Due to uncertainty, the Indian steel industry has resorted to import iron ore. Although the SC has allowed category A mines to start production, miners are facing several issues like renewal of licence and compliance
A three day Mining Exploration Convention and trade show, organised by the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (FIMI), was inaugurated by the Union Minister for Mines, Steel and Labour, Narendra Singh Tomar, in Bangalore. More than 300 delegates are expected to participate in the Convention, where, there is no doubt that the steel industry's spokesmen are going to explain the state of affairs in the mining sector.
Indian production of iron ore has now come down to 140 million tonnes (mt), as against 220 mt before the ban on illegal mining. Supreme Court, while permitting the mining operations to start, classified the categories of mines as A, B and C, and permitted those under "A" to commence their mining operations. In the meantime, in order to continue and/or revive production, import of iron ore in 2013-14 amounted to 360,000 tonnes, and, so far, during the current fiscal, it has reached 2.37 million tonnes.
Iron ore production in Karnataka, for instance, is now only 17 million tonnes against the rising demand of over 30 million tonnes annually. Karnataka has 160 iron ore mines of which, currently, only 27 are operational. After the Supreme Court permitted those mines, categorised as "A" to commence operations, most of them have been attempting to renew leases (many of which expired during the interim period), acquire fresh licences, and, of course, comply with the usual formalities relating to environmental clearances.
Although the Environment Minister, Prakash Javadekar, had assured one and all that his Ministry would not be a speed breaker, it now appears that mine owners wishing to start their operations are confronted with potholes! Because of the recent amendments to the Mines & Mineral (Development and Regulation) Act 1957, the process of lease renewals have become "particularly difficult" according to Basant Poddar, Managing Director of Mineral Enterprises. The steel industry has been left with little choice and due to uncertainty in obtaining the indigenous ore, to tide over the production needs, they have resorted to import.
Details of the pathetic conditions of the steel industry, arising out of the non-supply and inadequate supply of iron ore are expected to be highlighted in the Convention. Union Minister Tomar, it is hoped, would carry the details and ensure necessary steps are taken with the Environment Ministry and the State Government authorities, so that Karnataka iron ore mines can start brimming with activity. It will also help to bring down employment to the mines, who have been suffering for long.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also 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.)
According to a reply procured under RTI, traffic can be stopped only for the President, the Vice President, the PM and visiting foreign dignitaries who are given President and PM level security cover
Most cases of traffic being stopped or diverted for VIPs to pass, making our life difficult, are illegal. Jammu-based RTI activist, Deepak Sharma was surprised to find out that the police have no right to stop traffic for most VIPs that pass by. Fed up of being inconvenienced due to all grades of ministers enjoying VIP treatment on roads, he filed an RTI application, seeking information on who is eligible for special privileges on roads.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) replied that, traffic on roads can be stopped only in the case of movement by the President of India, the Vice President, the Prime Minister and visiting foreign dignitaries, who are given President and PM level security cover.
This is what the reply stated, “…it may be stated that as per guidelines issued by MHA in consultation with Central Security Agencies, traffic is to be stopped only in the case of President of India, the Vice President of India, the Prime Minister of India and visiting foreign dignitaries who are given President and PM level security cover so as to give them safe passage during movement by road.”
Stopping the normal flow of traffic is just one way VIPs misuse their illegal privileges.
Here are many other examples of, how VIPs flout rules unabashedly to pamper their cronies. An RTI application filed with the MHA regarding nominations for the 2013 Padma awards shockingly revealed that several VIPs nominated their family members and friends for the prestigious awards.
As per the RTI reply, there were 25 nominees, recommended by VIPs. Lata Mangeshkar had nominated her sister Usha; Ustad Amjad Ali Khan had recommended both his sons, Amaan and Ayaan; Congress MPs Motilal Vora and T Subbarami had recommended over 10 names and Amar Singh had nominated Jaya Prada. This was in gross violation of the rules for application for Padma awards.
Another example is of former aviation minister, Praful Patel, who is fighting hard to defend himself regarding the purchase of the aircraft fleet. He would have no voice when it comes to his daughters’ misdeeds during his tenure as minister. Noted RTI activist, Subhash Chandra Agrawal, had filed an RTI application in this regard.
