1. What is the Dharavi redevelopment project?
What is the estimated cost for re-vamping one of Asia’s biggest cluster of slums? How many residential and commercial buildings are there in Dharavi?
On October 18, Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw and Maharashtra’s deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis signed a ‘definitive agreement’ for handing over 47.5 acres of Railway land in Dadar for the Dharavi Redevelopment Project.
The cost of the project is estimated to have gone up by almost six times from ₹4,000 crore in 2004 to ₹26,000 crore in 2019. Now it is estimated to be around ₹28,000 crore.
Phase 1 of the project includes redevelopment of specified areas comprising slum and non-slum sections, buildings and chawls.
The story so far:
On October 18, Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw and Maharashtra’s deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis signed a ‘definitive agreement’ for handing over 47.5 acres of Railway land in Dadar for the Dharavi Redevelopment Project. The agreement, which was inked between the Ministry of Railways’ Rail Land Development Authority and the Dharavi Redevelopment Project Authority, sets the foundation to redevelop one of the largest slum clusters in the world. The Ministry is set to get 0.21% of the profits.
Will Mumbai be slum-free?
As per the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) scheme, 48.35% of Mumbai’s population live in slums. And of Mumbai’s total area about 24% is occupied by slums. According to a survey carried out by the Maharashtra Social Housing and Action League, there are approximately 49,643 slum dwellers (39,208 residential and 10,435 commercial) and 9,522 renewal tenements in chawls (6,981 are residential and 2,541 are commercial) in Dharavi.
In 2017, Mr. Fadnavis, then Chief Minister, had said that “Making Mumbai slum-free is part of affordable housing for all”. He had said that “…the State government would create 22 lakh affordable houses to cater to the urban and rural areas in Maharashtra….”. The previous Maha Vikas Aghadi government also made moves toward development but was unable to acquire railway land from the Centre for the project.
According to S.V. Srinivas, CEO of the Dharavi Redevelopment Project, of the more than 600 acres of Dharavi, the project covers roughly 240 hectares.
How much will redevelopment cost?
The cost of the project is estimated to have gone up more than six times from ₹4,000 crore in 2004 to ₹26,000 crore in 2019. Now it is estimated to be around ₹28,000 crore. On October 1, the Maharashtra government invited global tenders, the base price of which is ₹1,600 crore. The State government is looking at a joint venture wherein they will hold a 20% stake while the selected lead bidder will hold a majority 80% stake. Eight developers attended the pre-bid meeting, including the Adani Group. As per the announcement made by Mr. Srinivas, the bidding process is expected to close on October 31.
What does the project entail?
This is the fourth time in the last 18 years that the Maharashtra government is attempting to re-build Asia’s largest slum cluster which is home to close to 58,000 families and around 12,000 commercial establishments. The redevelopment plan is an integrated development approach of the residential, commercial, and industrial with a floor space index of over 4. The SRA and the lead bidder will form a SPV, (a special purpose vehicle, an entity formed for a specific purpose of infrastructure and rehabilitation) and along with the Dharavi Redevelopment Authority will execute Phase 1 of the project which includes redevelopment of specific areas comprising slum and non-slum sections, buildings and chawls. The project includes development of “necessary on-site and off-site infrastructure, including water supply, sewage disposal, electricity supply, piped gas system within seven years from the date of a commencement certificate for the first phase.”
When will the project be finished?
The Maharashtra government is highly optimistic about completing the entire process of rehabilitation and redevelopment in seven years starting next year. However, the companies who have shown interest have said that the period is ‘insufficient’ and seek atleast 10-12 years for the entire process to be completed.
2. The CCI’s ₹1,300 crore fine on Google
Why did the Competition Commission of India impose such a huge fine on the tech giant? How is the Alphabet owned company allegedly violating its position especially with regard to the Android mobile device ecosystem? Is this the first probe against Google in India?
