Saturday, August 6, 2011

Switzerland is drying up as Indian investors fleeing; New safe heavens are being hunted

Harish Gupta. NEW DELHI

It may sound strange, but true. The day Swiss government announced lifting veil of secrecy on all banking transactions required by the Indian authorities after April 1, 2011, there was huge withdrawal of money by investors from the tax-heaven nation. From April 1, 2011, the foreign investments virtually dried up from Switzerland as much as $700 million (Rs 2895 crores) has been withdrawn.

Latest figures revealed that if $3 billion came from Switzerland during the past two years, there was a net out-flow of $700 million in the first two months of the current financial year (April & May 2011). For the first time during the past ten years, there has been a negative flow and a net withdrawal of Rs 2895 crores took place, said a worried finance ministry official.

It is also revealed that nine other tax heaven countries have witnessed virtual non-activity in respect of investing money in India. For example, investors from British Virginia invested nearly $1.5 billion (Rs. 5812 crores) during the last two years. But the first two months of the year data revealed the amount was less than Rs two crores. The Caymen Islands, considered a huge tax-heaven for investors invested a mere Rs 1.70 crores in the first two months of the current financial year compared to Rs 6326.47 crores during the last two years.

The story remains the same for other six popular countries which used to invest heavily in India. In all, these ten nations invested Rs 754.15 crores during April 2011. But May was a shocker as the net out-flow was Rs 2850 crores.

Obviously, the mounting pressure on tax-heaven countries to disclose details of flow of funds has sounded an alarm bells and reverse flow of funds has begun in a big way. The Swiss Central bank is not wide off-the-mark when it said that Indians have $2.5 billions deposits in various Swiss banks. Obviously, the wiser Indian investors have started taking monies out of these tax-heavens and taking it to other safe destinations.

If the investments from these countries has fallen, the flow of funds from Mauritius jumped to almost double.

Since Mauritius has signaled that it will take some more time in re-negotiating the controversial Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA), the round-tripping is now through the Iceland country.

Investments from Mauritius broke all records in foreign investments as it sent more than $2.1 billion (Rs 9300 crores) to India during the first two months of the current financial year.

As much as 42% ($55 billion) of the entire foreign investments whether in the FDI or FII ($130 billion) has been routed through Mauritius between 2000-2011.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Chinese making inroads in a big way in India

Harish Gupta. New Delhi

Even as security agencies are sounding alarm bells over China’s designs along the borders, Chinese companies are penetrating in the Indian infrastructure sector in a big way. While the Heavy Industries Ministry has raised alarm over how Chinese power equipment suppliers outwit PSUs like BHEL and BEL and also in the telecom sectors, the Chinese have made inroads into constructing Indian highways in a big way.

The Chinese companies have already completed 10 big projects in various parts of the country, they are also partners in the construction of Srinagar-Banihal road project.

The Chinese companies are also constructing six laning of the Vadakkancherry-Thrissure section. The project was awarded to KMC Cnstruction which partnered with the China Railway 18th Bureau Group (CR18G) consortium.

The Panvel-Indapur, Piprakothi-Motihari-Raxaul and Jaipur-Reengus projects are among the major national highway projects which are under construction. Surprisingly, the Chinese hold 26% equity in all these road construction projects.

According to official sources security clearances was obtained for engaging the Chinese firms in awarding the contract in Jammu and Kashmir and Bihar. Mr Jitin Prasada, Minister of State in Road Transport and Highways, said in reply to an unstarred question that the firms given the contract were selected on international bidding competition.

The Chinese companies have completed as many as ten Road projects in the country.  These projects are as under:

  • Salem to Karur
  • Radhanpur to Gagodhar
  • Jetpur to Bhiladi
  • Shivpuri bypass & upto Madhya Pradesh / Rajasthan Border
  • Chittorgarh bypass (Rajasthan)
  • Kota to Chittorgarh (Rajasthan)
  • Hyderabad Bangalore Section  (Four Projects)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Mauritius defers DTAA talks again, Investments from tax-heaven jumps to a record 80% high

Harish Gupta. NEW DELHI
Irrespective of nation-wide concerns over black money stashed abroad and Indian governments repeated assurances to bring it back, Mauritius has refused to yield. The Mauritius authorities have ducked talks scheduled in July and signaled that the discussions will take place sometime in August- September.

Since Mauritius is the most crucial destination in the entire gamut of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) and Foreign Institutional Investments (FII) due to its massive size, the Indian authorities had said that talks to re-negotiate controversial Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) will take place in July. Even Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had stated on record that talks are scheduled for July. But these have been postponed again at the instance of the Iceland country. The government has indicated that it would be in a position to hold the same in August-September now.

Highly placed sources in the finance ministry said that talks will now be held sometime in late August or early September to amend the DTAA.

The tiny scenic island which is a leading Off-Shore Financial Centre (OFC) has given Indian regulators nightmares. As much as 42%  ($55 billion) of the entire foreign investments whether in the FDI or FII ($130 billion) has been routed through Mauritius between 2000-2011.

But what has shocked Indian agencies is that investments from Mauritius  has risen to more than 80% during the first two months of the current financial year. Despite huge ruckus in India and ED and CBI officials rushing to the tax-heaven country, the flow of investments from Mauritius has beaten  17 other known tax heaven countries.

Investments from Mauritius broke all records in foreign investments as it sent more than $2.1 billion (Rs 9300 crores) to India compared to other 17 tax-heaven countries put together. They together accounted for a mere $1.8 billion (Rs.7520 crores). The other 17 countries are Switzerland, Singapore, Cyprus, Caymen Islands, British Virginia, Luxembourg, Panama, British Isles, St. Kitts, Bahamas, Iceland, Seychelles, Isle of Man, Virgin Island, Liechtenstein, UAE  and Hong Kong. While DTAA has been re-negotiated with some of these countries, the process is still on. But foreign investments from Mauritius touching a record high of 80% has surprised investigators.

It may be mentioned that the Narasimha Rao government in 1991 had opened the FII investments route in the wake of the foreign exchange crisis under the DTAA. The DTAA provided that there will be no Capital gains tax on companies/persons who are holding residence permits in Mauritius. Since there is no Capital gains tax in Mauritius, the companies enjoyed huge tax benefits. 

The Mauritius government is reluctant to re-negotiate the DTAA as it earns through other means though it doesn’t charge capital gains tax. It did tighten norms for issuance of residence certificate after a hue and cry is raised in India and at one time the authorities even threatened to cancel DTAA suo-moto. Experts questioned the decision of the Indian government not to act when Indonesia  which also a similar treaty with Mauritius, canceled it saying investments are nothing but round tripping. Sources in the finance ministry explain that there is a lurking fear that once the DTAA canceled, the FDI will take a big hit and FII will companies will vanish.

Monday, July 25, 2011

PM turns agriculturist, shifts gear

Harish Gupta. NEW DELHI

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh seem to have shifted gear and the focus of the economy is shifting to agriculture. In a major development which raised eyebrows, the Prime Minister has directed Union Agriculture and Food processing Minister Sharad Pawar to present a comprehensive report card on the “State of Indian Agriculture” in Parliament.

The “State of Indian Agriculture” will be an annual feature like the Economic Survey, Railway Budget and the Union Budget during the 12-week long Budget session  in February. This will be first time when status paper on agriculture will be presented.

Highly placed sources in the Prime Minister’s office confirmed that the step has been taken to focus on the rural India where more than 70% population is dependent on agriculture. Though Economic Survey of India presented by the Union Finance Minister every February does a chapter on agriculture and also Annual Reports of the departments
Concerned, it was felt that there had hardly been any serious discussion and debate in the house on the agriculture.

