On 15 March, IE entered its 48th year. During these years IE has had a ring-side view of deve-
lopment. The changes have indeed been massive and some of these spectacular.
IE analysed and reported on these at the state, regional, national and international levels. Like 1977, 1991 and 1998, 2014 was also a crucial watershed. The BJP under its charismatic leader Narendra Modi, created history by winning the Lok Sabha elections with an absolute majority for his party.
Since 1989, the Centre has been governed by coalitions, with no single party getting absolute majority in the Lok Sabha; this brought along with it severe constraints in building consensus on legislative action. There is still the constraint of the BJP in a minority in the Rajya Sabha, also needing the support of a number of state governments run by regional parties. Yet, the majority in the Lok Sabha has given the government much stronger leeway for action.
After his pre-occupation campaigning for elections in a few states, the Modi government has been gearing up for reforms in crying need. A series of ordinances followed. The success of the government in enacting legislation in the budget session for all except one, promises economic growth to regain momentum.
Continued focus on agriculture..
In the past twelve months through our 47th year we focused on the tasks for the new government. We continued with our optimism over India emerging a food bowl of the world. We took the initiative to organise in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture Research-ICAR, the Tamil Nadu Planning Commission and the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, a national seminar on the imperative for and the feasibility of doubling food production to 500 million tonnes plus in ten years. Through the year we also urged on the need to agglomerate land holdings through legislative changes that would permit leasing land for 15 years as had been done by Punjab and Rajasthan. This, we reasoned, would lend for the application of science, technology and management that would help achieve quantum jumps in production. We also organised a seminar on the GM Technology presenting a number of renowned scientists.
Special reports on corporate projects...
Our coverage of corporates expanded. We presented detailed reports on the leader in glass, Saint Gobain and released a special issue at the inauguration of its state-of-the-art plant at Bhiwadi, Rajasthan by Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje. A comprehensive report on Tata Steel’s Kalinganagar Steel Plant getting ready for commissioning, was presented based on visits to Odisha, Jamshedpur and Kolkata. The report carried a detailed interview with TSL’s Managing Director T V Narendran.
The public sector fertilizer giant Rashtriya Chemicals & Fertilizers (RCF) has been recording continuous growth and profits. RCF is gearing up for three major expansion plans at Thal, Talcher and in Iran. A feature focus on RCF was among the highlights of the past year.
We continue with our reports on fiscal policy issues. We have suggested means of raising revenues for accelerating development of railways through cess on freight and non-suburban rail tickets. We continued our stress on fiscal prudence urging on arresting the growth in public debt that drains much of the resources raised and to generate resources for development.
Expanding energy resources...
At the regional level, IE has been looking at augmenting energy resources. We continued with our suggestion to extend the gas grid to the south and switch to gas for large scale production of power, fertilizers as also for consumption by households and the transport sector. We urge upon the state government to demand the construction of gas pipelines from Kakinada to Chennai, Chennai-Tuticorin and Chennai-Bengaluru with spur lines and get a fair share of gas produced at the KG Basin.
The transfer of resources to the states with freedom to spend these on sectors of concern to the state and the promise of switching to the goods and services tax mode, we believe, would do more good to the states. Of course, there will be initial hiccups in deriving the best out of these changes. But we do believe these would help expand the tax base in quick time. The tax to GDP ratio needs quick correction.