Nandan Nilekani’s Nonsensical Numbering (Updated to 11 January 2013)

Original post: 14 Sep 2009

I have been a rather harsh critic of Indian English-language media but I was pleased to see Mr Karan Thapar with good research systematically expose the other day the nonsense being purveyed by Mr Nandan Nilekani about the idea of branding each of a billion Indians with a government number. This is not Auschwitz.   Nor can India create an American-style Social Security Administration.  Mr Nilekani seems not to have the faintest idea about India’s poor and destitute, else he would not have made a statement like “We need one single, non-duplicate way of identifying a person and we need a mechanism by which we can authenticate that online anywhere because that can have huge benefits and impact on public services and also on making the poor more inclusive in what is happening in India today.”  (italics added)

What does he plan to do?  Haul away the hundreds of thousands of  homeless from the streets  and  flyovers of our major cities and start interrogating, measuring, photographing and fingerprinting them against their will?  On what ploy?  That without the number  he will give them they will not be able to continue to live and do what they have been doing for half a generation?  Or that they will get a delicious hot meal from the Taj or Oberoi if they cooperate?  And what about rural India?  Does he plan to make an aerial survey of India’s rural landscapes by helicopter to find whom he can catch to interrogate and fingerprint? It will be grotesquely amusing to see his cohorts try to identify and then haul away India’s poor from their normal activities — he and his friends will likely come to grief trying to do so!  Guaranteed.  And the people will cheer because they know fakery when they see it.

Mr Nilekani needs to ask his economist-friends to teach him about asymmetric information, incentive-compatiblity theory etc.  There have been several  Bank of Sweden prizes given to economists for this material, beginning with FA Hayek in 1974 or even earlier.

(As for the wholly different stated agenda of preventing crime and terrorism using Mr Nilekani’s numbering, might we recall that Kasab’s dead companions have remained unclaimed in a Mumbai morgue for almost ten months now?)

The whole exercise that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has with such fanfare set Mr Nilekani is ill-conceived and close to complete nonsense  — designed only to keep in business the pampered industry that Mr Nilekani has been part of as well as its bureaucratic friends.   The Prime Minister has made another error and should put a stop to it before it gets worse.   The poor have their privacy and their dignity.    They are going to refuse to waste their valuable time  at the margins of survival volunteering for such gimmickry.

A Discussion Regarding Mr Nilekani’s Public Project

September 15, 2009 — drsubrotoroy | Edit

In response to my “Nandan Nilekani’s Nonsensical Numbering”,

Friendly Critic says:

I don’t think registering everyone in the country is such a bad idea. It may be difficult. But the post office reaches letters to anyone in the country, even the homeless. I don’t think it is doing anything wrong.

I replied:

The post office reaches letters to those with an address.

Friendly Critic replied:

You are mistaken. It reaches letters to beggars, addressed to the nearest pan shop. To repeat, I do not think it is wrong to register all residents; there are some good uses for it. If it is all right to enumerate residents once every ten years, there is nothing wrong in maintaining a continuous inventory. Only the British have an aversion to doing so, on grounds of piracy. But even their electoral registers are based on enumeration. And to attack Nilekani simply because he has taken on a job offered seems excessive to me.

I replied:

Thanks for this correspondence.  We may be slightly at cross-purposes and there may be some miscomprehension.  Of course if a beggar has a pan-shop as an address, that is an address.   But we are not talking about the efficiency or lack thereof of our postal services.

We are talking about the viability and utility of trying to attach a number, as an identification tag, to every Indian — for the declared purposes of (a) battling absolute poverty (of the worst kind); and(b) battling terrorism and crime.

Many Indians have passports, driving licenses, Voter cards,  PAN numbers, mobile numbers etc.    I am sure giving them a Nandan Nilekani Number will be easy.  It will be, incidentally, lucrative for the IT industry.

It will also be pointless to the extent that these people, who may number into the hundreds of millions, are already adequately identifiable by one or two other forms of photo id-cards.   (By way of analogy incidentally, Americans used to cash cheques at supermarkets using one or two photo ids — but the Social Security Card or number was not allowed to be one of them as it had no photo.)

Neither of the two declared objectives will have been explicitly served by giving Nandan Nilekani Numbers to those already adequately identifiable.

My point about incentive-compatibility is that the intended beneficiaries in any program of this kind (namely the anonymous absolute poor) need to have clear natural incentives to participate in order to make it work.  Here there are none.  Taking the very poorest people off the streets or out of their hamlets to be interrogated, photographed, fingerprinted and enumerated against their will, when they may have many more valuable things to be doing with their time in order to survive, is a violation of their freedom, privacy and dignity.   Even if they submit to all this voluntarily, there are no obvious tangible benefits accruing to them as individuals as a result of this number (that many will not be able to read).

If those already adequately identifiable easily get an NNN (at low cost and without violation of indvidual freedom or dignity), while those who are the intended beneficiaries do not do so (except at high cost and with violations of individual freedom and dignity), that would enhance inequality.

Because such obvious points have failed to be accounted ab initio in this Big Business scheme paid for by public money, I have had to call it nonsensical.

