July 10, 2016

Economic reforms: The next frontiers

The past week marked the 25th anniversary of economic reforms and the liberalisation of the Indian economy. The government ignored the occasion and the reason was not far to seek: the reforms were ushered in by a Congress government under P V Narasimha Rao and the BJP had, at that time, stoutly opposed them. (The Swadeshi Jagaran Manch survives to […]
July 3, 2016

Across the aisle: Disconnect between government and people

The people of the United Kingdom (UK) have decided to leave the European Union (EU). More accurately, a divided people of a disunited kingdom have voted by a majority of less than 4 per cent to quit a Union they had joined 43 years ago. Scotland, Northern Ireland and London were on one side of the divide while England and […]
June 26, 2016

Across the aisle- Economic reforms: Act I, Scene I

Twenty five years ago, the mood of the people of India was one of fear and despair. The nation was in the middle of an election. 221 constituencies had voted, the remaining had yet to vote. Rajiv Gandhi was killed in a bomb blast on May 21, 1991, and elections in the remaining constituencies were postponed. When those elections took place […]
June 19, 2016

Across the aisle: Fake encounter with facts, fake controversy

Ishrat Jahan and three others were killed by the Gujarat police in an encounter. Was it a genuine encounter or a fake encounter? I do not know the answer. There are others who claim to know the answer. I am astonished by the certitude of some of my fellow citizens that the encounter was a genuine encounter. None of them […]
June 12, 2016

Across the aisle: Gross domestic product or puzzle?

It was good that Dr Raghuram Rajan, Governor, RBI, has cleared some of the mist — and myth — surrounding the GDP numbers. He gave two simple examples: * First example: ‘Exports minus imports’ is a contributory factor to GDP. Exports declined in 2015-16, but imports declined even more. So, ‘exports minus imports’ in 2015-16 was greater than ‘exports minus imports’ […]
June 5, 2016

Across the Aisle: Then and now – The model is flawed

‘Swachh Bharat’ or ‘Clean India’ cannot be a slogan or an event. It has to become a habit, nay, a passion. It involves many factors including: *Behaviour *Social structure *Technology *Money *Execution *Administration Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, with the objective of eliminating open defecation by 2017, was apparently designed after taking into account these and other factors. In the early months […]
May 29, 2016

I wish the Prime Minister had said

My fellow citizens, brothers and sisters, I greet you on this day, May 26, 2016, when my government completes two years in office. The usual practice is to make a self-congratulatory speech and repeat old promises or make new promises. I have decided to break from this tradition and present an honest and objective assessment of the state of the […]
May 22, 2016

Across the aisle: It is not yet the turning point

Sometimes, the expected masquerades as the unexpected. Sober reflection had told us many months ago that the governments in Assam and Kerala would be voted out and new governments voted in. That a change would also happen in Puducherry. That in West Bengal, the TMC would be returned to power overcoming the unusual (but understandable) tactical alliance between the Congress […]
April 17, 2016

Across the aisle: Embracing Kashmir, alienating Kashmiris

‘Who am I?’ is a question that no one has been able to answer satisfactorily. Just as an individual seeks answers to the question of his or her identity, a people sharing many characteristics — land, language, religion, culture, history, suffering — also seek an answer to the questions who are they and where do they belong. Many people find […]
April 10, 2016

Across the aisle: A factual report from the ground

Data is pouring in from diverse sources and one thing is clear: investments are not taking off any time soon. New investment proposals that stood at Rs 22,00,000 crore in 2008-09 declined to Rs 10,64,000 crore in 2014-15 and further to Rs 8,00,000 crore in 2015-16. Why is this so despite the government’s efforts to motivate entrepreneurs to invest? Let […]
April 3, 2016

Across the aisle: Basking in an illusory sunshine

The Revenue Secretary is reported to have sent a missive to the Central Board of Direct Taxes asking the Board to explain why direct taxes collection had fallen short of the revised estimates. That the Revenue Secretary did not wait for the provisional accounts for the year is revealing. I think he gave vent to his frustration. Why is direct […]
March 27, 2016

BJP’s attempt to define a nationalist as one who will say ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ is a gross distortion of history

Slogans and elections are inseparable companions. When the Lok Sabha election of 2014 was imminent, the BJP named Mr Narendra Modi as its candidate for Prime Minister, and the candidate almost immediately began to popularise the slogans that would eventually define the election: Achhe din aanewale hain; Kaala dhan wapasi; sabka saath, sabka vikas, and many others. Along with other […]
March 20, 2016

Across the Aisle-Aadhaar Bill: Ends right, means wrong

History can be told through stories. So can politics. If you wish to explain the politics of India through a story, you need go no further than the story of Aadhaar. Aadhaar is a unique identification number that is intended to be given to all Indian residents. The idea is not novel or unprecedented. India was a latecomer to the […]
March 13, 2016

Across the aisle- Budget 2016-17: The fiscal math is puzzling

The Chief Economic Adviser should be glad that he lost the argument on fiscal deficit. It was a good argument to lose! I compliment the Finance Minister for achieving the fiscal deficit target of 3.9 per cent in the current year and fixing a target of 3.5 per cent for 2016-17. That one decision has lent a measure of credibility […]
March 6, 2016

Across the aisle- Dear farmers: Achhe din are coming

Farmers may rejoice. The government has finally acknowledged that farmers are part of India, that the farm sector faces acute distress, and that farmers need a helping hand. That is something which many commentators — especially Mr Ashok Gulati — have been saying for many months. Farmers had taken note of the BJP’s failure to keep its election promise of […]
March 1, 2016

Across the aisle: In good times and bad times, courage is the ally

We can debate endlessly whether these are good times or bad times. Last week, I had pointed out that the economy was facing headwinds. On February 26, the Economic Survey confirmed my apprehensions. This is what it said in the preface to Volume II Chapter 1: “Weak growth in advanced and emerging countries has taken its toll on India’s exports. […]
February 28, 2016

Across the Aisle: A wish list and some notes of caution

It is just as well that the last day of February will fall on a Monday when the budget will be presented. The commentators can pause, take several deep breaths today, and resume their breathless commentary when the dawn breaks tomorrow! The third budget of any government is a crucial milestone. If the economy is on a roll, it is […]
February 21, 2016

Across The Aisle: Maybe we are all anti-nationals

Bal Gangadhar Tilak declared “Swaraj is my birthright”. He was charged with sedition. He was an anti-national according to the rulers of the day. I have consistently pleaded for the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. I hold the view that the Act allowed Army and police officers to act with impunity. In the eyes of the current […]