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20 years to an economic miracle

Twenty years ago, on June 21, 1991, Narasimha Rao became head of a weak minority government grappling with a terrible financial crisis. Yet he initiated economic reforms that eventually transformed India, and even the world. India in 1991 was a poor, misgoverned country, derided as a bottomless pit for foreign aid. Today it is called More >

Our black money is here, not in Switzerland

Baba Ramdev’s financial naiveté is only to be expected. But i am astonished that the media endlessly repeats the myth that enormous hoards of black money are lying in Swiss banks. Only financial illiterates will leave their money in Swiss banks offering very low interest rates (sometimes under 1%). To maximize their gains and hide More >

Attack on artistic freedom is our shame

We Indians have done a thousand lousy things. But near the top of the list is the hounding out of Maqbool Fida Husain, our greatest painter, who died abroad last week, aged 95. This was not an isolated incident: author Taslima Nasreen was also hounded out by communalists. These will remain terrible blots on a More >

Competition: Newcomers keep penetrating BSE’s top 30

In a recent column in The Times of India, I showed that Indian business was not a small cozy club of crony capitalists: newcomers kept getting into the top 30 with surprising regularity. Of the 30 companies in the Bombay Sensex in 1990, only nine are still there. The Birlas are down to one company More >

India Inc is not a small crony club

Crony capitalism has been in the spotlight because of the 2G telecom scam, mining scams and real estate scams like Satyam. Apart from corruption, crony capitalism can help entrenched oligarchs to shut out talented newcomers lacking political contacts. Steven Pearlstein of The Washington Post wrote, in a recent article on India, that “much of the More >

Bharat and India joined at the hip

After being thrashed in West Bengal and losing in Kerala, CPM policies have come in for much criticism. Yet it is not just the Left Front that lost. It is also the notion that this country suffers from a grave rich-poor divide, often called the India-Bharat divide, and that politicians must favour Bharat over India. More >

No Politician to head IMF, Please

Given the depth and complexity of the Eurozone crisis , many observers say the next IMF chief should be from Europe. Phooey! During the Asian financial crisis, nobody suggested that the IMF should be headed by an Asian. Indeed, Asians were regarded as singularly unsuitable because of the need to impose politically unpalatable conditions on More >

Social democracy, not communism

As we approach the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Soviet Union and its red empire, one minor principality of that empire, West Bengal, has also fallen. A post-election analysis by Brinda Karat shows how blind the CPM is to why first the Soviet Union and now West Bengal have fallen. British imperialists claimed More >

As public anger increases, corruption falls

The electoral debacle of the DMK-Congress in Tamil Nadu highlights public disgust with corruption , and underpins the Anna Hazare anti-graft crusade. But is corruption really worsening, or is the public simply angrier about it? Most survey data suggest, surprisingly , that corruption has been declining . Crooked politicians look enormously richer than ever before. More >

Don’t worry about inequality

If people are totally free, the most talented (and lucky) will get far richer than the dullest and unluckiest. So, freedom will create inequality. Communist countries aimed for equality of outcome through totalitarian controls, but this was hypocrisy: there was no equality of power between those laying down the rules and those forced to obey. More >

Osama’s death may end bloom of Arab Spring

I did not celebrate Osama bin Laden’s death. Killing an individual is easier than killing an idea. Osama’s idea of jihad survives his death. He was the mastermind of 9/11 and the most iconic jihadi figure. Yet he had long ceased to direct jihadi movements and had run foul of some by killing Muslims opposed More >

Why the poor want to stay very poor on paper

Poverty has declined from 37.2% in 2004-05 to 32% in 2009-10, according to preliminary Planning Commission estimates based on consumption surveys of the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO). Some welcome the news; others complain that fast growth has not reduced poverty fast enough. Still others, notably economist Surjit Bhalla, pour scorn on the data, and More >

Lokpal not enough, we need radical reform

I wondered in this column some years ago why top businessmen were frequently prosecuted and convicted in the US but not in India. Answer: crooked politicians had mangled the police-judicial system such that it could never convict them beyond all appeals, and obviously such a moribund system could not convict crooked businessmen either. Solution: only More >

Poor states reap big demographic dividend

Poor states reap big demographic dividend Many have celebrated the census revelation that Indias population increased only 17.64% in the last decade, down from 21.54% the previous decade. Yet, the best news relates to kids aged 0-6.Their numbers have actually fallen 3.08%. Fewer children translate into a demographic dividend that will send per capita income More >

Literacy improves fastest in poorest states

The census has good news on literacy. This explodes leftist claims that economic reforms have benefited only elites while bypassing the poor, and that social improvements have slowed, not accelerated, after 1991. Literacy is a not an elite benefit. It benefits those at the social bottom, giving them dignity, status and income potential. The census More >