Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Upto, All that I'm

I had wonderful trip yet again to Kolkata and North Eastern State. It was extremely fun and interesting to meet people and talk to them about the new change in their State. First I went to Kolkata for two days and then moved to Agartala, Tripura for three days.

In Kolkata, I met two important friends. I had wonderful catch up with Professor Subroto Roy (see here for his profile). We talked about the role of policy makers in Delhi particularly the technocratic economists and his thoughts about great economists and freedom lovers like Prof F A Hayek, Von Mises, Milton Friedman, Peter Bauer, B R Shenoy, Sudha Shenoy etc. 

I also met my friend Harsh. We had very interesting conversation broadly touching upon liberal politics in India, BJP vs Congress, Narendra Modi as Prime Minister candidate, some noted Indian economists/social scientists and their writings, young liberal scholars studying abroad especially in United States of America etc.

The following are some interesting reading:

"politicians in a democracy are opportunistic rascals." by Swaminathan Aiyar 

"It's your entire life — not just an event" by Aamir Khan


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Pricing vs rationing

Last week, I met Prof Indiresan for a dinner chat. It was extremely interesting to meet him over a dinner. He discussed his ideas including why we should have different interest rate for poor and rich States or regions in India.
Here is a article by Prof P V Indiresan in BL:
  • "Professor Sandel asks “Is that right?” He then quotes Professor Thomas Sowell who said that there was nothing wrong; people get accustomed to a price, but there is nothing sacred about it. Sowell has a point. In India, bus fares are ten times lower than they are in the US, but car prices are cheaper in the US than they are in India. Which then is the right price?
  • Years ago, I told Professor Madhu Dandavate, then Minister of Railways, of the harm done by rent control in the city of Bombay. At that time, it was estimated that around a hundred thousand flats were locked up by their owners because — once rented — they had little chance of getting their property back. If only the controls were removed, those flats would have entered the market, thereby, reducing rents.
  • What is more, a hundred thousand less attractive flats would also enter the market and the process would go on until a hundred thousand families currently living on pavements would have moved to better residences. He did not refute my argument, but as a socialist he would not do anything about it."

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Some good reading, but all bad news

  • "Let's do a reality check. The airline has a whopping Rs 40,000 crore debt. One can easily start 80 airlines with that money. It is unsustainably overstaffed - 475 employees per aircraft as against 70 in Indigo. And if one considers that normally about 30% of AI aircraft are on the ground because of slack maintenance, the number of employees per aircraft becomes even more shocking." Full story is here.
  • Bad logic. "This reminds one of the recent move to legislate that sex is not to be allowed till a certain age. No sex and textbook cartoons please, we are under 18." Full article is here.
  • "In 2006, the ministry of panchayati raj named Bahraich one of the country’s 250 most backward districts (out of 640). Its population growth rate over the decade 2001-2011 was 46.08 per cent (India’s 17.64 per cent), and its literacy rate was 51.1 per cent (India’s 64.8). It has a high minority population of about 36 per cent. Bahraich is a category A district, having socio-economic and basic amenities parameters below the national average. Of 4680 teachers, 2168 positions are unfilled today. Those who are there rarely attend school. The net teacher requirement in the district for government primary school as per the right to education is now 9503, further widening the gap. Around 30 per cent of the working age male population migrates for work to Delhi, Mumbai and other places." The full article is here.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Snail Cartoon on B R Ambedkar and Nehru: The disgrace politics

It use to be the socialists and marxists people often making mockery of every public policy issue in a very symbolic way leaving away the rationality, it now become as usual business for the so called liberal dalits in India. Just see what is happening with the Shankar's cartoon on B R Ambedkar and Jawaharlal Nehru. 

Yet, in another mile stone setting, the Indian politicians have shown their shameful ugly face over a cartoon drawn on B R Ambedkar and Jawaharlal Nehru by Shankar Pillai. It was first published in 1949 and in 2006 it was adopted as part of a 11th class School textbook in political science. The issue is raised in 2012 with no specific context. 

Its really fun to read the views of different people on Ambedkar cartoon. But then beyond a point, the just don't understand the context in which this particular cartoon was drawn in about 60 years ago.

Let's have look at a few news items published:

Mr Chandrabhan Prasad is considered as one of liberal dalit intellectuals in India. But he has some limitation beyond which he does not use his commonsense!

Just see this funny statement on Ambedkar cartoon:

  • Dalit intellectual Chandrabhan Prasad feels the cartoon falsifies history. He says, "The cartoonist shows that Dr B R Ambedkar is riding a snail, meaning he is slow in making the Constitution. Jawaharlal Nehru, with a whip in hand, is asking him to expedite the process. Is that a historical reality? Was Pt Nehru at any stage involved in making of the Constitution? Those who teach wrong history to children, write a wrong future for the nation. Making fun of the father of India's Constitution is unpardonable."

