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From the very beginning This foray into economic journalism... When feedstock change worked havoc... The white trigger at Erode Travails and thrills... How Chennai missed the bus? (rail!) The green years Kurien visits Erode... Music, music everywhere… The unreal estate When comes such another! Power progress Editorially reinforced and redesigned Hand composing to desk top publishing… The slippery story of crude The rise and fall of the Madras Press Club Budgets through the years… Where a co-operative paid bonus; helped eradicate caste bias... When fertilizer production shifted to North and West... The rise, fall and rise of India Cements He took public sector to commanding heights... The years of consolidation, second bomb, and hope Rise and fall of PVN... A culture of R&D... Birth of IE The sea change Remembering SV MY LOVE FOR AGRICULTURE Green Jubilee for agricultural research Takeover tycoons... Major storms during the explosive years Hanuman jumps in auto, electronic technologies Mrs Gandhi storms back, MGR unshaken in his fortress When cooperatives pushed out private dairies... Salem steel waiting for its sheen When Eicher bites the Bullet...
 
Editorially reinforced and redesigned

Under an editorial titled “A new look IE, now a monthly,” a refurbished, redesigned May 2008 issue made this promise on performance to its devoted readers: “..dailies vie with one another on extensive coverage of politics, disaster, crime, page 3 celebrities...Despite the liberal increase in the number of pages, there has not been much of a dispensation to devote pages for heavier subjects of productivity, management, emerging trends, R&D, etc. Development news is considered not essential for expanding readership. One thus sees more reportage of farmers' suicides rather than on constructive research, analysis and solutions to address issues of rural poverty. IE has been devoting a good lot of attention to the imperative of improving farmers' incomes through productivity increases. IE will continue its focus on such issues.” 

The June issue had its fair share of strong comments. One was under the Inklings on the Tamil Nadu parties’ freebies spree, which stated: “for forty long years the Dravidian parties have spread a cult of winning votes on the basis of freebies ... This freebie system leaves little resources for development. A culture of dependence on the government for every need has been assiduously built.” The August issue focussed on the historic 22 July vote in the Lok Sabha in support of the Manmohan Singh Government’s civil nuclear agreement, underlining the fact that after the decisive way the Prime Minister went ahead with the controversial pact with the U.S: “one can now term the government as his own.” Appearing alongside was an analysis of the agreement, with the positive and negative aspects explained, through in an article by Dr MR Iyer, an IAEA safeguards expert. 

 

The Barrack Obama years

The year 2009 started on a sombre note in the wake of the Bombay terror attack, with the year’s first issue remarking on the need for maximum vigilance and hailing the decision of Manmohan Singh's government to shift P Chidambaram from the Finance portfolio to the more pressing Home portfolio. The February issue talked about the 'Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2009,’ which was hosted for the first time by Chennai. It was also noted that this rare opportunity to showcase the state's potential was being missed out thanks to the extraordinary reluctance of the Dravidian leaders – M Karunanidhi, then Chief Minister, M G Ramachandran and J Jayalalithaa. The Editor’s Note had this comment: “Chief Minister Karunanidhi made a short speech at the inaugural session at which the Prime Minister was the chief guest. The eight-minute speech did not provide much scope for marketing Tamil Nadu. It  was Narendra Modi and Rajasekhara Reddy who made the most of this session, which was presided over by the Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, M S Ahluwalia. Bihar's Deputy Chief Minister, Sushil Kumar Modi and junior ministers from Haryana, Rajasthan and Maharashtra too made impressive presentations. 

Disappointingly, TN minister of electricity, Arcot Veerasami, who was given the opportunity to present the attractions of Tamil Nadu, gladly handed over his time to other states!” 

The March issue recorded the passing away of the former President R Venkataraman with a tribute by the name of, 'RV, architect of industrial Tamil Nadu'. 

The July issue's cover story was an expose on the capitation fee menace and it also had a cautionary piece on the disappearing waterways of Chennai, almost prophetic for today. The Inkling had this tale: “hardly five decades ago, waterways criss-crossing Chennai, namely the Adyar and Cooum rivers, the Buckingham Canal, a few smaller canal systems and a number of lakes in the suburbs, were precious God-given gifts that were put to good use.” 

