Rethinking Affirmative Action by Anil K. Gupta

The crisis in Gujarat due to call for reservation for Patels, otherwise a very prosperous and helpful community is essentially an issue of lack of seats in MBBS. The solution is not to get OBC quota so that few jobs if any are also shared by this community. There are not many government jobs any way.

The real issue, it seems is the comparative difference in the cut off marks in merit list for admission ot MBBS course. In engineering there are enough seats available, so tensions may be lesser. how to address this perceived injustice by one of the most prosperous, entrepreneurial and collaborative community?

A few possible suggestions:

a). Create a special quote for economically disadvantaged communities, regardless of caste with in the existing quote or by expanding it

b). Expand seats for medical education without in any way compromising with quality

c). Remove all quotas in which students with lower cut off get admission due to donation whether from Indian or foreign, i.e. NRI sources ( after all that is also reservation for rich)

d). Restrict the benefit of reservation to non creamy layer only for one generation once till class 1, class 2, class 3 jobs but in class 4, this reservation may not apply.

e). Eventually, we should advise all those who have benefited from reservation to contribute to a national NIDHI, a fund for helping the poor OBCs students come up in their life; even others should be encouraged to make 100 per cent tax deductible contribution.

If there are any other constructive ideas, please share. We do not want creative and constructive energy of our youth to be lost in violence or denial of social justice benefits to the less privileged.

I have tried to be as fair as possible and hope that spirit of cooperation, mutual respect and
understanding will be displayed while commenting on these ideas.

Mr @NarayanMurthy complains too much!!! by Anil K. Gupta

Making money is good. Making a lot of money is even better. But while doing so, if one does not invent, develop new heuristics of compassion, collaboration, creativity and connectivity then it is perhaps not so good. I will pass the issue of how many earth shattering ideas came out from his company or how much investment did he make in creative and innovative ideas of students or scientists? That is a relevant argument but I will ignore it fur present. I accept that while his brother-in-law makes a big contribution to MIT which Mr Murthy admires so much but he has no obligation to invest in futuristic research at IITs and IIMs. Granted. To say india did not produce any idea worth its name is to pass a stricture against all those who valiantly developed technology at CFTRI CSIR to make powder out of buffalo milk without which white revolution would not have been possible. We would not have saved more milk in flush season to supply in scarcity season.

But let us talk about non-monetary processes of institution building for creating or reinforcing a creative, innovative ecosystem in the country. When Techpedia.sristi.org was created, idea was that no student should do what others have already done. There should be a premium on originality and innovation. A connection should be made between the problems of informal sector, msme/ small entrepreneurs and even public systems and the final year project of the students. Mr Murthy has given jobs to thousands of young engineers of our country often for doing highly repetitive tasks. After all, That lifted the lives of these employees and their families up and brought prosperity to the country. So what if there is not a single product or service that I and you use in every day life which did not get prioritised in the process. I will ignore that. But what about the project ideas those students had done in their final year before joining the Infosys. Is he saying that not one of them had the talent and potential worth investing in as intra-preneur? Let him spend some idea browsing through the database of 180,000 technology projects pursued by over 500k students from all over the country. Could he not find one idea which he could have mentored and nurtured?

Let him see a project by a student from IISc which was recognised by Dr R A Mashelkar with Gandhian Young Technological Innovation Award last year. This student realised that when a ray of light passes through cancerous cell, which have mores sodium ions than potassium, it refracts more and less of it goes through. Same ray whiles passing through a normal cell having more potassium ions than sodium, passes through more and refracts less. Using this simple but profound heuristic, he developed a technique for non invasive detection of cancer at an early stage for which not many methods exist in the world. Now this student will be easily hired by an international Lab, this work done in india will be supported there and we will give credit to those institutions for having made a breakthrough.

Who is responsible for such neglect of highly valuable ideas? Of course government, experts, academics and every body under the sun except corporate leaders who invest practically nothing in the brilliant ideas of youth.

How long can this blame game go on? UNICEF invites a walker with adjustable legs conceived by Shalini, class 8 th girl and fabricated and designed by NIF team with the help of local experts for an international conference on assistive technologies in Denmark because even in USA such a walker dies not exist. The company which is commercialising it has given few lakh rupees as licensing fee to this create student. She gets royalty on each piece sold on the market. It will make life of many elderly and physically challenged people easier. Santokh Singh and Khushwant Rai Converted a Dot matrix printer into a Braille printer. School students are proud that their idea was also showcased at the launch of global innovation centre at New York. Which high net-worth individual has invested in these ideas in the last twenty five years of honey bee network, exceptions apart? BIRAC -a company set up by Department of Biotechnology has come forward to invest 15 lakh each on 15 innovative ideas of tech youth and one lakh each in hundred other ideas through a partnership with Sristi. I hope private sector will follow suit instead of only complaining about what india does not do right.

I agree that Mr murthy has no responsibility for Indian failure to produce any breakthrough ideas ( which is not completely true) in the last sixty years. I also agree that his company has also no responsibility to spot, sustain and spawn talent even in the field of ICT and computer sciences, forget other areas of social and humanitarian concerns. We want less government but would not share the burden of empathetic governance. Thanks, Mr Murthy, for telling us how nations are built. During next visit to MIT, pl find out how much investment it gets from industry for doing whet it does so well. Indian tragedy is the habit of blaming every body else about what is wrong with us but not to do anything or enough ourselves to remedy the situation. Mr Murthy may complain too much, no? But he is a honourable man and has generated so many jobs.

