Economy isn’t sole factor in country’s well-being, growth

To dissociate economics from other attributes that influence how an individual, society and country evolve, see it in isolation as the only benchmark of growth and well-being, is cynical and myopic and a harbinger of problems.

mumbai Updated: Aug 11, 2018 00:36 IST
Ayaz Memon
Ayaz Memon
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Ayaz Memon,Economy
‘Economics’ is the most touted word these days, but it can be a dry subject, full of jargon with precepts and concepts that may sound familiar, yet not easy to understand.(HT PHOTO)

This year’s annual JSW Literature Live! Independence Day lecture featured professor Kaushik Basu, who teaches economics at Cornell University and has been Chief Economist of the World Bank as well as Chief Economic Advisor to the Government of India.

The mighty impressive CV notwithstanding, I was unsure how the lecture, held last Monday at the rooftop of a SoBo five-star hotel, would go down with the audience.

Indeed, would there be enough people in attendance?

‘Economics’ is the most touted word these days, but it can be a dry subject, full of jargon with precepts and concepts that may sound familiar, yet not easy to understand. To my happy surprise, the event had a full house.

The theme of his lecture – ‘The Story of India’s Economy, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow’ – was intimidating in scope and sweep, and it redounds to Prof Basu’s credit that he held the audience in thrall for over an hour.

Professor Basu is an excellent raconteur, peppering his talk with humour at the right places, not allowing the interest of the audience to flag.

And given his mastery over the subject, he handled the evening with the flourish of a thespian.

The jobs scenario, a national priority issue currently and on which there has been much clamour and debate in recent months in political, media and business circles, Prof Basu said is somewhat tricky to assess because data collection in India on the issue remains unclear.

On the state of the economy, the crux of the lecture, he was sharper.

As I understood it, despite some turbulence, India is not badly off.

It may be off its peak point in recent years, but is fundamentally strong and should get better in a 10-15 year horizon, which should allay deep fears.

But Professor Basu punctuated this optimism with foreboding caution against the divisiveness that has reared its ugly head in recent times.

“In economic policy, a wrong decision can be rectified, but social strife can be difficult to control. It is also hurting India’s global image,” he said.

This is all too easily lost on politicians, as we know.

Improvement of the economy may be unimpeded by strife, as happened in America, which virtually galloped at the time when reprehensible slavery existed, as Professor Basu pointed out.

To dissociate economics from other attributes that influence how an individual, society and country evolve, see it in isolation as the only benchmark of growth and well-being, is cynical and myopic and a harbinger of problems.

Something for India’s political class to think of certainly, but all of us too: At what cost the growth?

Lord’s evokes mixed memories

The Lord’s Test between India and England is underway, bringing back some splendid memories of my previous visits to the Mecca of cricket: not all of them gratifying, I might add.

Before the 1983 World Cup started, we were not given accreditation for matches to be played there. “Only if your team plays here,” said a haughty steward at Grace Gates.

When India reached the final, the aforementioned steward became even more stiff upper-lipped.

“Of, we’ve now got Gandhi coming to Lord’s!’’ he quipped to a fellow steward.

I don’t know what he had to say after India beat West Indies in the final!

Journalists are not the only ones who’ve been given the short shrift by such superciliousness. Sunil Gavaskar was denied entry during the 1990 Test match when the stewards failed to recognise him.

Not one to take a slight lightly, Gavaskar refused the much coveted membership of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC).

It took a lot of persuasion from former England captain Colin Cowdrey for Gavaskar to relent a few years later.

Over the years I’ve gotten over my miff with Lord’s. There is something ethereally majestic about the ground, built largely on how its long history and legacy has been revered in England and propagated all over the cricket world.

The most memorable performance by a Mumbaikar here was by Vinoo Mankad in 1952. He scored 184 and 72 not out and took seven wickets.

Some may argue that Mankad was not a Bombay player.

But he lived here and everything about his cricket bespoke Bombay’s cricketing ethos.

Among other batsmen from this city who’ve shone at Lord’s are Dilip Vengsarkar who hit three successive centuries at (1979, ’82, ’86), Ravi Shastri (1990), Ajinkya Rahane (2014) and most interestingly, fast bowler Ajit Agarkar (2002).

Several people have asked me over the years that if Agarkar could score a century at Lord’s, why couldn’t Gavaskar or Sachin Tendulkar, two of the game’s greatest batsmen?

I don’t have an answer. Maybe that’s why cricket is called a funny game.

First Published: Aug 10, 2018 00:49 IST