Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Chronicling Poor Lives!

Book Review: - Poor Economics/Abhijit .V.Banerjee and Esther Duflo/Poor Economics/Abhijit .V.Banerjee and Esther Duflo,Random House India,Price-Rs.499,2011
As economics itself can’t be poor with its articulate nuances, so the efforts of MIT Economists, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo can be better understand as Economics of Poors. This book is well intentioned as it entered into the poverty debate with involving local/community perceptions and abstained to fall in the trap of generalization. That enables the work to reach on the real causes of poverty and failure of numerous national and international programmes.

Infact the main argument of this book “The way the poor make decisions, at some level, is not that different from our own. They are no less rational or sophisticated than anyone else, and they are well aware that mistakes for them are costlier” is very touching and reflects the need of humane observation on poverty instead maintaining technical status quo. Abhijit and Esther, the propunder of “randomized control trials in development economics” leaves simple solution for the policy makers by playing careful attention to the evidence, this way, it’s possible to form accurate view on impacts of poverty. This book raises many questions from impulsive side, how the bandwagon among the poors kills the real existential issues!

The best of book comes in the first part, where each of the five chapters gives an impressionable account to know the poverty in universal terms. Chapter-Ist dwells with human development issues and come out impressively with an overview of regional variation in HDI. Chapter-II/A billion hungry Peoples, which is most fruitful as it shatters the all ill imposed convictions, that trying to legitimize the every moves of market capitalism as good for poors. Authors take on puzzling nutrition debate in India is yet another reminder, why our vulnerable position is intact in global HDI Index? Further the reference of Angus Deaton/Jean Dreeze, who shown that “the real story of nutrition in India over last quarter century is not that Indians are being fatter; it’s that they are infact eating less and less” exposes how empty is the tall claims of Indian growth on poors.

Further, Gender discrimination during the Indian drought of 1960’s has sensibly covered, which opens a new concern towards this unusual discrimination. Chapter-III deals with the grassroot health scenario with highlighting the pitiful public services, unaffordable private health care, flawed governance etc. Chapter-IV/ Top of the Class, meticulously inquisite that why school fails? Chapter-V/Pak Sudarno’s Big Family, covers the many crucial aspects of demography and family planning in new light.

Part-II of the book, that’s institution focussed retains the fine touch in Chapter-VI/Barefoot Hedge-Fund Managers, which covers the plank of investments in poors life. But the distraction appears stoutly in Chapter-VIII, where the authors sailed the wrong boat by trying to infuse new energy in poverty debate by relying on the private MFI’s business which is still passing through a severe phase, out of theirs impractical/unethical business model. It would have better, if authors may have presented the calibrated model of micro-financing through the credibly managed government/private financial institutions. In Indian contexts particularly, diversity of financial institutions with special focus on Regional Rural Banks/RRBs could have made lot of differences in finding the true way out of bottom level financing. The next three Chapters shaped with global perspectives on innovation, entrepreneurship and most remarkably on policy issues.

Both Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo have keen interest in economic research, they have show such pastime in theirs book which stands with outstanding views on the nature and causes of poverty. Majority part of this book can be used for policy framing or by general readers to sharpen their grasp on the poverty. Noticeable is the language of this book which is completely flowing despite written by the two technical economists…it makes even an ordinary enthusiast reader capable to entwine with the very important aspects of economics. As the world standing on a critical juncture between blind waves of market led growth and incessantly growing inequality; significance of such work maximizes manifolds!
Atul Kumar Thakur
July 27, 2011, Tuesday, New Delhi
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A Book with many Answers

Book Review: - The Book of Answers/A Novel by C.Y.Gopinath
Harper Collins, Price Rs.499, 2011
Though a seasoned journalist himself, C.Y.Gopinath has overstepped the construct of modest polemics to write one of the most remarkable satires that equally touches both the political and social realm with placing an individual at the forefront as a consine bearer. What I liked most in this novel, the quest of protagonist, Patros Patranobis for an ordinary yet satisfying life with his almost wife, Rose and son, Tippy which he has not fathered. But sudden arrival of a mysteriously unusual “The Book of Answers” as a legacy from a long-dead ancestor brings tectonic shift in his personal as well as in the political and social atmosphere around him.

Despite realizing the extraordinary potential of the book, proposition to sale it to a scrapper leaves a beautiful metaphor of an ordinary life that can be still opted by few over the market bound hyper commercial life. In some way, it gives hope for life outside of corrupt nexus. The grabbing of supernaturally efficient “The Book of Answers” by a godmen and passing of its wisdom to the most ruthless character of democracy, politician Ishwar Prasad exactly points out the Orwellian syndrome of “might is only right”. Rest ahead is fine narratives of a democracy with the institutions of flawed governance; though the inferred value of this novel will be universally relevant but in Indian contexts, it matches amazingly. Ethics in Indian politics has remained obstinately low without even slightly distracting by the “hyped magic” of economic reform.

Arrival of the real master of the book, Patros to check the its barbaric influences as damage control and further his searches of key in remote Kerala with witnessing the desperateness eventually visualize the end of a symbolic resistance. Such things hardly surprises us now as we have been and still living in a social order that created for forgetting the many humane attributes in the guise of growth. C.Y.Gopinath deserves all praise to unleash the real happenings in political circle and its consistent harm on the collective cognitive psyches; is this kind of political system that democracy promises by its instinct? Such erosion of responsiveness from one’s defined or undefined role vehementally juxtaposes the idealistic bearing and themes behind foundation of democracy!