Some follow-up  11 January 2013

From Facebook 11 January 2013

A biometrically generated large number is given to a very poor barely literate person and he/she is instructed that that is the key, the *sole* key, to riches and benefits from the state. The person lives on the margins of survival, eking out a daily income for himself/herself plus dependents under trying conditions. It is that absolute anonymous poor — who are *not* already identifiable easily through mobile numbers, voter id cards, drivers’ licenses etc — who are the intended beneficiaries. Suppose that person loses the card or has it stolen. Has the key to the riches and benefits from the state vanished? Those who are already easily identifiable need only produce alternative sources of identification and so for them to get the number as a means of identification is redundant, yet it is they who will likely have better access to the supposed benefits rather than the absolute poor. What New Delhi’s governing class fails to see is that the masses of India’s poor are not themselves a mass waiting for New Delhi’s handouts: they are *individuals*, free, rational, thinking individuals who know their own lives and resources and capacities and opportunities, and how to go about living their lives best. What they need is security, absence of state or other tyranny, roads, fresh water, electricity, functioning schools for their children, market opportunities for work, etc, not handouts from a monarch or aristocrats or businessmen….

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Excuse me, but statistically the number of deaths and infections in India from swine-flu is, hmmm, zero: Time for rationality please!

Why are the government and media spreading panic in India about swine-flu?   There is almost none of it.

The population of India as of August 2009 is near 1,163,698,689.

Something between 19,782,878 and 115,206,170 people among this population may be suffering some kind of ailment or other at any given time (don’t forget headaches, runny noses, upset tummies, sore backs etc).  The lesser figure comes by taking the minimum rate  of morbidity across regions, 17/1000, the greater figure comes by taking a supposed national average morbidity rate of 99/1000.   I shall be  happy to yield to more accurate figures from any source.

Of these millions, some 1,200 (twelve hundred) are said to have been isolated due to and are being treated for swine-flu as of today.  That is, statistically speaking, zero.

As for deaths, India experiences something between 20,405  and 26,398 deaths per day from all causes, depending on whether you use 6.40/1000 or 8.28/1000 as the mortality rate.

The number of deaths in India attributed to swine-flu since August 3 is  twenty — or about 2 per day on average.  That again is, statistically speaking, zero.

Of course governments at Union and State levels and the public health authorities and medical authorities need to follow their protocols and procedures – for swine-flu and every other disease that afflicts us.   But, please, closing down cities and towns or holding so many ministerial meetings due to a purported swine-flu epidemic in the country is quite simply a nonsensical waste of resources.    Time for a little rationality please.

Subroto Roy

Kolkata

Does the Govt. of India assume “foreign investors and analysts” are a key constituency for Indian economic policy-making? If so, why so? Have Govt. economists “learnt nothing, forgotten everything”? Some Bastille Day thoughts

Today is Bastille Day in France and the Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh, at the invitation of President Sarkozy, is visiting Paris (where the Government of India has flown in military contingents to participate in the annual parade), before he goes to another summit in Egypt with Present Mubarak and others, following his recent summits in Italy with the Pope and others, and in Russia with President Medvedev and others, and in London with President Obama and others, etc.   Dr Singh has  almost certainly become the most internationally well-travelled of all Indian leaders on official visits ever in history, which adds to his having had the longest experience in India’s bureaucracy of any Indian political leader in history, which came to be followed by his stint in the Rajya Sabha as Finance Minister and now as a two-term Prime Minister.

But as a result of being out of the country yesterday, the Prime Minister would have missed the TV interview broadcast last night with his chief economic policy aide when it was said that “foreign investors and analysts” are an important constituency for Indian economic policy-makers, as expressed in the President’s speech to the new 15th Lok Sabha or Pranab Mukherjee’s Budget speech last week.  The interviewer seemed to agree and constantly pressed the aide, who is doubtless the most prominent Government economist on television,  about how stock-market brokers and businessmen seemed to have found the Budget not to their immediate liking, and how  privatisation or “raising insurance caps” would have been seen by businessmen as  crucial elements of future economic reform.  In fact privatisation or the insurance business have little to do with any important economic reform but the lobbying power and spin-control of  organised business becomes manifest in getting interviewers to ask such questions of Government spokesmen —  all part of the (doubtless unconscious) process of camouflaging their private interests in the guise of purported public economic policy discussion.

I have taken a very different view.  For example, I said a few years ago in starkest contrast:

