Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fragility of Reluctant Reform

Dichotomy of reform and progressivism represents the India’s policy maneuvering since 1991. Long way back, then Indian sensed a “déjà vu” to move for a “remodeled tryst with destiny” which was essentially bounded to delinking Nehruvian ties and ushering herself into a new world of unrestricted and aligned competency. Its first major impact on macro economy was felt in terms of multipolar evolution of economic interests…no longer, prioritization of national economy remained a trend. The inbound competency that came with the reluctant liberalisation programme didn’t create niche for the healthy operation of government, public and private sectors. Instead it given leeway for mushrooming of “clicks supremacy “and forced a “Democratic, Secular, Socialist” state as hub of crony capitalism. Underneath the swift processing of forward capitalist agenda, India produced the record numbers of billionaires {both in rupees and dollar terms} and worst positional status in Human Development Index {HDI}, which is ofcourse any longer averses a thinking mind to be in good humour!

The second big casualty after the misplaced wave of reform is the, state of reform? Until few years back, India’s regulatory institutions with their cautions approaches were doing great services by maintaining normalcy in business. Its effects led India to avoid the bubble burst like scenario during the peak of traumatic recession and when banks were falling on Wall Street, our Mint Street was still keeping jubilant mood. Alas, same friendly atmosphere is no longer persists now…RBI, which holds the pulses of Indian economy seemingly losing its earlier touch in market intervention and taking forward the growth of Indian financial sector.

In last few quarters, RBI has failed to control the spiraling inflation and its policy responses as interest hikes leaving extra adverseness on the anticipated growth agenda. Here, contradiction between market sentiment which is naturally consumerist now and policy stances are looming large and enforcing uncertainty. Sidelining the ideological convictions and routing through the same reform debates, it disappoints to note that the gulf between finance ministry and nation’s central bank was never so wide. In the last Union Budget, declaration was made by the finance minister for further opening of Indian banking that was a long due since 2003 but under the new unwarranted redtapism of RBI-licensing of few new banks are taking too long and perilously injuring the sentiments of near about stagnant financial market. Under the uniform set of regulations, RBI must shoe its trust to allow atleast six new banks to join the fray besides focusing more on compliance to the nuanced recommendations of Basel-III norms.

It appears a paradox that new Indian corporate private sector banks, Regional Rural Banks {RRBs} are in better shape with their standard quality of assets than the peers of leading Public Sector banks, turmoil Co-operative banks and narrowly motivated foreign banks. In such case, policy framing must enable these existing banks and prospective banks for pursuing the advanced banking in the days ahead. Withstanding the truth of global financial condition, RBI must lend unwavering support to the prospective banks and should keep the profile of global integration on equilibrium. Today, another haunting challenge is of financial inclusion, still majority of Indians are not banking…here, strict adherence to compliances shall be streamlined for making rural and untapped area as priority zone for every banks operating in India.

Capital markets in India often cited as dynamic and sound out of confused euphoria, which is completely false as Indian equity market is one of the most crisis ridden in the world. Insider trading is frequent here and still surprises to not get a Galleon type case like in U.S or finding few spoiled icons like Raj Rajaratnam or Raj Gupta. Years back, Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parikh rocked the party here and got bad tip from regulators but since then SEBI seized to be angry and moralistic institution. SEBI’s second hammering fallen on rapidly growing Indian mutual fund industry which through bad regulatory step {scrapping of entry load etc.}, left it in hibernated state and in comparison of the past, we find it only as shadow. The weak confidence among the top management of SEBI is another matter of grave concern…things have still little changed with its new chief, U.K.Sinha. Finance ministry and RBI must end their slumbering and India’s capital market is on the verge being a show piece.

It remains a silent convention to priorities Public Sector entities by the regulators but recent stances of IRDA is awkwardly mimicking on those soft forgone traditions. Atleast two Chairmen of Public Sector insurers have recently expressed their anguish over the partiality of IRDA-that’s shocking and henceforth unsustainable as well. Questions arises, in last twenty years what made regulation a stodgy business? And do the true spirits of reform could ever touch the Indian commerce and trade?

