Companies & Sectors
Revival of subsidy for the naphtha-based fertiliser plants

Under the new Investment Policy for New Urea Plants, the government has sought the private sector applicants to provide bank guarantee of Rs300 crore that would be released related to various stages of completion of the project


Last week, Madras Fertilisers Ltd (MFL) went off production lines; this was preceded earlier by the Southern Indian Petrochemicals Ltd (SPIC) and Mangalore Chemicals & Fertilisers Ltd (MCFL) who use naphtha as feed stock for making urea. The combined production of these three units is said to be around 1.5 million tonnes. It may be remembered that India needs about 30 million tonnes of urea and, as the domestic production is around 22 mt, the balance of 8 mt is imported.


The closure of these three units would have rippling effect on not only the employment issue, but also affect essential suppliers like Chennai Petroleum, who supplies about 1,000 KL of naphtha a day to Madras Fertilisers and Southern Petrochemicals. In addition to this, suppliers of LPG, diesel oil, furnace oil and other related materials would be affected, if these plants completely closed down, simply because of withdrawal of subsidy. There ought to be some investigation as to why they could not comply with the requirement to lay the gas pipelines to be able to receive the gas, if and when it is supplied, and, which we already know, is in short supply.


In any case, in a lightening move, the Fertiliser Ministry has taken up the issue at the Cabinet level, and it is now assured that the subsidy will be available. However, the urgent need to have the gas pipe line work done up has not been overlooked.


Under the new Investment Policy for New Urea Plants, the government has sought the private sector applicants to provide for Bank Guarantee for Rs300 crore, release of which will be directly related to various stages of completion (execution) of the project. Also, unlike the past, there is no more government assurance of guaranteed buy-back programme for the urea manufactured.


By 2017, the demand for urea is expected to reach 34 million tonnes, as against the current need of 30 mt. In order to meet this anticipated increased demand, as many as 13 urea makers, including IFFCO, RCF, Tata Chemicals, has applied for expanding their capacities (brownfield) while two new players wanted to start greenfield production units of 1.3 mt capacity per annum each. The government plans to give subsidy for a period of eight years when these plants would be in actual production.


Under the new investment policy, urea producing companies will receive subsidy on domestic sales and the retail price, at the moment is fixed at Rs5,360 per tonne. The difference between this and the actual cost of production would be paid out as subsidy.

In order to overcome the continuing shortage of Urea, the government has taken up the issue of a joint venture with Iran to set up fertiliser plants there. Additionally, there are plans to revive four fertiliser plants in Talcher (Odisha), Ramagundam (AP), Barauni (Bihar) and Gorakhpur (UP). It is hoped that our domestic gas production will also increase in due course.


In the meantime, readers may be aware of the hostile take-over attempt by Deepak Fertilisers to control Mangalore Chemicals and Fertilisers Ltd is not yet over, though, press reports indicate that Vijay-Mallya and Saroj Poddar (Zuari) combination is likely to prevent this measure.


Government must also seriously follow up with other friendly governments, such as Qatar and Oman for putting up fertiliser plants in their countries so as to reduce the cost of transportation of gas to India and, instead, import the finished fertiliser!


(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)


Mysterious Campaign Appears to be the Latest Salvo in Battle Over Net Neutrality

As the FCC considers how to regulate Internet providers, the telecom industry's stealth campaign for hearts and minds encompasses everything from art installations to LOLcats


This story has been updated to include a comment from the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.

On a recent Monday evening, two bearded young men in skinny jeans came to a parklet in San Francisco's trendy Hayes Valley neighborhood and mounted what looked like an art installation. It was a bright blue, oversized "suggestion box" for the Internet.

The boxes, sometimes accompanied by young people in futuristic costumes, have been popping up on both coasts for weeks, soliciting messages of support - but their sponsor has been a mystery. The web site for the campaign, Onward Internet, does not say. Their domain registration is private. And the site includes no contact information, only an animated video heavy on millennial lingo: "The internet was made to move data...we got blogs, likes, selfies and memes, OMG, BRB and TTYL."

The lone hint at a larger message is oblique. "The Internet is a wild, free thing," the site says. "Unbounded by limits, unfettered by rules, it's everyone's responsibility to ensure that the Internet continues to advance."

Turns out Onward Internet may be the latest stealth entrant in the increasingly nasty battle over net neutrality, which will determine how the government regulates Internet providers.