The decision also stems from the fact that despite falling investments in the agriculture and allied sectors to the total of the GDP over the past ten years and agriculture land shrinking at a faster pace, the sector has shown resilience. The review undertaken by the Prime Minister with Sharad Pawar and concerned ministries revealed that investments in agriculture has fallen in real terms. If it was 24% of the GDP in 2001-02, the investments went down to 14.62% during 2009-10. Yet, the foodgrain production jumped to a record 242 million tonnes – almost 11% more than last year. With food security bill becoming a reality sometime next year, the country’s needs would jump to 300 million tonnes. This will be possible only when huge investments are made in the agriculture and allied sectors.

Thus, Dr Manmohan Singh decided to focus on the agriculture for the growth story keep going in a big way as manufacturing, mining, electricity, gas and power sectors have slowed down. The state of agriculture report will contain inputs from all the allied sectors such as  Ministries and departments of fertiliser, water resources, power, rural development, science and technology, harvest management and food processing etc.

It has been admitted by government’s policy makers that if the target of 9% plus GDP growth is to be achieved, the focus has to be on the agriculture sector. Even in the present 8.5% GDP growth achieved this year, the contribution of agriculture sector had been 6.6%. With the current monsoon season on track and satisfactory so far, the agriculture ministry expects that the crop will be all time high and agriculture growth would touch 7% mark.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


The promotion of Jayanthi Natarajan  as Union Minister has created a piquant situation for the Congress as the UPA will lose a majority in the crucial Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Jayanthi quit from the PAC and now a fresh election has to be held for the body whose report on 2G has been held up due to proper voting and passage.  Her resignation should gladden the hearts of the NDA and the Opposition which will join hands to ensure that the UPA loses in the election.  It was her one vote that had ensured that the Murli Manohar Joshi's report got got rejected and created a political crisis in the body.  

The Congress will have to seek the support of the SP, BSP or the AIADMK and other such allies who have been unhappy with it for some time.
The Congress is likely to propose the name of Oscar Fernandes. But it does not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha where the UPA is hopelessly short of 30 in a house of 240. The Congress leadership did not realise this when it picked up Jayanthi Natrajan for the ministry.
The Left parties, the SP and AIADMK are allies and even if the Congress gets the BSP on its side, it won't be able to win the PAC seat in the contest.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Send your resignation right away, Kapil Sibal told solicitor general

Published: Tuesday, Jul 12, 2011, 0:40 IST
By Harish Gupta | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA

The prospects of solicitor-general Gopal Subramanium’s continuation in the government are uncertain as prime minister Manmohan Singh has declined to intervene in the controversy and left it to the wisdom of the administrative ministries concerned.

It also transpires that when law minister M Veerappa Moily met the PM, the issue was not confined to the resignation of solicitor general. The two discussed the over-activism of the judiciary and the way some of the orders have been passed by the highest court of the country.
Whether it was the duty of the law officers of the country to put the government’s view point forcefully or and whether they did so, should be assessed by the law ministry.

There have been reports that it was HRD and telecom minister Kapil Sibal who curtly told the SG to “send in the resignation right now if you so desire” when he protested against the appointment of senior advocate Rohington Nariman in the 2G case. Sibal refused to budge and made it clear that he would have law officer of his choice to defend his department.

Moily did request Subramanium to reconsider his decision. But sources close to him confided that Moily himself is under attack due to a series of adverse SC orders. Secondly, the relief to Sibal in the SC on Monday established that the minister’s decision was right.

It is also learnt that attorney general GE Vahnvati is also uncomfortable with the present SG and would like to have a new face. Therefore, the departure of Subramanium seems certain in the current political scenario.
Agency reports suggested that the government would decide on the SG’s resignation in the next “two to three days”.

Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA)

Harish Gupta. New Delhi

What happens when the director of  Indira Gandhi National centre for the Arts (IGNCA) once headed by Sonia Gandhi herself engaged in the pursuit of knowledge on arts and culture chooses to ignore a Right To information query?

The director is asked to appear before the Central Information Commission and personally explain the delay in furnishing information under the RTI application. The CIC was extremely up set that Prof S. Settar of the INGCA was responsible for denying the information when it was readily available.  What shocked the RTI activists was the fact that IGNAC was once headed by Sonia Gandhi who had brought the transparency law into the country in 2005. Therefore, how could her successors violate the very law and spirit of the act.

The problem occurred when Ms P Lochan from Bengaluru sought information relating to the sacking of some of the employees of the Southern Regional Centre, IGNCA, since April 2005. She filed the application in May 2010 but got no response within the stipulated period. The hapless applicant knocked at the door of the CIC in February this year.

When the CIC asked the IGNCA for the reasons for the delay, the PIO stated that he had sought the assistance of  Prof. S. Settar who is an Honorary Director having the required information. But the same was not provided by him and led to the delay.

The Information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, in his order held PIO V. P. Sharma guilty of not furnishing information within the time specified under sub-section (1) of Section 7 by not replying within 30 days. “As per the requirement of the RTI Act, it appears that the PIO’s actions attract the penal provisions of Section 20.

As if this was not enough, the CIC ordered that Prof. S. Settar will present himself before the Commission either through Video Conference or by personal presence on 05 August 2011 at 4.30pm along with his written submissions showing cause why penalty should not be imposed on him as mandated under the law. “He may go to the NIC-Studio at Bangaluru at 04.30PM on 05 August 2011 if he wishes to attend the show cause through Video Conference. He may also send written submissions if he wishes to the Commission before 20 July 2011” said the CIC.

 Chinmaya R. Gharekhan is the chairman of IGNAC and board of trustees include Kanti Bajpai, Kapila Vatsyayan,  Anil Baijal,  Jawahar Sarkar, Dr Swati Piramal
Salman Haider and others.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Supreme Court on the question of setting up a Special Investigation Team

Harish Gupta. New Delhi

The Manmohan Singh government is in a serious dilemma whether to file a review petition in the Supreme Court on the question of setting up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by a retired Supreme Court judge with 10 top government officers and agencies reporting to him on Black Money.

Highly placed sources told the DNA late today that the Congress Core Committee held an unscheduled meeting to discuss the issue of go in for a review of the SC judgment and also on crisis in Telengana among other things.

When contacted, a senior official in the Prime Minister’s office said, “the matter is engaging the attention.”

While the union finance minister pranab mukherjee is extremely upset with the SC order as he had himself set up the high-powered committee comprising of heads of the RBI, CBDT, Revenue secretary, Enforcement director and other agencies on black money. The committee had been meeting regularly and making recommendations as well.
But the SC went ahead to set up SIT under its command and control under Justice B P Jeevan Reddy and M K Shah. However, another view in the government is that if it went ahead with the review petition, it will be construed of  government’s insincerity  in bringing black money stashed abroad. It may send a wrong signal  too and give the Opposition a handle to launch another attack at a time when it is facing problem on various fronts.

Sources close to the Congress president Sonia Gandhi say that if the SC-monitored SIT is handling the issue, the Opposition won’t be able to attack the government and the party for not doing enough on the issue. It will be the responsibility of the Supreme Court now to do it. Secondly, the government accepted several SITs in the past – whether on Gujarat or demolitions in Delhi and for other issues. So why shall the government challenge this SIT merely because its on black money.

“Let it be a test case for the SC SIT. The government should seek certain clarifications and it should be a time-bound SIT and not unlimited and continueous body,” said a source.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Rajya Sabha biennial poll for 12 seats: Race begins

Harish Gupta. New Delhi

Sitaram Yetchury, senior CPM leader, is likely to get the re-nomination to the Rajya Sabha in the biennial polls slated to take place on July 22 in West Bengal and couple of other states.

