Thursday, September 30, 2010

Arts that make your mind blow

  • ……………..the art that blows your mind, is something you feel with more than your mind. It makes your hair stand on end. It takes your head off. It has a physical effect, like some kind of vicious blow that makes you jitter with excitement, or some kind of fierce cloud that enfolds you in a hard, clammy grip. It's like getting a kick up the spine with a cosmic boot, or having your senses garroted by an expert assassin, or suddenly being plunged into water so cold it shocks you to death. Kafka's “ax that breaks the frozen sea inside us” springs to mind.

  • I'm sorry, but The Departed just didn't do that for me. Yeah, yeah, it gets a best picture Oscar for Marty Scorcese, but it's just another excellent crime movie, and not even as good as De Palma'sScarface. I won't even talk about Slum Dog Millionaire -- that's just a Rocky for Occidentals who like their condescension towards Orientals to come back at them with a happy ending. The Hurt Locker was excellent, but not Godard. Or even Pialat.

Read the full article Are Our Writers As Lousy As Our Bankers? by Evert Cilliers aka Adam Ash

Blinking links

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ben S. Bernanke and F A Hayek: Paul Walker has point

From Paul Walker Post:

Ben S. Bernanke gave a speech on the "Implications of the Financial Crisis for Economics" at Princeton. In it he said:

  • Although economists have much to learn from this crisis, as I will discuss, I think that calls for a radical reworking of the field go too far. In particular, it seems to me that current critiques of economics sometimes conflate three overlapping yet separate enterprises, which, for the purposes of my remarks today, I will call economic science, economic engineering, and economic management. Economic science concerns itself primarily with theoretical and empirical generalizations about the behavior of individuals, institutions, markets, and national economies. Most academic research falls in this category. Economic engineering is about the design and analysis of frameworks for achieving specific economic objectives. Examples of such frameworks are the risk-management systems of financial institutions and the financial regulatory systems of the United States and other countries. Economic management involves the operation of economic frameworks in real time--for example, in the private sector, the management of complex financial institutions or, in the public sector, the day-to-day supervision of those institutions.

For me I think someone should point out to Ben that the public sector cannot carryout the real time, day-to-day supervision of financial institutions and in trying may well cause more problems than they solve. Did Hayek not point out the important of knowledge of time and place, knowledge that central planners and regulators just can get. Without it regulators cannot regulate.

Three in one

“The politicians, bureaucrats, bankers and regulators who managed the crisis speak at length for the first time”.

That is the sort of story and read by clicking the above link to recall the 2008 history of Indian version of financial crisis.

Naxalites are good for nothing but local welfare!!

There is a new Survey by IMRB for ToI:

  • The towns in which the poll was conducted were Kamareddy in Nizamabad district, Gudi Hathnoor in Adilabad, Sirsilla in Karimnagar, Mahbubabad in Warangal and Palwancha in Khammam. A total of 521 people were polled in these five towns, a statistically robust sample size.
  • Almost 60% said the Naxalites were good for the area and only 34% felt life had improved since they were beaten back. As for whether exploitation has increased after the Naxalite influence waned, 48% said it had against 38% who said it hadn't, the rest offering no opinion.
  • Equally importantly, 50% of the respondents felt the Naxalites had forced the government to focus on development work in the affected areas. What these responses show is just how negative the perception of the government is in these parts.

PS: By no means I support the cruelty of Naxalites and their activities.

Global Millennium Free Trade (GMFT)

Shashi Tharoor writes in todays HT that one thing important for achieving MDG 8 is to unleashing the trade.

  • Trade is the other key area. In contrast to aid, greater access to the markets of the developed world creates incentives and fosters institutions in the developing world that are self-sustaining, collectively-policed and inevitably with greater consequences for human welfare. In other words, the average tariff levels in the developed world would mean more over the long run than generous aid packages alone. Many countries wish to trade their way out of poverty, but are prevented from doing so by high tariff barriers, domestic subsidies and other protections enjoyed by their competitors in the rich countries. Such practices have to change.

Let us not blame it on our culture.

True, I believe it! That is what says Arun Maira but the below case is a point relevant in the wave of open corrupt Common Wealth Games.

  • Some years ago, a German TV channel publicized what Indians had accomplished at the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad in 2001. Over 60 million people were there, the largest gathering at any one place at any one time anywhere in the world. It was much larger than the Olympics or World Cup. The budget to provide the required facilities was less than Rs 50 crore. Remarkably good organization prevented any deaths. Millions of pilgrims fulfilled their dreams. Mission accomplished. Tata Motors' Project Jupiter in the 1980s designed and produced a new light commercial vehicle—the 407—without foreign technology to beat back Japanese competition. It was done in 18 months, a world record. Like the Maha Kumbh Mela, Project Jupiter achieved its goals with excellent project management and teamwork, both of which were missing in the organization of the Delhi CWG.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Key hulchul Trust?

