Saturday, September 28, 2013

12th Wildlife Sanctuary in TN

The State government has notified the formation of a new wildlife sanctuary in Kodaikanal. It will be the State’s 12th sanctuary. A government order said it had accepted the proposal of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden for declaration of Kodaikanal Wildlife Sanctuary under Section 26 A1(b) of Wildlife (Protection) Act , 1972.
The other sanctuaries are:
(i)                Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary (The Nilgiris Dt)
(ii)             Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary (Pollachi, Coimbatore Dt)
(iii)           Mundanthurai Sanctuary (Tirunelveli Dt)
(iv)           Kalakkad Sanctuary (Tirunelveli Dt)
(v)             Srivilliputhur Grizzled Giant Squirrel Sanctuary (Srivilliputhur, Virudhunagar Dt)
(vi)           Point Calimere Sanctuary (Vedaranyam, Nagapattinam Dt)
(vii)        Vallanadu Blackbuck Sanctuary (Tirunelveli Dt)
(viii)      Kanyakumari Wildlife Sanctuary (Kanyakumari Dt)
(ix)           Sathyamangalam Wildlife Sanctuary (Erode Dt)
(x)             Megamalai Wildlife Sanctuary (Theni Dt) and
(xi)           Point Calimere Block A and B Sanctuary(Vedaranyam, Nagapattinam Dt)
The new sanctuary would be formed with forest areas from Dindigul and Theni districts. The total area of the new sanctuary in Kodaikanal would be 60,895.482 hectares, which would be an extent of 608.95 sqkm.
 At present the Kodaikanal Forest division has seven ranges – Kodaikanal, Perumballam, Devadhanapatti, Poombarai, Berijam, Mannavanur and Vandharavu. Additionally one more range from Palani will be added to the sanctuary.
Kudhiraiyar, Oliyanuthu, Poombarai, Vilpatty, Velancombai, Andipatti Reserved forests in Palani Taluk; Gundar Valley, Ampth hill Down, Kookal, Poombarai, Shengalvarayar, Karungalthonimedu, Amburuvi, Kilanavayal, Samikanal Reserved Forests in Kodaikanal taluk; Unjalanchi, Palani Hills Southern Slope East, Mulaiyar, Pambar, Perumal Malai, Arunkanal, Adukkam, Maruthanadiyar, Kaduguthadi and Murugamalai Reserved Forests in both Kodaikanal and Periakulam taluks would be added to form the new sanctuary, the officials said.

The Kodaikanal Forest division boasts of all types of forests in its ranges. This included semi-evergreen forests, south Indian moist deciduous forests, Southern dry mixed deciduous forests, southern Montane wetgrasslands and tropical evergreen forests.
A senior Forest officer said with the government declaring Kodaikanal as a wildlife sanctuary, the protected area would increase. All the Special Acts are applicable to the newly formed sanctuary. Similarly, it will improve the legal status for the Kodaikanal forest division, the officer said.
With the formation of a new sanctuary, the authorities could obtain funds from the Centre directly. Funds from Sanctuary Support Scheme could also be obtained. At present a total of 165 posts including the District Forest Officer, Rangers, Foresters, Guards, Watchers and Anti-Poaching Watchers were working in the Kodaikanal forest division.

Elephants, barking deer, Indian Gaur, sambar, common langur, wild dogs, leopard and sloth bear, were some of the wildlife one could see in the Kodaikanal Forest division. Welcoming the declaration of the new sanctuary, members of the Palani Hills Conservation Council (PHCC) said the Council first sent a proposal in 1994 to the government to declare the area as a sanctuary, which was about 1,046 sqkm. The government had declared only 608 sqkm of forest area as sanctuary.

Cheyyur Power Project

          After having taken years to carry out the spadework, the Central authorities have floated bids for 4000-megawatt (MW) Cheyyur Ultra Mega Power Project in Kancheepuram district, about 100 km south of Chennai. Estimated to cost about Rs. 24,000 crore, the project envisages the supply of 1,600 MW to Tamil Nadu. About six and a half years ago, the State government paid commitment money of Rs. 16 crore.