The only conclusion could be drawn from the last two decades that the shape of Indian economy has indeed grown up in mid years with making selective few obscene rich, few crores of population as empowered consuming/middle class and rest the paupers. And big dilemma is, we even today can’t figure out the exact numbers of poors in India, leave alone any over expectation of level playing approaches from authorities.

More or less, similar are the cases of regulatory mismanagement in every sector. The last and most vicious happened with the opening of single brand retail for hundred percent FDI and multi brand retail to 51%from existing 26% without making any strict clause which could assured the certain percentage of procurement from Indian domestic market. That could have helped better to farmers, SMEs by cutting their overhead cost and appropriate inventory management. Unfortunately in present frame, it’s unreliable to expect anything positive from this legislation and chances would be likely of Indian market as the junk box of cheap Chinese manufacturing. Opposition is doing series of ridiculous acts by logjamming Parliament instead channelizing proper debate to alter this horrific FDI arrival in retail. At this juncture, regulation is maintaining its fragility and people will be forced to lead a Walmartian life with deep holes and no money in their market..!
Atul Kumar Thakur
Wednesday, November 30, 2011, New Delhi

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mumbai dreams!

Mumbai dreams!
Book Review: Non-fiction/Mumbai Fables by Gyan Prakash , Harper Collins/2011, 396 pp; Rs425 {Paperback}
Name changing of cities, institutions or edifices can be hardly correlated with any sort of positive sense in Indian contexts. Transition of a dialectic city, called Bombay into Mumbai was less resilient and opposite of its long preserved character. We can accept or refute Mumbai as maxim city, the way Suketu Mehta has conceived but it will be seemingly tough writing an adverse note on Mumbai Fables of Gyan Prakash. This Princeton Guru of politics has lived up his limited time in this city with keeping his eyes open on the events that matters. If Salman Rushdie with his Midnight Childrens and Imaginary Homeland or Amit Chaudhuri through his memorable piece-From the Malabar Hills could established their personal belongingness to this city even with an outsider tag. Gyan Prakash too found the similar way with originally hailing from the distant Hazaribagh. This it marks, Bombay is still not a closed urban jargon.

Spread over the nice parts, Mumbai Fables recall and streamline the characteristics of the city with amazing vigour. The defining fundamentals, like-myths, colonial legacies and relative losses, scenic beauties, cosmopolitanism, iconic tales of Tabloid {Blitz}, political changes, urban planning, streets and most importantly the city’s dreams have presented in a order that gives the book a long-lasting impressive stature. The detailed portrayal of Nanavati case and the journalistic charisma of Mr.Karanzia as Editor, Blitz vividly reminding the Bombay of late fifties and sixties that was bustling with plethora of high profile activities.

Besides cinema and commerce, once this city was the centrepoint of progressive movement and then red flags of CPI and trade union movement was as much prevalent as today is the saffron flags with hate-mongering premium of million tridents. Mumbai Fables delves deep into search how Bombay lost its progressive space by maligning hate driven politics of narrow identities. The presence and affluence of crime was always consistent in this city but nevertheless the spoiled form of “Son of soil movement” led by fireband of Shivsena infused extra awkwardness in its social scène-that was ofcourse the one among of big causalities. In the course of time, incessant malfunctioning of governance has been giving substantial edge to the newly formed communal forces a safe passage to spread their virulent practices. Collective psyche was degenerated by its influence and city keep turning from cosmic to parochial. Now the badness of city was much worse from the immortals messages of cult cinema “Jaane bhi do Yaron”, where protagonists {Nasiruddin Shah and Ravi Baswani} atleast could heard their heartfelt “Hum honge kamyab ek din” even in the peak of distress.

Book have succeeded well to notice the changing class hierarchy of city…though the city always had elitecentric orientation but the new divide among classes are being strongly felt and that scale was hitherto unknown to the memory. Overgrown maturity of the city have eclipsed with the phases of unending uncertainty. Once the hub of entrepreneurial dreams, now Bombay witnesses the letting down of its position to an uncomfortable level.

