SC notice to environment ministry, Orissa state, Sterlite on cancellation of clearance for Niyamgiri mining

The environment ministry had cleared the bauxite mining project in August last year, but says it cancelled it on several violations by the company

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on today issued notices to the Orissa government, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MoEF) and the UK-based Vedanta's Indian arm Sterlite Industries on a petition by the Orissa Mining Corporation, challenging the cancellation of the environmental clearance to the Niyamgiri bauxite mining project in the state.

A bench of Judges RV Raveendran and AK Patnaik issued notices to all the parties involved and sought their replies within four weeks. It has listed the matter for further hearing after that, PTI reports.

The central government has cancelled the environmental clearance for Vedanta's bauxite mining project in Niyamgiri Hills that was given an in-principle approval in 2007.

Contesting the environment ministry's order of 24 August 2010, senior advocate KK Venugopal, appearing for the state-run Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC), submitted before the bench that the Centre's order was illegal, arbitrary and in violation of the apex court's earlier directions that gave a green signal to the project.

The earlier clearance was rejected on the basis of violation of forest and environment laws as listed by the Forest Advisory Committee and it has been a major setback for the $1.7 billion bauxite project in Orissa. The ministry refused the next stage forest clearance to OMC and the bauxite project that spans across Lanjigarh, Kalahandi and Rayagadha districts.

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had said, "There has been a very serious violation of Environment Protection Act, Forest Conservation and Rights Acts by the Orissa Government" as also violation of norms by the company.

The ministry also said that just because it had given an in-principle approval to the project in 2007, it could not be treated as a fait accompli. It also accused Vedanta of committing several irregularities after the Supreme Court had given a favourable judgement to the project in August 2008.

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Persistent inflation a cause of concern, says PM

Food prices have been on upswing since the drought in 2009, which affected agriculture output. Although the situation has improved in recent months, the long-term solution lies in increasing production and productivity in the agricultural sector, prime minister Manmohan Singh said

New Delhi: Admitting that persistent inflation, especially in the food sector, is a cause of concern, prime minister Manmohan Singh today emphasised on increasing the country's agricultural production to enhance food security, reports PTI.

"We have to make a concerted effort to enhance our food security... Our economy has been in reasonably good shape in the past seven years. We have achieved an impressive rate of growth, which we were able to sustain even in the midst of the worst global financial crisis of recent times.

"However, during the past year and a half, persistent inflation, especially in the food sector, has become a cause of concern," Mr Singh said at the inauguration of Civil Services Day here.

The government's consistent policy has been to control inflation without hurting growth, Mr Singh said, emphasising that "We have strived for a delicate and difficult balance to achieve this."

Food prices have been on upswing since the drought in 2009, which affected the agriculture output. Although the situation has improved in recent months, with food inflation coming down to single digit levels, the long-term solution lies in increasing production and productivity in the agricultural sector, Mr Singh said.

Food inflation for the week ended 9th April reversed the declining trend for three weeks, rising by 8.74% as against 8.28% in the previous week.

On monthly basis, food inflation for the month of March was recorded at 8.98%, higher than the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) target of 8%.

"The needs of a growing and increasingly more prosperous population can only be met by enhanced production of a diversified basket of agricultural products," he said while pointing out that the civil services again have a major role to play in achieving a higher rate of growth in the farm sector.

"I hope you will pay more focused attention to this area, and more specifically to the preparation and implementation of district-level agricultural plans," he said.

With monsoon likely to be normal this year, the Planning Commission is hoping to achieve the targeted 4% or more growth in the farm sector. This will be crucial to achieve overall 9% economic growth in the current financial year.

The prime minister also took the opportunity to lay stress on the importance of strengthening local level governance through panchayats and municipalities.

"Our country is too large to be governed effectively from the Centre or even from the state capitals. We have to decentralise power, decentralise decision-making and decentralise the implementation of various development schemes," he said.

The success of third tier of governance is "critical to improved delivery of services and better design and implementation of scheme," Mr Singh said, adding that "our civil servants must do their utmost to facilitate real decentralisation of governance in our country."

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Food inflation reverses 3-week decline, at 8.74% for week ended 9th April

The surge from the last week, which was incidentally the lowest in a year-and-a-half, is likely to put more pressure on the government looking bewildered after the overall inflation for March overshot its forecast of 8% and was recorded at 8.98%

New Delhi: Reversing a three-week declining trend, food inflation shot up to 8.74% for the week ended 9th April from 8.28% in the previous week on account of expensive fruits, protein-based items and onions, reports PTI quoting official data that was released today.

The surge from the last week, which was incidentally the lowest in a year-and-a-half, is likely to put more pressure on the government looking bewildered after the overall inflation for March overshot its forecast of 8% and was recorded at 8.98%.

Prime minister Manmohan Singh today said persistent inflation, especially in the food sector, had become a cause for concern.

While calling for increasing productivity and production in the agriculture sector, he said, "The needs of a growing and increasingly more prosperous population can only be met by enhanced production of a diversified basket of agricultural products."

Mr Singh's grave concern stems from what appears to be an embedded spike in prices of fruits and protein-based items including eggs, meat and fish.

During the week under review, fruits became dearer by 25.25% on year-on-year, while eggs, meat and fish were 14.96% more expensive.

Cereals went up by 4.48% on an annual basis and rice and wheat became expensive by 2.08% and 1.31%, respectively. Onions became expensive by 8.28% year-on-year.

Overall, vegetables became dearer by 1.53%. Potatoes were up by 1.21% and milk became expensive by 4.05% on an annual basis.

Pulses, however, bucked the trend and witnessed a decline of 5.67%.

During the week under review, non-food articles were up by 27.69% year-on-year. Fuel and power became dearer by 13.05%, while petrol was up 21.81%.

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