Barapind sues central govt, Punjab for $ 10m in US court


Anju Agnihotri Chaba : Jalandhar, Sun May 12 2013,

Former militant and Akali Dal Panch Pardhani (ADPP) chief Kulvir Singh Barapind, who was extradited from the United States, has moved a court in that country alleging that he is being tortured by the police officials in Punjab, despite the Indian government‘s assurance to the contrary. Barapind has sued the Republic of India, the state government of Punjab, and several others, under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and demanded $10 million in damages for “suffering torture in the custody of Punjab Police“.

Among others, he has also sued President Pranab Mukharjee, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, External Affairs Minister, Home Minister, National Security Advisor, Director of National Investigative Agency and Punjab Police chief.

In the complaint moved before the court Barapind through his attorney Kamardeep Singh Athwal has submitted that he was surrendered to Indian authorities on the condition that he would not suffer “torture” in India, but he was arrested on September 19, 2012 by the Nawanshehr Police for alleged “preventive measures” in wake of a Bharat Bandh call by NDA.

He has submitted that he was confined in Ludhiana Jail and was charged under “Unlawful Activities Prevention Act” by Phillaur police. After securing his police remand the police allegedly subjected to torture in custody as “electric shocks” were given to him, which is in violation of extardition treaty.

He has also maintained that despite an Indian court order directing Barapind’s medical examination to determine if he was tortured was never conducted.

– See more at: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/barapind-sues-central-govt-punjab-for-10m-in-us-court/1114674/#sthash.rZjkwHYq.dpuf

 

Obituary – Asghar Ali Engineer (1939-2013)


RIP Asghar Ali (1)

MAY 14, 2013
by , kafila.org

B_-_portrait.Ashgar_Ali_Engineer-Salzb05__c__RLA_Foundation__Ulrike_AltekruseAn obituary by ZAHIR JANMOHAMED: I first met Asghar Ali Engineer in January 2002 in Mumbai. I was a fellow with the America India Foundation and a few weeks later I would be posted to work with an NGO in Ahmedabad.

A few minutes before his presentation, I noticed him standing off to the side in silence, staring at the ground. I walked up and introduced myself. I was young, in my twenties, and I did not know what to say.

As-salaam alaikum,” I said.

“Wa-alaikum salaam,” he replied.

I am not sure what response I expected but I thought that perhaps because he and I share the same faith that we might have a special bond, that my greeting would spark a conversation. After all, I always thought phrases like these serve less as greeting and more as an announcement, as in, I am part of the same religion as you.

But Asghar saab just held my hand and then put his hand on his heart. “Nice to meet you,” he said, and then stared at the ground again in silence. I thought it was odd, rude even.

As I continued to meet Asghar saab, I realized that he had very little patience for superficial connections. I witnessed this when I saw him greet crowds after his lectures. If you told him you were from the same caste or city he would not be as excited as if you told him that you also believe that we must fight patriarchy with the same vigor that we must fight communalism.

What set him apart was his fearlessness, something he showed from a young age. He was born on March 10, 1939 in Salumbar, Rajasthan to a family of priests in the Bohra community and schooled in the traditional Islamic sciences like Qur’anic study (tafseer). Islamic schooling is often based on the idea that you should teach a child as much as he/she can digest and then later they will develop the intellect to question what they have learned. The idea, as Willim Chittick writes in his book The Sufi Path of Love, is that form precedes meaning. But Asghar saab began to question at a young age, at a time when he was told he should only be memorizing. Later he would become one of the first to question the transparency of the Bohra leadership, something completely unheard of during his time.

He was effective and very hard to argue with (as I learned first hand) because he was grounded in Islamic law. When an Islamic scholar would make an argument that a particular verse in the Qur’an supports denying a woman her rights, Asghar saab would draw on his extensive knowledge of the Qur’an to argue that that very verse means the antithesis.

Each time he spoke out, the more he isolated himself but this never bothered him. Part of what made him so unique was that he never saw himself as part of a community. He believed this was the surest way to stifle your voice. Be independent, he always told me.

After I witnessed the Gujarat riots, we met on a few occasions. But he never liked hearing my stories from Ahmedabad. It was not that he was not interested but he did not want it to rattle his core belief that humans are inclined towards goodness and reason, two things he saw lacking during the 2002 carnage.

