Despite environmental, livelihood concerns, ombudsman refuses deterrence on Tatas’ ultra mega project

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Despite serious allegations of environmental and livelihood violations (click HERE to read), the powerful ombudsman body of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank group, has refused to recommend any deterring steps against the IFC, which is part-funding the Tata Power’s ambitious 4.14 billion dollar Ultra Mega Power Project (UMPP) along the Mundra coast in Gujarat. Though the ombudsman, in its latest report, takes particular objection to the IFC’s failure to take “cumulative impact” of the UMPP, the Adani Power’s 4,620 MW plant (being implemented not far away), and the Mundra Port and Special Economic Zone (MPSEZ), it says it is “reluctant to review IFC management decisions on project selection.”
In fact, instead of recommending any punitive steps, such as suspension of loan on environmental or livelihood grounds, the ombudsman’s report rejects the view that it is not feasible to “not finance new business activity that cannot be expected to meet the Performance Standards over a reasonable period of time”. Instead, the IFC is allowed to take its own decisions on merit, and whether to “move forward with the investment”. The Office of the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) for the IFC submitted its audit report on August 22, which was made public on October 23.
The refusal to take steps against IFC comes despite the CAO report refers to how Tata Power has overlooked the need to take a detailed view of environmental destruction of the region and adverse impact on the marginalized communities, especially fisher people. The CAO particularly states to how MPSEZ, which is “a major industrial development”, and its owners, the Adani Group, “have been the subject of multiple allegations of environmental wrongdoing in recent years, particularly in relation to the destruction of mangroves around MPSEZ”.
The CAO report states, “As well as being a neighbour, Tata Power is a significant client of MPSEZ, with a long-term contract for stevedoring services at the West Port. The cooling intake channel that Tata Power and Adani Power share was built as part of the MPSEZ”. It adds, “In discussions with CAO, IFC staff acknowledged the potential marine impact of the MPSEZ development, contrasting this with the relatively modest coastal footprint of Tata Power.”
Further, the CAO notes that Tata Power’s Annual Economic and Social (E&S) Performance Report has “flagged risks” emerging from Tata Power’s external linkages with MPSEZ since 2009-10. In fact, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) even issued a show cause notice (regarding alleged breaches of environmental clearances) to MPSEZ. Yet, giving reason for not taking any action against IFC, the CAO indicated, the IFC team agreed to follow “the matter and would request MPSEZ to provide information on its response.” Then, the IFC team also “undertook to closely monitor developments in this regard.”
The CAO’s decision to soft-pedal on Tata Power’s project came despite the fact that a high profile NGO report submitted to it which warned of “pollution from Indian coal-fired power plants, especially fine particulate matter (PM10) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and oxides of sulfur (SOx)”. The study expressed concern over “environment of the region and livelihood of the local people.” The report stated that the impact of pollution will in future be felt from both the power plants, as both are coal-fired.
The CAO indicated, already there are “changes in the quality of coal being used may” by the Tata Power. And, when the plant is at full capacity, it would exceed the IFC guideline of 500 tonnes (metric) of sulfur dioxide per day. “The proposed addition of 830 MW units would require the use of coal of considerably lower sulfur content for the limit of IFC 500 tpd (tonnes per day) to be met”, the CAO says, adding, even the IFC agrees that with the proposed changes in coal quality and the proposed addition of 2×830 MW units at the UMPP site, “there is a need to carefully review measures that will be implemented by Tata Power to ensure continued adherence to IFC performance standards.”
The CAO report also quotes the NGO to say that there have been “significant health costs arising from pollution-related premature deaths, respiratory effects, and restricted working days, including 100–120 premature deaths per year in the area around the Tata Power and Adani Power plants in Gujarat.” It adds, “A more recent report submitted to CAO claims that the villages in the area of the CGPL and Adani power plants have seen an increase of roughly 20 per cent in children’s respiratory diseases over the past two years.”
Basing the review of existing literature, especially Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports, the CAO says, the Adani Power, which had already implemented its 660 MW in 2007, had given “strong indications that the full expansion of the Adani Power plant to 4620MW during 2007-08. In these circumstances, the CAO adds, the IFC should have advised that the Tata Power to consider “cumulative impact” which would “go beyond that contained in the Supplementary SEIA of 2007… Appropriate measures might have included reporting on Adani Power’s cumulative impact assessment and pollution control measures and analyzing these in the light of CGPL’s E&S requirements.”
The CAO further says that the IFC should have insisted on the Tata Power to conduct “a full regional or strategic assessment covering the much larger Adani developments on the Kutch coast, and that these issues would best have been dealt under the headings of cumulative impact and third-party risk… It would have been good practice for IFC to pursue options for a regional or strategic assessment more assertively with relevant regulatory authorities, either directly, in collaboration with the World Bank, or through its client.”
 
