Indian Thought

Indian Judiciary Self Inflicts …

Posted on May 13, 2018. Filed under: Indian Thought |

Gen KM Bhimaya –

The system of the CJI being the Master of the Roster has been prevalent all along. The report is not false or baseless but biased.
As for corruption in the higher judiciary, by and large the record is clean though not spotless. There have been some blatant offenders. Unfortunately the procedure of dealing with them is tedious and self defeating. It allows the violators to escape without penalty by resigning just before impeachment.
So far there has been no introspection by higher judiciary to cleanse itself.
Even the selection system is opaque and the Supreme Court has arbitrarily assigned powers unto themselves which were not provided in the Constitution.
Any attempt to reform by the Executive is being stonewalled.

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Black Female Tourist in India …

Posted on May 5, 2018. Filed under: Indian Thought |

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A Peep into our Courts …

Posted on April 29, 2018. Filed under: Indian Thought |


 It does take a lot of time and effort to prove a criminal guilty in India. Assa Ram’s conviction at Jodhpur is just a case in point. From the preliminary investigation to the verdict, it is such a long drawn process.

The twist in the story comes in when very reputed and senior lawyers get sucked in. Voluntarily or otherwise, pro-bono or not, the cat and mouse game begins. To pick holes and to plug them becomes an interesting contest of oratory skills.

In all this we have a referee who interprets the law as a judge, who waits for the cats to finish fighting over a piece of bread and finally hit his mallet to declare which side wins.

 Since I visited Jodhpur court, I was fascinated by the scene of the numerous “Munshi’s” (typist)” there. If you want to see how a typewriter looks like then either go to a museum or go to a court.

Computers have replaced those machines now but the charm of listening to the keys striking the paper with multiple layers of carbon used to be music to the ears, the rat-a-tat, the quick adjustments of the roller, the winding of the ribbon spool, separating the stuck keys were a treat to watch.

 Today it is the keyboard, I noticed that on most of them the alphabets, numbers and special characters are all invisible. The keyboards have been so overused that even the space bar shines like silver.

 I was awestruck at the speed with which these guys type. They have a speed of more than 150 words per minute. You need that electrifying speed to key in cases. There is rarely any spelling or grammatical mistake. This I am talking of the English typing.

Vernacular typing may be a word or two slower. A dot matrix printer would take longer to print than would take a Munshi to type. They are the nerve centre of any court and a force multiplier for any lawyer.

 As you enter the court premises’ you will find people with black cloaks and black suits all over. I don’t understand if there are so many lawyers why cases dangle so long.

They have specialisations like divorce lawyers, land & property specialists, criminal lawyers etc etc. There I found a lot of these tout kind of people hanging around.

Moment you enter he will ask you your issue and take you to the perfect place. A typical Munshi with a typewriter on a “takhat”, sitting on a chair, a make shift cupboard to his side, a wooden bench for you to sit, papers strewn all over are a common sight.

You would be lucky if they have a tin roof on top otherwise it would be under a tree. I have never understood why they can’t have proper offices.

 The record of stamp papers he issues is kept meticulously. Your name and your father’s name is the only thing that matters. Some things are done on a hundred rupees note, the price varies from state to state.

Even the court rooms are dingy. Most of the times the judge refuses to see your face but sometimes he does. He summons you, looks at you and asks you your name and date of birth, turns that bunch of papers up and down, glances back at you with piercing eyes and signs the documents.

You breathe a sigh of relief that thank God you have not been put in jail for registering your own house.

 Be that as it may, court cases linger on far too long. Fast track courts can beat normal courts. The long list of witnesses is never ending. Some die, some are killed, some evaporate from the scenes and some backtrack from their words.

The easiest thing is to say that they said so under duress and were made to forcefully confess. The investigative agencies do a shoddy job which gives a chance to these black coats to twist the case. The result is even if one judge pronounces a person guilty; the higher court judge finds no evidence worthwhile to prosecute the criminal.

 If this is how the “mandi of the judicial process”, the law, the lawyer, his typist & his typewriter are going to churn out tons of “raddi” then God help us.

From the commitment of a crime to an affidavit on a stamp paper, from an FIR to summons, from a hearing to a judgement, from one court to another court we go round and round in circles.

The laws keep becoming stricter but the crime and the criminal are there to stay. The speed of the typist doesn’t matter after all cases are decided on the skills of a lawyer.

The judge keeps waiting to deliver justice & to finally make his kill. How can we reduce justice delivery time !!!!!!!!!!!

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Curious Case – Govt and NGO in tandem …

Posted on April 29, 2018. Filed under: Indian Thought |

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Vaastu Laws …

Posted on April 25, 2018. Filed under: Indian Thought |

Here are some random time tested Laws from the Ancient Indian Science of Vaastu for Building a Dwelling …….

1. The Plot should be a Rectangle or a Square. The slope, however slight, of the area within the Boundary Wall should be sloping towards the North or East. The drainage within should be flowing towards N or E.

2. The Built Area should have an open space all around it between the Built Area and the Boundary Wall – uncovered and where one can walk around in the open – if only a minimum of one to two feet alround.

