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Two announcements of the past few days grabbed attention. One was the Tata-owned Air India’s eye-popping order for 470 passenger planes, with options on another 370. The combined total of 840 is more than today’s all-airline fleet of 700 aircraft, flying as well as grounded. The second announcement was an investment commitment of about Rs 3.5 trillion by various business houses, led by Mukesh Ambani, Kumar Mangalam Birla and Tata, for a single state (Uttar Pradesh).
Such announcements prompt the question: What degree of dominance, if any, do India’s biggest business groups enjoy? Put another way, how much of the country’s ambitions are pegged to the success of these groups? By one tally, Gautam Adani’s companies run “some of India’s biggest ports…, warehouse 30 per cent of its grain, operate a fifth of its power transmission lines, accommodate a quarter of its commercial air traffic, and produce perhaps a fifth of
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