 
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Urban Gujarat is not even corporate or middle class haven. New MNC-sponsored study explodes the myth, if there was any

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Do Indian middle classes find Ahmedabad as the best destination? If a new study sponsored by a top UK-based property services MNC in alliance with an industry-supported association is any guide, this is just not true. Ranked eighth in a group of 21 cities, Ahmedabad is particularly found to be poor in human capital and attracting talent. State policy makers should well think why this is so despite the hype created around the state. A report by Rajiv Shah:

Is the myth, woven around India Inc and their global partners, that Gujarat is the best “neo-liberal destination” to do business, offering better governance than most other states, is starting to wane? It would seem so, if one goes by the latest high-profile study sponsored by London-based DTZ, a multinational firm claiming to provide “integrated corporate real estate solutions and facilities management”, and Global Initiative for Restructuring Environment and Management (GIRED), India’s industry-led and industry-managed association, professing “a proactive role in improving infrastructural issues that many businesses are grappling with on a day to day basis.” In its latest report, “Top 21 Business Destinations Ranking”, Ahmedabad has been given an 8thranking, way behind Indore, Bhubaneswar and Coimbatore, and Vadodara even worst – 14th.

On an overall scale of 160, the study has found, Ahmedabad’s score is 119.44, as against Bangalore’s 129.56, Chennai’s 127.87, Mumbai’s 123.64, Pune’s 122.64, Indore’s 121.04, Bhubaneswar’s 119.84, and Coimbatore’s 119.84. Worse, in none of the parameters – human capital, energy, water, mobility and transport, EHS (environment, health and safety), schools and colleges, housing, healthcare, ability to attract talent, climate, office space availability, malls and multiplexes, helping help available, infrastructure for helping hand, city culture, and getaways – Gujarat’s two cities make it to the top. Indeed, the survey should come as a shocker to those who have been citing Gujarat as a model of urbanization to the middle classes in India.

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Urban ranking

The research team – which included Shyam Sundar, Ramya R and Inayath Ulla Khan from GIREM, Rohit Kumar of DTZ, Ramesh Menon from Certes Realty Ltd, and M Sridhar Raghavendra from Mphasis – visited all 21 cities four times to have a “firsthand account on research parameters”, and used both “primary and secondary information”, to quote from the study. Among those interviewed were mainly elites of the respective cities – officials from government departments, corporate entities, office-end users and “other stakeholders of city development”, whatever it may mean. The individual parameters – 16 of them – have been calculated by taking a scale of 10 each in order to arrive at the total figure of 160 for calculating an overall score for each city.

Even as “appreciating” Ahmedabad’s “good energy and water supply”, the study says, “The city lags behind in a few parameters, viz human capital, housing and office space availability, EHS, presence of malls and multiplexes, and getaways.” But it underlines, “Ahmedabad lacks the infrastructure and approach to attract services business. Ahmedabad should focus on creating IT corridor to usher in high-end services business (i.e. creation of induced and indirect jobs). A more cosmopolitan atmosphere would go a long way in attracting quality workforce to the city.” Like Ahmedabad, Vadodara may have scored high on energy and water supply, but the study recommends that city should “work towards providing a more cosmopolitan and worldly environment. More avenues should be created in the service sector. The city needs to invest more in eco-socio-economic infrastructure in order to attract investments and create jobs.”