The replies were shocking. In April 2010, Patel’s daughter Avni Deshpande decided to have a bigger Air India aircraft from Bangalore to Male in Maldives, as seven of her family members from her in-laws side, could not be accommodated in the business class, as it was full.
The RTI documents show that directions were given by email from Mumbai office of Air India to change the 'equipment' of Bangalore-Male flight on 25th April and Male-Bangalore on 28 April 2010 from a smaller Airbus A319 to the larger A320.
Accordingly, Air India provided a bigger plane so that the following members could travel in business class: R V Deshpande, Radha Deshpande, Prasad Deshpande, Meghna Deshpande and Master Dhruv, in addition to Avni and her husband Prashant Deshpande. What is worse is that the reply states that the return flight went half-empty, thus frittering away public money.
Similarly, his other daughter, Poorna Patel: a Delhi-Coimbatore Air India flight was cancelled 12 hours before departure as she turned it into a chartered flight so that she could fly from Chandigarh to Chennai with some cricket players for an Indian Premier League (IPL) match!
Pune-based RTI activist, Vihar Durve, after the horrific incident of sexual assault on a lady journalist in Mumbai, filed an RTI application, to procure information on police security for VIPs in Maharashtra. His reply revealed that 64 VIPs have 812 policemen around them. Out of these, Sushilkumar Shinde, his wife and daughter were surrounded by 66 security personnel. His wife alone had 14 policemen to guard her. Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan enjoys the cover of 46 security guards while 31 security personnel protect Ajit Pawar, the deputy CM. The reply shockingly revealed that out of 48,969 policemen on duty in Mumbai, more than 55% or 27,740 are deployed for security of VIPs, while the remaining over 21,000 cops attend to around two crore odd population of the metro city.
Several RTI applications have been filed regarding former President of India Pratibha Patil, who spent Rs225 crore on foreign tours wherein she visited 45 countries during her tenure as President. RTI applications filed by Subhash Chandra Agrawal and others reveal that in most cases she took along with her, a large contingent of her family members and friends. Several RTI applications had also revealed how she tried to usurp a 2.60 lakh sq ft of prime Defence land in Pune to build her home but a tenacious campaign through a series of articles in Moneylife thwarted her dreams. She had to surrender the land and is now residing in a smaller residence.
As for the railways, the VIP quota is an accepted norm. Veeresh Malik, Delhi-based RTI activist and Moneylife's Consulting Editor, has filed a series of applications with the Rashtrapati Bhavan, Prime Minister's Office (PMO), the MHA, Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Surface Transport and Ministry of Railways, and a few other government bodies, which use or used the term ‘VIPs’.
However, he says he has “never got anything close to a cogent definition of the term (VIP).” The Railways, he says, has been more than helpful with the information provided. Picking up from the reply, Malik summarized that, “There is no definition for the term VIP, and apart from the usual lot, pretty much anybody who holds a requisition from a 'High Official' (yet another undefined term) qualifies to be one as far as out-of-turn allotment of reservations is concerned. That letterheads of these VIPs are regularly misused for reservations under emergency quota is a known practice, and is also reported on in the media from time to time.”
Refreshingly, the Balaji Temple in Tirupati - wherein the VIP culture had reached insufferable proportions – has clamped down on VIP privileges. Earlier, with 5,000 VIPs visiting the temple every day, thousands of common people had to wait for long hours. Now, only 800-1000 VIPs are permitted per day, resulting in 10,000 more common people being able to take the darshan.
VIP culture simply mocks at democracy. It is up to us to become more assertive and put our foot down against it. Like the Pak passengers who prevented XXX from boarding the flight because he was two hours late, let us do it in our own way; click photographs and take videos with your mobiles and post them on YouTube!
Some links of stories pertaining to VIP culture:
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
Nifty will continue to rally for a couple of days more
We had mentioned in Wednesday's closing report that the while Indian benchmark indices were close to a short-term bottom, they may not rally much. However, against our anticipation, the benchmarks surged on Thursday resulting in the highest percentage gain since 2 June 2014. Although the benchmarks opened in the negative, they soon moved to the positive and within a few minutes around 9.40am, shot up vertically, catching the shorts off-guard. In a span of eight minutes, the benchmarks made a huge jump. Between 9.35am to 9.43 am, the S&P BSE Sensex jumped 245 points and NSE's CNX Nifty rose 73 points. After this, there was a gradual up journey, which continued till the end when the benchmarks hit the day’s high and closed almost close to that level.
