2014: looking ahead

The year to get it all right
No matter what the past year dealt us, a New Year is always reason for hope. In fact, the very wrongs that put furrows on our forehead in 2013 have spurred corrections that may bear fruit in 2014. As governance failures and corruption made us despair, there is today a new language in political discourse, ahead of the General Election. The economy floundered, but just at the turn of the year, there is hope of revival. Women are determined to poke the evil eye. Often, it is not the ground realities that take a nation or community forward, but the ‘will do’ spirit. The youth are taking charge of not just production and economy but also politics. The Tribune takes a good long look at what 2014 may hold for each of us.

Politics: Through churn, hope of stability
Foreign affairs: Standing up to be counted
WOMEN: Implementation of laws at test
Economy: New government holds the key
Consumer: More jobs, more spending buck
Defence: The year to remodel, regroup, resurge


2014: look ahead

Time for states to start flying solo
Mainstay of the northern states, agriculture will have to be renewed as much with farm research as investment in agro-industry and modern marketing facilities The states have battled the same monsters as the nation, but have little independence or resources to address those. It could be a new beginning  if they were to rise above populism and build sustainable economies tailored to their particular situations, and focus on deliverables of governance.

SEEDS OF HOPE: Mainstay of the northern states, agriculture will have to be renewed as much with farm research as investment in agro-industry and modern marketing facilities. Photo: Mukesh Aggarwal

Punjab: Aam Aadmi Party sets the tone
Haryana: Scandals can shake Cong boat
J and K: Crucial year as state goes to the polls
Himachal Pradesh: Political enmity; at stake is development
Uttarakhand: Reviving a dented economy
Delhi: Winds of change, wave of promises

Cinema won’t turn a new leaf
In a country that produces a record number of films and countrymen who follow cinema like religion, what does 2014 augur? A mixed bag of goodies. While January brings critically acclaimed Miss Lovely, the year-end is expected to unveil films by critics’ darlings Anurag Kashyap and Dibakar Banerjee. Their much-awaited films Byomeksh Bakshi and Bombay Velvet are expected to hit the screen in December. It remains to be seen if these will prove to be path-breaking as their earlier signatures, or like Tighmanshu Dhulia these, too, would succumb to the dictates of the box office.

Theatre: Local forms will see revival
art: Festivals take centre stage

Exciting space odyssey ahead
After launching the Mars mission, virtually on a shoestring budget, space scientists have an interesting itinerary lined up for this year. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is kicking off the year with the launch of the GSLV-D5 today. It will carry advanced communication satellite GSAT-14, to be used for telecasting and telecommunication purposes. It is an important day for ISRO, considering the GSLV’s earlier aborted attempt.

Hope of cleaner sport, big medals
Saina Nehwal, Gagan Narang and Sushil Kumar would seek a bagful of medals in 2014Last year ended in gloom for India for, on December 30, the Indian cricket team suffered its only Test defeat of the year, in South Africa. But it wasn't as bad as we all feared — India managed to compete in the two Tests in South Africa. In 2013, though, India played only two Tests outside India; the number would be 12 in 2014 — in the alien conditions of New Zealand, England and South Africa.
Saina Nehwal, Gagan Narang and Sushil Kumar would seek a bagful of medals in 2014.



The year to get it all right
No matter what the past year dealt us, a New Year is always reason for hope. In fact, the very wrongs that put furrows on our forehead in 2013 have spurred corrections that may bear fruit in 2014. As governance failures and corruption made us despair, there is today a new language in political discourse, ahead of the General Election. The economy floundered, but just at the turn of the year, there is hope of revival. Women are determined to poke the evil eye. Often, it is not the ground realities that take a nation or community forward, but the ‘will do’ spirit. The youth are taking charge of not just production and economy but also politics. The Tribune takes a good long look at what 2014 may hold for each of us.

Through churn, hope of stability

IT will be the year of change. Elections to constitute the 16th Lok Sabha will be held as the Congress-led UPA completes its second term in office by May this year and a new regime will be ushered in at the Centre.

Will it be a coalition yet again? Which party will lead the formation? Will the BJP get a chance at power after being in the opposition for a decade? Is the Congress destined to play the role of the Opposition? What about the emergence of a third alternative? Will the AAP phenomenon alter national politics? These questions are being discussed across the country. From dhabas and tea kiosks to village squares; from corporate boardrooms to party war rooms — each segment has its own assessment of how the situation could unfold. Parties have gone to the drawing board for fresh plans.

The UPA-II is suffering from a loss of credibility and is unable to demonstrate imagination in addressing issues agitating the people. With Narendra Modi as prime-ministerial candidate, the BJP is promising a cure for all ills afflicting the nation, but it has not yet demonstrated plans to tackle issues. People cannot be expected to think of the Congress or BJP as an alternative. Uncertainty will persist till they have spoken through their vote.

KV Prasad

‘Year of transition’

The quality of governance will be the key for the market. Better governance is needed as India grapples with challenges like weak macro-economic position and low investment sentiment. It will be a year of transition. The new government in May should be willing to reinvent India.

Sanjeev Prasad, Sr executive director, Kotak Investment Banking

Foreign affairs
Standing up to be counted

With the year gone by proving to be disastrous on the foreign policy front, India can only hope that 2014 will be somewhat better, if not highly rewarding, especially in the context of relations with neighbours and major world powers.