Mumbai Fables also devote few pages for unleashing the distinctness of Bombay’s lifestyle which is still liberal and open but running under the huge distress by influence of bad nexus from politics, business and unrestricted ambitions of close clicks. To the core, this amazing city is in distress and that’s not hidden from anyone having vision to see that decline. Somehow, the dreams of Mumbai are still not distinct and separated from what Bombay once used to have. But in the meantime, this matured city is standing on the threshold of unique adverseness that is much acute and painful than even before. Timing and depth of this book is apt and that makes it as essential read on lost dreaming city, Bombay..!
Atul Kumar Thakur
Monday, November 28, 2011, New Delhi

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Coming of Age

Book Review: Non-fiction/Of a Certain Age by Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Penguin/2011, 234 pp; Rs499 {Hardback}
Compilation of modern Indian social history had maintained for long a feeble pace until few years back, Ramchandra Guha’s India after Gandhi came into existence. The sidelined events of recent past suddenly started getting attention of both the writers and readers and this amalgamation quintessentially seems a quest to know modern India and who influenced it. Gopalkrishna Gandhi, a seasoned administrator, columnist and among the most remarkable “Gandhi “has come out with an anthology of his earlier published essays in Of a Certain Age. Last winter, Ramchandra Guha published his much awaited Makers of Modern India with aim to theorise some of the most original thinker/writer’s work that made overarching effects on India in making. On the contrary, Gopalkrishna Gandhi had chosen to write his essays, as life sketches and with liberal selection of twenty personalities-from Mahatma Gandhi to J.N.Dixit.

Between these two unmatchable figures, Acharya Kriplani, Hiralal Gandhi, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Salim Ali, Pyarelal, Jayaprakash Narayan, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, Hiren Mukherjee, R.Venkatraman, M.Krishnen, Jyoti Basu, Pupul Jaykar, Srimavo Bhandarnaike, M.S.Subbulakshami, R.K.Narayan, Somnath Hore, S.Guhan and Dalai Lama have covered through the personal angle of author. Though the book has no fundamental choices of narration and looking after on the works of these formidable personalities but it has also never cease to be formal at any point and that makes overall delineation substantial enough.

What’s the strength of these essays is its different timeframe in which they have been written and their universal expression. Contemporariness in closed order often hampers the much essential interest and understanding in longer terms. This is particularly true with the journalistic writings. In academic writings, monotony through abrupt reprisal of wrong context and explanation have its own severe affects that without doubt kept historiography on low standard over the years besides making the slices of past terribly vulnerable through cynical interpretations. Of a Certain Age kind of book is a welcome continuance of new urge for constructive history writing and within the rational constructs.

Post-independence, India witnessed the consolidation of newly build institutions and spread of modernism as single most decisive virtue which in the course of time let assembling the intelligentsia to the forefront. Numbers of home grown intellectuals indeed played the pivotal roles in subsequent phases and India with afflictions to odds never distracted from the basic goals of its Constitution. That remains consistent even today; atleast in high legislative order but it’s also true that the flaws of policy executions are undermining those beauties of India as a well grown nation.

Shades of opinions are infact not bad if it comes with the purpose. Moreover, we need to know more about the work and worldviews of peoples from different domains whom we consider high on stature. This book has keen focus on twenty such remarkable lives without any preoccupations and gives readers a pleasant opportunity of experience sharing. Maturisation of this drive will realise more if history writing will come closer to the very recent past which simply stands on fringe in the lieu of ongoing contemporariness. Knowing history will be only possible through applying proper perspectives in research on history writing. Hope this work will make positive binding in this regard and help paving the way for a culture of knowledge driven discourse..!
Atul Kumar Thakur
November 27, 2011, Sunday, New Delhi

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Unclinching dreams..!

Book Review: Fiction/The Mysterious Dreams by Nandita Chakraborty Banerjji, Cedar books/2011, 263 pp; Rs175 {Paperback}
The free spirits pressed opposite the humdrum living. They choose their own basis of beingness, which often overpowers the prevailing social norms. In the twentieth century, hippies’ movement in west surpassed the overall foundation of modernism through a unique model that was unconventional and unacceptable to a great extant. The idea of modernism rests on the supremacy of state which bounds it with many cohesive structures that essentially restrict the spirits to get sat uncontrolled. Hippies were never out of grip from violence in action and their opposition towards the state led violence was a classical case of dichotomy.

