DELHI : The government on Thursday kicked off online environment clearances for industrial and infrastructure projects which have for long been hobbled by the slow pace of green approvals.
As part of the transition to an e-window mechanism, for the next three weeks, project developers will be required to submit a hard copy of the application besides filing it online. From July 1, the system will be fully online, environment and forests minister Prakash Javadekar said. There will be a time limit for the entire approval process, with stage-wise timelines. “Efforts will be made to bring down the timelines for each stage,” the minister said.
The e-clearance mechanism is the first in a series of online approvals that the government proposes to put in place. In the next stage, forest clearances will be made online and work has begun to give mining-related approvals as well through the same route.
While the original plan was to have a common platform for state as well as central clearances, in the initial phase, the online mechanism will deal with approvals given by the Union environment ministry and its related offices. The government has not launched the system of “deemed approval” either, which will mean that a clearance will be granted if no objection is raised within the stipulated timeframe. This is expected to be in place in the coming months.
The Centre is looking to work with the states to ensure that the process at their end is completed on time so that the environment ministry can grant clearance within a maximum of 60 days, an official said.
There will also be a penalty provision if a delay at any stage remains unexplained. Though this provision is yet to be codified, the ministry appears firm on introducing this clause as early as possible. The move will not just remove physical interface but also enable the government to track an application more effectively and identify “tables” on which proposals are held up. For the past few years, the environment ministry has come to be seen as the biggest stumbling block in project approvals and has been criticized for delays in power, port, road and other projects.
“This step is a beginning of transparency in governance and better functioning of the ministry. One need not visit the office but submit their proposals online,” said Javadekar, while addressing an event to celebrate World Environment Day.
The new system, which monitors stage-wise approval and compliance mechanism, will ensure security of information while simultaneously maintaining transparency in dealings between the ministry and the applicant.
An applicant, under the online system, will be able to monitor stage-wise process of their application. After basic verification, a password will be generated in four days time and the applicant can check the progress online.
Sensing that only the change of system is not enough to realize the twin objects of growth and environmental protection, the minister wants to see a change in mindset of his ‘babus’ and ropes in the motivational trainer and author Shiv Khera to lecture them during a half-day leadership motivation conference on Friday.
The minister said, “All the officers from the rank of under secretary and above will attend the motivation camp”. Earlier on Monday, the power ministry too had held a similar conference for officers of its ministry where Chetan Bhagat did a pep talk.
The plan to hold such camp was mooted as it is believed that the ‘babus’ in such ministries — which are very crucial to economic growth — remained obsessed with blocking files. Notwithstanding their good intention for the sake of environmental protection, the ‘obsession’ put many crucial projects in the dock — the issue which the previous government could realize much later.
Javadekar also emphasized on better interaction between his ministry and people and said, “We will be meeting the public more often at different places. We want to change the whole interface with the public”.
Referring to the media advertisement issued by the ministry on the occasion World Environment Day, the minister said, “The government will no longer prepare such advertisements on its own. Suggestions, ideas and designs would be “crowd sourced” for the new advertisements and best ideas would be rewarded”.
He said he would also undertake a brain-storming session in his ministry and look for new ideas to deal with environment protection and development. “Many officers have new ideas but are unable to put forth because of ‘babudom’. So, I have asked the ministry to pick around 25 ‘passionate’ officers who can come with new ideas,” Javadekar said.