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Krishna Kumar Singh, also known among friend circles KK and among close relative Krishna; Matriculation from Mithila High School Balour, Darbhanga in 1959, Graduated in Political Science Honours from C M College, Darbhanga, Bihar University in 1963; Joined post-graduate in Political Science the same year but dropped; joined Naxal movement under Charu Mazumdar, Kanu Sanyal, Satya Narayan Singh and Umadhar Singh in between but circumstances compelled to join literary work, clerk, proof readers etc in different publishing houses for livelihood; Finally joined journalism as career in different English newspapers and before my retirement from active journalism, I worked in The Times of India for about 19 years and retired as Chief Reporter  a few years back; continuing in journalism-reading more and more, writing more and more and praying to Almighty more and more-currently writing for different national English and Hindi dailies and magazines..

Thursday, 15 August 2013

AMARTYA SEN AND AND JAGDISH BHAGWATI SPATS VIS-A-VIS INDAN ECONOMY:: BOTH WAITING FOR LAST LAUGH !

                              The recent spat and criticism and counter criticism over eminent Economists- Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and  Jagdish Bhagwati is unfortunate ! Both are distinguished economists. Both of them have worked on a broad spectrum of issues.Sen is best known for his work on public choice and development while Bhagwati for his work on trade.. They are respected throughout the globe for their economic theories.. Both are liberal, neoclassical economists, who support deregulation and disapprove of existing subsidies. Notably, in the recent past both Sen and Bhagwati have made their minor disagreements  into a slanging matches. Bhagwati has been repeatedly attacking Sen in public and in the print, while Sen expounding on his point through interviews and ope-eds largely without mentioning Bhagwati about his views !

                          Both Sen and Bhagwati have been in race in co-authoring  books , available in the market.Bhagwati has long disapproved  of Sen. On the other hand Sen, who has recently co-authored a book-"An  Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions", co-authored with Jean Dreze, the Nobel prize winning  Sen ,  has  pointed out in an interview that he "does not understand why my book has received an angry reactions or why he is being called anti-growth and pro-redistribution." One of reasons of spat may be - Sen had spoken about food security, and fast space of controversial development in Bihar under Nitish Kumar chief ministership,while releasing a book on Bihar Economy  in New Delhi , authored by JD(U) MP and Economist N K Singh (IAS retd) Sen had also voiced his reservation over Narendra Modi becoming prime minister of India. Such remark of Sen has blown up out of proportion  in media, which is being termed a Congress view points !

                         On the other hand, Bhagwati's co-author Arvind Panigrahi, has praised Gujarat's growth in several pieces. Perhaps, that made Bhagwati, the Gujarat chief Minister Narendra Modi's best friend And these differences between Bhagwati and Sen escalated the 'tension' in the economic thoughts and principles between them. Now such differences have percolated to open fight between Modi and Congress, which are making headlines in the media. In his latest broadside against Sen, Bhagwati managed to mention his book frequently, insisting in it, he had proved how Sen was anti-growth , a point many reviweres ,surprisingly failed to mention.
                  In my opinion, all these spats are unseemly and uninformative spectacles.. Academics continue to be divided over simple mechanisms of growth and how it can be achieved in the India context-purely through deregulation, as Bhagwati would agree or with a simultaneous push to education and health as Sen wants. Sen has almost completely avoiding commenting on Bhagwati's views although Bhagwarti has become increasingly personal and petty in his attacks on Sen.Sen broke Bhagwati-as-Voldemort rule in recent letter to The Economist. The liberal British Magazine had run a review of Sen and Jean Dreze's new book; the reviewer happened to mention Bhagwati in passing without specifying that he, Bhagwati, was right and Sen was wrong. This was red rag to Bhagawati, who wrote Sen only paid "lip service" to growth. This was too much for Sen, who wrote explaining he did his PhD on how to stimulate growth and the first collection of essays he edited was titled " Growth Economics" In fact Sen is perhaps the greatest living scholar of the original philosopher of the free market, Adam Smith !

                       Bhagwati, then wrote an article for the Mint that basically returned, even more harshly, to his complaints about Sen. Bhagwati's books are littered with disparaging remarks about Sen; indeed, reading between the lines of his last book reveals even more such remarks, some of them from resentments that date back to the early 1960s when both were young professional economists in New Delhi.

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                                       LOVE TANGLE: A senior journalist and Editor of the Outlook India, Uttam Sengupta, in a lighter vein, has written  ,on the Facebook ,Bhagwati is angry with Sen because Sen perhaps eloped with Bhagwati's girl friend !  Another senior journalist commented and replied to Uttam Sengupta on the Facebook, it is possible for Sen as Sen has married third time with the wife of his one of the friends in US by eloping her friend's wife.
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                  Sen won Nobel Prize for his work on social choice and welfare as also propounded by Prof  Kedarnath Prasad, a former vice-chancellor  of the Patna university. Bhagwati is path breaking trade theorists. Bhagwati's Ph D students included Psul Krugman, who propounded trickle down economy. Sen's  PhD students included Kaushik Basu.. But , in fact Bhagawati is called more an economist's   economist than Sen., who at Harvard, for example had an office in the Philosophy department, not in Economics depatment. Sen is considered one of the unique and most respected living academic philosophers and a close associate and a fellow teacher of both the left-of-the-centre John Rawals, the leading philosopher of 20th century and liberation icon Robert Nozick.

