Indian Thought

1. Media 2. National Awards …

Posted on March 3, 2018. Filed under: Guide Posts, Indian Thought, Personalities |


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The 2002 Gujarat Riots Recalled …

Posted on March 3, 2018. Filed under: Indian Thought, Personalities |

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Crime Fiction Live in UP …

Posted on February 26, 2018. Filed under: Indian Thought |

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Poverty – Prosperity of Indian States …

Posted on February 24, 2018. Filed under: Indian Thought, Searching for Success |

NATIONAL COVER STORY – A long read but comprehensive and informative – The Black Hole In The Heart by ZIA HAQ  

(West Bengal is the new Orissa, while UP, Bihar and MP remain poor and distort the India Growth Story) 

It’s been 32 years since the late demographer Ashish Bose coined that famously disparaging phrase ‘Bimaru States’, in a one-page report to the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

The acronym for Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, which referenced the Hindi word for ‘sick’, would now be seen as a form of naming and shaming, done perhaps with the intention of prodding the guilty into trying to change.

But this burden of guilt—if we assign it to human failure, which is what a failure of vision and commitment in governance would be—is not an easy one to redress.

The term continues to cause offence, and there are periodic claims of this State or that having escaped the infamy, but the harsh reality is that, at the root, the sickness seems endemic—and it endures.

What Bose was referring to in 1985—to bundle all development indices into a simple demographic—was the huge ratio of the poor in these States, accounting for nearly 40 per cent of India’s population at the time.

These intervening decades have seen India go through some epochal changes, and it’s now routinely referred to as an engine of global growth. These States too have not been immune to the tidal churn unleashed, yet they lie at the heart of a big set of disturbing economic challenges the Country faces.

Per Capita Income as net State Domestic Product in Rs                           SOURCE    RBI, IDFC, Mospi                                                                         INCOME LADDER in 1960 and  2014

  1. MAHARASHTRA  —  409    and 2.   1,13000
  2. W BENGAL          —   390   and 10.  38000
  3. PUNJAB              —-  380        and  6.    96000
  4. GUJARAT            —–  362      and  3.    10,9000
  5. TAMIL NAIDU   —–   334    and   5.   10,6000
  6. KARNATAKA    ——  292     and  4.    10,8000
  7. KERALA           ——- 270   and   1.    1,15000
  8. RAJASTHAN    ——- 263  and     7.      64000
  9. MP                 ——–  252    and    9.      44000
  10.   UP                 ——–  252  and    11.     35000
  11.   ORISSA        —-  220       and     8.     54000
  12.  BIHAR        —— 215       and      12.     25000

In 1960, the top three states were 1.7 times richer than the bottom three. By 2014, this gap had almost doubled.

Bose’s ailing States, especially UP and Bihar, remain laggards in terms of prosperity and income, judged by the par­ameter of Net State Domestic Product, read along with a few other factors.

Despite robust growth rates, and despite Mandal politics creating new forms of social mobility, they haven’t been able to reduce the gap with the club of rich states.

It’s a troubling gap, and speaks of a huge, unfair skew in India’s economic map.

The picture of regional imbalance is so acute that it forms, as Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian puts it, India’s biggest “political-economy puzzle”.

Take UP, India’s most populous State and a political bellwether.In every general election, it decisively tilts India’s political scales. But on income, it still hugs the bottom of the graph.

A couple of quick juxtapositions. If UP were a Country, the size of its economy would be like that of Qatar. That would have been impressive, except for one minor detail: Qatar has only 2.5 million inhabitants, whereas UP has 215 million.

This massive population, about the same as Brazil’s, means its ave­rage per capita income is no more than that of Burkina Faso, a landlocked sub-Saharan country.

That implies, by common allusive practice, the gold standard in poverty.

In 1960, the richest State Maharashtra was twice as rich as Bihar. In 2014, Kerala was 4 times richer than Bihar, the poorest.

What’s cause for worry is how India has been unable, for decades now, to put into motion any kind of targeted policy thrust to address the regional imbalance.

For, the handful of States that climbed the income ladder real quick since the 1960s have ensured that they stay up there—Kerala, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

And Kerala, despite its lower level of industry presence and dependence on remittances, has a model that spreads its prosperity fairly evenly (though it too is not without a gap between the creamy layer and the outliers).

All this is in sharp contrast with the States that exhibit a strong developmental inertia. One piece of evidence is the share of ‘Bimaru’ States in the total income of all States.

In 2013-14, UP had a mere 1.2 per cent share! Again, throw in a few juxtapositions and the picture becomes starker.

The share of Chhattisgarh, a new entrant in the race, was way higher at 14.5 per cent. Tripura, admittedly a poor State, improved its per capita income nearly six times between 1984 and 2014. (In 1984, the average Tripura resident earned Rs 11,537, according to India’s Economic Survey, which increased to Rs 64,712 in 2014).

Himachal Pradesh, which in the ’80s ranked in the middle, upped its per capita income four-fold.

Orissa, once synonymous with the starvation deaths of Kalahandi, has cut rural poverty twice as fast as Bihar, and has consequently jumped three spots.

Its neighbour West Bengal, though, offers reasons for despair. A rich, industrialized State in the 1960s, it has slid down the ranks, letting States like Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra take its place.

One reason: de-industrialization. Between 1998-1999 and 2004-2005, Bengal recorded a fall of 4 per cent in the number of people employed in the industrial sector. With a renewed emphasis on attracting investment, this figure improved to 3.5 per cent between 2005-06 and 2012-13.

But barring this exception, the composition of the rich/poor clubs has remained largely unc­h­anged over the past four decades, according to Sanghamitra Bandyopadhyay of the London School of Economics.

Bihar is at the heart of the puzzle. It’s now one of India’s fastest growing States, mainly because of the low-base effect, a statistical phenomenon.

If growth rates had been very low, even a small increase would arithmetically show up as a high figure. The State posted the highest average growth rate during the whole of the 11th Plan period (ending 2011-12).