3. The Gate to the Plot and Building should be towards the North or East.

4. The Master Bedroom should be towards the South of the House with Head of the Beds towards the South or East and feet towards the North or West. The Office or workplace should have one facing E or N

5. The Prayer Room should be towards the North – East or in the Center of the House.

6. The Kitchen should NEVER BE IN THE SOUTH or WEST.  It could have a Store or Servant Room to shield it from that Direction.

A. The Stove should be such that one stands and faces the North or East as one works. However the Stove and Sink should be displaced and Not immediately opposite.

B.  The Water Taps and Sink should be towards the South or West so that one faces that direction as one works..

7. The Water Tank at the top should be in the SW Corner. However the Underground Water Tank should be on the North or NE side of the Building.

8. The Staircase should be towards the S or W and the Stairs – always an odd number – should slope or come down towards the N or E If if the Stairs are in a Stairwell, then they should climb clockwise from the Bottom.

9. Avoid mirrors in the Bedrooms or have them facing S or W.

10. If the Room ia above a Porch, then it is advisable to have the ends of the Porch curved rather than flat.

Happy Building ….

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Maj Arya Writes to Mr Modi …

Posted on March 19, 2018. Filed under: Indian Thought, Personalities |

What can a former junior army officer tell you that you don’t already know?  Absolutely nothing. But it is this very insignificance of mine that makes this letter different. I see dark clouds above and difficult times ahead. I seek your intervention. 
To our East, Xi Jinping has probably been crowned Emperor of China, even if they still call him President. They say that he will rule till he breathes, with all the power of the Party, Politburo and the PLA concentrated in his hands. This simply means a far more aggressive China led by a man who, in real terms, is not accountable to anyone.
While we are still figuring out how to respond, China’s encirclement of India is complete. From bases in South China Sea to the 99-year lease of the Hambantota Port, from PLA warships in Gwadar to the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, we are hopelessly surrounded.
To our West, we are dealing with a rogue nuclear-armed army that actually owns a nation of 200 million luckless souls. This army is not accountable to anyone. In 1999, it launched an attack on Kargil, without so much as informing its own Prime Minister.
In 1965, it did not deem it necessary to inform its own sister services, the Pakistan Air force and Pakistan Navy that it had launched Operation Gibraltar and attacked India in Kashmir. 
Both the Pakistan Naval and Air Chiefs suspected something was wrong, but their worst fears came true when they heard Madam Noor Jehan singing patriotic songs on radio. That, in Pakistan, usually means war. Or a coup.
Pakistan will supposedly issue, though some say it already has, tens of millions of long-term visas to Chinese nationals to settle in Balochistan for the China Pakistan Economic Corridor projects. 
According to the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), by 2048 the majority population of Balochistan will be Chinese. 
Mandarin is already being taught to Pakistani children, not that they were learning anything useful earlier… and the Yuan will soon be legal tender in Pakistan.
Closer home, there is massive radicalization in Kashmir. From the pulpit of mosques to social media accounts, the Valley is turning Wahhabi with a fierceness not seen earlier. ISIS flags are waved at funerals and clashes.
 “Is ISIS really present in Kashmir?” a publisher asked me recently. “Islamic State is an idea, not a car dealership,” –  I tried to explain. There may or may not be physical manifestations of this vile idea, but to assume it does not exist just because you can’t see it, would be a gross miscalculation.
 If terrorists repose faith in an idea, it is real. Lets not look for overt signs. No one is going to put up neon boards in downtown Srinagar. Its in the speech in the mosque, the terrorist raising his index finger on video, the sign of “Tawheed” or oneness of God, the central monotheistic concept in Islam, it is in the flags draped over terrorists bodies in funerals. Seek, and you shall find.
 A good part of the battle for mind-space in Kashmir can be won if we have a narrative. Pakistan has a Kashmir narrative. Hurriyat has a Kashmir narrative. Terror organizations have a Kashmir narrative. All of them push their narrative everyday. And India, which has the most powerful Kashmir narrative based on the absolute truth, is reluctant to even tell its side of the story. 
So, in the absence of our truth, their lies flourish. Kunan Poshpora. 700,000 troops in Kashmir. Genocide. Disappearances. Mass rapes. Unknown graves. Braid chopping. Flying saucers. Its like Sydney Sheldon has started writing in Kashmiri.
 It is important that an urgent narrative around Kashmir is created and pushed. There are a lot of fence sitters in Kashmir. They overtly support the terrorists, but privately hate them. Such is the cost of living in Kashmir. We must give these fence sitters a story; a narrative so powerful and true that it blows away everything in its path. 
This narrative exists. It is structured around the truth of the UN Resolutions of Kashmir, the truth about the Hurriyat, the truth about the lavish lifestyles of those who scream “azaadi”. Shopping malls, private jets, luxury hotel stays, foreign holidays in Spain and Malaysia… while the hapless population is mired in misery, 
For the separatists, the blood of the Kashmiris is a credit card with no limit. Keep swiping. Keep killing. Many Kashmiris support the Hurriyat not because of love or respect, but because Kashmiris have a long history of supporting whoever they perceive as the victor. Kashmiris see Hurriyat winning against the Indian state. They don’t care to know or acknowledge that the Hurriyat exists because the Indian Constitution allows space for dissent. 
