Justice Markandey Katju IN THE HINDU
Underdeveloped countries like India are passing through a transitional stage, between a feudal-agricultural society and a modern-industrial society. This is a painful, agonising period. A study of the history of England of the 17th and 18th centuries and of France of the 18th and 19th centuries, shows that for them such periods of transition were full of turbulence, turmoil, revolutions, intellectual ferment, and social churning. It was only after going through this fire that modern society emerged in Europe. India is going through this fire. The barbaric ‘honour killings’ in parts of the country of young men and women of different castes or religion who get married or wish to get married, among other incidents, show how backward we still are — full of casteism and communalism.
India’s national aim must be to get over this transitional period as quickly as possible, reducing the inevitable agony. Our aim must be to make India a modern, powerful, industrial state. Only then will India be able to provide for the welfare of its people and get respect in the world community.
Today, the real world is cruel and harsh. It respects power, not poverty or weakness. When China and Japan were poor nations, their people were derisively labelled ‘yellow’ races by Western nations. Today nobody dares use such terms as they are strong industrial nations. Similarly, if we wish India to get respect in the comity of nations, we must make it highly industrialised and prosperous. For this, our patriotic, modern-minded intelligentsia must wage a powerful cultural struggle, that is, a struggle in the realm of ideas. This cultural struggle must be waged by combating feudal and backward ideas, for example, casteism and communalism, replacing them with modern, scientific ideas among the masses.
The media have an extremely important role to play in this cultural struggle. But are they performing this role?
No doubt, the media sometimes refer to farmer suicides in different States, the price rise, and so on, but these form only a small part of their coverage — maybe 5 to 10 per cent. Most of the coverage is given to cricket, film stars, astrology and disco-dancing.
Sadly, India now has a disconnect between the mass media and mass reality. Here are a few facts from a speech delivered by P. Sainath, Rural Affairs Editor of The Hindu and Magsaysay award winner, on September 6, 2007 in Parliament House in the Speaker’s Lecture Series.
•The mass reality in India (which has over 70 per cent of its people living in the rural areas), is that rural India is in the midst of the worst agrarian crisis in four decades. Millions of livelihoods in the rural areas have been damaged or destroyed in the last 15 years as a result of this crisis, because of the predatory commercialisation of the countryside and the reduction of all human values to exchange value. As a result, lakhs of farmers have committed suicide and millions of people have migrated, and are migrating, from the rural areas to the cities and towns in search of jobs that are not there. They have moved towards a status that is neither that of a ‘worker’ nor that of a ‘farmer.’ Many of them end up as domestic labourers, or even criminals. We have been pushed towards corporate farming, a process in which farming is taken out of the hands of the farmers and put in the hands of corporates. This process is not being achieved with guns, tanks, bulldozers or lathis. It is done by making farming unviable for the millions of small family farm-holders, due to the high cost of inputs such as seed, fertilizer and power, and uneconomical prices.
•India was ranked fourth in the list of countries with the most number of dollar billionaires, but 126th in human development. This means it is better to be a poor person in Bolivia (the poorest nation in South America) or Guatemala or Gabon rather than in India. Here, some 83.6 crore people (of a total of 110-120 crore) in India survive on less than Rs.20 a day.
•Eight Indian States in India are economically poorer than African states, said a recent Oxford University study. Life expectancy in India is lower than in Bolivia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia.
•According to the National Sample Survey Organisation, the average monthly per capita expenditure of the Indian farm household is Rs.503. Of that, some 55 per cent is spent on food, 18 per cent on fuel, clothing and footwear, leaving precious little to be spent on education or health.
•A report of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations shows that between 1995-97 and 1999-2001, India added more newly hungry millions than the rest of the world taken together. The average rural family is consuming 100 kg less of food than it was consuming earlier. Indebtedness has doubled in the past decade. Cultivation costs have increased exorbitantly and farming incomes have collapsed, leading to wide-scale suicides by farmers.
•While there were 512 accredited journalists covering the Lakme India Fashion Week event, there were only six journalists to cover farmer suicides in Vidharbha. In that Fashion Week programme, the models were displaying cotton garments, while the men and women who grew that cotton were killing themselves at a distance of an hour’s flight from Nagpur in the Vidharbha region. Nobody told that story except one or two journalists, locally.
