#coalgate. as for the attempts to avoid deallocation of operational blocks…

my previous story on the supreme court hearings into the captive coal block allocation was a bit of a curtain-raiser. it said when hearings resume on monday, the biggest question before the judges will be re: what to do with the blocks where mining has already started.

as things turned out, a set of industry associations and the government proposed a compromise formula to the apex court. among other things, they proposed that the SC levy a penalty of Rs 295 per tonne on coal mined — in the past and from now on. they also recommended that power producers with captive coal blocks be allowed to henceforth sell power only through longterm power purchase agreements (PPA) and not in the merchant market. in the story out today, i argue that this is a flawed idea.

ps – i was trying to remember all the lies we have heard as the captive coal block allocation scam came to roost in the newspapers. there was the “no loss” theory. then, when the investigations started, the upa said it could not find files. next, it told the SC that coalblocks had been alloted by the state governments. and then came the fear-mongering — about epic losses if blocks are deallocated, and now, about huge crippling power cuts if all blocks are taken back.

is the bjp getting nervous about the by-poll in chhattisgarh?

what should be done with the coalblocks where mining has already started?

on the national tiger conservation authority and its strange disdain for laws…

today’s ET has this story on the NTCA — the national tiger conservation authority.

“On July 9, India’s ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) issued an intriguing circular. It sought candidates for an apex position in tiger conservation — additional director general (Project Tiger) and member secretary at the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) — both roles being performed by one person. The qualifying parameters were strangely specific: Only “IFS (Indian Forest Service) officers of 1979 to 1982 batches are eligible”.”

take a closer look and all manner of other irregularities become evident — mostly around the NTCA pretending to do good work even as it mainly gets used to house a clutch of handpicked mandarins. needless to say, the brunt of these decisions is borne by the country’s already lacerated biodiversity. which is then hidden by cooking up biodiversity numbers.

ps – while working on the story, i was again struck by how unaccountable the moef is. the environment secy, rajesh gopal, prakash javadekar, none of them responded to our questions. i find myself marvelling anew at the berks.

day one of jan dhan yojana

i reported for this story on the first day of jan dhan yojana. while the media exults over its success in opening over a crore accounts on day one, cracks in the model are already visible. cynical tokenism, all this.

modi sarkar and its env/dev record

and then, there is this story on its environmental track record till now.

If environment minister Prakash Javadekar’s tweets are anything to go by, India is treading a fine balance between development and environmental protection. For instance, on May 31, shortly after taking charge at Paryavaran Bhawan, he tweeted: “The government believes in #environment and #development, and not environment vs development.” However, a look at the ministry’s major decisions between then and now suggests that in the NDA, much like the UPA, the conflict is real.

the new, new contours of financial inclusion

from the et special issue on modi sarkar completing 100 resplendent days in power, this story on financial inclusion…

Every two years, India’s financial inclusion drive reformats itself into a brand new, entirely unrecognisable avatar. Till about three years ago, it starred banks, the Reserve Bank of India and banking correspondent companies. Then came DBTs and the finance ministry, with its common banking correspondent (BC) auctions. Also came Aadhaar, opening bank accounts and keen to become sole authenticator for all financial transactions. In 2014, the landscape has changed again, partly due to Narendra Modi’s Jan Dhan Yojana.

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