WEEKEND LIGHTER: Hard work and Harvard

WEEKEND LIGHTER*: Hard work and Harvard
(March 4/5, 2017, No.9/2017)
Feel free to mail your views on this edition of WL to mgwarrier@gmail.com
*Weekend Lighter is posted every Saturday @mgwarrier.blogspot.in
Section III:Pranab’s concerns

Cover Story
Hard work and Harvard
Prime Minister Modi’s expression of preference to ‘hard work’ over ‘Harvard’ is being widely discussed in media for the last few days. Narendra Modi had successfully used this ‘preference’ in BJP’s 2014 election campaign, then targeting P Chidambaram who has ‘Harvard connection’. This season, media and analysts have taken Modi more seriously, as they feel that now PM is targeting an Honorable man, namely Amartya Sen whom nation had earlier respected by awarding Bharat Ratna and who is a Nobel laureate. What went wrong?

I do not support the view that the professors and research scholars do less important jobs than the farmers or factory workers who work hard to produce food grains and industrial goods. And I do not believe that Prime Minister had any specific activity involving hard work or the Harvard campus in particular in his mind while first talking about ‘hard work and Harvard’, which latter got popular. In his post-demonetization remarks, his anguish, possibly was against the strong criticism unleashed by analysts, economists and media against a measure initiated by his government in good faith and following due procedure.
Politicians are not saints.  Dr Manmohan Singh’s observation that “Waging a war on black money may sound enticing. But it cannot entail even a single loss of life of an honest Indian” and Amartya Sen’s description of demonetization as “a despotic move that has struck at the root of an economy based on trust” are harsh and if they have provoked Modi to respond the way in which he has done, the episode deserves deeper analysis.

Now, there are constituency issues. MMS and Sen can choose their own time to respond or refuse to respond on current issues of public interest. Professors and analysts have the freedom to indulge in monologues while expressing their views on controversial matters. PM is in the media glare 24X7.
Mentioned all these to drive home the point that if veterans maintain elegance and restraint in their expression, the likelihood of their being drawn into controversies would be less. We have examples of Kalam, Pranab Mukherjee, C Rangarajan, Bimal jalan and many others who have been knowledgeable and outspoken, but were using elegant and socially acceptable language that did not hurt the opponents.
M G Warrier, Mumbai

Recent responses
Information security

This refers to your editorial “Aadhaar apprehensions” (HBL, March 3).
Recently Unique Identification Authority of India, which issues Aadhaar cards, has registered a complaint of someone making use of stored biometric information for Aadhaar authorization. This takes us to the need to differentiate ‘public’ and ‘private’ information and the urgency to put in place strict Privacy Protection Law to punish abuse of private information by those who are in possession of such information, in the due performance of their ‘official’ duties.
In an open society, my name, address, telephone number or even sources of income need not remain ‘secret’ or ‘private’. My personal view is that these information can be even in the public domain. But that is not the case with my ATM  PIN number or the biometric identification stored by authorities while issuing Aadhaar Card or my Passport. Let us go further. If my address is made public, chances are someone may ‘locate’ me, come to my residence and use my door bell. Here, it should be my responsibility to exercise the option to open the door with ‘due diligence and care’. Trespassers could be prevented at the entrance to the premises also, if such security arrangements exist. But, it is a different situation, if a bank or government authority with whom I transact in good faith, share my security password or crucial information with strangers or unauthorized persons/agencies who can cause loss of money or reputation to me.
M G Warrier, Mumbai

Food for thought

This refers to Pulapre Balakrishnan’s article “Food on its own terms” (The Hindu, March 2). These days, getting an unbiased assessment on any current issue is a rarity. When it about a sensitive subject relating to a state like Kerala, even before reading the article, the reader will start thinking about the background of the writer and ‘colour’ of the newspaper. Here the writer has attempted to give a realistic picture of present day Kerala, given the background for the present difficulties faced by the state on the food front and given realistic suggestions to retrieve Kerala from the present predicament.
For Kerala, just as the state has successfully created  awareness about the need improve domestic  production of vegetables, it is possible to produce a lot  more food grains by changing its approach to method of cultivation. The new approach will have to harness the state’s inherent strengths like availability of water, a strong cooperative movement with a population which believes in thrift and mutual help and ‘seed capital’ in the form of high level per capita bank deposits.
Pinarayi Vijayan seems to have forgotten his own statement that if the cooperative banks and the primary credit societies in Kerala come together, the entity will be the biggest banking institution in Kerala. Even in non-banking sectors, institutions like Uralungal Labour Contract Society Ltd(in its 80’s) can become role models for farming societies across the state, if only the right initiative comes from the government to support farming in available parcels of land.
The setbacks suffered by the state for historical reasons, many of which are listed in the article and others like total neglect of Malabar during the last century should be forgotten and the present government should lead by example to prove that the success story of God’s Own country in literacy and other Human Development Indicators will not be allowed to fade by failure on food front.
M G Warrier, Mumbai
PS: The quote “Ariyetra?...” mentioned in the article refers to the proverbial question “Ariyetra?...”(How much rice?) and the irrelevant answer “Payaranjazhi…” (Payar five measures…) where ‘Payar’ is a variety of pulse. Perhaps the byline emphasizes the communication gap between Centre and states!

