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Monthly Archives: August 2014

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.

On cleaning the ganges

from an et special issue on modi sarkar completing 100 days, this report on its election promise to clean the ganga.

how to clean up the coal allocation mess

With the Supreme Court announcing that the captive coal block allocations were illegal, India needs to engage with a new set of questions on coal. Right now, our coal industry is a mess. It has spawned oligarchs, hurt local populations and decimated local ecosystems. While doing all this, it simultaneously failed to supply the country with all the coal it needs. This story takes a quick look at some of the larger questions going around — what should be done with the captive blocks? should they be given to coal india? but it is gripped by serious problem. if we liberalise, we need to remember that the country’s past experiences in liberalising energy have not been good.

and the supreme court comes in with an excellent verdict

yesterday, the SC ruled that all coal block allocations, from 1993 onwards, were illegal. and i, little rajshekhar, wrote this edit.

The Supreme Court’s ‘Coalgate’ verdict needs to be welcomed. It gives India a rare second chance to fix terrible decisions made by our politicians.

The coal allocations scandal is not an outrage merely because undeserving companies got coal blocks. It is an outrage because it concentrated the ownership of India’s coal reserves among a handful of businesses. In the process, it warped competitive advantage in the power-generation market where thermal projects relying on coal linkages and imported coal found themselves unable to compete with companies with captive blocks.

It also accelerated the country’s dependence on imported coal. Which, in turn, created fresh scams around coal imports. Coalgate also accelerated the loss of India’s already battered central forests and imperilled the rivers that originate from there. We now have a chance to set some of these things right.

But, for that, two things need to happen...