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