April 13, 2024

Moon Desk: Congress on Sunday said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statements at the G20 and other summits globally are “sheer hypocrisy” and his ‘Global Talk’ is completely at odds with the ‘Local Walk’.

In a statement, Congress general secretary and former Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh said: “The Prime Minister’s statements at the G20 and other summits globally are sheer hypocrisy. While destroying protections for India’s forests and biodiversity, and diluting the rights of Adivasis and forest-dwelling communities, he talks of environment, climate action and equity. The ‘Global Talk’ is completely at odds from the ‘Local Walk’.”

The statement said that the PM had used the G20 Summit to make “big, empty statements about the importance of environment”. It cited PM Modi’s remarks at the G20 Environment and Climate Sustainability Meet, and said that while Modi talks about climate action at global events, the BJP-led government at the Centre was “comprehensively dismantling India’s environmental protections and snatching away the rights of the most vulnerable communities dependent on forests”.

“The self-styled Vishwaguru has come a long way in hypocrisy. The Prime Minister has used the G20 Summit to make big, empty statements about the importance of the environment. At the G20 Environment and Climate Sustainability Meet, he said: ‘We have consistently been at the forefront in taking action on biodiversity conservation, protection, restoration, and enrichment. Protecting and caring for Mother Earth is our fundamental responsibility’,” Ramesh said.

He also said that the Biological Diversity (Amendment) Act, 2023, was a “massive dilution” of the original law’s provisions, and that it “enabled the Modi government to continue the reckless destruction of biodiversity across India”. Ramesh said that the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), formerly an independent body with the powers to act as a check and balance, has been completely put under the control of the Environment Ministry.

“Rather than having courts enforce fines, the new Act puts government officers in charge of penalties. Through various exemptions from benefit-sharing provisions, the law disadvantages those with traditional knowledge of biodiversity in favour of those who exploit it commercially.

“The Act enables the Modi government to continue the reckless destruction of biodiversity across India. Further, the claims of emphasizing equity are shown to be completely hollow by the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Act of 2023. This Act will be disastrous for the tribals and other forest-dwelling communities in India, as it undermines the Forest Rights Act of 2006. It does away with provisions for the consent of local communities and requirements for forest clearance in vast areas,” the Rajya Sabha MP said.

The former Union environment minister also said that the National Commission on Scheduled Tribes raised objections to this in 2022. Even tribal communities in the Northeast are particularly vulnerable, as this Act will strip protections from forests within 100km of the nation’s borders, he said.

The Congress leader said that despite being under NDA rule, Mizoram has passed a resolution in the Assembly opposing the Act and Nagaland is soon expected to do the same. He said that the new law removes protections for up to 25 per cent of India’s forest cover, in violation of the 1996 TN Godavarman Supreme Court judgment.  It is only paving the way for the Modi government to exploit forests and hand them over to a select few crony capitalist friends.

The Congress leader also alleged that the reason for these actions is obvious — the PM’s cronies have set their eyes on exploiting India’s rich and biodiverse forests. “They want to clear the Northeast’s rich biodiverse forests to set up palm oil plantations and deforest Central India’s hills and forests, including those considered sacred by Adivasi communities, to commence mining,” Ramesh added.


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