The spiritual gift of India to the world has already begun. India's spirituality is entering Europe and America in an ever increasing measure. That movement will grow; amid the disasters of the time more and more eyes are turning towards her with hope and there is even an increasing resort not only to her teachings, but to her psychic and spiritual practice. -- Sri Aurobindo (from the message broadcast on the eve of August 15, 1947)

Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Very few people have the power to seize the opportunity but many have the power to stop

Home > Front Page > Indian Express Chidambaram to Shourie, all agree: key to growth is delivery of governance to the poor: Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh releases The Politics of Change: A Ringside View by N K Singh (second from left) at 7, Race Course Road on Monday. Also in the picture are Penguin Books India president Thomas Abraham (extreme right) and Shekhar Gupta, Editor-in-Chief, The Indian Express. Anil Sharma
NEW DELHI, JULY 30: What is the single big idea of economic reforms? One idea that can be implemented despite the inertia of politics and government?
The answers differed but they were linked by a common strand: lack of economic governance and the need to improve delivery mechanisms so that those untouched by reforms could benefit from India’s growth story.
This emerged as the central idea of the panel discussion initiated by Finance Minister P Chidambaram. Answering the question were former disinvestment minister Arun Shourie, KV Kamath, managing director and CEO, ICICI Bank; Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director, Reliance Industries; Prannoy Roy of NDTV and Shekhar Gupta of The Indian Express. And, of course, the guest who was the pivot of it all: former bureaucrat and The Indian Express columnist N K Singh, whose book The Politics of Change: A Ringside View (a collection of his columns in The Indian Express) was launched here this evening.
So if Shourie called for giving states more incentives for pushing reform, Roy urged the Government to “thing big” rather than tinker with minor details. Kamath called for rural India to be linked to the market, Ambani for education reform and Gupta called for shrinking of the government.
The Finance Minister regretted the slow pace of reforms and said a growth rate of 10 per cent is achievable — it’s just that we will have to “seize the opportunity” to take the process ahead in a scenario where we have complex politics and widespread views. He also raised a question as to why reforms take place in a halting fashion, and answered it himself: “The opportunity in India is not smooth, we have to change the process of reform and will have to go faster.”
Underlining that in India reformers were “opportunistic reformers,” Chidambaram said that the challenge was to be able to identify the opportunity and push the reforms process forward.
Reacting to Chidambaram’s observation, Shourie replied by saying: “The book has very few postscripts which suggest that most of the reforms suggested have actually not happened and this leads me to say that very few people have the power to seize the opportunity but many have the power to stop.” He emphasized the role of the Prime Minister in being the prime mover of the reform process.
Suggesting the one big idea of reform, Shekhar Gupta highlighted the need to provide a level of dignity to the larger section of the society, which is seeking not only bijli, sadak and pani, but also padhai and rozgar.
In a rare public display of diametrically opposite views coming from two people in the same government, Panchayati Raj Minister Mani Shankar Aiyer, in the audience, was acidic: “Where is the discussion? All panelists have only one view. There is an India outside these views.” According to him, the need was to end this “obscenity” of celebrating India’s billionaires and look at the huge, invisible India that lived in poverty which has not changed from the pre-reform era. He said that the Centre wasn’t decentralising enough to empower the Panchayats.
To which Chidambaram replied saying that the quality of governance at even the state level, leave alone Panchayats, was “depressingly lower” than at the Centre.
Roy argued that no politics can bring change and put his faith in the “people of India” and private enterprise.
He said the government should become irrelevant and asked what the government was doing with forex reserves the country had accumulated: “Why can’t we use $20 billion to solve our water problem that will become a major issue in future?” Chidambaram replied that forex reserves had to be used outside India and he wondered how the water problem could be solved via this route.
Ambani highlighted the short-term nature of people’s expectations. He said, extending a survey his company had done to politics, the way ahead is by “empowering people, who want instant gratification, instant solutions to their problems and promises that will bear fruit five years ahead.”
Kamath’s response to the one big reform was market connectivity and transfer of purchasing power to rural India: “The rural market needs to be connected. By doing just that you will add 2-3 per cent to India’s growth.”
To a question by Lord Meghnad Desai — why can’t we transfer money, say a dollar a day, directly to the poor? — Chidambaram said, “Cash transfer directly in the hands of poor is the single most popular program to poverty alleviation until we provide them jobs. But we need to have the money for it. We will need to dismantle the existing schemes and the system. I will do my sums tonight to see if we have the money.”
All panelists agreed to that barring N K Singh, who felt that would not be “an efficacious way to empower India”.
Earlier, introducing Singh’s book, Chidambaram said: “The debate in India is not about the left or the right. It’s about doing the right thing and the wrong thing.”
“Given the complex politics in India, given the multitude of political parties... the best way to go forward is to seize the opportunity,” he said. “The 10 per cent growth rate is within our reach, we just need to make extra effort.”

Monday, July 30, 2007

India clearly has a model different from China’s. India is pushing production processes to rural areas

Reforms racing down country roads The Economic Times 26 Jul, 2007, Shishir Prasad, TNN
MUMBAI: India is shinning beyond Dalal Street, even in dusty small towns and distant villages. The rural folk are more than matching their urban cousins in spending as well as earning. So, after a shopping binge, don’t feel guilty about how the money could have gone to improve the villages. On the contrary, don’t stop — keep spending. For every Rs 100 you blow up, rural income rises by Rs 39. Feeling better? Well, all city slickers accused of being insensitive to the plight of the rural people now have hope. Future Capital Holdings chief economist Roopa Purushothaman and her team’s recent research shows urban and rural India are too intertwined to be treated as two different worlds and when India does well, so does Bharat.
“The question has been doing the rounds in corporate boardrooms and government. There are many in policy circles who believe urban and rural are two different economies and they need different measures,” says Purushothaman. The big message from the research is the two parts of India are really one. “Policy makers just need to let the economy pull itself,” she says. There might be something to this because the rural economy is increasingly looking urban. It too has popped the services pill. While agriculture continues to remain the bulk of the economy, it is no longer as powerful. It is important to the extent that 73% of the rural population is still stuck in farm jobs.
Unfortunately, agriculture sector no longer creates wealth. There are more wealth and jobs being created in manufacturing, construction, restaurants, hotels and trade — chemists, for example — than in agriculture. The reason why it doesn’t appear as powerful is there are far less number of people to speak for the non-farm sector. Just 27% of the rural workforce is employed in non-farm jobs. The one large change in rural economy is wage parity with urban centres in some sectors. People employed in trade and manufacturing now earn wages that are on a par with urban centres. There are sectors such as utilities, construction and transport where the rural areas still lag behind, but the improved performance in such sectors is also responsible for closing the gap between the spending power of the two parts of the economy.
The research shows during 2000-05, the rural spending grew at 8% while urban India’s spending grew only 4%. In absolute terms, urban households spend twice the amount that a rural household does. “This will remain, but we are interested in what is changing at the margins, and there it is clear that rural India is growing much faster,” says Purushothaman. The counter-intuitive bit is that those at the lower income levels in rural areas are closing the gap with their urban counterparts at a much faster rate. So, those in low-income groups in urban areas are facing a greater inequality than the same strata of people in rural areas. This is not surprising because little investment has been made in improving the quality of urban infrastructure.
“Our research shows that over the last 20 years, urbanisation has actually declined in the country. India clearly has a model different from China’s. China is building new urban centres while India is pushing production processes to rural areas,” she says. The rural rich are not faring that well when compared to the urban rich — for the time being. The changes have largely been possible because the supply chain of goods and services is now spreading nationwide. Since urban headends of the supply chain are now taking more rupees of consumption, a little over a third of the rupees are ending up as income for the rural population. There is good cheer in this research because if all the economics indeed captures reality, it clearly means people don’t have to leave the towns and head to the city to board the gravy train. They can stay right where they are and, pretty soon, the train will stop at a station close by.

