Civil Services Reforms

SC refuses to direct Centre to create independent Indian Environment Service

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : TSR Committee recommendations

Mains level : Need for All India Services for Environment

The Supreme Court has refused to intervene and direct the government to create an independent Indian Environment Service within the All India Service cadre. A specialized environment service was recommended in the T.S.R. Subramanian Committee report in 2014.

TSR Subramanian Committee Report on Environment

  • The Subramanian committee was set up in August 2014 to review the country’s green laws and the procedures followed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
  • It suggested several amendments to align with the Government’s economic development agenda.
  • The report had suggested amendments to almost all green laws, including those relating to the environment, forest, wildlife and coastal zone clearances.
  • The committee suggested that another committee, with more expertise and time, be constituted to review the environmental laws.

Key recommendations

(a) Establishment of Environment Management Authorities

  • The report proposed an ‘Environmental Laws (Management) Act’ (ELMA), that envisioned full-time expert bodies to be constituted at the Central and State levels respectively:
  1. National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA)
  2. State Environmental Management Authority (SEMA)

(b) Project clearances

  • These authorities evaluate project clearance (using technology and expertise), in a time bound manner, providing for single-window clearance.
  • It suggested a “fast track” procedure for “linear” projects (roads, railways and transmission lines), power and mining projects and for “projects of national importance.”
  • It also suggested an appellate mechanism against the decisions of NEMA/SEMA or MoEF&CC, in respect of project clearance, prescribing a three-month deadline to dispose appeals.

(c) Expanding Environment Protection Act

  • The Air Act and the Water Act is to be subsumed within the EP Act.
  • The existing Central Pollution Control Board and the State PCBs, which monitor and regulate the conditions imposed on the industries to safeguard environment be integrated into NEMA and SEMA.

(d) Evaluating Environmental Reconstruction Cost (ERC)

  • The report also recommends that an “ERC” should be assessed for each project on the basis of the damage caused by it to the environment and this should be added into the cost of the project.
  • This cost has to be recovered as a cess or duty from the project proponent during the life of the project.

(e) Research and Development

  • It proposed the establishment of a National Environment Research institute “on the lines of the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education”.
  • It would bring in the application of high-end technology in environment governance.

(f) Establishment of Indian Environment Service (IES)

  • Finally, an Indian Environment Service should be established to recruit qualified and skilled human resource in the environment sector.

Status of these recommendations

  • The Centre never formally accepted this report and neither constituted a new committee as recommended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee.
  • However, many of these recommendations are implicitly making their way into the process of environmental regulation.

Why was IES proposed?

  • Environmental governance in India involves several clearances.
  • Currently, officers from all India civil services, conducted by UPSC, deals with environment clearances and policies.

Do we really need IES?

  • The IAS were founded on the colonial government’s Council of India’s law member T.B. Macaulay’s notion of generalised work done by one official.
  • However, the modern era, based on a socio-economic model of high specialization, cannot survive on this.
  • The IAS is filled with people without the requisite specialized skills and qualifications to successfully accomplish their tasks.
  • This was lamented by the PM when he posed the question “Can babusdo everything?” (babu is a euphemism for bureaucrats).
  • There was a proposed functional field for specialization that was recommended in 1970 by India’s first Administrative Reforms Commission, but like the Subramaniam Committee suggestions, it was never implemented in its full.

Way forward

  • There is need of an active bureaucracy for the implementation of environment policy.
  • These administrators need to be aware of their responsibility, which can be made effective if a service dedicated to the environment is created.
  • The challenge of climate change would then be able to be effectively approached through the bureaucracy.

Conclusion

  • Policymakers must build on the exercise of reforming environmental governance.
  • The process must involve reforming our laws, strengthening our institutions and streamlining the processes.

 

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