Musings, Potshots

Lessons in Economics – from Rahul Gandhi and from Suresh

I must share with you two really profound – and radically contrasting – lessons in Economics I learned today. One, from  Congress President and Prime Minister-aspirant Rahul Gandhi; the other, from my colleague-become-friend of some 24 years, Rickshaw and Thela (wheelbarrow) Operator Suresh.

First, Rahul, who “chose to explain a bit of economics to voters” while addressing a public meeting on April 19th at Bajipura (Gujarat). To quote from today’s Indian Express article [click here to read]: Suresh and Rahul

He (Narendra Modi) has taken money from your pocket, and you have stopped purchasing goods like shirts, pants, watches, and mobile phones.’ Rahul explained. ‘This led to the shutdown of factories in India and many labourers lost their jobs. The unemployment rate is now at its highest in the past 45 years.’

He continued: ‘Under the NYAY scheme, an amount of Rs 72,000 will directly go into the bank account of women. Then you will start shopping, and when you shop, the factory will start functioning, and the unemployment issue will be solved.’

He also said, if voted to power, ‘We will give 22 lakh government jobs in one year, which are currently vacant, and 10 lakh youths will be given jobs in various panchayats.’

Rahul’s insight really made me think, O gracious reader. In a weird and woolly way, it kind of makes sense, no?

Only one thing about Rahul’s economics troubles me: Rahul’s plan to create 22 lakh government jobs (+ 10 lakh quasi-government jobs). Since the 7th Finance Commission, even the lowliest central government employee in India starts with salary of Rs 18,000 per month; that’s Rs 216,000 (2.16 lakhs) annually. Which means that, even assuming that every one of Rahul’s 22 lakh new government employees draw only this minimum salary, the annual salary bill for these worthies will be Rs 47520,00,00,000.

That’s Rs 47,520 crores every year! At minimum government wages…

To me it seems a hell of a lot of money, just for the sake of having 22,00,000 more leech-like sarkari babus making life miserable for you and me and all other honest, tax-paying citizens. Especially so, because that Rs 47,520 crores is going to be forked out every year by honest, long-suffering income tax payers like you and I!

But then, I console myself, Rahul Gandhi has been advised on his NYAY scheme by globally renowned economists like our very own P Chidambaram, Arvind Subramanian, Raghuram Rajan, and also British Nobel Laureate  Angus Deaton and French economist Thomas Piketty. Undoubtedly there’s something  I’m missing, ignoramus that I am…

Enter, Suresh.

At my request, Suresh brought his thela over around 11 a.m and was helping me clear out some old furniture and stuff. As usual, over a break for a banana and chilled glass we discussed the state of the world. “Who will you vote for?” he asked. “I know I will not vote for AAP this time,” I replied.  “I’m more and more inclined to vote for Modi’s BJP-NDA…”

“I too will vote for Modi,” he said firmly. “Of course, I suffered a lot when the note-bandhi [demonetization, 2016] happened. All my earnings are in cash even today;  nobody pays a rickshaw/thela-wallah any other way but cash. And of course with prices always rising, it is a very hard life for a daily labourer like me. Besides, as you know, for much of last year, I could not work…”

In mid-2018, Suresh’s five year-old son was diagnosed with cancer. Thanks to the chemotherapy and the excellent medical care he received and continues to receive at the Delhi Government’s Lok Nayak Hospital, the child is now recovering well…but for Suresh and his wife, it has been a year of indescribable anxiety, physical and mental trauma….with the financial pressures (to raise over Rs 2 lakhs for the treatment, when there was no time to even ply his rickshaw or thela) only adding to their stress.

“But still, I think I will vote for Modi,” he repeated. “I think because of Modi, nowadays the sarkari-log, the babus are more scared to bully and exploit people like me.  The babus and other people are also more scared to do do-numbaree (black marketing). People tell me, arre look at price rise under Modi; but I tell them, I don’t think Modi is to blame for price rise.  I think the real reason for price rise is because people, more and more people, are greedy. People nowadays buy much more than they need, or can use; that’s the reason.”

He then described how, two weeks ago, he was helping a couple in the neighbourhood pack their belongings to move out of the city. “They had two wall-cupboards filled with only chaddars (bed sheets and bed-covers),” he murmured in awe.  “They had more than three hundred chaddars in there, single and double! Most of them were new, untouched.  If one couple buys so many hundred chaddars, why won’t prices of chaddars go up, sir? It’s like that with everything…”

Suresh’s words, too, made me think.