December was dominated by the arrest of diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York in an alleged visa fraud case. The incident has seriously impaired bilateral ties, with New Delhi insisting on the withdrawal of charges against her and Washington refusing to do so. It would be in the interest of both countries to put this row behind them sooner rather than later.

But the most worrying aspect for the foreign office mandarins is the spectre of the Taliban's re-emergence as a dominant force in Afghanistan after the drawdown by NATO troops this year. With Pakistan determined to increase its 'strategic depth' in the embattled nation, New Delhi faces difficult policy choices since a stable Afghanistan is important to India's own security.

As far as India's most difficult neighbour Pakistan is concerned, 2013 was marked by increased tension on the LoC due to ceasefire violations. However, a fruitful visit to India by Punjab province Chief Minister and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's brother Shahbaz in December, followed by a long-delayed meeting between the DGMOs of the two countries, have raised hope of the resumption of dialogue once New Delhi gets a new government after the general election.

China will remain an enigma for the South Block with its blow hot, blow cold attitude towards India. The challenge for the two leaderships would be to take more meaningful steps to find a mutually acceptable settlement of the boundary dispute as well as the trans-border rivers issue. Despite border tension, growing economic ties are expected to continue driving the engine of relationship in 2014 too.

India will need to keep nudging Sri Lanka to give the Tamils their due in the island and also ensure that it does not rub its less troublesome neighbours like Bangladesh, Nepal, the Maldives, Bhutan and Myanmar the wrong way.

Ashok Tuteja

Implementation of laws at test

In 2013, the country witnessed zero tolerance for crimes against women, forcing lawmakers to amend the archaic Indian Penal Code of 1861 to address the issue of sexual assault on women.

Two landmark laws to protect the bodily integrity of women were passed and notified -Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2013 that altered the definition of rape and enhanced penalties for perpetrators of violence; and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Prohibition Bill 2013 which created a legal framework to ensure a safe working environment for women.

The New Year will test the efficacy of these laws considering women are already refusing to tolerate assault. Victims of sexual harassment recently pressed charges against high-profile accused, including former Supreme Court judge AK Ganguly and former Editor of Tehelka Tarun Tejpal.

In 2014, it would be worth watching whether the police establishment and the judiciary — responsible for the implementation of the new laws — rise to the occasion and do their duty.

If the events already unfolding this year are anything to go by, it is evident that the laws are not working. In Kolkaka, a 12 year old was gang-raped twice before being set on fire. The police was found wanting in moving fast enough to arrest the accused. Kolkata hospitals were caught on the wrong side of the new law as they failed to offer free medical treatment to the victim who succumbed to burn injuries.

In Muzaffarnagar, Muslim women were sexually assaulted during communal clashes, but several cases are yet to be registered. The New Year thus dawned on a grim note with laws meant to inspire confidence in women seeming to fail.

In Kolkata, hospitals are in violation of the new IPC section which prescribes a jail term up to a year for hospital managements (government and private) who refuse free treatment to victims of sexual violence and acid attacks.

In Muzaffarnagar, the UP Police has violated the new Section 166-B of the IPC which lays down a jail term up to six months for policemen refusing to register cases of sexual harassment.

The New Year would thus be mostly about the evolution of laws that seek to promote gender justice in India. It would also test employers' responses to the sexual harassment at workplace law which mandates the establishment of complaint mechanisms and the drafting of anti-sexual harassment policy at workplaces to ensure safety of women.

Aditi Tandon

‘Now, it's for the system to deliver’

The UK has a dedicated cadre of police personnel, judicial officers and prosecutors to handle cases of sexual violence against women. Specific orientation is vital to ensure that anti-rape law works. The legal sector must become sensitive to the law and its nuances. It’s critical in a country where violence against women is tolerated and sanctioned. Women are speaking up. The system must deliver.

Vrinda Grover, Supreme Court lawyer

New government holds the key

The single-biggest determinant of the way the struggling Indian economy takes shape in 2014 will be a political event in the form of the general election in April-May. Till then, no dramatic change in the economic fortunes is likely and the growth number will hover around the 5 per cent mark.

Industry is in a wait-and-watch mode and major moves are expected only till after the elections. Right now, some opportunistic transactions are going through such as MNCs increasing stakes in their Indian subsidiaries.

Markets believe a newly elected government will have the political capital to take decisions which inspire investor confidence, as has been seen in many countries, most recently with Shinzo Abe in Japan.

Global ratings agencies and the RBI have already warned of economic risks in the event of an unstable government and if adequate reform measures are not undertaken, the threat of a sovereign downgrade is real.

The taper announced by the US Federal Reserve and its impact on reduced global liquidity and the subsequent impact on emerging market equities and currencies like India will be closely watched. Foreign institutional money has poured into India and any deceleration on that count will have consequences for the economy.

Another interesting variable to watch will be the direction of economic policy which has seen continuity in the form of successive UPA governments and one Prime Minister for the last 10 years. With the new government in Delhi doling out freebies in a state that is relatively prosperous and the contagion spreading to Haryana and Maharashtra, there is a fierce debate whether the broad consensus in the country around fiscal prudence, balancing the budget and user charges for services will be diluted and all-out populism will take precedence.

The RBI has pointed out that rising bad bank loans are posing a risk to the financial system, which will be watched closely. The key to revival of the economy will be revival of investor confidence and corporate houses are increasingly edgy with investigations and audits being opened up.

More jobs, more spending buck

The New Year has got off to a raft of price increase of consumer items like gas cylinders, cars, steel, cigarettes and consumer durables, to name a few. While some are customary hikes, it is not good news for the Indian consumer who has been bearing the brunt of rising prices, slow growth, fewer jobs and dwindling income.

