The verdict on the Chennai-Salem corridor reveals the perils of fasttracking projects
The Madras High Court verdict quashing land acquisition proceedings for the proposed Chennai-Salem greenfield expressway is an indictment of the arbitrary decision-making process behind the project. This is a political setback to its leading proponent, Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, given the extent to which he went to aggressively stifle all criticism and protests against it. The court has referred to how “peaceful protests were stifled, unwritten gag orders were promulgated, [and] police force was used to handle the peaceful protesters who were making a request to spare them and their lands”.
It was only after the court intervened that “these high-handed actions subsided”. It invalidated the notification for intent to acquire land for the project on the ground that the National Highways Authority of India cannot acquire land without complying with the requirement of preparing an environment impact assessment report. The decision is important for affirming the principle that environmental clearance ought to be obtained before any project is allowed to advance to a stage where measures become irreversible. It underscores that sufficient data on the possible harm to the environment is needed before resources are committed to a project. In this case, not only would land titles be transferred to the state; heavy compensation amounts would also have been paid by the time the environmental impact is known.
The project was pushed by the Centre and the State even though it was set to pass through wetlands, fertile farmlands, reserve forests and waterbodies.
Farmers who stood to lose their land and environmentalists had questioned the claim that by reducing the transit time, there would be saving of fuel, thereby cutting the carbon footprint.
What has been exposed in the verdict is that the eight-lane corridor was never really cleared as a project under the Centre’s Bharatmala Pariyojana.
It did not figure in the list of road projects approved under Bharatmala-I. The NHAI did not explain in its counter-affidavit how the Chennai-Madurai highway, an approved project, was dropped and the Chennai-Salem project included in its place.
The court examined the record and found that there was nothing to show that it was approved by either the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs or the Public-Private Partnership Appraisal Committee; the Chennai-Tiruchi-Madurai corridor had much higher vehicular traffic to justify its inclusion in Bharatmala.
The court’s conclusion that labelling its replacement by the Salem project as a ‘policy decision’ was not a sufficient explanation is unexceptionable.
Having failed to convince the court that the procedures it followed were above board, the least that the Centre can now do is to make a comprehensive study of its impact on the environment and on farming and rural livelihoods before moving ahead.
Bharatmala Pariyojana is a centrallysponsored and funded road and highways project of the Government of India The ambitious umbrella programme will subsume all existing highway projects including the flagship National Highways Development Project (NHDP), launched by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 1998
Secrets and agents
The arrest of Julian Assange raises fears about suppression of the right to information
The arrest of Julian Assange, the head of the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, has renewed a global debate on balancing freedom of expression (or the right to information) with considerations towards the national security of a country.
After nearly seven years of eluding authorities in the U.S. and the U.K., facing charges related to theft of classified information from government computers, he was dragged out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on April 11 following Ecuador President Lenín Moreno’s withdrawal of his country’s grant of asylum to Mr. Assange, for “repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols”.
Ecuador had earlier limited Mr. Assange’s Internet access. As he sits in jail for up to a year on bail-jumping charges from 2012 in a now-closed case relating to sexual assault allegations by a complainant from Sweden, he will find out whether he will ultimately face the prospect of extradition to the U.S. There, Mr. Assange is looking at a single count of conspiring, with former U.S. Army intelligence officer Chelsea Manning, to break into a secret government computer network.
Conspiracy charges, rather than those under the Espionage Act, are what he will likely face, given concerns in the U.K. that he should not be extradited to any country where the death penalty is applicable in his case.
At the heart of the drama is the question whether Mr. Assange is a “journalist” in the traditional sense of the word and whether, following that line of reasoning, freedom of expression is endangered or constrained by the action taken in this case.
There is some irony in this debate given that the voices of liberal America are clamouring the loudest for his interrogation for the alleged crime of conspiracy, not so much in the case of the U.S. diplomatic cables or the dissemination of related top-secret U.S. government information — but owing to WikiLeaks being linked to rogue actors in Russia who allegedly purloined Democratic Party documents and handed them over to Mr. Assange for use on his website, thereby tipping the scales in Donald Trump’s favour in the 2016 election.
Nevertheless, can WikiLeaks be considered a mainstream media organisation? Perhaps not. However, the arrest highlights troubling facts, including that the indictment against Mr. Assange, revealed only this month, appears to be flimsy, for it relates to a conversation he is alleged to have had nine years ago with Ms. Manning on a computer break-in attempt that ultimately failed.
At a time when strongmen-led governments and resurgent nationalism are at the forefront of domestic politics in many countries, the arrest of a prominent anti-secrecy advocate is likely to have a chilling effect on whistle-blowers everywhere. That could ultimately weaken democracy itself.
The Yangtze or Yangzi, which is 6,300 km long, is the longest river in Asia,
the third-longest in the world and the longest in the world to flow entirely within one country.
Its source is in the northern part of the Tibetan Plateau and it flows 6,300 km in a generally eastern direction to the East China Sea
Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL), commonly known as IndianOil is an Indian state owned oil and gas company with registered office at Mumbai and primarily headquartered in New Delhi
In May 2018, IOC become India's most profitable state-owned company for the second consecutive year, with a record profit of â‚¹21,346 crore in 2017-18, followed by Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, whose profit stood at â‚¹19,945 crore
Indian Oil accounts for nearly half of India's petroleum products market share, 35% national refining capacity (together with its subsidiary Chennai Petroleum Corporation Ltd., or CPCL), and 71% downstream sector pipelines through capacity.
The Indian Oil Group owns and operates 11 of India's 23 refineries with a combined refining capacity of 80.7 MMTPA (million metric tonnes per annum).
IndianOil (Mauritius) Ltd.
Lanka IOC PLC
IOC Middle East FZE
The oil and gas industry is usually divided into three major sectors: upstream (or exploration and productionE&P), midstream and downstream.
The upstream sector includes searching for potential underground or underwater crude oil and natural gas fields, drilling exploratory wells, and subsequently drilling and operating the wells that recover and bring the crude oil or raw natural gas to the surface.
The downstream sector is the refining of petroleum crude oil and the processing and purifying of raw natural gas, as well as the marketing and distribution of products derived from crude oil and natural gas.
The downstream sector reaches consumers through products such as gasoline or petrol, kerosene, jet fuel, diesel oil, heating oil, fuel oils, lubricants, waxes, asphalt, natural gas, and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) as well as hundreds of petrochemicals.
Midstream operations are often included in the downstream category and are considered to be a part of the downstream sector