In robustly dynamic time, few have patience to read the books like Aldus Huxley’s “Brave new World” which predicted the potential happenings of years ahead. What is viable in the present time to know the shifting of scenes around in simple and lucid expression, where this book succeeded with immaculate dedication of the author to add many positive changes in his surroundings. May be such idealism proceed or not but there will be no denying that a chunk of humanity will be keep striving with intrinsic impulses instead of enforced pressures.

Indian English writing is passing through a very productive phase, this work strengthen such notion with benign readability and indeed delving with the big systemic issues backed by real zeal and not only for grimacing on oddities we face regularly. India as a nation is experimenting with antagonistic ideas; it’s really hard and daunting in this scenario for any writer to interpret the things without reaching to the end of conclusion. Fortunately “The Book of Answers” has conclusion for its readers who can feel the ire of system through words albeit they will simply not stop being enjoying the satire!
Atul Kumar Thakur
July 27, 2011, Tuesday, New Delhi
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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dream of Asian Resurgence!

Mani Shankar Aiyar represents the core values of Congress party, with his articulate and balanced approach in diplomacy and politics; he has influenced the views on crucial issues across the world. As a Foreign Service official, parliamentarian, Minister and an avid intellectual, he immensely contributed to India’s foreign policy and grassroot democracy. Recently we had talk at his residence amidst his hectic schedule, though even in short meeting, he spoke substantially on our potential foreign policy in neighbouring countries which is the need of hour under the new changes. Excerpts of our talk are…

Q: - As a statesmen and senior parliamentarian, how you see the changing dynamics in Indian foreign policy? Isn’t it economic consideration alone that outgrowing the strategic compulsions?

A: - While it’s true that foreign policy is being driven less by ideological and more by pragmatic consideration than was the case earlier, I don’t believe economic consideration alone are determining the course of foreign policy. The relationships with the U.S.A, which has become the predominant parameter of foreign policy, is ofcourse closer than ever before and does contain strong component of economic, strategic and security consideration, but is not being allowed compromise our sovereignty or independent position on several matters of international interest.

Within our reason, there is determined effort to improve relations with Pakistan. Should a breakthrough be achieved, this will dramatically alter the regional and international context within which our foreign policy operates. Equally, a strong and political relationship with China is a necessary precursor for the Asian Resurgence to be witnessed in during this century.

Q: - Despite our growing recognition as an economic and strategic power at global arena, our ties with neighbours seems timid or even dwindling…how Indian authorities should approach on it?

A: - All foreign policy starts at a country’s doorsteps, not until there is peace and tranquility in a country’s immediate neighbourhood can that country hope to exercise any real influence in the world at large. Our most tangled relationship has ofcourse been with Pakistan and hence the priority that needs to be extended to removing this albatross from our neck.

Q: - Strategically, China has remained a big factor for us, and now it’s also leading an economic warfare with us in Nepal and Pakistan, where it has expansionist motives…recently China has invested billions of dollars in Gilgit/Baltistan region and also in the adjoining terrain of Tibetan border in Nepal…should India take an indifferent stand or enter in the fray with better competency?

A: - We can either turn Nepal into a South Asian Belgium or convert it into the battlefield between Indian and China, as happened in Europe between Germany and France or we can make Nepal a bridge of friendship between India and China in friendly co-operative relationships. The wiser thing would be the later, but ofcourse it would be the more difficult to be do. In a recent visit to Nepal, I took the measure of the extent of distrust there is for us matched by the extent to which China is looked upon benevolently. I am afraid, this gap in perception will be only widen if India attempts to impose itself on Nepal to force them entwining Indian mandate.

If, other hand, India were to regard China as a partner rather than a rival in Nepal, then we might be able to bring the Nepali’s perception of India on par with their indulgent view of China. What India must never forget in the natural and economic advantages, as well as civilisational, cultural and linguistic links which China will be never able to match. Therefore, instead competing for influence, rather we should try to work in the interest of Nepal and her people.
I am strongly view that foreign policy should be deployed to promote reconciliation, not aggravation. A hostile relationship with Pakistan will render the Chinese presence in these mountain areas a threat to our security, but a warm relationship with Pakistan will render the Chinese presence irrelevant.

Q: - What should be the India’s next course of action in Bangladesh, Nepal, Srilanka, Maldives and Bhutan?
A: - At the same time, there is much scope for getting our relations with Bangladesh on even kill. The same is the case with Nepal. As for Srilanka, much depends upon on internal settlement of the issue of Srilankan Tamils. Srilanka is perhaps our only neighbour with whom we appeared to have reached a satisfactory settlement. On Maldives and Bhutan, my view whatever will be the hurdles, ensuring peace, co-operation and good neighborliness in South Asia should be the highest objectives of Indian foreign policy.

Q: - You always supported for the balanced ties in our neighborhood; as a rising power too, it should be our aim to strengthen the co-operation in South Asia and dream for Asian Resurgence. Hoping best in the South Asian region with your remarkable views…

A: - The numerous challenges we are facing today either strategically or in foreign policy will be eased with a balanced ties with our neighbours. So, it should be our foremost aim to give more focus on the South Asian region…positive changes will be visible soon once India will secure its desired objectives in neighbouring region.
Atul Kumar Thakur
July 26, 2011, Tuesday, New Delhi