Left demands JPC probe into alleged scam in coal block allocation

CPI (M) claimed that the private companies were taking over large chunks of land from farmers without paying any compensation to them and of the 155 coal blocks given to the private sector, no work has begun in 124

New Delhi: The Left parties sought to spoil the celebratory mood of the united progressive alliance's (UPA) third anniversary on Tuesday, with a CPI-M member demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into an alleged coal scam which has reportedly caused a loss of over Rs1.8 lakh crore to the exchequer, reports PTI.

"Three years of the UPA government have seen scam after scam. Now we have yet another scam. CAG report (on coal scam) has not been placed in Parliament but estimates show that this scam is more than the 2G spectrum scam," CPI-M member Bansa Gopal Chowdhury said during Zero Hour in Lok Sabha.

Noting that coal mines were nationalised by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to the benefit of the country and its workers, he said, "Since 2004, coal blocks are being leased to private sector.....Public sector Coal India Ltd (CIL) is now being hijacked by private companies."

He said the CIL, a Maharatna company, has the financial strength to exploit the entire coal reserves in the country and there was no reason to allow private sector entry.

Chowdhury claimed that the private companies were taking over large chunks of land from farmers without paying any compensation to them. Of the 155 coal blocks given to the private sector, no work has begun in 124 of them, he claimed.

Alleging that national resources were being looted, the CPI(M) member demanded a thorough probe into the "scam" by a Joint Parliamentary Committee. .
The issue earlier led to adjournment of both Houses of Parliament during Question Hour as Opposition created uproar over delay in tabling a CAG report on allocation of coal blocks.

Chowdhury had led a group of Left members to the Well vociferously demanding that the government table the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on allocation of coal blocks.

The members, waving copies of a newspaper on the CAG report, raised slogans like '3 years of UPA, more than 30 scams', 'Down with the UPA government', 'Is this the way a democracy functions'.

The CAG report is reported to have blamed the government for extending "undue benefits" to private entities in connection with coal block allocation.

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Parliament approves Copyright Act amendments

The Bill witnessed unusual unanimity on the matter with members from all parties supporting the measure for creative artistes whose benefits are cornered by producers

New Delhi: Song writers, artistes and performers, deprived of their dues so far, can now claim royalty for their creations with Parliament on Tuesday approving a law to provide much-delayed justice to them, reports PTI.

The Copyright Act (Amendment) Bill, 2012 was passed by the Lok Sabha, which witnessed unusual unanimity on the matter with members from all parties supporting the measure for creative artistes whose benefits are cornered by producers.

The bill, passed by the Rajya Sabha on 17th May declares authors as owners of the copyright, which cannot be assigned to producers as was the practice till now.

Noting that poor artistes had been left in the lurch as producers cornered all royalties, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal said the new law will help them live a good life even in old age as they would continue to get their dues for their work during their heyday.

Moving the bill for passage, he gave examples of shehnai exponent Bismillah Khan and music composer Ravi to press home the point that the condition of such excellent artistes was pitiable as they were not able to pay even house rent and hospital charges.

The bill makes it mandatory for broadcasters - both radio and television - to pay royalty to the owners of the copyright each time a work of art is broadcast.

It bans persons from bringing out cover versions of any literary, dramatic or musical work for five years from the first recording of the original creation.

The bill received overwhelming support including from the Opposition which appreciated the government for such a step, though belatedly.

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Government seeks fresh recommendations from TRAI on cross media ownership

The I&B Ministry has asked TRAI to look into both horizontal and vertical aspects of cross media ownership

New Delhi: The issue of cross media ownership will be again examined by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) at the instance of the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry which has sought an examination of the issue, reports PTI.

Sources said that I&B Secretary Uday Kumar Varma has written to new TRAI chairman Rahul Khullar on 16th May in this regard.

"Major players are looking for expanding their business interests in various segments of print and broadcasting sectors. In this scenario, issue of media ownership and the need for cross media restrictions assumes great significance," Varma wrote in his letter to Khullar.

Sources said that the I&B Ministry has asked TRAI to look into both horizontal and vertical aspects of cross media ownership, and then give its recommendations. In his letter, Varma has written that at present companies have control and ownership across print, TV and radio leading to horizontal integration.

While at present there is no restriction for a company to have ownership across Radio, TV and Print mediums, but apprehension have been expressed in the past that control of media organisations in a few hands may prevent plurality of news and views, official sources said.

Varma, in his letter, is also learnt to have said that there were other implications related to cross media ownership including ensuring quality services at reasonable prices.

The I&B secretary has further asked TRAI to look into the issue of vertical cross ownership where companies owning TV channels were venturing into various distribution platforms like Cable TV distribution, Direct to Home (DTH) and Internet Protocol Television (IPTV).

The letter also points out that many companies, which own distribution platforms, were entering television businesses.

Sources said that the I&B Ministry felt that there was need to address these issues and measures needed to be put in place to ensure fair growth of the Broadcasting sector.

They said that TRAI had earlier in 2009 examined the issue of cross media ownership and based on its recommendations, the government had also sponsored a study through the Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI).

The ministry has written to TRAI that with the convergence of various technologies in the recent years, the role of different players in Broadcasting needed to be looked at again so that measures allowing fair growth of broadcasting sector can be put in place.

Sources said that once TRAI examines all aspects on the issue and releases its recommendations, the government could then release guidelines on media ownership based on the telecom regulator's recommendations.

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