Skip to main content

As fear 'grips' right liberals, Arvind Panagariya, too, would be declared anti-national?

Mahesh Vyas
By Rajiv Shah
It is surely well-known by now that India's top people in the power-that-be have been castigating all those who disagree with them as "anti-nationals". Nothing unusual. If till yesterday only "secular liberals", and "left-liberals" were declared anti-national, facts, however, appear to have begun surfacing that, now, guns are being trained against those who could be qualified as right liberals, too. Let me be specific.
The other day, a former bureaucrat of the Gujarat government, an IAS official, known for his keen perceptions of the state of the economy, whether India's or Gujarat's forwarded to me a video – an interview with Mahesh Vyas, managing director and CEO of India's topmost private sector data company, Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE).
Interviewed by the news portal “The Wire”, long dubbed as "left liberal" by critics, of late Vyas has made a niche for himself by strongly asserting how unemployment rates in the country have been continuously on the rise under Modi. Now, in the video interview he says, joblessness among the educated youth is anywhere between 20 and 25 per cent, highest in decades. 
Enough reason for him to be called "anti-national"? Maybe, but first let me try to summarize what all he said.
Vyas says, the situation is particularly bad in Delhi and Haryana (which “houses” India’s top urban centres Gurgaon and Faridabad), where unemployment has reached “around 30 per cent”, adding things have turned nearly as bad in Tamil Nadu. Vyas concurs with a study published by the Azim Premji University about a year ago – which I, like many others, reported in Counterview – that had made somewhat similar claims.
According to Vyas, India experienced high unemployment rate among the urban educated youth also in 1970s, insisting, the rate is high because of thee major reasons: One, the educated youth refuse to do menial jobs as they are “qualified”; two, they are dependent on parents for housing and monetary needs; and three, enough jobs aren’t available in the market that would lure them into taking up jobs they would like to do.
Vyas’ solution for unemployment is: Tatas, Birlas, Ambanis, Adanis etc. should come up with huge projects across the country to create jobs
Alongside, Vyas says, the poorer sections of the population –  semi-literate and illiterate – are "less unemployed” because they are forced to pick up any job they can do: They would readily push a hand cart or be a street vendor in order to survive. Not without reason, he argues, Bihar has “very low” employment rate.
So far so good. However, the solution he suggests bewildered me. In fact, it was news to me that a top economist and statistician pins all hopes in the big business. He admits, the small and medium sized industries suffered a major setback following the demonetisation move in November 2016, followed by “haphazard” implementation of the goods and services tax (GST).
Vyas notes, while the small and medium industries suffered a collapse, leading to sharp rise in unemployment rates among the urban educated youths, they can't be expected to revive, hence have little or no future. For, they were not, and will not be, internationally competitive. In fact, they don't have the inclination or the capacity do be that. So, what should be done?  Vyas provides a recipe, to which he regrets the industry or the government aren't still ready.
Arvind Panagariya
Vyas’ “solution” is this: Tatas, Birlas, Ambanis, Adanis etc. should come up with huge projects across the country that that would create employment opportunities. Also, the government public sector undertakings (PSUs) should do the needful and move in this direction.
When Mitali Mukherjee, the interviewer, asked him, does he see any such thing happening, Vyas replies in the negative, saying, not at least in the near future. He indicates, big business currently suffers from lack of confidence, and is not ready to invest. First there was imposition of more corporate taxes, then there was tax cut, for instance. 
In fact, Vyas contends, the big business has lost the propensity to invest which it had acquired in two years following Narendra Modi taking over reins of power in 2014, after which there was a sudden downslide. I was left wondering: Does this view of Vyas not put him in the category of a confirmed right-wing, conservative, albeit liberal, economist?
As the interview drew to a close, I found Vyas shaken by the way the powers-that-be, or circles close to Modi, appear to view him or persons like him, only because are critical of the way the economy is being run. Referring to massive data manipulation by the Modi government in order to project India as being on the right track, Vyas says, it was Arvind Subramanian’s paper that shook up the government to accept (unwillingly) that something is wrong on the data front.
Vyas says, quoting Subramanian’s paper, all knew that the economy, especially the industry, wasn't doing well, yet everyone, as if, waited for Subramanian’s paper to declare that the GDP growth was two to two-and-a-half lower than what the Government of India was stating – such was the level of data manipulation.
According to Vyas, following this paper, the government has begun to take things seriously, experts are putting their heads together. Here, I am tempted to quote Vyas. “It’s good that Arvind Subramanian’s paper shook up a little bit”, he says, but does not stop here. He hints how intolerant the government has become nowadays.
Wanting government to stop branding all critics and instead begin listening to what they are saying, this top expert says, “We should not have these polarized positions. Its good if there are engaging positions. We are an argumentative nation. It’s good to be argumentative. It’s good to engage, rather than call critics anti-nationals.”
One is unable to understand why Panagariya quit the government – he has been, and continues to be, outrightly pro-Modi
This was shocking, to say the least. A pro-corporate, neo-liberal economist (other acronyms for him could be liberal, conservative, right-wing) feels even he or his tribe may be called anti-national for his views, which are conceptually the same as those held by the powers-that-be!
Over the last few years, at least three liberal economists quit the government one after another – Raghuram Rajan, who was Reserve Bank of India governor, Arvind Subramanian, who was chief economic adviser to the Government of India, and Arvind Panagariya, who was vice chairman of the Niti Aayog. All of them are known for this centre-right views. Two of them, Rajan and Subramanian, have already been termed anti-national.
I am still unable to understand why Panagariya quit the government – he has been, and continues to be, outrightly pro-Modi. A senior IAS bureaucrat, who has worked in the Government of India, even abroad, for umpteen number of years, told me recently, the reason for Panagariya quitting the government was, again, "intolerance and interference" from circles around Modi.
While Rajan and Subramanian have by now been declared confirmed critics of Modi's governance, qualifying to be"anti-nationals", Panagariya, interestingly, also appears to have begun to gently but firmly begun suggesting that there are issued with Modi governance. In an editorial page article in the Times of India, which he tweeted to reach out to a wider audience, he has criticized Modi (of course, without naming him), for refusing to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
Panagariya argues, “setting aside politics”, the view that India would lose out to China if it joined RCEP does not stand, as the “economic logic tells us that bilateral deficits and surpluses should not be a matter of concern.”
He says, “There are nearly 200 countries in the world and each of them strives to buy its imports from countries that charge it the lowest prices and sell its exports to countries that offer it the highest prices. It will be a wonder if these myriad transactions result in mutually balanced trade for each pair of countries.”
As for the “fears that China would flood Indian market with cheap imports”, Panagariya says, these are “exaggerated”, because “entry of cheap imports threatens local producers only if the latter remain inefficient and costly”. He insists, “Local producers that respond to competition by adopting new technologies, organising production activity better and cutting costs in other ways survive.”
In fact, Panagariya says, the officialdom must remember, trade liberalisation “is implemented gradually and in a predictable way, as we did during 1991-2007”, adding, “Accelerated growth during the past two decades owes much to trade liberalisation... We must drop our hesitations and act decisively, as we did during 1991-2007.”
So the period 1991-2007 was better than the Modi years? I am left wondering: Would Panagariya now be declared anti-national?

