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The President’s speech: Charting out reform

March 7th, 2013 No comments

Yesterday the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha engaged in a debate on the President’s speech, known as the Motion of Thanks. The President’s speech is a statement of the legislative and policy achievements of the government during the preceding year and gives a broad indication of the agenda for the year ahead. Close to the end of the UPA government’s term, it would be useful to evaluate the status of the commitments made in the President’s addresses. (To know more about the significance of the President’s speech refer to this Indian Express article. To understand the broad policy and legislative agenda outlined in this year’s address see this PRS Blog.)

The President’s speeches since the beginning of the 15th Lok Sabha in 2009, have addressed reforms to the financial and social sectors, improving accountability of public officials, and making the delivery of public services more efficient.  We analyse the status of each of these commitments.

Accountability in governance processes

In an effort to increase accountability and transparency in governance processes, the government introduced a number of Bills.

  • The the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill and the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill enable individuals to file complaints against judges and other government officials for corruption and misbehaviour.
  • The Whistleblowers Bill has been introduced to protect persons who are making disclosures on corruption, on the misuse of power and on criminal offences by public servants.

These bills have been passed by the Lok Sabha and are pending in the Rajya Sabha.  The government has recently approved amendments to the Lokpal Bill, which may be considered by the Rajya Sabha in the Budget session.

Public service delivery

In order to make public service delivery more efficient, the government introduced the Electronic Services Delivery Bill and the Citizen’s Charter Bill.

  • The Electronic Services Delivery Bill aims to deliver all government services electronically .
  • The Citizens Charter Bill creates a grievance redressal process for complaints against the functioning of any public authority.
  • Both Bills are pending in the Lok Sabha since introduction in December 2011.
  • Related initiatives include linking the delivery of public services to Aadhaar and moving towards the cash transfer of subsidies. On January 1, 2013, the government piloted cash transfers to deliver subsidies for scholarships and pensions.

Social sector reforms: land, food security and education

Broad sectoral reforms have been undertaken in land acquisition, food security and education to aid development and economic growth.

  • Land:  In 2011, the government introduced the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill. The Standing Committee Report on the Bill was released in May last year, based on which the government circulated a list of amendments to the Bill in December 2012.
  • Education: Elementary and middle school education saw reform in 2009 with the passage of the Right to Education Act (RTE Act). This legislation provides every child between the age of six to fourteen years with the right to free and compulsory education. As per the law, by March 2013 all schools are to conform to the minimum standards prescribed. States have expressed concerns over their preparedness in meeting this requirement and it remains to be seen how the government addresses this issue.
  • Food security: The National Food Security Bill is pending in Parliament since 2011. The Bill seeks to make food security a legal entitlement, reform the existing Public Distribution System and explore innovative mechanisms such as cash transfer and food coupons for the efficient delivery of food grains. The Standing Committee gave its recommendations on the Bill in January this year.

Financial sector reforms

In order to aid growth and encourage investments, the President had mapped out necessary financial sector reforms.

  • Taxation: The Direct Taxes Code has been introduced in Parliament to enhance tax realisation. However, even though the Standing Committee has presented its report, there has been little progress on the Bill. Efforts are underway to build political consensus on the Goods and Services Tax to rationalise indirect taxes.
  • Regulation of specific sectors: A bill to regulate the pension sector has been introduced in Parliament. Other financial sector reforms include a new Companies Bill, amendments to the Banking laws and a bill regulating the insurance sector.  Amendments to the banking laws have been approved by Parliament, while those to the Companies Bill have only been passed by the Lok Sabha.

In the backdrop of these legislations, it will be interesting to see the direction the recommendations of the Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission, responsible for redrafting all financial sector regulation, takes.

Internal security

The government is taking measures to deal with internal security concerns such as terrorism and naxalism. In 2009, the President mentioned that the government has proposed the setting up of a National Counter Terrorism Centre. However, this has been on hold since March 2011.

