More on Teresa

Following my post yesterday on abusing children Mother Teresa style, I came across Christopher Hitchens’ article in the UK Mirror, “Why Mother Teresa Should Not Be a Saint.” I will quote only a bit here for the record but really you have to read the article to get a better understanding of what Teresa was all about. (I got to know of the article from a post by Anthony Loewenstein titled Mother Teresa Slammed Again.)
Continue reading “More on Teresa”

Abusing Children Teresa Style

On Aug 1st British television carried an investigative piece by Donal McIntyre about the treatment of children in an orphanage run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. He quotes Dr Aroup Chatterjee, a medical doctor in London and the author of Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict, as saying that “the Indian government is “terrified” of her reputation but if similar practices were found in any other home, it would have been shut down.”
Continue reading “Abusing Children Teresa Style”

Notice of Suspension

I will be traveling till the 25th and will not have access to the web. That is why I will maintain web silence and not because I am done with the topic at hand.

I stand corrected by TTG on the point about the entire khandaan of Nehru-Gandhi family not having one single solitary degree. It appears that Cha-Chaji was not entirely untutored. Thanks to TTG I actually came to learn another fact about another hero of mine — Mother Teresa, the Merciless — she had supported Indira Gandhi’s dictatorship. I had known that Teresa the Merciless used to hobnob with dictators, but that she was in the thick with Mrs Gandhi is news to me.

I will have to devote a few keystrokes to the devastation of Teresa the Merciless one of these days and I expect the usual deluge of hate-mail. But all that hate mail is worth it because in the end I get to change a few people’s opinion about the true nature of Teresa the Merciless.

Please do visit the archives if you are new to this blog. Recommendations: Agriculture and Development from Jan 2004. Or from Feb 2004, Why don’t they feel the pain. The part 2 of Agriculture and Development is also worth a read.

One final point: Please do include an email address if you post a comment. If you don’t wish to post the email address (because of possible spam), please do send me a copy of the comments to atanudey at gmail dot com.

Nehru and the Indian Economy (…Why is India Poor? )

The last posting, Why is India Poor?, has drawn sufficient attention that there needs to be a follow-up addressing some of the points raised in the comments.

It is interesting to note that the arguments against my view of Nehru and his failed economic policies are generic. I will repeat them and my counter-arguments here.

My argument. Economic policies matter. If you have sound economic policies, you get commensurate economic performance. India’s economic performance sucks. It performs dismally in any sort of ranking of human development and economic performance tests. Half the illiterates of the world call India their home. A third of all global poverty is in India. All things considered, India has been a colossal failure so far.

Why has India been a failure? Are Indians collectively stupid? Unlikely.

Did GOD decree it? I asked him and he categorically denied it.

Did nations around the world gang up and rape India for the last 60 years? Not that I know of.

I am left with the hypothesis that perhaps India’s economic policies sucked chrome off a bumper of a pickup truck parked at 400 yards.

Who makes economic policies? You? I? No, economic policy is made by the so-called leaders and visionaries of this sainted land. Who were the most powerful leaders of this land since its independence from Britain? Nehru and his descendants. He dictated policy—economic, foreign, domestic, you name it. The most charitable way of putting the matter is to say that Nehru was clueless.

He wasn’t just clueless about this or that. His cluelessness was all encompassing. He was clueless about foreign policy, military strategy, domestic development &#151 you name it and he is the greatest screw-up that India has ever produced.

Then come the rebuttals which often start with the admission that Nehru was clueless but . . .

. . . but during his time, many others–including a few people one cannot dismiss as being clueless thought that Central planning was beneficial for countries like India. These included Nobel winner Gunnar Myrdal (Asian Drama, an Inquiry into the Poverty of Nations) and Mahalanobis.

The argument above says that it wasn’t the man, it was the circumstances. By that logic, everything is justifiable. Every crime can be explained away as the result of compelling circumstances and hence there can be no accountability.

Take, for instance, the WorldCom and Enron cases where executives committed theft on unprecedented and unimaginable scale. One could point to the fact that other companies were also doing shady accounting, that the internet boom was going strong, that the economy was very strong, that the GAAP was being followed. All those explanations would also paper over the fact that the crime arose out of the greed of the perpetrator. Given all the circumstances but absent the greed of the executives, the grand theft would not have taken place.

Now back to Nehru: even if one were to grant all the circumstances that you cite above (but only for the sake of argument), the fact remains that central planning was personally very convenient for the Cha-cha.

