NEW DELHI: In what was perhaps its last Cabinet meeting ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the government on Thursday sought to address a wide constituency - from assuaging Dalit angst on faculty reservation in colleges to mega infrastructure push in Delhi and Mumbai and sweetening the deal for sugar mills - to enhance the BJP’s poll prospects.
The Narendra Modi government has been taking a flurry of decisions at the meetings of Union Cabinet and the CCEA. Over the past fortnight, both have taken 96 decisions.
Sugar sector to get Rs 12,900 crore soft loans for ethanol capacity creation
In a major boost to the sugar industry, the Union Cabinet on Thursday announced an additional soft loan of Rs 12,900 crore to sugar mills for creation of ethanol capacity and another Rs 2,600 crore to molasses-based standalone distilleries.
The decision was taken at the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“To augment ethanol capacity, the government has approved additional funds. These additional funds will be in two tranches — Rs 2,790 crore and Rs 565 crore,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told reporters after the Cabinet meeting. He added that these funds are part of the government’s support for the stress in the sugar sector. “They (mills) have some stress and outstanding dues. The government is trying to augment the income of mills,” Jaitley explained.
In June 2018, the government had announced a soft loan of Rs 4,400 crore and provided an interest subvention of Rs 1,332 crore to mills over a period of five years, including a moratorium of one year to augment ethanol output.
As per industry estimates, sugarcane dues have crossed Rs 20,000 crore till February of this marketing year.
In another decision, the Cabinet allowed an Alternative Mechanism to decide on the timing, price and quantum of shares of a state-run company to be put on the block for outright sale.
“The CCEA has approved delegation of the following Alternative Mechanism in all cases of strategic disinvestment of CPSEs where CCEA has given ‘in principle’ approval for strategic disinvestment,” an official statement said. The move will facilitate quick decision-making and obviate the need for multiple instances of CCEA approval for the same CPSE.
Approves three Delhi Metro corridors
The Cabinet cleared three of the six corridors planned under Phase IV of the Delhi Metro network. The Tughlakabad-Aerocity (20.20 km), the Janakpuri West-RK Ashram (28.92 km) and the Mukundpur-Maujpur (12.54 km) sections will have a project outlay of Rs 24,948.65 crore.
Meanwhile, the Rithala-Bawana-Narela, Inderlok-Indraprastha and Lajpat Nagar-Saket G Block corridors did not get the nod.
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) and the government will be taking up the project in the existing 50:50 sharing ratio.Of the total 61.67 km length of the approved sections, 22.35 km will be built underground while 39.32 km will be elevated. A total of 46 stations will be added. The announcements were made by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
Union Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, who was also present at the Cabinet meet, said the Tughlakabad-Aerocity corridor will improve connectivity to the airport. The Aerocity-Tughlakabad corridor will have 15 stations, including Mahipalpur, Vasant Kunj Sector-D, Masoodpur, Kishangarh, Mehrauli, Lado Sarai, Saket, Saket G Block, Ambedkar Nagar, Khanpur, Tigri, Anandmayee Marg Junction, and Tughlakabad Railway Colony.
Motiakhan, Sadar Bazar, Pulbangash, GhantaGhar/SabziMandi, Pushpanjali Enclave, West Enclave, Mangolpuri, PeeragarhiChowk, PaschimVihar, Meerabagh and Krishan Park Extension are among the 25 stations on the RK Ashram-Janakpuri West corridor. In the Maujpur-Mukundpur corridor, there will be six stations at Yamuna Vihar, Bhajanpura, KhajuriKhas, Soorghat, Jagatpur Village and Burari.
“No reasons have been given as to why all the six corridors could not be approved,” said transport minister Kailash Gahlot.Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal claimed Delhiites were “very disappointed” with the Centre’s decision to approve only three of the proposed six corridors under the Metro Phase-IV project.
He took to Twitter wondering why the Modi government was “so much against the people of Delhi”. There should be no politics over Delhi’s development, he added.
Clears Rs 31,600 crore proposals for investment in 4 power projects
With an aim to revive the stressed power sector and encourage hydropower sector, the government on Thursday approved investment proposals worth over Rs 31,600 crore in four power projects. These projects, including coal-based thermal plants and hydropower, are likely to be operational by 2023-24.
The Cabinet Committee of External Affairs (CCEA) has approved the investment of Rs 10,439.09 crore for the 2x660 MW Buxar Thermal Power Project in Bihar. The plant, which is expected to improve deficit power scenario in the eastern region, will be set up by SJVN Thermal Private Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of SJVN, a mini-ratna CPSU.
The meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, also cleared investment proposal for a 2x660 MW Khurja Super Thermal Power Plant in Bulandshahr entailing an investment of Rs 11,089.42 crore and Amelia coal mine in Singrauli district of Madhya Pradesh at a cost of Rs 1,587.16 crore.
Power Minister RK Singh said that the Cabinet also approved recommendations of a group of ministers relating to stressed power projects. These recommendations included a grant of coal linkage for short-term PPAs, allowing existing coal linkage to be used in case of termination of PPAs due to payment default by distribution companies and procurement of bulk power by a modal agency against pre-declared linkages.
Among the hydropower projects, the CCEA approved investment for the acquisition of Lanco Teesta Hydro Power Ltd and the execution of balance work of the Teesta Stage-VI Hydro Electric Project by NHPC in Sikkim at a total cost of Rs 5,748.04 crore.
Besides, another Rs 4,287.59 crore was approved for the construction of Kiru Hydro Electric Project (624 MW) by Chenab Valley Power Projects Pvt Ltd in Jammu and Kashmir. In a fillip to the hydropower sector, the Cabinet approved a slew of measures including providing renewable energy status for large hydel projects and new funding provisions.
Nods to ordinance on reservation in universities
The Cabinet also approved an ordinance on the changed reservation policy for faculty recruitment in universities and colleges that would lead to the consideration of the institution, rather than individual departments, as a unit for calculating reserved category seats.
An Allahabad High Court order in July 2017 mandating universities to make department-wise appointments had resulted in a major reduction in the number of reserved category seats.
Petitions filed by the Union Human Resources Development Ministry in the Supreme Court were dismissed.
The stand by the courts had led to major changes in the roster system, which had provoked pushback from leaders representing scheduled caste and scheduled tribe communities. It was argued that the new system drastically reduced the number of reserved seats.
The ordinance reverses the courts’ stand and classifies an entire university or college as a single unit for determining Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Other Backward Class (OBC) quotas.
MoU between India and Germany approved
The Cabinet also approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Germany on cooperation in the field of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH). The MoU was renewed on 13th November 2018. Under the MoU, German Social Accident Insurance, through the International Social Security Association, is bringing in know-how to meet the OSH challenges, especially in the construction sector.