New Delhi: In a big blow to Vedanta Resources, the government today rejected environment clearance to its $1.7 billion bauxite mining project in Orissa after accepting recommendations of its key panel clearing such ventures, reports PTI.
Giving reasons for the denial of clearance, environment minister Jairam Ramesh told reporters that "there has been a very serious violation of Environment Protection Act, Forest Conservation Act and the Forest Rights Act.
"There have been no emotions and no politics and no prejudice involved in this report. I have taken this decision in a proper legal approach," he said.
The decision came after the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC), which had submitted the report to Mr Ramesh after reviewing the suggestions given by the N C Saxena panel seeking ban on the mining project in Orissa's Niyamgiri Hills in view of various violations at the site.
The Saxena report has citied many violations of the in-principle environment clearance given to Orissa Mining Corporation in 2008 including non-compliance with the provisions of the Forest Rights Act.
"The consent certificate of the gram sabha was fake," the panel said in its report while recommending not to approve the project because of large scale violations.
Stressing that his ministry was not getting into any "witch-hunt", Mr Ramesh said the Orissa government had violated the Forest Rights Act and Vedanta Resources violated the Environment Protection Act (EPA).
"We are examining what action has to be taken against the project proponents for violation of various laws including the EPA," he said.
Mr Ramesh said he has no prejudices against the Orissa government as his ministry has cleared an important irrigation project in the state for which the in-principle approval was accorded yesterday.
"While rejecting this (Vedanta) project, I have also cleared an important irrigation project in the state in which over 1500 hectares of forest land is involved," the minister said.
Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia today it was on the verge of finalising a free trade agreement with India and that the deal was expected to be signed at the end of October, reports PTI.
Deputy trade minister Mukhriz Mahathir said the two nations had made good progress on the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) and that it would be signed during a visit by Indian premier Manmohan Singh.
"India of course is a priority country for us.
Suffice to say, we are on the verge of finalising everything," Mukhriz told AFP.
"We are confident that when prime minister Manmohan Singh comes to Malaysia we will have the documents to be signed. His visit is in late October," he added.
"There has been a flurry of activity between the two sides; it indicates how seriously we take the issue."
India was Malaysia's 12th largest trading partner in 2009, and the pact is expected to further boost trade and investment between the two countries.
Two-way trade peaked in 2008 at $10.52 billion but fell to $7.06 billion in 2009 due to the global economic downturn.
Malaysia has said a pact - which will cover trade in goods and services, investment and economic cooperation - could boost exports to India by $12 billion by 2012.
Malaysia in October 2009 signed a free trade deal with New Zealand, and is part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-China free trade accord.
It has also expressed eagerness to join talks for an enlarged Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement involving the United States and seven other countries.
New Delhi: Financial sector watchdogs met on Monday to deliberate on inter-regulatory issues for the first time after the government assured that their autonomy would not be curbed by a recent Bill passed in Parliament, reports PTI.
The meeting of the High Level Coordination Committee of Financial Markets (HLCCFM) was chaired by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor D Subbarao and attended by all financial sector regulators, besides finance ministry officials.
"The HLCCFM reviewed the developments in the financial markets and deliberated on... inter-regulatory matters," an RBI release said here.
Earlier this month, the Lok Sabha had passed a Bill to replace the Unit Linked Insurance Plans (ULIP) Ordinance. The Securities and Insurance Laws (Amendment) and Validation Bill, 2010, provides for setting up a joint body under the chairmanship of the finance minister and with representation from the four financial sector regulators and the finance ministry.
The Bill states that the RBI governor will be the vice-chairman of the joint committee. However, apprehensions were expressed by the RBI over its autonomy being curbed.
Allaying these fears, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had told the Lok Sabha, "It was true there were lots of apprehensions whether we are going to dilute the regulators' independence or autonomy. It will only be in the case of jurisdiction disputes between the regulators that the joint mechanism will be used."
Mr Mukherjee further assured that the joint mechanism will not deal with other areas and only the regulators can refer the matter of jurisdiction to the committee.
The government issued the ULIP Ordinance on 18th June after capital markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) locked horns over regulation of Unit Linked Insurance Plans (ULIPs) and could not seek a joint legal mandate to sort out the issue, as suggested by the finance ministry.
The HLCCFM reviewed the developments in the financial markets and deliberated on, among others, issues relating to the development of corporate bonds, the RBI statement said.
In addition, the trade reporting system for securitised instruments and issues related to credit default swaps (CDS) were also discussed at the meeting, it said.
The meeting was attended by finance secretary Ashok Chawla, Department of Financial Services secretary R Gopalan and chief economic advisor Kaushik Basu.
Among the regulators present at the meeting were SEBI chairman C B Bhave, IRDA chairman J Hari Narayan and Yogesh Agarwal, chairman of the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA).