All entries for January 2005

January 26, 2005

Money at Hand

The Telegraph, 26.01.2005

Ashok Mitra lets his imagination run away with itself when talking about the role of foreign exchange reserves in the Indian economy (“Money to burn”, Jan 21). Later in the article, he turns to the same old, and very general, arguments against “foreign imperialism”.

Mitra seems sceptical that the forex will be used to develop basic infrastructure. He insinuates that the deputy planning commissioner wants to deploy the reserves to build airports and roadways of international standard. A few things need to be remembered here. India has more airports compared to many countries, say China. But, India’s overall air traffic is very low and most of the airports are a drag on the finances of the Airports Authority of India. The government’s bid to prop up Air India and Indian Airlines has left Indian consumers without the choice of better and cheaper services for long. Thus, contrary to what Mitra believes, “qualitative” and “quantitative” upgradation of infrastructure would not not just attract foreigners, it would benefit Indians as well.

Two, the author is factually wrong when he claims that M.S. Ahluwalia has suggested that we spend all our forex, barring a $50 billion reserve stock, on infrastructure. Such an inflationary move would be insane, and the Planning Commission would never recommend it. Countries like China have long used their forex reserves to boost infrastructure, and India’s physical infrastructure is very poor in comparison. Three, the author makes the sweeping remark that the bulk of our reserves do not belong to us. He forgets that India’s exports have grown in rupee terms between April-July 2005 compared to the same period last year. This is not a one-off improvement — ever since liberalization, our exports have been growing significantly. The only reason for its somewhat slow pace compared to China are the enterprise-strangling policies we have had for half a century.

The foreign institutional investments pouring into the Sensex are not solely speculative in character, and arguing thus is an insult to India’s entrepreneurs who have built thriving, world-class companies. Mitra must be day-dreaming when he recommends more controls on foreign funds. State intervention in the economy is a thing of the past. India needs large doses of foreign investment to boost exports, employment and growth and whoever doesn’t realize this is out of touch with reality.


January 25, 2005

Reasons to Come Back

The Telegraph, 25.01.2005

Rudrangshu Mukherjee correctly identifies his nostalgia for Calcutta belonging to a “vanished era” (“Return of the native”, Jan 9). There are many in the Indian diaspora who originate in Calcutta, and would very much like to be associated with it. But today they shy away from doing so. Because Calcutta today stands not for its beauty, or hospitality, or bourgeois luxuries, or even technological marvels, but for quite the opposite things. From the moment one lands at the Dum Dum airport begins the torment that spoils the joy of coming back to one’s native city. Airport officials are hopelessly unhelpful and impolite, public transport is shoddy and the quality of physical infrastructure is rotten. On top of that, the people on the streets are rude. Calcutta is perhaps the only city where taxi-drivers decide whether they will take on a passenger or not. Garbage heaps line most streets and little is done to remove them.

But we were not alone in our misfortunes. The author mentions blitzed London of 1948, torn apart by German bombing in World War II. Let us take a moment and recall the rape of Nanjing, or the bombing of Hiroshima. Many other cities met with an equally tragic fate as Calcutta did when the 1943 famine hit it, or when migration from East Pakistan began. Today, the glittering skyline of Pudong, Shanghai reminds us of our degradation as a city. Calcutta is no longer the City of Joy, but our age-old arrogance has blinded us to this fact. If only Calcuttans realized this, the city could be saved. On its rubble, the people must take an oath to rebuild and restore their city to its old glory.


January 23, 2005

Acting in Earnest

The Telegraph. 23.01.2005

Swapan Dasgupta’s “Has the UN arrived?” (Jan 14) is thought-provoking. Despite the impressive contribution by the common people of Europe and America, there is a real danger of the victims’ plight being forgotten once the tsunami recedes from the headlines on the BBC and CNN. But a more worrying fact is that the apathy towards aid could lead to the undermining of relief efforts in Africa, where civil war and HIV have killed thousands.

The Americans may have avoided politicizing relief efforts, but not so the Chinese. China made a meagre donation of $60 million, and worse, a vicious internet campaign was launched to discourage Chinese donations to India. The government of India has shown its backbone for the first time in many years by refusing foreign financial aid.


