Get Wired 18/8: MoEF Bypassing SC, Special Parl. Session, IndiGo’s Order, and More

Environment Ministry wants to bypass SC on wildlife projects

Environment Ministry said that it would decide on diversion of forestland for projects around protected areas without waiting for approval of the Supreme Court or the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL). The statement came in a new set of rules that the ministry set up examining projects involving wildlife. The ministry has decided to sanction the cutting of trees for development projects in eco-sensitive zones around 650 wildlife areas. The government added that it would seek the permission of the courts only for projects inside the wildlife areas. Projects of that kind account for less than 10% of the proposals considered by the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC).

President told to reject mercy pleas of two convicts

The Ministry of Home Affairs has suggested rejecting the mercy pleas of two convicts sentenced to death for rapes and murder to the President. The Maharashtra Governor had also rejected their pleas after the Supreme Court upheld the sentence. The ministry’s decision received the endorsement of the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. Mohan Anna Chavan and Jitendra Gehlot, both lodged in Maharashtra jails, sought clemency from President Pranab Mukherjee as a last resort. The President, is however, bound by the advice of the council of ministers on matters of this kind. He has so far rejected 22 mercy petitions, most recently that of Yakub Memon.

75 arrested in Tamil Nadu for caste based violence

A mob of over 500 torched a dozen Dalit houses in Seshasamudram village in Tamil Nadu’s Villupuram district on Saturday night. The mob belonged to the politically powerful Vanniyar community in the state. The attack was related to a pending dispute concerning the right of Dalits to remove a car procession on a main road in a village dominated by caste Hindu families. District Superintendent of Police K.S. Narendran Nayar, who was among the injured policemen, after the attack, said that the police have arrested 75 people, besides seven juvenile boys and 11 women for taking part in the attack. The managing director of a Madurai-based human rights organisation ‘Evidence’, Kathir said that several Dalit women were abused during the attack and asked to leave their children at home. He also pointed out that the attacks began at 8:30 pm and went on till the morning when the police finally arrived. The Dalits connected the violence to the building of the Mariamann temple after they were denied access in to at least 5 temples. A similar such incident had taken place in 2012, when 148 Dalit houses were burned in Dharmapuri after a Vaniyar man committed suicide because his daughter eloped with a Dalit boy.

Govt approves 18 Chinese companies’ entry into India

The Narendra Modi-led government has approved applications received from 18 Chinese firms since June 2014 to either set up project offices, branch offices or liaison offices in the country. Several of these applications were from companies in the power sector, construction companies and a few from petroleum companies. The list also included an airlines company and a big tire manufacturer.

Power distribution companies inflate dues by Rs.8,000 crore

Three private companies inflated their dues by Rs.8,000 crore to be recovered from consumers. The Comptroller Auditor General said in its report that there is scope to cut down tariffs in the city.  The report says that three companies manipulated consumer figures and scrap sale details, and took a series of actions detrimental to consumer interests. These include buying costly power, inflating costs, suppressing revenue, dealing with other private companies without tenders and giving undue favours to group companies. The companies mentioned in the report are Yamuna Power Ltd, Rajdhani Power Ltd (both owned by Anil Ambani’s Reliance) and Tata Power. The CAG report suggests that the companies did not undertake any cost benefit analysis, nor did they take steps to reduce their power purchase cost through optimum scheduling.

Special parliamentary session in September, says Modi

The NDA government is in talks with all political parties to bring them onboard a special session of Parliament in the second week of September for GST Bill passage. The government, which is in minority in Rajya Sabha, failed to pass the Goods and Services Tax Bill in the Monsoon Session due to strikes from the Opposition over Lalitgate and Vyapam scams. The Rajya Sabha with a total strength of 244, would mean163 members will constitute a 2/3 majority if all are present and voting. The Congress that currently has 68 members in the Rajya Sabha will be the biggest opposition.

Arms exports to get a boost

In a move, which identified 16 categories of products that can be exported after clearance, the government intends to increase military trade. Listed items include warships, tanks, armoured vehicles, ammunition, rifles and small arms, military training equipment, electronic warfare devices, software, bombs and torpedoes. The defence ministry has also amended earlier export control laws that require multiple end-user certificates by Indian companies wishing to export components and parts of larger systems, making the law more relaxed. These two moves are likely to see cause a hike in exports.

Mexico to increase Indian car imports

As per reports, car exports to Mexico will go up by over 50% to 1.32 lakh units in 2015-16, as against 82,000 vehicles for the same period last year. Volkswagen is expected to ship more than 55,000 cars from India to Mexico while General Motors will export over 45,000 units of the small car Beat.

Main suspect in attack on Bangladeshi bloggers is British

Security forces in Bangladesh claim that the main planer behind the attacks on the bloggers in Bangladesh was a British citizen of Bangladeshi origin. The Rapid Action Battalion had arrested 58-year-old Touhidur Rahman, and two other “active members” of Ansarullah Bangla Team, which was banned in May over a series of killings of bloggers. The head of the team that made the arrest Mufti Mahmood said “ Rahman told us that he is a British citizen”.

Indigo confirms record 250 aircraft order

India’s biggest airline, confirmed an order to buy as many as 250 Airbus Group SE A320 neo single-aisle jets worth $26.6 billion at list prices. This gave the plane maker its biggest order by volume. The agreement between the two was signed on Saturday and confirms an earlier provisional order by IndiGo in October last year. Earlier in 2011, IndiGo had ordered 180 planes worth $15 billion from Airbus. The new order broke the record the previous order had of being the largest purchase ever made.