We are going to be 18 all over again

The number 18 has enormous significance in Indian history, mythology, philosophy and in our unfair but unfortunately real caste system. Vaibhav Purandare reports.

mumbai Updated: Mar 26, 2012 13:55 IST
Vaibhav Purandare
Vaibhav Purandare
Hindustan Times

The number 18 has enormous significance in Indian history, mythology, philosophy and in our unfair but unfortunately real caste system. The eminent historian DD Kosambi has written in his seminal work, Myth and Reality, that there are 18 main gotras or clan-groups of Brahmins; there are 18 main Puranas, and 18 Parvas or sections/episodes of the Mahabharata; the Mahabharata war itself was fought over 18 days, between 18 legions; and the Gita has 18 adhyayas or chapters.

We in Mumbai and Maharashtra have forgotten who DD Kosambi, or his father, Dharmananda Kosambi was, though they belonged to our region and did much of their research here. But nobody can accuse us, at least not today, of having forgotten the significance of that number.

In fact, we are doing everything we can to restore its sanctity in our public life. We’re either sticking to it religiously, and where we can’t, we’re doing our best either to stick to the table of 9, so that we can somehow, some day, get back to that figure with a certain numerical coherence, or are at least reminding ourselves always of the individual digits 1 and 8, so that we don’t lose sight of the larger goal.

Look at the debt of Maharashtra. Once a revenue-surplus state, it became a deficit state at the end of the 20th century, and the Econo-mic Survey (2011-12) released this Thursday says the debt is expected to reach almost Rs 2.27 lakh crore. That will be 18.2% of the state’s gross domestic product — just as it should be.

Our agricultural growth was a perfect 18.8% year the year before. This year, farming has been hit badly and has registered negative growth, but even there, we’ve stopped, neatly, at -9%, in keeping with our tables. If it further goes down, we can hope to be able to stop it, at least for a while, at -18%.

Then the state’s overall growth rate, 11.3% in the last fiscal year, is now estimated at 8.5% — lower of course, but there you have the reminder of one of our two key digits. The production of food grains has also decreased, but look at how many lakh metric tonnes we have produced — 118.09. The number 18 is a key part of the tally.

If agricultural and overall growth has declined, how can industry not fall in line? Its growth has dropped from 10.8% in 2010-11 to a congruous-with-the-larger-theme 9.1%.

And inflation in the state’s urban areas, including Mumbai, from April 2011 to Jan 2012 has also been very close to 8% (7.9%).

In case you think all of this is over the top and stretched a bit too far, look at how our public servants have been functioning. The Anti-Corruption Bureau recently estimated the wealth of a deputy collector at Rs 118 crore (he has been arrested for possessing assets disproportionate to known sources of income). Besides, the ACB’s count of his properties ended at 26, and 2+6 is you-know-what.

You might now want the Centre to follow us on this, our historic return to our past. But you’d be mistaken if you think it has not actually showed us the path with its pioneering endeavours. Have you thought of how beautifully and tantalisingly close Rs 1.76 lakh crore — the CAG’s estimate of the 2G scam — is to Rs 1.8 lakh crore?

First Published: Mar 26, 2012 13:53 IST