ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Fertilisers : Policy Muddle

It is time once again for fresh policy convulsions in the fertiliser sector and for claims and counter-claims by the government and industry. After a break in 2000-01, the government has once again imported 2.2 lakh tonnes of urea in order, it says, to prevent a shortage in the current rabi season. Considering that the total installed capacity of urea in the country is 20.9 mn tonnes, the import of such a small quantity is probably a symbolic gesture to drive home the government’s determination to press ahead with ‘rationalisation’ of prices. In November, the government, in an ‘interim’ decision, notified lower retention prices of urea for 13 manufacturers with retrospective effect from April 2000. This is expected to result in savings of Rs 800 crore in subsidies given to fertiliser units. The government has also drawn up stiff new norms of capacity utilisation and feedstock consumption by fertiliser units based on which retention price will be determined. But a comprehensive long-term policy for the Rs 35,000 crore industry – a key element in the agriculture sector – has yet to materialise.

Accountability Is the Issue

Wiping out the memories of December 2, 1984 when thousands of people died in Bhopal due to the leakage of a lethal gas from the Union Carbide plant there is an impossible task for anyone who experienced the horrors of that night in one way or another. But that is precisely what the governments of India and Madhya Pradesh have been endeavouring to do in the last 17 years, forcing the thousands of survivors to fight battles of all sorts – legal and political – to secure recompense and redressal for physical and social injuries from the disaster. Just as importantly, the victims of what has been termed the world’s worst industrial disaster have been fighting to ensure that multinational companies accept their international liability for damages they cause in any country of their operation. So far in none of the major disasters that have taken place – whether Seveso in Italy or DES – have MNCs, while they have paid compensation, been legally compelled to accept responsibility for the damages.

Civil Liberties : New TADA by Ordinance?

The news that the centre is planning to promulgate an ordinance for dealing with terrorist crimes must be viewed with trepidation. An ordinance is after all a last resort, when there are circumstances requiring urgent legislative action which cannot wait for the due process of law-making. Surely, notwithstanding the emerging new perception of terrorism, there is little justification for forgoing the process of parliamentary debate and decision-making?

Volatility of Stock Returns

This paper investigates the volatility of stock returns in some Asian emerging markets in terms of the volatility of domestic and external factors. We found that both domestic macroeconomic variables and international variables are found to have explanatory power for stock return volatility. The evidence strongly suggests the presence of a significant contagion effect and integration of capital markets in this region. We also document that the role of government in terms of fiscal and monetary policy in the smooth functioning of the stock market is crucial in this region.

Calcutta Diary

Events are unfolding at an extremely fast pace. It is at this moment difficult to guess how India's ruling superstructure is going to crumble, or whether it is going to crumble at all. For there is hardly any scope for illusion. Irrespective of the particular corner of the political spectrum you decide to depend upon, the story is the same. Do we then wait for the Waiting-For-Godot principle? Rather, should not the wait be for a milieu where Godotdisbelievers have come to the fore?

The Constitution as Instrument of Social Change

Our Constitution, Government and Politics by M V Pylee; Universal Law Publishing Company, Delhi, 2000; pp ix + 198, Rs 185.

Russia : The Demographic Labyrinth

With a declining birth rate and an imbalanced sex-ratio, Russia is on the edge of a demographic crisis. What is required is a prioritisation of the government's population policy - focusing equally on evils like alcoholism and drug abuse as well as encouraging a immigration policy that would offer incentives and welcome living conditions to the migrants.

National Textile Policy and Textile Research

The new textile policy has emphasised the need for technology upgradation for making the textile industry globally competitive. This article examines the effectiveness of organised technology supply system for the textile industry under the control of the government and managed by the industry associations. The authors argue that the lack of an appropriate strategy on the part of the government and the industry has marginalised the R and D activities in the textile research system.

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