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).

14 comments:

Karthik said...

It is refreshing to see someone talk so lucidly about the economy - great interview and thanks for linking.

I have my own doubts about K.R. Narayan but Jadhav is certainly a role model.

Vikram A. said...

Sunil,

Jadhav visted Stanford a few weeks ago to give a talk about the Indian economy and promote his book at the Stanford bookstore. I would have definitely gone if I weren't studying abroad. This is a nice inerview. Thanks for linking to it.

Vikram

Sunil said...

Actually, Karthik....you may not have agreed with Narayanan's policy as vice president and later president of India, but he certainly is a great role model. He struggled to school, to finish finally with a state rank. Then he went to college on scholarship, and emerged as the university gold medalist. He cleared the civil services exam, and went on to an extremely distinguished career in the foreign service. And finally he became president of the country (which is different from being elected by rabble rousing). I think that's fantastic for a role model.

Vikram.....too bad you missed the talk. But then, i've never heard him either.......

some day.

Dilip D'Souza said...

The thing about Mayawati that all of us have got to understand, Sunil, is how much of an icon she is to Dalits. It matters not in the slightest that you think she isn't a fit role model. A hell of a lot of them think so, and I've heard them offer reasoning something like this: "we're simply tired of being told who is and who isn't good for us. What is and what isn't good for us. Now we'll take power on our own terms, decide for ourselves. We know Mayawati is corrupt and scheming, but she stands for our aspirations and that's why we support her; we hope that leaders after her will not be as corrupt."

This explains the support for Lalu, for Phoolan Devi, besides Mayawati. Think about it.

Sunil said...

Dilip....i know that. And I'm not telling them whom to have for a role model. They can have whom ever they want (and have, as we well know).

But if i feel some one is an outstanding role model....i'll say he/she is. Simple as that. To me, these are really inspiring stories. Mayawati's is too, in a way. But the paths chosen are different, and i agree more with these paths. Thats all. As simple as that.

Michael Higgins said...

Hi Sunil
I am sure that Dr. Jadhav is a fine economist and human being. And I'm sure his story of overcoming poverty to achieve academic brilliance is inspiring. However, I have to say that it seems that India has made very little progress in the area of caste if the first thing anyone can say about this man by way of introduction is to mention his caste.

The US really isn't very different and I think it is a pity. If a black man achieves great things, the first line of his obit will be "he was a black man who overcame poverty and etc to achieve..."

The Dalit community does not need role models that are Dalits because they are the exceptions that prove the rule: that they are intrinsically different and therefore inferior than other Indians. Their role model should be Dr. Manmohan Singh, because they should realize that the only thing that matters is that he is Indian and they are Indian.

Sunil said...

Michael......i think your comment answered your own query. India has indeed made very little progress in the area of caste, at least I think so.

I asked the same questions you asked here when K. R. Narayan died.....why shouldn't he be remembered (IMO) as a fine president?

And that is what the problem is.......and it's universal, as you point out the US experience. It's going to take a very long time for us to view all people as just people, because it's been drilled in to us for centuries otherwise. Which is why i pointed out that snippet of the comment Jadhav made. I'll paste it again....because it's a very good reflection of Indian society today.

"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."

I've seen many, many similar situations myself.....and so can only agree.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Actually Sunil, I don't find anything inspiring or outstanding in Mayawati. To me, she's another politician, that's all, no better or worse than Advani or Vajpayee or Narasimha Rao. But it's one more of those things I have to come to terms with -- others don't see things the same way. If I think Mayawati and Thackeray are mediocrities (putting it kindly), plenty of others see them as great heroes. That's been a hard lesson for me, and I'm still learning it.

Of course Jadhav is an outstanding role model; so, in my opinion, is KRN. But note how even in this discussion, someone else doesn't agree about KRN.

I don't want to beat this into the ground, but I only reacted to your last line, which said Jadhav and KRN, but not Mayawati, are the "role models dalit society needs". In my experience, that's just the kind of statement and sentiment that gets Dalit hackles up.

Mike, the fundamental reality of India, far more than language and religion, is caste. I don't see this changing anytime soon. I would like such people as Manmohan, Jadhav, Amartya Sen, to be seen as Indian role models above all because they are simply examples of excellence. (For that matter, Larry Bird, Nelson Mandela, Stephen Hawking ... and I'm not being facetious). But that reality of India trumps such things.

PK said...

Sunil,
Mr.Jadhav talks about reservation in Pvt. sector and wants efficient implementation of reservation in Public sector.I have two points of difference with his arguments.
He talks about prejudice agaist Dalits during selection being reason for denying him the job.Well now it cuts both ways. Today deserving High caste candidates are denied job by dalits who are occupying high posts in Govt.(they have reached these posts on fast track reservation system). And i would like to point out that like examples given by Mr.Jadhav in his interview, reservation has side effect as well.There are instances when Dalit's inefficiency cannot be even pointed out because he is Dalit. For reserved catagory posts, candidates have remained absent for P.S.C.interviews without informing.
Mr. jadhav talks about prejudice aginst dalits in jobs.But this is not the factor when it comes to admission in Colleges and Professional courses.You have reservation there which is not fully justified. Mr. Jadhav's child will get admission ahead of son of poor high caste person with more marks.Today what options students in open category have? They pay high fee to get dubious degrees or go abroad.Just look at the list of countries students go for Medical edu.
Never forget that Road to hell is paved with good intentions.--PK

R.Nandakumar said...

thanks sunil, for that (as usual) heartfelt post and that link.

Sunil said...

PK......valid points....but a start has to be made some where. And dalits continue to take shit. Some one has to pay a price to fix things. But i don't know where it'll all go........and every one's ideas and every one needs to believe that races or groups are not inherently superior. That's going to take time.

Nandakumar....you're welcome. It's food for thought...a lot of what he says.

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