Urbanization makes sense. It makes clustering possible and allows for knowledge innovation and talent concentration

Time to rewrite notions about rural India: Report The Times of India 30 Jul 2007
MUMBAI: Is there really something called the urban-rural divide? If a new report by Roopa Purushothaman, currently chief economist at Future Capital Holdings, is to be believed, it is time to dump that age-old notion and work towards understanding the integration between urban and rural India.
Titled Is Urban Growth Good for Rural India?, the report says "Changes in India's consumption and production patterns need a more nuanced understanding of the integration between urban and rural India, rather than falling back on traditional myths about the urban-rural divide".
It all boils down to a warped understanding of what is rural India really all about. Says Purushothaman, "There are several things about rural India that aren't true anymore. For one, we often confuse rural India as an agricultural economy. What we don't see is that the non-farm economy is driving growth in rural GDP." In 2000, the rural economy accounts for 42% of total manufacturing output and 27% of services.
Interestingly, as opposed to popular notion, the rural economy in India has grown significantly compared to the urban economy. Says Purushothaman, "We see a peculiar trend of the urbanization rate slowing down." While this may not necessarily be a bad thing, the trend can be attributed to factors like lack of adequate infrastructure that makes it impossible for a city to support an influx of people. Challenging labour policies also sometimes make it difficult for people to move into cities.
But urbanization makes sense. It makes clustering possible and allows for knowledge innovation and talent concentration. "It helps one take advantage of economies of scale and allows for big-ticket convergence of production," she adds. Another interesting thing is that the spending gap between urban and rural India is starting to narrow down now.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Eradication of hunger and poverty

Two missions for the 60th anniversary M.S. Swaminathan The Hindu Saturday, Jul 28, 2007 Much remains to be done to make India hunger-free and to achieve a rural knowledge revolution.
On the eve of the 50th anniversary of India’s independence on August 14-15, 1997, the then President K.R. Narayanan listed our adherence to a democratic system of governance and our launching a green revolution in agriculture as the two most important achievements of the first 50 years of what Jawaharlal Nehru christened “India’s tryst with destiny.”
At a consultation held at the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation in Chennai at the beginning of th e new century, it was proposed that two major goals for the 60th anniversary commemoration should be a hunger-free India on the lines proposed by Mahatma Gandhi in 1946 at Naokhali, and accelerated progress in human resource development through a knowledge revolution in rural India.
Based on a series of consultations, two Missions 2007 were launched through multi-stakeholder consortia, one for eliminating chronic under- and mal-nutrition, and the other for rural knowledge connectivity. Unfortunately, the progress made since 1997 in the elimination of child, maternal, and adult malnutrition as well as in improving our rank in the U.N. Human Development Index has been poor in relation to our capacity to achieve them...(The writer was Chairman of the National Commission on Farmers.)

The more scandals we have, the better will be Indian quality and safety

How foreigners improve our standards The Times of India 29 Jul 2007,
Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar
China has investigated and shut down 180 food factories for using banned chemicals. A new law has been drafted providing for severe penalties for companies violating safety norms. And the head of the food and drugs administration has been executed for accepting bribes ($850,000) from crooked companies. So, the cost (and shame) of the export scandal has galvanised China to do what no amount of domestic consumer activism could: improve standards sharply across industries. The main beneficiaries will be Chinese consumers, not Americans. So, the export scandal is actually a huge blessing in disguise. This should not surprise Indians, who have seen standards in several areas improve radically after globalisation.
  • In the old days of self-sufficiency, the Indian auto industry emitted massive pollutants without a second thought. But competition with global producers in the domestic and export markets forced them to adopt Euro emission norms. The courts too seized on the Euro norms to discipline polluting industries. The main beneficiaries are Indian consumers, not foreign buyers.
  • Indian capital markets are among the best in the Third World. Yet, in 1990 the Bombay Stock Exchange was a den of thieves, where crooked brokers and companies rigged prices and duped small investors. One-tenth of all paper share certificates were for-ged. Trades were not settled for months. But when India sought to attract FIIs, they complained bitterly, and demanded reforms. That was a major reason — the Harshad Mehta scandal was another — for reforming the stock exchanges, dematerialising shares, and producing the fastest rolling settlements in Asia. Thus global pressure raised standards, benefiting Indian investors much more.
  • In the days of self-sufficiency, Indian companies cooked their books, kept profits black, and rigged their share prices up. But once foreign investors entered the Indian market, they marked down the price of dodgy companies while paying high prices for companies with good standards. For the first time, honesty actually paid. Companies found that keeping their profits white and paying taxes on them was good policy, since it enabled the companies to raise fresh equity at much higher prices. The impetus for change came from foreign investors, but the main beneficiaries were Indians.
  • The Institute of Charted Accountants of India has been upgrading its standards to global norms. It will fully adopt global IFRS standards by 2011.
  • Banking standards were abysmal in the 1980s, and bank balance sheets were fairy tales. But after economic reforms, Indian banks adopted Basel-1 norms, and are now moving towards Basel-2 norms. The need to be globally competitive has catalysed a drive for world-class quality.
  • Once, Indian drugs were reputed to be cheap but of dubious quality. The problem has not disappeared. But all the top drug companies want to become multinationals, and have raised their standards hugely. Indian hospital and research standards were once too suspect for global companies to risk clinical trials in India. But now standards have gone up, and Indian clinical trials have a decent reputation.
  • When i became a journalist in 1965, consumer surveys showed that three-quarters of all food products sold loose were adulterated, often with toxic materials. Today, India has become a significant exporter of processed foods, and companies have to observe global standards. Some still cut corners, like their Chinese counterparts. But the more we export, and the more scandals we have, the better will be Indian quality and safety.

In one respect, we have failed miserable to globalise enough. In India, no inspector is executed for taking bribes, as happened in China. Why not? This is the sort of globalization that even leftists will cheer.

The method of measuring the GNP should be changed

Edward Berge Says: July 26th, 2007 at 12:16 pm I found a link to this at the P2P Foundation blog of 7/12/07 www.blog.p2pfoundation.net). Michel says: “It is the beginning of a true peer to peer ethic: how would our behaviour have to be, if we truly considered other human beings as peers.” The author of the below (Anthony Judge) also expands on these principles in an essay at
Universal Declaration of Responsibilities of Human Intercourse
a draft proposal
Fundamental Principles for Humanity
Article 1
Every person engaging in intercourse with others, regardless of gender, ethnic origin, social status, political opinion, language, age, nationality, or religion, has a responsibility to treat them in a humane way.
Article 2
No person engaging in intercourse with others should lend support to any form of inhumane behavior; all people have a responsibility to strive for the dignity and self-esteem of all others.
Article 3
In engaging in intercourse with others, no person, no group or organization, no state, no army or police stands above good and evil; all are subject to ethical standards. Everyone has a responsibility to promote good and to avoid evil in any form of intercourse with others.
Article 4
All people, endowed with reason and conscience, in engaging in intercourse with others, should accept a responsibility to each and all, to families and communities, to races, nations, and religions in a spirit of solidarity: What you do not wish to be done to yourself, do not do to others.
Non-Violence and Respect for Life
Article 5
Every person has a responsibility to respect life in engaging in intercourse with others. No one has the right to injure, to torture or to kill another human person during that process. This does not exclude the right of justified self-defense of individuals or communities.
Article 6
Disputes between states, groups or individuals, regarding the process and outcome of intercourse, should be resolved without violence. No government should tolerate or participate in acts of genocide or terrorism, nor should maje use of intercourse as a means of abusing women, children, or any other civilians as instruments of war. Every citizen and public official has a responsibility to engage in intercourse in a peaceful, non-violent way .
Article 7
Every person engaging in intercourse is infinitely precious and must be protected unconditionally, as with any outcome of that process. The animals and the natural environment also demand protection from abusive human intercourse. All people have a responsibility to protect the air, water and soil of the earth for the sake of present inhabitants and future generations.
Justice and Solidarity
Article 8
Every person engaging in intercourse with others has a responsibility to behave with integrity, honesty and fairness. No person or group should rob or arbitrarily deprive any other person or group of their property during that process.
Article 9
All people engaging in intercourse with others, given the necessary tools, have a responsibility to take into account, in doing so, the need to overcome poverty, malnutrition, ignorance, and inequality. Through their intercourse, they should promote sustainable development all over the world in order to assure dignity, freedom, security and justice for all people.
Article 10
All people engaging in intercourse with others, have a responsibility to develop their talents through diligent endeavor; they should have equal access to education and to meaningful work. Everyone should lend support to the needy, the disadvantaged, the disabled, and to the victims of discrimination and abusive intercourse.
Article 11
All property and wealth must be used responsibly by those engaging in intercourse with others in accordance with justice and for the advancement of the human race. In the process of intercourse, economic and political power must not be handled as an instrument of domination, but in the service of economic justice and of the social order.
Truthfulness and Tolerance
Article 12
Every person engaging in intercourse with others has a responsibility to speak and act truthfully. No one, however high or mighty, should speak lies. The right to privacy and to personal and professional confidentiality is to be respected by those engaging in intercourse with others. No one is obliged to tell all the truth to everyone all the time.
Article 13
With respect to the process of intercourse, no politicians, public servants, business leaders, scientists, writers or artists are exempt from general ethical standards, nor are physicians, lawyers and other professionals who have special duties to clients. It is for the professions and their members to establish appropriate ethical codes relating to the process of intercourse which reflect the priority of general standards, such as those of truthfulness and fairness.
Article 14
With respect to the process of intercourse, and as an aspect of it, the freedom of the media to inform the public and to criticize the institutions of society and governmental actions is essential for a just society. It is the responsibility of those involved to exercise their freedom with a sense of responsibility and discretion.
Article 15
While religious freedom must be guaranteed, the representatives of religions have a special responsibility to avoid expressions of prejudice and acts of discrimination toward those of different beliefs regarding the process of intercourse. They should not incite or legitimize hatred, fanaticism and religious wars, but should foster tolerance and mutual respect between all people engaging in intercourse.
Mutual Respect and Partnership
Article 16
All men and all women have a responsibility to show respect to one another and understanding in their partnership and the associated processes of intercourse. No one should subject another person to sexual exploitation or dependence. Rather, sexual partners should accept the responsibility of caring for the well-being of each other.
Article 17
In all its cultural and religious varieties, bonds associated with intercourse require love, loyalty and forgiveness and should aim at guaranteeing security and mutual support.
Article 18
Sensible family planning is the responsibility of every couple engaged in intercourse. The relationship between parents and children should reflect mutual love, respect, appreciation and concern. No parents or other adults should exploit, abuse or maltreat children.
Conclusion
Article 19
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any state, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the responsibilities, rights and freedom set forth in this Declaration and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948
Edward Berge Says: July 26th, 2007 at 8:37 pm Here’s how Ray applies the ethics of the prime directive, or basic moral intuition, to an integral political economy. From his essay on that topic at Integral World:
In an integral political economy the prime directive is translated thus. The best way to ensure a healthy society is to ensure that each level is able to secure its core need, develop a surplus, and transmute that surplus into an evolutionary movement to the next level.
A First Tier political economy is focused on selfish control of the surplus to the benefit of a narrowly defined ‘identity’ group. In a complex society these ‘identity’ groups are both (and/or) as small as an individual and as large as a sub-culture (based on religion, ethnicity, ideology, corporate interest, class, etc). The politics of this level is competitive and based around multiple, temporary alliances and rivalries. It is based on the win/lose paradigm – or its variation, the ‘I win more/you win a bit less’ paradigm.
An integral political economy therefore supports sustainable development.
An integral political economy would promote ethical investment, and further help define what is ethical.
An integral political economy would ensure the maintenance of the commons in order to support the evolutionary flow of all sections of society.
An integral political economy will emphasize an ethical imperative that challenges the excessive accumulation of wealth for non-productive indulgence.
An integral political economy would argue for the proper governance of the world financial system to ensure that prime directive is followed.
An integral political economy recognizes that fair trade is an essential component of a just economic system.
The aim of an integral political economy is to ensure that the political and economic system acts in a way to maximize the evolutionary impulse for the largest group feasible.
An integral political economy must recognize the reality of power and the ruthless determination of those who wield it.
An integral political economy joins all of those critics of the current way of measuring wealth. The method of measuring the GNP should be changed. I like the approach of Bhutan, which talks about GNH – gross national happiness. Open Integral