The children of Imperialism are not weaned on the milk of humility; they are brought up on heady diet of hubris. Nehru was an imperialist who believed that his destiny was to rule the brown masses and he continually rejected sane advice. Look deeply into any problem that India faces and you will see Nehru’s finger-prints all over it.

Take Kashmir. Who was it who let the matter get out of hand? Nehru with his idiotic insistence that the UN be called to mediate the dispute. Talking of the UN, who was it who rejected the proposal that India take a seat in the permanent security council? Nehru. There is not enough space here to go into all the horrendous mistakes.

Then there is the argument that says, “Don’t blame Nehru for the screw-up that India is. We, Indians, are to blame.” That line is similar to the one Niket made in the comments in the last post.

Yes, in fact, we are to blame. Indians are basically collectively a bunch of clueless retards. They collectively elect leaders who are clueless retards and these clueless retards choose policies that keep the country of hundreds of millions of people in abject poverty. No argument there. A country deserves the leaders it gets, especially so in a so-called democracy. I agree that Bihar deserves and gets Rabri Devi and Laloo Prasad Yadav.

So if the collective is to blame, why is Nehru elevated to the position of a demi-god? Not just that, anyone associated with his family is elevated as well. With very rare exceptions, everything in India which has a personal name associated with it is named after the Nehru-Gandhi family. The Borivali National Park close to my abode is named “Sanjay Gandhi National Park”. All sorts of educational institutions are named after the members of a family that collectively have fewer educational achievements than yours truly.

Allow me to repeat that: The entire Nehru-Gandhi family — Cha-chaji, Indira, Rajiv, Sonia, Sanjay, Rahul, Prianka – collectively haver fewer educational qualifications than I (an average person) do. If I am not mistaken, they don’t have one solitary single college degree among the whole lot of them.

{To be continued.}

Why is India Poor? (Note #382)

What India is today is to a large extent the result of policy choices made by its leaders — especially post India’s independence. Prior to 1947, India’s fortunes were dictated by the British. The British were in India for — not to put too fine a point on it — looting the place. That is totally understandable. Every institution they created was directed towards the final goal of enriching themselves. Colonizers don’t go about colonizing foreign lands out of a sense of altruism. They do it for the moolah.

After independence, however, Indian policy was in the hands of Indians. What were the objectives of these Indians who stood at the helm? I really don’t know. What motivated them? I don’t know for sure. What were their declared motives? I believe it was to lead India to prosperity. Cha-cha Nehru said as much in his famous Tryst with Destiny speech. Talk is cheap. Especially pretty talk. Talk about scaling commanding heights is pretty as a picture, and as cheap as a picture. I have written critically about Cha-cha Nehru and his talk elsewhere. (See Nehru, the Nabob of Cluelessness, for instance.)

Justice Louis Brandeis wrote (Olmstead v US, 1928):

Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.

I remind myself that the British were the evil minded rulers that all were naturally wary of. What Indians did not realize is the danger of men like Nehru and his descendents.

Despite all Nehru’s pretty speeches, I believe he was motivated by a deep megalomanical zeal to command and control.

Shakespeare’s Mark Anothony says at Ceasar’s funeral, “The evil that men do, lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones.” Well, we do have the evil they did living after them. My wish is that their pretty speeches were also interred with their bones.

Open Letter to Buddhadeb Bhattacharya

Dear Chief Minister of West Bengal Mr. Buddhadev Bhattacharya:

I have come to learn that there is some possibility of renaming Park Street as Mother Teresa street and erecting her statue.

I think this is a very bad idea. The image of Kolkata has been forever tarnished as a result of Mother Teresa’s activities. For greater details on why this is so, I would urge you to read what some neutral observers have to say about the lady. I have a few articles on the subject and I recommend a book by a son of Kolkata — Dr Aroup Chatterjee’s “Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict” which I have reviewed here.

We in India are totally brainwashed to accept uncritically anything that is Western and white. Mother Teresa, motivated by missionary zeal, used the poverty of the poor of Kolkata to enrich her mission. While I do not deny that India has abject poverty, she used that poverty and showcased it around the world not to solve the problem but to evoke pity from affluent people so that they would contribute to the welfare of her mission, not for the welfare of the people she so ruthlessly used.

I urge you to carefully review the evidence and reconsider.

Atanu Dey

I have followed the Mother Teresa phenomenon with a sick feeling in my stomach because of a number of reasons. The primary reason for me is that she epitomizes what is the fundamental flaw that led to what we see in India around us today. The flaw is in not thinking through things, of busying ourselves with the symptoms of an ailment rather than eradicating the cause.