If you have read the Nandan's Book Imagining India: Ideas for the New Century, probably you would be knowing how many law suits Mr.Manish Sabharwal has been facing. Its over 1500!!. In a recent article he brings an interesting news of how the actually looting takes place in public in the most celebrated democracy of India: Here is a bit:

  • Despite his recent bail, Ramalinga Raju of Satyam has learnt the hard way that those who ride tigers end up inside them. But the hole he created—about Rs 10,000 crore—is small relative to the Rs 50,000 crore deficit in the Employee Pension Scheme (EPS) created by the trustees of the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO). If the trustees are not willing to take responsibility for this hole they must be held liable or made to resign so that we fix the birth defect in the governance structure at EPFO, which allowed the introduction of what is possibly the world’s only pension scheme that has defined both benefits and contributions.

  • More importantly, the decision by the trustees to pay an above-market rate return to members is symbolic of the lack of “fiduciary” perspective at the EPFO Board. First, this money has not been earned but created by a kind of accounting that is of not much higher quality than Satyam. Second, if this mythical Rs 2,000 crore does exist, why not use it to fill in the EPS hole? Third, why reduce benefits under EPS and EPFO that are in good enough health to declare an investment bonus?

The State failure harm more than anything else

Dsylexic asked me to comment on the issues raised in the piece on “A Recipe for Famine” by Girish Shahane in the Yahoo! Column published on September 20, 2010. At the outset I would like to confess that it is very easy to rubbish Girish’s article. But what he has understood and what he has not is the different views expressed by mainstream economists and others (like Prof.S Ambirajan). The comparative picture of both the sides needs to be considered first and understood.

It is not surprising to me that when Girish quotes or take references persons like Amartya Sen, Ajit Kumar Ghose, Jayati Ghosh etc. All these people are socialists without doubt. In the hurry to write his piece he has completely misunderstood what the free market system is and the history of famine in pre-independent India and it further seems to be that he has paid no attention to what other side of the coin was and how that had been described.

I have no doubt as I have read the marvelous book (Classical Political Economy and British Policy in India) more eloquently written by Professor S. Ambirajan. I am sure by all means that if Mr Girish reads only the Chapter Two of this book I would come to know how foolish it is to conclude that “The free market solution, however, would be considerably more damaging than even the Supreme Court's order.”

In fact I don’t think Girish understood anything from the Prof. Basu’s recent paper on The Economics of Foodgrain Management in India (pdf).

If I wanted to quote from Prof. Ambirajan’s book it would be the whole portion of Chapter Two and it is extremely interesting to read the chapter and ponder over it how the famine polices were debated, understood and practiced with regard to free trade, intervention, free market system etc. Even more interesting is the unfolding of famine polices in different Presidencies. There was no 'one size fits all' policy for the country as a whole as Girish understood one size actually fits all over the country.

Also read:

  1. Famines in India and free market

Mega loot

Mr.Mohit Satyanand ahs piece on “All Piglets are Equal”. Concluding part his column:

  • Since the Society's governing body includes the Cabinet Secretary, the Home Secretary, and the Foreign Secretary, it has little difficulty in raising the resources to carry out this noble work. In the case of the Sanskriti School, these include 7.67 acres of land in the diplomatic enclave of Chanakyapuri, worth well over a thousand crores, leased to the school for Rs. 2 per annum. The school was built by grants of Rs. 23.8 crores by government bodies, including the Ministry of HRD, the department of Personnel and Training, and the Central Board of Customs and Excise.
  • Later, the Reserve Bank of India jumped on to the band wagon, donating Rs. 1 crore, to facilitate admission of its employees' children to the school. That led the Delhi High Court to fulminate, "there is nothing on record to suggest any central government policy to prioritise education of wards of its employees through donations to private schools." And, "the conditionality of having to admit children of employees of central government can hardly be characterised as a legitimate public end. It certainly would not muster any permissible classification test under Article 14 (Right to Equality) of the Constitution."
  • Public funds lavished on private purpose, the spirit of our Constitution violated to create islands of privilege - elitism is the natural instinct of our governing class. Talk of equity is cynical politics at its worst. But it keeps the jholawalas happy, for a while.

Well done Ali Mehdi!! ‘They produce so many children and then expect us to fill their stomachs’

The recognition that the problem of development programmes is not simply a problem of governance and service delivery, but primarily that of unrealistic policy-making and planning, is significant in view of the fact that many public officials, right from the very top levels of the Central government to local pradhans, have very little knowledge of the actual living conditions of ordinary people, particularly the poor and marginalised.

The Gandhian Approaches

No doubt, Chetan rightly says that:

  • The first trait is servility. At school, our education system hammers out our individual voices and kills our natural creativity, turning us into servile, coursematerial slaves. Indian kids are not encouraged to raise their voices in class, particularly when they disagree with the teacher. And of course, no subject teaches us imagination, creativity or innovation. Course materials are designed for no-debate kind of teaching. For example, we ask: how many states are there in India ? 28. Correct. Next question -how is a country divided into states? What criteria should be used? Since these are never discussed , children never develop their own viewpoint or the faculty to think.