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Top ranking cities for individual parameters

Scores for individual parameters suggest where Ahmedabad is placed vis-à-vis other cities. On human capital index, Ahmedabad’s score is 14.5, which is lower than Bangalore (17.5), Channai (15.6), Hyderabad (15.6), Indore (15.6), Mangalore (15.6), Mumbai (17.1), and Pune (16.6). Interestingly, several cities rank equal to that of Ahmedabad, such as Bhubaneswar, Gurgaon, Jaipur, and Vishakhapattanam. On environment, health and safety (EHS), Ahmedabad’s score is 9.6, which is worse than Bangalore, Bhubaneswar, Calicut, Chandigarh, Coimbatore, Jaipur, Nagpur, Navi Mumbai, Noida and Pune.  In housing index, Gujarat scores 7.28, which is worse than Bangalore, Bhubaneswar, Calicut, Chandigarh, Gurgaon, Indore, Jaipur, Kochi, Mangalore, Nagpur, Noida and Vadodara.

As for other parameters, things are no better. Seven cities score better than Ahmedabad in healthcare index, and another eight cities score equal to that of Ahmedabad (7.2). As for the ability to attract talent, nine cities do better than Gujarat, while all other cities score equal to that of Ahmedabad (6.72).  On office space availability, Ahmedabad scores 5.6, better than only two cities, Indore and Vishakhapattanam. In the getaway index, Ahmedabad (1.12) either scores worse than other cities or is equal to them.  In city culture index, Ahmedabad scores 2.56 which is worse than Bangalore, Bhubaneswar, Chennai, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata and is better than Calicut, Chandigarh, Coimbatore, Gurgaon, Indore, Nagpur, Noida, Pune, Vadodara, and Vishakhapatnam.

Ahmedabad ranking for different parameters

Ahmedabad ranking for different parameters

The study comes almost a year after well-known neo-liberal economists Bibek Debroy of the Centre for Policy Research, Laveesh Bhandari of Indicus Analytics, Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar of Cato Institute and Ashok Gulati of the Commission for Costs and Agricultural Prices ranked Gujarat as No 1 in economic freedom in their study widely cited, “Economic Freedom Rankings of States 2012″. However, on “ease of doing business”, these economists, who are known to be fans so-called Gujarat model, ranked Ahmedabad No 5, way behind Ludhiana, Hyderabad, Bhubaneswar and Gurgaon. Worse, when it comes to time taken to start a business, they ranked Ahmedabad 10th in a list of 17 cities. The cities which took lesser time than Ahmedabad (35 days) in starting business were Mumbai, Noida, Jaipur, Indore, New Delhi, Gurgaon, Hyderabad, Ludhiana and Chennai.

Vadodara ranking for different parameters

Vadodara ranking for different parameters

As for the cost of starting-steps to begin business, calculated as percentage of income per capita, Ahmedabad’s 46.3 per cent was found to be higher than Jaipur, Indore, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Bhubaneswar, Patna and Guwahati. Carried out in partnership with Friedrich Naumann Stiftung, the study said that in building permit approvals and utility connections, which is the biggest hurdle in starting business, Ahmedabad took more time (around 145 days) than seven other cities – Hyderabad (performing the best with 75 days), Bengaluru, Gurgaon, Noida, Chennai and Ludhiana. By way of comparison, the study said, “In Saudi Arabia, property can be registered in just two days at zero cost. Brazil and China also have zero cost of registration, though they take 29 days and 42 days respectively. But in India, the average registration time in the 17 cities is 55 days.”

In other parameters, too, Ahmedabad was behind many other cities – as many as nine other cities out of 17 took lesser time in registering property; in the ease in paying taxes, Ahmedabad’s ranking was 11th; in enforcing contracts, the city’s ranking was one of the worst, 16th, with Mumbai being the only other city doing worse than Ahmedabad. Only in one sector, Ahmedabad ranked better than most states except Bhubaneswar and Chennai – ease in importing and exporting. Equaling Mumbai, even here, the cost of import and export for Ahmedabad was higher than 10 other states.

