SC stays mining activities of Reddy brothers in AP

The SC has stayed all further mining activities by the Obulapuram Mining Corp owned by the Karnataka ministers-cum-mining magnates—the Reddy brothers, in Andhra Pradesh

In a setback to the Reddy brothers, the Supreme Court (SC) on Monday stayed all further mining activities by the Obulapuram Mining Corporation (OMC) owned by the Karnataka ministers-cum-mining magnates in Andhra Pradesh, reports PTI.

A bench of Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan and Justice Deepak Verma appointed an expert committee headed by the Survey of India to review the mining areas and ascertain allegations of large-scale encroachment of reserve forest areas by the powerful mining lobby.

The apex court granted two weeks to the committee to file its report and said no further mining activities would be permitted at the site until further orders.

The SC also issued notices to the Reddy brothers, including G Janardhan Reddy and his brother Karunakara Reddy, on the special leave petition (SLP) filed by the Andhra Pradesh government challenging the 26th February state High Court order quashing the cancellation orders passed by the state.

Attorney General GE Vahanvati submitted that the High Court ignored the findings of the apex court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) and the high-level inquiry committee of the state government.

Both the Committees, after conducting independent inquiries, had arrived at concurrent conclusions that the Reddy brothers have encroached into vast areas of reserve forest land in the state.

The apex court said that the committee headed by the Survey of India would also include members drawn from the state department of forests, mines and revenue.

The High Court had decided the matter as the case was sent back to it by the apex court on 14th January with a direction to decide on it within a month after both OMC and the Andhra Pradesh government consented to it.

The apex court was of the view that the High Court, which had earlier given a conditional order for carrying on mining by OMC, would be in the best position to decide the vexed issues of boundary dispute involved in the matter and allowed all parties to make their case before the High Court.

The CEC had criticised Janardhana Reddy and his brothers for "illegal" mining by them in the Bellary reserve forest.

The Andhra Pradesh government had alleged that the OMC extended the area of mining by removing the pillars which formed the boundary of the area for which the lease was granted. The state government had issued an order prohibiting mining after CEC had recommended stoppage of mining by the company in the area.

The CEC was constituted by the SC to inquire into the matter based on a writ petition filed by Tapal Ganesh of Bellary against OMC over alleged illegal mining in violation of the Forest Conservation Act.
 

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US House passes health Bill; Obama says it’s a victory for all

The Bill carries a price-tag of $940 billion over 10 years and would ban insurance companies from practices like denying coverage for pre-existing illness, dropping people from coverage when they get sick or capping lifetime coverage

In a landmark legislation, the US House of Representatives on Monday passed the sweeping healthcare reform package, extending Medicare coverage to 32 million uncovered Americans and cracking down on insurance companies, reports PTI.

The Bill was passed after a Democratic-controlled Congress reached a last-minute deal with the pro-abortion lobby to register a stunning 219 to 212 vote approval with opposition Republicans not breaking the line.

The Bill carries a price-tag of $940 billion over 10 years and would ban insurance companies from practices like denying coverage for pre-existing illness, dropping people from coverage when they get sick or capping lifetime coverage.

Congressional officials said that they expected president Barack Obama to sign the deal as early as Tuesday and the stakes on the Bill ran so high that it forced Mr Obama to delay an official trip to Australia and Indonesia.

The passage of the Bill gave Obama supporters a boost as the president’s ambitious domestic agenda includes sweeping reforms of the immigration process and climate-change legislation.

Jubilant after the victory in Congress, Mr Obama described Medicare as a major reform and a “victory for the American people.”

"Tonight's vote is not a victory for any one party—it's a victory for them. It's a victory for the American people. And it's a victory for common sense," a beaming Mr Obama said shortly after the passage of the historic Bill.

A comprehensive Medicare Bill has been the goal of US presidents stretching back to decades but legislation had proved elusive as legislators were apprehensive of cracking down on big business including insurance.

Mr Obama congratulated the Congress for passing his signature legislative goal on which he had staked his presidency.

