 years age, you are always on the alert, every now and then you keep on asking where are you going, when would you come back, inform immediately after you reach. Parents ask their daughters hundreds of questions, but have any parents ever dared to ask their son as to where he is going, why he is going out, who his friends are. After all, a rapist is also somebody’s son. He also has parents. As parents, have we ever asked our son as to what he is doing and where he is going? If every parent decides to impose as many restrictions on the sons as have been imposed on our daughters, try to do this with your sons, try to ask such questions of them.”

But an appeal to the people to combat rape-culture from the inside – as autonomous feminist groups and other movements have been doing since years – is not sufficient action on the part of PM of India. Modi must go beyond tokenism and sloganism to earn credibility on this issue. He must show political will and allocate sufficient resources, by way of budget and staff, to implement “The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994, The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) 2012, The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013, The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013.” etc. Although as Chief Minister of Gujarat, Modi failed to provide the necessary political support and resources to seriously implement laws that protect women from these injustices, I hope that the people will hold him to putting his money and action where his mouth is on this issue in his new national position of power.

In yet another bizarrely ironic statement, Modi said “Brothers and sisters, for one reason or the other, we have had communal tensions for ages. This led to the division of the country. Even after Independence, we have had to face the poison of casteism and communalism. How long these evils will continue? Whom does it benefit?”

Nobody should know the beneficiaries of communal tensions better than Mr. Modi. His role as the architect of communal divide garnered him immense political capital: first bolstering him to the position of chairman of the central campaign committee of BJP, then the PM Candidate of BJP, then the PM Candidate of NDA, and ultimately the PM of the country. His political career peaked only after carnage 2002 in Gujarat.

Modi said “Therefore, I appeal to all those people that whether it is the poison of casteism, communalism, regionalism, discrimination on social and economic basis, all these are obstacles in our way forward. Let’s resolve for once in our hearts, let’s put a moratorium on all such activities for ten years, we shall march ahead to a society which will be free from all such tensions.” This is welcome advice, from a most unexpected source: we hope that his party leaders & members and members of the all affiliates organisation of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and BJP’s electoral allies were listening.

I have a question for Modi: why only for 10 years? What happens when his 10 years moratorium on communal violence is over and you are asking whom (all those people) to implement this? Mr. Modi, can you eradicate the caste system without challenging the Hindu religion?

Modi appeal again when he stated, “Have we ever thought what the sex ratio in the country is like? 940 girls are born against per thousand boys. Who is causing this imbalance in the society? Certainly not God. I request the doctors not to kill the girl growing in the womb of a mother just to line their own pockets. I advise mothers and sisters not to sacrifice daughters in the hope of son.”

I wish to remind Mr.Modi that he has not even attempted to implement, ‘The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994, in Gujarat and only used government money for the rhetoric of “Beti Bachao” while promoting the ideology behind dowry through the schemes like “Mangal Sutra” and “Kunwarbai Nu Mameru”*. Mr. Modi, the negative sex ratio is just a symptom of a major decease called patriarchy and you have to challenge the patriarchy with short term and long term programmes .

Mr. Modi said ‘Therefore, an account holder under ‘Pradhanmantri Jan-Dhan Yojana‘ will be given a debit card. An insurance of One Lakh Rupees will be guaranteed with that debit card for each poor family, so that such families are covered with the insurance of One Lakh Rupees in case of any crisis in their lives.”

Mr. Modi, people want the “Right to Work” for fair and living wages, along with all the social securities. And if the government is unable to provide the work, the government should pay an “Unemployment Dole.” With their earning, people may have a chance to open the bank account and can also opt for insurance as additional social security with government further assistance for that. The Government should not withdraw from its social responsibly like education, health care, housing, food, etc.

Modi says “If we have to promote the development of our country then our mission has to be ‘skill development’ and ‘skilled India’. Millions and Millions of Indian youth should go for acquisition of skills and there should be a network across the country for this and not the archaic systems.” Mr. Modi should understand that present and the past Government has deskilled the people at large through almost complete privatisation, commercialisation and commodification of education has in practice given a voluntary retirement from the education to the children of the ordinary people. Now a day the policies of the past and present governments mean knowledge and education for the students of IIT, NIT and so-called, well-known universities & colleges and so-called skill development for ITI & dropout students.

Modi said “The economics of the world have changed and, therefore, we will have to act accordingly.” Mr. Modi, be bold and admit that you are a proponent of liberalisation, privatisation, globalisation, FDI, less and less government and out sourcing of all major policy decisions to private and multinational companies; “Swadeshi” is just a political slogan when the nation’s masses are tuned into the television. The Modi Government is moving ahead with the economic reforms by taking firm decisions in the cabinet like raising of FDI limit in defence and insurance sector from 26 percent to 49 percent, and fully 100 percent in the railway. The Modi Government has started making changes in environment clearance policy to make it simpler for industries to get environment clearance, so that mere submission of the paperwork is sufficient for clearance regardless of the environmental merit.

Modi said “Therefore I want to appeal all the people world over, from the ramparts of the Red Fort, “Come, make in India”, “Come, manufacture in India”. Sell in any country of the world but manufacture here.” Obviously, first world and giant corporate will be sceptical of this appeal, but what about all other small countries and their indigenous industries? Are we interested as a nation to tell other small countries that they become our economic colonies and they should only import from us and not export from their country to our country?

Tourism has brought alienation of local communities through gross violation of human rights. Yet Modi said “Brothers and sisters, we want to promote tourism. Tourism provides employment to the poorest of the poor. Gram seller earns something, auto-rickshaw driver earns something, pakoda seller earns something and tea seller also earns something. When there is talk of tea seller, I feel a sense of belongingness. Tourism provide employment to the poorest of the poor.” In reality tourism had lead to forced land acquisition, large scale displacement, loss of dignity and traditional source of livelihood, lack of accessibility to public spaces are quite visible. These costs of tourism are not the concern for Mr. Modi, however – “filthiness” is a barrier.

Modi said “But there is a big obstacle in promoting tourism and in our national character and that is – the filthiness all around us. Whether after independence, after so many years of independence, when we stand at the threshold of one and half decade of 21st century, we still want to live in filthiness? The first work I started here after formation of Government is of cleanliness.” Mr. Modi’s main worry is tourism industries and not the people of India.

Modi said “Cleanliness is very big work. Whether our country can not be clean? If one hundred and twenty five crores countrymen decide that they will never spread filthiness, which power in the world has ability to spread filthiness in our cities and villages? Can’t we resolve this much?” Modi Government should know basic facts revealed in the ‘Report of the Task Force on Waste to Energy’ dated 12 May 2014 by Planning Commission of India. This report states that “As per CPCB report 2012 – 13 municipal areas in the country generate 1, 33,760 metric tonnes per day of MSW, of which only 91,152 TPD waste is collected and 25,884 TPD treated. The MSW, therefore, dumped in low lying urban areas is a whopping 1,07,876 TPD, which needs 2,12,752 cubic meter space every day and 776 hectare of precious land per year.

Mr. Modi, things are not as simple as you say. This waste generation figure covers only 31.15% population of India. Considering the waste generation figures of all of India, these figures will be even more daunting. The Planning Commission (which Modi wishes to abolish) of India’s report further states “A study, of the status of implementation of the MSW Rules 2000 by the mandated deadline by the States, was carried out in class 1 cities of the country. It revealed that in 128 cities except for street sweeping and transportation, compliance was less than 50% and in respect of disposal compliance was a dismal 1.4 %.” What about the government’s major roll in policy making for the reduction of waste and implementation of ‘The Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules 2000’? Your tract record in the implementation of these rules in the Gujarat is worst.

The consistent follow up by the pollution-affected people, people’s organisations and NGOs regarding the increasing pollution levels in the industrial areas of India forced the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the State Pollution Control Board in 1989 to initiate the process of indexing the critically polluted areas. At that time 24 industrial areas, including Vapi, Ankleshwar, Ludhiana, were declared ‘critically polluted’.

In 2009 the CPCB and IIT-Delhi, in consistence with the demands of the people’s organisation’s working on environmental issues decided to use a new method of ‘indexing the pollution levels’ of these areas, which is now known as the ‘Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index’ (CEPI). The CEPI includes air, water, land pollution and health risks to the people living in the area. However, our demand has been to include the health of the workers, productivity of land and quality of food / agriculture produce in the index since the presence of high levels of chemicals and heavy metals in food produce has severe health implications. This is affecting not only people living around the industrial area but anyone consuming it – hence not restricting the impact to the particular industrial area.

In December 2009 the CEPI of 88 polluted industrial clusters was measured; it was then that the CPCB and the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) of Government of India were forced to declare 43 of those as ‘critically polluted clusters’ and another 32 industrial areas as ‘severely polluted clusters’. Following this study the MoEF on 13 January 2010 was forced to issue a moratorium (prohibition on opening new industries and/or increasing the production capacity of the existing industries) on the 43 critically polluted areas.

As the very first step after assuming power as the PM, Instead of improving the environment of these 88 industrial clusters and taking the remedial measure in these area for clean up after moving to the Capital, the Modi Government instead lifted the moratorium of industrial cluster like Ghaziabad (UP), Indore (M.P.), Jharsuguda (Orissa), Ludhiana (Punjab), Panipat (Haryana), Patancheru – Bollaram (A.P.), Singrauli (UP & MP) and Vapi (Gujarat) as a first order of business on 10 June 2014. Mr. Modi, Vapi’s track record demands more ‘stringent action’ against the polluting industries of Vapi & concerned officers of Gujarat Pollution Control Board and definitely not lifting of moratorium from Vapi.

Modi said “However, today I am going to announce a scheme on behalf of the Member of Parliament- ‘Sansad Aadarsh Gram Yojana’. We shall fix some parameters. I urge upon the Members of Parliament to select any one of the villages having population of three to five thousand in your constituency. The parameters will be according to the time, space and situation of that locality. It will include the conditions of health, cleanliness, atmosphere, greenery, cordiality etc. On the basis of those parameters, each of our MPs should make one village of his or her constituency a Model Village by 2016.”

Mr. Modi, we want you to first spell out what do you mean by ‘Aadarsh Gram’ because your policies and action program in Gujarat when you were the chief minister of Gujarat for ‘Aadarsh Gram’ were neither acceptable nor ideal to local people. Why Mr. Modi, do you not want the local Panchayat to work for their village?

Let me remind Mr. Modi about the struggle which is going on against proposed nuclear power plant with the slogan “Not here, not anywhere; not in any country in the world” – with these slogans the farmers and other villagers affected by the proposed 6000 MW nuclear power plant at village Mithi Virdi in Bhavnagar, Gujarat are protesting.