Highly placed sources in the CPM say that CPM general secretary Prakash Karat has sent word that he would like to re-nominate Sitaram Yetchury. There is consideration speculation in the Left parties as to who will be nominated to the lone seat the CPM is going to get from West Bengal. Sitaram Yetchury and Brinda Karat are retiring this month and both were first timers and have a claim for the seat. But Yetchury has been a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on 2G spectrum scam and also chairman of the parliament’s standing committee on Tourism. Besides, Prakash Karat who has been on the back-foot would not take the trouble of  re-nominating his wife ignoring the claim of Yetchury.

In all, there are five vacancies in Rajya Sabha from West Bengal. The Trinamool Congress will win three, one by the Congress and one by the Left Front combine. July 12 is the last date of filing nomination papers and there is considerable activity within the BJP, Congress and other parties to  fill 10 regular Rajya Sabha seats and two other casual vacancies (One in Maharashtra due to the resignation of Prithviraj Chavan and another in Tamil Nadu as  K V ramalingam was elected to the state Assembly).

The BJP high command is understood to have indicated its desire to nominate Nirmala Sitaraman, a telugu speaking BJP national spokesman for the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat. BJP Parliamentary board is meeting next to select three candidates while the Congress will win the fourth seat. Since Assembly elections are due in Gujrat next year, the preferences of Chief Minister Narendra Modi have to be taken into consideration. Ahmad Patel, political secretary to the Congress president Sonia Gandhi is set to be re-nominated from Gujrat, party sources say.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Enemies property bill Jinxed, future of 2200 property hangs

Harish Gupta. New Delhi
The fate of 2,186 'enemy properties' will hang in the balance as the bill relating to such properties is set to lapse again.  
The reason; the Standing Committee of  the Parliament relating to Home Ministry could not take up  the bill for a discussion so far. It won't be able to discuss the controvertial bill either this month either. Ttherefore, the Parliament will not be able to discuss and pass the same during the ensuing Monsoon session beginning August 1. It is mandatory for the standing committee to discuss the bill without which it doesn't go back to the parliament.
When contacted, M Venkiah Naidu, chairman of the standing committee  confirmed it. He told the DNA, "the committee won’t be able to take up the bill in July."  
The bill is considered jinxed from the beginning. This is the third time the Bill is set to lapse. The bill is to replace the old law which said 'no India-born legal heirs to properties, left behind by those who migrated to Pakistan after Partition, can approach the courts. The new version, permits them to claim ownership to such properties, if they prove their status to the government.
It's a high profile - big stake battle. A stellar cast of Congress and BJP politician-lawyers have represented different parties to the wider dispute over the years.
Home Minister Chidambaram appeared in the Supreme Court against the Raja of Mehmoodabad in 2002. Five years later, it was Arun Jaitley, now the leader of the Opposition the Rajya Sabha and in 2009, Ram Jethmalani who appeared against the Raja.
Raja Mohammed Amir Ahmad Khan's legal counsels have included Salman Khurshid, now a Union minister and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Congress Party spokesperson and a Rajya Sabha MP.
 Now the claimants and those occupying the properties and others - including wealthy businessmen including the Raja of Mehmoodabad (UP) - granted user rights to 2200 odd properties over the years by the Custodian, often at throw away rates - await the Parliament's decision.
The  UPA government has been trying hard to pass this bill due to its political interest for the past two years. It failed to pass the Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill in Parliament last year and promulgate fresh Ordinance incorporating the fresh amendments bestowing rights to the families of those who had migrated to Pakistan after the partition.  
The bill is controversial in the sense that it includes all the three amendments —allows enemy property to be claimed by legal heir of the original owner, puts limitations on the courts in the divestment of the properties, allowing the custodian to control it, and the third ensures that the legal right of current tenants/occupants of enemy properties remains unaffected by the Bill.
 The NDA and the BJP too seem to have two views of the bill and a deferment will come as a relief to all. Since many of their leaders from Uttar Pradesh, not saying no to the bill, just as yet. Former Party president, Rajnath Singh maintains that the party is yet to decide its stand. Another senior BJP leader, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi says, "People cannot be deprived of what is rightfully theirs."
 Even the JD(U) is also in support of the bill. The Congress, however, doesn’t have numbers in the Rajya Sabha and would like to have a consensus and even incorporated a few suggestions.

Friday, July 1, 2011

MoEF - Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh has gone soft again

Harish Gupta. New Delhi

Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh has gone soft again. After bowing to the pressures in “go and no go areas” in the coal belt, several hydro projects, he has virtually issued a blank cheque to all solar thermal power projects saying these are not required to obtain environmental clearance from his ministry.

In late evening notification issued by his ministry, up it was stated that State Pollution control boards are not required to take prior clearance from either the Environment Impact Committee or any other central authority under his ministry. However, they are expected to follow certain guidelines and the same had been issued in the past.

It may be mentioned that Dr Farooq Abdullah had bitterly complained to the Prime Minister that most of the solar power projects in the country had been held for want of environmental clearances and his ministry won’t be able to achieve targets of producing power. Earlier, Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal and Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde had complained to the PM in this regard.  

While Ramesh’s ministry has been on a giving one clearance certificate after the other in the recent past, today it issued a virtual blank certificate to all solar power projects. The Ministry of new and renewable energy had pleaded with the environment ministry that in view of the stringent targets set by the government under the solar mission, urgent action was needed to be taken. It was also pointed out that Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission project launched in January last year had been way behind schedule due to these hurdles and the same may be cleared.

After a series of deliberations and Prime Minister’s observations yesterday with the editors where he made it clear that development cannot be compromised, the MoEF took the unusual step and said these need not come to it for clearances.

Moily to bring down one crore pending court cases in six months

Harish Gupta. New Delhi

Struggling to bring down the whopping over 3 crore pending court cases in the country, Union Law Minister is embarking on a Mission Impossible. 

Come July 1 and he is determined to bring down the figure by one crore within six months. "The new policy is expected to reduce average pending time of cases from 15 years to 3 years and reduce number of cases by one crores within six months, " Moily said while talking to the DNA.

He said that the process of digitization of courts in the country was on a fast-track and this itself will bring down the number of cases. The government would set up commercial divisions in High Courts to settle high value litigation. This move received a setback in July when a parliamentary select committee recommended several changes in the proposed Bill, including reducing the threshold limit from Rs five crore to one crore.  However, these issues have been cleared and the Bill will be brought before the Parliament in the Monsoon session.  
Moily was unruffled by reports of impending Cabinet reshuffle and said, “ I am doing my job. I do not talk. I work quietly and you will see the result of these silent works by December 2011.”
He said that the Commercial Division of High Courts Bill, 2009 was passed in the Lok Sabha without discussion. But when the Bill was tabled in the Rajya Sabha, it was referred to a select committee in December last year for further examination. 

He said his mission would be successful if the number of cases were brought down and fast-track courts set up and time of pendency was brought to three years. A new Law is being enacted for all cases- be it civil, criminal or otherwise. He said, country’s biggest High Court -- the Allahabad High Court -- nearly 9.68 lakh cases are pending and in subordinate courts over 34 lakh cases are pending trial.

A provision of a grant of Rs. 5,000 crore had been cleared by the 13th Finance Commission relating to the method and technology, and an additional provision of Rs. 935 crore for the E-Courts (computerization of courts) which will include the Paperless Courts and the Technological Courts.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

10 Arunachal hydro-power projects on hold, one cleared, Centre orders new study

Harish Gupta. New Delhi

In the bitter battle between Environment & Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh and the Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde over the fate of nearly a dozen hydro-power projects in Arunachal Pradesh,  the Prime Minister’s Office is reported to have found a new formula after marathon meetings past sometime.