Is this a responsible way for the Indian media to function? Should the media turn a Nelson’s eye to the harsh economic realities facing over 75 per cent of our people, and concentrate on some ‘Potemkin villages’ where all is glamour and show business? Are not the Indian media behaving much like Queen Marie Antoinette, who famously said that if people had no bread, they should eat cake.
No doubt, sometimes the media mention farmers’ suicides, the rise in the price of essential commodities and so on, but such coverage is at most 5 to 10 per cent of the total. The bulk of the coverage goes to showing cricket, the life of film stars, pop music, fashion parades, astrology…
Some TV channels show cricket day in and day out. Some Roman emperor was reputed to have said: if you cannot give the people bread, give them the circus. This is precisely the approach of the Indian establishment. Keep the people involved in cricket so that they forget their economic and social plight. What is important is not price rise or unemployment or poverty or lack of housing or medicines. What is important is whether India has beaten New Zealand (or better still, Pakistan) in a cricket match, or whether Tendulkar or Yuvraj Singh has scored a century. Is this not sheer escapism?
To my mind, the role of the media in our country today must be to help the people in their struggle against poverty, unemployment and other social evils and to make India a modern, powerful, industrial state.
For this, scientific thinking should be promoted. Science alone is the means to solve this country’s problems. By science I do not mean physics, chemistry and biology alone. I mean the entire scientific outlook, which must be spread widely among our people. Our people must develop rational, logical and questioning minds, and abandon superstition and escapism. For this purpose the media can, and must, play a powerful role.
The nation is passing through a terrible socio-economic crisis. Artists, writers and mediapersons must start acting responsibly and help the people solve their problems. And this they can do by focussing on the real issues — which are basically economic — and not by trying to divert people’s attention to non-issues.
The Urdu poet Faiz wrote: Gulon mein rang bhare bade naubahaar chale/ Chale bhi aao ki gulshan ka kaarobaar chale. Urdu poetry often has an outer, superficial meaning, and an inner real meaning. The real meaning of this sher is that the objective situation in the country is ripe, and patriotic people to come forward to serve the country. (The word ‘gulshan’ ostensibly means garden, but in this sher, it really means the country.)
(Markandey Katju is a Judge of the Supreme Court of India. The first part of this article was published yesterday.)
- Freedom of the press and journalistic ethics (indialawyers.wordpress.com)
Anuradha Raman in The OUTLOOK
A caveat: Is the Lokpal the right authority to investigate judges? Legal luminaries think otherwise.
Five Points Of Contention
Pro-Lokpal Bill activists want the higher judiciary to come under the purview of the new law. Jurists think otherwise.
Point: Nowhere in the world is there an ombudsman to whom the entire higher judiciary is made accountable
Counterpoint: The Lokpal Bill must ensure powers to probe corruption charges against SC and HC judges
Independence of the judiciary will be affected, as power to give the nod to act against higher judiciary vests only with CJI
The Bill must provide for a system which is independent of the judiciary to grant permission to register an FIR and launch investigations against a corrupt judge
The Judicial Accountability Bill does have provisions to probe and charge a corrupt judge
The Judicial Accountability Bill only addresses professional misconduct and not corruption
Creates an absurd situation that will become untenable, putting the SC and the Lokpal at loggerheads
Complaints against Lokpal can go to the SC. Those against judges can be taken up by the Lokpal. This willl provide for better checks and balances.
The Lokpal Bill will be challenged in the courts as it affects specific clauses which guard the independence of the judiciary
The Constitution need not be amended to bring the judiciary in the ambit of the Lokpal
Should a judge be subjected to criminal investigation on suspicion of corruption in office? If an ombudsman such as the proposed Lokpal questions his actions, will it amount to lowering the dignity of the judge or the judiciary? Should a judge be immune from the law? These are the chief questions in the debate over whether the judiciary should be made accountable to the Lokpal. Think of it as a special aspect of India’s contentious exploration of a new regulatory possibility, an ombudsman to check corruption in high places, a process stalled in Parliament since the late 1960s.
Despite allegations of corruption against a few judges, courts have by and large managed to retain the sheen of inviolability—and that only partly owes to conventional deference. They are still seen as protectors of the common man and levellers of the high and mighty. Over the last year, they have been hailed for decisions that packed off ministers and MPs to jail, upheld environment laws, championed the cause of the poor and chastised governments for insensitivity towards have-nots. They also came in for criticism, to be sure, for turning a blind eye to the rot in the judiciary itself. What’s galling members of civil society on the Lokpal Bill drafting committee, however, is the stiff resistance from jurists to bringing the higher judiciary—high court and Supreme Court judges—within the ambit of the proposed law. In the five meetings held so far, government nominees on the committee, too, have stymied the efforts of civil society members to include provisos that will make sitting judges accountable. Both groups are battling it out in every conceivable forum in an attempt to influence public opinion.
