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MINERALS-Keeping Up Appearances

MINERALS Keeping Up Appearances Magnus JUDGING by the tone of its Report for 1973-74, the Department of Mines seems to have lost all vitality. Since the reorganisation of the Ministry of Steel and Mines, the Steel section has stolen the show; the Department of Mines has lost control over Bharat Coking Coal, National Mineral Development Corporation and Manganese Ore India. It had lost Pyrites, Phosphates and Chemicals three years ago. The Coal Board and the Coal Controller's organisation under the Department are also likely to be wound up. Coal, of the non-coking variety, is therefore now the principal concern of this Department.

GEOLOGY- Not in the Armchair

THE recent creation of two new national organisations, one to deal with Mineral Exploration and the other with Groundwater, has once again changed the pattern of geological activities in the country. When these changes are viewed along with the internal reorganisation of the Geological Survey of India, it can be seen that there have been a practically uninterrupted series of changes during the past few years. This proliferation needs to be examined and controlled if the aims and objects are not to get lost in empire-building activities of senior persons in this particular field. Many people are not aware that, apart from the relatively better-publicised public sector concerns which extract and process various minerals, there are government departments which carry out a very large volume of geological mapping, prospecting, investigation and assessment of India's resources underground.

MINING-No Time to Play It Cool

No Time to Play It Cool Magnus THE Department of Mines, under the Ministry of Steel and Mines, has been in the news quite often during the past two years for its ''takeover' activities. Its Report for 1972-73 is however a dull document compared to its predecessor. The Department of Mines, like All India Radio, seems to believe firmly that what is due to happen in future (particularly in government agencies) is much more newsy than what has happened in the recent past. Its Report thus serves up a curious mixture of facts, fallacies and predictions. Data on actual performance are presented along with figures abstracted from reports of the Fuel Policy Committee, various Task Forces and the Plans; to these is added some plain wishful thinking. To take the example of coal; output is reported to have increased from 72 mn to 75 mn tonnes, and the target for the current year is given as 80 mn tonnes. The Task- Force set up by the Planning Commission estimates the demand for 1978-70 as 143 mn tonnes. Ergo, the Ministry comes up with a quick breakdown of how the four public sector companies would boost their production (not merely capacity) from 72 mn to 113 mn tonnes in the next four years. It would be a miracle, and one wishes them the best of luck.

COAL-The Wrong Reasons

picions of corruption. But the Centre's verdict has been against the dissidents, at least lor the time being. The anti- Parmar campaign has consequently faded out. Till recently, both the pro- Parmar and the dissident groups were camping in Delhi to impress upon the High Command their respective strength.

MANGANESE-Time to Seize the Potential

20.6 million in 1970; in 1971 it came down to 15 million.
But the trend has been sharply reversed recently. The massive strike of the employees of the Bombay Municipal Corporation for bonus was a pointer. It was followed by the nationwide strike by cement workers, numbering over 75,000

MINERALS-Flashes of Enthusiasm

In this context, doubts have been raised about the capability of indigenous manufacturers, principally HE(I)L and BHEL, to supply the required plant and equipment. Taking their cue from this, State Electricity Boards and other interested parties have begun to argue that quite apart from the inability of the indigenous manufacturers to provide the generators within the stipulated time, their costs were also higher compared to those of imported sets. In any case, it is argued, the foreign exchange outgo will not be very large since the import content of the indigenous sets is insignificant. Further, since there is a buyers' market in plant and equipment for electricity generation, they can be imported on very advantageous price and credit terms. The managements of MINERALS LARGE parts of the text of the latest annual report of the Department of Mines are lifted bodily from last year's report, with only the figures changed as required. Nonetheless, the report is not as drearily pedestrian as might be feared. There are flashes of enthusiasm, an awareness (in words, if not in action) of the importance of minerals and metals to the national economy, and even some pieces of good news. The introduction discloses that the contribution of the mineral sector to national income increased from Rs 470 crores in the first Plan to Rs 969 crores in the Third. This is probably an underestimate.

Copper for Breakfast

Copper for Breakfast Magnus AS a demonstration of its power, the government could not have done better than to choose the Indian Copper Corporation for nationalisation, but the takeover does raise serious doubts about the government's capacity for logical thinking and objectivity. India is certainly short of copper and last year we spent over Rs 49 crores on copper imports. Indian Copper Corporation has been the sole Indian producer of copper so far. The public sector has been trying for years to start copper production in Khetri and elsewhere, but has failed miserably. What could it do, then, except to takeover the only company which was successful? In the years to come, we shall no doubt hear a great deal about ICC's marvellous performance and even more wonderful targets, but probably less about its profits.

Delayed Take-Off in Rockphosphates

schemes. Any aid for such schemes is, therefore, an addition to the free foreign exchange resources available to the government. The demand for allowing Indian bids on preferential basis in international tenders for projects financed by aid funds is designed to serve the same purpose. The rescheduling of repayment obligations available during the last three years also results in the conversion of a part of the fresh ere- dits into free foreign exchange.

Sad Plight of NMDC

October 12, 1968 government agencies, and by the universities themselves. Yet, the basis in fact and analysis for many of these decisions in entirely lacking. It is urgent that those concerned with educational policymaking move quickly to fill the research gap in higher education so that it will be possible, in the near future, at least to provide the policy makers with clear and reasoned analyses on key issues facing the university.

Unmanaged NCDC

Unmanaged NCDC Magnus NCDC has achieved the dubious honour of having its performance described as "a story of unmitigated inefficiency and mismanagement" by the Parliamentary Committee on Public Undertakings (Tenth Report, Fourth Lok Sabha, April 1968). The Committee has shed much more light on the Augean stables of NCDC; cleaning them out is, of course, more difficult. Its criticism deals with planning, execution and sales policy.

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