NGT raps up environment ministry for not strengthening monitoring mechanisms
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday rapped the Environment Ministry for failing to strengthen the monitoring mechanisms pertaining to the compliance of conditions mentioned in clearances granted for various projects. Stating that the lack of effective enforcement reflected the Centre’s “insensitivity” to the issue, the green panel directed the Ministry to take appropriate steps.
Taking note of an affidavit furnished by the Ministry, a Bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said, “This only shows insensitivity to the vital constitutional obligation despite repeated directions. Repeated plea of merely having such proposals without effective enforcement on the ground can hardly be held to be satisfactory.”
Following submissions made by the Ministry, that “meaningful steps” had been taken after the filing of the affidavit, the Bench said, “We cannot accept such a statement. If steps have been actually taken, we fail to understand why the same could not be produced at least during the hearing. We record our dissatisfaction at the attitude of the MoEF&CC on the subject.”
The observations came when the green panel was hearing a plea moved by Sandip Mittal seeking directions to devise effective monitoring mechanisms for compliance of conditions of environmental clearance.
MoHUA releases knowledge pack on ARHC
Union Housing Minister Hardeep Singh Puri released Affordable Rental Housing Complexes (ARHC) Knowledge Pack on Friday. This includes MoUs to be signed with States and Union Territories to provide ease of living to urban migrants in the country.
The Union Cabinet had approved ARHC as a sub scheme under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) earlier this month to provide housing facility to migrant workers and urban poor.
The Affordable Housing Complex scheme will be implemented through two models in the country.
Under the first model existing Government funded vacant houses will be converted into ARHCs through Public Private Partnership or by public agencies for a period of 25 years. Under the second model ARHCs will be constructed, operated and maintained by Public or Private Entities on their own available vacant land for a period of 25 years.
Government has said that continued cooperation towards successful implementation of ARHC Scheme will not only benefit urban migrants and poor but will also accelerate entrepreneurship and investment in rental housing market giving boost to the economy.
Finance commission submits report on agricultural exports
The High Level Group (HLEG) on Agricultural Exports set up by the Fifteenth Finance Commission has submitted its report to the Commission on Friday.
The HLEG was set up to recommend measurable performance incentives for states to encourage agricultural exports and to promote crops to enable high import substitution. After intensive research and consultations from stakeholders and the private sector, the HLEG has made its recommendations.
The recommendations include demand driven approach and focus on 22 crop value chains. The group has also suggested creation of state led export plan with participation from all stakeholders.
The group has recommended that private sector players should play an anchor role in driving outcomes and execution of the agricultural export plan.
The group has stated that the additional exports generated after implementation of the recommendations is likely to create an estimated 7 to 10 million jobs in the country. It said that it will also lead to higher farm productivity and farmer income.
Centre’s fiscal deficit reaches 83% of budgeted target in first 3 months of fiscal
The Centre’s fiscal deficit for the first three months of fiscal 2020-21 was ₹6.62 lakh crore, which is 83% of the budgeted target for the year, official data show.
Economists said given the government’s additional borrowing plans, both to meet stimulus spending and bridge the revenue shortfall as a result of the pandemic, the fiscal deficit may end up as high as 8% of GDP, far exceeding the budget’s goal of 3.5%.
The Union government has received ₹1.53 lakh crore (in terms of tax, non-tax revenue and loan recoveries) from April to June. This is less than 7% of budget estimates for the full year.
The Centre’s total expenditure for the quarter was ₹8.15 crore, almost 27% of budget estimates for the year, according to the report published by the Controller General of Accounts on Friday.
“The 83% figure is not surprising because it is using a denominator that has already been exceeded,” said D.K. Srivastava, chief economist with Ernst and Young, and a member of the advisory council to the 15th Finance Commission.
D.K. Pant, chief economist at India Ratings,estimated a fiscal deficit of 7.6%, while MadanSabnavis, chief economist of CARE Ratings, said it could go as high as 8% of GDP.
“When economic activity has been stopped because of the pandemic and lockdown, government revenues are also going to come down,” said Dr.Sabnavis. “We have been noting the positive trade surplus, but when imports are down, customs revenue is also lower. And consumers have also cut down on discretionary spending,” he added.
ISA amends framework agreement to enlarge membership
In a major development and push to Prime Minister NarendraModi’s vision of achieving universalization of membership of the International Solar Alliance (ISA), the requisite number of member countries have given the go-ahead.
After ratification to the amendment of the ISA framework, all the Member States of the United Nations will now be able to join the International Solar Alliance, including those countries which are beyond the Tropics.
The International Solar Alliance was launched jointly by Prime Minister Modi and the President of France during COP21 in Paris. The alliance aims to contribute to the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement through rapid and massive deployment of solar energy.
It also brings together countries to provide a collective response to the main common obstacles to the massive deployment of solar energy in terms of technology, finance and capacity.
ADB to support powerplants in Bangladesh with Indian entrepreneurs
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has signed a dollar 200 million financing deal with the Reliance Bangladesh LNG and Power Limited (RBLPL) to build and operate a 718 megawatt combined-cycle gas-fired power plant in Bangladesh. Announcing the deal in a press release on Friday, the ADB said that the project will ease ongoing energy shortages and drive further private sector investments in the country’s power sector.
A combined-cycle power plant is a relatively more efficient way of producing electricity. It uses both a gas and a steam turbine together to produce up to 50 percent more electricity from the same fuel than a traditional simple-cycle plant.
The financing deal has two components of dollar 100 million each. While ADB will provide dollar 100 million, it will also administer the other part worth dollar 100 million from the Leading Asia’s Private Infrastructure Fund (LEAP).
LEAP was set up in 2016 with a dollar 1.5 billion capital commitment for the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The plant is proposed to be located on land allotted by Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB), in Meghnaghat, Narayanganj District near Dhaka.
The power plant will reduce dependence of Bangladesh on electricity imports. It will also reduce the share of environmentally harmful and expensive fuels like coal and oil in the energy mix of the country.