There is a shrill opposition nowadays by the intelligentsia against the Kejriwal’s brand of politics of freebies – free electricity, water, DBT, etc. as exemplified in election promises in Goa, Punjab and others. Kejriwal is only ‘supplying’ a product that is much in demand. So let’s look at the justification by his clientele.
From my various travels across the country over the years and many conversations with various strata, I have come to the conclusions that (i) Reforms as an end product appeals may be to only 2-3% of the elites and intelligentsia, (despite evidence it has benefitted a lot more) who have most facilities of the developed world right here in India except that Delhi and Mumbai still do not look as glamorous or glitzy as Sydney, NY or London for them. They have the lung power through the media. (ii) Infrastructure, the focus of governments now, as an end product perhaps appeals to middle class (may be 10-15 %) who have the ability and financial savings to wait for infrastructure to improve competitiveness …which will improve growth …which will deliver jobs … to the skilled or educated and (iii) rest or at least 70% are interested only in freebies and crumbs thrown at them. They have the vote power.
If each one can vote his self-interest, why should the poor not vote for their self-interest? Under the last 50 years of the British our growth rates were on average 0.5 to 1% and their (poor) personal fortunes – education, skills and per capita income were all on a relentless decline. And after independence it has not been that significant either. Population increased faster than the previous 100-150 years to absorb higher growth of 3-4%. An increasing number of poor lack the conviction that reforms or infra growth (of the variety we have been pursuing – 8 lane highways, bullet rains, airports which have 2-3 landings a day) will deliver them the jobs or permanent source of income. So what is wrong in demanding or taking subsidies or freebies and vote for the political party which promises and delivers the maximum freebies. If their hopes stand so substantially diluted who is at fault?
Forget about income or jobs, Medicare, social respect, water or primary education it is not just bad design and inadequate delivery but lack of intent and callous attitude of the ruling class. Take the case of justice, our worst failure. No poor can afford it with an average lifetime savings or asset base of Rs 72,000 (for the bottom 50%) or Rs 7 lacs + on an average which is heavily concentrated at the top. So he seeks the help of neighbours, local dons or politicians to settle in hours and days within a week what our courts will take 17 years to settle at first level. If a few ‘para illegal’ murders take place as a consequence, it is the fault and failure of formal systems not theirs in my opinion.
Are not the Kejriwal clientele gaining at all? They may be earning 5-6 times the money earnings that they used to 30 years ago. But primary education from govt schools have gone for a toss and they have to spend a fortune on dubious private education. Healthcare availability has widened no doubt but costs have increased many more times than their incomes. Uncertainties have only increased. All these reflect in their poor wealth. One I doesn’t know how many of them are accumulating wealth and how many are running it down. Surely, at Rs 72K, they can’t be accused of being greedy.
I am not saying poverty levels have not come down. But if they see their prosperity raising at snail’s pace when the privileged’ s gain gallop, they are justified in feeling left out or perhaps even jealous.
Until we restore faith of the bottom 70% in formal systems and demonstrate its ability to deliver better and faster results than informal systems, my sympathies are with them. 75 years (even if you want to ignore the colonial times) is too long a trial period.
Kejriwal and his ilk can’t be blamed for their shrewdness. But the nation will learn the lessons of unbridled socialism all over again and lose precious decades in the process.
I Started this before Covid, progressed during my Covid and polished it after Covid. Took 2.5 months.
I don’t know if this is poetry or prose; I don’t know if poems have stanza headings which this one has– but I hope you enjoy it – never mind the name.
God, why did you wait so late in my life to teach me this lesson, I asked.
God replied: ‘Elixir comes after the churn; the results of games follow the play, morals after the story,
Morals follow the story, healing comes after the wound: So Realization after the tumult of life’
‘If you put chapter headings before, not after the narrative, its your problem not Mine’, said God.
