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