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Modi government has launched a silent war on the environment

In just three months there have been a number of changes to key committees and regulations – and there's more to come.

The United Progressive Alliance government left behind a legacy of weakened safeguards for India’s environment, forests and forest-dwelling people. The Narendra Modi government has lost no time in weakening them further. The process has been so accelerated that journalists have struggled to keep pace while reporting on them.

While some changes have been made and notified, others are under process. Some changes might still be unknown; given the quiet functioning of the Modi government with officials being directed to refrain from speaking to the media.

Here is a look at seven changes that have been reported.

1) Taking away the right of tribal village councils to oppose an industrial project

The National Democratic Alliance government is looking to discard a provision of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, that requires the "prior informed consent" of gram sabhas before their forests are cleared for industrial activity. The Act, implemented in 2008, recognises the rights of indigenous tribes over forestlands, asking these groups to certify that their rights have not been violated by an upcoming project.

The government is now trying to bypass the gram sabhas without having to amend the Forest Rights Act, the Business Standard reported. It has already removed the need for gram sabha consent while prospecting for minerals in forestlands.

The Forest Rights Act provisions protect local communities that conserve forests since many development projects impinge upon their livelihoods, explained TR Shankar Raman, a scientist with the Nature Conservation Foundation. He points out that affected communities will turn to protest if they are not kept part of the decision-making process. “It could be counterproductive because after the forests are cleared, there is a lot of tension on the ground, protests and court cases,” he said. “This might help to get the file out of the ministry but six months down the line you run into trouble. You need longer-term thinking on this.”

2)  Reconfiguring the National Board of Wildlife to reduce the authority of independent experts

The government has reconstituted the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife and in doing so has flouted the Wildlife Protection Act’s requirement for independent experts. The new board includes the Gujarat Ecological Education and Research Foundation in place of the mandatory five non-government expert institutions. The government has also replaced 10 individual experts with two new ones, bringing the total number of outside members to just three.

The move is under scrutiny in the Supreme Court, which has stopped the Board from making any decisions until further orders. The court has also put a hold on the few decisions that the newly constituted Board managed to quickly push through. These include a 40-km road passing through the Wild Ass Sanctuary and a 22-km canal of the Sardar Sarovar Project, both in Kutch, Gujarat.

3) Exempting coal mining from public hearings, allowing irrigation projects without clearances

The Environment Ministry has allowed coalmines with a capacity of less than 16 million tons per annum to expand without conducting a public hearing. The cut-off for this exemption used to be 8 mtpa. The ministry has also cleared the one-time expansion of mines with capacity greater than 20 mtpa if the expansion is restricted to 6 mtpa.

Pushp Jain, director of the EIA Resource and Response Centre in New Delhi, says that without a public hearing, local people will be excluded from decision-making and won’t be given a forum to protest. “When a public hearing is held, you have to provide documents about what expansion is planned," he explained. "These will be put where people can see them, circulated to gram panchayats and so on.”

Environmental lawyer Ritwick Dutta says the public hearing process is supposed to be completed within 30 days as per law and that this cannot by itself cause inordinate delay to the project. “The exemption is problematic because there is a principle of non-regression,” he said. “In issues that concern the environment, you cannot go back because the threats are only increasing with every passing day,”

Irrigation projects affecting less than 2,000 hectares will no longer require environmental clearances. Those occupying less than 10,000 hectares can be cleared by the state governments.

4) Lifting the moratorium on new industries in critically polluted areas

In September 2013, the United Progressive Alliance’s environment ministry directed the Central Pollution Control Board to reassess the Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index, an important criterion for project clearance, while keeping intact the moratorium on new industries in critically-polluted areas.

But even before the review is completed, the ministry under Prakash Javadekar has lifted the moratorium in eight critically polluted areas – Ghaziabad, Indore, Jharsuguda, Ludhiana, Panipat, Patancheru-Bollaram, Singrauli and Vapi.

In a blog post on Down To Earth, environmental activist Rohit Prajapati explains how the UPA government, under pressure from pollution-affected groups, imposed the moratorium on these eight areas. Pressure from the industrial lobby prevented it from imposing the moratorium on all 43 regions identified as critically polluted. “The mucky politics and economics of ‘GDP growth’ prevailed over the cause of ‘life and livelihood’ of ordinary people and ‘environment & conservation’,” he writes.

