Over the past few years, there has been a negative perception about the environment ministry, especially in relation to delay in clearance of files...
I took control of the ministry in a very negative environment. Even Congress-ruled states would agree to this, especially with respect to my ministry. We have implemented three important decisions with regard to policies. Now, the rights of up to 40 hectare of land have been decentralised, and we allowed more state participation. So I am now left with only 10% of the entire workload.
Any important announcement that the environment ministry is likely to make in the next few days?
'Paryavaran raksha aur vikaas saath-saath' is our slogan. We have taken some major initiatives. The first one being online application process which resulted in increased transparency. Today, around 180 cases of forest and environment clearances are in our online system. I am extremely delighted to present this as one of our major achievement.
You have initiated the process of online clearances. How far has the system gained speed in the past 100 days?
Indeed, there have been tremendous improvements. We are tracking the processing of files at every stage. So the applicant gets the updated information of processing his/her file at every stage. Such an immense level of transparency was never in existence before. Earlier, the applicant used to be in complete oblivion. We have taken decisions based on the policies. For instance, all transmission lines, road, rail, irrigation canal and other pipelines; if these were to pass through the forest, the task would have been Herculean and earlier it used to remain pending for five long years. So, we have now put this for automatic general approval. So that the respective state government would take a decision then and there. Moreover, we have brought strict rules for better aforestation.
The Supreme Court found many irregularities in allocation of coal blocks. Will your government take tough stand against the culprits involved in the scam?
If the blocks are cancelled, then they can stand for bidding. If 50% of them are cancelled and the rest will remain valid. Whatever is the result of hearing in Supreme Court, it will take a final shape soon and the matter won't remain on the back-burner.
Being an environment minister, what steps are you going to take so that such scams don't take place in future?
We are upgrading the environmental benchmarks of every industry. For instance, the cement industry is a major contributor to the environmental pollution. So I have set higher benchmarks for this industry last week believing that it would help curbing pollution, and we are proceeding in the same direction for coal industry as well.
BJP has time and again brought the matter of FDI to the fore. Your ministry has discussed the matter of bringing in 100% FDI in the field of media. Do we see it happening soon?
Existing FDI in news media is 26%. We don't have any new proposal coming our way to increase the limit at this point.
Will DTH industry see good days ahead as they are grappling with double taxation and any big plans for TV industry?
Indeed. We have initiated the process of digitisation with 12 crore set-top boxes. Now, DD will also be a part of the competition and we want to transform the make and look of the channel completely.
Do you think the DTH industry will get some respite from double taxation. You had made this point during the budget but the finance minister did not give it a green signal?
We are hopeful that the matter will be resolved in a year.