THE HINDU EDITORIAL – 28th October 2017

A) Paved with big words

The Central government is betting on a two pronged strategy, revealed this week, to rescue the economy from the slowdown. Along with recapitalisation of public sector banks, it announced a huge roads project, which will help scaleup public spending on infrastructure and boost job creation and growth. The plan is to spend almost ₹7 lakh crore to build 83,677 km of highways, traversing mostly the northern and eastern parts of the country, by March 2022. The government estimates that the Bharatmala Pariyojana, which constitutes a major component of this plan, could itself create as many as 14.2 crore man-days of work directly, in addition to permanent jobs after completion. The benefits to the economy are likely to be significant if the programme, as envisaged, manages to successfully connect 550 districts as well as coastal ports to national highways, among other things. While it is hard to quantify the likely economic benefits from the project, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari expects the contribution to GDP to be significant. With money flowing in from the government and market borrowings, funding is unlikely to be an issue. The same, however, cannot be said about the other familiar challenges in the infrastructure space. With this massive roads project, Prime Minister Narendra Modi may be banking on replicating, or even bettering, the National Highways Development Project of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. However, its success will depend largely on how the government tackles problems that have held back the implementation of infrastructure projects over the last couple of decades. While ₹2.09 lakh crore of the ₹5.35 lakh crore Bharatmala investment will be funded by market borrowings, over ₹1 lakh crore is expected to come in the form of private investments. Private infrastructure companies already reeling in the aftermath of aggressive past bids and leveraged balance sheets will need more clarity to be genuinely interested in such projects. This is an opportune time for the government to bring out of cold storage the blueprint for reviving public-private partnerships, prepared about two years ago by a panel headed by former Finance Secretary Vijay Kelkar. Just as it isn’t clear why the government waited three years to unleash the full gamut of reforms needed to fix the banking sector’s bad loan mess, it is difficult to understand why little has moved on the PPP framework after the Kelkar report came in late-2015. The NDA government’s very first Budget allocated ₹500 crore to create a new body called 3P India to reboot the earlier PPP route that had left several projects stranded, with developers fleeing in the face of execution issues. That institution is still to see the light of day, while land acquisition reforms attempted in the NDA’s first year have also been abandoned. More attention is needed on these fronts to ensure this infrastructure ramp-up delivers, and on time.


  1. B) Big vision, hazy detail

Of the seven countries he visited last week, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson chose to focus on India while spelling out his strategic vision. Just before starting the tour, he gave a speech on India U.S. ties that was as broad as it was deep, talking of the road ahead together for “the next 100 years”. He reserved his most ambitious words for the role of India in the U.S.’s plans in two spheres. In Afghanistan, as a part of President Donald Trump’s new South Asia policy, and in the Indo-Pacific, as part of U.S. plans to counter China’s influence and contain North Korea. On both counts, Mr. Tillerson’s talks in New Delhi with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Prime Minister Narendra Modi made progress in developing a common vision, but appear to have made little movement on the specifics. For instance, he is said to have “minced no words” when it came to tackling Pakistan’s support to terrorist safe havens. Yet, the groups he referred to are not those that directly threaten India, but Afghanistan and, by extension, the U.S. soldiers based there. As for Indian hopes of increasing trade and development aid to Afghanistan through the Chabahar route, Mr. Tillerson’s assurance that Washington does not seek to bar legitimate trade is welcome. However, it remains to be seen whether India can significantly ramp up cooperation with Iran to further its interests in Afghanistan at a time when the U.S. maintains its policy of isolating the Iranian leadership. Finally, both Indian and U.S. officials spoke in detail, and in public statements, about building an alternative coalition to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative as well as its aggressive moves in the South China Sea — yet Mr. Tillerson did not add clarity on where the funding would come from. For its part, India desisted from any clear commitments on joint patrols to ensure freedom of navigation in the SCS, or even on the foundational agreements the Indian and U.S. militaries must conclude to deepen cooperation in the region. While India and the U.S. have taken great strides in aligning their vision and their hopes for future partnership, reality often trips up such lofty goals. One reason is geography — while American troops remain in Afghanistan, it is difficult for the U.S. to completely disengage from Pakistan. For India, while a maritime relationship with the U.S. is desirable, geographic proximity to China makes a very close alliance with the U.S. difficult. The other issue pertains to the strategic confusion within Washington and Mr. Trump’s withdrawal from U.S. commitments in Asia, Europe and at the UN, drawing questions about its reliability as a partner. Given this, it may have been too much to expect more than the warm handshake and the encouraging words of hope Mr. Tillerson delivered.

