Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman’s budget has a nice green ring to it. She has brought ‘green’ to the center-stage, as it should be, in the last few budgets. The green growth bugle has been sounded. It’s time now for more green action on the ground. While green action is key to ensuring that spending has maximum impact, it is high time that at least key initiatives are reviewed by an independent body and published in public domain.
Announcing is easy, implementing is tough, but ensuring that the money allotted is used optimally, is toughest. If we are serious about greening our economy and society, strengthening green governance is vital. If not done in haste, most of the money spent is bound to go down the gutter. That the water quality of Indian rivers has not improved a bit despite massive investments in the last ten years, tells the story quite starkly.
What can be done to improve green governance:
- Expand Green Tribunal to every district.
- Just like it is mandatory for company boards to have an independent director, appoint an independent director on all environment related bodies. This director should be mandated to post all his comments on the public domain.
- All district public bodies should have an executive with a degree in environmental science. He/she should file a quarterly report on the progress of green projects.
- Design a website on which people can post suggestions and complaints on ongoing projects. And replies should be given within a stipulated period.
- Green citizens forum: Concerned citizens could form a green citizen’s forum. If the forum has more than 10 members, it can get itself registered. The main purpose of this forum is to organize public debate on issues in their area.
- India has thousands of retired judges, retired public servants. They could take a three-month course in environmental governance and with that certificate can become eligible to become independent members of government projects and as heads of citizen forums.
- Academies that train future civil servants should have a compulsory subject on environment laws. Current civil servants should be forced to take an online or an offline course as well. Just like GST certificate is mandatorily displayed even in small shops, all officers should display their certificates in their offices.
- Law colleges can make environmental laws as compulsory subject for all students.
When shareholders in companies can demand that companies adhere to sustainability and environmental goals, why can’t citizens as shareholders demand the same from their public servants?
Indian youth are beginning to be part of several initiatives to push the governance agenda. The Green Governance Initiative (GGI), Indian Youth for Climate Network (IYCN), Fridays for Future are a few.
GGI aims in facilitating the outreach of various social welfare schemes to the grassroots level through the concept of Constituency Development through UNSDGs. The organization also identifies potential inputs for sustainable and achievable outcomes, while ensuring optimum use of minimum resources. It further looks forward build a holistic synergy between top-down model of governance by collaborating with private investors, technologists, policymakers, thinkers amongst various others.
The Indian Youth Climate Network (IYCN) is a coalition uniting Indian youth and Indian youth-oriented organizations who are concerned about environment issues and climate change. It focuses on personal transformation of individual who participates in the network’s activities and works towards mainstreaming the climate debate.
Fridays for Future, the Indian arm of Greta Thunberg’s outfit believes in agitation model to drive change. It has been able to galvanize support from college youth especially in cities.
I see that transition to green economy can happen only when there is a serious effort at enhancing green governance. This should not be done with an activist mindset, but more as that of a watchman’s mindset if it is to last.