The interns would see how the party firms up its views on these Bills

Left 'perspective' for IIM grads The Tmes of India 13 Feb 2007 Akshaya Mukul
NEW DELHI: Come April and Chepuri Krishna would be the first IIM-Ahmedabad student in the CPM headquarters trying to learn Left's perspective on everything from local politics to global issues. However, a similar proposal by students of the National Law School, Bangalore, for internship with CPM has not been so fruitful. The students made the proposal to CPM leader Sitaram Yechury, who visited the institute as part of a parliamentary delegation a month ago. But he suggested that they do internship with Parliament itself. He then spoke to Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, who, he said, "has reacted positively".
Back to the IIM interns. During the politburo meeting in Kolkata, the party had cleared the proposal of IIM-A students, made to Yechury, to do internship with CPM. Considering that IIM students rake in big stipends even during the internship, the party would be paying them a small amount, "nothing compared to what they would have got elsewhere". While Krishna's internship is certain since all formalities have been gone through, there are chances of more IIM students coming to AKG Bhavan for internship this summer.
Yechury said, "Since the IIM students showed interest in public policy, they would be attached to the party's parliamentary office where they would work closely with CPM leaders in framing legislation. "Sixty-six Bills are in various stages of completion which the government would like to introduce. The interns would see how the party firms up its views on these Bills and would be asked to make their contributions." He also said that since the interns would be coming in April-May, they would be asked to contribute to Bills and issues which would dominate the monsoon session of Parliament. For instance, he said, the interns would be asked to contribute to plans of extension of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act to more districts, and pension and banking Bills.

Course on Politics by Times Foundation and S.P. Jain Institute

6-month course for aspiring women politicians Times of India 6 Mar 2004
MUMBAI: A new management course to help train women to compete in the powerful world of politics has been given the thumbs up by Maharashtra governor Mohammed Fazal. On the occasion of Women’s Day on Monday, Mr Fazal, who believes that 50 per cent of representation in politics should be reserved for women, will launch course on Women and Political Governance’. The course, the first of its kind, will be offered by the S.P. Jain Institute of Management and Research (SPJIMR) in collaboration with Times Foundation and the Women’s Movement for Peace and Prosperity.
Speaking to TNN at Raj Bhavan, Mr Fazal noted that the number of women in politics should be in proportion to their number in the country, and thus a 50 per cent reservation was justified. Trained women politicians will change the face of the political system. Moreover, such a course should be offered to men as well,’’ he said. Educated politicians would improve the quality of discussions in parliament and positively impact the quality of decisions taken, he noted. The course, which aims to train women in political know-how, will not only provide a conceptual knowledge base but will also develop skills and expose candidates to the “ground realities’’ of politics, according to a press statement issued by Times Foundation and SPJIMR.
The six-month course will include subjects such as finance and accounting, personality development and communication skills, legal and constitutional studies, current issues, group behaviour and interpersonal skills. Times Foundation is supporting the initiative because “it sees it as a positive instrument of social change that relates to women’s empowerment and hopes to provide the decaying political system with a much-needed sanitised shot in the arm by promoting good governance’’.

Friday, July 27, 2007

A negotiated individuality within the family umbrella

American style or Indian ishtyle? The Economic Times 24 Jul, 2007, Hamsini Shivakumar
Today it is not shocking that a five-year-old Delhi child asks her mom to “give me my space” and city teenagers routinely ask their parents to “take the chill pill”. Young and middle-aged executives follow the dictates of their career to places far off from their home-towns. Driving ambition seems the hallmark of the times and elderly parents with NRI children populate every big city in large numbers. With increasing globalisation and the march of American style consumerism in India, it seems inevitable that individualism as a value will grow even stronger. This is an alarm signal to many as it seems to signal the beginning of the breakdown of the family. And yet, various media surveys of modern teenagers and individualistic youth show a remarkable degree of conservatism and respect for tradition. So will Indians grow more and more individualistic in the next decade? And what form will this individualism take? Will we become more Americanised in our ways?
The answer seems to be both Yes and No. Yes, we will become more individualistic in our orientation and no, it will not be American style individualism Cross cultural psychologists who have studied the psyche of Indians and Americans postulate that there are fundamental and deep-rooted differences in the orientation of Indians and Americans. These differences originate from child rearing practices and thus affect the developmental psychology of Indians and Americans. Such cultural imprinting changes slowly and marginally over hundreds of years, if at all. The American adult is raised towards self-driven choices in various situations. The pervasive belief system is ‘I am responsible for myself, I owe it to myself’ and personal choices rule life. The culture pushes people towards self-help and a D-I-Y (Do-it-yourself) orientation to life. Relationships are essentially between equals and governed by rules and legalities.
On the other hand, the Indian psyche and world-view is built from a very different set of premises. There is little separation of the self vs others in the family (I and my family members are one). The individual is deeply embedded – is really a node – in a hierarchical network of family and others. Negotiated choices rule life. The culture pushes people towards mutual help and an O-D-Y (Others do it for you) orientation. Autonomy and achievement are for family esteem more than for individual realisation of potential. The emergence of individual preferences and fulfillment of the same within the family umbrella in urban India thus represents a negotiated individuality rather than any movement towards American style autonomy and independence. So, how will this negotiated individuality evolve? The forces of change for greater individualism in the next decade include:
  • Consumerism as a philosophy that constantly reinforces ideas of individual choice, preference and desire and provides legitimacy for fulfilling the same.
  • Media dominance coupled with rapid expansion of the fashion & glamour industry working in tandem to promote identity exploration and image projection. n Media driven activism blurring the boundaries between private and public and forcing the state to intervene in the private lives of citizens e.g., the child runner Budhia case.
  • Growing affluence, 24x7x365 working lives and paucity of time coupled with greater work mobility forcing a focus on and prioritisation of individual commitments.We can expect the following outcomes:

