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Making ‘my Amaravati’... Boy, can you beat these? The ‘Ayyo-yes’ is no more An informal presentation - analytical, forward locking... SoA @ 80 Music happens Liberal imports idling indigenous capacities Haul over the coal GM Technology at last! Readers' Mail Infrastructure funding – lessons learnt Cleaning Ganga – relocate tanneries and install electric crematoria Engineering seats go abegging Strengthen the base... Medical costs hit the roof... Computation of GDP – conundrums continue Lesson from Chandrababu Naidu A think tank for Chennai Contrarian cousins Roaring Ro-Ro facility Russi Mody – a tribute Delhi returns to BJP Whistle-Stop Tour of Raghuram Rajan R Sridhar steps down as CEO of Shriram Capital He saved millions from starvation... Measuring roof tops in terms of KW/MW Godspeed, Chief Minister JJ Intellectual of rare qualities Make standards certification mandatory... Breaththrough in malaria control TELANGANA at last…BUT How Air-India loses customs... The Gulf aviation boom Solar, solar everywhere … Parliament in paralysis... Editor's Says Polls and promises Tribute – Manikam Ramaswami No mega rail project for Tamil Nadu Kudos to NDTV... Lalu’s envy, India’s pride Another Indian music maestro at the UN Small units prefers to remain small... Protest masters... A professional at the helm of IRDA... A proud Madrasi Sri Lanka votes for change Adharma of opposition politics Pharma – overdose of copying Delhi is distant Shaming of Tamils by Tamil farmers at Delhi Muffled voices for merit… Secularism and anti-Hinduism Towards speedy justice Mersal magnified CII projects higher growth… Land reclamation from sea appears cheaper! IPL type auction for VCs? L&T- the specialty of special purpose vehicles Padma Bhushan for A Ramakrishna Fall in crude prices help in oil sector reform Editor's Notes An inexplicable neglect China invests in India Demise of a media baron... Discoms deserve better… Cutting the nose to spite the face Quality education through the PPP mode The ‘Jayanthi Tax.’ Delhi Chalo... Kinetic Karnataka Airlines in India: cost and space When nations steal growth from one another… Shipping woes of Chennai companies Focus on quality of power - its only around 170-180V New IT products of Ramco in the pipeline… Banning booze... Telangana in top gear… More Shakti to resource mobilisation... Naidu will soon build a new Hyderabad Reliance’s TV – 18 ready to launch Tamil News Channel Nuclear power at the nucleus This scant respect for Law Where a state respects its litterateurs… Vibrant Gujarat Auto components surge… GNS - 100: our first subscriber A C Muthiah – his munificent bequeaths to science Poor quality of university VCs Road development slows down Insurance companies bleeding, yet no decision on increasing FDI limit! Robber barons everywhere Valli, they are more marginalised TIAM turns a full cycle Mu Sigma – is no more Tribute Of course, Gujarat is vibrant The balancing act Varuna (rain) in 2015; Vaayu (air) in 2016. Chennai devastated PC’s preference for professionals Multi-faceted Venkat IPL - no surprise this scam Colour-Chem’s colourful KRVS Rs.1600 crore paper board plant of TNPL Increasing non co-operation of state leaders Diamond jubilee of Egmore Samskrt School He continues the focus on social amelioration Tribute – M V Murugappan Gay abandon in pricing For whom the bell tolls? Why land prices zoom in TN? Shanti and Sadhana through Music Why this malaise in medical education? Moily’s bold thrust An enemy’s enemy is a friend Eternal support for capitalisation of PS banks A more liberated TN… Inflation: are we emulating Argentina and Brazil? Fortune for Indian Airlines All eyes on Sankara Nethralaya The nuclear option F C Kohli - his concerns all embracing Air Asia India will set new benchmarks for budget travel The Swadeshi Trump Build close rapport with business leaders Wise Presidents Don’t seem to feel the pulse… A glass full of corruption More heat than light A Grand Finale for SN’s MS centenary at the US… The sea- saw battle continues... When Ratan Tata visited SRM Tatas moving