Orchards of mangoes, chikoos, coconut trees, lush greenery, sea and ships passing by, describe aptly the Mithi Virdi – Jaspara area in the Talaja block of Bhavnagar district. This lush green area is the irrigated region of Shetrunji dam. Situated on the Saurashtra sea coast, one would assume that the land is barren and un-inhabited, but a visit here belies all these assumptions.

The proposal for a 6000 MW nuclear power plant spread over 777 hectares on this green lush land is planned. Presently on this 777 hectare of land spread in Jaspara, Mithi Virdi, Khadarpar, and Mandva stand more than 50,000 fruit trees. Also, bajra cotton, groundnut, onions and other crops are sown year round due to irrigation facilities. This area is therefore aptly called Bhavnagar’s vegetable basket.

Recently on 13 August 2014 the villagers took a pledge that “We, today, on August 13, 2014, take the pledge, To ensure clean air, potable water, fertile lands, nutritious, uncontaminated food and secure life for the future generations. We will do all that is possible to save and protect the land, agriculture, agricultural products and seeds. We will stop all industries and nuclear power plants that pose risk to our food, health and environment. We will protest against the genetically modified crops and the resulting contamination of the natural seeds through them. We will continue our consistent struggle against the so-called development policy that contaminate agriculture, land and water while seeking GDP growth. We will strive to save the society from all companies – national and multinationals – that seeks profits at any cost. We will strive to ensure the deserving amendments to The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. We register our opposition and resolve to fight against the present government’s move to dilute this act to make it anti-farmer to ensure pro industrial growth.” These villagers want to make their villages as Aadarsh Village. Will Mr. Modi allow them to do so?

We saw, however, in Gujarat that following the will of the villagers was not a priority for Modi. Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. needs 81 hectares of forest land in addition to the other land for the nuclear power plant. To facilitate this the Taluka Development Officer (TDO) of Gujarat State sent a letter dated July 15, 2013 to Sarpanch of Jaspara directing him to pass a resolution on the lines of the copy that he had sent, so as to have the village body’s stamp of approval for the state government transfer of forest land to the NPCIL. In this letter the TDO instead of seeking the opinion of Gramsabha as per the law for the land transfer, illegally and unconstitutionally orders the Sarpanch to pass the ready-made resolution.

The Gramsabha of Jaspara unanimously condemned and rejected such an unconstitutional letter of TDO. The Gramsabha unanimously resolved not to hand over the forest land for non-forest use to be handed over the NPCIL. Will Mr. Modi respect the decision of the Gramsabha?

Modi said “Thereafter, we have a feeling that it would be better to construct a new house altogether and therefore within a short period, we will replace the planning commission with a new institution having a new design and structure, a new body, a new soul, a new thinking, a new direction, a new faith towards forging a new direction to lead the country based on creative thinking, public-private partnership, optimum utilization of resources, utilization of youth power of the nation, to promote the aspirations of state governments seeking development, to empower the state governments and to empower the federal structure. Very shortly, we are about to move in a direction when this institute would be functioning in place of Planning Commission.” We do have a problem with present planning commission of India, but in the name of “public-private partnership” Modi Government is planning to outsource the planning to private interests. We had seen Mr. Modi use to take all major policy decisions and use to announce in the Vibrant Gujarat Summit when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat.

In sum, Modi gave a “populist” speech in which he doled out advice to the people, yet hardly acknowledged his and his government’s responsibility in policy decisions to resolve these problems. On the issue of development, one only needs to look to his record in Gujarat to understand the emptiness of his “pro-poor”, “pro-farmer”, “pro women” rhetoric.

*‘Kunwarbai Nu Mameru’ is a scheme by the Social Justice and Empowerment Department of the Government of Gujarat for families below the poverty line. Scheme provides, at the time of marriage, Rs. 2000/- to parents and Narmada bonds worth Rs. 3000/- to girls belonging to SC, ST and Socially and Educationally Backward castes. ‘Mameru’ is a variant of the practice of dowry

Investment beats environment in BJP Manifesto

Gujarat pollution

In Modi’s manifesto, ecology and environment seem to be solely understood in terms of creating a suitable climate for industries disregarding the loss of livelihood, forced land acquisition, irreversible damage to the environment and permanent loss of natural resources

By Rohit Prajapati

The word ‘Environment’ is formally and casually mentioned at 7 places in BJP “MONEY-FESTO – MODI-FESTO” and same is the case with Congress “All is Well Manifesto”.

BJP’s crucial understanding and concerned about environment is mentioned at page 29 “Decision-making on environment clearances will be made transparent as well as time-bound.” The word environment clearance is highlighted in bold, which clearly reflects that Modi’s Money-Festo’s main concern is speedy clearance for the industries and not the environment.

The other word ‘time-bound’ is also clearly reflects that Modi’s Money-Festo’s main concerns is speedy clearance for the industries and not the environment. To make it very clear on the same page the Money-Festo further states “Frame the environment laws in a manner that provides no scope for confusion and will lead to speedy clearance of the proposals without delay.” This well spell-out assurance of Mr. Modi is to the industrialist that they should not worry about environment laws because Modi will remove all their hurdles so that just by filing some papers and giving some vague assurance they will get the clearance. This is the “Gujarat Model of Development” which led Gujarat State to become number one in pollution.

To make it further crystal clear Money-Festo states that “Take all steps: like removing red-tapism involved in approvals, to make it easy to do business, invest in logistics infrastructure, ensure power supply and undertake labor reforms, besides other steps to create a conducive environment for investors.” The Modi-Festo says in very clear words to mortgage the environment and labor laws.

At page 11 Money-Festo states “performance review, social and environment audit would be mandated for all Government Schemes and programmes.” Why should not social and environment audit will also be compulsory for the industries? That means Modi is stating in clear words that when he talks about social and environment audit it is not for industries.

At page 33 Money-Festo states “Sewage treatment plants to prevent the pollution of rivers.” Modi-Festo is completely silent on the issues of river pollution by industrial effluent. At page 36 Money-Festo states “Cleaner fuels will be promoted so as to bring down the pollution levels particularly in the cities.” Modi is completely silent on the issue of air pollution by the industrial cluster in rural and urban areas. It further states “Ecological Audit of projects and pollution indexing of cities and townships will be done on scientific basis.” Modi-Festo does not want to talk about “Ecological Audit – Pollution Indexing” for industrial cluster of India which is called Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI). In fact, Gujarat is the most polluted state in India.

In 2009, the Ankleshwar’s industrial area, with 88.50 CEPI, topped the list of ‘critically polluted areas’ of India. In 2011 and 2013, Vapi industrial area, with CEPI of 85.31, topped this list.

On the issue of river pollution there is only mention of river Ganga at page 41 by completely sidelining the issue of number of severely polluted rivers of India and specifically the issue of severely polluted rivers passing through the industrial cluster of Gujarat.

In Gujarat rivers are “used” for industrial and domestic effluent dumping

Constituency of Modi – Vadodara’s rural area’s ground water is highly contaminated and it is red. If you travel just 10-20 kms you can witness reddish ground water.

The word Climate Change at page 35 of Modi-Festo states “encouraging research and application to meet the challenges of climate change and for forecasting prevention and mitigation of natural hazards, particularly floods, cyclones, earthquakes, drought and landslides.” This clearly indicates Modi-Festo’s narrow understanding of climate change which completely ignores the impact of industrial pollutants on climate change. It further states at page 36 “We will take Climate Change mitigation imitative with all seriousness and work with global community and institutions in this regard.” The word Climate Change mentioned very casually and no real program to mitigate the climate change is discussed in the Money-Festo of BJP.

Same understanding is also reflected in Narendra Modi’s book on climate change. In his book- CONVENIENT ACTION – Gujarat’s Response To Challenges of Climate Change- Modi selectively presents information and data, which are convenient to defend the ‘development model’ being pursued by the state. The book completely ignores the information from the ‘Gujarat Ecology Commission’ of the Government of Gujarat, and the press coverage on pollution in Gujarat by almost all newspapers over the last 15 years. Even a Google search on ‘pollution in Gujarat’ would have provided plenty of information.

The author could also have accessed basic information from the Central Pollution Control Board and the Gujarat Pollution Control Board to find out the status of the environment of Gujarat State. Even the Gujarat Ecology Commission report and recent CAG report acknowledges the abysmal status of the environment in Gujarat. Why did Modi base his book on cherry-picked evidence that ignores the level of irreversible environmental degradation in the state of Gujarat?

Modi has included in his book on page 132-133 a photo of the ‘Common Effluent Treatment Plant’ of Vapi, a facility which has not been able to fulfill the environmental norms prescribed by Gujarat Pollution Control Board since many years. While the photo is very large, there is no discussion about the functioning of CETP of Vapi. The book completely ignores the failure of all major ‘industrial effluent treatment facilities’ of Gujarat. Why?

The so-called success story of the two-digit growth and tall claims of capital investment in Gujarat State has masked the several digit realities of loss of livelihood, land acquisition, displacement, irreversible damage to environment and permanent loss of natural resources, which are treated as free goods in this development model. The investment figure, without the figures for displacement, destruction and depletion of natural resources and the employment figure without loss of livelihood does not make sense. No wise person would talk about the income without talking the cost of acquiring that income or wealth.

This capitalist development has never tried to arrive at even a realistic estimate of loss of livelihood, land acquisition, displacement, irreversible damage to environment and permanent loss of natural resources figures but the magnitude of the loss can be guessed from some of the facts emerging from various important research works on status of environment in Gujarat.

“Money-Festo – Modi-Festo” of BJP clearly reflects the understanding of environment of Gujarat Development Model of Mr. Modi.

Rohit Prajapati is a social activist based in Vadodara

Gujarat development myth: 16 questions to Narendra Modi

Gujarat pollution

The growth story of Gujarat has masked the multiple realities of land acquisition, displacement, loss of livelihood, irreversible damage to environment and permanent loss of natural resources, writes Vadodara based human rights activist Rohit Prajapti in an open letter to right- wing politician and PM aspirant Narendra Modi

Here is the full text of the letter:

Mr. Modi,

Subject: Clarify your position on key environmental issues for the General Election 2014 to enable meaningful debate and not empty rhetoric.

I would like to raise certain issues for you to respond to during the ensuing General Election 2014 debate, as you project yourself as PM in waiting, making unsustainable claims about the so-called two digit growth of Gujarat.

I am sending you the points for discussion in advance to enable you to respond in writing during your election campaign in Vadodara and Varanasi constituencies. I am also sending a copy of the letter to the press so that you can respond to the press directly as well. These issues are not new; I have repeatedly raised them in number of letters sent to various departments of the Government of Gujarat, as well as directly to you. I have yet to receive a proper reply though to any of them.

