All entries for Thursday 20 October 2005

October 20, 2005

Asia Times Letters

At the risk of oversimplification, it could be argued that Francesco Sisci's article [Is China headed for a social 'red alert'? Oct 20] on protests in "socialist" China over the increasingly visible inequality levels (higher than in capitalist America and Britain) [is] a testimony to what an opportunity cost China is incurring due to its opaque political system. The value of qualification, deliberation, scrutiny and accountability are of utmost importance when it comes to realpolitik or political economy, especially in an important issue such as economic transition. A comparative situation could be seen in India's West Bengal, where Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya is receiving flak from the opposition over laying a red carpet to foreign capital, or the government in Delhi, which faces questions from its communist allies in parliament. Such practices might delay reforms, but they will ensure that all arguments for and against have been laid on the table, and the consequent decision has a greater probability of being justified in the long term. China's environmental degradation, raging inequality, non-performing assets in banks and a rampant cadre-company nexus are all attributes of translucency. As the author mentions, it is only when the party decides to unveil fresh data that the world gets to know what lies dormant behind the gleaming Pudong skyline. We need an "Argumentative Chinese", and we need her now.

Stop Pretending

The Telegraph, 20.10.05

It is hard to believe the levels Indian politics can sink to. Are we now expected to think that the solution to all caste-related problems is abolishing surnames (“Slash surname to kill caste”, Oct 15)? The National Commission for Scheduled Castes seems to have lost all sense of direction. There are ample laws and policies for backward castes enshrined in our Constitution and guaranteed by our courts. The commission should be lobbying with the government to implement these laws in far-flung rural areas and to make them more effective, rather than come up with ridiculous ideas. Will social hierarchies automatically vanish if a low-caste person suddenly drops his surname? Discriminations will continue, and the only way to resolve them is through institutional reform and the introduction of market-friendly policies that would ensure that only the best are hired by employers, irrespective of their caste status. For reservations contribute to the social exclusion of low-caste people, who are seen to make it through the backdoor. More fundamentally, the emancipation of one cannot lie in the deprivation of another.

What is frustrating is that the Congress has reportedly accepted the proposal “on principle”. Even the Bharatiya Janata Party has not been as emphatic in its rejection. Indians would make themselves the laughing stock of the world if they flaunt this kind of social egalitarianism.


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