We ended up growing apart because he was so ideal about India and religion that that idealism which I always saw as his virtue I began to see as his blind spot. But I always appreciated how he never gave up and more importantly, how he was always re-examining his beliefs.

The last time we corresponded was in 2005. It was a few months after Modi was denied a visa and I was active in Washington DC in raising awareness about Gujarat. But I was burned out and frustrated by my fellow Indian Americans who could not be bothered with what happens in India. What I wanted, I told him, was more support, more people to stand with me.

“You will not find many friends on this path,” he wrote to me.

It is these words and that image of him—standing off to the side, staring at the ground as when I first saw him—that I will always remember about him. Yes he was alone, as many are who push for change, but he was also something very unique and rare. He was his own person.

(Zahir Janmohamed is a writer in Ahmedabad.)

 

#India – Ranbaxy Lab Lted agrees selling adulterated drugs, fined $500 million penalty


By ERIC TUCKER
Associated PressWASHINGTON (AP) – A subsidiary of India’s largest pharmaceutical company has agreed to pay a record $500 million in fines and penalties for selling adulterated drugs and lying to federal regulators in a case that is part of an ongoing crackdown on the quality of generic drugs flowing into the U.S.

Federal prosecutors say the guilty plea by Ranbaxy USA Inc. represents the largest financial penalty against a generic drug company for violations of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, which prohibits the sale of impure drugs.

The deal, announced Monday, concludes a years-long federal investigation into Ranbaxy’s manufacturing deficiencies. The Food and Drug Administration in 2008 barred from Ranbaxy from importing more than 30 different drugs made at factories in India and, two years ago, struck a deal that required the company to ensure that data on its products is accurate, undergo extra oversight and review from a third-party and improve its drug making procedures.

The subsidiary of Ranbaxy Laboratories Limited pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges and the company separately agreed to resolve civil claims with all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The company had earlier set aside $500 million to cover potential criminal and civil liability stemming from the Justice Department investigation.

It admitted as part of the deal that it sold adulterated batches of drugs – including an antibiotic and generic versions of medications used to treat severe acne, epilepsy and nerve pain – that were developed at two manufacturing sites in India. It’s not known whether the problems with the drugs led to any health issues. The problems were largely revealed by a whistleblower in a federal lawsuit filed in Maryland in 2007. The government’s allegations against the company make no claims that the drugs, whose strength, purity or quality differed from the specifications, harmed anyone.

The company admitted to a wide range of deficiencies, including improperly storing drug samples that awaiting testing, continuing to sell a medication in the U.S. even after it had failed purity tests and delaying a voluntary recall of medication that it knew would not maintain its expected its expected shelf life.

Ranbaxy also admitted making false statements to the FDA in 2006 and 2007 annual reports about dates of tests that are designed to detect drug impurities and determine appropriate storage conditions. In some cases, the tests were done weeks or months after the company said they’d been performed. Or the tests were done on the same day – or within days of each other – instead of months apart, the prescribed interval.

The company said in a written statement that it had fully cooperated with the investigation, which it said involved actions from several years ago, and expects “future growth in the U.S. and around the world with a robust pipeline of important products.”

“While we are disappointed by the conduct of the past that led to this investigation, we strongly believe that settling this matter now is in the best interest of all of Ranbaxy’s stakeholders; the conclusion of the DOJ investigation does not materially impact our current financial situation or performance,” Ranbaxy CEO and managing director Arun Sawhney said in a statement.

The company had faced scrutiny in recent years. Apart from the federal investigation, Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals Inc. – also a subsidiary of Ranbaxy Laboratories Limited – halted in November of generic cholesterol drug Lipitor while it investigated how tiny glass particles got into dozens of recalled batches. The FDA determined at the time that the risk to patients was very low.

The case comes as federal regulators and prosecutors focus attention on the quality of ingredients of generics and other drugs manufactured overseas, said Allan Coukell, an expert on drug safety at The Pew Charitable Trusts. He said the 2008 deaths linked to tainted batches of the blood-thinner heparin that were imported from China served as a “wake up call” about just how much of the nation’s drug supply comes from overseas.

“Over the last few years, the FDA and others have been increasingly focused on the risks associated with global drug manufacturing. The agency now has new authority and new resources which should result in an increased scrutiny on the highest-risk facilities,” he said.