Thullas, Pandus and Delhi Police by Aseem Prakash

Kejriwal has little commitment to good governance. He is a permanent agitator. His outburst against Delhi police and name calling was shameful. Yet, on the issue of Delhi government exercising control over Delhi Police, he is right.

The core function of any government is to provide security; one does not have to read Hobbes’ Leviathan or Mancur Olson’s Dictatorship, Democracy, and Development to recognize this accepted fact. Governments that cannot provide security to individuals and their properties are classified as “failed” states. The critical obligation of the state to provide security holds at the national level as well as at the state level (recall, Lalu Yadav was taken to task for jungle raj in Bihar). It also holds at the city level — Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s claim to fame was that his administration improved law and order in New York. Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago suffered huge political ignominy when “his” police could not control the violent protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

If the state is expected to provide security, then it must exercise control over the instruments or agencies that provide this service. This is where the police come in.

Kejriwal, no matter how obnoxious, is the legitimately elected Chief Minister of Delhi. Like other CMs, his performance is evaluated by Delhi citizens on the subject of law and order. If the citizens feel unsafe, they will blame the CM — I doubt they understand the institutional intricacies of Delhi government. Should then Delhi government not exercise control over Delhi Police? Isn’t this what the BJP has been demanding for the last 20 years – “full statehood” for Delhi? And it is important to bear in mind that we are talking about law and order set up in a megapolis with a population in the range of 18-20 million.

What are the objections? The first pertains to the issue of VIP security and security for diplomats. This should be a non-issue. In most developed countries, local authorities in the capital city exercise administrative control over the local police and their VIPs and diplomats are quite safe. In some cases, the local and federal police have joint jurisdiction over certain areas, for example, Washington, DC. In contrast, New York has a huge presence of diplomats who are kept safe by the NYPD. If we think that Delhi Police reporting to Delhi Government will not be able to provide security to Indian VIPs and foreign diplomats then perhaps India should create a special federal police (or designate say CISF for this task) and give it joint jurisdiction with Delhi Police in specific areas (e.g., NDMC areas).

There is a second objective which is more complicated. If my logic holds, Mumbai Police should then report to the Mayor of Mumbai and not to Maharashtra government. Same with most major cities in other states. This is valid concern and needs to be debated.

Complicating the issue is the institutional nightmare of Delhi governance. In addition to the state government, Delhi also has three municipal corporations (North MCD, South MCD, and East MCD) along with the NDMC and the Cantonment Board. The previous Congress government, of course, added to the institutional mess when they broke up the MCD into three MCDs. So, one might argue that if the idea is to decentralize, then why not break up Delhi police and have different components report to different MCDs? What is the optimal level of decentralization? Should different public services by provided by governance units at different scales as Nobel Laureate Ostrom’s model of polycentric governance suggests, or should one centralize the provision of public services in one body?

I think these are valid issues to be debated but they should not prevent us from dismantling the current dysfunctional and irrational model with the Central Government which is not accountable to Delhi’s citizens exercising control over Delhi Police.

Politicians have incentives to hold on to levers of power. Delhi police is an instrument for exercising control and distributing patronage. The BJP did not create this institutional dysfunctionality. The previous Congress government had precisely the same problem. And I suspect, if the AAP were to ever rule at the Center (god forbid), they will have suffer from the same pathology (one might argue that they are already suffering from it).

This is why one must have faith in institutions, not individuals, and must rationally design institutions. Modi should get this. He was elected on a good governance platform. He should not allow this irrational set up to continue. So much of energy and time is wasted on the stupid squabbles between the LG and the CM in the face of mounting problems that citizens of Delhi face. This is inexcusable.

Kejriwal is not the issue here; he is just a distraction. There is a wonderful political opportunity for Modi to show leadership and commitment to good and rational governance. He has shown the will to rationalize governance — think of the GST bill. Will he show political imagination on this subject as well?

The Scream of Silence by Aseem Prakash

Manmohan Singh was criticized for keeping mum while his ministers plundered the country. His apologists argued that this was the price he had to pay to keep the UPA coalition together, especially the DMK. In some other cases, he had to keep 10 Janpath or their alleged favorites, in good humor. Bottom line: Manmohan Singh was an honest man who had to survive in a dishonest system.

A less charitable explanation is that he loved being the Prime Minister and was prepared to look the other way to keep his kursi. After all Bhishma Pitamah kept quiet and Dhritarashtra did not protest when Draupadi was disrobed in the court of Hastinapur. So, what’s the big deal if a spineless politician who has never won a popular election decided to “see no corruption, hear no corruption, and speak no corruption.”

What excuse does Narendra Modi have? His silence is significant given the digital PM’s proclivities to tweet about a range of issues. And what about his assertion during the election campaign: “Na khaunga, na khane dunga.” Does he not realize that he is losing credibility, fast?