Leading the mission of all-round development Chief Minister Mr. Narendra Modi completes 12 years at the helm of Gujarat

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Gujarat chief minister Mr. Narendra Modi, who took over the office of chief minister on October 7, 2001, will complete 12 years at the helm of the state’s governance. Under Mr. Modi’s leadership Gujarat’s development journey has established unique identity and stature in the country and the World across.

Tomorrow – October 7, 2013, the present state government will enter into the 13th year under the leadership of Mr. Modi. This is record in the history of Gujarat’s political and public life making Mr. Modi as the longest serving chief minister for the state.

On this occasion, Gujarat government’s people’s welfare oriented achievements and an outline of all-round development has been presented in this article.

Remember the situation of Gujarat in the 21st Century… ravaged by the earthquake… windstorm and scarcity hit Gujarat…electricity deficiency…degraded agriculture and industrial sectors… unemployment problems…and so many other difficulties and challenges had gripped Gujarat. People of Gujarat who witnessed all these problems in the beginning of 21ST Century, have seen a new wave of change-transformation from the year 2001… all-round development has dawned and Gujarat is shining under it…people are witnessing their dreams and decisions getting realized…and the reason behind these is because Gujarat had initiated a ‘Panchamrut’ –inclusive and unstoppable development journey on October 7, 2001 under the leadership of Mr. Narendra Modi. Today with completion of twelve glorious years, this chapter of phenomenal development has got engraved in the hearts of the people of Gujarat.

For Gujarat, when it got carved out as separate state from the Brihan Mumbai State on May 1, 1960, all the Gujaratis took a pledge of creating a very special state of Gujarat. All the Gujaratis have been working so dedicatedly and contributing to the development of Gujarat and to realize the dreams initiating a ‘mahayagya’ where it has been following in the footsteps of Gandhiji, influenced by decision making power of Sardar Patel, piousness of Pandit Ravishankar and cohesiveness and simplicity of Induchacha… and because of the all the hard work and industrious efforts, Gujarat has been shining and became vibrant in entire World.

Gujarat’s development strategy could be attributed to enforcing of a focused 360 degree growth model and it has its over 6 crore of population at the centre stage of it. Because of its all-round development, it is not just the country but countries from around the globe are looking at Gujarat. State has adopted three-tier model focusing on proper development of industry, agriculture and service sector in the state. And, because of a balanced development of all these three sectors speed of Gujarat’s economic growth never goes into a slump.

Gujarat’s industrial development has attracted the entire world and it has become the growth engine of nation. Having 5% population of India, Gujarat’s achievements are exemplary and commendable. For entire country’s share, the state contributes around 98% of soda-ash, 80% of diamond polish and exports, salt production 75%, petrochemicals 62%, crude oil 53%, chemicals 51%, cargo handling 35% and natural gas (offshore) 30%. Because of an investor friendly environment Gujarat has been able to attract investment for over six Vibrant Summits.

Of the total DMIC corridor, state has around 60% share of it and 40% of freight corridor passes from Gujarat, and to leverage such opportunities Gujarat became first state to develop Special Economic Zones (SEZs). In Dholera it is building a city on the scale of an international business hub and GIFT City in Gandhinagar. For over 135 projects, the state has implemented plans in ports; power, road, water and other internal infrastructure needs worth Rs 1 lakh crore and these all are being done under PPP model.

In agriculture sector Gujarat has taken so many initiatives giving due importance to different aspects of the field. Linking knowledge and research of agri varsities to the farm under land to lab project and even introduced soil health card. With all such all round efforts, today it has annual agriculture produce touching worth Rs. 1.11 lakh crore which once was just Rs 9,000 crore. While cotton production has jumped from 21 lakh bales to 1.20 crore bales, 42 lakh farmers have got soil health card and 1.25 crore animals are being checked under health camps. Entire nation’s agriculture growth rate is around 3.5% while Gujarat is marching ahead of all over 10.7% rate of growth. In the beginning 40 years of Gujarat, only 6.30 lakh agriculture power connections were given while in last one decade it has given 4 lakh new connections. Similarly, the amount of electricity subsidy for farmers went up from Rs 300 crore to Rs 3000 crore. Completed canal work of Narmada for over 458 km and of 38 planned, works for 29 canals have been finished. Till date over Rs 35,000 crore have been spent on these works and generated electricity of 2160 crore unit from its hydro power plants.

