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Why the Kolkata flyover collapse is a warning for India’s infrastructure industry

out today, this story on why kolkata’s vivekananda flyover collapsed.

Every business in Punjab leads back to an Akali Dal leader (well almost)

out today, our sequel to the previous story on why healthcare is underfunded in punjab.

Industry is fleeing Punjab – an investigation by Scroll.in found a growing number of companies have shut down or are planning to set up newer units outside the state. Among the reasons cited by businessmen for the exodus were the bribes they claim they are compelled to pay to politicians belonging to the ruling Akali Dal.

But rent-seeking is not the only way Akali Dal leaders are strangling industry in the state.

Over the past decade, Punjab has seen a handful of players come to dominate what earlier were fragmented industries composed of hundreds of small companies. This consolidation happened in a bewilderingly diverse set of industries, including stone crushing, sand mining, cable distribution, liquor distribution and bus transport. Most of these new, big players are alleged to have links to the Akali Dal.

How do so many industrialists get into the Rajya Sabha?

Vijay Mallya’s flight to England has opened up a veritable can of worms. Every day there are little-known strands coming to light about his business and personal life, from the giant loan defaults to the marquee properties. What is not being discussed as much is his political life and the conflict of interest.

The chairman of the now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines has been a member of the Rajya Sabha since 2002 and is a member of the Consultative Committee for the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Standing Committee on Commerce. The committee oversees India’s aviation ministry. Its responsibilities include vetting bills drafted by the ministry, and evaluating its demands for grants.

A seat on the panel gives Mallya “access to information, and an unfair advantage to influence policy”, said former Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh, calling this “a serious conflict of interest”.

There have, of course, been numerous such instances of conflict of interest in recent years.

The question is: how do these emerge. How do so many bizmen get into the Rajya Sabha? Once in, how do they land up in the Parliamentary Committee of their choosing?

Why hydel-power companies in Arunachal Pradesh want NHPC to take over their projects (and why it won’t)

In a delicious twist of fate, a cluster of private companies that rushed headlong into Arunachal in the late 2000s to build hydel power projects are now, in a turnaround, asking the public sector National Hydel Power Corporation to take over their projects.

The fascinating afterlife of Arunachal Pradesh’s hydel scam.

Are the coal block auctions as successful as the Modi government claims?

At a gathering in Paris last month, drawing attention to the coal block auctions that have taken place under his government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi boasted, “Twenty coal blocks out of 204 have been auctioned so far and we got more than Rs. 2 lakh crore from them.” The factual error in the statement – 31 blocks, not 20, have been auctioned in two rounds – might be the least of the problems with the government’s triumphal sentiment.

To start with, as a report in Business Standard explains, the Rs 200,000 crore is not a one-time payment flowing into government coffers, but revenues that are likely to accrue over the lifetime of the mines. These revenues include royalties that states would have earned regardless of whether the mines had been allotted or auctioned.

While auctions are an improvement over the discretionary allotments of the past, and the government has shown swiftness in moving ahead with them, what isn’t well understood is that the design of the auctions has a significant impact on their transparency and outcomes. Competitive auctions are meant to provide a market-based mechanism to discover the value of a resource. But poor design could impede price discovery.

As the government prepares for a third round of auctions, Scroll in a two-part series, takes a closer look at the first two rounds. Our analysis raises worrying questions about both the design of the auctions and their outcomes.

and the supreme court deallocates all blocks…

yesterday, shortly after 2 pm, the supreme court deallocated almost all captive coalblocks — sparing just the umpps and two JV-less blocks of sail and ntpc. with that, i guess, ends my reporting on the captive coal block allocations. see these two links. one, this bouncy little primer written yesterday on what coalgate was all about. also see this: a link aggregating all the stories by my friends (and ex-colleagues) avinash singh, john samuel raja, supriya sharma and me on the captive coalblock allocations.