The company agreed as part of Monday’s deal to a fine and forfeiture of $150 million as well as an additional $350 million penalty to settle civil claims that it submitted false statements to Medicaid, Medicare and other government health care programs. Nearly $49 million of that penalty will go to a former Ranbaxy executive, Dinesh Thakur, who acted as a whistleblower by filing a federal lawsuit accusing the company of knowingly falsifying drug data, prosecutors said.

Thakur said in a statement that the company had been notified of the problems, and “when they failed to correct the problems, it left me with no choice but to alert healthcare authorities.”

“He was the source, the original source, of the information to the government that ultimately led to the government’s earlier actions,” said Andrew Beato, one of Thakur’s lawyers.

 

#India – Sites scouted for biggest nuclear fuel fabrication plant #WTFnews


HYDERABAD, May 14, 2013

Y. Mallikarjun, The Hindu

N. Sai Baba— Photo: By Special Arrangement

N. Sai Baba— Photo: By Special Arrangement

Sites in Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are on the radar for setting up a third nuclear fuel fabrication facility to meet requirements of nuclear power reactors, even as the Ministry of Environment and Forests’ approval for the second unit at Kota, Rajasthan is awaited.

The site selection committee of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) visited Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh and few other places in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh to find a suitable site for what will be the biggest nuclear fuel fabrication facility, with an envisaged production of 1,250 tonnes a year.

The Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC) in Hyderabad, with an installed capacity of 4,780 MW, is currently meeting the fuel requirements of 20 nuclear reactors. Of them, 18 are Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) and two are Boiling Water Reactors.

NFC chief executive N. Sai Baba told The Hindu here on Monday that the NFC produced 812 tonnes of fabricated fuel — the highest ever — in 2012-13 and was aiming for an output of 900 tonnes this year. He said the Kota facility, with an investment of Rs. 1,600 crore, was envisaged to produce 500 tonnes per year and expected to be operational by 2017.

Four PHWR units of 700 MW each — the third and fourth units of Kakrapar (Gujarat) and seventh and eighth units of the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station — are under construction and expected to go on stream in the next few years. By 2020, a total of 2,000 tonnes of fuel would be required by various reactors and the NFC was gearing up to meet the needs, Mr. Sai Baba said.

At present, 60 per cent of the raw material for nuclear fuel is being met indigenously and the rest imported mainly from Russia and Kazakhstan. The DAE is looking for more vendors from countries such as Uzbekistan and Namibia.

Mr. Sai Baba said the NFC had achieved a good recovery from the first consignment of uranium ore concentrate received from the Tummalapalle uranium mine and the processing plant located in Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh. Of the estimated 1.5 lakh tonnes of uranium reserves identified in the country, 72,000 tonnesare from Tummalapalle. Another one lakh tonnes were expected from this place as only 10 km area of the total 35 km had been explored so far.

Besides the four upcoming PHWRs, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited is building 10 more 700 MW reactors for commissioning between 2020 and 2022.


  • DAE team visits places in Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh
  • The proposed plant will have an envisaged production capacity of 1,250 tonnes a year

The DAE has already scouted for sites in Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh

 

To Asghar Ali Engineer Saab, I say …


By- Ramu Ramanathan

1.
To the local astrologer, I went and asked
Junaab: yeh inquilaab kab aayega?
2.
His followers prohibited from worshiping idols
Yet his lordship prays to his fleet of Rolls Royce engines
Instead of blessing his tribe with the Ta’wil and Ta’fsir
When they crawl for the Sajda under his feet
3.
Spies, spies, they are everywhere
Imprisoning you for what you think
4.
Ali Sardar Jaffri
Khwaja Ahmed Abbas
Krishnan Chander
Others
Unlike you
All of the above, sign Madame’s letter
Instead of throwing the pen, away
5.
5-a.
You say to me
The Ganges may be Holier
But the canal
Near Maliyana and Hashimpura
Is bloodier

5-b.

