Citizens' Issues
High Court fines hawker Rs5,000 for filing fake case of abduction

A hawker filed petition in the HC alleging abduction of another hawker by GRP and an activist, which the Court found absolutely fake case


Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has fined a hawker Rs5,000 for filing a petition in which he alleged abduction of another hawker by the Government Railway Police (GRP) and Samir Zaveri, a well know activist.

Zaveri had earlier raised the alleged scam involving Railway Police Force (RPF) personnel, who set up fake magistrate court and collected fines from commuters at Kurla. He said during 2008, the racket, operated in alliance with some insiders, and used to issue fake bail bonds to commuters caught at Kurla station.

The hawker, Akeel Farooque, filed a related petition in the case, claiming that some GRP personnel, with help from Zaveri abducted another hawker Bharti Mahto. Farooque said, Mahto went missing from 10 August 2011, after he was arrested by the GRP. He also claimed that Zaveri accompanied Mahto to the Police Station.

However, Shivaji Dhumal, senior inspector of GRP at Kurla filed an affidavit in the Court, in which he said there was no evidence provide by Farooque about the abduction or his informant. Dhumal said, even the Kalwa address of Mahto, provided by Farooque, turned out to be fake. Besides, Farooque never visited the police station to record his statement despite several reminders.

Zaveri also told the Court that he never met any person named Mahto.

A Bench of justices SA Bobde and Mridula Bhatkar, while upholding contentions of Zaveri and the GRP, said the petition appears to be an 'absolutely fake', and fined Farooque Rs5,000.


Mumbai's position declining slowly thanks to its poor infrastructure

Mumbai’s advantageous location should not be taken for granted. If corrective measures are not taken early, the city will have to be put into the ICU

Mumbai is very advantageously located. Although surrounded by sea, the surrounding land areas are forested and hilly, ideal to impound large quantity of 2,500mm to 4,500mm annual rainfall. It still has not fully exploited the region’s potential. Being forested land and not agricultural, water in the region is pesticide-free. Being on the sea coast, it is endowed with sea-breeze that carries away the polluted air. At one time a manufacturing hub, it is now a metropolis with growing service sector activities. Income levels are rising and so are aspirations of owning a motorcar and an air-conditioned home.

Although the rate of growth of Mumbai population is quite low, the base population being large, the actual addition is significant. Meeting its basic necessity such as water is not such a problem; however transmission losses and uneven distribution makes a mockery of managing abilities. Waste water is incompletely treated before putting it out into the sea and solid wastes are allowed to get accumulated at different places at different times, except for the privileged south Mumbai, it is a matter of concern and frustration.

There are all kinds of violations taking place on roads and the police seem to be in short numbers! Is that really so? If the beat-marshals went on foot or bicycles on their beats randomly round the clock and nabbed the violators, there would be less violations of law and the police force would not be stretched and spend much energy curbing night-life and do moral policing in the space-starved housing. Brothers grow up from childhood into adulthood in a chawl room with their parents who cannot afford another room to bring up their respective families. A little romance in the twilight is frowned upon because the law says so. But private parties going late at night with loud music and impatient honking by party-goers is not looked at. A walking or cycling beat needs to be reintroduced.

Except for the very miniscule proportion, perhaps barely 10,000 of Mumbaikars who gets into the personal car soon after coming down the lift and gets into a lift on reaching office, every other Mumbaikar walks short to long distances while commuting to work or going for entertainment or socializing or go round the corner to a shop. And there are more Mumbaikars using bicycles than number of users of personal motor cars. Their safety and convenience must be central to any mobility plan for Mumbai. However, it is quite the opposite.

The fire at Mantralaya on 21 June 2012, when five persons lost their lives, the government showed much concern, how about showing serious concerns for the daily 10-12 deaths on railway system and 2-3 on Mumbai roads.

When will authorities understand that Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) will not only address the crowd on the railway system but will also bring in mobility to people on the road and equally important, let fire engines, ambulances and security forces not get into traffic jams?

There is more to Mumbai than deteriorating transport, housing and open accessible public space issues and these are positives which make things tick. However, if main arteries get blocked, organs cannot function properly, what use will the “Mumbai Spirit” be of?
It is only hoped that when the patient Mumbai is taken into the ICU, hope that situation does not arise at all, a situation is not beyond repair that even when put on the ventilator, it does not respond.

The current transport infrastructure projects that have been taken up with the vision to provide the much needed solution to transportation woes and are under implementation will be so delayed in completion that their even inadequate capacity will be nothing but waste of money and unnecessary additional hardship to Mumbaikars over a long period without providing relief at the end.

Unless the Mumbaikar shows his anger now and demands that low-cost quickly implementable infrastructure that gives priority to walking, cycling and the BRTS, emphasizing on mobility of people and not just motor vehicles, Mumbai will have to go into ICU with one-way ticket.