As of now, if there is an allegation of corruption against a high court or Supreme Court judge, even an fir cannot be registered without permission from the chief justice of India (cji). This stems not from enacted law but from a 1991 judgement of the apex court in the case of Justice K. Veeraswami, which was ostensibly meant to protect the independence of the judiciary and insulate it against pressure from the executive. But legal experts say such permission—if it comes at all—is bound to take time, during which there is every chance for loss of evidence. But has such permission ever been granted? No. Is it likely to happen under the present circumstances? “The very idea of having the cji grant permission for criminal investigation of judges is a farce,” says Prashant Bhushan, a lawyer-activist on the Lokpal committee. “Hence the need to address this in the Lokpal bill.”
The draft bill being discussed proposes to address this problem by requiring that “permission to register an fir against a judge should be granted by a seven-member bench of the Jan Lokpal (the bench may have a majority of judicial members) rather than the cji.” Besides, it says “any complaint against any judge of an HC or SC shall be dealt with only by the office of the chairperson of Lokpal and will be subjected to a preliminary screening which shall determine whether prima facie evidence exists under the Prevention of Corruption Act. In addition to this, no case shall be registered without the approval of a full bench of Lokpal.”
Foremost among those who have reservations about these provisos are former cjis J.S. Verma and M.N. Venkatachaliah: they don’t want judges to be subject to the Lokpal’s scrutiny. Verma says the Judicial Accountability Bill, which he helped initiate and is now pending in Parliament, is the best option. Judges should be accountable, in his opinion, but not to the Lokpal. He says, “Article 50 of the Constitution provides for separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary. The Lokpal falls in the category of the executive. If you don’t have faith in the judiciary, do you think the gods are going to descend and sit in the Lokpal?” His larger argument is that bringing judges under the Lokpal amounts to tampering with the basic structure of the Constitution. “Also,” he asks, “if the Lokpal goes wrong, where will people go? To the courts? Instead, why not strengthen the Judicial Accountability Bill? Article 124 provides for enacting a law for judicial accountability.” Civil society representatives counter that going to the courts in case there are complaints against the Lokpal, or if the Lokpal’s decision is not satisfactory, will ensure enough checks and balances.
This is a circular argument, according to A.P. Shah, former chief justice of Delhi High Court, and makes no sense. He too is for strengthening the Judicial Accountability Bill and keeping judges from the purview of the Lokpal. “The power to remove the Lokpal is with the Supreme Court, and the Lokpal will look into complaints against Supreme Court judges! How can that happen?” he asks. “A judicial accountability law can look into and also govern investigation of allegations of corruption in the judiciary too.”
Another aspect Shah questions is the wisdom of bifurcating wrongdoing in the judiciary—with the Lokpal looking at criminal misconduct only. “Look at P.D. Dinakaran, chief justice of the Sikkim High Court,” he says. “Corruption is one of the many charges—besides judicial misconduct and land-grabbing—levelled against him. Can you say the Lokpal will look only at corruption? How will this operate?”
The objection of Soli Sorabjee, former solicitor-general of India, is based on possibilities of plays and counterplays that will prove counter-productive. “The insistence of civil society members on roping in the judiciary will invite the court’s action. It will be challenged by the courts and an unfortunate regressive result will be major delays in the passage of the bill,” he says. “And if there are weaknesses in the Judicial Accountability Bill, by all means let’s consolidate it.”
This is a view echoed by V.S. Malimath, former chief justice of the Karnataka and Kerala high courts. “Was it not judges who found Ramaswamy, against whom Parliament initiated proceedings for impeachment, guilty? But who acquitted him? Politicians,” he says. “Corruption in the judiciary is a disease and should be treated like one by putting in procedural safeguards.” The question of the Lokpal’s proper turf stems from Article 124 of the Constitution, which makes judges of the Supreme Court totally independent of the executive.