The first story you told me
About the E Maidan
Where factories rioted with factories
And the brassware industry lived unhappily ever after
5-c
The second story you told me
About the constabulary
Who severed her legs
And yet, the young girl (known for her personal hygiene)
Crawled to the river in Logaingaon
To complete her daily bath
5-d
The third story you told me
About potatoes
Who were persecuted under Section 153 A
Since the innocent blood
Found beneath the soil
Improved crop cultivation
5-e
We have been notified
The 300 mini-riots in 1990
Cannot be classified as riots
It was an endeavour in communal harmony
To recycle the dead beings into medical implants
For the other
6.
Asghar Ali Engineer Saab
To you, I say
Gaali khaya
Maar khaaya
Jihaad kiya
Now let’s go to a disco
Where I know a dervish DJ
We can drink all night
Till our faith fades away …

(Dr Asghar Ali Engineer passed away on 14 May 2013)

Related Posts

Surviving the First Day – State of the World’s Mothers 2013 #Vaw #Womenrights


A basket weaver at work with her baby at her side, in Tamil Nadu. The infant mortality rate is very high for working women, particularly those in the primary sector, a large proportion of whom are labourers.

A basket weaver at work with her baby at her side, in Tamil Nadu. The infant mortality rate is very high for working women, particularly those in the primary sector, a large proportion of whom are labourers.

From the Report……………..

“…….Each year, 3 million newborns die, making up nearly half (43 percent) of the world’s under-5 child deaths. And yet almost all newborn deaths originate from preventable and treatable causes: we already have the tools available to save about three-quarters of the newborns who needlessly die each year.

This report reveals that we know how to stop this trend, because we understand the causes and solutions of newborn death like never before. Simple lifesaving treatments like a basic antiseptic for cleansing the umbilical cord can prevent deadly infections. Antenatal steroids help premature babies breathe. “Kangaroo mother care” keeps them warm, encourages breastfeeding and protects them from infection. These inexpensive interventions haven’t taken hold, but a new analysis in this report shows that four basic solutions alone could save more than 1 million newborns annually as soon as they do. Improvements in access to contraceptives, maternal nutrition and breastfeeding practices would save even more………..”.

Melinda Gates, Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

“…………This report contains our annual ranking of the best and worst places in the world for mothers – but no matter if they’re in the United States or Malawi or India, all mothers are fundamentally the same. Every night, millions of mothers around the world lean over their sleeping newborns and pray that they will be safe, happy and healthy. It’s what we all want for our children. And it’s certainly not too much to ask………..”.

Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children USA

Key Findings……

“……In South Asia, mothers and babies die in great numbers. An estimated 423,000 babies die each year in South Asia on the day they are born, more than in any other region. South Asia accounts for 24 percent of the world’s population and 40 percent of the world’s first-day deaths. In India – where economic growth has been impressive but the benefits have been shared unequally – 309,000 babies die each year on the day they are born (29 percent of the global total). Bangladesh and Pakistan also have very large numbers of first-day deaths (28,000 and 60,000 per year, respectively.) Mothers in South Asia also die in large numbers. Each year, 83,000 women in South Asia die during pregnancy or childbirth. India has more maternal deaths than any other country in the world (56,000 per year). Pakistan also has a large number of maternal deaths (12,000). (To read more, turn to pages 27-35 and 65-74.)….”.

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“…..Babies born to mothers living in the greatest poverty face the greatest challenges to survival. At the heart of the newborn survival problem is the widening gap between the health of the world’s rich and poor. Virtually all (98 percent) newborn deaths occur in developing countries, and within many of these countries, babies born to the poorest families have a much higher risk of death compared to babies from the richest families. A new analysis of 50 developing countries found babies born to mothers in the poorest fifth of the population were on average 40 percent more likely to die compared to those in the richest fifth. Disparities within countries like Bolivia, Cambodia, India, Sierra Leone, Morocco, Mozambique and the Philippines are especially dramatic. Many newborn lives could be saved by ensuring services reach the poorest families in developing countries. For example: If all newborns in India experienced the same survival rates as newborns from the richest Indian families, nearly 360,000 more babies would survive each year. Closing the equity gaps in Pakistan and Democratic Republic of the Congo would similarly save the lives of 48,000 and 45,000 newborns each year, respectively. (To read more, turn to pages 15-21.)….”.

Inline image 2

 

 

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Recommendations…………..

1. Address the underlying causes of newborn mortality, especially gender inequality.

2) Invest in health workers – especially those working on the front lines – to reach the most vulnerable mothers and babies.