For the development of service sector and making it people oriented, state has done micro level planning to take the fruits of development to each person of the state. It has made health services speedy and efficient. Over 500 ambulances under the 108 emergency services reach the affected people within few minutes and it has taken the problems of malnutrition head on to eradicate it and under this different projects are being implemented for strengthening, implementing and monitoring of the schemes and results. It has given 24 hour three-phase power supply and initiated mass programs for school enrollment and also to promote girl child education. Empowered the panchayats and became the first state to decentralize the powers.

On the IT front, Gujarat has made strides taking major initiatives on e-governance. It has laid over 1.5 lakh km of fiber cable network and linked majority of government functioning under Gswan making it Asia’s largest network. Chief Minister Mr. Modi handles people’s complaints online using Gswan while state has also become hub for green energy where so many projects have been implemented under solar, wind and canal-bed power production systems.

Correct yardstick of development of any state is based on the how much it has done for the deprived. Gujarat has given land plots to over 8 lakh below poverty line families in rural areas and over 1000 Garib Kalyan Mela are being held where over 85 lakh beneficiaries are directly awarded with benefits of over Rs 13,000 crore to do away with the middlemen.

For all-round development of Vanbandhu, state has implemented Rs 15000 crore Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana, Rs 11000 crore Sagarkhedu Yojana and Rs 13000 crore for urban poor. State government has always remained ever ready to be at the help of needy section of the society.

Under Mr. Modi’s leadership Gujarat has made progress in all the directions and not only for country but for entire World it has given a new inspiration for development.

Enabling Jan Shakti: The Magic of P2G2 (Pro-People, Proactive Good Governance)

 

 

Even after 66 years of independence, the ordinary Indian citizen is unable to achieve real economic and social freedom. A predatory state based on the principles of license-permit raj especially at the bottom of the pyramid has betrayed the trust of the citizen and made her disconnected with the system .

Lack of accountability in public sector means that according to Global corruption barometer survey 2013 conducted by Transparency International, every second Indian has paid a bribe to a public official in the last twelve months (as opposed to only half that number being the global average).

Pro-People, Proactive Good Governance

Gujarat under Shri Narendra Modi understood the root of this problem and focused on the motto of ‘Maximum Governance, Minimum Government’. It then went beyond this and realized that “Mere good governance is not enough; it has to be pro-people and pro-active.” Good governance is putting people at the center of development process.”And thereafter promugalted the mantra of ‘pro-people, proactive good governance’ (P2G2). This article will highlight five key ways in which Gujarat govt. has made the government accountable to the masses: Accessibility, Decentralization, Efficiency, Innovation and Participation

Pro-People, Proactive Good Governance

1) Accessibility: To address the problems people face Gujarat started a fail-safe grievance redressal system called SWAGAT (State Wide Attention on Grievance through Application of Technology). Shri Modi personally proclaimed that babus harassing citizens should be afraid of the law and created this system which is spread over to the entire state, down to the district, taluka and village level. Every 4th Thursday of the month Shri Modi personally addresses citizen grievance which escalate to his level. And as opposed to lip service programs, the results of the program are tracked and 92% of grievances have been fairly redressed. No wonder the programme has also won UN’s Best Public Service Award.

Access to entire state resources has been enabled at every village level with eGRAM with every gram panchayat being networked. Similarly, Gujarat has used technology and social media to enable two way communication directly with CM though his site as well using tools like Video conferences, audio bridges etc.

2) Decentralization: A decentralization program called Aapno Taluko, Vibrant Taluko (ATVT) was started under which, every Taluka in Gujarat is empowered and self sustaining to provide a local platform for driving double digit growth and social development.he decentralization of administration upto sub-district (taluka) level has made it speedier, effective, transparent, and citizen centric. This has led every taluka to aspire to develop faster and instill a sense of belonging to give a new stimulus to the development process. Every taluka now plans as per its requirements and as per the challenges that it faces, and accordingly carries out more focused implementation of development schemes to reap higher benefits.

