Builders in Mumbai allege that demands for bribe are holding up construction projects. It is alleged that some junior officials charge Rs50,000 to Rs1 lakh just to put their signature on a file. Former municipal commissioner, Subodh Kumar, had issued a circular in January 2012 that stipulated a maximum of 60 days for building plans to be approved by the BMC and warned the staff that ‘any lapse’ in approving plans within the period would be ‘viewed seriously’. However, this has had no effect.
Silence Is Not Always Golden!
This is a personal story.
Everyday, we used to park our old Rajdoot (1972 model) below the KC College, (Churchgate, Mumbai) at about 7 in the morning, to be duly collected at 11o’clock after payment to the attendant. One morning, there was a change of plans. We decided to leave the bike in the parking lot and walk to Nariman Point for some work.
We returned an hour later. No bike! The attendant informed us that, in spite of his protestations, the bike was towed away. We went to the police chowky at OCS (Overseas Communications Centre). No bike there either! We were told that since the police were on bundobust duty for some visiting ‘President’, no vehicles would be touched for the day. Back to KC College. There, we found that the bike was picked up by the municipality and a receipt was handed over to the Kuwati Embassy watchman across the road.
Next stop, the Municipal Corporation. The watchmen, who are now unfortunately de rigueur receptionists, informed us that the municipal commissioner had gone to ‘Gav’ (village). We queried whether it was Girgaon, Naigaon or Goregaon. He then agreed to call the office of the municipal commissioner. ‘Engaged’, he said, on dialling. We told him that if he dialled his own number, it was bound to be ‘engaged’. This is how the public is harassed.
The municipal commissioner was not in office, he then informed us. We called a corporator friend, the late Rustom Tirandaz, who was to spend the next couple of hours helping us. My wife, when asked if she wanted out of the incident, stoutly supported me. It was a violation of our rights and she would stand by me.
At eight that evening, we reached the outer room of the municipal commissioner. We were asked to send in a note. It read that if the bike was not returned immediately, the commissioner would be charged with theft. He immediately called his assistant commissioner from Parel. Half an hour later, apologies were offered and I was asked to collect the bike from Marol, 23km away!
We protested saying that I was an old man and did not have the funds to travel that far. So we were promised that the bike would be returned the next day. Our condition was, ‘not an inch here nor there and before 11o’clock’.
11o’clock came and went. A phone call at 12noon said that the bike would be left with the police chowky at OCS. The caller was informed that the police commissioner would also be charged, ‘for receiving stolen property’. So the bike arrived at KC College and I returned only to be told that I must produce the receipt. At that, I suggested that the bike be taken back to Marol and brought the next day when I would also bring the receipt. BIKE HANDED OVER.
The story does not end here. Manoj Nair, a journalist, wrote about the incident. Calls came in about similar instances of impounding, including one from a doctor, the president of the GPs of the Bandra-Borivli Association. His car was picked up from his society compound. When he raised hell, some people came to his home that night and offered him Rs10,000/- to withdraw the complaint!
He asked me, “If they can offer me Rs10,000/-, how much must they be making?” A hell of a lot, I presume.
A month later, another bike, of a friend, was taken away from another legitimate parking area near Peddar Road. At the police station, the cop was reminded with the refrain, “Same bawaji; different bike”. Bike returned without much hassle.
Why do these things happen? In this case, it seems that the towing contractors had obtained mechanical winches with borrowed money and were finding it difficult to meet their EMIs (equated monthly instalments). The cops/officers colluded. The public suffered. And we will too, until we raise our voices as one. Rights can only be enjoyed by those who insist on getting them. Silence is as bad, even worse than the crime itself. So what should be done?
YOU BE THE JUDGE.
Bapoo Malcolm is a practising lawyer in Mumbai. Please email your comments to [email protected] or [email protected]
With substantial amounts of coal deposits, which are sitting pretty and not developed well despite fuel shortages, we are talking in terms of spending time, money and energy on items like shale gas. This makes one wonder if the government is really serious about environment issues, which are retarding progress in other areas
The chairman and managing director (CMD) of Central Mine Planning and Design Institute (CMPDI), AK Debnath, is reported to have stated, to the media, at a seminar in Kolkata, that they have handed over a data package for six shale gas blocks to director general, Hydrocarbons (DGH) for study and necessary action.
It appears that two blocks in Ranigunj are estimated to have 50 billion cubic metres of gas. The others are located at Jharia, Damodar and Cauvery basins. These blocks may be auctioned in the next few months. The question is: should we go ahead? No, as our conditions—both water resources and technology—are not conclusive, at the moment to enter into this area. Let's take a look at this a little more elaborately.
Shale gas refers to natural gas that is trapped within shale formations. Shales are fine-grained sedimentary rocks that can be rich sources of petroleum and natural gas. Two methods are followed to extract shale gas, such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.
A vertical well is drilled in a targeted area. When it reaches the strategic point of shale gas contact, the drill bit is turned to bore a well that stretches through the reservoir horizontally. When adequate shale gas has been discovered, in order to tap it, water, chemicals and sand are pumped into the well to unlock the hydrocarbons in these shale formations by opening cracks (also known as fractures) in the rock, permitting the gas to flow from the shale into the well. This process is called "fraking" or "hydro-fraking".
If used with horizontal drilling, gas produced is at reasonable cost, and cannot be produced from shale without these techniques. In USA four companies are following this procedure, reasonably successfully.
But what is of serious concern is that drilling and fracturing results in large volume of water containing chemicals and before use, these have to be treated as otherwise, the drinking water in surrounding areas can be contaminated. This can affect the natural habitat, the environment.
In India and Pakistan, guar beans are grown, meeting 80% of world's requirement. Powder made from guar beans can turn water into a quick gel, and the drilling companies who need high viscosity water and extract oil and natural gas from tight rock formations, buy these. India exported $915 million worth of these guar beans to the US, which happens to be the country's largest agricultural export!
Some of the Indian companies have already taken serious interest in the development of shale gas. Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) is already involved in the US. ONGC has signed an agreement with Conoco Phillips for exploration and development of domestic shale gas resources. Oil India Ltd and Indian Oil Company have acquired 30% stake in Carrizo's oil rich shale assets in Niobrara in the US.
With these in the background, the director general of Hydrocarbons may probably decide if it is worthwhile calling for an international bid to tap this unconventional fuel resource, considering serious water usage implications and the resultant contamination that is most likely to occur, if the water used for fracturing is not purified and certified for reuse.
It would be in national interest to postpone the shale gas exploration issue within the country, and interested parties may be encouraged to develop such resources in countries like USA where both technology and water resources are available in plenty. There is huge shortage of water in the country and our entire agriculture, the mainstay of India, is depend upon monsoon. We have not yet overcome with environmental issues in most fuel related areas and it does not make sense to add one more to the misery in jumping into exploring the shale formations.
Let's spend more time, money, energy and obtain technology to develop our coal resources, followed by oil and gas. Shale can be placed in the back burner, for the time being.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)