3) Invest in low-cost, low-tech solutions which health workers can use to save lives during pregnancy, at birth and immediately after birth.

4) Strengthen health systems and address demand-related barriers to access and use of health services.

5) Increase commitments and funding to save the lives of mothers and newborns.

 

Access the full report at:

http://www.savethechildrenweb.org/SOWM-2013/files/assets/common/downloads/State%20of%20the%20WorldOWM-2013.pdf

 

Naroda Patiya case: Modi government does a U-turn on Kodnani, Bajrangi #deathpenalty


CNN-IBN | Updated May 14, 2013

Ahmedabad: In a U-turn of sorts, the Gujarat state legal department has written to the chief prosecutor in the Naroda Patiya massacre case, seeking approval for enhancement of punishment for BJP leader Maya Kodnani and Bajrang Dal’s Babu Bajrangi to be put on hold. The legal department wants the punishment to be put on hold until further instructions.

Earlier the department had given a sanction to the Special Investigation Team to file an application in the High Court seeking death sentence for Maya Kodnani, Babu Bajrangi and nine others. 97 persons were killed in Naroda Patiya during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

In 2012, a special court had sentenced Maya Kodnani to 28 years in jail for the massacre in Naroda Patiya. Kodnani is the sitting MLA from Naroda Patiya.

 

Kodnani, a three-time MLA from Naroda area, who was considered to be close to Chief Minister Narendra Modi, is the first woman and first MLA to be convicted and sentenced in a post-Godhra riots case.

Kodnani was the minister of women and child development in the Narendra Modi government but was forced to resign after a case was lodged against her in the Naroda Patiya massacre of 2002.

The trial court had convicted 32 people and acquitted 29 others in the Naroda Patiya massacre case which took place during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

The Naroda Patiya massacre is the largest single case of mass murder during the 2002 Gujarat riots that broke out following the Sabarmati Express train carnage near Godhra station. The case has been probed by a Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigating Team (SIT).

As many as 327 witnesses, comprising eye witnesses, victims, doctors, police personnel, government officials, forensic experts and journalists including Ashish Khetan, who conducted a TV sting operation on the accused, were examined by the court.

 

#RIP- Renowned Islamic scholar, progressive thinker, author Asghar Ali Engineer no more


RIP Asghar Ali (1)

 

Mumbai, May 14 (IANS) Renowned Islamic scholar, progressive thinker, author and Dawoodi Bohra reformist leader Asghar Ali Engineer passed away here Tuesday after a prolonged illness, family members said. He was 74.

Engineer, a widower, is survived his son Irfaan and daughter Seema Indorewala. He was ailing for several months and breathed his last at his Santacruz East home around 8 a.m. The funeral is likely to be held Wednesday, Irfaan indicated.

Born in Salumbar, Rajasthan, in a Dawoodi Bohra Amil (priest) family March 10, 1939, Engineer acquired his training in Quranic tafsir (commentary), tawil (hidden interpretations of Quran), fiqh (jurisprudence) and hadith (Prophet’s teachings, sayings) during his early days.

His father, Sheikh Qurban Husain, was the Amil who also taught the young Engineer Arabic. Later, Engineer studied all the major religious works and scriptures by eminent scholars.

He graduated as a civil engineer from Indore, Madhya Pradesh, and went on to work for nearly two decades in the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

In the early 1970s, he sought voluntary retirement from his BMC service and plunged into the reformist movement in the miniscule Dawood Bohra community, estimated at around 1.20 million worldwide.

In 1972, he assumed a leading role in the movement from Udaipur and also mobilised national and international public opinion through media articles and speeches.

In 1977, he was elected general secretary of Central Board of Dawoodi Bohra Community at its maiden conference in Udaipur and guided the reformist movement.

Later, Engineer devoted his time and energies to work for communal harmony and combat communalist forces in the country.

The recipient of several awards and honours from around the world, Engineer travelled across the globe speaking at international conferences, seminars and universities on Islam, peace, human rights and other issues.

He founded the Institute of Islamic Studies (1980) and the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism (1993), and also authored around 50 books on various topics and believed in treating all religions with equality.

According to reformists, Engineer never believed in blind acceptance of dogmas inherited from the past but strived to rethink issues and reinterpret Islam in keeping with modern times.