The continuing need to stand out and not be anonymous, be seen as ‘someone special’ will fuel the desire for self-expression, especially amongst youth. Fashion will become a powerful tool for this, expect spiky hair, strange haircuts, body piercing, tattooing, more bizarre clothes et al. The next decade will see everyone engaged in an ongoing quest to make ‘my personal statement’ through everything they own, use and wear. By the middle or end of the next decade, with huge growth in broad band connectivity, 3G phones et al, and a tech-savvy young generation, we can expect young people to explore alternative identities through avatars in sites like Second Life. There will be greater and greater demarcation and boundaries between ‘my space’, ‘my things’ and ‘your space’ and ‘your things’ even amongst family members. With high time pressure, people will seek their own ‘personal and private’ time for themselves to do the things that they want to do. New technologies and gadgets will enable each family member to escape into their own world.

The stereotype of the ‘new-age family’ will be one where each family member is around in the drawing room but each absorbed in his/her own gadget. This direction of individualism is inherently isolating, hence runs in opposition to the Indian cultural imprint, which is relationship oriented. Thus, there will be a corrective counter force that will compel people to seek a balance. People will use technology and also find other ways to maintain deep family ties and inter-connectedness. Three possibilities present themselves. The search for and membership of ‘like-minded’ groups and activities undertaken together will grow hugely and become mainstream resulting in explosive growth of clubs of all kinds. The internet will be a powerful enabler. Families will live in separate spaces but have deeply shared lives. E-mail, webcam, Skype, cell phones et al make it possible for people to live away yet know every detail of each other’s lives and consult each other on a daily basis. So, what’s the future? American style Individualism or fundamental change? No. Indian Ishtyle individualism or change with continuity? Yes. The author is a consumer trend spotter

Entrepreneurial spirit and risk-taking cannot be taught in schools

Economics: The Pretence of Knowledge July 24, 2007 Sanjay Garg desicritics.org
Fred Hayek, one of the most prominent economists and political philosophers of the twentieth century once described Economics as "The Pretence of Knowledge". Nowhere has this been more in evidence than in the pathetic record of world economists in predicting the growth and development of India.
Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee, Professor of Economics in the department of Economics at MIT writes: "If you ask an economist today what the body of economic theory has to tell us about the stability of the capitalist system, or whether the poor countries of today are destined to catch up with the rich countries, or even whether free trade is better than some protection, he would throw up his hands (though in the next instant he would probably offer his own opinions)."
Niranjan Rajadhyaksha, columnist for Businessworld, writes "I have for long been sceptical about the ability of economists to exactly predict the really significant long-term trends that change the destinies of nations."
The folks over at the The Economist have been puzzling over and scratching their heads non-stop over the past few years trying to figure out what's happening in India. In recent years, leading Business schools in the West have made it a point to closely analyze the phenomena of the Mumbai dabbawalas and Lalu Prasad Yadav, two "outliers" that do not quite fit conventional wisdom. The Christian Science Monitor equated the managerial and organizational simplicity, the efficiency and on-time delivery record of the dabbawalas with that of a modern, sophisticated global chain like McDonald's. One important lesson The Economist should draw from this is that education is not everything - entrepreneurial spirit and risk-taking cannot be taught in schools.
Lalu Yadav's success with Indian Railways have been even more puzzling. How has a man with no formal education brought about a change of this magnitude? How has he transformed the loss-making organization into a profitable one without retrenchment and privatization? With no hikes in fare and freight charges? When Japan's railways faced the same problem a few years ago, did they not have to privatize in order to survive? Ironically, in the US, the bastion of capitalism, the Railways run at a loss and in Europe it survives basically on subsidies.
If you really want to understand the Indian economy, the first thing you need to do is tune out the economists and other "manufactured" experts. The next thing you need to do is become invested. Or maybe this order should be reversed.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Patience for process, incentives, ideology, interests, all the raw material of politics

Home > Edits & Columns Prime Minister Kalam? Pratap Bhanu Mehta Indian Express: Wednesday, July 25, 2007 His popularity is testament to the possibility of political leaders transcending class barriers
The standard narrative about A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s immense popularity emphasises the fact that he was an apolitical individual, above the partisanship and pettiness of what we now take to be politics. But there is good reason to think that the opposite is true. What made him appealing to so many was that he offered a different vision of politics; he came to personify what people, in other times and places, expected of their politicians. His greatest success was that, as is the case with great politicians, the idea of Kalam became more important than the individual Kalam.
So his individual failings, his occasionally comic persona, his untiring didacticism, his track record of being a survivor in an immensely politicised defence research establishment, the uncertainties over the extent of his scientific contributions, his mushy poetry and even occasional lapses of constitutional judgment became more or less irrelevant to his image. He was the president, who once he took high office put the people beside him...
Indeed, the strength and weakness of Kalam’s outlook is that it is very much an engineer’s: it has little patience for process, incentives, ideology, interests, all the raw material of politics. But it has also helped define the aspirations of a new and emerging India...But did this engineering outlook on social problems make Kalam a politician? Not in one significant sense. Part of what people expect from their leaders is hope, a set of answers to their challenges, a set of possibilities, even a plan of action...
Kalam was engaging in politics in the deeper sense of the term: he had an unerring instinct for what the people were looking for, he never criticised but only proposed alternatives, he levelled distinctions between people not by lowering the elite but by raising the aspirations of masses, and he relentlessly called attention to the fact that the Office was a means not an end. It is always possible to probe further into his motives and compromises. But he succeeded not because he was apolitical but because he had a sense of what people want in a politician: the capacity to project a future full of possibilities with conviction and sincerity. The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research

If the middle class is not going to vote in droves, its ‘values’ will have no traction in the political market place

SMS to EVM Indian Express: Home > Edits & Columns > Wednesday, July 25, 2007 Ask not what politics does for the middle class. Ask what the middle class does for politics
President Abdul Kalam demitted office as a head of state who caught imagination across classes, as our columnist argues today. It would be wrong to argue, like many politicians did during the presidential elections, that only the ‘SMS class’ rooted for him. It is nonetheless true that the SMS class, aka the middle class, did find in Kalam attributes that were in sync with their own. Just as they did in the case of a few public figures who were and are active politicians. Rajiv Gandhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee come to mind. So does Manmohan Singh, with the caveat that the prime minister sadly has chosen not to electorally test the appeal of his kind of politics. A few more names can be added to this list, but it will still remain a short one. The middle class often despairs, rightly, why such a list should be so short. But let’s turn the question around, paraphrasing another popular president from another country: ask not what politics does for the middle class, ask what the middle class does for politics.
The answer is not flattering. Middle class involvement with politics is typically restricted to expressions of admiration for leaders in that very short list. This engagement through iconic figures is pleasant. It is important but, given the demands of democratic political praxis, it is ultimately insubstantial. That is why politicians who don’t appeal to the middle class can snigger about middle class preferences. As professionals they know what is said through SMS won’t be said through EVMs. If the middle class is not going to vote in droves, its ‘values’ will have no traction in the political market place — that’s the brute reality.
  • What is the point of moaning about degeneration in politics when disengagement is the reflexive response?
  • Why celebrate the accidents in politics that produce middle-class icons once in a while and remain complainingly quiescent the rest of the time?

The middle class, which chatters, thinks, reads (including editorials like this one) and is the most inspirational example of India’s ongoing economic reforms, must intellectually come to terms with an economic principle in politics: if there’s no demand, there’s no supply.