  • We see corruption from our childhood. Almost all of us have been asked to lie about our age to the train TC, claiming to be less than 5 years old to get a free ride. It creates a value system in the child's brain that 'anything goes', so long as you can get away with it. A bit of lying here, a bit of cheating there is seen as acceptable. Hence, we all grow up slightly numb to corruption. Not even one high profile person in India is behind bars for corruption right now. This could be because, to a certain extent, we don't really care.

  • Even today, most of India votes on one criterion – caste. Dalits vote for Dalits, Thakurs for Thakurs and Yadavs for Yadavs. In such a scenario, why would a politician do any real work? When we choose a mobile network, do we check if Airtel and Vodafone belong to a particular caste? No, we simply choose the provider based on the best value or service. Then, why do we vote for somebody simply because he has the same caste as ours?
  • ……we can change one thing – our mindset. And collectively, this alone has the power to make the biggest difference. We have to unlearn whatever is holding us back, and definitely break the cycle so we don't pass on these traits to the next generation. Our children should think creatively, have opinions and speak up in class. They should learn what is wrong is wrong – no matter how big or small. And they shouldn't hate other people on the basis of their background. Let us also resolve to start working on our own minds, right now. A change in mindset changes the way people vote, which in turn changes politicians.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

For the academician, the student is just a means to his ends

The emotional brain responds to an event more quickly than the thinking brain — Galileo Galilei. A case study on emotional intelligence.

Faire trade or free trade

The Destructive Fair Trade Movement By Adam Shaw

Law for votes not for governance

Mr.Bimal Jalan is former RBI Governor and author of The Future of India — Politics, Economics and Governance. I have read this book during my visits to few metro cities in this July/August. Fortunately, when I was in city I attended some of Jalan’s talks and interactions but I never told him that I have been reading his book because I really wanted to know a bird’s eye view of his understanding of India and the world.

When I finished reading his book I really felt that he his more of moderator than a true believer of liberal ideas. Though he often tends to believe readers of his book as he is liberal ideas believer but it does not fully convinced me. But still it seems to me to be that he is of the view of limited democracy is essential! I have read many of his other writings. Here is a bit from his today’s Column in BS:

“There is nothing new about the disappointment of citizens and columnists with the indifferent performance of ministers, bureaucratic inefficiency and widespread corruption. What is new is that, cutting across different sections of media and policy preferences of editors and columnists, there is an emerging consensus that government has become largely non-functional.

Note: His education at Cambridge and Oxford is not known, probably to many!

New “eight millennium aspirations, in a Buddhist sequence”

Yes, the “former administrator, diplomat and governor” Mr. Gopalkrishna Gandhi crafted another “eight millennium aspirations” thankfully not a “goals”. The following are his “aspirations”:

With the experience of two decades of self-admitted failures behind us, we should own that more of the same would not work any longer. We need something new. Can we consider not in substitution, certainly not in competition, but in co-extensive mutuality with the eight MDGs the following eight millennium aspirations, in a Buddhist sequence, for the urgent needs of today’s world but with specific salience to India:

* Understand that the expropriating of our scarce resources will leave us nowhere;

* Think about the whys and wherefores of food insecurity to see how different the determinants of food security are today from those of the past;

* Speak to farmers, herders, fishers, who are going to face a worsening of soil degradation and sharp water scarcities, in order to learn from them about as much as to suggest to them ways of coping with those that will be ecologically intelligent;

* Act with speed to check the loss of plant and animal diversity that work as a natural bio-shield;

* Retrieve livelihoods from manipulators and monopolists, including from those trade unions and NGOs who by their creation of dependence bring trade unionism and voluntarism into disrepute;

* Set in motion efforts by those NGOs and trade unions or ‘faith groups’ to ensure that bulk users of energy and water cut waste and callous extravagance, and are not able to hide behind the ‘per capita’ principle;

* Be mindful of how rapidly villages are becoming towns, towns turning into cities and cities morphing into metropolises, see if we are not consigning ourselves to a future where we will all have to wear masks before venturing outdoors;

* Contemplate that the good intent of all those at the third summit, hope against fears that India which can stop a Vedanta in its tracks, and make the Lower Subansiri Project answer the world’s questions on its advisability, can also give us that gift of seeing, as U. Thant might have done, the practical wisdom of the Tathagata, or (adaptively) the ‘One Who Walked That Other Way’.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Some random thought

There is so much written in The constitution of India but so little have been understood what it meant, and so little The Governments did in the last sixty years. Beside, there is so much nonsense in real, local and global politics. Economics is an economics, nothing more, but everything!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Every change is small and micro

Mr.Swaminathan Aiyar has interesting piece in today’s ET where he writes:

“Charging poor people 30% interest sounds terrible.

