The moment it is established that there was no loss to the state exchequer, the whole case of cheating and conspiracy in the spectrum allocation will go, senior advocate Sushil Kumar appearing for Mr Raja said, claiming that the prime minister and two other ministers would be able to establish that
New Delhi: Jailed former telecom minister A Raja today told a Delhi court that he would get prime minister Manmohan Singh, then finance minister P Chidambaram and present telecom minister Kapil Sibal summoned as witnesses to prove government did not incur any loss in the second generation (2G) spectrum allocation, reports PTI.
"Aaj main bata dena chahta hu ki main prime minister, tabke finance minister or vartman ke telecom minister ko battor gawah banaunga (today, I want to state that I would get the prime minister, the then finance minister and the present telecom minister summoned as witnesses)," senior advocate Sushil Kumar, appearing for Mr Raja, told special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) judge OP Saini.
The moment it is established that there was no loss to the state exchequer, the whole case of cheating and conspiracy in the spectrum allocation will go, he said, claiming that the prime minister and two other ministers would be able to establish that.
He said Mr Raja would move an application under section 91 of the CrPC for getting certain documents from the CBI which had so far not been brought before the court.
The defence counsel also raised the issue of offloading of equity by Swan Telecom Pvt Ltd and Unitech (Tamil Nadu) Wireless Pvt Ltd to Dubai-based Etisalat and Norway-based Telenor respectively and maintained that there was no criminality involved in those transactions.
"First of all there was no sale of licences, then the offloading of equities was within the limit of 74%.
Moreover, the transactions were cleared at the highest level (the Foreign Investment Promotion Board)," he said.
DMK MP Kanimozhi, earlier while opposing framing of charges against her, too had sought to drag the prime minister in the 2G case expressing her intention to make him a witness.
"If the trial goes on (against me), I would summon the prime minister as a witness," she had submitted through her lawyer Mr Kumar, who is also representing Mr Raja in the case.
Seeking to demolish the CBI allegation that a huge loss has been caused to the state exchequer due to various acts of omission and commission by various accused, including Mr Raja and Ms Kanimozhi, Kumar had yesterday contended that the prime minister had told Parliament that no loss was incurred to the exchequer in allocation of the 2G spectrum licences.
"The moment, the loss factor goes out, the charge of cheating also goes out," Mr Kumar had said, adding, "The prime minister, the then finance minister (P Chidambaram) and the present telecom minister (Kapil Sibal) have told the House i.e. the people of India that no loss has been caused as 2G licences were not to be auctioned."
Ms Kanimozhi had also rubbished the CAG's estimation of a presumptive loss of Rs1.76 lakh crore and CBI's computation of Rs30,984 crore loss in the case.
The Pune Municipal Corporation, in gross violation of the BPMC Act under which it functions, was unabashedly giving generous donations to social organisations from taxpayers’ money until RTI activists discovered the financial irregularities and put a stop to this economic crime. In such cases, the government’s Lokpal Bill has no provisions to punish the guilty whereas the Jan Lokpal Bill has. Here’s how
One of the crucial differences between the government's Lokpal Bill and the Jan Lokpal Bill is that the former covers only 'A' group government officers, leaving the lower ladder free from investigations and action needed to be taken against corruption. This means out of about 2.5 crore government employees in our country, only 65,000 are under this net. Whereas, in the Jan Lokpal Bill, the entire government machinery would come under Lokpal; thus keeping vigil on the lowest rung of the patwari to the highest rung of the chief secretary. The chunk of the corruption takes place in the lower cadres and the example of money being frittered away by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) for cultural and social programmes of private organisations is a stark example, unearthed through the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Pune's mayor Mohansingh Rajpal, the first-ever Sikh mayor of the city, decided in 2010 that the city should celebrate the Baisakhi festival in a big way with renowned singer Daler Mehndi as the star attraction. Hence, he dug into the coffers of the PMC treasure chest to magnanimously donate Rs30 lakh to a social organisation called Sangat Seva Foundation and make the municipal corporation the co-sponsor. The first instalment of Rs15 lakh was given by way of cash.
