Uneven and Combined Development and the Politics of Labour in an Eastern Indian Coalfield: Shifts and Changes from Late Colonialism to Neoliberalism

Introduction

Trotsky’s notion of uneven and combined development has been discussed extensively in the literature on extractive industries in the Global South. The debates originated in studies on Latin America but they are equally relevant for any other country of the Global South. In the Indian context, the development of extractive industries such as coal mining rests on, reproduces and constantly re-combines unevenness between India and other countries as well as within the country. This was the case when large-scale industrial mining began in India during the colonial period, primarily for railways, such as the East Indian Railway, and for local industries and export trade (Ghosh 1977). Mining continued to set the trajectory after the country gained Independence in 1947, when the state expanded the extraction of coal to feed its ambitious project of rapid industrialization in the name of ‘development’. Both, the ‘temples of modern India’ – as the first Prime Minister Nehru called the large integrated steel mills – and the large coal mines were concentrated in the subnational states in central and eastern India, such as Odisha, Jharkhand (formerly part of Bihar) and Chhattisgarh formerly part of Madhya Pradesh) (Das 1992; Adduci 2012; Adhikari and Chhotray 2020). As is well known, the expansion of open-cast coal mines entailed a plethora of environmental degradation as well as the large-scale dispossession and displacement of usually marginal agriculture-based communities and the dismantling of their agrarian structure (Nayak 2020; Noy 2020). The changing industrial policies since Independence also re-created and re-combined unevenness in the labour regimes, first by expanding the formalization of the erstwhile almost exclusively casual mining labour forces and later on by re-informalizing them.

Read more

Media, Politics and Environment: Analyzing Experiences from Europe and Asia

Introduction

Environmental protection has not equally established itself as a permanent fixture in the political systems of all countries: to date, governments and entire societies have responded to environmental challenges in a variety of ways, and concrete environmental policy is still a highly national matter. Moreover, the perception of environmental problems varies considerably on a global scale. The reasons normally cited for these differences largely stem from the environmental policy debates themselves, e.g. poverty, ignorance, capital interests, etc. In contrast, this book shows that concrete environmental policy emerges from a complex interplay of mass media and political conflicts: first, the mass media provide the framework for national environmental policy through agenda-setting, framing and scandalization; second, the mass media thereby change values in the political and social discourse, e.g. by altering the perception of global commons and expanding the possibilities of interest articulation; and third, this can lead to political decision-making processes in which legal and other measures for environmental protection are enforced. The book systematically compares industrialized countries such as Germany and Japan with several rapidly emerging countries in South and Southeast Asia.

Read more

State’s Commitment to Environmental Governance in India: Struggle Between Developmental Pressure and Sustainability Challenges

Summary

Over the last 50 years since environmentalism first exploded onto the world political agenda, the environment has been one of the most controversial and rapidly growing areas of public policy. The green movements in North and local grass-root movements in the South countries have elevated the debate for environmental policymaking and governance. Countries in both North and South have enacted several policies and regulations for environmental protection. However, these policies have been criticized due to their superficial protective coverage, absence of concrete measures and poor execution.

Taking these contexts in the background, this chapter has tried to examine the concept and practice of environmental governance in India. It has provided a historical overview of the environmental governance and also highlighted the challenges and opportunities in the different spheres of environmental decision making by taking some examples. Methodologically, the paper would be based on a path-dependent analysis of the environmental governance in India. This chapter argues that balance in the environment-development trade-off is necessary to meet growth objectives and the enforcement measures do not necessarily obstruct the growth. Further, more public engagement as well as creative politics are required for better environmental decision making.

Read more

Climate Governance and Federalism in India

Summary

The chapter puts forward a synthetic account of the forces shaping climate governance in India’s federal architecture, building on descriptions of environmental federalism (Arora and Srivastava 2019; Chakrabarti and Srivastava 2015; Huang and Gupta 2014); state actions in climate policy (Dubash and Jogesh 2014; Jorgensen et al. 2015; Kumar 2018); and several recent policy moves by both the Centre and states. It describes India’s federal architecture and environmental governance processes before showing how the federal system is adapting to the climate challenge. The chapter also reflects on the inherent vulnerabilities of this form of climate governance.

The volume (Climate Governance and Federalism: A Forum of Federations Comparative Policy Analysis Cambridge University Press) brings together leading experts to explore whether federal or decentralised systems help or hinder efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change. It reviews the opportunities and challenges federalism offers for the development and implementation of climate mitigation and adaptation policies and identifies the conditions that influence the outcomes of climate governance. Including in-depth case studies of 14 different jurisdictions, this is an essential resource for academics, policymakers and practitioners interested in climate governance, and the best practices for enhancing climate action.

