2G case: Court to start hearing on framing of charges on 21st July

The CBI had, in its first charge-sheet, accused Mr Raja, and eight other persons as well as three companies of causing a loss of Rs30,984 crore to the exchequer. In the second charge-sheet, the CBI accused Ms Kanimozhi of allegedly entering into a criminal conspiracy with prime accused Mr Raja

New Delhi: A Delhi court today decided to commence from Thursday arguments on framing of charges in the high-profile second generation (2G) case in which former telecom minister A Raja, DMK MP Kanimozhi and several corporate honchos have been charge sheeted by the CBI, reports PTI.

"Arguments on the charges shall commence with effect from 21st July," Special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) judge OP Saini said after the agency and the defence counsel submitted that the supply of documents, annexed with the two charge-sheets in the case, has been completed.

The CBI had, in its first charge-sheet, accused Mr Raja, and eight other persons as well as three companies of causing a loss of Rs30,984 crore to the exchequer.

The companies named in the charge-sheet filed in the Delhi court include Reliance Communications, Unitech Wireless and Swan Telecom.

Charges of cheating, forgery, criminal conspiracy and corruption have been levelled against Mr Raja, his private secretary R K Chandolia, former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura and Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Usman Balwa.

Others named in the charge sheet include Vinod Goenka, a director of Mumbai-based DB Realty which was also the promoter of Etisalat DB, Sanjay Chandra, managing director of Gurgaon-based real estate company Unitech and Unitech Wireless (Tamil Nadu) Pvt Ltd, and Gautam Doshi, Hari Nair and Surendra Pipara, the group managing director and senior vice presidents of Mumbai-based Reliance Telecom Company respectively.

In the second charge-sheet filed on 25th April, the CBI accused Ms Kanimozhi, daughter of DMK chief M Karunanidhi, of allegedly entering into a criminal conspiracy with prime accused Mr Raja.

Ms Kanimozhi (43) has been charged under Prevention of Corruption Act for taking illegal gratification through Kalaignar TV-a channel run by the ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu-in which the money related to the 2G scam was allegedly routed.

Besides Ms Kanimozhi, four others-Kalaignar TV managing director Sharad Kumar, Karim Morani, director of Cineyug Media and Entertainment Pvt Ltd, Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Usman Balwa's cousin Asif Balwa and Rajeev Agarwal, who are directors of Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Pvt Ltd-were named in the charge sheet.

The second charge-sheet discusses the routing of over Rs200 crores alleged illegal gratification from M/S Dynamix Realty to Kalaignar TV Pvt Ltd through M/S Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Pvt Ltd and Cineyug Films Pvt Ltd.

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India achieves record output of wheat, pulses in 2010-11

Last week, prime minister Manmohan Singh and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar announced that foodgrains production has increased to 241 million tonnes in the 2010-11 crop year compared to the third advance estimate of 235.88 million tonnes released in April

New Delhi: India produced a record quantum of wheat and pulses in the 2010-11 crop year, ending June, at 85.93 million tonnes and 18.09 million tonnes, respectively, on the back of a good monsoon and higher support prices for farmers, reports PTI.

According to fourth advance estimates prepared by the agriculture ministry, the country is estimated to have harvested 95.32 million tonnes of rice and 42.22 million tonnes of coarse cereals in the 2010-11 crop year (July-June), sources said.

The country's total foodgrains production is estimated at 241.56 million tonnes in 2010-11, as against 218.11 million tonnes in the previous year.

Last week, prime minister Manmohan Singh and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar announced that foodgrains production has increased to 241 million tonnes in the 2010-11 crop year compared to the third advance estimate of 235.88 million tonnes released in April.

Foodgrains comprise rice, wheat, coarse cereals and pulses.

In the 2009-10 crop year, wheat production stood at 80.8 million tonnes, rice at 89.09 million tonnes, coarse cereals at 33.55 million tonnes and pulses at 14.66 million tonnes.

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Former finance secretary asks new environment minister to correct human rights violations

EAS Sarma names POSCO, Vedanta projects, an irrigation project in AP and the Jaitapur nuclear power project in Maharashtra, as examples of violations of tribal safeguards

A lot is expected from the new environment minister, Jayanthi Natarajan, whose predecessor gave mining corporations and developers a tough time. Some of the issues that have become a major concern have been listed by former finance secretary EAS Sarma in a quick note to the minister.  

While congratulating Ms Natarajan on her appointment as the minister, Mr Sarma has asked her to investigate the allegations of environmental and human rights violation in areas where massive mining and industrial projects have been sanctioned.

"The POSCO iron and steel project and Vedanta's bauxite mining project, both in Orissa, the bauxite and iron ore mining projects and their downstream activities in Andhra Pradesh, the Polavaram irrigation project also in Andhra Pradesh, power projects in Nellore and the Areva-driven Jaitapur project in Maharashtra. These projects make a good case study of how the central and state governments have themselves abetted violation of the tribal safeguards of the Fifth Schedule, forest rights law, the Forest (Conservation) Act, PESA, Environment (Protection) Act and so on. You should get these cases examined carefully and take decisions acceptable to the local communities and consistent with the relevant laws," Mr Sarma wrote.

Welcoming the setting up of the Green Tribunal, he suggested the constitution of regional benches and urged the government to lower the expenses. "The cost has become a barrier to the efforts of civil society. An ordinary villager with modest means, if aggrieved by orders of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, has perforce to travel to Delhi to represent his/her case before the tribunal," he said.

Mr Sarma also mentioned the huge (and in his view, unnecessary) thermal power plants near Jaitapur and Nellore, which he has dubbed as a 'coal scam' that is at par with the 2G scam. (Read, "Prime minister ignores former bureaucrat's plea on Jaitapur nuclear power project".)

He has also described numerous CRZ violations by the government and instances of ineptitude of the Pollution Control Board.

Mr Sarma believes that there must be an overhaul of the environment impact assessment (EIA) process. "Delinking the EIA consultants from project promoters is the need of the hour. EIA consultants should be properly accredited and their selection for individual projects done randomly. A system of blacklisting the errant consultants should be put in place," he said. Currently, EIA consultants are accredited by the Quality Council of India, which is not accountable to the public.

Mr Sarma had raised these issues with the former environment minister Jairam Ramesh and prime minister Manmohan Singh several times, but there has been no significant change in these matters.

"The National Environment Policy (NEP) approved by the Union Cabinet, provides the framework within which your ministry should function. I hope that you will guide the regulatory work of your ministry in accordance with the statute and the avowed policy of the government, rather than being swayed by external pressures that are exerted by industry and their spokespersons within the government," Mr Sarma concluded.

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