Also read a recent very interesting piece by Vinod Khosla on the same issues which Mr. Aiyar has highlighted.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Vicious circle of policing

Prof.Pratap Bhanu Mehta writes:

  • A state that does not take the lives of those who discharge its sovereign functions seriously is unlikely to be able to send a signal to anyone else in society that it takes their lives seriously.

And moreover

  • ……the state has treated the police in unconscionable ways. On any measure of state support, whether it is as simple a thing as buying reliable bullet-proof jackets, to training and providing for better means of crowd control, the state has failed. The CAG Compendium of Performance Audit Reviews on Modernisation of the Police Force catalogues every shortcoming you can imagine. In states like Bengal and Bihar, live training was not imparted to police forces, UP has slightly over a fifth of the required vehicles it needs for normal patrolling, the incorporation of new technologies was abysmal. States like Rajasthan took less than half of their Central allocation; many spent only a fraction of their allocation. The housing crisis for policemen is dire. A lot of this is the characteristic inefficiency of the state. But it sends a powerful signal about how cheap we think policing is, in both a social and a financial sense.

Get out of land business politics

“The sarkar, whether at the state or at the central level, is, therefore, the ultimate zamindar.”

Monday, September 20, 2010

Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life

That is the new biography book by Nicholas Phillipson. I am posting full review by V V in the BS for record. Before you read the review article. I want you to know few things. Prof Ronald Coase is the longest living economist with Nobel Prize in Economics and he is going to be 99 by this December! Last year I have read the book Life of Adam Smith by John Rae and its worth to read and ponder the life of great philosopher of life.

V V: The wealth of Adam Smith

V V / New Delhi September 18, 2010, 0:03 IST Business Standard

The main activity of economists since 1776 has been to fill the gaps in Adam Smith’s system, to correct his errors and to make his analysis vastly more exact
Ronald Coase, Nobel Prize Speech, 1991

  • It is now widely accepted that biographies of great writers are interesting only insofar as they illuminate their work, and to do this effectively requires a discursiveness on the part of the biographer which alone would tell you what turned the writer on to do the work she did in her lifetime. Not to emphasise the work would be to reduce the biography to an exercise of hagiography like most of our biographies of the big and famous that tell us of lives too good to be true. Nicholas Phillipson’s Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life (Allen Lane/Penguin, Special Indian Price, Rs 899) places his work, widely regarded as the foundation of modern economics, firmly within the larger scheme to establish a grand “Science of Man” that encompassed law, history, aesthetics, economics and ethics — more a work of philosophy than of pure economics.
  • Possibly because An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776) was multidisciplinary and broadened the study that Adam Smith began in The Theory of Moral Sentiments nearly 20 years earlier in 1759, there has been no unanimity on what precisely his influence was based on. Was it because he was the masterly advocate of laissez faire? That he was opposed to every effort by a government to control the self-interested activities of individual economic actors, so granting the licence to greed and other vices, and malpractices, and quite content that markets should be the battlefield from which the most oppressive combatants would emerge as “victors”?
  • Should the “Invisible Hand” of the market decide? What does his statement that “it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner but from their regard to their self-interest” really mean? Quite apart from the fact that these iconic statements can be interpreted in different ways, there is also the sad fact that not many economists have read The Wealth of Nations as a whole; they have snatched bits and pieces and drawn their half-baked conclusions that we have accepted as the truth because they came down to us from experts.
  • The basic question we need to ask is whether Smith wholly approved of a society in which man’s economic activities are actuated by self-interest. In his Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith had identified human perfection with virtue and virtue of the highest order with altruism. Phillipson’s biography provides a balanced picture of Adam Smith’s work against the background of the Scottish Enlightenment and the influence of his philosopher friend, David Hume. A good biography is itself a kind of a novel. Like the classic novel, a novel believes in the notion of a “life, a story that begins at birth, moves on to a middle part, and ends with the death of the protagonist”. So, it is here but it is primarily “an intellectual biography, one which traces the development of his mind and character through his published and unpublished texts, one that is set in a country that was generating its own form of Enlightenment”. Phillipson succeeds in showing that all of Smith’s writings make up a single coherent whole. He begins by giving a compact account of Smith’s life and times and of the intellectual traditions that he drew on and modified.
  • Given this background, Phillipson turns to his central undertaking, pointing out that, according to Smith, a commercial society tends to promote certain virtues among its members. By eradicating poverty, it reduces incentives for individuals to resort to crime and nations to enrich themselves by wars of aggression.
  • By maintaining a stable Constitution, especially if courts are independent and markets are free, a commercial society enhances individual freedom, which is a precondition of moral choice. Competition in markets compels individuals to exercise self-control, prudence and industriousness, virtues which, though imperfect, are attainable by ordinary people. Although these virtues promote the well-being of the individual rather than the good of others, they unintentionally benefit others. Phillipson suggests that Smith’s practical aim throughout the Theory of Moral Sentiments is “designing the decent society”.
  • The Wealth of Nations, which is a follow-up to Moral Sentiments, shows how men can live and work well together. Accordingly, Smith urged governments to do two things — promulgate justice and foster institutions that improve people’s moral conduct. Basic among such institutions is the family, which lays the foundations of moral conduct by training the child to restrain its will and respect others.
  • Smith’s practical proposals aimed to improve both material and moral conditions of people. Because his books have not been read as a whole, today’s social scientists and proponents of public policy have ignored or distorted his outlook. Above all, they have ignored Smith’s constant theme that unintended consequences of good intentions are often bad. The biography sums up Smith’s intellectual contribution and for this alone, the book needs to be read, and not just by economists.