The BSE 30-share Sensex opened at 26,574 and moved from the level of 26,503 to 27,132 while NSE's 50-share Nifty opened at 7,951 and hit a high of 8,121 after hitting a low of 7,940. Sensex closed at 27,112 (up 481 points or 1.81%) while Nifty closed at 8,115 (up 140 points or 1.75%). NSE recorded a volume of 102.51 crore shares. India VIX fell 4.81% to close at 12.3250.
All the other indices on the NSE closed in the green. The top five gainers on NSE were Realty (4.90%), Media (2.80%), Auto (2.77%), PSU Bank (2.63%) and Nifty Midcap 50 (2.55%).
Of the 50 stocks on the Nifty, 46 ended in the green. The top five gainers were Hero MotoCorp (6.06%), LT (3.79%), DLF (3.76%), BPCL (3.74%) and Bhel (3.60%), while the only four losers were Infosys (1.04%), Hindustan Unilever (0.64%), Sesa Sterlite (0.09%) and Tech Mahindra (0.03%).
Of the 1,615 companies on the NSE, 1,247 companies closed in the green, 305 companies closed in the red while 63 companies closed flat.
The three day visit of Xi Jinping, the president of the People's Republic of China began on Wednesday. The visit is with the main aim of ramping up trade and investments, besides having discussions on substantive issues including the contentious border dispute.
Credit growth of scheduled commercial banks moderated further to single digit level of 9.7% as on 5 September 2014, from 10.9% growth a fortnight ago and 13.9% as at 31 March 2014. The bank credit growth was 9.68% as on 5 September, which was a five-year low. An incremental credit expansion till 5 September 2014 in the fiscal year ending 31 March 2015 so far stood at Rs1,46,800 crore, which shows sharp decline from Rs3,38,600 crore in the same period of FY2014.
Unitech (12.85%) was the top gainer in ‘A’ group on the BSE. Recently, CBI started examining a report by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) on the Tata-Unitech land deal worth Rs1,700-crore entered in 2007. The SFIO has alleged that the realty deal between the Tatas and Unitech in 2007 could have been meant for funding Unitech's telecom licence issued in January 2008.
Britannia Industries (2.35%) was the top loser in ‘A’ group on the BSE. It hit its 52-week high on Tuesday. GMDC (1.63%) which traded ex-dividend today was among the top two losers in the group.
Hero MotoCorp (5.57%) was the top gainer in the Sensex 30 pack. It again hit a new 52-week high. It has announced that it has entered into a MOU with the State Government of Andhra Pradesh to set-up a manufacturing plant in Chittoor district. The plant with an investment of around Rs1,600 crore will have a production capacity of around 1.8 million units every year.
Infosys (1.08%) and Hindustan Unilever (0.58%) were the only losers in the Sensex 30 stock. Infosys signed a global partnership with China's telecom equipment maker Huawei Technologies Co Ltd for offering cloud, big data and communication solutions to enterprise customers. Huawei and Infosys will explore setting up a joint lab in China to enable better delivery in all areas of the partnership.
US indices closed Wednesday in the positive. In a statement after a two-day meeting, US Fed announced a further $10 billion reduction in its monthly purchases, leaving the program on course to be shuttered next month. The Fed expects to keep rates low for a considerable time.
The latest economic data showed that US consumer prices fell for the first time in nearly 1-1/2 years in August and underlying inflation pressures were muted.
Except for Hang Seng (0.85%) and Seoul Composite (0.72%) all the other Asian indices closed in green. Nikkei 225 (1.13%) was the top gainer.
China's new-home prices fell in all but two cities monitored by the government last month as tight credit damped demand even as local home-purchase restrictions were eased. Prices dropped in 68 of the 70 cities in August from July, including in Beijing and Shanghai, the National Bureau of Statistics said in a statement today, the highest since January 2011 when the government changed the way it compiles the data.
European indices were trading in green. US Futures too were trading higher.