The recent data for car sales shows consumer spending is under pressure due to economic slowdown and rise in cost of living. The car industry has seen one of the worst years in 2013 and a recovery in consumer sentiment is expected after the general election. Only a stable government can revive growth. The Auto Expo slated for February in Greater Noida will see announcements on new launches.

Increase in diesel, petrol, LPG prices, electricity tariffs, telecom tariffs, rail fares, milk, vegetables, eggs and hike in cost of services has led to pressure on household budgets and cut in discretionary spending of consumers.

Most consumer categories have seen muted demand from cars to consumer electronics, retail, apparel, FMCG, travel, hotels and eating out. Urban demand has been more affected than rural demand, which may improve on the back of a bumper monsoon.

Real estate had a bad year due to low demand and high interest rates. However, the impact of interest rates is often exaggerated in economic discourse as a consumer buys on the strength of confidence in future economic prospects than just interest rates alone. The telecom sector has been doing well due to the increase of social media usage and the penetration of smartphones. Operators have regained pricing power and the new entry of Reliance JIo this year may see increased competition.

With the economy picking up, more jobs and incomes will be created, which will boost spending. New private bank licences will be given out by the RBI this year and two new airlines — Tata Singapore Airlines and Air Asia — should become operational this year. The first FDI in multi-brand retail in the form of Tesco will also come in this year.

Sanjeev Sharma

‘Housing sector to grow’

The housing sector will grow, albeit at a slightly slower pace, as the demand still appears to exceed supply. Weak rupee makes India an attractive investment destination for NRIs. The market should look up by the year-end.

Brotin Banerjee, ceo and md, Tata Housing

The year to remodel, regroup, resurge

As India looks ahead into 2014, the armed forces and the Ministry of Defence will have their hands full in balancing international, regional and local issues while bracing for a new world order that could emerge in Afghanistan; and a threat by China to control sea-trade routes, besides a surge by the US forces to relocate more assets and warships towards Asia.

New Delhi would look to hedge its military strategic interests between new-found friend, the US, and its long-time partner Russia. Cementing the agreed-upon-formula for peace along the tense frontier with China and upholding the promise of maintaining decorum along the LoC with Pakistan, will keep the Army on its tenterhooks.

The issue of dealing with Afghanistan and holding onto the small advantage will not just need diplomatic dexterity, but also a certain level of role of the forces by way of revamping training and show of strength.

The other focus area would be maintaining the tempo of warship building as China stretches itself into the Indian Ocean; making the nuclear missile carrying Arihant submarine operational; speeding up acquisition of long-pending artillery guns; and operationalising new fighter jets Tejas by the year-end as mandated. The newly raised Mountain Strike Corps - 17 Strike Corps - and the process of equipping and staffing at least one its two divisions will take the entire year. Rather the plan is to have a full operational division with 30,000 troops by the year-end and that should fructify.

Infrastructure like strategic roads and landing grounds for the Air Force in the Himalayas will need to be a pushed to allow faster movement of troops and equipment to raging China. A decision on having a railway track in the upper reaches of the Himalayas would send a right strategic signal.

Ajay Banerjee



Time for states to start flying solo
The states have battled the same monsters as the nation, but have little independence or resources to address those. It could be a new beginning if they were to rise above populism and build sustainable economies tailored to their particular situations, and focus on deliverables of governance.

Aam Aadmi Party sets the tone

With the dawn of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) at the country's political horizon, there is hope for something new on the political canvas of Punjab. Two years ago, Punjab saw the People's Party of Punjab, which was not very successful, make headlines.

Now people have turned towards the AAP. University professors and other intellectuals, not well disposed towards traditional political parties, are eager to don AAP caps. The ongoing year will be significant, especially for the Congress. The Lok Sabha elections are round the corner and the Congress, plagued by infighting, faces the challenge to perform well. If it fails, at risk would be its entity in the state. The SAD-BJP coalition is on a smooth ride as of now, but a new idiom given to Indian politics by AAP can force SAD-BJP leaders to mend their ways. This year will not be "as usual" for Punjab politics. It will induce a change in the political culture of the state.

Agriculture: Summit will show the way

The state's agricultural economy is at the crossroads. Which way it should turn, is the question in the public domain. Diversification has been suggested as one of the measures to uplift the sagging spirit of the farm community and save the earth from devastation.

There is hope that the Centre will come to the rescue of the state, which has been struggling on many fronts, especially fiscal, to bring about changes in the agricultural economy. It is expected that this year the state would be in a position to give new direction to the agriculture sector, lifeline of rural economy.

Last year, farmers made money from basmati. If in the current year, they get similar returns, the shift from 'parmal' varieties to basmati is likely. Cotton price also remained high last year, but the crop was marred by waterlogging in most parts of the cotton belt. Cotton continues to be a better bet in this belt, where inclination towards basmati is minimal. Punjab will be hosting the Progressive Punjab Agriculture Summit-2014, and there is hope that it will mark a new beginning on the agro-processing front. The state's weak point is that it lacks initiative as far as value addition for farmers is concerned.

Finance: Shun populism for consolidation

The year 2014 will be a deciding year for Punjab in terms of its fiscal health. With elections round the corner and Punjab's history of succumbing to populist measures for electoral gains, it remains to be seen if it will shun populism in favour of fiscal consolidation. For the past few years, the state has been facing a huge gap in its revenue receipts and revenue expenditure, mainly because of unbridled expenditure and huge subsidy bill. Last year saw the state resorting to desperate measures to meet its committed liabilities. The only hope for Punjab lies in tightening its purse strings and improving its revenue earnings.