The debutant author, Nandita has tried well to grasp the vast plots though couldn’t stop her writing from falling in the complex orgy. The first and foremost specialty of her novel is its protagonist Shibani, and second and last, her relying upon the Bangla culture and family in imagination and on little bit action. Careful reading of book enables reader to three subset within this book, first and last matches in order though the middle or backbone paralyses with the loaded analysis and umpteenth reprisal of unworthy emotions. It would have been much better, if the author could choose the Baul tradition in better length in place of reckless cult like, hippies. Chris, who is betrayer and absconder amidst the consistent romantic advances of Shibani reveals the pathos of choices which at any level can be easily cured instead getting down with its harmful discomfiture. Geographical spread between Bombay and Calcutta would have an ideal position for normally culture driven Shibani to think freely within a very special sphere of Baul tradition or on simply trusting herself more and surrounding.

Notwithstanding the technical lapses, author promises better in her next part of sequel. She gives easy readability through her writing with an incessant mark of serious literary narrative. Here, the categorization of her work deserves all serious consideration. In the drive of new less-serious writing where the tracing of literature are increasingly being tough, it’s solace here that The Mysterious Dreams optimizes the basic literary puts. Indeed, its serious concerns now, whether to fix such new writing, literary or not? On this account, this work finding a new feet, that’s somewhere between the popular literature and original work of high literary caliber.

Now the writing is not being done essentially by the class of writers rather it’s also coming through the new legion of professionals. Not denying the fact that social media has played tremendous role in shaping the creativity of a sizable young writers though the quality of contents remains a big loopholes. If the arrivals of writers are good, in the same way it’s expected from the readers to get maximized and more pro-active. Addressal on infusing the basic qualities of domain theme is the need of this hour…here; the tasks of partial purification have to be completed with the better assessment of works from reviewers, writers and most pertinently by the readers.

For now, readers are not finding themselves as scapegoat of over supplied writings. That still presents a benign scenario with overarching effects by which myth of” better time in Indian literature” can be processed for medium to long term. Further ahead, new shows will be in action..!
Atul Kumar Thakur
Saturday, November 19th 2011, New Delhi
Special thanks to Castle of Books/ ,for consistently reminding me about this book review...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Indian women’s movement!

Book Review: Non-fiction/The Indian women’s movement by Maitrayee Chaudhuri, Palm Leaf Publications/2011, 219 pp; Rs895 (Hardback)

This is a purposeful book—meticulously researched and lucidly written. It comes as a welcome addition to the burgeoning narrative on women’s movements in India. Tapping historical sources in the context of a focused theme endows this book with authenticity. With rational utilisation of social history in the colonial and post-colonial period, the book underlines the major breakthroughs and adverse occurrences related to the women’s movement in the past and ongoing odds that are choking its overall growth.

The beginning of the book, with elucidating four major social reform movements in prominent provinces—Bengal, Bombay, Madras and Punjab—makes beautiful sense, since knowing the women’s side during the 19th-century Hindu middle class reform is crucial before taking further compelling strides. Chapter three, Reform, Revival and the Women’s Question at the turn of the Century, captures the resistances like Revivalism, Nationalism and Communalism against the repression of colonialism and existing hierarchy besides taking into account the women’s reform in Hinduism and Islam. This paragraph makes complete sense to the wider concern of reform:

The most characteristic sign of the development of capitalism in India was the growth of towns. The dual nature of capitalism in India, where there were both British and Indian enterprises, had left their imprint on the towns, particularly over Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. The town represented the dynamic changes that taking place in Indian society with the composition of bourgeoisie, a working class, a mass of small producer, craftsmen and the administrative staffs. The educated sections were sensitive to both the misery and poverty of the large mass of Indian people and the degradation and humiliation of even those Indians who were not in poverty. They became increasingly conscious of the burden of colonial oppression and the need for a change. (p. 72)

Chapter four, The Rise of Women’s Organisations and the Beginning of Women’s Participation in Politics, 1914–27 links to the institutionalisation and growth of Indian women’s movement, following the epoch-making First World War period. Side by side, the peak of the national movement and its influence over the women’s movement are highlighted very well in this book. The non-cooperation movement led by Gandhi strongly emphasised on the greater inclusion of all sections, including women. This political movement indeed proved a catalyst in the independence movement and later in the shaping of women’s movement. The scale of struggle against British colonialism could not be shot up to such high mark had
not the broader inclusiveness been grounded as the top-tier agenda of Congress and left leaderships. This paragraph delineates it more lucidly under the present contexts:

