In his deceptively-toned piece The North Face (May 7), Ruchir Sharma puts down a Kashmir-Bihar joke and claims it originated in the south. I defy him to prove this. The rest of the piece is also filled with this sort of stereotypes-made-to-look-good-by-throwing-in-some-numbers buffoonery. And what is Outlook’s deal, posting photographs of ‘smooth expressways’ against Bangalore’s traffic blocks? Do you really want to go down this road, playing up the gap created by regionalist forces?
Elvin Jacob, Bangalore
Sharma’s focus on quantitative details and numbers makes him miss out on qualitative ones. It’s the same difference between mutual fund guys like John Paulson and true-value investors like Warren Buffett.
Arun Bharadwaj, Mumbai
There are economic, temporal and situational reasons for the south’s rise as also the north’s latent surge. But the author colours it with a divisive tinge.
Commentspaper, on e-mail
It’s sordid, the way you use photos to illustrate the story.
Bihar’s economy is too small to compare with the big states. You have to analyse growth in terms of capital and gdp to judge. And in that, north India is really not in the picture.
Pranao Hingnekar, Wardha
Bihar is more east India than north India. Why is everything other than four south states north India? Don’t east and west count as directions?
A glance through the industrial development and investment data of the last two decades is enough to blow holes in Sharma’s theories. I grant that political leadership has a significant role, but having systems in place is what matters.
Manish Desai, Mumbai
This is the problem with our democracy: free will, to publish whatever and not be taken to task. We really need a bill to revoke a few media rights.
Aakash Raju, on e-mail
Growth rate? If you grow from 90 to 99 per cent, it’s 10 per cent and if you grow from 10 to 25 per cent, it’s 150 per cent.
Adal Arasu, Coimbatore
After all the media buzz, I had almost placed an order for Sharma’s book. But after the reams of misleading ‘facts and figures’ and his absurd conclusions, I no longer have faith in his “scholarship”. Thanks, Outlook, for the money saved.
Shankar Pandian, Kuwait
Reading Ruchir Sharma makes me want to question his motives. Why does he choose facts cherry-picked to suit his purpose? While it cannot be denied that Gujarat is developing at a higher-than-average rate, Sharma does stretch the argument too much. When did southern states make any arrogant claims at all? Is this the time to start an unnecessary and unhealthy controversy? It’s a negative theme for a cover story.
I searched for ‘Maharashtra’ on the webpage for Sharma’s article and couldn’t find it. This is surprising. Maharashtra is certainly not too insignificant to ignore or to be kept out of the statistics totally.
Ajit Welling, Pune
It’s good the poorer northern states are growing. But isn’t it too early to talk of a convergence between them and the southern states? Here are the latest per capita annual income figures: Andhra Pradesh: Rs 36,345; Karnataka: Rs 37,464; Kerala: Rs 46,511; Tamil Nadu: Rs 46,823; Bihar: Rs 11,558; UP: Rs 15,182. Anyone with basic training in economics or statistics knows that growth rate comparisons depend on the periods chosen. Indeed, from financial years 2006-07 to 2009-10, northern states witnessed higher growth rates in per capita incomes. But official data says, from 2008-09 to 2009-10, the highest growth rate in per capita income was for Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The author has chosen Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh to suit his absurd thesis.
Subin D., Delhi
The arrogance of the south? Can anything match the arrogance of Manu in branding those who live south of the Vindhyas as barbarians? Can anything match the arrogance of the Gandhi clan, which thinks an Iranian complexion and a Roman nose are licence enough to lord over a nation?
Senthil Sekar, on e-mail
Ruchir Sharma’s article makes a superfluous comparison. From the late 1960s, the south never got its fair share of central funding. Remember, almost all the northern states had double-tracked railway routes; it wasn’t till the 1980s that double-tracking began in the south. May I also ask why this article (or extracts) was published in the first place?
Akila Alagappan, on e-mail Perception triumphs over analysis in Sharma’s article comparing north and south India.
Rajesh, Phoenix, US
The comparison between north and south India is preposterous. What’s disappointing is the total amnesia for the East and the Northeast.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bangalore
Bihar has proved that it is not the appendix but the liver of the nation.
Rajneesh Batra, Delhi
As an Indian, north, south, east and west don’t matter to me. The country, as a whole, must make progress. Let each part of the country, with its unique strengths and contributions, rise as one.
