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Why polluter pays is OK, but not the ideal regime; government must shoulder responsibility too

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Polluter pays, which NITI Aayog has just endorsed, is a good principle. Indeed, it is also the core of the draft amendments the government had proposed to Environment (Protection) Act and the National Green Tribunal Act in 2015. The draft Bill which has received the law ministry’s approval provides for graduated levy of penalties that could pinch violators hard. It divides violations into ‘minor’, ‘non-substantial’ and ‘substantial’—the penalty for ‘substantial’ violations ranges from Rs 5-20 crore depending on the area over which the pollution spreads while those for ‘minor’ and ‘non-substantial’ violations are fixed at Rs 1,000-10,000 and Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 crore; the penalties are to be used for remedial action. It also prescribes jail terms for substantial violations.

What prevents this being the ideal regime,........

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