Consider these peaks: 15.69 per cent in 2006-07 and 14.48 per cent in 2012-13. Bihar even topped all States in terms of growth of per capita incomes. Yet, the catch-up distance is the largest for Bihar. Adjusted for inflation, its net per capita income was the lowest (Rs 26,801 in 2015-16).

UP came in just one spot above (at Rs 38,234). By comparison, Kerala was 365 per cent richer than Bihar. What would be the impact of such uneven progress on people’s lives?

If you are a young job-seeker in, say, Bihar or UP, you would be better off moving to Kerala, Gujarat, Karnataka or Maharashtra because you will likely end up being four times richer.

Ordinary Indians know this. Railway passenger traffic data, collected by the Finance Ministry, shows annual internal work migration doubled to about 9 million between 2011 and 2016. Loads of people are shifting out from these disadvantaged states.

This picture of inertia inverts global trends. Everywhere, poorer regions are climbing up. No Chinese province has been stuck at the poverty levels of three decades ago.

This is precisely how it should be, according to what economists call “convergence”: a region with poor income and consumption data sees fast growth on those counts if its markets are linked to those of richer regions.

India’s economy has those linkages, yet paradoxically its States show a polarising picture of “divergence”—judging by Net State Domestic Product (NSDP) in per capita terms, the most common measure that indicates the average income of a State’s resident.

The NSDP is a variant of State GDP, with subsidies, interests and taxes subtracted.Distributed per capita, it becomes a handy proxy for average income—a statistically kosher method. It’s not without flaws, of course.

The total economic activity in a State, which is what State GDP or NSDP show, would obviously include high-value activity—mining, for example—concentrated in a tiny segment and may not accurately reflect the lack of prosperity outside it.

Bengal’s slide after the flight of industry shows that—once you take away those pockets, the data starts reflecting the actual immiseration outside.

Maharashtra, minus Mumbai and Pune, would surely fare differently—its ranking does not reflect the distress in the farm sector.                          Kerala’s ranking, similarly, hides the destitution in its adivasi pockets.

Still, assuming any wealth will inevitably percolate to some deg­ree, NSDP is one way to generalise.

India often likes to compete with China. Poverty reduction would be a good arena to do so. China’s current catch-up rate of about 3 per cent means Gansu province—whose spectacular mountain and desert-scapes host the highest poverty levels in the country—will reach midway to the level of the richest provinces, the coastal Guangdong and Shanghai, in 23 years.

What about us? Subramanian, who analyzed the problem in the annual Economic Survey, provides a grim answer. “The evidence so far suggests that, in India, catch-up remains elusive.”

Trouble is, this stayed static through the liberalization period. Economists Vivek Dehejia and Praveen Chakravarty of the Mumbai-based IDFC Institute, in a landmark recent study, show how “pre-1990 and post-1990 look like almost two different eras”.

They blended traditional methods with a new, cutting-edge tool used for the first time in India: “night-time lights or NTL luminosity”, which uses satellite imagery of glowing specks of night-time light as a marker of prosperity. The results were, well, illuminating.

Four times are the earnings of an average person in the richest State compared to his counterpart in the poorest State. Altogether, 12 large States were analysed, including Bengal, Bihar, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and UP, using US satellite data for 1960.

They noticed that the richest State in 1960, Maharashtra, was twice as rich as the then poorest State, Bihar. By 2014, the richest State was Kerala, but its income was four times that of the “still poorest state of Bihar”.

Their conclusion: “the initially richer States grew more rapidly in the liberalization period” and stayed the course. Kerala and Tamil Nadu have often been cited by Economist Amartya Sen as models. These two have famously focused big on social spending, enhancing the State-led expansion of Education, Food Security and Health.

These became critical inputs for a productive workforce and, in the case of Kerala, job emigrations.

If Kerala were a Country, it would rank alongside developed European economies. Life expectancy in Kerala is 82 years, the same as Sweden. Its infant mortal­ity rate of 12 per 1,000 live births is low, same as China’s.

There are signs of life in the Bimaru States too: consistently high growth in recent years shows Bihar is structurally changing. “But per capita income continues to be low, just as it was decades ago.

I would blame our poverty load and last-mile hiccups,” says Vishnu Dayal Pandit, Deputy Director of Bihar’s Directorate of Economics and statistics.

Pandit has a point. A World Bank Study in 2014 found Bihar limping with a huge “unmet demand” for rural jobs under NREGA. The Scheme’s impact on rural poverty in Bihar was just 1 percentage point against a potential of 14 percentage points, the Study found.

Bihar’s population below the poverty line of about 54.4 per cent in 2004-05 came down only marginally to 53.5 per cent in 2009-10, according to erstwhile Planning Commission data.


  1. ORISSA         DOWN FROM 57.2 TO 36.2
  2. BIHAR           DOWN FROM  54.4 TO 33.7
  3. W BENGAL  DOWN FROM 34.2 TO 20
  4. UP               DOWN FROM  40.9 TO 29.


Orissa, by contrast, shows a faster dec­line in poverty rates. Udit Sharma of the Institute for Studies in Industrial Development cites National Sample Survey data that shows the wages of casual workers there rising 17 per cent annually between 2009-10 and 2011-12—one of the highest.

Does economics alone explain the resistance of Bihar and UP to mobility? There is a social corollary to all this, difficult though it is to disentangle cause and effect here.

Soc­iologists point to caste—the persistence of discriminatory feudalist structures that don’t allow the markets to function independently, causing growth to disproportionately benefit the dominant castes.

In India, a “tension” exists between democracy and development, says Jeffrey Witsoe, Author of Democracy Against Development, a landmark work that looked at the economic impacts of feudalism in Bihar. Caste empowerment politics, he says, increased “democratic participation”, but “radically threatened the patronage State by systematically weakening its institutions and disrupting its development projects”.

