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NEW DELHI- Empty Talk of Poverty Programmes

NEW DELHI Empty Talk of Poverty Programmes B M THERE has been an abrupt revival of concern with poverty alleviation on the part of the Prime Minister This is quite a contrast to the earlier exclusive trumpeting by him of grandiose plans for high-tech modernisation. The change in tune is traced by some to the feeling inside the Prime Minister's own entourage and the ruling party as a whole that populist gestures were necessary and should not be dispensed with if erosion of the mass base of the party is to be avoided. The lip-service to socialism at the first meeting of the A ICC a few months ago over which Rajiv Gandhi presided was widely believed to have been prompted by the establishment becoming aware of this feeling inside the party. It is now being advertised that the week-end visits of the Prime Minister to tribal areas have really stirred him to face the reality of grinding poverty in the country and awakened him to the need to do something to alleviate the condition of the poorest of the poor. But before he embarked on his inspection tours of tribal areas, Rajiv Gandhi had begun already to talk of revising the poverty alleviation programmes of the government in order to make them more effective.

NEW DELHI-Early Fruits of New Economic Policies

NEW DELHI Early Fruits of New Economic Policies B M THE quandary in which the government finds itself overjhe behaviour of prices, as the Union Food and Civil Supplies Minister frankly admitted during the debate on the prices situation in the Rajya Sabha, was more clearly spelt out by the Union Finance Minister in a letter he is reported to have written to his party MPs after the debate in the Lok Sabha on prices in which he was assailed for not controlling prices not only by the opposition but also his party members. The price rise, he readily agreed in his letter, affects voters directly and whatever else, the government might or might not do, it was bound to come in for criticism if prices rise. It was, therefore, essential, he pleaded, that "we collectively apply our minds and see what can be done to restrain the price increase".

NEW DELHI-Seventh Plan Going through the Motions

NEW DELHI Seventh Plan: Going through the Motions B M THE planners in yojana Bhavan expect to finish writing the draft of the Seventh Five-Year Plan by end July or early August and to present it to the Union Cabinet thereafter. According to this time-table, the National Development Council will be convened to consider the draft Plan in September. This has been possible because the planners were able to persuade the Prime Minister to hold a meeting of the full Planning Commission to determine the overall size of the Plan before leaving for his foreign tour with which he was evidently very much preoccupied. Earlier the Prime Minister had twice postponed the scheduled meeting of the Planning Commission because of more pressing preoccupations. Development planning cannot after all have a very high priority on the Prime Minister's agenda when liberalisation of the economy, so as to give private enterprise and market forces freer play, is the credo. However, the making of a development plan has its own uses and there is no question, at least as yet, of formally abandoning planning.

NEW DELHI-Cheers for Congress Socialism

NEW DELHI Cheers for Congress Socialism B M CHEERS have gone up from self-styled leftists and socialists of many hues inside the ruling party and others associated with it in various ways for the strength of what is called 'Congress culture' which is supposed to have been on glittering display at the first session of the All-India Committee of the Congress(l) under the presidentship of Rajiv Gandhi and at the centenary celebrations of the. Indian National Congress. The word socialism had been conspicuously missing at Congress(l) talking shops in recent months. This had made the leftists and socialists referred to above nervous, more markedly after the presentation of the first Budget of Rajiv Gandhi's government. But apparently socialism is back in fashion in the ruling party and everything is now all right, in spite of the budget, the import-export policy, and much else, The leftists and socialists regard this as a triumph of their faith in the Congress culture. What they call the Indian brand of socialism is now safe in the hands of Rajiv Gandhi.

NEW DELHI- Budget-Plan Link Snapped

NEW DELHI Budget-Plan Link Snapped THE loud cheers from corporate business interests and their leaders for the first budget of Rajiv Gandhi's government are altogether unprecedented. Never before has a budget of the Union government won so much acclaim so unreservedly and enthusiastically from these quarters. No less enthusiastic has been the welcome of the budget by the middle classes, especially salaried employees among them. But this is somewhat tinged by doubts and reservations about the impact of the budget on prices. Fiscal reliefs on a selective basis for entertainment electronics and private transport have not dispelled these doubts. The sharp hikes in railway fares and freights, the hefty increase in the prices of petroleum products and levies on cement and vegetable products have unquestionably caused widespread misgivings. What stands out about the public mood is that while the top rich and business circles are fully satisfied by the Union budget and the trend of official economic policies, the middle classes are subdued and reserved in their response. The lower middle classes and the poor generally are visibly upset.

