Civil service General Studies — India’s economy —Doomsday ahead

June 30, 2013 at 9:22 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The creeping insolvency –Indian economy stares in to the dark pit

It may appear to be an exaggeration, but there are unmistakable signs that India is staring into abyss again – the same way it did during Narshmha Rao – Manmohan Singh era in 1991. But there are two important differences. These are ..

a. Dr. Manmohan Singh, crisis manager and finance minister of Prime Minster Narasimha Rao, steered the country out of the crisis by some deft policy moves. This time, the same Dr. Singh has been instrumental in dragging the country to the verge of financial disaster through inaction and indolence.

b. The crisis has not hit the country as yet, so there is no urgent need for mortgaging the nation’s gold and the IMF bail-out. But, if the slide continues apace under this corruption-clogged government, the doomsday may not be too far away.

What are the government’s main worries?  ..

1. It needs 172 billion dollars by 31st March, 2014 to repay the loans the country and the big corporate houses have taken the last few years.

2. India needs an additional 90 billion dollars to neutralize the recurring and continuously increasing deficit in the current account (CAD).

CAD= Forex received from exports /FDI/FII etc. minus Forex outflow for import bill payment.

What precipitated the crisis and its roots …

a. The trigger seems to be the decision of America’s Federal Reserve Board (FED) to stop the practice of ‘Quantitative Easing’. For the lay man, it means that America will stop printing dollars. FED wants to put an end to such a harmful practice because the country’s economy has been growing steadily in the last few months, and the U.S. government’s finances are in much healthier state now. With deficits down, the FED wants to follow more conservative policies and stop recourse to deficit financing.
When this happens in the very near future, availability of ‘easy’ dollars will dry up, and the international banks’ liquidity position will become tight. This will lead to a reduction in the flow of foreign exchange into India through Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and Foreign Institutional Investors (FII).

b. In not too distant a past, around 2005 to 2011 the picture of Indian economy was rosy with burgeoning Forex reserves and healthy rate of GDP growth. Indian companies borrowed dollars from international banks to meet their growth needs.
Consequently, the country’s international indebtness grew sharply. Repayment of these loans has become due now. So, the Indian companies have to look for dollars to repay their loans. In the coming months, money-flow situation will become tight as and when the FED implements its easy-money policy. It will be very difficult for Indian corporate borrowers to mobilize dollar funds for the redemption of the loans. The Indian companies’ request for roll-over of their loans will not be accepted by the lending banks as they themselves would need huge amount of cash to tide over the situation created by the American FED’s squeeze.

c. Economists dealing with the soundness of a country’s foreign exchange reserves adopt one thumb rule to judge if the country is well-off or is heading towards bad times.
The total short term debt of country is the amount falling due for repayment in twelve month’s time from a given date. If the country has big enough foreign exchange reserves to make this repayment without visible depletion of its reserves, the country is judged to be sound.
Unfortunately, India, presently, does not pass this acid test.
The total repayment obligation for India in the coming 12 months adds up to a staggering USD 172 billion. This is way above India’s capacity, as of now.

d. Indian corporates started taking foreign loans from 2004 onwards. Some of these loans were short term, others were long term. Such borrowing has been increasing since then. With this, the repayment obligation has also increased. Foreign debt repayment as on March 2008 was a mere USD 54.7 billion – equivalent just to 2.5% of the country’s GDP. Now, the total repayment liability has soared to 172 billion dollars as on March 2014, and as a percentage of GDP, the current account deficit (CAD) has ballooned to 5% of GDP.

e. India did not feel the pinch of the continuously increasing CAD in the last four to five years as companies continued to bring in huge amount of dollars as loans from foreign banks. This made up for the deficit of the current account. In short, debt inflows financed our deficits in current account giving us a false sense of ease and comfort.

f. Now the situation has suddenly changed as foreign banks might not lend more, and could ask for their money back. Due to general liquidity crunch in the global market and the hostile investment climate in India, FDI inflows have dwindled alarmingly. Such inflows are not likely to pick up any time soon, at least till this government remains at the helm.