Richer States grew more in the liberalization period, so the gap between richer and poorer States has been widening.
“Caste, landlessness and bonded labour are big culprits,” says Allahabad University Sociologist Kunal Keshri, who specialises on migration and social mobility. “Studies show lack of inter-caste marriages hampers social mobility.

Even in my city, Allahabad, or Varanasi, only recently have inter-community marriages become noticeable.” Internal migration from poor States has been of two types, Keshri says. The skilled, educated classes mostly move out permanently.

The second type—seasonal casual workers—is driven by both better income prospects and the chance to escape village-level shackles of caste. UP continues to have the highest share of India’s total population below the poverty line—at 22.17 per cent. The State anyway has the highest share of marginalized groups, such as Dalits (20.5 per cent) and Muslims (22.34 per cent, of whom only a small fraction are elite).

UP’s poverty profile is spread across about 50 districts. According to its annual plan document, 15 districts remain abysmally poor: Jaunpur, Ballia, Lalitpur, Mau, Ghazipur, Bahraich, Maharajganj, Hardoi, Deoria, Azamgarh, Balrampur, Shrawasti, Kushi Nagar, SK Nagar and Mirzapur.

Land ownership patterns hold another clue. “In most assessments of Bihar, hurdles in land reforms are often overlooked,” says Ashok Kumar Sinha of Bihar Agricultural University, Bhagalpur. On paper, Bihar was one of the first to prioritise implementation of the Abolition of Zamindari Act in 1949 to redistribute land, he says. Yet, powerful elite-caste zamindars secured many waivers after a series of court battles, including continued rights.

“Remember, zamindars were successful in exploiting the loopholes because successive governments were in reality their representatives. It was precisely to circumvent the Zamindari Abolition Act that the Bihar Land Reforms Act, 1950, was passed,” he says. Even the Ceiling on Landholding (Amendment) Act was sponsored by zamindars to prevent transfer of excess lands. “The only way to change is to create non-farm-based employment and that’s happening now,” he says.

In its pursuit of growth, India tends to ignore two facts, clinging to the well-worn shibboleths of the reform years. One, farm growth can actually cut poverty twice as fast as industrial growth. Two, they are NOT mutually exclusive areas of priority in a zero sum game: a 1 per cent rise in agricultural output in fact raises industrial production by 0.5 per cent and natio­nal income by 0.7 per cent, according to one calculation.

The rate of investment in agriculture in the 1980s and ’90s was an abysmal 8-12 per cent, so farm growth hobbled at 2.4 per cent or so. Other sectors not only saw reforms but got public investments over 35 per cent. This was reversed only with the 10th and 11th five year plans (2002-07 and 2007-12). Even today, only 40 per cent of India’s net sown area is irrigated, leaving farmers vulnerable to droughts.

And according to the government’s own findings, only 14 per cent of farmers are able to get minimum support prices. Chakravarty and Dehejia say one simple way to “understand this complex issue of economic divergence” is to take the recent example of Apple wanting to set up a manufacturing base in India.

Land and labour costs for Apple would be much cheaper in Bihar than in the “much richer states of Karnataka or Tamil Nadu”, they say. Yet, it has chosen to go South.

The “real political economy question”, they contend, is whether Bihar will continue to “tolerate” the development gap. “The best response is to allow maximum policy freedom to the States to innovate. The States, in turn, should allow greater freedom to the regions within, such as by empowering municipal cor­porations,” Dehejia says.

The whole paradigm of ‘growth’, of course, is not without its sceptics. Sociologist Ashis Nandy thinks there’s something fundamentally wrong about modern economic development. In a scholarly work, The Beautiful Expanding Future of Poverty, Nandy says the effects of development have been such that poverty, which always existed with India, has given way to utter destitution. He says he stands by it.

“One can stick out one’s neck and claim the dominant model of development, whatever else it can do, cannot abolish poverty…. Otherwise, there would be no poor people in America,”

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Pride in being Indian …

Posted on February 23, 2018. Filed under: Guide Posts, Indian Thought, Personalities |

 Adam Osborne on Elite Indians & Lack of National Pride – by S.Gurumurthy in The Organizer

Adam Osborne invented the portable computer. Turned a billionaire. Ended as bankrupt. His father Arthur Osborne spent the best part of his life with Ramana Maharishi.

Brought up and educated in Tiruvannamalai, Adam Osborne went back to the US and then came back to India. Settled in Kodaikanal, he was to the ordinary Indian the ‘White Tamilian’. He loved roses and died recently in Mother India’s lap.

What this man – who sought solace in India – thought about India and Indians is far more important to English-educated elite Indians.

Writing in Data Quest magazine in the US well before he came back to settle in India, Osborne recalled his life at the Ramanashram in Turuvanammalai thus: “I was surrounded by Indians who were proud of their Nationality and Heritage”.  Not just that. He says they “believed they had a lot to teach us Europeans”.  Here the reference is to the ordinary Indian, the Indian proud of his Nation.

He also finds another category of Indians – the elite and highly successful Indians and as a sample, Indian Americans. This is what he says about them. “Today I find myself dealing with Indians, many of who do not feel proud of their Indianness. Indian Americans represent the most affluent minority in America, ahead of Jewish Americans and Japanese Americans. This is a statistic and not an opinion. Indians swarm all over the Silicon Valley. Indians are recognized throughout America as technically superior. “And yet as a Group, they lack National Pride”.

Indians are not proud of their Nationality as Indians. Something I realized many years ago. Something that  puzzled me, I have frequently talked to Indians of their lack of National Pride, with telling results. Invariably, after making this assertion from the lecture podium, I find myself surrounded by Indians: Engineers, scientists, doctors, even lawyers, all asserting the correctness of my observations, ‘You are correct,’ they aver: ‘I am not proud that I am an Indian.”

