Press freedom will be safeguarded: Javadekar
Prakash Javadekar: Press Freedom will be Safeguarded, Freedom of the Press will be safeguarded by this government. We believe that press freedom is the essence of democracy.
As the Union Information & Broadcasting Minister, what are your priorities?
Freedom of the Press will be safeguarded by this government. We believe that press freedom is the essence of democracy. To make democracy a success, we require press freedom because it gives people the choice in a rainbow of differing opinions. Dissent had its place in democracy and the Modi Government would welcome constructive criticism. During the Emergency from 1975-77, we had gone to jail for the freedom of the press. In 1975, the media freedom was trampled upon but we fought against it. The people fought against it and I personally was very active on this front because I belong to a family of journalists and therefore we fought and were in jail. My father, Keshavrao Javadekar worked as Sub-Editor in Daily Kesri, a paper, which was founded by Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak. I have an emotional bonding with the media and its freedom. And that is how I am personally committed to it.
Your predecessor Manish Tewari felt that the Information & Broadcasting Ministry has become redundant. How do you view it?
I do not believe any ministry or institution is redundant. An institution can be brought to an end quickly, but it takes time to nurture work-culture in an institution. I shall study in detail issues related to my ministry and then give a presentation to the Prime Minister after which a course for the future would be charted out.
In the Rajya Sabha, the Government is in a minority. Don’t you think that will pose you a challenge, as you are also Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs in-charge of the Rajya Sabha?
I take this challenge more as an opportunity. We have to build consensus among the political parties to run the government. On every Bill, we shall approach the Opposition, discuss with them, convince them and take them along. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been saying that to run a government, majority is needed but to run the country cooperation of all is required. It is a joint mission to see that India prospers to its potential by 2025 and progresses much further by 2030, which will be important landmarks.
You are also Union Environment Minister. How do you propose to go about with Polavaram Project issue?
I am yet to go into the details and as such I cannot comment on any specifics. But one thing I can say is that there will be justice to all. Let me put it this way. Two rivers, the Krishna and the Godavari, flow through Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Nearly, 3000 tmcft water flows into the sea. At least if half of that quantum of water is saved and utilised, nearly 10 lakh hectares of additional land can be brought under cultivation.
What are your other priorities in the Environment Ministry?
There is a common misconception that environment is an anathema to development. No, it is not. Development and environmental protection go hand-in-hand. Both are possible and there is no contradiction between the two and the two can be pursued together. It is not a question of Environment versus Growth, as sustainable development has become the catchword.
You are also in-charge of Climate Change?
The addition of the words Climate Change in the name of the Ministry of Environment and Forests is significant. India should present its case in international forums very forcefully. Preparations are already underway for the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is expected to take place in December 2015 in Paris in France.
You have launched a new system for online submission of applications has been launched by you. What are its salient features?
The new system will bring in benefits to the stakeholders. For instance, there will be transparency in the application processes for environmental clearance; online real-time monitoring and adherence to timelines for verification will be given; stage-wise approval and compliance mechanism is there; and a more user-friendly application process has been made out. Under the new system, the applicant will have to register on the website, upon which he/she shall be provided with a password. This shall ensure security, while simultaneously maintaining transparency between the Ministry and the applicant.
There shall be a maximum time-limit for the entire approval process, with stage-wise timelines. Continuous efforts will be made to bring down the timelines for each stage. Every State will be taken along and the aspirations and difficulties of State Governments will be duly considered. At the same time, active cooperation from them in nation-building will be expected. This will be done without making any compromise whatsoever on the ongoing efforts to preserve the environment. Application for forest clearances, too, will be made online next month.