Saturday, December 25, 2010

Thanks 2010

Then the irresistible, enterprising Indian femme fatale, who irresponsibly exposed a few holy cows, besides doing the craft of lobbying considerable harm.

And since 1991 did not merely mark the beginning of India’s modern growth story, but also the final burial of old-style socialism, you can be forgiven for hoping that Sonia’s restoration of Narasimha Rao in the Congress pantheon might mark the first stirrings of a welcome rethink.

In 1985, some six years before the introduction of far-reaching economic reforms, looking out from the highest rooftop in Hong Kong, the area surveyed exported more than three times as much than all of India’s $12 billion. We excused our miserable performance by alleging that Hong Kong was a city state; China in the same year exported $30 billion, but it was a communist state, and so on. Twenty-five years later, the Jalan report makes the same wrong assertion that India is unique. the Jalan report is left with no legs, no arms, and most importantly, no soul.

Eventually, I decided to hear some of the tapes. I found bits of fairly serious stuff interspersed in mountains of trivia, gross unprofessionalism and a tragedy. First the trivia. A columnist writing a piece exactly the way that one of Radia’s client’s would have liked, and giving her a précis before it was put to bed. An über-rich spouse being irked by a write-up on her, and having someone ask Radia to fix it. The connected husband of an adopted daughter and Radia sharing well-known juice about the near-death bankruptcy of a major Delhi-based property developer-qua-nascent mobile player, whose bounced cheques were manifest missiles of the past. Some wickedly perspicacious comments by a retired IAS honcho, now a Rajya Sabha member, involving Shivji ki baraat (various creatures in the Union cabinet); the apparent demotion of the erstwhile commerce minister from glories of the WTO to fixing the nation’s potholes; and the unexpected rise of Anand Sharma and Jairam Ramesh in the post-2009 election dispensation. And conversations with Ratan Tata — including one where Radia spews nineteen to the dozen, while Tata says, “Yeah”, “Uh, huh” and “Um, hmm” 33 times.

Actually, all this is only done for the poor in India. For example, when telecom operators got the 2G spectrum at throwaway prices from the government and then traded them away to foreign partners at ten times the price, the non-poor 2G experts never asked for such foreign sales to be banned. It is true that the government acted like the irrational onion farmer who forgot to ask for a higher price but then our government is not poor. After all, how many poor can suffer the losses made during the Commonwealth Games! And, unlike onions, the poor do not buy 2G spectrum and so none of our millennium development goals is affected by 2G traders buying cheap from the government and selling high to users of such spectrum.

And finally read who read which books in 2010 among.

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