The death of a passenger electrocuted in a bus stop should shake up Traffic Police, Municipal Corporation, MSRDC, MMRDA, PWD, MTSU and perhaps even the judiciary
3 May 2012, Chota Durgah Bus Stop, Mahim: A commuter got electrocuted little past midnight. This happened because a live wire supplying power to the advertisement hoarding at the sleek and clean stainless steel (SS) bus stop is reported to have gotten loose and touched the integral steel structure. Apparently the earth-wire may have got disconnected from the structure and when the 21 year old youth tried to sit on the SS seat, the current passed through him and he died of electrocution.
Why did this happen at all? In my humble opinion, it happened because of abdication of duty by the governmental agency, in this case, the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transportation Undertaking (BEST) from the very first stage of putting this new SS structure. No doubt prompt action was taken by BEST to shut off power to all the bus stops unless the advertising agency which put up these thousands of bus stops free of cost to BEST obtained the certificate of safety. It has been observed that none of the bus stops are illuminating their advertisements since then.
It is interesting to note that BEST, in trying to earn revenue from advertisements, have begun to cover their red SLP (street light pole) Box with a large metal box cover and providing space for illuminated advertisement. This SLP Box actually belongs to BEST’s Electric Supply wing, which is in fact already subsidizing the loss-making transport wing. If the purpose was to make transport wing self-sustaining, as desired by Central/Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC/MERC), then this surely is cross subsidy. Keeping that issue aside, the safety aspect will continue to be identical to the bus stop in terms of possibility of earthing malfunction. While the SLP Box is a necessity and has been kept to the smallest dimensions for the purpose, the advertisinng box cover is an aggression on urban landscape and additional encroachment of footpaths. These advertisement box covers have the potential to electrocute a pedestrian road user and also force him to walk on the road if the footpath it occupies is narrow.
The new modular design SS bus stops were put up by a private advertising agency at no cost to BEST in lieu for getting advertising rights. The area for advertisement is not only on the top front but top sides and rear side concave panel seat level to eye level and the front splash protection panels. Depending upon the viewable location of bus stop and not number of passengers observed to be waiting or number of buses halting at the bus stop, the number of modules were decided by the agency and not BEST. With the sole aim to earn money, safety aspects naturally take a back seat. Firstly even on a narrow footpath, the same design was installed even though impractical for the location, forcing pedestrians to walk on the road. The level of footpath could have been lowered to enable bus passengers to queue up in the shelter rather than on the road—it takes effort and time to get down, walk to the bus and climb up into the bus.
In the early days of installation of these bus stop shelters, power supply was by either battery or by DG (diesel generating) sets with no particular attention given to proper earthing or air and noise pollution. Subsequently, when electric connection was obtained, more often it was by hanging cable from adjoining lamp post, the issue of secure power connection and earthing was not addressed.
It is not that BEST were unaware of the problem, but having abdicated their responsibility of providing a proper bus stop passenger shelter, they seem to have abdicated their responsibility to inspect and approve the installations from all aspects of safety and convenience to commuters and pedestrians alike. The only convenience these shelters have provided is cleanliness and seats. Even the meter boxes are placed precariously low, with every likelihood of its corner hitting a man’s head while entering the shelter or walking along the narrow footpath space in the back.
The callousness about electrical safety can be observed at several lamp posts where the switch box covers have been left missing on the one hand and on the other hand earthing cable not fitted.
Bus stops have been placed on the ramp section of flyovers on the Western Express Highway for buses plying on them in order to prevent them from moving to kerb side of the road after the flyover and then move back on the lanes going over the next flyover. Approach to the bus stop for bus commuters is from the slip road adjoining flyover through steel step ladder. While the step ladder has been provided with hand railing, the narrow footpath along the ramp of the flyover, the hand railing is conspicuous by its absence. While the bus stop passenger shelter may have been BEST’s responsibility, providing hand railing along the ramp of surely rests with Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) or Public Works Department (PWD).
The list could be endless but one final point to note here is about having vehicles halt at Stop Line. Delhi Traffic Police seems to be doing that quite effectively. This begins with road markings.
The Mumbai Traffic Police on the other hand seem busy putting up hoardings “Stop at Zebra Crossing, it is Only Decent” or campaigns with barricade sign “Halt at Stop Line”. Instead of enforcing this on ground level, it asks vehicles to come forward to halt beyond the ‘Stop Line” and even occupy the zebra crossing. The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai appears to be in a perpetual state of poor funds to make road markings, especially the Stop Lines and Zebra Crossings! This makes road crossing not only tedious but dangerous for all groups of people perhaps short of track athletes!
It is time members of the various authorities —Traffic Police, Municipal Corporation, MSRDC, MMRDA, PWD, MTSU and perhaps even the judiciary—took to walking and began to understand how dangerous the whole infrastructure is to practically the whole of Mumbai’s population. It is not that other cities things are any better—the Delhi example is an exception—they too have several issues. We have got to be caring to the Life and Limb and situation on the roads that reflects the pride of our nation’s ‘democracy’. Today it is far from it.