In deference to the above the para names appear at the end of para and the title at the end of it all
It was a tiring previous day and we must have crisscrossed the City of Lakes till late last night,
Off I went to deep sleep, hoping to recoup energy to resume toasting the city of tranquil next day,
We were awakened by a medley of noisy loudspeakers, well short of our target sleep,
I shook my slumber and soon it dawned that it was a score or more of morning prayers to God.
First, I thought that it was from different followers of the same God each outdoing the other,
Soon I realized it was different Gods with their respective creations trying to outdo each other,
It sounded a cacophony instead of a symphony, with each note raising or fading out of sync,
The soothing breeze from the lakes or beauty of hills around could not bring about any synchrony.
Many Gods; Different prayers
In the name of God and peace, so many divisions! I sulked in despair – both hope and sleep crushed,
Out of bed as well as wits, I opened my door, to see how various Gods answer their believers’ prayers
Change of tide, a rush of refreshing air washed my face and one of the Gods planted a smile on my lips.
Washing away the sense of despair and I felt Hope seeping thru my skin to every dejected nerve.
From Despair to Hope
Now shed your anguish and gloom and listen to My answers, commanded God.
There were countless birds and rodents in the dark raising a fusion of chirps and sounds,
The rustling of leaves and grating sound of tree trunks swaying added accompaniments of note,
The fountains in the garden added their dash of music with their swirls and waves, fall and flow,
Their subtle subdued symphony of feelings and emotions drowned out the noisier prayers for attention.
From questions to answers
In this confluence of cheer and hope, I felt God ask me ‘How is the answer to My believers’ prayers?
Where are you? I asked, darkness clouding sight for I did not know which of the Gods answered me.
‘In My Kingdom the alphabet of language is love and brotherhood, you don’t need light or eyes to see.
Unbounded Joy and happiness are My ways of answers to the million prayers of my devotees’: God.
From answers to realization
I persisted with my childlike curiosity; God please tell me whose God are you that answered.
‘Can you segregate the voice of each bird, the rustle of each leaf, the groan of every branch’, He queried.
I went silent. Helpless. In the deafening silence that followed, the answer seemed to dawn on me.
Various notes of the same symphony, same God with many names; the coherence of the same single One.
It is the same God with different names
I closed my door, parted my curtains on window and found the same full moon looking twice as full,
The lustrous morning moon in the West so full of love and embrace with its calming influence,
Last evening, eastern Moon was bright and invigorating, now the setting moon dimmer but soothing,
It is the same Moon, same Moon but Mankind sees in different shades of darkness and light.
It is not many Moons but One.
Awakened thus, I went back to the comfort of my bed to sleep till I would be awake again,
Secured by the warm embrace of the moon’s ray’s, to the morning symphony of a thousand birds,
Flowers beginning to blossom to welcome the Sun amidst so many blaring competing prayers,
With the new light in me that it is the same God with different names,
To each his own prayer, and to each His own answer by the same God to his devotes in different robes.
Oh! It is not many Gods but One
By V Kumaraswamy
It was a call from my daughter, voice sweet as honey as ever, enquiring after my welfare,
I said I was fine and countered her on the inscrutable disease and its surrounding despair,
Precautions we insist on – last time we stopped visitors at our door, and sanitization a must
This time it is upgraded: We don’t let outsiders in or insiders out of our society’s gate.
God! You came in various Avatars – Fish, Wild Boar, Turtle; you came as half lion and half man,
But due to come was the winged one that soars and shows us the way to Heaven,
Bat it is this time: and if your winged creation prefers darkness over light,
You have taken over our lives through a virus which remains out of sight
First you shut the national borders and made us stay within our shores.
Next you locked us within our states and we learnt to live by new mores,
Then it was national lock down and you made us all stay within our doors
Then you shut our workplace and made office part of household chores
Then you came into my life uninvited, sent shivers down every near one’s spine,
My office knew it and said to stay away from work was fine,
Courtesy and rules made me inform my society, who said the lift is closed for us,
Stay indoors they warned and made us prisoners within our own doors.