The CCI, the country’s competition watchdog is empowered under the Competition Act, 2002, to check whether companies especially large tech companies are not eliminating healthy competition in the market and creating a monopoly.
The CCI said that due to Google’s various agreements with manufacturers, one of its major revenue-earning apps, Youtube, gained a significant edge over competitors in the online video hosting platforms market. The mention of Google’s antitrust practices with regard to Youtube was the distinguishing factor between the CCI probe and the EU probe of Google in 2018.
Google is already facing two other antitrust probes by the CCI. In June 2021, the Commission ordered a probe into allegations that Google had abused its dominant position with Android in India’s smart television market and in November 2020, the CCI had initiated a probe to look into allegations that Google abused its dominant position to push its payments system.
The story so far:
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has imposed a provisional fine of ₹1,337.76 crore on Alphabet-owned Google for “abusing its dominant position” in markets related to the Android mobile device ecosystem.
How did Google violate the competition law in India?
The CCI, the country’s competition watchdog is empowered under the Competition Act, 2002, to check whether companies especially large tech companies are not eliminating healthy competition in the market and creating a monopoly. The current case by CCI against Google started in 2019 and since then the regulator has examined various practices of the tech giant with respect to relevant markets.
The first is regarding the Android operating system (OS). All smartphones need an OS to run applications and programs and one of the most prominent OS is Android which was acquired by Google in 2005. According to Counterpoint research, 97% of India’s 600 million smartphones are powered by Google’s Android OS. Google operates and manages the Android OS and licenses other Google proprietary applications such as Chrome and Play Store through it. Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) or smartphone companies then use this OS and Google apps on their mobile phones. While the Android source code is openly accessible and covers the basic features of a smartphone, it does not include Google’s proprietary applications. To use these applications, manufacturers have to enter into agreements with Google that govern their rights and obligations such as the Mobile Application Distribution Agreement (MADA), the Anti-fragmentation Agreement (AFA) etc. The CCI held that through these restrictions in agreements, Google makes sure that the manufacturers who wished to use Google apps had to use Google’s version of Android.
Secondly, Google is the dominant player in the app store market for Android OS worldwide (except China). According to the EU, the Google Play Store accounts for more than 90% of apps downloaded on Android devices globally. The CCI held that through the mandatory pre-installation of the Google Suite (which includes Play Store), consumers did not have the option of side-loading or downloading apps outside of the play store. Third is the company’s dominance in the general internet search market and the non-OS specific browser market (meaning engines like Chrome, Firefox, etc.). As of last year, Google has a 92% share in the global search engine market. Therefore, by having Revenue Sharing Agreements with mobile manufacturers for its services, Google was able to “secure exclusivity” for its search services to the “total exclusion of competitors”. The CCI said that these agreements with OEMs guaranteed Google continuous access to search queries of mobile users, helping not only in protecting its advertisement revenue but also in reaping the network effects through “continuous improvement of services, to the exclusion of competitors”. This was also compounded by making Google the default search browser in Android smartphones. Finally, due to Google’s agreements with manufacturers, another of its revenue-earning apps — Youtube, the CCI said, gained a significant edge over competitors in the online video hosting platforms market. The mention of Google’s antitrust practices with regard to Youtube was the distinguishing factor between the CCI probe and the EU probe of Google in 2018.
What has CCI told Google to change ?
Apart from the “cease and desist” order against Google for indulging in anti-competitive practices, the CCI has directed it to take certain measures with regard to the Android OS ecosystem. Some of the major directions include — that smartphone makers should be allowed to choose which of Google’s proprietary apps they want to install, that the licensing of Play Store to manufacturers should not be linked with requirements to pre-install Google search services or any other Google apps, that Google should allow users to choose their default search engine for all search entry points etc. The CCI also noted that there were “glaring inconsistencies” in the revenue data presented by Google and gave it 30 days to provide the requisite financial details and supporting documents.
What are the other antitrust suits?
