Maharashtra plans exit option for SEZs, to turn land into local parks

Maharashtra has acquired 27,000 hectares for SEZs and is increasingly coming across cases where promoters are turning away from developing the land

Mumbai: Maharashtra is in the process of preparing an exit policy for special economic zone (SEZ) developers and then convert the surrendered land-banks into local industrial parks, as the Centre is unlikely to rollback its decision to tax such clusters, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said, reports PTI.

"I had a discussion with the Union finance and commerce ministers, and I am not very hopeful whether they will go back to a tax-free regime for SEZs as was promised initially," Chavan said told FICCI meet.

Chavan said promoters of SEZs, particularly those in the manufacturing sector, are increasingly shying away from going ahead with plans due to tax burdens they foresee due to certain provisions in the proposed Direct Tax Code (DTC) and the move to bring SEZs under the dividend distribution tax and minimum alternate tax.

The SEZs inspired by the Chinese experience to promote exports and enjoying a slew of tax immunities, suffered a jolt last year when the Centre decided to bring them under the purview of DDT and MAT.

Certain conditions in the DTC, which will be in force from next fiscal, are also making the SEZ promoters uncomfortable, Chavan said.

Maharashtra has so far acquired 27,000 hectares for SEZs and is increasingly coming across cases where promoters are turning away from developing the land, Chavan said.

In the face of this, the chief minister said, his government is contemplating a policy to turn this land into local industrial parks and join the league of specially notified Maharashtra Industrial Development Corp (MIDC) parks.

The exit option given to promoters will free up a lot of land for investments, especially around Mumbai and Pune where there is otherwise an acute shortage of land, the chief minister said.

"Those who want to continue, let them continue; those who want to opt out, the land which is procured for SEZs will have to become local industrial parks, just like MIDCs," he said, adding the forthcoming new industrial policy will address this issue.

Conceding that MIDC townships--built in the latter part of the last century--are not planned well and lack being modern townships, Chavan said the same policy will also have provisions under which land will be acquired in contiguity and used for social purposes.

To transform MIDCs into modern industrial townships, the newly acquired land will be used for housing, schools, colleges, medical facilities, recreational facilities, something which they are lacking at present, he said.


Public Interest Exclusive
Remember Stuxnet? Why the US is still vulnerable to cyber attacks

Years after the world's scariest computer virus attack, not much has changed

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security revealed a rash of cyber attacks on natural gas pipeline companies. Just as with previous cyber attacks on infrastructure, there was no known physical damage. But security experts worry it may only be a matter of time.

Efforts to protect pipelines and other critical systems have been halting despite broad agreement that they're vulnerable to viruses like Stuxnet — the mysterious worm that caused havoc to Iran's nuclear program two years ago.

The Frankenstein-like virus infected a type of industrial controller that is ubiquitous — used around the world on everything from pipelines to the electric grid.

Experts say manufacturers haven't fixed security flaws in these essential but obscure devices.

Why hasn't more been done? Here's why Stuxnet remains a top national security risk.

Q. What is Stuxnet, anyway?
Stuxnet first made headlines when it burrowed into computers that controlled uranium centrifuges in Iran's renegade nuclear program. Its self-replicating computer code is usually transmitted on flash drives anyone can stick into a computer. Once activated, the virus made Iran's centrifuges spin out of control while making technicians think everything was working normally — think of a scene in a bank heist movie where the robbers loop old security camera footage while they sneak into the vault.

Q. Who created it?
Whoever knows the answer to this isn't telling — but if cybersecurity researchers, the Iranian government and vocal Internet users are to be believed, the two prime suspects are the U.S. and Israeli governments.

Q. How does it work?
Stuxnet seeks out little gray computers called programmable logic controllers, or PLCs. The size and shape of a carton of cigarettes, PLCs are used in industrial settings from pretzel factories to nuclear power plants. Unfortunately, security researchers say the password requirements for the devices are often weak, creating openings that Stuxnet (or other viruses) can exploit. Siemens made the PLCs that ran Iran's centrifuges; other makers include Modicon and Allen Bradley. Once introduced via computers running Microsoft Windows, Stuxnetlooks for a PLC it can control.

Q. How big is the problem?
Millions of PLCs are in use all over the world, and Siemens is one of the top five vendors.

Q. After Iran, did Siemens fix its devices?
Siemens released a software tool for users to detect and remove the Stuxnet virus, and encourages its customers to install fixes Microsoft put out for its Windows system soon after the Iran attack became public (most PLCs are programmed from computers running Windows.) It is also planning to release a new piece of hardware for its PLCs, called a communications processor, to make them more secure — though it's unclear whether the new processor will fix the specific problems Stuxnet exploited. Meanwhile, the firm acknowledges its PLCs remain vulnerable— in a statement to ProPublica, Siemens said it was impossible to guard against every possible attack.