January 18, 2005

No Compromise on Freedom

Title:
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

Originally reviewed for India Nest

Neo-liberalism, the dominant thought in the international realm today, owes to no other theorist its intellectual foundation than Friedrich von Hayek. Together with the ‘monetarists’ under Milton Friedman, these two individuals identified the tools with which to demolish that brainchild of democratic socialism- social democracy, which had been the prevalent mode of organising civil society after the Second World War. We need to remember that during the time of this book, Hayek was striving to turn the current of the societal stream. His ideas were very much against the prevalent consensus, and returned only in the late 1970s with the advent of Thatcherism and Reaganomics.

Hayek’s core focus in The Road to Serfdom is identifying the relation between socialism and totalitarianism. He argues that the ‘road’ to totalitarianism gets clearer, as socialist influence in policy making gets deeper. Although he elaborated his famous thesis on the price mechanism in his The Use of Knowledge in Society (1945), he does make the fundamental argument in this book. He identifies that the fluctuation of the prices in the market as mere responses by individuals to what they think is the correct value of a particular commodity. He argues that such a cumulative effect of local knowledge is bound to be the nearest to perfect accuracy, because it is within the vicinity of both the consumer’s perceptions towards price, as well as the producer’s view of it. Therefore, he launches a vehement attack on centrally controlled price mechanisms, as practised in many socialist economies like the USSR during that time, because according to him, that distorted the actual value of the commodity up for sale, and was indirectly harming both the producers of that commodity as well as the consumers of another commodity. For example, by keeping the price of Commodity A too high, it is lowering the disposable income of the consumers of A, which consequently can quell demand, ultimately harming producers of A as well. Moreover, depressed incomes mean less demand for Commodities B and C, thus harming the producers of the same at the same time. Hayek contests the claim that a government agency can have such arbitrary powers at its disposal, for he directly links this with the loss of freedom for the market. Since for Hayek, the market represents the cumulative liberties of the individuals under its jurisdiction, he goes on to claim that such government restriction on the price mechanism is detrimental to liberty in general.

The more elaborated work by Hayek propounding his views on liberty in more detail was his The Constitution of Liberty. Margaret Thatcher in particular drew great inspiration from it. In The Road to Serfdom, however, Hayek’s target audience is not the academic, but the cadres of the numerous socialist, pseudo-Marxist parties that dominated the political scene in the 1940s. He constantly lauds the intentions of many idealist socialists, but persuasively contends that socialist thought, in whatever form, would ultimately lead to a compromise of liberty and set the society on ‘the road to serfdom’. In that sense, Nazism and Communism mean the same thing to Hayek- both forms of totalitarianism being a derivative of socialism.

Hayek mentions regrettably that liberalism in its 19th century form has come under vicious and often unjustified criticism from both the left as well as the right. He points out that the Victorian age of laissez faire brought unprecedented prosperity to western Europe. All that the early 20th century’s pseudo liberals/socialists managed to achieve was economic stagnation, protective tariffs on the erstwhile lucrative trading network, hostilities and ultimately, war and devastation of civil society. He calls out for a recognition for the achievements of the Victorian Englishman (he categorically hails the British version of liberalism as the superior one to its continental counterpart), and remodelling the contemporary public policy more in accordance with its liberal roots.

The ultimate blame for this debacle must lie on the socialist fetish for ‘planning’. Hayek argues that planning only works well in the short run, such as rationing during wartime. Without the pressures of conflict, it is bound to lead to a loss of liberty on one hand, ultimately resulting in totalitarianism, and poor economic performance on the other. His analysis points out that when the central governmental agency is engrossed in planning, invariably it has to play up a certain sectional interest and downplay others to adhere to the ‘collective goal’. Hayek maintains through out his book that no public agency can have such powers to determine individual lives. Inevitably, the colossal scale of planning would naturally entail less discussion and decision making by parliament, and more delegating of jobs to non-elected entities. Thus, the seeds of totalitarian government are sown. As the public institutions become more and more dependent on such delegated bodies, vested interests creep into the whole planning mechanism. Monopolies arise because of state led economic growth, and not due to free market competition. A much more effective alternative to planning is leaving the task to the cumulative effect of the spontaneous actions of the individuals in a market. The only planning Hayek concedes the state must do is ‘to plan not to plan’. Albeit jesting on that particular point, Hayek does mention the need for state action in areas where the private sector cannot deliver profitably. In essence he draws upon the concept of ‘publick goods’ and ‘publick works’ originally used by Adam Smith in his Wealth of Nations.

