Tuesday, 19 July 2016


Ananda Mohan Kar

In 2004, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) badly lost the parliamentary election. The ‘anti-BJP’ media, quite a large section of the media industry, projected the defeat to be the result of the anger of the poor. The poor reacted angrily to BJP’s India shining programme, we were told. However, the fact of the matter is that the party did well in the backward regions. It suffered major blows in the urban areas – the constituencies that were regarded as its stronghold. Actually, the lowering of the interest rate made the middleclass extremely unhappy and they turned away from the BJP. Some ‘secular’ commentators linked the defeat to the 2002 riot in Modi’s  Gujrat though it is a different story that Modi won election after election in his state.
The negative attitude towards BJP, and more particularly towards Modi, continued and the bitterness increased between BJP and the media. But the situation gradually turned in favour of Modi.The new technology gave him something to challenge the mainstream media houses. Modi and his supporters were quick to take advantage of the social media. Finally, in 2014, after a gap of ten years, NDA lead by Narendra Modi came to power.
But the ‘anti-Modi’ journalists remained active. There was a search to find out an alternative to Narendra Modi. But it became a difficult task. The leadership of the main opposition party, Congress, became extremely weak. The others were more or less confined to their own region having very little influence at the national level. Moreover, there were serious allegation of corruption and of poor governance and criticisms for poor governance. Some showed terrible record in the maintenance of law and order. In this context, these media people found an icon who can be put against the Modi government – Raghuram Rajan.
In Rajan, the ‘anti-Modi’ media found everything they wanted – a handsome person, a perfect gentleman and one of the great economists of his time. This UPA appointed RBI Governor was media friendly and was ready to talk on matters that are ‘outside’ the jurisdiction of the RBI. The economist trained in the West thought it right to speak up his mind on ‘important’ social issues. His views gave the ‘secular’ journalists the opportunity to attack the Modi government on ‘growing intolerance’ in the country against the ‘minorities’ and the people with ‘different opinion.’ Rajan’s statements were also used by the media to ridicule the economic policy of the government.
Unfortunately, Rajan allowed the media to put him in the middle of a political fight between BJP and its opponents. The critics accused BJP for not being able to accept a person who did not belong to the circle of the Sangh Parivar. The BJP supporters on the other hand were quick to point out that the ‘growing intolerance’ was the campaign carried out by  those who hated Modi and it was not  the real picture of the country. The number of foreign tourists did not come down despite such campaign and there was no major riot in the country. They also pointed out that the out spoken economist never made any big statements about the massive corruption that took place during the UPA rule to embarrass the Congress. The similar observation can be made about the greatest economist Nobel Laureate Prof. Amartya Sen. The huge corruption not only damaged India’s image but also ruined the future of the poor in India.
With the passage of time, differences emerged between the RBI Governor and the Finance Ministry over the interest rate. Rajan remained stubborn and did not bring down the interest rate as desired by the Finance Ministry. The move was hailed by the ‘anti-BJP’ media as a success to protect the ‘sovereignty’ of the institution named RBI.
All these created rift between the BJP and Rajan and that led to the scathing criticism of the RBI Governor by the BJP Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy. But both the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and the Prime Minister Narendra Modi behaved in a responsible and dignified manner. The supporters of BJP must note that the so called ‘anti-BJP’ Media, who they often call ‘presstitutes,’ praised the attitude of the PM and the FM towards Rajan.
The Modi government and BJP wanted lower interest rate to encourage more investment which would accelerate growth and generate jobs. In the first two years of the Modi government, the inflation was quite low most of the time and that offered a great opportunity to bring down the interest rate, BJP felt. Rajan was not very convinced and he had his reasons. He felt, controlling inflation is first priority and he remained firm in his position.
Now the ‘anti-BJP’ media began to give Rajan the credit for keeping the inflation under check and for keeping the economy on track.In 2016, there were lots of speculation about Rajan’s second term. The ‘anti-BJP’ media widely circulated the certificated issued to him by some of the corporate bosses.Rajan was projected as the only competent person who can ‘protect’ the Indian economy. Thus a pressure was created to give Rajan the second term.But in the middle of the year, Raghuram Rajan decided to leave RBI and go back to the academic circle of the USA.
Thanks to the media coverage, Raghuram Rajan became a household name and he was praised by the middle class. Both the middle class, and the journalists who also come mainly from the same background,  praised Rajan for keeping inflation under control. But a month after Rajan’s decision to exit RBI, the huge pay hike for the employees of the Central Government was announced by the NDA government.Such a step has all the potential to push the prices of the commodities upwards. But this time, the same middle class, and the media, remained silent. Some even claimed that the hike was inadequate. Protests took place as well in some parts of the country.
The middle class benefits from pay hike.It also benefits from the high interest rate.That helps their savings to grow. But there are millions of people who have no surplus to deposit in their bank accounts. Does the higher interest rate help them? Are they not the part of the economy? Is the economy only constituted by the middle class and the big industrialists? What about the farmers? Those engaged in small cottage industry? Do they not contribute to the economy? Does the media care to consider their opinion regarding the desired interest rate?
The supporters of high interest rate would point out that it is the poor who are hit by inflation most. Therefore, the higher interest is justified when in the context of controlling inflation.
The first part is absolutely right. But the competent economists do not enlighten us that higher interest rate is not the only measure available to check inflation. Inflation rate is not necessarily very high in the economies with extremely low interest rate. Inflation occurs when there is too much money in the market compared to low quantity of production. Therefore, one has to increase production which requires investment. Secondly, one has to check the flow of money coming to the market. That can be done by – raising the direct tax, encouraging people to purchase bonds, acting against the hoarders, tackling black money and by removing subsidy from those who are not poor.
To be fait to Arun Jaitley, he was trying to address those issues. However, the media is extremely sensitive about the middle class. When Jaitley presented the budget in 2016, which proposed marginal increase in income tax, it was termed by a section of the media as having nothing for the middle class. One business expert termed the budget as ‘Robin Hood Budget’ – the budget which takes away from the rich and the middle class and gives it to the poor.
Undoubtedly, the focus of the economic policy should be on the poor as the Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi repeatedly reminded the Modi Government.
One should not forget that a large section of the poor makes in India and they will continue to make in India in future. They will not transfer their capital out of the country as it is done by some big corporate bosses. But these poor people need capital at a much cheaper rate.The success of MUDRA scheme, If the claims of the Prime Minister are right, is an indicator that huge number of people are willing to start or expand their small business. If these initiatives do well, they will create a large number of low income jobs for the poor and for those who are not highly skilled. Low interest rate will definitely help them.
The importance of low interest rate is well understood by those associated with micro-finance organisations like Bandhan. Bandhan decided to become a bank to lend thousands of poor women loans at a cheaper rate. The loans given to the Self Help Groups help to reduce the dependence on the money lenders, help the poor to become producers and the extra income brings social security.Low interest rate will help thousands of Self Help Group members who belong to the weaker sections of the society.
The middle class must take a total view of the economy. In West Bengal, it criticised the State Government for not raising the Dearness Allowance for the State Government employees. The demand cannot be termed unjustified when it is compared with that of the Central Government.However, the victory of Mamata Banerjee in 2016 assembly election in West Bengal proves that it is possible to win election without appeasing the ‘opinion maker’ middle class.
So,the domination of the educated middle class on the politics is declining in India.But the welfare of the poor will raise the demand of the service sector and ultimately benefit and expand the middle class.
The middle class dominated media must notice those changes.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

