ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Sitting on the Fence

Sitting on the Fence THE vesting of authority over the Narmada project in a multiplicity of agencies, all having parallel power, has so far meant that even when one agency is forced into taking a decision to stop work on the dam, there is sufficient leeway for another to order its continuation. The decision taken on December 31 at a meeting of the secretaries of the ministries of water resources, environment and forests and welfare and the chief secretaries of the four states, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan to order work on the Narmada project to be halted is somewhat different. For one thing, the decision to halt the construction work comes out of long deliberations at various levels and is based on the findings of several expert groups and committees which have submitted their reports to various authorities. The environment ministry's decision is thus based on the advice of experts. In such a situation can the political authority, be it the chief ministers or the prime minister, casually overrule the technical experts? The reported decision by the prime minister, in response to appeals by chief ministers, not only undermines the process of democratic decision-making, but is tantamount to cocking a snook at the scientific methods of enquiry and discarding well-established processes of arriving at decisions in the government.

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