In his first 100 days in office, the Maharashtra chief minister may have got a feel of what it is like to be at the helm of affairs in the state. Now he must set the priorities on issues that can make a difference to the life of people, especially in Mumbai
A fortnight ago Maharashtra's new chief minister Prithviraj Chavan completed 100 days in office. For a person who has been in the Delhi Darbar for most of his political career, political pulls and pushes in Maharashtra and Mantralaya can be a strange environment. He is there because of his clean and fresh image and because the high command so desired it in the aftermath of the Adarsh scam. Now that he is here holding the reigns, he has to show his mettle by giving direction to the government and the party, that the clean image comes with strength of conviction, that such conviction has political support within the state and is not dependent upon the Delhi links alone. With the completion of a hundred days, it is assumed that he has had a fair first hand measure of various parameters governing the polity of Maharashtra, and Mumbai in particular, and that he can set targets for his next 100 days.
To begin with, let us briefly see what all his government is credited with doing in the past 100-odd days. The most current topic is the proposed nuclear power plant at Jaitapur, near Ratnagiri, on the Konkan coast. The proposed plant with six units of 1,650MW capacity, is expected to render load shedding to history by 2012, going by the reported recent speech of the chief minister in Pune, when he gave an idea of what he considers or what his bureaucrats think need to be priority items on his agenda.
According to the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project (JNPP) has been given the green signal after the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) assured it would incorporate and fulfill all environment-related issues with regard to the project. The first unit is expected to be ready not before 2017 and all the six units in about 18 years!
Mr Chavan's meeting with environment minister Jairam Ramesh was attributed to the clearance issue. The same is being said about the clearance for the Navi Mumbai airport project and special treatment for Mumbai with respect to the Coastal Regulatory Zone Notification 2011. All these project proposals have been scrutinised by the MoEF and in the process, have undergone necessary changes before getting conditional clearances. It is just a coincidence that these have happened after Mr Chavan took over at the helm of affairs in Maharashtra. What we must see is whether he sets up monitoring mechanisms sought by the MoEF to ensure enforcement of environmental preconditions.
In his speech in Pune, the chief minister is reported to have given priority to health, education, roads, electricity and the automotive industry. These are too broad and need to be focused, considering that considerable moneys would be invested. Periods of implementation of required capacities also need to be included in the criteria determining priorities. Environmental concerns too need to be considered, which apparently has not been done when one gives the entire automotive industry priority status. The printer's devil seems to have played a trick when Mr Chavan is reported to have said that by 2012, when the first unit of JNPP will have been commissioned, load shedding would be history, while the NPCIL has stated that it will be ready not before 2017.
Given that Maharashtra is in close competition in urbanisation with Tamil Nadu and most of the problems lie in these habitats of human concentrations, a lot of attention needs to be given here. We shall in this column take up issue after issue, city after city, not restricting to Maharashtra. However, I would like to give a roadmap to the Maharashtra chief minister and hope that he will find merit in it and follow it up vigorously.
The focus will naturally be Mumbai, as the city with its 145 lakh population is set for a major transformation with so many of its infrastructure projects already underway and many about to commence. We have the Metro Rail, the Monorail, MUTP, MUIP, the Sea Links, the Railways and BRTS with different agencies like the Municipal Corporation, MMRDA, MSRDC, PWD, BEST and the Traffic Police, with or without public private partnership (PPP) on the transportation front. What has happened to the setting up of the Unified Mumbai Metropolitan Transportation Authority (UMMTA) that would co-ordinate inter-related projects among various agencies? Transportation and housing go hand in hand and the desire to make Mumbai slum-free can get converted into reality only if planned along with transportation plans. We need to keep in mind two important aspects while designing and implementing these projects. These are environmental issues affecting health on the one side and global warming on the other. The second issue is designing the system in anticipation of disasters to mitigate it and manage it.