The CMO has, instead of answering categorically, passed the buck by referring these letters to the so-called concerned department even when straight questions were addressed to you. I am ready for dialogue in an open meeting with you as well on these issues. I am also prepared to attend a press conference to discuss these issues. I assure you that I am eager to engage in dialogue with you and hence am sending you people’s concerns in advance so that the discussion may be thoughtful and productive.

I would like to clarify that some questions I raise have equal relevance for the Congress Party who have yet to address the questions that I am raising. However, since it is you who makes tall claims for Gujarat and since you have been in power in Gujarat State for many years, it is in the fitness of things that I address these questions to you now.

The so-called success story of the two-digit growth and tall claims of capital investment in Gujarat State has masked the several digit realities of loss of livelihood, land acquisition, displacement, irreversible damage to environment and permanent loss of natural resources, which are treated as free goods in this development model. The investment figure, without the figures for displacement, destruction and depletion of natural resources and the employment figure without loss of livelihood does not make sense. No wise person would talk about the income without talking the cost of acquiring that income or wealth.

My questions relate to the ‘development model’ celebrated and propagated by you for the 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign and the Destruction of Natural Resources and Livelihood that has resulted directly from this

(1) In 2009 the CPCB and IIT-Delhi, in keeping with the demands of the people’s organisations working on environmental issues, decided to use a new method of indexing the pollution levels of these areas, which is now known as the ‘Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index’ (CEPI). The CEPI includes air, water, land pollution and health risks to the people living in the area. However, our demand has been to include the health of the workers, productivity of land and quality of food / agriculture produce in the index since the presence of high levels of chemicals and heavy metals in food produce has severe health implications. This is affecting not only people living around the industrial area but anyone consuming such food – hence not restricting the impact to the particular industrial area.

As per the agreed upon measures, industrial areas with a CEPI of 70 and above are considered ‘critically polluted’ areas while those with a CEPI between 60 and70 are considered ‘severely polluted’ areas. In our opinion, those industrial areas with CEPI between 40 and 60 ought to be labelled as ‘polluted areas’.

In December 2009 the CEPI of 88 polluted industrial estates was measured; it was then that the CPCB and the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) of Government of India were forced to declare 43 of those as ‘critically polluted areas’ and another 32 industrial areas as ‘severely polluted’ areas. Following this study, the MoEF on 13 January 2010 was also forced to issue a moratorium (prohibition on opening new industries and/or increasing the production capacity of the existing industries) on the 43 critically polluted areas. At that time, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) and other environment protection groups had asked for a moratorium on all the 75 (43+32) polluting areas, but it was not done, under pressure from the powerful industrial lobby and state governments. The murky politics and economics of ‘GDP growth’ prevailed over the cause of ‘life and livelihood’ of ordinary people and ‘environment and conservation.

As such the process of declaring moratorium was started from Ankleshwar in Gujarat in 2007. The industries located in Ankleshwar, Panoli and Jhagadia GIDC estates treat their effluent in their Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) and then, after giving further treatment ‘at the Final Effluent Treatment Plant (FETP) at Ankleshwar discharge the effluent into the sea. The FETP, from its inception, did not work as per the prescribed norms set by the GPCB. Even today it is not able to meet the prescribed norm. For this reason, on July 7, 2007, GPCB, on the directions of the CPCB, imposed a moratorium on the industrial areas of Ankleshwar, Panoli and Jhagadia. The moratorium is in force even today, since there has been no substantial improvement in the pollution levels even after the implementation of the so-called ‘action plans’ prepared by these estates. The same plant’s disposal pipeline project was inaugurated by you on January 25, 2007. By inaugurating this plant, you tried to send out the message to the investors not to worry too much about compliance with environment laws in the state. Despite this moratorium being in force officially, the active connivance of the industrial lobby with the collusion of politicians along with the official machinery in Gujarat has surreptitiously lifted the moratorium from some area at different times.

Why did you inaugurate the FETP pipeline project despite its non-compliance with the GPCB norms? Why do you endorse the public paying when industries pollute?

In reply to my RTI application to you dated 23 April 2010 about the inauguration of FETP by you, your office states that “In addition, would like to inform you that about point no. 1 & 2 of your RTI application dated 23 April 2010, information sought by you is about the period before date 25 January 2007 and government’s term was over in December 2007 and after new government came in as per our working method, old records were destroyed so demanded information can not be made available to you.”

It is difficult to believe that a responsible and publicly accountable office such as yours, especially with your emphasis on “transparent and effective public governance” would destroy official records of public importance, even while you continue to be the chief minister in the consecutive term. With your emphasis on ‘information technology’ in governance, the soft copies of the correspondence should be present in some official data bank, or one would assume that you or your office are deliberately withholding or denying information that should be in public realm and your public accountability as the chief minister stands questioned, following such a stand of destruction of official records on the mere pretext that it happened because of change in Government. Why do you want to hide this information? What is the stated policy on destruction of records? Under what rule or law have such critical documents been, as you say, destroyed?

Despite the “Polluter Pays” principle, common effluent treatment plants (CETPs) were highly supported by public money; 25% of the cost was state subsidy, 25% central subsidy, 30% loans from financial institutes, and only 20% was directly paid by industries. In essence, half of the supposed ‘solution’ to the pollution generated for private profit, was funded by the general public. As if this subsidy was not enough, the subsidy for the CETP has been increased from 25% to 50% by the Central Government.

The pipeline project of Final Effluent Treatment Plant of Ankleshwar was built with the sweat of tax payers. Out of a total project cost of Rs. 131.43 crores, the industries paid only Rs. 21.75 crores (about 17%); the rest of the tab (Rs. 109 crores) was borne by the Central Government, the Gujarat Government, and the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) – all of which ultimately draw from public money. It is a familiar story: the profits are distributed privately, but the institutional costs and environmental burden are borne by general public. Can we find a better example of the privatisation of profits and the socialisation of the costs, burdens and hazards?

With no improvement in the levels of pollution being shown by the CEPI of the CPCB, the MoEF again, through its order of September 17, 2013 re-imposed a moratorium for some industrial areas. However, surprisingly the same order also lifted the moratorium from some polluted areas in the name of ‘promises, presumption and assumption’ of improvement. However, in our opinion the moratorium ought not to be lifted until these units bring down their CEPI to below 60.

In Gujarat, the GPCB has served repeated closure notices to several industries, which have been openly flouting environmental norms. However, the CPCB report of May – November 2013 has revealed no significant change in these industrial areas

Strict action needs to be taken against such industries and their ‘treatment facilities’. The CPCB report of 2009 covered 88 industrial estates, but the reports of 2011 and 2013 covered only 43 ‘critically-polluted areas’. In our opinion, the CEPI of all 88 areas should be conducted by the MoEF, CPCB and SPCBs. Other areas should also be included if the residents so wish.

In 2009, the Ankleshwar’s industrial area, with 88.50 CEPI, topped the list of ‘critically polluted areas’ of India . In 2011 and 2013, Vapi industrial area, with CEPI of 85.31, topped this list . What do you want to say about this number one?

The Gujarat Government is neither uttering a single word on these issues nor are you ready for any kind of dialogue or debate on this issue.

I am not and cannot be concerned only with the quantum of investment, but also with what is being invested, what the goal of the investment is, and how it affects the people in general. The Gujarat Government has consistently opposed these moratoriums per se, without acknowledging the environmental concerns brought up by affected people and environmental groups despite the obvious need. Given that the industries are facing moratoriums from the Ministry of Environment and Forests for the unabated cycle of pollution, which continues to impact adversely all kinds of lives – human, agriculture and livestock, I am interested to know what you have to say regarding the industrial moratoriums in our state. What is your position on environmental concerns that have led to the moratoriums?

(2) Why does your government fail to have a land use policy?

Why is an abundance of chemical industries allowed on fertile land, including the ‘vegetable basket’ of Gujarat like Padra Taluka of Vadodara District?

(3) On 7 May 2004 in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 657 of 1995, the Supreme Court ordered Gujarat State to provide clean drinking water to residents of villages near Vapi, Ankleshwar, and Effluent Channel Project of Vadodara, where the water supply was irrevocably damaged by industrial activities. Yet, there are ongoing actions contrary to what the Court has ordered. This order is still awaiting implementation. When will your government implement this order?

(4) The quality of groundwater in Gujarat has reached a critical stage and yet it is being contaminated continuously. Orders for clean drinking water are passed based on the visit of the Supreme Court committee, and the committee is not able to visit all the affected villages of the Golden Corridor. The groundwater of about 14 districts and about 74 talukas of Gujarat are critically affected by pollution, even if we consider the routine parameters like Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), Total Hardness (TS), Dissolved Oxygen (DO), Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), and some heavy metal like Cadmium, Copper, Lead, Mercury, Iron etc. Thus the condition of the groundwater of Gujarat requires immediate attention as the rural population is deprived of the very basic need of safe drinking water and clean water for their animals and crops.

The groundwater of about 14 districts and about 74 talukas of Gujarat are critically affected by pollution

Ahmedabad, Daskroi, Mehmedavad, Vadodara, Ankleshwar, Bardoli, Choryasi, Kamrej, Mangrol, Olpad, Palsana, Valod, Vyara, Navsari, Sanand, Dhoraji, Jetpur, Okha Mandal etc. talukas are critically polluted. Amreli, Jambusar, Junagad, Mandvi, Kalol, Morvi, Upleta, Mahuva, Chorila, Dhangadhar, Limdi, Bansda, Umbergaon etc talukas are found moderately polluted. If we talk about Vatva to Vapi – the Golden Corridor – it is clear that 70% of the groundwater is contaminated and it has reached the irreversible level. When are you going to act on this serious issue of contamination of ground water?

(5) The air pollution situation is also alarming in the Golden Corridor of Gujarat. The Gujarat Pollution Control Board admits in writing “5. PROBABLE POLLUTANTS: … (B) Air: HCl, SO2, NH3, H2S, NOx, PM2.5, PM10, VOCs, PAHs, PCBs, Vinyl Chloride. Note: Benzene, VOCs, PAHs, PCBs, vinyl chloride are not being monitored by GPCB, as no measuring facility is available with GPCB. This statement speaks for itself. In an “advanced state” like Gujarat, why do we not have facilities to take these basic measurements? Moreover, when will you take actions to clean up the air quality, which has become so poor?