Q. Is Siemens alone?
Logic controllers made by other companies also have flaws, as researchers from NSS labs, a security research firm, have pointed out. Researchers at a consulting firm called Digital Bond drew more attention to the problem earlier this year when they released code targeting commonly used PLCs using some of Stuxnet's techniques. A key vulnerability is password strength — PLCs connected to corporate networks or the Internet are frequently left wide open, Digital Bond CEO Dale Peterson says.

Q. What makes these systems so tough to protect?
Like any computer product, industrial control systems have bugs that programmers can't foresee. Government officials and security researchers say critical systems should never be connected to the Internet — though they frequently are. But having Internet access is convenient and saves money for companies that operate water, power, transit and other systems.

Q. Is cost an issue?
System manufacturers are reluctant to patch older versions of their products, government and private sector researchers said. Utility companies and other operators don't want to shell out money to replace systems that seem to be working fine. Dan Auerbach of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, formerly a security engineer at Google, says the pressure on tech companies to quickly release products sometimes trumps security. "There's an incentive problem," he said.

Q. What's the government doing?
The Department of Energy and the Department of Homeland Security's Computer Emergency Readiness Team, or CERT, work with infrastructure owners, operators and vendors to prevent and respond to cyber threats. Researchers at government-funded labs also assess threats and recommend fixes. But government agencies cannot — and do not attempt to — compel systems vendors to fix bugs.
The only national cybersecurity regulation is a set of eight standards approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — but these only apply to producers of high-voltage electricity. A Department of Energy audit last year concluded the standards were weak and not well implemented.

Q. So is Congress weighing in?
Cybersecurity has been a much-debated issue. Leading bills, including the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, would enable government and the private sector to share more threat information. But while CISPA and other bills give the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies more power to monitor problems, they all take voluntary approaches.
"Some of my colleagues have said nothing will change until something really bad happens," said Peterson, whose consulting firm exposed vulnerabilities. "I'm hoping that's not true."

Q. What does the Obama administration want?
The White House has called for legislation that encourages private companies to notify government agencies after they've faced cyber intrusions, and recommends private companies secure their own systems against hackers. But the White House stops short of calling for mandatory cybersecurity standards for the private sector.


You may also want to read…
The Stuxnet connection: Will the UID be its next target?

How digital detectives deciphered Stuxnet, the most menacing malware in history



Ratanlal Purohit

5 years ago

An excellent eye opening reminder of stuxnet. Iran must have also developed another virous to down the drone. Chinese Cheap soft and hardwares in wireless technologies must be loaded with latent malawares. Who knows! Our defence is vulnerable. Super Power will become sifar (0) power in no time if we don't act NOW proactively.
Keep tracking.

Newsviewer Exclusive
RCB player arrested for molesting Indian American woman

The woman claimed that pressure is being mounted on her to withdraw the case but she will not do so

New Delhi: Another huge controversy on Friday struck the Indian Premier League (IPL) with an Australian player with Vijay Mallya owned Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) being arrested on charges of molesting an Indian American woman and severely attacking her fiancee leaving him in hospital, reports PTI.

Luke Pomersbach, the 27-year-old Australian player allegedly misbehaved with the woman, a US citizen of Indian origin, at the Maurya Sheraton Hotel in the national capital on Thursday night and has been arrested, police said.

A case has been registered against him under various sections of Indian Penal Code (IPC) including section 354 of IPC (outraging modesty of woman), 323 (hurt), 454 (lurking house trespass) and 511 (Punishment for attempting to commit offences punishable with imprisonment for life or other imprisonment).

The woman said the player invited himself for some drinks with the couple and some common friends from Mumbai in their room.

She left the men alone and went to her bedroom for catching some sleep but Luke followed her and misbehaved with her, she alleged.

When her fiancee intervened, Luke allegedly beat him up, she said.

The woman's fiancee has been admitted to a hospital.

The woman claimed that pressure is being mounted on her to withdraw the case but she will not do so.

IPL Chairman Rajiv Shukla said the IPL had nothing to with this because the incident did not take place in any party organised by it. "Let the law take its course," he said.

Denying the charge that IPL was full of controversies, Shukla said IPL 4 and 5 were free of controversies till now.

However, BJP MP and former cricketer Kirti Azad alleged that the IPL "has given rise to many unsavoury things. Today's attempt to rape is one such".

He said foreign players were taking advantage of the conditions here.

The IPL was rocked by controversy only Thursday when Kolkata Knight Riders co-owner and Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan faced the prospect of being banned from the Wankhede Stadium after an alleged scuffle with Mumbai Cricket Association officials.


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