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Sanjeev's mail

On Thu, 28 May 1998, Sanjeev Sabhlok wrote:

> I am not sure that any debate can take place in any "sensible" way if we
> state that "I" am the authentic source. Sure. You were requested, dear
> Sir, to submit "authentic sources." Your personal "observations" are a
> good starting point. But they need solid data to substantiate the
> argument. 
> I have no statistics on this specific topic at the moment, but please do
> take note of the fact that without fail, poverty has been virtually
> eliminated in all South East Asian societies which have followed
> capitalist policies (pl. check up data from any library in the world). The
> poorest of the poor today are North Korea, Burma and South Asia, including
> India which have hung on to the massive distortions in incentives which
> have led to our "promoting" handlooms, dead technology, etc., at the
> expense of modernization.

You are right. I have only gone by my observations. Not based on facts
from any books. 

About the East asian countries that virtually eliminated poverty: The
countries that practiced dictatorships (you call them socialist) are
the poorer of the lot. The countries which practiced capitalism, their
economies provide cheap labor for the US companies to produce goods
outside the US. Their fate can be determined by the US congress with 
a single vote anyday. I would any day prefer my country not to be
subordinated to the whims of a foreign nation's policies under the
pretext of globalization. Indonesia must
be one of those capitalist economies on your list. India is a heck of a
lot better than Indonesia.

Let me say this one more time: Our country would be better off when we can
devise ways to improve the lot of the majority, who live in the villages.
That is the long term interest. If we just invite any and all investments
without a plan of what their consequences would be, we will have the
country wrecked. 
Just in case you got me wrong, I am not against foreign investment. When I
am the borrower, I decide where to invest. If you want me to borrow, and
invest it where you want me to, sorry, find another customer. 

Now handlooms: two things about handlooms; One has to dig into a bit of
history here. Handlooms were promoted in the 20s to demonstrate to the
Brits that their products were creating unemployment here. Handlooms
gave the Brits a taste of unemployment in Manchester. I am not arguing
that we should promote handlooms today. I just want to express my respect
for Gandhi and his brilliant idea of creating employment at home and at
the same time teaching a lesson to the Brits. 

Modernization should take place. I have no clue why you got the idea
that I am against modernization.

> And coming to "personal" observation, do you know, that the Handloom
> subsidies which are meant for the poor (that is how you get to purchase
> handlooms at such ridiculously throw-away prices in cities) are almost
> completely misappropriated by the government machinery.

Now we are talking past one another. Tell me what this has to do with
anything I said. A corrupt official is a corrupt official. It has nothing
do with socialism or capitalism. If you can prove to me that there is no
corruption in capitalist societies, I will sign up with your group's
manifesto today. 

> Do you wear handlooms to your office, Mr. Ari? What percentage of your
> budget did you allocate last year to purchase our "wonderous, traditional,
> handicraft products?" Tell everyone here the truth about how much you have
> personally patronized the aritsans of your village and how much you have
> patronized superior technology. Please be very precise in your
> calculations: what was your total income in the past 10 years, and how
> much of it went to these obsolete products which even villagers refuse to
> purchase. Scientific inquiry can only begin with honesty. 

I don't live in India. So it is irrelevant what fraction of my money I
spend every year on products you call obsolete. I will give you this
information which is more relevant. The only things that I bring back from
India are books and sarees. The sarees are 100% from the "absolete"
village industries you mention. On one visit I actually went to the
village where they are made. More recently I have been buying them from 
stores in Hyderabad which sell products made in villages around Hyderabad.
You don't seem to have a clue how beautiful these sarees are! Hope 
you will go to Hyderabad one day and look at them. I bet you will think
they were made in some factory!

> You ask government to subsidize the purchase of these goods. From where
> does this money come? From your taxes. But what is happening to these
> taxes? Most of it is cleanly misappropriated by your favorite government
> officials. They why not straight-away raise the salaries of government
> officials if you love these officials so much?

There you go again. Tell me where I supported corrupt officials. If you
continue to misrepresent me, I will unsubscribe and leave you alone to
write the ideal manifesto!