I agree with this particular article which argues that:

  • "This nonsense will come to an end only when the rest of India rescues Ambedkar from the shackles of his ‘Dalit’ branding: Ambedkar is first and foremost a great son of India and a Dalit icon. Perhaps it’s time to rework our understanding of Ambedkar so that at least the future generations don’t make the mistake of reducing him to an icon of the Dalits alone."

In this particular context I too agree with Ashis Nandy:

  • "Eminent political analyst Ashis Nandy called the reactions "absurd", saying these were a "new found political tool to score points and nothing to do with Ambedkar". He added, "Ambedkar was a classical liberal and did not favour censorship. The Constitution he drafted does not approve of censorship. This is in fact an anti-Ambdekar stand by the ministry.'' Seeking to put a lid over the row, a flustered HRD minister said he has asked NCERT to remove the offending picture. Making a statement in both Houses of Parliament, Sibal said he had written to NCERT in April asking it to withdraw the offending cartoon."

Here is another article quite rightly well articulated one:

  • "However, how appropriate is it to interpret a cartoon of 1949 being misunderstood in 2012, looking at Ambedkar only as a deity which he now is to the Dalits, a deity who has replaced Buddha amongst the neo-Dalits? At that time, he was an eminent law-maker, erudite and irreverent of the established systems which discriminated sections of the society because of caste. Possibly, none of the law-makers now come within a mile of men of such stature of those times. Even Ambedkar is not known to have objected to it."

Equally important article which argues that:

  • "Ambedkar’s tryst with prophethood has clearly begun. In due course, he will be up there with the Buddha as the most important prophet of the Dalits. Never mind if he isn’t the Ambedkar we know from his writings."

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Morality polity: A huge fall indeed

  • "Schweizer Illustrierte, a popular Swiss magazine, unrelated to politics in India, had reported in 1991 that Rajiv Gandhi had $2.5 billion in secret Swiss bank accounts. It would have now grown to over $10 billion at US treasury rates. Later, Russian journalist Yevgenia Albats, in her research book on the Russian spy agency KGB, uncovered documents that showed that the Gandhi family was receiving, with ‘gratitude’, payoffs from the KGB. These reports have been cited in news items and in columns repeatedly in 1988, 1992, 2002, 2006, 2009 (twice) 2010, and 2011 in The Hindu, Times of India, Statesman, India Today, and repeatedly in The New Indian Express. Yet, the Sonia Gandhi family and the ruling party have been maintaining an intriguing silence on these serious exposes. They did not dare sue the newspapers or the writers. A few weeks back, ‘Business Insider’, a fairly well regarded e-magazine based in US, had listed 23 world’s richest politicians. Sonia Gandhi, with her wealth estimated at between $4-19 billion, stood fourth in the honour list. Only the Saudi king, Sultan of Brunei, and Michael Bloomberg (New York mayor) were above her in the list. Again the Gandhi family and the ruling party are deafeningly silent on this report. Should they not sue them if the reports were false? Intriguing, isn’t it? The government is helpless, understandably. Why is the opposition too silent? More intriguing, isn’t it? " 

More here.

"Statists’ antagonism toward the gold standard"

Nilesh Shah writes:
  • "We should seriously push for return of gold standard. In this turbulent time many economists are advocating return to gold standard. We should encourage global debate on debasement of paper currencies through the expansionary policy of central banks to potential break down of currency union. We should push academic studies to show that growth and employment received as much encouragement under gold standard era as in the era of loose monetary and fiscal policies. Indian diaspora around the academic world should be encouraged to speak for gold standard. We should highlight subdued inflation under gold era. We should remind the world about the prophetic statement by an eminent Federal Reserve governor, “In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation. There is no safe store of value. The financial policy of the welfare state requires that there be no way for the owners of wealth to protect themselves. This is the shabby secret of the welfare statists’ tirades against gold. Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the confiscation of wealth. Gold stands in the way of this insidious process. It stands as a protector of property rights. If one grasps this, one has no difficulty in understanding the statists’ antagonism toward the gold standard.” The full article is here.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Rules for caste

