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Training: the secret of India’s high-tech success

When India started liberalizing in 1991, many expected it to follow the path of export-oriented low-wage manufacture charted by other Asian countries. This proved impossible since Indian politicians would not liberalize labour laws, which made labour artificially expensive. But, to everybody’s surprise, India leapfrogged this area and achieved huge success in high-tech areas, ranging from More >

India’s great escape from the socialist zoo

(This is an edited version of the author’s acceptance speech on receiving the Manavata Vikas Award of the IIPM on April 15) I view myself as a freedom-fighter, who for 45 years has sought to promote every kind of freedom—economic, political and social. “Escape from the Benevolent Zookeepers”, a 2008 collection of Swaminomics columns, emphasized More >

Piped irrigation to check Indus waters dispute

Politicians and Islamic outfits in Pakistan accuse India of stealing upstream Indus system waters, threatening Pakistan’s very existence. More sober Pakistanis complain that numerous new Indian projects on the Jhelum and Chenab will create substantial live storage even in run-of-the-river hydel dams. This will enable India to drastically reduce flows to Pakistan during the crucial More >

Backward Bihar goes for the smartest cards

India has launched its first high-tech census. Citizens will be photographed and give 10 fingerprints each. The resultant database will be used to issue identity cards, and later smart cards, to all. All Indians will welcome high-tech smart cards. Yet the technological lead has been taken not by the Census Commissioner but, astonishingly, by Bihar. More >

Pakistan cannot get nuclear deal like India’s

Pakistan has zero chance of getting a US civilian nuclear deal like the Indian one. Yet there was near panic among Indian analysts and politicians before last week’s US-Pak Strategic Dialogue in Washington, during which Pakistan demanded civilian nuclear parity with India. The BJP protested against the ‘help-the-ally-at-any-cost’ attitude of the US. Now, the BJP More >

Militant Maoism: new threat to industry

As India’s GDP growth accelerated to a record 8.5% between 2003 and 2009, Maoism also accelerated to hit over 200 districts. Maoist attacks made major headlines and seriously affected some localities, but had no macroeconomic impact. That situation may be about to change. The width and depth power of Maoist power has improved greatly in More >

Tackling Maoism: lessons from Andhra Pradesh

In the 1990s, only 15 of India’s 630 districts suffered from Maoist incidents, but today over 200 districts are affected. Despite big increases in anti-terrorism outlays, Maoists have become much stronger in most states. The big exception is Andhra Pradesh, where Maoist incidents fell from 576 in 2005 to 62 in 2009, Maoist killings from More >

Women’s Bill: the least radical of all reservations

I give only one cheer for the Women’s Reservation Bill, not two and certainly not three. Of all the reservations we have devised to transform society, this will transform the least. Still, it may do some marginal good, so let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good. Critics have highlighted many flaws of More >

More Satyams in a new Telengana?

Carving small states (Jharkand, Chattisgarh and Uttrakhand) out of larger ones (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, UttarPradesh) has so far proved an economic success. Not only have the new states grown faster economically, even Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have experienced much faster growth after the separation (though not Madhya Pradesh). This appears to strengthen the case for More >

Higher oil prices no reason for inflation

Price controls do not quell inflation, and abolishing price controls won’t accelerate inflation. Many politicians and readers will disagree. They are dismayed by the restoration of old taxes on crude, petrol and diesel in the Budget, and the consequent increase in prices. They fear that if petroleum product prices are even partially deregulated later this More >

Bihar’s economic miracle: real, but fragile

When this column revealed in January that Bihar had averaged 11% growth in the last five years, many people asked, “Do you really believe this?” I visited Bihar last week to check. My conclusion: Bihar’s economic boom is indeed real. But it is fragile and dependent on Chief Minister Nitish Kumar getting re-elected in the More >

Start preparing for oil at $200 a barrel

The Kirit Parikh Committee is the third such committee to suggest decontrolling petroleum product prices. Probably politicians will again refuse to do so, and instead decree a modest increase in petrol and diesel prices. Yet the key issue is not whether petrol and diesel prices should reflect today’s oil price of $75/barrel. It is that More >

Don’t teach English to your children in Class I

A recent news report highlighted the fact that only 48.3% of Indian children in Class 1 could read the English alphabet, even in big capital letters. The annual education audit by the NGO Pratham showed that Gujarat had the worst record: only 25.3% of Gujarati children could read capital letters in English, and only 8% More >

Soya dal, a great solution to the food crisis

The biggest outcry against inflation relates to the 40-50% price rise of some pulses — arhar, masoor, moong — to almost Rs 100/kilo. Pulses — dals and other protein-rich crops like gram, chickpeas (chhole) and red beans (rajma) — have historically been the main protein source of poor people. Their protein content is 20-25%, double More >

Living shrines versus dead monuments

I was both enthused and disappointed when i visited the Ajanta and Ellora caves last week. I was enthused by the scale of the caves across entire mountain sides; the high quality of sculpture and painting; and the co-existence of Buddhist, Jain and Hindu caves in perfect harmony. But i was disappointed that the sculpture More >