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7 Must-Read Books to Understand Indian Economics Before You Vote

As the 2024 elections continue, understanding Indian Economics and its issues is key for informed voting. With a complex landscape shaped by rapid growth, persistent challenges, and reforms, Indian Economics is at a pivotal juncture. Understanding its intricacies can empower voters to make decisions as India stands on the brink of significant change. Dive into these seven must-read books, packed with insights to help you make sense of it all and vote wisely for a brighter future.

 

India in Search of Glory
India in Search of Glory || Ashok

India and the Indians have made some progress in 75 years after Independence. The number of literates has gone up. The Indians have become healthier and their life expectancy at birth has gone up. The proportion of people below the poverty line has also halved. But the shine from the story fades when India is compared with that of the East Asian Tigers and China. It looks good but not good enough. India looks far away from the glory it seeks. This issue forms the core subject matter of this book. It tries to argue why India could not achieve more and what all it could have achieved. It paints a picture of its possible future and highlights the areas that need immediate attention.

 

Quest for Restoring Financial Stability in India
Quest for Restoring Financial Stability in India || Viral V. Acharya

How to maintain financial stability in India? Quest for Restoring Financial Stability in India is a classic work to understand this critical subject. In this Penguin edition, with a new introduction, Viral V. Acharya, former Deputy Governor of RBI offers a concrete road map for comprehensive improvement of India’s economy. Authoritative and definitive, this is a must read for the students and scholars of Indian economy, policymakers and anyone interested in India’s finance sector.

 

Breaking the Mould
Breaking the Mould || Raghuram Rajan, Rohit Lamba

India is at a crossroads today. Its growth rate, while respectable relative to other large countries, is too low for the jobs our youth need. Intense competition in low-skilled manufacturing, increasing protectionism globally and growing automation make the situation still more difficult. Divisive majoritarianism does not help. India
broke away from the standard development path—from agriculture to low-skilled manufacturing, then high-skilled manufacturing and, finally, services—a long time back by leapfrogging the intermediate steps. Rather than attempting to revert to development paths that may not be feasible any more, we must embark on a truly Indian path.

In Breaking the Mould, the authors explain how we can accelerate economic development by investing in our people’s human capital, expanding opportunities in high-skilled services and manufacturing centred on innovative new products, and making India a ferment of ideas and creativity. India’s democratic traditions will support this path, helped further by governance reforms, including strengthening our democratic institutions and greater decentralization.

 

Slip, Stitch & Stumble
Slip, Stitch & Stumble || Rajrishi Singhal

Manmohan Singh’s 1991 Union Budget speech made history by altering the course of the Indian
economy, especially its financial sector. His measures took a broom to multiple cobwebs in this sector. What Manmohan Singh started over three decades ago is still a work in progress today, but it does raise some questions: Why did he focus on financial sector reforms? What has motivated continuing these reforms?
This book tries to answer questions like these while focusing on the evolution of financial sector reforms which, oddly, remain incomplete even after thirty years. The fabric of this sector has been fraying and initiatives over the past three decades have resembled hasty, temporary needlework; the patchwork, incomplete reforms make the sector further vulnerable to failure. Hence: Slip, Stitch and Stumble.

 

India's Finance Ministers
India’s Finance Ministers || A.K. Bhattacharya

India’s Finance Ministers: Stumbling into Reforms (From 1977 to 1998) is the second volume in the series of books on some of India’s unforgettable finance ministers. Analysing the role of India’s finance ministers who managed India’s economy during one of its worst phases (post Emergency to the late 1990s), the book highlights the lasting impact they left on India’s political economy. This volume also provides a fascinating account of India’s economic history offering an incisive view of the key events in India’s journey from an closed, agrarian economy to a liberal economy.

 

Economic Sutra
Economic Sutra|| Satish Y. Deodhar, YS Rajan

A general perception exists that ancient Indian literature on economic matters is fatalistic and an admixture of sacred and secular thoughts. Economic Sutra provides a comprehensive perspective on the elements of Indian economic thought leading up to and after the Arthashastra. Economic Sutra is a perception-correction initiative to distil the Indian mind in the realm of economic thoughts and behaviour as brought out by the ancient Indian authors. It highlights the broader spread of economic ideas both prior to and sometime after Kautilya, giving insights into the purpose, actions and vision of our forefathers.

