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An eventful week with VVIPs of Delhi

The main purpose of my Delhi visit was to attend the Economic Editors’ conference. Started by Indira Gandhi in 1966-67, the EEC has been an annual event providing a platform for economic editors from different parts of India to interact with policymakers in Delhi.

My wife Padma and I landed in Delhi on the 7 November night. The week earlier was full of news on Delhi’s worst pollution. For a Chennaiite there was the additional concern over the chill November weather. Surprisingly, we experienced a pleasant weather and much less pollution. We thought it an excellent augury.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared on the television on the 8th night I told Padma that it was unusual for the PM to address the nation suddenly and that we may expect some important announcement. Of course, I didn’t know it would be so momentous as demonetisation. For the whole following week I was in Delhi, meeting with policymakers, old and new, this was the dominant subject.

The main purpose of my Delhi visit was to attend the Economic Editors’ conference. Started by Indira Gandhi in 1966-67, the EEC has been an annual event providing a platform for economic editors from different parts of India to interact with policymakers in Delhi. Inaugurated by the finance minister, the conference is followed by interactions with Union ministers handling economic portfolios. In the past EEC also provided opportunities to discuss with senior scientists from CSIR, Atomic Energy... and other experts like Sam Pitroda. The presence of senior civil servants and PSU CEOs at the EEC, informal receptions and dinners also provided opportunities for seeking information and clarifications.

I hold the record for attending these from the time of Y B Chavan as Finance Minister in 1973. Over these 43 years I have had the opportunity to interact with all finance ministers and dozens of other economic ministers. For editors from outside Delhi, especially for small specialised publications like IE, this has been a welcome opportunity to present the impact of policies on the regions.

There was break of EEC for two years in 2014 and 2015. The present head of PIB, Frank Noronha and his team, provided such an opportunity through regional economic editors’ conferences addressed by Union ministers as also of reviving the EEC in Delhi. For two days economic journalists numbering around 80 were addressed by ministers handling 
Finance, Commerce & Industry, I&B, IT, P&NG, Railways, Road Transport & Highways, Chairman-NITI Aayog...... One could thus get an update on the government’s performance in these sectors and a sort of mid-year review.

I also utilised the visit to renew my contacts with some of the leaders with whom I have interacted in the past. These included Dr Manmohan Singh with whom I have had the privilege of interacting for over 35 years. He addressed under the aegis of Industrial Economist as Finance Minister on 30 March 1996 on structural reforms. Padma and I spent an hour at his residence and enjoyed a privileged conversation. Dr Singh is frail and weak but maintains his characteristic charm of geniality and saw us off at the portico of his palatial residence.

On the 9th morning so soon after the TV address of Prime Minister Modi, I met former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha at his residence in Noida. For some 70 minutes the discussions covered a wide range of subjects with the focus on demonetisation.

I also had an extremely interesting discussion with Dr Nasim Zaidi, the Chief Election Commissioner, on the 15th. In The hour-long meeting Dr Zaidi, who took his doctorate in microbiology and is renowned for his rich contribution to reforms in the Air Force, discussed a wide range of issues concerning electoral reforms. There are expectations on demonetisation curbing the use of black money in elections.

I had used the opportunity of visiting Delhi to extend the trip to projects in Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan or UP. This time I visited Shimla and spent time at the Central Potato Research Centre. From the hot climate of Chennai to the biting cold of Shimla, it was a different experience!

I concluded the trip meeting the renowned economist couple - Isher Judge and Montek Singh Ahluwalia - at their residence. Montek is busy writing a book on the course of development from 1980. For a change he was asking questions on my impressions on the changes during 1980-85!

Detailed features on the visit will be presented in IE 01 December issue.

Too much of pleasure should perhaps be balanced by some pain. I lost my Samsung cell phone at the Delhi airport on the 15th evening. It contained precious recordings, photographs, data and numerous contact numbers. Now you can reach me through my Reliance Jio: 70100 66316.

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IE, the business magazine from south was launched in 1968 and pioneered business journalism in south. Through the 45 years IE has been focusing on well-presented and well-researched articles. When giants in the industry stumbled to keep pace with the digital revolution, IE stayed affixed embracing technology.
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