The Interview




The Chairman of the newly constituted National Environmental Protection Authority (NEPA) in India was finally appointed. The selection process was rigorous. Every top expert and administrator of repute in the country had applied. Besides there were several applications from overseas.

A high level committee was appointed consisting of Group of Ministers. Further, the PM took personal interest when it came to shot-listing. The Chairman’s post was considered to be very important as his/her decisions will either “make or break” India’s journey towards economic development and/or sustainability.

The process of search and selection of the NEPA Chairman made a big breaking news on the media. Arnab Goswami held two episodes on consecutive Saturdays as an exception on Times Now.

Nation wants to know..he said (and this he said many times). And this time indeed, all wanted to know who the Chairman will be.

Apparently, my Professor friend had some hand when the final choice was made. He had never met the Gentleman in person but was instrumental in recommending his CV, personally to the PM. That mattered.

When I called on Professor to understand what went behind the scene, he was rushing out with a video gun. ” I have to reach Chairman’s house in the next 20 minutes for an interview”. He said. “ This is his first interview. Apparently he is strict time stickler, and so I would not like to be late even by a minute.”

“Why don’t you come along. You handle this video part so that I can focus more on the questions in the interview.”  I could see him pretty uncomfortable and clumsy in handling the videography equipment.  So I readily agreed.  Besides, it was a great opportunity to me.

We reached the apartment complex well in time. “Fourth floor and on the left” Professor said and we reached the door that had no name plate. “Looks like this guy does not like to show off or remain discrete” Professor said. There were 7 waste bins in the corridor outside the door, representing colors of a rainbow. “Wow” I said – this Chairman seems deep into waste segregation. Good show. His education in Japan reflects”. Professor knew Chairman’s CV by heart.

We rang the bell and the door was opened presumably by a servant who ushered us in to the drawing room. “Aap Jara Joote Nikaliye” (kindly remove shoes) he said this politely and we removed our shoes and then seated on the sofa. “Saab ooper naha rahe hai” (My boss is taking shower upstairs) he said. “Abhi ayenge” (He wiil be with you shortly). We said fine.

I started to look around the drawing room. The first thing to notice was a huge painting on the wall that depicted a thick forest with a road cutting across. “Interesting” Professor said. “Gives me an impression that the Chairman will follow a balanced approach to the protection of forests and infrastructure development. See how lush the forest is”. I wasn’t convinced with Professors interpretation however. I thought that when the Chairman will take over NEPA, the next version of this painting will be a concretized road with forest trimmed down on both sides. We have so many such examples to cite in India of “before” and “after”. But I didn’t want to be that pessimistic.


(Painting on the Wall)


(Probable next version of the painting)

In the meanwhile, Professor was investigating the room further to get Chairman’s mind. He spotted a packaging box dumped in the balcony that carried a sticker “Solar Cooker”. “Look at that”, “The Chairman is actually practicing use of renewable energy at home. – even I don’t use these devices though I so much preach about”. I wholeheartedly agreed. We see more people today who don’t walk the talk – especially in the sustainability space.  I went to the loo and found that the water faucets were fourth generation water efficient.

In the while, Professor took a stroll around the drawing room and returned to the sofa with more excitement. He whispered – This is a real Green Home. Curtains are Oeko-Tex certified; Wall paints are low VOC, Furniture is Green Guard certified and the carpet is made from waste fibers. “How did you find all this Professor and so quickly?” I was simply astonished. The Professor smiled and pointed me to a certificate that was placed on the Bar that said “This house is Green as it has …….”.

“This guy when he takes over as Chairman, India is going to change. All homes will be directed to go green” Professor said.

I walked towards the Bar to take a close look at the certificate. Indeed this was true. I was tempted to open the bar to expect to see locally produced organic wines. But I resisted.

Our later inspections in the room led to more inspirational findings like motion detector based lighting system, indoor pollution absorbing plants and a vermicomposting unit with enzymes working in the balcony. “It will simply be a revolution if this Chairman runs NEPA”. I said “Firstly we will shift our narrow focus of managing only the emissions and residues to management of resources. He will promote sustainable consumption and production”.

“For years we are used to frame only residue oriented pollution control related legislation – Professor said lighting his cigar “We should look at what New Zealand did years ago by passing Resource Management Act. In New Zealand, you need to take consent to use resource and not consent to pollute as in India.

