As the first step, the government may direct 41 companies that obtained 194 coal blocks 'illegally, to return blocks where no mining activity has started
The Supreme Court has declared that all coal blocks allocated from 1993 are illegal, as these were done "in illegal manner and it suffers from vice of arbitrariness". It further states that coal block allocation done by the screening committee was not "fair and transparent". Now the Supreme Court will decide on the issue of re-allocation of mines on 1st September, just a week from now!
Additionally, it clearly directs "that the coal blocks allocated for UMPP - Ultra Mega Power Projects cannot be used for any other plant, as the blocks were allocated on tariff based bidding". The miner cannot hence, supply coal to a third party which is not the UMPP to whom the block was assigned as a captive mine.
It may be recalled, in this connection, that the exception was made by the government in the case of Reliance Power for diverting coal from Sasan Mines in Madhya Pradesh (MP) to the power project at Chitrangi, also in MP.
Out of the 328 blocks identified by the government, 218 blocks were allocated to both private and government companies. Upto now, 80 blocks have been taken back, leaving a balance of 238 for allocation.
Coal production in India has reached about 550 million tonnes (mt) and the captive coal blocks, totalling 33 were given out, with 19 of them for the private sector. Not all of them are in actual operation and the total targetted production of these blocks amounts to 110 mt. In reality, however, it is now estimated that during 2014-15, at best these blocks will be able to mine only about 53 mt.
Press reports indicate that in the private sector, companies like Jindal Steel and Power Ltd, Hindalco, Tata Power, Sesa Sterlite and Reliance Power, among others, would be affected by the ruling of the Supreme Court. All of them would anxiously await further orders from the Supreme Court on 1st September.
Under these changing circumstances, what should the government do, to ensure that work does not suffer, where the mining operations have actually started? What are the interim actions that they can take?
There are as many as 41 companies holding 194 blocks, already declared, by the Supreme Court, that these have been obtained "illegally". As the first step, the government may direct them to "return" these blocks, where no mining activity has started. When such an announcement or directive is given, they are bound to be met with a claim that they were unable to start the operations because of their inability to obtain various clearances from the concerned departments. This claim may not hold good, as now the Supreme Court has declared that the very process of their "acquiring" the block has not been in a transparent manner!
Second is for the government to appoint a separate committee to investigate the manner and method through which the blocks were allocated. Maybe, the government may instruct CBI to investigate the issue further.
The third step would be NOT to hand over any of these blocks to Coal India Ltd, which has already enough on its plate, and is unable to deliver the goods.
Fourth is for the government to clearly identify the blocks, where the allottee has done practically all the work, but is unable to proceed further for lack of final clearance. In these instances, the government may decide either to give the block back to the same company with a clear term of reference, but fine it for "managing" to obtain the block illegally, and ensure that coal production starts within a "reasonable time".
Finally, invite totally foreign players, who have proven track records in their country of origin, and ensure that they go into coal production under the FDI, bringing in equipment, technology and the rest.
We need to mine our own coal which is available in plenty. Not empty promises that we have been given so far. This whole industry needs to be restructured and reinvented to perform.
(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.)
Cardiac procedures bring in billions of dollars in cash for doctors, hospitals and the instrument manufacturers, in addition to television interviews. Sadly, the procedures are done not to help patients but to benefit these few
“Rather fail with honour than succeed by fraud.”
In a book that is very well reviewed by the New York Times, an Indian born American doctor, Sandeep Jauhar “puts himself on the couch” pricked by his conscience. In his book “Doctored”, Sandeep examines the broken system of medical practice in the US. Thanks to the Indian Karma theory, this young cardiologist, who was the director of a teaching hospital in New Jersey, had to eventually leave his job as he refused to interfere where the patient did not need it. After being thrown out, he joined another practising cardiologist, where again he found that ethical practice was given a go by. His boss told him that he also tried ethical practice and found himself in debts. Now, he has joined the mainstream. Sandeep left that job also as he was asked to carry out all tests including angiography for all patients who came there!
