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Hydel projects: HP govt must follow norms

I read the news-item, “Don’t allot projects in Chenab basin for now: Green ministry” (Jan 18). The report from Mandi states that the Centre has also recommended a riparian distance of 2 km between the two projects. The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has rightly responded to the environmental hazards posed by unplanned harnessing of hydro-electric potential in Himachal Pradesh.

Though hydro-power development in the state is a major activity, it should not be implemented at the cost of environment. Due attention should be given to this aspect while clearing any new project.

The Shukla Committee appointed by the Himachal Pradesh High Court, in its report, has aptly pointed out lack of planning in many projects on the same river/stream. The necessity of cumulative evaluation of environmental impacts in a particular river basin has now been accepted at the national level. Accordingly, in a large number of hydro-electric projects in Uttrakhand and Arunachal Pradesh, basin-wise cumulative environmental impact assessment has been initiated.

Since private sector has joined this crucial field in Himachal Pradesh, it is necessary to undertake basin-wise (and not project-wise) assessment of projects in cascade on the same river/basin. Many projects have been planned and cleared in an unplanned manner. In some cases, the river has gone dry almost in its long reach.

The state government is violating its own guidelines on minimum open flow between two projects. Similarly, the State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority appointed by the MoEF is not paying due attention to this. It is taking up environmental impact assessment for individual projects and ignoring the adjoining projects planned in cascade. In such circumstances, the MoEF’s guideline on the riparian distance between two projects needs to be followed in toto.


Black money: SC’s clarion call

The Supreme Court has given a clarion call to unearth the plundered wealth of our nation (Jan 19). The ill-gotten, undeclared and unaccounted wealth in foreign banks by Indians should be seized and deposited in the government treasury with small amounts (2 to 5 per cent) paid to depositors. No identity should be disclosed and the wealth can be pooled under the heading “Enriching India fund”. The whole process should be carried out under a new legislation enacted by Parliament and monitored by the Supreme Court.

This needs to be done urgently. The threat from China is real. Its budgetary allocation for defence is four to five times more than ours. India cannot afford to live under China’s constant threat. Any lack of defence preparedness is inexcusable. Moreover, we need huge funds for infrastructural development. Massive investment in rural development will boost employment opportunities and help alleviate poverty.

There is also the imperative need for a Master Plan to control population, check corruption and unearth unaccounted and disproportionate wealth at all levels. Try the economic defaulters through fast track courts after the expiry of the period of voluntary disclosure wealth scheme. The whole exercise should be carried out by those known for their honesty and impeccable integrity.

B.M.SINGH, Amritsar

Punjab’s hypocrisy

The editorial, “High price of petrol: State taxes a major factor” (Jan 19) exposed the state governments’ hypocrisy in protesting the recent hike in diesel prices when they themselves can reduce it by 50 per cent by removing the local taxes. The levying of these taxes has also not been found justified because they are not ploughed back into lowering the pollution level.

As usual, our state governments won’t put the blame for every conceivable problem on the Centre. For example, the prices of petroleum and diesel in Punjab are the highest among the neighbouring states because of higher taxes. Yet, the Punjab government has the temerity to castigate the Centre for the hike. If our leaders’ heart really goes out to the affected people, why are they not bringing down the tax rates? Commiseration alone will not serve any purpose.

The editorial has rightly mentioned that the subsided fuel should not be given for the oil guzzling vehicles. If rich people can afford big vehicles, why cannot they pay the full price for the oil?  People only with small cars should get subsidised petrol or diesel.


Retirees’ woes

I read the report, “Govt stops payments to retirees, loans to employees” (Jan 20). The report refers to a Punjab government’s order that harms the financial interests of senior citizens (retirees) who survive with great difficulty in these days of high inflation.

Apparently, the government has money only for the Badals who keep flying to the US so frequently, courtesy the state exchequer. Who will believe what the Badals of late have been promising to the people in the name of a prosperous future?

BALVINDER, Chandigarh

Check inflation

Sucha Singh Gill’s article, “Food inflation hurts the poor” (Jan 18) was timely. I endorse his view that immediate withdrawal of forward trading in agricultural commodities will end food inflation. Inflation, the indirect exploitation of people, was institutionalised by Hitler to meet huge World War II expenses. How can the Centre justify the skyrocketing of prices today?


Helping NRIs

Reports of the creation of a new Special Police Cell in Punjab headed by Gurpreet Deo, Inspector-General of Police, to look into matrimonial and property disputes involving NRIs is appreciable. Legal aid should be provided to men whose brides have cheated them when they (brides) are already married or having live in relationships in foreign countries.

Parents of such brides are partly involved in acts of cheating and looting of ornaments along with airfares and valuable things. The Special Police Cell should even pursue criminal cases in the countries where the NRI brides have fled.

N.M. HANSI, Ludhiana

Avoidable tragedy

I read the news-item, “Bizarre gunshot kills Balram Jakhar’s son” (Jan 18). The career of a popular leader came to an end when Surinder Kumar Jakhar died of a bullet injury while cleaning his pistol. Such leaders are rare who care for the common people’s welfare, especially the farmers.

Accidental fire from a weapon can be avoided by taking precautions, the most important being to keep the magazine removed and ensuring that there is no live round in the chamber when it is cleaned. The loaded magazine should be fitted only when the weapon is required for firing. Children should never be allowed to fiddle with the firearm.




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