New Delhi: Another tussle between two ministers of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has come to the fore.
This time, in a strongly-worded letter written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan has opposed the proposed National Investment Board’s (NIB) powers to clear mega projects without seeking necessary green clearances from the her ministry.
Finance Minister P Chidambaram has proposed the setting up of the NIB. Its job would be fast-track clearances of projects that involve big investment; a project once cleared by the Board cannot be stalled by any ministry, as per the powers envisaged for the body.
According to Natarajan, the NIB would undermine the powers of the Environment Ministry. "This concept is unacceptable. The NIB has no constitutional authority to decide on the failure of any minister," the minister reportedly said.
"These proposed changes would have far reaching consequences on the way ministries are run, governance carries and responsibility to the legislature by the Executive is discharged. For e.g. - if any decision of the Minister for Environment is overruled by the NIB, who will answer this in Parliament?" the minister goes on to say in the letter.
A Cabinet Note on the proposed NIB has already been drafted and will soon be circulated among the ministers. It may be noted that the proposed NIB would be headed by the Finance Minister.
The proposal to set up the NIB came after repeated complaints by the industry as well as several Union ministries that environmental laws and green clearances were holding up projects thereby hitting economic growth.
In June this year, PM Singh had permitted an investment tracking system for ensuring speedy implementation of mega projects that involved investments over Rs 1,000 crore.