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The page of Gurcharan Das

29 January 2016

Forget the jetsetting, Modiji. Just think jobs in 2016

This is a make or break year for Prime Minister Modi. Unless economic growth picks up significantly in 2016 and jobs come in masses, we can forget about achhe din. The standard recipe for making a poor country rich is to export labour-intensive, low-tech manufactured goods. It transformed East Asia, China and South-East Asia into middle-class societies. But India missed this bus and today is the poorest large economy in the world with ‘less than a sixth of the global per capita income, at a level lower than Laos, Zambia, and Sudan’, as T N Ninan reminds us in The Turn of the Tortoise. We elected Modi because he promised to catch this bus.


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13 January 2016

Road to smart cities goes via Dharavi, not Chandigarh

Since the Congress party is determined not to let Parliament work, Prime Minister Modi has an unexpected opportunity to focus on executive action. So much can be achieved through good execution, and voters too will generously reward those who visibly improve their lives. Urban reform is one area crying for such vigorous attention.


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27 November 2015

Bihar polls over, it’s time to fix those leaky pipes

The circus is over. Another election has come and gone, and it’s time for bread. “Bread and circuses” is an ancient figure of speech from the Roman Empire when politicians neglected the real issues and diverted the people with cheap entertainment. The Bihar election was important but a huge distraction.


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30 October 2015

Handle with care: The big takeaway from Nepal fiasco

“Good fences make good neighbours,” said Robert Frost, and by this he meant that neighbourly success depends on respecting each other’s autonomy. This is especially true when those neighbours are as unequal as Nepal and India. The smaller neighbour is invariably suspicious, which is why Mexicans say, “Too close to America; too far from God.” India looms large in the Nepali imagination but Nepal hardly figures in India’s, except as a fantasy wonderland in the Himalayas.


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13 October 2015

Smriti Irani, have a good cry. Then give 240m kids a chance

Smriti Irani should begin by asking why 15-year-olds from India who took part in a famous international test came second last — only ahead of Kyrgyzstan. Yes, Indians ranked 73 out of 74 in 2011 in a simple test of reading, science and arithmetic called PISA (Program for International Student Assessment). The response of the UPA government to this shocking result was to refuse to participate again in PISA.


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28 September 2015

Death penalty: Life can be far worse, says the Mahabharata

It has been over a month since we hanged Yakub Memon. Since then many Indians have wondered, what did we achieve? Some are worried that we may have made Yakub into a martyr, especially among a section of Muslims who feel that they are singled out for the death penalty. Others believe that justice was done, sending a powerful signal to terrorists. In a landmark report, the Law Commission, headed by Justice Ajit Prakash Shah, has now recommended abolishing capital punishment, except in terrorist cases.


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8 September 2015

Trading communities thrive on risks, trust

Unlike the mood of diminished expectations in the West, ours is an age of rising expectations. India has risen in the past quarter century on the back of liberal economic reforms. Sixty-four countries, however, made the same reforms as India, but why did India become the world’s second fastest-growing economy? I am not sure if anyone really knows, but my own ‘politically incorrect’ answer is that if you make reforms in a society where there are groups who know how to accumulate and conserve capital, your reforms will have a bigger bang.


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21 August 2015

Elusive tryst with destiny: Sixty-eight years into Independence, the market still remains in chains

An approaching Independence Day is a good time to pause, extend our circle of concern beyond day-to-day events, and reflect upon our nation`s journey over the past 68 years as a free nation. As i look back on our confused history as an independent nation, i discern in the fog three great milestones: in August 1947 we won our political freedom; in July 1991 we gained economic liberty; and in May 2014 we attained dignity.


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31 July 2015

Wanted: Vyapam reforms to overhaul our democracy

Something has gone terribly wrong with our republic. There are ominous clouds over the approaching monsoon session of Parliament. When MPs should be deeply concerned with the fragile nature of our economic recovery, debating how to create a million jobs a month, they are straggling back to work in a stupor having forgotten why they were elected.


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30 June 2015

Modi is building on India’s wondrous trading past

Last week’s historic accord with Bangladesh erased a dispute as old as Kashmir while nudging the subcontinent towards a common market.Trade and investment have been the refreshing focus of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s diplomacy. He understands instinctively that power emanates from a bowl of rice, not from the barrel of a gun. In this respect, he is following an ancient tradition that once made India a great trading nation that carried its amazing soft power on merchant ships.


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