Tuesday November 19, 2019
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When ‘trending’ deaths matter more

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While media claims to be the fourth pillar of democracy in India, recent trends in catering news indicates a paradigm shift in the basic principles of the news organisations.

With the increasing prominence of new media, print media is slowly limping towards an untimely death. Taking undue advantage of the situation, news channels are vying with each other in sensationalizing news.

And, in a bid to stay ahead of the pack, news channels overhype one story suddenly and eclipse another one. In this process the actual objective of the media is forgotten.

Salman Khan hit-and-run case verdict vs TMC leaders Mamata and Mukul dining together

Media in West Bengal went berserk with news channels flashing news of estranged stalwarts of the Trinamool Congress dining together. Following the Sharada fiasco and the CBI crackdown, Mukul Roy parted ways with his ‘Didi’ (Mamata Banerjee).

The news that could have set the tone for the assembly polls was eclipsed by the verdict on the hit and run case involving Bollywood superstar Salman Khan.

The Bombay High Court acquitted the Bollywood Star from all criminal charges in alleged hit-and-run case. The verdict swept the attention towards Bollywood with news channels holding panel discussions on the functioning of the Indian judiciary.

Chennai floods vs Paris attack

The ISIS attack on Paris was a man-made disaster while the Chennai flood was not. The attack was undeniably condemnable, but it were the strategies of some global powerful men that led to the massacre. But the calamity that struck Chennai and other neighboring regions had no human motive behind it.

But Indian media highlighted the Paris attack and the Chennai people were left deprived. While the death of over 125 people in the attack made the headline, the death of over 150 persons in the flood was not worthy enough to make it to the top stories.

Since ‘Paris attack’ news was ‘trending’, the news channels pounced on it to have the edge over their competitors.

Some might call the Paris victims as ‘martyrs’ but media had no name for those who ‘gave their lives in the flood’.

CBI raid on Kejriwal office vs Shakur Basti demolition

In a bid to get political mileage, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal pounced upon the opportunity and belittled the BJP-led government. He went to the extent to call the Railways officials as ‘animals’. As a result, Kejriwal with all his tantrums was all over the media.

However, the media was once again at its canny best when the very next day it aired that Kejriwal’s office was raided by the CBI.

The Shakur Basti vanished from the scene.

It is the media that has the power to make people laugh, cry, think and build consensus. And it does. But does it serve the noble cause of being the fourth pillar of democracy? Or media has become a corporate entity filling up the coffers of the owners.

“The nation wants to know?”

Next Story

India Plans to Open 100 New Airports by 2024

The recent problems that renewable energy companies in Andhra Pradesh have faced once again bring to the fore the issues

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India, Airport, News
Litigations resulting from retroactive changes in contracts that have been signed years back seriously affect the capacity of the infrastructure sector to attract. Pixabay

The recent news that India plans to open 100 new airports by 2024 is both ambitious and commendable. That said, large-scale infrastructure push whether in airports or any other sector will have to overcome challenges that are being faced across the infrastructure horizon in India. More importantly, common pitfalls such as retroactive contract changes must be avoided in the process of infrastructure creation. It needs to be underscored that the challenges that Indian infrastructure must overcome are neither new nor exclusive to India. But, a re-examination of the problems is critical to further looking for solutions that can exacerbate infrastructure creation.

Firstly, issues around contract enforcement such as Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) must be reduced to the minimum. Litigations resulting from retroactive changes in contracts that have been signed years back seriously affect the capacity of the infrastructure sector to attract the required capital. The recent problems that renewable energy companies in Andhra Pradesh have faced once again bring to the fore the issues around contract enforcement in India.

While litigations in business in general, especially in complex infrastructure projects, is a concomitant of normal proceedings, the revision of existing PPAs that were assigned via open auctions creates serious impediments for capital sourcing for Indian infrastructure. Not only are such issues negative for the existing investors in the projects, but also send wrong signals to prospective investors who are contemplating investments in India. Such contract enforcement issues significantly reduce the “bankability” of infrastructure projects, an outcome that militates the aim of rapid infrastructure creation in India.

Secondly, it is essential for India to ensure that infrastructure and infrastructure-related businesses have ease of access to inputs at appropriate price levels, so that the businesses created can deliver the infrastructure service sustainably and at prices that reflect the real value of the asset. This point applies across the spectrum from land acquisition price for highways to spectrum auction prices in telecom.

India, Airport, News
Firstly, issues around contract enforcement such as Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) must be reduced to the minimum. Pixabay

The appropriate input prices for infrastructure requires balancing a multitude of factors such as a fair price for the inputs (such as land and spectrum), a price that allows a sustainable business, a price that will enable customers access to a service at charges deemed reasonable, profits to the entrepreneurs, sustainable projects especially for lenders and the long-term prospects of the sector. At the least, one must realise that the different objectives cannot all be improved upon concurrently. However, all are critical and, more importantly, in the long-run aggressively pursuing one aim at the cost of the others renders the projects in distress, thereby putting at risk the interest of all stakeholders. Balancing the various objectives will be even more vital going forward as all stakeholders need to get a fair deal.

Thirdly, a renewed focus is needed on the “pricing” of the infrastructure service to the end-user. Once again, the “appropriate level” of user charges will require balancing the interests of the various stakeholders. The “pricing” refers to the toll-road charge, electricity charge, airport user charges etc. While the charges are essential for specific projects to deliver returns, the charges must be sustainable from a long-term perspective and reflect to a large degree the economic value the end-user derives from the usage of the asset. Most importantly, if infrastructure services are intended to be provided free of cost, with significant subsidies or with full user-charges, then the government must plan for financing for the project with clarity around what components are to be financed by the budget and what components are to be funded by investors. Determining the appropriate level of user-charges is essential for the financial sustainability of the projects.

Essentially, “price” for the infrastructure service rendered is the core value that determines the cashflows of any project. Therefore, a precise evaluation of the risks and issues that the cashflows face is critical for long-term infrastructure creation. For instance, for a toll-road, the toll-tax paid must be evaluated on a variety of benchmarks including but not limited to the convenience of the toll-road relative to alternatives, the long-term sustainability of the toll-charge, a reasonable estimate of toll-charge hikes priced into the future etc. While determining the appropriate level isn’t an easy task, a lack of focus on the long-term financial sustainability of projects runs the risk of rendering projects to suffer once the asset is operational.

Also Read- UN Confirms Madrid as New Location for Global Climate Meeting

Most importantly, it is vital to note that contract enforcement, right price of infrastructure inputs and the appropriate user charges are all intertwined and contribute significantly towards the availability of financing and rapid infrastructure creation. The eventual aim is to create bankable infrastructure projects that can financially sustain themselves over the life of the asset to create value for all stakeholders involved. (IANS)