out of urea production... Revive development banks... Welcome focus on core competence The Ports’ Pasha expands into Tamil Nadu IAS invades NDDB... Tough task taking states together For whom the MIDS bell tolls? Marketing expert Balagopal is no more Scientists urged to take up farmer-oriented research The rise and fall of Annamalai University The star of Spencers is no more Things happen by accident and not by design... Chennai and Kolkata miss opportunity to grow as Delhi and Mumbai The brown list of Venkitaramanan Streamlining mandatory third party cover Which side are you, Montek? TGS- The king storyteller Paytm karo... L&T: focus on infrastructure and more infrastructure… Tribute – UCAL Selvan… Waning interest in public discussions… S V Raju – a ‘good’ true liberal Gas is the way forward Cement prices continue to rise… Five star activism stalls development activity Funding the un-funded Not just in-laws (and outlaws); they’ve renowned academics at the helm! Convulsions in The Hindu PPP mode for upgrading Corporation Hospitals CIPET hqrs to stay at Guindy – for the present? A welcome initiative by the judiciary Bihar elections - the Rajaji formula worked West Bengal: mindless malignancy Building loyalty through the stomach Welcome thrust on trade in Modi’s foreign visits... Online not in line with brick and mortar businesses... Quality silica from Neyveli Limit foreign borrowings to hi-tech, export potential projects... Maximising the micro pricing … When the President was rendered homeless… Dr C Rangarajan returns to Chennai CRS, a jewel among managers, is no more. Kulandai was a giant Poor representation for Kerala and TN in Cabinet When online building permits work…. Align crops to agro climate endowments… Alexa – Talking Wikipedia Where is Rajaji? to the lack of interest on the part of these to focus on original research. This despite the much lower costs of such research in India. The industry which thrived on the protection of a closed economy and the advantage of a vast domestic market, has failed to organise its evolution on healthy lines Sweeter prospects for sugar Modi storms Silicon Valley A friendly business group EVM is tamper-proof B H Kothari - a tribute Solar thermal shines… TN accounts for the largest recruits by the IT sector Delhi is distant… Rahman at CIC Come elections, come advertisements... ONGC at KG Basin Sweet news for TN sugar mills A Grand Finale for SN’s MS centenary at the US… London, London Narayan TN – agglomerate land holdings without alienating ownership Excel Generators provide the vital back-up The power-full Hindujas Adapt Vajpayee dinner diplomacy The few handicaps... …and of a popular trade leader Put expensive assets created to use... Wanted: a second airport for Chennai Remembering Indira Sivasailam... Odisha: spectacular win by Naveen Patnaik There was flood of milk. Reason: no milk commissioner! Should we change the official year? WTO Meet: resolved to meet again Fortune 500 review No engine for this car The why of tax incentives The rise and rise of KCP No Maha Koottani in TN... Welcome GST A rich pool of talent not utilised…. Recognition to role of NBFCs.... Tax agriculture More Shakthi to Das’ elbow Modi and the lady Revving up the manufacturing sector A yen for wastage… Noble nonagenarians... TN-leverage strength of BHEL, NLC... The Jan Dhan bonanza Shale gas and its shallow future When TN politicians can emulate Kerala's Plummeting profits of PSBs Tatas moving out of urea production... When small is no larger beautiful.. Bihar – Nitish Kumar adopts the Lalu model Return to king coal for urea... CSR and CMI: promise of another Srinivasan Ramanujan... S Ramanathan – a versatile musician, musicologist More tributes to GR Silver Years of Madras Musings MHC should not return to its old indisciplined ways EEC at the National Media Centre Preserving for the future Naidu’s return augurs well for Seemandhra Tihar, Puzhal not different from Parappana Agrahara Welcome changes that testify to Jayalalithaa’s return to health Permanent secretariat for TN GIM Like Hinduism: many paths to reach God... Fuel for thought
 
