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