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HindustanTimes Sun,31 Aug 2014

Infra board plan runs foul of 2 ministries

Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, October 08, 2012
First Published: 00:13 IST(8/10/2012) | Last Updated: 00:15 IST(8/10/2012)

The government's bid to fast-track mega infrastructure projects may face opposition from within, as the ministries of environment and tribal affairs are believed to have reservations about the Prime Minister-led National Investment Board.

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The cabinet committee on infrastructure is expected to consider the proposal, floated by the finance ministry, next week.

"We're opposed to bypassing of the approval process laid down in environmental laws," an environment ministry functionary said.

Environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan has already made known her opposition, while her tribal affairs counterpart Kishore Chandra Deo is expected to voice his concerns at the next week's meeting, sources said.

With projects worth Rs. 1.5 lakh crore awaiting various clearances, the finance ministry proposed NIB, a one-stop clearance window for big-ticket projects -- each with an outlay of Rs. 1,000 crore or more.

Various laws - environment and forest - require experts/ panels to assess projects and their impact before giving clearance, which is mandatory. Gram sabha, a decision-making body of villagers, too, plays a significant role.

An executive order (cabinet's decision) can't overlook the laws or various Supreme Court orders, the environment ministry official said.

Dilution of mandatory approval of gram sabha in tribal areas wouldn't be allowed, a tribal affairs ministry functionary told HT. Half of the country's mineral wealth is concentrated in tribal areas.

"At the most, we will accept time-bound gram sabha approval with certain conditions," the official said, requesting anonymity.

The plan panel estimates that an average time taken to approve a mega infrastructure project is more than a year.

The NIB, plan panel deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia told HT, would be important to meet the target of $1 trillion ( Rs. 55 lakh crore) in the 12th five-year plan.


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