Monday, December 05, 2005

Getting to the top

Narendra Jadhav is one of India’s foremost and finest economists. He’s currently Principal Advisor and Chief Economist of the Reserve Bank of India. He’s also quite strongly against the old quasi-socialist system that prevailed in India till the mid nineties, and has lucidly pointed out how the closed economy of the past hurt India the most.

Jadhav is also a Dalit, and author of the book ”Untouchables : My Family's Triumphant Journey Out of the Caste System in Modern India”.

Here is an excellent interview of Jadhav by Subbu Vincent. Here he talks about currencies (and why the dollar vs. rupee exchange rate is the way it is), some effects of the Nehruvian era of protectionism, oil’s impact on the economy, and caste.

Some snippets:

A closed economy:
"…. But in 1991, we had a ridiculous situation where we were 15% of the world's population and 7% of the worlds land, and our share in the world's trade was one half of one percent. (Our share of exports plus imports as a proportion of total trade.) A lot of people in India believed that the imperialist powers and capitalist countries were cornering us. That was stupidity. If our share was 0.5% why would the countries with 99.5% of trade share come together to corner us? We were a closed economy.”

Oil and the economy:
"……. Okay. Now, look at it this way. When oil prices are going up, what options do we have? First option, pass on everything to consumers. And force them to adjust. Second, let the oil companies take the hit. And the third one is the government absorbs the difference in the budget. There is no fourth alternative. We can't say we won't let this happen and that happen.”

"………Do you realize how poor our performance in oil conservation is? In India we talk about oil conservation as if it was someone else's problem……………..What is the fuel efficiency we have achieved? That is the disadvantage/side effect of heavy subsidies. If you had passed on the prices to people, then they would be forced to conserve………So giving things under priced is also having side effects. So you have to weigh the pros and cons.”

Caste and reservations:

"……….Reservation for jobs is not like railway reservations…… Reservation, the need for it is coming from the inability of the system as a whole to be fair. It is to guard against that. What reservation means is that if you are a Dalit and I am biased man and therefore I will not give you the job, it is to prevent the kind of injustice which is there because of the psychological problems in non-Dalits towards Dalits; that is the genesis.

"……….I have seen, if there is an inefficient person and if his same is Phadke or Apte, these are all names of the high born, they will be looked upon as inefficient individuals. But if there is a Kamble who is inefficient, you know what is the immediate reaction? It is to the blame the caste and then say "inko tho reservation miltha hai na."

"……… Prejudices are there. They are difficult to erase. These are otherwise very capable people. But whether we hire someone or not should not depend on whether they are Dalit or Muslim or not. Whether they are fit for the job must be the factor.”

Read it all here. It’s well worth your time, and perhaps a way to counter your own prejudices. And people like Narendra Jadhav and the late K.R. Narayanan are just the kind of role models dalit society needs (and not Mayawati).


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