(6) You are the Chairman of the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority and the same authority has to implement ‘The Gujarat State Disaster Management Act, 2003. The Act clearly states ‘(2) (h) “disaster” means an actual or imminent event, whether natural or otherwise occurring in any part of the State which causes, or threatens to cause all or any of the following: (i) widespread loss or damage to property, both immovable and movable; or (ii) widespread loss of human life or injury or illness to human beings; or (iii) damage or degradation of environment.’ However, the web site of Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority states ‘The GSDMA has been constituted by the Government of Gujarat by the GAD’s Resolution dated 8th February 2001. The Authority has been created as a permanent arrangement to handle the natural calamities.’ What about environmental disasters? There is no ‘Comprehensive Chemical Emergency Plan’ with the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority. The Director, Health and Safety Department has an ‘Off Site Emergency Plan;’ but when I demanded a copy of it, I was told that it is secret. Kindly clarify your position on the crucial issue of a disaster management plan and its transparency.

(7) A direct outcome of our persistent efforts since 1994 has been forcing GPCB / Government to act against Hema Chemicals of Vadodara, which was responsible for illegal dumping of hazardous chromium waste in Gorwa area of Vadodara. As per the direction of the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee, the company was ordered in 2004 to pay Rs. 17 Crores as first instalment towards remediation of the site. Why has your government failed to remove the hazardous waste dumped by Hema Chemicals, and recover the Rs 17 Crores fines from Hema Chemicals, as per the direction of the Supreme Court?

(8) Which law allows the effluent that does not meet Gujarat Pollution Control Board norms to be discharged from Tadgam Sarigam Pipeline, from FETP, Ankleshwar, ECP, Vadodara, CETPs of Ahmedabad? I would like you to clarify your position on the issue of such an open and blatant disregard of environment laws.

(9) Your book CONVENIENT ACTION – Gujarat’s Response To Challenges of Climate Change selectively presents information and data, which are convenient to defend the ‘development model’ being pursued by the state. The book completely ignores the information from the ‘Gujarat Ecology Commission’ of the Government of Gujarat, and the press coverage on pollution in Gujarat by almost all newspapers over the last 15 years. Even a Google search on ‘pollution in Gujarat’ would have provided plenty of information. The author could also have accessed basic information from the Central Pollution Control Board and the Gujarat Pollution Control Board to find out the status of the environment of Gujarat State. Even the Gujarat Ecology Commission report and recent CAG report acknowledges the abysmal status of the environment in Gujarat. Why did you base your book on cherry-picked evidence that ignores the level of irreversible environmental degradation in the state of Gujarat?

(10) You have included in your book on page 132-133 a photo of the ‘Common Effluent Treatment Plant’ of Vapi, a facility which has not been able to fulfil the environmental norms prescribed by Gujarat Pollution Control Board since many years. While the photo is very large, there is no discussion about the functioning of CETP of Vapi. Your book completely ignores the failure of all major ‘industrial effluent treatment facilities’ of Gujarat. Why?

This post-facto regularisation of illegal residential complexes sends a clear message that the safety norms can be bent to accommodate economic interests. This is going to be a disastrous action on the part of the concerned authorities as far as the health and safety of the people is concerned. Instead of taking firm action and enforcing the regulations, these departments are succumbing to pressure from all sides from powerful rich people who want to legalise their illegal residential complexes. In spite of support by Gujarat Sate the builder had lost the case in High Court of Gujarat and ultimately people won the case.

Any post facto relaxation in the present environmental guidelines and norms is nothing but manipulation of present environmental norms to legalise illegal construction activities in order to favour powerful rich people who can pressurise the Government to act against the interests of ordinary people. I have opposed to the proposed dilution of norms, and have expressed this and written letters to you. I would like to know why your government finds it acceptable to relax safety norms of your own administration. Why accommodate violators instead of punishing them?

(11) Most of the cities and towns are openly and brazenly violating ‘The Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000’ since long. For example, the Vadodara Mahanagar Seva Sadan is dumping its municipal solid wastes into the ravines, ditches, hillocks of Vishwamitri River by violating the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000. The action of the corporation is directly violating laws, which provide that water bodies should not be permitted to be polluted.

Instead of protection and preservation, the government and its corporation are themselves destroying the Vishwamitri River with their unlawful and unethical dumping of Municipal Solid Waste. This has repeatedly also led to terrible floods from River Vishwamitri

On 25th of May 2005 the Chairperson of Gujarat Pollution Control Board had given clear directions to the Municipal Commissioner of Vadodara Municipal Corporation: (1) To stop dumping of Municipal Solid Waste on the banks of the river “Vishwamitri“ and re-collect all the waste from about 70,000 sq. meter area and dispose it on the landfill site. (2) To re-collect solid waste from the bank of the river and clean up natural waterway to avoid the flooding during monsoon season. (3) To re-collect solid waste from the site near Akota Garden and on the banks of the river near VUDA Circle and dispose of it at the landfill site. (4) To stop burning of Municipal solid waste all over the city immediately. (5) To direct the concerned personnel to be more vigilant and careful. (6) Directed them to comply with the direction issued in the authorisation granted.

Now VMSS does have the so-called legal site, yet the direction dated 25 May 2005 is not implemented by the VMSS and illegal dumping is still continued at the illegal site. This is nothing but butchering of the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000. Why there is no legal action under the act as initiated against the VMSS by the Gujarat Pollution Control Board?

(12) I had also launched a complaint against residential and commercial complexes coming up in the vicinity of hazardous solid waste sites in Ahmedabad (Vatva & Naroda) in violation of GPCB notification on industrial hazardous solid waste and The Hazardous Waste (Management & Handling) Rules, 1989. These complexes were in violation of the Central Pollution Control Board & Gujarat Pollution Control Board guidelines and norms requiring a 500 metres safety distance from TSDFs to residential complexes.

Instead of punishing the violating builders/contractors, The Forest & Environment Department and Urban Development and Urban Housing Department of Government of Gujarat decided, in the meeting dated 5 September 2011, to relax the required 500 metres safety radius to only 100 metres for the purpose of legalising all illegal residential complexes, which came after the notification. For future, it was decided that the 500 metres distance would be enforced.

The original guideline was issued with the intention of preventing risk to the health and safety of the people. The revision obviously looks at the profit margin of unscrupulous contractors, not the innocent residents who will suffer in future.

About 70 adjacent tribal villages cannot even access Sardar Sarovar Dam water for irrigation. Worse, the view is gaining ground among them that water is only for urban and industrial use

(13) Another hot spot is near Sardar Sarovar Dam. The work for the Garudeshwar weir, proposed about 12 km downstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam, began without necessary environmental clearance from the Environmental Sub Group (ESG) of Narmada Control Authority’s (NCA). It is very clear if one looks closely at the letter dated March 24, 2013 written by a senior member Mr. Shekhar Singh of the ESG of NCA to its chairperson Mr. Dr V. Rajagopalan, the secretary of Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India. He expressed surprise over the Gujarat Government’s decision to start work for the construction of the Garudeshwar weir without obtaining necessary environment clearances.

He states in his letter that “Garudeshwar weir, to be built 12 km downstream of the SSP dam with a live storage capacity of 32.9 Million Cubic Meters, is a component of the Sardar Sarovar Project, as was envisaged by the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award of 1979. However, as far as I recollect, the environmental and social impacts of construction and operation of Garudeshwar weir (GW) have never been brought before the ESG of NCA.”

He further states in his letter “In my estimation, the construction and operation of the GW will have significant social and environmental impacts, since it will entail a reservoir of about 12 km length and unknown width and submergence area. The weir will have the potential of affecting the fisheries in the immediately surrounding areas and also of affecting the downstream river and its biodiversity, and other related aspects. This is especially because the weir will control the flow of water and silt downstream.

However, I do not know whether there has been a comprehensive assessment of the environmental and social impacts of the GW and its contribution to the cumulative impact of all the projects and activities in the area. And if there has been, I do not believe that this has been put up to the ESG for its approval.”

At the end of the letter, he clearly demands, “If this is correct, I find this problematic as ESG has not yet cleared the construction of this weir. Under the circumstance, I urge you to: (1) Ask the Government of Gujarat (GoG) to immediately stop construction of the GW. All other activities related to the GW should also be stopped. (2) Ask GOG/ SSNNL to submit the full feasibility report, environment and social impact assessment report including impacts during construction and operation of the GW to the ESG and seek clearance of the ESG for this work. (3) Ask GOG not to start any work in this regard till the ESG clears this.”

The six villages, which were the first to hand over the land way back in 1961-63 to build the Staff Colony, Government Offices and Guest House to build the Sardar Sarovar Dam, have even decades later not been considered “equal” to other project affected persons (PAPs), thus remaining deprived of all the facilities which other PAPs of Sardar Sarovar Dam of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have been offered. In fact, there are about 70 adjacent tribal villages which cannot even access Sardar Sarovar Dam water for irrigation. Worse, the view is gaining ground among them that water is only for urban and industrial use.

The view is also gaining strongly among the villagers that all this is being done at a time when the Gujarat Government has decided to build the highest statue of the world in the memory of Shri Sardar Patel by spending Rs. 2,500 crores near Sardar Sarovar Dam, around which tourism will be developed.

Lakhan Musafir and Rohit Prajapati of Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti and Savitaben Ganpatbhai Tadvi & Mavajibhai Jesangbhai Tadvi, residents of affected villages filed a case [Application No. 10 of 2014 (WZ)] before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) – Pune to stop construction of ‘Garudeshwar Weir’. The first hearing took place at Pune on 21st January 2014 and National Green Tribunal-Pune bench (Western Zone Bench) issued a notice to respondents and further hearing of the case was fixed on 31st January 2014.

The case is filed against (1) The Chairman, of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited, (2) The Chief Secretary of Government of Gujarat, (3) The Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forest, Delhi (4) The Chairman, Environment Sub Group of Narmada Control Authority, New Delhi, (5) The Secretary, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, New Delhi, (6) The Chairman, R & R Sub-Group of Narmada Control Authority, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, New Delhi, (7) The Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, New Delhi & (8) The Chairman, Narmada Control Authority, New Delhi.

On 31st January 2014 Advocate Mr. Nirzar Desai appeared as legal counsel of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited. He requested 4 weeks time to file the reply. Our lawyer, Mihir Desai argued before the court that the construction work of Garudeshwar Weir is on and is affecting the villagers, construction work is creating an irreversible situation in the area, and that is why we request the court to grant interim stay on the construction of the weir. After hearing both sides the court passed the following order.

“We have heard learned Counsel for the Applicants. Mr. Nirzar Desai, appears for the Respondent No. 1. The Counsel for the Applicant states that he will file affidavit of service during course of the day.
The Counsel for the Respondent No. 1 seeks time to file reply affidavit.

