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Moily’s bold thrust

Within a week of assuming charge as the Union Minister of Environment & Forests, Veerappa Moily has attempted to breathe some fresh air. He is reported to favour genetically modified (GM) food crops in the country, overturning the position of his predecessors.  As mentioned in our January issue, the Ministry has earned  a notoriety for its very many lapses. T R Baalu and A Raja, representatives of the DMK in the coalition, did not try to understand much of the complex issue. They merrily issued licences that turned out to be arbitrary and non-performing. Jairam Ramesh and his successor Jayanthi Natarajan, sat over the files; we have the sad spectacle of  projects involving thousands of crores of rupees making little progress. Narendra Modi even referred to a ‘Jayanthi tax.’

Moily, with his rich experience at the state and Central levels, has been known for his pragmatism. He has promised to clear the several projects relating to mining getting stuck on environmental issues. More welcome is his promise to have a relook at the GM crop issue.

    Moily’s term as the Minister of Law & Justice was marked by such a refreshing approach. He was concerned with the mounting arrears in the courts. Moily promised to work on judicial reforms and set a time limit of three years for disposal of a case. Unfortunately, his successor was more embroiled in politics and had to quit on not so honourable terms.

In his tenure as the Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Moily again took bold to implement the recommendations of three important committees on pricing of petroleum products. The decision of the government to go for monthly increases in the price of diesel as also to link the pricing of petrol to the cost of crude and increase the price of commercial LPG despite not being popular, were compelling necessities. Moily also took bold to double the price of natural gas from $ 4.20 to $ 8.40 per thousand BTU from April  based on the Rangarajan committee’s recommendations. But it had been receiving expected opposition from other political parties including the Aam Aadmi Party. As has been pointed out by IE, regional parties like AIADMK routinely oppose reforms and corrections that fall squarely in the domain of Centre.  This makes it extremely difficult for weak coalition governments at the Centre to take decisions on the basis of fiscal prudence and economic compulsions.  

Unlike his predecessors in recent years, Moily brings with him decades of experience as a minister and administrator. His record as Chief Minister of Karnataka was sound and the seasoned politician also has a good grasp of the impact of policies on the masses. In the short tenure, he should persist with rational reforms that would correct the very many blunders of his predecessors.

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