Pro-People, Proactive Good Governance

3) Efficiency: The state Chief Minster’s Office (CMO) is a picture of efficiency. The Gujarat CMO has received ISO 9001 certification (for Quality Management Systems). Most of the operations are paperless and it uses an Integrated Workflow and Document Management System (IWDMS) that has resulted in reduction of processing times also. It has also improved transparency and enabled better monitoring of the progress of individual files through the administrative hierarchy.

Pro-People, Proactive Good Governance

A similar improvement initiative was in Public Distribution System (PDS) where weeding out bogus ration cards and stopping under delivery at Fair Price Shops (FPS) was done in a win-win manner for both consumer and dealers. A quasi food vouchers was presented by using bar coded and biometric technology to people , while allowing FPS to increase sales. This initiative has been further rewarded by United Nations World Food Programme and notably Supreme Court asked the Indian government and learn from the Gujarat model and implement it across the country.

4) Innovation: Delayed justice remains one of the biggest problem threatening India’s democratic setup. Gujarat recognized the lack of judicial capacity to handle litigation is one of the first state in the country to start night courts. Alongside, alternate dispute resolution mechanisms have also been promulgated and mechanisms like Nari Adalats (Women’s courts) have truly bought fast justice for all. Such innovations fulfill the state’s promise of providing its core function of maintaining law and order.

Pro-People, Proactive Good Governance

5) Participation: The acid test of an accountable and accessible state is the ease with which it involves the citizen in elf governance and gives them a say in the performance of its representatives. Gujarat is once again the first state in India to enable online voting at the local level. Meanwhile Gujarat government continues its work to bring the government to citizen’s doorstep.

Rather than indulge in plain speak and make empty claims about abolishing corruption, Gujarat under Shri Modi has actually delivered results on these counts in the last decade. This has been recognized in multiple forums with awards from independent parties like United Nations and even the Supreme Court directing the Indian govt. to follow the Gujarat model. With the average age of an Indian being 25 years, its imperative that the success stories of the Gujarat and Modi model are replicated across India. This is the surest way we can guarantee a bright future for this young country.

New Act “banning” manual scavenging allows government to continue with the despicable practice temporarily under certain conditions

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The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 received assent of the President on September 18, 2013 and it was published in the Gazette of India on September 19, 2013. There is a general view among civil society organizations and like-minded individuals that the Act would eradicate the most inhuman practice of manual scavenging from India. After going through its provisions, it is not possible to support such a view. In fact, one is prompted to raise certain concerns and suggest that the Act is ineffective in addressing the issue of manual scavenging. It appears incapable of ending the practice of manual scavenging, which would continue to prevail in large parts of India, like before. Following is point-by-point critique of the Act:

Section 2 (1) (d) of the Act says that “hazardous cleaning” by an employee, in relation to sewer or septic tank, means its manual cleaning by such employee without the employer fulfilling his obligations to provide protective gear and other cleaning devices and ensuring observance of safety precautions, as may be prescribed or provided in any other law, for the time being, till the rules to fully implement the Act come into force.

Critique: The definition of “hazardous cleaning” in the Act will increase the incidence of entering the drainage/manhole to clean it up, and this would consequently lead to the death of manhole workers, as the Act allows manhole workers to enter the manhole, provided they wear protective gears. At the same time, the type of protective gears to be provided to the workers is not very clear – in fact, this will be mentioned in the rules to be framed subsequently.

Manhole workers should be allowed to enter into gutter only if they are full equipped with safety equipment like oxygen cylinder, torch, etc., and are constantly under observation from a remote compute. They must be provided professional training by training institutes such as fire brigade, and only certified manhole worker should be allowed to enter in after taking all necessary precautions and providing safety devices.

Section 2 (1) (e) of the Act says  that “insanitary latrine” means a latrine which requires human excreta to be cleaned or otherwise handled manually, either in situ, or in an open drain or pit into which the excreta is discharged or flushed out, before excreta fully decomposes in such manner as may be prescribed. At the same time, it says that a water flush latrine in a railway passenger coach, when cleaned by an employee with the help of such devices and using such protective gear, as the Central government may notify, shall not be deemed to be an insanitary latrine.

