HC asks Delhi govt to provide medical assistance to construction workers infected with COVID-19

The Economic Times | April 22, 2021

The Delhi High Court Thursday directed the AAP government to provide medical assistance to the construction workers who got infected by COVID-19.

The high court directed the Delhi Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board, which comes under the Delhi government, to implement its direction of providing medical assistance and not to involve in any complicated procedure which would render the order infructuous.

“The counsel has suggested and we find merit in it that if any construction worker is found COVID-19 positive, he should be provided medical assistance on production of RT-PCR report,” a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said.

The bench was hearing an application seeking to be impleaded as a party to a petition of advocate Rakesh Malhotra related to COVID-19 testings and infrastructure, which was revived by the high court itself on April 19, in view of surge in coronavirus cases.

The application by National Campaign Committee for Central Legislation on Construction Labour, represented through advocates Shyel Trehan and Chirayu Jain, sought direction to the Delhi government and the Board to frame expeditious procedure for medical relief under The Building and Other Construction Workers (BOCW) Act for building workers and their dependants who get infected by COVID-19.

The counsel said that Section 22(1)(f) of the BOCW Act and Rule 280 of Delhi BOCW Rules provide for medical assistance to be paid in case a building worker or their dependent is affected by major ailment and the financial assistance shall be Rs 2,000 for the first five days and Rs 200 each for remaining days, subject to maximum of Rs 10,000.

The high court had on April 19 said that the Centre and AAP government had miserably failed to think about migrant workers during the 2020 lockdown and lessons were required to be learnt from it as daily wagers were again going to face the grim reality with the imposition of fresh six-day lockdown in the national capital in the wake of second wave of COVID-19.

The high court had said as the Delhi government has announced a six-day lockdown from the night of April 19 to April 26 morning, the reports showed that migrant workers are again going back to their native places from here.

The bench had directed the Delhi government to arrange funds for providing food and other essential items to daily wagers and if need arises, withdraw the amount from the corpus under the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act.

It had added that the Delhi government shall utilise the services of contractors who used to prepare mid-day meals in schools which are closed now.

The high court, on its own, has revived the disposed of petition filed by Malhotra, noting that the virus has raised its “ugly head” once again and the pandemic is raging with much greater intensity and “it is evident that the healthcare infrastructure is at the stage of imminent collapse”.

Mineral auctions: How fair is the game?

Financial Express : April 22, 2021 || Rajesh Chadha & Ganesh Sivamani

The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 1957, was amended in 2015 to address the Supreme Court’s three major concerns in the mineral asset allocation process – transparency, fairness, and objectivity – and introduced a system of auctions.

India has a great mineral potential yet to be explored and large mineral-bearing land available for mining. However, the allocation of national resources has been a challenging exercise in India. We have seen this difficulty in the case of the telecom spectrum and coal blocks. To this end, The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 1957, was amended in 2015 to address the Supreme Court’s three major concerns in the mineral asset allocation process – transparency, fairness, and objectivity – and introduced a system of auctions.

With some oddities arising from the new auctions regime and the issue of ensuring mineral security a pressing concern, the time has come for us to rethink whether there can be alternative ways of allocating mineral concessions while maintaining the tenets laid down by the Supreme Court. Or, can the existing auctions system be designed differently?

A total of 103 auctions have been executed since 2015. Many of the auctions, particularly iron ore mines, have had high bids, even higher than the estimated value of resources. On average, the estimated auction premium cumulated over 50 years amounts to about 86% of the value of the estimated resources. Additional payment commitments on royalties, District Mineral Foundation (DMF) funds, and National Mineral Exploration Trust (NMET) funds are about 17% of the value of the estimated resources. Hence there is a total commitment of 103% of the value of the estimated resources, which does not include corporate taxes, forest and wildlife protection payments and stamp duties.

Furthermore, there has been a shift in the profiles of mining companies, from merchant miners (those selling minerals on the market) to captive miners (those with downstream plants to consume the minerals). Such a change might lead to less-than-efficient usage of the mineral resource acquired through auctions and induced general equilibrium externalities. The recently passed MMDR Amendment Act 2021 seeks to level the playing field between captive and merchant miners and public sector and private miners, which is a welcome step.

