MMRDA stops work for violation of rules on a whistle-blower’s complaint; state human rights commission serves notice for improper layout and sanitation
Information accessed by RTI activist Sulaiman Bhimani shows that Mumbai-based builder RNA Corporation has violated many rules in the construction of a slum rehabilitation project.
Following a complaint, the company has been served a stop-work notice by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA). Also, the Maharashtra Human Rights Commission has asked the Collector to report on the proceedings, failing which the commission has said that it will have to intervene.
RNA Corporation, headed by Anil Agarwal, has had a good run in dealings with the MMRDA. But the relationship turned awkward after a slum rehabilitation project in Oshiwara, in suburban Goregaon, was taken up by its unit Skyline Construction.
MMRDA stopped the work on the project after it was revealed that the builder had constructed two basements without permission. Skyline had submitted a proposal for 26 extra floors and two basements, but this was not cleared by the authorities.
On the complaint of an activist, MMRDA officials visited the site and the notice was issued promptly.
It might surprise many that even the state human rights authority has got involved in the matter. What troubled the Commission was the poor state of the sewage management system for the project. Mr Bhimani said, "I went to Delhi and complained to the NHRC that the residents were living like sub-humans, with no space and even less hygiene. The NHRC ordered its department in the state to take due action."
Pictures of the work show the buildings too close to each other, internal units crammed and the state of sanitation deplorable. The alleys are clogged with piles of garbage and the water tank and sewage dump have been constructed side by side.
Civic regulations require the sewage and water compartments to be separated, with the water tank substantially above the ground. Also, the sewage chamber must be at least 1.5 metres away from the building, so that the waste matter does not affect the foundation. None of these rules have been observed. The builder claimed that PVC pipes were used for all drainage works, however, the plumber's certificate showed that cement pipes were used instead.
Mr Bhimani also managed to get a series of undated letters by Skyline Construction from the municipality records, one of which says that it will carry on with the work, as they cannot leave the project unfinished. Another says that the development work has been 'satisfactorily completed', and that it is supplemented with a handwritten occupation certificate, sans date or official stamp.
What is even more baffling is that Skyline managed to get the intimation of approval (IOA) and commencement certificate (CC) on the same day, that too twice-first in 2003 and then in 2009. The IOA certificate lists a series of conditions that must pre-exist commencement of work, and the CC is issued after much deliberation. However, such rules clearly didn't apply to Skyline.
"The transformation of Mumbai hasn't done much for the slums. It's only giving the horizontal shanties a vertical shape," says Mr Bhimani. "This is the story of only one slum, but there are 32 other such projects that are happening in the city." Even the chief minister is hinting that the civic authorities-builder nexus has taken a dangerous shape. Hopefully this incident serve as a wake-up call.
On concerns that the DEPB is not compliant with World Trade Organisation rules, the government has announced discontinuation of the same from 30th June this year. Exporters have opposed the move and have been pleading with the government that either the scheme should remain intact or be replaced by an alternative
New Delhi: India’s exports will drop to USD 200 billion in the current fiscal if sops under the Duty Entitlement Pass Book Scheme (DEPB) duty neutralisation scheme are withdrawn, the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) cautioned today, reports PTI.
The government has set an export target of $312 billion for 2011-12, pegging growth at 26.7% vis-à-vis the 2010-11 achievement, as highlighted in the commerce ministry’s strategy paper.
The country had registered an impressive growth of 37.5% in overseas merchandise shipments in 2010-11, which reached $246 billion, against a modest target of $200 billion.
“If there is no continuation of DEPB, exports will fall to $200 billion,” FIEO president Ramu S Deora said here.
Under the DEPB, the incidence of customs duty on import content of export products is neutralised and reimbursed to the exporters.
Several key industries like engineering, including automobiles, have been the major beneficiaries of the scheme.
On concerns that the DEPB is not compliant with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, the government has announced discontinuation of the same from 30th June this year.
Exporters are opposed to the move and have been pleading with the government that either the scheme should remain intact or be replaced by an alternative.
The annual payout on this head to exporters is Rs8,100 crore.
Mr Deora said when the government had announced that DEPB would be discontinued from June; it assured exporters that they would benefit from the proposed Goods and Services Tax (GST).
“GST is now delayed... Either the DEPB should be extended, if not, all the products covered under it may be brought under the all-industry drawback scheme in the same rates. The government must announce it immediately, otherwise we will lose orders,” the FIEO chief said.
He said Indian exporters, if outpriced by competition, will be forced to vacate the markets nurtured by them for many years.
Expressing concern over bans and restrictions on export of certain commodities like cotton, Mr Deora said that whenever the country is faced with domestic shortages, the sensible way would be to put an export cess, rather than curbing shipments.
On hike in key interest rates, Mr Deora said he favours the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) efforts to curb inflation but “there should be a distinction between export finance and domestic finance”.
He said the rate of interest for micro, small and medium sectors should not be more than 7% as they contribute almost half of the country's total exports.
“In exports, competition is not from within but from nations where the credit is available at less than 5%.
If Indian exporters get credit at 10.5%-11%, they will be totally outpriced in global markets,” he added.
On credit rating for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), he said, there are no separate guidelines for SMEs and the criteria does not allow such firms to get good rating, as a result financing from banks becomes more difficult.
Templeton’s investment will fund Apar’s ongoing capacity addition program and strengthen its working capital
Templeton Strategic Emerging Markets Fund III LDC (TSEMF III) has concluded a $17.8 million (around Rs80 crore) investment in Apar Industries, India's largest manufacturer of transformer oils and the country's second largest manufacturer of conductors. Apar exports transformer oils and conductors to over 50 countries.
TSEMF III, which invests in listed as well as unlisted companies in emerging markets, is the third strategic equity fund managed by Templeton Emerging Markets Group, which is of Templeton Asset Management Ltd, an investment management company incorporated in Singapore which is part of NYSE-listed Franklin Resources, Inc.
Dr Mark Mobius, executive chairman of Templeton Emerging Markets Group said, "We are impressed with Apar's track record and capabilities which can be leveraged for Apar to play a meaningful role in strengthening the transmission and distribution networks in India. Templeton's investment will fund the company's ongoing capacity addition program and strengthen its working capital. This investment fits well with our global exposure to the infrastructure sector and we look forward to working with Apar's management and promoters to make this a landmark relationship."
Kushal Desai, managing director of Apar said, "Templeton's association with Apar is a huge vote of confidence in our business, processes and high standards of corporate governance. We look forward to Templeton's support and involvement in making our business standards truly global. We continue to grow globally with a special focus on the domestic market, which is among the fastest growing in the world."
TSEMF III is managed by Emerging Markets Group of Templeton Asset Management. Franklin Resources, Inc., the ultimate parent company of Templeton Asset Management, is a global investment management organisation operating as Franklin Templeton Investments. Franklin Templeton Investments provides global and domestic investment management solutions managed by its Franklin, Templeton, Mutual Series and Fiduciary Trust investment teams.