See also an interesting post in the MR.

K Natwar Singh’s Tailpiece

He writes in BS:

  • "A word about Article 370 of our Constitution. The BJP, when out of office, invokes this Article in connection with Jammu and Kashmir. It does not do so while in government. How did Article 370 find a place in the Constitution? On page 55 of Volume 3 of Letters to Chief Ministers, Pandit Nehru wrote, “This matter came up before us when the Constitution of India was being finalised about November 1949. Sardar Patel dealt with it then and he gave a special, though transitional, place to the Jammu and Kashmir state in our Constitution.”
  • The transitional bit was jettisoned soon thereafter. Now, it is unlikely to be dropped or even modified. Life was much less complicated in 1949."

Back to counting the errors of World Financial Crisis

Prof. Deepak Lal on “..impotence of monetary policy, is a paper tiger.

  • ..the 2008 Crash is best seen as a Hayekian recession caused by “easy money” with the Fisherian consequences of a “balance-sheet recession”. How can the central bank avoid the deflationary Fisherian consequences of a financial crisis when — after the Hayekian boom — deleveraging is required by most agents in the economy?

The reviving B-E-E-H-A-R-R

Economist Bibek Debroy has a piece on “An area of light?” which narrates the raise of Bihar vis-à-vis its neighbors.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Undo rationalist

From Mr.Swami Vivekananda’s The First Step towards Jnana:

  • To be a rationalist requires more than unbelief. You must be able not only to reason, but also to follow the dictates of your reason. If reason tells you that this body is an illusion, are you ready to give it up? Reason tells you that heat and cold are mere illusions of your senses; are you ready to brave these things? If reason tells you that nothing that the senses convey to your mind is true, are you ready to deny your sense perception? If you dare, you are a rationalist.

  • It is very hard to believe in reason and follow truth. This whole world is full either of the superstitious or of half-hearted hypocrites. I would rather side with superstition and ignorance than stand with these half-hearted hypocrites. They are no good. They stand on both sides of the river.

Why don’t you name it “a corporate, Hindu, satellite state”?

In her interview with Mr.Karan Thapar’s Devil's Advocates Ms.Roy reveals her views on The State and the Naxlites movement etc.

One has to read the full interview. Its quite interesting. Some excerpts:

Karan Thapar: That I understand but do you support any attempt to overthrow the Indian state?

Arundhati Roy: Well, I can't say I do because they will lead me from here, in chains.

Karan Thapar: That technicality apart, it sounds as if you do.

Arundhati Roy: However, I believe that the Indian state has abdicated its responsibility to the people. I believe that. I believe that when a state is no longer bound, neither legally nor morally by the Indian Constitution, either we should rephrase the preamble of the Indian Constitution which says...

Karan Thapar: Or?

Arundhati Roy: Which says we are a sovereign, democratic, secular republic. We should rephrase it and say we are a corporate, Hindu, satellite state.

Karan Thapar: Or?

Arundhati Roy: Or we have to have a government which respects the Constitution or we change the Constitution.

Karan Thapar: Let me be blunt. It sounds very much to the audience as if you are trying to find a clever, subtle way of saying that you do support the Maoists commitment to overthrow the state but you are scared to say it upfront because you are scared that you would be whisked away to jail.

Arundhati Roy: If I say that I support the Maoists' desire to overthrow the Indian State, I would be saying that I am a Maoist. But I am not a Maoist.

Karan Thapar: But you sympathise with them.

Arundhati Roy: I do sympathise with all the movements. I am on this side of the line with a group of people who are saying that here is a State that is willing to bring out the Army against the poorest people not just in the country but in the world. I cannot support that.

Karan Thapar: Let me put this to you. You sympathise with the Maoist cause, but what about the tactics that the Maoists use? The problem is that the Maoists want to trade a new democratic order not by persuading people, not by winning legitimate elections but by armed liberation struggle. To many, that is tantamount to civil war. Do you go that far with them?

