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Writing in the Telegraph, Ramachandra Guha revists his 2008 Outlook essay:
The seven structural problems I identified in my 2008 essay remain —six in full force, the seventh marginally attenuated (for, as the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s extraction of profitable ministries demonstrates, the Congress is by no means immune to blackmail by coalition partners this time around). On reflection, I would add three more problems — the disturbed neighbourhood (with Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka all mired in internal conflicts of their own); the unreconciled borderlands (consider the discontent in Manipur, Nagaland, and Kashmir); and the shocking incapacity of our public institutions, as manifest in the malfunctioning of our universities, our law courts, our hospitals, and our civil services.
There are therefore 10, not seven, reasons why India will not become a superpower anytime soon. But I would call into question the ambition itself. Should not nations judge themselves by their own standards, rather than seek to participate in some kind of global 100-metre race, the winner to be judged by number of billionaires in the Forbes list or size of nuclear arsenal? Rather than seek to dominate or tower above other nations, the republic of India must seek to be less discontented and less divided within
Read the full piece: Superpower fantasies
No, not one and the same thing, says Ram Guha in the Telegraph:
The act of attaching the name of one or other of India’s most powerful political family to schemes, colleges, museums, stadia, and so on, is not merely, or even principally, a means of acknowledging their contributions to the nation. As often as not, it is a shrewd attempt at career advancement. When a new airport was built in Hyderabad some years ago, the logical — and best — decision would have been to name it after some great icon of the Andhra country. An inspired chief minister might even have held a poll among his constituents, with each Andhra-ite asked to offer his choice of person whose name was to be attached to the new airport. The more literary-minded might have suggested the poet Sri Sri; the music-minded the composer Thyagaraja. History-minded Andhras would have voted for a medieval king or kingdom. Members or supporters of the Telugu Desam Party would have voted for N.T. Rama Rao (as would have very many apolitical film buffs), whereas Congressmen (and Reddys) might have voted for K. Brahmananda Reddy or N. Sanjiva Reddy. The parliamentary communists would have chosen P. Sundarayya, the Naxalites T. Nagi Reddy.
Read the full article: The Calling Game
With all these BJP budhhijeevis, who seem to be able to speak in many tongues, hogging all the media and mind-space, I seem to have slipped up on blogging about this full text of a wonderful lecture (that I did not attend but enjoyed reading thoroughly) Ram Guha delivered at the India International Centre, New Delhi, on 15 May 2009, to mark the birth centenary of B S Kesavan:
This essay is inspired by an argument between the scholar-librarian B S Kesavan and his son Mukul that I was once privy to. I forget what they were fighting about. But I recall that the father, then past 90 years of age, was giving as good as he got. At periodic intervals he would turn to me, otherwise a silent spectator, and pointing to his son, say: “makku!”, “paithyam”! Those were words that Mukul, born in Delhi of a Hindispeaking mother, did not himself understand. But I did. They meant, roughly and respectively, “imbecile” and “lunatic”.
B S Kesavan knew that I lived in Bangalore, that both my parents were Tamil, and that one of my great-uncles had been a Tamil scholar. Thus, when his son’s stupidity (real or alleged) could not be adequately conveyed in their shared language, namely, English, he took recourse to his mother tongue, which was also theoretically mine. The emphasis must be on theoretically”. My great-uncle the Tamil scholar used to write postcards asking me to “learn Tamil and lead a simple life”. I failed him wholly in the second respect, but have down the years managed to pick up a few dozen words of Tamil, among them makku and paithyam.
It would be fascinating to find out how many of our readers here regularly read anything other than English. Ram Guha goes on to name three contemporary scholars in their 40s -- A R Venkatachalapathy, Tridip Suhrud, and Yogendra Yadav. Do you know of any more?
What is happening at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML)? Some time back, there was an acrimonious exchange in the Economic Times between the status quoists and the pro-changers. Now Rudrangshu Mukherjee steps in and elevates the discussion back to the original contention of the "57 eminent historians, social scientists, publishers and scholars — among them India’s best historians, political scientists and sociologists — have written to the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, about the state of affairs in the NMML":
In their submission, the scholars have put forward what they see as some of the features of the decline and have suggested some steps to arrest it and to revive what is really a unique institution for the study of modern Indian history and culture. It goes without saying that the decline of an institution like the NMML can hardly be the responsibility of any one individual. (An individual can, however, hasten a process of decline or stop it by initiating or not initiating certain steps.)
First, promote bipartisanship on issues of national security and foreign policy.Read the full article here.
Second, promote lateral entry into government -- encourage talented professionals to enter government
Third, restore Parliament as a theatre for reasoned debate
Fourth, put pressure on political parties to voluntarily adopt a retirement age.
Fifth, act on the EC’s suggestion and add, to the right to vote, the right not to vote as well.
Sixth, stop the 'permanent election mode' in the country -- revive the demand to synchronise the Lok Sabha and State Assembly elections".