Asghar Ali Engineer, leader of the Progressive Dawoodi Borah movement speaks to Madhu Trehan on how priestly families in the community are distorting Islam, challenging fatwas, how Satanic Verses should be challenged but not banned & more.

 

Shehla Masood murder case: CBI court summons two witnesses


TNN | May 14, 2013,

INDORE: Special CBI court in Indore has on Monday issued summons to two witnesses, including Sanjay Gupta, industrialist friend of Bharatiya Janata Party MLA from Bhopal South, Dhruvnarayan Singh and an official of Reliance Communication Deepak Yadav, in connection with the RTI activist Shehla Masood murder case.
Sanjay Gupta and Deepak Yadav were supposed to appear in court on Monday as witnesses of CBI, but they failed to appear before Special CBI court of Anupam Shirvastav. Miffed at their absence, the court issued summons to both asking them to appear on next hearing on May 30 and 31. Also, the court has asked CBI to present its list of witnesses during the next hearing. On earlier two occasions too, CBI’s witness had failed to appear in court.Defence counsel, Sunil Shrivastav, alleged that CBI is delaying the case. “In last one year, only 11 witnesses’ have been produced in the court out of 150 listed in the charge-sheet. In this way, it would take 15 years to complete the hearing and till then accused will be behind the bar,” said Shrivastav.

Shehla Masood was killed in August 2011 in front of her house when she was about to leave for office in her car.

Police arrested Zahida Parvez, Saba Farooqui, Saqib Danger, Irfan and Tabish in connection of the murder and all the accused are right now in jail in Indore as under trial.

 

Why Orissa mining may not go the Goa way


By MEERA MOHANTY, ET Bureau | 14 May, 2013,

When the Supreme Court reopened the iron-ore mining door some more in Karnataka, miners in Orissa breathed a Rs 50,000 crore sigh of relief.
Three weeks ago, when the Supreme Court reopened the iron-ore mining door some more in Karnataka, miners in Orissa breathed a Rs 50,000 crore sigh of relief. Also in the dock for some offences of a similar nature, Orissa’s iron-ore miners, who produce a third of this mineral that is critical to steel, had been dreading their fate, which lay in the hands of a Central government panel.

The last time the Shah Commission—whose remit is to study violations in iron ore and manganese mining in India and recommend changes— submitted a fact-finding report, made public in September 2012, it led to all iron-ore mining in Goa grind to a halt. So, as it prepared to submit its report on Orissa, by July, there was a gnawing sense of fear among miners, user companies, and government functionaries and politicians at both the Centre and the state levels, that this eastern state could go the Goa way.

For companies with steel units in the neighbourhood, like Tata SteelBSE -2.23 %, Jindal SteelBSE -1.06 % and Power and SAIL, it would mean losing access to their key input. For the Centre, it would mean another blow in its efforts to shore up industrial growth. For Orissa, it would mean the loss of its economic engine.

Most of all, for iron-ore miners, it would mean the loss of a lucrative business stream. Already smarting because of a Rs 65,000 crore recovery claim raised by Orissa, they were bracing for the worst. But now, feels senior advocate Ashok Parija, who is contesting these claims on behalf of some Orissa miners: “Mining will not stop. After this (Karnataka) order, it is clear that most leases here beat the Karnataka test.”

The ‘Karnataka test’ is a 10% straying limit. Cancelling 43% of iron-ore leases in Karnataka, the SC allowed the remaining, which had not strayed beyond 10% of their boundary (15% in certain cases), to reopen. “The nature of violations in Orissa is different in nature,” adds a member who has worked closely with the central empowered committee (CEC), the panel doing the fact-finding for the SC on illegal mining. “Further, unlike Karnataka or Goa, Orissa, for whatever reason, has been doing its bit to correct the situation,” he adds, on the condition of anonymity.

THE STATE CLEANS UP

Since 2010, much before the Shah Commission was set up, the Naveen Patnaik government in Orissa has been putting in place checks and balances to detect illegal mining. Even the CEC noted this in its April 2010 report to the SC: it said that “…the state has taken corrective steps, though rather belatedly…”, but also added that “serious shortcomings” still remain. Orissa asked miners without valid clearances to stop mining. It initiated inquiries against companies allegedly doing illegal mining and suspended several state government officials. “Since 2009, we have suspended nearly 200 mines working on a ‘deemed extension’ (a much abused contingency provision for renewals) without statutory clearances,” says Deepak Mohanty, director of mines, Orissa.

