“Sustainable Development is not possible without the rule of law”: Shri Rajnath Singh

The Union Home Minister, Shri Rajnath Singh at the Valedictory session of the International Conference on Rule of Law for Supporting 2030 Development Agenda, in New Delhi on March 06, 2016. The Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Power, Coal and New and Renewable Energy, Shri Piyush Goyal, the Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change (Independent Charge), Shri Prakash Javadekar and other dignitaries are also seen.

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Union Home Minister addresses the International Conference on Rule of Law for supporting 2030 Development Agenda

The Union Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh has said that the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by more than 190 nations in September last year are complex and enormous to achieve. Addressing the International Conference on Rule of Law for supporting 2030 Development Agenda here today, Shri Rajnath Singh said the world today feels the need for ever more proactive, responsive, innovative and inclusive approach towards development. <>

Shri Rajnath Singh said that in a world where prosperity and material wealth is held by a small minority, the SDGs should be more focused on reducing the gap between the haves and have nots. He said that Sustainable Development is not possible without the rule of law and that peace and harmony are essential for sustainable development. Very importantly, the Global Community has noted the need to reduce the violence in all forms and promote rule of law not only at the national level but also at the international level, he added.

Following is the text of the address delivered by Shri Rajnath Singh on the occasion:

“It gives me immense pleasure to be a part of this Conference. I would like to congratulate the organizers for organizing this Conference, which I firmly believe, serves to be the perfect podium for exchange of ideas and knowledge on the path towards attainment of 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. I have been informed that this three day conference has deliberated upon several key aspects pertaining to sustainable development and the development agenda for 2030.

During the last two days, you have discussed a wide range of issues and heard a number of leading opinion makers. You have heard the Hon’ble Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India. You have heard a number of leading legal luminaries from across the globe.

You have also heard a number of renowned experts. I have been informed that the discussions in the Conference have been remarkably vibrant and rich in content. I am hopeful that this Conference shall add its voice to the issue of environmental justice and rule of law which are necessary for sustainable development.

As you are aware the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September last year. More than 190 nations pledged their support and expressed their commitment for attainment of these goals. Given the complexity and enormity of the 2030 Agenda, the world today feels the need for ever more proactive, responsive, innovative and inclusive approach towards development.

In a world where prosperity and material wealth is held by a small minority, the SDGs should be more focused on reducing the gap between the haves and have nots.

Sustainable Development is not possible without the rule of law.  Peace and harmony are essential for sustainable development.  It is impossible to visualise the world without poverty, hunger, deprivation, gender discrimination, etc. unless and until we create an atmosphere which allows people to use available resources for their development instead of unproductive activities.

We need to ensure access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. Very importantly, the Global Community has noted the need to reduce the violence in all forms and promote rule of law not only at the national level but also at the international level.  I think we in our country indeed recognize the importance of these goals in pursuit of a world free from inequities and deprivations.

Poverty eradication is the greatest global challenge facing the world today and it is certainly one of the top most priorities for India where one third of its population lives in extreme poverty. The government in India has already kickstarted the process by empowering the poor through several of its social and economic security schemes. We want to instill confidence among the poor that their destiny is in their own hands and with a positive mind and strategic thinking the twin challenges of poverty and hunger can be met successfully.

Our policy is of ‘Zero Tolerance against Hunger’. I am confident that by 2030 India would be successfully able to end hunger and ensure safe, nutritious and sufficient food to every Indian all year round.

The SDGs target of doubling the agricultural productivity and incomes of farmers specially the small scale producers by 2030 is challenging. Nevertheless, the Government of India has committed itself to double the income of all the farmers by 2022, much ahead of the timeframe set by the SDGs.

Developing and implementing resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, and strengthening capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought and other natural calamities is an area of concern to the world.

We need to increase investments in irrigation, rural infrastructure and agricultural research and extension services. Our government has already started working on this prescription as we have decided to build roads to all rural settlements in the next three years and also allocated funds to increase the percentage of irrigated land in the country which is currently pegged around 46 percent.

As a measure to ensure the proper functioning of food commodity markets and facilitate timely access to market information to our farmers, the Government has decided to establish the United Agricultural Marketing ePlatform which aims to connect 585 agri mandis by March 2018. This facility will allow farmers to sell their produce at any mandi of their choice and help the farmers in realizing a fair and market determined prices for their produce, thereby improving their incomes.

We have introduced vibrant schemes relating to restoration of soil health, crop insurance and given massive impetus to well being of the rural population.  We have been conscious of the need to promote healthy life and quality education.

Improving the living conditions for women and protecting them against all forms of discrimination is another challenge facing the world. The SDGs have targeted to eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.

The government of India is exploring new avenues to empower women and ensure their full and effective participation and provide them with equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.

Recently the Government has decided to give 33 percent reservation to women in police forces managed by the Centre and also the paramilitary forces. The Central government has sent an advisory to implement this decision of 33 percent reservation to women in state police forces.

Access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all is another significant goal set by the SDGs. The future of our energy needs is dependent on how do we use the renewable energy. The battle to drive carbon dioxide out of the global energy system has produced certain positive outcomes yet we are still far behind in achieving the goal. We have wind and solar energy as two prime sources of renewable energy and India is heavily betting on clean and renewable energy.  The government of India has now decided to double the clean-energy tax on coal to fight environmental pollution.

The tax on coal, which fires more than 60 percent of the nation’s generation capacity, will now be increased to Rs 400 a metric ton from Rs 200 per ton. The government plans to allocate 30 billion rupees ($438 million) annually to come up with a comprehensive plan, spanning 15-20 years, to augment nuclear power generation. Taxing coal and promoting nuclear energy shows the government’s commitment to the environment.