Cheyyur Ultra Mega Power Project
Location: Kancheepuram Dt
Total Capacity: 4000 MW
Tamil Nadu
1600 MW
0800 MW
Andhra Pradesh
0400 MW
0400 MW
0300 MW
Uttar Pradesh
0300 MW
0200 MW
The proposed plant will use imported coal, for which a captive port will be set up. The annual coal requirement of the plant will be around 12 million tonnes to 14 million tonnes. Totally, about 1,110 acres are required, for which the process of land acquisition is underway. The value of land cost has been approved and it comes to around Rs. 82 crore.
              To be carried out in two stages, the process of selecting a developer is scheduled to be completed by March 28, 2014 with the signing of power purchase agreement (PPA), even though the validity of bids will be up to June 4, 2014, for legal reasons. On signing of the PPA, the Coastal Tamil Nadu Power Limited, a subsidiary of the Power Finance Corporation (PFC) and the present project proponent, will hand over the project to the developer.
              The Cheyyur project is the second ultra mega power project to be taken up in the southern region, the other being the Krishnapatnam project in Andhra Pradesh. However, the execution of the Krishnapatnam project has come to a halt due to problems in getting coal from Indonesia.
              In respect of the Cheyyur project, most of the statutory clearances have been obtained from the authorities concerned. With regard to the crucial environment clearance, the Expert Appraisal Committee has recommended the project to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. Even as the authorities are going ahead with the project, there is a view in certain sections that it would be better to locate the project to north of Chennai where a few thermal power projects have already come up and some more are under execution.

Rahul Gandhi Vs Manmohan Singh

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s criticism of the government effectively put the controversial ordinance on convicted legislators on hold: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, away in the United States on a bilateral visit, was forced to issue a statement from Washington. But with the attack sending confused signals through the Congress on the position of the Prime Minister, party president Sonia Gandhi, reassured the Prime Minister on the telephone, saying there was no intention to undermine his position.
Earlier, the Congress and the UPA government were caught completely off-guard when Mr. Gandhi “dropped in” at a Meet-the-Press programme addressed by party general secretary Ajay Maken, only to denounce the ordinance cleared by the Union cabinet — and on which President Pranab Mukherjee had sought a government briefing.
With this outburst coming in the wake of Mr. Mukherjee having made his discomfort with the ordinance known to Law Minister Kapil Sibal and Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde — when they met him for well over an hour at Rashtrapati Bhawan.
For both the party and the government, nothing could have been more embarrassing than the Congress vice president’s bombshell minutes after Mr. Maken had defended the ordinance. Worse, virtually at the same moment, at another venue, unaware of the drama unfolding at the Press Club of India (PCI), Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Manish Tewari and Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office V. Narayanswamy, too, were explaining the need for the ordinance. Earlier, minutes after Mr. Maken began to speak, he received a phone call from Mr. Gandhi, who asked whether he could join him at the PCI.

 In the less than 10 minutes Mr. Gandhi was there, he proceeded to give what he repeatedly described as his “personal opinion.” The ordinance, he said, was “complete nonsense” and it “should be torn up and thrown away.” He said the “arguments” made in his own party in favour of the ordinance were that there were “political considerations,” arguments that he said were being made in all other parties. “It is time to stop this nonsense, political parties, mine and all others,” Mr. Gandhi said as he rolled up his sleeves, “if we want to fight corruption, we can’t continue making these small compromises. Because if we make these small compromises, then we compromise everywhere.”
As he got up to leave, members of a suddenly galvanised press wanted to know whether Mr. Gandhi’s views had been shaped by the flak the ordinance was getting from the Opposition. He returned to his seat to say: “I’m not interested in the opposition, I am interested in what the Congress party is doing and what our government is doing.” And then came the punchline: “I personally feel what my government has done is wrong,” before he made a dramatic exit. Mr. Maken retracted all that he had said earlier in the press meet to declaim: “Rahul’s view is that of the Congress party.”

The ordinance is complete nonsense. It should be torn up and thrown away. What the government is doing with this is completely wrong
à Mr. Rahul Gandhi, Congress Vice-President
The Country is waiting to see whether the PM has any self-respect left….Whether he accepts the decision of his cabinet being called nonsense, or doe she react for the honour of his own government
à Mr. Arun Jaitely, BJP (Opposition leader, Rajya Sabha)
Enough is Enough. The PM should quit. This type of blame on the government for a decision that was obviously taken in consultation with the party amounts to insubordination”
à Mr. Sanjay Baru, former adviser to Dr. Manmohan Singh
Set to GO?
(i)Mr. Rasheed Masood (Congress)
(ii)Mr. Lalu Prasad Yadav (RJD)
SC Order & Ordinance
Law prior to July 2013: Sitting legislators could hold onto seats while their appeal was pending, even if convicted for crimes
What SC ruled in July 2013?: Sitting legislator convicted for such a crime to be immediately disqualified
What Ordinance says?: Sitting legislator so convicted would be allowed to continue pending an appeal. He wouldn’t be allowed to vote in the House or draw a salary