This is exactly what we do in India now and even our politicians think that we have the best system in place. Our Union Health Minister wants AIIMS like hospitals in every state! In the west, there is a cry for closing down such hospitals, while we want to start more of them. No one seems to be bothered to audit the system to see what AIIMS achieved during the time it exists, and what is the benefit to the common man? Such a study would be most appropriate to scientifically find out what to do for the future. An audit of 14 industrialised countries from US to Japan showed that those countries with too many specialists and sub-specialists and very high doctor -patient ratio like the US fared so badly that the system had completely broken down with highest disease, death and disability rates, while Japan with the very small doctor- patient ratio with majority of doctors being family physicians ranked first with increased longevity, decreased death, disease and disability rates!
When doctors went on strike in many countries in the last 25 years-Saskatchewan, Bogota, Los Angeles County, Dublin and recently in Israel- death rates almost plummeted to the bottom with disability rate reduced significantly in every place only to return to the original levels when doctors came back to work. It is reported that in Israel morticians had to bribe the government to give doctors higher pay for them to get back to work as morticians’ coffin business had almost shut down! This prompted the British Medical Journal to comment in an article that “doctors going on strike will improve society’s health”. The French government started a Chinese medical hospital with one hundred beds in Paris while their western medical system had become prohibitively expensive. The new hospital had brought down the medical expense to the government very significantly. Nobel Laureate Professor Bernard Lown, one of world’s best cardiologists from Harvard felt in his research article in the JAMA that unless we ban coronary angiograms for diagnosis of coronary artery disease, patients will suffer unnecessarily. Professor Tom Treasure, a cardiac surgeon, pleaded with the British Government through The Lancet that they should drastically reduce cardiac surgical centres in Britain to stop wasting money on unnecessary tests.
Professor Harlan Krumholz, a Yale cardiologist, wrote an editorial in the (NEJM 1997; 336: 1523) about cardiac interventions: "cardiac procedures bring in billions of dollars in cash for doctors, hospitals and the instrument manufacturers, in addition to television interviews. The procedures are done mainly to get those benefits and not to help patients in the US.”
Let me conclude this by quoting a patient that I saw yesterday, who had a very sordid story. A very healthy 63-year-old man, who is also a good writer in Kannada, had mild elevation of his blood sugar for the last six months, which he had very well controlled with exercise and diet. On an average, he walks ten kilometres a day, including a steep incline up a hill to reach his temple. He was feeling fit as a fiddle.
His publisher and a dear friend, an Ayurvedic physician, who, for some unexplained reason, has a fascination for western medicine, almost forced him to have a “check-up” since he has been a “diabetic”! He took him in his own car to a “special centre” in an upcoming District headquarters nearby. The doctor had also told him to have enough money should he need any interventions. As soon as they went in, the patient was asked by the cardiologist to have his ECG done, which unfortunately turned out to be normal. But he was told that he needed an exercise test to see if there is any fault. Before that he had an echo test, which showed a normal heart with very good ejection fraction (good function). Still, the cardiologist insisted that he should have the TMT. No one had either talked to him or listened to him or even touched him, leave alone physically examine him. Doing TMT on a healthy man who walks daily ten kilometres up a hill with ease is a business. Scientifically TMT has no value as that test has its sensitivity and specificity less than 50%, which means whether it is positive or negative it means nothing. More over, the test results depend on the disease prevalence in society, which we do not know for India! Professor Perloff of Washington University had designed a Hyperbole, which should be used to plot the results to get a semblance of value for the test. The only value of TMT is the fall of blood pressure during exercise. This denotes a bad heart muscle. In this hospital BP was never recorded during the TMT!
However, TMT was declared to be positive and the patient was almost forced to have an angiogram in spite of his mild protests. Poor man still has a swollen left hand with blood leak outside the artery and inflammation from the catheter! He was then told that he needs either an angioplasty or bypass surgery ASAP. At this stage, he smelt a rat and paid their bill and walked out of the hospital. Interestingly, the discharge note has the following diagnosis for an apparently healthy man who NEVER ever had chest pain. Chronic Stable Angina with three vessel disease and diabetes Mellitus type II. The angiogram, in fact, showed some small peripheral blocks in the epicardial vessels.