Then it was my wife, who shut the door of my room within the house’s larger door,
Sanity she called; I could not figure if it was society’s hygiene or my mental one to preserve,
Not satisfied with your sanctions, You made me voiceless with a mask around my face,
And made every sneeze, cough, and breath of mine an enemy of Mankind.
May be as a prelude to taking my last breath, You took my smell and taste away,
The sight of flowers outside my window became my only cherished company,
You made me discover different aspects of mine and explore the beauty within,
The Blue skies and fresh winds free of Man’s corruption for once felt so genuine.
Oh! Almighty Corona, you shrunk my energy and diminished my zest and zeal for life,
Can You also take away my ego, invisible like you but the scourge of our happiness,
Can You shut the doors on greed and avarice and fear of future, my biggest demon within?
So I shed the several layers of false cloths I wear and see the true Me and its virtuous origin,
To Deliver this Realization, Oh Corona! hope taking our breath away is not Your only way!
Science that is inclusive
There is a kind of frostiness between science and the unscientific, that takes the shape of snootiness, dismissiveness to superiority or patronisation, with the so-called unscientific being at the receiving end most times. Scientists have the tendency to dismiss everything ‘unscientific’ as preposterous and illogical and hence undependable and unfit for use.
Instead of splitting into two classes – scientific and unscientific – it would be more worthwhile if we saw it as ‘adequately explained’ and ‘not yet adequately explained’. Science is ever evolving as Einstein (is claimed to have. Only Einstein can come back and confirm his having made it since there are so many quotes which are attributed to him without proof or evidence) stated, ‘science is but the existing state of knowledge of nature’ and will sure bring within its fold more and more currently unexplained aspects of nature which may have alternative explanatory routes than what science follows as of now.
Things like intuition, premonition, astrological predictions, prejudices, tradition, sixth sense, occult sciences, lunacy and planetary influences and even many branches of medicine and traditional cure are currently deemed or dismissed as ‘unscientific’. For all we know they may be in the same state as earth being spherical but dismissed as superstition before Aristotle, Eratosthenes, or Pythagoras (take your pick) reasoned it out. And many such things which are today considered scientific have come after much agony and punishment to the discoverers from the church, orthodoxy and existing beliefs and their champions or those who stood to lose their status.
With a dismissive attitude and binary outlook unwittingly science and scientists may themselves become the new tormentors (like religion, royalty and vested interest were in the past) for faster discovery and assimilation of currently unexplained events or phenomena into the ‘scientific’ fold. A cross fertilisation of ideas between science and current un-science may lead to many beneficial outcomes which may otherwise be lost or postponed. If the church was dismissive of science before, it is increasingly the other way around now.
Noted mathematician Ramanujan purportedly left behind 147 theorems for which he could not provide proofs or had no time to write before his demise. If deductive reasoning is a primary weapon of mathematics, it is unbelievable that someone had the time to reason it out and write out the theorems but no time to write out the proofs. If one reads Hardy’s account of his association with Ramanujan clearly, Ramanujan wrote them down as it occurred but skipped many steps in between which he wasn’t himself aware of or in a position to explain. Do we dismiss his theorems as preposterous (until each one is proved) particularly when some 47 of them have been proved in the last 100 years? What status does the unproven set enjoy? – unscientific or scientific? How and who are we to conclude that the unscientific (like intuition, forewarning, sixth senses) will not one day be proven like Ramanujan’s theorems, causality explained, and embraced within the fold of ‘science’. Or science itself will get redefined and one of its main pillars -cause-effect- loses its primacy.
Its time science and rationality shed their snootiness, we shed our dismissiveness and arrogance to whatever we consider ‘unscientific’ and replace it with curiosity and respect facilitative of smoother and faster integration. There is a need for a healthier dialogue between the conflicting bodies to understanding what is and how it occurs and how to use them for our collective benefit.