Nothing can compromise liberty for Hayek. This is not ideological fixation, but his ardent belief that it is through liberty that the potential of every individual can be optimally utilised. Like Adam Smith, Hayek believes that the cumulative individual good is indeed the public good. All the talk about re-organising society on the basis of a plan is sure to lead us down the ‘road’, and eventually prepare us for slavery under a Hitler or Stalin.


January 17, 2005

Against the Grain

The Telegraph, 17.01.2005

Ashok V. Desai has delivered a message that is so needed in India today — that most so-called sympathizers of the poor are misguided, and despite all their good intentions, end up entrenching poverty further. Desai correctly argues that framing economic policy with the underlying assumption that India is, and will remain, a predominantly agricultural economy is starting out on a wrong foot. The reason why Indian agriculture suffers from low productivity is because there are too many people employed in this sector.

It is all very well to ensure that the farmer gets a certain price for his crops, but why should the Indian consumer suffer as a result? If as the populists say, 70 per cent of Indians are farmers and thus need protection, then it follows that 70 per cent of all Indian consumers are also farmers. Agricultural exports tend to be price elastic, and a cheaper product will boost demands for the farmers’ produce. When the G20 finally manages to get the US and EU to cut farm subsidies, and eventually it will happen, we will no longer be able to support our farmers. Isn’t it better to slowly prepare them for the brave new world?


January 12, 2005

Highs and Lows

The Telegraph, 12.01.2005

Sukanta Chaudhuri is perhaps getting a little carried away when he makes much of Bengal’s academic strengths (“A knowledge hub”, Jan 4). He says that compared to other states, the curricular bent of mind here is more congenial to creating a knowledge hub that the entire country can draw on.

Our education system is essentially a clone of the British system prevalent 100 years ago. With no disrespect intended towards either Jadavpur or Calcutta University, the standards our students have to deal with are miserably poor compared to those in Britain. And if selling out to the West helps, then we should do it too. Remember, that is how South Korea built up its solid research and development base, and Japan developed techniques to make the best and cheapest cars in the world.

Many Indians are successful today in the global economy because of their natural propensity to work hard, not because of the Indian education system. Else Indian students would not be going overseas to pursue their studies. Remember also that our education system encourages learning by rote and discourages creativity. Facilities for extra-curricular activities are terrible (if present at all), the syllabus is outdated and quite often, students are made to learn rather useless topics.


January 08, 2005

Re: So Long US, Hello India, China

Asia Times, 11.11.2004

The conclusion made by David Fullbrook in his article So long US; hello China, India [Nov 4] can be summed up in one sentence – China's boom is probably the world's greatest, ever. As night follows day, bust follows boom. A bust to match China's, or even India's, boom will shatter the evolving geopolitical reality, bringing much instability for Southeast Asia, while creating an opportunity for a weaker, but stable, United States of America. Unfortunately for him, this boils down to reaching far bigger conclusions without any considerable analysis to back his views. Firstly, a bust does not have to be necessarily comparable to the boom a country experiences. The Industrial Revolution has shown us that the boom can be spread out over a longer period and different patterns of growth can be identified, some of which are short-term, while others much more long-term. Economic policies of Europe, Japan and the US reflect the gradualist approach of economic development after sizzling boom during their developing period. Secondly, although we can argue China to be the potentially "boom prone" economy of Asia, in no way can this be said of India. China has grown on excessive and futile government spending, too much dependence on foreign-based corporations, suppression of alternate views by a ruthless governmental structure and by a "herd behavior" by foreign speculators. Its capital markets are shuddery, its banks are a mess, the rural areas which are hidden from the world speak volume of the misery rife in the countryside and its nuclear arsenal pointing at half a dozen countries speak of its political nature. India, though much slower at generating growth, grows under a functioning democracy, domestic companies, domestic investment and a retreating government. India has mature and stable capital markets and a strong banking sector. It shows all the right trends to become a liberalized economy over the past 15 years as the government has consistently, albeit slowly, pursued economic reform. China has been more of a spurt – India is more of an ever-flowing river. Secondly, China has many more political enemies than India and is more prone to going to war than the latter. The world is [starkly] different to what Mr Fullbrook sees it to be – the most likely scenario would be a mutually destructive war between the United States and China in the future as a result of China's ambitions clashing with the US's reluctance to share the superpower tag. This would leave the world without a core state, an attracting pole. The stage will be set for the peaceful people of India to take up their place at the helm of the world community, and so they shall.