As for getting MPs under the proposed law, there are few takers here too. Some MPs argue, off the record, that the system of checks and balances prevalent now—the ethics committee of Parliament and the privileges committee—have functioned well enough in the recent past. In a signed piece in People’s Democracy, Sitaram Yechury of the CPI(M) writes: “The Common Minimum Programme adopted by the United Front government in 1996 said that a bill to set up the Lokpal will be introduced in the first budget session of the XIth Lok Sabha. The bill will cover the office of the prime minister as well. All MPs will be required by law to declare their assets annually before the Lokpal.” And D. Raja of the CPI acknowledges the importance of making MPs accountable, saying, “The bill will be discussed threadbare by my party, given the various corruption scams that have rocked the government.” By and large, though, MPs are not in favour of being brought under the Lokpal.
Given these complications, the passage of the Lokpal Bill is not going to be easy. It is, after all, Parliament that will have to give its nod to bringing both the prime minister and judges under the Lokpal. But the big question is whether our politicians will unite in voting for a bill that will make them accountable to an external, turf-hungry authority?
“Courts will challenge the bill and the result will be a delay in its passage. This will be rather unfortunate.” Soli Sorabjee, Ex-solicitor-general of India
“Wasn’t it judges who found Ramaswami guilty? And who let him off? Politicians. Graft is a disease.” Justice V.S. Malimath, Ex-CJ, Karnataka, Kerala HCs
“The power to remove the Lokpal is with the SC, and the Lokpal will look at complaints against SC judges?” Justice A.P. Shah, Ex-chief Justice of Delhi HC
“The CJI granting permission to probe a judge is a farce. So we need to address this in the Lokpal Bill.” Prashant Bhushan, Lawyer-activist
- ‘A gigantic institution that draws powers from a statute based on questionable principles’ (indialawyers.wordpress.com)
- Bring the farce to an end: Nariman (indialawyers.wordpress.com)
- Jan Lokpal bill: addressing concerns (indialawyers.wordpress.com)
- Democratic war (indialawyers.wordpress.com)
- Divergent views on bringing PM under Bill (hindu.com)
- Divergent views on bringing Prime Minister under Bill (hindu.com)
- Government going back on its word: Kejriwal (thehindu.com)
- Santosh Hegde happy about government response to the framing of Lokpal Bill (hindu.com)
J. Venkatesan IN THE HINDU
Government to soon bring a Constitution amendment Bill
Judicial Accountability Bill referred to Parliamentary panel / Objection of ‘Vision Statement’ to release undertrial prisoners achieved
In an exclusive interaction with The Hindu, Mr. Moily said the Centre would soon bring a Constitution amendment Bill to revisit the 1993 judgment, giving primacy to the judiciary over the executive in the appointment of judges to the higher judiciary. Without elaborating on the nitty-gritty of the proposal, he said the Bill was likely to be introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament.
The Centre’s decision to review the collegium system of appointments by amending the Constitution comes in the backdrop of the Supreme Court in April referring the matter for consideration by a larger Bench whether the 1993 judgment needed review or not.
Asked about the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010, he said the Bill had been referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee which was expected to submit its report soon and the Bill was likely to be adopted in the monsoon session.
He said the Bill was intended to lay down judicial standards, to enable declaration of assets and liabilities by the judges and to establish a mechanism to enable investigation and follow-up action into complaints against judges.Asked about the move to set up a National Judicial Commission for appointment and transfer of judges, he said, it was still under consideration.
On the Bill relating to increasing the retirement age of High Court judges, he said the Bill providing for increasing the age of High Court judges from 62 to 65 years was examined by the Standing Committee and likely to be slated for discussion in Parliament in the monsoon session.It was aimed at retaining the High Court judges for three more years which would avoid occurrence of new vacancies on account of superannuation and result in their continuance to clear backlog of cases.
Asked about the progress of the ‘Vision Statement’ launched in October 2009 to release undertrial prisoners, he said with the cooperation of the States and the High Courts, the Centre was able to accomplish the objective and as on May 31, a total of 5,62,397 undertrials were released (on bail) and 77,940 discharged from the cases.He said he had written to the Chief Ministers of all the States commending the efforts of the State governments and the High Courts for achieving the objective.In the letter, Mr. Moily said “having been encouraged with the kind of performance, I would urge upon you to step up the programme which has received the highest acclaim from the citizens and is particularly focused on marginalised society. There is no doubt that with your continued interest in the programme, results will be accelerated.”
