“During my tenure as Minister, it was the clear and specific policy of the party, to take all steps to protect the environment, and carry forward the legacy of Smt. Indira Gandhi and Shri Rajiv Gandhi, to preserve the environment, and keep a balance between environment and industry. As Chairperson NAC, you have written several letters to me regarding projects in the Environment Ministry, and protection of tribal rights, and I have always kept you briefed that due care was being taken by me to protect the environment. I received specific requests [which used to be directives for us] from Shri Rahul Gandhi and his office forwarding environmental concerns in some important areas and I took care to honour those “requests.” Shri Rahul Gandhi went in person to Niyamgiri Hills in Odisha, and publicly declared to the Dongria Kondh tribals that he would be their “sipahi” and would not allow their interests to suffer at the hands of mining giant Vedanta. His views in the matter were conveyed to me by his office, and I took great care to ensure that the interests of the tribals were protected and rejected environmental clearance to Vendanta despite tremendous pressure from my colleagues in cabinet, and huge criticism from industry for what was described as “stalling” a Rs. 30,000 crore investment from Vedanta.
Fortunately, my decision was upheld by the Supreme Court. The same happened in the case of the Adani projects, where I faced tremendous criticism from within the cabinet and outside, for stalling investment at a time when the country was going through a difficult time in terms of the economy. The complaints of the local fisherfolk and NGOs of environmental violations in the Adani case were forwarded to me by Shri Rahul Gandhi’s office, and I was told to liaise with Shri Dipak Babaria in the matter. Occasionally, I apprised Shri Rahul Gandhi of steps I had taken, and he responded positively. In fact you have yourself conveyed your concern in this regard in letters written to me. In several cases including the stalled GVK power project regarding the Dhari Devi temple in Himachal Pradesh, the Lavasa project in Maharashtra, the Nirma cement plant in Gujarat and in several other cases I was given specific input, to make my decision. Apart from this Shri Pulok Chatterji, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister was in constant touch with me, and officers of the Ministry in guiding the decisions to be taken by the Ministry at that time.
So in my decision making I have factored in the party line despite all criticisms against me and therefore several decisions of mine were expressly overruled by the Prime Minister.” wrote Jayanthi Natarajan,former Environment Minister