Where Have all the Protests Gone?

16 03 2010

How do we understand the inexplicable lack of popular anger over high food inflation in India? Read the rest of this entry »

Begging the Question: Foreign Aid and India

15 04 2008


Last week India announced a line of credit of US $ 5.4 billion to African countries for developing their infrastructure and meeting other development goals as well as duty free import scheme for 50 Least Developed Countries, of which 34 are in Africa. Apart from this the Government also announced a grant of US $ 500 million to African countries and doubled the number of fellowships given to students from African and Asian countries.

This was startling news for a country which has for long being among the largest recipients of foreign aid in the world. From the time of its independence till the early years of this century, billions of dollars have been sent to India by global development agencies and NGOs to finance a range of development work. From the large donors like USAID to small donors like the Swiss and Swedish agencies, India has for long remained the largest aid recipient in their annual budgets. Even in 2006-07, the Government of India received US $ 1.83 billion in net external aid, not counting the amount received by non-governmental bodies in assistance. But according to some estimates, India’s annual aid to other countries equals US $ 1 billion. These figures include loans and other credit instruments. Even if one considers only grants (which have no repayment), the Government of India receives about US $ 654 million from the world and gives out something in the range of US $ 150-200 million to other developing countries.

It is not that India has solved its problems with regard to poverty, malnutrition, health, shelter, education and public infrastructure. Read the rest of this entry »

The Anti-Growth Manifesto V (The relevance of Socialism)

31 10 2007


For the past few weeks, this column has been arguing that constant economic growth is not only un-achievable but also deeply undesirable.

Unachievable because it is impossible to have unlimited growth in a planet of limited resources. With human population creeping close to seven billion, we collectively consume about a quarter of the world’s biomass but this only satisfies about a fifth of our energy and natural resource hunger. So we are happily mining away the non-renewable resources of petroleum, coal, gas, iron and other metals. This is a situation when an overwhelming majority of the world’s human population lives on less than US $ 2 a day or in utter poverty. Imagine the extraction of natural and non-renewable resources if every one of this blessed planet’s seven billion people lived the life of a West European or North American? Read the rest of this entry »

The Anti-Growth Manifesto IV (The Energy Trap)

17 10 2007


As this column has pointed out a few times in the past, hydrocarbons have been the material foundation on which continuous and limitless economic growth – so characteristic of our industrial societies – is based. It may be useful to recap the main points before we move further.

Hydrocarbons provide concentrated energy in small packets. One litre of petroleum concentrates the energy from 23 tonnes of prehistoric plant matter. Coal, though less energy efficient, is still far superior to charcoal or fresh wood as an energy source. Not only do these hydrocarbons provide high levels of energy, being carbon-based, they are useful for a range of other products for our use like fertilisers, plastics, textiles, medicines and cosmetics, among others. Further, hydrocarbons are easily transportable and storable over time, while at the same time being available in sufficient quantities for globally pervasive, if unequal, use for a few centuries before they run out. Read the rest of this entry »

Corruption: Towards a Marxist Understanding

24 05 2007


There is perhaps none who does not rail against corruption and its baneful impact on the country’s economy as well as on its social fabric. Governments pledge to stop and eradicate it, middle class drawing rooms discuss its baneful influence on national life, the press continues to expose its prevalence, religious leaders and moralists preach against it, while courts of law and the police express their inability to stamp it out. From the helper in a Government office to some of the top functionaries of our Governments, almost everyone seems implicated. Paul Wolfowitz, the soon-to-be-past president of the World Bank, has surely helped to underline the universality of this scourge across country and ethnicity. Read the rest of this entry »

The Trillionaire III: Democracy as a Weapon

16 05 2007


Democracy, geographic distance and demographic divergence have provided the necessary conditions for the unity of India despite its massive poverty, but these have been merely necessary conditions for its survival. Still, this does not explain the success of its economy. What does? Read the rest of this entry »

The Trillionaire II : Democracy and Difference

10 05 2007


How does one understand and explain this economic rise of India in the past decade or so?

As of now, there have been two main approaches to this question — one appreciative and right wing and the other critical and left wing. Read the rest of this entry »