According to the new formula, the work on 600 MW Bichom Hydroelectric Project being developed by the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Ltd (NEEPCO) will continue,  while remaining 10 other-hydro-power projects will have to wait until a new study is completed. The 10 projects in the state of Arunachal Pradesh shall generate a total of 1245 MW of hydropower.

Interestingly, the study will be conducted by WAPCOS Limited which is a government of India undertaking under the Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR). Though Jairam Ramesh wanted his ministry to undertake this study, the PMO decided that Water resources ministry under Salman Khursheed be entrusted with the task. The orders for the study were issued yesterday night.
The project affected due to suspension of work include Utung HEP (100 MW), Nazong HEP (60 MW), Dibbin HEP (120 MW), Dimijin HEP (20 MW), Dikhri HEP (15 MW), Dinchang HEP (360 MW), Jameri HEP (50 MW),  Dinan HEP (10 MW), Nafra HEP (100 MW), and Gongri HEP (70 MW).

The Ministry of Environment and Forest had argued that most hydroelectric projects lead to submergence of significant land tracts that causes serious ecological imbalances. The study - Bichom Basin Study - will assess impacts within the Bichom river basin up to confluence of river Bichom with river Tenga.

The cost of the study has been shared on pro-rata basis by various project developers who propose to commission hydroelectric projects in the study area. With emphasis on terrestrial and aquatic ecology, the study envisages both primary as well as secondary data collection. The key features of the terms of reference for the basin study are primary data collection of water quality, aquatic ecology, terrestrial Ecology; and secondary data collection for meteorology, water resources, flora, fauna, and aquatic flora and fauna

 The key outcomes of the study are to provide sustainable and optimal ways of hydropower development of Lohit river, keeping in view the environmental setting of the basin and assess requirement of environmental flow during lean season with actual flow, depth and velocity at different level.

Some important aspects to be covered in the study are modification in hydrologic regime due to diversion of water for hydropower generation;  Depth of water available in river stretches during lean season, and its assessment of its adequacy vis-à-vis various fish species. The study will also cover the impact of discharge in river stretch during monsoon and lean seasons etc.

Jairam Ramesh was not available. But sources in the Ministry of Environment and Forest told the DNA that there was nothing personal on the issue. It was for the government to take a final call and would be decided on the basis of the study.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cabinet reshuffle: Eyes on Punjab, UP elections

Published: Saturday, Jun 25, 2011, 8:18 IST
By Harish Gupta | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA

With Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee making it clear that she would like her party to retain the Railways portfolio, the exercise for a major cabinet reshuffle has begun in right earnest.
Earlier, the Congress high command had suggested to Mamata that instead of Railways the TMC can take two other portfolios as the government is keen for major reforms in the sector.
When Mamata came to the national capital the subject came up for a discussion between her and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
It was also suggested to her that the TMC can take two full cabinet berths if she gives up Railways as this major infrastructure ministry be handled by a senior leader. Since there are no senior leaders in her party, it would be appropriate if the TMC cooperates.
However, Mamata clearly said Railways is crucial to her party and also for West Bengal. It was the Railways that gave her the political mileage over the Left. Therefore, it would not be possible for her to do so.
Sources close to Mamata told the DNA that she also indicated that Mukul Roy be made Cabinet rank minister in the Railways ministry. He is presently minister of state in railways along with two other ministers of state.
Sources in the government said at least three Union ministers, who were to be dropped from the cabinet and survived at the last minute, are sure to go on July 2 when the reshuffle takes place. Virbhadra Singh, Kantilal Bhuria and MS Gill are in the exit lounge and so are one or two faces from Maharashtra.
The focus of the party is Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand and Punjab where assembly polls are due next year. Therefore, while reshuffling these factors have to be borne in mind. Talks are also under way with RLD leader Ajit Singh so that the Congress can consolidate its gains in UP.
With suspense over Railways ministry over, the Congress high command has to deal with another UPA partner — DMK.
It has been demanding a Cabinet berth ever since A Raja was sent to jail. It seems the Congress leadership may not like to alienate its partner further. The DMK chief M Karunanidhi has been throwing tantrums over Lokpal Bill and other issues.
The Congress high command also has to decide whether to bring Punjab
governor Shivraj Patil into Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra. He had resigned as home minister in the wake of 26/11 Mumbai attacks.
The continuous bitterness between two senior party stalwarts — Pranab Mukherjee and P Chidambaram — has provided an opportunity to Patil to pitch in. The Rajya Sabha seat has fallen vacant in the wake Prithviraj Chavan moving in as Maharashtra chief minister.
A final call on Patil’s induction into the Rajya Sabha may signal his entry into the Cabinet too. A decision to this effect is likely to be taken in the next one week.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Jairam does U-turn on Madhya Pradesh dam project

Published: Friday, Jun 24, 2011, 0:41 IST
By Harish Gupta | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA

Environment and forest minister Jairam Ramesh seems to have taken a U-turn again. In a sudden shift, he has now cleared the Maheshwar Hydro Electric Project in Madhya Pradesh on Thursday after ordering “stop work”. Jairam Ramesh had issued the “Stop Work” order on the 400 MW Maheshwar projectin Madhya Pradesh in April last year.
Minister overrules panel decisionOverruling the decision of the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC), Ramesh approved opening up of Tara, Parsa East and Kante Basan coal-blocks in the Hasdeo-Arand forest region of Chhattisgarh. In his order, Ramesh said that he disagrees with the “final recommendations” of the FAC.
DNA Correspondent

Pay and get penalized

A dear friend of mine who was on a holiday here sometime ago had an interesting story. He said to me, "Its quite funny here. First of all, files don't move and Babus won't work. Politicians won't listen without a price. If you pay the price as demanded, you go to jail. If you don't pay, you suffer. If you pay, you go to jail too."
Is Dr Manmohan Singh listening ? After all, it was he liberalized the economy under P V Narasimha Rao in 1991 and in 2011  -- within 20 years, the price tag has a jail tag too.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

CBI out of RTI ambit: NAC will lodge protest with UPA

Published: Wednesday, Jun 22, 2011, 0:19 IST
By Harish Gupta | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA

Even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi hold regular parleys to sort out thorny issues including major cabinet reshuffle, several members of the National Advisory Council (NAC) have strongly criticised the government for keeping the CBI out of the ambit of the Right To Information (RTI) Act.
Aruna Roy, a member of the NAC headed by Sonia Gandhi who doggedly fought for the enactment of the Right to Information during the UPA-I in 2005, was enraged over government decision to exempt CBI to provide information.
Without mincing words, she said, “On one hand the government talks about transparency and accountability, and on the other make such amendments to an existing law without proper consultations?”
She made it clear that the NAC plans to counter the Cabinet move and take up the issue with the UPA. Roy is the third NAC member to have strongly opposed the cabinet move.
Earlier, NAC members Harsh Mander and Dr Naresh C Saxena had hit out at the UPA Government and said, “We will definitely launch a strong protest against the government decision as there is no need to provide blanket immunity to the CBI,” Mander declared.
Mander also stated that Section 8 of the Act provided: no person may be given access to information that will impede an investigation or prosecution process or endanger the life or the safety of any witness or disclose the identity of informants working with law enforcement agencies.” Therefore, there was no justification for such a cabinet decision.
However, Dr Saxena, said, “It has to be first passed by parliament and only then the rule becomes a law. That has not happened so far.”

