HIGHER education in India is facing a twin danger today. One is its commoditisation, by which is meant not just the fact that higher education itself is becoming a commodity but also that the products of higher education, ie, those in whom higher education is “embodied”, are also becoming commodities, in the sense of simply having their worth assessed both by themselves and by others in terms equivalence to a certain sum of money, the amount that they can command on the market.
NIRAV Modi, and his uncle Mehul Choksi, are the latest additions to the list of the so-called “entrepreneurs of new India” who have looted public money and decamped with the loot. The Punjab National Bank, the second largest bank in the country, kept giving them loans without any collateral (which is basically what happened through the complicated procedure of the so-called “Letters of Undertaking”); and one fine day Nirav Modi simply left the country with his immediate family, to be followed by his uncle a few days later.
WHAT is happening in the US economy provides an object lesson on the functioning of neo-liberal capitalism. Pre-first world war capitalism which had witnessed the long Victorian and Edwardian boom had relied on the colonial arrangement for the system’s dynamics.
THE union budget for 2018-19 sets a new record for cynical dissimulation. To be sure there is a certain amount of “window dressing” in all budgets, but the announcement of fantabulous schemes with scarcely a paisa earmarked for them, as has happened this year, is quite unprecedented in the annals of budget-making in India.
LIKE the person on the proverbial tiger, the Indian economy is currently riding a precarious course. The Government of India’s Economic Survey for 2017-18 recognises this frankly, but its panacea is to keep one’s fingers crossed and hope that the ride continues.
OXFAM has just produced a report in which it highlights the dramatic increase in wealth inequality that is occurring in India. The basic data it uses are from Credit Suisse which regularly brings out a Global Wealth Databook; and according to Credit Suisse the top 1 per cent of the population in India cornered 73 per cent of the additional wealth generated in the year 2017.
THE two most interesting trends in recent employment figures deserve a closer look. There has been an increase in organised sector manufacturing employment during the period January 2000 to December 2011 to the tune of about 5 million, more than half of which is on the basis of contract.
ARUN Jaitley had outlined a scheme of electoral bonds in his budget speech on February 2, 2017. Now, exactly 11 months later, the notification of the scheme and some details of it have finally been announced in a Press Information Bureau release on January 2, 2018. Along with this release, Jaitley himself has also written an explanation-cum-defence of the scheme, from which it is clear that the scheme, far from countering the threat to democracy arising from large-scale corporate funding of elections, does not even address this issue.
IN assessing the impact of the Modi government’s demonetisation measure on the black economy, the fact that nearly 99 per cent of the outlawed currency came back to the RBI has been widely taken to indicate that the measure was a failure – its costs far outweighing any benefits. The obvious reason for this is that the return of almost all the notes establishes the fact that hardly any black wealth was destroyed as its immediate direct outcome.
THE uniqueness of 2017 lies in the fact that never before has the country seen a government-caused economic crisis as serious as was witnessed in this year. There have certainly been worse years for the people, such as 1965-66, 1966-67, and 1973-74, each of which saw massive inflation. But these were years when economic hardships occurred for reasons that had nothing to do proximately with government policy. 1965-66 and 1966-67 when the “Bihar famine” had occurred, had seen a sharp drop in food grains output, a drop that had lasted two years.