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NEW DELHI- Return to Pragmatism

THE Industry Minister, George Fernandes, took time off last week from his more pressing and dedicated mediatory labours in the Janata party crisis to announce that an action programme had been drawn up by his Ministry in association with other concerned mi- nisteries to achieve 7 to 8 per cent growth in industrial production during the current year. This is clearly an ambitious target set against the achievement of hardly 3.5 per cent growth last year and considering the fact that, even going by fairly optimistic assumptions, the likely rate of growth according to current indications falls within the range of 5.2 to 5.6 per cent.

NEW DELHI-Fall-Out of Janata Crisis

NEW DELHI Fall-Out of Janata Crisis B M NEW DELHI is in the grip of the crisis in the Janata party. The exit from the government of once-powerful Home Minister Charan Singh and his aid and principal spokesman during his illness, Raj Narain, on the Prime Minister's demand, was not even contemplated a couple of weeks ago. But the pace of events was precipitated so much on the return of Morarji Desai from his foreign tour that it is as yet difficult to grasp the full implications what has been happening to the ruling party. The dramatic developments have been made all the more delectable by Charan Singh's claim that he had been ousted from the cabinet by a conspiracy in which multinational corporations "and Indian big business have had a hand.

NEW DELHI-Land Reform Concealing the Surplus

NEW DELHI Land Reform: Concealing the Surplus B M THERE has been a spate of directives during the last couple of months for expediting the implementation of land reforms, which in official reckoning is identified with the enforcement of land ceiling laws. Representatives of the Union Agriculture Ministry, which has administrative responsibilities for land reforms, are fond of stressng that the ministry is pushing the case for land reforms with much greater vigour than ever before in the past and that the widespread impression that the govern- ment is lukewarm about land reforms under the influence of the so-called rich peasant lobby is completely wrong. In support of this claim, ministry sources point out that the Standing Committee on land reforms, which had not met for the last seven years, has been activised and the state governments, especially that of Andhra Pradesh where the position in this regard is particularly bad, are being pressed to distribute expeditiously land declared as surplus.

NEW DELHI-Compulsions of Aid

NEW DELHI Compulsions of Aid B M THE Indian delegation to the annual meeting of the Western aid consortium at Paris is naturally very gratified with the results of the meeting. There is to be a step-up of aid by $ 200 million to a total of $2.3 billion during the current year. There is no provision or relief this year in the repayment of old debts, but that is not a cause for worry since this country's foreign exchange reserves position is sound and repayment of about $ 600 million on this account will not pose much of a problem. The delegation was also able to like a good impression on the aid- givers by pointing to the significant liberalisation of import policies and procedures which had already resulted in the emergence of a substantial trade deficit last year and the expectation that the deficit would widen in the current year. This apparently made it possible for our aid diplomats to make a strong case for continuing foreign aid. not only for the benefit of the aid-givers but also that of public opinion in India which might normally have questioned the need for foreign aid when there is so much talk about our burgeoning foreign exchange reserves.

NEW DELHI-A Bigger Steel Plan

NEW DELHI A Bigger Steel Plan?
B M STEEL prices have been increased by an average of Rs 175 per tonne for various categories. In addition, a surcharge of Rs 100 per tonne has been levied on some categories to raise a Development Fund of the order of Rs 50 crores a year for the industry. The price revision and the surcharge will together result in a significant improvement in the economics of the steel producers and they will be able to generate internal resources of about Rs 150 crores a year. If the price revision, had been refused, the industry I have ended the year in the red. By contrast, in the case of coal the suggestion of an increase in price has been rejected at least thrice by the Union Cabinet.

NEW DELHI-Evasion on Wages Policy

NEW DELHI Evasion on Wages Policy B M AN attempt to buy time by appointing a committee, when faced with difficult choices, is a time-honoured practice with all governments. The Janata government has shown this inclination more than any. The preference is justified by the facile explanation that the Janata has to make a break with the past regime and break fresh ground all along the line. The, expedient has been found to be all the more attractive since the Janata itself is an amalgam of several political, parties representing different and often conflict- ing ideologies and policy positions, However, such an expedient does not always work. Judging from the upshot of the appointment of the Bhootbaling- gam Committee on wages, incomes and prices policy, it can actually aggravate matters. The Committee's report has met with total rejection from all the organised sections concerned with it

NEW DELHI-APC under Attack

NEW DELHI APC under Attack B M A MOVE has been initiated in the Food and Agricultural Ministry for reconstituting the Agricultural Prices Commission and reframing its terms of reference. This is part of the general upsurge in the Janata government, or at least in a part of it, for higher priority to agriculture and a better deal to the farmer. It is evidently felt among the political bosses in the ministry and others in the government with similar feelings that the APC is not showing the right appreciation of what is expected of it.

NEW DELHI-Tilting at Big Business Houses

NEW DELHI Tilting at Big Business Houses B M THE political situation is becoming very uncertain very fast. Whatever coherence and direction was beginning to emerge a few months ago in policymaking by government and in executive action at the administrative level is now getting blurred and might even disappear altogether. Contrast, for intance, the quiet framing and presentation of the Budget for the current year as also of the Draft Five-Year Plan with the pointless intervention of the Executive Committee of the Janata party with its 32-point economic programme last month and the loud talk which some ministers have suddenly started of taking measures to break up big business houses and family empires in industry.

NEW DELHI-Restructuring Public Enterprises

'Restructuring' Public Enterprises B M THE Industry Minister, George Fer- nandes, has reacted sharply to a report in the press about a move to 'split' Hindustan Machine Tools and the resignation of the chairman of the company in protest. There was no intention to split the HMT; the idea was only to restructure this prestigious public sector undertaking with a view to improving its efficiency, he is reported to have said angrily. Fernandes was, of course, wholly correct in making a distinction between restructuring and splitting the HMT and the press report in question was wrong to that extent. But the issues involved here are somewhat larger and more important than the report and its contradiction by the minister tend to suggest.

NEW DELHI-Planning without Policies

NEW DELHI Planning without Policies B M THE conventional round of talks held by the Union Food and Agriculture Minister with the chief ministers on the price policy for the rabi crop have concluded. There is some hope among the officials of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture that the Agricultural Prices Commission's recommendation against any change in last year's prices will be upheld. But the concerted pressure mounted by the chief ministers of the wheat producing states led by Punjab and Haryana for a further increase in what are euphemistically called procurement prices may not be found so easy to cope with and a compromise might be considered necessary and a marginal increase in the wheat price might be granted as has happen- ed again and again in recent years.

NEW DELHI- NDC Meeting with a Difference

will arise once the five-year Plan, NEW DELHI which is still called the Sixth Five- Year Plan for reasons of convenience and for operational purposes, begins to NDC Meeting with a Difference be implemented. It will only then be THE meeting of the National Development Council to discuss the draft of the Sixth Five-Year Plan

NEW DELHI-Partial Reprieve for Planning

NEW DELHI Partial Reprieve for Planning B M THE Budgat for the coming year and the five-year Plan for 1978-83, drawn up by the Planning Commission under the aegis of the Janata government, are giving rise to fierce controversies inside the ruling party as much as outside it. The issue which is at the heart of the controversies is the direction economic policy and planning are being given. So long the questions of reordering priorities in economic policy and planning were posed .in the abstract and in general terms, debate ran on relatively simple lines. Once these questions have been presented in quantitative terms, the controversy is assuming interesting new forms and dimensions. And, in the process, the political alignments are also tending to show equally interesting features.


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