Companies & Sectors
Mining leases for minerals may soon go coal block auction way
The bill for development of mines and minerals, to bring a regime of auctioning blocks for prospecting, was passed by parliament on Friday even as opposition parties, notably Congress and Left Front, demanded a re-look by the select committee.
 
The bill was first put for voting in the Rajya Sabha after debate and 117 members were in its favour and 69 against it, but not before Steel and Mines Minister Narendra Singh Tomar moved two amendments, based on the suggestions of the relevant select committee.
 
Accordingly, it was taken up again by the Lok Sabha -- which had already passed its original form on March 3 -- and it was again okayed by a voice vote after a brief discussion.
 
Minister Tomar said he was happy that the select panel made the suggestions, which the government accepted. "These are good provisions. I am happy the Rajya Sabha endorsed it. But basic thrust has not changed," he said.
 
Once the bill gets presidential consent, the new legislation will replace the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Ordinance of 2015), promulgated on January 12.
 
Earlier, the select panel had sent the bill back on March 18 without changes. But it wanted the government to consider issues like impact of mining on the environment, illegal mining, lack of scientific methods, land acquisition and resettlement and use of windfall profits for local and tribal welfare.
 
Tomar said the new bill takes into account most of the recommendations of the select committee and will allow states to have a say in the auction and all revenues will go to them. "Mining contributes over 2 percent to the GDP, but is in deep crisis. It is one of the biggest employers. A revival will give jobs to our youth."
 
He said there was also an urgent need for a transparent system. Taking the example of iron ore production, he said it was a matter of concern that its production had declined to 152 million tonnes in 2013-14 from 218 million tonnes in 2009-10.
 
Primarily, the new bill seeks to introduce a regime of auction to grant prospecting licences, like for coal blocks. It proposes that there will no renewal of mining concessions, unlike the original act of 1957. But it proposes a licence for 50 years as against 30 now.
 
The government has already identified 199 mines for auction.
 
The proposed legislation also calls for the setting up of a District Mineral Foundation where mining takes place that will address the grievances of the people affected by mining, with a contribution not exceeding a third of the royalty rate.
 
Another body, the National Mineral Exploration Trust, shall be appointed by the central government for regional and pan-India planning.
 
Some opposition parties, led by the Biju Janata Dal, opposed it saying it infringed on the rights of states -- a stand earlier supported by the Congress and Trinamool Congress. The opposition had also prevented its introduction in the Rajya Sabha where the treasury is in minority.
 
But on Friday, the Trinamool Congress, Biju Janata Dal and Samajwadi Party supported it.
 
Among its other salient features, the new act, once in force, will add a new schedule to include mining of bauxite, iron ore, limestone and manganese ore, now called notified minerals, under its purview.
 
The new act will call for state governments to grant mining leases and prospecting license-cum-mining leases for notified and other minerals, with the central government's approval, which will prescribe the terms and conditions for selection of bidders as also the procedure for auction.
 
The central government may also reserve some mines exclusively for some specific purposes, as also set the eligibility conditions for the same.
 
To plug another loophole that leads to arbitrariness, the central government will be permitted to increase the area allowed for mining, instead of granting additional leases.
 
Presently, while 10 sq km is set as maximum limit for prospecting per lessee, a leeway is given to alter this.
 

User

More petha units shut down in Agra
With the sealing of seven more units, the number of centres manufacturing Agra's famous petha sweet that have been shut down for using coal has risen to 30.
 
The Wednesday night operation was a joint effort of the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board, the Agra Municipal Corporation and the district administration. It followed reports that the units making petha, a sweet candy made of gourd, were still using coal although they had given affidavits that they won't do so.
 
An FIR lodged by pollution control board official Anand Kumar triggered the latest crackdown.
 
The still functional petha units in Agra's Noori Darwaza area have downed their shutters protesting against the government action.
 
"At this rate, Agra's petha manufacturers will go out of business," fumed Ankur, a shopowner at Noori Darwaza, the chief petha bazaar in this Taj Mahal city, to IANS.
 
"We will be finished," added Govind Prasad, another shopkeeper.
 