Modi can be decisive. He is a grassroots leader, not the spineless Manmohan. He took on Vaghela, Keshubahi, Togadia, Advani, CBI and prevailed. So, what’s the deal now?

The BJP has an absolutely majority in the Lok Shaba; one cannot therefore blame Modi’s silence on coalition politics. In any case, the ministers and CMs involved in the alleged scandals are from the BJP.

Is there a pressure from Nagpur to retain these folks; the Vyapam case in particular might bring considerable grief to important RSS functionaries. Because Nagpur is the new 10 Janpath, the CM of MP has to be protected. This is plausible. Of course, Raje gets a free ride; if the RSS decides that Chouhan has to be protected, then she will be protected as well. If she is allowed to go, there is a strong possibility of a domino effect in the neighboring state.

There is another dimension to this strange silence. Perhaps the PM lives in a political cocoon. He is very busy being a world leader, wearing designer clothes, and launching new initiatives such as Skill India or International Yoga Day or Swach Bharat Abhiyan. He has outsourced political inconveniences such as Lalit Modi and Vyapam to Amit Shah, the grand victor of UP in the Lok Sabha elections. His “Shah moh” makes him blind to the fact Shah as the BJP president is punching much above his weight (figuratively speaking). PM might also believe that these scandals have a short shelf life. People will soon forget and move on to the next scandal (remember the famous dialogs of Richard Gere in Chicago). He is quite wrong.

Of course, one might argue that politicians should not be tried by the media. But UPA politicians were tried by the media and BJP took full advantage of it. Moreover, the issues at stake are serious. In the US, it is inconceivable that any minster abetting a fugitive would survive in office (it is actually a federal crime to render any kind of assistance to a fugitive). It is also inconceivable that a large number of witnesses in a major enquiry begin to die in mysterious circumstances and the Justice Department is unable to act on it.

The PM cannot effectively run the country by tweeting, announcing cutely worded initiatives, or undertaking overseas trips to enhance his image as global leader. These scandals are above Amit Shah’s pay grade. The time to take action and show commitment to good governance is now. Will he act?

Yoga Politics by Aseem Prakash


Twitter exchanges over the International Yoga Day seem to confirm my view that this medium brings out the worst in politicians. There is race to be the first to say something cute and dramatic. Sometimes this cuteness backfires. The twitter disease afflicts all political parties: Ram Madhav, Lalu Yadav, Sitaram Yechury, and so on. Of course, politicians can follow the Manohar Parrikar model of making bewildering statements through the traditional media channels. But twitter is better: it allows them to air their stupidity instantly.

Given the twitter mess, I have a constructive suggestion to offer. As a follow up to the International Yoga Day, the Prime Minister NaMo should organize the International Maun Vrat Day. Everybody will need to keep quite — no talking, no twittering, or any other form of communication — for full 24 hours. Imagine the energy that will be saved by this endeavor. Perhaps, there should be a public display of Maun Vrat in Wardha and the late Vinoba Bhave can be portrayed as the global Maun Vrat brand ambassador. Former PM Manmohan Singh is another possibility for this august position. This will be a great follow up to the Yoga Day because it is inspired by Indian traditions and tells the world that Indians know how to shut up (http://www.sanskritimagazine.com/indian-religions/hinduism/benefits-maun-vrat/). This will put India in the global leadership position: fostering world dialogue through Maun Vrat.

But moving beyond the exciting possibility of organizing the International Maun Vrat day, how might one interpret the International Yoga day. Is this a new fad of Prime Minister NaMo? After cleaning up India through the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, is he seeking to improve our physical and spiritual health? Will he be naming celebrities as Brand Ambassadors for this event? If so, might we expect Bollywood celebrities and cricket celebrities queuing up for this important task? This will add glamour to “dog’s body movement” as Sitaram Yechury has so astutely noted (perhaps, you will now appreciate why the CPM is in such a mess).

The Government of India website on the Yoga Day is not particularly informative: . The Wikipedia site on this subject notes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Yoga_Day):

“June 21, was declared as the International Day of Yoga by the United Nations General Assembly on December 11, 2014. Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice or discipline that originated in India. The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his UN Address suggested the date to be June 21 as the International Day of Yoga as it is the longest day of the year (Summer Solstice) … Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his address to UN General Assembly on September 27, 2014 stated: “Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. This tradition is 5000 years old. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us deal with climate change. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day.””

Here are my takeaways. First, India wants to save the world. Second, India can draw on its tradition to save the world. Third, Yoga can help us address climate change and therefore save the world.

Quite amazing, to think of it. We are barely able to save ourselves; and we are hoping to save the world. It is the Nehru disease all over again.

Since I study environmental policy, I found the claim about climate change to be interesting. To the best of my knowledge, nobody has suggested Yoga as a way to deal with climate change. Pope Francis has jumped into the climate debate but he has stayed away from prescribing Yoga (if you do not believe me, see for yourself: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html).

I wonder how Yoga might help us in climate change mitigation and adaptation. Will it help us to make a transition from a fossil fuel-based to a solar-based economy? Will it enable us to protect our forests and still clock 8% economic growth? If so, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change should take a serious look at these yogic ideas (perhaps without Rajendra Pachauri at the helm). Al Gore might also be persuaded to make a documentary entitled “The Convenient Truth: Yoga and Climate Change.” The downside is that Gore being Gore, he might claim that he invented Yoga, the way he claimed to have invented the Internet. Perhaps, inviting Gore to this project is not a good idea if India seeks global leadership via Yoga.