Investment: Keep up the steam

A great opportunity awaits Punjab in attracting industrial investment, especially after the year 2013 ended on a positive note with the state's maiden investment summit drawing a positive buzz in the corporate sector. The real success can be achieved only if the state government does not lose steam and continues to woo industry and follows up with investors who have signed MoUs to invest in the state. Even if the state manages to ensure that half of the investments fructify, the economy will see a positive change.

Power: Some respite from cuts

With the commissioning of the first 660 MW unit of the Talwandi Sabo Thermal Plant and first 700 MW unit of Rajpura Thermal Plant (1,400 MW), the power scenario is likely to improve this year. Though the power demand is expected to be around 11,000 MW this summer, a lot will depend on the monsoon. With Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) stating that the 540-MW Goindwal Sahib Thermal Plant, second 660 MW unit of Talwandi Sabo Thermal Plant and second 700 MW unit of Rajpura Thermal Plant would be operational this summer, consumers are likely to get relief from long power cuts.

The industrial community, however, feels otherwise. A majority of industrialists are of the opinion that the PSPCL claims are hollow as the demand would shoot up to 12,000 MW, and even after the commissioning of new thermal units, Punjab would still be power deficient.

Sarbjit Dhaliwal, Ruchika M Khanna, Umesh Dewan

‘Enough power’

Augmentation of the thermal generation capacity by 3,920 MW would ensure 10,574 MW in the state, which will be good enough to meet the power demand this year.

KD Chaudhri, cmd, pspcl

Scandals can shake Cong boat

Haryana will witness parliamentary and Vidhan Sabha elections this year. The emergence of AAP in adjoining Delhi will have a direct impact on its politics. This is due to its proximity to the Capital and the fact that about a dozen legislators in the Delhi Vidhan Sabha have a direct Haryana connection. The strong anti-corruption sentiment in the country will impact the choice of candidates as well as the response candidates get from voters. Though Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has not faced anti-incumbency in municipal elections so far, issues like the Robert Vadra-DLF land deal and CDs exposing sitting Congress leaders demanding money may prove a dampener.

Though the Vidhan Sabha election is scheduled for October, the Congress may go in for an early election to coincide with the parliamentary polls. Past elections have indicated that people tend to vote in a similar manner when both elections are held close to each other.

Industry: NCR draws investors

It would be a year of consolidation for industry. With general slowdown in the Indian economy, 2014 would see the completion of the ongoing industrial and commercial projects in the state. The proximity of its several districts falling under the National Capital Region (NCR) to Delhi would continue to attract investors, including foreign investors.

The progress on two of Haryana's flagship projects — Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor covering 1,483 km and Kundli-Manesar-Palwal Expressway — that are running behind schedule would be keenly watched by the stakeholders.

Though Haryana is geographically a small state, accounting for only 1.3 per cent of the total area of the country, its contribution to the country's National Gross Domestic Product is nearly 3.4 per cent. With the service sector accounting for nearly 55 per cent of the state's economy, the dependence on primary and secondary sectors would continue to decline this year.

Crime: Police must get its act together

With crime becoming a way of life in the Jatland, the Haryana Police will be under tremendous pressure in 2014. This, coupled with the elections, will test the crisis management skills of the police. It will have to speed up reforms, modernise its infrastructure and be more people friendly. The real challenge for the police will be to instill confidence among the weaker sections of society and women. Atrocities on Scheduled Caste community members and women, rapes and 'honour' killings have been a blot on Haryana. The police will have to shed its image of going slow on such cases.

Real estate: Affordable housing, not yet

The ongoing recession in the realty sector would continue. The only silver lining is the builder-friendly 'affordable housing policy' of 2013, which evoked tremendous response among builders, especially in the NCR. Affordable housing for the 'aam aadmi', however, would be a pipedream in the wake of the rise in input costs and high prices of apartments under the housing policy by the Hooda government. Housing projects for economically weaker sections of society may, to some extent, offshoot the shortage of houses for these sections.

Social welfare: Sops at cost of exchequer

Pre-election sops such as hike in the pension of over 20 lakh pensioners, including senior citizens, physically challenged and widows, is set to put a strain on the fund-starved state.

The Hooda government, apparently with an eye on the twin elections, had announced a slew of incentives for various sections of society. Though it could be good politics in an

election year, it could turn out to be a case of bad economics for the state's economy, which is already showing signs of a slowdown.

Haryana is set to get a commission for Scheduled Castes with a view to providing an alternative grievance redress system for Dalits. The real challenge would be to translate various 'pro-people' announcements into action at the grassroots level.

Naveen Garewal, Pradeep Sharma

J and K
Crucial year as state goes to the polls

This year is important as Chief Minister Omar Abdullah will seek the mandate of the people for a second term during the Lok Sabha polls. It will be crucial for the ruling NC and its rival PDP. The NC will try to retain power while the PDP, under the leadership of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Mehbooba Mufti, will put up a big fight. A second term for Omar would prove disastrous for the PDP as Mufti and Mehbooba would find it difficult to keep their flock together. The Congress, which has made inroads in the Valley during the last few years, would also try to emerge as the single-largest party.

