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Mumbai, 25th January, 2017: Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (R-ADAG) was caught with its hands in the proverbial cookie jar, and that too by the Supreme Court! R-ADAG tried to twist the terms of its Power Purchase Agreement with seven states, and make a profit of well over Rs 1,000/- crore by making the states count one day as one year (31st March 2013 is the previous financial year, and 1st April 2013 is the next financial year. Get it?) And moreover, when All Indian Power Engineers' Federation (AIPEF) blew the whistle and prevented it, R-ADAG tried to sue AIPEF's office-bearers for damages of Rs 1,000 crore! Ulta chor kitwal ko dante!

The true significance of Supreme Court’s 8th December 2016 judgment on Reliance's Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project (UMPP) Commercial Operation Date (COD) has gone unreported. Mainstream media has avoided reporting important thing, namely:

1) By exploiting a loophole in the Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) signed with seven states of India, Reliance Power wanted to hugely overcharge them. Madhya Pradesh, where the power project is located, would have had to pay over Rs 400 crore extra to Sasan Power Ltd. based on their false claim that Unit 3 of the UMPP started commercial operations on March 31, 2013. (Counting interest costs, the impact on MP would be around Rs 450 crore.) The PPA specifies that power is to be supplied @70 paise per unit for the first two years, and hiked up to Rs 1.31 per unit from the third year. But, if Reliance Power’s claim of March 31, 2013 as the commercial operations date (COD) were to be accepted by the seven power-purchasing states, then the first year of power purchase would be only one day long, i.e. starting on 31st March, 2013 and ending on April 1, 2013. Such a stand would enable Sasan to start charging the higher power tariff of Rs 1.31 per unit from April 1, 2014, instead of April 1, 2015. This would have resulted in a wrongful gain of Rs 1050 crore to Sasan Power Ltd, coming out of the pocket of the Indian power consumer and taxpayer.

2) Moreover, were such a claim to be accepted, it would have also resulted in incalculable loss to the nation in terms of power-generation, as it would have removed all the deadlines and left Sasan Power Ltd. under no pressure to fully operationalize Unit 3 in a time-bound manner. On 31st March 2013, Unit 3 was functioning at a mere 17% of demand. The unit became fully operational and achieved the capacity to fulfill 95% demand only in August 2013. If 31st March were considered the start of the COD by waiving this condition, it is possible and even likely that the date on which 95% demand capacity was achieved would have been pushed back even further. The heart of the PPA is the condition that Unit 3 had to be functioning at over 95% of demand, for the Commercial Operation Date to commence. By seeking to subvert the heart of the contract, R-ADAG betrayed its profiteering tendencies, and its willingness to sacrifice the safety and well-being of the national grid.

3) Sasan Power would have got away with looting India, were it not for the persistent efforts of All Indian Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF), spearheaded by its chief patron Er. Padamjit Singh of Delhi and Er. Shailendra Dubey of Lucknow.  It is heartening to see the activist spirit with which this professional body defended the national interest before the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission and its Appellate Tribunal, and before the higher judiciary.

4) Sasan Power Limited tried to misuse Bombay High Court as a forum to intimidate AIPEF to prevent it from pursuing the matter before appropriate forums, including higher judiciary. It malafidely tried to get an injunction from Bombay High Court in August 2016 for muzzling and stalling AIPEF, and claiming damages of Rs 1,000/- crore, although the same matter was already reaching Supreme Court in Appeal.

5) There is significance in the fact that prominent Congress leaders Kapil Sibal and P Chidambaram, in their capacity as senior advocates, attempted to defend the indefensible. This helps to remind the public that Anil Ambani has friends on both sides of the political fence. No matter who wins elections – BJP or Congress – big money wins every time. The Congress camp may shout from rooftops that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is protecting the business interests of the “two brothers”, but one must bear in mind that Congress leaders also have their interests at heart.

ISSUED IN PUBLIC INTEREST BY
Krishnaraj Rao
9821588114
krish.kkphoto@gmail.com

Posted in Public Interest by
Sulaiman Bhimani
9323642081
sulaimanbhimani11@gmail.com 

Dear Maharashtra,

I have been reading news on this drought of yours and the misery you are in. I thought that the joke has gone too far, and today might be a good day to reveal that you have been pranked. It is time to stop crying about not having water and realize that things are going exactly to plan and we all can have a good laugh and you can stop pretending to suffer then.