Re: China Through a Bangladeshi's Eyes

Asia Times, 25.10.2004

I read the article titled China through a Bangladeshi's eye [Oct 23] on Asia Times, at first with interest that consequently turned to disappointment and disgust following your assertion that "India has democracy; China has accountability and so on. One thing struck me. India is nationalistic; China is patriotic. Indian nationalism is often manifested in its anti-foreign postures. The root of nationalism lies in anti-foreignness." To set the record straight, I am an Indian student (from Kolkata, so we share much in common) in the UK. My objections and alternative suggestions are as follows-

1. Your claim that China has accountability is simply factually incorrect. Yes, China has a very brutal penal code, but that doesn't result in accountability for the higher strata of the communist bureaucracy, most of which is dipped [in] the sea of corruption. Even on the lower rungs, bribing of officials is rife for business contracts and so on. The harsh punishments are only used against petty thieves to remind the Chinese people of the muscle the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] still wields. Was Deng Xiaoping held accountable for Tiananmen Square? Has the same happened for Mao [Zedong] for the Great Leap Forward? When will the officials responsible for hiding details about SARS [severe acute respiratory syndrome] be brought to justice? Has the whole of the CCP been taken to court over the brutal suppression of minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang? Yes, corruption is rife in India too, but if any country out of these two has accountability, then it is the Union of India, not the People's Republic of China. When our minorities are massacred in Gujarat, there is a three-level investigation process; numerous such high-profile examples of exposing fraud exist. So when you say that India is a democracy, how can you forget that accountability goes hand in hand with this term?

2. What do you mean, "and so on"? Do you intend to indulge in [more] of these generalizations? Let's see for ourselves. India has rule of law, periodic elections at local, regional and national levels, freedom of speech, freedom to practice any religion, freedom of association, freedom of movement, a Human Rights Act and a National Human Rights Commission, Minority Rights Commission and the SC/ST [Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribes] Act to protect their rights, freedom of information and equality of opportunity. Let's look at China's scorecard in comparable fields – law is what the CCP conceives it to be, so rule of law is actually "rule of the CCP", farce in the name of elections, curtailments on freedom of speech, abandoning of religion (note the atrocities committed against Tibetans, Christians and Muslims), restriction on formation of associations and their activities (note the curtailments on Falungong), an appalling human-rights record, suppression of minorities like the Uighurs and Tibetans, censoring of press and other forms of information, government monopoly on most news items and inequality of opportunity (note the preference given to the Hans over the other ethnic races in China). The picture certainly does look a lot different from your utopian China.

3. Your weak assertion that Indian nationalism is based on anti-foreign sentiments is simply laughable. A country that believes in antar-rashtriya sampriti (international peace and harmony) being labeled with such an accusation! On the other hand stands a country which proclaims itself as the Middle Kingdom of the Earth, inhabited by the greatest race on the planet, apparently. Is this why peaceful and patriotic China has major border issues with almost all of its neighbors? Is this why on one hand India has never invaded another country in its long history of 5,000 years and assimilated all those who invaded us, whereas Chinese have invaded, threatened and subjugated others, namely the Tibetans, Uighurs, Indians and Taiwanese – to name a few? Does India's so-called innate anti-foreignness lead it to maintain a cosmopolitan overseas community when compared to a closely huddled and antisocial overseas Chinese counterpart? Is it China's "friendly" attitude towards its neighbors that leads it to point nuclear missiles at Japan, Taiwan and the US?

