Centre puts the brakes on JNNURM research projects, capacity - building.
The Urban Development Ministry has asked States to terminate their research and capacity-building measures under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission(JNNURM), a move that will roll back the achievements of the scheme launched by the UPA government and render it defunct. Under the JNNURM, the State governments established Reform and Performance Management Cells (RPMCs), a body of experts to guide municipal bodies in urban planning. The first outcome of the decision will be closing of RPMCs, though the Central government has invested Rs. 43 crore in them. And then the States will have to fire several hundred employees—researchers, municipal engineers, sanitary workers and computer operators—and abandon a big line of research projects. In a circular released on August 14, the Ministry’s message was blunt that “no structures of earlier missions will be supported.” It also directed the States to wrap up “individual” training programmes. In the early 2013, the Congress-led government realised that it could implement an ambitious scheme like the JNNRUM only if the municipal bodies were efficient. So the idea of capacity-building became a buzzword in the Ministry, which was quickly embraced by the BJP-led government, which included it in the Smart City Mission and the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT). Since urbanisation experts were always consistent in their demand for fixing the municipalities nationwide, the Congress-led government included RPMC in the JNNRUM to allow the States to hire experts in town planning, infrastructure development, solid waste management, procurement and information technology. Their main job was to conduct research, understand shortcomings of cities and help mayors and commissioners in planning and raise funds from private investors. J.M. Pathania, Director, Urban Development, in Himachal Pradesh, said he was surprised by the government’s decision. “We are at the stage where the new hires are already working. Some States have started research and midway you say stop, it is unfair. This [the JNNURM] was a sanctioned project. The previous government gave the first instalment. And now, all of a sudden, the new government asks us to stop it.” he said. G. Vijay Kumar, Under-Secretary at the Urban Development Ministry, who’s signatory to the circular, said the decision was made to help the States adjust themselves to the new urban policies. “The JNNURM has so many objectives, so many people who are not doing anything for the last many years, so they may be fired.”
Centre to exempt foreign firms covered by double taxation treaty
IT Act will be amended with retrospective effectto exempt foreignfirms from MAT. In a big relief to foreign firms, government on Thursday said the Income Tax Act will be amended with retrospective effect to exempt from minimum alternate tax (MAT) the overseas companies that covered under double taxation avoidance agreements (DTAAs).Foreign companies that do not have a permanent establishment in India will be exempt from paying MAT on profits from April 2001. The provisions of Section 115JB of Income Tax will not apply to foreign companies with effect from April 1, 2001, if they are resident of a country with which India has DTAA and they do not have a permanent establishment (PE) in India, said an official statement.In case the companies belong to countries with which India does not have a DTAA, the MAT exemption will apply if they are exempted from registration under Section 592 of the Companies Act 1956, or Section 380 of the Companies Act 2013. “An appropriate amendment to the Income-Tax Act in this regard will be carried out,” said the Finance Ministry statement.Earlier this month, the government had exempted foreign institutional and portfolio investors from payment of MAT on the capital gains made by them before April 1, 2015. Through the amendment the government will clarify that MAT provisions will not be applicable to FIIs/FPIs not having a place of business/permanent establishment in India, for the period prior to April 1.
Green road corridors planned
If Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari’s plan for Rs. 5,00,000 crore of investment in highways in the next four years comes off, Rs. 5,000 crore of this will go to the Green Highways policy.The plan is to grow three layers of trees and bushes. The first will be of bushes so that if a vehicle goes off the road, it does not collide with something life-threatening. The second will be of medium-sized trees and the last will be of tall fruit trees. Only species indigenous to the area would be planted, Mr. Chhibber said.“The benefits are manifold… The community will gain in terms of huge employment opportunities and entrepreneurship development, and there will be huge environmental benefits also… The local community will get the rights to the non-timber produce from the trees,” the Ministry said in a statement.A wide cross-section of agencies can participate in the project. Those eligible include government or private companies, NGOs registered as societies, trusts or private limited non-profit companies, and producer organisations.The empanelment of these companies will begin shortly, according to the Ministry. Thereafter, the bidding for stretches of the highways will take place.“Planting is best done in the beginning May or June. Our target is to have everything under way so that planting can start in at least one-tenth of the area envisaged by that time,” Mr. Chhibber said.The government has also laid down strict targets for the companies growing and maintaining trees. The minimum survival rate is 90 per cent. Only after reaching this level will a company get the required money from the Ministry in the next year.The government is concentrating on working with green contractors, separate from the brick and mortar ones. The projects will also be awarded on small stretches of 8-10 km. Pilot projects, to be carried out in each State, will first take place where there has been a good response from the local community, Mr. Chhibber said.“It is best to go small and get it right in the beginning to show that the policy works and then scale it up,” Mr. Chhibber said.
Centre banks on ISRO to curb illegal mining across States
The Union Ministry of Mines is planning to use remote sensing satellite data to curb illegal mining across States, Mines Secretary Balvinder Kumar said on Thursday.Satellite imageries taken regularly would help to keep an eye on legal boundaries of mined areas. The Ministry plans to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Indian Space Research Organisation on using satellite data for mining.The next steps would be discussed with the ISRO in early October, it is learnt. The Indian Bureau of Mines would be the nodal agency to implement the measures, which would form part of the reforms taking place in the mining sector.Mr. Kumar was addressing the inaugural session of the ‘Mining & exploration convention and trade show’ organised by the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries.The other plan is to use the GPS (Global Positioning System) to track major minerals that have been mined.The use of satellite data in mining was one of the proposals discussed at the mega meeting of departments called in New Delhi on September 7.Earth observation satellites are already used to estimate the kind of minerals and the extent of deposits present in an area. This information is used in exploration along with aerial surveys of mineral-rich areas. Major mining bodies such as Coal India Ltd. have also tried using GPS-based devices to keep watch on the mined ore and their transport.
Sources: The Hindu