After weeks of speculation, Arvind Subramanian, who has previously worked closely with Raghuram Rajan, is appointed as the new Chief Economic Advisor
The Indian government on Thursday appointed Arvind Subramanian as the country's next Chief Economic Advisor. Subramanian's name had been in the list of nominees sent by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). However, after weeks of speculation, his name was officially confirmed today.
Arvind Subramanian has been a celebrated economist and academic. Arvind Subramanian is an alumnus of the St. Stephens College in Delhi, IIM Ahmedabad and the University of Oxford, where he got his M Phil and D Phil. He spoke to the media after the appointment and said that, "It was an honour and privilege to serve in the Government that has a mandate for reform and change." On the challenges ahead, he said that, "Macro economic growth and creating opportunities for growth and development are the two important things for any country."
However, in an Op-ed written for the Business Standard in January 2013, he had questioned the Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi's so-called Gujarat Model. "in the tax collection data, why can one see a Raman Singh effect, a Nitish Kumar effect, a Naveen Patnaik effect, but not a Narendra Modi effect?" he had written.
In the same article Subramanian had also spoken of the merits of a reasonable tax regime, "A corollary is that reasonable (but not onerous) taxation ensures that good governance will be durable, outlasting individual leaders," he wrote.
Writing about the lacklustre performance on tax collection by the Modi administration in Gujarat, he had said "On this important measure of governance, Mr Modi stands indicted as a mediocre performer and one whose performance has not improved over time."
This appointment takes on an interesting dimension in view of Arvind Subramanian's earlier views on Modi's performance in Gujarat.
Prequalified bidders, practically all of them, withdrew and left the field open for only NTPC to secure these contracts for setting up ultra-mega power plants in Odisha and Tamil Nadu
From the press reports, it is now certain that the two 2x4,000 MW ultra-mega power plants (UMPPs), to be located in Odisha and Tamil Nadu, will now be further delayed, simply because the prequalified bidders, practically all of them, withdrew and left the field open for only NTPC to secure these contracts.
It may be recalled that apart from NTPC, others in the race, which were prequalified, for the Odisha UMPP were NHPC, Tatas, Adani, JSW Energy, Jindal Power, Sterlite, CLP and Larsen & Toubro.
For the Cheyyur project, also 4,000 MW, in addition to NTPC, others who were prequalified, included Adani, CLP, GMR, Jindal, JSW Energy, Sterlite and Larsen & Toubro (L&T).
In order to facilitate the work and based on past experience, the government revised the existing standard bidding forms a year ago, and preliminary bids were invited. While revising the bidding forms, the government it seems, took care to make a provision that, in case of any increase in fuel costs, this could be passed on to the consumer as "higher tariff".
However, it would appear that the fly in the ointment was the provision that the successful bidder had to source the equipment from domestic manufacturers.
But it is an entirely different story that the domestic manufacturers have protracted delays in supplies and more expensive than imported counterparts; most of which, in any case, in recent times, have come from China which have been found to be "inferior". In fact, to protect the indigenous suppliers, the import duty element was also revised upwards.
In the case of Cheyyur Plant in Tamil Nadu, the entire project was to be based on the assumption that the entire coal requirement would be imported, while, in the case of Odisha, it was designed to source its own coal from captive coal blocks allotted for this purpose.
There was also the issue of inordinate delays associated with the forest and other clearances in such projects, particularly, in case of coal blocks. In a strategic move, MoEF had decided that the go-ahead for power stations of such projects will no longer be linked to clearance of their captive blocks.
For the UMPP at Bedabahal in Odisha, Ministry of Coal had allocated three coal blocks, viz, Meenakshi, Meenakshi B and dip side of Meenakshi. These were in fact allocated in September 2006. In the changed circumstances, where there is only one bidder, NTPC, we do not know what steps the government may propose to take so that these two projects do not get delayed further.
At the same time, it is necessary for the Power Minister to have an open discussion with the prequalified bidders as to what made them withdraw their interest in bidding.
So far, three UMPPs are with Reliance, partly operational and only one with Tatas at Mundhra, Gujarat, which is fully functional.
Urgent steps are needed to settle this matter.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)
A PIL filed by Dr Sarita Parikh and Apoorva Agwan, from Crisys Foundation has widened the scope of emergency medical services with the Bombay High Court asking Maharashtra government to look into the NGOs research and methods for reducing deaths due to snake bites
The Bombay High Court, while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL), has asked Maharashtra government to consider whether the report prepared by Creative Responsible Integrated Systems Foundation (Crisys Foundation) can be accepted and inform the Court on other steps that can be taken to help snakebite victims.
While hearing the matter in detail, Justices VM Kanade and PD Kode pointed out, “We have heard the learned amicus curiae (JD Mistry). He has submitted a report on Snakebite Project Proposal. The said report contains details about snake problems in India; the main causes for deaths on account of snakebites and the reasons why prompt action is not taken. The report also considers global solutions, which have been found by various countries, including Bombay High Court. Australia is where the largest number of snakebites is reported every year and the report is about the snakebite management in Australia. It also takes into consideration whether it is possible to have a Public Private Partnership between Crisys and the Government of Maharashtra. We are quite impressed by the research which has been done by Crisys Foundation. It has given statistical data about snakebites in Maharashtra and the other States in India. It gives a definite proposal how this problem can be resolved. The report also mentions about equipment which can be manufactured and used to help prevent snakebites.”
The High Court has directed the police in Thane, Maharashtra to ensure that members of Crisys Foundation, which has been helping tribals in the district in case of snakebite, are not obstructed by anyone in carrying out their work. There was some resistance to the work carried out by the NGO from Anantashram Trust and some adivasis, including an ex-sarpanch and a social worker.
The Bombay HC gave the directive after hearing the PIL filed by Dr Sarita Parikh and Apoorva Agwan, both members of the NGO. The court said: "Senior police inspector of the station should see that no one obstructs the petitioners and their apprentices who deal with cases of snakebite in tribal areas."
In conclusion, the Judges observed, “The learned amicus curiae have invited our attention to an Act passed by the State of Gujarat, which is called “the Gujarat Emergency Medical Services Act, 2007”. He has also invited our attention to the various provisions in the said Act and the comprehensive mechanism which has been evolved by the Gujarat Government under the said Act to provide emergency medical services to its residents. The State of Maharashtra may look into the provisions of the said Act and may consider whether it will be advisable to promulgate an Act of this nature in this State.”