Rajasthan chief minister Bhairon Singh Shekhawat is emerging as the messiah of those disgruntled with the government's environment protection policies. Shekhawat recently claimed that the regulations of the ministry of environment and forests and lobbying by rabid environmentalists were responsible for crippling Rajasthan's economy.
Addressing a meeting of industrialists and Members of Parliament from the state in New Delhi on June 15, Shekhawat blamed the environment lobby for hampering industrial growth and endangering the job prospects of thousands of people. He said that unfounded propaganda had harmed the carpet, granite and marble industries of the state. Even the development of the power sector, he claimed, was being affected since the commissioning of the Dholpur power project was being held up on the grounds that hot water from the plant could endanger the crocodiles in the Chambal. Shekhawat also felt that the hue and cry about child labour in the carpet-making industry was unjustified because the practice of training children in many such units prevented these traditional industries and crafts from dying out.
Shekhawat said that he was not opposed to environment control measures. "If I am permitted to do mining on 1.4 hectares of land, I can give 14 hectares for the purpose of plantation," he said. He, however, added: "It will not be possible to fill the stomachs of people only with clean air."