If there is anyone who is glad to see the back of Jairam Ramesh as he leaves the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF), it has to be the city’s developers lobby.
However, sources in the Congress said that this sense of relief may be short lived as Ramesh’s successor, Jayanthi Natrajan, former Congress spokesperson, could be an equally tough nut to crack.
Ramesh, in his stint as the environment minister, had publicly claimed that the track record of city developers was “far from trustworthy” and hence all development had to have stringent conditions.
“If they (developers) are given a free hand, all slum rehabilitation in the city will give way to towers for the rich,” Ramesh had said recently in his visit to the city. Besides, real estate developers, Ramesh had tightened the screws on environmental clearances for various industrial projects including mining and power. The state government itself hopes that the new minister will look at their plan for coastal road more positively than Ramesh.
“If people expect Natarajan to be soft, I think they are in for a surprise. She has done a stint earlier as the junior minister with independent charge of civil aviation ministry and was a tough task master there,” said a bureaucrat, who has worked with her in the past.
Many project developers, whose projects have been stuck, however, plan to make a beeline to meet her once she settles down in her new role. This includes projects, which have violated environmental and coastal norms.
“We hope she will be more reasonable and rational about environment issues and balance developmental concerns,” said a leading developer.
Not all developers are glad to see Ramesh go. “At the end of the day, it was Ramesh, who cleared development in CRZ area of Mumbai, which had been stuck for twenty years. He did not give piecemeal approvals to developers, who went to plead to him,’’ said Rajendra Chaturvedi, managing director of Shreepati group.
Sanjay Dutt, spokesperson for the state Congress party said Ramesh had raised the benchmark and overall expectations from the environment ministry.
“Mrs Natarajan has a challenging task. However, she is very articulate and I think she will raise the benchmark further,” he added.