MEF under fire

THE UNION minister of environment and forests was under fire at the last National Development Council (NDC) meeting both from a section of central ministers as well as chief ministers who accused his ministry of being the biggest hurdle to development. While the chief ministers' ire was expected, the Union ministers of power and industry also joined the chorus of protest. While chief ministers had specific issues on which they sought clarifications and lodged complaints, the Union ministers were upset that their plans were falling heavily behind schedule.

Interestingly, the Prime Minister, P V Narasimha Rao, did little to rescue his embattled environment minister. He simply referred all queries on environmental clearance to him. The main source of the grievance is apparently that in an atmosphere of liberalisation, the MEF is an isolated agency imposing ever more controls. Many chief ministers were annoyed that the MEF never came up with constructive suggestions. It had limited its role to pointing out what all could not be done.