According to learned Counsel for the Applicants, ongoing work is likely to impair the rights of project affected people in the vicinity. He submits that there will be irreversible damage caused if major work will be carried out. He further states that only a part of the work so far, is done. Hence, he urges to take-up the matter expeditiously for grant of interim relief. The Counsel for the Respondent No. 1, seeks four (4) weeks’ time.

Gujarat Government has decided to build the highest statue of the world in the memory of Shri Sardar Patel by spending Rs. 2,500 crores near Sardar Sarovar Dam

We deem it proper to grant three (3) weeks time to Respondent No. 1 to file reply affidavit and make it clear that in the meanwhile if any work is done, it will be subject to final outcome of the present Application, without claiming any right of equity arising out of execution of construction work and without pleadings in advance of any ‘fait Accompli’. Stand over to 25th February, 2014.”

On 25th February 2014 the National Green Tribunal (NGT), India’s powerful quasi-judicial environmental watchdog, has agreed to a Gujarat government plea for “more time” to reply. The NGT order states that “Heard learned Counsel Neha Pathak, holding for Mr. Mihir Desai Advocate, Learned Additional Advocate General Mr. Tushar Mehta, appears for Respondent No. 1 and 2. Ms. Shugta Busar learned Counsel, appears for Respondent No. 3, Learned Additional Advocate General, seeks time to file comprehensive reply affidavit, as regards the nature of project in question. He submits that filing of such affidavit requires co-ordination of various departments and agencies, which will take certain time. He therefore, seeks reasonable time to complete the exercise of preparing reply affidavit. He undertakes to maintain directions as regards keeping of equity, in the light of earlier order dated 31st January 2014. Stand over to 17th April 2014.”

This order makes it very clear that as of today the Government of Gujarat is not in a position to give any clear categorical answer on two counts: a) whether Garudeshwar Weir has environment clearance or not, b) under which law of the land or notification or permission the construction of Garudeshwar Weir is being carried out.

The lack of categorical reply in court reflects that there is no substance to the hyped perception of your efficient Government of Gujarat. To file a reply with crucial information about environment clearance and issues raised by us in our petition the Government of Gujarat needs two months time. That clearly indicates that even prima facie all is not well with Garudeshwar Weir and the legality of the ongoing construction of Garudeshwar Weir is in question. Kindly clarify your position on this crucial issue.

(14) Regarding the activity around “Statue of Unity Project” near Sardar Sarovar Dam in the river downstream from the dam, just 3.2 km from the Shoolpaneshwar Sanctuary, in an eco-sensitive zone and involving massive infrastructure – work has started without legally mandatory environment clearance, environment and social impact assessment or any public consultation process.

This is clearly illegal, in violation of the Environment Protection Act, 1986 and EIA notification of September 2006 and a number of NGT and Court orders about such massive kind of construction on the riverbed. On 31st October 2013, the foundation stone was laid by you for the project amidst huge fanfare and media attention. Tenders have also been floated. Even the work for the Garudeshwar weir, proposed about 12 km downstream of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, began without any social or environmental impact assessment, public consultation and environmental clearance from the Environmental Sub Group (ESG) of Narmada Control Authority’s (NCA).

The website clearly states the purpose of tourism and involvement of the ‘Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust’ (SVPRET) to build ‘Statue of Unity’, 3.2 km downstream of the Sardar Sarovar Dam inside the Narmada River on an islet called Sadhu bet.

The website says: “A 13km. long water body (pond) will create an excellent tourist spot with available infrastructure on both the banks.

The Gujarat Government wants to forcibly take over agricultural land at low cost, it wants to ensure that workers are paid low wages, and it will do its best to ensure that industrialisation does not confront ‘stupid’ hurdles like workers rights and environment laws

The Statue of Unity is planned to be erected on the river bed downstream of the main dam in the Garudeshwar Weir pond. A permanent standing water pool in and around the Statue of Unity will be created by Garudeshwar Weir, which will enable boating activity around the statue.”

The estimated cost of the project is more than Rs. 2,500/- corers (Rs 2063 crores is the cost of “DESIGN, ENGINEERING, PROCUREMENT CONSTRUCTION, OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE OF THE STATUE OF UNITY D/S of Sardar Sarovar Dam, Village Kevadia Ta. Nandod, District of Narmada Gujarat State, India” as per tender notice, see: http://www.statueofunity.in/tendernotice.html). The Government of Gujarat website (http://www.statueofunity.in/) clearly states that “A monument, that will not just be a mute memorial like the rest, but a fully functional, purpose-serving tribute that will boost tourism and facilitate development in the surrounding tribal areas”.

The key issues that beg immediate scrutiny are (1) The project clearly needs environment clearance under the EIA notification of September 2006, but has not applied for or obtained the clearance at any stage. (2) The Shoolpaneshwar Sanctuary boundary is touching the Sardar Sarovar Reservoir (as a part of the Environmental Protection measures of the Sardar Sarovar Project, the earlier Dhumkal Sloth Bear Sanctuary was extended to meet the reservoir boundaries and is called Shoolpaneshwar Sanctuary.) Since the statute is only 3.2 kms from the Sardar Sarovar Dam, it is certainly near the Shoolpaneshwar Sanctuary. (3) The Project involves construction on the river bed and the proposed reservoir will be close to the sanctuary in an eco-sensitive zone, and hence will have serious impacts on the ecology and environment. Hence, EIA and EC are crucial. (4) The project will affect the downstream river, its biodiversity, people and livelihoods and other related aspects. (5) A comprehensive assessment of the environmental and social impacts of the ‘Statue of Unity’ and its contribution to the cumulative impact of all the projects and activities in the area has not been done. (6) The project also needs public consultation, but none has happened so far. (7) During the construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam due to hard rock digging, the seismic area already carries the burden of artificial activity in the bed rock and added load in what is deemed geologically a fault line area. Public reports on geotechnical and geological studies on the proposed site have raised issues of structural stability as well as safety. This cannot be taken casually by authorities. The seismic hazard analysis claimed to have been done by the Gujarat Government’s in-house “Institute of Seismological Research” (http://www.statueofunity.in/execution.html#sthash.jEBrofSN.dpuf) or the Geological and Geotechnical investigation commissioned to another government institute WAPCOS cannot be considered credible unless peer reviewed and put in the public domain.

In view of the above facts on record, we demanded that (1) Direct the Government of Gujarat to submit application for environment clearance and till that is obtained, not to do any work related to the project. (2) Direct the Government of Gujarat to immediately stop planned project called ‘Statue of Unity’ and direct them to stop all other activities related to the ‘Statue of Unity’. (3) Declare the action – of the foundation stone installation on 31st October 2013 for the project called ‘Statue of Unity’ – of the Chief Minister of Gujarat State as illegal, in violation of the EIA notification of September 2006 and the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

Till date, we have received no response from the concerned authorities. A reminder was also sent to the concerned authorities. The silence on their part is a criminal act of tacit compliance to all safety and environmental violations perpetrated by the executors of the ‘Statue of Unity Project’, and we assume the concerned authorities acceptance of these violations; hence they too would stand to face the legal consequences. While they have not categorically responded to any of the issues raised, instead you directed the Principal Secretary of Departments of Forest and Environment as well as the Additional Principal Secretary of Narmada, Water Resources, Water Supply and Kalpsar Department of Government of Gujarat to reply to our queries. We have not received any response from these departments, either.

Having laid the foundation stone for this ambitious project which will cost the taxpayers more than 2,500 crores, it is expected from you that you remain abreast of all the details of this project and be responsible for putting them in public domain. You and your office have failed to clarify in response to our letter, or on any public forum, on this critical issue of environmental and safety concerns.

This leads us to assume either the CMO’s complicity and tacit assent to violations of public safety and environmental norms for the Statue of Unity Project, or your official refusal to share key aspects of project and put them in the public domain. Why are you and your office silent on this crucial issue?

(15) Centre and State Government is collectively undemocratically pushing proposed 6000 MW Mithi Virdi Nuclear Power Plant. This is the area where the Manmohan – Modi governments have planned in tandem, to set up a 6000 MW nuclear power plant spread over 777 hectares of prime agricultural land, against which the local villagers have led a consistent, vocal protest.

Orchards of mangoes, chikoos, coconut trees, lush greenery, sea and ships passing by, describe aptly the Mithi Virdi – Jaspara area in the Talaja block of Bhavnagar district. This lush green area is the irrigated region of Shetrunji dam. In a time when `Special Investment Region’ has become the most lobbied term in the state of Gujarat, this region too should be announced as SAR (Special Agriculture Region) for agricultural purposes. Situated on the Saurashtra sea coast, one might assume that the land is barren and uninhabited, but a visit here belies all these assumptions. It is perhaps from this mistaken presumption that the proposal for a 6000 MW nuclear power plant spread over 777 hectares on this green lush land must have taken place.

Presently on this 777 hectare of land spread in Jaspara, Mithi Virdi, Khadarpar, Mandva stand 50,000 fruit trees. Also, bajra, cotton, groundnut, onions and other crops are sown round the year because of the irrigation facilities. This area is therefore aptly called Bhavnagar’s Food Basket. This is the reason why local villagers who stand to lose not only their land and livelihood but will also be exposed to a potential environmental risk if the nuclear power plant were to come up as the government proposes, are protesting and are resolute in their desire to keep the neighbourhood nuclear power free.

On June 11th, 2013, while giving the so-called CRZ clearance/ recommendation for CRZ clearance to the NPP, the Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA) stated that “The Authority deliberated the proposal of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited and after detailed discussion, the Authority decided to recommend to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India to grant CRZ clearance for construction of intake, outfall facilities, jetty and Desalination plant at Village: Mithi Virdi, Dist: Bhavnagar by M/S Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited, only after submission of the following details to this Department : 1. Detailed note regarding the safety aspects and site selection criteria along with its advantage for this site and submit to this Department. 2. A site visit should be carried out by GCZMA Member.”

This clearly means that the Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authorities is not serious about the CRZ clearance. Kindly explain such a dubious illegal action of Gujarat State.

NPCIL needs 81 hectares of forest land in addition to the other land for the nuclear power plant. To facilitate this the Taluka Development Officer (TDO) of Gujarat State sent a letter dated July 15, 2013 to the Sarpanch of Jaspara directing him to pass a resolution on the lines of the copy that he had sent, so as to have the village body’s stamp of approval for the state government transfer of forest land to the NPCIL. In this letter the TDO, instead of seeking the opinion of Gramsabha as per the law for the land transfer, illegally and unconstitutionally orders the Sarpanch to pass the readymade resolution. The Gramsabha of Jaspara unanimously condemned and rejected such an unconstitutional letter of the TDO. The Gramsabha unanimously resolved not to hand over the forest land for non-forest use to be handed over the NPCIL.

