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Behind the deadly Tuticorin affair: Centre tweaked rules to help Vedanta avoid public hearing



Behind the deadly Tuticorin affair: Centre tweaked rules to help Vedanta avoid public hearing

When local opposition to Vedanta owned Sterlite copper plant in Thoothukudi (earlier ‘Tuticorin’) exploded in an aggressive protest leading to violence and police firing which took 13 lives, Madras High Court stayed the expansion of the plant and ordered it to go for a public hearing. The company claimed it was not a legal requirement.

Some reports after this revealed that this was because the rules had been tweaked by the Centre to favour Vedanta.

While the Tamil Nadu government has been facing the ire for police action and is accused of favouring Vedanta, it is the UPA and then the Modi government which changed laws and tweaked rules for the company. The Modi government went to new lengths – we shall come back to it later here.

To begin with, said a report in The Economic Times (ET), Sterlite Industries was allowed by both the UPA and NDA governments to construct the copper smelter in Tuticorin without carrying out the mandated public hearing process.

The plant was first given the green signal by the environment ministry’s expert appraisal committee in 2008, when the United Progressive Alliance was in power, the ET report said.

In 2008, Vedanta’s Sterlite Industries Limited had sought exemption from public consultation. The 2006 Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Rules state: “All Category ‘A’ and Category B1 projects or activities shall undertake public consultation, except… all projects or activities located within industrial estates or parks.”

Copper smelter plants fall under category A. However, Sterlite Industries sought for an exemption to this rule in 2008, stating that the smelter was located within an industrial park.

According to the report, the industrial park in question was not granted environmental clearance as the State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu (SIPCOT) industrial park was developed before the notification of the Environmental Impact Assessment rules. As the 2006 Environment Impact Assessment rules do not cover industrial parks which did not receive environmental clearance, officials quoted in the report say that this was the grey area where Sterlite brought forward its plea.

The project got the clearance in 2008, but was held up for five years as the environmental clearance process was challenged in court.

The government changed and Modi government took charge. It ‘resolved’ the issue in December 2014 when the environment ministry stated in a memorandum that an exemption of projects from public consultation “is available to the projects or activities or units located in industrial estates or parks, which were notified prior to September 14, 2006, i.e EIA notification coming into force”.

The memorandum was struck down by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in 2016, but not before Sterlite secured a five-year extension on its environmental clearance for its expansion project.

This helped plants such as the one at Thoothukudi to be constructed without taking the people of the affected area into confidence.

This move enabling the existing rules to be passed was done through mere orders from ministry which called it a ‘clarification’. In effect, laid down notified regulations under the law were re-interpreted by a mere executive order in the name of providing a ‘clarification’ to the industry.

This allowed Vedanta and other industries who made pleas, to go ahead with their projects without holding discussions with the public, said a report in The Business Standard (BS).

This interpretation by the NDA government came an a bonanza for companies because the environment ministry under UPA government had insisted in May 2014 that projects such as Vedanta’s in Thoothukudi were required by law to first go through public consultations, the BS report said.

The NDA government reversed this position in December 2014 and in March 2015 the environment ministry extended Vedanta’s environmental clearance till December 2018. This it did even while the question of the need for public hearing by projects in different kinds of industrial parks was being contested in the courts. This allowed the company to carry out construction.

In 2016, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ruled as illegal the December orders of the NDA government, which favoured Vedanta. Ministry officials maintained that annulling the government’s December 2014 orders would severely affect several projects, but the NGT eventually quashed the orders and on its directions, the ministry passed fresh orders expressly stating that projects in industrial parks without environmental clearances needed to hold public hearings.

But by then, Vedanta had already got an extension of the green clearance to its expansion project in Thoothukudi without having a public hearing and construction was on way, the report says. Soon, protests started.  Before the May 22 violence, protests had been on for 100 days.

It is on the basis of the 2016 ruling of the NGT that the court has ordered Vedanta to halt the project and go back to the public to hold consultations.

This brings us the the point mentioned earlier. The background to the Centre-Vedanta involves another aspect: that of political funding by corporate houses, especially foreign funding.

In March 2014, the Delhi High Court had held both the Congress and the BJP guilty of illegally receiving contributions from British mining and energy conglomerate Vedanta.

The Congress and the BJP separately challenged the ruling. After the BJP came to power, it amended a law with retrospective effect, making the alleged illegal foreign funds that the two parties received legal and nullifying the high court order.

The Representation of People’s Act, which lays down the rules for elections, bars political parties from accepting foreign funds. Modi government changed it by bringing in alterations through Finance Bill which cannot be stopped by Rajya Sabha. First, in the Finance Bill 2016, the Modi government amended the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) to make it easier for parties to accept foreign funds. In 2018, it amended it further to do away with the scope for scrutiny of political parties’ funding since 1976.

This enables the BJP to get funds from foreign companies such as Vedanta without being subjected to scrutiny or having to reveal the source or the amount.

India News

Udaipur-Jaipur Vande Bharat operators prevents major accident, notices stones, rods on tracks, hit emergency brakes

Giving the details about the train and the incident, the CRPO said, KM 158/18, 158/19 on the Gangarar-Soniyana section were the stopping points for Train No. 20979 Vande Bharat Udaipur-Jaipur.



Udaipur-Jaipur Vande Bharat

On Monday at Rajasthan’s Bhilwara, train operators of the Udaipur-Jaipur Vande Bharat Express noticed stones and iron rods on the railroad track and quickly stopped the train using emergency brakes.

