Why our honble MPs got so angry with the Planning Commission experts?
Still we need economists and highbrow theorists!
Here are two experts!
Prof.Ashish Bose, my friend
A demographer and an activist!
Another, very highbrow, Esther Buffalo of MIT!
It was nice to see an interview with Prof.Ashish Bose in the Business Standard the other day, Bose is my old friend, in fact from my Santiniketan days. Mrs.Bose was my class mate at Santiniketan!
Oh, how good he is hale and healthy, as they say.
Now, Bose is perhaps the country’s great living economist of demography. He is the expert on Indian’s population growth.
Once it was an industry attracting so many brilliant minds, as economists and family planners, as advisers to governments and even for international agencies.
In fact, I got to know the famous originator of this science, namely, the late Prof.S.Chandrashekhar, who became internationally known and famous. In fact, I can claim some recognition for the fact that it was I who introduced Prof.Chandrasekhar to Atulya Ghosh who was my political boss when I worked under him at the AICC, then, at 7 Jantar Mantar! It was sometime in the early Sixties of last century! Yes, it was my introduction that led to his being nominated as a minister in the then ministry. Those were the days of greats, giants! Politicians for the most part were leaders of the people, officials and experts confined themselves to their respective domians. Unlike today, politicians, latey specially are listed by the amount of corruption they indulge in!
The latest top 14 most corrupt ministers listed by the Team Anna have a ranking, the most top and the rest! In such an environment when the high profile Planning Commission experts struggle for simple explanation for the fall in poverty, as per the latest census data, it is hardly surprising, the not-so-experts our Parliamentarians really get annoyed and what they could do except to ask for sacking the insensitive bureaucrat experts!
So, when I read Prof.Bose’s interview I was delighted to read his genuine expertise in these matters.
Knowing Bose well as I do(his dear wife, Manju was my class-mate at Santiniketan, oh, Manju, hope you get to read this piece) my old memories of our days together at the AICC under the formidable Atulya Ghosh came rushing. We were asked by Atulyada(as we used to address him, asked us to write some pamphlets for the 1967 General Elections. I was in fact drafted by Ghosh for starting journal at the closing years of Pandit Nehru when he was down after the Chinese debacle and his spirits were low and we at the AICC wanted to do something that would energise the great soul! Yes, that is how we worked together.
Bose was unlike other Delhi School Economists. He knows them all, all the greats and no so greats. That is why here too(in the latest interview)I see his irreverence towards the incumbent Prime Minister! In fact, the PM was at the relevant time a professor at the DSE and fellow economists know his strengths and limitations.
That is why Bose attributes the economic reforms not to Dr.Singh but to the then Chanakya, P.V.Narasimha Rao.
Now, do we need a poverty estimate?
Not necessary is Bose stand. But for non-economists and even those who work outside the government ,we all know whether India is growing or not.
Ground level realties are so overwhelming that there is a great deal of change for the better. As per the official statistics, the urban poverty is very low now, at seven per cent and the rural poverty too is falling very fast.
The various populist policies of the Centre and the States have really contributed to the fall in poverty. But, the view from Delhi is still one of paranoia, the bureaucrats and the bureaucrat-turned Prime Minister in particular there is a sort of obsession with rates of growth, rates of poverty etc.
But as the latest events show there is a great deal of high level corruption in the governance system, in particular in the government, among the very senior and otherwise competent not so senior ones, is because of the one obvious simple fact.
The economy is fast growing. Big infrastructure deals. yes, we have to use the word deals, for effective basic changes, be it allocating the oil and gas blocks or coal blocks and even in the allocation of the spectrum in the @-G case, here all the political decisions are taken, specially under Dr.Singh by the coalition partners, the PM says he is helpless, yes he is true and then he knows well he is helpless and if so he must have resigned his job gracefully. But in India and that too now, under Sonia Gandhi dispensation, there is now complete chaos.
Both in the party and the government.
There is no central disciplining force, call it an ideology or vision or an articulation of a belief system.
So, the present confusion is unlikely to be resolved in the rest of the term of the incumbent Prime Minister.
Bose, in the 1980s when Sanjay Gandhi at his height of powers, when so much population control measures were adopted in such ruthless manner under the Emergency, Bose was an outspoken critic of Sanjay Gandhi.
So, there is no surprise even now he is outspoken when he says things so bluntly. I don’t think even his younger colleagues at the DSE or the Institute of Economic Growth where Bose worked then, we can hope to see any outspoken economic wisdom forthcoming.
Esther Buflo, very insightful
Do we need foreign aid for the poor?
Or, can people from below can be motivated?
Of course, situations and realities differ.
What is good for Sahara countries won’t suit Indian poor anymore.
Though, as Bose points out, India has the largest illiterate population in the world, Indian developments demand different solutions.
Also from What bimaru states require is different from, say, what Mamata Banerjee’s West Bengal calls for.
So, let us not simplify what is complex and quite diverse. And different stages of populism and freebies in the Indian states.
The poor in India are quite awake and sensitive to issues. They defeated the DEMK in TN and also the Congress and the BSP in UP.
How to explain? Poor want, at the end of the day, sensible, practical, and even secular and caste and communalism-free politics! That is proved in UP. Also, corruption free government they vote for. That is what they did in TN.
So, we also have to see there is not much merit among the arguments of the economists, both here or abroad.
Just now, I had read the other latest interview with an MIT economist, a lady economist, namely Esther Duflo who is working at the MIT as Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics. She is a MacArthur foundation “genius” fellow, winner of the 2010 John Bates Clark medal, a mini-Nobel and at 39,she is such a formidable star economist, author of the Poor Economics.
Her observations are insightful, penetrating and subtle and yet make us to think deeply and for long.
Some wisdom here:
In the USA people, fellow economists listen, if you have an idea. Just the opposite in India. Those who have ideas have no other way except to shut up! PMO won’t bother to reach you!
USA wants its people, experts to do everything perfect. Here? You can draw your own conclusions, from the recent revelations from inside the government machinery. How governance is done!
Finding initiatives that could make a difference and tested. Field work in Asia and Africa has given her so many insights. How people live on 99 cents a day? She becomes effusive. In India we don’t have such creative thinking. Top down approach is our way to nirvana! An intuitive ways to find how people really live their lives. That might give us ideas about development.
My work is about ordinary poverty. May be I must work among the refugees or people affected by war.
So, so much is there from this very young and yet at the same time a genius-like voice.
What about empowerment of women, we hear so much these days. Here Duflo gives very interesting insights. Not enough. Men also must be involved for real growth, real development and real change! Her work is frustrating from lack of any simple conclusions?
Real enemies? Capitalism and corruption?
“You think hard about the problems and you can solve them”.
May be in India too we need simple solutions that can be applied and solve so many problems.
Generally a happy person, not at all discouraged.
Let us also end on that note of optimism.
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