Words/ Vocabulary

1) Pronged

Meaning: Each of the separate parts of an attack or operation, typically approaching a place or subject from different positions.

Example: The three main prongs of the government’s programme.

2) Scale

Meaning: The action of increasing in size or number; expansion.

Example: The massive scale-up of mosquito control measures has helped to dramatically reduce the global disease burden.

3) Traversing

Meaning: Travel across or through.

Example: He traversed the forest.

Synonym: Travel, Journey

4) Man-days

Meaning: A day regarded in terms of the amount of work that can be done by one person within this period.

Example: Thirty other reservists have volunteered more than 100 man-days over the same period of time.

5) Envisaged

Meaning: 1.1 Form a mental picture of (something not yet existing or known)

Example: He knew what he liked but had difficulty envisaging it.

Synonym: Foresee, Predict

6) Quantify

Meaning: Express or measure the quantity of.

Example: It is impossible to quantify the extent of the black economy.

Synonym: Quantification, Quantifying

7) Replicating

Meaning: Make an exact copy of; reproduce.

Example: It might be impractical to replicate Eastern culture in the west.

Synonym: Copy, Duplicate

Antonym: Original

8) Bettering

Meaning: Improve on or surpass (an existing or previous level or achievement)

Example: Bettering his previous time by ten minutes.

Synonym: Surpass, Improve on

Antonym: Ruin, Worse

9) Reeling

Meaning: Feel shocked, bewildered, or giddy.

Example: The Prime Minister was reeling from a savaging inflicted in the Commons.

Synonym: Shock, Dazed

Antonym: Aware

10) Aftermath

Meaning: The consequences or after-effects of a significant unpleasant event.

Example: Food prices soared in the aftermath of the drought.

Synonym: Repercussions, After-effects

Antonym: Cause, Origin

11) Leveraged

Meaning: Usually as adjective leveraged. Use borrowed capital for (an investment), expecting the profits made to be greater than the interest payable.

Example: A leveraged takeover bid.

12) Opportune

Meaning: (of a time) especially convenient or appropriate for a particular action or event.

Example: He couldn’t have arrived at a less opportune moment.

Synonym: Auspicious, Propitious

Antonym: Inappropriate, Inauspicious

13) Blueprint

Meaning: A design plan or other technical drawing.

Example: They are redrawing office blueprints to include large shared spaces.

Synonym: Plan, Design

14) Unleash

Meaning: Cause (a strong or violent force) to be released or become unrestrained.

Example: The failure of the talks could unleash more fighting.

Synonym: Release, Unloose

Antonym: Keep, Hold

15) Gamut

Meaning: The complete range or scope of something.

Example: The whole gamut of human emotion.

Synonym: Range, Spectrum

16) Mess

Meaning: A situation that is confused and full of problems.

Example: The economy is still in a terrible mess.

Synonym: Plight, Predicament

Antonym: Neatness, Order

17) Framework

Meaning: An essential supporting structure of a building, vehicle, or object.

Example: A conservatory in a delicate framework of iron.

Synonym: Frame, Substructure

18) Stranded

Meaning: Left without the means to move from somewhere.

Example: She offers a lift to a stranded commuter.

Synonym: Helpless, Without assistance

19) Fleeing

Meaning: Run away from a place or situation of danger.

