My 200 words on India’s Naxal guerrilla rebels that a “leading business magazine” invited but then found too hot to handle

“Public finances in India, state and Union, show appalling accounting and lack of transparency. Vast amounts of waste, fraud and malfeasance get hidden as a result. The Congress, BJP, official communists, socialists et al are all culpable for this situation having developed – over decades. So if you ask me, “Is the Indian state and polity in a healthy condition?” I would say no, it is pretty rotten. Well-informed, moneyed, mostly city-based special interest groups (especially including organised capital and organised labour) dominate government agendas at the cost of ill-informed, diffused masses of anonymous individual citizens ~ peasants, forest-dwellers, small businessmen, non-unionized workers, the destitute, etc. Demarcations of private, community and public property rights frequently remain fuzzy. Inflation causes non-paper assets to rise in value, encouraging land-grabs. And the fetish over purported growth-rates continues despite measurements being faulty, not reaching UN SNA standards, probably hiding increasing inequalities. India’s polity and economy are in poor shape for many millions of ordinary people. Armed rebellion, however, does not follow from this. Killing poor policemen and starting class-wars were failed Naxal tactics in the 1970s and remain so today. Naxals should put down their weapons and use Excel sheets and government accounting data instead.

Dr Subroto Roy, economist and adviser to Rajiv Gandhi 1990-1991.”

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And then there was Alexander Dubček in the Prague Spring of 1968

From Facebook:

Subroto Roy recalls that long before Gorbachev and Walesa, there was in the Prague Spring a man named Dubček…. this is a photograph published in his “Hope Dies Last”
ManandtankWenceslas

My Ten Articles on China, Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan in relation to India

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I have had a close interest in China ever  since the “Peking Spring” more than thirty years ago (if not from when I gave all my saved pocket money to Nehru in 1962 to fight the Chinese aggression) but I had not published anything relating to China until 2007-2008 when I published the ten articles listed below:

“Understanding China”, The Statesman Oct 22 2007

“India-US interests: Elements of a serious Indian foreign policy”, The Statesman Oct 30 2007

“China’s India Aggression”, The Statesman, Nov 5 2007,

“Surrender or Fight? War is not a cricket match or Bollywood movie. Can India fight China if it must? “ The Statesman, Dec 4 2007

“China’s Commonwealth: Freedom is the Road to Resolving Taiwan, Tibet, Sinkiang” The Statesman, December 17, 2007

“Nixon & Mao vs India: How American foreign policy did a U-turn about Communist China’s India aggression”. The Statesman, January 7 2008.

“Lessons from the 1962 War: there are distinct Tibetan, Chinese and Indian points of view that need to be mutually comprehended,” The Statesman, January 15, 2008

“China’s India Example: Tibet, Xinjiang May Not Be Assimilated Like Inner Mongolia, Manchuria”, The Statesman, March 25, 2008

“China’s force and diplomacy: The need for realism in India”, The Statesman, May 31, 2008

“Transparency and history” (with Claude Arpi), Business Standard, Dec 31 2008

With new tensions on the Tibet-India border apparently being caused by the Chinese military, these may be helpful for India to determine a Plan B, or even a Plan A, in its dealings with Communist China.

See also https://independentindian.com/1990/09/18/my-meeting-jawaharlal-nehru-2/

https://independentindian.com/2009/11/25/on-the-zenith-and-nadir-of-us-india-relations/

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From being a critic to becoming a fan of the Clintons

I got to Washington in the summer of 1992, just before the Clintons arrived, and lived there through all of 1993 and a bit of 1994.   It is fair to say I have been continually critical — right until Mrs Clinton’s brilliant speech at the Democratic convention last year.  Now I may have become a bit of a fan.  Could the successful North Korea visit be Bill Clinton’s most dignified and single most poignant political deed? And Hillary appears to have finally found her calling as Secretary of State.  She was an excellent diplomatist on her recent India-visit — and certainly put our rather dull political class into the shade.  President Obama gets some credit here for good managerial decisions behind the scenes.

