Kerala government is probing land purchase deal in Maharashtra, worth Rs1.5 crore by Tom Jose, its principal secretary in PWD
The Kerala government has decided to probe land dealings of Tom Jose, the principal secretary in Public Works Department (PWD) in the state. According to a report from Mathrubhumi, Jose while working as secretary in PWD bought an estate worth Rs1.5 crore at Sindhudurg in Maharashtra. The state government is probing the source of the money used in the land deal, the report says.
Earlier, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) sought explanation from Jose, the then chief secretary for buying land without prior permission as mandated by the All India Civil Services Rule. At that time, Jose told the government that he spent Rs40 lakh from his own pocket and took a loan from Bank of India for the rest. The loan was repaid in 2010 raking up the controversy that required further probe, the newspaper said.
Replying to the government, Jose has said that Rs1.23 crore was given as loan to him by PJ Davis and Dr Jose and the balance was waived by the estate owner.
The decision of Air India to crack the whip comes amid reports that several cabin crew members were on the lookout for greener pastures, especially eyeing jobs in Gulf carriers
Taking a tough stance to ensure discipline, state-run carrier Air India has sacked 47 members of its cabin crew and issued show-cause notices to 20 more for absenteeism.
According to senior airline officials, while all of those sacked are stationed in Mumbai, 17 of those issued the notices for not showing up for three months without any intimation also belong to the western metropolis and the rest from Delhi.
However, those issued show-cause notices could re-join duty by 30th June after fulfilling necessary requirements and getting certified for sickness, if any, from Air India doctors, the officials said, adding that such disciplinary action taken on a regular basis has now become a deterrent for a total cabin crew strength of about 3,500.
The decision of Air India to crack the whip comes amid reports that several cabin crew members were on the lookout for greener pastures, especially eyeing jobs in Gulf carriers.
The officials said the prevailing work hours for the cabin crew stood at 125 hours per month or 1,000 hours each year, but those being sacked or issued notices have not put in even a single hour of duty in the recent past.
The prevailing manpower strength of the national carrier stands at about 14,000, after a total of 9,000 employees being shifted to Air India's subsidiaries Air India Engineering Services Ltd (AIESL) and Air India Air Transport Services Ltd (AIATSL) which became operational last year.
By 2017, around 7,000 staffers would retire, leaving the parent company with about 7,000, they said, adding Air India would then have one of the "best aircraft-manpower ratio" with an average age of 45-48 years. The ratio currently is about 240 per aircraft which would come down to around 100.
Over the past five years, Coal India's profit jumped 735% to Rs17,356 crore by just raising coal prices while employee expenses grew almost double. However, between the same period, its coal production increased by just 5%
Coal shortages have been caused mainly due to the inefficient and monopolistic Coal India Ltd (CIL), and road blocks created by Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) in the development of new coal mines. Any bottlenecks in coal production has a cascading effect on all major industrial and household sectors in India, including power generation. CIL was formed upon nationalisation of coal mines with the noble purpose of increasing coal production, to provide better amenities and safety to coal miners and to provide coal to Indian industrial consumers at a reasonable price. It has largely failed in its objectives. Shockingly while CIL’s production has remained near stagnant for last five years it’s employee expenses have doubled to Rs27,320 crore.
CIL has increased coal prices by 60% in just last five years, an act of virtual extortion resulting in its profit jumping to Rs17,356 crore in 2012-13 against just Rs2,078 crore in 2008-09 (by 735%) while coal production marginally went up just 5% to 452 million tons (mt) from 431mt during the same period.
CIL’s Subsidiaries should be made independent and decoupled from it
All seven coal producing subsidiary companies of CIL should be made absolutely independent in their ownership and operations, and should be freed from the clutches of CIL. The holding and subsidiary company relationship should end and all of them can be listed on stock exchanges.
After unbundling as above, let there be healthy competition between these seven self contained independent companies on the lines of Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL), Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) and Indian Oil Corp (IOC).
These seven coal producing companies can jointly promote a separate company, exclusively to carry out the bulk and economical procurement of mining and other equipments on their behalf. Similarly, these companies can form a joint committee to interact with railway authorities for placement of rail rakes for smooth movement of coal.
Consultancy firm Deloitte and the 12th plan document has also recommended decoupling of these subsidiary companies but Minister of Coal on 13 February 2014 refused to accept it.
Poor quality of coal and no redressal mechanism
CIL has no proper, fair and mutually acceptable arrangement for quality testing of coal, as a result the customers are forced to accept and pay for whatever CIL dispatches, even if it is stones or mud mixed with coal. The recent tussle on the quality issue between NTPC and CIL amply proved this point.
Mystery behind allocation of coal blocks/ reserves without any consideration
It is strange and mysterious as to how huge coal reserves, limited in quantity and not replenishable, unlike air waves/spectrum, were allocated to private parties selectively without charging any consideration through an open bidding process.
The best way out of this whole messy affair and controversy is to cancel all coal allotments made from 1999 to 2012 by executive order/ordinance barring those that have already seen investment and started mining. Thereafter, CIL should reallocate the same to actual and genuine user industries in small parcels, based on their captive requirement for next 15 to 20 years through an open auction by keeping a reasonable floor price.
Once coal blocks are reallocated against payment of suitable monetary consideration, there will be urgency on the part of new coal blocks allottees to invest and start mining. The present coal blocks allottees are not serious in mining and are waiting for further appreciation in the value of their coal blocks.
Fuel Supply Agreements (FSA) are drafted in a most biased and partisan way with all terms favouring only CIL. These must be scrapped and replaced with a new one based on equity and equality.
Authority for deciding coal prices
Coal prices should be decided from time to time with a holistic approach by an independent multi-member minerals commission and not by the proposed coal regulator, which is just an advisory post with powers of fixing coal prices staying with CIL and Ministry of Coal. This will curb the sort of impunity because of which CIL had overnight increased the price of higher grade coal from Rs2,140 per tonne to Rs4,920 per tonne in a single stroke effective from 27 February 2011.
Coal mafia and organised gangs are rampant and they not only pilfer coal but also forcibly extort money from consumers. This crime has been continuing since decades and is known to everybody. The government and administration can demolish this illegal racket if there is strong determination and will.
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Building a Better India-Part1: How to create a smaller and smarter government
Building a Better India-Part2: Transforming political landscape
Building a Better India – Part 3: Bringing systemic changes in constitutional bodies
Building a Better India – Part 4: Identifying tax issues
Building a Better India – Part 5: Bringing tax reforms
Building a Better India – Part 6: Fast track clearances
Building a Better India – Part 7: Managing India's Deficit
(Kolkata-based Dalbir Chhibbar practised as a CA till 1990 and later started his own buinsess)