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CHENNAI: A day after Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa urged the Centre to notify the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunaland charged the key UPA ally DMK with failing to expedite the same and its MPs with playing a suspicious role, the DMK chief M Karunanidhi refuted her charges.

Jayalalithaa said on Saturday that people were suspicious if the DMK MPs had orally demanded that the final order should not be notified. She contended that if the DMK MPs had indeed sought notification of the Cauvery tribunal’s order, it would have been given in writing and Karunanidhi should have released that to the media which had not been done. This made it clear there was no written representation, she said.

Karunanidhi, in a letter to the party, said Jayalalithaa’s criticism on the issue amounts to casting aspersions on the Prime Minister’s office. He assured that his party MPs had taken up the issue of notification of final award with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during their recent meeting with him. “This (Jayalalithaa’s comments) amounts to casting aspersion on not only the DMK MPs but also on the Prime Minister’s Office,” Karunanidhi said.

Karunanidhi said following his statement to the press on December 12 demanding that the final award be notified, DMK parliamentary party leader T R Baalu had led a delegation of MPs to meet the Prime Minister to take up the matter. “They met the Prime Minister who assured to look into the matter. This had appeared in all newspapers. But in her own style, Jayalalithaa made wrong allegations about the meeting,” he said. Read more

Courtesy: THE TIMES OF INDIA

New intelligence unit to detect corporate frauds: Govt

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NEW DELHI: Faced with a growing number of financial frauds, the corporate affairs ministry is setting up a new intelligence unit that will delve into ‘data mining’ from all possible sources to detect any wrongdoings by the companies and their promoters at the earliest possible stage.

“In the ministry, we are setting up an intelligence unit. It is at a nascent stage. We would be putting technical people with lot of experience and expertise on the job and these would be the people who can mine the data,” corporate affairs minister Sachin Pilot told PTI in an interview here.

“The idea is to have a set of people to do the data mining, collection and checking of records that is available on various platforms, and them link them with the inputs from investigating agencies,” Pilot said.

The minister said that the information needed to detect possible corporate frauds at an early stage is generally available on one or the other platform, and what is actually needed is that “we have to have the sense to mine it”.

“For any financial fraud, you need to have companies registered, institutions, bank accounts, statements, filing and reporting… investigating agencies have to find the links and they need to talk to each other.

“Unless agencies talk to each other, you cannot have a smart, pro-active machinery to stop things before they go wrong,” Pilot said, adding that the new unit would seek help from various investigative agencies to detect possible frauds and would also provide inputs to others in their probes.

Experts also agree that investigations into a number of corporate frauds, including the high-profile Satyam scam, in the past have shown that many of them could have been detected at an earlier stage by a stronger oversight mechanism.

“It is all available… all the transactions that has happened, everything is online… the filings, financial reporting and registration, everything is online. Transactions (with banks) are happening electronically. So, it is all there,” Pilot said.

The minister said that details might be hidden under different names, different subsidiaries, but it is available. Read more

Courtesy: THE TIMES OF INDIA

16 held, released in mining scam

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NAGPUR: The forest department arrested 16 persons, including two quarry owners, for mining and encroaching upon protected and reserve forest land in Pachgaon, 25km from here, on Saturday.

The accused were produced before the judicial magistrate first class (JMFC), Kuhi, by North Umred range forest officer (RFO) R M Agrawal. However, after being remanded to magisterial custody, all the accused moved a bail application and were granted the same as investigating officer did not push for their custody indicating whether the forest officials are really serious about punishing the guilty.

Those arrested include quarry owners Gurmeetsingh Chawla and Ajay Jaswani, both from Nagpur, and their managerial staff and labourers. Chawla has been charged with encroaching upon 0.9 hectare forest land and mining on 0.41 hectares while Jaswani was caught mining on 1.3 hectare new reserve forest (NRF), a more serious crime.

