Dinesh Trivedi, former railway minister, spoke to a packed audience on his brief but highly eventful tenure as a the minister, when he tried to effect many fundamental changes but was stymied
“I am surprised that it took a Supreme Court to sack A Raja, who has shortchanged the country of billions of dollars and I was sacked in a few minutes when I have acted for the country, ” quipped Mr Dinesh Trivedi, former railway minister. He was speaking at a seminar titled ‘Country, Before Party and Self’, organized by Moneylife Foundation.
“The Parliament may not represent real India and may be out of touch of reality. Indians out there know more about the state of affairs” said he.
In a short speech and highly inspiring speech, Mr Trivedi spoke on why his railway budget was important after presenting which, he had to resign. He said, “I don’t have any regrets or complaints. If I were to re-present my budget, I would present exactly the same one. I have, however, wondered what went wrong.”
He said, “I don’t know how it happened. Every state, every minister got something. The whole Union was happy. But when they talk about the Budget, everything but my proposals get discussed. No technical aspects, no safety measures, no financial concerns.”
He said, “The railways badly needs modernization, and I told the Planning Commission that I required Rs25 lakh crores for that purpose. One can raise the money through the following ways: public private partnerships, public funds and fare hikes.” In the short term the option was to raise fares.
Mr Trivedi said that he consulted all the top advisors and experts and they were unanimous that fares should be hiked. He said this budget started the say after he witnessed the horror of a train accident in Kanpur. He got in touch with two of India’s top nuclear scientists – Dr Anil Kakodkar and Dr K Kasturirangan. He also reached out to R Sreedharan, who set up the Delhi Metro against all odds on improving the operational aspects and Deepak Parekh on railway finances.
These experts presented their report, which showed that the Railways were in a huge mess. “After that what did you expect me to do? Throw that report out? I did whatever I had to do. I was confident that the railways would achieve its targets. And with that confidence, I prepared my speech.” He defended his decision to raise the fares, saying that people don’t travel long-distance every day, so the impact would have been minimal on the individual.
He said that there is an urgent need to modernize the railways for the people. “The way people travel in general class compartments is a human rights violation.
Everyday people lose their lives.” But this can be changed radically. After all young Indian scientists and engineers are innovating in the US which are used by foreign governments. Indian railways could have profited from their expertise too.
He also spoke about the consequences of coalition politics, where portfolios are distributed like fiefs to allies. Mr Trivedi said that now political compulsions and interests have taken precedence over the country, and that has to change. “My Budget was for India. It was not for any particular region or any state. That may have been my undoing,” he commented.
Mr Trivedi talked about his unrealized plans about Mumbai Railways. “I had plans about renovating the stations and integrating the three different lines.
Mumbai got the most from my Budget. But now, everything will be rolled back. I was rock and roll he quipped. I was rocking and they will roll. ”
He said that the felt that the media was wrong to highlight only on his ‘losing the chair’. “People die everyday, and they lay down their lives for their country. If I had done something which is good for the country, why should the focus be on a chair? Politics cannot become your profession,” he asked.
“We take a sacred oath of discharging our duties without fear, and to look at only my country and my people. Some of us have forgotten that. It was fear and favour behind my sacking. There was the fear of losing the government and someone had to be favoured,” he said.
He said “I have great respect for our Prime Minister but I think it is time for a generational change in our administration and politics. Now, people are scared of approaching the police or the authorities. Why should that be? The Vora committee report says that the country is now run by a parallel mafia administration, and general government has become irrelevant,” he said.
However, he said that he is overwhelmed by the response he got, and expressed his optimism. He said, “I know things are in a turmoil right now. But I believe that this is a great country, and things will look up.”
His talk was followed by a lively interaction with the members of the audience.
The market may get a firm direction in a couple of days
Nervousness ahead of the March inflation numbers and the Reserve Bank of India’s credit policy saw the market remaining volatile for the entire session. However, gains in rate-sensitive sectors like banking and auto stocks enabled a green close. The market is expected to remain range-bound and a firm direction is expected in a couple of days. The National Stock Exchange (NSE) saw a low volume of 48.81 crore shares being traded today.
The market opened in the red on nervousness ahead of the release of inflation data for the month of March. Weak cues from the Asian markets also weighed on the sentiments. The Nifty opened 16 points lower at 5,191 and the Sensex started the day at 17,048, down 47 points from its previous close.
The market fell to its intraday low in initial trade itself with the Nifty slipping to 5184 and the Sensex dropping to 17,010. Choppiness in early trade kept the indices fluctuating near their previous close till noon after which select buying lifted the benchmarks higher.
The overall inflation in March eased to 6.89% on account of sharp decline in prices of onions, fruits and protein-based items, even as vegetables and pulses turned costlier. However, it was marginally above the 6.5% projection made by finance ministry. Inflation, as measured by the Wholesale Price Index (WPI), was 6.95% in February and 9.68% in March last year.
However, the market retreated in the post-noon session as volatility persisted. Support from the European bourses helped the domestic market venture into the positive once again. The volatile market touched its intraday high towards the fag end of the session. At the highs, the Nifty went up to 5,234 and the Sensex rose to 17173.
The market settled a tad below the highs. The Nifty closed 19 points higher at 5,226 and the Sensex added 56 points to finish at 17,151.
The advance-decline ratio on the NSE was 817:606.
The broader markets outperformed the Sensex today, as the BSE Mid-cap index surged 0.80% and the BSE Small-cap index climbed 0.56% d.