So the only way the middle class can demand the kind of politics it wants is by making politicians understand that there’s a critical mass of voters who want something different. If you only reach for your cell phone every time you want to express your views, you will never make politicians understand why you will miss Kalam. editor@expressindia.com

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Create a new form of public reason

The Parliamentary System: What we have made of it, what we can make of it Arun Shourie ASA/Rupa & Co, Rs 495 But Not For the People Pratap Bhanu Mehta Indian Express: Sunday, June 03, 2007 In what sense is our democracy representative, asks Arun Shourie? Should our selection mechanism for governments change?
This book is a characteristically clear and trenchant critique of the current parliamentary system. Its starting point is a fundamental question we have ignored for too long: in what sense is our democracy representative? We have a selection mechanism for governments, but is this mechanism representative to the degree we want? What does it mean to say that an MP represents his constituency when more than 60 per cent of MPs are elected by a third of the electors in that constituency? How do we link psephological outcomes with programmatic mandates?
In 2004 there was only one percentage point difference between the Telugu Desam and Congress in Andhra; yet the vote was interpreted as an overwhelming mandate. Or what did anti-incumbency mean in UP when the SP’s vote share actually went up? Add further complications to this picture: what challenges does it pose for democracy when reforms are held up, not by the political economy of mass politics as some allege, but by the veto power of small parties? Shourie is at his robust best in unsettling platitudes about the representative character of our democracy.
This starting point leads to two remedies: the first is a whole-scale reform of the electoral system. His proposal is a radically modified German-style mixed system with negative voting and a lottery thrown in. There are many convincing arguments for the adoption of a German style mixed system, with its combination of territorial constituencies and proportional representation though Shourie does not fully spell out the normative logic in terms of first principles. His own twist to the German system is not entirely persuasive but his arguments merit serious consideration.
The second is the strengthening of non-elected institutions, including the judiciary. While many of the proposals here are unexceptionable, the overall thrust of the argument unwittingly nurtures the illusion that there is salvation for our politics outside of politics. Non-elected institutions can, at best, do the job of putting a finger in the dyke; they are not the foundation on which a modern functional polity can be built.
This part of Shourie’s argument is marked by two paradoxes. First, he seems to believe in Eisenhower’s dictum that the only way to solve big problems may be to make them bigger. Since we cannot initiate small, workable reforms, we need wholesale transformation of the electoral system. This may well be right but it leaves the question unanswered: who will bell the cat? The paradox of constitutional re-engineering is that it is most difficult to do when it is needed most: the idea of creating a consensus with reservoirs of legitimacy in this political climate seems like a pipe dream. We have no option but the slow boring of hard boards. Shourie’s Jacobinism gets in the way of discussing smaller but more important reforms like intra-party democracy (the key source of fragmentation) and decentralisation (in the long run inescapable for delivery of services). Second, there is the paradox that the period of institutional decline and fragmentation has been the period of relatively more economic success. While this should not disable arguments for improving the system, it begs for a rigorous analysis of the relationship between institutional robustness and outcomes.
Shourie is at his forensic best in dissecting two sets of discourses. He is relentless in exposing invocation of the term “people” in political discourse as if this was a self-evident authority with unimpeachable virtue. But a persuasive starting point slips into a jeremiad against the people. Shourie is right to insist that the people can be wrong, but that supposition makes the analysis a bit trite. If people are voting for criminals, is it because of their lack of virtue or the circumstances they find themselves in? In areas where the state has broken down, buying yourself protection and services from unsavoury characters may not be as irrational. In short, Shourie does not pursue his own logic that outcomes are endogenous to institutions as fully as he might.
The second discourse he takes on is the implications of the concept of the “basic structure”, and why it should not impede a discussion of systemic reforms. This section is a tour de force exposure of judicial vagueness. Shourie’s questions are probing and demand an honest answer. His ability to cut through cant and expose mendaciousness is a great service to democracy. But the book leaves one wishing that the extraordinary ability and individuality on display in book be deployed equally in creating a new form of public reason as much as it is deployed in berating the public.

We have a Prime Minister who has never won a popular election to any Panchayat, Municipality, State Assembly or Lok Sabha

India damaged Subhash C Kashyap, Hindustan Times June 25, 2007The Parliamentary System: What We Have Made Of It, What We Can Make Of It Author: Arun Shourie Publisher: ASA Rupa Price: Rs 496 Pages: 265
This is a book that needed to be written. And, no one was more eminently suited to do so than Arun Shourie. An eminent journalist and a fearless fighter for the freedom of the press, a conscientious parliamentarian and a distinguished former Union Cabinet Minister, Shourie has the right credentials to look at the parliamentary system both from the inside and from the outside.
The book's sub-title appropriately sums up the approach and the contents of the book by raising the question of what we have made of the Parliamentary system and what we can make of it. India is, no doubt, on the march. The progress being made on various fronts is truly remarkable. Much derided for the 2-3 per cent 'Hindu rate of growth', India is now poised to be one of the fastest growing economies of the world. All this is happening despite the character of our polity and politicians.
It is, however, difficult to fully agree with Shourie when he gives almost all the credit for the progress to "the entrepreneurs and professionals". One cannot be too sure that the "entrepreneurs and professionals" we tend to eulogise are imbued with any particular spirit of patriotism or agenda of serving the people. Also, not all those in politics are entirely corrupt and contemptible. It is true, politics today has also become a profession or a business for earning money and getting rich quick and for wielding power. But the private entrepreneurs and professionals are also not moved by any more altruistic motives.India is now poised to be one of the fastest growing economies of the world, despite the character of our polity and politicians.
Shourie is right. Our political system has been eaten up by termites. It is in ruins, and a case for reform is unassailable. We brag about India being the largest democracy on Earth but for some time now, all democratic norms are being violated with impunity. Constitutionalism and the rule of law are on the verge of a collapse.What prevails in the polity today are the diktats of this 'supreme leader' and the power of veto in the hands of the communist friends.
For three years now, we have a Prime Minister who has never won a popular election to any panchayat, municipality state assembly or Lok Sabha. He has been a member of the Rajya Sabha, most interestingly representing the state of Assam. He is not the leader of the Congress Legislature Party or of the UPA. He is a nominee of the 'supreme leader'. If the enemies of constitutionalism have their say, a stage has been reached where the highest office in the land, that of the Head of the Republic, is sought to be so degraded and devalued as to be occupied by another nominee of the same 'supreme leader'. What prevails in the polity today are the diktats of this 'supreme leader' and the power of veto in the hands of the communist friends. This is what we have made of our system of parliamentary democracy.
Shourie's chapter on 'Romanticising the People' reminds one of what a leader of the French Revolution, standing before the statute of liberty, after the revolution, said: "O liberty, what crimes are not committed in thy name." Perhaps, our founding fathers listening to our present day leaders could exclaim: "O People, what crimes are not committed in your name." The electoral system is badly divisive of society, encourages politics of separate identities and vote-banks, and those elected lack representative credentials.
Shourie is fully justified in underlying the fact that Parliament is not the people. Sovereignty vests in the people but neither of the three organs of the State can be said to be supreme or sovereign. But, unfortunately, the judiciary, which was considered the sheet anchor of democracy and individual freedom and a necessary check on the arbitrary executive action or unconstitutional legislation, has also not remained above board and has tried to assume powers which do not belong to its domain.
Shourie rightly laments the role of money muscle and mafia power and of caste, communalism and corruption in elections to Parliament and state assemblies. There is much that is wrong with our electoral system and it is this that may be said to be the queen mother of the termites that eat into the vitals of our body politic. The electoral system is badly divisive of society, encourages the politics of separate identities and vote-banks, and those elected lack representative credentials because in almost each case, the majority is against the winner.A culture of unquestioning loyalty to a 'supreme leader' or a dynasty is not the stuff of which the parliamentary system is made.
All these problems have been identified before by scholars, committees and commissions, including the latest National Commission on The Constitution (2003). Also, most-likely-to-be-effective remedies have been suggested. Shourie suggests election by lotteries. It is true that even those elected by lotteries may be of better quality then the present stuff. But that is a voice of utter despair: Surrendering to fate and lotteries may not be the best option. Perhaps, Shourie could have looked at the Blueprint of Political Reforms (2003) that contains several well-re- searched suggestions in this regard.
A culture of unquestioning loyalty to a 'supreme leader' or a dynasty is not the stuff of which the parliamentary system is made. Today, one need have no qualms about involvement in public scandals of misappropriation of public funds, or in criminal cases including those of murder, rape, kidnapping and other heinous crimes, misuse of crores of rupees under the Member of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) schemes, or legally occupying offices of profit under the government along with membership of Parliament. For all these can be condoned retrospectively through legislative action, executive connivance or manipulation of the criminal investigation process and the administration of the justice system. Can we still claim to be governed by the rule of law or parliamentary polity?
It is natural to ask where we will go from here and what can be done. All is not lost. We can still refurbish and reform the system. There is a refreshing freshness in Shourie's approach. He suggests a model of good governance through something bordering on a American-style presidential system. In fact, there is no dearth of advice or of reform suggestions on what we can make of the parliamentary system without dumping it. The challenge before all those concerned with the malaise, and having no personal axe to grind is how to bring about the necessary change.
If any systemic change is to be brought about by peaceful constitutional means, it can be done only by those who have come to power though the existing system and have a vested interest in the status quo. After all, why should the direct beneficiaries of a corrupt system change it and dig their own grave? Shourie also agrees and flags the problem.
Democracy and freedom are very tender plants and unless nursed with care, they tend to wither away fast. If our polity and politicians continue their present ways, there is no reason why freedom and democracy should survive for long.
Shourie seems to believe that one of the possible scenarios is that the present 'good' can last and a rejuvenated and strengthened economy can successfully pressurise politicians to change and bring about good governance. Perhaps, this is not to be. For, with all the economic liberalisation and the rest, politics and politicians are still in the driving seat.If we want citizen-centric or people-friendly good governance, it can never be achieved through the type of industrial and economic growth we witness.
If we want citizen-centric or people-friendly good governance, it can never be achieved through the type of industrial and economic growth we witness. It can come only through political reforms and by break1ng the nexus between business, industry and crime. No one knows it better than Shourie who himself quotes inter alia from the Vohra Committee Report.
The final challenge before votaries of constitutionalism, democracy and rule of law is that (i) if 'free and fair' elections, rule of law and human rights result in criminalisation of politics and politicisation of crime, (ii) if there is no political wningness to root out corruption and crime from politics and achninistration, (iii) if those who can bring about reforms refuse to do so, what do we clo, what can we do? Are there any constitutional peaceful ways left open?
All in all, the book is highly educative, makes an absorbing reading, is well documented and contains valuable data and statistics. All those concerned with the present and future of India would do well to grab a copy of this book and read it. Subhash C Kashyap is former Constitutional Adviser to the Government of India Shourie questions quotas in new book June 11, 2006