Google is already facing two other antitrust probes by the CCI. In June 2021, the Commission ordered a probe into allegations that Google had abused its dominant position with Android in India’s smart television market and in November 2020, the CCI had initiated a probe to look into allegations that Google abused its dominant position to push its payments system. Google also faces three probes each in the U.S. and the EU. The EU suits have altogether imposed fines totalling around $8 billion on Google.
3. Five new varieties to expand India’s Basmati platter
Five new Basmati varieties, developed by a group of scientists led by Ashok Kumar Singh, Director, Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI), in 2020 and 2021 are all set to bring revolutionary changes in the way this type of paddy is cultivated in the country.
Three of the five varieties can resist two common diseases of paddy. The other two can save 35% of the water now required as the seeds can be directly sown, obviating the need for transplanting seedlings. These two seeds are resistant to herbicides too, helping the farmers control weeds more efficiently. In the next three years, all of the five seeds will have the combined qualities of disease and herbicide resistance, Dr. Singh says.
“This is a landmark achievement. We started the research in 2008. This is 100% indigenous revolution using indigenous breeding programmes,” Dr. Singh told The Hindu. “This will help in increasing farmers’ income by reducing the cost of cultivation, by improving production and by realising price of their labour and input cost. The cost of cultivation will be reduced. It will reduce the use of pesticides and water. If the production is free from residue, it will get better prices,” he explained.
Export in mind
India is known for its Basmati rice, with the produce from seven States — Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand — earmarked for Geographical Indication.
Basmati, known for its mouthfeel, aroma, length of the grain when cooked and taste, has a market abroad and brings about ₹30,000 crore in foreign exchange every year. While 75% of the export is to West Asian countries, European Union countries also import Indian Basmati. However, recently, the export to EU countries faced certain hurdles due to the increase in the pesticide residue levels in the rice from India.
Dr. Singh says that over a period of time, as the area of cultivation increased, traditional varieties become susceptible to two major diseases — bacterial leaf blight (BLB) and blast (leaf and collar) diseases caused by the fungus Magnaporthe oryzae. Pesticides and fungicides used against these diseases increased the residue levels permitted in developed countries.
“Achieving the permitted levels is very difficult if we are using pesticides for controlling pests. The only way was that we bring in genetic resistance so that we do not have to spray pesticides and fungicides. So, from Pusa Basmati 1121, we developed Pusa Basmati 1885; from Pusa Basmati 1509, we developed Pusa Basmati 1847; Pusa Basmati 1401 was improved to develop Pusa Basmati 1886. All these varieties have two genes to resist BLB and two genes to resist blast disease. Farmers need not use pesticides and it will decrease the cost of farming by ₹3,000 an acre. Because of effective disease control, production will increase and most important, there is no question of pesticide residue and our consignments will not be rejected,” Dr. Singh says.
The IARI provided one kilogram each of the seeds to about 10,000 farmers in these seven States in 2021. “They had grown these crops during this kharif season. In the last week of September, I travelled 1,500 kilometres to see for myself how the crop is doing and to hear the feedback from farmers. I stayed at the residences of farmers. There is phenomenal response for these varieties. I am hoping that from next year, these varieties will change the scenario of Basmati cultivation and it will directly help in terms of addressing the problem of pesticides residue,” Dr. Singh says, sharing hopes of an increased coverage area in the next crop year. “I have asked farmers to keep this year’s produce for next year as seeds,” he adds.
The traditional way of paddy cultivation relied on transplanting the plants into a water-filled field midway through the cycle.
“Around 3,000 litres of water is required for one kilogram of Basmati rice. This has impacted the water table of States such as Punjab and Haryana. We have to change the practice of cultivating transplanted variety of paddy to direct sowing of rice (DSR). Water saving is 35% in DSR and the requirement will be 2,000 litres for a kilogram of rice. The second advantage is that the green house gas emission is reduced by 35% as water is not stagnating in this process. Labour cost of transplantation, which is about ₹3,000, is also saved. Overall saving will be at least ₹4,000 per acre,” he says.
