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The page of Gurcharan Das

14 February 2020

India is free, its schools are not – Reform must have two legs: Autonomy for private schools and quality for government schools

Another Republic Day has come and gone, with an unhappy reminder of the tragic gap between our aspirations and the harsh reality. For 70 years we have wanted our children to grow up into free thinking, confident and innovative Indians. But our education system has done everything possible to disempower them. It is a heart breaking sight to see long lines of parents waiting year after year to get their child into a decent school. Most of them are doomed to failure as there aren’t enough places in good schools.


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15 January 2020

And now, the good news: Pessimism isn’t warranted. If you can take the long view, the world is getting better

At the beginning of a new decade when so many are feeling so glum, Matt Ridley comes up with the astonishing claim that the past decade was one of the best. “We are living through the greatest improvement in human living standards in history,” he writes in UK’s Spectator. “Extreme poverty has fallen below 10% of the world’s population for the first time… child mortality has fallen to record low levels; famine virtually went extinct; malaria, polio and heart disease are all in decline….”


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4 December 2019

Ten steps to $5 trillion: Lesson from RCEP fiasco is that India must execute bold reforms to become competitive

November 4, 2019 was a sad day. Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to walk out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations at the eleventh-hour, admitting that India couldn’t compete with Asia, especially China. It was a big and painful decision as this is no ordinary trade agreement.


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29 October 2019

In search of a conservative Indian: We are drowned today by the shrill noises from Hindu nationalists and left secularists

The precipitous decline of Congress worries many Indians who believe that choice and a responsible opposition are important. Democracies elsewhere offer a choice between liberals and conservatives through a two-party system. Liberals prefer modernity while conservatives favour tradition and continuity; liberals want rapid change, conservatives prefer it to be gradual. Conservatives tend to be more nationalistic, religious and market oriented; liberals are more secular and oriented to social welfare. It isn’t easy to transpose these terms to India but it can serve a useful purpose.


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27 September 2019

Is Milton Friedman dead? Not quite. Individual social responsibility, not corporate social responsibility, must be the mantra

Capitalism has been on the defensive ever since the global financial crisis of 2007-08. Young people in the West have been turning away from the market system because of widening inequality, revulsion against high CEO salaries, and deepening distrust of business. By 2016, half of America between 18 and 29 years of age rejected capitalism in a Harvard study (with one-third supporting socialism.) Two years later, a Gallup poll in 2018 confirmed these findings when only 45% in the same age group expressed a positive opinion of capitalism. The election of President Donald Trump and the Brexit vote echoed this trend.


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4 September 2019

Contra Hindutva, Kashmiriyat: How consent works in a world of invented nations and fictional nationalisms

The recent change in the political status of Kashmir has deeply wounded the Kashmiris. There is anger, fear, alienation and loss of self-respect. Many have addressed the hurt to Kashmiriyat from a legal or historical perspective. But what is needed is a deeper appreciation of the fact that national and regional identities are imagined creations. Both Hindutva and Kashmiriyat are invented. The only real ‘consent of the people’ is the desire of a person to live in a country. This means that India must become a desirable place to live, not only for Kashmiris, but for all Indians.


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12 July 2019

Bold vision of Modi 2.0: Moving from ‘garibi hatao’ to ‘amiri lao’ depends on embedding audacious new mindsets

On Sunday night the anchor of a TV show sneeringly and repeatedly referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s $5 trillion GDP target. The show was on the poor state of our cities and the well-meaning anchor didn’t mean to demonise economic growth even though it came out sounding that way. When this was pointed out to her, she replied in her defence that India should grow but with responsibility to the environment. No one could disagree with that but the viewer was left unsure about the virtues of growth.


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31 May 2019

Strong state, strong society: The reforms India needs Prime Minister Narendra Modi to courageously undertake

With the re-election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, fears are again being expressed of creeping authoritarianism in India. But i worry about the opposite problem. I do not fear a strong state but a weak and ineffective one. A weak state has frail institutions, especially a feeble rule of law that takes a dozen years to give justice and has 3.3 crore cases pending in the courts. A weak state does not protect the weak against the strong. A weak state creates uncertainty rather than predictability in peoples’ minds and allows policemen, ministers and judges to be bought. It also prevents quick action by the executive and slows reforms to a snail’s pace because of warped incentives within the bureaucracy.


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26 April 2019

The Modi Mirage

Why I Fell Out of Love With India's Reformist Prime Minister.


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29 March 2019

Voter in the middle: With acche din nowhere in sight, who does a moderate vote for this election?

I lost my friends on the Left when i voted for Narendra Modi in 2014. I lost my friends on the Right when i criticised Modi for demonetisation, majoritarian politics and weakened institutions. With the election approaching, i am disillusioned. Acche din have not come but nationalism has, and the India that i love is changing. I am surrounded by Modi bhakts and Modi haters, both of whom i find mildly distasteful.


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