 

A fair share for the south

The year 2010 began with a bang, with IE returning to a topic it had campaigned for more than two decades earlier. Recording in detail the deliberations at a high level seminar it had organised in December on the subject “KG gas: a fair share for South,” the January 2010 issue brought up “the subject of the southern states making use of the elegance, economics and the eco-friendly nature of gas as a prime source of energy and as a feedstock for urea.”

It recalled that IE’s August 1991 issue had featured the subject on the cover, suggesting a pipeline network for the southern states. The rationale as explained by the Editor was that the proximity of Gujarat and Maharashtra to the source of production (Bombay High) was a great boon. The states built large capacity fertilizer, petrochemical and power plants based on gas in quick time and also used gas effectively for a variety of other industries. No such effort to exploit the KG gas discovery was taken in the southern states. 

Despite taking five long years to reach production, “not much attention was paid by the policymakers and business leaders of the south to focus on the construction of pipelines to transfer the gas from the terminal at Kakinada to user industries in the south. Equally sad is the fact that politicians, business leaders of the south, media, academics and other interested sections have not yet taken the initiative to benefit out of this boon,” said the Editor in his introductory article. B Santhanam, Managing Director, Saint Gobain Glass 

India, remarked that if his company had access to natural gas, it can replace the expensive furnace oil presently used. He estimated the savings on this account alone at Rs. 100 crore per annum on current prices.   

 

Cabinet formation under coalitions“...the absence of Niira 

Radia-Barkha Dutt-Vir Sanghvi involvement,” commented an Editor’s Note entry in the February 2011 issue, on the latest cabinet reshuffled under the Manmohan Singh Government’s coalition setup. This and other developments gave rise to expectations that the PM would shed dead wood and bring in new blood. An analysis in the June cover story under the title, “The battering ram that stunned the DMK,” pointed out that the latest elections to the State assembly saw that “apart from a strong negative vote for the DMK- PMK -Congress alliance, there also appears a strong positive vote for the AIADMK.” It added, “AIADMK won 150 of the 165 seats it contested. The spirited campaign by party supremo J Jayalalithaa pointed out that the misdeeds of the DMK government through 2006-11, especially the concentration of power in the Karunanidhi family, the poor state of law and order, price increases and an extremely unsatisfactory state of power position, seem to have won overwhelming support.” A perfect finale for the year was the December cover story on the demise of the Kingfisher Airline. A special feature article began thus- “Never before has the street fighter, Vijay Mallya, boxed himself into such a tight corner. Nor has he ever looked so bloody vulnerable.” The issue also had excerpt from a 1996 article by SV (“the strip tease continues”) on Mallya’s bluff and bluster which landed Best & Crompton in total ruin. 

 

In defence of Aadhaar, press freedom

“Like the Lokpal, Aadhaar has all the potential to be a game changer.” So concluded an in-depth analysis of the Aadhaar scheme by Bhamy V Shenoy in which the author listed the reasons why he supported the tool to fight corruption in the January 2012 issue. His answer to the most widely expressed fear on whether Aadhaar compromises privacy, is a resounding 'No'. When a driver’s licence is issued, it demands far more information than Aadhaar. Voters’ lists provided to any one interested also has loads of information on citizens. Passport applications, with tons of information, are handled by private agencies. Is there any hue and cry? Has any one raised privacy questions? 

Many U.S Supreme Court findings imply that the use of biometrics does not invade an individual’s privacy. The Supreme Court of India instituted Wadhwa Committee on PDS had suggested a computer-based information system as well as the use of biometric smart cards to reduce leakages. Why did the SCF fail to take into consideration the critical recommendations of this committee which is as mindful of privacy as any activist? Another in-depth analysis, split into three parts and written by different writers, looks at the prospect of allowing foreign direct investment in the country’s totally unregulated retail trade. 

Also reported in detail was a judgement in a long drawn out defamation case filed by the chief executive of Addison Paints and Chemicals Ltd against the editor. After reproducing one of the two articles in question, the August issue dealt in detail with the compete background to the case and the heroic way in which IE’s learned counsel presented the case for freedom of the press and excerpts from the judgment which dismissed the case and upheld IE’s principled stand. It reinforced the right of the journalist to be critical of corporate shenanigans. Significantly the company was wound up.  

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