S.S. Kere, Virgina, US
Why pit the south against the north at all? It’s not as if growth in the north is at the south’s expense, as in a zero sum game. Growth anywhere’s win-win.
Kishore Dasmunshi, Calcutta
The important point here is that the growth rate in the northern states is catching up with those in the south and sometimes beating it. This shows complacency on part of the south as much as it shows positive development in the north.
Ruchir Sharma would have done well to compare per capita growth, instead of overall economic growth, of each state. Another important measure of comparison would’ve been income distribution.
R.V. Subramanian, Gurgaon
For heaven’s sake, kindly avoid publishing such silly and shallow articles. Healthy debate on contemporary topics is welcome, but deliberately creating rifts—“Arrogant South” indeed—is mischief.
G. Niranjan Rao, Hyderabad
What’s crippling the northern states is shortage of power. To generate power on a large scale requires sustained political will. Has Ruchir Sharma seen what UP roads are like? What’s the point of showcasing a 25-km-long Noida expressway?
M.K. Saini, Delhi
In a large country like India, regional disparity in levels of prosperity is bound to persist. Regrettably, this tiny extract of a 300-page book has been positioned rather sensationally. Unless read in the total context of the book, one comes away with the wrong impression.
Manish Banerjee, Calcutta
Apropos Beyond Vindhya Major (May 7), I would suggest that before Indian bureaucrats, who seem to have a lot of time on their hands, start comparing us with China, they had better read what eminent Chinese economists have to say about India-China comparisons.
Pankaj Vaishnavi, London
Neither Chinese economists nor Narendra Modi take India these India-China comparisons seriously. He’s in a hurry to transform his state and works for nothing else but the welfare of his people.
D. Anjaneyulu, Chennai
The fact is, millions of Indians have a prosperity they didn’t have before. It is a more difficult task to lift a country out of poverty through democracy than it is with pragmatic authoritarianism.
Varun Shekhar, Toronto
There’s no story here that isn’t cooked up: neither is the north resurgent, nor the south arrogant. And, the two were never in competition with each other.
S. Raghunatha Prabhu, Alappuzha, Kerala
The term Maoist is a misnomer today (No Red Beacons, May 7). These armed groups are no longer guided by any political ideology. They don’t, as Chairman Mao once taught, “place politics in command”. Their armed actions lack any kind of vision. It is true they might now be protecting the tribals in some ways from the depredations of vested interests, but their lack of proper perspective and their resorting to mindless violence bode ill for the region affected. Violence in the Indian set-up won’t serve any cause, however ‘noble’. Those intellectuals in touch with them should therefore do their utmost to wean them away from the path of armed struggle. Otherwise, I fear, very soon these “Maoists” might start kidnapping, drug-running and other criminal activities on a large scale like the Colombian farc guerrillas, who also pretend to be red.
Marudhamuthu R., Chennai
It’s sad when an enthusiast and idealist collector (a breed fast becoming extinct) is abducted by Maoists. But it is equally sad when Harvard-educated home ministers feel that Maoists are the biggest threat to the nation and treat them as terrorists. What do you expect the poor tribals to do when robbed of their livelihood for the interests of miners and corporates—start a Dandi march in protest?
Goutam Das, Katni, MP
I think Aakar Patel was just superb (The Ghost’s in the Details..., Apr 30). This is probably the first time someone’s had the gumption and the intellect to forcefully counter Arundhati Roy using facts and figures from officially available statistics. Arundhati’s forte lies in maligning the state, accusing it of just every conceivable crime—from the lack of a holistic developmental strategy to shielding the rich and the mighty, of which she is very much a part. She is typical of the drawing room parasites who have nothing better to do than to dig up a cause, magnify it to the level of ‘national consciousness’ and then strut back and forth before the media and the glitterati who lap up everything. Reminds me of a Bollywood actress of yesteryear, who positioned herself as a champion of free government housing for the homeless in Mumbai even as she herself is a member of the privileged set and stays in a 4,000 sq ft bungalow in Mumbai.
