Center forced to "call off" National Public Consultation on Waste Management Rules
Biswanath Sinha, Joint Secretary of Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) was forced by demands from various representatives of civil society organisations to cancel its "Stakeholders Consultation on Draft Waste Management Rules 2015" organised in partnership with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) at Le Meridian Hotel in Bangalore today.
The decision was taken when it was pointed out that the Ministry had wrongly, perhaps even illegally, outsourced an essential executive function of rule formulation (that too of delegated legislations), which is the exclusive preserve of the Government, to a corporate lobby group, and that the entire consultation process smacked of an illegal and undemocratic exercise from the very beginning.
In April 2015 MoEF&CC put out the Draft Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules, 2015 for public comments. It was not clear from the website release if the Draft Rules were notified in the Gazette as open for public comment for a period of 60 days. However, what was categorically stated was that the Ministry was undertaking a "National Consultation Programme" on "Draft Waste Management Regulations, 2015", and that the same would be held in Delhi on 1st May, in Mumbai on 8th May, in Bengaluru on 22nd May and Kolkata on 5th June.
The Ministry in its release also stated unequivocally that the "National Consultation Programme is being organised in partnership with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce of India (FICCI), and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)".
The Ministry further emphasised that with "Government's special impetus on Clean India Mission in consonance with Make in India and Ease of Doing Business these amendments are timely endeavour towards meeting these initiatives of the Government".
The overall consultation programme, the Ministry informed in its web release, was so "(a)ll invited stakeholders may ensure their participation in National Consultation Programme provide valuable inputs for effective outcome in the form of prolific legislations on wastes" (sic; emphasis supplied).
Subsequent to this Release, the Ministry did not issue any public advertisements inviting the wide public to engage in the National Public Consultations. Instead, CII and FICCI selectively invited industry representatives or pro-industry lobby groups to the consultations held in Delhi, which was presided over by Indian Environment Minister Mr. Prakash Javadekar, and to the one held in Mumbai. Nowhere on the Ministry's website is there any mention that any other Consultations would be held in formulating these Rules, barring those held by CII and FICCI for the MoEF&CC.
For the Bangalore consultation, that CII organised at a 5-star hotel, email invitations were sent out and participation was restricted to invitees who registered priorly. This invitation exercise was undertaken with such secrecy that not even the Solid Waste Management Expert Committee Members constituted by Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) were invited.
Besides, not one of the Petitioners who have promoted Public Interest Litigations before the Karnataka High Court advocating progressive, socially just and environmentally viable waste management strategies were invited to the National Consultation. As there were no public advertisements, there was no way any member of the public or any elected representative from any of the four southern states, for whose benefit the Bangalore Consultation was ostensibly held, could participate and that too meaningfully.