Madras HC pulls up RIL for starting project without green nod

The court also asked the Puducherry government to ask for and obtain an environment impact report from experts, since the project area spread over mangrove forests

The Madras High Court (HC) has taken exception to Reliance Industries (RIL) going ahead with a gas pipeline related project in the union territory of Puducherry without obtaining environmental clearance in advance, reports PTI.

Passing an order on a PIL filed by S Sai Kumar, hailing from Yanam in Puducherry, a division bench comprising Justices Prabha Sridevan and G M Akbar Ali said on Tuesday that the fact that Reliance had obtained approval after commencing the project was not enough.

The court also asked the Puducherry government to ask for and obtain an environment impact report from experts, since the project area spread over mangrove forests.

The bench said it was disturbed by the company's attitude and expected it to have greater social responsibility. "If an environment disaster strikes, it will strike the mighty and the weak equally. We do not understand why the company should have commenced production and then obtained approval", the bench said.

In his petition, Mr Kumar asked the court to restrain the respondents from establishing a 'block valve station' for the pipeline project in Dariyalatippa village without due process of law as laid down in the Madras River Conservancy Act. He said he apprehended there would be environmental damage if the project was established.

The Puducherry government and the company had entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for implementing a national gas development project. 25% of the local population were fishermen dependent on the river. If the project was not halted, then, by virtue of destruction of coconut plantation and mangrove forests, the possibility of flooding would increase, the petitioner said.

The mangrove forests should be protected, Mr Kumar said in his petition.

Disposing of the petition, the bench said the applicant should come forward with an environmental management plan, which must be cleared by experts. To prevent possible future damage, the government should also be satisfied that the damage was not irreversible.

The applicant should be prepared and must sufficiently secure the cost of reversing any damage, the bench said.

The government should also have in place necessary infrastructure to maintain periodical survey and enforce stipulations subject to which the permission may be granted.

Before granting approval, the government should call upon the company to publish its proposal so that the public, particularly those who were likely to be affected, were made aware of the proposed action.

This would ensure transparency in the process and at least safeguard against a possible misjudgement if a mishap occurs, the bench said.


Power ministry prioritise projects seeking gas allocation

As per the new mechanism, the ministry would grant points or weightage to the power projects, which would in turn enable the inter-ministerial panel to allocate the fuel

Power projects, which have made good progress in land acquisition, are likely to be accorded top priority for gas allocation reports PTI.

According to sources, the power ministry has prepared a list of projects seeking gas allocation and has prioritised as per certain milestones. After land acquisition, states which have shortage of electricity and do not have coal resources would be considered for gas.

As per the new mechanism, the ministry would grant points or weightage to the power projects, which would in turn enable the inter-ministerial panel to allocate the fuel, they said.

"Power projects, which have acquired the entire land needed for the projects would get the highest weightage of 30 points," a power ministry official said.

Similarly, states that do not have coal resources and are facing acute power shortage would get 30 points and are likely to get second priority followed by projects at coastal locations using sea water instead of fresh water, the official said.

Power plants which are high on efficiency or have less heat rate may get gas before the projects that have obtained environment clearance.

An Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee would meet on 27th July to decide on the allocation of gas from Reliance Industries’ (RIL) KG-D6 block to consumers, including power and fertiliser plants.

Anil Ambani-led Reliance Power (R-Power) earlier this month had written to the oil ministry asking for 28 mmscmd (million standard cubic metres of gas per day) for its three gas-based power projects at Samalkot (Andhra Pradesh), Shahapur (Maharashtra) and Bharuch (Gujarat).

R-Power made the application for gas after inheriting the Gas Sales Master Agreement (GSMA) that another ADA Group firm, RNRL, had signed with RIL. The GSMA outlined RIL's intent of supplying gas to RNRL till 2022. It was passed on to R-Power after RNRL was merged with it.

The company has sought gas allocation from not just KG-D6, but also from other fields, like those of ONGC and GSPC in the KG basin.


Insurers move to PPN. Will this help facilitate cashless treatments?

Insurer-funded healthcare cost is more than individual-funded cost in India. A Preferred Provider Network might help to reverse this trend

According to M Ramadoss, chairman & managing director of The New India Assurance Co Ltd, “Insurance companies have been witnessing inflated, fraudulent, and unwarranted hospitalisation claims when the patient had declared that he/she has insurance cover and wishes to go for cashless treatment. Due to this, insurer-funded healthcare cost is more than individual funded cost. The reverse is true in developed countries.”

Over the past few weeks, the healthcare industry has been in turmoil after cashless facility was revoked all of a sudden from leading hospitals. PPN (Preferred Provider Network) is a network of providers who agree to negotiated rates on specified procedures. New India Assurance has restricted cashless facility to hospitals in PPN. The concept of PPN is widely present in the US to ensure that insured funded healthcare cost is less than individual funded cost.

PPN will include hospitals who agree on standard rates for procedures/treatments. According to Mr Ramadoss, “We have 380 hospitals who have agreed to be part of our PPN. Ideally, we want as many hospitals on board as possible. The rates could vary from hospital to hospital based on location, facilities, equipments, etc. It is not one-size-fits-all. If there is an industry standard for standard rates, we will welcome it. Due to the absence of it, I have to step in but not to rob hospitals of their profits. We are trying to benchmark average costs of the previous two-three years and using recommendations of doctors on panels to come up with frozen standard rates for procedure and treatments.”

The disadvantage for New India Assurance policyholders is the need to raise money if they wish to go to hospitals outside of the PPN. According to Mr Ramadoss, “Out of 100 policies, 8% make claims of which 35% is cashless. It means only 2.8% of claims we get are cashless. It is not (a) great disservice. Unlike in the US, the supply constraint is present in India for quality healthcare. We are trying to bring as many hospitals on board (the) PPN. If the patient is unable to go to a PPN hospital, the reimbursement will still happen after the claim is submitted.”
A ‘limited hospital list’ (around 450 all over India) would offer better administrative control. TPAs can drive more business to lesser number of hospitals and hence, can demand volume discounts. With better administrative control, all bad claims (fraudulent, inflated and unwarranted) can be reduced to a greater extent.

The success of PPN really depends on hospitals agreeing to be part of the network. While the Association of Medical Consultants (AMC) is already thinking of completely boycotting the programme, several hospitals on PPN may also opt out soon. The hospitals on the PPN have been given a fixed tariff rate card by government-owned insurance companies for more than 40 different surgeries. The rates, say industry insiders, are 50% less that what they charged earlier at bigger hospitals. In smaller hospitals and nursing homes the rates have been slashed up to 30%, upsetting healthcare providers. It is a trade-off between volumes of business versus standard rates for a hospital. There will be resistance to anything new and so the same is expected for PPN.

There are definitely winds of change blowing in the healthcare industry, which is bleeding under losses. New India Assurance itself is running losses of 20%—excluding administrative costs — for health insurance. The losses are over 40% when administrative and other costs are included. The loss scenario is present for the other three public sector insurers too. The initiative taken up by insurers has shaken up the hospital industry and made consumers anxious. We have reasons to believe that this is a start of some much-needed changes in the health insurance industry even though it may cause inconvenience to consumers in the short term. Lack of supply of quality healthcare in India is also one of the reasons which make it even more important for good hospitals to come on board PPN to make it successful.



samar mahapatra

7 years ago

We had been expecting a crisis since couple of years.Without this combined effort by 4 cos , the cashless model would have collapsed.- premium less than claim, a cash crunch funding hospital cost.Premium rise chasing claims cost would have been a unsustainable model , against peoples interest.

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