“Running through the new foreign policy is a fiction that it is driven by a new economic motivation to improve development and mass well-being in India. The bizarre idea of creating hundreds of so-called “Special Economic Zones” (reminiscent of 17th and 18th Century colonial fortifications) illustrates this. India’s ordinary anonymous masses ~ certainly the 850 million people entirely outside the organised sector ~ have little or nothing to do with any of this. Benefits will accrue only to the ten million Indian nomenclatura controlling or having access to the gaping exit holes to the outside world in the new semi-closed economy with its endless deficit finance paid for by unlimited printing of an inconvertible domestic currency. It is as fallacious to think private investment from foreign or domestic businessmen will support public “infrastructure” creation as it is to think foreign exchange reserves are like tax revenues in being available for Government expenditure on “infrastructure”. Such fallacies are intellectual products of either those who know no economics at all or those who have forgotten whatever little they might have been once mistaught in their youth. What serious economics does say is that Government should generally have nothing to do with any kind of private business, and instead should focus on properly providing public goods and services, encourage competition in all avenues of economic activity and prevent or regulate monopoly, and see to it all firms pay taxes they are due to pay.  That is it. It is as bad for Government to be pampering organised foreign or domestic business or organised labour with innumerable subsidies, as has been happening in India for decades, as it is to make enterprise difficult with red tape and hurdles. Businessmen are grown ups and should be allowed to freely risk their capital and make their profits or their losses without public intervention. An economics-based policy would have single-mindedly sought to improve the financial condition of every governmental entity in the country, with the aim of improving the provision of public goods and services to all 1,000 million Indians. If and when budgets of all governmental entities become sound, foreign creditors would automatically line up before them with loans to sell, and ambitious development goals can be accomplished. As long as public budgets (and public accounts) remain in an outrageous shambles, nothing can be in fact achieved and only propaganda, corruption and paper-money creation results instead. Whatever economic growth does occur is due to new enterprise and normal technological progress, and is mostly despite and not because of New Delhi’s bureaucrats (see “The Dream Team: A Critique”, The Statesman 6-8 January 2006).  The first aspect of the new Indian foreign policy has been for Government to become wholly ingratiating towards any and all “First World” members visiting India who may deign to consider any kind of collaboration whatsoever. The long line of foreign businessmen and heads of government having photo-ops with the Indian PM began with Vajpayee and has continued with Manmohan, especially when there is a large weapons’ or commercial aircraft or other purchase to be signed. The flip-side has been ministerial and especially Prime Ministerial trips abroad ~ from Vajpayee’s to a Singapore golf-cart immediately after commiserating Gujarat, to Manmohan receiving foreign honorary doctorates while still holding public office.  Subservience to foreign business interests in the name of economic policy extends very easily to Indian naval, military or diplomatic assets being used to provide policing or support services for the great powers as and when they may ask for it. Hence, Indian naval forces may be asked by the Americans to help fight pirates in the Indian Ocean, or escort this vessel or that, or India may be asked to provide refuelling or base facilities, or India may be requested to vote against Iran, Venezuela or whomever here or there. But there would be absolutely no question of India’s role in international politics being anything greater than that of a subaltern or comprador whose response must be an instant “Ji, Huzoor”. The official backing of the Tharoor candidacy was as futile and ridiculous as the quest for UN veto-power or the willingness to attend G-8 summits as an observer. While subservience towards the First World’s business and military interests is the “kiss up” aspect of the new foreign policy, an aggressive jingoism towards others is the “kick down” aspect….”

Dr Singh’s aide at one point challenged his friendly interviewer  suggesting the very need for “fiscal stimulus” could hardly be questioned as if such a thing was beyond his imagination.  And again, I am afraid, I may have been quite alone  in December 2008 in lambasting as counter-productive all this purported “fiscal stimulus”. Just another colossal, indeed perverse, waste of public resources driven by organised business lobbies in their own interests, since in fact no one — not Dr Singh nor any of his aides, acolytes or flatterers, foreign or domestic, or anyone else anywhere — has any empirical or theoretical models of any kind depicting the phase, period or amplitude of any possible business-cycle that India’s economy may be on.  Since none of them has any idea whatsoever of what the amplitude or frequency is of any such purported business cycle, they are as likely to have caused a pro-cyclical exacerbation of the amplitude as any sort of counter-cyclical dampening! (Viz., Leibniz ‘s principle of insufficient reason.)

How to see what is happening in Indian macroeconomic policy in the simplest comparative static terms is this: both the IS and LM curves are being pushed outwards drastically based on a deliberately erroneous assumption that there is  or might develop mass involuntary unemployment of the sort Maynard Keynes once described in 1936.  The overall impact on nominal interest-rates is indeterminate; the process of inflationary deficit-finance with an inconvertible currency that the Government has indulged in for half a century merely continues, further pushing us towards a potential hyperinflation.

The Bourbon regime swept away by the French Revolution that Bastille Day celebrates were said to have “learnt nothing and forgotten nothing”.   I am afraid the macroeconomic illogic often found among Government economists, private commentators and business lobbyists in India today suggests to me nothing less than that they have  either learnt nothing or forgotten everything from their economics classes decades ago! We in India may need our own storming of the Bastille to sweep away the perverse thoughts and power structures of the post-1947 Dilli Raj.

Subroto Roy
Kolkata

Schoolboys exchanging fisticuffs in a school playground or elderly men battling over power and policy? Why did Manmohan Singh and LK Advani apologize to one another? Is Indian politics essentially collusive, not competitive, aiming only to preserve and promote the post-1947 Dilli Raj at the expense of the whole of India? We seem to have no Churchillian repartee (except perhaps from Bihar occasionally)

Yesterday the PM is reported to have been asked by someone travelling on his aeroplane from Moscow “whether he had forgiven Advani for calling him a ‘weak Prime Minister’”.

The question was absurd, almost ridiculous, typical of our docile ingratiating rather juvenile English-language press and media, as if any issue of forgiveness arises at all about what one politician says during an election campaign about another politician’s performance in office.

Dr Manmohan Singh’s answer was surprising too: “I was compelled to reply to what Advani said…On May 16 when (Advani) telephoned me, he told me that he was hurt by some of my statements. He said he was hurt and regretted his statements… I apologised to him if I have hurt him. I am looking forward to a close relationship with the Leader of the Opposition.”

So LK Advani appears to have apologised to Manmohan Singh and Manmohan Singh to LK Advani for what they said about each other during the recent general election campaign! What is going on? Were they schoolboys exchanging fisticuffs in a school playground or elderly men battling over power and policy in modern Indian politics?

What would we have done if there was a Churchill in Indian politics today – hurling sarcastic insults at domestic opponents and foreign leaders while guiding a nation on its right course during turbulent times?

