The recent order of the ministry of environment and forests (MoE&F) rejecting the application for grant of forest clearance to the Orissa Mining Company (the Vedanta project) has raised a number of important questions. The order cited the company’s non-compliance with a number of laws. But the Vedanta case is just one example. There are several projects in the country where similar issues are relevant. The question really is, are the multiple laws that are applicable in such cases in harmony with each other or are they working at cross purposes? In a sector such as mining, doing business is inherently complicated. There are at least four broad aspects that need to be addressed—obtaining mining licences, securing environmental clearances, acquiring land, and rehabilitation of people affected by such projects. We take a look at each of the four broad areas, to understand how the applicable laws interact with one another. Obtaining mining licences Doing business in the mining sector first entails obtaining a licence for activities such as prospecting and mining. The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, lays down the framework for any prospecting, leasing or mining activity to be carried out for specified minerals, and the licences that need to be obtained. The Act allows the central government to frame the rules and conditions applicable both for grant of licences and for the actual activity carried out by enterprises. The licensing authority for mining activities is the state government. Securing environment clearances Environmental clearances for industrial activities are governed by a number of laws. Most activities require clearances under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. Additionally, for activities in forest areas, clearance is also required under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. Acts pertaining to wildlife protection, bio-diversity and the quality of air and water may also be applicable. The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, enables the central government to take measures for “protecting and improving the quality of the environment and preventing, controlling and abating environmental pollution”. These measures may include (among others) (a) laying down standards for the quality of the environment, (b) areas in which industries or operations may not be carried out, or carried out subject to certain safeguards. The rules framed under the Act make it compulsory for all new projects to take prior environmental clearance. For a specified category of activities clearance has to be obtained from the MoE&F, while for others, clearance has to be obtained from State Environment Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAAs). The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, prohibits state governments and other authorities from any unauthorised change in the status of areas declared to be reserved forests, and any diversion of forests for non-forest purposes. It prohibits felling of trees within forest areas. Any such action has to be undertaken with the prior permission of the central government. To divert any forest area for non-forest purposes, state governments have to submit formal proposals to the Centre. State governments also have to show proposals for compensatory afforestation. Acquiring land for the project Acquiring land for projects has become increasingly contentious in recent years. The Land Acquisition Act of 1894 appears to have outlived its utility, which led the UPA-1 to introduce a Bill in the Parliament to bring a new legal framework to facilitate land acquisition. The Bill tried to address several critical aspects of land acquisition. It tried to redefine ‘public purpose’ somewhat more strictly than in the existing Act. ‘Public purpose’ was redefined to include defence purposes, infrastructure projects or for any project useful to the general public where 70% of the land has already been purchased. For acquisitions by companies, the Bill mandated that 70% of the land will have to be acquired directly from the land owners at market prices and that the government would step in under the Act to acquire the remaining 30% for the project. The Bill also aimed to provide for cases resulting in large-scale displacement. It stated that in such cases a social impact assessment study must be conducted. Tribals, forest dwellers and those with tenancy rights were also made eligible for compensation. It also mandated that the intended use of the land being acquired and the current market value of the land would have to be considered for determining compensation. The Bill lapsed when the Lok Sabha was dissolved in 2009. It is not known when the government proposes to reintroduce a Bill in the Parliament to address this issue of land acquisition. Rights of project-affected people When large projects are planned and land is acquired for those, people are often displaced from the project areas and need to be rehabilitated appropriately. The UPA-1 had introduced a Bill in the Parliament to create a legal framework for rehabilitation of project-affected people. However, the proposed Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2007, lapsed when the Lok Sabha was dissolved before the last general elections. But the UPA-1 government managed to pass a highly contested Bill that recognised the rights of scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers. The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act passed in 2006 focuses on the rights of forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes and traditional forest dwellers. The Act seeks to recognise and vest forest rights in forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes with respect to forest land and their habitat. The Act mentions 13 separate rights given to forest dwellers. These include (a) living in the forest for habitation or for self-cultivation for livelihood, (b) right to own, use or dispose of minor forest produce, (c) right to protect and conserve any community resource that they have been traditionally protecting and (d) individual and community rights of habitat for primitive tribal groups. These rights have to be formally recorded/recognised by state governments. The Act also prevents any modification of forest rights or the resettlement of forest dwellers unless the Gram Sabha of the village consents to the proposal in writing. There are additional requirements to be met if developmental activities are to be undertaken in tribal dominated areas (defined as Scheduled Areas in the Constitution). The Panchayat (Extension into Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, extends the part of the Constitution providing for Panchayati Raj in rural areas to Scheduled Areas. The Act requires that government authorities consult the Panchayat or the Gram Sabha before acquiring land for development projects and for rehabilitating persons affected by such projects. At a conceptual level, there is no apparent contradiction in the applicable laws and each of the laws mentioned above appear to be necessary to ensure that there is fairness for all stakeholders involved. However, a distinction has to be made between the legal principles these laws seek to enforce, and procedural formalities that need to be complied with to be on the right side of the law. Also, a closer look at these individual laws and their implementation will reveal a number of loopholes that need to be plugged to ensure that the spirit and basic principles enshrined in each law are enforced efficiently. From the point of view of the company that intends to do business in India, all this adds up to a lot of time-consuming process. This is perhaps why the Doing Business index published annually by the World Bank group ranks India at 133 out of 183 counties in terms of ease of doing business. The challenge, going forward, is for us to strengthen processes that are fair to all stakeholders, but at the same time are not unduly burdensome on the company that seeks to make investments in the mining sector. By CV Madhukar and Anirudh Burman This was published as an article in Financial Express on September 2, 2010