Comments

sanu said…
Unemployment is increasing

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Gyanvapi case: Use of 'illegal' lawfare to keep the communal pot simmering

By Venkatesh Narayanan, Bobby Ramakant, Manoj Sarang* With a steady drumbeat of bad news for the lives of ordinary citizens --  inflation at a multi-year high , rupee at an all-time low , negative job creation and when all forward indicators as seen by industry leaders point to recessionary clouds on the horizon , what’s a serially-incompetent government to do?  Dust out their time-tested-citizen-distraction playbook. The Gyanvapi-Masjid case is all of this -- as a weapon of mass distraction. This zeitgeist of our times is best captured by a recent opinion piece : "The idea is to keep the pot on a perpetual boil, simmering at the top, whirling feverishly beneath. A restless society forever living precariously on the precipice arouses distrst, uneasiness, fear and discomfort, That is a toxic panoply for manufacturing rage, which can then be effortlessly mobilized at short notice. BJP is creating an eco-system of real-time instant delivery of hate-mongers. That is how we are sudde

Upholding labour rights, Nehruvian scientific temper, Rajni Patel opposed Emergency

By Harsh Thakor*  Rajni Patel, who died 40 years ago, whatever his flaws, had one great quality: his human touch to offer selfless service and ability to galvanise or influence human beings from all walks of life. Few people would ever go out of the way to help someone or serve as selflessly without aim of personal gain. Rajni championed Nehruvian secular ideas and scientific temper. As a master in public relations he revealed utmost humility. As a barrister, he never appeared against the trade unions or workers. A Fabien Socialist he opposed liberal capitalism and radical socialism. Unlike most lawyers, he did not succumb to the lure of amassing wealth. Rajni was born in Sirsa, in Gujarat, on the very day Gandhi set foot on Indian soil, on 9th January, 1915. He gained his baptism through one of Gandhi's speeches calling for the boycott of foreign goods, which was the virtual turning point of his life. Rajni toed Gandhi to organise boycott of foreign goods. Rajni was able to cros

Targeting mosques, churches: 'Roadmap' for 2025, RSS' centenary year?