Had Hurriyat tried in Pakistan, a minuscule percentage of what it does in Kashmir, Geelani would have disappeared and the Mirwaiz would have been found under some culvert in a very small gunny sack.
In Kashmir there is a very fine, almost invisible, line between fear and respect. Some say there is no such line at all. We must understand these nuances.
Geelani and his cohorts are doing a very fine balancing act. They are indispensible to the Pakistanis and have, somehow, convinced the Indian government that they speak for the Kashmiri people.
That credibility must be damaged, not just by NIA raids but also in the heart of the Kashmiri people. This is not difficult to do; the Hurriyat’s credibility is based on falsehood. All we need is to be constant and consistent in cracking the mirror, with truth.
Now about our India. Your greatest initiative to push India to industrial superstardom, “Make In India” is sputtering to a halt.
And the people who are spiking it are your own bureaucrats. Not just the elite of the bureaucracy but the middle and lower level functionaries, too. The entire structure is rotten. They derive their power from stopping progress and denial of permission. They have created these rules and laws to buttress their arguments. Sir, if India has to progress, its bureaucracy must be cut to size.
Before asking countries to invest in India, we must take a step back and take the surgeon’s knife to India’s “babudom”. Let a committee for reforms in bureaucracy, be constituted; a group with wide ranging powers.
At the very top, we need technocrats. The miracle of the Delhi Metro happened because of E Sridharan. Had there been a senior bureaucrat in charge, the Delhi Metro would have gone the way of the Tejas LCA.
Our issue is not whether we have meritorious people at the top, or not. The issue is that we have wrong people at the top. And they decide sensitive policy, without having a day’s exposure to the practical aspects of the issue. We have a veritable galaxy of “Paper Tigers” running the administration of India. 
When we put the right people at the top, magic happens. ISRO is a miracle because, scientists lead it. The day a senior bureaucrat is appointed Chairman of ISRO; you will receive a beautiful presentation on why ISRO can no longer launch satellites.
 It is these very bureaucrats who are killing Make In India, especially in defence manufacturing. Permit me to submit the following –
Firstly, we must redefine the entire process for selection and purchase of any weapons system. Each item takes decades to order and then decades to reach the soldier. By that time, it is obsolete.
Sir, you must be aware that two-thirds of all Indian Army equipment is obsolete. Our artillery is 35 years old, simply because we did not order, manufacture or induct a single artillery gun for past 35 years.
Secondly, no one is going to invent any weapons system just for us. All weapons systems that we are importing are being used in some armed force of the world. It should not take more than five years to import even something as sophisticated as a fighter jet.
The Air Force knows what it wants. Let them know the budget. They will figure out what they want, test it and then make recommendations to the government. Ditto for other services. But importing is not Make In India, right?
Thirdly, execution is the key. Let us assume that Indian Army wants a new assault rifle. The army knows what it wants, because technical evaluation happens every day in the Indian Army. It’s not a one-time process for them.
Let them shortlist 5 rifles, globally. Let them test all of them simultaneously. Why should rifle trials take a decade? It’s a rifle…just a collection of metal moving parts.
In a few months, they should shortlist 3 rifles. Let the negotiations begin. Again, this must be completed in a stipulated time. The selected vendor should be partnered with an Indian company to start manufacturing in India. By the time factory starts production, 15% of rifles can be directly imported.
Yes, there has been a greater push for transparency. There should a similar push for speed.
 Sir, in the end, the key is not global weapons manufacturers making weapons in India. It is our investment in R&D. We must have an indigenous manufacturing base, which is the result of Indian minds and Indian sweat.
The sooner we shut down our Ordnance Factories, the better it would be for our manufacturing and also the lives of our soldiers. Overpricing and pathetic quality are their hallmarks. 
In fact, some of their products are so bad that Nepal refuses to take them for free. Yes, Sir. Nepal refused to induct the 5.56 mm INSAS rifle. The rifle is so bad that even if given free, it is too expensive a deal.
India is marching towards global super-power status. But we are like an athlete who runs with an iron ball chained to the feet. Everyone wants the athlete to run faster, but no one is looking at the iron ball.
That iron ball is India’s bureaucracy. Unless we hack away at that ball and chain, we will keep dragging out feet. We will keep losing.
 The day the top employee and decision maker of every government department is an experienced and qualified subject matter specialist who is duly empowered, things will improve. 
For you, it’s just a snap of your fingers, but for India it will change everything, just like appointing Sridharan changed the face of Indian urban mobility.
We have many Sridharans, impatient to give wings to their dreams of India, but held back by the ball and chain.
“Dreams float on an impatient wind. A wind that wants to create a new order. An order of strength and thundering of fire”
[3/17, 6:20 PM] Registrar: Dr. APJ Kalam, perhaps India’s greatest ever Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces wrote these lines. It is his dream that we must impatiently pursue, with vigor and renewed resolve.
Warm Respects & Regards
Major Gaurav Arya (Retd)
17th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment
Indian Army
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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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