An Economist and Social Scientist, Bhaskar ponders over the problems of writing Economics for the commoners. He reasons that two areas that be fooled the commoners are Sanskrit for centuries and Economics for decades. Both the subjects are distanced from commoners and in that process, one is almost extinct from the vocabulary of commoners, and the other is emitting pollution. He dwells on the plight of the commoners, in the light of demonetisation. So commoners must stand in the long queue, even if some of them die, fall ill, deliver babies (as reported by Rediff News) in the banks, suffer from stroke, and get pickpocketed, and so on. The Nation comes first and also lasts, last. In another instance, he realises that commoners are law abiding. Sadly, a subsistence farmer, Kamla, becomes an easy scapegoat in a premier social science institute. The marriage of two toppers of UPSC gets mired in politics. This too is sad. Here’s the weekly column, wherein he observes the society, exclusively for Different Truths.
Of late, I have been getting a popular response to my pedestrian-type pieces in Different Truths (DT) and request to write some Economics. They are not wrong for two areas that be fooled the commoners, Sanskrit for centuries and Economics for decades. Both the subjects are distanced from commoners and in that process, one is almost extinct from the vocabulary of commoners, and the other is emitting pollution.
How to talk to commoners about Economics is itself a dilemma and I confess this even after forty years of my continuous teaching at different layers and levels in many states in India. Many of the contents that are being taught over decades are not told directly. For example, the theory of comparative cost to explain trade between two countries with the famous example of Britain producing clothes and Portugal producing wine and then exchanging in trade, while it was actually a British firm in Portugal producing wine. So, it was a British firm in Britain and a British firm in Portugal, which were trading though the political negotiators were countries. All the theories and explanations in Economics are not that simple and visible for long-term direct military colonisation by mainly Britain (it had by 1914, 60 colonies plus India) and international trade that time would have been better explained in terms of intra-Britain trade. I fail to understand why we should say the export surplus of India during British colonisation for it was in British interest to keep the export surplus in India, which could have been termed as export-surplus led exploitation of India’s firms and people for many reasons.
My understanding is again regarding Drain Theory that it could have been directly termed as loot by the British – the only Economics that used to be analysed to call it a theory was relative prices of inflows and outflows. Price is seen as invisible hand in Economics; actually, it is visible – it is the hand of the state!
So this may be considered as a prelude to what may follow next in Economics, in this column.
For a Greater Cause
It is for the cause of the nation! It is against black money or against Pakistan- sponsoring terrorism through old notes of denominations Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000. It is about nationalism/patriotism. So commoners must stand in the long queue, excepting Jan Dhan Yojna account holders, even if some of them die, fall ill, deliver babies (as reported by Rediff News) in the banks, suffer from stroke, and get pickpocketed, and so on. The Nation comes first and also lasts, last. This concept of nation is defined by some who represent the state.
My understanding is that nation means people and the state is an agreement post-Westphalia 1648 in the European frame. But then, what to do if, at a mature stage, the state overpowers the nation?
Who dares to talk against the attack on black money or who dares to talk anything that hypothetically helps a bad neighbour? So the demonetisation’s marginal effects are on. The unwelcome consequences do not count as the percentage of total population or account holders in banks or population possessing the currency of denominations 500 and 1000. Commoners are always common for any cause – be it standing in the queue to get tickets for the football match or elsewhere. Some regions in India, however, got the opportunity to make queues on a daily basis that is a phenomenon in Kolkata notwithstanding Didi’s anxiety.
My personal curiosity is about the missing crorepati self-announced in Gujarat or some arrested persons here and there and the follow-up. Also, about the real big fish! The net is too small to capture the big fish. Or it may be that the big fish will again swallow the small ones to show the further concentration of capital!
