February 6, 2024
Jawhar Sircar’s speech on The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Amendment Bill, 2024
Sir, thank you for giving me the opportunity to oppose the Bill. Sir, you have permitted me to have my say. I would submit to you, Sir, first and foremost as a citizen of India, see the devastation that environment laws have failed to control. You have air pollution, water pollution, environment sensitive zone, wildlife, Forest Act, etc. Each one remains a devastated pillar of failure. This one is just one more addition. We have seen Governments for the last seventy years-plus. But we have not seen such a determined Government, a Government so determined to use the legitimacy of law, of structure to destroy the heart and core of it. This one is just an act that brings in something to legitimise offences. You have mining, effluents, CO₂, etc. They are full of exemptions. There are 200-plus State and Central laws which have control but it was ultimately people and crusaders like M.C. Mehta who had to come before the Supreme Court to make them effective. The specific reason for objecting to this Bill is, as my hon. friend has mentioned, छुटकारा दो, exempt करो, भय खत्म करो – भय िकससेहै? The offender has to get scared in a State. A State cannot run, a Government cannot run on love and fresh air. Where there is a question of offending against human society, polluting the atmosphere, polluting water and destroying forests, the offender must have a sense of fear because he is offending against nature, against humanity. This Government cannot go on exempting offenders and granting them reprieves. This Bill is full of them. This Bill again goes in for centralization of powers. There is Section 21 in the mother Act which says that the State Government and the State Boards may take power. Here, there is an attempt to centralize everything by bringing all the powers to Section 25, Section 26 and Section 27. Section 25 is to stop effluents from spoiling the Ganga, the Yamuna and other water bodies. Section 26 is for those who have already got exemption like the Kanpur tanneries and others too go in for certain effluent discharge. All the sections are being diluted. There have been more exemptions under the environment sensitive zones than punishments. The mood of the Government is very clear. They have brought in a term called ‘Adjudicating Officer’. That could be a Central Officer or a State Officer. Incidentally, all the directions in a federal polity are to be consultative. But here there are absolute unilateral powers with the Central Government to determine whether a State Officer can be an Adjudicating Officer. आप कौन हैमुझेबताने वालेिक मेरी Îटेट मȂिकसको पावर दी जाए? This one is actually an anti-federal law. Clause 45C of the present Bill says that any act by an Adjudicating Officer, any decision by an Adjudicating Officer can be appealed against straight to the National Green Tribunal. Sir, between a town that has an effluent problem and the National Green Tribunal, there is a State. I have no objection if it goes to the NGT. The only question is of expenses. The poor man, who fights against industrialists, who is out there to destroy mining, to destroy those industries that discharge effluent and make the holy Yamuna look ugly, full of chemical foam..