Churchill once famously said his parents had not shown him “The Boneless Wonder” in PT Barnum’s circus because it was too horrible a sight but now he had finally seen such a “Boneless Wonder” in his opponent on the Treasury Benches, namely, Ramsay MacDonald. Of the same opponent he said later “He has the gift of compressing the largest number of words into the smallest amount of thought”.

When accused of being drunk by a woman MP he replied “And you are very ugly, but tomorrow I’ll be sober”. Today’s politically correct world would scream at far less. Field Marshall Montgomery told Churchill, “I neither drink nor smoke and am 100% fit,” to which Churchill replied, “I drink and smoke and I am 200% fit”. That too would be politically incorrect today.

Churchill described Prime Minister Clement Attlee as “a modest man with much to be modest about”; also about Attlee: “If any grub is fed on Royal Jelly it turns into a Queen Bee”. Yet Attlee had enough dignity and self-knowledge and self-confidence to brush it all off and instead respect and praise him. In the 1954 volume Winston Spencer Churchill Servant of Crown and Commonwealth Attlee added his own tribute to his great opponent: “I recall…the period when he was at odds with his own party and took a seat on the Bench below the Gangway on the Government side. Here he was well placed to fire on both parties. I remember describing him as a heavily armed tank cruising in No Man’s Land. Very impressive were the speeches he delivered as the international horizon grew darker. He became very unpopular with the predominant group in his own party, but he never minded fighting a lone battle.”

Stanley Baldwin, who as PM first appointed Churchill as Chancellor of the Exchequer, once said “There comes Winston with his hundred horsepower mind”. Yet Churchill was to later say harshly “I wish Stanley Baldwin no ill, but it would have been much better had he never lived.”

Of Lenin, Churchill said, he was “transported in a sealed truck like a plague bacillus from Switzerland into Russia”. Of Molotov: “I have never seen a human being who more perfectly represented the modern concept of a robot.” Of Hitler, “If [he] invaded hell I would at least make a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons”. Of De Gaulle, “He was a man without a country yet he acted as if he was head of state”.” Of John Foster Dulles, “[He] is the only bull who carries his china shop with him”. Of Stafford Cripps, British Ambassador to the USSR, “…a lunatic in a country of lunatics”; and also “There but for the Grace of God, goes God”.

Decades later, that great neo-Churchillian Margaret Thatcher was on the receiving end of a vast amount of sarcasm. “President Mitterrand once famously remarked that Thatcher had ‘the eyes of Caligula and the lips of Marilyn Monroe’. Rather less flatteringly, Dennis Healey described her as Attila the Hen. She probably took both descriptions as compliments.” (Malcolm Rifkind in Margaret Thatcher’s Revolution: How it Happened and What it Meant edited by Subroto Roy and John Clarke, 2005).

Politics is, and should be, grown up stuff because it deals with human lives and national destinies, and really, if you can’t take the heat please do not enter the kitchen. The slight Churchillian sarcasm that does arise within modern Indian politics comes very occasionally from Bihar but nowhere else, e.g. about the inevitability of aloo in samosas and of bhaloos in the jungle but no longer of Laloo being in the seat of power. In general, everyone seems frightfully sombre and self-important though may be in fact short of self-knowledge and hence self-confidence.

What had Manmohan Singh said about LK Advani that he felt he had to apologise for? That Advani had no substantial political achievement to his credit and did not deserve to be India’s PM. Manmohan was not alone in making the charge – Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and numerous other spokesmen and representatives of their party said the same. Has Manmohan’s apology to Advani been one on behalf of the whole Congress Party itself?

Was Advani’s apology to Manmohan one on behalf of the whole BJP too?

What had the BJP charged Manmohan with that Advani felt he had to apologise for?  Being a “weak PM”.

Hmmm. Frankly, thinking about it, it is hard to count who has not been weak as a PM in India’s modern history.

Certainly Vallabhai Patel as a kind of co-PM was decisive and far from weak back in 1947-48.

Lal Bahadur Shastri was not weak when he told Pakistan that a Pakistani attack on Kashmir would result in an Indian attack on Pakistan.

Indira Gandhi was not weak when she resisted the Yahya Khan-Tikka Khan tyranny against Bangladesh.

Had he not been assassinated, Rajiv Gandhi in a second term would have been decisive and not weak in facing up to and tackling the powerful lobbies and special interest groups that have crippled our domestic economic policy for decades.

But the number of such examples may be counted by hand.  Perhaps VP Singh might count, riding in an open jeep to Amritsar, as might AB Vajpayee’s Pokhran II and travelling on a bus to Lahore. In general, the BJP’s charge that Manmohan was “weak” may have constructively led to serious discussion in the country about the whole nature of the Prime Ministership in modern India, which means raising a whole gamut of issues about Indian governance – about India being the softest of “soft states”, with the softest of “soft government budget constraints” (i.e., endless deficit finance and paper money creation) etc.

Instead, what we have had thus far is apologies being exchanged for no real political reason between the leaderships of the Government and the Opposition. If two or three sellers come to implicitly carve up a market between themselves they are said by economic theory to be colluding rather than being in competition. Indian politics may be revealing such implicit collusive behaviour. The goal of this political oligopoly would seem to be to preserve and promote the status quo of the post-1947 Dilli Raj with its special hereditary nomenclatura, at the expense of anonymous diffused teeming India.