At the beginning of the 15th Lok Sabha in June 2009, the President presented the 100 day agenda of the UPA II government, in his address. Of the eight bills listed for passing within 100 days, none have been passed. In addition, the President’s address in 2009 mentioned five other Bills, from which, only the RTE Act has been passed.  In the final year of its tenure, it needs to be seen what are the different legislative items and economic measures, on which the government would be able to build consensus across the political spectrum.

 

President’s address 2013 and the status of past promises

February 28th, 2013 2 comments

The Budget session 2013 commenced with the President, Pranab Mukherjee, addressing Parliament on February 21, 2013.  The address is a statement of the policy of the government.  Yesterday a Motion of Thanks was moved in the Lok Sabha and a detailed discussion took place on the President’s address.  (The significance of the President’s speech has been discussed in an article published in the Indian Express.)

Below are some legislative and policy items from the agenda of the central government outlined in the speech.

  • Amend the Prevention of Corruption Act to punish the guilty and protect the honest public servants more effectively.
  • The Direct Benefits Transfer system has been launched to enable government sponsored benefits such as scholarships, pensions and maternity benefits to be deposited in the beneficiaries Aadhaar linked accounts. This will be expanded to cover wages and subsidies on food and LPG. This system will not substitute public services and will be complementary to the Public Distribution System.
  • In a bid to promote Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises, 20% of all government procurement is required to be from Micro and Small Enterprises.
  • The coverage under the Mid-day Meal Programme to be expanded to pre-primary schools.
  • Godown storage capacity of 181 lakh tons will be created between 2013 and 2015 across the country with additional storage space of 5.4 lakh tons in the North East.
  • A Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project for Low Income States, estimated at nearly Rs 5000 crore, is being developed to assist States that are lagging behind in the coverage of piped water supply.
  • Two and a half lakh gram panchayats will be connected with broadband facility under the National Optical Fibre Network project by December 2014.
  • A shift in central funding to states for higher education through a new programme called the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan is being considered.
  • The government proposes to establish two new major ports at Sagar Island, West Bengal and the other in Andhra Pradesh, with a total additional capacity of around 100 Million Tonnes Per Annum (MTPA).  ‘In-principle’ approval has been given for setting up an airport at Aranmula (Kerala) apart from airports at Navi Mumbai, Mopa (Goa) and Kannur (Kerela).
  • In 2012-13, 2600 km of roads are expected to be constructed and contracts for 3000 km of new roads are expected to be awarded. A new approach to road construction, the EPC mode, has been put in place. A length of 2900 km of highways will be put under the Operate, Maintain and Transfer system, which will improve road maintenance.

Legislative and policyagenda outlined in President’s addresses between 2009-2012 and their  status

Legislation/Policy

Status

Legislations mentioned in the President’s Address between 2009-12

To be introduced
Goods and Services Tax Constitutional Amendment Bill introduced
The National Food Security Bill Introduced
Amend the Land Acquisition Act and enact the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill Introduced
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention Prohibition and Redressal) Bill Passed
The Whistleblower Bill Pending
The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill Pending
The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill Pending
A model Public Services Law (to cover officials providing important social services and commits them to their duties) Two bills introduced: the Electronic Services Delivery Bill and the Citizen’s Charter Bill
The Right to Free and Compulsory Education Bill Passed
The National Council for Higher Education Bill Introduced
Foreign Educational Institutions Bill Introduced
Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill Passed
The Women’s Reservation Bill Pending
The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Bill Introduced
The Public Procurement Bill Introduced
The General Anti-Avoidance Rules Scheduled for 2016[1]
Amend of RTI Act (to provide for disclosure by government in all non-strategic areas) To be introduced