Is this the new way of getting the consent from the villagers by Mr. Modi’s Gujarat State?

(16) The Gujarat Government wants to forcibly take over agricultural land at low cost, it wants to ensure that workers are paid low wages, and it will do its best to ensure that industrialisation does not confront ‘stupid’ hurdles like workers rights and environment laws. It is evident from what the then Finance Minister of Gujarat, Mr. Vajubhai Vala, said while addressing a day-long pre-Vibrant Gujarat Summit seminar at Ahmedabad Management Association on ‘Industry Responsive Skill Development: The Emerging Trends in Gujarat’ on January 11, 2011: “A farmer engaged in agriculture on a five acre plot will earn enough only for his family. But if an industry is set up on that land, it will provide sustenance to families of 25-30 thousand workers.” He asked local industrialists not to spoil workers by giving them more than what is rightfully due to them. Thus, it is evident that for the Government of Gujarat, ordinary people do not matter at all. Kindly clarify your position on the viewpoint of your then Finance Minister of Gujarat.

There is little to debate regarding the factual basis underlying our concerns. I have also made our perspective clear: the environment and the well-being of people in general should be treated with more respect than industrial/profit-making interests. By writing this letter, I am soliciting your stance on these issues in writing. In the interest of democracy and transparency, I feel that you will clarify your position and you will not keep silent on these issues.

Laboratory of Fascism: Capital, Labour and Environment in Modi’s Gujarat

Gujarat pollution

By Rohit Prajapati and Trupti Shah

We are caught in a false debate in which the reality is presented in an erroneous perception. Narendra Modi, the perpetrator of 2002 carnage is counter posed with Mr. Modi the “development leader”. We call it a false debate, since for us, who have lived and grown in Gujarat over the past five decades the two aspects are actually the same – that of fascist. And we use the label of fascist for Modi with utmost seriousness and with full awareness of what the term involves. Of course, we have a different situation in India today, compared to Italy or Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. Then, bourgeois parliamentary democracy was not too deep-rooted in those countries. By contrast, despite the efforts of Maoists on the extreme left and fascists on the extreme right, parliamentary democracy has struck considerably greater roots. This has had implications for the far left as well as the far right. Our concern today is the far right.

Since the Sangh Parivar has been consigned by fate to operate within ‘bourgeois democracy’ for a far longer time than it had originally envisaged (in 1947-48 it had clearly planned for a fairly swift grab for power, creating a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ analogous to Jinnah’s plan for a ‘Islamic State’), it has been compelled to split its operations. The BJP, as the electoral arm, has to look “moderate”. Of course, it is “moderate” only if one argues that a hyena is moderate compared to a wolf-pack. One should remember that the Mr. L. K. Advani, hailed these days as a “Statesman”, was seen as aggressive as against the “moderate” Mr. Vajpayee back in 1989-1992.

So the issue is not as if there is a “fascist tendency” in the Sangh Parivar, but also a “developmental discourse”. The issue is, how is the fascism of the Sangh Parivar going to be utilised for capital? This is where the ‘Modi model’ is crucial. It is Gujarat, a rapidly industrialising province that is showing, in a small way, what the Sangh Parivar is willing to do for capital.

The success story of the two-digit growth has masked the several digit realities of loss of livelihood, land acquisition, displacement and permanent loss of natural resources, which are treated as free goods in this process. The investment figure, without the figures for displacement and depletion of natural resources and the employment figure without loss of livelihood does not make sense. No wise person would talk about the income without talking the cost of acquiring that income or wealth.

It is a shocking fact that we have never tried to arrive at even a realistic estimate of these figures but the magnitude of the loss can be guessed from some of the facts emerging from various important research works. This is just a tip of iceberg.

What the Government data shows:

In order to forestall charges that we are using tendentious data, we propose to build our case by using, in the main, data released by government sources, or data not repudiated by the regime.

The Gujarat Government claims that it has generated vast numbers of jobs. This is the first thing we wanted to investigate. Activists of the Gujarat based Jyoti Karmachari Mandal, an independent militant trade union, Amrish Brahmbhatt and Rohit Prajapati, in collaboration with the Documentation and Study Centre for Action chose a close scrutiny of Government of Gujarat’s latest “Employment Effort”, the “Swami Vivekanand Youth Employment Week” in February/March 2012 as an instance. In response to our RTI application, the Gujarat Government told us that spread over months, 489 melas were organised, and 65,000 youth were given employment through the ‘Rojgar Melas’.

In April 2012, we filed a detailed RTI application to the Chief Minister’s Office of Gujarat (CMO) and Principal Secretary, Labour and Employment department, Gujarat seeking details on 18 counts.

Instead of getting collated data from the CMO or the Principal Secretary, Gujarat Labour and Employment Department, which would have given a state-wide comprehensive picture, we started getting fragmented replies from each of the ‘District Employment and Training Department’ across the state.

The Employment and Training Departments in the districts were not in sync with each other, as some provided statistics in their replies of the district employment or data to some of the queries, while some did not, without giving any satisfactory reason.

Instead of 65,000 beneficiaries, the number of jobs provided based on information given by the authorities in 23 districts, totals only to 51,587. Out of that 11,172 are apprentices (30.4%). i.e. the actual figure is 40,415 and not even 51,587. But, the names of only 32,372 were provided to us.

We had sought specific information on what post, what pay and which industry and if each of them provided ‘employment’ in this “Rozgar Mela” would be entitled to benefits under labour and other statutory laws.

Again, we received no categorical reply about entitlement of benefits, saying the information would be best available with the concern employers. While some gave details about post employed, the employer’s name, none gave details about the pay and other legal benefits they will get.

Collating all the information, we got some important facts. Nobody had been given an ‘Appointment Letter’. What they got was a piece of paper called ‘Employment letter’, which is bad in law. Secondly, the total amount spent for these melas came to Rs 1, 87, 70,000 according to the Department of Employment and Training. This excluded the money spent on the participation of the ministers – including the Chief Minister – in these melas. The Department of Employment and Training categorically told us that it had not spent money for their participation. This money therefore came from other sources.

Thus, we get a picture that some 32,000 to 40,000 (at best) got some sort of unspecified jobs, while another 11,000 odd got apprenticeships. In Ahmedabad, 4,370 were recruited but all as apprentices. The Apprentice Act, 1961 under which the employers of certain factories have to recruit certain number of apprentice in their factories clearly states that they are not employees of the factories and therefore they are provided with no legal benefits but only stipend of Rs.1,490 for the 1st year, 1,700 for the 2nd year, and 1,970 for the 3rd year. In the other cases, where people did get actual jobs, those were mostly temporary in nature.

Thus, the ‘employment’ given ranged from apprenticeship to private sector employment for temporary jobs, with very few being skilled workers. The state was using its finances and officers to procure low paid workers for private capital, for example the GIDCs.

We leave out the fraudulent information given by the state, not because we forgive the fraud, but because that is not central to our present arguments. It is however important to note that many names have been put more than once to pump up the figures, and also that people who got jobs on their own and were already in job have found their names listed as beneficiaries of Mr. Modi. What is vital, however, is that most of the workers we could actually contact and interview stated they have low wages, high working hours (in some cases even 12 hours per day). Most of them do not get any other legal benefits like Provident Fund or leave except weekly leave.

In Anand district, 2,464 candidates were provided jobs by the Employment and Training Department. The list of Anand District shows that 621 (25.21%) graduate/post graduate/MA-B.Ed/PGDCA were given job as School Coordinator. They were promised the salary of Rs 4,500-5,000/month but they received only Rs. 3,100-3,500/month. This is less than the statutory minimum wage! With some of them, an 11 years contract was signed but they were relieved after 10-11 months.

The central picture that emerges from the foregoing is, the rhetoric of Mr. Modi is belied by the reality that his government is driving down state expenses and also the expenses on wages by private employers, using force and fraud.

Environment and Industry in Gujarat:

The Gujarat Government has charted out its roadmap clearly. It wants to take over peasants’ land at low cost, it wants to ensure that workers are paid low wages, and it will do its best to ensure that industrialisation does not confront ‘stupid’ hurdles like labour rights and environment protection. The then Finance Minister of Gujarat Mr. Vajubhai Vala while addressing a day-long pre-Vibrant Gujarat Summit seminar at Ahmedabad Management Association on ‘Industry Responsive Skill Development: The Emerging Trends in Gujarat’ on January 11, 2011 said that “A farmer engaged in agriculture on a five acre plot will earn enough only for his family. But if an industry is set up on that land, it will provide sustenance to families of 25-30 thousand workers.” He asked local industrialists not to spoil workers by giving them more than what is rightfully due to them.

Thus, it is evident that for the Gujarat government, toiling people of any kind do not matter.

Modi’s hymn singers, and today they are increasing, as so many among the privileged think they should take the “right” side before it is too late for them to get a fair share of the gravy. They will therefore contest our claims, accusing us of at least overstating our case. We will therefore make the case in further details.

GDPise Chemical State – Gujarat State does not have Comprehensive Chemical Emergency Plan:

Gujarat is the only state where all registered chemical factories have been identified and categorized in various hazard classes, by the Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health considering their hazard potential. Major Accident Hazard (MAH) factories are identified as per standard norms of related laws. Gujarat state has the highest total 497 MAH Class factories which amounts 30 % of MAH factories in India. At present, 3204 ‘B’ +’C’ class hazardous chemical factories are identified in the state. Gujarat is having a total 30,310 factories registered under the Factories Act (employing directly 940567 Workers) out of which total 4,559 (15%) are hazardous chemical factories.

Over a period of time, Gujarat has also succeeded in widening its industrial base. At the time of inception in 1960, the industrial development was confined only to four major cities viz. Ahmedabad, Baroda, Surat and Rajkot and some isolated locations such as Mithapur and Valsad. Today, almost all the districts of the state have witnessed industrial development in varying degrees. Such a massive scale of industrial development has been possible on account of haphazard and severe exploitation of natural resources. The discovery of oil and gas in Gujarat in the decade of 1960s has played an important role in setting up of petroleum refineries, fertilizer plants and petrochemical complexes. During the same period, the state government has also established a strong institutional network. Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC), established industrial estates providing developed plots and ready built-up sheds to industries all across the state. Institutions were also set up to provide term finance, assistance for purchase of raw materials, plant and equipment and marketing of products. Later, District Industries Centers (DICs) were set up in all the districts to provide assistance in setting up industrial units in the form of support services. The state also developed infrastructure facilities required for industries, such as power, roads, ports, water supply and technical education institutions. The Government also introduced incentive schemes, from time to time, to promote industries. All these initiatives have made Gujarat emerge as the highly industrialized state in the country today.

