The page of Gurcharan Das
Mr Javadekar, ask these three questions before you get to work
What was supposed to be a routine cabinet expansion this week turned into a bold shake-up. The big change is at the ministry of human resource development where the affable Prakash Javadekar has replaced the combative Smriti Irani. India has been unlucky in the poor quality of its education ministers. Irani was always the wrong choice and she did not help by picking a fight with everyone. She has moved to the textiles ministry, which is not a demotion as everyone thinks.
Arrogant liberals are doing a big disservice to liberalism
A few months ago, I was at an attractive event in Delhi, surrounded by elegantly dressed, articulate Indians and a sprinkling of foreigners. Into this privileged gathering walked an awkward young man who someone recognized from Hindi television. He seemed to be lost and was mostly ignored until someone provoked him and there followed a loud, ugly argument over the JNU controversy. He put up a spirited defence of the Hindu nationalist position but he was quickly shouted down.
Stay playful: The mantra young India needs to know
A friend from my childhood was in town last month. He runs a successful startup, and as we sat drinking chai in the scorching heat, I was struck by his easy sense of playfulness. He seemed not to take himself seriously nor worry about competence. He was open to surprise and to appearing a fool, and turned all my answers into questions.
Realty doesn’t bite. More homes bring jobs and joy
My friends tell me that happiness is an ‘inside job’ and entails changing my attitude to life. They ask me to slow down, do yoga, learn to meditate, smile a lot and think of God. This spiritual talk usually leaves me feeling grim and inadequate. I have found instead that happiness lies in the small, everydayness of life — in getting absorbed in my work, laughing with a friend, stumbling onto something beautiful. It seems to be here and now, not in a distant afterlife. I could be wrong, of course, as I have not experienced the afterlife.
The real threat to India is not Kanhaiya, it’s lack of jobs
Indian political life is rich in ironies. A leftist student leader, Kanhaiya Kumar, is arrested for sedition and anti-national conduct. The arrest turns him into a hero and a symbol of the freedom to dissent. The home minister defends the arrest by wrongly citing the United States as an exemplary democracy that doesn’t tolerate anti-national dissent.
The rhetoric of inequality: It’s poverty and lack of opportunity that we need to obsess about more
Inequality has again been in the news. Thomas Piketty was in India and he spoke eloquently about inequality in the world. The French economist’s answer is a progressive global tax on the ultra-rich.
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.
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.
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.
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.