Policy items mentioned in the President’s Addresses between 2009-2012

National Mission for Female Literacy – all women to be literate by 2013-14 National Literacy Mission recast in September 2009 to focus on female literacy; as per 2011 census the female literacy rate in India is 65.46%[2]
Disposal of remaining claims in 2010 under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act As on February 28, 2010, 27.16 lakh claims had been filed, 7.59 lakh titles had been distributed and 36,000 titles were ready for distribution;[3] as on July 31, 2012, the number of claims filed for the recognition of forest rights and titles distributed are 32.28 lakh and 12.68 lakh respectively[4]
Introduction of Minimum Support Price (MSP) for Minor Forest Produce (MFP) being considered Based on the recommendations of the Committee constituted by Ministry of Panchayati Raj to look into aspects of MSP, Value addition and marketing of MFP in Fifth Schedule Areas, a Central Sector Scheme of MSP for MFP has been contemplated[5]
Voting rights for Indian citizens living abroad Bill passed; NRIs can vote at the place of residence mentioned in their passport
12th Plan target growth 9% with 4% growth for the agricultural sector GDP grew by 5.4% and the agriculture sector by 1.8% in the first half of the current fiscal year (2012-13)
Establish national investment and manufacturing zones to promote growth in manufacturing Under the National Manufacturing Policy, 12 National Investment and Manufacturing Zones are notified, 8 of them along the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor and 4 others at Nagpur, Tumkur, Chittor and Medak
Strengthening public accountability of flagship programmes by the creation of an Independent Evaluation Office. Government has approved setting up of an Independent Evaluation Office and the Governing Board will be chaired by Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission
Unique Identity Card scheme to be implemented by 2011-12 Bill to give statutory status pending in Parliament; enrollment until February 2013 is approximately 28 crore[6]
Establishment of National Counter-Terrorism Centre Proposed launch of NCTC in March 2011 on hold as consultation with states is on; meeting held by the union government with the Chief Ministers of all the States in May 2012
Conversion of analog cable TV system to digital by December 2014 Government has implemented the first phase of digitization in Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai; by March 31, 2013, 38 cities with a population of more than one million will be covered
A roadmap for judicial reform to be outlined by the end of 2009 and implemented in a time-bound manner Vision statement formulated in 2009 outlining road map for improving justice delivery and legal reforms and steps to reduce pendency in Courts; setting up of a National Mission for the Delivery of Justice and Legal Reforms to improve court administration and reduce pendency was approved in June 2011

*Introduced means introduced in one House; Pending means passed by one House and pending in the other House; Passed means passed by both Houses of Parliament.


[1] “Major Recommendations of Expert Committee on GAAR Accepted”, Press Information Bureau, Ministry of Finance, January 14, 2013.

[2] Lok Sabha, Starred Question No. 175, December 5, 2012, Ministry of Human Resource Development.

[3] Lok Sabha, Unstarred Question No. 2672, March 12, 2010, Ministry of Tribal Affairs.

[4] Lok Sabha, Starred Question No. 108, August 17, 2012, Ministry of Tribal Affairs.

[5] “PM approves Constitution of National Council for Senior Citizens”, Press Information Bureau, February 1, 2012, Prime Minister’s Office.

All you want to know about the President’s power of ordinance making

February 5th, 2013 1 comment

The President issued the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance on February 3, 2013. This ordinance amends the Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and the Indian Evidence Act. Here we explain what an ordinance is, how it is made and with what frequency it is used.

This article was first published on Rediff and can be accessed here.

What is an ordinance and who makes it?

Under the Constitution, the power to make laws rests with the legislature. However, in cases when Parliament is not in session, and ‘immediate action’ is needed, the President can issue an ordinance. An ordinance is a law, and could introduce legislative changes.

The Supreme Court has clarified that the legislative power to issue ordinances is ‘in the nature of an emergency power’ given to the executive only ‘to meet an emergent situation’. An example of immediacy can be seen in the ordinance passed in 2011 to give IIIT – Kancheepuram the status of an institute of national importance so that students could be awarded their degrees on completion of their course.

What will happen to the ordinance when Parliament meets for the Budget session?

After the ordinance is notified it is to be laid before Parliament within 6 weeks of its first sitting. The first sitting of Parliament in the Budget session this year will be February 21, 2013. Parliament could either choose to pass the ordinance, disapprove it or it may lapse within the 6 week time frame.  In addition, the President may chose to withdraw the ordinance.