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Govt panel fails to trace even a single money laundering case

Published: Monday, Jun 20, 2011, 0:16 IST
By Harish Gupta | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA

The government may be after money launderers and tightening laws to prosecute the offenders. It committed to prevent the flow of funds into the country in the name of charity. But the efforts seem to have come to a naught.
The finance ministry told DNA that a high-powered committee set up by the government to track cases of money laundering and terror financing in the garb of charity and non-profit organisations (NPOs) not a single case has come to its notice.
The ministry went on to say that since not a single case of terror financing and money laundering has come to the notice through charity organisations, there is no question of launching prosecution.
In a written communication, deputy director in the ministry of finance, Rosemeary K Abraham told the DNA, “The high-powered committee was constituted on June 17, 2010 to identify persons who own, control or direct the money laundering and terror financing. However, the committee has yet not recognized any case of money laundering”.
When asked how many cases have been tracked of such activities, the finance ministry official said, “none”.Since no case of money laundering was detected, the question of launching any prosecution does not arise.
However, it was asserted that “the committee will continue its work and seek requisite information from the concerned ministries and states to assess the risk of money laundering in the NPO sector. The requisite information is still awaited. Hence, the committee could not conclude the threat of money laundering in the NPO sector in India.”
The high-powered committee comprised officials from the ministries of finance, corporate affairs, planning commission, charity commissioner, Mumbai and Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
Sources say the world body on money laundering had expressed its dismay with the Indian authorities.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Dayanidhi Maran finds a friend in CBI

Published: Friday, Jun 17, 2011, 1:45 IST
By Harish Gupta | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA

Textiles minister Dayanidhi Maran may be under extreme pressure to quit for allegedly forcing Shivashankaran to divest Aircel equity during his tenure in the telecom ministry.
Aircel had secured a telecom license but was forced to divest equity to the Malaysia-based Maxis group as Maran wouldn’t issue him the necessary permissions. Later, Maxis group invested Rs700 crores in Sun TV which is owned by the Maran family.
But the 45-page presentation made before the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) recently on the 2G spectrum was virtually silent on Maran’s role in the scam.DNA has in its possession a copy of the CBI’s presentation made by CBI director A P Singh before the 30-member JPC headed by P C Chacko.
The 45-page presentation gave a graphic account of how Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) began suo moto investigations into the 2G scam in early 2009, how the policies were formulated by respective governments beginning 1994 when the telecom sector was liberalized, how the new telecom policy was announced in 1999, the role of various ministers who held the telecom portfolio and other aspects. It also dealt with the role of jailed telecom minister A Raja extensively and every player and various corporate houses who benefited from the scam.
Without naming Arun Shourie who held the telecom portfolio during 2003-04, the presentation clearly indicated that the policy was tweaked by the TRAI chairman who fixed the entry-fee for the 4th player in the Unified Access Service Licenses (UASL) at a price which was fixed in 2001.
But the CBI reduced the Maran era to just one page saying that the FDI limit in the telecom sector was enhanced from 49% to 74% and it was announced that new licences would be issued under the new policy.
The presentation made no comment on any wrongdoing by the minister or any of the officials in the ministry from 1994 to 2010 period.
The only place Aircel found mention was on page 44 wherein CBI said that it has registered a Preliminary Enquiry (PE) which would deal with four issues namely…
“Issue1 : New UAS Licenses in 2003-04 on the basis of clarification dated 14.11.2003 of chairman TRAI on the basis of First-Come First Policy (read Arun Shourie here),
Issue 2: Continuing grant of new UAS licences on first-com-first-served basis at 2001 prices during the years 2004 to 2007 (including the allegations in Aircel-Maxis deal)
Issue 3: Allocation of spectrum beyond contracted quantity of 6.2 MHz on subscribers linked criteria since the decision dated 01.02.2002 (read Late Pramod Mahajan here)
Issue 4: Any other issue found relevant including those reported in One Man Committee’s report dated 31.01.2011.”
A senior member of the JPC disclosed that the CBI director was closely questioned on the casual manner in which Aircel had been mentioned in the presentation.
The JPC would press for a detailed report in this regard when it meets in the first week of July, these sources said.
Sources in the CBI maintained that only a PE has been registered on Aircel and a detailed note would be sent to the JPC soon.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Manmohan Singh changes tack, wants ministers to be pro active

Published: Monday, Jun 13, 2011, 1:13 IST
By Harish Gupta | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA

With Baba Ramdev ending his fast, the government is now gearing up to deal with a number of serious political issues. If prime minister Manmohan Singh decided to stay put in the capital during the scorching heat to clear the huge back-log, Congress president Sonia Gandhi decided to go on a vacation and return by the mid-week only.The Cabinet Committee on Parliament (CCP) will be meeting here on Tuesday to take a decision on convening of the parliament’s monsoon session.Sources told the DNA that the session will be held from July 20-21.

The government is fully conscious of the fact that Swami Ramdev may have been put in his place in Haridwar and Team-Anna Hazare may be on the back-foot too, the issue of corruption in high places and Lokpal will have to be addressed effectively. The prime minister has directed the Group of Ministers on Media to take pro-active steps to communicate government’s view point on black money, Lokpal and other sensitive issues. Until now, the GoM is only explaining issues raised by others and has been on the defensive.

Sources say that a massive publicity blitz on this front is likely to be launched during the coming weeks and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee will provide the much-needed input. The government is also toying with the idea of coming out with some “disclosures” on the black money to erase the impression that whatever it is doing it is because of the pro-active judiciary. With regard to Lokpal, the PM is keen for a nationwide debate whether the office of the PM and judiciary be included in the ambit of the Lokpal.

The PM is in the process of re-constituting his council of ministers to strengthen this message further. He has taken note of the comments made by defence minister AK Antony recently who had gone on record that “Netas, Babus and others are thwarting transparency revolution taking place in the country.”

Digvijay Singh played spoilsport for Congress

Published: Saturday, Jun 11, 2011, 0:11 IST By Harish Gupta
Place: New Delhi Agency: DNA

AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh may have scored a point or two with his diatribe against Baba Ramdev but the party high command is not with him as is being construed.

The party has to date kept away from the twin-troubles facing it - Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev. The party view: No need for it to be pro-active on issues raised by the duo. Let the government handle them. So, it did not interfere when the government deputed five union ministers to draft the Lok Pal Bill, nor when it constituted a 4-member Group of Ministers to talk to Ramdev.

Sources told DNA that the only question Sonia asked in the party’s core committee meeting was: Why did Pranab Mukherjee go to the airport to talk to Ramdev? That left everybody speechless. The cat was out of the bag. She was unhappy. Divijay Singh took advantage. He was aided by Union Home minister P Chidamabaram. The rest of the damage was done by Ramdev himself who turned out to be a bad negotiator.

Sources say that Digvijay Singh-Ramdev tussle had a lot more to do with Madhya Pradesh politics, that there were Congress leaders opposed to Digvijay who sided with Ramdev. These leaders point out that Swami Ramdev was neither a RSS agent and nor with the BJP. On the contrary, he was being propped up by a strong section of the Congress. The assessment was that Baba Ramdev could cause enough damage to the BJP’s vote bank.

Therefore, there is a re-think on the handling of the Ramdev issue and Digvijay Singh’s may not be the last word on Ramdev. Even otherwise, the government had been very liberal to Ramdev giving him one or the other concession and patronising him all through.

He was about to meet Rahul Gandhi when all hell broke at the Ramlila ground, and things slipped out of hand.