Subroto Roy

Postscript July 15 2009: Churchill’s mature opinion of Baldwin was one of the fullest praise at the 20 May 1950 unveiling of a memorial to him.  See his In the Balance, edited by Randolph S Churchill, 1951, p. 281

India’s 2009 General Elections: How drastically will the vote-share of political parties change from 2004?

Close to 389 million valid votes were cast in India’s previous General Election in 2004 to the 14th Lok Sabha, according to  the Election Commission’s volume STATISTICAL REPORT ON GENERAL ELECTIONS, 2004 TO THE 14th LOK SABHA VOLUME III (DETAILS FOR ASSEMBLY SEGMENTS OF PARLIAMENTARY CONSTITUENCIES).

Unfortunately, the Election Commission, like the Government of India in general,  remains extremely uncomfortable with using  Excel or any spreadsheets at all, and hence much of the information they provide remains unproductive — reflecting, I am afraid,  rather obsolescent technology and organisation and management. From an Excel spreadsheet I have had to create for myself using EC data, my calculations give the following breakdown of the votes received in 2004 by most of the larger political parties:

2004 Lok Sabha Elections

ADMK    AllIndiaAnnaDravidaMunnetraKazhagam       8,547,014

AGP    AsomGanaParishad                    2,069,600

AIFB    AllIndiaForwardBloc                    1,365,055

AITC    AllIndiaTrinamoolCongress                    7,863,220

BJD    BijuJanataDal                    5,082,849

BJP    BharatiyaJanataParty                    86,181,116

BSP    BahujanSamajParty                    21,037,968

CPI    CommunistPartyofIndia                    5,484,111

CPI(ML)(L)    CommunistPartyofIndia(Marxist-Leninist)(Liberation)                    1,280,240

CPM    CommunistPartyofIndia(Marxist)                    22,065,283

DMK    DravidaMunnetraKazhagam                    7,064,393

INC    IndianNationalCongress                    103,118,475

IND    Independents                    16,523,857

INLD    IndianNationalLokDal                    1,918,943

JD(S)    JanataDal(Secular)                    5,732,296

JD(U)    JanataDal(United)                    9,129,366

JMM    JharkhandMuktiMorcha                    1,846,843

MDMK    MarumalarchiDravidaMunnetraKazhagam                    1,679,870

PMK    PattaliMakkalKatchi                    2,169,020

NCP    NationalistCongressParty                    7,019,236

RJD    RashtriyaJanataDal                    9,384,147

RLD    RashtriyaLokDal                    2,463,603

RSP    RevolutionarySocialistParty                    1,689,794

SAD    ShiromaniAkaliDal                    3,506,681

SHS    ShivSena                    7,050,432

SP    SamajwadiParty                    16,822,902

TDP    TeluguDesam                    11,844,811

TRS    TelanganaRashtraSamithi                    2,441,405

That accounts for 372,382,530.  The precise total of valid votes that I get by tabulating EC data using my spreadsheet is 388,920,557.  The EC itself reports in the very same document a total of 388,672,504.  The percentage difference is close enough to zero but it should be zero itself; I shall be delighted if my spreadsheet’s total is the incorrect one somehow, even though it uses the EC’s own data; but it does lead me to ask: “Who, if anyone, audits the Election Commission’s numerical calculations and vote tallies?  Why  is India’s ordinary public not informed about all this and other processes of the Election Commission perfectly transparently as a matter of routine?  Is reform necessary of the processes and procedures of the Election Commission itself?”.

(Incidentally, the slight discrepancy in the totals could have arisen perhaps because my spreadsheet does, correctly, include the relatively small number of postal ballots, whereas the EC’s total possibly has not done.)

Raw votes  like those described above do not of course translate directly into seats in Parliament but even so they indicate the state of popular political opinion in 2004. By how much will that popular opinion be found to have changed in 2009?  How will demographic changes, and the delimitation exercise that has redrawn constituencies, affect the new outcomes?  These are the kind of grown-up adult questions to ask  yourself if you get bored with the endless pretentious waffle that emerges from our talking-heads on TV  etc regarding the ongoing election.

Notice too the 16.5 million people of India who voted in 2004 for Independents!  What on earth has made Dr Manmohan Singh recently initiate an absurd debate against them?

Here below as well is the full list of  all parties that were in contention in 2004; if you want to know the vote-share any of them received according to my spreadsheet, send in a comment to this post and I shall try to respond.  Better still, look up the EC volume mentioned and create your own spreadsheet from its data, and tell me how accurate mine is.  (But beware, the spreadsheet will have some 60,000 rows to start with!)

Subroto Roy

List of parties in 2004

AB AkhandBharti

ABCD(A)    AkhilBharatiyaCongressDal(Ambedkar)