The man came to see me walking slowly (he was asked not to walk till he has the interventions) and talking in whispers- a really sickly pathetic picture. It took me nearly an hour to make him a MAN again and send him back asking him to go back to get his eight tablets prescription also gradually reduced, lest he should bleed seriously from the gut or inside the brain for no fault of his. He was on two blood thinners, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, long acting nitrates (which get tachyphylaxis soon and become useless), and some other fancy drugs. All the man needed was, change of his mode of living with some minimal drugs for him to get off the high horse of the rat race that he was running, which put him in the fight-flight-freight mode always. Medication could be an added boost.
God save our hapless patients from this corporate monstrosity.
“There are three things in the world that deserve no mercy, hypocrisy, fraud, and tyranny.”
(Professor Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the Science of Healing Outcomes, chairman of the State Health Society's Expert Committee, Govt of Bihar, Patna. He is former Vice Chancellor of Manipal University at Mangalore and former professor for Cardiology of the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, University of London.)
The CCI penalised 14 carmakers, including Tata Motors, Maruti Suzuki, Honda and General Motors for abusing their dominant position by making available spare parts only through their authorised dealers, who in turn sell them at higher rates
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has slapped a penalty of Rs2,545 crore on 14 carmakers for violating trade norms in the spare-part and after-sale service market.
As per the complaint filed by Samsher Katatia in 2011, Honda Siel Cars India Ltd, Volkswagen India Pvt Ltd and Fiat India Auomobiles Ltd were accused of abusing their dominant position by making available spare parts only through their authorised dealers, who in turn sell them on high rates.
The companies penalised by the Commission include Maruti Suzuki, Tata Motors, Honda Siel Cars India, Volkswagen India, Fiat India, BMW India, Ford India, General Motors India, Hindustan Motors, Mahindra & Mahindra, Mercedes-Benz India, Nissan Motor India, Skoda Auto India and Toyota Kirloskar Motor.
“...the Commission’s primary objective is to correct the distortions in the after market, to provide corrective measures to make the market more competitive, to eradicate practices having foreclosure effects and to put an end to the present anti-competitive conduct of the parties. The aim of the Commission is to provide more freedom to Original Equipment Suppliers (OESs) in sale of spare parts, and more choice to consumers and independent repairers. The Commission considers it
necessary to (i) enable the consumers to have access to spare parts and also be free to choose between independent repairers and authorized dealers and (ii) enable the independent repairers participate in the after market and provide services in a competitive manner and to have access to essential inputs such as spare parts and other technical information for this purpose, as part of a more competitive eco-system which is equally fair to the OPs and their authorized network also,” the CCI mentioned in its order.
The penalty - 2% of these companies' average turnover in the past three years - will have to be deposited within 60 days of receipt of the order, the CCI said.
Tata Motors is penalised the maximum of Rs1,346 crore followed by Maruti Suzuki at Rs471 crore. Mahindra & Mahindra is asked to pay Rs292 crore, General Motors Rs85 crore and Honda Car India Rs78 crore by the Competition Commission.
In its order, the Commission said, "...anti-competitive conduct of the opposite parties impacts a very large number of consumers in the country estimated to be around two crore. Further, the anti-competitive conduct of the opposite parties has restricted the expansion of spare parts and independent repairers segment of the economy to its full potential, at the cost of the consumers, service providers and dealers. It is also noted that despite the fact that most attractive markets for the automobile manufacturers and some OPs (carmakers) have made consumer-friendly commitments in other jurisdictions like Europe, they have failed to adopt similar practices in India which would have gone a long way in significantly diluting their present anti-competitive conduct. This makes their conduct even more deplorable."
Earlier, in 2012, the Director General of CCI submitted a report after its investigation into the matter. The Commission was pursuing the case under Section 4 of the Competition Act that relates to abuse of dominant position by enterprises.