India will be made ‘generator and inverter free’: Power Minister

New Delhi : Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government will work to provide 24×7 power supply to the people of India during its tenure and work towards making India “generator and inverter free,” Piyush Goyal, Union Minister of State (with independent charge) for Power, Coal and New and Renewable Energy said.

Delivering The Economist’s The India Summit’s 2014 keynote address – “Powering India’s Future” in the capital, Goyal, said that the greatest challenge he faced when he started as power minister was the transmission and distribution of power. He assured that “The Modi government will work to provide 24X7 power supply within the span of their tenure, with the expectation of making the country generator and inverter free.”

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The minister also stressed the need of renewable energy, a sector in which he expects to see $100 billion invested in 5 years.

He also urged large businesses to make investments in this sector and to utilize their CSR funds to support goals like skill development and building toilets.

Transmission and distribution are also likely to see investments of up to $50 billion in the next three to four years, according to the power minister.

Part of The Economist’s award winning country summit series, The India Summit 2014 assessed India’s new political landscape and what it means for business, the economy, foreign affairs, political bureaucracy and society. The theme of the event was -” Will India rise again under the new government?”

The event gathered a diverse audience of industry leaders, ministers, academicians and observers in the capital who discussed the hopes and expectations from the Modi government.

The panelists at the summit deliberated the expectations and challenges from Indian and foreign companies, women and other stakeholders and discussed how the new prime minister will approach the task of getting India’s economy moving again over the next five years.

“Overall we had a full day of strong and frank conversation, with some lively debates between panelists, as well as a great deal of interaction with the audience. That the room remained packed until the end was a testament to the usefulness of the day”, said Adam Roberts, The Economist South Asia bureau chief.

Gurcharan Das, author and columnist participating in the session on India’s challenges said that prime minister Modi had given wind to the sails of the bureaucracy who are now more upbeat and are working to clear projects. “Modi is an implementer. He may not be a classical reformer but he is a modernizer. He is more like Lee Kuan Yew,” he said.

In another session on India’s internet economy, senior leaders from the sector commented about how the internet has disrupted each and every sector because of its innovation and development of technology. “The penetration of internet market might not be very deep but in absolute numbers, it is huge and is still growing,” said Amit Agarwal, vice president and country manager, Amazon.

Foreign policy expert and distinguished fellow of Observer Research Foundation, C Raja Mohan said, “For the Prime Minister, the foreign policy is all about boosting the Indian economy. If he can improve the domestic economy policy, his success will be bigger in foreign policy.”

The representatives from Indian industries felt that major changes will come about with the direction that the government takes, whether it is towards power, housing or other sectors, it will contribute to growth and GDP of the country.

Sidharth Birla, President FICCI, said, “It is important to concentrate on the breadth of development taking place, rather than the gradual or the incremental growth. Infrastructure will provide maximum jobs and the budget has addressed it wonderfully.”

Foreign companies representatives drew attention towards the challenges faced by them which are similar to the ones faced by Indian companies. Foreign companies would like to see quicker decision making to improve investor confidence.

Sashi Mukundan of British Petroleum speaking on the energy sector highlighted that, “Oil and Gas in India is still being imported although it has the resources under the ground. 180 billion dollars of imports are coming in which may grow to 200-300.”

He also said that “PM should set up energy advisory board where he can hear of international experiences.”

Speaking on the telecom sector, Marten Pieters, MD & CEO of Vodafone, said, “Telecom sector needs more focus. Currently it maybe the focus for this government, but it is a mess. The thinking of how to get to the goals is not there even in the new government.”

Amitabh Kant, secretary, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, highlighted the government’s decisions to ease conducting business in India. “It has cut out rules, red-tapism and bureaucracy. Government is taking steps for fiscal credibility and consolidation, creating smart cities and improving confidence of investors. It is not against liberalization of trade policies. It will find the right path between food and trade policy.

“India has been a reluctant urbaniser, but this is changing. Strategy of this government is to have Chennai-Bangalore corridor, Amritsar-Kolkata corridor and others apart from DMIC leading to smart cities and hence manufacturing,” he said.

Jayant Sinha, member of parliament, highlighted the issue of FDI in multi-brand retail saying it should not be the litmus test.

Key sessions at the Summit 2014 focused on a wide array of discussions including what the new government can do to restore confidence and revive India’s corporate animal spirits; the current economic challenges including policy paralysis, stability, infrastructure, pollution and food security; how the internet has changed the Indian consumer landscape and how Internet-based firms are poised to be the new kings and queens of consumerism; if women can assert themselves among corporate hierarchies; if the new government’s reform efforts will get India’s growth rate moving towards double digits; if reform will help boost manufacturing and create enough jobs to absorb workers, and if the existing reforms are enough to ensure India is safe from a currency crisis.