Critique: The Indian Railways is one of the major promoters of manual scavenging, and by this Act it is exempted from the definition of insanitary latrines. So, the Indian Railways will continue to practice manual scavenging. Water flush latrine in a railway passenger coach at railway stations will make someone to clean manually human excreta, and the practice will continue to prevail like before.

Section 2 (1) (g) of the Act says  that “manual scavenger” means a person engaged or employed at the commencement of this Act, or at any time thereafter, by an individual or local authority or agency or a contractor, for manually carrying, disposing of, or otherwise handling in any manner, human excreta in an insanitary latrine or in open drain or pit into which the human excreta from the insanitary latrines is disposed of, or on a railway track or in such other spaces or premises, as the Central  government or a State government may notify, before excreta fully decomposes in such manner as may be prescribed, and the expression “ manual scavenging” shall be construed accordingly.

At the same time, as “explanation”, section 2 (1) (b) says that a person engaged or employed to clean excreta with the help of such devices and using such protective gears, as the Central government may notify, shall not be deemed to be a “manual scavenger”.

Critique: The Act has addressed only insanitary latrine or open drain or pit at a time when urbanization is rapidly spreading in India. Due to lack of sufficient public toilets and individual toilets, open defecation is widespread, and this leads to manual scavenging. In fact, the explanation in section 2 (1) (b) has killed the soul of the Act and it has legitimized manual scavenging by stating that it can be done by using protective gears and other devices. Manual scavenging must be prohibited in any form.

Section 4 (1) of the Act says that every local authority shall  carry out a survey of insanitary latrines existing within its jurisdiction, and publish a list of insanitary latrines, in such manner as may be prescribed, within a period of two months from the date of commencement of this Act.

Critique: Here the Act talks identification of only insanitary latrines. But the Act does not mention identification of spots where open defecation is done, and consequently someone has to clean manually human excreta from these open spaces in urban areas.  The local authorities have no willingness, time and expertise to conduct survey to identify insanitary latrines. There is also the possibility that local authorities would not identify actual number of insanitary latrines when insanitary latrines are constructed and maintained by them.  Survey may be carried out, but it may remain on paper. Instead, the task to conduct survey may be given to a designated professional agency.  Besides, the period of two months is insufficient to carry out survey of insanitary latrines.

Section 4 (2) of the Act says that steps should be taken to construct adequate number of sanitary community latrines, within such period not exceeding three years from the date of commencement of this Act, as the appropriate government may, by notification, specify, so as to eliminate the practice of open defecation in its jurisdiction.

Critique: It means that the practice of manual scavenging because of open defecation in most of the urban areas will continue for three years from the date of commencement of the Act!

Section 39 (1) of the Act says that the appropriate government may, by a general or special order published in the Official Gazette, for the reasons to be recorded, and subject to such conditions as it may impose, exempt any area, category of building or class of persons from any provisions of this Act or from any specified requirement contained in this Act or any rule, order, notification, byelaws or scheme made there under or dispense with the observance of any such requirement in a class or classes of cases, for a period not exceeding six months at a time.

Critique: This is a major gap in the Act as it empowers the government to exempt the provisions of the Act. And consequently, manual scavenging will continue to prevail. It is very shocking that the most inhumane practice will be allowed to continue for six months, in particular if the government intends to continue with it.

To sum up, the above provisions of the Act are not intended to eradicate manual scavenging in any form. The Act talks more about insanitary latrines, open drain and pit, at a time when widespread manual scavenging due to open defecation in most of the urban areas due to lack of sufficient sanitation continue. This has not been address effectively. Manual scavenging practiced in the Indian Railways, and especially coaches in trains, will continue like before.

Besides, the Act unfortunately says that manually handling human excreta will not be considered as manual scavenging, provided it is done by providing safety equipments. So, manual scavenging will continue and will expand. Then, there are many loopholes with regard to definition of insanitary latrines, manual scavengers, the way the survey is to be done, the implementing authority etc. Worse, the Act does not speak about actions to be taken on the implementing authority for non-implementation of provisions of the Act.