When newspapers carried the news about this donation, Vijay Kumbhar, RTI activist and founder of Surajya Sangharsha Samiti and Sandeep Khardekar, social activist and founder of Creative Foundation, decided to investigate into the legality of such a donation. An RTI application revealed that the mayor had given the money as per the provision provided in the PMC annual budget of 2010-11, specifically for the Baisakhi festival. However, both the activists studied the BPMC (the Bombay Provincial Municipal Corporation) Act, which clearly stated that the PMC cannot co-sponsor such events and it is a crime even under the Indian Penal Code to donate money in cash. They dashed off a letter demanding inspection of files under Section (4) of the RTI Act. The letter stated, "PMC has co-sponsored Baisakhi event of Sangat Seva Foundation by violating various sections of the BPMC Act. Now it is also confirmed that money given as first instalment to the said social organisation has been given in cash. This is a serious offence under various sections of the BPMC Act and the Indian Penal Code. So please officially declare the facts at the earliest. Otherwise we will be compelled to draw the conclusion that you are also involved in this scam. So please supply us information on: whether Sangat Seva Foundation is registered? Has money provided to the said foundation given in cash? On whose name was the money withdrawn? Who actually received the money? Can PMC give money in cash? And if so, what is the limit for that?
Why was money not given by account payee cheque? Declaring all this information under section 4 (1) (c) and (d) of RTI (Act) is compulsory for you as a head of public authority.''
Revelations were scandalous as it was found that the Sangat Seva Foundation was not even a registered social organisation; that PMC under the BPMC Act cannot give donation in cash beyond Rs2,000; that no singular social organisation can be given a grant of more than Rs3,00,000; the PMC cannot be a co-sponsor to any such events; the annual limit of donations is Rs15 lakh and; any PMC-organised event cannot be charged (tickets)-it has to be free but the Sangat Seva Foundation had issued tickets for sale. The point of this controversy is that it may not be as large as the 2G Scam or the Commonwealth Games Scam, but it showed that misappropriation of public funds begins from the grassroots and in a large way-so what is the point of having an anti-corruption law which leaves out this vital area?
With the donation issue kicking up into a major controversy, the then PMC Commissioner Mahesh Zagade called for an inquiry report from his senior officer, which Kumbhar procured under the RTI Act.
The findings of the report revealed that the additional municipal commissioner (special) had overlooked the BPMC Act and despite the deputy commissioner insisting on getting this donation approved by the state government and formulating a specific policy to allow such donations at the local level of the PMC, the money was unabashedly provided to the mayor:
However, the above inquiry report in its conclusion stated that the Sikh community is an important part of Pune's community, thus trying to qualify the illegal donation. It also quoted that large amounts had been given to the Pune International Marathon (Suresh Kalmadi's baby), Pune International Film Festival (again Kalmadi's baby), Marathi Sahitya Sammelan and Shaniwar Wada Cultural Festival (organised by opponents of Kalmadi) and so on. However, embarrassed by the controversy that the Baisakhi festival had kicked up, mayor Mohansingh Rajpal quietly put back the Rs15 lakh amount into the PMC's account. Says Mr Kumbhar, "How can the mayor take out and put back the money as per his whims and fancies? Isn't there any sanctity to this public fund?''
The RTI information also revealed that although the PMC cannot give a donation more than Rs3 lakh per social organisation and cannot give an annual donation of this nature more than Rs15 lakh per year, records show otherwise. They are as follows:
* Sarvoday Pratishthan: Rs20 lakh
* Literary Association, (Warje): Rs10 lakh
* Janseva Pratishthan, (Gultekdi): Rs10 lakh
*Pune International Film Festival: Rs17 lakh
* Mangribaba Seva Pratishthan: Rs10 lakh
* Samaj Vyaspeeth: Rs3 lakh
* Literary Association, (Warje): Rs10 lakh
* Prabhodhan Vichardhar: Rs10 lakh
* Prabhodhan Vichardhar: Rs10 lakh
* Pune International Film Festival: Rs17 lakh
Says Mr Kumbhar, "While Pune suffers from inferior civic amenities-be it roads or inefficient sewage treatment or solid waste management-the PMC indulges in illegal donations to please a privileged few and therefore I decided to find out the truth behind these donations.''
So what has been the impact of this crusade? The PMC rejected funding for the Pune International Film Festival and Pune Festival in Kashmir.
The moral of the article: RTI had helped in digging out scams but who will punish the officers responsible for such financial misappropriations? In this case, two municipal officers were denied the annual salary hike for just one year. Says Mr Kumbhar, "If the government's Lokpal Bill is implemented, such irregularities would be out of its purview. However, such issues would be investigated and action taken under the Jan Lokpal Bill. In the case of NCPRI's (National Campaign for People's Right to Information) Lokpal Bill recommendations, this issue would be outside the purview as she (Aruna Roy) suggests that an independent body be made to examine cases of other cadres of government employees except 'A' grade which has been included in the government's Lokpal Bill.''
