A political war on FDI

FDI in retail cannot be imposed on the states, but why should the states that want FDI be deprived of the benefit of this move?

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s war on “policy paralysis” is a welcome step. Although a political storm has begun after the government’s nod to allow FDI in retail and aviation, the moves show the government’s return to governance and mid-term surgery after the damage it had to suffer because of alleged scams, particularly the one concerning allocation of coal blocks.

It also indicates that the Congress is sharpening its weapons for a political war on its opponents. The Congress’ offensive is also expected to take care of the political blackmail by coalition partners. I do not know if the UPA-2 will survive till the 2014 general elections, but they are doing the right thing for the present.
The BJP is well within its rights to take the stand it has taken. However, the regional parties, like the Trinamul Congress, have to shape their policy initiative taking into account the Left parties. The Left rule was a tragedy for West Bengal; it languished for 30 years under the Left. While the Communist movement underwent change the world over, India was left behind, and now every attempt at economic reforms will be resisted by the Trinamul Congress just because it has to compete with the ideology of the Left.
West Bengal has all the talent and potential in human resources compared to any other part of India but it cannot grow on rhetoric alone. If we are to be an economic superpower, we will have to adapt to the global society and invite investments. Is this not what we have done over the last decade?
FDI in retail cannot be imposed on the states, but why should the states that want FDI be deprived of the benefit of this move? Did the Cola wars of the 1970s between Pepsi Cola and Coco Cola destroy the Indian industry as every kirana shop carried these brands in addition to the potato chips from Pepsi and a hundred Indian brands?
The election season is round the corner. In addition to the usual political missiles we will also see many FIRs being lodged as we hear of a new name every day in the Coalgate and everyone tries to claim the higher moral ground on the mining scams around the country. Goa will see a rash of FIRs on iron ore, and Orissa has a vast variety of minerals, which it has been mining over the last decade or so. Thus virtually every chief minister can get an FIR lodged against him. Considering that we have mining activity in almost all the states we can safely issue an FIR against anyone in governance in the past two or three decades. It is a sad time. It’s getting more and more clouded by day as no one in the political system with its funding process can ever be clean.
Much is being said about the recent hike in diesel prices but little attention is being paid to the situation in West Asia from where the bulk of the petroleum products come. Despite the global recession, the crude prices, which should be $80-90 per barrel, are in the range of $115-120. Like the whole global society we are under stress with regard to food prices and inflation. Certainly, there are a few things that the government can and should do to ease this stress.
I am not in favour of the government’s initiative to supply each family with only six cylinders a year. I wonder if my friend Jaipal Reddy is aware of the fact that like the kerosene mafia, there is an LPG mafia too in the country. Every second gas cylinder delivered is tampered with and 10-15 per cent of the gas in a cylinder is taken out and sold in the open market. Mr Reddy and all my friends in governance are welcome to Mehrauli so that we can go shopping for LPG cylinders in the black market. I am also told that the mafia has found a method to get around the weight problem of the cylinders. A simple calculation shows that the black market is taking away 7-10 days of supply of a gas cylinder. I wish our glib TV anchors gave a little more time and attention to the LPG black market. What can the aam aadmi do about this? Clearly, it is the duty of the Central and state governments to fight the LPG mafia. In my opinion, every family should get 12 instead of six cylinders a year.
I have spent the last week at AIIMS along with my wife doing our tests and taking corrective measures for our health as we approach the age of 70. As I entered AIIMS, I saw throngs of people everywhere, on the roads, parking lots, on the ground and the corridors. They have come from all over the country for treatment. Most of them are common men who have got dates for their treatment where the waiting time is two months or more. You can call it chaos, and you can find a hundred things wrong and you can complain till you run out of paper but this is what it is like in real life.
The doctors in AIIMS represent the best we have, and I am at a loss for words to describe what I have seen and experienced. The pressure on the doctors at every level and medical staff is great. Look at the service they deliver on a daily basis, and their workday is well over 12 hours. I do not need anyone to tell me that we have serious administrative issues at AIIMS and it deserves greater attention and action. AIIMS is the mother unit which generates our future supply of talent in the medical field. I am truly amazed at the talent available here, most of whom have dedicated their lives to this institute despite the fact that they can earn 10 times more in the private sector. We seem to take loyalty and dedication for granted. No government can afford to be indifferent in these situations.

The writer is a former Union minister

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