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Kinetic Karnataka S V Raju – a ‘good’ true liberal Contrarian cousins When TN politicians can emulate Kerala's Welcome focus on core competence Modi and the lady Quality education through the PPP mode The nuclear option The power-full Hindujas Shaming of Tamils by Tamil farmers at Delhi Scientists urged to take up farmer-oriented research Discoms deserve better… Medical costs hit the roof... S Ramanathan – a versatile musician, musicologist PPP mode for upgrading Corporation Hospitals Godspeed, Chief Minister JJ Diamond jubilee of Egmore Samskrt School A friendly business group Another Indian music maestro at the UN Demise of a media baron... Muffled voices for merit… Shale gas and its shallow future When small is no larger beautiful.. The why of tax incentives Limit foreign borrowings to hi-tech, export potential projects... Fortune 500 review Eternal support for capitalisation of PS banks Wise Presidents IPL - no surprise this scam Kulandai was a giant Banning booze... 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Of course, Gujarat is vibrant Insurance companies bleeding, yet no decision on increasing FDI limit! Infrastructure funding – lessons learnt CRS, a jewel among managers, is no more. A proud Madrasi Fall in crude prices help in oil sector reform Russi Mody – a tribute …and of a popular trade leader Moily’s bold thrust Computation of GDP – conundrums continue CIPET hqrs to stay at Guindy – for the present? Varuna (rain) in 2015; Vaayu (air) in 2016. Chennai devastated When nations steal growth from one another… Sri Lanka votes for change Readers' Mail Sweeter prospects for sugar Put expensive assets created to use... A Grand Finale for SN’s MS centenary at the US… Padma Bhushan for A Ramakrishna No Maha Koottani in TN... Delhi is distant For whom the MIDS bell tolls? The Ports’ Pasha expands into Tamil Nadu Rahman at CIC Lesson from Chandrababu Naidu
 
More Shakthi to Das’ elbow

I am happy to find Shaktikanta Das, Union Secretary for Economic Affairs in the Finance Ministry, who belongs to the Tamil Nadu cadre of IAS, in the limelight. Especially after the announcement of demonetisation, he has been articulating the nuances of this revolutionary measure so effectively. He seems to be part of the handful of policymakers behind this plan. He appears to command the trust of the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister and has been the principal spokesperson on the progress of the scheme and the several course corrections. 

During his tenure in Tamil Nadu as Industry Secretary, I remember the dynamism and thrust of Das in bringing several large new projects into the state. I make particular mention of the Ford Mahindra project in 1996 that heralded the auto boom in the state. He was working hard at developing the Ennore Port by facilitating the setting up of several industrial units. 

Hailing from Odisha, this upright officer was put on the bench, a fate suffered by several other civil servants. But his transfer to the Centre helped bring out the best in him. 

I  remember such problems encountered by several of his predecessors in Tamil Nadu. K P Geethakrishnan resisted the clearance for one of the large state sector projects, the TNPL, on the grounds of an unproven technology. He was transferred as the Industry Secretary and appointed the CMD of the smallest of the corporations, TANSIDCO, and later appointed as Chairman, SIPCOT. His luck in getting shifted to Delhi saw him record steep growth in his career as Secretary – Environment, later Finance Secretary and thence Executive Director, IMF. 

I see good prospects for Das reaching Washington through this route. 

Das revealed yet another facet of his articulation: at the inaugural session of the Economic Editors’ Conference, a journalist from Chennai was struggling to articulate his query in English. Das intervened and asked him to raise it in Tamil, which the former did. Das responded in Tamil and also translated the Q&A for the benefit of all! Bravo.

If S K Das displayed his linguistic prowess in Tamil so well, Minister of State for Industry & Commerce, Nirmala Sitharaman,  did one better: she answered queries from correspondents in Tamil, Telugu, Hindi and English with equal felicity and command!

I raised two questions on the ministry’s performance: the first was in response to her claim on facilitating exports. I cited the instance of a flourishing engineering goods exporter of Tamil Nadu who complained of demand for fat speed-money by port managers to move his containers to the ship. He pointed to incurring an expenditure of Rs 3 lakh per month on this score. The penalty for not coughing up the bribe was detention of the container and demand to open and explain every part inside, entailing massive delays and risk of his losing custom for failure to deliver in time.

The second instance cited related to the AIADMK government’s scheme to offer fans, mixies and grinders to its citizens. If one expected the expenditure of over Rs 2000 crore per annum to benefit industrial units in Ambattur or Coimbatore, one was in for a shock: the entire consignment has been imported from China! 

There was silence for a couple of minutes. The minister then admitted she was speechless!  Rare for this highly articulate minister.

Sitharaman promised to look into the first of the queries and rectify the malaise. Of the second, she said it is a more complicated trade issue.

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