The ad-interim bail of third accused Anil Bhable, Nagpur, who has encroached and mined upon 7.8 hectare forest land, will come up for hearing on Monday. All the miners have been booked under sections 33 and 26 of the Indian Forest Act 1927 and section 379 of IPC.

Continuing its action against illegal mining in Pachgaon, offences were registered against two quarry owners Prabhakar Pillare of Kapsi Khurd and Natthuji Nandurkar of Chimnazari for encroaching upon forest land in compartment number 327 (A). Read more

Courtesy: THE TIMES OF INDIA

Goa, Centre in war of words over illegal mining in state

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The Supreme Court in October had banned any mining activity in the state following justice MB Shah report, which found huge illegal

mining in the state. The court would be hearing the case on January 17, when the Goan government is expected to rebut the claims on environment ministry on the issue.

“The environment ministry has mislead the court on the issue,” Goan chief minister Manohar Parrikar told HT on the sidelines of National Development Council meeting in Delhi. “The ministry cannot put blame on the state government. It was they (the ministry) which gave permission for rampant mining in the state”.

Parrikar, who as Leader of Opposition, had used the Right To Information law to obtain information regarding illegal mining in the state and made it an election issue. After winning the assembly elections, he imposed a ban on illegal mining but his attempt to revoke the ban has been stonewalled by the Supreme Court.

He told the NDC that the Central government has to be blamed for the mining mess because of the “haphazard” manner in which the environment ministry has given clearances. Parrikar also said that mining approvals were also given to people who were not involved in mining at all.

Environment ministry had rebutted his claims and said that monitoring the mining approvals is job of the state government, in which it has failed. The ministry officials also said that the state government neither reported the extant of illegal mining not took any action against it till Shah committee submitted its report.

The ministry was also pulled by the National Green Tribunal for “casually” granting environmental clearance for a mining project in reserved forest area in Goa without verifying the information.

The NGT bench of Justice V R Kingaonkar and expert member D K Agrawal quashed the environment clearance (EC) and the forest clearance (FC) granted by the MoEF and the approval of Goa’s Chief Warden of Wildlife to mining firm Elray Minerals and Company, saying they were “invalid, illegal and improper.”

The Goa government has also objected to the ministry’s proposal that all areas within 10 kms of the boundaries of national parks and sanctuaries should be notified as eco-sensitive zones under the Environment Protection Act. “It (the proposal) will virtually remove most of the available land from the purview of development,” he said.

Panel formed to tackle silicosis in Coimbatore district

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The State Government has formed a district-level committee comprising health and industry officials in Coimbatore on Wednesday to exclusively tackle silicosis, a disease that causes irreversible lung damage and found mostly among mining and quarry workers.

As no data exists on the prevalence rate of this non-communicable disease, a survey will be launched in all the 12 blocks of the district, Deputy Director of Public Health R. Damodaran told The Hindu.

The disease is caused by prolonged ingestion of crystalline silica particles. Patients with silicosis were also particularly susceptible to tuberculosis (TB) infection.

Officials working with the industries would furnish to the Health Department a list of ‘at-risk’ workers such as those in quarries, mines, foundries, highways, construction, rock drilling and glass factories.

Medical examination would be performed on these workers every six months and those found to have the disease would be advised to shift to other professions. If they were unable to find another job on their own, they could approach the district administration. This committee, which would be chaired by the District Collector, would meet every three months to review the action taken on preventing this disease.

People working in these industries would also be advised to pour water on the surface to prevent the dust from becoming airborne.

Emphasis would also be placed on proper ventilation and the use of blast cleaning machines or cabinets to control dusts.

Objective

The ultimate objective, Dr. Damodaran said, was to prevent mortality among those with the disease and prevent it from spreading.

Besides Deputy Director of Health Services, the committee comprises Deputy Directors of Mines and Tuberculosis, Joint Director of Medical Services, General Manager of District Industries Centre (DIC), Assistant Director of Panchayats and Town Planning, the Labour Inspector and the Inspector of Factories.