Asks Adam Osborne, “Is India’s colonial heritage the sole reason? Who knows? But whatever the reasons, it is a pity.” What has it cost us? Osborne thinks this has made India a third world NationHe says: Since the day Indians learn pride, India will rapidly move out of its third world status to become one of the World’s Industrial Powers.

Moved for India he swore: ‘I will return to India, to preach Indian Pride. I will preach that Indians must learn to be proud of being Indians – irrespective of their Race or Religion.'”Suppose they regain their pride, says Adam Osborne: “Then there will be no more shoddy Indian products”. 

Why? Because every worker will generate output with the stamp of a proud man on it. With self-evident quality that screams out: “That is the work of an Indian!”

Osborne thinks this will even bring down corruption. “And corruption will decline. Even though these root causes of corruption transcend the bases of lack of Indian Pride of which I speak, nevertheless a Proud Man will pause, more than a man without pride, before extending his hand to receive a bribe.”

He concludes: “A Proud Indian will try harder to be responsible for products and services that others will praise. And it is in that praise that India’s future Industrial greatness lies.”

National Pride is thus equally the winning formula in trade wars as in actual wars. No amount of foreign investment is substitute for that. Will our elites who undermine the pride of Indians day after day realize Adam Osborne’s prescription for them?

For two reasons, I have quoted Adam Osborne.                                                 One, as he is a White man – his words are important to the Indian elite who want validation from the West.                                                                               Second, as he sought solace in India, his words are important to me.

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Corruption Levels 2017 …

Posted on February 22, 2018. Filed under: Indian Thought |

From India Today –

India has been ranked 81st in the global corruption perception index for 2017, released by Transparency International, which named the country among the “worst offenders” in terms of graft and press freedom in the Asia Pacific region.

The index, which ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, placed India at the 81st place. In  2016 India was in placed in the 79th position among 176 countries.

The index uses a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.  India’s score in the latest ranking, however, remained unchanged at 40. In 2015, the score was 38. The neighbouring Pakistan was placed at 117th position with their score at 32.

Transparency International further said, “in some countries across the region (Asia Pacific), journalists, activists, opposition leaders and even staff of law enforcement or watchdog agencies are threatened, and in the worst cases, even murdered”.

“Philippines, India and the Maldives are among the worst regional offenders in this respect. These countries score high for corruption and have fewer press freedoms and higher numbers of journalist deaths,” it added.

In the last six years, 15 journalists working on corruption stories in these countries were murdered, as reported by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

In the latest ranking New Zealand and Denmark were placed the highest, with scores of 89 and 88, respectively. On the other hand Syria, South Sudan and Somalia were ranked lowest with scores of 14, 12 and 9, respectively.

Meanwhile, China with a score of 41 was ranked 77th on the list, while Brazil was placed at 96th with a score of 37 and Russia was at the 135th place with a score of 29.

Further analysis of the results indicates that countries with the least protection for press and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) also tend to have the worst rates of corruption.

The analysis, which incorporates data from CPJ, showed that in the last six years, 9 out of 10 journalists were killed in countries that score 45 or less on the index.

“No activist or reporter should have to fear for their lives when speaking out against corruption. Given current crackdowns on both civil society and the media worldwide, we need to do more to protect those who speak up,” Transparency International Managing Director Patricia Moreira said.

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Our India …

Posted on February 3, 2018. Filed under: Indian Thought |

David Frawley, American Institute of Vedic Studies, New Mexico, U..S.A.

The elite of India suffers from a fundamental alienation from the traditions and culture of the land that would not be less poignant had they been born and raised in a hostile country.

The ruling elite appears to be little more than a native incarnation of the old colonial rulers who haughtily lived in their separate cantonments, neither mingling with the people nor seeking to understand their customs.

This new English-speaking aristocracy prides itself in being disconnected from the very soil and people that gave it birth.

There is probably no other country where It has become a national pastime among its educated class to denigrate its own culture and history, however great that has been over the many millennia of its existence. When great archaeological discoveries of India’s past are found, for example, they are not a subject for national pride but are ridiculed as an exaggeration, if not an invention, as if they represent only the imagination of backward chauvinistic elements within the culture.

There is probably no other country where regional, caste and family loyalties are more important than the national interest, even among those who claim to be democratic, socialist or caste reformers. Political parties exist not to promote a national agenda but to sustain one region or group of people in the country at the expense of the whole.

Each group wants as big a piece of the national pie as it can get, not realizing that the advantages it gains mean deprivation for other groups. Yet when those who were previously deprived gain power, they too seek the same unequal advantages that causes further inequality and discontent.

India’s affirmative action code is by far the most extreme in the world, trying to raise up certain segments of the population regardless of merit, and prevent others from gaining positions however qualified they may be. In the guise of removing caste, a new casteism has arisen where one’s caste is more important than one’s qualifications either in gaining entrance into a school or in finding a job when one graduates.

People view the government not as their own creation but as a welfare state from which they should take the maximum personal benefit, regardless of the consequences for the country as a whole.

Outside people need not pull Indians down. Indians are busy keeping any of their people and the country as a whole from rising up. They would rather see their neighbors or the nation fail if they are not given the top position.

It is only outside of India that Indians succeed because their native talents are not stifled by the dominant cultural self-negativity and rabid divisiveness that exists in the country today.

Political parties in India see gaining power as a means of amassing personal wealth and robbing the nation. Political leaders include gangsters, charlatans and buffoons who would stop short at nothing to gain power for themselves and their coteries.

Even so-called modern or liberal parties resemble more the courts of kings, where personal loyalty is more important than any democratic participation. Once they gain power politicians routinely do little but cheat the people for their own advantage. Even honest politicians find that they cannot function without some deference to the more numerous corrupt leaders who often have a stranglehold on the bureaucracy.

Politicians divide the country into warring vote banks and place one community against another. They offer favors to communities, like bribes to make sure that they are elected, or stay in power. They campaign on slogans that appeal to community fears and suspicions rather than create any national consensus or harmony.They hold power based upon blame and hatred rather than on any positive programs for social change. They inflame the uneducated masses with propaganda rather than work to make people aware of real social problems like overpopulation, poor infrastructure or lack of education.