Culture: Longing for entertainment

Music maestro Zubin Mehta's concert created a lot of noise last year in Kashmir. Holding more such events would do good to the almost lifeless cultural scene in the Valley. Last year also witnessed a few firsts. An all India mushaira saw top Urdu poets recite poetry and the Valley hosted an international film festival, where 22 films were screened. Without a film industry and a state where no cinema halls function, the Valley's first-ever 35 mm digital film, Partav, created a buzz after being screened at the Kashmir University's auditorium. Another film festival is on the cards.

However, artistes are yet to find a platform. Work at Tagore Hall — hub of cultural activities at one time — continues to miss deadlines. The foundation stone of the Tehzeeb Mahal was laid last year. The 600-seat auditorium is expected to be completed in 2016.

Youth: Unemployment major concern

With more than five lakh unemployed youth in the state, 2014 will again be a challenging year. In the absence of a robust industrial and private sector, most youngsters look towards the government for support. Despite government claims on job generation, J&K has the highest unemployment rate of 5.3 per cent compared to its neighbouring states.

With Article 370 limiting investment, dependence is more on schemes like Sher-e-Kashmir Employment and Welfare Programme for the Youth, UDAAN and HIMAYAT to create jobs in private companies.

Tourism is emerging as the only sector which is providing a major share of employment. But in the absence of required manpower and infrastructure, it is not absorbing the bulk of educated youth.

Law and order: No room for complacency

It will be a challenging year for the police, especially in view of the withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan and the forthcoming elections. The police has recommended to the Union Home Ministry against the withdrawal of paramilitary forces. The police has to be very alert and the existing security grid should be refined. There are apprehensions that vested interests may polarise people ahead of the polls.

Even though there has been a 10 per cent decrease in militancy, and nearly 2.5 million tourists (apart from 12 lakh Amarnath pilgrims) visited the Valley during the last two years, the police feels there is no scope for complacency. Abdul Gani Mir, IGP, Kashmir Zone, says: “Two elections are to be conducted. There’s need for a better law and order situation and people-friendly measures. We hope to get through it successfully.”

AK Bhan, former DGP, J&K, says: “Arrangements have to be made for peaceful polls. It will require special efforts in the backdrop of increased infiltration, ceasefire violations and terrorists targeting security forces in 2013. The police needs to be alert to deal with incidents that may incite communal tension.”

Economy: Not enough even for salaries

The economy has never risen to the level where the government could pay salaries to its employees. It depends on budget allocation from the Centre for salaries and to spend on development works. The income from all resources is Rs 6,500 crore while the annual salary of employees has risen to Rs 13,500 crore. The state spends Rs 2,000 crore on pension and suffers power losses to the tune of Rs 2,000 crore every year.

“Economy will flourish if peace prevails and there is political stability. Measures taken to boost the economy are not taken on a calendar-year basis. A five-year plan is formalised to bring in new things to improve the structure,” says Jaleel Ahmad Khan, state economic adviser.

Dinesh Manhotra, M Aamir Khan, Sumit Hakhoo, Arteev Sharma, Amir Tantray

Himachal Pradesh
Political enmity; at stake is development

It is development and issues relating to the common man which have been the biggest casualty in the war of attrition that has dominated the political scenario in Himachal for the last one year. In the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls, this bitter fight between Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and his predecessor PK Dhumal of the BJP seems to be getting louder and shriller as it hits national headlines. Political enmity has turned into personal enmity, with their families hurling allegations against one another. The feud has resulted in all other issues being relegated to the background. The allegations against them must be probed and issues concerning the people should take centre stage.

Education: Strengthen existing facilities

Even though approval was granted to 18 private universities by the previous BJP regime, the scenario is dismal with many lacking infrastructure, eligible teaching faculty and other requirements. However, a literacy rate of 82.8 per cent indicates the picture is not too bleak. Focus should be on vocational and job-oriented courses, rather than adding to the huge population of degree holders and unemployed youth. Rather than opening new schools and colleges, the facilities at existing ones should be improved.

Power: Ample electricity, no buyers

The power market scenario in 2013 has been the worst news for the state rearing to tap its 23,000 MW hydro potential. Reduced investment and slow execution of projects in the absence of buyers has not helped. Seeking permission from the Centre to grant generation tax has been a longstanding demand. Getting Rs 4,200-crore power arrears from Punjab and Haryana could help the state. In the race to generate revenue, scant attention is being paid to environment which is harming the fragile Himalayan ecology. Thrust should be on sustainable development.

Employment: Skill centres must to train youth

With an unemployment figure of 8.61 lakh for a state with a population of 68.64 lakh, there is need to give a serious thought to job avenues. The youth should be equipped with skills so they can set up self-employment ventures and meet industry requirements. The condition on industry to provide 70 per cent jobs to Himachalis is not being implemented as there aren't enough trained youth. The government has introduced a skill development scheme by way of a monthly allowance of Rs 1,000 to educated unemployed people between the age of 16 and 35.

tourism: Promote unexplored destinations

Tourism has been ignored by the Congress. For it to be an international tourist destination, the state must ensure reliable air connectivity. It lacks infrastructure like good roads, ample parking and new destinations. Decongest places like Shimla and Manali by promoting unexplored locations. There’s been an increase in tourists, with 1.61 crore tourists visiting the state last year.