Mother Teresa ceaselessly championed for uncontrolled breeding. She did her best to derail any serious attempt at addressing one of the primary causes of poverty in the developing countries, namely, the growth of human populations way beyond that which can be sustained at a humane level. All she wanted was that there be sufficiently large number of abjectly poor in a place so she could gather brownie points to assure her place amongst the sainted. As she honestly put it, if there were no poor, there would not be any reason for hermission to exist. The poor, she held, were blessed because they suffer.

I feel that she should be called Teresa, the Merciless. Millions will be forced lead miserable lives because of what she has done and the institutions she supported (the Vatican, primarily) and the institutions she has created.

I expect hate mail as a result of this post. But I hope that the writer of hate mail at least read some of the articles which I have provided the links to above. My request is that you send me hate mail only after you have honestly read the articles.

Politically Incorrect: India’s Corrupt Voters

I am never quite sure why people insist that the Indian democracy is so great. To me it appears to be the greatest curse imposed on India from up on high. It is totally politically (sic) incorrect to take this view, of course. But I don’t apologize for believing so and I am convinced that the Indian voter is corrupt.

Rajesh Jain’s blog has an item on lessons from India’s elections which got me thinking. The claim made by Shekhar Gupta of the Indian Express is that India’s voter has become smart.

Compared to whom? I ask. Compared to Shekhar Gupta?

I guess so since Shekhar Gupta claims that the Indian voter has become smart. For I don’t see any reason to believe that the Indian voter has changed in any substantial way. The Indian voter continues to be a narrow-minded, ignorant, casteist, bigoted, vacuous idiot it has always been.

Here is my reasoning.

  • Exhibit A: I look at the politicians of this country. To a first approximation, they are ignorant, bigoted, casteist, vacuous idiotic criminals. These bunch of unspeakable criminals (where I use the word in its literal sense) are consistently voted into power by the Indian voter.
  • Fact B: A population of wise, informed, well-meaning, broad-minded, intelligent voters cannot continue to vote a bunch of corrupt ignorant bigots as their political leaders.
  • Major Premise C: Voters reveal their character by expressing their preferences at the polls.
  • Minor Premise D: Leaders are endogenous to the group, that is, they emerge from within the group and so reflect the dominant traits of the group.

Mr Gupta writes that the voter is not swayed by charisma. Well, how would we know? We need charismatic people first and then if the voter is unmoved, we can say that it is true.

We do know that the Indian voter is swayed by “big names”, though. Why else would they trot out an uneducated chap (Rahul Gandhi) as the Congress mascot unless they were confident that the Indian voter will be swayed?

What else explains the tenacity with which the entire Nehru-Gandhi clan is totally into getting into the highest political positions? By their indomitable courage? No. Their astonishing brilliance in academics? None are really even educated. Their thorough understanding of the problems of development? Never done an honest day’s work. Their undying dedication to the hard task of nation building? Shirley, you jest. Their selfless sacrifice demonstrated by their social work? Not a bloody chance in hell.

What then explains the astonishing idiocy of the Indian voter to continue to vote the Nehru-Gandhi clan to power?

Let’s face the facts. I would have loved to report that we are a great democracy. We are not. If we were, we would not be facing the prospect of having an Italian aupair as the prime minister of a country of 1000 000 000 people. She says that she is loyal to her adopted country (never mind that she did not apply for Indian citizen for over a decade). Well, I would ask her whether she has any loyalty to the country that she was born in. No? If a person has no loyalty towards the land of one’s birth, I would not pay a tinker’s damn to any other oath of loyalty that the person takes. If you change your allegiance once, it is all too easy to do it once again. Indians who don’t understand that simple concept are idiots and I don’t care how accomplished they may be in their respective fields. If an Indian says that Sonia’s origin is not an issue for the prime minister’s seat, I would say that Indian is a moron.

I have met only a handful of politicians personally. I have known some of them well and all of them — every one of them to the last person — has accumulated vast sums of money through bribery and corruption. It is a random sample. I have no doubt that the vast majority of Indian politicians are corrupt. Politicians are endogenous to the population. They are random samples drawn from the underlying population. In other words, the sample characteristics give an indication of the population characteristics. The corruption of the politicians is the single most damning evidence that the voters are corrupt.

That is the law.

