Saving the Yamuna

Saving the Yamuna

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) recently passed an order restraining all individuals, companies as well as public authorities from throwing any debris or solid waste on the Yamuna river banks or water bodies near it. It further ordered that the State of UP, Delhi Development Authority, Government of NCT Delhi and East Delhi Municipal Corporation to forthwith start removing debris from the Yamuna river banks. Interestingly, NGT directed the authorities to communicate its order to all and primarily to builders who are involved in huge construction in and around NCT of Delhi. A significant part of the Tribunal's order is the liberty given by it to authorities to make private parties cough up the money spent on removing the debris thrown by them in accordance with the principle of Polluter Pays. To avoid feet dragging, the Tribunal has ordered the DDA Vice-chairman to hold a meeting within one week of its order after inviting all the authorities concerned in order to ensure complete implementation of its directions. Obviously, the NGT is not a paper tiger. Its chairperson, former Supreme Court Judge Swatanter Kumar, is dead earnest about cleaning the Yamuna and saving it from further degradation. The promptitude displayed is worthy of emulation.

Globalising Torture Report

The recent report Globalising Torture released on 5th February by a New York based human rights organisation, Open Society Foundation, gives a chilling account of torture and other human rights abuses engaged in by the CIA in its 'war on terror'. It appears that a total of 54 countries made up the vast network used by the CIA to pick up suspects, bundle them on to chartered planes and 'render' them to secret prisons around the world for harsh questioning and often, torture. Terrorism undoubtedly has to be fought relentlessly and vigorously. However, basic human rights norms and rule of international law cannot be jettisoned. Former CIA officials' explanation that their methods are extraordinary because of extraordinary times is totally unacceptable. A State or any State agency cannot be a law breaker because that breeds disrespect for the rule of law and the consequent inevitable damage done far outweighs the utility of some confessions extracted by torture, which are euphemistically called 'enhanced interrogation techniques'. The report is a reminder of the wise dictum of the great American judge Louis Brandeis, 'Men feared witches and burnt women...Men replete with enthusiasm but deficient in understanding.' It is fervently hoped that President Barack Obama will ensure non-recurrence of the unlawful and immoral actions of the CIA. Or will he be overwhelmed by phantoms of fear of insecurity vividly projected by Pentagon officials and CIA directors?

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