Politics is a demanding business. One needs to be physically and mentally tough. I applaud politicians who can demonstrate their physical fitness. Lalu Yadav tells us that Nehruji was a yogi. Putin is an avid sportman. Angela Merkel likes to ski. In US politics, politicians are expected to show off their fitness; after all, America is a very physical country. Jimmy Carter was famous for his jogging, Ronald Reagan for chopping wood on his ranch, George Bush for mountain biking, Bill Clinton … I’m sure he did his share of physical exercise. Even Dick Cheney sought to show his physical fitness by shooting innocent birds (sometimes his friends as well, by mistake, of course)

Arguably, Indian politicians across the spectrum are vicariously fit because they control physically demanding sports such as cricket via the BCCI and the IPL (and other sports bodies). This is a comforting thought; our country is run by a Yogi with ample help from the sporty types.

So, why am I complaining? I object when politicians employ state machinery to publicize their personal fads. Yes, Namo is not the first to use state machinery to popularize Yoga. Remember Dhirendra Brahmachari, the “flying swami” who had an asharam near Gol Market and an arms factory in Katra, Jammu. He received substantial state patronage to popularize Yoga during Indira Gandhi’s regime. Baba Ramdev, to his credit, popularized Yoga without state patronage – though he does the share the taste of traveling in private jets with Dhirendra Brahmchari.

But Namo should do better. He has good ideas. For example, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is a fantastic initiative that can make a real difference in the quality of lives of millions of Indians. Same with the Ganga Action plan. Perhaps, the government should focus on a few projects and and see them through completion. There is no need to float a new fad every couple of months. Getting the UN declare June 21 as the International Yoga Day does very little for India or for the world. It distracts attention from the pressing problems of the day.

Arvind Kejriwal ko Gussa Kyoon Aata Hai? by Aseem Prakash


How might explain the charade being enacted in Delhi? I can identify three plausible explanations. Here they are.

1. Kejriwal: The logic of permanent agitation

Kejriwal’s core competency is to agitate. In doing so, he seeks to play the role of the underdog who is taking on powerful interests. He is the angry (young?) man of Indian politics. Kejriwal is not interested in governance. To be fair to him, he knows his limitations in this regard. He is realistic; does what he knows best.

The episode over appointing the Acting Chief Secretary provided him with the opportunity to launch another agitation. He now has the attention of the media. He has moved the discussion from Bhushan-Yadav rebellion to injustice being meted out by the LG to the elected government of Delhi. Bureaucrats are not his constituency; he is merely using them as his punching bag.

2. BJP: The logic of taking panga and watching the fun

I wonder if the BJP has recovered from its rout in Delhi elections. Bedi is out but it is not clear who has replaced her as the leader. Delhi politics seems like a waste of time for the BJP — until next Lok Sahba elections, of course.

Further, there are other important issues on the agenda. The Prime Minister is inflicted with the Nehru-disease and has become a world leader. When he visits India, he is absorbed in tweeting, selfies, man-ki-baat, and coining yet another slogan.

But the BJP has been vocal on the issue of statehood of Delhi for the last 25 years. They have opposed meddling by governors in state administration (e.g. the spat between Governor Kamla Beniwal and CM Narendra Modi over the appointment of Lokayukta in Gujrat). Isn’t this a great opportunity for the BJP to walk the walk? Shucks, no! As Orwell noted in 1984, “Who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” Selective amnesia is necessary for political survival.

What then explains the BJP’s approach to these events? The issue is not Delhi; it is the AAP. The BJP cannot allow the AAP to consolidate itself in Delhi. So, needle them. Exploit the fact that Kejriwal has a temper – provoke him and watch the fun. The game-plan is working well. Kejriwal is over-reacting – his treatment of Delhi bureaucrats reminds me of the stories I have heard of Bihar under Lalu, and UP under BSP and SP. Further, in the war is between the LG and Kejriwal; the BJP is not directly implicated. Smart strategy!

3. Najeeb Jung: The logic of permanent interests, not permanent friends

The LG of Delhi is a very coveted post, I mean really coveted. Lots of lobbying. Only the most loyal get appointed. This Najeeb Jung is a Congress appointee and yet he has not been sacked or transferred by the BJP. Well, he has now become a BJP man. This works well for both. BJP can duck the accusation of communalism and he can continue as the LG.

If Jung plays along with the BJP, he might be allowed complete his full term. Plus, when his term ends in 2018, the Modi government would still be in power. There are lots of plum appointments to be secured – Ambassadorship to a nice country, another governorship, endless possibilities. The LG has a long shadow of the future; he is a role model in the rational actor framework. The beauty of this strategy is that Jung has a legitimate rationale for his actions – as per the Constitution, he is the one who appoints Delhi bureaucrats, and not the CM.

Which of the theory(s) is (are) true? My sense is that all are true. All actors in this charade are acting rationally. Individual rationality is leading to collective irrationality, especially for the citizens of Delhi.