Should a decent government come to power the opposition pursues pulling it down as its main goal, so that they can gain power for themselves. The idea of a constructive or supportive opposition is hard to find. The goal is to gain power for oneself and to not allow anyone else to succeed.

To further their ambitions, Indian politicians will manipulate the foreign press to denigrate their opponents, even if it means spreading lies and rumors and making the country an anathema in the eyes of the outside world. Petty conflicts in India are blown out of proportion in the foreign media, not by foreign journalists but by Indians seeking to use the media to score points against their own opponents in the country.

The Indians who are responsible for the news of India in the foreign press spread venom and distortion about their own country, perhaps better than any foreigner who dislikes the culture ever could.

Let us look at the type of leaders that India has had, with it’s Laloo Prasad Yadav (ex CM Bihar), Mulayam Singh Yadav (ex CM UP) or Jayalalita to mention but a few. Such individuals are little more than warlords who surround themselves with sycophants.

Corruption exists almost everywhere and bribery is the main way to do business in nearly all fields. India has an entrenched bureaucracy that resists change and stifles development, just out of sheer obstinacy and not wanting to give up any control.

The Congress Party, the oldest in this predominantly Hindu nation, had given its leadership to an Italian Catholic woman simply because as the widow of the last Gandhi prime minister, she carried the family torch, as if family loyalty were still the main basis of political credibility in the country. And such a leader and a party are deemed progressive!

The strange thing is that India is not a banana republic of recent vintage but one of the oldest and most venerable civilizations in the world. Its culture is not trumpeting a militant and fundamentalist religion trying to conquer the world for the one true faith but represents a vaster and more cosmic vision. India has given birth to the main religions that have dominated East Asia historically, the Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh, which are noted for tolerance and spirituality.

It has produced Sanskrit, perhaps the world’s greatest language. It has given us the incredible spiritual systems of Yoga and its great traditions of meditation and self-realization.

As the world looks forward to a more universal model of spirituality and a world view defined by consciousness rather than by religious dogma these traditions are perhaps the most important legacy to draw upon for creating a future enlightened civilization.

The irony is that rather than embracing its own great traditions, the modern Indian psyche prefers to slavishly imitate worn out trends in western intellectual thought like Marxism.

Though living in India, in proximity to temples, yogis and great festivals, most modern Indian intellectuals are oblivious to the soul of the land. They might as well be living in China for all they know of their own country.

They are isolated in their own alien ideas as if in a tower of iron. If they choose to rediscover India, it is more likely to occur by reading the books of western travelers visiting the country, rather than by their own direct experience of the people around them.

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Modi and the Economy …

Posted on January 31, 2018. Filed under: Indian Thought, Personalities |

Annat Jain is the founder of Acropolis Capital Group, New Delhi, a private equity firm that invests in India.

“The fox knows many things. The hedgehog knows one important thing”

In a now famous essay written when he was an Oxford Don in the 1930’s, Isaiah Berlin classified people into foxes and hedgehogs as a means of making a distinction about people and the different ways in which they confront reality. Foxes, according to Berlin, may know many things, but a coherent worldview is beyond their comprehension. The hedgehog, however, knows one great truth, and steadfast in its pursuit, remains unreconciled until he/she reaches it.

This parable is perhaps the best way to understand Narendra Modi and his actions surrounding the economy. Modi is the hedgehog who knows what India needs to do to become prosperous, but importantly, is also willing to act upon it.

Indeed, PM Narendra Modi may be the only politician in contemporary Indian history who has undertaken structural reforms out of choice rather than, like our ex PM Narasimha Rao in the 1990’s, being compelled to do so.

Structural reform is thankless: costs are borne upfront, and rewards come later. (The currency for this transaction is political capital, and Arun Jaitley has paid the most for his role as the able knight who is the face of such change.)

For years, it was the very absence of these structural reforms that armchair foxes have bemoaned. Now that the reforms are occurring, the foxes are coming out of the forest, and unwilling to pay the price, claim that these are ill-timed, ill-conceived or ill-executed.

Through his decade-long executive leadership of one of India’s richest states, Modi knows what the foxes don’t: First, that there’s never a right time to make a hard choice, and second, the slowdown is the result of a fundamental fragility of the Indian economy baked into India’s economic foundation at its creation: the government’s overwhelming role in the economy.

Modi is seeking to eliminate this fragility by recalibrating the entire engine of India’s economic growth methodically: Jaitley’s increasing of the states’ share in the divisible pool of union taxes in 2015, digitization/demonetization of the economy in 2016, the GST in 2017,

That these reforms are happening without any taint on any senior politician of the government is in itself a first in India’s modern history. The republic was lucky to survive through years of pillage under the Congress, and if it were nothing else but just that the BJP is taint-free, we would still have much to be thankful for.

But Modi’s toughest test is yet to come. Just as Modi fought the culture wars and reshaped our national discourse on identity and nationhood for all time, and just as how he is transforming India’s foreign policy through a new Modi-doctrine, he must now dismantle the greatest vestige of Jawaharlal Nehru’s and Indira Gandhi’s legacy: the socialist superstructure that is the curse of India.

Only when he is finished, will he have succeeded in his undeclared personal ambition: to bury Nehru and Indira Gandhi forever.

To do so involves treating the economic organisation of a society not merely in transactional terms, but as a moral issue inextricably linked to individual rights and dignity, and moving wholeheartedly towards the only economic system that provides for such: a free-market system adapted to help those on India’s economic margins.

In doing so, he would do well to reduce his reliance on ever wiser economic councils and bureaucrats, but follow his hedgehog instincts which have yielded such sharp results in foreign policy and India’s culture wars.

