A series of Public Interest Litigations was fought by the ESG and an activist group to stop the construction of the second runway at Mangalore airport on the grounds that the design did not conform to the most basic national and international standards of airport design and minimum safeguards
Mangalore-based Environment Support Group (ESG) and Vimana Nildhana Vistarana Virodhi Samithi (Local Communities’ Alliance Against Airport Expansion) has alleged gross negligence and lack of safety standards as a main reason for the Air India plane crash that killed 158 passengers, including crew. There were 160 passengers plus six crew members on board the flight from Dubai to Mangalore, among them 19 children and four infants.
The Group had filed a number of public interest litigations (PILs) to stop the construction of the second runway at Mangalore airport on the grounds that the design did not conform to the most basic national and international standards of airport design. The PILs also highlighted that the airport does not conform to the most minimum safeguards for emergency situations—particularly during landings and takeoffs, and could not have emergency approach roads within a kilometre on all sides of the airport as required.
Despite making several presentations to authorities like the Director General of Civil Aviation, National Building Code of India and the Ministry of Civil Aviation, nobody paid any heed to the Group and the Samithi.
Both the ESG and the Samithi, through a variety of representations, demonstrated that the site chosen for expansion at Bajpe was surrounded by deep valleys on three sides of the runway and did not provide for emergency landing areas as required.
Raising a key concern that the second runway at Mangalore could not meet the standards required in dealing with an emergency, particularly during landings and takeoffs—a time when air crashes are most likely to happen—the ESG and the Samithi then filed a PIL in the Karnataka High Court.
The Airports Authority of India (AAI) filed an affidavit in the Court. AAI said: "It is submitted that as regards the apprehensions of the petitioner that the length and width of the runway is insufficient for a plane making an emergency landing, the same is without any basis. It is respectfully submitted that all the requirements as per the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) recommendation will be met and that there has been no infringement of any of the recommendations and limitations therein."
Following AAI's submission, the Court dismissed the PIL filed by ESG and the Samithi. The Court said the expansion of the Bajpe airport project was at the initial stage and the second respondent (AAI) had in its objections mentioned above, unequivocally stated that all the safety measures, stated by the petitioners in their writ petition will be followed during the progress of the project and nothing can be said before the land is handed over to the second respondent.
"Considering these facts, we are of the view that the petitioners have rushed to this court before commencement of the project itself and the writ petition is premature. It is not, therefore, necessary to consider the various grounds taken by the petitioners in the writ petition to allege that the respondents have been proceeding with the project in a casual manner. There is nothing to doubt about the statement made by the second respondent in their objection statement and we are sure that the respondents will be taking all necessary measures under the different enactments etc., before proceeding with the project in question. The writ petition stands dismissed," the Court had said.
Later on, the ESG and the Samithi twice filed PILs in the Karnataka High Court, which were also dismissed. In their second exhaustively-researched PIL, the ESG raised many significant concerns citing that the second runway could not conform to ICAO norms. The PIL said, "Minimum Area for Stop-way: At page 155 of the said (ICAO) report, para 2-1 prescribes standards for providing the minimum area for a stop way and/or a clear way in the event an aircraft undershoots or over-runs the runway. For instance, if an aircraft has initiated take-off, and a technical flaw requires emergency stop, the standard prescribes the minimum area that should be kept free to enable such a stop. In the instant case, the runway distance itself is about 2,400 metres, and even if the area left is most cautiously utilised, what is left is only about 300 metres on each end of the runway. By the prescribed standard, this is far below the required distance needed for an emergency stop way. Therefore, the chances for an aircraft that has achieved the decision speed forcing an emergency stop are critically minimised, and the inevitable consequence could be that the plane would come crashing down the hillsides from a height of 80-100 metres on either side of the proposed runway."
However, the High Court dismissed the PIL saying that the authorities concerned have to complete all formalities as per law before commencement of the project. The ESG and the Samithi then approached the Supreme Court. In a ruling dated 7 February 2003, the apex court said, "We see no reason to interfere with the impugned order. Accordingly, the special leave petition is dismissed. We, however, clarify that in constructing the Airport, the Government shall comply with all applicable laws and also with environmental norms."
