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India a ‘natural’ partner for US, but so are Pakistan & China

India and the US are natural partners, but not natural allies. That is the lesson that flows from the ups and downs of President Obama’s visit, which started on a disappointing note in Mumbai with his refusal to name Pakistan as a perpetrator of 26/11, but ended on a high note when he backed India More >

Why India has fared better than Africa

INDIA, which has lagged well behind Africa in economic reform, has nevertheless fared much better. Most Indian reforms occurred well before the spurt in GDP growth from 6% to 9%. British academic James Manor says that thoughtful people in Ghana and South Africa have asked him “How do the Indians do it? They have liberalised More >

The rise and coming fall of the Tea Party

Will US politics be transformed by the Tea Party movement, which thrashed President Obama`s Democrats in US mid-term Congressional elections just before his India visit? Absolutely not. The radical posturing of Tea Party stalwarts is mostly hypocritical mush. The movement started with spontaneous grassroots protests by local people across the country, protesting against higher taxes More >

Obama should visit Tawang monastery

Most international visits by presidents and prime ministers are business-as-usual affairs. Agreements that have been in the works for some time are signed with a ceremonial flourish, but little of a game-changing or truly strategic nature emerges. Such business-as-usual exercises are not meaningless. They are useful occasions to lend political support at the highest level More >

Killing microfinance will help moneylenders

It’s actually a boon to moneylenders . For two decades, microfinance institutions (MFIs) have spread fast in Andhra Pradesh, reaching millions of poor women and filling the space once dominated by moneylenders. But last week, the state government issued an ordinance that temporarily shuts down and permanently maims MFIs in the state. This also threatens More >

India should not expect too much from Obama’s visit

It would be unwise to expect too much from President Obama’s coming visit to India. Indians were delighted when Obama became the first black President of the US. Yet, we are now obliged to be more sober. Indians instinctively tend to prefer US Democrats to Republicans. But Republican Presidents have generally been better for India More >

CWG is govt failure, private sector success

Now that the Commonwealth Games have commenced, glitches and all, we can assess them more soberly than the high-pitched media sound bites of recent weeks. Many critics complain that the Games show India in a terrible light. In fact, they provide a pretty accurate representation of the country. Globally, the big picture shows India as More >

The social revolution in Uttar Pradesh

Last week, this column highlighted major economic improvements for dalits in Uttar Pradesh, based on a research paper by Devesh Kapur and others (Rethinking inequality : Dalits in UP in the market reform era). But the real dalit revolution has been in social status, far more than economic. In material terms, inequality (technically measured by More >

Dalits are marching ahead in Uttar Pradesh

Are you among those who think record GDP growth has done nothing for dalits ? Think again. A seminal paper, “Rethinking Inequality : Dalits in UP in the Market Reform Era” by Devesh Kapur, CB Prasad, Lant Pritchett and D Shyam Babu, reveals a veritable dalit revolution after 1990 in Uttar Pradesh, long viewed as More >

Don’t cap microfinance lending rates

Should lending rates of microfinance institutions (MFIs) — often 28-36 % — be capped? Some folk think so. Officials in Andhra Pradesh once closed down MFIs for usury, but the RBI came to the rescue, declaring there could be no cap on lending rates. Banning MFIs would only drive poor people into more expensive loans More >

Rahul is Indira’s real political heir

After his passionate defence of displaced tribals in Orissa, analysts have started talking about Rahul Gandhi’s left turn. Whoa!  Rahul is more pragmatic opportunist than left-wing ideologue. Remember Indira Gandhi’s left turn in 1969? Supposedly for Garibi Hatao, she nationalized banks, abolished privy purses and raised income tax to 97.75%. Leftist ideologues cheered deliriously. But More >

Global tenders for govt procurement, please

To project jobs, Ohio Governor Strickland has banned outsourcing by companies getting state government funds. This has raised a storm of protest in India, but it’s a storm in a tea cup. Our IT exports to the US federal and state governments are very modest. Anand Sharma, minister for commerce and industry, says he will More >

Nutrition is a bigger problem than hunger

Activists demanding food as a fundamental right view the state as saviour, unperturbed by pervasive state failure in sector after sector. The public distribution system (PDS) is a public scandal. Activists say if only all states create as good a PDS as Tamil Nadu’s, the system will work beautifully. This is like saying that if More >

Let’s not confuse entitlements with rights

Politicians and activists constantly propose new rights — the right to work, to education, and now to food. The word “rights” is being twisted to mean entitlements, and there is a big difference. Rights are freedoms from oppression by the state or by society (through ethnicity, religion and gender). These rights do not entail government More >

Will Anil Agarwal beat Mukesh Ambani?

Dear Anil Agarwal, The Indian media are agog you are set to overtake Mukesh Ambani as India’s biggest corporate promoter. You have made a massive $9.6 billion bid for 60% of Cairn India, which produces oil in Rajasthan and few other places. You will need to borrow heavily for the acquisition, but if you succeed More >