                                 Similar controversy had arisen in Great Britain in October 1932 and the two economists- John Maynard Keynes and Fredrich von Hayek- had exchanged letters in The Times , London! Both of them used to keep mutually in esteem. " That was the only beginning of life time of public sparring between two individuals, who disagreed vehemently on economic policy. Echoes of their  debate resonate even today in places such as the United States or Europe in shaping competing views of how best to combat the recession in which the global economy is still stuck"

                                What makes the Hayek-Kenes battle of ideas different from most distinguished intellectual controversies is that ideas of these two men had a profound impact on economic policy in the USA, Britain and elsewhere. The "Keynesian Consensus" that governments needed actively intervene to combat recessions by spending more became orthodoxy after the end of the Second World War and held sway for almost three decades. Then with the problems, known stagflation, a combination of high inflation and high unemployment, the faith in Keynesian economics broke down for a time and a new policies such as deregulation and privatisation came to the fore, In this, Hayek, as well as Milton Friedman, had a huge impact. However, Hyek might not have had the last laugh. Keynesian economics, which had been rubbished by many senior economists, has made a come back in the wake of global financial crisis and the battle of ideas is far from over.

                              Just the same Bhagwati-Sen debate has come after over 78 years, taken place in Great Britain ! I strongly feel the Indian economy will have same impact as Hayek versus Keynes had on the West ! Just We Indian will have to watch, who will have last laugh- Sen or Bhagwati with economic policy and development in India!

                                Although Both Bhagwati and Sen have had huge impact in different ways on economic liberalisation in India, many owed debts to Bhagawati's long advocacy, going back to the 1970s, that Indian economy needed open up. In the process slain prime minister Rajiv Gandhi had initially started efforts in the teleccommunication sector and other fields also by liberalising Indian economy amid stiff opposition. But the fact of realty was that the then union finance minister Manmohan Singh was a Cambridge classmate of Bhagwati . More recently, more over one can see the imprint of Sen's rights-based approach in many large schemes unveiled by the UPA, the most recent being the food security bill., Sen, who was critical of many details, was broadly supportive of the idea of creating an entitlement to food, which builds philosophically on the "capabilities approach" to well-being that he developed with philosopher Martha Nussbaum. As it happens, Sen was also at Cambridge in the days when Manmohan Singh and Bhagwati were there. In fact, all of them won Adam Smith prize in different years !

                                Notably, the direct salience might be the fact that Sen's long -time colleague, Jean Dreze, a former member of the National Advisory Concil, Sonia Gandhi's think tank for the UPA. But what about the Indian economy, which has turned down-ward trends,? will the present debate on the appropriation of balance between growth enhancing policies on the one hand and social spending on the other side make a difference on actual economic policies of which ever government takes power next year ?

                           
                              "...... The Keynes-Hyek debate of past provides some useful clues. The ideas of both were translated into economic policy, both because of historical circumstances and also because they were championed at crucial moments by politicians who carried conviction in their ideas, To put it crudely, the Soncond Workld War was a great natural experiment for Keynesian economics. Massive wartime spending-one type of government spending not exactly what Keynes in mind-essentially ended Great Britain Depression.......By the same token, Heyek's free market ideas were championed first in Britain by Margret Thatcher and than in the US by Ronald Regan. Whether one love them or hate them. Thatcher and Reagan had very definite clues on what they thought the right economic models for their respective countries."

                            A columnist of repute has said, " we are not in a war and nor do we have idea -driven politicians like Reagan and Thatcher The feud between Sen and Bhagwati and their various disciples and collaborators is great fodder for newspaper columns and TV talk show, it is not evident that the niceties of this debate are going to resonate with the Indian electorate or have much impact on the election campaign to say nothing of the economic policy platforms of any of major parties. ore likely, the impact of ideas of these two great economists will work indirectly as suggested by Keynes himself. By shaping the politicians not necessarily even   today but in future think about economic policy, the different emphasis of Sen and Bhagwati might well have a longer term impact. In a shorter term, it is more likely the perspectives of both Sen and Bhagawati will colour the way see important economic news. The Sharp drop in the poverty rate during the tenure of UPA raises the question of what was responsible. Those sympathetic to Bhagwati will point to rapid growth during these years while those sympathetic to Sen will point to the large increase in programmatic expenditure and initiatives such as the Msahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme."
                           
                          In my opinion such debater on economic policy is good sign where great econoimc thinkers have been publicly discussing India's economic policies. It is shaping us as battle of ideas between those who see themselves more on the right versus those who see themselves on the left. Ideologically driven debates seems to have finally arrived in India like US and other European countries. It is not that only Indian politicians used to figure out economic policies of India !

                          Sen has often and publicly argued in favour of greater liberalisation, ending red tape, labour laws reform and cutting fuel power and fertiliser subsidies. Bhagwati has  argued for second track of reforms in social sector areas though he would prefer public money be spent on say school vouchers that let poor parents pay for private schools. Both are little concerned about fall in India's growth rate. Sen argues it has fallen as much as its competitors; Bhagwati has blamed tight monetry policy and the freez-up in clearance following outrage over scams, adding government proposals could reverse the side. Both of these are, pretty much what the government also claims. Real differences between Sen and Bhagawati about Indian economy are: Sen wants more public funding (as distinct from public provision) of basic goods. Bhagwati argues this is secondary to focussing on growth.  Sen says, growth depends on creating a dynamic work force capable of learning on the job, which needs health and education. Bhagwati wants laissez-faire growth will raise income sufficiently for the workforce to be able to invest in their own health and education. Both these mechanism can be true. In fact both probably are true, which means the differences are even smaller than is claimed-just a question of which can work faster and more effectively. One path can hardly be abandoned for the other; both mechanism will need government attention. Nor is either major political party likely to act on only one mechanism, at the cost of other !

All these controversies are creation of media and the eternal quest in the India media to make absolutely everything relate Rahul Gandhi versus Narendra Modi !

Sources: NYTIMES, WASHINGTON POST, GUARDIAN, ECONOMIST,   OBSERVER , THE TIMES OF INDIA , India govt websites and various other websites.

                       

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