Economic Survey 2017
This refers to the article “A bad idea in the Economic Survey”(HBL, February 27). Of late, the Economic Survey is being used as a conduit to float fancy research ideas. . Last year, when ES made certain observations on RBI’s accounts, RBI Governor had offered to ‘teach’ those who are not familiar with the central bank’s accounting practices. Taking advantage of Dr Rajan’s departure from RBI, the authors of ES have bottled the ‘old wine’ in the ‘demonetization bonanza’ bottle in 2017.
The flip side is, the arguments in favour of dipping into RBI’s reserves for government funding are built up in isolation and by drawing comparisons with small and big nations elsewhere whose stage of development, pattern of governance, role expectations from central banks and relationship between central bank and the exchequer are no way comparable with the role expectations from RBI. For instance the Reserve Balances with Federal Reserve System as on February 8, 2017 was over $2.2 trillion(public debt about $14 trillion). RBI’s share capital and reserves worked out to about  $35 billion(India’s public debt $850 billion).
Moreover, as recently observed by former RBI Governor Dr Y V Reddy, the interdependence of monetary and fiscal policies in the Indian context makes reading of RBI Balance Sheet in isolation meaningless. Of course, Reddy didn’t tell it so bluntly. He said, government’s finances and RBI’s resources are interrelated.
M G Warrier, Mumbai

Trump’s daydreams
This refers to the excerpts from US President Trump’s February 17 speech at South Carolina(Business Standard, February 26). Going by the number of applauses and their spacing, one is not sure whether the audience had got time to apply their own mind on the implications of Trump’s assertions.
The whole emphasis was on manufacturing airplanes and armaments and there was little emphasis on ‘making in US’ many other things essential for sustaining human life in the country for which America is dependent on outside world. It is comforting to see that the new President has a feel of the acute unemployment situation in the US.
Desire to depend more on domestic workforce need to be supported. But, if US is serious about the proposition, initiatives to up-skill  the existing workers, enabling the education system to produce more professionals in various fields and creating an awareness that the country is on the path of self-reliance in manpower need to follow fast. Speeches can’t produce talent.
A related issue is the need for a change in mindset. The average American REprosperous insulated by walls and Visa-bans. Earlier the President wakes up to the realities of an emerging borderless world the better for US and the world.
M G Warrier, Mumbai


“Parliament not a combat arena’
No one who holds any elected office has been invited by the voters to occupy that office. Each one has gone to the voters and pleaded for their votes and support. The trust placed by the people in the political system and those elected should not be betrayed.

Our Legislatures and Parliament must not turn into arenas for combat. Floor tests are not meant to be muscle tests. The opportunity to represent the people is not a right or entitlement but a moral obligation and duty. Our elected representatives owe it to the people of our country to act as models of exemplary conduct.

The Parliament of India and our Legislative Assemblies are central pillars on which the edifice of our democracy rests. They are the supreme institutions comprising of members directly elected by our people. It is through them that governments are held accountable by the people. If they become dysfunctional, it results in not just paralysis of those institutions but creates an adverse impact across the system. The debate and discussions which ought to take place in the open in the House of Parliament and Assemblies cannot be replicated elsewhere. When they cease to function effectively, issues spill out onto the streets. The very basis of our democracy gets undermined".

A new coin for a new India, finally featuring a business icon*

January 8, 2015, 12:04 AM IST  in TOI Edit Page | EconomyEdit PageIndia | TOI
The first new coin of the year was released this week, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It is unique, being the first ever Indian coin commemorating an industrialist. It marks the 175th birth anniversary of Jamsetji Tata, founder of the Tata Group. At a broader level, the coin is an acknowledgment of the role of industry in building our nation.
Money, including coinage, is the primary store of value, hence treasured by kings and presidents alike. No wonder their images adorn coins globally. In modern India, our coins have depicted figures such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Mother Teresa and Rabindranath Tagore. Yet before this launch, we have never had a coin featuring an icon of business.
There are many lessons this coin can teach us. First, the impact of patriotism. Tata was more than just an entrepreneur. He was a nationalist who believed in the overall development of India. If the Tata Group is testament to his drive for economic growth, the J N Tata Endowment, established in 1892, reflects his belief in building intellectual capital. This endowment has funded thousands of Indian scholars, including names such as K R Narayanan and Raja Ramanna. The coin highlights what doyens of industry can achieve, if driven by a burning sense of patriotism.
The coin also reminds us of Jamsetji Tata’s unwavering commitment to the industrialisation of India. More than a century ago, he was set on building a steel manufacturing plant in our country, notwithstanding widespread scepticism, because he considered steel essential for progress. The then chief commissioner of Indian Railways, Sir Frederick Upcott, famously said, “Do you say that Tatas propose to make steel rails to British specifications? Why, I will undertake to eat every pound of steel rail they succeed in making.” Yet Tata Steel produced excellent steel for railways within a few years. Today, the company stands tall globally. The new coin re-emphasises the need for renewed industrialisation of India, which is today an imperative for future growth.
A third lesson is the need for business leaders to work in partnership with leaders of society. The former have wealth and ideas, the latter the pulse of their countrymen. When Jamsetji Tata needed help to establish a world-class Indian university, he turned to Swami Vivekananda, requesting him to lead a crusade supporting this venture. Swami Vivekananda responded with a stirring editorial. He urged Indians to support the project with funds, and ended: “Let the whole nation therefore, forgetful of class or sect interests, join in making it a success.” The result: Indian Institute of Science, now globally renowned, was founded in Bangalore in 1911.
The new coin urges our industrialists to dream restlessly for India, and build strong partnerships with leaders of our society in pursuing these dreams.
*Harish Bhat's article published in 2015. Today is Jamsetji Tata's 178th Birth Anniversary


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