ABDBM    AkhilBharatiyaDeshBhaktMorcha

ABHM    AkhilBharatHinduMahasabha

ABHS    AkhilBharatiyaSena

ABJS    AkhilBharatiyaJanSangh

ABLTASJM    AkhilBharatiyaLokTantrikAlp-SankhyakJanMorcha

ABLTP    AkhilBharatiyaLoktantraParty

ABRAHP    AkhilBharatiyaRashtriyaAzadHindParty

ABRS    AkhilBharatiyaRajaryaSabha

AC    ArunachalCongress

AD    ApnaDal

ADMK    AllIndiaAnnaDravidaMunnetraKazhagam

AGP    AsomGanaParishad

AIFB    AllIndiaForwardBloc

AIMF    AllIndiaMinoritiesFront

AIMIM    AllIndiaMajlis-E-IttehadulMuslimeen

AITC    AllIndiaTrinamoolCongress

AJSU    AllJharkhandStudentsUnion

AKMDMP    AllKeralaM.G.R.DravidaMunnetraParty

AMB    AmraBangalee

ANC    AmbedkarNationalCongress

AP    AwamiParty

ARP    AmbedkaristRepublicanParty

ASDC    AutonomousStateDemandCommittee

ASP    AmbedkarSamajParty

BBM    BharipaBahujanMahasangha

BBP    BharatiyaBackwardParty

BED    BharatiyaEktaDal

BEP    BharatiyaEklavyaParty

BGTD    BharatiyaGaonTajDal

BJD    BijuJanataDal

BJP    BharatiyaJanataParty

BJVP    BharatiyaJanvadiParty

BKD    BahujanKisanDal

BKLJP    BharatKiLokJimmedarParty

BKRP    BharatKrantiRakshakParty

BLKD    BharatiyaLokKalyanDal

BLP    BharatiyaLabourParty

BMP(AI)    BharatiyaMuhabbatParty(AllIndia)

BMSM    BharatiyaMinoritiesSurakshaMahasangh

BMVP    BharatiyaManavataVikasParty

BNP    BharatiyaNavshaktiparty

BNRP    BharatiyaNagrikParty

BPSGKD    BharatiyaPrajatantrikShudhGandhiwadiKrishakDal

BPSP    BiharPeople’sParty

BPTP    BharatiyaPrajatantraParty

BRP    BharatiyaRashtravadiPaksha

BRPP    BharatiyaRepublicanPaksha

BSDP    BhartiSarvadarshiParishad

BSJM    BharatiyaSurajyaManch

BSK    BharatiyaSarvkalayanKrantiDal

BSP    BahujanSamajParty

BVP    BahujanVikasParty

CPI    CommunistPartyofIndia

CPI(ML)(L)    CommunistPartyofIndia(Marxist-Leninist)(Liberation)

CPM    CommunistPartyofIndia(Marxist)

CSP    ChhattisgarhiSamajParty

DBP    DeshBhaktParty

DBSP    DemocraticBharatiyaSamajParty

DMK    DravidaMunnetraKazhagam

EKD(UP)    EktaKrantiDalU.P.

ES    EktaShakti

EU    EphraimUnion

FCI    FederalCongressofIndia

FPM    FederalPartyofManipur

GGP    GondvanaGantantraParty

HEAP    HinduEktaAndolanParty

HJP    HindustanJantaParty

HM    HindMorcha

HVP    HaryanaVikasParty

IBSP    IndianBahujanSamajwadiParty

IFDP    IndianFederalDemocraticParty

IJP    IndianJusticeParty

INC    IndianNationalCongress

IND    Independent

INL    IndianNationalLeague

INLD    IndianNationalLokDal

JCP    JanChetnaParty

JD(S)    JanataDal(Secular)

JD(U)    JanataDal(United)

JDP    JharkhandDisomParty

JHP    JaiHindParty

JHSP    JanhitSamajParty

JJ    JebamaniJanata

JKAL    JammuAndKashmirAwamiLeague

JKN    Jammu&KashmirNationalConference

JKNPP    Jammu&KashmirNationalPanthersParty

JKP    JharkhandParty

JKP(N)    JharkhandParty(Naren)

JKPDP    Jammu&KashmirPeoplesDemocraticParty

JKPP    JharkhandPeople’sParty

JMM    JharkhandMuktiMorcha

JMP    JanmangalPaksh

JP    JanataParty

JSP    JansattaParty

JUM    JanaUnnayanMancha

JVP    JanataVikasParty

KEC    KeralaCongress

KEC(M)    KeralaCongress(M)

KKJHS    KrantiKariJaiHindSena

KMM    KrantikariManuwadiMorcha

KNDP    KannadaNaduParty

KSVP    KrantikariSamyavadiParty

KVSP    KosiVikasParty

LBP    LokBhalaiParty

LCP    LoktantrikChetnaParty

LJNSP    LokJanShaktiParty

LP(S)    LabourParty(Secular)

LPI(V)    LabourPartyOfIndia(V.V.Prasad)

LPSP    LokpriyaSamajParty

LRP    LokRajyaParty

LSD    LokSewaDal

LSWP    LoktantrikSamajwadiParty

MAG    MaharashtrawadiGomantak

MB(S)P    MoolBharati(S)Party

MBT    MajlisBachaoTahreek

MC    MominConference

MCO    MarxistCo-Ordination

MCPI(S)    MarxistCommunistPartyofIndia(S.S.Srivastava)

MDMK    MarumalarchiDravidaMunnetraKazhagam

MJM    ManavJagritiManch

MNF    MizoNationalFront

MNVP    ManuvadiParty

MPP    ManipurPeople’sParty

MRRC    MaharashtraRajivCongress

MRS    MudirajRashtriyaSamithi

MUL    MuslimLeagueKeralaStateCommittee

NBNP    NavbharatNirmanParty

NCP    NationalistCongressParty

NLP    NationalLoktantrikParty

NMNP    NidayaMalik(N)Party

NPF    NagalandPeoplesFront

NPF    NagalandPeoplesFront

NSP    NationalStudentsParty

NSSP    NiswarthSewaParty

NSTP    NaariShaktiParty

NTRTDP(LP)    NTRTeluguDesamParty(LakshmiParvathi)

