Ministers and officials in the environment ministry would no more be able to sit indefinitely on files related to green clearances to infrastructure projects as government is coming out with a new system that would put timelines at all levels in the ministry – director to minister – for clearing or rejecting them. The environment minister would also have only 7-10 days to either approve or reject it.
This system would be put in place from July for forest clearances and from first week of September for environment clearances. The industry would also be able to track their projects at every level rather than being in dark all the time till the projects are finally cleared or rejected. It would be for all kinds of projects – mining, hydropower, power, roads, ports, airports and others.
Often accused of delaying green clearances, environment ministry many a time has accused state governments for not coming back in time with details for clearing the projects leaving projects stuck. Thus this system also puts a time period on state government to take a decision.
Last year, after environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan was replaced by M Veerappa Moily, several unconfirmed reports revealed that the minister was apparently sitting on several mega projects for months for no reason at all even when their files were complete and only her final decision was awaited.
Thus Congress-led UPA government in a last-minute change brought Moily to pacify the industry which repeatedly had complained of green hurdles in India's development.
To remove the root-cause of this problem, the government had formed a joint team of representatives from CII, FICCI, environment ministry and Indian industry to bring out a transparent and accountable mechanism for granting environment and forest clearances. During the process around 100 industry members gave inputs apart from other stakeholders. The team minutely looked at the process of the environment ministry for giving green clearances.
"The report by group puts timelines on every individual officer in the environment ministry including the environment minister to clear or reject a file related to green clearances. The minister would have 7-10 days for taking a call," top government sources told dna. |
For forest clearances, the system will go online from July 1 while for environmental clearances it would start from September later this year.
"This system would ensure that the company seeking green clearance can track the exact position of their files ensuring transparency and accountability in the overall process. So over the period of few months bottlenecks as to which level the clearances usually gets delayed will be identified," said government sources.
"Though initially there would be no provision of penalising any official for unnecessary delays but later we may have something like that. As everything will be online available for industry to track, there would also be a pressure on officials to take decisions. It would also definitely cut down on corruption," sources added.
"Due to the online system, alerts will be generated whenever any official misses the fixed timelines. So, after few months we may think of introducing penalising provisions for unnecessary delaying green clearances files," the sources further said.
The government says the timeline system will not compromise any rules but would only fix responsibility at every level making people accountable.
Inexplicable and indefinite delays had cost former environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan of her chair. She was replaced by M Veerappa Moily by Congress-led UPA government in December 2013 owing to these reasons when Rahul Gandhi in a meeting of industry representatives had assured them of redressing their grievance.