Poor Economics
Poor Economics || Abhijit V Banerjee, Esther Duflo

Imagine you have a few million dollars. You want to spend it on the poor. How do you go about it? Billions of government dollars, and thousands of charitable organizations and NGOs, are dedicated to helping the world’s poor. But much of their work is based on assumptions about the poor and the world that are untested generalizations at best, harmful misperceptions at worst.

Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo have pioneered the use of randomized control trials in development economics through their award-winning Poverty Action Lab. They argue that by using randomized control trials, and more generally, by paying careful attention to the evidence, it is possible to make accurate-and often startling assessments-on what really impacts the poor and what doesn’t.

Here’s What Really Happened in the 2G Spectrum Scam!

Ever wondered what really happened behind the scenes of the infamous 2G spectrum scam?
Just a Mercenary? by D. Subbarao unveils the truth, inviting you into the dynamic world of bureaucratic processes, policy decisions, and public perception. In this exclusive excerpt, Subbarao shares his firsthand experience with the 2G spectrum controversy, offering a raw and honest look at the challenges of decision-making in Indian governance.

 

Continue reading to immerse yourself in an account brimming with insight and introspection.

Just a Mercenary
Just a Mercenary || D. Subbarao

 

In 2007, the Department of Telecom (DoT) under the ministerial charge of A. Raja of the DMK, a partner in the UPA coalition, determined that there was a case for licensing more 2G operators in each of the twenty-three telecom circles in the country in order to encourage competition in the sector. The department consulted TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India), and TRAI, in turn, endorsed the need to increase the number of operators and recommended that fresh licensees should be given spectrum at the same price at which incumbent operators had gotten it, which was the price set in an auction in 2001. The absence of a level playing field, TRAI argued, would disadvantage fresh entrants and defeat the goal of deepening telecom services.

 

The 2001 cabinet decision stipulated that all future pricing of spectrum would be decided jointly by DoT and the Ministry of Finance. When the issue came to the finance ministry for opinion, I took the view that it would be inappropriate to sell spectrum in 2007–08 at a price set in 2001 and that we must rediscover the price through a fresh auction. My opinion was informed by the experience in India and around the world during the intervening years that spectrum was a scarcer commodity than originally believed. It was only appropriate that the government should garner a part of that scarcity premium by rediscovering the price through a fresh auction.

 

The DoT wrote back to say that they saw no reason to revisit the pricing issue and that they preferred to go along with the TRAI recommendation. For sure, there was some logic to the DoT position. If the objective was to deepen telecom penetration, it made sense to keep the price of spectrum low; competition among operators would then ensure that the lower price was passed on to customers.

 

Even as this disagreement on pricing remained unresolved, the DoT went ahead and invited applications for licences in September 2007 and awarded 120 licences to forty-six companies on 10 January 2008. Although these licences were given away at the 2001 price, the licence agreement contained a clause that the price could be increased later to accommodate the possibility of the finance ministry’s view prevailing.

 

The whole licencing process turned out to be controversial and contentious. There were allegations of arbitrarily advancing the cut-off date for receipt of applications, abrupt announcement of the successful applicants, tampering with the first come, first served principle and allowing a very narrow window for payment of the licence fee to favour some parties. This licensing part was an issue in which I was neither involved nor had any locus standi.

 

In July 2008, some six months after the licences were issued, the two ministers, Finance Minister Chidambaram and Telecom Minister Raja, reached an agreement that this round of 2G spectrum would be given at the 2001 price while all future spectrum, including 3G, which was then on the anvil, would be auctioned. Both ministers presented this agreed package to the prime minister at a meeting where I was present. I recorded that decision in the file.

 

In the months after the issue of licences, stray reports began appearing that spectrum had been given away at a throwaway price. These reports gained momentum when two of the licensees were able to sell equity to foreign investors at a huge premium, suggesting that the true value of spectrum was much higher than what was reflected in the 2001 price.

