Government’s unresponsive attitude towards Bombay Telephone Users’ Association’s public meeting invite that discusses health hazards due to radiation
In January 2010, Usha Kiran apartments, on Carmichael Road in the plush South Mumbai area was in the news, after four of its residents died due to cancer caused by electromagnetic radiation (EMR) emitted from the cluster of cell towers located on the terrace of the opposite building, named Vijay Apartments. It was only after a protracted fight by the residents of several buildings in the vicinity that these towers were removed. Since then, there have been several instances where mobile phone companies have yielded to the demands of citizens and removed cell towers rather than face the consequences of negative publicity due to protracted legal fights.
But is the government sensitive to these concerns of the aam aadmi that it woos? Not if you were to go by its cold response to a public meeting to discuss the "Radiation Health Hazards from Cell Towers: Myth or Reality". The meeting has been organised by Bombay Telephone Users' Association (BTUA) on Saturday 29 January 2011 "to raise awareness among the citizens and to help government in taking required steps in resolving this issue." The Association has been requesting the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to send a representative to attend the meeting with no success.
Experts from various fields will speak on the subject. The panel will consist of Dr RS Sharma from Indian Council for Medical Research, Anil Prakash representing Telecom User Group of India, New Delhi and Professor Girish Kumar, head of wireless from IIT Bombay, who is been researching the effects of EMR for the past couple of years.
"The aim of the programme is to bring together the citizens and experts who are concerned about the issue and share their knowledge on the subject. This will at least make the government aware, and required steps would be taken to curb the problems arising out of these towers." said Mr Achintya Mukherjee, secretary of BTUA.
"We have invited officials from DoT, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), but so far no confirmation has been received from them. Among the mobile network operators, IDEA cellular has confirmed that they will send their representatives" added Mr Mukherjee. Nor is there any participation from the BMC and the Maharashtra Government. It may be recalled that Prithviraj Chavan had stated in a written reply tabled in the Vidhan Sabha on 7 December 2010 that "the government is collecting feedback from concerned departments for framing comprehensive rules and regulations for installation of mobile towers by cellphone service providers in the state."
Government of Maharashtra, appointed a committee in March last year headed by additional chief health secretary to study the effect of mobile phone towers on public health. The committee had representatives from the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and Tata Memorial hospital, recommended to ban such towers near schools, hospitals and it should be only restricted on rooftops of the building.
In 2008, DoT has laid guidelines stating that the antennae must not directly face a nearby building. Despite this many such towers are visible across the city, as it remains main source of revenue for the housing societies. Often these towers are illegal and violate health and safety norms.
Lack of participation from the government indicates clearly that "collecting feedback" is a mere formality. As in many other cases of consumer safety, the government will respond only to public interest litigation and only when it is directed by the judiciary.
While an expert group would advise Pranab Mukherjee on the feasibility of an amnesty scheme to encourage the people to bring back unaccounted money, an inter-ministerial group would provide an estimate of black money and suggest ways for curbing its generation
New Delhi: Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee today said that two groups are looking into the different aspects of black money, including an amnesty scheme to unearth unaccounted wealth, reports PTI.
While an expert group would advise Mr Mukherjee on the feasibility of an amnesty scheme to encourage the people to bring back unaccounted money parked in Swiss banks and other tax havens, an inter-ministerial group would provide an estimate of black money and suggest ways for curbing its generation.
"The expert group (on amnesty scheme) would advise me...
It will submit the report as early as possible," Mr Mukherjee told reporters.
He parried a question whether the amnesty scheme could be part of the 2011-12 budget to be presented next month on 28th February.
The government in the past had come out with amnesty schemes to encourage people to disclose unaccounted money.
Although these schemes have generated tax income for the government, they were criticised for being unfair to honest taxpayers.
The minister had earlier this week described the amnesty schemes to convert black money into white as tricky ones like "a double-edged sword".
"You know there is always a double side to these amnesty schemes. Sometimes if somebody is allowed, you will be highly criticised because this will be at the cost of the honest tax payers. Sometimes it helps to bring some money," he had said.
The inter-ministerial group, according to the finance minister, would try to give an estimate of black money in the economy and suggest ways for preventing generation of illicit funds.
Three important think tanks-National Institute of Public Finance Policy, National Institute of Financial Management and National Council for Applied Economic Research-will help the inter-ministerial group in arriving at some estimates of the black money.
Pointing out that the task will take time, Mr Mukherjee said "... we will try to have it as expeditiously as possible."
The government has drawn flak over spate of corruption cases relating to the Commonwealth Games, allocation of 2G spectrum, Adarsh Society scam and inability to bring back money stashed away in Swiss banks.