Who is to champion that alternative?

The Parliamentary System Arun Shourie Table of Contents Pub. Date: May 2007 , 1st ed. Publisher: Rupa & Co.
With 99 per cent of legislators getting elected by a minority of electors: with scores of them getting elected on 15-20 per cent of the votes cast-that is, by 7-10 per cent of the population,
  • how representative is our parliamentary system?
  • Does the present system not induce political parties to go on splintering our people?
  • Can the country cohere when the people are splintered? Are those in government accountable to Parliament?
  • Or are they the government precisely because they, and those who control them, control Parliament?
  • With 39 parties in the Lok Sabha; with governments consisting of 14 parties, is this system yielding the strong, cohesive, effective governments our country needs?
  • Is the system placing power in the hands of persons who have the capability, dedication and integrity to run ministries, to assess legislative proposals, to assess alternate policies?
  • Or is it bringing a worse and worse lot into legislatures and governments?
  • Is it inducing them to do well by the people when they are in office, or does it tell them that performance does not matter, that stitching 'alliances' is the substitute for performance?
  • Does it not make adversarial and obstructionist politics inevitable? How much lower must governance sink before we will conclude that this system has run its course?
  • That we must devise an alternative? What could that alternative be?
  • What happens when these legislators claim, and appropriate 'sovereignty'?
  • Is the dyke that the Judiciary has constructed- that the Basic Structure of the Constitution cannot be altered- not a necessary protection against the political class?
  • But can an alternate system be devised which well not breach this necessary dyke?
  • Who is to champion that alternative?

In this searing critique, Arun Shourie, takes on these question, and more. A must for our times. A must for strengthening our country. bagchee.com

Not for any personal gain

To those who had to deal with them, like for instance the legendary Winston Churchill, Gandhiji’s methods were mad. But there was a method and shrewdness in his madness and even more importantly there was a motive. And it is impossible for any one to really assess Gandhi with any degree of authenticity without running into this quasi- spiritual aspect of his character that drove him to such quaint eccentricities as his weekly day of silence (Monday) and his periodic fasts for self purification, which were also times for reflection and introspection about the next course of action...
Gandhiji’s tactics were often or even usually manipulative to put it charitably. He used his personal charisma and stature to get things done – things that would not normally happen. Some times he spectacularly failed; most importantly perhaps in his attempt to prevent India’s partition.
But very often he succeeded. He would sulk and go into a fast unto death and leaders of all shades and color would gather around him to assure him that he would get what he wanted, even if it were a temporary band aid like a stoppage of Hindu- Muslim riots or some thing more permanent like Pakistan being given its share of the imperial treasury, so that its origins would not start from a foundation of bankruptcy. What did Gandhiji want? He wanted many things and his dreams and his vision may be captured in sentences like these:
“Gandhi wanted to construct a new society, a value-based new society. A society built on inequality, exploitation, and violence was no acceptable to him. In the words of Vinoba Bhave a key follower, the new social order of Gandhi's vision, is not based on violence nor on punitive power, but on a 'third power" which is the basis of non-violent, Sarvodaya Society”.
One can argue for ever on the relevance of what Gandhiji wanted for his country depending on where lives on the ideological rainbow. But Gandhiji, arguably India’s shrewdest and most astute king maker whose sulks and petulance could dethrone leaders of the stature of Netaji, Sardar Patel and Rajaji and elevate a Jawaharlal Nehru wanted very little directly for himself. All of his posturing and drama were for the benefit of the country and society as he saw it, not for any personal gain... All Desicritics.org articles by Shantanu Dutta

Lok Satta Party has ushered in a new political culture of choosing its candidates on the basis of secret primaries

Click here to read Lok Satta Party's stand on other issues. Lok Satta Party
LOK SATTA USHERS IN NEW POLITICAL CULTURE
Hyderabad, July 3, 2007 Lok Satta Party, for the first time in the country, has ushered in a new political culture of choosing its candidates to contest elections on the basis of public opinion expressed in open and secret primaries. The party, which is contesting the forthcoming by-elections to four ZPTCs and 15 MPTCs, has already conducted primaries at six places. The exercise in other places will be completed by July 6, the last date for withdrawal of nominations.
Addressing a media meet today, D. V. V. S. Varma, Secretary of the Lok Satta Party, said that the Lok Satta was putting an end to the traditional parties' practice of foisting their candidates without taking people into confidence. More often than not, the traditional parties regarded candidates' selection as a private affair and promoted dynastic rule. In sharp contrast, Lok Satta Party's candidates are people's candidates.
Mr. Varma underlined that unlike traditional parties, Lok Satta candidates would not splurge money on buying votes or distributing liquor to influence the election outcome. The Lok Satta Party was also changing the way electoral discourse was carried on. Unlike traditional parties which viewed elections as a clash between parties or a game to grab power and derided each other, the Lok Satta would make elections people-centered by focusing on their problems and means of resolving them. The Lok Satta, if elected to power, will:
Transform municipalities and panchayats into genuine local governments.
Form district governments and allocate 50 per cent of the State budget to districts and local governments.
Actually transfer powers in respect of 29 items to panchayats and 18 items to municipalities as stipulated in the Constitution and provide funds and personnel.
Completely implement the Right to Information Act and Citizens' Charters.
Appoint an Ombudsman for every district to prevent corruption and irregularities
Form Ward Sabhas in municipalities and make people partners in governance
Enable people to watch the Panchayat and Municipal Council proceedings by providing special galleries