I wonder if Delhi is fast becoming a “failed state.”

Modi’s Make in India is a gas balloon waiting to burst by Abhijit Bhattacharya


After a high-decibel launch of his Make in India (MII) campaign in last September, Narendra Modi, true to his reputation as one of the most marketing savvy politicians, has been personally wooing investors in different parts of the world. To make his ministers contribute to the campaign with specific plans, after the launch he summoned all his senior cabinet colleagues and secretaries to a workshop and gave them their individual homework. In the mean time an official website was launched for providing the global investors basic information on the identified 25 key sectors in which the government felt India had the potential to become a world leader.

Typical to Modi’s style, before launching such a massive campaign the citizenry was hardly provided with any information about the background research done by his government to understand the rationale behind this initiative. It is interesting to compare this with the British government’s approach. They came up with a fairly comprehensive report in 2013 on “The Future of Manufacturing”. The report can now greatly assist the government in drafting and implementing a sound action plan for reviving the manufacturing industry in the UK.

Looking at the MII initiative one might wonder – and certainly not without any basis – if the whole initiative was launched on the basis of Modi’s mere gut-feel (what can be described using management jargon as HIPPO syndrome – Highest Paid Person’s Opinion syndrome). It should be a matter of grave concern if a major policy decision to transform the Indian manufacturing was taken without careful analysis of the existing reality. But, if this is happening at a time when globally the entire manufacturing sector is undergoing a tectonic shift, then a disaster is just waiting to happen.

The technology and management literature, popular press and the social media are abuzz with information on exponentially growing brain-melting innovations that are now continuously disrupting the economy and businesses in every possible area. In their 2014 bestseller, The Second Machine Age, Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee have captured quite comprehensively the nature of these innovations. The new technologies are radically transforming the way we produce, consume, educate and run organisations. Comparing the current wave of innovations with the disruptive innovations of the past centuries that triggered the industrial revolution, Brynjolfsson and McAfee explain the qualitative differences between the nature and intensity of these two waves. The Industrial Revolution was triggered by our ability to provide physical power to machines using steam and electric power. The machines were thus able to assist humans to do things on a scale far beyond the imagination of the civilisation before those innovations. But today, the machines have got mental power. They are able to perform quite intricate cognitive tasks, such as pattern recognition and complex communication that were earlier reserved exclusively for humans. For example, machines can now select an appropriate music after assessing a person’s mood, replace a nurse to take care of patients in a hospital or win a most difficult quiz contests against the reining champions. These things are happening because of sustained exponential improvement in computing, ability to generate extraordinarily large amounts of digitised information and recombinant innovation (when innovations in different areas get combined to generate massive number of new innovations creating new products and industries).

Driverless cars, 3D printing of human body parts, robots replacing a TV newsreader or voice recognition and synchronous translation in multiple languages, etc are good examples providing indication of the things that are to come. We are just at the beginning of this exciting process.

The technological innovations and the ensuing digitisation-of-everything are rendering the age-old differentiation between manufacturing and service quite meaningless. It is no longer production per se, but creating a product in digital form and developing capabilities to offer services and solutions to supplement the product (known as servitisation) have acquired critical importance. From drones to wearables (watch, goggles, shoes, etc), every product has to be now servitised. Getting a physical product in this new world will be considered as a very insignificant and non-value-adding part of the whole production process. For example, using a 3D printer anyone can now print a product, like taking a printout from an ordinary printer. We are today surrounded by millions of digital products that are being continuously created by skilled digital workers. These products can be consumed at anytime either as physical or soft products by just connecting an appropriate device to the network. In this networked – and often, factory-less – production system where everything is getting digitised, Modi government’s attempt to become one of the top five manufacturing nations by investing in mega infrastructure projects is nothing but sheer madness.

There is no doubt that India needs to improve its infrastructure for improving the quality of life of its population majority of whom still lives in sub-human conditions. But, this does not mean that people’s lives will automatically improve if massive investments are made to create corridors connecting industrial clusters. There is a very high risk of creating huge non-productive assets and worse, these assets will be created often by grabbing poor farmers’ land wherever and whenever such land is not offered voluntarily.

On its MII website, the government has declared its target of achieving 12-14 per cent annual growth in manufacturing in the medium term. To be able to achieve this in a digital economy, we need a very different – digitally capable – workforce. There is no information given on the site or in any other document how the government is going to create such a workforce. India’s demographic “advantage”, which the government is bragging about on its website, actually consists of a huge army of fully or functionally illiterate people. This population is of very little use for today’s innovation-driven economy. If the situation doesn’t improve immediately then very soon we may see jobs migrating to the developed or better educated nations from the Indian towns and cities.

If Modi wants to make our manufacturing tick and create 100 million additional jobs by 2022, by when digitisation of manufacturing and consumption will reach much deeper level, he has to give top priority to comprehensive education reforms for preparing a competent workforce. Our organisations and skills are not keeping pace with the changing technologies. Millions of Indians are already left far behind the digital divide and the numbers are only going to grow if urgent measures are not taken. The increasing gap in the US between wage levels of workers with college education and simple high school pass outs can give us a good idea what to expect if the present situation is allowed to continue.