This participation of women in the active political life of country, and the formation of women’s organisation at all-India level were two landmarks in the evolution of the women’s movement. The ideas which governed women’s organisation and women’s participation in politics however did not make a break with the earlier reform, revival framework. A conflict between new needs and old perceptions was inevitable. Women’s organisations reveal the tension between confining women’s issues to social reform efforts and the compulsions from the wider society to link national liberation to the women’s movement. Participation of women in politics was a new step, yet ideologically the act was appropriated as an extension of traditional roles. (p. 113)

Chapter five, The Expanding Scope of the Women’s Movement and Communalisation of Women’s Issues, aptly revolves around the maturisation phase (1927–37) of women’s movement and its interwoven terms with the anti-colonial movement. This movement drew women’s organisations into its orbit and paved the way for an inevitable radicalisation. That development was very timely and encouraging, though the larger question of communal harmony remained unanswered in spite of few dedicated leadership interventions. Anti spirits were flamboyant and politically, too, they had virulent conceptions that finally deterred the healthy development of social movements and, in the longer course, whose losses
tolled much higher than ever anticipated. The author makes her scintillating point very absorbingly through these lines:

These trends within the women’s movement in a way sum up the entire trajectory of modern India. A professed commitment to western democratic institutions, to liberalism and nationalism was accompanied by a deep rooted desire to argue that these modern nations were actually traditional indigenous ones. In defining the “modern”, therefore a redefinition of the “traditional” was going on. The trend was present amongst both Hindus and Muslims. (p. 144)

The concluding chapter of this book—Radical Blueprints and Communal Politics: The Women’s Question, 1937–47—highlights the complex phase of modern Indian history with astute vigour. These ten years could be counted as most formative for the entire Indian sub-continent. In an organised way, India had to be a nation but, alas, its broad geography, cultural antiquities, social diversities and common past were compromised by the politics of communalism. The author’s note is quite worthwhile to mention here in this respect:

This may seem to contradict the obvious fact that there was a frequent convergence of reform and revival within both nineteenth century Hindu and Islamic reform. Traditions were reinterpreted and the past recast legitimizes women’s reform. The historical situation in the third and fourth decades of the twentieth century had bower altered dramatically.

The two communities were defining themselves increasingly vis-a’-vis the “other”. The sorry state of the “self” was entirely the fault of the other. The occident no doubt still continued to dominate the idiom within which dominant discourses were constructed. But the imminent possibility of independence from colonialism made the question of hegemony of one or the other religious community over the new state more urgent than ever. (p. 181)

Throughout this book, intricacies of the Indian women’s movement are presented in distinct ways that appear candid and appropriate. Maitrayee Chaudhuri’s writing stands without any stodgy academic load or preoccupations—which otherwise has been rampant and overgrown over the years through the damaging complacency among Indian higher academic circles. Her remarkable work is a solace in this regard. Unfortunately, the burden of confused legacy is so enormous that its curtailment would need an attitude shift among the academic authors. Barring a few, most undeserving and horribly conceited writers have earned bad impressions and remarks for academic writing. At least now, a trend must be set
for original and insightful writings that can add some values to the broad world of knowledge. Palm Leaf
Publications as a start-up deserve all accolades for commissioning such a relevant book on a very crucial theme—here, too, the act is path-breaking to an extent.

The Indian women’s movement has been shaped and grown through the sociopolitical changes starting back in the late 19th century to the present date, but it remains a major loophole that economic aspects were never given the proper consideration even after the high time of capitalist movement in Indian economy 1991 onward. Here, the women’s movement should be properly aligned with the changing times, where challenges are multidimensional and complex. Interface among major academic disciplines with rational approaches are the need of hour, though in the present scenario the chances of which are minimal, considering the prevailing static appetite on Research and Development in the stream of humanities. Even more pathetically, there is no longer a mass women’s movement in India or abroad.

There are many organisations working for women’s equality in the public and private arena. But, where there were once women’s organisations with large participatory memberships, there are now bureaucratic structures run by the closed groups. Feminist theory, once provocative and freewheeling, has lost concern with the conditions of women’s lives and has become pretentious and tired. This raises two questions—why is there so little discussion of the near disappearance of a movement that not so long ago was strong enough to bring about major changes in the social and cultural landscape?; what are the causes of
the movement’s decline?