The state government, further, made public data on leases, permits and status. It made registration compulsory for traders and truckers, removed stockyards outside a 40 km radius of a mine, issued e-permits that enabled real-time tracking of all consignments and asked the railways to check permits before allowing rakes to be loaded. “That is one kind of theft that would go completely unaccounted: trucks that loaded 20 tonnes, declaring half as much, and bribing their way through weigh bridges manned by class four employees,” says Rabi Das, whose petition in the Supreme Court brought the CEC to Orissa.

According to Das, the state had not turned a new leaf; its hand was forced when the case— now famously known as the ‘RBT case’ (after Ram Bahadur Thakur, the lease owner)—of two people claiming rights to mine a piece of land neither had the approval for rocked the state assembly. Since both the accused were reportedly associated with the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the state had to initiate an inquiry. “If this (the RBT case) hadn’t blown up, it would have been difficult to take action,” says a former state mining official, on the condition of anonymity.

Why Orissa mining may not go the Goa way

While those corrective measures may yet avert a shutdown, three other subsequent steps taken by Orissa—many say to save its face with the Shah Commission—has caused recrimination among miners, hurled the state into a legal standoff with the Centre and cast shadows of uncertainty in iron-ore mining in Orissa. And untangling all this will be a long, legal battle.

…AND CRACKS DOWN

In October 2012, in the backdrop of a shutdown in Goa mining and the Supreme Court meaning business in Karnataka, Orissa stunned everyone with three big decisions. One, it asked 204 mines in the state to pay fines amounting to Rs 65,000 crore for extracting more iron ore than they had permission for in the last 10 years. Two, the state barred the private sector from all new mineral leases, reserving everything for its own Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC), which too had been fined Rs 8,700 crore. Three, it made it conditional on miners whose licences were awaiting renewals to supply 50% of their iron ore to steel units in the state and only then sell outside; it also declared that such leases on second or subsequent renewal can only retain reserves for 30 years of captive use.

According to a director of a large merchant miner that has challenged the fines and the captive clause, the policy moves don’t hold. “On the one hand, you practically restrict all production. On the other, you insist material should not leave the state, which firstly isn’t constitutional. Is the state ready for a hundred steel plants?” he says, not wanting to be named.

On the face of it, the battle lines seem to be drawn around the Rs 65,000 crore fine. On one side is the Orissa government. On the other side are the miners, who feel the basis and quantum of the fine are misplaced, and the Centre, which feels the Naveen Patnaikgovernment is overstepping its jurisdiction.

According to Orissa miners, some of the richest in India, unlike the worst of Karnataka mining offenders, they were not stealing from land they didn’t have permission to mine on. Further, they add, what the state is terming over-production is actually allowed under the rules. The Centre supports them on this, citing the 20% mark-up over the mining plan approved by the Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) that is permissible. Says Mohanty: “It (the Centre) said that, in 71 of the 104 cases, where there was a slight increase beyond the IBMlimits, subsequent mining schemes in each and every case had been approved, and thus the excess regularised.”

Parija adds this would hold even on the ‘10% Karnataka rule’. “Goa or Karnataka mines are 5-10 hectare mines, Orissa’s are 25-1,000 hectares,” he says. “A 10% deviation will be huge, and that couldn’t have happened because most of these leases are adjacent.”

The Centre also argues that the clause under which Orissa has claimed the fines—Section 21(5) of the Mines and Mineral (Regulation and Development) (MMDR) Act 1957—applies to production outside a mine owner’s area, not excess production within. It has advised Orissa not to colelct the fines while 20 miners await the order of a Central tribunal on the matter.

Any resolution on the matter will take time. “We have only issued show cause notices. Hearings have to be completed so that the amount is reconciled. Only then can a formal notice be issued,” says Mohanty. The tribunal too is likely to wait for a formal notice, says a senior official in the Central ministry.

