RTI Forum for Instant Information to petition Maharashtra chief minister, file public interest litigation, to check the toll charges collected by IRB that has a contract till 2019
Thanks to the Right To Information Act (RTI), it is pretty clear now that Ideal Road Builders (IRB), the private agency which operates, maintains and will collect the toll on the Pune-Mumbai Expressway until 2019, has already collected toll tax in excess of what it had envisioned, going by the ‘cash flow’ statement which it has submitted in the ‘contract agreement’ with the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC). As per this latest document that I procured, it has already collected Rs949.45 crore until September 2010 by way of toll fees (it must have surely crossed the Rs1,000 crore mark by 31 March 2011). This collection is against its own projection of Rs606.05 in the contract agreement. MSRDC officials, on condition of anonymity, admitted this is a vital document for comparison with the actual toll collection. (Read, The grand Expressway robbery: How much toll is IRB allowed to collect and who monitors this?)
Concerned over the hoodwinking by the IRB and MSRDC turning a Nelson’s Eye to the issue, activists in Pune under the forum of the RTI Forum for Instant Information (RFII) are working towards taking up this matter with the MSRDC, the chief minister and they are also considering putting a public interest litigation before the High Court. A meeting will be held on Tuesday, 5th April, to chalk out the strategy.
Vivek Velankar, noted RTI activist and RFII member said, “MSRDC must use technology at toll nakas by putting up motion sensors. This would help in transparency in the actual number of vehicles passing through. Secondly, the MSRDC should declare openly as to for how long citizens will have to pay toll (by announcing a figure) by calculating toll collection up to now; adding interest of IRB’s initial capital investment of Rs918 crore deposited with MSRDC in 2004; adding expenditure by way of operation and maintenance of the expressway; and certain amount of profit to the IRB.’’
Accordingly, MSRDC should either reduce the toll charges in order to keep up with the spirit of the contract, which lasts till March 2019, wherein IRB has been allowed to levy toll charges, or then terminate toll collection and make the Pune-Mumbai Expressway a freeway. RFII has also demanded stern action against the MSRDC’s toll monitoring unit, which is an independent consultancy firm, and its admission that it does not look into the revenues that IRB is collecting, although it is binding on it according to the norms which are also put up on MSRDC’s website (www.msrdc.org) and also as per the central government guidelines.’’
Activists in Pune are agitated that the IRB has neglected the maintenance of the Expressway. Says Vijay Kumbhar, a leading RTI activist who was the first to invoke Section 4 of the RTI Act in the country at the Pune Municipal Corporation, “What has the IRB done about the safety of the commuters? The last two-three months have witnessed gory accidents and the cause of most of them is being conveniently labeled as ‘human error’. What action has been taken against trucks which are supposed to keep to the left lane, but jam the Expressway on all lanes, particularly during the night hours, leading to senseless accidents?’’
Chandmal Parmar, noted road accident prevention activist says, “IRB has completely failed in the maintenance and patrolling of the Expressway. It is collecting toll without giving proper services to the people.’’
In 2010, 443 accidents took place, of which 101 were fatal—103 people were killed. Since January 2011, more than 25 people have died in accidents.
After Moneylife exposed the Expressway toll scandal last week through the use of RTI, the issue has taken a political hue. Shiv Sena activists in Pune took up the issue by organising a rasta roko for half an hour on Friday and their leader Neelam Gorhe also raised the issue in the state legislative assembly.
We request citizens to join in the campaign to make the MSRDC and IRB accountable. RFII plans to draft a petition letter by Tuesday which will also be uploaded on the Moneylife website. Readers should sign this petition and send it to the chief minister of Maharashtra, as well as the MSRDC (we shall provide the email addresses for this), so that there is ample public pressure that will make them sit up and take note.
Interestingly, as per a central government notification issued by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways on 13 January 2011, the base rate for toll charges for vehicles is as follows:
Car, jeep, LMV: Rs0.65 per km
Light commercial vehicles: Rs1.05 for every km
Bus, truck: Rs2.20 for every km
Three-axle commercial vehicles: Rs2.40 for every km
Heavy vehicles: Rs3.45 for every km
Over-sized vehicles: Rs4.20 for every km
This notification clearly states that these rates are not valid for earlier contracts. But considering that the IRB has overshot its projected profits, the RFII will request the MSRDC to adhere to this new notification in case IRB has yet to reach its target of collection. If you go by this new notification, a car on the expressway would have to pay only around Rs60 for the 95-km route as against Rs165 being charged from 1st April. Says Sinha, “I have traveled by car in states like Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu but find that the toll charges in Maharashtra are the highest.’’
RFII has requested the help of those who are well versed in the law and willing to help to assist in filing a public interest litigation. Individuals can write in at firstname.lastname@example.org
The rally may lose some steam in the coming week
The market rally, which began early in the last week, lost a bit of steam on the last trading day this week. The gains were mainly on institutional support and optimism over the global recovery, despite there being no domestic positive signs. But concerns over rising crude prices and sustained inflation linger. We expect the market to give up some gains in the week ahead.
In the week gone by the market registered a gain of 3% with the Sensex rising 605 points to close at 19,420 on Friday and the Nifty was up 172 points at 5,826.
The Sensex gainers were DLF (up 9%), Maruti Suzuki, Hero Honda (up 8% each), Reliance Infrastructure and HDFC (up 7% each), while State Bank of India ended flat. There were no losers in the week.
All sectoral indices gained too, with the BSE Realty (up 7%) and BSE Consumer Durables (up 6%) emerging as the top performers.