The production agency for Onward Internet wouldn't say who their client is, but an employee for the company that rented the space for the Hayes Valley installation let slip that "It's something called the National Cable and Telecommunications Association" – the principal trade group for the telecom industry.

Telecom companies have been the fiercest opponents of a proposal under which the government would treat broadband like a utility, making it easier for regulators to keep internet providers from blocking certain sites or saddling some content providers with slower speeds or higher fees.

As the Federal Communications Commission nears a decision on new rules, suspicions have grown that industry players are funding independent groups to create the appearance of diverse, grass-roots backing. Think tanks have been accused of being co-opted. Nonprofits have been criticized for concealing who they represent. In one case, the telecom industry was accused of fooling unwitting businesses into joining a coalition against broadband regulation.

NCTA officials did not respond to questions about Onward Internet and would not confirm they're behind it. "What led you to the conclusion that this is an NCTA effort...?" asked Brian Dietz, a vice president for the organization, before he stopped responding to emails.

It's unclear what the lobbying giant hopes to get out of this particular campaign, but the Onward Internet website, call-in line and Twitter feed are collecting messages of support from visitors who would have no way of knowing they're backing a telecom industry campaign.

"Sorry we can't come to the phone right now," the call-in greeting says. "We just got wind of the juiciest celebrity rumor and we're working to confirm it. So please leave your suggestion for the future of the internet at the beep and visit Onward Internet dot com next month to see what we've done with it."

Many in the tech community have pinned their hopes for saving net neutrality on the reclassification proposal that would give the FCC more power over internet providers.


Their belief is that it would make it harder for internet providers to charge content providers more for faster service, and thus protect tech startups from being squashed by established brands that have the resources to pay a premium.

That's why there was surprise in Silicon Valley when a nonprofit called CALinnovates, which says it represents the interests of technology companies and start-ups, entered the debate by taking a stance against the government regulation plan.

"We'd never heard of them until then," said Julie Samuels, executive director of Engine, a nonpartisan startup advocacy group.

CALinnovates filed comments with the FCC opposing the plan. The group's executive director Mike Montgomery wrote a column for the Huffington Post, echoing warnings raised by the telecom industry that more regulation would hamper innovation.

"Would we even know what an iPhone is if Steve Jobs had to run his pricing models past the FCC?" Montgomery asked. "Would Twitter be fomenting revolution if Jack Dorsey needed to check with regulators about what kind of data can be shared online and by whom?"

Most notably, the nonprofit got a flurry of press coverage for a poll it commissioned that found Americans don't support more regulation: "Only one in four Americans believe that government policies can keep up with the pace of innovation that we are seeing with technology, such as the Internet."

The group's stance gave the anti-reclassification camp a backer from within the tech community – a boon for one of CALinnovates' supporters, AT&T.

In an interview with ProPublica, Montgomery declined to say to what extent his organization is funded by the telecom giant, which is listed as a "partner" on its website. Asked if AT&T consulted with him about his net neutrality stance, he said "We have input and advice from all of our members."

Later, a spokesman for the nonprofit released a statement to ProPublica saying, “CALinnovates’ position on net neutrality was based on a thorough economic and legal analysis and reflects CALinnovates' independent thinking on matters important to the tech industry."

The organization's telecom-friendly position didn't seem to mesh with its advisory board, which includes some of Silicon Valley's more prominent names. Ron Conway, for example, is a well-known angel investor who has been a strong backer of government action to protect net neutrality.

Asked about the apparent contradiction by ProPublica, Conway's spokesman lauded "diversity of viewpoints" and CALinnovates but said his boss was on "opposite sides" with the nonprofit.

Days later, Conway resigned from the CALinnovates board.

Outside of CALinnovates, Montgomery has worked for other organizations with telecom ties. Before heading up the nonprofit, he worked for a lobbying firm and political candidates that have taken money from AT&T.

Montgomery said he did not feel he needed to disclose CALinnovates' AT&T ties in his columns on net neutrality.

"We receive support from all of our partners," he said. "I think you'll see a diversity of opinion if you spend some time reading all the things I write."

The FCC has been taking public comments and hosting forums on net neutrality for months, and is expected to make a decision by the end of the year.

Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu – who coined the term net neutrality in 2003 and is a proponent of government regulation to protect it – said he worries astroturfing efforts may lull some lawmakers into inaction.

"The effect of the astroturfing is to make everything foggy," Wu said. "It propels the argument that if things are cloudy, government should stay away (and) let the market decide."