4. Perhaps you are making a generalization about us Indians from the narrowness of your personal experience, a dangerous business no doubt. Yes, Indians generally do not look kindly on Bangladeshis, not because of some inherent hatred for outsiders but because your government has failed miserably to uplift your people from poverty and so they flee to India to become a burden on our social-welfare system, contributing nothing but crime and misery to our urban and rural areas alike. Incidentally, terrorist bases in your country operating in our northeast doesn't exactly say "friendly neighbor". Bangladesh has forgotten to be grateful to India, to which it owes its existence.

5. The levels of investment have nothing to do with antagonism against foreigners. Borrowing [former US] president [Bill] Clinton's words, "It's the economy, stupid!" India's economic policy over the last 20 years has been distinctly different from China's. Indeed, we have been a lot slower in liberalizing our economy, which has proved detrimental in some sectors, but it is proving profitable in others, notably the better prospects of Indian companies in the long term compared with MNC [multinational corporation] dominated China. You mention the Forbidden City, yet you forget to mention its sponsors – Coca-Cola and American Express. Thank God, the Taj Mahal is still ours to keep.

6. China does not retain any love for its workers – it's simply a farce. There are daily worker protests in China when the subsidy-dependent white elephants known as SOEs [state-owned enterprises] collapse and thousands become unemployed. In India, the trade unions can take matters to court. In China, rule of law being absent, it's the police [who] brutally disperse the crowd.

7. Finally, please do not remain in the illusion that China is Bangladesh's potential ally. If you do, then you will be in the same position as Pakistan. China merely wants Bangladesh to be part of the wall it wants to build to encircle India, its only potential rival to worldwide clout. I hope Bangladesh realizes this folly and does not let itself be manipulated either by Pakistan or Bangladesh. Its best interest lies in building strong economic ties with India, first of all by signing SAFTA [South Asian Free Trade Agreement], and better relations will follow.

I am sorry to have offended you in any way, which is not my intent. I have merely raised some issues which I believe seriously jeopardize your analysis. It was something that could not be left undone, for a patriotic Indian does exist (who does not hate foreigners).


Inside the Dragon's Den

I submitted my proposal for funding for the Lord Rootes Memorial Fund

A comparative socio-economic study of Mumbai and Shanghai

Introduction

The 21st century belongs to Asia. There is no denying this. However, for some Asian countries, the future looks grim, viz. Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, etc. For others, the peak of their economic miracle is in the past, viz. Japan and the ASEAN states. For two countries, however, the best is yet to come. India and China have been growing at roaring rates over the past couple of decades, and their development will blossom around the half way mark of this century. Since its liberalisation in 1978, China has grown in excess of 8% per annum. India, which opened up much later in 1991, has grown at nearly 7% per annum. By 2025, China and India are predicted to be the second and third largest economies of the world respectively. By 2050, according to a Goldman Sachs report, China and India will become the world’s largest two economies. Such a stupendous phenomenon cannot be left unstudied.

The focal point of the Indian and Chinese economic engines is based in their financial capitals, Mumbai and Shanghai respectively. My aim in this project is to undertake a comparative coverage of the potentials of each city, their weaknesses, their achievements and finally, their characters. The thrust of the research would be to compare these cities on parameters of economic success and social justice, and draw a conclusion on their respective prospects for the future.

The Importance of Mumbai and Shanghai

Once given as dowry to Charles II for his marriage to Catherine de Breganza, Mumbai is India’s premier port city, located on the Arabian Sea. It is the capital of India’s most industrially advanced state of Maharashtra, on the west coast of India. Nearly half of India’s total foreign trade passes through its harbour, and around 40% of India’s total income tax collections come from the city alone. Culturally, it is India’s most vibrant city- hosting the famous ‘Bollywood’ film industry. It is the seat of human enterprise- home to over 18 million people.

Shanghai is a bustling metropolis located on the mouth of the Yangtze river, hosting over 13 million people. Known as the ‘Pearl of the Orient’, Shanghai boasts a glittering skyline, thanks to its Pudong district. Pudong also hosts some of the world’s top multi-national corporations, all doing brisk business in the city. The city is at the forefront of the economic boom in China, popularly known as the ‘Chinese miracle’.

Why Mumbai and Shanghai?