Destroying the Country from Within

This is a rant. Displaying equanimity in the face of adversity is an admirable quality. I am afraid that there are times when one has to give vent to one’s true feelings and come out openly and call a steaming pile of excrement a steaming pile of excrement without mincing words. I am refering to the recent Supreme Court decision to support the reduction of fees for the IIMs from Rs 1.5 lakhs to Rs 30,000.

Today’s Times of India editorial calls it a senseless subsidy. {In the original draft, I had expressed my opinion of the Supreme Court in blunt language. A friend called up to say that in India one is liable to be thrown in jail for doing so since it a non-bailable offense. It seems that one cannot freely express one’s opinion of the President of India and the judges of the Supreme Court. I don’t know for sure but this must be the legacy of the British — royalty being above criticism. Be that as it may, I am removing the honest criticism from here and publishing it elsewhere where one can freely express one’s opinion.}

India is poor by choice. The policy of subsidizing higher education and neglecting primary education is one such policy choice that has condemned India to being a poor third-world irrelevant nation which has the highest number of impoverished illiterates in the universe.

We are poor by choice. We don’t need adverse external shocks to keep us illiterate and poor; India’s leaders and its courts will do the job of keeping India a chronically ailing over-populated collective of starving illiterates without any help from abroad.

The importance of primary education cannot be overstated — ever. No amount of India Shining campaigns can paper over the fact that India is doomed unless it focuses on primary education. I have been writing about the shocking neglect of primary education and the regressive subsidy of higher education for years. (See Who Paid for my Education? for instance.) It is not rocket science. A moment’s reflection is all that it takes for one to realize the importance of primary education. Allow me to quote from Venkatesh Hariharan in a recent exchange at the India-gii mailing list:

… How can India be shining when we have [an education] minister who doesn’t care a damn for the pathetic lack of a primary education? The man is, instead, taking a sledgehammer and applying it diligently to what are the crown jewels of India–the IITs and IIMs. Our current success is IT is just a “flash in the pan,” whatever NASSCOM may say. We happened to be in the right place at the right time when the IT and BPO booms happened but to sustain it we need more than luck. In the knowledge economy, our lack of a primary education system is a serious handicap.

Many years ago, I met with MIT’s noted economist, Lester Thurow and he said that India’s lack of a primary education system was one of its biggest handicaps. I recently met him again for an extended interview that appeared in MIT’s Technology Review. Here are some excerpts from the interview:

  1. In the knowledge economy, Thurow says, countries that wish to stay ahead must pay great attention to education. “Ask yourselves this question–30 or 50 years from now what job will an illiterate do? By that time you will have robots to do what an illiterate does now.”
  2. “When we talk about the knowledge economy, we are not talking about just information technology or programming,” says Thurow. “Every job will have a big knowledge component. For example, in a modern steel mill, a worker is more likely to sit behind a computer screen than lift anything physically. When we are talking about knowledge workers, we are talking about any job that has a knowledge component.” Fewer and fewer jobs fall outside of that description, he says. Countries that aim to progress in the global economy therefore have to ensure that everybody becomes literate as fast as possible.
  3. According to Thurow, the lack of widespread, basic education is one of the reasons that India has problems competing with China. “The worst educated province in China is better than the best educated province in India. Indian universities are better than Chinese universities but more people are in Chinese grade schools than are in Indian grade schools. This will hurt India and you cannot allow this to continue in the long-run. You have a top-down strategy versus the bottom-up strategy that China has. You better have a strategy that gets everybody educated,” he says.He praised China’s approach of getting everybody educated up to the third grade, then to the sixth grade, tenth grade, twelfth grade and so on. Globalization strategies have to carry the masses with it or they would not succeed. A knowledge based economy is not one where only the elite get educated, he says.

Our education system, our national IT strategies are all deeply elitist. As a country, we need to broadbase our education system and leverage IT for the dispersion of knowledge. Instead, what we have are crumbling schools, absent (and often underpaid) teachers, and students who will emerge completely unprepared for the kowledge economy. And what we have is a thin elite layer that is happily using IT as a milch cow that showers dollars and pays scant attention to how it can be deployed for our country’s benefit. India shining? Not unless you are smoking pot!

When one ponders the factors that account for India’s backwardness, one is struck by how significant is the role of luck. It is sheer bad luck that India got saddled with mostly self-serving ignorant power-hungry narrow-minded short-sighted bunch of leaders and policy makers. How long it will be before the billion plus people of India find within them enlightened leaders is hard to tell. If ever there was a time for good leadership to emerge, now it is.

[I have written earlier on Pricing Management Education in this blog which looks at the arithmetic of subsidizing IIM education.]

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