Displaying a sense of urgency in imparting momentum to the various sectors of the economy and vowing to place states at the centre of action, the Narendra Modi government on Wednesday set in motion a host of short-term plans. Indications are that difficult reforms like strategic sales of PSUs would also be attempted without delay.
In keeping with the BJP's poll manifesto and expert opinion that centralised planning amounted to negation of federalism, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) stated on the second day of the new government that issues raised by states would be addressed “on a priority basis” and with “sensitivity”, given that the country's development process relied on the progress made by states.
Separately, finance minister Arun Jaitley asked for a briefing from the revenue department on how to speed up the implementation of goods and services tax (GST), the pending indirect tax reform widely endorsed to be a game changer in Centre-state revenue sharing. Revenue secretary Rajiv Takru is expected to make a presentation to Jaitley on the subject on Thursday.
The disinvestment department, on its part, told the minister of the need to set the ball rolling for divesting the residual stakes in two PSUs — Hindustan Zinc and Balco — an issue long mired in legal tangles, and identifying a host of sick public sector undertakings for disinvestment.
Officials in the coal ministry advised new coal and power minister Piyush Goyal the much-delayed privatisation of commercial coal mining could not wait longer given the demand-supply mismatch for the fuel would touch an alarming 270 million tonnes by 2016-17.
In a presentation to Goyal, which would soon be put before Prime Minister Narendra Modi also, coal ministry officials highlighted a list of measures including expeditious completion of work on three critical rail links for coal evacuation and lifting of the Comprehensive Environment Pollution Index-imposed moratorium on mining from three coalfields at Singrauli, Jharsuguda and Chandrapur.
A larger and more holistic blueprint of reforms the government wants to undertake would get clearer in the next few days. On Thursday, transport minister Nitin Gadkari is slated to take charge of his office and announce measures to revive the roads and highways sector. Civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju Pusapati is also slated to assume charge on Thursday and all eyes would be on how he plans to revive the ailing, state-owned Air India.
Telecom minster Ravi Shankar Prasad, who was apprised of