> Mr. Ari, our villagers will all DIE if you do not provide them with modern
> opportunities to get out of villages and come to cities. We are having a
> few suicides now among farmers. Some engineers have started committing
> suicide because of corruption. Educated youth in Assam and elsewhere are
> taking to arms in frustration. Many people are abandoning the country in
> search of SOME other opportunity. The whole thing will become a flood if
> you do not bring in more investment and technology and competition into
> our nation, at once. Do you not see this urgency? 

I do. I have no quarrel with anything you said in this paragraph except
that it is not necessary to empty the villages and bring everybody to the
town just because it was the way in the USA. Opportunities can be created
in the villages too. All factories don't have be in big towns. Do they?

> About poverty. Why should India have improved in the last 10 years? Just
> because someone said that there is "liberalization." Sure, there has been
> a wee bit. But it was more of a flip-flop than a "real" one. A majority of
> people are still firm believers that government bureaucrats know best.

Sorry I don't buy that. I never believed that bureaucrats know best. If I
did, I would have believed you and signed up with your theories a long
time ago.

> Strangely, despite your claim that none on this list have worked in the
> field, I have been a rather outstanding bureaucrat (pardon my apparent

Another misrepresentation! I didn't say that none of you worked in the
field. I just said that you should get out of this manifesto writing, and
do something about the current situation. Don't you wish the students of
Indonesia wrote a manifesto rather than demonstrate?

> might. Do you have better predictions? You seem to believe that we must
> expand our government. So, shall I make all the villagers government
> employees? Shall I nationalize every paan shop?

If I see one more instance of misrepresentation, I would say you need
remedial help with the English language! I didn't say we have to expand
our govt. I said the govt would be as big as what it has to be, depending
upon what we want it to do. I gave the example of people in USA clamouring
for the safety of the food imported, and demanding that inspectors be sent
to foreign coutries to inspect facilities. Now that takes staff. I also
said that there are NO SMALL INTELLIGENT govts that do everything you want
them to do. 

> One fine day, people will realize that they no longer care for this
> nuisance called socialism - a synonym for falsehoods at each level.

Even the most capitalist of countries needs socialist components in the
governance to prevent the country from falling apart. Capitalism increases
the wealth of the nation. Socialism keeps it human. A nation cannot work
with one of them exclusively.  As long as you don't understand that, your
manifesto will be amateurish. 

> There is one way to prevent it, though. If you will take the time, energy
> and effort to actually study facts, and not go about trying to impose your
> personal observations on everyone. 
> One lady on this list who was asked similar simple questions on this list,
> initially, promptly unsubscribed. I do hope you have the courage of
> conviction and the desire to search the truth, and that you will
> illuminate us with some of your own personal truth about how much of your
> income you spend on the obsolete products produced by our villagers. You
> will also be please kind enough to let us have your personal background,
> showing whether you have followed your "self-interest" or the
> "social-interest" in this lifetime of yours. 

I do what is good for my family. But I am more than my "personal
interest." If we reduce everybody to our personal interests, we would be
living in a Neanderthal society. 

> We want only authentic people on this list. People willing to explore
> their own selves, willing to explore the truth.
> If, based on such requests, all of us decide to unsubscribe, it is not I
> who will suffer (for I possess enormous talents which can feed me and my
> family at least till my faculties are active), but our poor, our villagers
> who will be deprived of people to tell them the truth about the way this
> world has functioned and will always function.

Here is what I would say in reply. If I am a pain for you, I would gladly
unsubscribe. To tell you as I see it, your manifesto and preamble appear
to be written by high school kids who have seen a small part of the
elephant and claim that the elephant is ivory and nothing but ivory. 

I want India to become prosperous. But not at the pace world bank wants it
or IMF wants it. These folks, and folks like you, would surrender the
country to foreign merchants in no time. I would rather have India
become prosperous at the pace that it can sustain for a longer duration.
It should not suffer the indignities experienced by Indonesia or South
Korea. Briefly, India should develope on its ideas, not because American
factories want globalization to sell their products. 

a subscriber for now,
Sitarmayya Ari.