SKILL INDIA: Lessons from disappointing past experience

Ananda Mohan Kar

The Indian economy is growing but jobs are not being generated. The population of the unemployed is rising. All are worried.
In this context, the Modi government has come out with a mission: Skill India.
It is true that machine is replacing humans in manufacturing. On the other hand, the investors are scared to initiate new project. The old labour laws are also discouraging new investment, as suggested by the supporters of the market economy. In addition to that, new industries with new jobs will not come up unless infrastructure for industry is developed. If these issues are not addressed, neither the skilled nor the unskilled people will get job.
But having said that, there is no reason to undermine the importance of skill. Scarcity of skilled people will not bring investment in any economy. Concerns have been expressed from more than one quarter that the majority of the engineers coming out of the Indian engineering colleges are not employable. The situation is not different in other disciplines as well. There is a fear that the large population of youth would turn out to be a huge burden on the nation, instead of becoming an asset.
Therefore, the programme of Skill India is a welcome step. The huge money that the Government of India has allotted in this scheme proves the serious intention of the people in power.
But the experience of the B.Ed course, and the Orientation Programme and the Refreshers Course suggest that there is a need to be cautious. These training programmes for the skill development of the teachers are going on for decades. The first one is for the school teachers and the other two are for those who teach in the colleges and in the Universities. I have found, from my interaction with the participants of such courses, very few of them are satisfied with what is on offer. They feel, most of the presentations made by the resource persons have little relevance with the task they are supposed to perform. That apart, they have heavy workload like large number of lectures to be delivered along with the pressure to evaluate large number of answer scripts in most of the understaffed institutions. Such situation prevents application of innovative teaching techniques. But still they are compelled to go for such courses to fulfill the condition of next promotion.
There is another angle as far as the B.Ed course is concerned. Many people get admitted to the course as it is essential to become teachers. But in the end, inadequate vacancies for the teaching posts force many to take up jobs other than teaching. But the private B.Ed colleges have appeared in many places and they are making lots of money.  
Similarly, a large number of young men and women, who aspire to get government jobs, pay huge amount of fees to the coaching centres for the preparation of the competitive exams. But very few of the candidated achieve the desired success.
Therefore, so far, we find wastage of time, of money and of energy in the name of skill development.
In the last one year, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly claimed that the reduction of wastage is one of the major achievements of his government. The government would do better to make necessary changes in these programmes after consulting the stakeholders.
That apart, the people of the country have some responsibilities. There is an urgent need to change the mindset of the people. The Indians require giving up their obsession for the piece of papers – the certificates. Instead, they must understand the importance of learning. If that does not happen, the skill development programme would lose its objective, in spite of best intention of the government.
Let us hope that the precious public money is not wasted.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

