Former finance secretary EAS Sarma asks government to reopen all environment assessment reports and to blacklist offending companies and consultants
Former power and finance secretary EAS Sarma has accused some private companies in Andhra Pradesh-many of them pharmaceutical manufacturers-of getting false environment impact assessment reports for their projects, and he charged the environment ministry with overlooking this and sanctioning the projects.
In a letter to the secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Forests, JM Mauskar, Mr Sarma has also complained that the state level Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board has neglected its responsibility to conduct public hearings on the basis of these environment assessment reports, apparently because officials have vested interest.
He has demanded that all such assessment reports be re-examined and that the companies and consultants found guilty of such wrongful practice be blacklisted.
Mr Sarma gave the example of a report prepared by Rightsource Industrial Solutions for a bulk drug manufacturing project of Lohitha Lifesciences in Visakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh, parts of which have been copied blatantly from another report, that was prepared for a sponge iron plant.
"Prediction and identification of the environment impact is an important part of the environment study," Mr Sarma wrote. "The consulting company has evidently lifted paragraphs by cut-and-paste from another report on a sponge iron project elsewhere."
He has highlighted the copied portions and it would be relevant to mention the lines here to understand how blatantly this practice is going on. One line in the Lohitha's assessment report reads: "It is absolutely essential to study the impact of air pollution on its environs due to the proposed sponge iron plant."
This matter was raised at a recent public hearing of the state level expert appraisal committee of the ministry, but without any success. Mr Sarma says that the consultant has similarly copied parts of the same sponge iron factory environment report to prepare reports for two other clients, KS Pharma and JPR Labs. Some of Rightsource's other clients are Celon Organics, Vivin Laboratories, Integrin Life Sciences, KMTK Laboratories and Pharmaestro Laboratories.
Another example he has given is of the Ramky Group, whose company Ramky Infrastructure is listed on the stock exchanges. Ramky has set up its own environment assessment agency by the name of Ramky Enviro Engineers, and it has used this agency's services to get clearances for its gas-based power plants and waste recycling complex.
"Andhra Pradesh State Level Expert Appraisal Committee (APSEAC) has also an EIA report prepared by BS Envitech in January 2011, for the group's own project in East Godavari district," Mr Sarma said. "Clearly, there is conflict-of-interest in this. The Ministry of Environment and Forests cannot permit such reports to form the basis of public hearings." BS Envitech apparently has the accredition from the Quality Council of India.
In most cases, the reports have not been given a public hearing. "The environment impact assessment study is supposed to be the basis of a meaningful public hearing process. But neither the developers nor the consultants have bothered to consider this," Mr Sarma said.
He says that even the state pollution control board, which is responsible for arranging the public hearing, has failed to discharge its responsibility. "This is because many of the government officials have vested interests. I know a state-level appraisal committee member who joined one such company as a director as soon as the project was cleared."
What's worse is that regardless of these fraudulent reports, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has been benevolent in granting clearances to such projects. "I am surprised that neither the MoEF nor the Quality Council of India has laid down the basic norms to be observed by accredited consultants. I come back to my original proposal that the MoEF should institute a system of selecting the consultants at random and ensuring that their remuneration is delinked from the project developers," Mr Sarma said.
The decline has been attributed to a sharp decrease in new export business received during month. Panellists cited a softening in global economic conditions as the main contributor to the fall in new orders received from export markets
India's factory output, as measured by the HSBC Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), fell to 52.6 in August, down from 53.6 in July. The latest reading was the fourth successive moderation in the headline index.
The HSBC India Manufacturing PMI is based on data compiled from a survey of purchasing executives in over 500 manufacturing companies.
The decline has been attributed to a sharp decrease in new export business received during month. Panellists cited a softening in global economic conditions as the main contributor to the fall in new orders received from export markets. This contributed to a further slowdown in the growth rate of overall new work intakes, which was the weakest in the current 29-month sequence of expansion.
The August number signalled a marginal reduction of employment in the country's manufacturing sector, in contrast to the modest increase recorded in July. Anecdotal evidence suggested a more cautious approach to hiring given softer growth of new business.
Input prices continued to rise substantially, with the rate of cost inflation the fastest in four months. Higher raw material prices were cited as the main driver of the increase in input costs. Output prices continued to rise at a historically marked rate, despite slowing marginally since July.
Commenting on August data, Leif Eskesen, chief economist for India & ASEAN at HSBC said: "The growth momentum in India's manufacturing sector eased further in August mainly on account of a significant contraction in export orders, which are facing stiff global economic headwinds. Inflation pressures still remain elevated, with input prices accelerating and output prices still trekking up, albeit at a marginally slower pace. Overall, the numbers suggest a moderation rather than a collapse in growth, and they confirm that inflation remains the primary policy concern."
The ads are so dull and witless; you’d rather watch paint dry on a wall. The least they ought to have done was to make the stories very funny and interesting
Oh, no! Kotak Mahindra Bank is celebrating 25 years of its existence all over again. And they are back with some really irritating TV commercials. In fact, many of them. This time the pitch is: 'Money ka matlab'. As in, what does money mean to you? And as in the past, their cameraman goes around asking all sorts of very boring people what money means to them.
I had to go through the misery of watching a few. One shady broker provides a massive insight: Money makes more money. Wow, had no clue! Another one features a housewife who took all stray dogs and cows off the streets and started her own animal farm. Yeah, right. My neighbour got bitten by a stray doggie last night. How do I contact this lady? An old gent in another ad declares money isn't God. But that it isn't any lesser. Sure, sir. Dad told me this when I was two years old. Let me enthral you with one more, but there are plenty of these lovelies on air. A young lass has designed a weekend resort for dog owners. Cool. Guess now the poop won't be left in the community dining hall.
What foxes me is this: Kotak Mahindra turned 25 last year. And they celebrated that moment by running a series of similar ads, where they asked the junta what they did when they were 25. So how come a year later the company is still 25? I thought only certain women lie about their age.
Anyway, the ads were painful last year. And they continue to be painful now. Well, at least you can't accuse Kotak Mahindra of being inconsistent in their communication. The same problems continue. If they have turned 25 years old, what's in it for me, the consumer? How does that change my life? Also, why should I care a damn what money means to other people? They can think what they want, and it will only matter to me if these guys credited my account with some of their dosh.
And to make matters worse, the ads are so dull and witless, you'd rather watch paint dry on a wall. The least they ought to have done was to make the stories very funny and interesting. So at least as viewers, we would have been able to smile a bit. Right now, all you want to do is demolish the TV set.
So dear Kotak Mahindra, congrats on turning 25. Yet again. But please restrict the celebrations to within the four walls of your corporate office. I don't know what money means to you, but you will end up saving lots of it.