For example:

"There will be total support from the government of India," Sharad Pawar told the Rajya Sabha

screenshot of report from Jalna saying no government tankers were providing water
Sharad Pawar's idea of "Total support from the government of India,"

He was speaking about Maharashtra's drought on the 8th of March. At that time 3908 villages were reeling under drought. Reeling is turning round and round, like we used to as kids. It is supposed to be fun, but what is fun if not shared? We now have over twelve thousand villages reeling. Now THAT's fun.

The MAHAcartel (Abbreviation for Maharashtra State Government) is of course dead certain this is a natural drought. I am inclined to agree. Nothing except the nature of politicians and their cronies can explain such a grand achievement.

Two days later, Sharad Pawar spoke of cooperation, "I want to appeal to the people of Maharashtra that as water-crisis is terrible, water should be judiciously used. At one point, people will have to share water in villages. Therefore, being patient, people should cooperate with each other," This actually makes sense, because if government tankers are not going to reach the thirsty, then only cooperation can save his friends from business losses, because otherwise they are going to have to buy water, and we all know how terrible that is.

Sharad Pawar had also said "In 1972, shortage of foodgrains was felt tremendously. Foodgrains had to be imported from abroad. Now we have sufficient foodgrains. However, this time there is no water. We cannot bring water from elsewhere," But fikar not, things are not as dire as all that. They are managing.

Screen capture from P Sainath's article in the Hindu that describes the Tanker Economy
Screen capture from P Sainath's article in the Hindu that describes the Tanker Economy

Fact is, within days of news of sugarcane planting being hit by the drought, the relief package had been announced. Actions had been taken to provide immediate relief to the impoverished. For example, removing curbs on the sale of sugar and scrapping state purchases to  may allow Bajaj Hindusthan Ltd. (BJH) and Balrampur Chini Mills Ltd. (BRCM), the biggest mills, and other producers to boost revenues by about 27 billion rupees ($497 million) annually. Is this not funny? Your orchards lie devastated, but the sugar industry was even more fragile than your shrivelled lives.

Taps run dry in Satara

The US $ 394 Maharashtra Water Sector Improvement Project that started in September, 2005 and was scheduled to be closed in March 2012. The main components of the project are: (i) Water Sector Institutional Restructuring and Capacity Building, (ii) Improving Irrigation Service Delivery and Management, (iii) Innovative Pilots, and (iv) Project Management. It was expected (on paper) to increase the irrigation coverage by up to 222% and crop production by 5-20%. Farm incomes on average are expected to increase by 49 percent, and about 33,610 farm families fully dependent on agriculture will be enabled to rise above the poverty line by the time the project is completed.

World Bank President Paul D. Wolfowitz and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram signed the agreement and World Bank agreed to give us US $ 325 million of its cost. When I say give, I'm using the term loosely. We are going to have to return it. For the ignorant, World Bank is a bank that aims to end poverty in the world by giving poor countries large loans for large projects with small returns and more damage. And the poor people it helps are usually empowered under the working principle of "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger". Tough love and all that. It is like a credit card. The advertisement only shows the spending part of it. Never the repayment. There is something about world level glamour. It sounds like a Miss World "world peace" speech, no?

The World Bank loan from the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) will fund rehabilitation and modernisation of 286 selected irrigation schemes covering about 670,000 hectares of cultivable area, enhance the safety of 291 dams besides helping in capacity building of water users associations.

It will also support four user-centred aquifer level groundwater management, and four innovative irrigated agriculture pilot projects.

Actually, Wolfowitz remembered you in his speech. "I hope this project - which is aimed at making every drop of water count in Maharashtra - can be an excellent example of development work making a real difference for people battling to improve their lives,"

jalna_pkg

 

It is a full year since the project was scheduled to complete, and we are still talking about 0.1% increase in irrigated land since 1999, which the state government has white chitted itself into God knows what wet dream it had (wet is only in dreams when it comes to irrigation - unless you are a sugarcane field or other agricultural crop like distillery, thermal plant or steel plant).

