Cess on construction not collected properly: Par Panel

States collected Rs 32,632.96 crore as cess for construction workers’ welfare in 20 years but a Parliamentary panel has expressed doubts that this amount does not match with the building activities carried out so far.

Of this, a dismal 23% (Rs 7,516.52 crore) has been spent, which includes Rs 375.82 crore as salaries for officials who run the state welfare bodies. As per the Building and Other Construction Workers Act 1996, 1% of total construction cost could be collected as cess to fund workers in case of an emergency.

A report by Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour headed by BJP MP Kirit Somaiya has articulated the huge mismatch in the collection of cess as well as spending.

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For example, Karnataka with 10.74 lakh registered workers had collected the highest cess Rs 3,861 crore but spent only 6.21% (Rs 240 crore). In contrast, its neighbour Kerala collected Rs 1,474.73 crore and spend Rs 1,455.88 crore.

Haryana, which has a construction hub Gurugram near Delhi, collected just Rs 1,847.05 crore and spent only Rs 172.07 crore. Gujarat collected Rs 1,564.64 crore but expenditure is only Rs 35 crore or 2.23%.

Raising questions of Ministry of Labour and Employment’s cess figures till March 31, the panel said it “does not match with the construction activities carried out” in the past 20 years after the promulgation of the Act. It wondered whether these figures could be that of central agencies like Railways and National Highway Authority of India among others and not that of state.

The Committee are of the view that had the cess been collected/deposited fairly, it could run into crores of rupees,” it said. Going by the figures, it also said, the collection of cess from private bodies has not been “properly done”.

The committee are astonished to note that no efforts have been made to compare the collected cess futures with the total construction activities carried out in the respective state,” it said.

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State

No of registered workers (in lakh)

Cess Collected

(in Rs crore)

Amount Spent

(in Rs crore)

Uttar Pradesh

32.14

2,943.80

598.90

Haryana

6.71

1,847.05

172.07

Tamil Nadu

26.45

1,706

600.00

Kerala

15.63

1,474.73

1,455.88

Karnataka

10.74

3,861

240.00

Bihar

Gujarat

7.74

4.54

921.92

1,564.64

75.23

35.00

All India

2,58,17,780

32,632.96

7,516.52

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When it came to spending, the panel said salaries and allowances accounted for 5% of the expenditure from cess. Actually, only Rs 7,140 crore has been spent on the welfare of workers and recommended that the expenditure should not be mixed with the spending on workers’ welfare.

The committee said that the utilisation is “very poor” as there was no fool proof system developed by the states.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Aug 14, 2017)

300 communal incidents this year till May

Close to 300 communal incidents took place in the country in the first five months of this year with Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka topping the list.

Across the country, 44 people were killed and another 892 suffered injuries in communal incidents.

Among the 296 incidents reported this year till May, UP accounted for 60 of them while Karnataka registered 36. In UP, 16 people were killed and another 151 injured in such incidents while in Karnataka three people lost their lives and another 93 were wounded.

Other states were higher number of communal incidents reported this year were Madhya Pradesh (29), Rajasthan (27), West Bengal (26), Bihar (23) and Gujarat and Maharashtra (20 each), according to a written reply in Lok Sabha on Monday.

Last year saw 703 communal incidents, a decrease from 751 reported in the previous year. In 2014, there were 644 incidents.

Altogether, there were 2,394 communal incidents between 2014 and May 2017 in which 322 were killed and 15,498 injured.

Almost all these years, UP and Karnataka had topped the list. Last year too UP (162) and Karnataka (101) were on the top while in 2015, these states had 155 and 105 incidents respectively. In 2015, Maharashtra also recorded the same number of incidents as that of Karnataka.

The year 2014 also saw UP, Gujarat and Maharashtra on top followed by Karnataka. While UP had then reported 133 incidents, Maharashtra had registered 97 and Gujarat 74 incidents. Karnataka accounted for 73 such incidents then.

The statistics also showed that the highest number of loss of life was in 2015 when 97 were killed. Last year, 86 lost their lives while in 2014, the number was 95. Among the injured, 2014 accounted for 1,921 while it was 2,264 in 2015 and 2,321 last year.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Aug 9, 2017)

RS MP moves bill to deal with lynching, vigilantism

Rejecting government argument that existing laws are enough to deal with mob lynching and cow vigilantism, a Rajya Sabha MP has now sought amendments to the penal code to provide stricter punishments for such crimes.

Congress MP from Maharashtra Husain Dalwai has moved a private member’s bill — The Indian Penal Code (Amendment) Bill 2017 — last week saying there can be “no culture of state indifference or impunity” in cases where a particular community becomes the target.