After publication of this story, Brian Dietz, a vice president for the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, issued a comment on behalf of the organization. He said that although the NCTA is interested in soliciting comments on net neutrality, it also wants to hear about other Internet-related issues.

"We know that network neutrality is important to Internet users and we share the vision that the Internet remains an open and unfettered experience for all to enjoy," he said in his statement. "We've kept NCTA's brand off Onward, Internet because we want to collect unbiased feedback directly from individuals about what they want for the future of the Internet and how it can become even better than it is today. The cable industry is proud of our role as a leading Internet provider in the U.S. but we feel it's important to hear directly from consumers about how they envision the future so we can work hard on delivering it."



Aadhaar blunders: Now, Home Ministry too is worried
The Ministry has said that uniqueness of identity is not a necessary condition to ensure authenticity of identity or genuineness of other entries or records of Aadhaar number. It has also raised concerns on involvement of foreign vendors of UIDAI
The union ministry of home affairs (MHA) has raises several concerns on using Aadhaar, the so-called unique number (UID) promoted by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), and being forced down by successive governments. Especially, the MHA, while commenting on Department of Telecom (DoT)'s proposal to use Aadhaar for online verification has said, the supporting data in the UID may not be authentic or genuine.

"Aadhaar is strong on ensuring unique identity. However, uniqueness of identity is not a necessary condition to ensure authenticity of identity or genuineness of other entries or records of Aadhaar number," the MHA said.

The ministry has written to the DoT sharing its view on accepting Aadhaar as valid proof of address for e-know your customers (KYC) programme. The DoT is working on proof of concept (e-KYC) to use Aadhaar number for online verification of people seeking mobile connections along with existing process of customer verification.

The Home Ministry has raised concerns over supporting documents submitted by people as proof of identity and proof of address for getting Aadhaar number.

However, it looks like, similar to previous government, the incumbent National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime is gung-ho about forcing Aadhaar on Indian citizens.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Finance Ministry as well as Reserve Bank of India (RBI) are either not aware about the serious concerns related with Aadhaar or simply turning a blind eye. In fact, all banks were mandated to open crores of bank accounts by accepting Aadhaar as 'all-in-one' KYC document.
Moneylife Columnist Dr Anupam Saraph, who designed and implemented identity schemes for government and private organisations, had clearly mentioned in his article that even if Aadhaar numbers were proof of identity, which it is not, its use to make money transfers make financial transfers un-auditable, propagate money laundering and financial fraud. There is no justification for introducing an unverified and un-audited number to allow payments and settlements. (Read: How Aadhaar linkage can destroy banks
"When the Aadhaar number is merely a 12-digit number assigned to demographic and biometric data submitted by private parties; it cannot be a proof of identity, address or even existence. There has been no verification or audit of the Aadhaar database and therefore it is very conceivable that, as was the case of Satyam, huge number of non-existent persons is assigned an Aadhaar number. There is no basis to regard any bank accounts linked to an Aadhaar number as belonging to genuine or even existing individuals," Dr Saraph has said.
In addition, the union government is asking its employees to use biometric attendance system, based on Aadhaar. It must be noted, that several organisations, including government and private use fingerprint-based biometric attendance system for a small group of employees. Many private companies prefer using card swiping or online login for recording attendance. Therefore linking UIDAI and Aadhaar to employee attendance is beyond explanation. Why would the government force employees to use Aadhaar-based attendance system?
In addition, there are two issues involved in the biometric attendance system that is being implemented to show online if the employee is present for the day or not. One is installation of biometric terminals and second network connectivity. Both are being purchased from taxpayers’ money. Moreover, this attendance system is time consuming as it takes more than a minute to record the attendance of one employee. So, the more employee in an organisation, more terminals would be needed to be purchased at taxpayers’ expense. Even if the online attendance system shows a particular employee's presence in the office, there is no guarantee that he would be on his seat during all the time. So how will it benefit the common citizen? 
Coming back to the UID and concerns raised by MHA, Aadhaar can be also issued to foreign nationals staying in the country. This also has been questioned by the Home Ministry as nationals of neighbouring country may attempt to use it to procure Indian identity documents for infiltrating their agents. 
The Home Ministry has said that unlike Aadhaar, other acceptable proof of address documents such as passport, driving licence do not have the status of universality and therefore "even higher levels of error in these documents may not translate into comparable volume of security concerns".
It said that Intelligence Bureau is neither aware of back-end systems, e-processing and e-auditing existing in Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which issues Aadhaar, nor knows how data is transmitted between units of UIDAI and how data are stored. 
The Home Ministry has also raised a concern on involvement of foreign vendors by UIDAI for storing data and has suggested audit of data security. 
Moneylife has been raising this and several other concerns since long. (Read: UIDAI's not-so-'clean' partners and their tainted executives). UIDAI had selected three consortia - Accenture, Mahindra Satyam-Morpho and L1 Identity Solutions - to implement the core biometric identification system for the Aadhaar programme. According to an IT expert, L-1 and NADRA, the Pakistan unique identity agency, appear to have been created on the same business model. "Staffed strongly by persons with intelligence (quasi-military) links, the major goals of both agencies are to do business with their respective governments, and they succeed to the extent that they have virtually no competition. And this is the company UIDAI has welcomed into India," the expert had said.
According to sources, the introducer system provision, under which people not having supporting documents as ID and address proof can also get Aadhaar number if he is introduced by a person owning a Aadhaar number, has been questioned by the Home Ministry.
The Supreme Court of India has several pending public interest litigations (PILs) on Aadhaar linkages and it would prudent to have a special court to issue a stay on all Aadhaar linkages till the cases are heard and at the same time hear the PILs expeditiously given the extent of financial ruin that Aadhaar can bring to India.
As far as the issuing of IDs to residents or citizens of any country is concerned, here is what Mark Lerner, from the Constitutional Alliance and author of the book 'Your Body is Your ID', had said...
"Sarcasm alert - the final titbit of information comes from the International Biometrics Agency. For all of you that keep talking about a New World Order or a One World Government, please stop such ridiculous rumours. Julian Ashbourn speaking as the Chairman of the International Biometrics Agency set our minds to rest when he said the following: 
"What information do governments share? With whom is my data shared, and why? All of these questions need to be addressed by an agency with global powers. An agency with global powers? Perhaps I am naive, but I always believed we live in a sovereign country. You may have heard of our country, The United States of China. No, that is not right, The United States of Britain. I will get it right; the United States of France. This country thing is really getting hard to remember. We have the surveillance cameras like Britain; we use facial recognition like China to identify dissidents and we sell L-1 to a French company. Thank goodness for my granddaughter, she just reminded me of what Congress and others have forgotten, this is the United States of America," Mr Lerner said. (Read original posting from Mr Lerner here ).