A greenpeace protest at Churchgate carries the message for maharashtra's deaf government - "Thermal Plants want water, farmers need it"
A greenpeace protest at Churchgate carries the message for maharashtra's deaf government - "Thermal Plants want water, farmers need it"

MAHAcartel claims to have invested over 700 billion rupees to bring you water. The management is superb. They are bringing it to you in tankers on payment. Never let it be said you were left high and dry as long as you paid for it. Even the World Bank paid for you to get water. The state paid. Chidu called it a national priority. Surely you aren't so stingy?

beed_drought3

What remains to do? Laugh. It is April Fool's day and the joke is on you.

Laugh while you can.

2

Part 1 || Part 2 || Part 3 || Part 4 || Part 5

When the scale of money involved is what it is, the stakeholders are not always easy to identify. Between the CEOs in their private jets and the wretched tribal Special Police Officers in the “people’s” militias—who for a couple of thousand rupees a month fight their own people, rape, kill and burn down whole villages in an effort to clear the ground for mining to begin—there is an entire universe of primary, secondary and tertiary stakeholders. These people don’t have to declare their interests, but they’re allowed to use their positions and good offices to further them. How will we ever know which political party, which ministers, which MPs, which politicians, which judges, which NGOs, which expert consultants, which police officers, have a direct or indirect stake in the booty? How will we know which newspapers reporting the latest Maoist “atrocity”, which TV channels “reporting directly from Ground Zero”—or, more accurately, making it a point not to report from Ground Zero, or even more accurately, lying blatantly from Ground Zero—are stakeholders?
What is the provenance of the billions of dollars (several times more than India’s GDP) secretly stashed away by Indian citizens in Swiss bank accounts? Where did the two billion dollars spent on the last general elections come from? Where do the hundreds of millions of rupees that political parties and politicians pay the media for the ‘high-end’, ‘low-end’ and ‘live’ pre-election ‘coverage packages’ that P. Sainath recently wrote about come from? (The next time you see a TV anchor haranguing a numb studio guest, shouting, “Why don’t the Maoists stand for elections? Why don’t they come in to the mainstream?”, do SMS the channel saying, “Because they can’t afford your rates.”)

What are we to make of the fact that the Union home minister, P. Chidambaram, the CEO of Operation Green Hunt, has, in his career as a corporate lawyer, represented several mining corporations? What are we to make of the fact that he was a non-executive director of Vedanta—a position from which he resigned the day he became finance minister in 2004? What are we to make of the fact that, when he became finance minister, one of the first clearances he gave for FDI was to Twinstar Holdings, a Mauritius-based company, to buy shares in Sterlite, a part of the Vedanta group?

What are we to make of the fact that, when activists from Orissa filed a case against Vedanta in the Supreme Court, citing its violations of government guidelines and pointing out that the Norwegian Pension Fund had withdrawn its investment from the company alleging gross environmental damage and human rights violations committed by the company, Justice Kapadia suggested that Vedanta be substituted with Sterlite, a sister company of the same group? He then blithely announced in an open court that he too had shares in Sterlite. He gave forest clearance to Sterlite to go ahead with the mining despite the fact that the Supreme Court’s own expert committee had explicitly said that permission should be denied and that mining would ruin the forests, water sources, environment and the lives and livelihoods of the thousands of tribals living there. Justice Kapadia gave this clearance without rebutting the report of the Supreme Court’s own committee.

What are we to make of the fact that the Salwa Judum, the brutal ground-clearing operation disguised as a “spontaneous” people’s militia in Dantewada, was formally inaugurated in 2005, just days after the MoU with the Tatas was signed? And that the Jungle Warfare Training School in Bastar was set up just around then?

What are we to make of the fact that two weeks ago, on October 12, the mandatory public hearing for Tata Steel’s Rs 10,000-crore steel project in Lohandiguda, Dantewada, was held in a small hall inside the collectorate, cordoned off with massive security, with a hired audience of 50 tribal people brought in from two Bastar villages in a convoy of government jeeps? (The public hearing was declared a success and the district collector congratulated the people of Bastar for their cooperation.)