Gujarat contributes more than 62% of national petrochemicals and 51% of national Chemical sector output. It leads all states in India in terms of the investments committed in the chemical and petrochemical sector. 30% of fixed capital investment is in the manufacturing of Chemical and Chemical Products. Manufacturing of chemicals and chemical products contribute to around one fifth of the total employment in state. The production capacity of major suppliers of polymers, PE/PP/PVC in Gujarat is nearly 70% of the whole country’s production. The province also has large quantity of production of basic chemicals like caustic soda, caustic potash and chloromethane. It is the largest supplier of bio-fertilizers, seeds, urea and other fertilizers.

But the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA), it seems, doesn’t think that chemical industries have potential to cause chemical disasters in the state. Despite the Bhopal gas tragedy that took place 28 years ago, which killed at least ten thousand persons and resulted in about 500,000 more people suffering agonizing injuries with disastrous effects of the massive poisoning, the Gujarat government doesn’t seem to have learnt anything. Replying to one of our Right to Information Application (RTI) about Chemical Emergency Plan of the Gujarat state the GSDMA stated in their replies that “A Chemical Emergency Plan is currently under consideration at the Disaster Management Authority.”[11] GSDMA further stated in their replies “In reference to your above mentioned letter where information like numbers and names of the chemical industries, chemical used, final product, pollutant generated and its impact, also information about engineered landfill site – treatment storage and disposal facility, effluent treatment plants, common effluent treatment plants, etc. have been sought by you, we would like to inform you that the requested information is not available with this office.”

The ‘Honourable’ Chief Minister is the chairman of the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority and the same authority has to implement ‘The Gujarat State Disaster Management Act, 2003. The Act clearly under clause 2(h) states that “disaster” means an actual or imminent event, whether natural or otherwise occurring in any part of the State which causes, or threatens to cause all or any of the following: (i) widespread loss or damage to property, both immovable and movable; or (ii) widespread loss of human life or injury or illness to human beings; or (iii) damage or degradation of environment;’ but the web site of Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority states ‘The GSDMA has been constituted by the Government of Gujarat by the GAD’s Resolution dated 8th February 2001. The Authority has been created as a permanent arrangement to handle the natural calamities.’. What about environmental disasters? There is no ‘Comprehensive Chemical Emergency Plan’ with the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority. The Director, Health & Safety Department has an ‘Off Site Emergency Plan;’ but when we demanded a copy of it, we were told that it is secret.[15] A chemical emergency plan is not among the priorities in Gujarat, a state with one of the country’s highest concentration of chemical industries.

The Cases of Critically Polluted Area – Vapi and Ankleshwar:

This is another first for Gujarat, though this finds no mention in Gujarat chief minster’s speeches.

In 2009, the Ankleshwar’s industrial area, with 88.50 CEPI, topped the list of ‘critically polluted areas’ of India.

In 2011 and 2013, Vapi industrial area, with CEPI of 85.31, topped this list.

Thus Gujarat is able to top in 2009 in ‘critically polluted areas’ in India and continues to maintain its position in 2011 & 2013.

The Gujarat Chief Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi who is the BJP’s PM-designate does not comment or engages ever on this issue. We, the concerned citizens challenge him for an open discussion on this issue.

Mr. Narendra Modi in his book ‘Convenient Action: Gujarat’s Response to Challenges of Climate Change’ published in 2011, on p. 132-133, has printed a photograph of Vapi’s Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) which even today does not operate as per the prescribed norms of Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB). When the CETP of Vapi industrial area is not able to meet the prescribed GPCB norms, what message does the CM want to convey to the country and the world by printing a two page photograph of this treatment plant? On this issue we have posed several questions to him in our review of his book but he has been unable to answer a single question.

The constant advocacy by the pollution affected people and people’s organisations and NGOs regarding the increasing pollution levels in the industrial areas of India forced the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) in 1989 to initiate the process of indexing the critically polluted areas. At that time 24 industrial areas including Vapi, Ankleshwar, Ludhiana etc. were declared ‘critically polluted’.

Thereafter, in several meetings of CPCB and SPCBs serious debates on the pollution status of these areas were undertaken. Even after formulation of ‘action plans’ for the said industrial area no substantial or qualitative change was observed in these industrial areas. For this reason, in 2009 the CPCB and IIT-Delhi, in consistence with the demands of the people’s organisation’s working on environmental issues decided to use a new method of ‘indexing the pollution levels’ of these areas, which is now known as the ‘Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index’ (CEPI). The CEPI includes air, water, land pollution and health risks to the people living in the area. However, our demand has been to include the health of the workers, productivity of land and quality of food / agriculture produce in the index since the presence of high levels of chemicals and heavy metals in food produce has severe health implications. This is affecting not only people living around the industrial area but anyone consuming it – hence not restricting the impact to the particular industrial area.

As per the agreed upon measures, industrial areas with a CEPI of 70 and above are considered ‘critically polluted’ areas while those with a CEPI between 60-70 are considered ‘severely polluted’ areas. In our opinion, those industrial areas with CEPI between 40-60 ought to be labelled as ‘polluted areas’.

In December 2009 the CEPI of 88 polluted industrial estates was measured; it was then that the CPCB and the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) of Government of India were forced to declare 43 of those as ‘critically polluted areas’ and another 32 industrial areas as ‘severely polluted’ areas. Following this study the MoEF on 13 January 2010 was also forced to issue a moratorium (prohibition on opening new industries and/or increasing the production capacity of the existing industries) on the 43 critically polluted areas. At that time, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) and other environment protection groups had asked for a moratorium on all the 75 (43+32) polluting areas, but it was not done under pressure from the powerful industrial lobby and state governments. The mucky politics and economics of ‘GDP growth’ prevailed over the cause of ‘life and livelihood’ of ordinary people and ‘environment & conservation.

As such the process of declaring moratorium was started from Ankleshwar in Gujarat in 2007. The industries located in Ankleshwar, Panoli and Jhagadia GIDC estates treat their effluent in their Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) and then, after giving further treatment ‘at the Final Effluent Treatment Plant (FETP) at Ankleshwar discharge the effluent into the sea. The FETP, from its inception, did not work as per the prescribed norms set by the GPCB. Even today it is not able to meet the prescribed norm. For this reason, on July 7, 2007, GPCB, on the directions of the CPCB, imposed a moratorium on the industrial areas of Ankleshwar, Panoli and Jhagadia. The moratorium is in force even today, since there has been no substantial improvement in the pollution levels even after the implementation of the so-called ‘action plans’ prepared by these estates. The same plant’s disposal pipe line’s project was inaugurated by Narendra Modi on January 25, 2007. By inaugurating this plant, he was sending out the message to the investors to not to worry much about the compliance/s of environment laws in the state. Despite this moratorium being in force officially, the active connivance of the industrial lobby with the collusion of politicians along with the official machinery in Gujarat has surreptitiously lifted the moratorium from some area at different times.

Despite the “Polluter Pays” principle, common effluent treatment plants (CETPs) were highly supported by public money; 25% of the cost was state subsidy, 25% central subsidy, 30% loans from financial institute, and only 20% was directly paid by industries. In essence, half of the ’supposed’ solution to the pollution generated for private profit, was funded by the general public. As if this subsidy was not enough, the subsidy for the CETP has been increased from 25% to 50% by the Central Government.

The pipe line project of Final Effluent Treatment Plant of Ankleshwar was built with the sweat of tax payers. Out of a total project cost of Rs. 131.43 crores, the industries paid only Rs. 21.75 crores (about 17%); the rest of the tab (Rs. 109 crores) was borne by the Central Government, the Gujarat Government, and the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) – all of which ultimately draw from public money. It is a familiar story: the profits are distributed privately, but the institutional costs and environmental burden are borne by general public. Can we find a better example of the privatisation of profits and the socialisation of the costs, burdens and hazards?

With no improvement in the levels of pollution being shown by the CEPI of the CPCB, the MoEF again, through its order of September 17, 2013 re-imposed a moratorium for some industrial areas.[18] However, surprisingly the same order also lifted the moratorium from some polluted areas in the name of ‘promises, presumption and assumption’ of improvement.[19] However, in our opinion the moratorium ought not to be lifted until these units bring down their CEPI to below 60.

In Gujarat, the GPCB has served repeated closure notices to several industries, which have been openly flouting environmental norms. However, the CPCB report of April 2013 has revealed no significant change in these industrial areas. Strict action needs to be taken against such industries and their ‘treatment facilities’. The CPCB report of 2009 covered 88 industrial estates, but the reports of 2011 and 2013 covered only 43 ‘critically-polluted areas’. In our opinion, the CEPI of all 88 areas should be conducted by the MoEF, CPCB and SPCBs. Other areas should also be included if the residents so wish.

Struggle against proposed 6000 MW Mithi Virdi Nuclear Power Plant:

At Mithi Virdi, in the Bhavnagar district of Gujarat, the Central Government, with full cooperation of the state government, is seeking to build a 6000 MW Nuclear Power Plant. Thousands of villagers are up in arms, protesting this with the slogan ‘Not here, not anywhere; not in any country in the world’¬. The Government of Modi is perfectly aware, that Mr. Manmohan Singh is trying to dilute the Nuclear Liability Act even further, so that private profits are safeguarded even as Fukushima exemplified all over again how risky N-plants are.

Indeed, Mr. Modi is not merely silent. The agencies of the Gujarat government, in this matter, are working hand in glove with the centre. As The Hindu reported in August, CRZ clearance has been given in a remarkably slipshod way. During and before the Environmental Public Hearing (EPH) for the proposed Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), villagers, local Panchayats and organisations like Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti have brought to the notice of the authorities that Engineer India Limited (EIL), the consultant of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) does not have necessary accreditations to prepare an Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIA) for a NPP. However, in an instance of utter disregard and disrespect to the Environmental Law and the Constitution of India, NPCIL and EIL went ahead with the EIA study and the collector tried to go ahead with the illegal Public Hearing in March 2013.

On March 5, 2013, on the day of Public Hearing more than 6500 villagers, local Panchayats and Voluntary Organisation raised certain basic legal issues and sought clarification from the Chairman of the Public hearing, the then collector of Bhavnagar Mr. V. P. Patel. He had no answers to the important questions raised by them but instead tried to go ahead with the illegal hearing. The villagers were left with no choice but to walkout from the illegal, unconstitutional public hearing.