Arundhati Roy: There is already a civil war. I don't believe that a resistance movement that believes only in violence will lead to a new democracy. I don't believe that. Neither do I believe that if you doctrinally say you must only be non-violent, I believe that is a twisted way of supporting the status quo. I believe that has to be a bandwidth of resistance and I certainly believe that when your village is surrounded by 800 CRPF men who are raping and burning and looting, you can't say I am going on a hunger strike. Then, I support people's right to resist that.

Karan Thapar: But put this to me. If you support, no matter what qualifications you add, the right of the Maoists to resist with violence: whether you call it armed liberation struggle or whatever.

Arundhati Roy: You keep on going to these Maoists.

Karan Thapar: If you support that, no matter with what qualification, how then can you deny the State the right to resort to arms to defend itself?

Arundhati Roy: The State doesn't have to defend itself. The State is supposed to represent the people and defend the people.

Karan Thapar: But if the State is under attack, it is the people that are under attack and...

Arundhati Roy: It is not under attack. The State is perpetrating the attack. That is what I am

trying to say. The State is going in violation of its own Constitution and perpetrating an attack. If you look at the recent report, the censured chapter in a recent report by the Panchayati Raj, it says so clearly: the State is being completely illegal in its actions. What do you suggest people should do when an army, a police, a paramilitary, an air force is going to start making war on the poor? Do you suggest that they should leave and live in camps and allow the rich and the corporates and the mining sector to take over?

Karan Thapar: So you are saying that the Maoists and all the other resistance fighters are left with no option but to fight back?

Arundhati Roy: What I am saying is that if a State respects non-violent resistance as has been the case in years, but if you ignore non-violence, by default you privilege violence.

Make RTE work

I would agree what Mr.Ashok Malik says on the RTE and its 25 percent reservation in primary school enrolment. But the supply side is not only abysmal but its very pathetic.

Some excerpts:

  • It is estimated 142 million Indian children are denied access to primary and secondary education due to inadequate schools or social and family conditions. That number is bigger than the entire population of Japan. If 'out of school' Indian children had a country of their own, it would be among the 10 most populated in the world.
  • These children are tomorrow's workers part of India's 'demographic dividend' for the early 21st century. Yet, if they are left uneducated (or undereducated), India will not achieve many of the social and economic goals it has set itself. As such, getting them into the classroom has to be a national priority.
  • For instance, the director of education, government of Delhi, already has wide-ranging powers under the Delhi School Education Act, 1973. The RTE draft rules harden the director's authority still more and give him unrestrained miscellaneous powers. The draft rules in Karnataka allow the state government to "fix the scale of fee...that can be collected by a private unaided institution". Since poor students admitted under the RTE Act won't be paying fees at all, why is this sentence needed?
  • There are other, pan-Indian angularities. The RTE Act is applicable from ages six to 14 or classes I to VIII. Should a municipal birth certificate not be available, how would the age of the child be determined? Some states have recommended legitimate alternative documents. For example, Goa has mandated a baptism certificate.
  • Most states have ruled schools also accept self-declaration of a candidate's age by his parents. Some states have directed that "the school at its expense shall cause a medical examination of the child by a qualified doctor and enter the date of birth as certified by the doctor". All this is liable to create distortions and potentially lead to ridiculous situations such as an eight-year-old in class I.
  • The tragedy is even if all private schools in India became optimally RTE-compliant, it will not mean much. Across the country, 93 per cent of school-going children go to government or government-aided institutions. In Delhi, the number is over 90 per cent. In Maharashtra, as per a government report of 2005, 90 per cent of the state's 67,885 primary schools are run by zila parishads and municipal bodies and charge no fees.
  • If the RTE mission is to succeed, this is where the focus must lie: on augmenting the public school system. If all of those 142 million children currently out of school enrol for admission, India simply doesn't have the school buildings, the classrooms, the trained teachers and as one principal said only half-facetiously the sticks of chalk to cope. A massive supply-side problem is not being seriously addressed. Instead bureaucrats are manufacturing phantoms and pushing private schools, RTE activists and state governments towards inevitable litigation. In the process, one of the UPA government's flagship social sector initiatives is being derailed.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Allow young people to harness their talents

Mr.T T Ram Mohan writes very rightly:

  • “Raising the retirement age to 70, it is said, will give greater scope for a second term and even a third term for directors. Some in the IIT system have argued that this is necessary as there is a scarcity of directorial talent. Nonsense. There is enough talent within the country and among overseas Indian faculty willing to return to India — enough to fill the post of director in the 15 IITs we have.

  • The deans of these institutions are, therefore, subject to a high degree of accountability. A failure to improve the faculty profile, the departure of faculty of stature, a fall in programme rankings, a decline in the quality of research —these and other failures could easily cost the dean his job. In India, it is possible for the director of an elite institution to sleep through his tenure without evoking any response from the system.