The Sensex has added 1,606 points and the Nifty gained 469 points in the eight-day rally till 31 March 2011. The two benchmarks advanced 9.1% and 9.4% respectively through the month. However, on a quarterly basis the market has declined 5%, its first quarterly loss since the 25% slump in the December 2008 quarter, when the global financial crisis broke.
While the market has shown signs of stabilising after a poor performance in January and February, the forthcoming earnings season and the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) monetary policy for the new fiscal will drive the market, going forward.
The seasonally adjusted HSBC Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI)-a headline index to measure the overall health of the manufacturing sector-stood at 57.9 in March, unchanged from February. The latest reading indicates a marked strengthening of business conditions in the Indian manufacturing sector, which remained above the long-run trend.
Food inflation eased to single digits at 9.5% for the week ended 19th March, helped by cheaper pulses, even though vegetables and fruits remained expensive. Food inflation, measured on the basis of wholesale prices, edged up to 10.05% in the previous two weeks, from single digits in the later half of February.
The drop in food inflation in the week under review was also due to a higher base in the corresponding period last year, when the rate of rise in prices was 20.18%.
India's fiscal deficit for April 2010-February 2011 worked out to 68.6% of the estimates, compared to 92% in the corresponding period of the previous year, an indicator of an improvement in the fiscal position. In absolute terms, the fiscal deficit stood at Rs2.75 lakh crore in the 11-month period of 2010-11, against Rs3.80 lakh crore in the period in the previous financial year.
Exports grew by an impressive 50% in February, crossing the $200 billion mark in the first 11 months of 2010-11, on the back of rising demand from the US and other markets. Imports also increased by 21.2% to $31.7 billion in the month under review, leaving a trade deficit of $8.1 billion, according to commerce ministry data.
Exports went up by 49.7%, year-on-year, to $23.5 billion in February, taking the April 2010-February 2011 figure to $208.2 billion, an increase of 31.4 % over the year-ago period and past the yearly target of $200 billion.
The output of the six core infrastructure industries-crude oil, petroleum refinery products, coal, electricity, cement and finished steel-grew by 6.8% in February, compared to 4.2% in the previous corresponding period. In January 2011, output of the core infrastructure sectors grew by 7.1%. These core industries account for 26.68% of the country's total industrial output.
In the corporate world, Vodafone, the world's largest mobile phone operator by revenue, has exercised its option to acquire Essar's stake in their joint venture for $5 billion. Essar has a 33% stake in the joint venture company-Vodafone Essar-and with this buy the overseas operator will have a direct holding of 75% in the Indian telecom company. Essar will exit completely from the joint venture. The company also said that a final settlement is expected to be completed by November 2011.
Wipro Technologies, the global IT business of Wipro, a leading information technology, consulting and outsourcing company, announced that it has signed an agreement to acquire the global oil and gas information technology practice of Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), for an all-cash consideration of around $150 million, subject to adjustments.
On Thursday, the Multi Commodity Exchange (MCX) announced its intention to go public through an initial public offering (IPO) which will see its existing shareholders diluting 12.60% of equity. The offer for sale by the existing shareholders, including promoter Financial Technologies (FT) which is led by Jignesh Shah, will be undertaken through a 100% book-building process. MCX has filed a draft red herring prospectus (DRHP) with the capital markets regulator.
In the global arena, the unemployment rate in the US unexpectedly fell to a two-year low of 8.8% in March, beating analysts' expectations of an increase of 19,000. Employers added 216,000 workers last month after a 194,000 increase in February.
China's official Purchasing Managers' Index rose to 53.4 in March, from 52.2 in February, the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said, easing concern that monetary tightening may lead to a slowdown in the world's second-biggest economy.
Sales of cars, trucks and buses in Japan, excluding minicars, fell 37% from a year earlier to 279,389 vehicles last month as the nation's biggest earthquake and the ensuing nuclear crisis deterred buyers and forced automakers to shut factories.
The funds raised would be used to augment the capital base of L&T Finance and L&T Infra to meet the capital requirements arising out of expected growth in their assets
New Delhi: Larsen & Toubro (L&T) on Friday said its financial services unit has filed draft papers with market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) for raising Rs1,750 crore from the capital market, reports PTI.
L&T Finance Holdings proposes to come out with an initial public offering (IPO) of equity shares for an amount aggregating to Rs1,750 crore, L&T said in a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange.
Last year in September, L&T Finance Holding had filed the draft paper with SEBI for a Rs1,500 crore IPO. L&T said it is contemplating an addition to the proposed objects of the issue and has increased the size of the IPO from Rs1,500 crore to Rs 1,750 crore.
As per the details available with the draft red herring prospectus (DRHP) filed with the SEBI, the company may consider a pre-IPO placement of 6 crore equity shares to one or more investors, totalling up to Rs400 crore.
The objects of the issue are to augment the capital base of L&T Finance and L&T Infra to meet the capital requirements arising out of expected growth in their assets, primarily the loan portfolio, and for other general corporate purposes, it said in the draft prospectus.
L&T Finance Holdings, earlier known as L&T Capital Holdings, is the holding company for L&T Finance (that operates mutual fund business) and L&T Infra.
L&T Finance is a financial holding company offering a diverse range of financial products and services across the corporate, retail and infrastructure finance sectors, as well as mutual fund products and investment management services, through its direct and indirect wholly-owned subsidiaries.
JM Financial, Citigroup and HSBC are among the book running lead managers to the issue.