New terror snoop will dog your every move

Published: Tuesday, Jun 7, 2011, 1:30 IST By Harish Gupta
Place: New Delhi Agency: DNA

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) headed by prime minister Manmohan Singh on Monday gave its in-principle approval to Union home minister P Chidamabaram’s brainchild — the ambitious National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) project.

NATGRID, which was conceptualised after the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai, aims to integrate all information regarding citizens to help intelligence and security agencies tackle terror threats. This means the government will have an eye on you every time you swipe your debit or credit card, travel and make calls.

The project had been awaiting clearance since December 2010. The finance ministry had raised concerns about the infringement of privacy and had shot down a proposal to have the complete data of all savings bank account holders. Various central agencies too were apprehensive about sharing sensitive information.

The approval for NATGRID came after Chidambaram on Monday allayed fears about the misuse of privacy and confidential data.

The ministry of home affairs (MHA) made a detailed presentation about the project along with the safeguards and oversight mechanisms. NATGRID will function under the home ministry and a detailed proposal will be brought before the Centre later.

The project will have a budget of Rs2,800 crore and will be headed by Raghu Raman, 47, an ex-serviceman and former chief of the Mahindra Special Service Group.

As per plan, 21 databases will be integrated into one centralised database in order to provide quick access to the security agencies on information regarding terror suspects and internal security threats.

These include details of income tax, railways, airlines, stock exchanges, bank accounts, credit card transactions, visa and immigration records, telecom service providers and chemical vendors.

Eleven agencies, including the National Investigation Agency, Intelligence Bureau, Research and Analysis Wing, Defence Intelligence Agency, Directorate of Air Intelligence, Directorate of Naval Intelligence, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and Enforcement Directorate, will have access to the centralised database.

Security agencies had lost crucial time in scrambling for information from several agencies after the 26/11 attack. “At present, the police have to go through a long-drawn process of reaching out to different officials to garner any information on a terror suspect. This takes months. NATGRID will simplify the process and every movement of a citizen can be tracked down on the basis of real-time information,” a MHA official said.

It will have a command centre that will work as an anti-terror hotline and will have a transnational connect to networks with data available in other countries. In the first phase, NATGRID will be linked only to the databases available with the Centre and the crime records with the police. Only in the second phase, will the NATGRID cross-link different pieces of information and flag "tripwires" that indicate some unlawful or terrorist activity is in progress or likely to take place.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Eviction of Ramdev didn’t end the crisis

Published: Monday, Jun 6, 2011, 0:50 IST
By Harish Gupta | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA

Even as sudden break-down of talks between the government and Baba Ramdev after the deal had been “100% clinched” in writing is shrouded in mystery, the government is extremely worried over the nationwide fallout of the past-midnight police action to evict the yoga guru from Ramlila ground.
The government on Sunday fielded several ministers, including Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, HRD minister Kapil Sibal and tourism minister Subodh Kant Sahay, to douse the fire.
But it was keeping its fingers crossed. Ramdev has not shown any signs of relenting and vowed to continue his fight and re-enter Delhi.
The government was also aware that not only the BJP but other political parties may rally behind the iconic yoga guru. The
BSP, SP, JD(U) and civil society activists have already condemned the brutal police action.
There were clear signs of reconciliation. That despite the bitter public spat both sides had left enough room for talks when the storm blows over. If Pranab Mukherjee said that the use of force was “unfortunate”, Swami Ramdev also distanced himself from the BJP, saying his movement had nothing to do with the saffron party.
Subodh Kant Sahay, one of the key negotiators and considered close to Ramdev, gave a graphic account of the talks after clinching the mutually acceptable deal on “action taken report on black money”. He refused to hazard a guess why Swami Ramdev announced his decision to go on fast after promising to negotiators to the contrary. “It’s a mystery to me and we were forced to release his letter only when he did not give up his fast in lieu of our written commitment as promised,” he said.
The fact that instead of HRD minister Kapil Sibal, it was Sahay who faced the press through the day and Mukherjee also pitched in.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Sonia Gandhi-Manmohan Singh chemistry: Pehle aap, pehle aap!

Published: Thursday, Jun 2, 2011, 1:27 IST
By Harish Gupta | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA

The group of ministers (GoM) on media to handle 24X7 trial on TV channels, internet, and print of the government has an interesting tail that reveals the chemistry between PM Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
Both were extremely upset the way government was getting round-the-clock bashing on 2G, black money, corruption, etc. The blame was laid at the doorstep of information and broadcasting minster Ambika Soni.
Pushed to the wall, Soni got an opportunity last month to travel with the PM and Sonia and bitterly complained that no senior minister was available whenever needed by the press to rebut the charges levelled by the opposition. She doled out a couple of incidents, causing Sonia Gandhi to raise her eyebrows. But neither of them said anything to her. Perhaps each was waiting for the other to respond and the journey ended leaving Sonia baffled.
It was only the following day that the PM called Soni and told her that she should have brought the matter to his notice earlier. A GoM was formed and “UPA War Room” was created, which meets everyday. So Soni is not blamed individually for any media mess; it is a collective affair. But thus far the GoM (media) is only explaining and defending the government rather than being pro-active, be it on Anna Hazare or Swami Ramdev.
Hectic June looming:With as major decisions due to be taken, high-flying ministers are being grounded as the PM tells them to stay put in the capital as far as possible. The PM and Sonia are to decide on the long-pending cabinet reshuffle but it isn’t proving easy, especially with the PM keen for a major surgery to send out the signal that he will not tolerate tainted and inefficient persons in his cabinet. Complicating the situation is the DMK’s demand for a berth in place of A Raja while a couple of new Congress faces, such as Janardhan Dwivedi, are set to be brought in.
Meanwhile, the TMC wants Rs25000 crore for West Bengal (which is in the pipeline now) and there is talk about efforts being made to get Ajit Singh of the RLD to join the government and merge his party with the Congress. An advertisement with a photo of his late father Charan Singh by the government created a flutter. The government also has to take major decisions in respect of the Land Acquisition Act, Food Security bill, Lokpal bill, and to adequately respond to the clamour to bring back money stashed in tax-heavens. Finally, the leader of the opposition, Sushma Swaraj, is being sounded out about the appointment of new Central Vigilance Commissioner in place of PJ Thomas.
BJP face in UP: It is now almost certain that Rajnath Singh will be the BJP’s face in UP though leaders like Kalraj Mishra, Vinay Katiyar, Varun Gandhi, and others will form the core group. The BJP has decided to test the waters with its core Hindutva agenda. The decision is based on internal surveys carried out by certain professional pollsters at the behest of party chief Nitin Gadkari.
Lobbyists running for a cover: Ministers are shunning them and corporate houses are worried. With government agencies still active in tracking phone calls and emails, the mighty politicians are using landline numbers and personal meetings. Not even an SMS is welcome and no jokes on mobiles as such things have already put Amar Singh and many others in the doghouse. At least three Union ministers have quietly put up de-bugging equipment in their offices and homes that will signal that the person sitting opposite is carrying a tapping device.
Crop hits bumpers: The bumper crop this season has the government worried as food stocks are at a record 595 lakh tonnes with a storage capacity of the FCI is around 500 lakh tonnes. The private trader is not buying wheat while government doesn’t have capacity to store and the weather is playing truant. The market price is less than the minimum support price (MSP) given to the farmers. There is an export ban on foodgrains. The government doesn’t know what to do with National Advisory Council wanting 70% population covered under BPL category. Pranab Mukherjee is stretching his head as the subsidy bill closes in on the Rs80,000 crore mark.

