10 July 2020


Policy Prabhu


That he’s got the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ear on most critical policy issues facing India both internally and at an international level is a measure of his intellect and growing importance. Even as he was sworn in as Union Minister for Railways, Suresh Prabhu was playing the role of Sherpa to the Prime Minister as the former headed for the G-20 meeting in Australia. The Chartered Accountant was briefing the country’s helmsman on how the country might approach key issues facing the global economy, and the need to focus both on the direction and quality of growth being generated both in India and across the world. It is significant that his advice is being sought and followed – it is also in line with the prime minister’s agenda to fast track projects, create jobs and to revive the economy. Prabhu, an ex-banker, lawyer, technocrat and expert on climate change earlier dismissed contemptuously as Alice in Wonderland by confreres in his former party, the Shiv Sena, is busy demonstrating that he is a man cut out for constructive action. This is evident from his urgency for reform in the rail sector. He is busy ensuring that projects do not languish for years and officials find a way to complete them within timelines. After taking charge he has come up with a plan to restructure the organisation, achieve a quick turnaround, introduced a system of reward and penalty – project implementing teams can now get 2 per cent of the project cost as reward – change financing models, and dismantle corrupt structures. He is now presiding over a three year plan intended for the Indian Railways to achieve global benchmarks in respect of 'Safety, Projects and Customer Satisfaction', also pushing the envelope as far as fast-tracking of freight and high-speed passenger corridors are concerned. But Prabhu still has an uphill task. Close to 359 projects need to be completed and he there is a `1,82,000 crore funding challenge to be surmounted.




Smooth Operators


The strategic decision by two major business houses – infrastructure giant Adani Group and the towel to pipe conglomerate Welspun – to invest up to 1.5 billion in shale and oil and sand assets in the US state of Lousiana and Texas and the Alberta oil sands project in Canada is not just a good business move but one that is far sighted too in view of the fast depleting energy resources in the country. Both the companies are eyeing liquid-rich shale and oil sands assets as they look to expand their oil and gas enterprise.  Both Gautam Adani, who has emerged as the new Ambani in the making, and B K Goenka  of Welspun already have significant interests in conventional blocks in India, Thailand and Egypt. If the engagement fructifies, it will mark the Ahmedabad and Mumbai-based groups' first investment in shale and oil sands properties in the wake of investments by private-sector player Reliance Industries and state-run GAIL, IOC and Oil India. Indian firms are known to have invested over $10 billion in US shale gas, of which Reliance alone accounts for over $7 billion.  India Inc once again looks to be on the roll.


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