Thriving metropolitan cities exist in both countries- Delhi and Bangalore in India, Beijing in China. However, no two cities are so uniquely economic in their orientation as Mumbai and Shanghai. Beijing and Delhi are the political capitals of their respective countries, which serves as a distraction from the economic focus of this project. Bangalore is primarily economic in its outlook, but the economic development there is riding on an Information Technology and Business Process Outsourcing boom. It lacks the all-rounder status of Mumbai. Mumbai and Shanghai occupy centre stage in their countries’ economies and the surrounding regions.

Benefits from the Project

Much has been said about China since its liberalisation began in 1978. Far less, but still substantial has been said about India since 1991 when it hopped on to the capitalist bandwagon. These countries are now aiming for the top. At the onset of the Asian century, we need to identify the epicentre of their aspirations, more specifically, economic aspirations- Mumbai for India, Shanghai for China. If we are to understand how India and China will shape the future world, we need to comprehend how globalisation has shaped these two cities, how it is still shaping them. There is much to identify that is inherent in the character of these cities that will reveal the story of their rise in the 21st century. It is extremely useful to be aware of their perceptions of each other, and their prospects when seen in each other’s context. For it is only then will we be able to appreciate what these cities have truly achieved, what more needs to be done and what will be realistically done. Today the global economy feels any movements in the markets of New York or Tokyo, a few decades ago they used to follow the lead of the City of London. In the coming decades, as India and China occupy centre stage in the global economy, same will be the fate of Mumbai and Shanghai. Now that it is beyond reasonable doubt that these two cities will shape the global economy, the only question that needs to be answered is how. I seek to answer that question in my project.

Methodology

Direct interaction would form the bulk of the material that I hope to collect. Essentially, my interviews would target three economic entities, viz. employees, employers and tourists. This would enable me to encompass individuals from all income brackets and thus would enable me to paint a clearer picture of the city in question, both from the perspective of the insiders as well as that of an outsider. Time permitting I would like to interview two other classes- students and the unemployed. The former would help me identify the perceptions of the younger urbanites, while the latter would enable me to comment on the equitable distribution of the fruits of growth. I have already identified some companies in Shanghai for this purpose, among which Satyam Computer Services (IT/ITes), Reliance Industries Limited (Telecommunication, textiles, energy, etc.), State Bank of India (financial services) and Raymond Limited (textiles) would be a priority for me, as they are market leaders in their sectors in India. . My questionnaires would involve the interviewee’s opinions about the business environment, the political climate and the nature of the society of the city in question.

Following the local press would be an important part of my schedule. This would take the form of internet-based outlets, local newspapers and television. The presentation of pressing issues by the local media would enable me to grasp the mentality of the city towards important public policy concerns and their impact on the economy and society of the city.

Visual evidence will also be part of my methodology, as they would vividly depict, more than any other method, the achievements of the city, and the pressing concerns that lie ahead of it. Photo journals of popular urban centres, business parks and slums will help us identify the equitable distribution of growth.

The Report

My study is essentially comparative in nature. The mention of the cities in isolation would be restricted to the introduction and in areas where the same criteria does not apply for the other city. Similarities and differences between the cities would be identified in the following areas

  • Factors of production- business environment, quality of workforce, infrastructure, investor perception, political environment etc.
  • Losers of growth- the extent to which their economic boom is equitably distributed.
  • Performance of domestic industry- How Indian companies are faring in Shanghai and their Chinese counterparts in Mumbai.
  • The soul of each city- popular places of urban life and entertainment and changing trends.

After this comparative analysis, a comment on their prospects would be made. As an endnote, the following categories will be included-

  • Limitations- I will be an outsider in Shanghai, therefore my background knowledge about the city and its people would be minimal. For instance, I might not correctly interpret questionnaire responses. The language barrier would make it hard for me to maximise my interaction with the subaltern classes. However, an empty page is neater than a scribbled on page. I will try to turn my position as an outsider into an advantageous one, for I will be bereft of any previous prejudices or beliefs of my own while making my conclusions.
  • A brief description of interesting encounters during my interviews will be included. This will illustrate more vividly the experience of interacting with dwellers of these cities.
  • Recommendations- I will include a brief section to note the main points for a future visitor or researcher to note about these cities.

Contingency Plans

I will take out travel insurance before I leave the UK to cover for any accidental damage to my possessions or myself. My family lives in India, therefore I would have enough security, both financial and otherwise, readily available there. In Shanghai, I would contact the Indian Embassy in case of an emergency. To be on the safe side, and also for the convenience of language, I would take a tour guide with me everywhere in the city.