Baba Ramdev snubs government; to go ahead with fast

Published: Wednesday, Jun 2, 2011, 14:10 IST | Updated: Wednesday, Jun 2, 2011, 23:23 IST
By Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr & Harish Gupta | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA

Yoga guru and political crusader Baba Ramdev is not just concerned about tracing and retrieving black money stashed away in Swiss and other foreign banks but also wants the corrupt to get ‘life’ or strung high, the gallows. Death for the wrongdoer, especially the corrupt, like they do in China!
He also wants some root-and-branch changes in the Constitution itself. He wants the president and the prime minister to be elected directly by the people. His government interlocutors have been trying to convince him that some of his demands were sensible, even feasible, but there were others which cannot be accepted because that would mean changing the Constitution.
The government has been telling the yoga man that political processes and administrative procedures cannot be done away with while dealing with important issues. It appears that the UPA-II government wants to pit Ramdev against Anna Hazare and his associates and it would like differences and rifts to appear in sections of civil society.
Meanwhile, Prime minister Manmohan Singh has made it clear that he was not averse to issue an Ordinance to punish the corrupt. As Ramdev wants black money traced and declared as “national asset” rather than the corrupt shown any concessions but should be punished severely, the Prime Minister was keen that some government response should be visible.
His own image has been dented in the past one year due to one or the other scam and he doesn’t want to be seen to be protecting the corrupt. He seems to have made up his mind and was willing to take firm action as was seen on the “nuclear deal issue”.
Sources close to the PM told DNA on condition of anonymity that he decided to “walk an extra mile with Ramdev to send the right signal” to countrymen. He personally went through the 12-point memorandum given to him by Ramdev and exchanged three letters with him.It was at his instance that Union Home minister P Chidambaram issued directive to the Delhi Police to allow the Yoga Guru to hold his month-long Yoga camp.
Sources also mention that the PM was keen to bring his office under the Lok Pal bill but the issue remained hanging giving an extra edge to the civil society activists like Anna Hazare. Now, the PM has taken command and was handling the Ramdev issue himself. It was largely because of this reason that he sent not only the ministers to the airport but also his principal secretary TKA Nair and cabinet secretary KM Chandrashekhar.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Pranab reaches out to Ramdev as Anna rallies activists for a fight

Published: Tuesday, May 31, 2011, 2:33 IST
By Harish Gupta | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA

A worried Manmohan Singh government on Monday swung into action to meet the twin challenges of Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare on the black-money issue and Lok Pal bill battle. The Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs, which met here this evening at the 7 Race Course residence of the PM, discussed a series of steps to be taken by the government to reach out to the civil society activist and the yoga guru.
Highly placed sources told DNA that Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee has written to Baba Ramdev listing steps taken by the government to bring ill-gotten money stashed abroad. He also replied point-by-point to the yoga guru, assuring him that the government was working hard in this direction. With regard to the demonetization of high value currency notes, Mukherjee was non-committal.
In order to establish the sincerity of the government, Mukherjee informed him that the CCPA has cleared the setting up of a new “Directorate of Criminal Prosecution of Income-Tax violators”. So far, the law was only for imposing financial penalties on IT violators. Now, the Union Finance Minister has promised to treat IT violators as criminals.
The government was also worried about the threat issued by the civil social activists on the Lok Pal bill and the Dr Manmohan Singh made it clear that he would like the office of the PM to be brought under its purview. Law minister M Veerappa Moily will discuss the issue with other political parties too.
Meanwhile, the government also came down from its hardened stand of not disclosing the names of IT defaulters. As the amount of tax-arrears has run into over more than Rs one lakh crore, the Income Tax (I-T) department was working on plans to publish their names in newspapers.

Black money: Baba Ramdev's hunger strike threat has government acting hot and cold

Published: Monday, May 30, 2011, 1:09 IST
By Harish Gupta | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA
The Manmohan Singh government is adopting a “carrot and stick” policy to deal with yoga guru Baba Ramdev’s threat to hold an indefinite hunger strike in Delhi, beginning June 4, demanding immediate visible action on black money creators and hoarders.
While Union home minister P Chidambaram directed the Delhi Police to refuse permission to Ramdev to hold any dharna at the Ramlila grounds, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee has promised action on his demands. Mukherjee not only met him for more than an hour but also dispatched chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes Sudhir Chandra for further action. Ramdev was reported to be extremely upset with the Income-Tax department for digging up his old house in Narnaul in Haryana in search of black money.
Sudhir Chandra has apologised to the yoga guru.
The government has constituted a committee headed by Sudhir Chandra to examine ways for strengthening laws to curb generation of black money and prevent its transfer abroad, besides recovering such illegal assets. The committee will consult various stakeholders and submit its report within six months, a statement from the finance ministry said.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

News and analysis :The meaning of Seth’s appointment as Cabinet Secretary

Harish Gupta. New Delhi

It seems the Prime Minister decided to play safe and appointed senior-most IAS officer of 1974 batch of the UP cadre was made as the next Cabinet Secretary. Seth will replace K M Chandrashekhar who has a record of serving for four years in a row. He will retire on June 13. Earlier, he was toying with the idea of giving a short extension to Chandrashekhar due to certain exigencies. But he had a change of heart before his departure to Ethiopia and decided to bring in Seth. Indeed, Seth’s name had emerged on top after the PM conducted personal interviews with six senior IAS officers last month for the post.

Surprisingly, Seth was never given any important role as secretary of any key department in the government prior to being elevated as Cabinet Secretary. He served as Resident Commissioner for four years in UP Bhawan here despite being the senior-most officer and when Mayawati shunted him out, the Centre was not equally cool. He was given an insignificant posting as Secretary Coordination. But his rise has surprised many as he will service for two years as stipulated even after superannuation. Since that will be an election year, he may continue if found fit.

There is a strong possibility that R K Singh will replace G K Pillai as home secretary soon and Rajan Mathai may be inducted as the next Foreign Secretary in place of Nirupama Rao. It is also certain that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee will have a final word in choosing his finance secretary when Sushma Nath retires this month end. The Defence Ministry will also have a new secretary when Pradeep Kumar retires on July 31.

Sources say that the Prime Minister is very careful in selecting the new Central Vigilance

Commissioner (CVC) as he has badly burnt his fingers in the P J Thomas case. The new guidelines for the selection of CVC are being finalized and the PM would like to seek the concurrence rather than merely consulting the Leader of the Opposition, Sushma Swaraj. She is a member of the selection committee and had given her written dissent in the P J Thomas case. The new guidelines stipulate that apart from a bureaucrat, any member of the public or judiciary can become a CVC if he fits into the criterion. The PM wants to send a right signal by appointing a new CVC at a time when public attention is focused on war against corruption.

The Prime Minister is also aware that the ensuing Monsoon session is going to be tough one as the role of his own office in the 2G spectrum, ISRO-Devas deal, Commonweath Games will come under attack. The Opposition is gearing up to launch a full offensive against the UPA and set to bring fresh cases of corruption. The BJP has already signaled that it has documents relating to Coal scam while the Left is gunning for cases in the National Highways.

Farmers to get 80% profit in land

Published: Wednesday, May 25, 2011, 0:05 IST
By DNA Correspondent Place: New Delhi  Agency: DNA

Populism is the buzzword these days in the government and it seems ministries are competing with each other to win the race in UPA. While the mining ministry had proposed that companies will have to share a part of their profits with the people whose land is acquired for mining purposes, rural development minister Vilasrao Deshmukh has proposed a moon to farmers.

 Coming as it does in the backdrop of agitation by farmers of Bhatta Parasul in UP whose land is acquired by the Mayawati government, former Maharashtra chief minister is set to win Rahul Gandhi’s heart.