Ministry of State for Home Hansraj Ahir on July 19 told Rajya Sabha that there are no plans to amend the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and IPC or bring a new law to deal with mob lynching and cow vigilantism. He said existing laws are sufficient to deal with murder committed by “one person or ten persons”.

husain-dalwai

However, Dalwai disagrees and said there is a need to define hate crimes and vigilantism due to the “alarming rise” in attacks which are motivated by bias or prejudice due to religion, caste, choice of attire or eating. The bill envisages an imprisonment of up to five years for those involved in such crimes and life imprisonment in case there is death.

“Such attacks are either driven by an ideology in which case it takes the shape of a hate crime or it is driven by an urge to take the law in their own hands and punish the victims on mere suspicion of an offence have been committed,” the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the bill said.

It said hate crimes as well as vigilantism are treated as offences in many countries, attracting even stricter punishment than ordinary crimes because they “tend to offend public tranquillity, create a feeling of disharmony and undermine the faith of people” in law and justice machinery.

“There can be no culture of state indifference or impunity in such cases as they speak of a larger malaise rather than one-off and disconcerted incidents,” it said.

The Opposition parties have raised pitch over cow vigilantism in both Houses of Parliament in the ongoing Monsoon session, accusing the BJP-led government of encouraging organisations behind the violence by cow vigilantes.

A series of incidents involving cow vigilantes had rocked the country in the past couple of years with opposition leaders saying there were at least 50 such incidents in the recent past.

On its part, the BJP said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly come out strongly against such acts.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Aug 7, 2017)

2016: Rape, abduction cases on rise, dowry deaths show decline

After a fall in 2015, the crimes against women has witnessed a rise last year in the country with rape cases registering almost 11% increase.

According to provisional figures, the Ministry of Home Affairs has said that there were 3.51 lakh crimes reported against women in 2016 as against 3.31 lakh in the previous year.

Though the final figures for last year is yet to come, what may be a matter of concern for law enforcement agencies is the rise in numbers in 2016.

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Crime Against Women
2014 – 3,40,826
2015 – 3,31,649
2016 – 3,51,948

Rape
2014 – 36,735
2015 – 34,651
2016 – 38,891

Kidnapping/Abduction
2014 – 57,311
2015 – 59,277
2016 – 64,618

The year 2015 saw a dip from 3.40 lakh cases in 2014 and 3.37 lakh in 2013. Last year’s figures has surpassed the that of the past three years.

One of the worrying signs would be the increase in cases of rapes, attempt to rapes and abductions.

Among the states, Uttar Pradesh reported the highest cases at 48,757 followed by West Bengal (34,205) and Maharashtra (31,308). Karnataka reported 14,250 crimes against women last year as against 13,993 in 2014 and 12,786 in 2015.

The figures the MHA placed in Parliament last week showed that there were 38,891 cases of rape reported last year compared to 34,651 in 2015, registering a rise of 10.90%. There were 36,735 rape cases in the country in 2014.

Similarly, the attempt to rape cases also rose from 4,234 in 2014 to 5,719 last year. Kidnapping and abduction of women rose by 12.74% to 64,618 compared to 2014’s 57,311. In 2015, there were 59,277 cases.

Acid attacks also saw an increase from 134 reported in 2014 and 140 in 2015 to 167 last year.

Bulk of the cases relating to crime against women was registered under the head cruelty by husband or his relatives. Last year saw 1.10 lakh such cases, a decrease from 1.13 lakh cases in 2015 and 1.22 lakh in 2014.

Also, there was a slight decrease in dowry deaths — from 8,455 in 2014 and 7,634 in 2015 to 7,623 in 2016.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Aug 7, 2017)

Law and Order much better: JK to Centre

The law and order situation in Jammu and Kashmir is now “much better” than the previous year, the state government has told the Centre citing official figures of incidents.

However, the attempts to create trouble in the Valley is on a rise as infiltration attempts have more than doubled and terror incidents this year have not decreased compared to last year.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) informed the Parliament last week the government is keeping a constant watch on all developments having a bearing on India’s security and takes all necessary measures to safeguard it.

“As reported by the State Government, the law and order situation in Jammu and Kashmir is much better than the previous year as 583 cases have been registered during the current year till date against 2897 cases of previous year,” Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir replied to a written question in Lok Sabha last week.

It also noted that the number of civilians killed this year was 21 while last year saw 85 civilian deaths. In comparison, it was 112 in 2010.

The state government told MHA that 12,650 miscreants or separatists were either arrested or bound down under substantive and preventive laws since year 2016. Separatists and trouble mongers have been kept under close surveillance to check their activities.

According to statistics provided by the MHA, there were 664 incidents of stone-pelting incidents this year till July 9 while there were 2,808 in 2016 and 2,794 in 2010. Stone-pelting and other protests had intensified in Kashmir after the encounter killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani in July last year.

While there was a decrease in terrorist incidents in the past couple of years but it rose to 322 in 2016 and this year till July 9, there were 172 incidents in which 12 civilians, 38 security personnel and 95 terrorists were killed.

There were 42 infiltration attempts on the Line of Control during the past six months of this year as against 19 during the same period last year.