Pratibha Chauhan

Reviving a dented economy

TheRe’s the challenge of reviving the economy badly hit in the June rain disaster. The state lost 11 per cent GSDP in prospective tourism earnings last year. The PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry Research Bureau say the floods impacted the growth trajectory. In 2014-15, the revenue loss may exceed Rs 20,000 crore if the Char Dham yatra does not regain momentum. The government must generate employment through micro small and medium enterprises, boost tourism, develop infrastructure, encourage service sector activities and facilitate the agro and food processing industry. Estimating a Rs 8,400-crore damage at Rudraprayag, Uttarkashi and Chamoli, Assocham has sought an aid of Rs 10,000 crore from the Centre. Considering it would take another three-four years to rebuild infrastructure, the government must provide relief to industry.

environment: Hills fragile, develop with care

The hills are fragile and policy planners should keep this in mind while undertaking any development project. Environmentalists are blaming hydropower projects for aggravating the recent deluge and have sought a rethink on policy. The government must spell out its priorities rather than appease pro and anti-hydro project proponents. Focus should be on environment-friendly industry. People have been agitating against the setting up of a Coca Cola plant at Vikasnagar. Proposed cement plants at Tyuni, Someshwar and Roorkie areas are also being opposed.

pilgrimage-tourism: Regulate pilgrim flow

The demand for curtailing the number of pilgrims to Kedarnath, Badrinath and other religious places has been growing shriller. Cautionary measures have been taken at pilgrimage centres across the country. The flow of pilgrims is regulated at Vaishno Devi and Tirupati. Uttarakhand must also do so. There was a drop of 85 per cent in tourist flow. But the state reopened the Char Dham yatra in October. The yatra would resume as per schedule in 2014. The construction of broken roads and bridges was also taken on a war footing. Every year, nearly 25 lakh pilgrims undertake the yatra. The tourism department organised a three-day winter carnival at Mussoorie to boost the confidence of tourists. A national level adventure car rally was also held in the state, including disaster-hit areas.

Jotirmay Thapliyal, Parwinder Sandhu

Winds of change, wave of promises

After biting the bullet in Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) knows well that its delivery and model of governance will determine in a big way its potential to catch the imagination of people elsewhere in the country ahead of the bigger challenge of the Lok Sabha polls.

Notwithstanding their inexperience, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his enthusiastic brigade of ministers are pulling out all plugs to implement their pre-poll populist promises while trying hard to switch from an activist’s shoes to that of the ruling camp.

Under pressure to perform, in the first 48 hours after being sworn in, the AAP-led minority government made back-to-back announcements related to water and power tariff, apart from the moves to end the VIP culture, to further its anti-corruption agenda. But if the greenhorns want to sustain the momentum, political analysts believe a judicious and far-sighted approach rather than a three-month roadmap — in view of the elections — would be a better way for providing stable governance.

new expectations: People want more

It is obvious that for AAP, which has set a new benchmark for functioning and transparency for its counterparts, meeting the expectations of the electorate that have soared high may not be easy.

Even senior party leaders admit to the enormity of the task as people of Delhi have placed their hope in the party in view of its promise of an honest alternative to other political parties.

The challenge is evident as the week-old AAP government’s recent freebie and waivers have not gone down well with the middle-class and upper socio-economic section of Delhi. At the same time, a large number of people feel that the party’s coming to power heralds winds of change in the city’s political arena and things that have long remain unaddressed will soon be resolved.

Many believe that the party’s maiden innings in Delhi could be a precursor to an overhaul of the country’s political system and its chief Arvind Kejriwal may become the next Prime Minister.

Congress, BJP: Changing tact for better tally

The BJP and Congress are trying to improve their image among voters in case of a re-poll in Delhi. The Congress has been in power for 15 years in the state and has extended its support to AAP, hoping it would get sufficient time to ponder over its miscalculations. The Congress feels that its traditional vote bank — Muslims and Sikhs, Dalits and jhuggi dwellers — deserted it in the Assembly elections in Delhi. To bring them back into the fold, it has changed the party structure. It has appointed Arvinder Singh Lovely Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee president to attract Sikh voters; Hroon Yusuf leader of the Congress in the Delhi Assembly to woo Muslims; Jai Kishan (an SC member) deputy leader; and Devender Yadav (OBC) chief whip to draw Dalits and others.

Likewise, the BJP has made a strategy to make inroads into minority-dominated constituencies and slums that are considered the Congress vote bank. In about 20 Assembly constituencies, Muslims constitute over 15 per cent of the total voters. In five constituencies, Muslims make up for more than 40 per cent of the electorate. The party is strengthening its minority cell and Muslim youths are being enrolled. About 30-35 members are part of the executive committee and over 100 youths have been roped in to work for the party. This has happened for the first time in the Delhi BJP.

development: Flyovers may be grounded

There is uncertainty over projects launched by former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit as there was no mention of development projects in the speech of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. He concentrated on issues mentioned in the manifesto of AAP — power tariff, water tariff, Jan Lokpal Bill, full statehood for Delhi, women’s security, abolition of contract system, examination of electric metres, abolition of VIP culture in Delhi, etc.

There was no mention of the popular projects of the former Congress government — Signature Bridge, flyover from Vikaspuri to Noida, gas-based power projects and cheap houses for the poor. The third phase of the metro rail corporation is also a crucial project though it is funded by the Union Government.

Ananya Panda, Syed Ali Ahmed



Cinema won’t turn a new leaf

In a country that produces a record number of films and countrymen who follow cinema like religion, what does 2014 augur? A mixed bag of goodies. While January brings critically acclaimed Miss Lovely, the year-end is expected to unveil films by critics’ darlings Anurag Kashyap and Dibakar Banerjee. Their much-awaited films Byomeksh Bakshi and Bombay Velvet are expected to hit the screen in December. It remains to be seen if these will prove to be path-breaking as their earlier signatures, or like Tighmanshu Dhulia these, too, would succumb to the dictates of the box office.