  • IIMA has adhered to this convention for the past four decades. (Those seeking to have it overturned have run into the argument to end all arguments: if the great Matthai could step down after one term, why should anybody else continue?). But not all the IIMs have remained true to it. The government would do well to codify this convention for the IIMs and extend it to the IITs as well. Not only must the IIT director retire at 65, he must stay only for one term. Where accountability is ill-defined, limiting the director to one term is eminently desirable.”

The Money of Fools

That is the title on which the great economist Dr.Sowell has written a serious of articles in the Townhall column. It is worth to read all the pieces.

1, 2, 3, 4.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Law that does not matter

Bihar’s Dy CM said in an interview to TOI:

Has your government turned Bihar's economy around?

  • Ours has been a major achievement in road, health and education sectors. Good law and order is a sine qua non for turning around an economy. That's because no industrialist, realtor, contractor, service provider or farmer can work in a place that is infamous for crime. Bihar was like that before we came to power. We ensured the conviction of 50,000 criminals through speedy trials and now the law and order situation is there for everyone to see. Families can be seen watching night (film) shows, which was unthinkable during the 15 years of Laluji's jungle raj.

  • Also, yo u need manpower to execute development projects. When we assumed power, there were no doctors, teachers, block development officers or circle officers, because appointments were not made during the preceding 15 years. We appointed 4.3 lakh people. The process of giving jobs to another 1.7 lakh would be completed by the time we complete our term in November. For the first time in the last two decades, you can find one BDO and one CO in every block of the state.

Don’t fool children

Mr.Chetan writes with angry voice:

  • Well, given where Indian society is today, i think hard work and talent are wrong qualities to inculcate in our children. Why pretend to them that this is what it takes to succeed? You don't need zeal and drive. You need connections, palm-greasing skills, ability to talk nonsense through accusations and a ruthless ability to fill your pockets. You can do a lousy job, loot public money nothing will happen to you. The CWG looters are still running the show, apparently because the Games need to happen. Essentially, the inmates are running the asylum.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Run upto second round of reforms

The Economist reports that “The economy is powering on, but the Congress-led coalition is squandering an opportunity to improve India

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Liberty vs Statism

Mr.Das writes:

"As the years went by, I discovered that Nehru’s economic path was taking us to a dead end. I became a manager in a private company and soon found myself trapped in a thick jungle of Kafkaesque bureaucratic controls of the Licence Raj. Having set out to create socialism, we had created statism."

The Muddling Indian Liberalism

Thanks to Dr Parth J Shah for informing the Forth Vithal Mahadeo Tarkunde Memorial Lecture. The lecture was delivered by Dr.Ramachandra Guha on 3rd September, 2010 at Indian International Centre (IIC). I have attended the Lecture. It was on "The Current Crisis of Indian Liberalism".

The person, who introduced about Mr.Tarkunde, and the Memorial Lecture said Mr Tarkunde stood for “socialism” and “democracy”!

Then, veteran journalist Mr. Kuldip Nayyar introduced Dr. Guha and said “why only write about India after Gandhi?” The modern India rose may be shaped by “Nehru”. His two other comment is important. First, Indian politics after independent have lost those values which was practiced before”, and secondly, “today’s liberals have lost the sensitivity equally. He concluded by saying that “without sensitivity we cannot see the purpose”.

The following are noted from Dr. Guha’s Lecture on "The Current Crisis of Indian Liberalism": Justice Tarkunde was “solid liberal” than me and he stood for the “wisdom of the ordinary Indian”. The term liberalism only excludes the “extremism”.

Dr.Guha gave the Oxford Dictionary Definition of Liberalism:

Liberalisms stand for:

  1. open to new ideas
  2. respectful of individual rights and freedoms
  3. individual liberty, free trade, and moderate political and social reform
  4. traditional beliefs as dispensable, invalidated by modern thought, or liable to change

According to him the free trade was not practiced in India during the period 1920-1980! Even Dr Guha went on to say that “Indian liberalism is an important rule bound institution”.

In fact Dr.Guha said the first Indian liberal was Raja Ram Mohan Roy because Mr.Roy was the person who raised the issue of Freedom of Press, Public Funded Schools/Colleges etc. He even discarded the voice of people who say’s Asoka (and others) was one of the earliest liberal of India. Indian liberals have always struggled in middle of many things to raise a voice against illiberal.

According to Dr.Guha, Mr.M K Gandhi admitted the “Himalayan Blunders” which he had done! Moreover, Dr.Guha identifies “three kinds of crisis” in Indian Liberalism:

  • Crisis at Birth (he perhaps refers the period between 1950-1969): This was the satiation soon after the India become “Republic” in 1950.

  • Second crisis was in 1970 when the than Prime Minister of India become a Authoritarian Ruler by destroying established institutions including the democracy etc In fact he broadly refers this period as “Family Firm” (The Congress Party)

  • Thirdly, more important crisis in Indian Liberalism is the crisis in today which simultaneous from left, right and centre. Beside, there is competitive fundamentalism!