Public sector in India is largely the private sector of those in public office

Tuesday, April 10, 2007 Citizen, Wealth and Society Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan: Hyderabad, IN lok satta party
It is now universally acknowledged that the ‘invisible hand’ of the market is a greater force of common good than the benevolence of the rulers. But even 30 years ago, this was not so obvious. I entered government service as a starry-eyed socialist with great faith in the power and intentions of the State. Then, in early 80’s, my stint as special officer of Visakhapatnam Steel Project, then India’s largest public sector project (Rs 8000 crore), looking after land acquisition, rehabilitation, labour relations and public order issues, cured me of my illusions.
I learnt to my consternation that public sector in India is largely the private sector of those in public office, giving endless opportunities for pelf, privilege, patronage and petty tyranny. Mercifully, things have improved since then with progressive expansion of competition and choice. The communications and consumer goods revolution, and accelerated growth are two obvious gains of liberalization.
But the market cannot be the panacea to all our problems. The state clearly cannot abdicate from key sectors. Without creating opportunities to the poor for vertical mobility, we cannot promote equity or growth. Even in developed democracies, there is evidence that birth and wealth are determining a child’s future much more than talent and hard work. Despite the avowed classlessness of American society, the bottom quintile of population is finding it harder than ever before to reach the top quintile. Such social stagnation is not only detrimental to harmony, but it also undermines growth as the talent and potential of a large section of people are underutilized. The state in modern world has a vital role in helping fulfill that potential, and preventing avoidable suffering.
But what about society, particularly the privileged and wealthy segments? Do they have an obligation to society beyond wealth creation in search of profits? Market fundamentalists may argue that it is glorious to be rich, and greed is good; therefore pursuit of wealth in self-interest is the best contribution the wealthy can make. But that is not how the capitalist West behaves! The charities of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are known to all.
The great North American Universities of Harvard, Yale, Carnegie Mellon, Johns Hopkins, Cornell, Vanderbilt, Stanford, McGill, Duke, Illinois Institute of Technology and Vassar College were all built through private charities. Smithsonian Museum, and several foundations – Ford, Kellogg, Rockefeller, Mellon, Carnegie and Kresge – are all promoting public causes with private funds. Those wealth creators understood the best value their money could get, and pursued public causes with vigour.
There are three areas in which private fortunes can promote public good in contemporary India. First, wealthy citizens must work for political transformation. The recent by-election for Lok Sabha in Karimnagar (AP) is widely believed to have cost nearly Rs 90 crores for the parties and candidates – mostly for vote buying. Chamundeswari (Karnataka) by-election to State Assembly easily holds a record for expenditure, at over Rs 50 crore! In some cases, the vote of a MLA in the Legislative Council election in AP is rumoured to be costing Rs 1 crore!
These astronomical sums show how politics has become big business, with attendant corruption, cronyism and perversion of justice. The competition and wealth creation are bound to suffer in such a political climate. The wealthy would be wise to invest a part of their fortunes in creating new politics for the new generation, and make politics again a moral endeavour. Or else, the political rot will devour the robust economy sooner, than later.
Second, education and healthcare need not only public attention, but private funding through charities also. If Bill gates and Warren Buffet dream of elimination of all preventable diseases all over the globe, our wealthy entrepreneurs can fund these activities in our own country. If the poor are driven to desperation for want of opportunities, it will hurt the whole society and economy. The collapse of higher education and inadequacy of school education are there for all to see.
Finally, many public goods – libraries, museums, parks – can be funded by private charities. Our cities are becoming unlivable concrete jungles and ghettos, even as real estate prices are skyrocketing. If we value our quality of life, we need to improve our own neighborhoods. The true legacy is what we leave for posterity in the form of public good, not the fortunes our children inherit, making them smug and slothful. It is time that those who, by talent and hard work, or birth and privilege, command vast resources stood up for larger public good in their own enlightened self-interest. posted by JP at 3:49 PM 2 comments lok satta party Party Related Blogs Jayaprakash Narayan Blogspot Voteindia Blogspot Loksatta Party Blogspot Loksatta Blogspot

Gandhi emerges in Rajmohan's portrait as both an acute strategist and a doubting, fallible, man, viewed by some as a saint and others as a crank

On Rajmohan Gandhi's biography of Mahatma Gandhi from The Middle Stage by Chandrahas This essay appears today in the Scotsman, and is the second of an informal four-part series of pieces on the Middle Stage over the month leading up to the sixtieth anniversary of Indian independence. The first of these, featured last week, was "Jawaharlal Nehru as a writer of English prose".
The life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is one of the most well-documented and minutely analysed lives of the 20th century. Yet, as the editor of Gandhi's collected works, which run into 100 volumes, remarked, the Gandhi story is inexhaustible, "like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata combined".
This is because Gandhi's abiding concerns - the working out of disputes large or small without descent into hatred or violence, the need for every human being to arrive at self-rule in the individual sense before demanding authority in any other sense, and the belief that worthy ends are nothing without equally worthy means - remain eternally relevant, so that he speaks afresh to every age.
Now, the historian Rajmohan Gandhi, a grandson of the Mahatma, vividly brings to life in his massive biography the texture of Gandhi's days as he progressed from a timid anglicised student to the fearless loincloth-clad opponent of empire and other licensed injustices, the development of his thought across his engagements with conflict situations in England, South Africa, colonial India, and free India, the attitudes borne towards him by his many friends and foes, and the mood and colour of his age...
Gandhi emerges in Rajmohan Gandhi's portrait as both an acute strategist and a doubting, sometimes fallible, man, viewed by some as a saint and others as a crank. Despite his misgivings ("I often err and miscalculate") he was one of history's greatest moral visionaries, the inventor of universally relevant pacifist concepts that aspired towards breaking down adversaries nonviolently. His genius extended beyond immediate conflict resolution; by the practice of never talking down or humiliating his opponents, he was also usually successful in foreclosing future conflicts.
As Diana Eck has written, Gandhi "saw clearly that if conflict is cast in terms of winning or losing, of us prevailing over them, then ... the next round of the conflict is only postponed". Rajmohan Gandhi's splendid biography delivers to us both the Gandhi of his time and a Gandhi for our times. Chandrahas, 9:01 AM

At work or in the shopping mall, the marketing of religion is here to stay

The Business of Religion By Mil Arcega voanews.com Washington 23 July 2007
It used to be that companies were in the business of selling products and churches were in the business of promoting faith. Today the line between religion and the marketplace is blurring. Faith-based marketing generates nearly $5 billion a year in revenue. And as VOA's Mil Arcega reports, some well-known companies are bringing religion to the boardroom...
Agencies such as Marketplace Chaplains, says business is way up. And last year, stores selling so called "Christian products" took in more than $4.6 billion. Bill Anderson is the head of the Christian Retail Association. "The industry has grown from books and bibles to include music and apparel and cards and jewelry and children's products. It's really a Christian lifestyle store."
"It's a battle for good versus evil" says David Socha, who runs a company called One 2 Believe. He markets a line of dolls called "Messengers of Faith."

The PM must be liberal in giving credit to Vajpayee for his bold initiatives on the US, China and Pakistan

Home > Edits & Columns > Big deal. Big heart? C. Raja Mohan Indian Express: Tuesday, July 24, 2007 US offered India the nuke agreement. What’s India offering its smaller neighbours? That’s a great power test
To be sure, sections of the BJP leadership will persist with the elevation of opportunism above the NDA’s own proud record of laying the foundation for the unfolding nuclear rapprochement with the US and the world. On the left, the two communist parties will find it difficult to swallow the historic redefinition of India’s global nuclear standing and the long overdue transformation of Indo-US relations...
There is indeed a real danger that the BJP, which had the courage to depart from the old paradigm with China and Pakistan, might be tempted again to attack the results of these negotiations. Whether the BJP is ready to play a constructive role or not, the PM must be liberal in giving credit to Vajpayee for his bold initiatives on the US, China and Pakistan. As Indian diplomacy succeeds, there will be enough credit to go around, and then some...
India’s nuclear debate was, in essence, about building a different relationship with the United States. A similar arrangement with either Russia or France would never have raised the kind of political storm the negotiations with the US did. This was inevitable, given the historically difficult relationship that India has had with the United States...
Yet India’s nuclear debate revealed the mindset of a weak third world state rather than of an emerging power, with a trillion dollar economy and a per capita income of a thousand dollars. The India of the 21st century is not the nation of 1974 that conducted a nuclear test but backed off in the face of relentless international sanctions. An India that is aware of its own rise amidst a redistribution of global power will be less obsessed with the text of its international agreements.
That there is no national shame in a sensible compromise should be the fifth lesson we should take away from the nuclear debate. Like any agreement between two individuals or entities, the 123 agreement too is a compromise...
That India is on the verge of regaining international cooperation in civilian nuclear energy without giving up its nuclear weapon programme is indeed a cause for celebration. Yet, India must also learn the art of giving besides knowing how to extract the most. Great powers are expected to make some sacrifices to preserve regional and global order. It is that capacity to be generous, especially towards smaller neighbours, that offers a final test for India’s credibility as the world’s newest great power. The writer is a professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Monday, July 23, 2007