Friday, September 27, 2013

Modi's visit to Tamil Nadu

On his first visit to Tamil Nadu after he was appointed the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi spoke in Tamil before switching to English and Hindi.  He also had a translator by his side through the one hour long address to about two lakh people gathered at the BJP's youth conference in Trichy, 350 Km from Chennai.
Mr Modi lashed out at the Congress-led government at the Centre. "Everyone is asking, are we so weak that our neighbours can do what they want and we do nothing?" the Gujarat chief minister asked. He criticised the Prime Minister's decision to talk to his Pakistani counter-part, and said  "I am anguished there is such government in Delhi that more soldiers have been killed by terrorists' bullets than in war."
          Also attacking the Centre for the dismal state of the economy, Mr Modi said, "The government has weakened the rupee. If this goes on we will have to find the Rupee with a microscope." Mr Modi drew many parallels between Gujarat and Tamil Nadu saying, "People of Tamil Nadu & Gujarat have mingled like sugar and milk. Tamil people came to Gujarat to make it the Manchester of India."
          The Bharatiya Janata Party had managed a mere 2% of the seats in the last assembly elections in the state, and observers  say Mr Modi's massive rally was aimed at attracting an ally.

The Gujarat CM has an excellent rapport with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa. Mr Modi was among a set of select leaders who had attended Jayalalithaa's swearing-in as chief minister in 2011 and she had returned the favour by attending his swearing-in ceremony last year after he won his third term in Gujarat. But so far, she has shown no inclination in aligning with the BJP for the 2014 polls.

Landmark judgment by SC: include "none of the above" button in EVMs

 The Supreme Court (on Sep 27, 2013) said that a button should be provided on voting machines for a voter to reject all candidates contesting an election in his or her constituency.

Here are some of the top developments in this case:
v    The court heard a petition filed by the People's Union for Civil Liberties, an NGO, that a button be provided on the Electronic Voting Machine or EVM, giving the voters a "none of the above" choice.
v    According to sources, the Election Commission will implement the Supreme Court order for the upcoming Assembly elections in five states due by the end of the year.
v    Activists seeking electoral reforms have proposed that if more than 50 per cent of those who vote reject all candidates, there should be a re-election in that constituency. There is no provision for this right now. The petitioner has argued that a voter has a right to record disapproval of all candidates listed.
v    The Election Commission has supported this stand. It had recommended that the government amend rules to include this, but that has not happened yet. 
v    The Centre has opposed the proposal. It contends that an election is meant to elect and not to reject. It has also argued that including a rejection button will confuse voters and will not serve any purpose.
v    At present, if a voter goes to a polling booth and does not want to vote for any candidate, he can sign a register and come out.
v    Gandhian activist Anna Hazare had campaigned extensively for poll reforms that would include both the right to reject and the right to recall an elected representative if the electorate is dissatisfied with his or her performance.
v    Political parties have not made their stand on right to reject clear yet. The BJP had asked for a detailed debate. The Left had sought clarity on what purpose it hoped to serve.

 The apex court bench of Chief Justice P.Sathasivam, Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai and Justice Ranjan Gogoi said that negative voting would gradually lead to systemic changes as political parties will have to respect the will of the people in selecting their candidates.

Youth electorates in Tamil Nadu

          With a view to include more eligible young college students in electoral rolls, over 1,000 “campus ambassadors” are being nominated across the State. Pointing out that 1,059 “ambassadors” have been identified till now, Praveen Kumar, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), told reporters at the Secretariat that the idea was to have one such person for each college. He or she would have application forms distributed among eligible persons in his or her institution and, once the forms are filled, the “ambassador” would get the forms collected and forward them to the authorities concerned. The only stipulation was that such a student should not be associated with any political party.
          District Collectors in the State have held discussions with principals of colleges in this regard, the CEO said, hoping that more ambassadors would be in place.

