Jairam Ramesh may quit as chairman of standing committee on environment, science and tech

He said three important Bills bulldozed through Parliament were deliberately not referred to the Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change

Jairam Ramesh (Photo: IANS)
Jairam Ramesh (Photo: IANS)

NH Digital

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh hinted at quitting the chairmanship of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change, accusing the Modi government of bulldozing three crucial Bills through Parliament.

He said three important Bills bulldozed through Parliament these past few days were deliberately not referred to the Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change. These are Bills that radically amend the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, and the Forest Conservation Act, 1980; and the Bill to set up the Anusandhan National Research Foundation.

“Not only that, the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019, on which the Committee submitted a comprehensive report with many substantive suggestions has been withdrawn. The Modi government has instead bypassed it with the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act, 2022,” tweeted Ramesh.

“Under these circumstances, I see little value in continuing as the Chairman of this Standing Committee, the subjects of which are very close to my heart and fit my educational and professional background. All that is irrelevant in this age of self-styled Sarvagyaani and Vishwaguru. The Modi government has turned yet another institutional mechanism worthless,” he added.

Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill

Rajya Sabha passed the Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2023, on Tuesday; it was already cleared by Lok Sabha on July 25. The Bill seeks to amend the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 .

The Law was enacted in 2002 with the aim to conserve biodiversity, promote the sustainable utilization of its elements, and ensure just and fair distribution of the advantages arising from the use of biological resources.

The amendment intends to encourage the Indian system of medicine, facilitate fast-tracking of research, patent application process and decriminalises all the offences under the Act.

It exempts AYUSH registered practitioners, local people and communities of the area, including growers and cultivators of biodiversity, from giving prior intimation to State biodiversity boards for accessing biological resources for commercial utilisation.

The earlier Act had specified that approval of National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) was required before applying for IPR involving biological resources obtained from India. However, the amendment changes the requirement and now the approval will be required before the actual grant of the IPR and not before the application.

The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023

According to PRS, The Bill amends the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 to make it applicable to certain types of land. These include land notified as a forest under the Indian Forest Act, 1927 or in government records after the 1980 Act came into effect. The Act will not be applicable for land converted to non-forest use before December 12, 1996.

It also exempts certain types of land from the purview of the Act. These include land within 100 km of India’s border needed for national security projects, small roadside amenities, and public roads leading to a habitation.

Additionally, the Act specifies some activities that can be carried out in forests, such as establishing check posts, fencing, and bridges. The Bill also allows running zoos, safaris and eco-tourism facilities.

It has been pointed out that exempting land near border areas for national security projects may adversely impact the forest cover and wildlife in north-eastern states. A blanket exemption for projects like zoos, eco-tourism facilities, and reconnaissance surveys may adversely affect forest land and wildlife.

Anusandhan National Research Foundation

The Anusandhan National Research Foundation Bill 2023, which paves the way for the establishment of a national agency to fund research across Indian universities. The Rajya Sabha passed it on Wednesday and it was passed by Lok Sabha on Monday.

The Bill, after approval in the Parliament, will establish the NRF, an apex body to provide high-level strategic direction of scientific research in the country according to recommendations of the National Education Policy (NEP), at a total estimated cost of Rs 50,000 crore during five years (2023-28).

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) will be the administrative Department of NRF which will be governed by a Governing Board consisting of eminent researchers and professionals across disciplines.

The prime minister will be the ex-officio president of the board and the Union Minister of Science & Technology & Union Minister of Education will be the ex-officio vice-presidents. NRF's functioning will be governed by an Executive Council chaired by the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India.

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