Space scientist and former member of the Planning Commission, K Kasturirangan, has rejected comparisons between his and Dr Madhav Gadgil’s report on the Western Ghats in the context of the Centre deciding to act on his report but discarding the latter’s.
“My report is not to be compared with Dr Gadgil’s. It would be unfair,” Kasturirangan told Deccan Herald. “I was given a mandate and I have worked in accordance with the mandate. My work is over. The right thing to do now would be to not compare it with the earlier report (Dr Gadgil’s), but act on the matter. Comparison is not fair. The government is the best judge to take a view on the submitted reports and how to go about the work in the time ahead. I believe the government will take a pragmatic view of the Western Ghats debate and do what is best.”
The senior scientist made it clear that ecological protection and development were both necessary. “There have always been extremes on this. A pragmatic view is needed. We have to work out how best this can be undertaken. In my assessment, this subject has been addressed well in the second report.”
But Dr Gadgil said that the tone of the report by Kasturirangan had surprised him. “In overall terms, the criticism against my report has been that it is unconstitutional and undemocratic,” he said in an interaction with Deccan Herald. “It is shocking how a person like Kasturirangan can hold this view or have a report with this view? To the contrary, my report has elements of democracy that have gone unnoticed.”
Dr Gadgil, a former IISc professor, said that his report (the first one to be submitted) differed from Kasturirangan’s in two overall ways. “I have taken a broader view of the ghats that goes beyond the limit prescribed by the Kasturirangan report. The forest area in this report largely confines itself to areas declared as reserved forest. We (the Gadgil report) have gone beyond that limit.
This means that the ecologically sensitive areas are much more than what have been concluded in the Kasturirangan report. Secondly, we have said decision-making on big projects should involve locals and the gram sabhas. The Kasturirangan panel report fundamentally differs here, asking how could locals be involved in decisions on national projects with national implications? This is a top-down approach. So which view is democratic?”
Dr Gadgil says he is pro-development too, but with emphasis on local-decision making. “People cannot sit in the forest with no development on hand. They have to lead a better life too. I would say make projects more participatory and consensual. There should be industry, but in areas that are not fragile.”
In three years since he submitted the report to the Centre, Dr Gadgil said he had not been called once by any authority. “No one in the government communicated with me nor have there been any discussions in all these three years. No orders or initiatives to talk about the report. Nothing at all. I am ready to give all my inputs anytime. It would not be right for me to approach the government.”