g. Thus, it is proving to be a vicious circle for India where India will need to borrow more to be able to repay earlier loans.

h. India’s exports have been dismal in the last two or three years worsening the current account deficit alarmingly. Sluggish economy caused by government’s monumental apathy has drained the country’s manufacturing sector of its ebullience.
To make matters worse, import bill continues to rise, thanks to the surging crude oil and gold imports.

i. The Indian rupee has been the worst victim of the government’s bungling. From Rs.54 a dollar, it has slipped to Rs.64 a dollar and continues to fall further. A cheaper rupee makes imports costlier. The country will need to pay more for its crude oil imports and foreign loan repayment now.

j. When, the day of reckoning arrives on 31st March, 2014 and Indian government pays off the 172 billion dollars, it will find that its forex reserves of about 290 billion dollars have dried up by 70%! It would be a rude jolt for the country. The aura of stability of the Indian economy will be dented severely.

k. The only lifeline for survival will be the inflow of foreign exchange from expatriate Indians – known as the ‘Invisibles’.

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Readers’ views welcome.
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Quick steps to good English 19 .. Use of right word in the right place

June 30, 2013 at 2:47 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Quick steps to good English 19 …
Use of right word in the right place

1. In the sensational murder case, there was a ——— of evidence against the arrested man, but, strangely, the judge felt the testimonies of the witnesses were ———-, and he dismissed the case to set the man free.

a. paucity …… robust
b. preponderance …. …concocted
c. profusion ……. appalling

2. The editorial in New York Times supported the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage. This created as much ———— in the minds of orthodox Catholics as it ———- those of the many gay couples waiting to solemnize their marriages.

a. revulsion …. cheered
b. protestation …lifted
c. repugnance … irritated

3. The reasoning given in the Hindu editorial in support of India’s signing a gas import treaty was so ———- that even the American Ambassador in India found it hard to ——– them.

a. cogent … refute
b. specious … accept
c. dispassionate … accept

4. The offer of the Hollywood star to underwrite the educational expenses of the five Somalian orphans was so ——— that in accepting it, the Somalian government found no ground to ——.

a. malevolent .. refuse
b. sagacious … decline
c. magnanimous …demur

5. There was a time when prospective climbers stood at the feet of Mount Everest wondering if they could ever scale its peak. To most of them it appeared both ——- and ———.
a. forbidding … inviting
b. daunting .. fraught
c. lofty … treacherous

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Answers with explanations will be posted tomorrow.
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Civil Service General Studies – India’s natural gas pricing policy – Curtains down, but doubts remain

June 29, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Natural gas pricing in India – The imbroglio ends, but who pays

The cabinet has just cleared a two-fold increase in the price of natural gas as recommended by the Rangarajan Committee. India’s gas producers will now sell their gas at USD 8.4 per million metreic British Thermal Unit (mmBTU)

What are the other stipulation of the gas price kike proposal? ….. Gas prices will be revised every three months starting April 1 next year till fiscal 2017, after which they would be market-linked. The Rangrajan Committee had recommended review every one month.

Who gains? .. The following gas producers will gain. It will be an windfall profit for them.
a. Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd (ONGC) – Public sector
b. Oil India Ltd –Public sector
c. Gujarat State Power Corporation Ltd – public sector under Gujarat government
b. Reliance Industries Ltd -Private sector led by Mukhesh Ambani
Reliance is the major producer of natural gases in the country and, so, lions share of the benefits will accrue to this company.

Who will lose? … Power generation companies and fertilizer producing companies will find their input cost soaring. They will pass on the cost to the consumers who will see the cost of electricity jumping from less than Rs. 3 per unit now to a little above Rs. 6 per unit.
The cost of fertilizers bought by farmers will go up sharply bringing additional load to the farmers already reeling under heavy input costs.

To soften the blow to the farmers and the small consumers of electric power, the central government is mulling over the idea of giving subsidies for fertilizers and electric power. But, such a step will be highly regressive as the subsidies, which are being phased out across the board to curtail government deficit, will return with a vengeance. The burden will be paid by the common citizen finally.

Why the government had to increase natural gas prices?