To end with positive note, it is observed that when the engineers are sensitized about the purpose of their work, they do respond positively. The turning at Chowpatty-Babulnath junction had a dead area where vehicles did not generally go over. A suggestion was made to build the footpath at that location. However, perhaps there was no budget for this work, MCGM did the next best—it continued the kerbside marking around the curve, thus psycologically making vehicle driver to avoid the dead space altogether. It is hoped that the footpath will be built there and make life safer to pedestrian.
Similarly, the footpath width was widened at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, addressing pedestrian safety, parking and traffic flow. There are a few bus stops which have been very correctly been earthed and provided with secured electricity supply, but ofcourse, after the electocution, electicity supply to all bus stop shelters have been cut off.
(Sudhir Badami is a civil engineer and transportation analyst. He is on Government of Maharashtra’s Steering Committee on BRTS for Mumbai and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s Technical Advisory Committee on BRTS for Mumbai. He is also member of Research & MIS Committee of Unified Mumbai Metropolitan Transport Authority. He was member of Bombay High Court appointed erstwhile Road Monitoring Committee (2006-07). While he has been an active campaigner against Noise for more than a decade, he is a strong believer in functioning democracy. He can be contacted on email at [email protected])
The exemption from multi-level TDS would be applicable in case where the software is acquired in a subsequent transfer, without any modification
New Delhi: In a big relief to the software industry, the Indian government has decided to do away with the complex multi-level system of tax deduction at source (TDS) for the sector from 1st July, reports PTI.
"... no deduction of tax shall be made on... payment by a person (transferee) for acquisition of software from another person (transferor), being a resident," a Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) notification said.
The new provision will come into force from 1 July 2012, it said.
Under the current structure, TDS of 10% is levied at every level of software distribution chain -- right from master distributor to retailer and then to the final consumer.
Responding to the long-standing demand of the software sector, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had last week said that Section 194J of the Income Tax Act, 1961, would be amended so as to avoid multi-level TDS on information technology sector.
Section 194(J) of the I-T Act deals with fees for professional and technical services and covers royalty and non-compete fees.
The exemption from multi-level TDS would be applicable in case where the software is acquired in a subsequent transfer, without any modification.
Besides, the exemption will also be provided in cases where tax has been deducted under 194J on payment for any previous transfer of such software or under Section 195 on payment for any previous transfer of such software from a non-resident.
Further, it will also apply in those cases wherever the transferor had paid the taxes.
Software industry body NASSCOM had been demanding removal of the multi-level TDS on software arguing that such a decision would improve finances of the IT sector.
NASSCOM President Som Mittal said the announcement will help alleviate industry's concerns on the issue. "TDS deduction was leading to cash flow issues for the dealers as well as increase in cost of software as dealers could not afford funds getting locked in for long durations," NASSCOM said.
Multinational companies resort to transfer pricing to shift profits from high-tax countries to low-tax jurisdictions with a view to reducing overall tax liability.
See the government order on multilevel TDS below...
According to HRW, the environment impact assessment reports submitted by iron ore mining companies in India are “full of false data” and they should be reviewed
The scale of lawlessness that prevails in India's mining sector has gone out of control due to a dangerous mix of bad policies, weak institutions, and corruption, government oversight and regulation, says Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international organisation, in its latest report on Indian mining.
"India's mining industry is an increasingly important part of the economy, employing hundreds of thousands of people and contributing to broader economic growth. But mining can be extraordinarily harmful and destructive if not properly regulated-as underscored by a long list of abuses and disasters around the world," the HRW said.
The mining sector in India face a myriad of problems including the widespread "illegal mining" issue. Official statistics indicate that there were more than 82,000 instances of illegal mining in 2010 alone-an annual rate of 30 criminal acts for every legitimate mining operation in the country.
International law obliges the Indian government to protect the human rights of its citizens from abuses by mining firms and other companies. India has laws on the books that are designed to do just that, but some are so poorly designed that they seem set up to fail. Others have been largely neutralized by shoddy implementation and enforcement or by corruption involving elected officials or civil servants. The result is that key government watchdogs stand by as spectators while out-of-control mining operations threaten the health, livelihoods and environments of entire communities. In some cases public institutions have also been cheated out of vast revenues that could have been put towards bolstering governments' inadequate provision of health, education, and other basic services, the report said.
In the iron mining areas of Goa and Karnataka visited by Human Rights Watch, residents alleged that reckless mine operators had destroyed or contaminated water sources they depend on for drinking water and irrigation. In some cases, miners have illegally heaped waste rock and other mine waste near the banks of streams and rivers, leaving it to be washed into local water supplies or agricultural fields during the monsoon rains. This can render water sources unsafe and decrease agricultural fertility. Rather than seek to mitigate any damage, some mine operators puncture the local water table and then simply discard the vast torrents of water that escape-permanently destroying a resource that whole communities rely on.
In some communities visited by Human Rights Watch, farmers had complained that endless streams of overloaded ore trucks passing along narrow village roads had left their crops coated in thick layers of metallic dust, destroying them and threatening economic ruin.