Prajapati says that the Modi government has gone a step further, and once again cleared the decks for industry without addressing issues of pollution and refusing to engage in debate about it.

5) Diluting forest norms and allowing industry to creep closer to national parks 

The environment ministry has changed a provision of the Environmental Impact Assessment rules to allow projects to come up within 5 km of a protected area without clearance from the now-toothless National Board for Wildlife. The earlier rule made NBWL clearance mandatory for projects in these eco-sensitive zones unless they were 10 km or more away.

Even more damaging, the ministry has reduced the parameters for deciding whether a forestland can be opened up for mining and industry. The ministry will now use four parameters instead of six parameters – forest type, biological richness, wildlife value, density of forest cover, integrity of the landscape, and hydrological value.

The environment ministry has relaxed Forest Conservation Act norms for road, rail and other public works projects that involve cutting trees in forest areas. It has also lifted restrictions in the ecologically sensitive areas near the Line of Actual Control and Naxal-affected districts by giving states more power to issue clearances and lessening the load on the central ministry.

6) Diluting the scope of the National Green Tribunal

Reports suggest that the government is holding discussions to curtail the powers of the National Green Tribunal, the body that first hears all challenges to forest and environmental clearances before they can be passed up to the Supreme Court. This move might prove difficult, given that the tribunal is active, vocal and constantly in the public eye.

The NGT is the only dedicated environmental court in the country, which has been formed as a result of India’s international obligation under the Rio Decleration. The court has been set up on recommendations of the Law Commission and orders by the Supreme Court that found the need for expert adjudication because environmental matters are complicated. “Any step to actually dilute it or reduce its power would be counter productive and will be in violation of our international obligations,’ Dutta said.

7) New environmental committee set up to review laws

Possibly the most far-reaching change that the new government hopes to bring about is an overhaul of the five main environmental laws of the country – the Environment Protection Act, the Forest Conservation Act, the Wildlife Protection Act, the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act. The environment ministry has set up a committee to review these laws and recommend amendments.

“The mandate is not to strengthen the law to protecting the environment,” said Ashish Kothari of the environmental NGO Kalpavriksh. “It’s a very broad mandate, which given the economic climate, is to make it more investment friendly,” Kothari feels that any dilution of the Environment Protection Act, an overarching law that includes environmental impact assessment and coastal regulation zone notifications, will be particularly harmful.

Dutta feels that the government will act to remove all criminal offences and replace them with civil penalties. “That is something that the government would be very keen to do because that is what the market overall wants,” he said. “It is essentially a pay and pollute system that would be coming in.”

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As corporate India changes from strait-jacketed to stylish, here’s how you can stay on-trend

For men and women, tips to make your office style game strong.

Office wear in India tends to be conservative. For men, the staple blue or white shirt and dark trouser arranged in a monotonous assembly line has been a permanent feature of the wardrobe (a tactic shrewdly administered to ensure minimum time is spent shopping). For women, androgynous work wear has been ever reliable and just as dull.

But camouflage is of no use in the corporate jungle anymore. The Indian office is no longer a place for dull, unthinking conformity, it is a place that expects vibrancy in thought and action. With a younger workforce and a greater mix of multinationals and jobs, there is a greater acceptance of edgier trends. Men are stepping away from their blues and greys and women are reshaping their workwear to be more interesting and distinctly feminine. As corporate India is proving its mettle on the global stage and to itself, it’s also growing confident in expressing individuality and style in the formal work environment. From clothing to office décor and fashion accessories to work tools, the workplace is becoming a place to display merit as well as taste.

Work clothes have shed their monochrome and moved into the light of technicolor. Bright colours have steadily become popular as Pantone’s annual colours of the year show us. For the corporate warrior who wants to be stylish here is our pick of trends worth considering.


Statement jacket. A statement jacket is one that doesn’t merely stand out in a crowd, but blows it open for you. How do you recognize one? You’ll know it when you see it. Most statement jackets have a non-traditional color. They could also have subtle prints on them if you want to go funky.

Technicolor socks. Multicolored socks (or hipster socks as they are known in some quarters) peek out every once in a while and brighten things up in the workplace. From polka dots and caricatures to geometric patterns, you can choose a pair to suit your mood or your workplace. A great way of telling people you don’t take fashion rules seriously (except these ones).