Respect need not imply blind acceptance. It can lead to search for solutions by both factions by making use of tools and techniques known to both. It might involve adopting alternative routes to proof and acceptance that somethings may be beyond proof or at least as per existing methods. A worm’s eye view, a bird world view and snakes perceptual aids need not be same as mankind and a shift in definitional scales may break many existing notions and ‘prove’ unaccepted ones. Attempts to prove might also result in proving the opposite and setting at rest false notions. Responsibility for proof and disproof could be equally shared. The faster science and rationality expands, the domain of ‘unscientific’ would only shrink faster. Even if it is vast, the accretion to the bank of unscientific is slow and unlikely to gain momentum.
Such an approach and attitude towards the currently not adequately explained occurrences or phenomena might hasten the process of unravelling the secret, mystery, enigma or plain ignorance behind them and bring them into usable body of knowledge with or without safeguards and caveats.
Church ‘and’ science can achieve a lot more together than church ‘versus’ science. There is no need for science to become the new church.
This is an interview with Gopi Keertinagar which probes into the motivations behind my perilous pursuits and passion for meeting people and sharing the positive side of stories. Enjoy.
This is my latest book. Based on my travel to over 4 dozen countries and the wit, wisdom and vignettes gathered in various meetings, conversations and experiences with various people from presidents, pushcart vendors, policemen to pole dancers. all written in a positive spirit. It is in #4 rank now… you can make it #1.
I am happy to announce my new book: ‘Weird Adventures, Unusual Lessons’ is available as Kindle edition now (print will be available soon). Briefly,
I write for business dailies on economic and business matters. I also write on novel experiences during my various sorties to several parts of the world.
my work and own interest in travel has exposed me to over 4 Dozen countries, their culture, their people, social mores, practices, peculiarities, local governance systems, etc.
It has put me in touch with paupers and fishermen, guards and guides, monks, priests and boatmen, high and low ranking government officials from presidents, ambassadors, ministers, and others to chiefs of some of the largest companies, tribal dwellers, politicians to pole dancers, lions and cheetahs, researchers to rogues – poor and rich, cultured or otherwise, etc.
It has put me in touch with people who still use flint stones, whose savings or investments for tomorrow do not go beyond a solitary piece of cloth on their loins; cultures where cow is still a currency, blind at birth, yet patriotic to their country which they have never seen. These experiences include a trip to Egypt days before Tahrir Square revolution, travel in one of the most heavily land-mined areas in the world – Cambodia; pleasant experiences during innumerable trips to Myanmar; experiences and insights from the animal kingdom in South Africa. taste of Dutch humour, etc.
This book is about the various unusual and novel (sometimes embarrassing, awkward, sometimes humbling and at other times moving) experiences, conversations with ordinary people yielding extra-ordinary insights on various facets of life, anecdotes, lessons and local humour, information and personal encounters which dispel known and established notions and beliefs and, shall I say, sometimes falsehoods spread by motivated sections about nations, people and systems mostly radiating positive energy. It is not a travelogue of various touristy places and historical monuments or beaches.
I have sent the contents and sample vignettes.
I would like to have your comments once you have read the book either to me or in comments section in Amazon and Flipkart.
Many thanks and best regards
The world is too full of beautiful people and positive energy for Mankind to mess up. You have only to experience it.
Prof Dholakia: the policy rebel within the MPC
The term of the first Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) has ended with the government nominees retiring at the end of their non-renewable and non-shrinkable 4 year term coming to end in September 2020. The Government has nominated Dr Shashanka Bhide, Dr Ashima Goyal and Prof Jayanth Varma as replacements for Dr Ravindra Dholakia, Dr Pami Dua and Dr Chetan Ghate.
Given its current orientation – banking on the lending side at least is largely industry and service focused – it would have been desirable to have an industrial economist or more appropriately an industrialist on the panel. If customer centricity is the prevailing buzzword, it would have been most welcome to have someone who could share with the committee the situation and consequences of policy actions.