Editor's Notes

Protest protests

In a highly populated country like India, with a high degree of political consciousness, it has been possible to mobilise support for each and every cause.

Look at the experience of Tamil Nadu over the last year. The prolonged protests against the Kudankulam nuclear plant; groups of Muslims marching into the American Consulate in Chennai, protesting against a film by a little-known American; the agitation against screening of the film Viswaroopam; farmers’ protests against laying of the Kochi-Bengaluru gas pipeline in Tirupur; the clash between Pattali Makkal Katchi and Vidhuthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi on inter-caste marriages; opposition to the divestment of shares of Neyveli Lignite Corporation; the several protests against rights being denied to Sri Lankan Tamils by the Rajapakse government and protests against the visit of Sinhalese to Tamil Nadu. The list is only illustrative.  A recent report mentioned Tamil Nadu topping the list for such agitations thanks to the ability of the leaders to mobilise people, on specific issues.

Activists may justify such protests as an expression of democratic dissent. However, they cause widespread damage to the peace and tranquility of civil society. In several cases, like the Kudankulam agitation, they have huge economic implications. The production loss suffered by the nuclear power plant is valued at Rs 14.4 crore per day.

The three-year delay in commissioning the project exceeds the total cost of the project. The felicity with which parties opposed to the government join hands to voice protests make it difficult for the government to enforce law. There is need for a higher degree of tolerance and appreciation of the other point of view.


Policy change to step up investments

Every time I meet B Muthuraman (BM), Vice Chairman, Tata Steel, I get a sharp perspective on the global steel scene. An incurable optimist, BM also used to be quite upbeat on the prospects for India rapidly expanding its steel capacity. He passionately spearheaded Tata Steel’s expansion of  capacity almost four times in a short period and was part of the company’s illustrious team to help it emerge a global producer. He expanded his horizons when he served as President of CII during 2011-12.

I was, therefore, sad to note his  not being enthusiastic over the current state of affairs. He pointed to delays in getting clearances from the various fronts for new projects. The Odisha project of Tata Steel on which he has been working for close to a decade, is a case in point. Phase I of the 6 MT capacity plant is expected to be commissioned only in 2014.

The experience of the South Korean steel giant Posco Steel for its 12 MT capacity steel plant is worse. Opposition from the local population on land acquisition  has stalled this project with potential investment of over Rs 50,000 crore. This despite strong support from the state government.         There is finally news on the completion of the land acquisition process. For Odisha, a state very rich in minerals, such a project can promise jobs and handsome revenues. Yet, unfortunately, several precious years were lost on just the preliminaries. Posco steel offered to set up another 6 MT steel plant at Gadag district in Karnataka as a follow-up to the Global Investors Meet 2010 organised to solicit large FDI. The company deposited Rs 60 crore towards land acquisition. Three years later, Posco Steel was unable to acquire the needed land.

There was also the paralysis  in administration caused by the mining scam of Karnataka. While the administration was enthusiastic about the prospects for a handsome FDI flow through such large projects, the political leadership has not been able to tackle opposition from the locals. Posco with its bitter experience in Odisha, did not feel equal to facing another prolonged battle. The company has withdrawn its plan to set up its second steel plant in India.

The UPA II government, which has been announcing relaxations in its FDI, has failed miserably in tackling issues at the ground level. Several thousand crores of rupees of promised investments are not being made or are idle through severe policy deficiencies relating to issues like land acquisition and allocation of mines. Tata Steel abandoned a Rs 3000 crore titanium project in southern Tamil Nadu after a ten-year ordeal. Several such examples further depress the enthusiasm of investors to invest in large projects. They will increasingly prefer to look for acquisitions or mergers, which may not add much to investment flows.

I am particularly worried over the impact of such withdrawal of projects by multinationals like Posco and the Tatas in the southern states, which have long been considered progressive and investor-friendly. Over a year ago, S Mahalingam, the then CFO of TCS, mentioned the distinct waning of interest on the part of IT industry to invest in the state due to the very high cost of land. The great enthusiasm with which the southern states welcomed the SEZs has also vanished.

The governments at the Centre and the states would do well to resolve the issues of land acquisition, relief and rehabilitation in quick time.

 



Revamp agriculture before promising food security...