High bids unsustainable in the long run

Despite being aware of the impact of high bids on their operations, captive mining companies are amenable to bidding more than the theoretical value of the mineable resources as it would assure them of mineral supply. These higher costs can be absorbed in their downstream operations, and, in the case of steel production, the cost of iron ore constitutes only 10% of the manufacturing cost. However, this system is not sustainable, and the consequence of higher costs of raw materials would hurt the public, who would have to pay more for end products such as steel and concrete. The results of the auctions would be detrimental to the country’s interest.

The auction system also raises some questions on mineral security in India, particularly with iron ore. There have recently been 24 auctions of previously operational (brownfield) iron ore mines in Odisha (with bids ranging from 90%–104% of mineral value), yet a year later, only ten mines have commenced operation, and at less than a third of their capacity. While more auctions and time will enable the sector to return to its previous output, India may once again, in the short-term, become a net importer of iron ore despite being rich in resources.

The auctions regime has been extolled for bringing large revenues to state governments, but the high bids are unsustainable to maintain, and states may not receive these notional earnings. This regime would also deter foreign investors, who would prefer jurisdictions with lower taxation. There is also the question of the impact on local communities’ welfare if mining companies have fewer resources available to invest in their development due to the high auction bids commitment.

Some changes to the system can help resolve these issues. For example, it would be useful to have an auction calendar with multiple blocks available for bidding at a set time annually, which would allow companies to plan for their mineral security needs. Additionally, there could be a relook at the royalty system, which is an additional payment on top of the auction commitment.

We should be mindful of the importance of deep-seated minerals in India (such as lead, zinc, copper, diamond, and gold) and how a different policy regime would encourage further exploration and production. If more exploration had been done earlier, including deep-seated minerals, there would have been more mining blocks on offer, and oddities with auction bids could have been avoided.

The Centre for Social and Economic Progress (CSEP) held a webinar on April 15, 2021, to discuss India’s mineral auction regime and its impact on government revenue, mining operations, and the national economy.

AP govt. decides to construct new lift system at Polavaram project, releases Rs. 912 crore

The Hans India | April 20, 2021

The government has decided to carry out lift system works at Polavaram to meet the housing needs of the famine-hit hilly areas of West Godavari and Krishna districts between January and April apart from releasing abundant water for rabi crops in the Godavari delta from the Polavaram project. State Water Resources Secretary J Shyamala Rao on Monday issued administrative sanction of Rs 912.84 crore for the work. The minimum water level of Polavaram project is 41.15 meters. If the water level in the project is at the level of 35.50 meters the water can be moved on gravity through the Polavaram right canal. However, if the water level falls below 35.50 meters, not a drop of water will reach the right canal of Polavaram.

The hilly areas of West Godavari and Krishna districts are experiencing drought conditions. During the summer, there is a severe shortage of water for drinking and domestic purposes in these areas. In this context, the Polavaram CE submitted proposals to the government on January 22 to divert 35.50 meters to 32 meters of water from the Polavaram project into the right canal connection between January and April and supply it to households in the hilly areas of West Godavari and Krishna districts. The Polavaram project can supply water below 32 meters in abundance to rabi crops in the Godavari delta. The government has given administrative sanction of Rs 912.84 crore for the management of the scheme for 15 years to undertake these uplift works.

Scant health infra stares at face in J’guda

the pioneer | 20 April 2021 | RAJ KUMAR SHARMA | JHARSUGUDA

As the second wave of Corona rocks Jharsuguda district, many raise questions on the administration’s Covid preparedness in the district.

Despite many big industrial houses like Vedanta, OPGC and MCL extending helping hands, the district is still far behind others when it comes to health infrastructure. On Sunday, the number of Corona patients breached the three-digit mark.

With the rising trend of Corona patients day after day, the district cannot cope with patients’ requirements due to the shortage of ICUs and beds with ventilators in hospitals. The members of civil society blamed the administration’s negligence and lack of political will for the situation.

A year ago, the old hospital at Mangal bazaar was renovated to function as a Covid hospital. The hospital was said to have contained about 100 beds for isolation ward, ten beds for ICU, and seven beds for backup.

The administration had assured to enhance ICU beds in future. The administration had also said that ten ventilators, sufficient oxygen cylinders, and compressors were also available in the hospital. The management of the hospital, set up by the District Mineral Foundation (DMF) and Vedanta’s assistance, was given to Hitech Medical College.