If only someone would forbid our makers from repeating themselves ad nauseam, telling the same unmoving, uninspiring tales over and over. But who can stop the legitimate right of mainstream makers who pride themselves as merchants of entertainment to peddle nonsense as artistic license, lewd as melody and dub crassness as bold and beautiful? Certainly not the Censor Board that is happily trading its scissor-happy status for a more liberal and progressive one. As for the critics, they might as well lock themselves in ivory towers, for no one seems to be paying attention when they trash films low on sensibility and high on mediocrity. While entertainment-starved and celeb-crazed fans couldn’t care less whether cinema makes any sense, producers know only too well hit hai toh fit hai. So you can only expect more of the same, peppered with little variations, marked by only superficial detours. Not only are sequels in store, but also remakes of southern actions.

Leading the pack is the Salman Khan starrer Jai Ho scheduled for a January 24 release, a remake of Telugu film Stalin. Originally titled Mental, this could well be like many a Sallu Bhai films that easily please his devotees. Since his fans are only growing, Kick too could set the cash registers ringing.

With all three Khans’ films, not to forget superstar Hrithik Roshan, in the fray, producers could be laughing all the way to the bank. If last year closed at a Dhoom 3 breaking barriers of various kinds, including becoming a blockbuster in Pakistan, the Rs 1,000-crore club could well be in the making.

Those who hoped the 100-year-old Indian cinema would turn a new leaf in its 101st year, they can put their money on rising stars and dark horses, like Mountain Man or even women power as in Mary Kom or Gulab Gang. Sleeper hits have been known to redefine BO equations.

But the bigwigs of the Bollywood brigade are unlikely to come out of their stupor. Brave new cinema might be making inroads, but the razzmatazz of commercial citadel stands equally strong.

Nonika Singh

Local forms will see revival

We are living in a global village. Naturally, one would expect cultural streams of multiple hues to merge here. But to import cultural spaces lock stock and barrel is something new. The year 2013 accorded a new experience to art lovers in Mumbai, Delhi and other metropolises, who watched ‘live’ shows of major operas, ballet and theatre shows at Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow, National Theatre, London, and New York's Metropolitan Opera. This was done through alliances between the best art houses and the National Centre for Performing Arts, Mumbai. These developments will influence the way music, dance and theatre is produced and viewed. A parallel stream of revival of the local, almost extinct art forms, will grow. In the case of Bhand Pather, the lost theatre form of J&K, thespians like Moti Lal Kemmu and Balwant Thakur infused contemporary themes in this dying form. Anoop Ranjan Pandey’s group is reviving lost traditions of music and theatre in Naxal-affected areas of Bastar by using theatre to educate the youth against the culture of gun. Samuel John is doing the same in Punjab by reviving nukkad natak and addressing social issues.

Festivals take centre stage

In 2012 when India hosted its first-ever Biennale, there were apprehensions. With the second edition of Kochi Muziris Biennale, to be held in December 2014, one expects the Biennale to develop its unique grammar and vocabulary. This is important for the kind of interest shown in Indian art by the global market. In December 2013, the first-ever auction held by the global auction house Christie’s in India saw a Gaitonde painting fetch Rs 23.70 crore, a record price fetched by an Indian artist.

Art festivals, smaller in size and scope, but bold and brave, are trying to take centre stage. The Pune International Art Festival aimed at ‘disturbing’ the audience. The Indian Art Festival, Mumbai, will continue to promote affordable art. The first-ever effort to showcase activism in art — The Sahmat Collective: Art and Activism in India since 1989 — was showcased for the US audience. The way art activism took Chinese art to a different level by the works of just a few artists, seems unlikely for Indian art, given its different socio-political reality.

Vandana Shukla

‘Art will grow’

There will be more opportunities for interesting and significant projects to emerge like performance and sound art. It would help artistic practices and institutions move further away from the concept of artworks as mere commodities.

Bhavna Kakar, director, Latitude 28

‘Keep away from gimmicks’

I hope in the New Year there is greater emphasis on the art of storytelling rather than star power; on content instead of stylised presentations. I wish more films are driven by the imagination of a writer’s pen and director’s acumen; and producers spend more on enhancing production values and not on marketing gimmicks. The media must not be swayed by big production houses and stars and rate films strictly on merit. Subhash Ghai, filmmaker



Exciting space odyssey ahead

After launching the Mars mission, virtually on a shoestring budget, space scientists have an interesting itinerary lined up for this year. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is kicking off the year with the launch of the GSLV-D5 today. It will carry advanced communication satellite GSAT-14, to be used for telecasting and telecommunication purposes. It is an important day for ISRO, considering the GSLV’s earlier aborted attempt.

But after the successful launch of the Mars Orbiter spacecraft, ISRO is confident of a successful GSLV launch. However, the real wow moment in the space programme will be in September when the orbiter, currently on its way to the fourth planet from the Sun, encounters Mars. All health checks of the orbiter as well as its payloads have been positive. ISRO spokesperson DP Karnik says all systems onboard the spacecraft are performing normally.

One of the main objectives of India's first interplanetary mission is to develop technologies required for design, management and operations for future missions. Experiments include exploration of Mars surface features, morphology, mineralogy and Martian atmosphere by indigenous scientific instruments.