"Tonight when the pundits said it was no longer possible, we rose above the weight of our politics," Mr Obama said in televised remarks from the White House.

"We proved that we are still a people capable of doing big things. We proved that this government—a government of the people and by the people—still works for the people," he said.

"Today's vote answers the prayers of every American who has hoped deeply for something to be done about a healthcare system that works for insurance companies, but not for ordinary people," Mr Obama said.{break}

"This isn't radical reform. But it is major reform. This legislation will not fix everything that ails our healthcare system. But it moves us decisively in the right direction. This is what change looks like," he added.

Mr Obama said that on Tuesday, the Senate will take up revisions to this legislation that the House has embraced, and these are revisions that have strengthened this law and removed provisions that had no place in it.

The United States is the only developed nation which does not offer its citizens comprehensive healthcare, with nearly 50 million Americans uninsured.

"We will be joining those who established Social Security, Medicare and now, tonight, healthcare for all Americans," said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, referring to the government's pension programme and health insurance for the elderly established nearly 50 years ago.

"This is the civil rights act of the 21st century," added Rep Jim Clyburn, the top-ranking African-American member of the House.

However, Republicans said that Mr Obama's health reform plan would saddle the nation with unaffordable levels of debt, leave states with expensive new obligations, weaken Medicare and give the government a huge new role in the healthcare system.

"We have failed to listen to America," said Rep John Boehner.

Following the House vote, Mr Obama planned to launch a campaign aimed at countering conservatives' criticisms of the healthcare bill, his aides said. Mr Obama reminded his countrymen that his commitment to growth remains the topmost priority.

"The work of promoting private sector job creation goes on. The work of putting American families' dreams back within reach goes on. And we march on, with renewed confidence, energised by this victory on their behalf," he said.

"In the end, what this day represents is another stone firmly laid in the foundation of the American Dream. Tonight, we answered the call of history as so many generations of Americans have before us. When faced with crisis, we did not shrink from our challenge—we overcame it. We did not avoid our responsibility—we embraced it. We did not fear our future—we shaped it," Mr Obama said.

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India's natural gas demand to double by 2015

This demand would be driven by the refining and petrochemical industry (35 mmscmd), the power sector (5 mmscmd) and city gas distribution (about 10-12 mmscmd), according to McKinsey

India's natural gas demand is expected to nearly double to 320 million standard cubic meters per day (mmscmd) by 2015, global consultancy firm McKinsey said in a study on Monday, reports PTI.

In a report released at the VI Asia Gas Partnership Summit, Mckinsey said that the current demand of 166 mmscmd—made up of nearly 132 mmscmd of supplies from domestic fields and the rest from imported LNG—is likely to rise to at least a minimum of 230 mmscmd and a maximum of 320 mmscmd by 2015.

There was an upside of 280 mmscmd if gas was made available at a delivered price of $10 to $11 per million British thermal unit (mBtu).

"At these levels, the use of natural gas becomes economical, despite switching costs and additional investment required. This demand would be driven by the refining and petrochemical industry (35 mmscmd), the power sector (5 mmscmd) and city gas distribution (about 10-12 mmscmd)," the report said.

There was a total potential of 310-320 mmscmd if gas is used to ease peaking power deficits in India, McKinsey said.

"India's peak power shortages are projected to worsen from a 17% peak deficit in 2009 (a shortfall of 23GW of peak supply) to close to a 25% peak deficit by 2015 and a resultant shortfall of more than 60GW of peak supply," it said.

Even if hydropower was tapped to its full potential, it would still leave a peak shortfall of around 32GW to 40GW by 2015. "Even if half the peak shortfall were met, a gas demand of 30 mmscmd to 40 mmscmd will arise."

"To manage this impending growth, India's natural gas industry will require investments of around $40 billion to $50 billion across the value chain.

"With these investments and demand growth, the industry revenue pool could double to $50 billion by 2015 from $25 billion today. The industry's gross profit pool would be around $30 billion, almost double of today's level," it said.

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