To meet the challenges head on, while improving the teaching-learning system in the existing schools, we need to experiment with new types of institutions and governance models. It seems Modi’s HRD minister does not have any clue about her role in the present job nor does she understand what kind of human resources India needs to make her boss’ MII dream come true. To be fair, many of her other colleagues are not doing a great job either. Recently, the energy minister boastfully informed the media that NITI Aayog had set up a group to look at our energy security plan for next 100 years! The Aayog certainly deserves a bravery award for attempting to prepare such a long-term energy plan when for most ordinary mortals it is difficult to even visualise what is in store after a decade. The information on the MII website under Oil & Gas and Renewable Energy section is an example of government’s linear thinking which helps to make projections for another 100 years.

It is also quite telling that in a 24×7 world, which India itself contributed to a large extent to create through its booming BPO industry, it is now asking potential investors to contact the MII office strictly between 9am to 4pm from Monday to Friday! We apparently want to leapfrog into the digital world by selling old wine in old bottles!

India’s digital divide will soon push the country out of the knowledge-era manufacturing process. But we can still make our demographics work to our benefit, though saddled with a huge lowly skilled population, thanks to the mind-boggling rate of innovations of new, jaw-dropping technologies. These technologies do provide an opportunity to quickly educate the left-behind population. As Brynjolfsson and McAfee mention, “Given the plethora of new technologies and techniques that are now being explored, it’s a certainty that some of them-in fact, we think many of them – will be significant improvements over current approaches to teaching and learning”.

Time is fast running out for the Modi government. It must launch a realistic reform programme for the manufacturing sector that has to be implemented by a digitally competent India. Twitting alone certainly cannot make Make in India fly.

Abhijit Bhattacharya (@b_abhijit)
Professor of Entrepreneurship
The University of Trinidad and Tobago
abhijit1957@gmail.com

It’s the one year Itch for the Modi Sarkar by Gaurav Dalmia


It’s exactly a year since India’s political cycle changed in a historic mandate on May 16, 2014. People voted for change, good governance and effectiveness. In addition to support from India’s elite, the middle class, with a little help from India’s poor, swung the BJP into power. Expectations rode high. Yesterday’s euphoria is leading to today’s despondency. Big change is complex and as Bill Gates says about technological transformations, people overestimate things in the short term and underestimate the same in the long term. The same is happening in the major political transition we have witnessed this past year.

One of the great advantages India has is that there is a tendency towards ideological convergence. Ideologies of various political parties are similar and are becoming more so, even though this may not be obvious because of short-term electoral rhetoric. This is not true in the case of other large democracies such as the US, where the median Republican view is drifting apart from the median Democratic view, with less overlap than a decade before.

The debate in India is between right-of-centre and left-of-centre mindsets, not the extreme left-right clashes that some other countries see, as the recent British election results exhibit. Immanuel Kant’s “starting position” unconsciously shapes individual views. The best social contract is determined less by an intellectual appreciation of all possible options, and more by what seems workable for us and the immediate group around us.

Notwithstanding these multitude values and aspirations, the verdict of India is that it prefers effectiveness over any intense left-right debate, which itself now occupies a narrower spectrum. Because the electorate rewards effectiveness over ideology, both anti-incumbency as well as the proportion of first time MPs in India are much higher here than in the US or Europe, making India more politically dynamic.

Ironically, a triumph of democracy may be the bane of good governance. The rise of the regional parties is adirect consequence of social change and a deeper political involvement of the masses. Yet, most regional parties are directly or indirectly extortionist, often short term-oriented and less likely to provide efficient government. In addition, at the national level, they fragment votes and cause unstable coalitions. As the regional parties mature, hopefully, they will become more effective.

The economic cycle, which had started looking up in the last days of the UPA regime, seems to have stalled in the last two quarters. The mix of headwinds — monsoon vulnerability, down cycle in commodity prices, corporate overleverage and weak balance sheet of banks — and tailwinds — low oil price, India standing out in an otherwise dismal picture for emerging markets, rupee stability — seem to be negating each other. A decisive government stimulus could help put India in the high-growth orbit once again. In terms of economic growth, we are fighting below our weight. We need to put the ‘fight’ back in India.

The trend towards ‘normalisation’ is what we all need to watch out for. The BJP needs to ensure that because of incumbency, complacency and vested interests, it won’t start looking like the ‘Congress minus scams’. The BJP will, hopefully, control these as the Ottoman rulers did by institutional innovations and the US does with checks and balances.

To simplify, among the tools available to a government to ensure their own continuity by winning successive elections, performance takes the top spot. However, delivering results in discrete five-year intervals is not a given. This is made complicated by staggered state elections that act as an informal referendum.

So, to get reelected, governments rely on populism, defined not as genuine poverty alleviation measures, but politically-motivated giveaways — rational from a political party’s perspective, but inefficient from society’s. This is the age-old agency problem. Worse, it remains unclear what the payoffs from such individual measures might be. Therefore, governments go a step further and indulge in patronage, supporting a narrow interest group with an expectation of tangible payoffs.

Whether people admit it or not, these tools are used all over the world. The degree of use defines the quality of government. Previous regimes have relied on patronage, populism and performance, unfortunately, in that order. This government will hopefully reverse that.

