Sonia for balance between growth & environment

Written by ASHOK B SHARMA | New Delhi | Updated: Nov 3 2010, 04:53am hrs
The ruling Congress party at the Centre vowed to respect the concerns for environment and the tribals while advancing its development agenda.

But the party steered clear of discussing scams which has recently surfaced like those relating to the Commonwealth Games, Adrash Housing Society at the crucial All India Congress Committee (AICC) meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday

Addressing the newly elected members of the AICC, the party chief, Sonia Gandhi reminded the pet words of her husband, Rajiv Gandhi -- whenever the environment is damaged, a bit of India dies.

These words of Rajiv Gandhi would be the cornerstone of the Congress partys development agenda. Sonia Gandhi, who has been elected as the party president for the fourth time in succession, said that there was a need to conserve biodiversity in the country taking inspiration from the former prime minister, Indira Gandhi.

Recently, the environment and forests minister, Jairam Ramesh has witheld the approvals of Posco-India and Vedanta projects in Orissa citing environmental concerns. Ramesh also denied commercial release of Bt brinjal respecting nationwide public concerns about its health and ecological hazards.

By addressing socio-economic issues and daily concerns of the tribals and other communities, the menace of Naxalism or left-wing extremisim can be tackled apart from firm police action whenever necessary, according to Sonia Gandhi.

People must have a say and they must have a stake. Destroying forests and their habitat through the indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources does not necessarily bring them out of the abject poverty in which they are languishing. she said.

Gandhi informed that the Land Acquisition Act would be suitably amended to ensure that farmers get comprehensive and timely compensation for land that would be acquired for large projects. A new mines and minerals law would be finalised which would secure for the local people and communities a direct stake in projects in their area. A law is also on the anvil for improving the terms of resettlement and rehabilitation where they are unavoidable.

The Congress party chief appealed for striking a balance between economic growth and environmental concerns. Economic growth was necessary, she said and added that it was due to high growth the economy the government was able to divert funds for various welfare schemes. She urged for inclusive growth with the flow of benefits to the downtrodden, tribals, backward castes, minority communities, women and children.

Gandhi said that the new Food Security Bill was being finalised which would guarantee highly subsidised ration to the poor and the needy. The Bill is now under the consideration of the National Advisory Council of which Ms Gandhi is the chairperson.

She expressed concerns over the rising prices of essential commodities and said that it was the joint responsibility of the central and state governments to tame the price inflationary trends. The state governments have the responsibility to crock down upon black marketeers, hoarders and streamlinig of the public distribution system (PDS).

She counted few achievements of the government like the Right to Information Act, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Right to Education Act. The Bill enabling 33% reservation for women in the Lower House of the Parliament and state legislatures was passed in the Rajya Sabha.

The social security fund for workers in the unorganised sector has become operational. Gram Nayalayas would now take judicial system to the doorstep of the people in rural areas. In the local bodies reservation quota for women representatives have been raised from 33% to 50%.

The Congress party pledged to fight against communalism and fanaticism of all types, terrorism and uphold the secular fabric of the country. The AICC authorised its president to constitute the Congress Working Committee. The three-day plenary session of the AICC is sheduled to be held in Delhi from December 18, this year.