Plaid: Well played is well, plaid. Great for your 9-to-5 and even performs well after. Plaids, in shirts and jackets, are perhaps the most versatile tool in the corporate warrior’s armory, and straddle the fine line between formal and casual effectively. They’re also age-resistant meaning a young buck in his twenties can rock them as much as your seasoned forty-plus campaigner. Plaid, though Scottish in origin, has an Indian connection too, in the Madras checks that became popular all over the world after the World War.

Inside collars and cuffs. If you like to keep it classy but still a little edgy, nothing does it like contrast or printed insides of your collar and cuffs. After the work day, when it’s proper to roll up your sleeves, it even adds a touch of evening character.

Coloured Shoes. Alternate your staid blacks and browns with variants like burgundy, light buttery browns and ashen blues. Play with moccasins, tassel loafers and lace-ups. Go beyond leather and try suede and maybe even canvas. But do remember to take a quick course in matching.


Floral prints. Flowers are back (though one could argue that they never went out) and now they’re storming the bastion of your office. Even the traditional Indian paisley is making its way into formal wear. With the prevalence of digital printing, with a little hunting, you’ll even find beautiful florals in watercolour style.

Scarves. The first rule of wearing scarves is to rid yourself of the notion that they are to be worn only in winter. A colourful scarf paired with a monochrome top works wonders. A dozen online videos will teach you to wear it in a dozen ways. Plus, it always comes in handy when the thermostat isn’t to your liking. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw wears scarves frequently, and is a great example of how you can use it strikingly.

Pants. Yes. Pants. Experiment with different styles and you’ll be surprised how they can really spruce up a boring look. Silhouette is everything when it comes to pants. Choose from high-waisted, wide legged, pleated to ankle length pants and what not! The best part is offices rarely prescribe silhouettes, so you can always get by with some style even if your workplace demands a uniform.

Houndstooth. The houndstooth pattern is at the sweet intersection between casual and formal and can be worn to make a splash in either occasion. Whether its jackets or a dress or a simple top, a houndstooth pattern is incredibly versatile.

Chic suits. A sharp suit is a must for a modern professional’s wardrobe. And please don’t even look in the direction of black. Pastel colours or even greys with patterns are great options for suits. Uncoordinated suits are also a great option depending on how edgy you want your office attire to be.


It isn’t enough to be well-dressed in the modern workplace. A good professional is known by his or her tools and how they carry it.

Designer laptop sleeves. Your high-precision instrument deserves a cover chosen with as much care. Black Neoprene is out. Pastel monochromes, geometric patterns and bold designs are very much in. Different materials like cotton, leather and even paper are a great option.

Natural fiber or leather bags (yes kill your black synthetic one now). Briefcases are ancient and black messenger bags are done. Go for a color variant or a subtle pattern. Pay attention to the different leather finishes. Adding a few nicely done metal trims can make all the difference. But convenience and ease are top priority. If you travel a lot, get a stylish strolley and thank yourself later.

Commute pack. The urban corporate needs to be productive at all times, or at the very least, needs to be accessible. A modern commute pack should include wireless headphones, a USB battery pack (power bank) and a wire/gadget organisation pack just so that you’re always prepared.

Machine. We’ve all showed off our latest smartphones. Your work machine is way more important. And like in smartphones, a good laptop is no longer only about performance. The specifications must be top-notch but it has also become an expression of your personality. It can up your style quotient and significantly impact your experience.

Source: Dell
Source: Dell

The Dell XPS 13 is one device that achieves excellence in both form and function. With a virtually borderless infinity display that maximises screen space, and measuring a super slim 9-15mm, the Dell XPS 13 is an unalloyed delight. A sixth generation Intel® Core™ processor and the latest Intel HD graphics gives cutting edge performance for 18 hours and 14 minutes per charge—the longest battery life in any 13-inch device. The Dell XPS 13 epitomises the ethos of the modern day corporate warrior—chic and smart. To make even more of a fashion statement, you now get a free TUMI laptop sleeve worth Rs. 9000 with your XPS notebook purchase (offer valid till 31st October). For more information about the Dell XPS 13, see here.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Dell and not by the Scroll editorial team.

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