Rosen John, Mumbai
Who is this Aakar Patel? He begins his piece with a quote from Nirad C. Chaudhuri, who by his own confession was more British than Indian. And so what if the Jindals, Ambanis, Tatas, Mittals, Ruias et al are not involved in mining? Once others do the dirty job, they jump into the fray and wipe out all the others. This is what happened with mobile telephony in India. As for Patel’s fascination with the Bill and Melinda Gates charity, they apparently gave a $100 million grant to the International aids Vaccine Institute a year ago. After Gates left India, the same institute was allowed human trials of their under-research vaccine in India! Patel is also surprised that caste Hindus are Maoist central committee members. A lackey of the corporate lobby will see only caste and religion in a movement that is above their convoluted intelligence. Joseph Stalin was the son of a landlord and Lord Eden the son of a cobbler. When they met, Stalin remarked they had both betrayed their class. Has Mr Patel ever thought of declassing himself?
Mahasweta Mitra, on e-mail
The difference between Ms Roy and Mr Patel’s write-ups is of empathy; the former writes with empathy, the latter lacks it completely.
Vaeyuru Tholibangan, on e-mail
Outlook should be thanked for a well-researched expose on the land deals involving the rich and famous in Himachal Pradesh (We are the High-Ups, Apr 23). The cement plants and hydropower projects—run mostly by unscrupulous private players, without adequate environmental safeguards—have set off this reckless destruction of the hill state. Now, it has taken the nature of a catastrophe. In my hometown Palampur, I am a mute, shocked witness to the pristine greenery of the tea gardens and patches of statuesque deodars falling victim to clandestine land deals and haphazard urbanisation. What were once spirit-lifting swathes of tranquil verdure have turned into ugly, treeless, weed-infested plots of parched land being usurped by newly constructed concrete structures. The modus operandi? Take advantage of the venal politician (of any stripe), connive to bend the laws, exploit the loopholes and fill the coffers. What’s appalling is the conspiracy of silence on the part of local stalwarts—political and intellectual—who have colluded in this disgraceful despoiling of the environment.
Akhilesh Yadav is nothing but a modernised version of his father (Maulana, Mark-II, May 7). He is fooling around in Uttar Pradesh, and is neither good for the minorities nor for the majority. If Bihar could kick out Laloo Prasad Yadav, god knows why UP has to elect Mulayam Singh Yadav and his sons and brothers.
Rohan Harsh, Patna
Unless Muslims get reservations in jobs as recommended by the Ranganath Mishra Commission, all other measures will be mere lollipops.
Pro-Muslim policies are good neither for Muslims nor for the country. What is needed is eradication of discrimination in jobs and housing, and uniform distribution of quality schools, hospitals and municipal services.
Why can’t Akhilesh get more funds to open three more central universities on the lines of amu, with 50 per cent reservations for Muslims? They need more Muslims who can take on the challenges of modern life and help people from their community. People like Akhilesh, despite all their modern education, will remain petty-minded when it comes to people’s welfare.
Navien K. Batta, Muscat
Maulana Mulayam at least has a ring to it. Maulana Akhilesh? Naah, just doesn’t work.
Santosh Gairola, Hsinchu, Taiwan
Chitra Subramaniam starts her piece with the question, Why did Bofors pay Q?, but fails to provide an answer to the million-dollar question (Smoking Guns..., May 7). She puts the responsibility squarely on governments back in Delhi. In that case, what did she achieve by interviewing the Swedish investigator?
T. Rao, Bangalore
The Bofors story is a simple one. India bought field howitzers from Sweden in 1986 for $1.2 billion. A supply contract worth almost twice that amount was also negotiated for transfer of technology, supply of documents and knowhow etc, so that we could become self-sufficient. This is exactly what Bofors, Sweden and the western world didn’t want. Knowhow and technology transfer would have been suicidal. So they preferred to sacrifice the customer.
Ajay Singh, Surat
As a first step, there should be a thorough inquiry as to why the drawings and documents for the gun have been gathering dust in the ordnance factories for over two decades and why no production was taken up despite India having spent so much. Now when the heat about criticality in ammo and guns is on—many from the public and private sector have come forward to manufacture the gun. But we should now be developing a gun system which lasts us for the next 25-30 years and incorporate features which can serve our specific requirements. We can possibly learn from the ultra-light M777 howitzer which uses titanium to cut down weight by almost half. Maybe the drdo, ordnance factories and the private sector can jointly work in the gun development team format to jumpstart the gun which had more smoke than fire.