 

Very soon the trickle of allegations of corruption turned into a flood. That the government had ignored the advice of its own finance secretary added fuel to the fire. There was a furore in the parliament. The decision was attacked in the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) ordered a CBI investigation, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) decided to take up a special performance audit and a public interest litigation was filed in the Supreme Court. This meant that the 2G issue was simultaneously the subject of a CBI investigation, a PAC inquiry, a CAG special audit and a Supreme Court probe. And subsequently, it would be the subject matter of a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) inquiry as well.

 

The CAG report, signed off by Vinod Rai, incidentally my IAS batchmate, was tabled in the parliament in November 2010. Its most important conclusion was that the government had incurred a ‘presumptive loss’ of Rs 1.76 trillion by selling spectrum at below market price. This huge number, as much as 3.6 per cent of GDP, was explosive and turned the 2G issue into a full-blown scam.

 

***

Intrigued to know if Subbarao was a hero or villain in the 2G scam?

Get your copy of Just a Mercenary? by D. Subbarao wherever books are sold.

Is Consumer India on the Brink of a Lifestyle Revolution?

Discover the intricate world of consumer India in Lilliput Land by Rama Bijapurkar. Explore the aspirations and attitudes towards credit that shape consumer India’s behavior and learn through the many valuable insights for businesses navigating this dynamic market amidst India’s digital revolution.

Let the Mega Consumption story begin!

 

 

Lilliput Land
Lilliput Land || Rama Bijapurkar

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A lot has been written about this in media stories and books, and ‘the changing Indian consumer’ is a favourite conference topic. However, given the structure story of the many Indias, all these anecdotes and observations of how different parts of the elephant behave need to be distilled into a holistic view of the nature of the beast. This chapter looks at key shapers of behaviour—aspiration, dignity, Indian identity, brand orientation, the phenomenon of monster consumers, how to understand and navigate heterogeneity of the market for strategy development, and how to read change in the confusing way in which Consumer India changes. Shapers of Consumer India’s Consumption Behaviour A macro-consumer view of the people of India Consumer India, as the previous chapter on structure has demonstrated, is a fragmented and complex hydra-headed monster, based on just its economy, demographics and living conditions. Add to that a layer of different social and cultural factors aff ecting diff erent parts of Consumer India (including community, region, politics and language), and diff erent levels of exposure to diff erent worlds outside, it gets even more complex. Requests asking me to speak on the topic of ‘Indian Consumer Behaviour’ or ‘Changing Consumer Behaviour in India’ terrify me. How does one capture the enormity of behaviour variations in Consumer India? No matter what one could say, the opposite would also be true in some audience members’ recent experience! Therefore, for reasons of both prudence and competence, this chapter will not attempt the near-impossible task of chronicling diff erent kinds of consumer behaviour and diff erent patterns of consumption.

 

The focus of this chapter will instead be on understanding the lives, mind spaces and attitudes that shape the behaviour of the people who comprise Consumer India. This is useful because consumption and brands do not live in the narrow confines of a market space but exist as a part of the larger canvas of  people’s lives. Serving a consumer base without understanding what makes it tick does not make for winning businesses, sound market strategies or creating brands that deeply resonate with consumers.

 

This chapter has three sections:
1. Shapers of Consumer India’s consumption behaviour: A few important themes that are common and relevant to all income groups.
2. Structure and drivers of heterogeneity in Consumer India and how to think about consumer segmentation.
3. How India changes and reading change in Consumer India.

 

As everywhere in this book, this chapter will also examine many of the commonly held hypotheses and theories about Consumer India to test their validity and change, nuance or caveat them as the case may require.

 

Section I:

Shapers of Consumer India’s Consumption Behaviour This section identifies and explores a few important themes that are common across all of Consumer India and shape the consumption behaviour of all income groups. A Tectonic Shift from Acceptance to Aspiration, Facilitated by Credit.

