'Indira, unlike Modi, never put business over environment'

'Indira, unlike Modi, never put business over environment'

 The Narendra Modi government should learn from former prime minister Indira Gandhi, who never put “ease of doing business” before protection of the environment, said former environment minister Jairam Ramesh.

Ramesh, whose latest book Indira: A Life in Nature talks about her love for nature, said that though leaders talk about challenges faced by the environment, it is whether they take actions that count.

“Now they pay lip service (to environmental causes). These leaders chant Sanskrit mantras to show their love for the nature. But they have put ‘ease of doing business’ above protecting the environment,” Ramesh, who wants to evaluate Indira’s unknown sides in her birth centenary year, told DH.

“This country cannot afford a blind ‘grow now, pay later’ model,” he says in the book.
Asked about how the prime minister’s views are different from that of Indira’s, he said Modi talks the language of environment and climate change, but “every effort has been made to weaken environment laws. He sees the environment as a burden to be borne by the private sector,” the Congress leader said.

“Whatever laws we have on the environment now, we got it during her time,” he said.
While describing Indira as an environmentalist although not an activist, he said that although Indira was a pioneer in the field of environmental sustenance, she knew she had to make “political choices” sometimes.

Some of these, Ramesh said, were her decisions to allow a refinery in Mathura, 60 km from Taj Mahal and Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, and not allowing the Silent Valley project in Kerala.

“She was always aware that she was the prime minister of a poor country, but she also knew we have to preserve nature. Hers was a fine balancing act. She chose the middle path,” Ramesh said.

“She was singularly responsible not just for India’s best-known wildlife conservation programme, Project Tiger, but also for less high-profile initiatives for the protection of crocodiles, lions, hanguls, cranes, bustards, flamingos, deer and other endangered species,” he said.

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