Subroto Roy

Mapping of Votes into Assembly Segments Won into Parliamentary Seats Won in the 2004 India Election

We in India shall soon be hearing the talking-heads on TV, mostly in New Delhi,  jabbering away about “swings” and “anti-incumbency” and “mandates” and “fractured mandates” etc.  Most of it will be waffle without any basis in hard facts because nobody wants to actually do any of the work necessary to acquire a serious opinion.

Just as you cannot win at cricket unless you bowl out the other side and you cannot win at soccer unless you score more goals than the other side, you are not going to win a General Election in India unless you win more Assembly Segments of Parliamentary Constituencies than your competitors.

It is not logically impossible but it is factually unlikely that you can lose, say, five out of six Assembly Segments and still win the Parliamentary Constituency by winning the sixth with a sufficiently large margin.  Raw votes generally translate into winning Assembly Segments and winning Assembly Segments generally translate into winning Lok Sabha seats.

In 2004, the top five winners were as follows, where the first number is raw votes won, the second the number of Assembly Segments won, and the third the number of Lok Sabha seats won:

INC    103,118,475    1,157    145
BJP    86,181,116    1,076    138
CPM    22,065,283    322    43
BSP    21,037,968    107    17
SP    16,822,902    167    39

Notice the BSP won some 4 million more raw votes than the SP but fewer Assembly Segments and fewer Lok Sabha Seats.  And the CPM won barely a million more raw votes than did the BSP but 215 more Assembly Segments and 26 more Lok Sabha seats.  Clearly Uttar Pradesh voting patterns need a lot more detailed analysis — my ex ante hypothesis would be that the BSP’s results are affected by the policy of some  constituencies being “reserved”.

More significantly, at the head of the race, notice that the BJP lost the raw vote to the Indian National Congress by a margin of almost 17 million votes which translated into winning 81 Assembly Segments fewer than the INC which translated into winning 7 fewer Lok Sabha seats — and hence ended up sitting in the Opposition in the Lok Sabha for five years.

A central question is whether the BJP has or has not done enough over the last five years to get in its favour a net change in the raw vote — and that too by a sufficient amount to change the number of Assembly Segments won in its favour.

Putting it differently, has the INC done enough to at least maintain its share of the raw-vote and its leading position, and hence  be likely to win the largest number of Assembly Segments and Lok Sabha seats again?

Here is the overall picture:

book1_17442_image001And yes, of course, there have been demographic changes over five years so those changed parameters shall have affected the  new outcome too (notice the INC’s emphasis on the “youth vote”).

This is original research which could come to be published in a scientific journal if I find the time to send it, so please try not to steal and instead acknowledge its source properly if you want to discuss it elsewhere.

Subroto Roy

Politics can be so entertaining :) Manmohan versus Sonia on the poor old CPI(M)!

My January 14 2007 article “On Land-Grabbing” started by saying:

“AT a business meet on 12 January 2005, Dr Manmohan Singh showered fulsome praise on Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee as “dynamic”, “the Nation’s Best Chief Minister”, whose “wit and wisdom”, “qualities of head and heart”, “courage of conviction and passionate commitment to the cause of the working people of India” he admired, saying “with Buddhadeb Babu at the helm of affairs it appears Bengal is once again forging ahead… If today there is a meeting of minds between Delhi and Kolkata, it is because the ideas that I and Buddhadebji represent have captured the minds of the people of India. This is the idea of growth with equity and social justice, the idea that economic liberalization and modernization have to be mindful of the needs of the poor and the marginalized.”  With such support of a Congress Prime Minister (as well as proximity to Pranab Mukherjee), Mr Bhattacharjee could hardly have feared the local Congress and Trinamul would pose any threat in the 2006 Assembly Elections despite having more potential voters between them than the CPI-M.  Dr Singh returned to the “needs of the poor and the marginalized” at another business meet on 8 January 2007 promising to “unveil a new Rehabilitation Policy in three months to increase the pace of industrialisation” which would be “more progressive, humane and conducive to the long-term welfare of all stakeholders”, while his businessman host pointedly stated about Singur “land for industry must be made available to move the Indian manufacturing sector ahead”.   The “meeting of minds between Delhi and Kolkata” seems to be that agriculture allegedly has become a relatively backward slow-growing sector deserving to yield in the purported larger national interest to industry and services: what the PM means by “long-term welfare of all stakeholders” is the same as the new CPI-M party-line that the sons of farmers should not remain farmers (but become automobile technicians or IT workers or restaurant waiters instead).  It is a political viewpoint coinciding with interests of organised capital and industrial labour in India today, as represented by business lobbies like CII, FICCI and Assocham on one hand, and unions like CITU and INTUC on the other. Business Standard succinctly (and ominously) advocated this point of view in its lead editorial of 9 January as follows: “it has to be recognised that the world over capitalism has progressed only with the landed becoming landless and getting absorbed in the industrial/service sector labour force ~ indeed it is obvious that if people don’t get off the land, their incomes will rise only slowly”. “