The MHA said the government “regularly reviews” the security situation in Kashmir and necessary directions are given from time to time.

In Parliament, the MHA made it clear that government’s policy on Kashmir is “same as was unanimously adopted by Parliament” on 22 February 1994 through a resolution, which said Jammu and Kashmir “has been, is and shall be an integral part of India and any attempts to separate it from the rest of the country will be resisted by all necessary means”.

“India has the will and capacity to firmly counter all designs against its unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity and demands that Pakistan must vacate the areas of the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir, which they have occupied through aggression and resolves that all attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of India will be met resolutely,” the 1994 resolution had said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on July 24, 2017)

‘With a tinge of sadness, rainbow of memories’, Pranab leaves Parl

President Pranab Mukherjee turned nostalgic in his last speech in Parliament on Sunday, which he made exactly 48 years and one day after he first attended a session in “this living institution”.

In his farewell speech to Parliamentarians in the Central Hall, he remembered that he was only 34 years when he first entered the portals of this “hallowed institution” as a member of Rajya Sabha from West Bengal.

“My election to Rajya Sabha took place on 4 July and the first session I attended began on 22 July, 1969,” he said as he travelled back in time.

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However, he said, “as I retire from the Office of the President of the Republic, my association with the Parliament also comes to an end. I will no longer be a part of the Parliament of India. It will be with a tinge of sadness and a rainbow of memories that I will be leaving this magnificent building today.”

He remembered that when he entered Parliament at a time when Rajya Sabha was full of experienced parliamentarians and leaders of the freedom movement, many of whom were brilliant speakers. He referred to MC Chagla, Ajit Prasad Jain, Jairamdas Daulatram, Bhupesh Gupta, Joachim Alva, Mahavir Tyagi, Raj Narain, Bhai Mahavir, Loknath Misra and Chitta Basu and many more.

“In fact, Bhupesh Gupta was truly a legend in the Rajya Sabha. Dahyabhai Patel and Maniben Patel, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s son and daughter, represented Swatantra Party in the Parliament,” he said.

He said he was further enriched by the wisdom of P V Narasimha Rao, who brought back him into prominence after political wilderness for some time. He also acknowledged the oratory skills of BJP stalwart A B Vajpayee, cryptic one-liners of socialists Madhu Limaye and Dr Nath Pai, wit and humour of Piloo Modi, poetic discourses of Left leader Hiren Mukherjee, razor-sharp repartee of CPI’s Indrajit Gupta, calming presence of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, mature advice of BJP stalwart LK Advani and passionate support of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on social legislations.

Though his Parliament membership ended in July 2012 after he took over as President, he said, he still continued to have a “tenacious link” with this institution and became an integral part of it as the President of Republic, as per the Constitution.

“In these five years, my principal responsibility was to function as the guardian of the Constitution. As I had said on oath, I strived to preserve, protect and defend our Constitution, not just in word but also in spirit,” he said.

As he took leave of the MPs, he said, “I leave with a sense of fulfilment and happiness of having served the people of this great country through this institution- as their humble servant.”

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on July 24, 2017)

CAG raps MoCA for Kingfisher Airlines’ dues

The Ministry of Civil Aviation has got a rap on its knuckles from the government auditor for “failing” to take steps to recover Rs 9.19 crore from Kingfisher Airlines.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said in a report tabled in Parliament that the Ministry has “failed to ensure” that Bangalore International Airport Ltd (BIAL) collect dues from the now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines.

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BIAL was to collect Passenger Service Fee through airlines and deposit with the government.

In March 2014, BIAL had sought the approval of the Ministry to write off the dues recoverable from the airline.

“The proposal of BIAL is not tenable as it would be an undue favour to the defaulter and condonation of faikure of BIAL to fulfill its fiduciary responsibility,” the CAG said.

“As a result, outstanding dues against airlines accumulated and recovery of Rs 9.19 crore from Kingfisher Airlines was rendered doubtful,” it said.

The matter was reported to the Ministry in April last year but the CAG was awaiting reply till January this year.

As of March 2914, Kingfisher Airlines had an outstanding of Rs 16.77 crore out of which Rs 9.64 crore was outstanding for more than one year.

It further increased to Rs 17.44 crore as on March 2016 of which Rs 10.12 crore was outstanding for more than one year, the CAG said. Out of this, Rs 9.19 crore was outstanding from 2012-13 onwards from Kingfisher Airlines, which ceased operations in September 2012.

Though the Ministry received periodic accounts of BIAL, the CAG said, at no time the Ministry directed the airport operator to collect and remit the dues. As per an agreement, BIAL has to deposit dues within 21 days of a request from the government.

“The SOP also did not provide for levyif penal interest for non-payment of dues by the Airlines. In the absence of such a clause, non-recovery of dues constituted an interest-free loan to Kingfisher Airlines,” it said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on July 21, 2017)

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