What are we to make of the fact that just around the time the prime minister began to call the Maoists the “single-largest internal security threat” (which was a signal that the government was getting ready to go after them), the share prices of many of the mining companies in the region skyrocketed?

The mining companies desperately need this “war”. It’s an old technique. They hope the impact of the violence will drive out the people who have so far managed to resist the attempts that have been made to evict them. Whether this will indeed be the outcome, or whether it’ll simply swell the ranks of the Maoists remains to be seen.

Reversing this argument, Dr Ashok Mitra, former finance minister of West Bengal, in an article called ‘The Phantom Enemy’, argues that the “grisly serial murders” that the Maoists are committing are a classic tactic, learned from guerrilla warfare textbooks. He suggests that they have built and trained a guerrilla army that is now ready to take on the Indian State, and that the Maoist ‘rampage’ is a deliberate attempt on their part to invite the wrath of a blundering, angry Indian State which the Maoists hope will commit acts of cruelty that will enrage the adivasis. That rage, Dr Mitra says, is what the Maoists hope can be harvested and transformed into an insurrection. This, of course, is the charge of ‘adventurism’ that several currents of the Left have always levelled at the Maoists. It suggests that Maoist ideologues are not above inviting destruction on the very people they claim to represent in order to bring about a revolution that will bring them to power. Ashok Mitra is an old Communist who had a ringside seat during the Naxalite uprising of the ’60s and ’70s in West Bengal. His views cannot be summarily dismissed. But it’s worth keeping in mind that the adivasi people have a long and courageous history of resistance that predates the birth of Maoism. To look upon them as brainless puppets being manipulated by a few middle-class Maoist ideologues is to do them something of a disservice.

Presumably Dr Mitra is talking about the situation in Lalgarh where, up to now, there has been no talk of mineral wealth. (Lest we forget—the current uprising in Lalgarh was sparked off over the chief minister’s visit to inaugurate a Jindal Steel factory. And where there’s a steel factory, can the iron ore be very far away?) The people’s anger has to do with their desperate poverty, and the decades of suffering at the hands of the police and the ‘Harmads’, the armed militia of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) that has ruled West Bengal for more than 30 years.

Even if, for argument’s sake, we don’t ask what tens of thousands of police and paramilitary troops are doing in Lalgarh, and we accept the theory of Maoist ‘adventurism’, it would still be only a very small part of the picture.

The real problem is that the flagship of India’s miraculous ‘growth’ story has run aground. It came at a huge social and environmental cost. And now, as the rivers dry up and forests disappear, as the water table recedes and as people realise what is being done to them, the chickens are coming home to roost. All over the country, there’s unrest, there are protests by people refusing to give up their land and their access to resources, refusing to believe false promises any more. Suddenly, it’s beginning to look as though the 10 per cent growth rate and democracy are mutually incompatible. To get the bauxite out of the flat-topped hills, to get iron ore out from under the forest floor, to get 85 per cent of India’s people off their land and into the cities (which is what Mr Chidambaram says he’d like to see), India has to become a police state. The government has to militarise. To justify that militarisation, it needs an enemy. The Maoists are that enemy. They are to corporate fundamentalists what the Muslims are to Hindu fundamentalists. (Is there a fraternity of fundamentalists? Is that why the RSS has expressed open admiration for Mr Chidambaram?)

It would be a grave mistake to imagine that the paramilitary troops, the Rajnandgaon air base, the Bilaspur brigade headquarters, the Unlawful Activities Act, the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and Operation Green Hunt are all being put in place just to flush out a few thousand Maoists from the forests. In all the talk of Operation Green Hunt, whether or not Mr Chidambaram goes ahead and “presses the button”, I detect the kernel of a coming state of Emergency. (Here’s a math question: If it takes 6,00,000 soldiers to hold down the tiny valley of Kashmir, how many will it take to contain the mounting rage of hundreds of millions of people?)

Instead of narco-analysing Kobad Ghandy, the recently arrested Maoist leader, it might be a better idea to talk to him.

In the meanwhile, will someone who’s going to the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen later this year please ask the only question worth asking: Can we please leave the bauxite in the mountain?