Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had to intervene to end a tiff between commerce minister Anand Sharma and environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan over the proposed manufacturing policy at Thursday’s Cabinet meeting.
Singh reportedly asked Sharma to restrain more than once when the commerce minister went on offensive against the Natarajan, who was inducted as a minister of state for independent charge in July this year.
It all started when Natarajan reportedly opposed the provision in the policy which sought delegation of environment clearance powers to chief executive officer of the proposed National Manufacturing and Industrial Zones (NMIZ) to operate in 2,500 acres.
Her objection to the provision was on the basis that such delegation of powers would require an amendment to Water and Air Acts and will also open the policy to judicial review in wake of recent court judgments. The powers to give environment clearance are with the central and the state governments depending on scope of the project.
Sources said Sharma reportedly hit back at the young minister by saying that her predecessor Jairam Ramesh, who was also present, had no objections and she had not read the policy document properly. Ramesh remained silent.
Natarajan’s view delegating clearance powers to CEO of the zone would amount to conflict of interest found support from defence minister A K Antony and railway minister Dinesh Trivedi, who also spoke against some other aspects of the policy.
Antony reportedly opposed the concept which promoted industry at the cost of environment and labour laws.
Labour minister Mallikarjun Kharge, who was not present at the meeting due to foreign tour, issued a note opposing the policy saying it attempts to bypass labour laws and violates the provisions of the International Labour Organisation. The minister also had reservations regarding the proposed exit policy for the industry.
Sharma had support of social justice minister Mukul Wasnik and small and medium industries minister Virbhadra Singh, provided 45 % of the units are reserved for small and medium industries.
With many differing voices the Prime Minister decided to refer the policy to a GoM.