However, one of the major problem in the DSR is weeds. Without the water acting as a herbicide, the DSR method allows for a lot of weeds to crop up in the field. “So, we transferred a gene that is resistant to a herbicide. So, when farmers spray herbicide, weeds will be killed, not paddy,” he says.
4. 36 satellites launched by ISRO’s heaviest rocket send signals
The Indian Space Research Organisation’s heaviest rocket, Launch Vehicle Mark 3 (LVM3 or GSLV Mark 3), which took off from the second launch pad (SLP) of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota at 12.07 a.m. on Sunday has successfully put into orbit 36 satellites of the U.K.-based OneWeb.
The 43.5-metre LVM3 weighing around 644 tonnes carried 36 satellites weighing 5,796 kg. OneWeb’s satellites separated successfully from the rocket and were dispensed in nine phases, with signal acquisition on all 36 satellites confirmed. With this launch, LVM3 has made its entry into the global commercial launch market.
LVM3-M2 is the dedicated commercial satellite mission of NewSpace India Ltd. (NSIL), a Central public sector enterprise (CPSE) under the Department of Space. This mission is being undertaken as part of the commercial arrangement between NSIL and Network Access Associates Ltd. (OneWeb Ltd.), which is a joint venture between India’s Bharti Enterprises and the U.K. government.
Addressing presspersons an hour after take-off, ISRO Chairman S. Somanath said, “Today’s event is very historic to the country and the Indian Space programme. This is the first ever commercial launch of LVM3 with a heaviest payload to LEO. The LVM3 was conceived primarily for launching geostationary satellites with a payload capacity of 4T, which can be used for launching 6T payloads for LEO.”
Sunil Bharti Mittal, CEO of Bharti Enterprises, whose company is one of the biggest investors in OneWeb, said it is a new chapter for India in the space sector.
5. Editorial-1: Vital intervention
Supreme Court must do everything possible to curb the propagation of hate
There is good reason for the Supreme Court to ask the police to be proactive in dealing with hate speech by taking immediate legal action without waiting for a formal complaint. The Court has also warned of contempt action if the police showed any hesitation in compliance. Directed at the police in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the order is in response to the “unending flow of hate speeches” highlighted in a writ petition before it. The Court has referred to the growing “climate of hate”, and taken note of the inaction in most instances, despite the law containing provisions to deal with the phenomenon. It is quite apparent that the governments at the Centre and in some like-minded States do not share the Court’s concern for communal harmony, fraternity and tranquillity; in fact, some of them may be contributing to the vitiated atmosphere either by studied inaction or complicity in allowing provocative speeches in purported religious gatherings by majoritarian elements. Intervention by the highest court has become necessary in the light of some controversial religious leaders getting away lightly after making unacceptable comments, some of them tinged with a genocidal tenor. It is in such a backdrop that the Court has underscored the constitutional values of secularism and fraternity among all religions and social groups.
It was a religious conclave held in Haridwar late last year that set the tone for the ‘hate speech’ case that is being heard now. Even then, the Court had called for corrective measures, leading to another conclave being prevented by local authorities in Roorkee in Uttarakhand. While the intervention may have halted a few meetings at that time, it cannot be said that such transgressions have ended. There has been a disconcerting pattern of Hindu festivals becoming an occasion for the conduct of religious processions that end in clashes caused by provocative behaviour. In the name of dealing with the resulting clashes or disturbances, officials have resorted to demolishing the houses of those allegedly involved in the incidents, without following any process of law. Such developments have given rise to new curbs on minorities, such as unwarranted police probes into the holding of group prayers, and new allegations of purported plots to infiltrate Hindu events. Some television channels have been adding to the bigotry by their manner of functioning. Administrative bias on the one hand and the spread of social prejudice on the other cannot be allowed to vitiate the national mood. Towards that end, the Court must do everything possible to nudge authorities to enforce the law against the propagation of hate.