 

Aspirational India is a tectonic shift from the pre-liberalization days when we would often hear consumers of lower-income groups tell us in focus groups, ‘This is not for me, this is for the badey log (big people).’ Now, there is a strong statement of, ‘I want to have something like that, be it products or experiences.’ A car is obviously not affordable, but a bike and a taxi for special family outings is. Now, having what celebrities have has become easy with social media. Copies of actress Alia Bhatt’s mehendi pattern and cheap knock-offs of her wedding dress are available. Influencers and beauticians of every social class tell you how to use make-up like celebrities do and style yourself at a price point that you can afford. As ad man Santosh Desai puts it, the big shift is that ‘life is not a condition to be endured but a product to be experienced’. Aspiration-led living is the opposite of the way it used to be. The attitude and mindset shift is from ‘this is what I have and how do I manage best within it’ to ‘this is what I want, so how do I manage to get it’. We see this resulting in choices which can best be described as ‘stretch for more, do not settle for less’. Borrow and buy the higher category car or two-wheeler or buy a second-hand one rather than settle for the easily affordable small car, even if it means waiting a bit, buying a pre-owned vehicle or taking a loan.

 

Credit or borrowing for consumption once considered a very dangerous thing, is now acceptable and ‘normal’ to Consumer India. Amazon and consumer durables stores and travel sites helpfully ask you, at the time of checking out, if you want to pay by EMI, that is, equated monthly instalments of credit. Credit is also morally purified. Its cultural label has changed from indebtedness, which can lead to ruin, to being the working capital for life and the helping hand that everybody needs to reach their goals. Financial services companies have been exploiting this attitude shift leading to the regulators and the courts coming down hard and framing laws to curb irresponsible lending that leads to imprudent borrowing, and strong-arm tactics for recovery that lead to customer stress and even suicides. An example of this is what happened to the microfinance industry in 2010 leading to a new law in 2011 that banned MFIs from approaching the doorstep of their customers, lengthened the loan collection cycles and told lenders that they had to get government approval to give a second loan to the same lender. The Reserve Bank of India, India’s banking regulator has issued a charter of customer rights for banks and non-banking financial services companies (NBFC) that includes the ‘right to suitability’, where ‘only products and services that are appropriate to the understanding and financial conditions of the customers may be offered to them.’ It is a caveat venditor (let the seller beware) as far as enforcing this right is concerned.

***

Get your copy of Lilliput Land by Rama Bijapurkar wherever books are sold.

From Bottom of the Pyramid to the ‘Middle of Diamond’​

In his new book, Middle of Diamond India writer Shashank Mani talks about a big change happening in India. As India celebrates its seventy-fifth anniversary of being independent, something important is taking place. Instead of only big cities and rich people being the focus, more attention is going to people from smaller towns and areas. These folks are often called the “middle class.” This change is different from before when we mostly noticed the rich and the poor, reshaping the conventional pyramid analogy into a more encompassing and multifaceted diamond-like structure.

Read this insightful excerpt to know more about what Middle of Diamond truly means.

Middle of Diamond India
Middle of Diamond India || Shashank Mani

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Morphing a Pyramid to a Diamond

 

As India crossed its seventy-fifth anniversary of Independence, this upsurge has picked up pace. Those from Tier 2 and 3 districts, such as Ahmednagar or my native Deoria, are now in the majority and asserting themselves. The aspirations of this segment are on the rise. The language barrier remains—Indian languages and hesitant English versus the annexe-honed English of the cantonment or a metro. But the centre of gravity has shifted firmly to this segment in the middle. This new centre will define the political, social, cultural and economic trajectory of the country over the coming twenty-five years.

 

In a paper published in 2002, C.K. Prahalad and Stuart Hart, two renowned management professors, came up with the phrase ‘Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid’. Prahalad expanded this theory into a book,1 which described the emerging market demography as a Pyramid. It invited corporates to search and seek a fortune at the Bottom if they made goods and services to appeal to people with lower incomes and cash flows.