Unlike Rahul, who has a team of illustrious economic advisors, Suresh has none.

But  Suresh has something that I think counts for much more: common sense, that comes from experience of hard ground realities.

I’ll go with Suresh’s insights into economics.

Jai hind.

General ravings, Potshots

Political A-SAT and SAT

ASAT
Stellar vision?

Ever since India successfully conducted its anti-satellite (A-SAT) missile test, our crass netas have given political twists to the event that would make a boa constrictor straighten in envy. Considering the kinds of comments that they and their acolytes are making, and with Lok Sabha polls looming over the horizon, we, the wee people, have good reasons to worry about whether our newly elected MPs will even understand, let alone be capable of handling, critical strategic issues such as space technologies, missile defense, nuclear deterrence and the like.

But there is hope! Unconfirmed and officially disavowed sources reveal that the Lok Sabha Secretariat is alive to the challenge, and is preparing a series of small booklets on science and technology for the enlightenment of our newly-elected MPs.

Here are a few sample definitions leaked from the draft Lok Sabha booklet on ‘Aerospace Science for MPs’:

 Satellite: This is simply another name for party follower or chamcha. Satellites can be of two common kinds:

  • ‘Polar’ or ‘Poll-ar’ satellites are rather unstable, and remain loyal only so long as their leader has a chance of winning in polls.
  • ‘Jio-synchronous’ satellites, also known as ‘Jio-stationary’ satellites, are more stable and loyal, because they are held securely to their leader/party by the attractive gravitational forces of G, 2G or even 4G.

Space Debris: The countless pieces of metal, plastic, composites and affiliated junk that are now orbiting the earth, and that have resulted from the break-up of old satellites launched by different countries during the last 50 years. About 97.9% of all the space debris is ‘clean’ debris, because it comes from NASA satellites sent up by USA. The remaining 2.1% of the debris is ‘dirty’ debris because it comes from Indian and Chinese satellites.

Escape velocity: The very high velocity with which politically connected fraudsters and affiliated crooks escape from India to other countries when a new government takes over in Delhi. ‘Relativistic’ velocity (also known as ‘Maxis’ or maximum velocity) is the highest attainable escape velocity, usually achieved only by crooks who are close relatives of political leaders.

Global positioning system (GPS): A wonderful technology that helps government to keep track of the escaped crooks, and guide them to safe havens when necessary.

Inertia: Describes the tendency of a government to remain forever in a state of supreme inactivity; or if roused into motion (usually by sting operation), to continue moving aimlessly along a fixed path to nowhere until halted by the ‘fictional’ force of Opposition.

Launch window: The auspicious interval of time for a new politician to launch her/his political career by filing nomination papers for Lok Sabha or assembly elections.  Launch window is determined by specialists in astral science called ‘astronauts’. The term astronaut itself is derived from the ancient Sanskrit: astra-nath—‘one who rules over stars’ (Ref: Goru Gauswamy et al., 4300 BCE. Space Explorations. Muttal Press: Takshashila).

Re-entry vehicle: Pathway for political deserters to return to their parent (or grandparent) party. As re-entry usually generates intense heat from party rivals, re-entering politicians require rings of protective coating. Hence, the re-entering politicians are popularly called ‘turncoats’.

Star wars:Spectacular electoral battles waged between stars affiliated to Bollywood, Mollywood, Tollywood and other non-Dawood studios. If firearms such as Shotguns are used by the star-candidates during poll campaigns, we call them ‘shooting stars’. Sometimes, the winning stars are given Cabinet portfolios, in which case we call them ‘acting ministers’ if they turn up for work; or else, ‘deadwood’.

Warhead: An especially strident jingoist, usually seen on TV talking-head shows calling for nuclear attack on neighbouring nations, political opponents, and occasionally, neighbouring panelists.

Jai hind!

 

 

General ravings, Musings

Jai Vijaye Bhava,T M Krishna!

The other evening – 17th of November it was – I went with a couple of friends and heard T M Krishna sing at the Garden of Five Senses, Delhi.

It was great!

