The mantra for the alternative

Economic freedom, individual liberty and competent government

Longtime readers might recall that this blog has long argued that India’s crisis of governance arises from the UPA government’s institution of entitlement economics, surrender to competitive intolerance and returns to political violence. Corruption and unaccounted money — issues that have captured popular imagination in the last few months — are merely symptoms of the underlying disease. Ridding the body politic of this malaise requires the building of a political alternative around a new mantra:

Give us back our economic freedom, and let it reverse the entitlement economy of corruption and cronyism.

Give us back our individual liberty, and let it reverse the competitive intolerance that is destroying India’s social capital.

Give us a government that restricts itself to being competent in its basic duties — like ensuring the rule of law –, and let it reverse the tide of violence and the grammar of anarchy.

Peace! Peace! Peace!

“I know where you are coming from”

Takshashila Shala // Pune 2011 – Attendee Geography

According to EventBrite’s estimates, here’s where Shala participants are coming from. It’s guessing the location based on IP addresses, so those who registered from corporate networks might show up as being at their network gateway locations. Still, it gives us a fair sense of attendee geography. The top five locations are from Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai.

(If you’d like to share a cab or need/can give a lift, give a shout on twitter, using the hashtag #shala)

The Takshashila Shala // Pune 2011

Getting people excited about public policy

We had two excellent sessions of the Takshashila Roundtable Conclave Programme in Bangalore and Hyderabad. We had extremely high quality discussions and a good mix of participants. This format, however, restricts the number of participants to 50 (26 actually, if my colleagues would allow me to have my way). Chatham House rules do enhance candid debate, but also prohibit video recording, webcasts and reportage.

To balance the candour of conclaves with the reach of an open event, our next event at Pune (on Sunday May 29th 2011) will take place differently. The Takshashila Shala has an innovative, informal format that blends scheduled presentations with spontaneous, even ex tempore talks from participants. Takshashila Fellows will be present to share their research and insights. Throughout the day there will be three parallel tracks on: Foreign affairs, national security and strategy; Economics and public policy; Politics, citizenship and governance.

Each of these will take place in a separate room at the Venture Center, NCL, and will be webcast. Participants can propose to speak on any topic under these themes, and if there’s interest and time, they can have the floor for 20 minutes. While this can be done on-the-spot, we recommend those interested to speak to let us know in advance.

After the main session, participants will take a bus ride to Doolally Microbrewery for, well, spirited discussions at Pune’s first microbrewery.

Finally, the following evening, Monday, May 30th, we convene at CMYK Bookstore, Goldfields Enclave, Koregaon Park, Pune for a Shala Extra for a discussion on books and magazines on current affairs.

There is no charge for participating in the event. We encourage you to make an appropriate donation to the Takshashila Institution. So if you’d like to participate, head over to the online registration page and sign-up as soon as possible.

INILive Pilot: Bin Laden’s killing and implications for India

A live, online interactive programme on strategic affairs, public policy and governance

Here’s the recording of today’s INILive pilot.

Update: Edited transcript of the initial remarks:

In today’s programme I will analyse the issues related to the killing of Osama bin Laden by US special forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan last week. I will also try to address some of your questions and comments. Today, you can interact with me over twitter, using the hashtag #inilive

Now, there can be very little doubt over whether the Pakistani military leadership, Generals Ashfaq Kayani and Shuja Pasha were aware of Osama bin Laden’s location. The ISI is competent enough for this. Usually, top leaders have “plausible deniability”, they can claim that they didn’t know what their organisations were up to. In this case, General Kayani was ISI chief at the time bin Laden supposedly moved to Abbottabad. His denials are not plausible.

But what about the operation to get bin Laden? What role might the Pakistani military have played here? There can be many explanations. Let’s talk about the three most interesting ones:

One, it was, as the Obama Adm claims, carried out unilaterally by the United States, without informing the Pakistanis. Two, it was orchestrated by the Pakistani military establishment as a card in the endgame of the war in Afghanistan. Three, and it was an outcome of an ongoing power struggle among various sections of the Pakistani military-jihadi complex. Continue reading “INILive Pilot: Bin Laden’s killing and implications for India”

Pax Indica: Why they killed bin Laden now

The military-jihadi complex is likely to grow stronger

In today’s Pax Indica column on Yahoo, I warn that India has at best two summers before cross-border militancy and terrorism rise again.

You might remember a Shekhar Suman gag on Zee TV’s Movers and Shakers several years ago: An angry George W Bush announces that the United States will bomb the place where Osama bin Laden is found to be hiding.

Hearing this, Vajpayee looks under his bed, pauses, and with a characteristic flick of his wrist says: “Thank God! He isn’t here!”

Over in Rawalpindi, General Musharraf looks under his bed, sighs in relief, and says: “Thank God! He is still here!”