Once the ordinance is laid in Parliament, the government introduces a Bill addressing the same issue. This Bill is supposed to highlight the reasons that necessitated the issue of the Ordinance. Thereafter, the Bill follows the regular law making process.

An amendment to Criminal Laws addressing similar issues is currently pending in Parliament. How will this play out vis-à-vis the ordinance?

The ordinance gives effect to some of the provisions of the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2012, with some modifications.

In the upcoming Budget session the government may introduce a new Bill replacing both the Ordinance and the Amendment Bill currently pending in Parliament. The parliamentary Standing Committee is currently examining the Amendment Bill and is expected to submit its report by the end of March.

How often does the President use this power to make ordinances?

Data over the last 60 years indicates that 1993 saw the highest number of ordinances being passed, i.e. 34. In comparison, a fewer number of ordinances are now being issued. For example, in the last 10 years the average number of ordinances issued per year is 6.

National Green Tribunal on Appeal of Forest Clearances

December 6th, 2012 1 comment

In recent news reports there have been deliberations on whether there is a possibility of appealing a central government decision on forest clearances.  In this context, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed states to comply with the statutory requirement of passing an order notifying diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes.  It has also held that it can hear appeals from the orders of state governments and other authorities on forest clearances.

The NGT was established in 2010 to deal with cases relating to environmental protection, and conservation of forests and other natural resources.  The need was felt to have a mechanism to hear appeals filed by aggrieved citizens against government orders on forest clearances.  For instance, the NGT can hear appeals against an order of the appellate authority, state government or pollution control board under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.

How is a forest clearance obtained?

Obtaining a forest clearance is a key step in the process of setting up a project.  Recently the Chhatrasal coal mine allotted to Reliance Power’s 4,000 MW Sasan thermal power project in Madhya Pradesh has received forest clearance.  The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) first gives ‘in-principle’ approval to divert forest land for non-forest purposes based on the recommendations of the Forest Advisory Committee.  This approval is subject to the project developer complying with certain conditions.  Once these conditions are complied with, the central government issues the final clearance.  It is only after this clearance that the state government passes an order notifying the diversion of forest land.  The NGT’s decision deals with this point in the process during which an appeal can be filed against the order of forest clearance.  For the flowchart put out by the MoEF on the procedure for obtaining a forest clearance, see here.

What was the NGT’s ruling on forest clearances?

The NGT was hearing an appeal against a forest clearance given by the MoEF to divert 61 hectares of forest land for a hydroelectric project by GMR in Uttarakhand.  The NGT has ruled  that it does not have the jurisdiction to hear appeals against forest clearances given to projects by the MoEF.  However, the NGT has the power to hear appeals on an order or decision made by a state government or other authorities under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.  The judgment observed that though Section 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 requires that state governments pass separate orders notifying the diversion of land, this requirement is not being followed.  The NGT has directed that state governments pass a reasoned order notifying the diversion of the forest land for non-forest purposes, immediately after the central government has given its clearance.  This will allow aggrieved citizens to challenge the forest clearance of a project after the state government has passed an order.  Additionally, the NGT has also directed the MoEF to issue a notification streamlining the procedure to be adopted by state governments and other authorities for passing orders granting forest clearance under section 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.

There are some concerns that an appeal to the NGT can only be made after the state government has passed an order notifying the diversion of forest land and significant resources have been invested in the project.

What is the status of applications for forest clearances made to the MoEF?

The MoEF has given approval to 1126 proposals that involve the diversion of 15,639 hectares of forest land from July 13, 2011 to July 12, 2012.  The category of projects accorded the most number of approvals was road projects (308) followed by transmission lines (137).  Some of the other categories of projects that received clearance for a significant number of projects were mining, hydel and irrigation projects.  However, most land was diverted for mining related projects i.e., 40% of the total forest land diverted in this period.  Figure 1 shows a break up of the extent of forest land diverted for various categories of projects.  The number of forest clearances pending for decision by the MoEF for applications made in the years 2012, 2011 and 2010 are 197, 129 and 48 respectively. [i]

Source: “Environmental Clearance accorded from 13.07.2011 to 12.07.2012”, October 12, 2012, MoEF.

