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Geography, not biology

Indian basmati rice has gained hundreds of millions of dollars from intellectual property rights (IPRs) bestowed on it by the much-maligned WTO agreement. This is little known since the eco-jingoists dominating the debate in India have consistently spread disinformation that TRIPS, the WTO section on intellectual property, has only disadvantages for us. In fact TRIPS More >

From Industry to Services

India’s greatest comparative advantage lies not in manufacturing but in services, says Swaminathan S Aiyar India’s future lies in services, much more than industry. Most people in India almost automatically equate business with manufacturing. This is plain wrong. The share of services in GDP has been rising fast, and (if we go by the example More >

Lessons from the Asian currency crisis

I showed in this column last week how simple explanations for the Asian currency crisis (like going too fast or liberalising too much) were wrong, and how the lessons from each country were different. The one factor common to all countries was the financial panic that spilled across national boundaries. We need to build defences More >

The Slowcoach and sour Grapes

What lessons should India draw from the Asian currency crisis? Many layfolk believe the tiger economies made the mistake of going too fast, and India should desist from doing so. Prime Minister Inder Gujral has expressed this view more than once. This is plain wrong. It is simply not true that Asia’s problems-and some of More >

The bomb conquers Ahimsa

The urban educated Indian’s love for the nuclear option is morbid and repudiates the Gandhian heritage, says Swaminathan S Aiyar. In Hiroshima, even the birds seem to fall silent at the A-bomb memorial, built at the site of the nuclear explosion in 1945. A single bombed out building from the holocaust dominates the skyline. The More >

Theft can be good for you

What does Atal Behari Vajpayee have in common with Bill Clinton and Tony Blair? He, like them, is trying to gain power by stealing the electoral planks of his opponents. I welcome the burglary. Such theft is excellent for society. Bill Clinton started as a traditional Democrat seeking to expand welfare through health reforms. He More >

Marxism is Communalism too

All opinion polls put the BJP well in front, within reach of power. So, many opportunists are stampeding to climb onto the BJP bandwagon, not just politicians but generals, business and intellectuals (like the highly mobile Prof MGK Menon). I am amused. To me, this proves that what used to be called a national consensus More >

The Perils of Transparency

Many lessons can be drawn from the events of 1997. One of the saddest is that crooks who function in the dark get away scot free, while people attempting to be transparent are jumped on the harassed. I had originally expected that the hawala case would dominate politics in 1997. But it proved a damp More >

Competition begins at Home

India will soon submit its suggestion to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for a competition policy encompassing trade-related matters. Yet India has no competition policy for internal purposes. Why ensure competition where foreigners are concerned, but not for ourselves? Hypocrisy on competition is woven into our policy fabric. Some laws like the Consumer Protection Act More >

Unstable Governments do better

The Inder Gujral regime lasted seven months, the Deve Gowda regime ten months. Some people bemoan unstable coalition governments as a curse. I disagree. The 17 months of the United Front produced lots of quarrels and no great feats, yet yielded significantly more than the last 17 months of Mr Narasimha’s Rao’s term. Consider the More >

The Myth of Bountiful Monsoons

Of the many hoary myths floating around, few are so widely believed as the notion that India has been fabulously lucky to get a string of good monsoons in the 1990s. Critics claim this is a lucky fluke that has made liberalisation look artificially good. In fact, a detailed look at met office data suggest More >

Socialism is Casteism

At a time when casteism is equated with Mandalism or Mayawati’s version of dalit liberation, readers may wonder at the title of this article, and its timing. The answer is that I am writing this on the birth anniversary of India’s greatest socialist, Jawaharlal Nehru. I believe his socialism was a sort of secular Brahminism. More >

The Curse of too-many Sons

The Bombay Club is not flatly protectionist. Most of its businessmen-members agree that India must open up, globalise, and get competitive. But they plead, “We need temporary protection for 10 years more. For 50 years, the license-permit Raj prevented us from becoming big enough to take on multinationals, so give us 10 years more.” There More >

Who’s afraid of free Labour Movement?

Rich countries are hypocrites that demand free movement of goods and capital but do not want free movement of labour, and this inequity must end. So said developing countries at the G-15 meeting in Kuala Lumpur this week, after having said the same thing at the Commonwealth summit last week. Similar criticism has been made More >

Indians are not Inferior

Of all the false notions deeply embedded in current debates, none is more entrenched than the idea that Indian companies are incapable of standing up to competition from multinationals. Parle has sold out to Coca-Cola, Kwality ice-cream has been bought by Hindustan Liver, the Doshis have given up control to Fiat. And so both the More >