(As an aside, I note with some amusement a lesson from my first class in economics with Professor Jagdish Bhagwati: “India did so badly in the 50’s and 60’s not because it had too few economists, but because it had too many!”)

This then, is the call to arms. In addition to a dogged focus on anti-corruption (a necessary issue for 2014 but insufficiently ambitious for 2019), Modi needs to speak to the country in civilizational terms about the manner of its economic organisation, and seek the mandate to put the nation on the path to double-digit growth for decades to come.

In practical terms, and as a first step, it requires the sale of the government-owned banks and PSU’s in their entirety. Not re-capitalisation, not mere NPA-resolution, not partial-disinvestment of loss-making PSU’s etc. A complete sale. These are giant black holes that destroy capital, or at best, use it sub-optimally. Modi cannot rebuild a nation without removing the termites from its foundation.

By seizing the time still available in 2017-2019 (and perhaps for five years thereafter), Modi may still live up to his own revolutionary declaration of 2014: “Government has no role in business”. Modi may represent the last best hope for the Indian economy to achieve true greatness. If Modi doesn’t do it now, India will be condemned to this middling, snakes-and-ladder growth pattern for another several generations.

If not Modi, then who? If not now, then when? The hedgehog knows.

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Background of Padmavati …

Posted on January 31, 2018. Filed under: Indian Thought, Personalities |

By Kamalpreet – a researcher affiliated with the University of Delhi and tweets at @KPSinghtweets.

To know why Karni Sena is doing what it is doing, you have to go back to September 1987, when the Rajputs of Rajasthan were the target of global outrage.

Karni Mata is a deity worshipped widely in Rajasthan as an incarnation of the goddess Durga. The goddess is particularly revered by the Rajput community and is the presiding deity of the royal houses of Jodhpur and Bikaner, thus occupying a prominent place in Rajput identity.

This Rajput tradition of deification of the chaste, ascetic female form – whether it be Rani Padmini or the 18-year-old Roop Kanwar, who burned on a funeral pyre in 1987 – has often brought the community in direct conflict with a modern, liberal society that views these practices as not just anachronistic but also oppressive and patriarchal.

The resulting fault lines have made the political careers of many an enterprising leader. In 1987, it was a young Rajput by the name of Kalyan Singh Kalvi. In 2017, it is his son.

The story of Karni Sena is intimately tied up with the story of its founder and chief ideologue, Lokendra Singh Kalvi and his quest to preserve what he considers to be the cultural core of his community.

To millions of anglophone Indians getting to know him for the first time among visuals of burning buses and vandalised theatres, Lokendra Singh Kalvi might come across as a regressive, ultraconservative fanatic.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Sixty-two-year-old Lokendra Singh Kalvi is the son and scion of Kalyan Singh Kalvi, erstwhile union minister for Energy in the short-lived Chandrashekar government that came to power at the centre in 1990. The family have been hereditary landlords in the village of Kalvi in Nagaur district, located in the Thar desert in Rajasthan.

Rajputs of Rajasthan have traditionally been opposed to the Congress, viewing the party as being responsible for eroding the power of the erstwhile royals. Thus, Kalyan Singh Kalvi built his political career on a platform that stood against the overwhelming Congress dominance of the 1970s and the 1980s. At the same time, he was locked in a power struggle against Bhairon Singh Shekhawat – the then CM of Rajasthan – for the leadership of the Rajput community.

The year 1987 was one of those landmark years in the history of Indian democracy that are remembered today as having decided the political and ideological course of our nation. Starting in the second week of September 1987, news channels began carrying reports on the story of Roop Kanwar, an 18-year-old Rajput woman in a remote hamlet in northern Rajasthan who had allegedly been forced to commit the mediaeval Rajput rite of Sati – where a widow burns herself on the funeral pyre of her husband.

The Rajputs held that the act was performed voluntarily and in accordance with the community’s ancient customs and was thus outside the purview of the nation’s judiciary. Within the Rajput community, Roop Kanwar was immediately hailed as Sati Mata, a goddess worthy of being worshipped, just like Rani Padmini of Chittor.

The incident garnered international attention, with even the New York Times giving it prime coverage, and soon became a major embarrassment for the government of Cambridge educated Rajiv Gandhi. The collective wrath of the enraged executive and the outraged judiciary fell upon the Rajput community – over a 100 Rajput men and women were rounded up and charged with abetting the ‘murder’ of Roop Kanwar.

Among those who led the condemnation of the barbaric medieval ritual were Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, the ‘Lion of Rajasthan’, and the widely accepted leader of the community till then.

A visibly wounded Rajput community withdrew to itself and closed ranks, shunning all contact with outsiders. The Rajputs felt that the Indian state had trespassed its mandate and encroached upon the religious and cultural rights of the community, while the media had unfairly portrayed them as barbarians.

Abandoned by their own leader, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, the community had no voice and no one to tell their side of their story.

It was at this moment that Kalyan Singh Kalvi stepped up and became the face of the much-vilified Rajputs. From addressing rallies to giving interviews to prominent national dailies, Kalyan Singh Kalvi articulated in a nuanced manner the hurt of the Rajput community, presenting it to a nation whose collective conscience had been outraged by what they viewed as a regressive practice that had no place in a modern democracy.

At the heart of Kalvi’s argument was the burning question of the rights of a community over its history, culture, and past and to what extent could these be subject to the law of the nation.

Following Kalvi’s lead, many Rajput leaders finally came out in defence of the community and the agitation in defence of Roop Kanwar’s sati grew increasingly militant. Onkar Singh, a Rajput leader, and a former IAS officer, even publicly threatened that if the government continued to persecute them, the Rajputs would break away from Hinduism, like the Sikhs had done in neighbouring Punjab.

For Kalvi though, the bold move of defying the established progressive-liberal norms of the Indian state and the popular media paid rich political dividends. In a single stroke he not only dethroned Bhairon Singh Shekhawat as the preeminent leader of the Rajputs, but had also emerged as a leader of national renown in his own right.