Mr. Moily wanted the States to provide video-conferencing facilities in district courts and jails to ensure that the delay in disposal of applications of undertials was reduced to a large extent.
- Collegium system of judges appointment to be revisited (indialawyers.wordpress.com)
- Judiciary, Executive should have equal say in appointments: Law Commission (indialawyers.wordpress.com)
- Collegium system: Amicus report says need to revisit 1993 verdict (indialawyers.wordpress.com)
- The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010 (indialawyers.wordpress.com)
- Moily promises ‘right to justice’ law (hindu.com)
Thirteen ways to cleanse the system
RAMACHANDRA GUHA IN THE TELEGRAPH
In an article published 50 years ago, the great Indian democrat, Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari, deplored “the unconscionable and grievous expenditure on elections, which gives overwhelming advantage to money-power.” Rajaji argued that “elections now are largely, so to say, private enterprise, whereas this is the one thing that should be first nationalized.” Towards this end, he recommended that the government issue voter cards, take votes not at fixed destinations but at mobile booths that went from home to home and hamlet to hamlet, and provide State funding to parties and contestants.
In the decades since Rajaji wrote, money-power has become even more pervasive and influential. A candidate for Parliament requires crores of rupees to fight an election. These costs are obtained through party funds, which rest not (as they should) on membership fees and small voluntary donations, but on commissions creamed off government contracts, and on bribes given by industrialists to whom the parties have granted favours. The funds provided to (or gathered by) contestants are then used to seek to bribe voters. The money spent in fighting elections is recovered many-fold in case the party or contestant wins.
In Rajaji’s time, a minority of politicians (perhaps 20 per cent or so) were corrupt. And virtually none were criminals. Now, certainly less than 20 per cent of politicians in power are completely honest; and somewhat more than 20 per cent have criminal records. That said, the electoral system itself is relatively transparent. Sterling work by successive election commissioners — such as T.N. Seshan, J.M. Lyngdoh, N. Gopalaswami and S.Y. Quraishi — have largely put an end to the practice, widespread in the 1970s and 1980s, of capturing booths, doctoring ballot papers and ensuring that those who were not likely to vote in your favour were kept away from the electoral process. Also on the positive side, voter turnout remains high, far higher, in fact, than in older and otherwise more mature democracies. Besides, the poor vote in larger numbers than the middle-class and the rich.
Indian elections, then, are by no means a farce; but they are surely in need of reform. They need to be made independent of money-power, and less captive to the interests of crooks and criminals. Recognizing this, the ministry of law and the Election Commission have been holding a series of meetings in different parts of India, soliciting views on how best to reform the electoral system. Asked to speak at the meeting in Bangalore, I took as my manifesto (the word is inescapable) a submission prepared by the Association for Democratic Reforms, a remarkable organization that has single-handedly made electoral malpractice and the criminalization of politics topics of national debate. (It was a public interest litigation filed by the founding members of the ADR that resulted in a Supreme Court judgment making mandatory the declaration of assets and criminal records of all those seeking to contest assembly and parliamentary elections.)
The note submitted by the ADR to the ministry of law and the Election Commission makes 27 recommendations in all. These are listed in detail on the ADR website. I will here highlight 13 recommendations, which I shall divide into two categories — those that are immediately practicable, and can be put in place at once; and those that are highly desirable, and can perhaps be tested first in the Lok Sabha elections of 2014 and then implemented in subsequent parliamentary and assembly elections.