A memorandum of understanding was signed to provide required doctors and support staff by Hitech Medical College to the Jharsuguda Covid hospital.

While more than Rs 10 crore was sanctioned from the DMF funds, more than Rs 2 crore was given to the hospital by Vedanta Company’s CSR fund to procure the required machinery. As the Covid cases are spiking, the expenditure towards the hospital management and treatment of patients has increased substantially. Demands are being made from different civil society groups to provide 200 hospital beds and 50 beds with ventilators in the hospital. Otherwise, many patients in critical conditions will lose their lives.

On the other hand, the quality of treatment available in the hospital is also not up to the mark.Former Municipality Chairman Tapas Ray Choudhury said that the hospital’s infrastructure could only be improved with the support of big industrial houses in Jharsuguda. The district administration should immediately take steps to provide 50 ICU beds with ventilator support in the hospital.

Senior BJD leaders like Manoranjan Mohapatra admitted that the present scenario of the hospital is very precarious. Patients in critical conditions cannot be treated in the hospital due to a shortage of ICU beds with ventilators.

Likewise, the Jharsuguda District Bar Association president Trinath Gual proposed to increase ICU beds and ventilators, given the seriousness of the Covid infections in the second wave.

Development through mining a major poll issue in Rajsamand

The Hindu | April 16, 2021

Congress’ Tansukh Bohra pitted against BJP’s Deepti Maheshwari for the seat in upcoming Rajasthan Assembly by-election

A robust development of infrastructure, matching with the nearby temple town of Nathdwara, through the mining sector and an effective utilisation of the District Mineral Foundation Trust (DMFT) connect the local populace with employment generation in Rajsamand. These are also the key factors during the campaign for the upcoming Assembly by-election here.

The southern Rajasthan district has about 1,500 quarries of marble, granite and minerals and their owners contribute ₹150 crore annually to the DMFT for the benefit of areas affected by mining-related operations. People’s resentment over under-utilisation of DMFT funds and diversion to other towns has prompted the ruling Congress to field mining industrialist Tansukh Bohra as its candidate.

On the other hand, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Deepti Maheshwari expects to carry forward the legacy of her mother, the late Kiran Maheshwari, who was elected from the constituency thrice between 2008 and 2018 and was a Minister in the Vasundhara Raje government. The BJP also hopes to get “sympathy votes” with the Maheshwari family member being in the fray.

‘People will select BJP’

BJP MP from Rajsamand Diya Kumari, camping in the town to address Ms. Maheshwari’s election rallies, told The Hindu that the Union government had been “responsive” to the demands raised in the constituency and had been doing its bit in different sectors. “The people here will once again repose faith in BJP. They are fed up with the Congress government, which has no clear policies or intentions,” she said.

The Congress has made an attempt to influence the local mine owners and workers with the credentials of Mr. Bohra. The mining baron, who enjoys a clean image, has been involved in philanthropic activities. Nitish Surana, managing Mr. Bohra’s election office, said the Congress candidate had made large contributions to the government hospitals and built several school buildings, besides developing the amenities at cremation grounds.

“There is no anti-incumbency wave in Rajsamand, even though the BJP has been traditionally winning this seat. Much will depend on how the Congress projects itself and influences the voters,” Ajay Singh, a youth from the nearby Kelwa village, said. Interestingly, the Congress has asked Mines & Petroleum Minister Pramod Jain to camp in the region till the polling day on April 17.

The Congress has also assured the voters that it would formulate a plan to develop the Chittorgarh-Rajsamand-Kumbhalgarh triangle as a new tourism circuit and widen the Khara feeder to bring more water to the historic Rajsamand lake, built by erstwhile Mewar ruler Rana Raj Singh in 1660.

Controversial remarks

Some controversial remarks made by senior BJP leader Gulab Chand Kataria, who is also the Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly, about legendary warrior king Maharana Pratap during the poll campaign earlier this week led to an embarrassment for the party.

As the Rajput outfits expressed an outrage, Mr. Kataria tendered an apology twice to the electorate.

Among the total of 10 candidates contesting in the constituency, the BJP faces a challenge from its rebel leader Suresh Joshi, who has entered the fray as an Independent in the name of protecting the honour of the region.

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