17 Apr 2014

India and Literacy

As we argued in the previous article: In a non-communist economic set-up we can't rely on averages to assess whether the wealth creation has flown through to the masses or has it been concentrated in the hands of a few. We would have to gauge the improvement in standard of living of the society as a whole by looking at several socio-economic metrics at a disaggregated level, and not as an average. 

Education perhaps is the most important tool that an older generation can give to the younger generation. Education of course opens up many avenues of job opportunities, directly improving economic condition of an individual - that connection is of course too obvious and well known. However, it is not merely about the technical / quantitative / science knowledge - education also makes a person more aware; more aware in terms of evolution of the society he lives in, lessons mankind should have learnt from the past, as well as it moulds him as a person better fit in the civilized world of tomorrow. Schools do often impart some of the first lessons on morality and ethics as well, that education of course best starts at home. Folklore is rich with tales of college drop-outs making fortunes (Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are oft-quoted examples), that shouldn't be used to trivialize basic school education. College comes much later, ABCD pehle aata hai (Alphabet comes first).

13 Apr 2014

How we "live"

As often argued by capitalists, economic improvement of a society requires a section of it to lead the quest; that section who can channel accumulated capital, has risk appetite and / or possess requisite skills. Consequently, such section of society garners a more-than-proportionate share of resultant wealth creation in a capitalist society. What about the society at large...often asks the left. Indicators as avg GDP growth etc. are usually thrown as a reply. However, there is always a genuine case to be made that these metrics fail to explain if such wealth creation has been concentrated in only a small section of the society or has flown through to the masses at large. Not to suggest that income distribution be exactly equal (that would be the theoretical leftist argument, which in practice means no income improvement), rather that most sections of society should benefit to a respectable extent, of which some would be above average, others would be lower but not significantly and should score a healthy improvement.

Long story short, we would have to gauge the improvement in standard of living for various states by looking at several metrics at a disaggregated level, and not as an average. 

6 Apr 2014

Water water everywhere, not a drop to drink...

I come from a very small town in one of the so-called bimaru states of India. Being born and brought up in a relatively less well-off middle class household, I recall several memories of my childhood where my parents struggled with day-to-day chores due to the generally low standard of living prevalent in Indian towns and villages at large. None of those memories stand out more than those related to water - one of those commodities most essential for survival . So little justice done to it as well - the old Hindi proverb of Roti, Kapda aur Makaan (Bread, Cloth and House) was probably coined during the good old days when wells were aplenty in small Indian villages, and fetching a pale of water or two was a welcome gossip time for the Indian housewife. (The office water cooler gossip is no different for us the corporate slaves). 

Water was trivial then, but not today. 

Lies and Lives

“All’s fair in love and war”, goes an old saying. The current political discourse in our country has perhaps moved much closer to a war-like situation than it has ever been and hence it is but natural for political opponents to rake up non-issues, spin-doctor them and then present them as gospel truth as they wage this war upon their political opponents. One can view such episodes with a general mistrust of all politicians, but given the 24*7 media (including social media) attention, every such move gets wide-spread publicity and ends up influencing a section of the electorate. The truth, often, gets lost somewhere in the din.

Politicians would continue doing this to score brownie points. None other that Mr. Vajpayee told this, in 1991, to the then finance minister Mr. Manmohan Singh. (Apparently Mr Singh, a newly-turned politician, took opposition’s criticism of his first budget to heart and communicated to PM Mr. Narsimha Rao his desire to resign. PM Rao mentioned this to Mr. Vajpayee, and the latter shared the above wisdom with him and requested not to resign on this issue). 

10 Mar 2014

The Most "Power"-full States

Electricity, perhaps, is the one of the most important commodities, yet significantly under-valued. Don't get me wrong - everyone hates power cuts; but its true value is not fully appreciated. Electricity just doesn't run television at home, it also provides a few hours of daily family entertainment to lower-middle / poor class, for whom otherwise no real, affordable alternatives exist. Industries are large beneficiaries as well - higher uptime results in efficient utilization of resources (including labour), higher output and value creation, and economic well-being for human factors. 

After a much publicized visit of Arvind Kejriwal to Gujarat, there are debates on SM whether Gujarat is really as advanced on electricity front as is often claimed by its long-serving CM Mr. Narendra Modi. Dubious claims are made by both sides on this issue. I believe this can be satisfactorily analysed and concluded based on reliable data available in public domain.

9 Mar 2014

The Missing Link

With the advent of Social Media (SM), there are far more debates on politics and governance happening in the country, opening up space for public participation on an unprecedented magnitude. However, such discourse is also prone to 5-minute-Google based argumentation, made-up-facts, and outright lies + propaganda. Often, most of the audience being innocent bystanders gets influenced by statistics presented as gospel truth, but really are cherry-picked / twisted facts, opinions or worse, falsehoods. Some argue that the latter is often more pronounced - the frontyard of SM is littered with sponsored bots.

This is dangerous, since such incorrect statistics not just influences public opinion, but also translate into potentially ill-informed electoral choices on a wide scale.

A Necessary Evil

We are human beings, a basket of imperfections. A common imperfection (I believe this is universal), is to see the world through a lens coloured with our own biases, orientation, and often expectations. One can't take this lens off. 

Hence, when someone claims a narrative / analysis to be 100% neutral, I reject that premise at face value. However, I do believe that such imperfection(s) can be largely addressed by upfront disclosing contours of the lens one is wearing. The other party in general should be able to correct the narrative off such biases / orientation of the narrator, if the same are disclosed upfront. In public discourse, such disclosure should not be left to discretion, rather it becomes a necessity. Hence, the below.