416 years old Our Lady of Health Church, Sancoale, Goa  By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  Fascists use manipulative strategies aimed at whipping up sympathy and support from the majority community, to which they normally ‘belong’. They do so in a variety of insidious and subtle ways. In the past few months, they have gone overboard in their efforts to denigrate and demonize minorities in India, particularly Muslims and Christians. They have spewed hate and divisiveness through their venomous speeches; incited people to violence and have effectively used officialdom to further their vested interests. The results are there for all to see: greater polarisation of the majority community in a country which prided itself for its pluralism and diversity. Their meticulously planned agenda is in order to gain absolute power of the country in the 2024 national elections. More so it is also a roadmap towards 2025 when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will complete one hundred years of its existence.

Vadodara violence: Fine Arts Faculty alumni raise fingers at Varsity's political appointee

Hasmukh Vaghela with PM Counterview Desk  In a statement, alumni of the Faculty of Fine Arts (FoFA), Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU), Baroda, Gujarat, referring to the “violence” by right-wing groups for displaying “objectionable” paintings that “hurt religious sentiments” at the one of India’s top fine arts institute May 5, have taken strong exception to “the assault and rustication” of one of the students, and lack of action taken against those who “violated” the institution and committed the act. Floated as an online petition seeking wider support, the FoFA alumni, in their statement, addressed to the vice chancellor, MSU, said, there should be “thorough” investigation in the whole incident and “immediate action” should be taken against syndicate member Hasmukh Vaghela, MSU, who sparked the assault, and “other co-conspirators” for breaching “university code of conduct and unlawful activities committed in broad daylight”. While the alumni statement doesn't say so, Vaghela

Examples of support to Hindu temples, scriptures, saints by 'Muslim' rulers galore

Siya Ram coin issued by Akbar By Bharat Dogra* At a time when the country as well as the world are passing through very difficult times leading to more urgent need for strengthening national unity for meeting several big challenges ahead, unfortunately disputes relating to religious places have been allowed to raise their ugly head once again. It is well-realized by now by many people that it is not historical facts but narrow considerations of political gain and spreading of fanatic ideas of intolerance which are behind such mischief, but due to the increasing threat of mob violence and patronage available at higher levels to groups spreading intolerance many people are reluctant to openly and fearlessly express their views. Hence there is urgent need for broad-based peace committees with wider social support to spread the message of communal harmony and to appeal against the dangers of spreading false messages regarding places of worship which can ultimate

This varsity succumbed to extra-academic mobocracy, 'ignored' Hindutva archives

By Shamsul Islam* Open letter to Sharda University vice-chancellor Sub: Discarding a Question on Linkages of Hindutva with Nazism/Fascism is blatant Academic Dishonesty! Dear Professor Sibaram Khara Saheb, Namaskaar! According to your esteemed University’s portal: “The name of University, 'Sharda' is synonymous to 'Goddess of knowledge and learning-Saraswati'. She is identified with 'veena', an Indian musical instrument and the ‘lotus’, where she resides. The lotus in our logo symbolizes the seat of learning that the University is created for.  "Variety of colours signify the variety of disciplines the university offers and the overlap between petals creating new colours demonstrate the ethos of collaboration between students and teachers of different programme, nationality, creed and colour working towards creating new knowledge…the University's cherished mission to provide education beyond boundaries and to facilitate the students and faculty to achie

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Whither climate goal? Increasing reliance on coal 'likely to worsen' India's power crisis

By Shankar Sharma*  Recent news articles, How to shock-proof India’s power sector and Power minister points finger at states for worsening electricity crisis , have highlighted a few current problems for the ongoing power sector issues as in April 2022. However, there is a lot more to it than a few temporary solutions as indicated in the articles. It should also be emphasised that it is techno-economically impossible to completely shock-proof a highly complex and geographically wide-spread vast power network, such as the one in India, which is only getting more and more complex with the passage of each year due to some irrational policies/ practices in the sector. A business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, wherein more and more of conventional technology power plants, including coal power plants, will be added in the near future, will also necessitate the increased complexity in the integrated national grid, and as a result the instances of power shortage/ disruptions can only escalate for

A former Modi ally, Prashant Kishor wanted to enter Congress 'on contract, as trader'

By Anand Sahay*  The Congress Party and the election campaigns specialist Prashant Kishor, whose company has done strategic communications for a host of political parties across ideology, should both count themselves lucky that they could not reach an agreement for Kishor to join the party. News reports suggest that the Congress rejected Kishor’s terms. This is not wholly unexpected. People join a party because they are attracted to it, and wish to serve it in any capacity that the party may see fit. But that isn’t Kishor at all. He gave the impression of entering into a contract, as a trader might. If news reports are to be believed, he sought freedom to report directly to party chief Sonia Gandhi, and sought untrammeled control over party communications. When such ideas did not find favour, the consultant withdrew. It is clear he has no particular love for the Congress, and its ideas, ideology and politics. In contrast, look at the key personae in G-23. They