Krishna was in fine voice; a voice I’d heard only a couple of times earlier, rendering Thyagaraja krithis as smoothly as folk songs. Oh, and also singing in a short but powerful campaign video against Unilever for dumping toxic chemicals and endangering the people and ecology of Kodaikanal (click here to see it)

That’s all I knew of Krishna till around the 14th of November; that he was a great musician, innovative, that he sang for good causes.

And then this great big thing blew up in our faces, amplified to megaton levels by media: that Airports Authority of India  and Spic-Macay had abruptly cancelled a scheduled concert on 17th November featuring Krishna, among other artistes. AAI gave no reasons for the cancellation; but I understood, from editorials print and online, that Krishna was regarded by BJP sympathizers – and therefore, the Central Government, and by inference, AAI too— as ‘anti-Hindu’ and ‘anti-Indian culture’, all because he, Krishna, conveyed pithy political and social messages through his songs. I also heard and read that Krishna had been cruelly trolled by ‘right-wing Hindutva’ nuts.

All this I found profoundly disheartening, disturbing, disgusting.  I hoped, over those two days that followed, for some strong reaction from the Central Government, from AAI…but there was only stony silence.

And so, when Delhi’s AAP government announced that it would host a performance by Krishna on the 17th, I decided I must attend. Not to convey some glorious ‘secular message’ or make a ‘political statement’ or anything pretentious as that, but to simply hear Krishna, a musician who just wanted to sing from his heart about things he felt strongly about… and had been cruelly treated for wanting to do that.

Given the circumstances, I was a little worried about the event becoming more a political jamboree than a music concert. But credit to AAP leaders Kejriwal and Sisodia, not only did they arrive only about 20 minutes late, which is incredibly early by Delhi standards, but their bhashans were mercifully brief and non-incendiary. Krishna himself was all dignity: he murmured that he was there not to speak but to sing…and so he did: wonderfully, passionately, movingly.

Now, clacking out these words, I wonder: why must we taint everything in our lives that brings joy, with the corrosive acid of divisive politics?

My music or writing or theatre, my art, my rendering of what I think of as art, might not be to your liking, and vice versa; but surely we can each find the art we like and peacefully enjoy it without having to mock, disfigure, destroy others’ likes, others’ art? Without hurting others?

Just as you, gentle reader, might hold the view that I can’t write for nuts (doubtless with great justification). But that shouldn’t drive us – and our fans, our acolytes, assuming we have any – at each others’ throats?

Like:  I never liked M F Hussain’s paintings. M F Hussain, in my view, couldn’t paint for nuts. I have said so to friends who like M F Hussain’s paintings. It hasn’t affected our friendship.

I remember even writing so once (in Indian Express, in a letter): in the late 1990s, a time when, weirdly, it had become the politically correct thing to like M F Hussain, and you risked being branded ‘Hindu communalist’ or ‘fascist’ if you said you didn’t like Hussain. Well, I wrote I didn’t like M F Hussain’s work, not because his work offended my religious or cultural sensibilities but because his work offended my artistic sensibilities. But (I added) that didn’t mean I had the right to burn his paintings or run the man out of the country.

You, I, anyone at all, can take on T M Krishna fair and square, one-on-one, for his political views, such as they are…just as Krishna has the right to take on any of us fair and square for our political views, such as ours are.

But when Krishna the musician is invited to present his music, we must welcome him and respect him as musician.

I have heard Krishna, I love his music, I admire his politics. But that’s my opinion; you can think differently, it’s okay.

But none of us, none of us can allow a government institution like AAI to judge  an artiste, any artiste, by his or her perceived ‘politics’.

It is terrible, the way AAI has capitulated before a gang of nameless, faceless e-thugs whose claim to represent ‘Hinduism’ or ‘Indian culture’  is as well-founded as Lashkar e Toiba’s claim to represent ‘Islam’ or ‘Islamic culture’.

It is good that Delhi’s AAP government gave Krishna a chance to play at the Garden of Five Senses…and us the chance to hear him.

As of today, 19th November 2018, I am a votary of AAP.

But I shall watch AAP’s future activities with considerable interest before taking the call at the next polls. Knowing our politicians, be they from Left, Right or virtually non-existent Centre, chances are high that the AAP will commit some colossal balls-up ere long…

That’s why we need you, T M Krishna! Jai Vijaye Bhava! Jai Hind.