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Why job losses are good for us

In the debate over multi-brand foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail, opponents repeatedly highlighted potentially large job losses and closures for small retailers (kirana shops). Astonishingly, even the left asserted that the interests of the aam bania were more important than those of the aam aadmi. Proponents of FDI cited studies by NCAER and others More >

Modi as PM will be at the mercy of allies

As the Gujarat election campaign reaches its apogee, many observers predict a massive victory for Narendra Modi of the BJP, bigger even than the one he won in 2007. This can propel him to become the party’s candidate for Prime Minister in the next general election. The Congress Party is in poor shape, dogged by More >

Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose

The paralysed, risk-averse UPA-2 government has suddenly become a risk-taking reformer. Last week it risked defeat in both Houses of Parliament on foreign direct investment in retail. Its victory showed that fortune favours the brave. For its first three and a half years in office, UPA-2 focused on survival, not performance. Its hairline majority in More >

Gold imports provide aam aadmi with capital convertibility

Gold imports in 2011-12 were almost 2% of GDP and 9% of all imports. Economists blame gold for bloating the current account deficit to dangerous levels. Puritans moan about the import of unproductive, speculative gold. Some want stiff measures to curb lending against gold, thus reducing gold’s attractions. Much of this tirade against gold is More >

Real and imaginary problems of electronic cash transfers

The Congress Party is about to launch what it hopes is an election winner — an electronic cash transfer scheme (CTS) to send government payments and subsidies directly into the accounts of beneficiaries, instead of through existing channels bedeviled by corruption and waste. Starting January 1, the government will transfer 29 sorts of benefits (like More >

Declassify report on the 1948 Hyderabad massacre

The Gujarat election will revive charges that Narendra Modi killed a thousand Muslims in the 2002 Gujarat riots, with the BJP accusing Rajiv Gandhi of killing 3000 Sikhs in the 1984 Delhi riots. To get a sense of perspective, i did some research on communal riots in past decades. I was astounded to find that More >

A sandy solution for Nitish’s revenue coffers

Chief minister Nitish Kumar keeps demanding that New Delhi should make Bihar a special category state. But New Delhi points out that special category status-which entitles a state to get 90% of central assistance as grants instead of loans-is meant to overcome the problems of hilly states with remote, difficult terrain that makes transport and More >

Lesson from US: money does not buy elections

Spending vast sums on elections is not an Indian speciality. The US just spent $7 billion in the latest election cycle, up from $5 billion in 2008, equally divided between the presidential and Congressional elections. Yet the outcome suggests that massive election spending is wasted money. Cynics disagree. They say while Romney got corporate billions, More >

Adapting to climate change is less costly than spending trillions on emission targets

Most educated people say climate change threatens disaster. The few sceptics are denounced as climate deniers. All governments are firm believers. This consensus was underlined last week when Cyclone Nilam hit India and Hurricane Sandy hit the US. Greens, journalists and politicians declared this was proof of climate change. However, words are cheap, actions speak for themselves. Since global warming will raise sea More >

Backward states surge even as India slows down

The UPA government’s theme song for eight years has been that we have achieved record GDP growth but not been inclusive enough-poor people and backward states have not benefited enough. The very opposite is now evident. Backward states are advancing fast, poverty is declining precipitously, and fast growth has disappeared! After exceeding 8% for a More >

GM foods considered safe in US, but not in India

An expert panel appointed by the Supreme Court has suggested a 10-year moratorium on field trials for genetically modified (GM) crops, ending prospects of their cultivation in the foreseeable future. Chengal Reddy, secretary general of the Consortium of Indian Farmers’ Associations , has protested that this goes dead against the interest of farmers who need More >

Ignoring small businesses and public service delivery a big mistake for government

Forget the notion that the government has recently produced an avalanche of reforms. The word ‘reform’ is being misused to cover everything from irrelevant fiddling to minor changes, to selling the family silver (in the shape of spectrum or minority stakes in public sector undertakings). Raising the price of diesel by Rs 5 per litre More >

CSR: a cloak for crooks

The government’s new Companies Bill will reportedly ask large companies to spend 2% of their net profit on CSR (corporate social responsibility). The theory is that corporates must aim for social goals, not just profits. It’s unclear whether the 2% allocation will be compulsory or indicative. In either case, this misses altogether what corporate social More >

Exposes need convictions to have impact

Will the Robert Vadra expose help end corruption? Or will it be just another rib-tickler that titillates the middle class for a few weeks and is then forgotten? Will politics remain India’s biggest business by far? I am not optimistic. Politicians of every party love slinging mud at rivals: as good businessmen, they hope this More >

Bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities not an option, but sanctions could lead to regime change

Sanctions may not stop Iran’s nuclear programme, but could spark a revolt against the mullahs. Bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities will only strengthen the mullahs . Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has repeatedly threatened to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, saying that country is close to producing a nuclear bomb. The US has opposed bombing, and imposed stiff More >