  • "Too many empirical facts about Gujarati history, society, culture, politics and economics challenge the schizophrenic discourse that is for or against Modi, and remains fixated either on the abyss of 2002 or on the myth of “Swarnim Gujarat”.
  • "It is difficult to imagine Indian academia, particularly the study of politics in India since the 1960s, without a number of Gujarati scholars, activists and public intellectuals. Rajni Kothari, D.L. Sheth, Ghanshyam Shah, Bhikhu Parekh, Meghnad Desai, Achyut Yagnik, Asgar Ali Engineer, I.P. Desai, A.M. Shah, Girish Patel, Teesta Setalvad and Tridip Suhrud, among others constitute a proud roster of some of the best minds and the most ethical, proactive citizens of the past half-century. The cliché is that the Bengalis, the Maharashtrians and the South Indians dominate the post-colonial Indian academy, but look carefully, and you will find that Gujarat has a more than robust representation. If we go back a generation or two, we are looking at Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Mohammed Ali Jinnah and K.M. Munshi — figures who played such an enormous role in our politics that we cannot account for our modernity without them"More here.
  • "Nehru was a great man but his many small mistakes have harmed the country to this day". More here.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Social activities are wired

I some time think, normally when I am in complete leisure, that many of economic theories discovered or analysed in a new format in western countries in the last 100 years or so can be easily observed in Indian society even without any hardcore statistical data sets. 

What made to write the above lines is the article on "why we prefer social conventions to rigid rules" by Niranjan Rajadhyaksha in today's Mint. 

In a sort of concluding way he argues that:

  • "The entire debate on why the Indian government has been unable to spend enough on things that benefit all citizens may then have to be reconsidered in terms of our own social preferences, more specifically our historical inability to broaden the arc of cooperation. It is what could lie at the root of a common sight in our neighbourhoods: swank cars parked on broken roads or air-conditioned homes overlooking open gutters or loud music played outside the hospitals that treat us."
It does bring at the end the wired thinking rather I say rooted behavioural patterns of Indian society.

Kalam effects and Indian polity

From Shekhar Gupta's National Interest column.
  • "The constitutional head of the republic is a political job and has to be performed as such, irrespective of where you find your incumbent from. If you have doubts, check the record of the Kalam presidency. He may have been trained as a missile engineer, but had to function as our most political president, handling — with moral authority and political elan — issues like Central rule in Patna in 2005, controversial judicial appointments, a national transition from NDA to UPA in 2004, and the Office of Profit Bill. And remember the first thing he did on being elected Rashtrapati on the NDA ticket? He went to Ahmedabad to talk to the riot victims as guardian of the Constitution."

PS: I reviewed Dr.Kalam's book India Vision 2020 in 2005 essentially saying its "fiction"!!!!.

Dr. Kalam also said in a different tone in 2011 that":
  • “Politics should be a mixture of political politics and developmental politics where the former should comprise 30 per cent and the latter 70 per cent. However, today, our politicians are giving us only 30 per cent developmental politics. The day we are able to make our politicians work for developmental politics, our nation will definitely get on the right track and move towards becoming becoming a super power,"
Do also read Dr. Kalam's speech listing out 9 traits of creative leadership in politics.
  1. vision.
  2. passion to realize the vision. 
  3. Leader must be able to travel into an unexplored path. 
  4. knowledge  of how to manage a success and failure. 
  5. courage to take decisions. 
  6. nobility in management.
  7. transparent in every action.
  8. Leader becomes the master of the problem, defeats the problem and succeeds.
  9. Leader must work with integrity and succeed with integrity.
On the issue of brain drain, he had also said, "I don't believe in brain drain. India produces three million graduates every year. If 10 per cent of them leave the country, it is not brain drain."   

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

RTE, and its folly

When it comes any idea in practice compared to in theory, it carries a different weight to different people. In theory, if one defines an idea loosely with politically correct guessing hardly anyone disagrees. While, in the course of debating about the same idea in practice, people very often forgets its roots in wider sense. 

If I may say so, the era of next decade (i.e. 2010-2020) will be the era of upholding what is not just right but also what is not right food.

That leaves me to point here a wonderful piece "Making lemonade from lemons" by good friends Rajvee and Harsh in Livemint.

Many people give no thought to this simple lines: "Liberals do not oppose RTE based on prejudice; they oppose it primarily because of its focus on centralized statism. RTE is first and foremost against private property and free association." 

Also read the news item published in last Sunday Express on "The build up to 25 percent".

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Matters, of that trips reading and

Back from a visit to Dehradun, the city of pleasantness. I had good time visiting the place where our country's bureaucrats are get trained. The Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie! The climate in Mussorie was absolutely pleasant.

Meeting people and talking to them was more interesting then simply talking with bunch of people in the conference!

The following are some of interesting readings:

Economics by and for human beings by Jeff

Contemporary Indian literature by Shivaprakash

The Power of one by Ninan (its old article on Parth and the CCS achievements in India)

Restrictions on radio violation of free speech by Arvind

NY Fed: Leaving the Building by Wenzel