Elections 2019: Are the Indian Political Parties Interested in Tackling Issues Related to the Environment?

We did a similar exercise during the last general elections going through the manifestos of major political parties and here we are again. You can read the previous article that details the environmental issues in manifestos of political parties during general elections: 2014 here.

The BJP led NDA has been in power for five years since 2014 and while the country has taken rapid strides in the field of renewable energy, the air quality in Delhi has deteriorated constantly and has become un-breathable (whether you choose to believe it or not).

The government has however, for the first time in the history of independent India declared a sort of war on open defecation and constructed toilets for everybody. Only a leader like Narendra Modi could bring about this revolutionary change and even discussed this in his address from the Red Fort giving it supreme importance. While the Swachhta mission has taken roots, there are a lot of tasks that need to be accomplished moving ahead and this progress on sanitation must not be lost.

The International solar Alliance is perhaps the biggest achievement of the government in the international sphere and it is India that took lead in formulating this alliance and making it fruitful. India being a tropical country can benefit greatly from the solar alliance.

The 2019 manifesto of the BJP takes the solar story forward and also focuses on the cleaning of river Ganga and talks about focussing on 102 most polluted cities.

 The table below presents the salient features of BJP promises on environment in 2019 in brief-

…view solar energy as an additional source of income for farmers and will encourage solar farming on a massive scale so as to enable the ‘Annadaata’(food provider) to become ‘Urja-daata’ (energy provider). Urban Mobility: …e-rickshaw services, pedestrian and cycling infrastructure for a seamless and smooth last mile connectivity. …National Clean Air Plan into a Mission and we will focus on 102 most polluted cities in the country. …we will reduce the level of pollution in each of the mission cities by at least 35% over the next five years. We will ensure the Himalayan States are provided special financial assistance in the form of a ‘Green Bonus’ to facilitate the protection and promotion of forests in those states. We are committed to ensure a clean and uninterrupted flow of river Ganga from Gangotri to Ganga Sagar. We will ensure that the sewerage infrastructure to deal with 100% of the waste water from the Ganga towns is completed and is functioning effectively, and take steps to enhance the river flow.

The main opposition party Congress also has sections dealing in detail with the environment.

The manifesto of the Congress party does not bring anything new to the table with regard to the environment sector. All promises made by the Congress actually exist in India in some form or the other. There is already a bill prohibiting manual scavenging, there is a law dealing with municipal solid waste management and a National Green Tribunal in addition to the CPCB and the SPCB in each state. The Congress party perhaps recognising a stronger body for dealing with enforcement of environment principles envisages the formation of an EPA.

I think this EPA part is a copy paste from the US EPA, a similar environment protection agency that exists in the United States. The earlier laws copied from the USA by the Congress such as the RTI and RTE did not function exactly in the manner in which they were conceptualized so it is anybody’s guess as to how effective this new body will be. We already have the MoEF&CC, the NGT, CPCB, and SPCB. Why not strengthen them instead of forming a new body?

“We will constitute, by law, an independent, empowered and transparent Environment Protection Authority (EPA) to establish, monitor and enforce environmental standards and regulations. The EPA will replace all other bodies that currently exercise jurisdiction and powers.”

However, the Manmohan Singh government did not falter too much on the environmental aspect. It did launch the 8 Climate Change Missions including the National Solar Mission that has become so popular in India. It also brought about the Forest Rights Act to provide rights to the marginalised forest communities. It is another matter that it simply became an act to give “pattas” rather than right the wrongs of generations that the poor, forest dwelling communities have endured for long. 

The table below lists the salient features of environment promises of the Congress party for 2019:

…will convert the Ganga Action Plan into a People’s Programme and implement the same Congress will review and re-introduce the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA) to ensure universal access to a clean, functioning toilet with water.   Congress promises to end the evil of manual scavenging in 3 years. Every manual scavenger will be rehabilitated, re-skilled, provided a job and assured a life of dignity and safety. …will significantly strengthen the National Clean Air Programme in order to urgently tackle the problem of pollution. All major sources of emission will be targetted, mitigated and reduced to acceptable levels. Sectoral emission standards will be set. …will impose a complete ban on the import of all types of waste
…will implement a solid waste management plan in every habitation, village, town and city employing modern technology and machinery. Congress recognises the challenge of water scarcity and promises to create a Ministry of Water to bring all water-related activities and departments under one authority. …will work with State Governments to increase the forest cover from the current level of 21 per cent to 25 per cent by the year 2025 Congress promises to amend laws governing forests, re-define the role of the Forest Departments and make local communities the custodians of forests and shareholders of forest resources. Congress will endeavour to make India a green manufacturing hub. We will reduce tariffs and lift trade barriers for clean technology and provide incentives for the adoption of such technologies.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) CPIM concentrates on agricultural and land issues. Below are the salient features from the 2019 manifesto of CPIM. The most important aspect being its promise to amend the Land Acquisition Act that (even though was amended) has not been implemented in letter and spirit throughout India.

Legislate the farmers’ right to sell their produce at an MSP which will be at least, one and a half times of the total cost of inputs Scrap the Nutrient Based Subsidy regime in fertilisers; repeal the Seed Act and introduce farmer-friendly seed legislation. Reverse changes in the intellectual property regime that favour big business; ensure strict regulation of private agricultural research with regard to protection of biodiversity. Shun unequal Foreign Trade Agreements and all trade related negotiations based on the principle of national economic sovereignty, and subject it to Parliamentary scrutiny. Prevent the encroachment and takeover of common lands like pastures, community forests, scrublands, etc.
Amend the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013 to ensure its universal application on all laws requiring land acquisition, rigorous definition of public purpose, full and prior informed consent… Checking pollution of rivers and other water bodies through effective regulation and enforcement especially by strengthening Central and State regulatory authorities. Twelve LPG cylinders per year to be provided at subsidized rate with no Aadhaar linkage. Banning futures trade in agricultural commodities as recommended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee. Strengthening disclosure norms for private stocks of foodgrains held in godowns and warehouses.

The Communist Party of India also has a section on environment. Below are the salient features from the 2019 manifesto of CPI.

Building a national consensus on the linking of rivers. Conservation of the forests, rivers and water bodies. All encroachments on forests, riverbeds and water bodies by mining mafia be removed. Efforts must be made to mitigate the adverse effects of global warming and climate change considering India is the 6th most vulnerable country in the world as many reports suggests climate related economic losses have increased alarmingly. No imports of new Nuclear Reactors; cancellation of existing deals with Westinghouse (US) and Areva (France)

So what are your thoughts about the manifestos of different political parties? Given the fact that environment is such an important aspect, we feel it should have been given more space but thankfully, all major political parties have given it some thought. Something is better than nothing!   

References:

https://www.bjp.org/en/manifesto2019

https://manifesto.inc.in/pdf/english.pdf

https://www.cpim.org/sites/default/files/documents/2019-ls-elc-manifesto.pdf

https://www.communistparty.in/blog/election-manifesto-of-the-communist-party-of-india-for-the-17th-lok-sabha-elections-2019

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