For the last few years, gas production in the country had stagnated or even declined because, Reliance Industries had reported unspecified technical problems in its gas extraction facilities in the Krishna Godavari Basin. Some people allege that Reliance wanted to arm-twist the government on its demand for higher gas prices by deliberately curtailing gas production in the KG Basin.
Alarmed by the uncertainty caused by the unsolved gas pricing issue, inflow of a lot of FDI in oil and gas sector got choked. It led to no new investment in this vital sector. The energy production scenario looked grim.

Consequently, new power generation companies depending on natural gas as their feed either remained shut or operated with low utilization of capacity. It had a direct bearing on the core power generation sector of India.

Similar situation was also faced by fertilizer companies, who had either to make do with costlier imported gas or remain idle. The country had to import fertilizers spending its precious forex reserves.

Thus, due to the intransigence (unproven, though) of one major gas producer, the country’s economy was getting hit in so many vulnerable areas.

The government of India had appointed a committee headed by Mr. Rangarajan, the previous governor of the Reserve Bank of India. It was asked to go into the merits of Reliance Industries demand for a seven-fold increase in gas prices, and suggest the steps the government of India could take to end the impasse.

The recent approval of the government to agree for a two-fold price rise was the culmination of this process.

The Rangarajan committee’s formula to decide the extent of price increase of natural gas was calculated using the weighted average rate (WAR) of three international hubs of natural gas – the Henry Hub (US), the PNB (UK) and the well-head price in Japan.

Who opposed the price hike and why? ..

The natural gas, as a resource, belongs to the nation. In principle, it should be used for the country’s good, not to unduly enhance the gain of the corporate houses simply because they have facilitated its exploration and extraction. Reasonable return on investment –yes. Exploitative pricing – no. Even the Supreme Court has clarified that the oil and gas fields belong to the nation.

The burden enhanced gas prices bring is frightening. According to the fertilizer pricing expert’s estimates, a $1 rise in natural gas prices would lead to an annual increase of a whopping Rs3,155 crore for fertiliser plants producing 23 million tonnes of urea. Clearly, such a load can neither be borne by the farmers, nor by the government. Cosmetic amelioration through subsidies will accentuate the pain.

Now, the moot question is why the Indian farmer will buy fertilizer produced with natural gas at international prices? Does he get the benefits his counterpart in developed countries get?

If at all an international reference is needed, why consider other gas hubs like the PNB (U.K) And those in Japan? Reference to Henry Hub would have sufficed.

Further, if international gas prices shoot up in future due to reasons like war, conflicts, sanctions etc., why will the Indian farmer be asked to take the hit through enhanced power and fertilizer costs?

The present formula stipulates no ceiling on the price of natural gas. This does not stand reason. Gas prices touching the heart and soul of the farmers and consumers must not be subjected to the vagaries of international commodity pricing. That will be disastrous.

The gas producers now operate with no government oversight or regulatory controls. This is one reason why the CAG still struggles to get unfettered access to the Reliance accounts books. This opacity must end. A regulator must be set up to oversee the operations of the gas producers.

Strident demands have been made by the Left parties to aggressively pursue cost recovery and penalty claims against Reliance. Till now, the company has succeeded in barricading itself against government’s insight into these areas. Vast sums of government revenue due from Reliance remain un-recovered. This happens when the government remains so starved for resources.

Reliance has under-recovered gas from the KG basin, citing technical reasons. After this price hike, the gas fields will become fecund again. In that case, the minimum the government must do is to ask Reliance to make up the past production loss first (at old rates of USD 4.2) before it claims the new enhanced gas prices.

The other recommendation of the Rangarajan Committee to shift to a ‘revenue-sharing arrangement’ in place of the preset buyer-seller arrangement must be enforced with vigour. Such a policy will preempt pricing disputes and the tendency of the companies to artificially and often fraudulently inflate their investment figures, known as ‘gold-plating’.

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Answers to Quick steps to good English 18 — Right word in the right place

June 29, 2013 at 8:00 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Answers ….
Quick steps to good English 18 ..