 

[1] MoEF,  Rajya Sabha, Unstarred Question no. 2520, September 4, 2012

De-allocation of coal blocks

November 22nd, 2012 No comments

Recently, the government issued letters de-allocating coal blocks of various companies, based on the recommendations of the  Inter Ministerial Group (IMG).  This post discusses the history behind the de-allocations, the parameters the IMG used while examining the progress of various coal blocks and the action that has been taken by the government.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) released a performance audit report on ‘Allocation of Coal Blocks and Augmentation of Coal Production’ on August 17, 2012.  Some of the key findings of the Report were:

  • The government failed to conduct competitive bids for the allocation of coal blocks.  This resulted in a benefit of  Rs 1.86 lakh crore (approx.) to private allottees.  The government could have tapped some of this financial benefit by expediting the decision on competitive bidding for allocation of coal blocks.
  • The implementation schedule of a number of coal blocks has been delayed by one to ten years.  This schedule relates to the time frame within which the Mining Plan for the block has to be approved, various clearances have to be submitted, land acquired, etc.
  • From 2005, the Ministry of Coal (MoC) required the allottees to provide bank guarantees which would be encashed if they failed to meet the above mentioned milestones.  The CAG observed that there was a delay in introducing the bank guarantee and linking it with milestones.

The IMG on Coal was constituted for the periodic review of the development of coal blocks and end use plants.  The IMG had requested a status paper from the Coal Controller, MoC.  This has been submitted to the IMG but is not available.  The IMG will decide if private allottees have made substantial progress based on certain parameters.  The parameters used by IMG are:  approval of Mining Plan, status of environment and forest clearance, grant of mining lease and progress made in land acquisition. They are also examining the physical status of End Use Plant (EUP), investment made and the expected date of opening of the mine and commissioning of EUP.

The IMG has made the following recommendations:

  • The coal blocks of companies that have not made substantial progress should be de-allocated.  Additionally, they have recommended the deduction of bank guarantee in the cases where the private companies have not reached the milestones as per the time line decided upon.  As of November 22, 2012, the IMG has recommended the de-allocation of the coal blocks listed in Table 1 and the deduction of bank guarantees for the coal blocks in Table 2.
  • Since, the system of bank guarantee was only introduced in March 2005, not all coal blocks had submitted a bank guarantee.  Where a bank guarantee has not been provided but there is substantial progress in meeting the milestones, the IMG may require the allottee to submit a bank guarantee.

Table 1: Coal Blocks Recommended for De-allocation by the IMG (as of November 22, 2012)

Coal BlockAllotteeCaptive End Use
Source: "Government Deallocates three more Coal Blocks," PIB, September 18, 2012, Ministry of Coal; "IMG Recommends Deallocation of Three More Blocks," PIB, September 19, 2012, Ministry of Coal; Ministry of Coal, http://coal.nic.in/letters.htm; PRS
Gourangdih ABC, West BengalHimachal EMTA Power Ltd and JSW Steel LtdPower
Rawanwara North, Madhya PradeshSKS Ispat and Power LtdSponge Iron
New Patrapara, OrissaBhushan Steel LtdSponge Iron
Brahmdiha, JharkhandCastron Mining LtdIron and Steel
Chinora/Warora (West), MaharashtraFieldmining and Ispat LtdSponge Iron
North Dhadu, JharkhandElectrosteel Castings LtdSponge Iron
Choritand Tailaya, JharkhandRungta Mines Ltd, Sunflag Iron and Steel LtdSponge Iron
Bhaskarpara, ChhattisgarhElectrotherm India Ltd, Grasim Industries LtdSponge Iron
Dahegaon/ Makardhokra-IV, MaharashtraIST Steel & Power Ltd, Gujarat Ambuja Cement Ltd, Lafarge India LtdSteel, Sponge Iron and Cement
Gondkhari, MaharashtraMaharashtra Seamless Ltd, Dhariwal Infra Ltd, Kersoram Industries LtdSponge Iron and Cement
Macherkunda, JharkhandBihar Sponge Iron LtdSponge Iron
Lalgarh (North), JharkhandDOMCO Smokeless Fuels Pvt LtdPig iron

