Skip to main content

Panagariya was "unhappy": Modi govt was slow on privatization, babus displayed overbearing presence

Arvind Panagariya with Modi
By Rajiv Shah
Did Niti Ayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya, a renowned economist and a close follower of free market wizard Jagdish Bhagwati, resign from his powerful post because he was unhappy with the Narendra Modi government’s “slow” movement towards privatization, his favourite thrust? It would seem so, if what he said two days earlier (July 31) is any indication.
In an interview he gave to a top financial daily, Panagariya said, the Government of India wasn’t moving fast enough on his proposals for privatizing public sector enterprises (PSEs), even though the proposals for closing down sick units have progressed well.
Panagariya, who is professor of economics at the Columbia University, where Bhagwati is also based, said, though the Niti (full form National Institute for Transforming India) Ayog had proposed and the Cabinet “approved” privatization of 17 PSEs, and “some progress has happened”, and “even advisors appointed” in some cases, “in terms of actual sales we have had none.”
Pointing out that while on “closure of sick units” progress is “very good” with 15-20 units being in advanced stages of closure, he said, as for privatization, “progress has been slower”, and the only “major development” has been the move towards privatizing Air India.
Even here, said Panagariya, the matter is currently with the group of ministers, which has yet to decide on “whether 100% of Air India is to be privatised or the government is going to keep some stake”, and “what will be the extent of foreign investment to be permitted and what part of the existing debt will be assumed by the government.”
Meanwhile, sources suggest, the man who strongly opposed quick movement towards privatization was none other than Amitabh Kant, who was appointed as CEO of Niti Ayog, and had begun working as a parallel centre of power.
IAS officials, who know Kant well, have told Counterview, Panagariya’s assertion that “bureaucrats are very important” in India in all decision making suggests the top economist’s dislike for the way Kant was functioning.
A senior IAS official said, “Kant knew pretty well where his interests lie, and could sense the political direction the country would take. Earlier close to the Congress, particularly Sonia Gandhi’s political adviser Ahmed Patel, Kant, who belongs to the 1980 IAS batch, was picked up as CEO of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC).”
Modi's site praised Amitabh Kant in January 2013
However, said this official, Kant sensed where the winds were blowing as early as 2013, when he came to attend the Vibrant Gujarat business meet under Narendra Modi, then Gujarat chief minister. “Though still under the UPA, he declared the need for a dynamic leader like Modi to lead the country”, the official quoted him as saying, which brought Kant “very close to Modi”.
Modi’s website, in fact, chooses Kant as one of the top CEOs who had participated in the 2013 Vibrant Gujarat meet, praising him for saying, “Gujarat is creating jobs, driving manufacturing and urbanization. In Dholera a new ultra-modern City will come up. The credit goes to the Gujarat team and the dynamic leadership of Shri Modi.”
While Kant was clever enough not to reveal his dislike for PSEs in particular and the government sector in general, Panagariya had made known his views. A top site owned by a powerful business houses quoting the latter to say that he was “against subsidised food and goods, he wants the NREGA to be shut down, he prefers privatisation of public health and education, and he wants new labour laws so that companies can hire and fire at will.”
Panagariya has been quoted as saying in the prestigious journal “Foreign Affairs” as saying, “Labor laws relating to industrial disputes, trade unions, apprenticeship, pensions, provident fund, and insurance have been the major obstacles to the entry of large formal-sector firms into low-skilled labor-intensive industries.”
“Their effect has been reinforced by the absence of proper bankruptcy laws that would allow firms to close rapidly in case of failure”, he said, adding, “For example, in some case, firms with 100 or more workers are not permitted to make layoffs. There are plenty of horror stories about formal-sector firms existing for two years and then taking 20 years to wind down their operations.”

Comments

Uma Sheth said…
Good to know that all Modi's advisers are not spineless sycophants

TRENDING

Telangana govt proposes to give unfettered powers to forest officials, 'help' corporates

By Dr Palla Trinadha Rao*
The Telangana Government is contemplating to replace the Telangana Forest Act 1967 with a new law - the Telangana Forest Act (TFA) 2019, trampling the rights of adivasis ensured under the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA Act 2006) and Panchayats Extension to Schedule Area (PESA) Act 1996 both of which are central acts.