Hopefully, Dr Bhide with his unique smell of the soil will bring in the necessary native knowledge to the proceedings. May be there is a case for broad basing the skills without increasing the number.
While the functioning may have been cohesive, whether the content and policy prescriptions were appropriate and optimal has been in doubt. How much the monetary policy framework is a contributor to the current run of economic sluggishness is yet not widely understood but that the date of birth of both coincide should give rise to doubts to the discerning. For on many occasions it seemed largely prescriptive in nature based on some borrowed ideals.
Prof Dholakia mostly appeared like the rebel within. And truth be told his dissensions captured the ground realities better than the official statements often.
Probably he was never comfortable with the concept of monolithic or prescriptive nature of the Dr Urjit Patel Committee’s (UPC) recommendations that has guided our monetary policy making since early 2014. As early as in 2014 he had countered the rationale articulated by the then Governor for setting up UPC. In an article published in Economic and Political Weekly in July 2014 he had concluded as follows:
“It is clear from the discussion that the RBI Governor’s assertion of there being not serious trade off between inflation and growth in the country does not get any support from recent empirical evidence. On the contrary, deliberate disinflation would impose a sizeable immediate cost of loss of output on the system. His second assertion on the direction of causality also does not have any clear supporting evidence…” (Page 168, EPW July 12, 2014. But given the time for publication this must have been written much before the committee finalised its report).
That he found a place in the MPC speaks of the Governor’s and the Government’s encouragement of dissensions for enriching the debate.
For him it is not the ideal but the optimal – one which weighs the costs and benefits of policy actions that counted. As briefly mentioned in 2014, he went to calculate the sacrifices made for every 1% variation from the optimal or natural rate of inflation and the prescriptions of Monetary policy. In an article published (with Mr Kadiyala Sri Vrinchi) by the reputed Journal of Quantitative Economics (April 2016), he proceeded to calculate the sacrifice ratio (the % of output sacrificed in order to obtain one percentage reduction in the inflation rate) based on a fairly long period of 18 years of Indian data. The sacrifice ratio is summarised in the table below:
|Estimates of Sacrifice Ratio (SR)|
|Inflation measure||Short run SR||Long Run SR|
The numbers are not insignificant for an economy stuck with low employment growth and more onerous task of pulling people out of poverty. Especially for anyone aware of the deficiencies involved in calculating any statistics in India, the validity, narrow base, considerable lag and poor quality to enforce an ideal rate of inflation against an actual sacrifice of the above magnitude must seem wasteful. His dissensions should be seen in this light and not intent of adding more heat than light to the debate.
He proceeded to arrive at the optimal rate of inflation for India as 5.4 to 6% while presenting his annual Presidential address to The Indian Econometric Society in January 2020. (it was later published in JQE in September 2020).
Based on the regressions on data between 1996 to 2018/19 he observed, “current targets are fixed for combined (states and centre) fiscal deficit at 6%, for CAD at 2%, and inflation at 4%, for a growth at 8%. These are not internally consistent targets, because with the given targets of FD, CAD and inflation rate, consistent estimate for the long run growth as seen (in the table) is only 5.6%—a shortfall of whopping 2.4% points!!”
His equations conclude that to reach 8% growth India would need 2.5% CAD, and fiscal deficit target of 6.5-7% and inflation of 5.4% to 6%.
Probably it explains his preference often for accommodative stance. One only hopes there is a serious review of the inflation targeting levels as well as the approach in the near future. While the targets appear too low, the approach cannot be divorced from our state and stage of growth, degree of integration, and monetary policy reach.
The current state of sluggishness cannot be validly analysed without removing the huge impact that the specific levels of inflation targets as well as the fiscal glide path given by the FRBM review committee whose recommendations again have been prescribed without calculating the optimal or sustainable levels with the result both have started operating as constraints on our growth.