 

About a decade ago, analysts began to sense that this reality was shifting with the emergence of the Middle. A 2010 World Bank report divided the 7 billion of the world’s population into four broad categories of countries. There were countries with a population of about a billion where per capita GDP was above $12,000. Another one billion lived in countries where the per capita GDP was between $4000 and $12,000. A third group of countries, to which India belonged, had a population of 4 billion and a per capita GDP range of between $1000 and $4000. Finally, one billion people lived in countries with a per capita GDP below $1000.2 The vast majority—four billion—were in countries in the Middle. As the number of people in extreme poverty fell sharply, the vision of the world as a Pyramid, with a small number of elites gazing down at the poor from their perch at the top, was getting outdated.

 

Middle of Diamond ImageOver the past decade, that ‘emerging middle’ has risen further, consisting of 800 million Indians and shaping countries like India into a Diamond.

 

If we look at an economic classification of India in 2020, it had approximately 200 million Indians at the top with an average per capita GDP of Rs 4 lakh per year, or $5000, which in PPP terms is close to $15,000 per capita. The bottom segment consists of 400 million Indians, with a per capita income of Rs 80,000 per year or $1000, which translates to $3000 in PPP, poor even by sub-Saharan standards. The remaining 800 million people comprise the ‘emerging middle’ with a per capita income of Rs 1.5 lakh or $2100 per capita, which translates to $6000 in PPP terms, now a clear majority. The top of this Diamond-shaped India earns 2.6 times more than the middle and almost five times more than Bottom. These numbers are averages, with each segment having higher and lower incomes. What the world calls Indian ‘middle class’ resides mostly at the bottom end of the Top. The vast majority of those in the Middle are ‘emerging middle class’, or simply ‘Middle India’. Middle India has around 800 million people, 11 per cent of the global population. On a PPP basis, the Middle has, on an average, a GDP that is the same as the whole of India, at $6000 per capita in PPP terms.

 

Middle India can also be broadly located in the 750 districts that make up our country. Each district will have some proportion of the Top, Middle and Bottom segment, but if we take an average classification, a diamond shape emerges here too. The top segment resides in thirty metro and Tier 1 districts, such as New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Thane, Gurgaon and others, and on average coincides with the top income segment. When I studied at Modern School, Humayun Road, I was rubbing shoulders with the children of these Indians. These districts have approximately 160 million Indians, and in the main, they are prosperous. On the other extreme are 470 Tier 4 districts where 460 million Indians live, largely coinciding with the bottom income segment. These districts are smaller in size and on average are still poor, such as the district of Dhemaji in Assam or Gadchiroli in Maharashtra. Sandwiched between these two segments are 240 districts classified as Tier 2 and Tier 3 districts where 780 million Indians reside—57 per cent of India’s population, in places such as Allahabad in UP, a Tier 2 district, or Ahmednagar in Maharashtra, a Tier 3 district. The US, that other large democracy, also witnessed a similar morphing after the Second World War as expressed by Edward Humes, ‘After the war, economic distribution in the US began to resemble a diamond, relatively small number of poor and rich at either end, with a big fat middle at the centre.’ The post-Second World War growth of the US was also powered by a similar shift.

 

***

Get your copy of Middle of Diamond India by Shashank Mani wherever books are sold.

Forces: consolidation of a rajasic India

Thought leaders from twenty diverse fields, ranging from politics, economics and foreign policy to health care and energy, predict what 2030 will look like for India and how the nation will evolve in this decade.

 

Editor Gautam Chikermane has masterfully weaved together essays by Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, Ajay Shah, Amish Tripathi, Amrita Narlikar, Bibek Debroy, David Frawley, Devdip Ganguli, Justice B.N. Srikrishna, Kirit S. Parikh, Manish Sabharwal, Monika Halan, Parth J. Shah, Raghunath Anant Mashelkar, Rajesh Parikh, Ram Madhav, Reuben Abraham, Samir Saran, Sandipan Deb and Vikram Sood into a single volume that looks towards India’s future.

 

India 2030 | Gautam Chikermane

 

 

Here is an excerpt from the book India 2030-

 

Beyond all other transformations in India, the 2020s will see a rajasic reawakening of the nation. This dynamic surge in the country’s soul will be driven individually, one citizen at a time; it will articulate its self-becoming as a coming together of India’s collective soul. Its manifestations will be physical and mental, its driving force spiritual. Supported by a political leadership that is in tune with the soul of India, Bharat, this change began in the 2010s. It will consolidate in the 2020s and reset the material destiny of India in the 21st century.