On Tuesday, Divisional Commissioner Pradeep Bhatnagar ordered firm action against the polluting units.
 
The Supreme Court had in 1996 banned the use of coal to produce petha as a fallout of a public interest litigation filed by lawyer and green activist M.C. Mehta. More than 500 petha units, employing over 50,000 workers, manufacture tonnes of petha each day in this city.
 
Rarely do visitors to Agra fail to pick up a packet or two of this sweet.
 
Nutritionists say that although high in sugar, the sweet candy is nourishing and cheap and low on fat.
 
The legend is that thousands of workers and craftsmen were given petha, an instant source of energy, while chipping in hot the Agra summers to raise the 17th century Taj Mahal, India's biggest tourist draw.
 
Interestingly, the raw material for petha is not locally available.
 
The gourd is brought from Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and elsewhere. Only the expertise and skill for manufacturing the sweet are available locally, said Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.
 
In recent years, petha makers have experimented with new flavours, sizes and colours, besides attractive packing.
 
Earlier, there were just two or three varieties. Now there is sandwich petha, kesar petha, khas petha, orange petha, pineapple petha, coconut petha and other varieties.
 
Diabetics can get sugar-free petha too.
 
At the heart of the present controversy is the administration's renewed effort to shift polluting units out of Agra.
 
The Agra Development Authority has developed a "Petha Nagri" and allotted plots to the units, but officials say the manufacturers are not keen on shifting.
 
A medical professional said: "These units have been polluting the area, adding to solid waste and releasing all kinds of toxic gases that combine with early morning fog to make life hell for the people."
 
An official said that the units in 2002 filed affidavits claiming they were not using coal and had switched to liquefied petroleum gas.
 
"But investigation revealed that the use of coal was rampant," he said.

User

15 die as coaches of Varanasi-bound train derail
At least 15 people were killed when two crowded coaches of a passenger train derailed in Uttar Pradesh on Friday after the driver overshot a signal, officials said.
 
The ghastly accident took place at Banchrawa, 40 km from from here in Rae Bareli district, when the Dehradun-Varanasi Janata Express was on its way to Varanasi, the officials said.
 
One of the two coaches which derailed was a sleeper class. The other was a general coach.
 
Mahesh Gupta, a railway divisional commissioner, told IANS that 15 people had been killed and that the toll could rise.
 
Rescuers struggled to remove bodies crushed within the mangled coaches. Some bodies were pulled out from under the coaches.
 
"The number of casualties is likely to increase as the general bogey has been completely flattened," an official told IANS. 
 
District officials assisting the railways in the rescue and relief effort also confirmed that the death toll would go up. 
 
Northern Railway officials said that prima facie the train driver seemed to be at fault.
 
"The train was to stop at the Banchrawa railway station but it did not. When he realized this, the engine driver applied the emergency brakes, leading to the derailment," one official said. 
 
The accident disrupted train services on the important New Delhi-Lucknow-Varanasi sector.
 
Furious locals and villagers from nearby areas who rushed to the site raised slogans against the administration and railway authorities, saying official rescuers took a long time to reach the disaster spot. 
 
A special relief train has been rushed to Banchrawa from Lucknow, the officials said.
 
Six doctors and 20 ambulances were also sent to the accident site, and 100 beds have been reserved in Lucknow hospitals to cater to the injured, officials here told IANS.
 
The Uttar Pradesh government has announced Rs.2 lakh each to the families of the dead and Rs.50,000 to the injured. 
 
The railways ordered a probe into the accident. 
 

User

We are listening!

Solve the equation and enter in the Captcha field.
  Loading...
Close

To continue


Please
Sign Up or Sign In
with

Email
Close

To continue


Please
Sign Up or Sign In
with

Email

BUY NOW

The Scam
24 Year Of The Scam: The Perennial Bestseller, reads like a Thriller!
Moneylife Magazine
Fiercely independent and pro-consumer information on personal finance
Stockletters in 3 Flavours
Outstanding research that beats mutual funds year after year
MAS: Complete Online Financial Advisory
(Includes Moneylife Magazine and Lion Stockletter)