There have been wide criticism on the Food Security Ordinance, which appears to be a major platform for the Congress party for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. FSB requires 80 MT of foodgrains per annum and an outlay of around Rs 120,000 crore. In the light of the slow growth in food production, averaging less than three per cent per annum, procuring and distributing this huge volume of foodgrains will pose a serious challenge. Some 50 years after the setting up of the Food Corporation of India, the public distribution system has not been efficiently managed across the country. There is a problem of identification of the beneficiaries. Tamil Nadu chose the easy option of making the scheme universal: the state offers 20 kg of rice free of cost to all eligible ration-card holders in the state. Again, there are other states that offer rice or wheat at low prices. In this background, the offer of rice at Rs 3 per kg and wheat at Rs 2 per kg is not unique. Voters thus, may not find the new scheme any better.

There is the additional problem of procuring, storing and delivering this large volume, which is much higher  than at the present levels.

With the procurement drive sucking in bulk of the marketable surplus of farmers, there is also the danger of shortages in the open markets leading to higher prices. Even while Tamil Nadu’s experience provides a warning: rice is freely offered by the state, involving a huge annual subsidy of over Rs 4000 crore; but the open market price of rice of finer varieties have shot up in excess of Rs 50 per kg.

Sadly, the obvious solution, of  a massive step up in production, is not receiving the needed attention. With productivity levels so low, there is enormous scope for stepping up production. All it needs is a focus on the application of science, technology and management, along with efforts to agglomerate the small land holdings. The Punjab and Rajasthan governments’ approach of permitting lease of land for over 15 years, without alienating ownership needs to be replicated.

IE reiterates its suggestion of doubling the target of food production to 500 MT by 2020.


Need to focus on manufacturing

“25 per cent of world’s total export is made up of hi-tech capital goods. But India’s share in this is negligible,” said T C A Ranganathan, CMD, Export Import Bank of India.

Delivering a special address at the 177th Annual General Meeting of Madras Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ranganathan stressed the importance of India emerging strong as a manufacturer of high quality engineering products. He suggested that industry should utilise the present slow down of the global economy to weed out inefficiencies and gear up manufacturing capacity.

I met the Exim Bank Chairman at his sprawling office at the World Trade Centre, Mumbai. For several years in the past, IE has been organising special seminars on trade issues in cooperation with Exim Bank. In these, several companies assisted by Exim Bank presented case studies on Exim Bank’s expertise and assistance.

These have been of value to the entrepreneurs of the region, especially from the medium and small scale sector. Ranganathan’s special knowledge on emerging economies in Africa and Asia will be of special interest.


 

Can’t compete? Copy.

I have been pointing to the impact both, desirable and otherwise, of Times of India (TOI) on the 136-year old The Hindu. The welcome features include a much better coverage of local issues, particularly those relating to the civic problems of Chennai metro. The recent series of articles in The Hindu under the title Who Cares, pointing to the neglect and encroachments of footpaths, is a welcome effort.

 The sustained campaign of TOI on the bizarre manner of operating auto-rickshaws in Chennai was another welcome effort. For years, auto-rickshaw drivers have been a law unto themselves, fleecing customers and defying law by refusing to charge by the meter. How coolly they had dispensed with the meters! From the usurious capitation fees charged by most private engineering and medical colleges to the plethora of civic issues, TOI has been reporting extensively on issues that impacted severely on the hapless citizens. Happily, the pressure from this peer and leader has influenced the The Hindu, which still accounts for a major share of English newspaper readership in the state.

In another area also one could see the copycat syndrome: of The Hindu massively expanding coverage of film news on the lines of TOI. Of course, TOI has no qualms in presenting a daily fare in its Chennai Times supplement, a portion of which, presumably,  is also paid news.

Press Council Chairman, Markandey Katju, should be looking askance at the full-page analysis in The  Hindu of the Hindi film Raanjhanaa subjecting it to a semantic thesis by several experts spread over a page. I would agree with Katju on the lopsided devotion of space even while a number of burning developmental  issues like a gas pipeline for the south suffers neglect.

I can well understand the impact of TOI - several top managers, including the editor and CEO - are ex-TOI executives.

Former Editor-in-Chief N Ram conceived a sort of ombudsman for the paper: initially ex-employees of The Hindu who had served the paper for decades,were appointed as the Readers’ Editor. The third incumbent, A S Panneerselvam, has better credentials as one from outside. As an active journalist, he seems to perform a greater role as a regular columnist liberally commenting on national and international news relating to media.

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