Why Me?

There are certain criteria that make me particularly suitable to carry out this challenging project. I was born and raised in the port city of Kolkata in eastern India. Coming from a bustling metropolitan city of India very similar to Mumbai, I am well aware of the character of urban India, which will reflect in my methodology. My first language is Hindi, which is the language primarily spoken through out India. Knowledge of the native language would enable me to reach the most subaltern of people in Mumbai, and to appreciate the dynamics of the lower classes in India’s political economy. India and China share much in common in terms of culture and societal norms. Hence, I would be in an excellent position to conduct a meaningful inspection of life in Shanghai. For example, the issues raised by the poor in urban China reflect to a large extent those of their counterparts in India. Therefore, I will be in an immediate advantageous position to compare the demands of the two classes within the context of their adversaries, and scope for future action by the administrations. Finally, the most vibrant class in these two countries is the thriving middle class, especially since economic liberalisation. My background is also of a typical Asian middle class type. Thus, I can put myself in the shoes of the urban masses of these two great cities and calculate their aspirations and disappointments very easily, something that would not be so natural for someone with a different class profile.

Cost

Item Cost (£)

London-Mumbai Return Airfare- 450
Mumbai- Shanghai Return Airfare- 450
Accommodation for approx. 15 days in Shanghai- 350
Accommodation for approx. 15 days in Mumbai- 250
Maintenance (Food and Travel) for 1 month- 700

Total- 2,200

Notes

  1. I have chosen Tongmao Hotel in Shanghai because it is located in the Lujiazui Development Zone, at the centre of Shanghai’s Pudong district, which is the heart of its business community.
  2. I have chosen Hotel Apollo in Mumbai because it is located close to the Flora Fountain business centre. It is also adjacent to the Gateway of India, the seat of Mumbai’s urban life.
  3. The need to visit business centres and urban hotspots entails a lot of travelling, which incidentally will take place in India and China’s most expensive two cities.
  4. This project was drawn up keeping the Lord Rootes Memorial Fund in mind, therefore without almost total help from the fund, this project cannot be undertaken. I have worked part-time this year and I can contribute around £200 from my funds, but I would need a grant of a minimum of £2,000 to undertake this project. My estimate of maintenance might not be entirely accurate regarding Shanghai, due to my lack of first hand experience of the country. I will also have to employ a tourist guide in the city, the costs of which are unknown to me. Therefore, I have estimated around £30 per day as maintenance expenses in Shanghai. I will maintain regular accounts of my spending.

Itinerary

I expect to leave for Mumbai around the 25th of August. After having spent a week in Mumbai, I would fly to Shanghai and spend approximately 2 weeks there. On my return to Mumbai, I would stay a further week and then leave finally for the UK. The whole project would take approximately 4 weeks and should be finished by the 25th of September, 2005. I have chosen this particular month, because it is the time when the monsoon season finishes in these countries. The monsoon has a significant impact on the country’s economy, since a large number of people in both countries are employed in agriculture. The impact of the monsoon on the harvest would be evident in late August/early September and would consequently effect the issues that would be raised in the public domain. I have decided to sandwich my Shanghai trip between my stay in Mumbai, because once I have experienced Shanghai and returned to Mumbai, I would be in a much better position to compare the two, rather than if I had stayed in the cities one after the other.


Woman of the Year

The Telegraph, 08.01.2005

It is sad that all Rudrangshu Mukherjee can think of remembering 2004 by was Sonia Gandhi’s giving up the prime-ministership. As a developing country, we should remember this year for our successes and failures in switching to a market economy, and not for any political stunt. Whereas I do not believe in the xenophobic cries of Sonia Gandhi being a foreigner and thus unfit to govern India, I seriously believe that Manmohan Singh was a far better alternative. In all seriousness, the finest prime ministers of India have not come from the Nehru-Gandhi family — think of P.V. Narasimha Rao, Atal Bihari Vajpayee or Manmohan Singh.

In the new year, Indians should be more concerned with the challenges that lie ahead, and how to best overcome them. Political gamesmanship can wait.


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