(Use of right word in the right place)

1. Hitler’s eloquence skill was par excellence. He was blunt, forthright and passionate about what he spoke. The present prime minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh, a highly educated person, is a class apart. He measures each word he speaks so as to not to make any boastful claim or offend anyone. His critics describe his speeches as understated, tentative and restrained.

a. eloquent
b. restrained
c. dignified
d. authentic

2. The magician was performing a trick on stage. He had brought with him a number of bottles each with a different type of liquid. He mixed all the contents into a glass jar. He made a goat standing on the stage drink just a few spoonfuls of this concoction. Soon, the goat began to roar like a tiger making the entire audience gape at the magician with awe.

a. mixture
b. concoction
c. fluid
d. wonder liquid

3. A prison was notorious for its violent inmates. A new jailer joined duty with the mandate to somehow rein in the convicts. Being a man of benign and liberal nature, he offered the prisoners better food, more recreation facilities and prompt treatment for their ailments. He hoped that such amelioration of the prisoners’ difficulties would sober them down.

a. amelioration
b. sympathizing
c. removal
d. addressing

4. Within hours of the Hindu fanatic leader giving his speech deriding the Muslim community, a Muslim leader organized a meeting of his followers to deliver a more pungent hate speech. Soon, the two communities got involved in violence. The media played a responsible role to calm down the surcharged atmosphere. They, however, did not hesitate to state that the incendiary speeches delivered in the meetings of the two communities triggered the violence.

a. accusing
b. rabid
c. incendiary

Explanation .. The two short-listed choices are ‘rabid’ and ‘incendiary’. ‘Accusing’ can not be the answer because mere accusation between opposite parties does not lead to mayhem and bloodshed. If we examine the meanings of ‘rabid’ and ‘incendiary’, we see that ‘rabid’ means ‘fanatical support for something’ and ‘incendiary’ means ‘tending to stir up a conflict’. Hence, ‘incendiary’ is the right answer.

5. The Soviet Union is no more. The mightiest military power on earth vanished without a single bullet being fired. Many theories have been propounded by political scientists to explain why the Soviet Union imploded like this.

a. withered
b. shriveled
c. imploded

Explanation .. ‘Explosion’ causes extensive outside damage. ‘Implosion’ means destruction by a process that limits the damage to the ‘nerve centre’ of turmoil. In this case, the demise of the Soviet Union did not cause any collateral damage. So, ‘implosion’ is the right word.
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Quick steps to good English 18 — Using the right word in the right place

June 28, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Quick steps to good English 18 ..

(Use of right word in the right place)

1. Hitler’s eloquence skill was par excellence. He was blunt, forthright and passionate about what he spoke. The present prime minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh, a highly educated person, is a class apart. He measures each word he speaks so as to not to make any boastful claim or offend anyone. His critics describe his speeches as understated, tentative and ———-.

a. eloquent
b. restrained
c. dignified
d. authentic

2. The magician was performing a trick on stage. He had brought with him a number of bottles each with a different type of liquid. He mixed all the contents into a glass jar. He made a goat standing on the stage drink just a few spoonfuls of this ———-. Soon, the goat began to roar like a tiger making the entire audience gape at the magician with awe.

a. mixture
b. concoction
c. fluid
d. wonder liquid

3. A prison was notorious for its violent inmates. A new jailer joined duty with the mandate to somehow rein in the convicts. Being a man of benign and liberal nature, he offered the prisoners better food, more recreation facilities and prompt treatment for their ailments. He hoped that such ———– of the prisoners’ difficulties would sober them down.

a. amelioration
b. sympathizing
c. removal
d. addressing

4. Within hours of the Hindu fanatic leader giving his speech deriding the Muslim community, a Muslim leader organized a meeting of his followers to deliver a more pungent hate speech. Soon, the two communities got involved in violence. The media played a responsible role to calm down the surcharged atmosphere. They, however, did not hesitate to state that the ———– speeches delivered in the meetings of the two communities triggered the violence.

a. accusing
b. rabid
c. incendiary

5. The Soviet Union is no more. The mightiest military power on earth vanished without a single bullet being fired. Many theories have been propounded by political scientists to explain why the Soviet Union ——— like this.

a. withered
b. shriveled
c. imploded

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Answers with explanations will be posted tomorrow.
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Kidney transplant in Tamil Nadu — How to avoid organ trade

June 28, 2013 at 5:17 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Dharmapuri in Tamil Nadu sells mangoes in the open and kidneys in the sly …

 

It is common knowledge that chronic ailments like cancer, liver and kidney failures, and diabetes-related ailments are rising sharply in the country. Some of these need organ transplant from a source which can be either a cadaver or a living human being.

