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The years of consolidation, second bomb, and hope

The years of consolidation, second bomb, and hope

The 15 January 1998 issue featured the quiet, un-heralded research being carried on at Adyar and the vital turnaround it helped the leather industry achieve. The industry was at a critical point then: With foreign exchange earnings of over a billion dollars, the leather industry topped Tamil Nadu’s export revenue; but when the Supreme Court ordered the closure of 914 tanneries in Tamil Nadu in 1996 on the grounds of pollution, the industry was in a fix. “In an epoch-making effort, the CSIR laboratories, a collaboration of the Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI) and the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), took up the challenge and put in place, efficient effluent treatment plants in just a year’s time. After a year of negative growth, the leather industry was back on its growth path.”

Dr. T Ramasami, the then director of CLRI, and “the chronic bachelor who put 18 hours of work every day” was also interviewed. The issue focused on the Partnership Summit held in Chennai where the then Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi and Polish President Kwasniewski were the chief guests. 

 

Well-merited honour for CS

The conferring of Bharat Ratna on C Subramaniam, after bestowing it on Dr. Abdul Kalam and M S Subbulakshmi “restored the value of Bharat Ratna, which was getting devalued substantially due to ad hoc and partisan selection of awardees, mostly on political considerations,” said a tribute in the 14 March issue. There also was an excellent and balanced profile of the rising star, S Gurumurthy. 

The 1999 election threw a perplexing result and brought in the second Vajpayee government. In welcoming the new regime, the 30 March issue said: “the new administration should include in its short-term agenda, quick reforms in the agricultural sector. If Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh won their fame through liberalising trade and industry, Vajpayee should aim at changing the country’s agricultural policy by taking bold steps.” The hope went in vain as the budget of the new regime revealed. The 15 June issue wrote,  “Although several proposals by Yashwant Sinha were bold and deserved acclaim, convincing the people of their far-reaching impact was necessary. Otherwise, like P Chidambaram, he too would be high on ideas, but poor on performance.” In an extensive review in the 15 August issue, marking the golden jubilee celebrations of India's Independence, Shuba Vaidyanathan reached out to a broad cross-section of leaders, and concluded, “though India will remember Vajpayee for fostering nuclearization, economic prosperity is the most important parameter on which posterity will judge him.”

The mid-month issue of January 2000 heralded the new millennium with a dramatic cover highlighting the state of the economy. The innovative cover story had solid advice from top four brains of that day. The issue had an editorial note, which will make a heartening read today. 

 

I have a dream: Mashelkar

The next issue dated 30 January, published excerpts from the presidential address at the Indian Science Congress. Dr. R A Mashelkar spoke of his dream for Indian science:  “all of us here certainly have the right to dream. In my dream, I surfed the net. I landed at the india.com portal. I clicked on Nobel Awards and found three Nobel prizes won by Indians this year. The first one in physics, the second one in physiology and medicine, and the third in economics was shared by an Indian scientist and an Indian economist” He then concludes: “the next century will belong to India, a country which would have become an intellectual and economic superpower to reckon with.” 

 

Day of the Southern states

In the cover story of 15 January issue, IE returned to its focus area, the South. With detailed status reports on each of the four states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Kerala, it presented a hopeful picture: “After missing out on development in the Seventies and the Eighties, it appears to be the day of the south. A strong backbone of education, computer training, infrastructure and availability of skilled workforce seems to have drawn the states out of stagnation and modest growth of earlier decades.” 

The theme “happy days are here,” continued in the 33rd Annual edition too. The cover went on to suggest that the four states cooperate and coordinate their plans. “Regional co-operation of the south Indian economies would help leverage on the ASEAN economic might.” Another major focus was the south’s declining share in food production. “There is a steep decline in southern India’s share in the production of food grains. There is every reason for the region to shift from being a producer of commodities to a producer of processed foods.” 

The 30 June cover story titled ‘funding gray years, with a haunting image of a woman looking lost, dealt with pension funds. It said, “India is graying fast. The risk of living too long has overtaken the risk of dying too soon. Sadly, there is no pension plan to meet this challenge.” An IE organised seminar had several suggestions to deal with the issue. 

The mega industry event of the decade, the merger of Reliance Industries and Reliance Petrochemicals, creating India’s second Fortune 500 company, was the cover story in the 15 March 2002 issue. “The ‘enhanced’ Reliance group, although a colossus in financial and marketing aspects, is more than a business entity; it is a phenomenon. Wherever the juggernaut went, the markets followed so much so, that the markets were always favourable for the Ambanis to decide the next big move.”  

And the 30 March 2003 issue was a star-studded one that struck a positive note with the readers: Launching India into a high trajectory growth. “Ready for the takeoff,” wrote the editor in his lead article which was soon followed by an excerpted address by the management guru Prof C K Prahalad at the CII’s Partnership Summit. After talking about the “cost of the status quo” of continuing in the 5 per cent growth pattern, Prahalad spoke of innovation and scale imperatives for India. The galaxy of contributors included Dr. V Kurien, R Swaminathan (IAS Retd), F C Kohli, R Gopalakrishnan and A Vellayan.  

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