Previously published in The Economic Times on the 1st anniversary of the Modi government.

In Defense of Modi: A Rebuttal by Shashi K Patil


A lot of people are falling prey to insidious and venal attempts of the INC, leftists and anti-national / pseudo-liberal / pseudo-secular elements, “NGOs,” the Mainstream Media (MSM) who are fighting a battle for survival under the NaMo government to tar and mar the NDA government. I am surprised that even academics are falling prey to vicious propaganda by these groups who spout inanities on freedom, secularism and democracy but have no respect for any of these values.

If there is any hope for India, it is NaMo.

I would like to counter many of the points made in Aseem’s article some of which he may have picked up from MSM, whose credibility today is at an all-time low.

One, there were no self-congratulatory tweets / boasting by the PM on the earthquake issue. It may be possible that someone looked at parody Twitter accounts of the PM (there could be many) and used it to propagate their divisive agendas. The MSM mantra is – “Lie big, retract small” as so wonderfully articulated by Ravinar of Mediacrooks fame (www.mediacrooks.com). They also resort to what Ravinar describes as “Salma quoting Sabrina”. Thanks to an alert Social Media (SM), the lies of MSM is being caught out and they don’t like it one bit. They are used to controlling the narrative and they find that they are at the receiving end on SM.

Would request that all readers check the PM’s Twitter TLs here that will shatter the lies of MSM: https://twitter.com/narendramodi

On the contrary, when people praised his efforts with a hashtag of #ThankYouPM, he told his followers that it is not him, but the Indian culture of seva that should get the credit.

The fact that the Nepal PM learnt about the earthquake from the Indian PM is being used by the opposition and media there for their own agendas.

Is he always on Twitter? He has tweeted 41 times since the Nepal earthquake on Apr 24 till 30th of which 25 were related to the earthquake. That is 6 tweets a day. Is this bothering some people who hate the fact that the PM is directly communicating with people? Hell, yeah! Why doesn’t the MSM even ask when the joker RaGa will be on Twitter communicating with people? It is shocking that anything that the fake Gandhis do is OK with the groups above. These groups so desperately want INC to return to power so that their orgies, loot, anti-national activities, etc. can continue unabated.

On the suit, the brouhaha that it was a Rs. 10-lakh suit was created by the MSM as they had nothing better to do. The price was also a classical “Salma quoting Sabrina” tactic. The suit piece was gifted to NaMo who got it stitched. The fact that NaMo has a certain class when it comes to appearance rankles these jokers who think that they are the only ones who have taste and style. The fact that NaMo did not lower his own dignity and that of his office by joining issue speaks a lot about the man. The fact that he raised Rs. 4.31 crores in the suit auction and gifted the proceeds for worthwhile causes speaks even more about the man. Contrast this with the Sable coat of Sonia Gandhi that she got as a gift and sent to Italy to get it refitted. It apparently costs more than Rs. 50 lakhs. Please read: http://www.mediacrooks.com/2015/04/what-fool-believes.html#.VUTymI6qqko

While I do not want to comment on Deepak Parekh and Arun Shourie (both of them having their own personal reasons for the attack on the government), I now understand why India has been under bondage for 1,000 years – people who do not benefit from changes, rather than seeing those changes through the prism of nationalism, look at it from their own selfish interests. I am not sure if Parekh being kept out of Niti Aayog and Arun Shourie being kept out of government have anything to do with their rants.

It is not possible to change things overnight. Decades of depredations by INC, the mai-baap sarkaar they created, the crony capitalism, the weakening of institutions including the judiciary, the tearing asunder of the social fabric – all had created a system that was on the verge of collapse. There are vested interests against change and they will resist it at all costs. NaMo is smart enough to understand that a radical overhaul is impossible and will only result in total chaos as the vested interests are deeply entrenched. He is slowly but surely changing them to the path of positivism and nation-building. This takes time – NaMo has no magic wand. As someone who has worked at the grassroots, I understand how weak and corrupt our institutions and governance mechanisms are – sometimes one would think it is impossible to change it. But, NaMo is a “aashavadi” and it is amazing how he deals with the negativism all around him. He is indeed India’s last hope. I shudder to think what would have happened if UPA came to power in 2015.

I still remember 2004 when commies and anti-national elements entered into an incestuous understanding with media, most notably Dr. Prannoy Roy, to run down NDA and give the nation 10 years of disaster that set us back by 50 years. They are at it again, but to India’s advantage, there is SM that is calling their bluff – time and again. The devil (the groups described above) is powerful and charming and I’m hopeful India’s tryst with dharma will see the devil shown their rightful place in hell.

Unlike Vajapayee, NaMo is no fool. He has been nice even to those who have sworn to be his enemies so far. But, unfortunately for them (who hate everything Indian while benefiting from India), their time is over. The next one year will see NaMo take on the role of Krishna after the Shishupalas have committed their proverbial 100 sins.

That will be the beginning of the Acch Din.