The government has also constituted a Group of Minister (GoM) under Mr Mukherjee to suggest legislative and administrative measures to deal with corruption.
Some of the measures are likely to be announced by the government in the budget due next month.
Too much of pessimism; could lead to a short rally in Sensex and Nifty
The market suffered a vicious third day of decline on Friday. The Sensex and the Nifty started lower at the opening and continued to fall sharply throughout the day. Towards the afternoon, panic selling gripped the market when it hit a low of 18,235 in the Sensex and 5,459 in the Nifty after a freefall. In the last hour, short covering and some value buying pulled the market higher.
The Sensex closed at 18,396 and Nifty at 5,512. The advance decline on the NSE was 182:1,551. With this, the market has suffered a third consecutive day of sharp decline. This follows a five-day lull before which the market had declined for over 10 days. We expect a short rally to start soon.
Stocks from technology and oil and gas sectors were in demand in early trade. The market tumbled into the negative territory and witnessed a gradual decline as the day progressed on offloading by institutional investors. The market touched its intra-day low in late trade, but witnessed a minor recovery albeit settling in the red.
In line with the market, the market breadth on the benchmarks was also negative. The Sensex settled with 22 losers and 8 gainers while the Nifty retired with 39 declining stocks and 11 in the advancing list. The broader markets were hammered in today's trade with the BSE Mid-cap index tanking 2.66% and the BSE Small-cap index tumbling 3.59%.
All sectoral indices ended the week at lower end. BSE Realty (down 4.96%) BSE Consumer Durables (down 3.91%), BSE Auto (down 3.56%) BSE Capital Goods (down 3.06%) and BSE Power (down 2.47%) were the top losers among indices.
The top performers on the Sensex were ONGC (up 1.89%), Reliance Infrastructure (up 1.13%) and Hindustan Unilever (up 0.54%). On the other hand, DLF (down 7.02%), Mahindra & Mahindra (down 4.93%) and Hindalco Industries (down 4.27%) ended at the bottom of the list.
Expressing concern that the black money stashed in banks abroad might have originated from arms deals, drug trafficking and smuggling, the Supreme Court has asked the government as to what action it had taken against individuals and firms having foreign accounts.
The court also sought replies from the government, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) on a petition seeking direction to the government to ratify the United Nations convention on corruption, which would facilitate it in bringing back black money from foreign banks.
Markets in Asia ended mostly lower on profit-taking and a cut in Japan's credit rating, which impacted investor sentiment as local banks are big holders of government bonds. The Chinese market ended higher as investors chose to ignore new real-estate tax levies announced on Thursday.
The Hang Seng declined 0.68%, the Jakarta Composite fell 0.77%, the KLSE Composite lost 0.33%, the Nikkei 225 tanked 1.13% and the Seoul Composite was down 0.34%. On the other hand, the Shanghai Composite added 0.14%, the Straits Times gained 0.31% and the Taiwan Weighted rose 0.47%.
Back home, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today invited public comments on Malegam panel report, which suggested among other things capping interest rate at 24% for loans extended by microfinance institutions (MFIs).
The committee, headed by RBI Central Board director YH Malegam, also suggested that small loans cannot exceed Rs25,000 and creating of a separate category of non-banking financial companies (NBFC-MFI) for the MFI sector.
Foreign institutional investors were net sellers of Rs1,651.41 crore in the equities segment on Thursday. Domestic institutional investors also offloaded stocks worth Rs255.59 crore.
Simbhaoli Sugars (up 1.18%) today announced a joint venture with UK-based trading firm ED&F Man Holdings (EDFM) to set up a sugar refinery in Gujarat at an investment of Rs228 crore. Simbhaoli will have 57.5% stake in the joint venture company Uniworld Sugars (USL), while EDFM will have the remaining. The greenfield sugar refinery would be set up at Kandla in Gujarat with a capacity to refine 1,000 tonnes of sugar every day.
Adani Enterprises (down 5.81%) today announced a partnership with Japanese group Kowa Company, for cooperation in the infrastructure and other areas. The pact will empower Kowa to act as a first contact for Adani's business operations in Japan and Adani will act in similar capacity to facilitate Kowa's interests in India. As per the agreement, Kowa will help Adani initiate business with Japanese firms, in areas like ports, shipping, coal mining, transportation of coal and power.
Fortis Healthcare (up 0.89%) today said it has entered into an agreement with the promoters of the Lifeline Hospital at Alwar in Rajasthan to operate and manage the 100-bed facility. The move is in line with Fortis' strategy to strengthen its presence in India's tier-II cities. The addition of Lifeline Hospital takes the Fortis network to a total of 53 hospitals with over 8,000 beds spread across 13 states in the country.