National Biodiversity Authority chairperson, Pisupati, resigns

The only chairperson with a background in biodiversity administration to have headed NBA, he was under extreme pressure to resign prematurely

By Jyotika Sood
Published: Wednesday 05 February 2014

Balakrishna Pisupati, chairperson of the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), the country’s apex body to implement the Biological Diversity Act, has resigned. He put in his papers in the last week of January and will demit office on February 27. Pisupati’s three-year term was scheduled to end in August this year.

It is learned that Pisupati has been under tremendous pressure from NBA’s parent ministry, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), which made it clear that it intended to replace him. The weekly government newspaper Employment News of 5 October, 2013 had carried an advertisement seeking applications for the post of NBA chairperson. According to official sources, such an ad appearing 10 months before the incumbent chairperson  was to demit office was unusual.

Contacted by Down To Earth (DTE), Pisupati confirmed that he had resigned but refused to talk about the reasons for doing so.

The Employment News ad stated that the appointment of chairperson would be either on deputation basis from the Central government or though outside recruitment. In case the post is filled through deputation, the applicant should not be below the rank of additional secretary to the government of India.

NBA is an autonomous body that regulates and advises the government of India on matters of conservation, sustainable use of biological resources and fair equitable sharing of benefits of use. It was established in 2003 to implement the Biological Diversity Act of 2002 and its chairperson is appointed for a term of three years. However, no chairperson, except S Kannaiyan, an agriculture scientist, has served a full term. The rest have all been drawn from the Indian Forest Service and have served for brief periods. Pisupati, who has a doctorate in genetics, is the first chairperson with a background in biodiversity administration.  

One well-placed official dealing with conservation told DTE: “We were all shocked to see the advertisement. After that pressure has been brewing and it boiled over during a national-level meeting of biodiversity boards towards the end of January.” He did not elaborate on what the issues were.

Soon after this meeting, Pisupati submitted his resignation. His one-month notice period ends on 27 February.  The source alleged that although NBA is an autonomous body, MoEF has been trying to bring it under its control.

Pisupati has been in news primarily due to Bt brinjal biopiracy case.  A doctorate in genetics, Pisupati has more than 20 years of experience in dealing with issues of conservation and lawmaking. Before joining NBA, Pisupati was the head of biodiversity, land law and governance programme at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi where he was looking after multilateral environmental agreements on biodiversity. He also served as the programme coordinator of the biodiplomacy programme at UN University’s Institute of Advanced Studies based in Yokohama, Japan.

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