Updated: February 1, 2014 7:58:21 pm
Anubhuti Vishnoi: The perception about your predecessors in the Environment Ministry, Jairam Ramesh and Jayanthi Natarajan, was that they were anti-industry. Tell us about the kind of ministry you inherited from Natarajan… the backlog of files and the challenges it threw up for you.
I need not speak about legacy. But I pick up from legacy. We do our policeman’s job many a time, and we need to apply the law very strictly. There is no compromise on that. If they (Ramesh and Natarajan) have done it, I find no fault with them. I also have to do the same thing.
Sunil Jain: The ONGC is facing a problem — all the gas that it is finding now is in the deep or ultra-deep water, which is why it is not able to find companies to partner with, especially with the CAG guidelines. ONGC does not have the capability to get into this deep water. How will you address their issue of finding a partner?
This is not correct. I have visited all these deep-into-the-sea places and discussed with them. They are capable, they have the proficiency, expertise and manpower. The only question is about a few places near Karaikal (Puducherry), Ramanathapuram (Tamil Nadu) and all those districts where you get a very different kind of a gas, which is very hard and requires injection of a new kind of technology. So, they are trying to get that technology, and they will get a partner.
Sunil Jain: We have this situation where the RIL has a gas field in D1 and D3. The Government, rightly or wrongly, thinks that the RIL is suppressing production so that it can benefit from higher gas prices. RIL denies this. The easiest way to resolve this matter is to hire an expert. Given that you have been so proactive, why is it so difficult to get a neutral expert to figure out whether RIL is indeed keeping the gas?
I agree with you. A solution has to be found. There are two matters — one is before the arbitration. I don’t want to comment on that and prejudice the arbitrator’s mind. I think this can be solved, but there should be a positive mind on both sides.
Coomi Kapoor: There is a bit of a conflict of interest between your being the Petroleum Minister and the Environment Minister. On the one hand, you will be pushing the projects of the Petroleum Ministry and on the other, you have to guard the environment.
The environment will have to be guarded at any cost. I don’t want to compromise on that. It is my first concern, whether I am a Petroleum Minister or any minister. There is space available to everybody, provided they don’t conflict with or encroach upon others. We govern according to the letter and spirit of the law.
Coomi Kapoor: Your predecessors seemed to have some other idea because they were going much slower on clearances than you are.
I am interested in taking the quickest decisions possible. That does not mean we will compromise with any law. These laws are there to govern and can’t be violated. We need to act in accordance with them. As a reformer, my first principle is creative destruction. Destruction has to take place but that is to create something, not for destruction in a negative way.
Kirtika Suneja: What will be the composition of the Environment Regulator that the government has to set up? Is it possible to set it up by March 31 or do you need more time?
I don’t believe in getting time or adjournment. Right from my days as a magistrate or a Supreme Court advocate, I have always been prepared. When files come to me, I don’t tell my secretary to put them off for tomorrow. As far as the regulator is concerned, we have started brainstorming on it. It is a difficult proposition. Already various systems are in place, various committees are in place for appraisal, for monitoring schemes. There should be no duplicity of these committees; we could merge or fine-tune them. The regulator has to resolve problems, not open up new ones.
Sunil Jain: And how is this supposed to work? What is the regulator supposed to do? Will it be a regulator and also look after these committees?
The regulator must be overarching. As far as our committees are concerned, whether they can function or can be diffused within the regulator, we would like to clearly define that and make it as simple as possible. Unfortunately, we create organisations after organisations and delay things.
Ruhi Tiwari: All the 12 gram sabhas in Orissa have unanimously voted against mining in Niyamgiri Hills. What next?
We have accepted gram sabha recommendations. I have no option.
Seema Chishti: You have been very closely involved with the political strategy and organisation of the Congress party. You had got a brilliant mandate — more than 200 seats; the first party to get so many seats in the past 20 years. What happened that you had to clear projects three months prior to the polls? You are also allowing the BJP and AAP to set the terms of debate. You will announce the prime ministerial candidate, we hear.
Between 2004 and 2009, we had an uninterrupted period. Thereafter the CAG and the CBI became very active, and thanks to the RTI Act we passed, people became very conscious of their rights. There is an awakened citizenship. This is change. Everybody is active. As far as clearance is concerned, these are not proposals that have come yesterday and we are clearing it today; these are proposals which have been cleared by everybody. Even my predecessors, I give them credit for clearance. The psyche of fear which was not there in 2004-2009 became very much manifest in officials and ministers, everybody is afraid. They have been put in place because of the CAG, CBI cases and courts.
Coomi Kapoor: The Congress has been very inadequate in dealing with the threat from the Aam Aadmi Party. Is there a plan on how you will handle AAP? Are you trying to undercut the BJP and in the process will undercut yourself?
We are not here to undercut anybody. I believe in principles and so does the Congress. You grow and let others grow too. We believe in that. If AAP wants to grow, we will not undercut it. That is why we supported it. When A B Vajpayee first formed the government, we had more numbers, still we allowed (him/them). The Congress has a place in the democratic process of the country and nobody can take that place. It has not cut anybody and nobody can cut it.
Coomi Kapoor: Do you have any scheme for dealing with the threat from AAP?