“You did a great job of finding this Chairman for NEPA – Professor” I said this with full of respect towards my Professor friend. “Sustainability will now be on sunrise”

As we were exchanging our impressions, and warmly so, a tall and bald Gentleman descended from the staircase. He was wearing a cotton Tee shirt (must be an organic I thought).  He looked at both of us with a question mark on his face. “Yes please?”

Professor introduced himself and me and said that this was an appointment taken to interview him as the newly inducted Chairman of NEPA. I opened the videography equipment case.

“Oh, not again” The Gentleman said in a weary tone. “The person you are looking for lives on the opposite side of this floor. I am in Flat 4A and he is in 4B. My door name plate is gone for repairs for the last two days and you are perhaps the third person to make this mistake!!”

Both of us were shocked, dazed and embarrassed

As we were putting on our shoes to reach the other side of the corridor, the Gentleman said “Not only do we stay opposite, but we have completely different views – we are neighbors but just 1800 apart”

I thought I should better tell the Professor now to stop his bad habit of speculations. And certainly not to make recommendations to the PM solely based on CV. I wish the Gentleman applied for the Post.

(This blog post draws inspiration from W.S. Maugham’s  short story “The Poet”. Its a great read. See   and enjoy

Cover image is sourced from

Students may like to visit to read Resources Management Act in New Zealand and compare with legislation in India)


  1. Dear Sir,
    As per my understanding, one of the most critical point underlined by your professor friend was;”“We should look at what New Zealand did years ago by passing Resource Management Act.” Almost the same type of Idea I am trying to float through the establishment of dedicated ministry called- “Ministry for Waste Resource Treatment & Management”, with at-least one giant strategic firm named- ETSAW Ltd.” (Energy Technology & Supplychain Systems Application for Waste) through an act. But I think, I don’t have the convincing skill….

    1. Indeed Shailesh. You hit on the nail.

      I am running a project with Griffth University to develop certificate and university courses on the theme of integrated and holistic waste2resource management, Do visit

      I would encourage you to join us as an expert and help develop the tool kit and run training programs. We need to brew this to convince the “decision makers”


  2. I guess they should have spontaneously rescinded the offer and inducted this gentleman for that job, for the sake of India?

  3. Nice write-up ! Good info on various certifications on sustainability. The New Zealand Act is an eye opener for all of us !

  4. Prasad,

    Great reading for an early morning chuckle.

    We need a to learn a lot from all the Australian and Kiwi universities and cities for progressive work being done on the environmental front.

    Ur tie up with Griffith University is a good first step in this direction.

    Your blogs are doing a great job as they make light reading of heavy subjects.

    Thanks for ur time and effort for sharing knowledgeand useful info.

  5. Prasad
    Excellent post. As usual you’ve hit the nail on the head with your inimitable style. In a country where whom you know is more important than what you know to reach important positions and serving the powers (politicians and their ilk) is essential than serving the people ( the ordinary and helpless) your fictional account may easily become a reality.
    By the way, I haven’t seen much of a debate over the need and merits of the proposed NEPA over the existing environmental governance structure. Is NEPA the true solution to the problems?
    Personally I feel we need to move from the “anthropocentric”environmental protection to ecological conservation. This requires a major paradigm shift in the way we view our environment and our engagement with it. Resource conservation will be the central theme in this view.

  6. Thanks Professor. NEPA can be a solution provided we build a cadre of right human resources. The National Environmental Service proposed (like IAS) by the TSR Subramanium Committee needs to be looked into. The situation at the Pollution Control Boards (PCBs) as today is indeed pathetic and dismal. There is a need for rehaul / dismantle PCBs and NEPA/SEPA could be a hope if well positioned and well staffed.

    You are right on the point of resource conservation. Take a look at the Job Description of the Chairman, Central PCB, its all “end of the pipe”.


    1. I can’t agree with you Prasad. NEPA is not the solution to the present mess in which we find the PCB’s in today. It’ll be another regulatory body trying to implement the regulatory regime. The problem is not in the structure but in the form. As you’ve rightly said we need a cadre of “Right Human Resources” to man these bodies. Whether the National Environmental Service will fit the bill depends on how it’s formed. After all we know how much corruption and subservience is plaguing the civil services today. In fact, PCB’s with bureaucrats as Chairman have been the worst. We need to focus on environmental conservation than regulation Unless we address the deeper malaise the proposed changes will be merely cosmetic. Regards

  7. Respected Sir,
    A very enlightening and brilliant article. Your articles are always a source of inspiration.

    Sampriti Mukherjee

Leave a Reply