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Reporter's Diary

PUBLIC-PRIVATE participation is a favourite theme of modern planners and rulers. When the exchequer is not able to meet the needs of development, this should be an acceptable practice. There is no dearth of funds in the private sector and deploying it for the benefit of the public is a challenging task.

In a globalised economy, business is no more an anathema. In fact, a flourishing business is considered a barometer of economic growth in the annals of modern fiscal management.

Flush with money, but no proper channels to deliver. This is the situation at least in the case of certain companies. Many of them are waiting for the right opportunity. For, none wants to invest in something that is not rewarding. And, rewards don't mean returns in cash alone. It can have wider perspectives.

Much has been said about the bad condition of roads. If the Government does not have the means to repair them, the best way out would be to make use of private funds. It is not necessary that the Government has to borrow huge amounts for the purpose. There are private entities ready to invest in such social ventures provided the credit goes to them. The Government need not even ask them to build and operate, but can ask them to invest in maintenance with the promise to allow them to display their advertisements. Spending on publicity is not new to private entities. So, why can't they earn a name by spending on the welfare of people? Of course, this need not end with roads. Wells, streetlights, shelters,... the list could be endless.

* * *

A NATIVE of Kochi has given a first person account of the tsunami calamity when he was in Port Blair with his ship on December 26. M. Unnikrishnan, chief engineer of the Shipping Corporation of India, happens to be the cousin of retired Judge of the Kerala High Court V. Bhaskaran Nambiar and the narration came in a recent letter to Kochi. The ship was about 300 miles from the epicentre of the underwater quake and he recalls that he was woken up by a series of heavy vibrations of the ship, which were initially considered as earthquake of the sea bed, a common occurrence on the Japanese coast. He says the crew was not prepared for what happened next. In an hour's time, a series of giant waves lashed the harbour breaking loose vessels moored at the harbour. These waves, unlike tidal waves or cyclonic storms, are very silent and are not preceded by heavy wind or low pressure, normally associated with heavy seas. But the height and speed of the waves were never seen before, he recounts.

"It is as though the sea has come to life and is reclaiming what it has lost to the land; there has not been much loss of life as it was Sunday morning," he says.

The shipper also says that relief work was excellent and the ship already made trips to Chennai with tsunami victims with loads of relief materials. The ship also made trips to Car Nicobar, which is only sixty nautical miles from Sumatra coast. Lots of money and material are pouring in , but the islanders have become panicky and are leaving for the mainland. Tourist traffic to the island has also died down, he recalls.

K. Venkiteswaran

By R. Ramabhadran Pillai and K. Venkiteswaran

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