Hope is seen when the Government of Maharashtra declared that 20% of area under development will have to be for low-cost housing at that site itself and handed over to the government for allocation in the vision to make the city slum-free. Hope the government looks beyond the Metro Rail in addressing transportation problem of Mumbai.

(Sudhir Badami is a civil engineer and transportation analyst. He is on Government of Maharashtra’s Steering Committee on BRTS for Mumbai and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s Technical Advisory Committee on BRTS for Mumbai. He is also member of Research & MIS Committee of Unified Mumbai Metropolitan Transport Authority. He was member of Bombay High Court appointed erstwhile Road Monitoring Committee (2006-07). While he has been an active campaigner against Noise for more than a decade, he is a strong believer in functioning democracy. He can be contacted on email at [email protected])


Power “less” dilemma: Coal industry at the cross-roads

The Indian coal industry is plagued by a number of operational problems. Will the efforts of Australian mining queen Georgina Rinehart help the Indian coal industry?

After China and USA, India is the third largest producer of coal, producing some 440 million tonnes (MT) against an annual demand of 650 MT. 55% of the Indian power generating plants depend upon coal as their fuel requirement. The need for power is growing by the minute.
Coal is imported under the Open General Licence (OGL) which has progressively increased from 90 MT in 2010 to a projected need of 143 MT during 2012. The benchmark price for Australian thermal coal this year has fallen below $85 a tonne but currently there is glut of supplies due to ports being full and they do not have additional storage facilities. India's import of thermal coal amounted to some 70 MT in the price range of $70 to $80.
Indigenous production, though cheaper than imported coal, is not sufficient to meet the demand. Therefore, in order to ensure continuity of definite supplies, many power producers have long-term overseas purchase arrangements, mining interests overseas or leases to supplement the shortages.
The Indian coal industry, as such, is plagued by a number of operational problems relating to law and order, manpower deployment, wage disparities, health services and other related issues. Labour supply has been in the hands of mine developers and contractors. Besides these, there are no dedicated rail roads, shortage of rakes, and of course the uncontrollable pilferage in transit. Even power plants at pitheads have coal supply problems. There is the urgent need to get balancing equipments and modern mining machinery, besides trained manpower to handle these.
It may be recalled that Coal India (CIL) was subject to severe criticism on the issue of Fuel Supply Agreements (FSAs); after the intervention of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), a revised FSA covers a guaranteed supply of 65% of the requirement for the first three years, 72% for the fourth year and 80% in the fifth year. This means that the buyer will still have to make suitable alternative arrangement to bridge the gap of the actual requirement.
During the current year, CIL proposes to import 30 MT though they envisage a shortfall of 45 MT. And in order to coordinate and bring about a major change in the industry working, the coal ministry is in the process of setting up a nodal agency for this purpose. In the interim period, STC/MMTC may take over this responsibility. However, it is better to take the needed extra time rather than choosing one of these two organisations and then again making the changes.
Other issues in the FSA, like the biased penalty clause, moratorium on payment, etc are yet to be revised and finalized.
Although the appointment of the regulator for the industry has been on the anvil for sometime now, it is distressing to note that no final choice has so far been made.  However, there is a tall order awaiting the regulator which covers both granting and suspending of mining
licenses; determining the price structure for all types of coal and its products; imposing and recovering penalties and setting up standards of performance and operational norms, besides advising the government on the industry.
Australia, Indonesia and Mozambique have been important sources of coal, where many Indian companies have entered into long-term lease arrangements, joint ventures and other types of investments. The major thrust, in this regard, has actually come from well-known
Australian mining giant, Thiess, which has entered into long-term relations with NTPC in the joint venture that has resulted in the setting up of Pakri Barwadih coal mine operations in Jharkhand, valued at $ 6.5 billion. This is scheduled to last till 2034 as on date. Thiess will be mining, though a local sub-contractor, and production is expected to start in October 2012.
This is the first of the six mines NTPC intends to develop to provide low-cost coal and when it is fully operative, it is envisaged that the production will be 15 MT (by the third year), and efforts made to reach a target of 18 MT.
According to Peter Varghese, the Australian High Commissioner, "they are just beginning to see activity on the ground" though he has stated that "Indian environment regulatory and other issues are seen as very tough to negotiate. Australia is currently negotiating an economic co-operation agreement to cover goods, services and investments. Our authorities would do well to ensure that small hiccups do not impede the growth of interest in this area which may raise the red flag to other likely investors".
In the meantime, it is gratifying to note the presence of Australian mining queen Georgina Hope Rinehart, chairperson of Hancock Prospecting in the country, which has collaboration with the GVK Group, associated with the Alpha coal mine in Australia.
In the long run, it is hoped Ms Rinehart would consider serious interests in developing mines in India too.

(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was 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. He can be contacted at [email protected].)


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