New Delhi: Union Minister Jairam Ramesh on Sunday said that he still feels that the Madhav Gadgil report on the Western Ghats was the "roadmap" for conservation of the ecologically-sensitive hills and expressed hope that there would be a "dispassionate debate" on the issue once Lok Sabha elections were over.
The statement by the Minister of Rural Development comes at a time when the Environment Ministry is seeking a way to implement a much-diluted version of the Gadgil Committee report, prepared by a 10-member panel headed by K Kasturirangan.
Ramesh had three years ago appointed the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) during his tenure as the Environment Minister to draw up a roadmap for preserving the biodiversity of the ecologically sensitive hills. The panel was headed by Gadgil.
Speaking at a function here to present a Degree of Doctor (Honoris Causa) to Gadgil, conferred by the Central University of Orissa, Koraput, Ramesh lamented that a public debate on the report had not taken place and it was "hijacked by a few political voices who had a vested interest".
He said that the whole idea behind appointing the Gadgil panel was of the Environment Ministry not issuing a "fatwa" on the Western Ghats once it got the recommendations.
"That public debate did not take place. The public debate was hijacked by a few political voices who had vested interests... I feel that once the elections are over... By June, July next year, there would be a calm and dispassionate debate on the Gadgil Committee report at various levels," he said.
Hailing Gadgil as a "Gandhian" and an "(Arvind) Kejriwal long before we had discovered Kejriwal", Ramesh said, "I still feel that the Gadgil panel report is the roadmap, the blueprint. It is not the last word. It should be discussed at Gram Panchayats, Zilla Parishads, Vidhan Sabhas."
He said that a large part of the concerns over the Gadgil Committee report were borne out of ignorance and deliberate and mischievous misreading of its recommendations.
"Had we been more open and more proactive, perhaps much of this confusion could have been avoided," he said.
Ramesh said that he supported the methodology adopted by
the Gadgil panel in preparing the report.
"I want to tell him that I am with him and I support him. I support not his conclusion, but his methodology.
"What the conclusions are could be different but the methodology is participative, it is consultative and it is democratic and we must initiate this process of debate and discussion and not allow the debate on the Gadgil Committee report to be hijacked by the sand mafia or the mining mafia or the construction mafia," he said.
Meanwhile, observing that faster economic growth was absolutely essential for India Ramesh, however, reminded that deforestation and degradation of natural resources was not the way to prosperity.
"Development is inevitable. Aspirations of people are rising. Expectations of people are rising. No democratically- elected government can afford to ignore the aspirations of the people.
"But at the same time, we must recognise the unique biodiversity of Western Ghats," the minister added.