To prevent unethical and involuntary donation of organs like kidneys from fit human beings, the state governments have constituted expert screening committees without whose authorization, a kidney can’t be taken out of an able-bodied donor. One of the jobs of the expert committee is to examine if the donor has been enticed by money or coercion to give away his organ. In case of a whiff of suspicion, the committee refuses permission.

It was felt that the expert committees would prevent exploitation of poor and under-privileged people by moneyed individuals needing organs. Regrettably, these committees have themselves come under cloud of suspicion of corruption. They are alleged to be according permission in exchange of hefty bribes.

The state of Tamil Nadu has its expert committee known as the Authorization Committee which has been constituted under the Human Organs Act, 1994. The performance of this Authorization Committee has, of late, attracted flak for yielding to money power.

Like in many other development parameters, Tamil Nadu leads the country in lawful transfer of organs from cadavers to needy patients. In less than five years, as many as 1030 organ transfers have been effected. Out of this 641 are kidney transfer cases. Transfers in this manner do not attract any suspicion. Such impressive figures of transfer have won global appreciation.

However, the demand for kidneys is far more than the numbers in offer. This demand-supply gap breeds unethical ‘buying’ of kidneys from poor people in dire need of money. Clearly, this is a very vile trade that must be curbed.

To fight the menace of organ sale and purchase, the following steps can be taken.

a. The deliberations of the Authorization Committee should be transparent. It should be open to the public, especially human rights activists and similar pressure groups.
b. The deliberations can be video recorded for future scrutiny, and the cases approved and refused be put in a website along with the reasons for such decision.
c. Kidney dialysis procedures in government hospitals must be heavily subsidized to enable poor and needy patients to avail them. This will reduce the continuously increasing demand for organs.
d. The cost of home-based peritoneal dialysis should also be reduced so that needy patients avail the treatment at home, and do not queue up in the government hospitals.
e. The most effective long-term solution to this scourge of serious organ-failure diseases lies in educating the public about the harmful effects of excessive sugar and salt in diet. Periodic check of sugar levels, taking steps to preempt diabetes, and leading a physically active life are the most effective safeguards against this creeping malady that looms over the nation today.

Like in many other matters, Tamil Nadu must lead the nation by setting an example.
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Views and comments of readers will be most appreciated.

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Answers to Quick steps to good English –Right word in the right place

June 28, 2013 at 2:23 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Answers …

Quick steps to good English 17… (Use of right words in right places)

 

1. Normally, a fever caused by viral infection lasts for about 3 to four days, but if the resistance of the patient is low, it might persist causing great discomfort to the patient.
a. persist
b. moderate
c. accentuate

2. Perhaps because Dr. Radhakrishnan’s writings were so rich in rare intellectual insight, some western academics, unaware of his caliber, accused him of plagiarism.
a. snobbery
b. dishonesty
c. plagiarism

3. The manger lost confidence on his salesman because he never delivered on the grandiose promises he had made.
a. materialized
b. delivered on
c. forgot about
d. succeeded in

4. The owner of the French winery is an acknowledged expert on wines. In her regular columns in the local newspaper, she often writes candidly about overated wines. Her opinion is treated as trusty by the young un-initiated wine drinkers who use her expertise to chose the right brand from the bewildering varieties of wines that fill the racks in the wine stores.
a. vintage … unreliable
b. unsatisfactory …. spotty
c. overrated … trusty
d. overrated … inadequate

