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The Char Dham road project: Narendra Modi’s Himalayan blunder

The 900km, all-weather road enhancing connectivity between four major Hindu pilgrimage sites is PM Modi’s pet project. It will not only displace hundreds of people, but create a massive rush of pilgrims, putting untold pressure on the delicate Himalayan ecology. Experts say it’s also ill-conceived, given its location on the ‘floodway’ of the Ganga basin.

Missing the forest for the trees? A perspective on the draft forest policy

Ramesh Venkataraman writes: A common theme running through the policy document is increasing tree and canopy cover in all areas with low tree cover at present. While prima facie this seems to be a laudable objective that is aligned with climate change mitigation goals, this raises a number of questions from ecological and sustainability perspectives.

Bookshelf: River of Life, River of Death: The Ganges and India’s Future

The Ganges and its tributaries are now subject to sewage pollution ‘half-a-million times over the recommended limit for bathing’ in places, not to mention unchecked runoff from heavy metals, fertilisers, carcinogens and the occasional corpse. ‘Where is this going?’ That’s the question at the heart of Victor Mallet’s book on the river, writes Laura Cole.

A blow from an axe: Ramachandra Guha on India’s new forest policy

Both social equity and environmental sustainability are critical to our republic’s future. The present government seems bent on reversing the modest gains of the past three decades by making the corporate sector, once more, the key beneficiary of State forest policies. This is the inescapable conclusion one reaches after reading the ‘Draft Forest Policy, 2018’.

Uttarakhand’s Kosi river is dying; only an immediate intervention will save it

From Catch News: Uttarakhand’s Kosi river is dying, which could spell doom for the region. Data from the last 25 years shows that the lean flow capacity of the river during summers has witnessed a massive, over 700%, drop, while the river’s total length has reduced from 225 kilometers to just 41 in 40 years.

The ‘Gujarat Development Model’ rests on the twin pillars of authoritarianism and divisive politics

Atul Sood writes: Why are we not talking about the facts on the ground amidst the cacophonic discourse of the success of the Gujarat model? The need to impose Section 144 every time the Vibrant Gujarat Submit is organized symbolizes one pillar of ‘managing’ support for the model. The cultural narrative is the other pillar.

Petition: Safeguard our minerals, our children’s inheritance, from theft

From Change.org: India’s National Mineral Policy is open till Feb 9, 2018 for public comments. Minerals are a shared inheritance. The present mining system in India is leading to enormous losses of our mineral wealth, with only a few cronies benefiting. This must stop. Hence we are sending the representation to the Ministry of Mines.

Yogendra Yadav: What is to be done?

“The idea of India faces an unprecedented challenge. Preventing irreversible damage to the Republic of India, as we have known it, is the most pressing political task of our times, our yugadharma.” So begins Yogendra Yadav’s penetrating analysis of India under the Narendra Modi regime. Essential reading on the 69th anniversary of the Republic’s founding.

Shriya Mohan: The Aadhaar of all things

From The Hindu: From a severely critical stand against Aadhaar in 2014, the Modi-led BJP in power has made a sharp U-turn to bulldoze its way into having every Indian scanned, tagged and labelled. As the Supreme Court begins hearing of petitions that challenge Aadhaar, a timeline of the country’s chequered date with the project.

Why should India risk an economic disaster to save the American Dream?

Shelley Kasli writes: Recent changes in India’s foreign direct investment policy allows 100 percent FDI (from current 49%) for single brand retail trading and construction, among others, paving the way for global players. In reality, India is being drawn into the spiral of debt economics to protect the American Dream from turning into a Nightmare.

Dr. Amory Lovins on India’s ‘sustainable energy future’

Amory Lovins, Chief Scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute, is one of the world’s leading energy experts and a key figure behind China’s ongoing transition to renewable energy. His appointment as a strategic advisor to NITI Aayog suggests that India’s top development policy agency maybe finally be rethinking the country’s present fossil fuel-based energy path.

Koodankulam: The world’s most expensive pieces of useless machinery

Nityanand Jayaraman writes in Dianuke.org: We do not need four more nuclear plants in Koodankulam. The need of the hour is to shut down the existing two risky units and to prosecute the ministers, technocrats and bureaucrats who led the nation up the garden path and wasted more than Rs. 35,000 crores of our money.

Tejal Kanitkar on the contradiction at the heart of India’s National Energy Policy

From Newsclick: Prof. Tejal Kanitkar, who heads the Centre for Climate Change and Sustainability Studies at TISS, says that while the government’s National Energy Policy claims it will provide 24×7 electricity to the entire nation by 2022, this lies in contradiction with the mode through which they plan ensure its distribution; that is, the market.

India’s political leadership failed the environment in 2017

From DNA: Under the leadership of PM Modi, governments pushed down the bar on environmental standards this year. At both Centre and state levels, there have been numerous reversals in environmental legislation. Today, there are 2357 applications with the Centre that were rejected approvals by state institutions or have nearly completed construction with no approvals.

The price of development: Gujarat’s dams are now drowning the state

Sneha Vakharia reports: Gujarat’s chronic floods, underreported and devastating, tell the story of Narendra Modi’s failure to deliver the state from water scarcity, and the onset of a new kind of problem, with crucial political implications. Since the state began its battle to control its water, increasingly and unforgivingly, the water has started fighting back.

Coal vs Renewables: An open letter to India’s chief economic advisor

With the national energy policy about to be finalised, a recent lecture by Dr. Arvind Subramanian, India’s chief economic advisor, revealed the government’s thinking on the question of coal vis-a-vis renewable energy. This rejoinder by an energy expert flags crucial issues and suggests alternatives that are vastly more healthier for the country and the planet.

Why the BJP lost rural Gujarat

From Rediff.com: In the recent elections, the Congress made stunning gains over rivals BJP in rural Gujarat, winning 62 of 109 seats. According to food policy analyst and activist Devinder Sharma, this is a direct result of Gujarat’s prolonged and acute agrarian crisis being ignored by the ruling party, the urban-centric media and pollsters alike.

Rs 50 lakh crore: India’s tax bonanza to corporations in the last decade

Devinder Sharma writes: In the 12-year period between 2004-05 and 2015-16, total tax concessions given by the Indian government to industry almost equals a whopping Rs 50-lakh crore. If these tax concessions were eliminated and the additional revenue generated was instead used effectively for social betterment programmes, India could have made hunger and poverty history.

The Gujarat Model – An obituary and a warning

Whoever wins the Gujarat elections, its clear that as a political idea, the Gujarat development model is floundering, and may never be revived. It may have been a textbook case of what development should not be like, but given the powerful interests it serves, it’s still likely to haunt India’s policies for years to come.

‘We’re facing a conspiracy of silence’: Sunita Narain

Sunita Narain, India’s best-known environmentalist, says the environment challenges we confront-like Delhi’s extreme air pollution-are progenies of “a conspiracy of silence”. “It is a conspiracy because you don’t want the people to know (the harmful effects of environmental pollution),” says Narain, whose new book “Conflicts of Interest” gives a personal account of her green battles.

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