Air Cmde (retd) Raghubir Singh, Pune
Apropos The Graphic Portfolios (May 7), what if we, the common people, were targeted with such a sting op? Would those in power take it seriously?
D. Tomar, Gurgaon
Any public figure knows a certain amount of scrutiny comes with the territory. And this politician was ‘doing’ these things in his professional chambers. That’s absolutely not right.
One might glorify our past, but India’s democracy is imbued with hypocrisy where the mighty live a meaty, moneyed life at the cost of those who elevate them.
Francis Minj, Ranchi
These are cases of influence-peddling pleasure-seekers playing “honey traps” for politicos. They could pose a danger to national security.
A.K. Saxena, Delhi
If it’s consensual sex between adults, with no undue favour to the parties involved, no criminal breach is supposed to have been committed.
Pramod Srivastava, Delhi
Apropos Sonia Singh’s column on the rte Act and the reservation of seats for ews students in private schools (Dirty Three-Letter Words, May 7), as a middle-class boy in a school mostly for the rich and famous, I used to be embarrassed that I had to travel by autorickshaw/bus to school, wear simple canvas shoes (not Nike or Adidas my classmates used to wear, and I’m talking about the ’80s), going for vacations to Bangalore and not Singapore. I, for myself, always stuck with kids of similar backgrounds. And I was middle class. I feel sorry for these poor kids.
Peter Irudayaraj, Chennai
Instead of compelling high-end schools to admit ews students, why not ask the lower-end private schools, run as business enterprises, to do that job?
Narendra Apte, Pune
Seditious though it might sound, why not close down the bad, corruption-ridden government schools and divert its budget towards subvention payments to private schools that must now admit children from less affluent families?
Ashok Lal, Mumbai
The elite private school territory has become like the elite institutions of British India, where certain places would be reserved thus: ‘white-only’. Thanks to the SC ruling, that will now change.
Lt Col S.P. Karir, on e-mail
Apropos Tahir Mehdi’s column on the similarities and differences between Uttar Pradesh and Sindh (Some Myths Work, May 7), his arguments are valid—democracy can indeed work miracles. Our founding fathers—Gandhi, Jinnah and Nehru—failed to keep India united. Future generations will pay for Partition politics—India, Pakistan and Bangladesh spend a a large amount of their gdp on defence purchases, money that has other, urgent use.
K. Madhu, Hyderabad
A very mature, introspective article. Strangely, perhaps appropriately, it has taken a Pakistani to point to us the strength of the roots that democracy has struck in our soil. Perhaps our constant carping could now be tempered with a modicum of national pride.
Gaurab Banerjee, Calcutta
With Partition, the demography of Sindh changed drastically, leaving many Sindhis confused on whether the creation of Pakistan was really beneficial for them. Their biggest city, Karachi, has for years experienced a bloody showdown between the Mohajirs from UP and the Pathan population coming in steadily from the nwfp. As has been noted, the Sindhis are nowhere in the picture, having now been reduced to an insignificant minority. It has also to be remembered that during those turbulent weeks in ’47, Muslim Sindhis did not indulge in much violence. In fact, many Hindu Sindhis and other Hindus had to leave after the Mohajir attacks.
One of the unspoken atrocities of the Partition is the way the Hindus of Sindh were treated. Even amidst the chaotic partitioning of Punjab and Bengal, Sikhs and Hindus were not so shabbily treated, as was the lot of the Sindhis. For their large numbers, they should have got their own patch of land in independent India, maybe in eastern Sindh. But the Congress leadership betrayed their interests.
It is good to see at least some Pakistani writers looking at India beyond the prism of Kashmir.
Rishi Vyas, Palampur
It makes satisfying reading, this sudden soft attitude of Pakistan towards India, now that they are assailed by more serious problems (A Midstream Game..., May 7). But still, we never should have left the job unfinished when the enemy was weak. Look what we did in ’71: returned 1,00,000 POWs and captured land, and didn’t force a resolution of Kashmir. And what did we get in return? Even in the middle of this much-talked-about ‘wave of peace’, Pakistan won’t arrest Dawood and Hafiz Saeed.
