Shameless Government and Paralyzed India

Railway Minister Bansal informed Lok Sabha few days back that the Indian Railways have thousands of projects that will require an investment Rs 4 lakh crore or perhaps more but are getting implemented in piecemeal manner. Because of the shortage of fund, some amount is allocated in each budget for each project to see it alive on paper to satisfy the MPs and their constituencies but not enough to get it implemented within a time frame. Is it not a mockery of the development planning?

Many opine the India’s extraordinary growth in the recent past coming in spite of the poor governance. And as one gets into specifics, it becomes clearer and stunning questioning the country’s governance…

All of us in our school learnt about the immense mineral wealth in the form of huge natural deposits in the country. Over the years, all the mining operations got nationalized. The government became the sole owner of the coal mines through companies such as Coal India and so the minister of mines became the big boss. The company went on working on the mines with coal available on the surface. It shunned going underground for mining coal using advanced technology. And let us see how the country suffers today for this shortsighted policy.

Earlier the country lacked generation capacity and the reason was, the government kept on depending only on one public sector company that manufactured the power equipment such as boilers and turbines etc. The policy got some change. The private sector came in for setting up the power plants. The government allowed the import of the power equipment. Even a number of private companies joined the manufacturing of the equipment. It resulted in significant addition of power generation. Now the power plants are not operating to the capacity because of the shortages of coal because of the inefficiency of Coal India and indian Railways, India is to import coal in huge quantity. Both public as well as private power companies are importing and even buying mining companies abroad to run the power plants.

Coal India has neglected underground coal mining. Indian coal seams have a vast Coal Bed Methane (CBM) potential in various coalfields but the government doesn’t wish to invest to bridge knowledge gap and non-availability of suitable technology.

And surprisingly, it is not only the coal that India will have to import. Even iron ores and bauxites or for that matter all the ores available in plenty in India will need to be imported, because of the poor policies of the government and the trouble faced in land acquisition and environmental clearances. The final draft of the proposed Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Bill is still under consideration and modification to suit political whims. The government and the politicians have hardly shown any concerns.

Recent curbs on mining of iron ore in many regions rich in this natural resource have prompted Indian firms to import this key input for the steel industry. The Goa-based Sesa Goa, which has a pig iron plant in the state, has already finalized an order to import 80,000 tonnes of iron ore. Essar Steel has recently imported half a million tonnes of ore for its steel plant located in Gujarat. Vedanta Aluminium Ltd (VAL), which is facing a challenge to run its alumina refinery at Lanjigarh (Odisha) beyond December 5, hopes to get some bauxite from external sources.

Interestingly, India’s import of gold is only next to the crude oil that it lacks. However, its shortage is only because the country doesn’t wish to invest or collaborate on the latest technology to explore the present mines. Shockingly, it wanted to use the kolar mines to dump the nuclear wastes. A BBC report (Please read) is eye opener on this issue. India has explored only 7-9% of their mineral resources, while countries such as Australia have achieved almost 100% geophysical and geochemical surveys. India produces three tonnes of gold a year, while Australia mines 280 tonnes.

How can this sort of governance be tolerated?

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