There is a spring in the step of the Jagan Reddy government following the Diplomatic Outreach programme it co-hosted with the external affairs ministry last Friday. Gushing about big ticket investments from the UK to South Korea, it has been patting itself on the back for an impressive show. Credit must be given where it is due. Yes, the Andhra Pradesh chief minister did make a cogent argument on the rationale behind his controversial decisions—scrapping of power purchase agreements (PPAs) and 75% job quota for locals in industries—but that isn’t enough.
The Central government itself isn’t buying his arguments and has been issuing warning after warning not to renegotiate the PPAs—a move it sees as a big hurdle to its vision of shifting the country to renewable energy and a major deterrent to foreign direct investment. The problem lies in the state government’s inability to formulate a roadmap, be it on PPAs or jobs quota, to allay the apprehensions and its hasty behaviour. CM Jagan rightly talked of the need to evolve a win-win formula. This, however, is in stark contrast to the way his government handled the PPAs. With the aggrieved firms dragging the government to court and the Centre fuming, the writing is on the wall. To prevent further erosion of the state’s credibility and emerge out of this with its head held high, the government would be well advised to walk the win-win talk.
The 75% job quota is an equally tricky path to negotiate. Even if one were to accept the government’s logic, leaving aside the issue of its legality, the obvious question is whether it has the ability to train locals to suit industry requirements. The chief secretary told the diplomats the government could impart training in even artificial intelligence. Not that it is impossible, but given the state of our skill development centres, it is just a fantasy. The sooner well-equipped and professionally run centres are opened the better. Only then can the government convince anyone that it means business.