Shekhar Suman, more than most Western analysts, got the plot right. Keeping Osama bin Laden out of Washington’s hands was vital in order to prevent having to publicly deal with revelations of how the Pakistani military-jihadi complex not only was connected with al-Qaeda, but might also have been involved in the conspiracy behind the 9/11 attacks. [Read the rest at Yahoo!]

Sunday Levity: Paid views

The Sicilian women who offered this blogger $150m to oppose Anna Hazare

An excerpt of my short article in OPEN magazine on the wages of making unpopular points:

If the political establishment didn’t know how to respond to Anna Hazare, the mindless thousands who supported him—largely from in front of their television and computer screens— were clueless how to handle criticism of their ephemeral hero.

Now, one of the ordinary joys of non-partisanship is being called a ‘Congress hack’ or a ‘Hindutva-type’ from time to time. It gets even better when you manage being both at the same time on the same issue. Political debate in India is about labels attacking other labels, personalities attacking other personalities and parties attacking other parties. Watch a news debate on mute, and you still won’t miss anything.

But Hazare’s hazaars were extraordinary. Righteous outrage, sanctimony, the free period between two cricket tournaments and the predilection for online rudeness came together and pummelled anyone who dared point out that maybe the boon that Hazare was asking for was really more of a curse. [Read the rest at OPEN]

From the archive: August 2005 – The Best Brickbats

Shutting down Geelani’s Grievance Factory

Jammu & Kashmir needs a guerilla development plan

Excerpts from my DNA column:

The business of manufacturing grievances, operated by the likes of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, involves both FDI and FII. Provocateurs and hardcore separatists act as the focus of violent unrest, mobilising young people using old methods and new. Motivated or excitable sections of the media add tickers, employing terms like “intifada” and “Jasmine” (or heaven-forbid, “Gandhian”), to describe the proceedings.

The separatist game plan is to prevent the state, especially its Kashmir region, from returning to what we all like to call “normalcy”.

To halt this cycle, it is necessary to both raise the costs of protesting and the benefits of not protesting. While the political and security machinery —wiser from handling last year’s stone-pelting experience — can well reduce the attractions of a summer job as a street-protester, the state has been less successful in creating alternative occupations.

The main reason New Delhi’s outlays fail to generate outcomes is because there is a lack of capacity in the state and local administrations. Even if it didn’t make its way to the wrong pockets, it is difficult to spend that much money simply because the Jammu & Kashmir doesn’t have sufficient numbers of competent officials who can implement programmes. It takes years to raise these numbers in the best of circumstances. The problem is, young people have to be kept off the streets right now.

Kashmir needs a guerilla development plan, using unconventional tactics to quickly create an economy that engages its youthful population. According to the Economic Freedom of the States of India 2011 report Jammu and Kashmir stood 9th (out of the 20 states studied) in terms of economic freedom, moving up from 15th position in 2005. It scores better than even Maharashtra, Punjab and Karnataka. So a plan that exploits and enlarges economic freedom might do the trick.

It should create zones in urban areas where entrepreneurs can move in and start business in a matter of days. Instead of waiting for training institutes to be built, it should facilitate skills training in small batches. It should avoid handouts, and inject resources into microfinance institutions for them to lend more and to younger people.

Such a plan stands a good chance of strengthening social capital and cultivating a sense of individual responsibility. This spring’s narrative can be different if Geelani’s “Grievance Factory” is made to suffer a labour shortage. [Read the rest on DNA]

Pragati, refreshed

The Indian National Interest Review

Before we even realised it, Pragati is into its fifth year.

Issue 49 cover
New look, same old goodness
Some changes were in order. We’ve revamped the magazine in size and style to make it easier to read, especially on digital devices such as the iPad. The page size is smaller and Aditya Dipankar and Anuj Agrawal, our designers, have revamped the layout to make the pages more attractive and more importantly, easier to read. Download the digital community edition here.

It took us some time to get these changes in place, so this issue reaches you a few days later than usual. But what better day to publish the refreshed Pragati than on B R Ambedkar’s birth anniversary?

As usual you are encouraged to distribute this magazine among your friends and associates.

Read and Share.

The Pragati archives

Download every published issue of Pragati in PDF format

Many readers & researchers had complained that Pragati archives were not easily accessible. Well, that’s fixed now, thanks to the good Srijith Nair, who still can whip up lines of code faster than this blogger can mix his drinks.

You now easily browse and download every single issue of Pragati – The Indian National Interest Review in PDF format from our archives.

Sunday Levity: What did you learn from Gandhi?

The morals we draw

The father gathered the two little girls around him. Since they had disturbed him while he was reading a book on Gandhi, he decided to tell them about the Mahatma and more specifically, why he had a large framed photograph of the man in his study. So he told them the story of India’s independence and why it was unique among all such struggles. He told them that non-violent struggle, “not listening to the orders of the bad guys” was about thinking different. And if they looked carefully, they’d see “Think Different” written at the top right corner of the said photograph.

As usual, he asked “So, what’s the moral of the story?”

Instantly the Little Airy replied “Don’t listen (to orders).”

It figures, the father thought.