Your remarks about capitalism not having reached its own potential, is judicious

Michel Bauwens Says: July 22nd, 2007 at 1:16 am Hi Edward, The reference to how different vMemes may use p2p networks is the following:
http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/types-of-connectivity/2006/06/28 Originally from an essay by Chris Lucas which is referred to in the blog entry.
Parecon I found to be very problematic, because it is based on a hyper-administration of very detailed practical issues. Rather than let people work equipotentially, it wants to create balanced work complexes that preclude any inequality in job duties and satisfaction, and in order to do this, it has to include many detailed rules. I am personally not in favor of such a planning approach, Michel
Edward Berge Says: July 22nd, 2007 at 8:25 am I wasn’t crazy about Parecon either for those very reasons. I’ read the debate between Albert and Schweickart and found the latter’s economic democracy much more feasible. I’m just trying to show the alternatives to capitalism out there because it seems so many of us accept it as the only economic system within which we must operate.
And if we accept Ken’s tetra-enaction of the quadrants, and that capitalism arose with the egoic-rational consciiousness, it only makes sense that another, more developed economic system will evolve to make the proper fit.
On the other hand a good case can be made that capitalism is still stuck as a feudal expression of economics and has yet to live up to the egoic-rational level to match the democratic expressions we find in politics.
Edward Berge Says: July 22nd, 2007 at 8:52 am I have a question Michel. You linked to your blog on how the vmemes use P2P. This can be compared to how the different vmemes use integral theory (like trying to fit it into a capitalist framework). But integral theory itself, like P2P, arose from (or tetra-enacted within) a vmeme worldview, no? If so, from within what worldview did P2P arise?
Michel Bauwens Says: July 22nd, 2007 at 8:56 pm Hi Edward, In one of the earlier versions of my essay P2P and Human Evolution, I actually did an exercise comparing the various vMeme characteristics, and I found it had elements from various levels. But I think it is most likely an expression of turquoise, in its most fully formed potentiality. However, I’m not an expert in the fine distinctions between different vMemes.
For integral theory, note how Chris Cowan has mentioned research showing that abhorrence of the mean green meme (which according to his research does not exist) is only expressed by the orange meme.
Your remarks about capitalism not having reached its own potential, is judicious. I think that new expressions like fair trade, social entrepreneurship, and base of the pyramid movements are themselves expressions of this maturation (as is the greening of capitalism and the sustainability movement). And as you know, I call them peer-informed expressions of the market, since they recognize that the economy is about partnership and the recognition of everyone’s needs.

Unlike spinmeisters in the West who finesse politics, political technologists manufacture politics

Virtual Politics: Faking Democracy in the Post-Soviet World. Andrew Wilson. : Yale University Press, 2005, 352 pp. $40.00 Reviewed by Robert Legvold, Foreign Affairs, November/December 2005
Faking democracy is not as good as practicing it, but it is still better than destroying it. Putin calls it "directed democracy," meant to advance the purposes of a state that knows best. More accurately, it is democracy deployed to help those in power stay in power, with "virtual politics" as its agent. By fair means or foul (mostly foul), regimes throughout the post-Soviet region have mastered the art of simulated democratic politics, replete with fake political parties, spectral politicians, illusory competition, and manipulated outcomes.
Because real authoritarianism is not within their reach, elections do count, and so to ensure those elections go their way, those in charge resort to various exotica ("administrative measures," "invented opposition," "clone parties," and the like), all plied by "political technologists." Unlike spinmeisters in the West who finesse politics, political technologists manufacture politics. Wilson, with remarkable thoroughness and panache, dissects their ploys, tactics, and tricks, particularly in Russia and Ukraine.
Can it last? Yes, he says, as long as the elite monopolizes politics, the public remains passive, information can be controlled, and the outside world does not care. Remove some or all of these conditions, and "orange revolutions" happen.

Democratic underpinnings of the Indian nationalist movement ensured the adoption of a democratic form of government

Journal of Democracy Volume 18, Number 2, April 2007 CONTENTS
About two-thirds of the world’s Muslims live under governments chosen through competitive elections. The remaining third lives mostly in the Arab world, a region that poses the hardest challenges for democratization. The road ahead is long and arduous, but this will not daunt the Arab and Muslim democrats who are fighting to make democracy a reality in the lands and among the people they love. We may not be as brutal as our autocrats or as numerous as our theocrats, but we are determined to fight the battle for the future, to fight for democracy, and we would welcome help...
A surprisingly large number of recent democratic elections have been closely fought. Many of these tight races attracted intense voter involvement and involved deeply consequential choices for their respective societies. The defense of democracy and the promotion of democratic values require constant vigilance; the persistent renewal of political participation on the part of the citizenry is a continuing, open-ended process. To keep the show on the road requires multiple and overlapping sources of reinforcement—legal and societal, domestic and external, local and national. But no sources of enforcement can substitute for a collective sense of tolerance, openness, and fair play...
Contrary to popular belief, British colonial legacies do not explain India’s successful transition to democracy in its postindependence era. Rather the democratic underpinnings of the Indian nationalist movement ensured the adoption of a democratic form of government. In subsequent years, India’s democracy has weathered threats and been consolidated. Though Indian democracy is hardly bereft of shortcomings, social forces are likely to contribute to the further deepening of democracy. The country must also make a concerted attempt to bolster the robustness and efficacy of a range of institutions and procedures if it hopes to extend the promise of democracy to its entire population...
There is no doubt that India’s democracy has become stable, yet economic change could create distributional conflicts and stresses on its democratic institutions. Economic change and liberalization have served to reinforce and further stabilize democracy rather than undermining it. This has happened partly because of the nature of economic and social transition, which has allowed the rich many options in the private, urban, and global economy. Simultaneously, the poor are divided and seek redress through electoral and democratic channels. Weak coalition governments in the 1990s have responded to claims from the poor contributing to the continuing stability of Indian democracy...
Thanks to India’s “Silent Revolution,” parties representing lower castes now regularly win elections and assume state power. This achievement sometimes obscures India’s meager progress on an equally important measure of democratic deepening—the establishment of less corrupt forms of governance. The first wave of anticorruption activism developed innovative techniques for involving poor people as citizen-auditors of government programs, blurring the citizen-driven and state-oversight dimensions of accountability. A second wave of activism has built upon the first, bridging four additional divides that have hampered India’s anticorruption movement, the continued health of which may provide a telling indicator of India’s ability to continue democratizing...
India’s courts have been playing a growing role in the country’s political life. Defenders of the judiciary often focus on the few success stories that result from judicial decisions. Yet there is a glaring lack of concrete, empirical data on the effects of court intervention. Courts can proclaim new rights as much as they want, but the proclamation of rights by itself does not produce results. Judges have an important role to play in strengthening our democracy. But they will have to exercise great discretion and resist the intoxication which comes from the view that judges are the last, best hope of the republic...
As Afghanistan enters its sixth year since the overthrow of Taliban rule, the violent comeback campaign by Islamic insurgents is dominating headlines. Restoring security will require bringing more aid and better government to neglected rural areas, but it will be impossible to deliver those improvements so long as officials, workers, and projects remain vulnerable to attack. It is now dramatically apparent that even though Afghanistan has successfully held elections and met the formal requirements for a transition to democracy, it remains beset by a staggering array of problems, from public corruption to private warlordism, that have been allowed to fester virtually unchecked...
The acceleration of authoritarianism in Venezuela since 2004, together with Hugo Chávez’s reelection in 2006, cannot be explained easily with functional theories. Instead, we focus on political opportunities: specifically, economic resources at the state’s disposal together with weakened institutions of representation helped crowd out the opposition. We show how clientelism and electoral authoritarianism feed each other. Together with deliberate strategies of polarization, impunity, and job discrimination, lavish spending has allowed the state to mobilize majorities and emerge undefeatable at the polls. This invincibility is, paradoxically, the reason that the Venezuelan state has become an unreliable force for promoting democracy...
Putin’s regime is, and always has been, a kleptocracy. It is time to end the fiction that Putin’s Russia is an equal member of the club of democratic nations. Stop providing Putin with democratic credentials that he uses against his critics in Russia. Stop pretending that a dialogue with Russia is taking place when in reality there is no common language with this Kremlin regime. You cannot treat Putin’s police state according to the same rules as Germany or Canada because the Russian people do not enjoy the same rights and the same voice as Germans or Canadians...
In the last three years, Russia has at least been inoculated against faith in false shortcuts, the most pernicious of which are order without law and democracy without liberty. It is impossible to say exactly when this realization might translate into renewed tolerance for conflicts and stalemates. The experience of other nations, however, suggests that this will happen when the deficiencies of the current political system begin to reverberate in increasingly more obvious and damaging ways throughout Russia’s economy and society...
Despite all their difficulties, today’s Kremlin political operators probably calculate that they will be able to protect themselves against the forces that undermined Gorbachev’s reform project in the 1980s—elite division, grassroots mobilization, intractable national problems, and new electoral rules that gave the regime’s opponents a huge opening. Yet they cannot be completely secure as long as they are constrained by these same electoral rules. Running a one-party state is easy enough if you can set the rules yourself and break them at will. But keeping up democratic appearances means taking risks that can empower your opponents...