 

It will create a new balance between two forces. First, a centripetal force that will concentrate the energies of India to the principles of its nationhood, be informed by its own intellectual traditions and expressed through a modernity rooted in its soul. And second, a centrifugal force that will expand its footprint outwards, through a deeper and stronger engagement with civilised nations going hand in hand with a self-assured confidence that will keep a check on barbaric powers on its borders.

 

The 2020s will be a decade of transition. The transition will impact every aspect of India – its psychological approach, its democratic institutions, its diverse people, its global engagements. The shift will impact individuals, bind them, it will be powered by them and will simultaneously serve them as a collective. It will be a time when the very life force of India will be in constant motion towards a new equilibrium that will take inspiration from the nation’s swabhawa (essential character or spiritual temperament) in order to follow its swadharma (express its true essence).

 

Ten Priorities India Should Focus On

Bimal Jalan had a close view of financial governance while he served as Union Finance Secretary and Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. Drawing on his vast experience he compares two distinct periods: 1980–2000 and 2000–15, and examines the transition India has made in the last four decades from a strictly regulated, slow-growth state enterprise to one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.
In his latest book, India: Priorities for the future he lists out few areas India needs to pay attention to.
Here is a list of ten of those priorities:
One of the foremost priorities regarding financial governance
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Priority for the banking sector
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Another reform in the financial sector that the India has to bring about
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The RBI has to keep working with financial experts to develop procedure for the debt markets to grow
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The outcomes of the present schemes in terms of actual benefits is pretty low
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Performance reviews of a ministry will lead to better execution of policies
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Red tapism needs to be done away with
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Outsourcing to different agencies reduces petty corruption and delays
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An urgent political reform is to speed up investigations of persons who are in political parties
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An utmost priority lies in making the states accountable for policy execution than the Centre
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Which priority according to you should be the India’s topmost priority? Tell us.
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India Transformed — An Excerpt

Rakesh Mohan is the former deputy governor of the RBI. He has also served as the executive director of the IMF and secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, and Ministry of Finance. He is currently a Distinguished Fellow with Brookings India.
India underwent a major economic reform in the form of liberalization in 1991. In India Transformed, India’s top business leaders and economists come together and provide a balanced picture of the consequences of the economic reforms, initiated in 1991. They ask themselves some imperative questions: What were the reforms? What were they intended for? How have they affected the overall functioning of the economy?
Here is an exclusive excerpt from the foreword of the book, written by Strobe Talbott, the former Deputy Secretary of United States of America.
This timely, authoritative and policy-relevant volume sheds light on India’s dramatic changes over the past quarter century. That transformation has not only been a boon to the people of India, it has also contributed to the progress of the human enterprise as a whole. The world’s largest democracy is a major player on the world stage. It is certainly viewed and valued that way by my own country, the United States of America.
The economic and commercial dimension of India’s evolution is, of course, crucial. Hence, the focus of submissions in the pages that follow is political economy, financial development, trade and globalization, technology and innovation, agricultural and industrial development, and the interaction between the private and public sectors. The contributors include some of the original designers and implementers of the reform process, along with the prominent business leaders who have been the most successful builders of the economy.
There is also, thanks to the inclusion of wisdom from Shivshankar Menon, Shyam Saran and Sanjaya Baru, due attention paid to India’s foreign and security policy.
Over the course of the last half-century, I have had numerous opportunities to watch India’s evolution, first from the vantage point of a student of international relations and then for two decades as a journalist. During my eight years in government during the 1990s, I also had a chance to participate in the effort by the Indian and the US governments to put the bilateral relationship on a sounder—indeed, a transformed—footing than had been the case in the first four decades after Indian Independence. Dennis Kux captured the perception on both sides of that star-crossed backstory in the subtitle of his 1992 book, India and the United States: Estranged Democracies.
What stymied a robust bond between these two countries? After all, both had wrested their independence from British rule while adopting and adapting many of the features of British constitutional governance (minus, of course, the monarchy).
The key factor, I’ve always believed, was the Cold War.
It was approximately at the midpoint of that global schism that I first visited India forty-two years ago. I owe that enriching and informative experience to a glitch in my career as a Sovietologist.
In those days, I was a reporter for Time magazine concentrating on East–West relations and was assigned to the State Department beat. This often meant whirling around the world, coping with what seemed like a permanent case of jetlag, trying to keep up with the then secretary of state Henry Kissinger.
In October 1974, Kissinger embarked on a seven-nation diplomatic tour starting with Moscow. The Kremlin was eager to welcome the secretary of state as the personification of continuity in the US policy of détente, in the wake of Richard Nixon’s resignation and Gerald Ford’s ascension to the presidency. The Soviets, however, were not about to extend their hospitality to me. I was persona non grata because of my role in translating and editing Nikita Khrushchev’s memoirs. The material for the two volumes was surreptitiously recorded and spirited out of the country while he was under virtual house arrest, since his ouster from the leadership ten years before. The second volume, published earlier in 1974, particularly irked Foreign Minister Anatoly Gromyko, who sent a message to Kissinger’s plane over the Atlantic, denying me a visa.
After I was unceremoniously dropped off in Copenhagen during a fuelling stop, I hopscotched to New Delhi, which would be Kissinger’s second stop after Moscow.
On the personal front, my several days of free time were immensely gratifying. I made friendships that lasted for decades. I also came to know Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan (whose desk officer at the State Department was none other than Dennis Kux). Moynihan’s wife, Elizabeth, took me under her wing and drove me out to—where else?—the Taj Mahal, where she was already deeply into studying the Mughal gardens.
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The Ups and Downs of Narendra Modi’s Governance