Deshmukh has proposed a new clause in the Land Acquisition bill which is set to be introduced in the coming monsoon session of parliament. He has proposed to raise the compensation to farmers whose land is acquired for commercial purposes to the tune of 80% of profits in the venture.

Since UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and prime minister Manmohan Singh have assured agitators that the new Land Acquisition bill will protect the interests of the farmers, Deshmukh has said land developers will have to give 80% of their profits to the person whose land is acquired. This would ensure that farmers don’t end up selling land at a bargain, which is then exploited by commercial developers.

Deshmukh explained in an interview that he had proposed that 80% of profits be given to those whose land is acquired in addition to the cash compensation given at the time of the acquisition of the land. He said if a farmer is given Rs1 lakh for his one acre of land and later, the same land is sold for Rs30 lakh after development, he or she be given 80% of profits after deducting the development cost and taxes.

It may be mentioned that Haryana was the first state under the Congress chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda which provided for Rs10,000 per year per acre for 30 years to farmers whose land was acquired for any purpose. The land compensation per acre was raised to Rs20 lakh per acre. Mayawati went a step further and raised it to Rs15,000 per acre per year for 33 years.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A bend in the African river gives Indian sails a friendly push

Harish Gupta | Monday, May 23, 2011

India’s “look Africa” policy has started paying rich dividends and the second India-Africa Forum Summit, beginning in Addis Ababa, is a major milestone.
With Prime Minister Manmohan Singh travelling to Addis Ababa on May 23, offering $5.50 billion for the African continent’s development and rolling out free-trade agreements, a new chapter is being written. China’s aggressive investments in Africa, pegged at nearly $50-60 billion over the next ten years, have however caused some jitters.
But a trip to Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria recently has left me in no doubt that India still has the edge over China. Even Indian private entrepreneurs who made deep inroads in London, Washington and other European capitals and had failed to look towards this under-developed, untapped, mineral-rich continent, have started making a bee-line with investment proposals. Airtel’s aggressive entry into 16 African countries and efforts to takeover MTN has changed the entire perspective.

CBI drags fair name of prime minister's office into 2G scam

Published: Saturday, May 21, 2011, 3:08 IST
By Harish Gupta | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA
There is no stopping the CBI. It has dragged the prime minister's office into the second generation mobile telephony spectrum allocation scam supplementary charge sheet involving Kanimozhi.
The 48-page supplementary charge sheet filed by the CBI on April 26 accusing her of involvement in the scam contains a paragraph which has the prime minister seething with anger and disbelief.
The CBI functions directly under the prime minister's and charge sheets in sensitive cases are vetted by top legal officers but the prime minister's officeperhaps did not do so in the instant case and hence this acute embarrassment. While the main focus of the charge sheet was that Kanimozhi connived with A Raja and took a Rs209-crore bribe in the name of Kalaingnar TV where she holds 20% stake and another 60% is in the name of Karunanidhi’s second wife Dayalu Amma, it also charged her of actively lobbying to get Raja reappointed as telecom minister in 2009 for such gains.
DNA has a copy of the 48-page charge sheet in which the CBI not only dragged the prime minister's office but indirectly leading TV and print journalists and also other intermediaries (?) who helped Raja get re-appointed as telecom minister.
The crucial paragraph at page number 22 of the charge sheet reads: “She also actively pursued with intermediaries and DMK Hqrs the matter regarding reappointment of accused A Raja (A-1) as minister of communications & information technology in 2009 which clearly establishes the strong association of accused Ms Kanimozhi (A-17) and accused A Raja (A-1) in the official/political matters”.
What is surprising is that neither the names of the intermediaries have been mentioned in the charge sheet nor that of any others with whom Kanimozhi lobbied with to make Raja telecom minister second time.
Officials in the prime minister's office are wonder-struck as to why the lobbying part was incorporated in the supplementary charge sheet as it had to do with the bribery part and the lobbying part was not even relevant to the case.
When contacted, CBI director AP Singh brushed the question aside, saying nothing much should be read into this as it established the proximity between the two. When asked why the names of intermediaries and the lobbyists who helped Raja become a minister were not mentioned in the supplementary charge sheet, he said, “They should be there.” When told that the supplementary charge sheet list of witnesses contained no names, he said, “I will look into it.”
Singh has already ruffled many feathers by his straightforward and no-nonsense approach. However, he has caused jitters this time round as a number of top Congress functionaries may be dragged into the case.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Kanimozhi vacates room in Tamil Nadu guesthouse

Published: Monday, May 16, 2011, 1:06 IST
By DNA Correspondent | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA

Kanimozhi, a Rajya Sabha MP and daughter DMK chief M Karunanidhi vacated her room in Tamil Nadu guesthouse in Delhi on Saturday.
The state government had made a special provision and allotted her a room.
As a first-term MP, she was entitled to an MPs flat which was allotted to her in a multi-storeyed building. The 43-year-old DMK MP took her luggage and drove to her Swarnajayanthi apartment meant for MPs.
Since she got a temporary reprieve from court on Saturday and the case is listed for judgment on May 20, she may have been apprehensive about a possible ransack of her room by the new government in Tamil Nadu.
She was seen walking alone as no state government employee assisted her. Earlier, at least eight to 10 officials rendered all support. Those courtesies were missing.

As cyber attacks rise, India sets up central command to fight back

Published: Sunday, May 15, 2011, 0:15 IST
By Harish Gupta | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA

Alarmed over rising cyber attacks from “White hats” in Pakistan and the Chinese “Honker Union” on Indian websites and computer networks, the Manmohan Singh government is in the process of establishing a Cyber Command & Control Authority.
The recent efforts of hackers from mafia groups in erstwhile Soviet Union countries to penetrate even the well-protected defence network prompted the government to set up a central command rather than leave it to each ministry and department to handle the problem.
A senior official involved with the cyber command programme told DNA that despite intelligence agencies issuing “regular warnings against possible hacking”, there had been little success in countering the attacks, forcing the change in approach from the government. However, the minister for communications and IT, Sachin Pilot, won’t go beyond saying that “the government has formulated a crisis management plan for countering cyber attacks and cyber terrorism”.
A crucial aspect of fighting a cyber attack is to launch a counter-attack, with the help of private IT experts if required. These experts are known as “white hats” if they work for state agencies. For example, when Delhi police recently arrested a software engineer Bhupinder Singh in a hacking case, it discovered that the person had once hacked some key computer networks in Pakistan. Bhupinder Singh is in fact considered amongst theworld’s ace cyber hackers and worked for a fee.
The white hats may work for the government without being directly on the rolls. The “black hats”, on the other hand, are hackers who obtain sensitive data for criminal activities. The Chinese hackers, known as Honker Union, who succeeded in penetrating Google servers last year and even broke the source code of Microsoft, are believed to have state patronage.
The need to establish a unified cyber Command is considered vital because cyber attacks are going to be part of future warfare.
There was some debate over whether this command should be under one of the ministries or directly under the prime minister, but now it has been placed under the National Security Adviser who reports to the PM.
It is learnt that officials in the national security apparatus have already interacted with the US, whose CYBYERCOMM works as a central command. The need for it was felt when websites of NASA, the state department and commerce department were hacked in 2007. The hackers disabled 2000 computers of theUS Army and also penetrated the networks of VISA, MasterCard and Paypal. In Britain, the parliament’s website faced the same fate, following which a cyber command on the lines of the US system was established at a cost of 650 million pounds. The US is also believed to have carried out cyber warfare by infecting the Iranian nuclear network with the Stuxnet computer worm.
In a confidential dossier, the US informed India that more than 100 attacks take place every day from all over the world to break its security network. It is in this backdrop that India is now establishing its own central cyber command authority under the PMO.