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Sell gas at top prices like coal blocks, spectrum

The Kelkar Committee has produced a road map for a market-determined price for natural gas. Inter-generational equity, it says, requires non-renewable resources like gas to be sold to the highest bidder. A lower price deprives future generations of their full entitlement to national resources. This novel argument strengthens the simple logic of auctioning resources to More >

Modi’s been lucky; now make it sustainable

When a general with excellent credentials was recommended for promotion, Napoleon asked “But is he lucky?“ In politics, as in war, luck counts for a lot. Narendra Modi today is riding a wave of good luck. GDP growth in the April-June quarter hit 5.7%, the highest for two years. BJP spin-masters say “achhe din“ have More >

Jan Dhan Yojana has all the characteristics of those bad old loan melas

Is Narendra Modi’s new Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana — providing two bank accounts each to 75 million poor families, an overdraft of Rs 5,000, accident insurance cover of Rs 1 lakh and a life cover of Rs 30,000 — a breakthrough in financial inclusion? Or is it a Rs 75,000-crore loan mela, as suggested More >

Stop new Babri movement against churches

When the demolition of the Babri Masjid was threatened in 1991, Parliament en acted a law prohibiting the conversion of any place of worship of one religion into that of another, the only exception being the Babri Masjid itself. Back then, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad sought to demolish 3,000 mosques, claiming these were once temples. More >

Adam Smith vs Manu: Look who’s winning

The most heartwarming book of 2014 is Defying the Odds, by Devesh Kapur, Shyam Babu and Chandrabhan Prasad. It tells the stories of 21 dalits who rose from humble origins to become millionaire tycoons. India has long been a land of oppression. It has just started becoming a land of opportunity too. Sukesh Rajan came More >

Corruption? Protection rackets more than crony

RBI governor Raghuram Rajan has lambasted crony capitalism. Other critics say economic liberalization has enriched only cronies through monopoly profits from political allocations of land, minerals and spectrum. Now big corruption is rampant. But I distinguish between crony capitalism and political protection rackets. The former bestows monopoly profits on cronies. But if after paying up, More >

Will Modi grab the idea of Kashi dwip?

During the general election, I was among journalists that visited Varanasi, Narendra Modi’s constituency. In the evening we went down to the famous Dashashwamedha Ghat, winding our way through crowded bazaars full of beggars, sadhus, religious offerings and mementos. Most photos you see of Varanasi are of the Dashashwamedha Ghat and its neighbouring one. These More >

Scrap subsidies that burn funds

In Gujarat, Narendra Modi has pioneered the Jyotigram project which provides 24×7 domestic electricity to all rural households. He wants to spread this to the whole country, and some states (like Madhya Pradesh) have already implemented the idea. However, neither Modi nor any chief minister is asking a simple follow-up question. For decades, kerosene has More >

To clean up the economic mess, Modi must prioritise three things: execution, execution, execution

Even if a Budget lacks any wow factor, as in Arun Jaitley’s maiden effort, this hardly matters provided the government acts on the other 364 days of the year. The media are full of speculation of significant reforms on many fronts. But everything will depend on execution, no matter how good the ideas. Sonia Gandhi More >

Meeting terrorists is a journalist’s duty, not sedition

If I was offered a meeting with Hafiz Saeed, head of the Lashkar e-Toiba, what would be my reaction? I would seize the opportunity with glee. Any self-respecting journalist should be delighted to get such a scoop. Yet when Ved Prakash Vaidik, a senior Hindi journalist, met Saeed in Pakistan, Indian politicians and TV anchors More >

Jaitley dons a PC mask

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s maiden budget repeats so many figures of Chidambaram’s interim February budget that global analysts call it a cut-and-paste job. I call it a Chidambaram budget with saffron lipstick. Chidambaram’s February figures were attacked at the time as bogus and inflated by the BJP. The same figures have suddenly become the BJP’s More >

Budget 2014: FM Arun Jaitley must act tough for 2 years, bring long-term change

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s first budget should spell out his vision for the next five years, downplaying projections for the coming year. This vision must include a tough budget this year and another tough one next year, pruning populist excesses and improving tax administration. That will build a sound foundation for fast economic growth in More >

Why budget? Corporatize the railways instead

Narendra Modi claims to be a radical reformer. He envisages a quadrilateral of bullet trains connecting India’s four metro cities, with more to follow. However, this cannot be done without radical surgery to rectify the total mess in the current structure and finances of the Indian Railways. Modi must declare he will convert the railways, More >

Sher ki soorat, khargosh ka kaleja

Narendra Modi’s fans expect him to extend his Gujarat model of development to all India. They think Modi’s “tough love” will lead to hard decisions that hurt immediately, but later yield handsome dividends. They believe Modi will, as promised in his campaign pledges, treat Indians not as recipients of doles and subsidies but as aspirants More >

NGOs and their ideas seen as hurting development should be countered , not banned

Free access to ideas of all sorts is a fundamental right. Many ideas may be terrible, but battles against them should be fought in the high country of the mind, not through censorship or bans. Caveat: ideas accompanied by or leading to violence are subject to reasonable restrictions. Yet, such restrictions need to be minimal. More >