Example: To escape the fighting, his family fled from their village.

Synonym: Run, Escape

Antonym: Face, Meet

20) Ramp-up

Meaning: An increase in quantity, pace, output, intensity, etc.; a boost.

21) Reserved

Meaning: Slow to reveal emotion or opinions.

Example: He is a reserved, almost taciturn man.

Synonym: Reticent, Self-restrained

Antonym: Communicative, Sociable, Bold

22) Spheres

Meaning: A globe representing the earth.

Example: The room was littered with books, maps, and spheres.

Synonym: World, Globe

23) Counter

Meaning: A factor used to give one party an advantage in negotiations.

Example: The proposal has become a crucial bargaining counter over prices.

Synonym: Oppose, Against

Antonym: Agree, Peace

24) Minced

Meaning: Walk with short quick steps in an affectedly dainty manner.

Example: There were plenty of secretaries mincing about.

Synonym: Affected, Fastidious

25) Havens

Meaning: A place of safety or refuge.

Example: A haven for wildlife.

Synonym: Refuge, Retreat

26) Aid

Meaning: Financial or material help given to a country or area in need.

Example: 700,000 tons of food aid.

Synonym: Donations, Funding

Antonym: Taking, Harm

27) Seek

Meaning: Attempt or desire to obtain or achieve (something)

Example: The new regime sought his extradition.

Synonym: Try to obtain, Pursue

Antonym: Ignore, Neglect

28) Bar

Meaning: Prevent or prohibit (someone) from doing something or from going somewhere.

Example: Journalists had been barred from covering the elections.

Synonym: Prohibit, Debar

Antonym: Allow

29) Legitimate

Meaning: Conforming to the law or to rules.

Example: His claims to legitimate authority.

Synonym: Legal, Lawful

Antonym: Illegal, Improper

30) Isolating

Meaning: (of a language) tending to have each element as an independent word without inflections.

Example: We experiment these models on Classical Chinese, a typical isolating language.

Synonym: Estranging, Schismatic

Antonym: Unite, Join

31) Coalition

Meaning: A temporary alliance for combined action, especially of political parties forming a government.

Example: A coalition between Liberals and Conservatives.

Synonym: Alliance, Union

Antonym: Disunion, Parting

32) Clarity

Meaning: The quality of being coherent and intelligible.

Example: For the sake of clarity, each of these strategies is dealt with separately.

Synonym: Lucidity, Lucidness

Antonym: Inaccuracy, Dirtiness

33) Desisted

Meaning: Stop doing something; cease or abstain.

Example: Each pledged to desist from acts of sabotage.

Synonym: Abstain, Refrain

Antonym: Finish, Complete

34) Patrols

Meaning: An expedition to keep watch over an area, especially by guards or police walking or driving around at regular intervals.

Example: We were ordered to investigate on a night patrol.

Synonym: Vigil, Guard

35) Strides

Meaning: A step or stage in progress towards an aim.

Example: Great strides have been made towards equality.

Synonym: Progress, Headway

36) Lofty

Meaning: Of a noble or elevated nature.

Example: An extraordinary mixture of harsh reality and lofty ideals.

Synonym: Noble, Exalted

Antonym: Humble, Low

37) Disengage

Meaning: Separate or release (someone or something) from something to which they are attached or connected.

Example: I disengaged his hand from mine.

Synonym: Remove, Detach

Antonym: Engage, Attach

38) Maritime

Meaning: Living or found in or near the sea/ Connected with the sea

Example: Dolphins and other maritime mammals.

Synonym: Coastal, Seaside

39) Proximity

Meaning: Nearness in space, time, or relationship.

Example: Do not operate microphones in close proximity to television sets.

Synonym: Closeness, Nearness

Antonym: Distance, Remoteness

40) Pertains

Meaning: Be appropriate, related, or applicable to.

Example: Matters pertaining to the organization of government.

Synonym: Concern, Relate to

Antonym: Unwanted, Unnecessary