NEW DELHI- Privatisation of Public Sector

NEW DELHI Privatisation of Public Sector B M IN the context of the growing political contention as the elections to the Lok Sabha draw close, the work going on in the government may not ordinarily be regarded as of very great importance. It is significant, however, that the government side has quietly launched some fundamental policy reviews by high officials who enjoy the confidence of the political authority. Still more interesting is the fact that the concerned officials claim that such reviews have been in response to their initiative and the political leadership has merely fallen in line with their advice.. It is also curious that all such review work which is likely to have significant policy implications is proposed to be completed by end-December just on the eve of polling in the first week of January next. Even the Seventh Plan is supposed to be a crash effort and the planners have been asked to have the plan/draft ready by end-December.

NEW DELHI- Mindless Management of Government

NEW DELHI Mindless Management of Government B M UNSETTLING everyone having to deal with her is Indira Gandhi's typical way of functioning. This includes her Cabinet colleagues and senior officials, not to speak of her political opponents. This trait finds expression in many ways, among them, the periodic reshuffle of her Cabinet and the portfolios of ministers and civil service departmental heads and senior officials. The sycophants who surround her and give her much satisfaction always applaud her supposedly extraordinary qualities of leadership in whatever she does and the manner of her doing it, but others are only puzzled and unable to divine any rationale for her ways and moves.

NEW DELHI- Weak Base for Import Liberalisation

NEW DELHI Weak Base for Import Liberalisation B M THE most important issue that figured in the inter-ministerial discussions, preceding the formulation of the import- export policy for the current year announced on April 12 by Commerce Minister V P Singh, was ways to promote the competitiveness of Indian industry so as to boost exports. This question was brought to the fore because, with the decision to terminate the IMF loan arrangements, the support- it had provided to the balance of payments in the preceding two years was no longer available. The sharply liberalised import policy would now be without that support. V P Singh indeed proudly announced that the liberalised import policy has been main- tained even alter the IMF support for it has been dispensed with.

NEW DELHI- Luring Multinationals into High Technology Areas

April 7, 1984 NEW DELHI Luring Multinationals into High Technology Areas B M M S SANJEEVI RAO is only a Deputy Minister in the Union government, in- charge of the electronics department and Chairman of the Electronics Commission. But he is playing a role much bigger than his formal office would ordinarily warrant He is indeed being noted as a spokesman of the government on major shift in industrial policy. He evidently enjoys the confidence of the Prime Minister and her close advisors. His standing with them was very much enhanced when he carried through last August, on the promptings of the top leadership of the ruling party and Rajiv Gandhi particularly, significant adjustments in electronics policy. The development of electronics and communications is currently receiving special attention of the leadership. It has not escaped notice in this context that Rao was chosen to announce on behalf of the government major policy changes in the development of the communications infrastructure and the communications equipment industry. Ordinarily, such an announcement should have been the prerogative of the Communications Minister. But the policy changes are reported to have come about after some controversy within the government, especially between the Communications and Electronics Departments, in which the stand of the Electronics Department is said to have prevailed with the personal backing of the Prime Minister.

NEW DELHI- Privatisation of Public Sector

Privatisation of Public Sector B M THE latest so-called anti-inflationary drive launched by the government in response to, according to official briefing, the personal directive of the Prime Minister is notable above all for the proposed cuts in government ex' penditure all along the line

NEW DELHI- Price Stability at Cost of Growth

January 28, 1984 The student leaders met him the next day and abused him in quite strong language. It is a measure of the culture of collaboration prevalent on the compus that a tape-record of their conversation is available with the police. The police obtained a complaint of 'criminal intimidation' against the students. That night (the early hours of 23rd), in a mysterious development that recalled to many minds the burning of the German Reichstag, the Chemistry laboratory of the University College got burn down completely, resulting in a loss of Rs 10 lakh. The University and Police authorities immediately declared that it was sabotage, and the local Press called it a 'stab in the back' to the fledgeling University. Without saying so, they all told the police whom to implicate

NEW DELHI-Public Sector and the Political Push

power to make their silly strategems turn into 'doctrines'. There is not a single post-war President who has not a 'doctrine' to his credit, Only upstarts can do this. Menon was one man in Asia who saw through their masks, made fun of the masks and went about his job as if the American President did not exist. This does not mean that either Nehru or Menon were anti- American. They were not. Nor is it the case that they thought that the Socialist camp was a natural ally of the third world. They were aware that nobody really liked their assertion of their place in the world.


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