The Chief Public Relations Officer (CPRO) of North Western Railway confirmed the incident and said that the RPF has opened a complaint under the Railways Act after personnel inspected the scene in the Gangarar-Soniyana section.

Giving the details about the train and the incident, the CRPO said, KM 158/18, 158/19 on the Gangarar-Soniyana section were the stopping points for Train No. 20979 Vande Bharat Udaipur-Jaipur. Two rods, each measuring one foot, were inserted into the joggle plate on the previously mentioned km, together with some ballast, which caused the standstill, he added.

The incident took place under the control of RPF/post/Bhilwara at about 09:55. The area is governed by SHO/Gangarar in the Chittaurgarh district, according to the CPRO.

DSC/Ajmer, IPF/Bhilwara, PWI/Gangarar, local Police, and GRP authorities all paid the location a visit. SP/Chittaurgarh has been informed by DSC/Ajmer. RPF has filed a lawsuit in accordance with the Railways Act. The PWI/Gangarar is also providing SHO/Gangarar with a FIR, the official continued.

Meanwhile, stones, rail fasteners and iron rods are seen being laid on the railway tracks in a video that is going popular on X, formerly Twitter.

Fortunately, the alert loco pilots on duty quickly identified the impediment and took prompt action by deploying emergency brakes, averting any potential disaster. Their quick action likely saved lives and made sure that everyone on board was safe.

The District Police and the Railway Protection Force are both aggressively looking into this worrying situation. Their efforts are concentrated on finding individuals accountable for putting lives at danger and interfering with railway operations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Udaipur-Jaipur Vande Bharat Express last month, which runs six days a week, except Tuesday. It departs from Udaipur city at 7:50 in the morning and gets to Jaipur at 14:05.

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India News

Karnataka Eid clash: 43 persons arrested in Karnataka’s Shivamogga district

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said the government is not going to tolerate people throwing stones on religious processions of other religions.



Karnataka-Eid-clash: 43 persons arrested in Karnataka’s shivamogga district

Tension gripped Karnataka’s Shivamogga district as two groups clashed during Eid e Milad un Nabi processions near Ragigudda. 43 persons have been arrested in the clashes on Monday. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said the government is not going to tolerate people throwing stones on religious processions of other religions.

Section 144 has been imposed Ragigudda by the Shivmogga district administration. CM Siddaramaiah said the situation is currently under control. The police has arrested 43 persons. He added it is wrong to pelt stones to disturb the religious procession of others. He said the government is not going to tolerate such actions.

Milad un Nabi processions is usually marked by large gathering and celebrations. The procession was halted due to the chaos. The police said the protestors tried to breach the barricades set by the security forces. The police forces had to resort to a lathi charge in order to disperse the crowd. About five people were injured during the clashes.

Senior police officials said the situation was under control and the issue had been resolved. They appealed to the people to maintain peace and not spread rumours. Siddaramaiah said cases were being booked against those found guilty as pelting stones at another religious procession is against the law.

Siddaramaiah added Shivamogga city has been brought to normalcy again. All possible actions are being taken by the police force. The situation continues to be tense all over the city of shivamogga. The security arrangements have been tightened. The shops and the market has been asked to close down.

2500 policemen, two platoons of Karnataka State Reserve Police (KSRP), two platoons of rapid action force and 12 platoons of District Armed Reserve have been stationed across the city to thwart any untoward incident. The murder of Harsha, the Bajrang Dal activist which made national news had taken place in shivamogga city in February 2022.

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India News

Lal Bahadur Shastri Jayanti 2023: History, Date and Significance

Shastri was a freedom fighter and a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi. He played an important role in India’s independence movement.



Lal Bahadur Shastri Jayanti 2023: History, Date and Significance

On 2nd October 2023, India also celebrates the birth anniversary of another great leader, Lal Bahadur Shastri. The day holds special significance as India remembers the legacy and life of the man who served as India’s second Prime Minister. Lal bahadur Shastri was born on October 2, 1904 in Mughalsarai, Uttar Pradesh. He is a symbol of dedication and selfless service to the nation.

Shastri was a freedom fighter and a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi. He played an important role in India’s independence movement. He was sent to the prison several times by the British government. After India got its independence in the year 1947 he served in many important ministerial positions in the government of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.

Lal Bahadur Shastri was born into a lower middle class family. His father’s name was Sharda Prasad Srivastava who was also a teacher. Ram Dulari Devi was a house wife. He was born with the name Lal Bahadur Srivastava. He earned the title Shastri due to  his academic excellence. He was commited to education during his entire life. He went on to become not only a leader but also an academic and an activist.

Lal Bahadur Shastri showed unwavering dedication to the Indian National Congress political party. He served as the second Prime Minister of India from 1964 until his death in 1966. His tenure as Prime Minister marked a significant progress and change in India.

He held many important positions which included Minister of External Affairs and Railways. His tenure had many notable achievements which included signing of the Tashkent Agreement. The Tashkent aimed to ease tensions between India and Pakistan.

This diplomatic respect earned him respect on the global arena. Lal Bahadur Shastri gave the slogan Jai Jawan Jai Kisan which means hail the soldier and hail the Farmer. The slogan means emphasizes on the vital contributions of farmers and soldiers to the country’s prosperity.

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