The MoEF has mandated that environmental concerns are monitored and for this it wants state governments to set up mechanisms. How these have progressed and how these have been effective will also be covered in this column. We have not heard the last of JNPP, or of the CRZ Notification 2011, or the Navi Mumbai airport, and load shedding. There is plenty on the plate and hopefully these will be ingested by the authorities and digested, leading to better quality of life for one and all. Many will not agree with what I propose, but only by debating different viewpoints can there emerge an acceptable solution. Yes, the culture of public consultations must be ushered in. I look forward to sharing my thoughts in the coming weeks and an exciting interaction.
[This is the first part of a series by Sudhir Badami. To read the second part, click 'The next 100-day agenda for Prithviraj Chavan, the CM of Maharashtra (Part II)'.]
(Sudhir Badami is a civil engineer and transportation analyst. He is on the Government of Maharashtra's Steering Committee on Bus Rapid Transit System-BRTS-for Mumbai as well as the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority's technical advisory committee on BRTS for Mumbai. He is also a member of Research & MIS Committee of the Unified Mumbai Metropolitan Transport Authority. He was a member of the Bombay High Court-appointed erstwhile Road Monitoring Committee (2006-07). He has been an active campaigner against noise pollution for over a decade and is a strong believer in a functioning democracy. He can be contacted on email at [email protected])
Overnight, Wall Street closed at its best in three months, boosted by strong economic indicators and signs of a possible resolution to the Libyan crisis. Tracking the US markets, the Asian pack was higher in early trade on Friday
A retreat in crude prices, along with positive cues from the global markets, indicates a green opening for the Indian market. Overnight, Wall Street closed at its best in three months, boosted by strong economic indicators and signs of a possible resolution to the Libyan crisis. Tracking the US markets, the Asian pack was higher in early trade on Friday. The SGX Nifty was 40 points higher at 5,594 compared to its previous close of 5,554.
The local market opened in the red on Thursday as concerns about high crude prices led investors to book profits early in the day. Yesterday’s trading session was an extremely volatile one. The Sensex and Nifty opened gap down at 18,318 and 5,478, respectively. During the initial hours of trading, the market fell to its intra-day low of 18,254 and 5,468. However, both the indices hit intra-day highs of 18,604 and 5,571, reacting to the news that the Libyan situation is likely to reach a peaceful solution. A sharp sell-off, however, followed immediately and the market went into the red in the afternoon. Eventually, the Sensex closed 43 points up at 18,490, while the Nifty rose 14 points to 5,536.
Markets in the US closed at their best in three months on strong economic data and signs of a possible solution to the Libyan crisis. Initial jobless claims fell by 20,000 to 368,000 in the week ended 26th February, beating analysts’ expectations of a rise to 395,000. The total number of people receiving unemployment insurance fell to the lowest level since October 2008. The Institute for Supply Management’s index of non-manufacturing businesses rose to 59.7, the highest level since August 2005, from 59.4 in the previous month.
This apart, same-store sales rose 4.3% last month, as compared to forecasts of a gain of 3.8%, the 18th straight monthly gain from September 2009.
The Dow surged 191.40 points (1.59%) at 12,258.20. The S&P 500 gained 22.53 points (1.72%) at 1,330.97. The Dow and S&P 500 posted their biggest one-day gains since 1st December. The Nasdaq rose 50.67 points (1.84%) at 2,798.74.
Markets in Asia were in the green in early trade today on cues from the US markets and a retreat in crude prices. The European Central Bank indications of a hike in interest rates next month and speculations of a possible solution to the Libyan crisis also boosted investor sentiments.
The Shanghai Composite gained 0.05%, the Hang Seng surged 1.12%, the Jakarta Composite gained 0.86%, the KLSE Composite advanced 0.94%, Nikkei 225 jumped 1.56%, the Straits Times was 1.06%, the Seoul Composite gained 1.14% and the Taiwan Weighted rose 0.81%.
Back home, the government may consider giving approval to the London-listed mining group Vedanta Resources’ $9.6 billion acquisition of Cairn India next week, oil minister S Jaipal Reddy said yesterday.
Mr Reddy said his ministry had last week circulated a Cabinet note listing issues for approval.
Vedanta had on 16th August last year announced buying majority stake in the company that owns the nation’s largest onland oil field, from UK’s Cairn Energy. The deal is to close by 15th April.