Early this week, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India tabled a report on the finances of Uttar Pradesh for the financial year 2020-21.  A few days prior to that, on May 26, the budget for Uttar Pradesh for 2022-23 was presented, along with which the final audited expenditure and receipt figures for the year 2020-21 were released.  The year 2020-21 presented a two-fold challenge for states – loss in revenue due to impact of COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, and the need for increased expenditure to support affected persons and economic recovery.  CAG noted that Uttar Pradesh’s GSDP grew by 1.05% in 2020-21 as compared to a growth of 6.5% in 2019-20.  The state reported a revenue deficit of Rs 2,367 crore in 2020-21 after reporting revenue surplus for 14 successive years since 2006-07.  Revenue deficit is the excess of revenue expenditure over revenue receipts.  This blog looks at the key trends in the finances of Uttar Pradesh in 2020-21 and certain observations by CAG on fiscal management by the state.

Spending and Deficits in 2020-21

Underspending:  In 2020-21, total spending by the state was 26% less than the budget estimate presented in February 2020.  In sectors such as water supply and sanitation, the actual expenditure was 60% less than the amount budgeted, while in agriculture and allied activities only 53% of the budgeted amount was spent.  CAG observed that in 251 schemes across 57 departments, the state government did not incur any expenditure in 2020-21.  These schemes had a budget provision of at least one crore rupees, and had cumulative allocation of Rs 50,617 crore.  These included schemes such as Pipe Drinking Water Scheme in Bundelkhand/Vindhya and apportionment of pension liabilities.  Moreover, the overall savings due to non-utilisation of funds in 2020-21 was 27.28% of total budget provisions.  CAG observed that the budgetary provisions increased between 2016 and 2021.  However, the utilisation of budget provisions reduced between 2018-19 and 2020-21.

Pattern of spending: CAG observed that in case of 12 departments, more than 50% of the expenditure was incurred in March 2021, the last month of the financial year.  In the civil aviation department, 89% of the total expenditure was incurred in March while this figure was 62% for the social welfare department (welfare of handicapped and backward classes).  CAG noted that maintaining a steady pace of expenditure is a sound practice under public financial management.  However, the Uttar Pradesh Budget Manual has no specific instructions for preventing such bunching of expenditure.  The CAG recommended that the state government can consider issuing guidelines to control the rush of expenditure towards the closing months of the financial year.

Management of deficit and debt: As a measure to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, an Ordinance was promulgated in June 2020 to raise the fiscal deficit limit from 3% of GSDP to 5% of GSDP for the year 2020-21.   Fiscal deficit represents the gap between expenditure and receipts in a year, and this gap is filled with borrowings.   The Uttar Pradesh Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, 2004 (FRBM Act) passed by Uttar Pradesh Assembly specifies the upper limit for debt and deficits.  The Ordinance thus permitted the state government to borrow more to sustain its budget expenditure.  The fiscal deficit of the state in 2020-21 was 3.20% of GSDP, well below the revised limit. At the same time, the state’s outstanding debt to GSDP in 2020-21 was 32.77% of GSDP, above the target of 32% of GSDP set under the FRBM Act.  Outstanding debt represents accumulation of debt over the years.  