Read more

International Environmental Law in the Courts of India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan

Summary

This chapter, published in The Oxford Handbook of International Environmental Law, focuses on international environmental law (IEL) in the courts of India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Review of the case law reveals that Indian courts have led the adoption of the IEL principles in this region, with occasional references to IEL by Bangladeshi and Pakistani courts. This appears to follow the trend of non environmental cases, where also the Bangladeshi and Pakistani judiciary is more reluctant than the Indian courts to turn to international law. Although courts in the three countries have engaged with IEL, it has mostly been at a superficial level. Their reliance on IEL is not always accompanied by strong judicial reasoning, making it difficult to determine their content and scope, and even their relevance in particular scenarios. Given development imperatives in these countries, courts are often faced with the ‘economy/development versus environment’ question. In such situations, the courts rely on IEL in an instrumental fashion in support of the final outcome of the case, rather than engaging with the substantive content of the IEL principles.

Read more

Climate Litigation in India

Summary

India is one of the countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. It is also one of the highest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters in the world, although its per capita GHG emissions are very low. An active participant in international climate negotiations, India’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) is considered 2 °C compatible, and its current policy framework is likely to support two of the three targets set out in its NDC.

While the success of the policy framework will be determined by various social, environmental, economic and political factors, it will also depend on the ability of individuals to hold public and private actors accountable for their actions (and inactions), which aggravate the causes and impacts of climate change.

A review of the legal and regulatory landscape in India reveals that the main environment and energy related laws, policies and regulatory processes offer several hooks to bring climate claims to courts. While there have been cases where courts have referred to climate concerns, there is yet to be a judicial decision on the justiciability of climate claims, or one that directs measures specifically for mitigation or adaptation. The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India and the High Courts as well as that of the National Green Tribunal is quite broad, and they could potentially decide various types of climate claims. However, one should not be overly optimistic as Indian courts often refrain from interfering in government decisions and policies on infrastructure development and Indian courts are notorious for their overflowing dockets and massive judicial delays.

Read more

The Ecological Costs of Doing Business: Environment, Energy and Climate Change

Summary

What perspective did the BJP government bring to the link between environment, energy and climate change on the one hand and development on the other, and what consequent actions has it taken? In this essay published in ‘Re-forming India: The Nation Today’, Penguin India, the authors assess the government’s actions in areas of environment, energy and climate change with a view to interpreting its track record.

Focusing less on environmental outcomes and more on the changes in direction introduced by the government, Dubash and Ghosh explore four themes. First, they examine the government’s focus on the ‘cost of doing business’ and ask whether reducing this cost has come at an environmental price. Second, they analyse cases in which an environment and energy agenda was driven by political imperatives, such as around energy access or Ganga rejuvenation. Third, they explore whether and how the government has addressed the emergent big picture environment and energy questions that will shape India’s future, beyond immediate regulatory changes. Finally, they examine its diplomacy in the areas of climate change and energy, and reflect on what the accumulated record implies in terms of India’s environmental governance.

Read more

India in a Warming World: Integrating Climate Change and Development

Introduction

As science is increasingly making clear, the problem of climate change poses an existential challenge for humanity. For India, this challenge is compounded by immediate concerns of eradicating poverty and accelerating development, and complicated by its relatively limited role thus far in causing the problem. India in a Warming World explores this complex context for India’s engagement with climate change. But, in addition, it argues that India, like other countries, can no longer ignore the problem, because a pathway to development innocent of climate change is no longer available. Bringing together leading researchers, activists, and policymakers, this volume lays out the emergent debate on climate change in India. Collectively, these chapters deepen clarity on why India should engage with climate change and how it can best do so.

Read more

Indian Environmental Law: Key Concepts and Principles

Summary

For more than three decades now, the Indian courts have delivered far-reaching judgments on a range of significant environmental matters. In their effort to adjudicate complex disputes with serious environmental repercussions, involving the interplay of multiple social, economic and political factors, the courts have developed a framework of environmental rights and legal principles, which now forms an integral part of Indian environmental jurisprudence. The judiciary invokes this framework creatively to identify constitutional, statutory and common law obligations of public and private actors to protect the environment, and to enforce the performance of related duties. There is, however, limited in-depth study of these crucial rights and principles in existing legal literature.

Indian Environmental Law: Key Concepts and Principles fills this gap through its critical analysis of the evolution of this environmental legal framework in India. It studies the origins of environmental rights, substantive and procedural, and the four most significant legal principles— principle of sustainable development, polluter pays principle, precautionary principle and the public trust doctrine—and elaborates how Indian courts have defined, interpreted and applied them across a range of contexts.

As environmental litigation and legal adjudication struggle to respond to worsening environmental quality in the country, conceptual clarity about the content, application and limitations of environmental rights and legal principles is crucial for the improvement of environmental governance. With chapters written by Saptarishi Bandopadhyay, Lovleen Bhullar, Shibani Ghosh, Dhvani Mehta and Lavanya Rajamani, this book explores the judicial reasoning and underlying assumptions in landmark judgments of the Supreme Court, the High Courts and the National Green Tribunal, and aims to provide the reader with a comprehensive understanding of the framework of rights and principles.

Download the book here.

Indian Environmental Law: Key Concepts and Principles has been reviewed by The Hindu and Down to Earth. To learn more about this book, read the chapter descriptions below.

