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We don’t need no political interference

We don’t need no political interference
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First Published: Thu, Jul 16 2009. 09 38 PM IST
Updated: Thu, Jul 16 2009. 09 38 PM IST
This refers to Pawan Agarwal’s “Of education and regulation” (Mint, 15 July). There is no doubt that in today’s time—when we have a huge number of diverse universities and higher education institutes which cater to various streams of students across the country—it makes sense to have a body such as the national commission for higher education and research, as recommended by the Yash Pal committee, which can help maintain diversity and quality at the same time. But I doubt whether it can be free of political and bureaucratic intrusions. Then, first and foremost, total transparency is a must with no political interference whatsoever. If Kapil Sibal succeeds in this, we can expect some transformation in this critical sector.
— Bal Govind
India, as the editorial “Dithering on climate research” (Mint, 16 July) suggests, is losing out on the race to occupy a position of leadership in the rapidly growing modern economy. The answer to the question—should India spend more on scientific R&D—is an overwhelming “yes” but it has a very important caveat attached to it.
India could spend on R&D with the hope that it produces research and products that can be employed by businesses or it can create an environment that incentivizes and enables R&D. It is akin to investing in research to produce the fastest car without providing roads.
In the context of climate change, China has very shrewdly adopted an approach wherein it has created a balance of incentives and regulations that has spurred domestic investment in manufacturing and R&D.
For instance, by mandating that a certain portion of electricity needs to be generated by renewable sources, China has created demand for technologies such as wind turbines. Then by restricting the field to only those wind turbines that have 70% of their components manufactured locally, China has created domestic demand. There is no reason why India with its vast sources of solar, wind and biomass energy potential should not follow a similar, if not better and less controversial, strategy.
India has already proven its mettle in information technology by leveraging its intellectual capital, entrepreneurial instincts and global outlook. However, to repeat this success in an area such as climate change that is linked closely to politically sensitive topics (such as energy, infrastructure and manufacturing), the Indian government cannot afford to adopt a laissez-faire approach. It has to step up its efforts to create an enabling environment through a smart mix of top-down policies in order to create bottom-up innovation and entrepreneurship.
— Anmol Vanamali
This is with reference to “Lessons for Air India” (Quick Edit, Mint, 13 July). With respect to both Air India and Indian Airlines, no serious attempt was made even after India’s reform process was started way back in 1991. Both airlines were never allowed to operate on commercial lines. Also, the lack of accountability has resulted in spiralling overhead costs and accumulated losses.
The mere induction of personages such as Ratan Tata and Narayana Murthy cannot solve the problems of Air India overnight. Unlike what happened to Satyam, Nacil is a government entity and the new board may not be given a free hand in its functioning. Given the political scenario, it is doubtful whether their recommendations will carry any weight.
However, the carrier has no option but to follow the suggestions in right earnest for its survival. In the marketplace, one has to face the realities; Air India is no exception. It should invite new investors and reduce its shareholding without diluting its control. This will not only bring a fresh lease of life but also inculcate a sense of accountability into the organization. Last but not the least, the carrier should function on commercial lines devoid of political interference.
— K.N.V.S. Subrahmanyam
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First Published: Thu, Jul 16 2009. 09 38 PM IST