After the first surprise was over by a week or so post-observations, telephonic communications and comments I thought the Demonetisation 11/8 would have been over by end-November 2016. Oh no! It is haunting me in December also. I had to draw some money from the bank after salary was collectively institutionally deposited in our bank accounts. I asked my messenger not to take note of denomination 2000 for fear of non-acceptability by commoners like in grocer’s shop, vegetable market, etc. They are not only reluctant; they have declined to take cheques from me. Ultimately, my messenger bought for me denominations of 10 and 100. Of course two notes of Rs. 2000/- were there, which I had to take reluctantly but the look was so repulsive (with apology and take it as a noneconomists view) that I am afraid other than children most of the people may keep distance from it. So far so good. Then I thought I should make a brief survey as a pedestrian economist. I selected 25 adult persons of different age groups, of both sexes, and asked them if they kept at home/hand any old notes of denominations Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000, which have been banned 11/8, because I forgot to keep anyone (my marginal utility of each denomination being high).
My sample included persons earning monthly income between Rs. 25,000/- and Rs. 200,000/- implying a coverage of both low-income, middle-income and high-income people, the number of persons selected and interviewed in descending order. None of them kept any of those denominations announced banned – not even for museum purposes! This implies, among many implications, that the commoners are law abiding.
What is about the law-makers? Perhaps that’s a different story!
Why was Kamla an Easy Scape Goat?
I got my first shock, at a personal level, at Allahabad for Kamla. Now, he was an employee assigned to take care of the ‘powerful persons’, hierarchically speaking, at a premier social science research institute, at Allahabad. I recapitulate the incidence that had occurred more than a decade back. One day, I had asked Kamla to check if Dr X was there in his office – then the institute was more distanced from technology-related facilities like intercom, etc.
Strangely, Kamla did not return. At the end of the day, I came to know that he found the person but kept on sitting in front of his office/chamber for the entire day! The next day, I asked him about it and he told he was satisfied that Dr X was very much present in his office!
Kamla was essentially a subsistence farmer, I came to know subsequently, but at a high cost for him. On one occasion, I asked him in front of the-then-head of the institute, without realising that it could be a serious disaster. Kamla was sacked. With it many people, who used to keep the institution’s accountancy breathed a sigh of relief for what I came to know was more serious – he had been an unwilling lender, who was used not to get back the money lent out! Now, I understand where my question went wrong! But my late realisation cannot be a consolation for Kamla.
I ponder over these days how could there be an easy/rosy relocation from traditional/seasonal agriculture to tertiary sector bypassing industrialisation or industrialism associated with it. And what is wrong if UP remains agriculture-based?
Shocking: Why are Marriages Politicised!
Shocks may be good in life – it may teach to withstand the rest of the world at the least. But then unwarranted shocks or shocks from unexpected quarter often may create havoc. This is what I understand from the moral preaching of one semi-political outfit that denounces marriage-in- proposal of the latest UPSC topper (female) be the second topper (male). I had no understanding that marriage between male and female could be an activity where a semi-political agency could be the determinant. But then India is a country full of surprises and shocks, it has nothing more to do with demonetisation.
I have reasons to accept that both were willing – they understood marriage as the end of their love (which of course one may disagree with) but then if they decided to marry, I don’t find any reason why that should be reversed by the sermon of a semi-political agency. Also, no one eloped, which could have drawn the evil eyes of extra-legal agencies. I am not sure about their background by religion or if it is a case of Hindu Nationalism (with due respect to Judiciary that patriotism cannot be allowed to be defined by each in India on his/her own way).
The problem perhaps lies elsewhere – the boy is from J&K, while the girl comes from ‘rest-of-India’. Still then what is the problem? Does the problem remain if the boy would have been from ‘rest-of- India’ and the girl from J&K? How does geography obstruct when science is intact? Does marriage breed militants? Love has no linguistic-colour- region-caste-community barrier, in my understanding. If these factors act as barriers against marriage that needs to be clarified.
Photos from the internet.
Prof. Bhaskar Majumder, an eminent economist, is the Professor of Economics at GB Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad. He was the Professor and Head of the Centre for Development Studies, Central University of Bihar, Patna. He has published nine books, 69 research papers, 32 chapters,15 review articles and was invited to lectures at premier institutes and universities over 50 times. He has 85 papers published in various seminars and conferences.
He also worked in research projects for Planning Commission (India), World Bank, ICSSR (GoI), NTPC, etc. A meritorious student, Bhaskar was the Visiting Scholar in MSH, Paris under Indo-French Cultural Exchange Programme. He loves speed, football and radical ideology.