The Non-Resident PM: Twittering, Tweeting and the pathology of disconnection by Aseem Prakash


Yesterday, HDFC chairman Deepak Parekh threw a bombshell which was followed by focused fire from Arun Shourie. Parekh noted:

“I think there is still a lot of optimism among the people of the country and among the industrialists and entrepreneurs that the Modi government will be good for business, for progress, for reducing corruption. They think this government means business on all these fronts…However, after nine months, there is a little bit of impatience creeping in as to why no changes are happening and why this is taking so long having effect on the ground.”
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/No-change-on-ground-on-ease-of-doing-business-HDFCs-Deepak-Parekh-says/articleshow/46288197.cms

Regarding claims about economic growth, Shourie noted: ” “Such claims are meant to grab headlines but lack substance”. ..”Government is talking big on economic matters but nothing is happening on ground. Delivery is missing.”
http://zeenews.india.com/news/india/modi-govt-directionless-on-economy-growth-claims-are-hyperbole-says-arun-shourie_1588472.html

One can brush off Shourie by saying that he is frustrated because he was not offered a Ministerial position in Modi’s cabinet. But Parekh is different. He is the JRD Tata of India’s financial community. He has an impeccable reputation and image. He does not talk loose; is not the tweeting type. Importantly, Parekh is also known to be sympathetic to Modi.

Why then is Modi losing the confidence of his core domestic constituency?

Like so many Indians, I am baffled and disappointed with Modi. Here was a politician who knew how to govern and connect with the masses. He understood what they wanted and appeared responsive and sincere to their wishes.

Yet, something seems to have gone wrong. The PM seems to be interested in tweeting, grabbing headlines, traveling abroad, but not governing domestically. Like many, I remained puzzled by Modi’s decision to wear monogrammed suit during Obama’s visit. As Arun Shourie noted “It was inexplicable, incomprehensible and a big critical mistake”… “I fail to understand why he accepted and then wore that suit. You cannot take Gandhiji’s name and wear such a thing.” Of course, Rahul Gandhi has sought to underline this point in his Lok Shaba remarks by characterizing the Modi government as “suit-boot ki sarkaar.”

But beyond the suit-boot, take the controversy over Nepal Earthquake. India responded quickly and appropriately. But this goodwill has been compromised by the PM’s cute, self-congratulatory tweets. He boasted that Nepal’s PM Sushil Koirala got to know of the earthquake because he saw Modi’s tweets on this subject. What is the message: Nepal’s PM is an uninformed individual and Narendra Bhai is the superman who not only knows what is happening in India but also abroad. No wonder Nepalese are fuming over this chest thumping by the tweeting Modi. Instead of goodwill, they see Indian arrogance.

There is a deeper problem, I suspect. Modi seems to look for validation among a select group, the tweeting types, a large number of which reside abroad. He is becoming the PM of the non-resident Indians. He comes across as spending a lot of time on foreign visits and speaking to packed halls of NRIs. Of course, the BJP could not mobilize enough folks to attend his January 10, 2015 Ramlila grounds rally. As long as the superhero can draw NRI crowds to the Madison Square Garden arena, I guess it is ok.

Or, the fuss over the claim that Modi is third most followed politician in the twitter world or the BJP is largest political party in the world. These are vacuous achievements, especially when there is little to show in terms of concrete, on-the-ground changes.

Modi won decisive mandate in the Lok Shaba elections. In the first months, he began backtracking on issues such as Black Money. Yet, he did outline imaginative policies such as the “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” and “Make in India.” But these policies seem to remain at the sloganeering level. How many new toilets have been constructed? How have sanitation facilities improved? Before we are inflicted with a new set of slogans such as Smart Cities, the PM ought to provide a Status Report on the existing ones.

The honeymoon of the Indian voter with Modi seems to be over. There is now a lot of political competition. While AAP has taken a hit with the Yadav-Bhushan episode and the tragic death of Gajendra Singh during the AAP’s Jantar Mantar rally, it remains an important urban political force. Rahul Gandhi, though much ridiculed by the media, is back in action. He has carefully selected issues that resonate with the masses. Chandrababu Naidu is on the verge of parting company with the BJP – apparently, the PM does not have time to meet with him in Delhi about problems of Andhra Pradesh (perhaps, he should try to meet with him in New York or Toronto). Opinion polls suggest that BJP is going to get a severe drubbing in Bihar Assembly elections. Given that the BJP does not have the majority in Rajya Shaba, and that the BJP cannot indefinitely rely on ordinances to enact new laws, Modi’s ability to govern is going to be severely compromised. What is the game plan?

Madhu Kishwar, who had vocally supported Modi when it was not fashionable to do so, correctly noted in her 2014 interview: “He got rewarded for his work in Gujarat, he is now the prime minister. But now starts a new chapter, he is going to be assessed afresh. However, nobody can make sense of all this, neither me nor anyone else. It is black magic that somebody has done. I cannot believe this is happening. Maybe Modi has not got a grip yet. Maybe Delhi has disoriented him.” (http://scroll.in/article/694110/Somebody-has-done-black-magic-on-Modi-Madhu-Kishwar/)

I hope the PM is able to exorcise himself of the kalla jadu and deliver on domestic governance and development. He should recognize that he is the PM of the RIs, not the NRIs. If I were his parent, I would confiscate his cellphone and prohibit him from tweeting for the next couple of months. I may even impose a dress code. Time out – focus on real stuff. I guess the BJP and Modi are in need of some serious adult supervision.