Table 2: Coal Blocks for which Bank Guarantees Recommended to be Deducted by the IMG (as of November 22, 2012)

Coal Block AllotteeCaptive End Use
Source: "Government Deallocates three more Coal Blocks," PIB, September 19, 2012, Ministry of Coal; "Updated List of Coal Blocks," December 16, 2011, Ministry of Coal; Ministry of Coal, http://coal.nic.in/letters.htm; PRS.
Nerad Malegaon, Maharashtra Gupta Metaliks and Power Ltd, Gupta Coalfields LtdSponge Iron
Lohari, Jharkhand Usha Martin LtdSponge Iron
Radhikapur East, Orissa Tata Sponge Iron LtdSponge Iron
Bijahan, Orissa Bhushan Ltd Sponge Iron
Seregraha, Jharkhand Arcelor Mittal Indian Ltd, GVK Power LtdPower
Durgapur-II/Sariya, Chhattisgarh DB Power LtdPower
Dumri, Jharkhand Nilanchal Iron and Steel Ltd, Bajran Ispat Pvt LtdSponge Iron
Moitra, Jharkhand Jayaswal Neco Ind. LtdSponge Iron
Marki Mangli-II, III and IV Blocks, Maharashtra Shri Virangana Steels Ltd Sponge Iron
Bhaskarpara, ChhattisgarhElectrotherm (India)
Ltd
Sponge Iron
Dahegaon/Makardhokra-IV, MaharashtraIST Steel & Power Ltd Steel & Sponge Iron
Moitra, JharkhandJayaswal Neco LtdSponge Iron
Jitpur, JharkhandJindal Steel and Power LtdPower
Gondkhari, MaharashtraMaharashtra Seamless
Limited
Sponge Iron
Of the coal blocks that the IMG has recommended for de-allocation, until now the government has accepted the de-allocation of the following: Bramhadih block, Gourangdih, New Patrapara, Chinora block, Warora (Southern Part) block, Lalgarh (North) block, Bhaskarpara block, Dahegaon/Makardhokra-IV block, Gondkhari block and Ramanwara North block.  The government has accepted the deduction of bank guarantees for blocks such as Moitra, Jitpur, Bhaskarpara, Durgapur II/Sariya, Dahegaon/Makardhokra-IV, Marki Mangli II, III and IV, Gondhkari, Lohari, Radhikapur East, Bijahan and Nerad Malegaon. The letters issued by the government de-allocating coal blocks and deducting bank guarantees are available here.

For a detailed summary of the CAG Report, click here.

N(I)AB-ing that environmental clearance

October 18th, 2012 2 comments

There has been much discussion about bringing the GDP growth on track and the need for expediting infrastructure projects in this regard. At the Planning Commission Meeting to approve the Twelfth Five Year Plan, last month, there were concerns about the  implementation of such  projects because of the delay in the grant of environment and forest clearances.

In this context, there has been talk of setting up a singular body that will grant approvals for large infrastructure projects. News reports suggest that the government is considering forming a National Investment Approval Board (NIAB). The NIAB will be responsible for expediting the clearances for mega project proposals above a certain financial threshold. The Board would be headed by the Prime Minister and will have the authority to provide the ‘final decision’ on investment projects. According to news reports, the NIAB will be the final decision making body. The Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) has raised concerns that this would create ambiguity in the current process of granting clearance for projects. While the formation of the NIAB is still being deliberated and discussed, it would be relevant to understand the process that the MoEF follows before granting clearance to a project and look at data on number of clearances granted and pending.