Human Rights Watch said it witnessed lines of heavily-laden mining trucks several kilometres long grinding along narrow, broken roads and leaving vast clouds of dust in their wake. Some residents pointed to the same metallic dust coating their homes and even local schoolhouses, and worried about the potential for serious respiratory ailments and other health impacts that scientific studies have associated with exposure to mine-related pollution. In some of these communities, people have suffered intimidation or violence for speaking out about these problems. All of these allegations echo common complaints about mining operations across many parts of India, the report said.
According to HRW, some of India's mining woes have their roots in patterns of corruption or other criminality. For instance, this report describes how mining magnate Janardhana Reddy allegedly used his ministerial position in the state government of Karnataka to extort huge quantities of iron ore from other mine operators-using government regulators as part of his scheme. The evidence shows that state government agencies in Karnataka alone may have been cheated out of crores of rupees in revenues-depriving the state of funds that could have been put towards the improvement of the state's dismal health care and education systems, it said.
As lurid as some of India's mining-related corruption scandals have been, Human Rights Watch said it believes that the more widespread problem is government indifference. Even in Karnataka, ineffectual regulation played a key role in allowing criminality to pervade the state's mining sector. And many of the alleged human rights abuses result not from patterns of corruption or criminality but from the government's more mundane failure to effectively monitor, let alone police, the human rights impacts of mining operations. Many public officials openly admit that they have no idea how prevalent or how serious the problems are. In effect, India's government often leaves companies to regulate themselves-a formula that has consistently proven disastrous in India and around the world, the report added.
All of this uncertainty is part of the problem-in far too many cases, government regulators fail to determine whether companies are behaving legally or responsibly, or whether they are causing harm to their neighbours.
According to the report, Goa encapsulates all of these problems. "… (Goa) state government regulators there admit they have no real idea whether individual mining firms are complying with the law, and the evidence shows that many are not. Activists and even the current chief minister allege widespread illegalities and, surprisingly, local mining industry officials do not deny such allegations," it said.
One company executive interviewed by Human Rights Watch spoke of "chaos and corruption" and a "total lack of governance" in the state's mining sector. A spokesperson for the Goan mining industry estimated that nearly half of all mining in the state violates various laws and regulations.
The problems in Goa reflect nationwide failures of governance in the mining sector, the report said. From initial approval to ongoing oversight, the mechanisms in place to regulate and oversee India's mining industry simply do not work, said HRW in the report.
Coming down heavily on the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), the HRW said, the environmental clearance regime is explicitly empowered to consider impacts on local communities and their rights, not just environmental issues, but the process is hopelessly dysfunctional.
"Often, clearances are granted or denied almost entirely on the strength of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports commissioned and paid for by the very companies seeking permission to mine. By design, the reports give short shrift to the issue of human rights and other community impacts, focusing on purely environmental concerns. Many do not even explicitly mention the responsibilities of mining firms to respect the human rights of affected communities. Some companies treat mandatory public consultations around the reports as an irritating bureaucratic hurdle rather than an important safeguard for affected communities," HRW said.
It accuses that there is considerable evidence that that these crucial EIA reports are often extremely inaccurate, are deliberately falsified, or both. In some cases, reports incorrectly state that issues of potential regulatory concern-the presence of rivers or springs, for instance-simply do not exist. Sometimes important conclusions are simply cut and pasted from one report to the next by authors who appear to assume that regulators will not bother to read what they have written.
In one the most notorious example of this phenomenon, a mine in Maharashtra received clearance to proceed even though its EIA report contained large amounts of data taken verbatim from a similar report prepared for a bauxite mine in Russia. Officials' failure to detect such blatant falsification is emblematic of the broader absence of meaningful government oversight, the report said.
Unsurprisingly, under this framework, mining projects are almost never denied environmental clearance. And once a mine is operational it experiences comparably lax government oversight of its actual compliance with the terms of those clearances. A few dozen officials across India are responsible for monitoring thousands of mines and other projects nationwide and are rarely able to make site visits to any of them. Instead, they rely almost entirely on compliance reports provided by mining companies themselves.
Human Rights Watch said it believes that fixing the environmental clearance regime and other processes linked to the MoEF are among the most promising immediate and concrete steps the central government could take to safeguard the human rights of mining-affected communities.
Increasingly, the chaos in India's mining sector has deep political and economic implications. In 2011, scandals rooted in public revelations about corruption and abuse in the mining sector overtook the state governments in both Karnataka and Goa. Karnataka's chief minister was forced to resign and much of the state's mining industry was effectively shut down by a belated government crackdown, at vast economic cost. In March 2012, Goa's state government was voted out of office partly due to rising public anger about scandals plaguing that state's mining industry.
The human rights organisation said the Indian government should not succumb to the temptation to treat the problems in Goa and Karnataka as isolated issues. Both states' mining debacles reflect nationwide problems that need to be treated as such. Underscoring that point, in early 2012 potentially explosive investigations into the mining industry was underway in Jharkhand and Orissa, it added.
While admitting that the chaos in India's mining industry has some of its roots in much broader patterns of corruption and poor governance that are not easily solved, the HRW reports said there are pragmatic steps the Indian government could take to repair some of the most glaring regulatory failures.