Who has set the present trend in this tragic crisis in Indian liberalism is The Congress Party and others have followed or slightly different.

Therefore, the raise of il-liberalism is due to things like political party become family firm, by caste, etc. This is what happing in DMK in Tamil Nadu.

According to Dr.Guha, the DMK was progressive party earlier but it now become wholly and sourly “Family Firm”. In the third crisis of Indian Liberalism “the impatient” become more induced than ever. In other words, the Left become Authoritarian, the Right become fear and impatient, and the Centrist become hugely corrupt.

Finally he gave four broad issues which need to be revived so as to see the vision of Mr.Tarkunde’s idea of India and Indian Liberalism. I only noted the forth one which is “a liberal should be independent from political parties”.

It is important to note that Dr. Guha talked about Naxlites movement in Central India. The way in which he described about Naxlites during the lecture was just opposite of what he wrote some months ago in the Hindustan Times!!

My only conviction is that unlike our previous generations we have now a great opportunity to communicate with each other in easy manner through so many ways to revive the “crisis” stricken “Indian Liberalism”. The present day aged Indian Liberals are more conservative in their attitude towards younger generation. Particularly, I am referring to Shri.S.V Raju of Indian Liberal Group!. Of curse there are many and my list is very long.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Corruption, Corps and Bureaucrats

Prof Prabhudev Konana writes:

  • To prevent the exploitation of the system, the law-makers — who are part of the corrupt system — introduce greater regulations, inspections, and restrictions, without recognising that adding so-called “oversight” leads to even greater potential for corruption. Hernando de Soto, the Peruvian economist, famously said in his seminal book Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Thrives in the West and Fails Everywhere Else, that in most countries “it is very nearly as difficult to stay legal as it is to become legal.” He stated this in the context of private property rights and bureaucratic hurdles, but it applies to every aspect of government transactions.

Theft of Food or fooling of poor!

It is very hearting to read this column in today’s BL though the writer is himself is a retired civil servant!

Just see the below numbers:

  • First, a few shocking facts, unearthed by a Parliamentary Committee: Between 1997 and 2007, 1.83 lakh tonnes of wheat, 6.33 lakh tonnes of rice, 2.20 lakh tonnes of paddy and 111 lakh tonnes of maize rotted due to either lack of storage facilities or poor maintenance of stocks in the existing facilities.

  • As on January 1 this year, 10,688 lakh tonnes of foodgrains were found damaged in the depots of the Food Corporation of India (FCI), enough to feed over six lakh people for over 10 years.

  • The storage losses of foodgrains in 2009-10 amounted to Rs 228.39 crore and transit losses another Rs 182.46 crore.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Wings of Ideas

The following are from the book review by John Schwartz. The book is “The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Steam, Industry, and Invention,” by William Rosen

  • The obvious audience for Rosen’s book consists of those who hunger to know what it took to go from Heron of Alexandria’s toy engine, created in the first century A.D., to practical and brawny beasts like George and Robert Stephenson’s Rocket, which kicked off the age of steam locomotion in 1829. But Rosen is aiming for more than a fan club of steam geeks. The “most powerful idea” of his title is not an early locomotive: “The Industrial Revolution was, first and foremost, a revolution ininvention,” he writes, “a radical transformation in the process of invention itself.” The road to Rocket was built with hundreds of innovations large and small that helped drain the mines, run the mills, and move coal and then people over rails.

  • Underlying it all, Rosen argues, was the recognition that ideas themselves have economic value, which is to say, this book isn’t just gearhead wonkery, it’s legal wonkery too.Abraham Lincoln, wondering why Heron’s steam engine languished, claimed that the patent system “added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius.” Rosen agrees, offering a forceful argument in the debate, which has gone on for centuries, over whether patents promote innovation or retard it.
  • Those who believe passionately, as Thomas Jefferson did, that inventions “cannot, in nature, be a subject of property,” are unlikely to be convinced. Those who agree with the inventors James Watt and Richard Arkwright, who wrote in a manuscript that “an engineer’s life without patent is not worthwhile,” will cheer. Either way, Rosen’s presentation of this highly intellectual debate will reward even those readers who never wondered how the up-and-down chugging of a piston is converted into consistent rotary motion.

If any one really wanted to know about how the ‘stream engine’ was invented and the experience faced by the James Watt should read the Samuel Smiles book Self Help

Bread Labour or beard labour

Friend! Harsh Gupta has a piece (pdf) in the September issue of Pragati where he raises some of the fundamental issues of labour reforms.

A bit:

  • ……..the Delhi government budget shows that it costs the government Rs.228,381 for a single placement! through employment exchanges.

  • In the United States, for instance, David Neumark and William Wascher have found that it is .“fairly unambiguous.” that .“minimum wages reduce employment of low-skilled workers.” and that there is .“no compelling evidence that minimum wages on net help poor or low-income families.”.