5. When Swami Vivekananda visited Chicago in 1893 to address the World Parliament of Religions, he was hardly known there. After his rousing speech, this is the way a local newspaper described his speech.
“We were amazed that a man who had been heretofore known to be the most pedestrian of public speakers, could in a single speech, electrify an audience and bring them cheering to their feet.”
a. erudite
b. enthralling
c. pedestrian
d. accomplished
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Quick steps to good English 17 — Right word in the right place

June 27, 2013 at 10:55 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Quick steps to good English 17…

(Use of right words in right places)

1. Normally, a fever caused by viral infection lasts for about 3 to four days, but if the resistance of the patient is low, it might ———– causing great discomfort to the patient.

a. persist
b. moderate
c. accentuate

2. Perhaps because Dr. Radhakrishnan’s writings were so rich in rare intellectual insight, some western academics, unaware of his caliber, accused him of ———–.

a. snobbery
b. dishonesty
c. plagiarism

3. The manger lost confidence on his salesman because he never ———— the grandiose promises he had made.

a. materialized
b. delivered on
c. forgot about
d. succeeded in

4. The owner of the French winery is an acknowledged expert on wines. In her regular columns in the local newspaper, she often writes candidly about ——- wines. Her opinion is treated as ———- by the young un-initiated wine drinkers who use her expertise to chose the right brand from the bewildering varieties of wines that fill the racks in the wine stores.

a. vintage … unreliable
b. unsatisfactory …. spotty
c. overrated … trusty
d. overrated … inadequate

5. When Swami Vivekananda visited Chicago in 1893 to address the World Parliament of Religions, he was hardly known there. After his rousing speech, this is the way a local newspaper described his speech.
  “We were amazed that a man who had been heretofore known to be the most ———— of public speakers, could in a single speech, electrify an audience and bring them cheering to their feet.”

a. erudite
b. enthralling
c. pedestrian
d. accomplished

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Answers will be published tomorrow.
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Allowing high rises in Delhi –Is it the desirable option?

June 27, 2013 at 2:48 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Vertical or horizontal – Weighing the options for Delhi

 

Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister and the maker of destiny of independent India had never imagined that Delhi would experience the scorching pace of growth like today’s. Indira Gandhi felt the same way and decided that Delhi must remain a sprawling relaxed city rooted to its legacy. So, she forbade the skyscrapers that symbolize mega cities in other parts of the world.

 

The population of Delhi has risen by leaps and bounds in the last two decades. Besides being the administrative nerve centre of the country and that of the Delhi state administration, it has morphed into a hub of myriad small industries and businesses.

 

Consequently, the per capita income of the people has soared phenomenally. Now, the city is a premier production centre of the country. The entrepreneurial spirit of Delhites has blossomed creating wealth and vast number of unskilled, semiskilled and skilled jobs. To fill this gap of manpower, droves of young people have poured in from adjoining provinces. This migration continues un-abated. These migrants are tough and can endure hardship to make a living in adverse conditions. In a way, they are a great asset to a growing economy such as ours.

 

In course of time, their incomes grow, so do their aspiration to live comfortably. They need better amenities and environment. Sadly, there is a huge supply-demand gap here. This leads to a mad scramble for whatever little is available.

 

The civic authorities have failed to grasp the enormity of this problem which worsens by the day, literally. Now, the situation has become explosive. Housing costs have soared and all the problems related to high congestion have surfaced. Crime, infectious diseases, water and power scarcity and traffic jams have bedeviled Delhi’s life.

 

Delhi’s administration has woken up to the problem late. To meet the need for burgeoning demand for residential and commercial space, planners are now mulling over the suggestion to allow tall sky scrappers like the ones that dot the sky lines of New York, Singapore and Hong Kong.

 

As experience has shown, these high rise buildings bring with them many problems that besmirch the life of the city dwellers. On the other side, there are architects and planners who cling to their old-time idea of flat cities. They cite many convincing arrangements to let Delhi grow horizontally instead. Thus, this debate goes on.