Ravi Seru, Vancouver
Whatever grave existential crises Pakistanis are going through is their collective karma—they’ve played with fire for long, it’s their fate to be singed, at last, by the conflagration.
The murdered journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad had said that the Pakistani political and military elite failed their country in four ways. First, they failed to build a national identity embracing the Pashtoon, Punjabi, Sindhi and Baloch ethnic groups. Instead, they built an identity based on opposition to India, while militants have recently begun building an Islamist one. Second, the elites have time only for national security, and therefore allocate most of its scarce resources to the military at the expense of education, healthcare and infrastructure. Third, they have, for various reasons, encouraged or at least tolerated jehadi groups that infest the country now. And fourth, the elite and powers-that-be in Pakistan have allowed the country to fragment along ethnic lines. Thus Punjabis are over-represented in the army and the bureaucracy: the others naturally this.
A.K. Ghai, Mumbai
It’s natural for Pakistan to want a withdrawal from Siachen—for the snake they had bred for their beloved strategic depth is now starting to bite in Waziristan. And since the army is the first, last and only solution they can think of, they need boots on the ground on their western front. Naturally, the eastern front has to be quiet.
G. Bose, Calcutta
Apropos the Secret Diary Of Derek O’Brien (May 7), I think it’s a pity that a talented quizmaster should be a cheerleader for didi’s outfit.
Bahu Virupaksha, Pondicherry
They say politics can make you anything you think you can’t be. Now that he’s a Trinamool honcho, Derek is a sycophant, an apologist and a humble party worker!
Abhishek Sharma, on e-mail
Yes, Derek is Mamata’s stooge. But I think better him than Sachin in the RS.
Varun Garde, Bangalore
It’s a pity that through the shambolic mayhem presided over and directed by Mamata, the promising careers of Derek O’Brien and Amit Mitra were laid to waste.
Ramamurthy N., Chennai
What Namrata Joshi said in her review of the movie Vicky Donor (May 7) about Ayushman putting in “just the right amount of rakishness, bluster and heat” in his performance can be said about the entire film. In most comedies, I feel like an outsider watching the rest of the audience guffaw at the gags. This time I joined in spontaneously.
There are food reviews, and then there are Anvar Alikhan’s food reviews (Fine Living, Apr 30). He is an absolute master of the genre. His reviews go beyond mundane things like the food and the service. They are knowledgeable, entertaining, eclectic and rewarding.
Issue dated May 7, 2012
Reviewed by Asghar M. Roshan, Pune
Outlook’s latest cover story was a descent into prime-time television antics: offer yet another serving of Ruchir Sharma’s book; garnish it differently as a paean to breakout north Indian states; and then, rustle up a north vs south debate. I wasn’t informed or made wiser by Sharma’s questionable assumptions—higher voter turnouts at state elections mean a waning of national consciousness, Bihar is the butt of southern jokes etc—or by the southern rebuttal that laced facts with poor jokes about UP schools and recycled Rajnikanth trivia.
Maulana Mark-II on Akhilesh Yadav, the latest claimant to Muslim affections, was an apt reminder that the more things change, certain things remain the same in ‘breakout’ UP. That sense of sameness also hung over your story on sleazy CDs. Despite your verdict that the recent exposes haven’t served any national purpose, those four pages and veiled visuals traced, again, the way to more eyeballs via the loins.
This issue continues Outlook’s admirable work of presenting differing perspectives that unsettle the given wisdom. Like Tahir Mehdi from Pakistan writing about Muslims winning elections in UP while Hindus in Sindh have no electoral voice. Or the article on interlocutors, revealing the double standards of the government while negotiating with the Maoists. Yet, so many false dawns have come and gone that the write-up on Pakistan’s peace overtures leaves one weary.
It was a delight to read Suresh Menon on writer Howard Jacobson getting into the Wisden Almanac. Thank you also for the wonderful closing line on “borderless babies” (and a warm article) on India being the place where prayers are answered. Letters, in every issue and this one, ranging from Katju’s brain to Ambedkar’s comment about the lack of equality in India, continue to provoke and stimulate.
Other readers’ reviews that made the shortlist: Sandip K. Pitty, Calcutta; Dr Jitender Sharma, Nagpur; R. Raghavan, Chennai; Satish K. Nair, Ahmedabad; C.V. Venugopalan, Palakkad