              Of the State’s population of around 7.4 crore, those in the age group of 18 years to 19 years accounted for 3.6 per cent – around 26.6 lakh. At present, only 2.24 per cent - about 16.7 lakh – had been enrolled. The latest initiative of the poll authorities was to rope in the left-out sections of the youth.
              Mr. Praveen Kumar added that even now, members of faculty in charge of NSS or NCC were functioning as nodal officers in the colleges for enrolment.
Earlier, he held a meeting with representatives of nine recognised parties and briefed them of the arrangements that had been made for revision of electoral rolls in assembly constituencies.
              On October 1, draft electoral rolls would be published. Applicants or those attaining the age of 18 years on January 1, 2014, could apply for inclusion or correction or change in address or deletion till October 31. On October 2 and 5, gram sabhas or local bodies or residents’ welfare associations would hold meetings for verification of entries in the draft rolls. On October 6, 20 and 27, special campaigns would be organised at the respective polling booths for submission of applications. The updated rolls would be published on January 6, 2014, according to the CEO.
Mr. Praveen Kumar added that as a run up to the summary revision, rationalisation of polling stations was carried out, bringing up the number of stations from 58,761 to 60,418.

Dirty politics in Chennai Metro Train

          In Chennai, trains too can change their colours — in keeping with the twists and turns in State politics.  The colour of Chennai Metro Rail’s (CMRL) coaches is said to have been changed from red and black to blue and black for political reasons. CMRL said that, it changed the colour after the AIADMK government came to power. Red and black until August 2011, the Metro train turned blue and black in September that year.
              This was evident from the monthly newsletter, published by CMRL, which provides updates about the progress of the Metro Rail project. Till August, the pictures of the train painted red and black were displayed in the newsletter. However, pictures from the following month showed the train in blue and black. The CMRL project was launched in 2009 when the DMK government — whose party colours are red and black — was ruling the State. In May 2011, the AIADMK came to power.

              One mock-up train in red and black, said to cost around Rs. 5 crore, had been manufactured in Sao Paolo, Brazil, by this time. It had to be repainted in the new colours before being shipped to Chennai. The mock-up reached the city in November 2012 and is now housed in an undisclosed location. There is a plan to put it up for public view and a request for this has been sent to the chief secretary.
              Early in June this year, the Metro train arrived in Chennai and was to be tested on the 800-metre test track at the depot in Koyambedu (in Chennai). However, the test run is yet to be carried out. CMRL officials earlier told they had plans for the Chief Minister to flag off the test run and had sought a date from the chief secretary.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Raghuram Rajan Report: Ranking of Indian States

Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have been identified as the 'least developed' states by the Raghuram Rajan Committee which had been set up for "Evolving a Composite Development Index of States".
Goa, Kerala and Tamil Nadu have been named as the most developed states. Finance Minister P Chidamabaram informed that Prime Minister Mamnmohan Singh had directed that the recommendations of the Committee may be examined and necessary action in this behalf may be taken. Chidamabaram said that the Committee has proposed a general method for allocating funds from the Centre to the states based on both a state's development needs as well as its development performance.
The Committee has recommended that each state may get a fixed basic allocation of 0.3 per cent of overall funds, to which will be added its share stemming from need and performance to get its overall share. The Committee has also come up with a Multi Dimensional Index of Backwardness based on per capita consumption as measured by the NSSO, the poverty ratio, and a number of other measures which correspond to the multi dimensional approach to defining poverty outlined in the Twelfth Plan.

The Committee has recommended that states that score 0.6 and above on the Index may be classified as "Least Developed"; states that score below 0.6 and above 0.4 may be classified as "Less Developed"; and states that score below 0.4 may be classified as "Relatively Developed".
Chidamabaram also stated that the Committee has observed that the demand for funds and special attention of different states will be more than adequately met by the twin recommendations of the basic allocation of 0.3 per cent of overall funds to each state and the categorisation of States that score 0.6 and above as "least developed" states. According to the Committee, these two recommendations, along with the allocation methodology, effectively subsume what is now "Special Category".
The six-member committee consisted of Raghuram G Rajan (Chairman), Shaibal Gupta (member), Bharat Ramaswami (member), Najeeb Jung (member), Nirija G Jayal (member), Tuhin Pandey (member).


Least Developed
Madhya Pradesh
Arunachal Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh

Less Developed
West Bengal
Andhra Pradesh
Jammu & Kashmir
Himachal Pradesh

Relatively Developed
Tamil Nadu