He was promptly rewarded with the presidentship of the Rajasthan unit of the Janata Dal.

As Kalvi’s clout grew, he became kingmaker, playing a key role in the ascent to Prime Ministership of a fellow Rajput, Chandra Shekhar Singh. The latter rewarded Kalvi with a cabinet portfolio – that of energy. There were talks in political circles that Kalvi might be headed for even bigger things, perhaps even the prime ministership itself.

However, just when Kalvi’s prolific career was about to reach its pinnacle, the leader passed away at a relatively young age of 58. In many ways, Kalyan Singh Kalvi was to the Janata Dal what Pramod Mahajan was later to be for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – a charismatic young leader marked for great things but lost to the cruel hands of fate in his prime.

More importantly, Kalvi’s demise had two immediate consequences – Bhairon Singh Shekhawat was able to regain his position as the leader of the Rajput community (he was later to become the vice president of India), and a young Lokendra Singh Kalvi was to be left bereft of a political mentor just when he was beginning to test the political waters.

The young Lokendra Singh Kalvi repeatedly contested elections from multiple seats on BJP tickets but lost each time. He even tried his luck by going over first to the Congress and later to the BSP, but neither party gave him a ticket. Like his father before him, he needed burning, polarising issues to mobilise the community behind him.

He found these in the simmering caste cauldron of Rajasthan. Jat ki Beti, Jat ki Roti, Jat ka Note, Jat ka Vote , Sirf Jat Ko.

Caste matters in Rajasthan, perhaps more than in any other state in India. And Rajputs, despite being associated in popular imagination as the cultural and ethnic mascots of a Rajasthani identity, are far from the most numerous caste in Rajasthan.

Jats make up roughly 12 per cent of Rajasthan’s population and are the single largest community in the state, while Rajputs make up about 7 per cent. The other dominant communities include Gurjars, Bishnois, Meenas, Brahmins, Meghwals , Vaishyas, and Muslims.

The political and social life of the state is organised around complex and ever-evolving alliances and counter alliances among these communities.

For instance, the Bishnoi community, for whom the protection of all wildlife is a central tenet of their faith, has a history of antagonism with the Rajputs due to the latter’s custom of hunting wild animals. The Bishnois thus find natural allies in the Jats .

The Gurjars on the other hand have been ethnically and historically very close to the Rajputs. During the 7-8 centuries AD, Rajasthan was ruled by a dynasty known as the Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty that successfully saw off a series of invasions of the Indian sub-continent by the earliest Arab invaders.

By the 12th century, the Gurjaras found themselves reduced to being nomadic shepherds and placed lower down the caste hierarchy than the Rajputs, though the two communities maintained close links. It was for instance a common practice among noble Rajput families to feed a newly born Rajput child at the breast of a Gurjar woman, in the belief that it would infuse in the young prince some of the ferocity that was the hallmark of the Gurjars.

Both the Jats and the Gurjars, in turn, often find themselves at odds with the Meenas who are an indigenous tribe of Rajasthan.

However, one equation that more or less remains unchanged through all these complex alliances is the rivalry between the Jats and the Rajputs. And for good reason.

Jats have typically laid claim to nearly a third of the 25 parliamentary seats from Rajasthan and 40 assembly seats in a house of 200 in keeping with their numbers. They play a decisive role in another 20 assembly seats. However, despite their overwhelming numerical superiority, the state has never had a Jat chief minister.

This fact has long been a sticking point with the Jat community and certain sections of the community lay the blame squarely on the Rajputs. The issue gains even more urgency for the Jat community given the fact that in neighbouring Punjab and Haryana, Jats remain firmly in control at all levels of the political machinery, in conformity with their numbers.

The closest Jats of Rajasthan have come to having one of their own in the chief minister’s residence is Vasundhara Raje Scindia – a Maratha scion married into the Dholpur royal family – one of the only two Jat princely states in Rajasthan. (The other being Bharatpur). While Raje is fondly referred to as ‘Jat Bahu’, her relations with the Rajputs have been turbulent for the same reason.

These ancient caste rivalries of Rajasthan took a precipitous turn with the implementation of the Mandal commission’s recommendations and reservations in government jobs became the new battleground for old rivalries.

In 1999, acceding to their long held demand, Jats were granted other backward class status in Rajasthan, thus raising the stakes in the bitter Jat-Rajput rivalry. As Gurjars and Meenas already had reservations, fears arose among the Rajput community of the complete erosion of their leftover clout.

In 1952, when the first elections were held to the state assembly, there were 54 Rajputs MLAs in a house of 160 while only 12 Jats were elected. By 1998, the number of Jats had risen to 42 while the Rajput numbers had been reduced to half of what they’d been.

It was at this point that Lokendra Singh Kalvi saw his big moment and decided to jump into the fray, quitting the BJP and founding his own party – the Social Justice Front (Rajasthan Samajik Nyaya Manch) that advocated for reservation for economically backward Rajputs. The party decided to contest elections across Rajasthan on its own, convinced that Kalvi’s call for Rajput mobilisation would be rewarded.

However, electoral success continued to evade Lokendra Singh Kalvi and his new venture ended in a debacle. He returned to the BJP, this time seeming to settle down for good in what appeared to be perennial political obscurity.

But the factious caste politics of Rajasthan soon threw up another opportunity, one that was too hard for an enterprising politician to resist. In 2006, Anandpal Singh, a gangster who had acquired a Robin Hood-like reputation in the Rajput community for standing up to Jat aggression, murdered two of his former accomplices, both of them Jats.

The Jats, smarting under their own set of grievances against the Rajputs, soon mobilised in record numbers and a series of protests and demonstrations rocked the state. The state government, bowing to the Jat pressure, responded by rounding up a number of young Rajput men believed to be accomplices of Anandpal Singh’s gang. This sparked resentment amongst the Rajputs who viewed it as systematic persecution by a state machinery increasingly dominated by Jats, Gurjars and Meenas owing to caste-based reservations.