FAT TAX AND DIABETES: Better option available

Ananda Mohan Kar

 On the Second International Yoga Day, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, gave a call to tackle diabetes. Next month, the Left Front Government in the Sothern Indian State of Kerala imposed ‘Fat Tax’ on the food items that cause obesity and diabetes. The move aimed at reducing the consumption of cold drink and junk food.
Unfortunately, diabetes has emerged as an ‘epidemic’ and urgent measures are needed. But the step taken in Kerala is too little and too late.
 The media has already raised questions regarding the choice of the items. Only the ‘western’ foods have been mentioned. The ‘Indian’ foods, which contain high calorie and excessive fat, are not been touched. So, there is a possibility for a debate on the ‘imposition of nationalism from above.’ However, that is unlikely to happen as the idea of ‘fat tax’ has come from the ‘secular left’ and so the ‘intellectuals’ are expected to remain silent this time.
 But the other challenges are more serious. The monitoring of the market is definitely a tough task to carry out. That apart, the income of the rich, and that of the middleclass, has gone up substantially in the last decade. Therefore, some percentage increase in the price may not bring down the sale of those condemned commodities. Only a change in the food habit is the answer to the problem.
But the cultural change is difficult to bring in, particularly in the era of liberal market economy. Here, the producers are not only to sell whatever they like (except those that are prohibited by law) but are also free to advertise their products.
 So, the Governments in India, both at the Centre as well as at the States, must chalk out new strategy. The Government cannot violate the principles of economy, nor can it interfere in the public choice. But keeping in mind the larger interest, it can bring changes in its own sphere. There are large number of canteens and footstalls in the government office premises across the country. Stop the sale of such food items in those shops. The restriction can be extended the stalls located in the state run railway stations and bus terminuses and to all the educational institutions that receive government fund. At the time of evaluating the Universities and the Colleges, the issue of healthy food should be looked into.
 However, before taking such step, the items to be banned should be objectively identified by the well known specialists in this subject. Otherwise, all the good moves would be lost in the debate over ‘political motive.’

Sunday, 6 March 2016


Alexander Eshechilen Kolkatay (Alexander Came to Calcutta) is a detective fiction of a different kind. This is perhaps the first fictional work on the Greeks of Calcutta. There was a small but rich Greek community in the city during the British colonial rule. Though the Greeks lived in Calcutta for more than two centuries, very few Indians have any idea about this diaspora. Apart from focusing on the history of the Calcutta Greeks, the novel touches upon several burning issues like land acquisition for industry, sustainable development, commercialization of sports etc. This is my first Bengali novel and I have published it in my blog Humble Sociologist. Please read, comment and share if you like.


Hi, I am a sociologist by profession but creative writing is my passion. This blog is an effort to present my writings in front of the people across the world. The idea is not just to entertain but also to raise several issues that often do not attract adequate attention. For this blog, I have planned to publish long stories, or the novels, part by part. After the publication of the last chapter, I would go through the suggestions of the readers and I would try to accommodate them as much as possible. Thereafter, the entire novel would be uploaded once again as a pdf file or in the form of an ebook. So, your opinion is very important. Your comments will help to enrich the fiction as well as initiate valuable discussion on various important questions that we face.