Lynching as state terror? Complete dearth of 'political will' to deal with mob violence

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
On Friday July 5, thousands of people had gathered at a rally in Surat to protest against the growing mob lynching incidents in different parts of the country. There are different interpretations at what happened during the rally: with police blaming the rallyists and those in the rally blaming the police for using teargas shells upon them without any reason.

RSS, Hindu Mahasabha were 'subservient' to British masters: Nagpur varsity VC told

Counterview Desk
Well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam, associate professor (retired), University of Delhi, in an open letter to the vice-chancellor of the Rashtrasant Tukadoji Maharaj Nagpur University, Dr Siddharthavinayaka P Kane, has taken strong exception to the varsity decision to include RSS’ “role” in nation building in the syllabus of the BA (history) course, citing instances to say that the RSS ever since its birth in 1925 with its Hindutva allies like Hindu Mahasabha led by VD Savarkar worked overtime to “betray the glorious anti-colonial freedom struggle”.

One lakh schools closed down, draft policy 'seeks' commercialisation: Whither RTE?

By Our Representative
A national consultation on the new draft National Education Policy (NEP) with senior experts, teachers’ association representatives and other stakeholders at the India International Centre in New Delhi on July 11, organised by the Right to Education (RTE) Forum, has expressed serious concern over curtailment in the budgeted expenditure on education year after year, even as closure of more than one lakh schools over the "last few years."

British companies export 'deadly' asbestos to India, other countries from offshore offices

By Rajiv Shah
“The Sunday Times”, which forms part of the powerful British daily, “The Times”, has raised the alarm that though the “deadly” asbestos is banned in Britain, companies registered in United Kingdom, and operating from other countries, “are involved in shipping it to developing nations”, especially India. India, Brazil, Russia and China account for almost 80% of the asbestos consumed globally every year, it adds.

Mental health: India's 95% patients "deprived" of medical care, treatment gap 70%

By Moin Qazi*
Among the many challenges India faces, the most underappreciated is the ongoing mental health crisis. Mental illness is actually India’s ticking bomb. An estimated 56 million Indians suffer from depression, and 38 million from anxiety disorders. For those who suffer from mental illness, life can seem like a terrible prison from which there is no hope of escape; they are left forlorn and abandoned, stigmatized, shunned and misunderstood.

Gender budgeting? Govt of India allocates just 2.1%, 0.73% for SC, ST women

By Rajiv Shah
The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), one of the most influential all-India Dalit rights networks, has taken strong exception to the manner in which the Government of India has undermined Gender Responsive Budgeting in the Union Budget 2019-20 for scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs), pointing towards “wide gaps” between the goals and the situational reality of “the Dalit and Adivasi women on the ground.”

UN report notes 'suppression' of Kashmiri independence groups in Pakistan

By Our Representative
A top United Nations (UN) body has suggested that the intense fervour of Kashmiri nationalism isn’t just sweeping the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) state but is equally strong in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), pointing towards how the Pak authorities have been seeking to suppress it by placing restrictions on rights to freedoms of expression and opinion, assembly and association on every section of PoK’s population.

Campaign 'victory': Bihar considers ban on asbestos, carcinogenic to humans

Counterview Desk
In a major victory for anti-asbestos campaigners, the Bihar government has said that it is considering an immediate ban on use of asbestos&based products of all kinds in the state. Speaking in the state assembly, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar insisted on the need to taking a strong policy decision against carcinogenic asbestos factories.
A communication, meanwhile, has been forwarded  to the health secretary by Kumar, referring to concerns of Dr Gopal Krishna, who heads the Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) "on hazardous asbestos factories to the health department." Krishna said that the health department should looking into the demand for the creation of a register of victims of asbestos related diseases.
He added, the government should also create a register asbestos laden buildings and products in general and a probe on the health status of workers, their families and communities linked to and in proximity of the two units of asbestos factories…

Satellite data 'identify' Gujarat's Mundra among 6 of India's top air pollution hotspots

By Rajiv Shah
A fresh study, which analyzes data between February 2018 and May 2019, obtained from Tropomi, a satellite instrument on board the Dutch Copernicus Sentinel-5 Precursor satellite, has warned that coal-fired power plants and industrial clusters are India’s “worst nitrogen oxides (NOx) hotspots” contributing hugely to air pollution in Sonbhadra-Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, Korba in Chhattisgarh, Talcher in Odisha, Chandrapur in Maharashtra, Mundra in Gujarat and Durgapur in West Bengal.