PBLP    PhuleBhartiLokParty

PBRML    PaschimBangaRajyaMuslimLeague

PDP    PeoplesDemocraticParty

PDS    PartyforDemocraticSocialism

PHSP    PichhraSamajParty

PMK    PattaliMakkalKatchi

PMP    ParmarthParty

PMSP    PragatisheelManavSamajParty

PP    PrajaParty

PPOI    PyramidPartyofIndia

PRBP    PeoplesRepublicanParty

PRCP    PrabuddhaRepublicanParty

PRP    PanchayatRajParty

PSJP    ParivartanSamajParty

PTSS    ProutistSarvaSamajParty

PWPI    PeasantsAndWorkersPartyofIndia

RCP    RashtravadiCommunistParty

RCPI(R)    RevolutionaryCommunistPartyofIndia(RasikBhatt)

RGD    RashtriyaGaribDal

RHD    RashtriyaHamaraDal

RJAP    RashtriyaJanadhikarParty

RJD    RashtriyaJanataDal

RJVP    RajasthanVikasParty

RKSP    RashtriyaKrantikariSamajwadiParty

RLD    RashtriyaLokDal

RLD    RashtriyaLokDal

RLSM    RashtriyaLokSevaMorcha

RPD    RashtriyaParivartanDal

RPI    RepublicanPartyofIndia

RPI(A)    RepublicanPartyofIndia(A)

RPI(D)    RepublicanPartyOfIndia(Democratic)

RPI(KH)    RepublicanPartyOfIndia(Khobragade)

RSBP    RashtriyaSwabhimaanParty

RSD    RashtriyaSawarnDal

RSGP    RashtriyaGarimaParty

RSKP    RashtriyaSakarParty

RSMD    RashtriyaSamantaDal

RSNP    RashtriyaSamajikNayakPaksha

RSP    RevolutionarySocialistParty

RSP    RevolutionarySocialistParty

RSPS    RashtriyaSamajPaksha

RVNP    RashtravadiJanataParty

RVP    RashtriyaVikasParty

SAD    ShiromaniAkaliDal

SAD(M)    ShiromaniAkaliDal(SimranjitSinghMann)

SAP    SamataParty

SBS    ShikshitBerozgarSena

SBSP    SuheldevBhartiyaSamajParty

SDF    SikkimDemocraticFront

SDP    SocialisticDemocraticParty

SHRP    SikkimHimaliRajyaParishad

SHS    Shivsena

SHS    Shivsena

SHSP    ShoshitSamajParty

SJP(R)    SamajwadiJanataParty(Rashtriya)

SLAP    SocialActionParty

SLP(L)    SocialistParty(Lohia)

SMSP    SamataSamajParty

SP    SamajwadiParty

SP    SamajwadiParty

SPI    SecularPartyofIndia

SPVD    SampurnaVikasDal

SSD    ShoshitSamajDal

SSJP    SanatanSamajParty

SSP    SikkimSangramParishad

SVRP    ShivrajyaParty

SVSP    SavarnSamajParty

SWD    SwarajDal

SWJP    SamajwadiJanParishad

TDK    TamilDesiyakKatchi

TDP    TeluguDesam

TNGP    TrinamoolGanaParishad

TRS    TelanganaRashtraSamithi

UGDP    UnitedGoansDemocraticParty

UKKD    UttarakhandKrantiDal

UMFA    UnitedMinoritiesFront,Assam

USYP    UrsSamyukthaPaksha

VJC    VidharbhaJanataCongress

VJP    VijetaParty

VP    VikasParty

VRP    VidharbhaRajyaParty

YGP    YuvaGantantraParty

YSP    YouthandStudentsParty

A Dozen Grown-Up Questions for Indian Politicians Dreaming of Becoming/Deciding India’s PM After the 2009 General Elections

The 2009 General Election campaign is supposed to elect a Parliament and a Head of Government for the Republic of India, not a Head Boy/Head Girl at an urban middle-class high school or the karta of a joint family. Unfortunately, our comprador national-level media seem to be docile  and juvenile enough in face of power and privilege to want to ask only touchy-feely koochi-woochi pretty baby questions of the “candidates” for PM (several of whom are not even running as candidates for the Lok Sabha but still seem to want to be PM).   Rival candidates themselves seem to want to hurl invective and innuendo at one another, as if all this was merely some public squabble between Delhi middle-class families.

So here are a set of grown-up adult questions instead:

1. Pakistan is politically and strategically our most important neighbour. Can you assure the country that a government headed by you will have a coherent policy on both war and peace with Pakistan? How would you achieve it?

2. Do you agree with the Reagan-Gorbachev opinion that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”? If so, what would your Government do about it?

3. If there are Indian citizens in Jammu & Kashmir presently governed by Article 370 who wish to renounce Indian nationality and remain stateless or become Pakistani/Afghan/Iranian citizens instead, would you consider letting them do so and giving them Indian “green cards” for peaceful permanent residence in J&K and India as a whole?

4. Do you know where Chumbi Valley is? If so, would your Government consider reviving the decades-old idea with China to mutually exchange permanent leases to Aksai Chin and Chumbi Valley respectively?

5. Nuclear power presently accounts as a source of about 4% of total Indian electricity; do you agree that even if nuclear power capacity alone increased by 100% over the next ten years and all other sources of electricity remained constant, nuclear power would still account for less than 8% of the total?