The seven proposals made by the ADR that can be implemented with immediate effect are:
1. Barring criminals from politics: A person charged with serious offences like murder, rape, kidnapping, or extortion, against whom charges have been framed by the police or the courts and which are punishable by sentences exceeding two years’ imprisonment should be prohibited from contesting elections. To prevent vendetta by political opponents, the law can specify that such action will be taken only if the case and charges were filed six or perhaps even nine months before the date of the election which the person wishes to contest;
2. Sources of income: Along with the declaration of assets and liabilities (now mandatory), candidates for state and national elections should also make public their yearly income and its sources;
3. Appointments of election commissioners: At the national level, this should be done by a multi-party committee consisting of the prime minister, the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India. Likewise, state election commissioners should be chosen by a committee comprising the chief minister, the leader of the Opposition, the assembly Speaker, and the chief justice of the relevant high court. Further, to obviate bias and harassment, the chief election commissioner of the state should be a person from outside the state cadre;
4. Provision for negative voting: The electronic voting machines, while listing the names and affiliations of candidates, should have, as a final option, ‘None of the above’;
5. Bar on post-retirement jobs: All election commissioners should be barred from accepting government posts of any kind for a period of five years after their retirement, and from joining a political party for a further five years;
6. Financial transparency: It should be made mandatory for political parties to declare accounts annually, indicating their sources of funding, patterns of expenditure, etc;
7. Curbs on publicity at public expense: Six months prior to the expiry of the House, the government should be forbidden from taking out advertisements in the media trumpeting their achievements (real or imagined);
Six further proposals made by the ADR, which can be made operational in the next few years are:
1. The winning margin of candidates should be at least one vote more than 50 per cent of those cast. If no candidate gets a majority of votes, then the two top candidates in a constituency can ‘run-off’ against one another;
2. Elections should be funded by the state. The mechanics of this process have to be carefully worked out, to establish how much money is allocated to state parties, how much to national parties, how much to independent candidates, etc. But surely a committee composed of a selection of India’s many world-class economists can work out a formula that is both efficient and equitable;
3. The internal reform of political parties such that they have (a) regular elections (based on secret ballots); (b) term limits for office bearers;
4. The classification of political parties as public authorities, so that their finances and other activities come under the provision of the Right to Information Act;
5. The prompt detection of those who bribe voters with gifts of alcohol, televisions, etc., and their punishment by having their candidacy set aside;
6. The provision of annual reports to constituents by MPs and MLAs.
In recent months, the issue of political corruption has dominated the headlines — from the Commonwealth Games through the 2G scandal and the mining and real estate scams on to the controversy over the lok pal bill. Public discussion has been high on indignation and low on constructive proposals for reform. The document prepared by the ADR is an excellent starting point to move the debate from rhetoric to substance, from talk to action. For, to cleanse the election system is to cleanse the political class, and, thereby, the process of governance itself.
New Delhi, June 4 (IANS) Most people have read the definition of a “forest” at some point or another, but in India its legal definition is still evolving within the four walls of the environment ministry.
According to the ministry, work is on to come up with an “ecologically sound and socially desirable definition of forests and forestry”.
“We are still working on the definition of forest and will let you know once we finalise it,” Brij Mohan Singh Rathore, joint secretary on the Green India Mission in the environment ministry, told IANS.
Rathore, however, denied commenting on what is delaying the definition. According to the ministry’s official document, the Indian Forest Act, 1927, does not define the forest, and the legal extent of forests depends upon the process of notifications.As of now what is followed is based on the Supreme Court order which defines forest as given in the dictionary, say experts.
“The term forest doesn’t have any definition in India. It is defined on the basis of the 1996 Supreme Court order which says anything should be forest if it meets one of the two definitions – either the dictionary definition or land recorded as forest on any government record,” Shankar Gopalakrishnan from the Campaign for Survival and Dignity, an NGO working for forest dwellers, told IANS.
According to Gopalakrishnan, it is a vague definition and provides huge scope for misuse of power by the authorities. “The interesting part is that it gives space to the government to use draconian powers at its convenience and mark an area as forest or non-forest,” he added.
The ministry’s documents further said recent concerns about climate change also require greater clarity regarding definition of forests for the purpose of understanding opportunities and obligations under the global carbon sequestration regime.
“In this context, the ecologically sound and socially desirable definitions of forests and forestry require to be examined in the Indian context keeping international commitments and different orders of the apex court of the country into consideration,” it added.
The ministry some years ago had asked the NGOs to suggest some definition of forests but has rejected all the suggestions. “It’s in fact a funny situation and entangled between a couple of things. I think it is better to have satellite imagery and fix a bar on the dimension of a forest and then calculate land under forest and non-forest area in the country,” said Yogesh Gokhale, a fellow with the forestry and biodiversity division, the Energy Research Institute (TERI).
Even without a definition, the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change in February approved the country’s forestry mission – Green India Mission – to fight climate change.
The mission, one of the eight under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), projects an ambitious target of 10 million hectares of forest cover by 2020 at a cost of Rs.460 billion ($10 billion).
For the first time, this year India is also the global host of United Nations World Environment Day June 5 and the theme is ‘Forests: Nature at Your Service’, which celebrates the multitude of services – providing clean air, housing rich biodiversity, supplying water – performed by the world’s forests.