The year will mark the launch of GSLV-Mark III in the third quarter. It would enhance the capability of the country to be a competitive player in the multimillion dollar commercial launch market. The GSLV was first launched with GSAT-1 in April 2001. Out of the seven GSLV launches earlier, three have been unsuccessful.

In March, India will undertake a commercial launch in the form of PSLV C23 carrying a French payload. It will be followed by PSLV C24 in April to launch the Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System. ISRO has submitted a plan for 58 space missions for the 12th Five-Year Plan. Vibha Sharma

‘Getting connected’

The outcome of research from the Mars Mission will help in planning new missions to Mars. Space communication has tremendous potential to provide communication infrastructure for disaster management and mitigation. There will be seamless connectivity between satellite and terrestrial communications, which will enable users to enjoy global connectivity.

Dr KS Dasgupta, director, Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram



Hope of cleaner sport, big medals

Last year ended in gloom for India for, on December 30, the Indian cricket team suffered its only Test defeat of the year, in South Africa. But it wasn't as bad as we all feared — India managed to compete in the two Tests in South Africa. In 2013, though, India played only two Tests outside India; the number would be 12 in 2014 — in the alien conditions of New Zealand, England and South Africa. It would be a stern Test for an Indian team in transition.

Overall, India's performance in sport in 2013 had only a few stray successes and a vast array of disappointments. Unsurprisingly, the officials of the Indian sports associations caused a great deal of embarrassment to the fans and the country. Like the BCCI’s N Srinivasan, a businessman who controls the company that owns an IPL team, and whose son-in-law was arrested on the charges of illegal betting during IPL-6 last year. Hopefully, the stinking stables of Indian sport's officialdom would be washed clean in 2014.

Governance in sport

The manner in which sports associations are run in India needs to be revolutionised. Sport associations continue to be run in the archaic model of honorary officialdom — this must change. To play like professionals, sports must be organised in a professional manner. But sports administration remains the preserve of politicians, businessmen and bureaucrats. A start was made in late 2013 when the Indian Olympic Association, with great reluctance, agreed to change its constitution so that officials against whom criminal charges have been framed are barred from contesting elections.

One, the well-meaning Sports Bill must be passed. It may not be perfect but its principles are sound, for it intends to ensure that officials running sports don't have unlimited years at the top, are made accountable and open to public scrutiny under the Right to Information Act.

Two, sports associations must be run by professionals who are working closely with former and current sportspersons.

Three, politicians and businessmen must exit sports associations. The Supreme Court recently noted that politicians and businessmen, who come to sports due to personal interest, are only harming sports. To this list must be added the progeny/relatives of politicians, and bureaucrats who, surely, have their hands full already with their official duties.

Missing global event of the year

There will be no Indian participation in the biggest festival of the world's most popular sport, football, in June-July this year. But the interest in the World Cup would be immense. People consider Brazil/South as the spiritual home of football — the football World Cup there promises to be the greatest carnival of the sport. The tournament will be played in 12 cities, from June 12 to July 13.

T20 and racing pulses

It's a big year for Indian sport — it's the year of the Twenty20 World Cup and the Asian and the Commonwealth Games.

The T20 World Cup will be played in Bangladesh from March 16 to April 6. India won the inaugural title in 2007 but failed in the next three tournaments, in England, West Indies and Sri Lanka. Pakistan have been the most consistent, semifinalists or better in every T20 World Cup. In the four editions of the tournament, there have been six different finalists and four different winners. India have failed to reach the semifinals a single time after winning in 2007. India, England and West Indies won the only finals they reached. Clearly, this Twenty20 format is a bit of a lottery, and perhaps that adds to the thrill.

The 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games were organised in a shambolic manner, apart from being tainted by corruption. But for the Indian athletes, it was a huge success — they won 51 gold medals, and a total of 100 medals, to finish second. It would be difficult to match that performance at CWG 2014, to be held at Glasgow from July 23 to August 3.

The Asian Games will be held at Inchon, South Korea, from September 19 to October 4. As in 2010, this year's Asian Games would come shortly after the Commonwealth Games. India had done well in the 2010 Asian Games too — 65 medals, 14 of them gold medals.

The Commonwealth and Asian Games, combined, test athletes in different disciplines. The athletics, cycling, hockey and swimming events are tougher in the Commonwealth Games than in the Asian Games; the shooting, weightlifting, archery, boxing and wrestling events are tougher in the Asian Games. The two Games, thus, can give a good indication of the preparedness for the Olympics.

The health of Indian hockey team will be closely monitored in 2014. The new coach, Terry Walsh, has great hopes for India at the Commonwealth and the Asian Games. The national team has three other big events to play in — the World League (Jan 10-18), World Cup (May 31-June 15) and the Champions Trophy (Dec 13-21) in Bhubaneswar.

Chess presents the biggest question of the year: Will Viswanathan Anand try to reclaim his World Chess Championship crown? Anand lost it to Norway's Magnus Carlsen in Chennai in late 2013. Anand, 44 and ranked 9th in the world, has not indicated yet whether he'd go through the qualifying cycle to earn the right to challenge Carlsen. If he does, it will be an exciting journey through the year for the Indian chess fan.

Rohit Mahajan

It’s a very important year for boxing because we have the Asian and Commonwealth Games this year and we are hopeful of a good show. Last year was a little unlucky... Five boxers reached the quarterfinals of the World Championship, but all lost. We’re working hard to again start winning medals in international events.

GS Sandhu, boxing coach



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