Joseph Korah

3 years ago

Unfortunately we have come across several cases of individuals being issued more than one Aadhar Card. This shows that the system is not foolproof and hence cannot be relied upon. Unless we can ensure that we have a foolproof system in place there is bound to be problems at a later stage.


3 years ago



3 years ago

Recently I had gone to register my name for getting Aadhar Card. The application duly filled up along with copies of documents prescribed were submiited. I had taken the original documents anticipating that the people who are verifying it may call for the same. I am surprised to see that neither they asked for the original nor they scrutinized the copies. It is mere ensuring that the rule is complied in letter but not in spirit. The xerox copies / introduction through another Aadhar Card holder runs the risk of issuing bogus Aadhar Cards, as Xerox copies could be manipulated. There is a need to make the system fool proof so that the citizens need not have too many cards.

MHA should ensure that the identity of the card holder is established and and there is no duplication.

Instead of meeting the qualitative targets, the Govt. should ensure quality of data so that Aadhar becomes an all purpose identity -cum-address proof anywhere in the country.


Mukesh kamath

3 years ago

Home ministry kya janta ka accurate address le ke achar dalegi... kahin na kahin sad rahe honge log.

Minoo Mody

3 years ago




In Reply to Minoo Mody 3 years ago

Thanks for your comment.
Moneylife is just a medium that brings out facts, sans any personal feelings as you mentioned. In addition, would you also measure the Supreme Court, the Parliament and High Court on the same scale, who time and again had given verdicts, opinion against Aadhaar? Remember, the Parliament still has not passed any law to authorize UIDAI to collect biometrics of Indian citizens. But then Aadhaar is meant for residents (!) only, as per UIDAI!


3 years ago

Any Big Scheme of UPA People will find Haphazard designs of Blunder games.

No transparency but Loot+Popularity is central Backbone as People realize and Note..

Narendra Doshi

3 years ago

Dear MDT,
Wish you success soon in this too long a fight?
Why does logic not go in minds of even a few relevant authorities?
It has mostly been a one sided battle.
Good luck.


3 years ago

I remember, too well, a news report that alleged that the entire data had been sold for use to a French company:

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