Manual scavenging in any form and at any place must be stopped by the Act. It should not be practiced even by providing safety devices. Safety equipments are to be provided to sweepers for their better health and dignity. However, manual scavenging is an undignified work and must to be prohibited in any form. There should not be any exemption for effective implementation of the provisions of the Act. The Act has given sword to the government – it can provide devices and safety equipments to manual scavengers, and the practice would not be called manual scavenging!

Modi-Shivraj nexus raising “bogus issues” related with delayed benefits of Sardar Sarovar project: NBA

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The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), top anti-dam organization, has disputed claims by Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi at a rally in Bhopal that the Sardar Sarovar project (SSP) has helped both Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh in a big way, and gains would have been much greater had the Government of India helped raise the Narmada dam’s height to the full reservoir level. The NBA said, Modi, along with Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, has “begun playing the same old SSP card, knowing pretty well that the project, which the Planning Commission estimates to cost more than 70,000 crores as on date, is ten times the initial sanctioned cost, and has not lived up to its tall political claims and paper promises.”
“With the BJP led Madhya Pradesh government on its side, that cares little for the thousands of hectares of fertile land to be submerged and thousands of families to be affected in 193 villages, Gujarat’s CM has been pushing his illegal agenda to clear the final height of the dam (from 122 metres to 138 metres) and consign 2.5 lakh people in the Narmada valley to a watery grave, as had happened in Uttarakhand”, the NBA has alleged.
“The election stunt in the state capital, Bhopal, today is just another attempt by the Modi-Shivraj nexus to raise the hollow issue of ‘delayed benefits’ due to the SSP. It is not even ‘power’ generation that Madhya Pradesh or Gujarat are interested in, but only political power that the leaders are keen to attain. It may be noted that the Sardar Sarovar dam with 1450 MW of firm power generation capacity would generate only 415 MW firm power and the same would also go on reducing as and how the irrigation comes into being and takes water allocated for the same purpose”, the NBA said.
“Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh are not entitled to even a drop of water from SSP, but only 27% and 56% of whatever power is generated at every level of the dam height respectively. While official data shows that power generation at SSP, commenced since 2004, Maharashtra and MP have not received the exact amount of the power they are entitled to. MP, even after having to sacrifice thousands of hectares of land and resources with livelihoods is not to attain any real ‘power’ benefits”, it added.
The statement further said, “A few months ago, Modi, on his election visit to Pune, made a bogus claim that Maharashtra can get Rs 400 crores free electricity from the SSP. Maharashtra, which has also sacrificed a few thousands crores of revenue, by submergence of 33 hilly adivasi villages, has not been getting the expected quantum of electricity as decided by the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award, 1979. Maharashtra got its first meagre share of power i.e. 3 million units (MU) only in 2006. On an average, the state has been getting less than 540 MU of electricity, which is less than 1% of Maharashtra’s power generation capacity.”
Recalling its success in “exposing” a huge corruption scandal in the rehabilitation of SSP oustees, the NBA estimates it to be “worth about Rs 1,000 crores”. It said, “Not less than 3,000 fake registries in the name of land purchase and 8,000 fake documents claiming livelihood based rehabilitation of landless has meant wastage of crores of rupees from the state exchequer. The Report by the Judicial Commission of Inquiry, which has been investigating the scam for the past five years, as per orders of the MP High Court, will bring out the truth. The Madhya Pradesh CM has no moral right to speak about corruption, since one of the largest scams in the country that has not just looted the state exchequer, but violated the right to life of the people is under inquiry by the Jha Commission.”
The statement wonders, “Is it fair for a project, built and pushed ahead in the name of needy farmers and villages of Kutch and Saurashtra to divert waters, on a large scale, to corporates, urban municipalities and cities in Gujarat? Is the decision of the Modi Government to exclude 4 lakh hecatres of land from the command area and reserve the same for corporates, SEZs, SIRs etc. a ‘farmer-friendly’ move or a fatal blow to the farmers in the state? Is the sacrifice of the Narmada valley necessary and justifiable for satisfying corporate greed and political vested interests, by changing the very plan of Sardar Sarovar?”