Thursday, 21 April 2016

Of News and Other Stuff-12

  • Maharashtra is trying to enact a law to ban social boycott of individuals by caste panchayats. Apparently they have previously banned superstition. I am hardly a libertarian, but how are they going to implement this law? Or is that precisely why they are passed? No headache of implementation, with all the positive press.
  • Pratap Bhanu Mehta, when willing himself to be comprehensible, is brilliant (yes, I used that word). Here he defends judicial over-reach calling it the ‘jurisprudence of exasperation’. 
  • Economic theory, as you know it,may soon be extinct. At least that’s what I am telling the well-meaning relatives/ family friends who insist I do a PhD.
  • The problem with being a social science student (and economics at that) is that you assume the worst about people. When I heard about the Yellow Sea to the east of China, my first reaction was to assume that this was an act of racism by the British. Turns out, the sea actually looks yellow (in colour) due to its sand and silt deposition.
  • I think I have regressed as a writer. I was reading an answer I wrote in college on the variance in regional experience of human development in India. If I had to describe it in one word, I would call it ‘strident’. Somehow I can never command that much feeling in anything I write now, leave alone an examination answer (not saying it was a good answer-it wasn’t).
  • Krugman calls himself an SOB. Student of Bhagwati.
  • Have you ever wondered why leftists refer to MNCs as ‘transnational corporations’? Bhagwati explains:
My favourite example [of the importance of the use of suitable phraseology] from economics is the business schools’ preferred use of the word “multinationals, nudging your subconscious in the direction of multilateralism and hence evoking the image of a benign institution, and the radicals’ insistence on calling these international corporations “transnationals”, strongly suggesting transgression.
  • Hence Bhagwati does not refer to growth-led poverty alleviation as ‘trickle-down’ but as the strategy of ‘pulling up’ the poor.
  • If you read some of Bhagwati’s older scholarly writings (and not his invective filled newspaper columns), it is remarkable how his position sounds so much like Sen’s. Before the 2014 general elections, when the two were having a public spat on the right strategy of poverty alleviation (nerds!), neutral commenters, called it a question of sequencing-i.e. what should come first-growth or redistribution. But Bhagwati is not even that radical (or conservative, depending on your world-view). He insists that growth is the principal instrument of poverty alleviation (as opposed to Sen who says it is important, but not adequate in itself), but also that there need to be institutions to ensure that growth have a pro-poor bias.
  • May be I just want the two old men to get along.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Of News and Other Stuff-11

·         I think right wing trolls have a point-Indians are intent on forgetting their (Hindu) roots, sometimes to their detriment. I refer of course to the punar-janam genre of movies. Punar-janam (rebirth) is a belief in Hinduism in which karma (actions) determines what we become in our next life.  Admittedly, there is an icky part to it where they used this as a justification for caste, but shorn of that, it is a fantastic (in every sense of the word) plot device. You would think more film-makers would milk it given that you already have a buy-in from a majority of your audience. Yet it’s been 25 years since Karan Arjun. [There were the shoddy Love Story 2050 and Karzzz in the interim but they don’t count]. A new age punar-janam movie will have to of course star Ranveer Singh. Can’t think of an actress could pull this off with conviction though.
·         A Croatian has developed an electric supercar. That is the second thing I have ever heard about Croatia.
·         In the budget, the FM announced an income tax declaration scheme that allows people to (belatedly) declare their true income and pay a penalty of 7.5% (besides a 30% tax and a 7.5% Krishi Kalyan cess) on this amount. It however excludes those already under the scrutiny of the tax department from availing of the scheme. Important people from 2 of the ‘Big Four’ accounting companies, see this as unnecessarily excluding people with high income who have been picked up for scrutiny mechanically (some proportion of returns are picked up every year for closer scrutiny as a matter of routine). I may be missing something (likely, given how I know nothing about taxation), but this seems like an incredibly stupid thing to say. If I got picked up as a matter of routine, but I have undeclared income, I am obviously going to want to turn my black money, white the legal way. It is the income tax department’s good fortune that they picked up the right person. Why should they let me get away by paying 45% only when they can presumably take me to the cleaners?          
·         Now some devious foreign agents are making films where seditious Indians are shown disrespecting our mahaan currency. What do you do with this bunch? [Answer: ban their films].        
·         I don’t get the bellyaching about the Pragati Maidan building. It was built to serve a purpose-if it doesn’t serve that many more, and the government wants to raze it for a modern, bigger structure, I absolutely see no problem with that. Really, it’s not even that pretty.  Or old.
·         Why are educated, urban, English speaking people working in the print media now resorting to polarising rhetoric? I admit, I never like anything R Jaganathan writes but this seems to make a broadly inoffensive (even welcome) point- a ‘Hinduism Lite’ needs to be developed to engage more people. Yet he decides to raise the bogey of ‘Hinduphobia’ (which is a downright stupid construction in a Hindu majority country) to explain his idea. To him, the environment is an excuse used by the ‘anti-Hindu lobby’ to oppose the AoL Wold Culture Festival. Firstly, that’s not the benign way in which Islamophobia [which inspires the term ‘Hindu-phobia’] plays out. Secondly you don’t have to hate any religion to be wary of self-anointed Godmen or oppose what seems like a misuse of resources (the Army), arbitrary application of rules (with the NGT not staying the festival because it was ‘too late in the day’), and perceived impunity with which rules were flouted (with ‘Sri Sri’ refusing to pay a ‘fine’).
·         The Tea Board of India is targeting some specific export markets encapsulated by the term ‘KRUCIAL’-Kazakhastan, Russia, US, China, Iran, Arab Republic of Egypt and Latin America. Is anyone else worried that they might just be targeting the wrong markets, in pursuit of the fun acronym? [The laborious use of ‘Arab Republic’ is a source of comfort].