Monday, November 13, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



C. Subramaniam: bold decision-maker
N the death of C. Subramaniam the country has lost perhaps its ablest and gutsiest techno-administrator statesman of the elder generation. Newspaper reports only recall the risk that he took in his decision to import Borlaugh’s new-found hybrid seeds in the sixties. But for his bold decision which ushered in the Green Revolution, we would continue to remain the chronic bread-basket country that we were. At stake was not only his own political career, but also his Congress party.

Hybrid seeds were not the only path-breaking mark of CS’s boldness. Many do not know the role he played in the birth of Punjab Tractors.

In February, 1970, Swaraj Tractors, five years in R&D but technically still a prototype, stood rejected by the highest of the land: a 14-Secretary Cabinet Committee headed by the then Cabinet Secretary, Sivaraman. In this gloom of national rejection, PSIDC’s decision of setting up Punjab Tractors for commercialising Swaraj, was naturally a great relief to the R&D team. Little did it know that the battle was far from over. Hurdles which the risk-averse national environment and precedent-bound decision-makers would raise in the next lap came in an unending stream...

A nudge from CS as Union Minister for Industry alone got us through the industrial licence and fiscal support of the IDBI. He had to step in a second time a few months later, this time as the Union Minister for Science, in the precedent-setting decision to fill the crucial equity gap of Rs 8.5 lakh, when the rest of Rs 370 lakh for setting up the project by way of equity and term loans had been cleared by institutions. This required formal Cabinet memorandum and clearance.


His final life-saver came after PTL had gone into commercial production in April, 1974. Even though market response to the totally Indian Swaraj against the best of foreign brands was enthusiastic and production levels rising fast, PTL was bleeding financially and it had come to the verge of bankruptcy by the end of 1975.

Price advantage to competitors due to cheap CKD-based local production was phenomenal. Profits also rolled in without effort or investment. CS’s unparalleled decision, entirely his own and against the advice of his Finance Secretaries, gave PTL exemption from the Union excise duty of 10% for two years. We had been fighting for such a life-saver for over a year and everyone was also convinced that we deserved such a relief. But there were no precedents. In such a situation a miracle was unbelievable. His remarks when we dropped in to thank him at his residence that evening aptly sum up his boldness and values:

“You know that this decision is my own and against the advice of my Secretary. God alone can help you if you do not stand on your legs hereafter.”

Today’s world-class technological society demands such quick-thinking and risk-taking decision makers by the hundreds.

Chandra Mohan

Transport of Animal Rules

This refers to your report “Cattle loading rules being flouted” (Oct 28).

The animals are jammed into railway wagons or trucks with utter disregard to the facilities to be provided under the Transport of Animals Rules, 1978. The average space per cattle should not be less than two square metres.

Cattle are to be loaded after they are properly fed and given water. There should be enough stock of fodder and water in the wagon. During the daytime they should be unloaded, rested, given water and feed. As far as possible they should be moved during night hours.

Properly trained drivers are essential. The prescribed time limit of only eight-hour journey is not to be ignored. These provisions are flouted brazenly.

Legally milch cows and healthy draught animals can only be transported across the state boundaries after following a set procedure. The exporter of cattle is issued a permit on the basis of his application and a health fitness certificate from the local veterinary doctor. At the time of loading, it is to be ensured that no animal other than the certified animal is loaded.

The recent booking of 3000 animals in full block rake for West Bengal from Maku (Ferozpur district) is an indication of the nexus between exporters, the authorities and vets.

The dubious trade of sending animals other than the milch and draught animals is going on throughout the country. All is not well within this export trade. When we go through the Transport of Animals Rules, 1978, we find that the provisions therein are being scuttled. This illegal and unethical practice should not go unchecked.

Soshil Rattan

Fight against pollution

This refers to Ms Tavleen Singh’s article titled “Citizen’s fight for clean air” (Nov 4). Pollution of every kind — more so air pollution — has made the lives of citizens in large and busy metropolitan cities most difficult. This is leading to deadly diseases.

Thanks to the activism shown by the country’s judiciary, the courts of law are coming to the rescue of hapless victims.

Due to a large number of pending cases in the High Courts and the Supreme Court, the proceedings take years. By that time a lot of harm is done. The gravity of the problem demands the setting up of special anti-pollution courts to try the cases pertaining to pollution to avoid delays.

Branches of the Environmental Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) need to be set up in small cities of the country as well.

Iqbal Singh


Foreign press: PMO’s response

We have read the article, “Can we let in the foreign press?”, by Hari Jaisingh published in The Tribune of November 10 with interest.

This is to make it clear that no decision has yet been taken to permit foreign equity, much less a 100 per cent equity, in the print media. The Prime Minister’s Office has not prepared any note on this subject and the issue is not even engaging the PMO’s attention.

The Cabinet has constituted a group consisting of the Ministers of Commerce and Industry, Finance, Telecommunications, Power and Personnel (and the Minister concerned) to consider further liberalisation in respect of foreign direct investment as well as the sectors for permissible equity investment.

The issue of foreign equity in the print media, along with several other proposals, is being internally examined by the Ministry of Industry, and any such proposal would first have to be considered by the Group of Ministers before it comes up to the Cabinet for consideration.

The Group of Ministers has not yet considered any proposal in respect of the print media.

Press Adviser to the Prime Minister
New Delhi


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