Chapter 1: The Judiciary and the Right to Environment in India: Past, Present and Future
By Lovleen Bhullar
Bhullar discusses the evolution of the right to environment as a substantive right in Indian environmental law. Drawing from judgments of different fora, she identifies the linkages made by the Indian judiciary between environmental protection and the Constitution, specifically Articles 21, 47, 48A and 51A(g). She finds the courts to have adopted a predominantly anthropocentric approach to environmental protection, with occasional recognition of the right of the environment. While the path of evolution of the right to environment, and its realization, has been problematic, Bhullar argues that the inherent imprecision of the right, while unfortunate in some cases, allows courts the flexibility to adapt their directions to a given fact situation, often in the interest of the environment.

Chapter 2: Procedural Environmental Rights in Indian Law
By Shibani Ghosh
Ghosh examines three procedural environmental rights – the right to information, the right to public participation, and the right to access to justice – in detail, and identifies loopholes and limitations in the adjudication of each right. In particular, the chapter refers to relevant provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act 1986, the EIA Notification 2006, the Right to Information Act 2005, the Forest Rights Act 2006, and the National Green Tribunal Act 2010. Ghosh concludes that despite statutory expression of procedural environmental rights, there is no room for complacency as these three rights are routinely curtailed and denied.

Chapter 3: Sustainable Development and Indian Environmental Jurisprudence
By Saptarishi Bandhopadhyay
Bandhopadhyay critically analyses the principle of sustainable development, as interpreted and applied by the Indian judiciary. The chapter provides a succinct description of the historical evolution of the principle internationally. It analyses the Vellore judgement to distill the Indian Supreme Court’s definition of the principle, and examines the Narmada judgement to reveal how the Supreme Court has ‘instrumentally harnessed the vagueness inherent in sustainable development’. Bandopadhyay concludes that while the interpretive flexibility of the principle diminishes the extent to which litigants and lawyers can expect the Court to justify its determinations, this flexibility is not necessarily undesirable, as it leaves the field of legal argumentation and political struggle relatively open.

Chapter 4: The Polluter Pays Principle: Scope and Limits of Judicial Decisions
By Lovleen Bhullar
Bhullar discusses the origin of the polluter pays principle in Indian judicial decisions, and poses five questions to understand how the Indian courts have operationalised it – who is the polluter; how and when is the application of the principle triggered; how is the loss assessed and compensation determined; what does the polluter pay; and finally, what are the limits of the principle. She concludes that while the flexible way in which the Indian judiciary has operationalised the principle has allowed different aspects of the principle to be fleshed out in each case, it has also led to courts speaking in contradictory voices.

Chapter 5: The Precautionary Principle
By Lavanya Rajamani
Rajamani explores the conceptual underpinnings of the precautionary principle, tracing its definition, interpretation and legal status in international law, before turning to Indian law. She argues that the application of the principle in the Vellore judgement is at odds with the Supreme Court’s own definition of the principle. The chapter discusses this lack of clarity in the Court’s engagement with the principle, and the blurring of lines between two distinct legal principles – precaution and prevention. Rajamani concludes that the invocation of the indigenous version of the precautionary principle may be instrumentally useful in arriving at environmentally favourable judicial outcomes, but it does not bode well for the development of a clear line of jurisprudence.

Chapter 6: Public Trust Doctrine in Indian Environmental Law
By Shibani Ghosh
Ghosh traces the growth and application of the public trust doctrine, and explains why it is difficult to identify how the doctrine could lend predictability to decision-making regarding public trust properties. She explains the contours of the doctrine as inferred from Indian judicial pronouncements – the source of the doctrine, properties that are held in public trust, and principles that are applied by courts while implementing the doctrine. Rather than insisting on its redundancy, she argues that it is desirable to make the doctrine more relevant, and proposes ways in which it may afford greater protection to natural resources held in trust.

Chapter 7: The Judicial Implementation of Environmental Law in India
By Dhvani Mehta
Mehta provides an overview of the compliance and enforcement mechanisms available to environmental regulatory authorities in India, and then, with references to case law (many of which rely on the four legal principles in this book), illustrates the implementation mechanisms developed by the Indian courts. She concludes that judicial implementation mechanisms have had mixed success. Apart from external factors, there are certain internal weaknesses that impact the implementation process: courts have been inconsistent while deploying implementation mechanisms, their orders require more robust legal reasoning and they need to integrate better with the existing regulatory framework.

Read more

Public Trust Doctrine in Indian Environmental Law

Summary

In this chapter published in Indian Environmental Law: Key Concepts and Principles, Ghosh traces the growth and application of the public trust doctrine, and explains why it is difficult to identify how the doctrine could lend predictability to decision-making regarding public trust properties. She explains the contours of the doctrine as inferred from Indian judicial pronouncements – the source of the doctrine, properties that are held in public trust, and principles that are applied by courts while implementing the doctrine. Rather than insisting on its redundancy, she argues that it is desirable to make the doctrine more relevant, and proposes ways in which it may afford greater protection to natural resources held in trust.

Read more