State seeks status of coal blocks allotted to MCL and Jindal group

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The state government has sought detail status of two coal blocks which were allotted jointly to Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL) and three other O P Jindal group firms seven years ago.

“Information regarding the present status of the coal blocks and end use projects of the co-allocatees of the coal block is not available in this department. Furnish coal block allocation letter and approved mining plan to this department at the earliest for reference and necessary action,” state steel and mines department told MCL, the subsidiary of Coal India Ltd (CIL).

The Union coal ministry had allotted Utkal-A and Gopal Prasad West coal blocks to MCL, JSW Steel, Jindal Stainless Steel Ltd, Jindal Thermal, and Shyam DRI in 2005.

MCL holds largest share in these blocks with about 60 per cent stake in the joint venture company formed under the banner of MJMJ Coal Ltd in 2007 for development of the coal blocks. However, the project is yet to take off due to unavailability of clearances.

While allocating the blocks in 2005, it was stipulated by the Union coal ministry that coal production from the Utkal-A block was to begin within 36 months (42 months in case of forest land) in case of open cast mine and 48 months (54 months if the block falls under forest land) in case of underground mine.

“We are awaiting forest and environment clearance after which we will be able to start mining,” said a senior official of MCL.

The JV company was issued show cause notice by the Coal Ministry in 2010 for not taking serious efforts to develop the coal blocks. The Ministry had pointed out that the allocatee company has repeatedly failed to keep its promises made on earlier occasions and inferred that it is non-serious about the project.

Recently, the Centre has de-allocated five coal blocks out of total 33 blocks granted in the state to different companies which were not able to start coal mining even after six to seven years of allocation.

After de-allocating three coal blocks – Utkal-D, Manadakini-B and Baitarani West allocated to two Odisha PSUs, the Coal ministry has sought details of joint venture (JV) arrangements with private players and mode of selection of the JV partners.

The coal ministry in a recent letter to Odisha chief secretary B K Patnaik, sought to know if the state PSU that was allotted coal blocks entered into a JV arrangement with private companies and whether legal opinion was sought for such an arrangement.

Naveen Finds Fault With Centre’s Mining Policies

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Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik today criticised the Centre’s mining policies, claiming they have helped large mining firms to “run away with super normal profits” from mineral-rich less developed states like Odisha.

“These states have not benefited from their rich natural resource endowment…. At present also, mineral rich states have not been able to reap full benefits of their endowments because of distortions in, and delayed implementation of , mineral royalty policies,” Patnaik said in his speech at the National Development Council meeting.

Accusing the Ministry of Mines of “dithering” about revision of the royalty structure, he said royalty from mineral resources which could have funded higher plan sizes and triggered development has been kept persistently low in spite of several requests made by him in the past.

Due to prolonged efforts by mineral bearing states, the royalty rates have been shifted to an ‘ad valorem regime’ but the impact of this change has been dented by an artificially low price of minerals as determined by the IBM (Indian Bureau of Mines), Patnaik said.

He said this matter has been taken up with the Centre on a number of occasions but the results have not been encouraging.

“Mining companies have run away with super normal profits while the Ministry of Mines has been dithering about revision of the royalty structure. Surprisingly, the fact that super normal profits are being earned by the mining companies is visible and evident to almost everyone except possibly to the Ministry of Mines!,” Patnaik said.

Noting that the powers for allocating and regulating most natural resources are vested with the Centre, he said the people of the mineral rich states rightfully deserve to benefit from their resource endowments.

“For example, the states can not tax minerals directly within the framework of the central laws. The states can not even levy sales tax on iron ore and other minerals at a rate higher than two percent since bulk of these minerals are exported to other states. Nor can the states auction the lease rights for mining to capture the economic rent from these scarce natural resources,” Patnaik said expressing his concerns.

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