Table 1: Spending by Uttar Pradesh in 2020-21 as compared to Budget Estimates (in Rs crore)


2020-21 BE

2020-21 Actuals

% change from BE to Actuals

Net Receipts (1+2)




1. Revenue Receipts (a+b+c+d)




a. Own Tax Revenue




b. Own Non-Tax Revenue




c. Share in central taxes




d. Grants-in-aid from the Centre




Of which GST compensation grants




2. Non-Debt Capital Receipts




3. Borrowings




Of which GST compensation loan




Net Expenditure (4+5+6)




4. Revenue Expenditure




5. Capital Outlay




6. Loans and Advances




7. Debt Repayment




Revenue Balance




Revenue Balance (as % of GSDP)




Fiscal Deficit




Fiscal Deficit (as % of GSDP)




Note: A negative revenue balance indicates a deficit.  The actual fiscal deficit reported by Uttar Pradesh for 2020-21 in 2022-23 budget was 2.8% of GSDP.  This difference was due to higher GSDP figure reported by the state.  
Sources: Uttar Pradesh Budget Documents of various years; CAG; PRS.

Finances of State Public Sector Undertakings

Public sector undertakings (PSUs) are set up by the government to discharge commercial activities in various sectors.  As on March 31, 2021, there were 115 PSUs in Uttar Pradesh.  CAG analysed the performance of 38 PSUs.   Out of these 38 PSUs, 22 companies earned a profit of Rs 700 crore, while 16 companies posted a loss of Rs 7,411 crore in 2020-21.  Note that both the number of PSUs incurring losses and the quantum of losses has decreased since 2018-19.  In 2018-19, 20 PSUs had reported losses worth Rs 15,219 crore.  

Figure 1: Cumulative losses incurred by Uttar Pradesh PSUs (Rs crore)
 Sources: CAG; PRS.

Losses of power sector PSUs: Three power sector PSUs—Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Limited, Purvanchal Vidyut Vitran Nigam Limited, and Paschimanchal Vidyut Vitran Nigam Limited—were the top loss incurring PSUs.  These three PSUs accounted for 73% of the total losses of Rs 7,411 crore mentioned above.   Note that as of June 2022, for each unit of power supplied, the revenue realised by UP power distribution companies (discoms) is 27 paise less than cost of supply.  This is better than the gap of 34 paise per unit at the national level.   However, the aggregate technical and commercial losses (AT&C) of the Uttar Pradesh discoms was 27.85%, considerably higher than the national average of 17.19%.  AT&C losses refer to the proportion of power supplied by a discom for which it does not receive any payment.

Off-budget borrowings: CAG also observed that the Uttar Pradesh government resorted to off-budget borrowing through state owned PSUs/authorities.  Off budget borrowings are not accounted in the debt of the state government and are on books of the respective PSUs/authorities, although, debt is serviced by the state government.  As a result, the outstanding debt reported in the budget does not represent the actual debt position of the state.  CAG identified off-budget borrowing worth Rs 1,637 crore.  The CAG recommended that the state government should avoid extra-budget borrowings.  It should also credit all the loans taken by PSUs/authorities on behalf of and serviced by the state government to state government accounts.

Management of Reserve Funds

The Reserve Bank of India manages two reserve funds on the behalf of state governments.   These funds are created to meet the liabilities of state governments.  These funds are: (i) Consolidated Sinking Fund (CSF), and (ii) Guarantee Redemption Fund (GRF).  They are funded by the contributions made by the state governments.  CSF is an amortisation fund which is utilised to meet the repayment obligations of the government.  Amortisation refers to payment of debt through regular instalments.  The interest accumulated in the fund is used for repayment of outstanding liabilities (which is the accumulation of total borrowings at the end of a financial year, including any liabilities on the public account).  

In line with the recommendation of the 12th Finance Commission, Uttar Pradesh created its CSF in March 2020.  The state government may transfer at least 0.5% of its outstanding liabilities at the end of the previous year to the CSF.  CAG observed that in 2020-21, Uttar Pradesh appropriated only Rs 1,000 crore to the CSF against the requirement of Rs 2,454 crore.  CAG recommended that the state government should ensure at least 0.5% of the outstanding liabilities are contributed towards the CSF every year.

GRF is constituted by states to meet obligations related to guarantees.  The state government may extend guarantee on loans taken by its PSUs.  Guarantees are contingent liabilities of the state government, as in case of default by the company, repayment burden will fall on the state government.  GRF can be used to settle guarantees extended by the government with respect to borrowings of state PSUs and other bodies.  The 12th Finance Commission had recommended that states should constitute GRF.  It was to be funded through guarantees fees to meet any sudden discharge of obligated guarantees extended by the states.  CAG noted that Uttar Pradesh government has not constituted GRF.  Moreover, the state has also not fixed any limits for extending guarantees.  

For an analysis of Uttar Pradesh’s 2022-23 budget, please see here.