The causes of the decline of these movements are more complicated than can be dealt with by circling the wagons. Neo-theocratic attacks have played a role in damaging some feminist projects, such as abortion rights, but the overall decline of the women’s movement has much more to do with a loss of a sense of urgency to cope with such maliciously inserted mandates.

Over the past few decades, progress has been felt for Indian women’s movements, but the overall actual state of affairs is far from desirable results. Mostly, women’s organisations are dominated by the power-groomed elites, and normally keep it away from bottom-level complications, which the vast majority in
India faces in day-to-day life. This book has specialties in this regard—historical interpretation of women’s movements along with aiming the further constructive course makes the work worthwhile for reading and getting noticed as the reference for introducing new policy measures. Maitrayee Chaudhuri has followed the events very cautiously and equally delineated them with care and precision that gives a valuable edge in favour of her deserving book. This book is worthy for readers and equally for bright book stakes…such things happen rarely in academic writing!
Atul Kumar Thakur
November 5, 2011, Saturday, New Delhi
(Published in Social Change-A journal of Council for Social Development and Sage Publications, June 2012)

Shades of Globalisation!

Book Review: Non-fiction/Understanding Globalisation and Emerging India by Anand Kumar, Palm Leaf Publications/2011, 276 pp; Rs995 {Hardback}
There are countless views on global dissemination of ideas which aims for uniformisation of trade, services etc. The much celebrated term “Globalisation” is still acquiring attention and it’s not without some valid reasons. Initial and foremost, the South Asian region as big market is catching the attention of strong global capital that’s altering many home grown wisdom in the region practiced through the ages. India, with its market friendly democracy and a sizable consuming population is the prime mover of consumerist aspirations. A close look on these changes easily enables to see the huge mismatch that’s being consolidated in the name of constructive “market reform”. Both China and India has its own lapses in their original framework while dealing with the moves of global trade integration. So on policy front, arrival and mushrooming of modern globalisation is still not less than enigma.

This book is spread into three parts. First part deals with the general aspects of globalisation though ends up without adding anything substantial in the contemporary discourse over pros and cons of free trade/uniform lifestyle. Second part that co-incidentally also justifies the title of book revolves around India’s involvement with globalisation and its implications. Prof. Anand Kumar has presented his views in academic fashion and slipped on many occasions to cover this very important issue with much needed distinctness. Third part is little bit promising with heavily inserting “Gandhism” in the greedy globalisation debate; unfortunately reprisal of fundamentals from Gandhism hardly gives readers the joy anticipated with this book. Ironical to see, an academic from institution of repute chasing hyped and already covered observations like the real gains. This rejects the predominant beliefs that were in favour of academic intellectuals. Every year, a large number of serious works being done on various subjects and remarkably most of the authors have not even had the remote affiliation with the universities. This notion will be soon agreeable, if the academic masters will not start writing books for people…absolutely, dark corner of book stakes only should be the secondary target!

On the similar theme, there is need for indepth works with analyzing India’s own position vis-à-vis free trade and its viability under the basic mainline of democratic polity. As a nation, India has moved up in last six decades albeit it would be rash observation if believe that India’s “tryst with destiny” can be halted now. Idea of India must be in rock solid state, by which this nation will catch its making sound.

In last two decades, Indian economy has scaled up high through its consistent alignment with the market led reform. It’s also true that in some areas, regulation have worked well-financial sector is one of the case but not completely. There is no reason, why India should not follow its own model of regulated reform in the time ahead, the stress on regulated economic model in crisis ridden Europe further strengthening India’s indigenous model of economic policy.

Globalisation leads to multifaceted changes in economy/society/culture/politics etc, so reckoning its nuances is very essential for the concerned participants and enthusiasts. India as rising power is in need to understand the globalisation in proper way-China has done significantly in this regard, though without openness. The debate on globalisation should be in balanced pace, it’s not surpassable in any manner and lackluster academic works will make no sense in further cases!
Atul Kumar Thakur
November 5, 2011, Saturday, New Delhi