6. Editorial-2: Upholding unity, opposing uniformity
The debate on Hindi imposition has erupted once again after the Official Language Committee headed by Union Home Minister Amit Shah recommended making Hindi the medium of instruction in central institutes of higher education in Hindi-speaking States. The Committee also proposes that Union government employees be punished for not knowing Hindi, making Hindi practically the sole official language of the Union government. In the past, Mr. Shah suggested that Hindi replace English as the link language, and be made the working language of Union Ministries. Several leaders in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have called for making Hindi the national language of India.
According to the Constitution, there is no national language in India. As per the Eighth Schedule, there are 22 official languages — Tamil for Tamil Nadu, Bangla for West Bengal, Hindi for Uttar Pradesh, Malayalam for Kerala, etc. — with Hindi and English being the official languages of the Union government. This already suggests a fundamental discrimination against the non-Hindi-speaking people because the mother tongue of the Hindi-speaking people is considered for the purposes of the Union but the mother tongues of the non-Hindi-speaking people are not. This makes some Indians more “Indian” than others. The Official Language Committee’s recommendations will deepen this existing discrimination on the basis of language.
The Union government is dependent on the States for its revenue. Non-Hindi-speaking States provide revenue to the Union government which is disproportionately higher than the percentage of the population in these States. Hindi-speaking States survive on the basis of cross-subsidies from non-Hindi-speaking States transferred via the Union government. Even funding for central universities and institutions such as the Indian Institutes of Technology and the All-India Institutes of Medical Sciences is contributed indirectly and disproportionately by non-Hindi-speaking States. It will be a travesty of justice if funds from non-Hindi-speaking States are used to fund the artificial growth of Hindi at the cost of the fundamental rights of non-Hindi-speaking Indians. This imposition of Hindi is a direct assault on federalism and the principle of equal citizenship. Information provided, online or on paper, for recruitment exams to the Army, the Border Security Force, the Central Reserve Police Force, the Staff Selection Commission, etc. is available to Hindi-speaking people in their mother tongue, but the same is denied to non-Hindi-speaking people in their mother languages. The Union government spends 22 times more money on Hindi than it does on Bengali, Tamil or any other language.
Against Hindi imposition
The attempts to impose Hindi have been challenged by non-Hindi-speaking people all over India. The first such protest was organised by E.V. Ramasamy ‘Periyar’ in Tamil Nadu in August 1937 in opposition to the decision of the C. Rajagopalachari-led Congress regime of making Hindi compulsory in secondary schools. In the Constituent Assembly, members from Hindi-speaking provinces even claimed that those who don’t know Hindustani (Hindi) had “no right to stay in India”. The language movement in Manbhum district led to the partition of the district between Bihar and West Bengal, and Purulia district was born in 1956. Later, protests broke out in Tamil Nadu against the introduction of Hindi as the sole official language of the Union government. This forced the Union government to amend the Official Languages Act to provide for the use of English until all the non-Hindi-speaking States agreed to drop it. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) has been the most vocal organisation fighting against Hindi imposition. This strong stand has been used by Hindi chauvinists to brand Tamil Nadu as an aberration. However, similar anti-Hindi protests have now arisen in States such as Karnataka, West Bengal, Kerala and Maharashtra.
In light of the country’s changing demographics, if parliamentary seats are reallocated, it will widen the fiscal disparity between Hindi-speaking and non-Hindi-speaking States. This plan goes hand in hand with the Union government’s continued attacks on State rights.
The boom of India’s service sector as well as the success of the educated Indian diaspora was made possible thanks to the proficiency of Indians in English. The link language of the world is English. India’s beauty and stability lie in its plurality and unity in diversity. Any attempt to destroy this via the imposition of one language will threaten India’s unity. You can either have unity or uniformity; you cannot have both. The Union government must understand that the Indian Union is an agglomeration of ethno-linguistic nationalities that have their own languages and cultures and let them live in peace.