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Pawar Locks Horns With Ramesh Over Lavasa Project

Environment minister Jairam Ramesh, in a hurry to revive environmental regulations in the country, is learning quickly that the Lavasa project is a difficult beast to handle. Two days after his ministry issued a show
PTI December 01, 2010 10:51 IST
PTI
Environment minister Jairam Ramesh, in a hurry to revive environmental regulations in the country, is learning quickly that the Lavasa project is a difficult beast to handle. Two days after his ministry issued a show cause notice to the developers of the hill city, terming all construction work unauthorised, Sharad Pawar, the powerful NCP chief, came out in support of the project on Tuesday, reports DNA.

On its part, Lavasa Corporation launched a full-throated campaign against Ramesh by issuing a strongly-worded statement and also filing a writ petition seeking a stay on the notice.

The ferocity of the counter-attack seems to have ruffled the normally unflappable Ramesh. “Lavasa is attacking me personally. It is unfair and unfortunate,” he said, referring to the firm's allegation that he seemed bent on spoiling the township's impending initial public offer (IPO) to raise funds.

In its reply to Ramesh's notice, Lavasa — promoted by Hindustan Construction Company — questioned the timing of the notice, pointing out that the last major communication on the issue was more than a year ago. It accused the ministry of ‘mala fide' intent. Moreover, it said, Ramesh did not have jurisdiction over the matter, since it was the duty of the state government to check for compliance.

Pawar also expressed reservation about the notice. “I can't understand the notice to Lavasa. The ongoing project has already sold around 1,600 houses and there are labourers working there,” an agency quoted him as saying. On Monday, during his interaction with Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, he had also raised the issue of witch-hunt against the corporate world and wanted the government not to “over-use CBI”.

Ramesh, however, pointed out that he did not have a “personal position” in the matter. “I am not the issue. Law is the issue. If they have followed rules, they have nothing to fear.” He insisted that there is “no witch-hunt” or “prejudice” and his “conscience is clear”.

Sources said the ministry is unlikely to come out with its reaction to Lavasa's reply until the end of the week, when the meeting of the Forest Advisory Committee — an overarching experts' body in the ministry — is over.