6. The public debt of the country  may now amount to something like Rs 30 lakh crore (Rs 30 trillion); do you find that worrisome? If so, why so? If not, why not?

7. The Government of India may be paying something like Rs 3 lakh crore (Rs 3 trillion) annually on interest payments on its debt;  do you agree that tends to suck dry every public budget even before it can try to do something worthwhile?

8.  If our money supply growth is near 22% per annum, and the rate of growth of real income is near 7% per annum, would you agree the decline in the value of money (i.e., the rate of inflation) could be as high as 15% per annum?

9. Do you agree that giving poor people direct income subsidies is a far better way to help them than by distorting market prices for everybody? If not, why not?

10. How would you seek to improve the working of  (and reduce the corruption in) the following public institutions: (1) the Army and paramilitary; (2) the Judiciary and Police; (3) Universities and technical institutes?

11. There has never been a Prime Minister in any parliamentary democracy in the world throughout the 20th Century who was also not an elected member of the Lower House; do you agree BR Ambedkar and Jawaharlal Nehru intended that for the Republic of India as well and thought it  something so obvious as  not necessary to specify in the 1950 Constitution?  What will your Government do to improve the working of the Presidency, the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and State Assemblies?

12. What, personally, is your vision for India after a five-year period of a Government led by you?

Subroto Roy,

Citizen & Voter

Posted in 15th Lok Sabha, Academic research, Afghanistan, Air warfare, Aksai Chin, BR Ambedkar, China's expansionism, China-India Relations, Chumbi Valley, India's 2009 General Election, India's Army, India's Banking, India's Budget, India's bureaucracy, India's Constitution, India's constitutional politics, India's Democracy, India's Diplomacy, India's Economy, India's education, India's Election Commission, India's Electorate, India's Foreign Policy, India's Government Budget Constraint, India's Government Expenditure, India's higher education, India's History, India's inflation, India's Judiciary, India's Lok Sabha, India's Macroeconomics, India's Monetary & Fiscal Policy, India's nomenclatura, India's Personality Cults, India's political lobbyists, India's political parties, India's Politics, India's Polity, India's pork-barrel politics, India's poverty, India's Presidency, India's private TV channels, India's Public Finance, India's Rajya Sabha, India's Reserve Bank, India's Rule of Law, India's State Finances, India's Supreme Court, India's Union-State relations, India-China relations, India-Pakistan cooperation against terrorism, India-Pakistan naval cooperation, India-Pakistan peace process, India-Tibet Border, India-United States business, India-US Nuclear Deal, International diplomacy, Iran, Jammu & Kashmir, Jammu & Kashmir in international law, Jawaharlal Nehru, Just war, Laddakh, Land and political economy, LK Advani, Manmohan Singh, Pakistan's murder of Indian POWs, Pakistan's terrorist masterminds, Pakistan's terrorist training institutes, Pakistan, Balochistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistani expansionism, Press and Media, Sonia Gandhi, Stonewalling in politics, Voting, War. Leave a Comment »

Will someone please teach the BJP’s gerontocracy some Economics 101 on an emergency basis?

Two years ago, I said in “Political Paralysis”,

“[I]f Atal Behari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani could bring themselves to honestly walk away from BJP politics, there would have to be a genuine leadership contest and some new principles emerging in their party. There is an excellent and very simple political reason for Vajpayee and Advani to go, which is not that they are too old (which they are) but that they led their party to electoral defeat. Had they walked away in May 2004, there might have been by now some viable conservative political philosophy in India and some recognisable new alternative leadership for 2009. Instead there is none and the BJP has not only failed very badly at being a responsible Opposition, it will go into the 2009 General Election looking exceptionally decrepit and incompetent.”

Lest anyone think this was a tirade against the BJP, most of the article was actually a criticism of the Congress and the Communists!

Mr LK Advani’s claim that Indian resources have been illegally shipped overseas is hardly new or interesting — what is truly grotesque is the sheer irresponsibility of his claim that if somehow this could be reversed, it would suffice to

” Relieve the debts of all farmers and landless • Build world-class roads all over the country – from national and state highways to district and rural roads; • Completely eliminate the acute power shortage in the country and also to bring electricity to every unlit rural home; • Provide safe and adequate drinking water in all villages and towns in India • Construct good-quality houses, each worth Rs. 2.5 lakh, for 10 crore families; • Provide Rs. 4 crore to each of the nearly 6 lakh villages; the money can be used to build, in every single village, a school with internet-enabled education, a primary health centre with telemedicine facility, a veterinary clinic, a playground with gymnasium, and much more. “

This is simply appalling in its sheer mendacity. The BJP is going to give an amnesty to all those with such money and then confiscate it or requisition it or forcibly borrow it to make these resources equivalent to tax-revenues for the purposes of Indian public finance? What can one say beyond this being grotesque in its incomprehension of both facts and economic principles? Could someone who supports the BJP please teach them some Econ 101 asap?

As I have said elsewhere, only quackery, fallacious finance and multitudinous intellectual fraud seem destined to emerge from New Delhi’s governing class of all political parties and their media and businessman friends. “Government finance requires scientific honesty, especially by way of clear rigorous accounting and audit of uses and origins of public resources. That scientific honesty is what we have not had at Union or State level for more than half a century.”

Subroto Roy, Kolkata