I went on to say

“Land is the first and ultimate means of production, and the attack of the powerful on land-holdings or land-rights of the unorganised or powerless has been a worldwide phenomenon ~ across both capitalism and communism.”

It is interesting and amusing to see today’s newspapers report that the person who appointed Dr Manmohan Singh to be India’s PM, namely Sonia Gandhi,  has taken a  180-degree turn on this subject while sitting beside Mamata Banerjee yesterday.

She apparently said:  “I am happy so be sharing the  dais with Mamata Banerjee once again….in Nandigram and Singur the State Government had unleashed dictatorship in the garb of democracy… . In the name of development (the CPI(M)) created terror in Nandigram and Singur.  In the name of development, they snatched the land from the poor people there.”

Now what is the poor old CPI(M) to think after all this! Politics can be so  entertaining.  😀

Subroto Roy

Death of Solzhenitsyn

In Chapter 6 of my Philosophy of Economics, is to be found a quote from Solzhenitsyn: “(Also Solzhenitsyn: “Fastenko, on the other hand, was the most cheerful person in the cell, even though, in view of his age, he was the only one who could not count on surviving and returning to freedom. Flinging an arm around my shoulders, he would say: To stand up for truth is nothing! For truth you have to sit in jail!”)”.

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, along with Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov, were heroes of mine after I had left school in India in December 1971 and reached Paris where my father was with the Embassy.  My father had purchased Solzhenitsyn’s books and these I devoured eagerly at our then-home at 14 Rue Eugene Manuel, during breaks from my pre-University education at Haileybury College, across the English Channel.  We had been in Odessa before Paris, and in Stockholm before Odessa.  In 1969, we had travelled by ship and train from Stockholm via Helsinki to Leningrad, Moscow and Odessa.   In December 1967, my father had gotten me to fly to Stockholm through Moscow and stay for a day or two with a colleague of his during my winter holidays from India.  Moscow in December 1967 was celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution — I recall what the city felt and seemed like to me as a 12 year old: foreboding, awesome, intimidating.

Now in 1972-73 in Paris, the works of Solzhenitsyn and the example of Sakharov explained to me that brief boyhood experience of the USSR and a great deal more.

As it happens, the present PM of India, as a friend of my father’s, visited us at 14 Rue Eugene Manuel in the summer of 1973 at my father’s request to  advise me about studying economics (I was on my way to the London School of Economics as an undergraduate).  He stayed about 40 minutes during his busy schedule as part of an Indian economic delegation.  I was 18, he was about 41.  We ended up having a tense debate about the merits (as he saw them) and demerits (as I saw them) of the Soviet influence on Indian economic “planning”.  He had not expected such controversy from a lad but he was kindly disposed and offered when departing to write a letter of introduction to a well-known Indian professor at the LSE for me to carry, which I did.

The works and example of Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov built my youthful understanding of the USSR at age 17-18.  This contributed to my libertarianism at Cambridge University and later in America (until my experience of the American federal judiciary at age 37 or so).

When I mentioned my admiration for Solzhenitsyn’s work to Milton Friedman at a memorable luncheon at his San Francisco home in 1989, he said that they had been neighbours in Vermont though they had not interacted because of Solzhenitsyn’s desire to be reclusive.

Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov symbolised shoots of new life in the swamp that had been Soviet totalitarianism.