ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Articles By E A S Sarma

Lack of Clarity and Vision in New Mines and Minerals Act

Much has been claimed on behalf of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act that has been enacted by Parliament, but the legislation has introduced a watered-down version of auctions, has many exceptions to legalise the old first-cum-firstserve approach, and ignores previous Supreme Court rulings on measures to ensure sustainable development.

The Intelligence Bureau and Its Not Very Intelligent Report on NGOs

The reports of the Intelligence Bureau should facilitate, not hinder, people-oriented development; and strengthen, not erode, the democratic processes. For this to be possible, the report on any given subject should be well-researched, accurate and comprehensive. Then and only then can an intelligence report help the government and serve the public interest. The now-infamous IB report on non-governmental organisations fails to meet these criteria. The treatment of the Vedanta project in Odisha is an example of the one-sided treatment in the report.

Myopia on Coal

The brouhaha over Coalgate has pushed the genuine long-term issues in coal to the background. India's coal reserves are smaller than estimated and the flurry of coal-based power plants that have been approved in recent years has seen a frenetic rush to tie up coal resources, which at this rate would last no more than 20 years. Auction of mines is by itself no solution to the problems created by private allotment; auctions need to be carefully crafted and there should be production-sharing contracts monitored by a statutory regulator. Last but not the least, there is the issue of pollution and environment degradation caused by the mining and burning of coal. India needs a strategy based on demand management of energy, including introducing efficiency improvements in both the coal and the electricity sectors. It also needs to make a decisive shift in favour of renewable sources of energy. The country needs to move away from coal as quickly as possible.

Natural Gas Price Hike

The government, on the basis of a very questionable methodology, has doubled the price payable to natural gas producers. Through this decision as with a similar one in 2009, the government has compromised economic reasoning at the altar of crony capitalism and political expediency. In the absence of a homogeneous gas market which throws up a market price, the only option should have been for an independent, professional and quasi-judicial regulator to compute effi ciency-based costs and determine the price on the basis of a reasonable return. Instead, a Group of Ministers has taken a decision which could transfer up to Rs 26,000 crore a year to producers, especially one private company.

Sops for the Poor and a Bonus for Industry

While there are some positive features in the Land Acquisition Bill - the inclusion of both acquisition and rehabilitation in the same legislation, and provision for the displaced to receive a share of the appreciation in value over time - the regressive features dominate and threaten to make acquisition by industry a far more easy process that will leave the current occupants with little more than a large compensation.