The MoEF has developed certain processes to examine the potential environmental impact of new projects or expansion of existing projects. These are contained in the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006. This notification empowers the Expert Appraisal Committees (EAC) to review the environmental impact of projects. The EAC carries out a combination of these steps depending on the classification of the project:

  • Screening: To determine whether the project requires further study for preparing the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
  • Scoping: Setting clear guidelines that state the environmental concerns identified in the project.
  • Public Consultation: To ascertain the concerns of the local persons affected by the environmental impacts of the project.
  • Appraisal: The EAC studies the application, final EIA report, and outcome of the public consultations and makes its recommendations to the MoEF.

The MoEF considers the grant of environmental clearance to development projects in terms of the provisions of EIA Notification, 2006. From July 13, 2011 to July 12, 2012 the MoEF has given environmental clearances to 209 development projects. For a sector wise break up see Table 1.

Table 1: Number of Environment Clearances Accorded

Sector No.  of  projects
accorded EC
Industry (Steel & Cement)

88

Thermal Power

29

River Valley and Hydro-electric

6

Coal Mining

29

Non-Coal Mining

25

National Highways

32

Total

209

Source: “Environmental Clearance accorded from 13.07.2011 to 12.07.2012”, MoEF

A total of 593 proposals are pending for environmental clearance as on August 13, 2012.[i]

It remains to be seen how the process of granting clearances as established by the MoEF will be reconciled with the expedited process of the NIAB.


[i] MoEF, Lok Sabha, Unstarred Question no. 637, August 13, 2012,

Bill to amend regulation of chemical weapons passed by Parliament

September 3rd, 2012 2 comments

The Chemical Weapons Convention (Amendment) Bill, 2010 (the Bill) was recently passed by the Lok Sabha without any amendment.  The Chemical Weapons Convention Act, 2000 (the Act) was enacted to give effect to the United Nations Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction (the CWC).  The CWC aims to eliminate chemical weapons by prohibiting their development, acquisition, stockpiling, transfer or use by State Parties. The 188 State Parties of the CWC are required to take the steps necessary to prohibit these activities within their jurisdiction. India signed the Convention on January 14, 1993.

The Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on April 16, 2010 by the Minister of State in the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, Mr. Srikant Kumar Jena.  The Standing Committee submitted its report on August 3, 2010. This Bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha on May 3, 2012 with some amendments based on the recommendations of the Standing Committee.  The recommendations of the standing committee and the subsequent amendments made by the Rajya Sabha are as follows:

  • The Act disallows any person from transferring or receiving specified toxic chemicals from a citizen of a non-State Party.  The Bill changes this position by prohibiting transfer or receipt of the specified toxic chemicals from a non-State Party to the Convention.  The Committee recommended that the provision should clearly prohibit transfer or receipt from both non-State Parties and citizens of non-State Parties.  The Rajya Sabha has made the corresponding amendment to the Bill.
  • The Act mandates the registration of persons engaged in the production, transfer, or use of any toxic chemical.  The Bill makes registration mandatory, subject to certain threshold limits that are prescribed, for manufacturers of specified chemicals.  The Committee observed that this would make registration mandatory only for those manufacturers who cross the specified limit.  Thus, the Committee asked the government to consider a two-step process of compulsory registration of all manufacturers, followed by a declaration of those crossing the threshold limits.  This recommendation has not been accepted by the Rajya Sabha.  Hence, only those persons whose production of toxic chemicals exceeds the threshold would be required to register.
  •  The Act established a National Authority to implement the provisions of the Convention.  It empowers the central government to appoint officers of the National Authority as enforcement officers. The Bill broadens the central government’s power by allowing it to appoint any of its officers as enforcement officers.  The Committee recommended that eligibility criteria, such as technical qualifications and expertise, for these officers should be set under the rules.  The Committee also recommended that officers should be given suitable training before their appointment.  The Rajya Sabha has incorporated the suggestion of prescribing eligibility criteria under the Bill.

The Lok Sabha passed the Bill on August 30, 2012 without any amendments.  The standing committee report and its summary may be accessed here and here.