It was at this turbulent point in the state’s history that Lokendra Singh Kalvi founded the Sri Rajput Karni Sena to mobilise Rajputs against a system that had, in his view, become heavily antagonistic to them through decades-long process of social engineering.

Thus, on 23 September 2006, the Karni Sena came into being with the avowed aim of ‘fighting political and social malice against the Rajputs’, and electing more Rajput legislators to the state assembly. The organisation soon found itself embroiled in repeated controversies, first over protests against the film Jodhaa Akbar and later over turbulent campus politics in Rajasthan University.

The Rajasthan University (RU), located in Jaipur, in fact became a prominent recruiting ground for the incipient organisation. In many ways, the university is a perfect microcosm of the greater caste-based politics that rules the state.

Jaipur is a bustling metropolis of over 5 million with its own metro service, an international airport, sprawling special economic zones and IT parks. At the same time, its crowded lanes, lined with artisanal wares produced by rural communities, camel-drawn carts, imposing castles, and the general chaos give off an indelible impression of a medieval town caught in a time warp.

At the Rajasthan University (RU) campus, middle class young men and women from the rural hinterland find themselves in a similar flux. Caught between the alien modernity of a strange metropolis and the familiar chaos of the past they left behind, they find comfort in the sense of belonging provided by caste-based organisations.

Even the hostels in RU are caste-based. Thus, you have Rajput hostel, Jat hostel, Gurjar hostel, Meena hostel, Yadav hostel and Muslim hostel.

Finding itself pitted against the much better organised Jat Mahasabha, the young Karni Sena soon jumped into the thick of action on campus when in 2009, it mobilised Rajput support over an incident involving a campus brawl between a Jat and a Rajput student. The issue had immediate repercussions outside the campus and forced the powers that be to take notice of the Karni Sena, and Lokendra Singh Kalvi.

Again, in August 2016, the Jaipur Development Authority sealed off the gates of the Rajmahal Palace, a property owned by the Kacchwaha Rajput royal family of Jaipur. The Karni Sena mobilised large scale Rajput protests, portraying the move of the ‘Jat Bahu’ Vasundhara Raje-led government as another instance of persecution of the Rajput community.

The authorities eventually relented and the victory significantly bolstered the prestige of the Karni Sena within the Rajput community, and of Lokendra Singh Kalvi as the protector of Rajput interests.

From Roop Kanwar to Padmavati makes a full circle for Kalvis of Nagaur. With Padmavati, the life and political career of Lokendra Singh Kalvi appears to have come full circle. It was exactly 30 years ago that his father had taken a great gamble in championing a seemingly illiberal and unpopular cause, emerging in the end as an articulate conservative leader of not just the Rajput community but of the entire political right.

Today, Lokendra Singh Kalvi and his organisation are making a similar statement against a state committed to affirmative action and an established modernising liberalism that seems to be encroaching upon what the community sees as its personal domain.

For the Rajput community however, the issues involved are those of the protection of memories and rituals they hold sacred, and the extent to which other ethnic groups in a democratic state can appropriate these scared aspects of their culture for popular entertainment. Or so, the Karni Sena wants us to believe.

Whether Lokendra Singh Kalvi will be able to fashion out any credible political gains out of the chaos that he has unleashed remains to be seen. It is equally likely that the whole spectacle might just be the final display of fireworks before his stuttering political career finally sinks into oblivion.

For now, however, Lokendra Singh Kalvi remains the man of the moment.

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Republic Day – 70 Yrs after the Brits …

Posted on January 27, 2018. Filed under: Indian Thought |

Rahul Devesh in The Tribune – Two Republics poles Apart – Jan 26 2018

Soon, the UT Adviser took the guard of honour and the parade began. All seemed in sync. Policemen, NCC cadets and schoolchildren marched past us. Parents were busy taking pictures and making videos of their children taking part in the celebrations. Students from the School for Blind in Sector 26 were greeted with applause as they were participating in the function for the first time in 27 years. The message was that the republic had marched ahead.

However, this was all that I had seen since childhood. Still, at the venue, it was largely a republic of well-off. Away from it, I saw another republic, with people more numerous, having no time for the celebrations. It was a republic of juice vendors, rickshaw-pullers and homeless, struggling for food, shelter and clothing. As the city was bracing for another day of activity, on the way to my hometown, I met a tiny republic of homeless near Sector 34.

Some families had started waking up. They were homeless, certainly beggars. One of them, a woman, named Sangeeta, waved at me. She wanted food for her children. I went to her. She, along with three children, not more than two to three years of age, was sitting beside a bonfire. A pant of a child was burning to keep them warm. The children were seen holding empty lunchboxes. She, along with her family, had come from Udaipur, Rajasthan.

They made both ends meet by selling balloons and buntings. They slept on the footpath. Quilts and some utensils constituted their property. She won’t spend days at Raen Basera as she claimed it was not safe for the children. Some children had been stolen from there, she claimed. She never celebrated the Republic Day or Independence Day. Giving them some money, I bade adieu to them.

The same struggle was of Rahees Babu, a tea stall owner near the Judicial Courts Complex in Sector 76, Mohali. He was not homeless and was earning decent. Luckily, he had two children who were studying in a school and had gone to celebrate the day.

However, despite the fact that it was a holiday, he had come to work. He wanted to buy a house, for which he had been struggling for the past 13 to 14 years. He had applied for the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana long ago, but did not know about any progress. However, he was not dejected altogether. He had hope, if he worked well. But for how long? He did not know.

As I rose to wish him goodbye, I asked him if “Sasta Bhojan” was still being served outside the judicial complex. With a smile, he nodded in affirmation. But it had displaced some vendors to build another republic and sustain them.

Their contrasting but still somewhat similar plight reminded me of what Robert Frost had once written:
The woods are lovely dark and deep
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep.

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