This is creating a piquant solution for miners as the state is also reviewing their applications for renewals. Mohanty says 337 mines are on ‘deemed extensions’; further, of these, only 58 have all statutory clearances. The state has said that, in deciding on each renewal, it will consider the past history of the occupant, including alleged irregularities committed by it.​

Why Orissa mining may not go the Goa way

HOW IT UNRAVELLED

Watching all this from the sidelines is the Shah Commission, led by MB Shah, the retired Supreme Court judge. His second-in-command is UV Singh, the pugnacious forest officer of Karnataka whose defiant documentation of the mining operations of the Reddy brothers formed the basis of the state Lokayukta’s report.

The Commission’s term ends on July 16, and the Orissa report, for which it ended its public meetings on April 21, will be its last for now. Such is its perceived influence and importance that one view is that Orissa acted against the miners so that the Shah Commission might cut it some slack, and events might not spiral out of its control, as they did in Goa.

In October 2012, Goa went into a tailspin after the Shah Commission report, which said that Rs 35,000 crore of illegal mining had happened in the state, was tabled in Parliament. This was the trigger for a public interest litigation (PIL) to be filed by an NGO called Goa Foundation in the SC, which banned all iron-ore mining in Goa.

Rajesh Verma, Orissa steel and mines secretary, asserts the state’s actions were proactive, and not reactive. He points out the notification for the Shah Commission came on November 22, 2010, while Orissa issued the order for its inquiry on August 25. The terms of the Orissa probe was to inspect how much each mine in five minerals— iron ore, chrome, manganese, bauxite and limestone—was producing vis-a-vis its approved limits. “We issued notices in September 2011, well before the Shah Commission’s first visit to the state in November 2011,” he adds.

“This is all a show for (Justice) Shah and the upcoming elections,” alleges Niranjan Patnaik, state Congress leader. “What about the pits in huge tracts of unleased area, relinquished area and OMC’s own mines? Has the Shah Commission seen these tracts, where the mafia ran riot with government patronage?” The state’s complicity is why, alleges Niranjan Patnaik, even as Karnataka and Goa agreed to an enquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI), Orissa didn’t. “A CBI enquiry can well start with my mining baron cousins, but it must.”

CENTRE-STATE CONFLICTOrissa, on its part, has been arguing with the Centre for some time to reduce profits in the hands of miners—and increasing revenues in the hands of the state. At present, states earn a royalty, of 10% of the average sale price per tonne, on the iron ore sold.The Centre fixes this royalty rate. Although this rate is revised every three years, the 10% rate has been in place since 2009. Before that, it was a flat Rs 12-27 per tonne, which meant miners pocketed every bit of gains from a price increase. With China on a building boom, iron ore prices shot up four-fold between 2001 and 2011.

Orissa began asking the Centre to levy a windfall tax. On September 3, 2011, chief minister Patnaik wrote to the prime minister that, “I am concerned about the huge profits accruing to merchant mining companies, a large number of which are in private hands.”

Patnaik cited the phenomenal increase in NMDC’s net profit—from Rs 1,245 crore in 2001-02 to Rs 18,815 crore in 2010-11. Dinsha Patel, the minister of mines at the Centre, replied to Patnaik that Orissa’s coffers also rose proportionately: the state earned Rs 1,852 crore in iron-ore royalties in 2010-11, despite a fall in production, against Rs 668 crore collected the previous year.

A former mines ministry official, on the condition of anonymity, admits the Centre profited more than the state during the boom. “The Centre increased export duty (collected by the Centre) from 5% to 20% in February 2011 and to 30% in December 2011,” he says. “Orissa’s demand is fair enough. Royalty earnings also surged, but not to the extent exports did.”

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

All eyes are now on the Shah Commission, which had made three trips to Orissa. A battery of highprofile lawyers—including Ram Jethmalani representing Thriveni Earthmovers, andGopal Subramaniam representing seven companies, including Tata Steel and Indrani Patnaik—made a submission to it to hear their clients out individually, something that was not done in Goa.

Between February and April, miners defended their case to Justice Shah in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, where he is based. They have also been offering olive branches. During the commission’s hearings in Orissa, a group of miners offered to create a trust of Rs 100 crore for developmental work in the state.

Although miners are still going about operations and production hasn’t suffered, a period of trials and tribulations lies ahead for them. For example, the ‘RBT case’ accused, who were found guilty of illegal mining by Orissa, won relief from the Centre, and their cases are presently in the Orissa High Court. The state’s decision to insist on captive mining has also ended up in courts.

 

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