Seeing the Supreme Court ruling as a victory, the authorities began construction in 2004 and commissioned the second runway in 2006. "No techno-economic assessment, feasibility study, or even a comprehensive Environment Impact Assessment was ever done for the second runway. Simply put, the runway was built in comprehensive violation of applicable laws, standards and direction of the Supreme Court," the ESG alleged.
The Group further said that, today, India is frenetically building airports all over, and for all sorts of flaky reasons. Such is the political, bureaucratic and corporate pressure to build and expand airports that anyone questioning the rationale is quickly dubbed as a 'busybody', 'useless interloper', 'promoted by vested interests' and raising 'frivolous' concerns, it added.
"To ensure such incidents do not recur, we demand that the Union Minister of Civil Aviation orders an impartial Commission of Enquiry into the causative factors of this crash, especially investigating the absolute lack of conformance with basic runway design standards and emergency approach measures,” the ESG and the Samithi said in a release.
The goods under investigation are also used for manufacture of reactor vessels, material handing equipment, railways, pipes and tubes, architecture, building and construction and industrial fabrication
The government has initiated a probe into the alleged dumping of certain stainless steel products consumed by auto-component, building and fabrication industries, by the European Union (EU), Korea, South Africa, Taiwan and USA, reports PTI.
JSL Ltd (formerly known as Jindal Stainless) had approached the Centre for initiation of the investigation into the alleged dumping of hot-rolled flat products of stainless steel.
The complainant said the dumping was causing injury to the domestic industry.
The Directorate General of Anti-Dumping and Allied Duties (DGAD), under the commerce and industry ministry, is conducting the probe, an official said.
"The Authority (DGAD)... hereby initiates an investigation into the alleged dumping and consequential injury to the domestic industry... to determine the existence, degree and effect of alleged dumping and to recommend the amount of anti-dumping duty...," the DGAD said.
The goods under investigation are also used for manufacture of reactor vessels, material handing equipment, railways, pipes and tubes, architecture, building and construction and industrial fabrication.
While the commerce ministry recommends anti-dumping duty, the finance ministry imposes it.
The principle of anti-dumping duty is to prevent dumping and to ensure fair trading practices and to create a level playing field for domestic producers vis-à-vis foreign producers and exporters resorting to dumping.
The government collected Rs2.46 lakh crore from indirect taxes and Rs3.80 lakh crore from direct taxes in the past fiscal, according to provisional figures
The Centre mopped up Rs2.46 lakh crore from indirect taxes in the last fiscal, as much as Rs2,000 crore more than the revised target, despite stimulus packages, reports PTI.
On the other hand, it collected Rs3.80 lakh crore from direct taxes against the revised estimate of Rs3.87 lakh crore, Union revenue secretary Sunil Mitra said at a function hosted by the Bengal National Chamber of Commerce and Industry today.
However, Mitra clarified that these were only provisional figures, and the final ones would be released by the Controller General of Accounts.
Sources said that direct tax collections would go up further when final figures come in.
Estimates of indirect tax collections were revised downwards to Rs2.44 lakh crore for the last fiscal, from the Rs2.69 lakh crore estimated at the time of the budget.
While the customs duty mop-up target was scaled down by Rs3,523 crore to Rs84,477 crore, excise duty collection was reduced by Rs4,477 crore to Rs1.02 lakh crore.
Similarly, service tax collection estimates were cut by Rs7,000 crore to Rs58,000 crore.
Sources said this had happened because the cut in excise duty by 6% and service tax by 2% had hit the exchequer drastically. Besides, the slowdown in demand had cut the need for greater imports, affecting customs duty collections.
The government had set the target for direct tax collection at Rs3.70 lakh crore in the 2009-10 budget, but later revised it to Rs3.87 lakh crore.
For the current fiscal, the government has estimated that Rs3.15 lakh crore would be collected through indirect taxes.
Out of this, Rs1.32 lakh crore is likely to come from excise duties, Rs1.15 lakh crore from customs and Rs68,000 crore from service tax.
The government, during 2010-11, proposes to mop up about Rs4.30 lakh crore through direct taxes. Of this, Rs1.28 lakh crore is expected from income tax, despite widening of tax slabs, Rs3.01 lakh crore from corporate tax, and Rs603 crore from wealth tax.