The EPH was held in a coercive and terror-filled atmosphere, in order to prevent the villagers from making free and fair representation. Not only a heavy posse of police force but also private security guards were hired at the EPH site, frisking and checking every entrant, and at places questioning villagers and participants about their antecedents. Unnecessary barricades and iron wire fencing separated the collector’s dais and the participants area, a first ever arrangement during the EPH in recent times in Gujarat. While the barricades and iron wire-fencing might have been put for “the safety and security” of the collector and officials, they created an atmosphere of coercive tactics that invoked state control and fear over the proceedings of grave public concern.

The collector allowed songs and recordings in favour of the NPCIL and benefits of nuclear power plant to be broadcast from the public address system arranged by the collectorate. These recordings continued to be played till the EPH proceedings began formally. This was a clear violation of the neutral approach that the collector should have taken on the issue and instead made clear his predisposition on behalf of the NPCIL. On the contrary, the villagers were not only prevented from making free and fair representation; their representations on procedural issues were also ignored during the EPH.

There were at least thirty odd people sitting on dais on both the sides of district collector during the EPH, whose presence and background went unaccounted with no one introduced or briefed about who they were and in what capacity they sat there. The villagers and their elected representatives on the other hand got no such chance and instead were frequently frisked and subjected to irritating queries.

The NPCIL and EIL has since then continued to resort to the illegal practices by keeping silence on the issues raised by the villagers. This is evident from its application and presentations for Costal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance to the authorities in Gujarat without submitting adequate documents and information.

Members of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Krishnakant, Swati Desai, and Rohit Prajapati, environmental activists in Gujarat, wrote letters to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), alleging that the Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) clearance by the State Government was without any site visits and documentation of ground realities.

On June 11, 2013, while giving the so-called CRZ clearance/ recommendation for CRZ clearance to the NPP, the Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA) stated that “The Authority deliberated the proposal of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited and after detailed discussion, the Authority decided to recommend to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India to grant CRZ clearance for construction of intake, outfall facilities, jetty and Desalination plant at Village: Mithi Virdi, Dist: Bhavnagar by M/S Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited, only after submission of the following details to this Department : 1. Detailed note regarding the safety aspects and site selection criteria along with its advantage for this site and submit to this Department. 2. A site visit should be carried out by GCZMA Member.”

This clearly means that the Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authorities is not serious about the CRZ clearance because they have casually given this clearance/recommendation for CRZ clearance without asking for and reading the note on safety aspects, site clearance report and without undertaking the site visit. GCZMA has also not taken in account the basics, for instance eventualities like population increase in the immediate vicinity of the proposed plant. What the CRZ clearance does, therefore, is to endorse the illegal and unconstitutional act of NPCIL and EIL. Activists earlier alleged that the EIL had no accreditation to conduct an environment impact assessment for a nuclear power plant. It appeared as if the GCZMA is a victim of the non-transparent and secretive approach of NPCIL, which has not attached the report dated June 28, 2007, of Site Selection Committee even in the Environment Impact Assessment document and also to the GCZMA.

NPCIL needs 81 hectares of forest land in addition to the other land for the nuclear power plant. To facilitate this the Taluka Development Officer (TDO) of Gujarat State sent a letter dated July 15, 2013 to Sarpanch of Jaspara directing him to pass a resolution on the lines of the copy that he had sent, so as to have the village body’s stamp of approval for the state government transfer of forest land to the NPCIL. In this letter the TDO instead of seeking the opinion of Gramsabha as per the law for the land transfer, illegally and unconstitutionally orders the Sarpanch to pass the readymade resolution. The Gramsabha of Jaspara unanimously condemned and rejected such an unconstitutional letter of TDO. The Gramsabha unanimously resolved not to hand over the forest land for non-forest use to be handed over the NPCIL.

This is the new way of getting the consent from the villagers by Mr. Modi’s Gujarat State.

Kevadia near Sardar Sarovar Dam: Old and new struggles

Another hot spot Mr. Modi faces is near Sardar Sarovar Dam.

The work for the Garudeshwar weir, proposed about 12 km downstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam, began without necessary environmental clearance from the Environmental Sub Group (ESG) of Narmada Control Authority’s (NCA). It is very clear if one looks closely at the letter dated March 24, 2013 written by a senior member Mr. Shekhar Singh of the ESG of NCA to its chairperson Mr. Dr V. Rajagopalan, the secretary of Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India.

He expressed surprise over Gujarat Government’s decision to start work for the construction of the Garudeshwar weir without obtaining necessary environment clearances.

He states in his letter that “Garudeshwar weir, to be built 12 km downstream of the SSP dam with a live storage capacity of 32.9 Million Cubic Meters is a component of the Sardar Sarovar Project, as was envisaged by the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award of 1979. However, as far as I recollect, the environmental and social impacts of construction and operation of Garudeshwar weir (GW) have never been brought before the ESG of NCA.”

He further states in his letter “In my estimation, the construction and operation of the GW will have significant social and environmental impacts, since it will entail a reservoir of about 12 km in length and unknown width and submergence area. The weir will have the potential of affecting the fisheries in the immediately surrounding areas and also of affecting the downstream river and its biodiversity, and other related aspects. This is especially because the weir will control the flow of water and silt downstream. However, I do not know whether there has been a comprehensive assessment of the environmental and social impacts of the GW and its contribution to the cumulative impact of all the projects and activities in the area. And if there has been, I do not believe that this has been put up to the ESG for its approval.”

At the end of the letter, he clearly demands, “If this is correct, I find this problematic as ESG has not yet cleared the construction of this weir. Under the circumstance, I urge you to: (1) Ask the Government of Gujarat (GoG) to immediately stop construction of the GW. All other activities related to the GW should also be stopped. (2) Ask GOG/ SSNNL to submit the full feasibility report, environment and social impact assessment report including impacts during construction and operation of the GW to the ESG and seek clearance of the ESG for this work. (3) Ask GOG not to start any work in this regard till the ESG clears this.”

In a clear example of how area development authorities, notified by the Gujarat Government, behave vis-à-vis local villagers, a letter written by the Chief Executive Officer, Kevadia Area Development Authority (KADA) has threatened the Sarpanches of 52 villages adjoining the Sardar Sarovar Dam that they better agree to hand over their villages for tourism purpose or else they would face consequences. The four-line letter dated March 6, 2013 sent to the village Sarpanches under the heading “Regarding the decision to include your villages under KADA”, threateningly states “the government has decided on development oriented work in these villages, even then you have not passed resolutions on your letter-heads agreeing to be included under KADA.” Calling the behaviour of the 52 village Panchayat “improper”, the KADA letter says, “You are requested to send your approval for the use of your villages for developmental purpose within seven days. In case you fail to do it, then – keeping that in view – we will be forced to take further steps against you.” Significantly, KADA comes directly under the Gujarat Urban Development Department and has been given the task of “developing” the area around the Sardar Sarovar Dam into a tourism spot, complete with all types of entertainment facilities, hotels and sports.

KADA Chief Executive Officer Mr. D. B. Rahewar said that his office has so far only asked consent from 54 villages to get consent of the village Panchayats for town development purpose, and the process was still at initial stage. “We have added 54 more villages under our scheme and have sought consent from the Panchayat but are yet to get their consent. We intend to develop the area under town planning scheme. The systemic development of the basic infrastructure in the region will be meant for mass service,” he said.

The six villages, which were the first to hand over the land way back in 1961-63 to build the Staff Colony, Government Offices and Guest House to build the Sardar Sarovar Dam, have even decades later not been considered “equal” to other project affected persons (PAPs), thus remaining deprived of all the facilities which other PAPs of Sardar Sarovar Dam of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have received. In fact, they cannot even access to Sardar Sarovar Dam water for irrigation. Worse, the view is gaining ground among them that water is only for urban and industrial use.

The view is also gaining strong among the villagers that all this is being done at a time when the Gujarat Government has decided to build the highest statue of the world in the memory of Shri Sardar Patel by spending Rs 2,500 crores near Sardar Sarovar Dam, around which KADA’s tourism will be developed. Already, 16 villages have been brought under KADA, while the plan is to take the number to 70.

On October 2, 2013 a huge contingent of police force was mobilised by the Gujarat state police department to create an atmosphere of terror and threat among the villagers to prevent them from reaching the place of the meeting where they were to discuss and raise their grievances against KADA (Kevadia Area Development Authority) near the Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat. Government authorities photographed as well as video recorded the villagers who made their way to the meeting venue as a means of intimidation.

This happened a day after October 1, 2013, when the Collector, district Narmada and KADA authorities organised an urgent meeting with Sarpanches, Panchayat members and the Talati of 70 villages where they spelled out in not many words to dissuade the locals not to join the October 2 meeting. In spite of these “efforts” by the state and KADA authority, over 1500 people from the villages attended the meeting and resolved to fight back this inhuman and unconstitutional action. Protesting tribals shouted, “jaan denge, jameen nahi (we will give our life, but not our land)”, “jameen rotlo aape chhe (we get food from our land)”, “amaro gaam, amaro raaj (our village, our rule),” “vikas joiye chhe na ki vinas (we need development and not destruction)”, among others, to register their protest against the move of the KADA to acquire land.

The Chairman, Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd, the Chairman & CEO, KADA and Collector, district Narmada were invited for the meeting to put forward the information, facts and figures before the villagers on October 2. Much to everyone’s regret, they all chose to remain absent from the meeting.

At the end of the meeting, the villagers and concerned citizens took a pledge with Narmada water in their hand.

In other words, in the Modi development model, if you are workers, dalits, adivasis, and of course Muslims, then you may expect extremes of oppression and suffering. Tie this in with the export of the Gujarat model to the rest of the country, starting with the experiments in Uttar Pradesh (Muzzaffarnagar). The BJP sent a tested criminal, Mr. Amit Shah into UP to apply the lessons of Gujarat to the country’s biggest state, since Mr. Modi has decided that whoever wins UP wins India. In UP, Shah communalised the state or large parts of it, pitting the Jats against the Muslims. Incidents were concocted so that pogroms could be whipped up. This resulted in the mass violence. At least 48 people died, many more are still missing and huge numbers had to flee their homes. And meanwhile the thugs who fanned the flames of this cynically orchestrated violence and destroyed thousands of lives gather for a photo-op in the corridors of the UP state assembly. This is what projecting Modi as PM implies – capitalist development in the interest of the top layers of the country, mass exploitation of workers and other toilers, along with mobilisations based on extreme communal politics and the destruction of peoples’ organisations. This is precisely Indian fascism.

This article was originally published on Radical Socialist website