The sectoral gainers were BSE Auto (up 1.31%): BSE Bankex (up 1.22%); BSE Capital Goods (up 1.10%); BSE Realty (up 1%) and BSE Fast Moving Consumer Goods (up 0.97%). The losers were BSE TECk (down 0.65%); BSE IT (down 0.49%) and BSE Oil & Gas (down 0.27%).
The Sensex toppers were Tata Motors (up 3.91%); State Bank of India (up 2.44%); ITC (up 2.07%); Larsen & Toubro (up 1.54%) and Maruti Suzuki (up 1.41%). Bharti Airtel (down 1.74%); Infosys (down 1.41%); Sun Pharma (down 1.20%); Hindustan Unilever (down 0.68%) and Mahindra & Mahindra (down 0.64%) settled lower on the index.
The Nifty was led by Tata Motors (up 4.22%); Jaiprakash Associates (up 3.36%); Axis Bank (up 3.17%); SBI (up 2.60%) and Punjab National Bank (up 2.30%). The top losers were Ambuja Cement (down 2.39%); ACC (down 1.74%); Bharti Airtel (down 1.67%); Infosys (down 1.57%) and Sun Pharma (down 1.55%).
Markets in Asia settled mostly lower as a rise in Spanish government bond yields ignited fresh concerns about the debt crisis plaguing Eurozone nations. Besides, sluggishness in the Chinese and US economies also weighed on investor sentiment.
The Shanghai Composite shed 0.09%; the Hang Seng declined 0.44%; the Jakarta Composite fell by 0.31%; the KLSE Composite decreased by 0.35%; the Nikkei 225 tumbled 1.74%; the Seoul Composite dropped 0.81% and the Taiwan Weighted lost 0.75%. Bucking the trend, the Straits Times rose 0.14%. At the time of writing, two of the three the key European indices were green and the US stock futures were trading in the positive.
Back home, foreign institutional investors were net buyers of shares totalling Rs137.25 crore on Friday while domestic institutional investors were net sellers of equities amounting to Rs479.68 crore.
Turnkey engineering major ABB will invest Rs250 crore to build new facilities in India to manufacture high-voltage power products and transformers. The facilities, to be located at Savli in Gujarat, are expected to be operational by the end of 2012. The stock settled 0.36% lower at Rs828 on the NSE.
Apollo Hospitals Group has chalked out plans to invest Rs1,500 crore on increasing the number of its beds to nearly 11,500 by March 2014. The healthcare group had added 800 beds in 2011 in its existing 56 hospitals, which now have 9,000 beds. The stock lost 0.32% to close at Rs601.20 on the NSE.
The Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (ISEM) and related defence NGOs have begun galvanising support
On Saturday evening, around 150 citizens, mostly jawans and retired officers gathered at the National War Memorial in Pune Cantonment to protest against President Pratibha Patil’s land grab by lighting candles.
The Delhi headquarters of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM) has already amplified the protest. In an email to Col Suresh Patil (retired) and Comm Ravindra Pathak who are spearheading the campaign from Pune, Major Gen Adityajung Bahadur Jaini wrote that the IESM has started galvanising support at their end through their national and international network of members. IESM, Delhi is also staging a big rally at Jantar Mantar on 22nd April wherein besides their core issue of one rank-one pension, they would be protesting against the President’s post-retirement home issue. “Although we are not at the forefront of this protest as our mainstay is the pension issue, we are supporting the Justice of Jawans in its endeavour.”
The anger against President Patil’s brazen encroachment on 2,42,000 sq ft of defence land against the backdrop of Pune, which is the headquarters of the Southern Command, facing crisis of accommodation for its several thousands of its serving soldiers and officers, has echoed not only in all parts of the country, but around the world as well.
States Col Patil (retd), “We have received a communication from retired Air Force officers from Dubai who have joined this campaign. Retired defence personnel from Toronto have also joined it. Similarly, I have got calls from Vishakhapatnam, Jabalpur and Lucknow who are all fired up to join the protest until the President gives back the land. What tugged my heart most was when an 86 year old lady from Mhau, Ms Sohoni whose 93 year old husband (who recently died) has fought the World War II, called me up yesterday. She told me that she had approached President Patil in connection with a land that the government gave them but it was grabbed. Ms Patil did not address the issue. Hence, she has also joined our campaign.”
The two bungalows—No 38 and 26A—both of which have been illegally demolished to make way for President Pratibha Patil’s palatial bungalow were studded with more than 100-year old trees. These have been mercilessly cut down and are lying all around the construction area. Col Patil is taking up the issue with the Principal Director, Defence Estates. He states, “Despite merciless tree cutting, there seems to have been no legal action. We are going to first question him about what kind of permission was given to fell the stalwart trees. Secondly, as per the law, the local military authority has to auction them officially and deposit the revenue in the treasury. Has it done that?”
In a day or two, Col Patil and Comm Pathak are dashing off a letter to Chief Justice of India, SH Kapadia asking him to intervene and consider this letter as a writ petition.
Clearly, the battle-lines are drawn until victory (who’s will it be?). Meanwhile, enthused by the world wide outcry over the President’s brazenness in using defence land for her personal benefit, founder of Justice for Jawans (JFJ) Col (retd) Suresh Patil, Indian Ex-servicemen Movement’s (IESM) head of Pune Ravindra Pathak and former Navy officer and RTI activist Anup Awasti say they will not stop till the President backtracks from the land.
(Vinita Deshmukh is a consulting editor of Moneylife. She is also an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte. She can be reached at [email protected])