Uday Mahurkar in his latest book Marching with a Billion takes stock of Narendra Modi’s three years in power. Focusing on key areas of governance like infrastructure, foreign affairs, finance, digital technology, etc. Mahurkar showcases the work of the present government and the monumental changes the prime minister has brought about.
Here are ten highlights of Narendra Modi’s tenure:
Nearly 27 crore poor people opened their bank accounts under Narendra Modi’s Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana.
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Uday Mahurkar points out that India has emerged as the number one global destination for FDI because of these two factors.
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There have been disputes going on between investors and shipping ministry on account of the retrospective regulations slapped by the A.B. Vajpayee government fifteen years ago.
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Uday Mahurkar notes that the relationship Modi is forging with the US, cutting across that country’s web of diplomatic calculations, is also new in the history of India’s diplomacy. The way Modi capitalized on India’s strength during his June 2016 US visit, which took the US Congress by storm and instilled the fear of isolation in the heart of Pakistan, and even China, left the world powers impressed.
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Modi’s government is probably the first since Independence that has made a real attempt to involve the people in the process and, that too, quite successfully.
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Modi, who has always been ahead of his times in adopting the latest technology, told the officials that he wanted to link people to digital technology like nowhere else in the world.
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One big criticism of the government on reforms is what many people call its failure to disinvest big PSUs like Air India, SAIL and CIL. There is a view that taxation and banking reforms could have been faster. Mahurkar quotes a senior BJP leader with sound knowledge of the Indian economy who says: ‘What was needed was a transformational approach on reforms, but many steps indicate the government’s approach has been selectively incremental.’
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Mahurkar observes that Modi’s China diplomacy signals a great change in India’s attitude towards that nation—from a defensive posture maintained over several decades to that of equal, controlled aggression. Modi gave another sign of India’s new stance soon after the G20 summit in the way he chose to react to the China–Philippines dispute in the South China Sea at the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations at Laos.
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According to Uday Mahurkar, the prime minister believes that the country has to overcome the urban–rural digital divide if it is to move forward.
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Uday Mahurkar points out that there have been projects under Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport and Highways of India in Modi government, which have not taken-off yet.
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Tell us what you think of Narendra Modi’s governance in the past three years.
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