 

The Delhi Urban Art Commission, the statutory body that advises the government on the city’s environment and ethical beauty has argued against allowing indiscriminate building of high-rise structures. It has castigated the government for its proposal to build a large number of tall towers. They draw attention to the havoc the high rise structures cause to the trees and greenery in the area, and the risk they pose in times of fire and earthquakes.

 

The future of Delhi is precious. It can not be sacrificed to meet the demands of economic growth. The age-old city’s unique heritage deserves to be jealously guarded. Delhi with a plethora of poorly-planned high rises will set a bad example to other Indian cities that are experiencing similar problems of urban migration presently.

 

But, discarding the high-rise option in toto will not be a good idea. The problem of extreme pressure of population on Delhi has to be addressed urgently.

 

High rises result in optimal use of land, rein in run-away increase in real estate prices and make the city more compact. This reduces commuting time for the dwellers.

 

Floor Area Ratio (FAR) is a critical parameter for deciding the limit to which a city can permit construction of sky scrappers. In this regard, Delhi has a healthy number of just two, compared to Manhattan’s 10. This provides a powerful argument to permit more high rises in Delhi.

 

The argument that high rises will permit more number of people in lesser area has its flaws too. Chennai has a FAR of just 1.5. It houses nearly 26,500 inhabitants per square kilometer. Manhattan with FAR of 15 has a similar population density. So, while weighing FAR and population density, other parameters such as the number of single family households and size of individual dwelling units will need to be factored in.

 

It is also not true that allowing higher FAR will lower real estate prices. Manhattan’s housing prices are one of the highest in the world despite the city having FAR of 15.

 

So, the temptation to compare the FAR of Delhi with that of New York to decide on the advisability of tall multi-storey buildings must be avoided. New York has taken great care to provide excellent urban transport, sanitation, strict controls on pollution and many other civic amenities that make living in the city such a pleasant experience.

 

Let our city planners and authorities in government emulate New York for its highly effective measures to reduce urban squalor. Let this be the starting point before a decision on allowing higher FAR and, therefore, more high rises is taken.

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Readers’ comments most welcome.

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Right of expression — Under attack in Tamil Nadu

June 26, 2013 at 11:19 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Smothering freedom of expression with government’s heavy hand — Tamil Nadu government errs again

——————————..—————————–

A few months back, the country’s civil rights groups were appalled to see the Tamil Nadu government slapping sedition charges against the protestors who carried on a nagging campaign against the Kudankulam Nuclear power plant. Obliviously, the intention was to intimidate the agitators with the strict punishment prescribed for offenders committing acts of sedition.

Whether Kudankulam will go on stream or will be botched is another matter. But to accusing the peaceful agitators of inciting the masses against the lawful government amounts to stretching things too far. Hopefully, the courts will dismiss such allegations.

 

Now, another such case has come to light. The Tamil book named Meendezhum Pandiyar Varalaaru (“Resurgence of Pandya History”) has incurred the wrath of the government. A cursory reading of this 600-page book, no doubt, convinces the reader that it has made exaggerated and sweeping claims to eulogize the Dalit ‘Pallar’ community. The author says that this community, now in the lower rungs of cast hierarchy, once ruled the southern Tamil Nadu.

 

Erudite historians will, no doubt, frown upon such assertion of Pallar community’s past glory. Caste chauvinists from other communities might react in the most irrational and unsavoury manner to deride the book and its author. That would, surely, draw a harsh backlash from the Pallars triggering a caste strife. No responsible government would like to see this happen.

 

Under such circumstances, the natural reaction would be to ban the book and nip the possible nuisance in the bud. The Tamil Nadu government has done this already. Even this government ban order can easily be challenged in a court.

 

As a follow-up measure, the government has slapped sedition charges against the author of the book K. Senthil Mallar. This is clearly a very draconian measure. An author enjoys his fundamental right of expression under the Indian Constitution. Only under extreme circumstances where the content of a book is too pernicious to be allowed to be read by the public can the government deny the author his right to express his views.

 

Slapping sedition charges is clearly a high-handed action of the government. Such action is repugnant to the spirit of the Constitution. So, the government must retrace its steps and withdraw the sedition charges. Let the courts decide if the book deserves to be banned or not.

 

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