Plan to hold public hearing on Wednesday draws flak

‘If some people lose lives, senior APPCB officers should be held liable’

Former Union Secretary E.A.S. Sarma has taken strong objection to the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board (APPCB) for planning to organise a public hearing for Pearl Distilleries at Singarayakonda in Prakasam district on Wednesday.

In a letter to Special Chief Secretary Jawahar Reddy, he pointed out that the Prakasam district on Monday has recorded about 750 new COVID cases and three deaths, and holding the public hearing during this period when the pandemic is raging across the State and the country, would deliberately create scope for spreading of the disease.

He pointed out that holding the public hearing at this time may also attract penal provisions of Sections 269 and 270 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

If some people lose their lives as a result of this, the senior officers of the APPCB should be held directly liable for the same, he said.

V.S. Krishna of Human Rights Forum pointed out that holding a public hearing during a period when partial curfew is in force, is not only undemocratic but also against the very spirit of public hearing.

It is learnt that when the APPCB officials were asked about it they had quoted a provision of September 2020, which stated that public hearings with not more than 100 persons could be conducted, as per a directive from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

The first wave was totally different from the present second wave, which is said to be more deadly. Hence the MoEFF provision cannot be cited to bypass the actual spirit of a public hearing, said Mr. Krishna.

A public hearing is no wedding event where one can cap the number of people allowed to attend and participate. It is an important democratic exercise wherein people, confronted with potentially destructive developmental projects, get an opportunity to participate and raise objections, seek clarifications and proffer suggestions, said Mr. Krishna.

Both Mr. Sarma and Krishna said that senior officials in the government should intervene and stop this undemocratic activity.

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