We have our roadmap. We have our achievements. From 2009 till today, we should have reached 7 per cent GDP. We have brought the anti-corruption bill. Definitely people will realise it one day. We have to do aggressive marketing. In 2009, I was in charge of the AICC media cell and we had a big problem on the nuclear deal. I went around the country, did workshops and seminars, prepared our soldiers to speak about it. That is how we should do it. Rahulji would like to do it that way.
Maneesh Chhibber: So far, we only have Congress sources telling us about Rahul Gandhi’s plan. Do you think he needs to step out, take control of leadership and party, and counter Narendra Modi in a more effective manner?
He has done adequate homework. People who do enough homework will always be ready for any battle, and those who do not do it and suddenly jump into it may succeed in one or two phases of the battle. Success will come to the person who has done his homework. I give 100 per cent marks to Rahul Gandhi on his perfect homework.
Anubhuti Vishnoi: There’s a lot of politics happening on the Western Ghats. States have been up in arms. Have you taken a view on any of the two reports on the Ghats?
There are two reports — the K Kasturirangan report and the earlier Madhav Gadgil report. They have given conflicting versions on the same subject. The Kasturirangan report will affect six states and there are a number of issues where we need to get the opinions of chief ministers and stakeholders. I will write a letter to all the CMs asking them to go through the report and their committees should go through it as well. Each state and each district has its own problems. It cannot be a macro report; it has to be a micro one. Kerala has already constituted a committee. Ultimately, it will be for the people. We need not jump to conclusions, there are several ways to tackle the problem. I will asks all CMs to send recommendations and suggestions to the Central government. It is federal state, you can’t impose certain things on states.
Shyamlal Yadav: As the Administrative Reforms Commission chairman, you didn’t recommend exemption for the CBI. But as the law minister you recommended exemption. Why the change in stand?
I don’t remember. Proposition of law has to be read at the relevant time. I still hold the stand I took.
KaunAin Sheriff*: Your Karnataka chief minister has inducted two MLAs with graft charges when your national president has been saying that the government should go hard on corruption.
They have not been chargesheeted.
Pranav Nambiar: There is a deal you have been looking to sign with the RIL on bank guarantees. It was supposed to have been signed in early January. Any updates on that?
We are issuing the gas price increase guidelines and have mentioned that the guidelines on bank guarantee will be finalised within a couple of days.
Shobhana subramanian: How much will the guarantee be?
I have not calculated it. We are yet to finalise it.
Maneesh Chhibber: Why is it that the Congress’s first family has to be its leader? Why aren’t there any other names?
Leadership is evolved, it cannot be created or nominated. They are not nominated leaders, they are evolved leaders. Why Narendra Modi and why not someone else? Why Mulayam Singh Yadav and why not someone else? These questions are not practical in a democracy. The value system in a democracy evolves same as that of the leadership. We have seen P V Narasimha Rao, Lal Bahadur Shastri and Manmohan Singh as prime ministers. We saw them despite the first family. Many Congress persons have emerged.
Maneesh Chhibber: In the current scenario, do you think Rahul Gandhi is your best bet?
He has prepared himself. He has not hastened to occupy a post… he could have become the PM in 2009. He is not scared. He has matured because of perfect homework.
Kirtika Suneja: What is your view on allowing GM crops, because your predecessors did not allow it?
It is not a question of my predecessors or me or anybody. There is no question of personal view on this matter, it is a national view. We are not putting it to commercial use. There’s a lot of discussion going on in the corridors of the government. The committee of secretaries went into these issue before I took over. The agriculture minister called me and they said the decision of the committee is not reflected in the affidavit filed in the Supreme Court. I went through the committee’s report and told my secretary to ensure that decision or minutes be reflected in affidavit, and it should be filed jointly. It has not come back to me…We must work honestly. Committees of secretaries cannot misinterpret it. After seeing the social media, my daughter told me, ‘Why do you do this, you are a man of poor people’. I told her I have not taken a decision.
Amitav Ranjan: You are Mr Fix-It for the UPA, taking care of the Corporate Affairs, Petroleum and now Environment Ministries. How has it affected your stature in the party?
We do self-assessment. Responsibility, authority and achievement are implied with it.
Anil Sasi: In Posco, it’s too coincidental that the South Korean president is coming and the project is cleared when your predecessors had sat on it for six years.
To be very honest, the PM does not talk to me, the PMO does not talk to me. The Korean ambassador came and mentioned the subject. I called for the file. It was ready, what was waiting was my signature. It is not to please the Korean president but to please my conscience. You need to do business with the Koreans and that is why they are coming.
D k singh: Your predecessor sacrificed ministership to be in the party, and you are coming across as rather selfish?
In the Bhagavad Gita’s chapter three on Karmayoga, it is said that there’s a wheel of karma and if you don’t follow that wheel you are not a karmayogi. I am a karmayogi. Whatever duties are given to you, you should perform those. You should do whatever is good for the community. Jayanthi is also in the chakra of karmayoga. A soldier should not hesitate when asked to go to the battlefield.
Transcribed by D K Rituraj & Pragya Kaushika
* Sheriff is an EXIMS student
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