(Vinita Deshmukh is a senior editor, author and convener of Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She can be reached at [email protected].)
There could be severe ramifications due to power generation from coal, considering the sheer scale of the capacity addition; the geographic concentration of the proposed plants; their predominantly private sector ownership and the severe environmental consequences along with implications for resources like coal and water
A massive expansion in thermal power generation capacity in India is on the anvil. Environmental clearances have already been granted to about 200,000MW (megawatts) of thermal power projects and capacity totalling to another 500,000MW is in various stages of securing environmental clearance. The country has an existing thermal power generation capacity of 113,500MW.
Apart from the sheer scale of the capacity addition, the geographic concentration of the proposed plants, their predominantly private sector ownership, the severe environmental consequences and the implications for resources like coal and water are important issues highlighted in a Prayas Energy Group report (authored by Shripad Dharmadhikary and Shantanu Dixit) on the planned thermal power plants.
A course correction is required from both the power planning perspective and from the social and environmental perspective, to restore balance and basic good governance processes in the development of thermal power in the country.
As of May 2011, the capacity addition will be predominantly in coal-based thermal generation (84%) followed by gas (15%). The geographic concentration in capacity addition will be more than 50% in 30 districts, of which 11 districts will have more than 15,000MW each. The districts with the highest proposed capacity addition include Janjgir Champa (30,500MW) and Raigarh (24,500MW) in Chattisgarh, and Nellore (22,500MW) in Andhra Pradesh. Almost 73% (5,14,000MW) of the in-pipeline capacity will be in the private sector. Ten corporate groups are proposing a production capacity of 1,60,000MW. Many thermal power plants are coming up in critically polluted areas, which include Angul (Orissa), Bharuch (Gujarat), Singarauli (Madhya Pradesh), Cuddalore (Tamil Nadu), Jharsuguda (Orissa), Chandrapur (Maharashtra), Korba (Chattisgarh) and Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh).
The environmental problems include: sulphur dioxide removal mandated only in 8 plants of 5,448 MW; ash disposal in ponds or dumps continues to create serious pollution and health problems for local communities; and other pollutants (like mercury) are likely to be a concern, especially in areas with high concentration of thermal power plants. The MoEF (Ministry of Environment and Forests) now requires 100% utilisation of coal ash within four years of plant commissioning, but the capacity to do so remains doubtful and the monitoring weak.
The resource issues include:
(a) Fresh water—over 70% of environment clearance granted to thermal power plants are located inland and there is a need to watch for potential conflicts and over-allocation of water. Some basins of concern are Wainganga, Wardha, Irai, Mahanadi and Brahmani. It is estimated that the consumptive water needs of just the plants with Environmental Clearance Granted will be close to4.6 billion cubic meters per year.
(b) Coal requirement of plants in-pipeline (based on domestic coal) will be about 2 billion tonnes per annum. While India is said to have abundant coal, the country has not been able to achieve the required production from these reserves, and a steep rise in imports is forecast for the end of the 12th Plan.
(c) Land will be a major issue.
Thus, valuable and scarce natural resources of land, water, gas and coal will be allocated to projects that are not required.
With the de-licensing of thermal power generation, it is now assumed that the market will weed out excess and inefficient capacity. However, key inputs like coal, gas, land and water are all allotted on the basis of non-market criteria, mostly with huge concessions and subsidies. These inputs involve critical common property resources and have significant externalities. A market based weeding-out process will be littered with many incomplete projects which would have displaced people, impacted the environment and locked up huge amounts of financial resources, creating stranded assets of plant and transmission facilities. The costs of such weeding will be borne by a significant extent by the common people, the country and the environment. Thus, it would be a mistake to let the market play the arbitrator.
It is therefore, recommended by Shripad Dharmadhikary and Shantanu Dixit that there should be an immediate moratorium on any further environmental clearance to new power plants. Further, from the 2,00,000MW that has already been given environmental clearance, projects with very high social and environmental impacts, projects that do not have broad local acceptance, and projects leading to sub-optimal use of transmission, fuel, land and water should be put on hold.
There is a need for a complete revamp of the environmental clearance procedures of power plants, so as to minimise social and environmental impacts of power projects. Also, it is required that the government reassesses the long term demand for power and initiates measures to meet this demand in an optimal manner, including energy efficiency as well as renewable energy, so as to improve energy security.