Climate Change is an issue which warrants urgent action to combat its impacts. Although a lot of buzz has been created around the word ‘Climate Change’, not much has been done to counter this menace. At the time of the first UN Climate Change Conference in 1995 the atmospheric concentration of CO2 was 361 parts per million. In 2014 it reached 399 parts per million.

Between 2000 and 2010 the rise in Greenhouse emissions was faster than in the 1980s and 1990s. We need to strengthen our resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries. The world must commit itself to integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning.

The year 2015 was a landmark year for India in fighting Climate Change. At the International level, India played a crucial role in the climate change talks and agreement under United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris in December 2015, and the launch of ISA (International Solar Alliance). Our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi played an important role at COP 21 agreement (Conference of Parties) in the launch of the ISA, and also volunteered to host its secretariat.

According to the recently published Economic Survey, as of January 4, 2016, with 1,593 projects out of 7,685 registered under Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of UNFCCC, India has the second highest CDM projects. A budget provision of Rs.350 crore for 2015-16 and 2016-17 has been earmarked for National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change (NAFCC) while National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) is supported by cess on coal.

In India Rivers like Ganga, Yamuna, Kaveri, Godavari and others are considered sacred. Ganga is India’s one of the longest and most worshipped rivers. The River Ganga is important not only for its cultural and spiritual significance but also because it hosts more than 40% of the country’s population.

Certain studies have shown that Ganga’s self-purifying quality leads to oxygen levels 25 times higher than any other river in the world. The water of Ganga does not tend to decay over longer periods of storage. In a study conducted by Malaria Research Center in New Delhi it was observed that water from upper ambits of Ganga did not host mosquito breeding, and also prevented mosquito breeding in any water it was added to. The  Government launched an integrated Ganga conservation mission called ‘Namami Gange’ to arrest the pollution of Ganga River and revive the river.

Global environmental change is interwoven with a complex web of social, economic, political and scientific implications. Recent natural fluctuations in weather and climate, while not necessarily attributable to climate change due to anthropogenic activities, illustrates the magnitude and broad scope of environmental impacts on our intricately intertwined global economy.

The crisis which we are facing today forces humankind to review the whole gamut of Man–Nature relationship, more precisely in the light of the developments of the last five decades and accordingly chalk out the path of development for the generations yet to come.

The importance of protecting environment can even be found in Indian ancient texts under which it is our dharma to protect nature. Our ancient texts say ‘सर्वे भवन्तुसुखिनो’and “लोकाः समस्ताः सुखिनो भवन्तु. We believe in the wellbeing of entire humanity and the environment around us. We believe in harmony with nature. We as a society have always acknowledged our duty to protect the environment.

The dharma of protecting the environment was to sustain and ensure progress and welfare of all. Our culture strives to strike a fine balance between the process of exploiting the environment for development and our duty to conserve it.

Even the Constitution of India clearly states that it is the duty of the state to ‘protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country’. It imposes a duty on every citizen to ‘protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife’. Reference to the environment has also been made in the Directive Principles of State Policy as well in the interpretation of the Fundamental Right to life.

The right to a clean and healthy environment, as has been held by the Supreme Court, is not only a Fundamental Right but has been inculcated and understood to be one of the basic human rights.

The three pillars of the Indian democracy, the legislature, executive and judiciary are keen to incorporate the philosophy of deliberative democracy in environmental decision making for ensuring effective accomplishment of the diverse goals of environmental sustainability. This is in line with the international mandate as formulated in the erstwhile Millennium Development Goals and the recently framed Sustainable Development Goals.

The Judiciary and the Executive play a major role in ensuring rule of law and sustainable development.

In fact, rule of law and sustainable development are inseparable.  Well-functioning and robust legal institutions and governments bound by the rule of law are vital to good governance which is essential for sustainable development.  A fair, impartial and accessible system of justice and a representative government are key elements of the rule of law.  Good governance promotes accountability, transparency, efficiency, and rule of law in public institutions at all levels.

This conference has provided a useful platform where concept of good governance, rule of law and sustainable development has been discussed by the judiciary and executive.  There are not too many platforms such as this.  This conference has been attended by practitioners in the field like Chairmen and Member Secretaries of Pollution Control Boards as well as policy makers.

It has provided a rare opportunity to understand the mutual concerns and develop a way to move forward.  The workshop has also been attended by a number of students representing the aspirations of the young population.

India is a country where nearly 60 percent of its population is under the age of 35 years. To take the debate of sustainable development forward we need to communicate with the youth. Today the youth is coming of age in a time of social media. The youth is driving the conversation from analogue and local to digital and global. I believe that the time has come to start the development conversations at ‘the last mile’ where the marginal man is standing.

In the end, I would like to compliment the National Green Tribunal, Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change and Ministry of Water Resource, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation as well as UNEP for their active role during this workshop.

The idea behind this Conference on ‘Rule of Law for Supporting the 2030 Development Agenda/Sustainable Development Goals’ was to raise environmental awareness by asking new questions, exploring new possibilities and effectively looking at old problems from new, global angles.  It all requires a great creative imagination and it gives me contentment that the elaborative deliberations have demonstrated such rare ingenuity. I believe that the conclusions and recommendations formulated here shall mark real advancement in environmental jurisprudence and thinking.

I think we need to create more such opportunities to develop a shared understanding and a common vision.  I strongly believe and reiterate that we can transform this country if we all join our hands in pursuit of our common objectives.”