August 25, 2010

The Number Gamers

With the recent global economic depression still fresh in our memories the realization that the three top people who ‘officially’ run this country are all economists isn’t a pretty thought. The last time these economists were given a carte blanche things really didn’t pan out that well.

The way this government is handling things I’m certain that there are some things that economists can’t do. They simply can’t operate when the results can’t be measured. And how does one measure hunger? Or for that matter how do you measure the anger on the streets of Kashmir, Naxal Jungle or even the Gurgaon-Delhi Expressway? Just take a look around and you’d wonder that how cut off from reality is the troika of economists like Dr. Manmohan Singh, P. Chidambaram and Pranab Mukerjee really is.

There isn’t anything wrong in the Prime Minister thinking of himself as a CEO of this nation but if the company continues to be sick how long can fancy economic terms used to fool. On the one hand the economist PM might not want certain underperforming ministers but accepts them as a flipside of coalition politics but on the other hand he’s just fine with giving a 300% pay hike to these non-performers!

Of course, the tireless threesome, who swear by truth and only the truth that numbers speak, will provide us with all the stats in the world to show how an increase in salary will result in better performance even though arguably a sustained performance should be a prerequisite for any increment! Statistics are some thing that can kill the dead and starve the hungry. Consider this- wouldn’t you prefer to send your child to a school that has a 95% success record as opposed to one with 73.45%? Would you still consider the same if you learnt that the former has 10 students whereas the latter has 3000 students!

The Finance Minister comes from a state that has been consistent in its efforts to stay stuck in the past simply because it was once glorious. He can justify the inflation simply because the numbers demand so. Pranab Mukherjee, who also happens to be this government’s favorite firefighter, tried placating the nation over the price rises by suggesting that an economy that grows at a phenomenal pace like ours will face inflationary situation. I can’t understand what’s the point of a 11.some thing % growth when half the nation is busy figuring out which pothole to avoid! When the opposition informed him that India was apparently shining while they were in power as well, Mukherjee got angry and was fuming as he corrected them that their growth rate was 8.something % and his was better. Way better.

It’s been twenty years since Dr. Manmohan Singh unleashed the economic liberalization upon us and while the journey has been mostly good it wouldn’t be totally incorrect to say that some things have gone wrong as well. Why is so difficult for an economist or a statistician to accept that everything can’t be a foolproof when it comes to numbers? Shouldn’t the need of the hour be to concentrate on areas that have fell short rather than arguing that the glass is, in fact, half full! In the last two decades the new India has grown but it’s not as if the old India ceased to be. What’s the point in having fancy cars when every road is potholed? What’s the idea of having sanitized community living in condominiums when the garbage’s piling up just outside the main gate? What’s the point in enabling the common man to fly at a fraction of what it cost decades ago when airports can’t handle the traffic?

Why are these three so cuckoo about things when even you and I know there is some thing wrong?

The simple answer to this simpler question is that the numbers don’t show it.

The top three are so obsessed with numbers that unless the calculations don’t land us up in Mars they won’t know how off track we really are. In the aftermath of the heinous 26/11 Mumbai attacks the appointment of P.Chidambaram as Home Minister sent out an ‘at least the right noises would be heard now’ kind of reassuring signal. But if you ask why Shivraj You-have-a-problem-with-me-changing-clothes-in-a-crisis Patil, the then Home Minister, is now the Governor of Punjab and R.R. why-sack-me-the-deputy-CM-for-saying-bade-bade-shehron-mein-aisi-chhoti-chhoti-baatein-hoti-rehti-hain Patil is the current Home Minister of Maharashtra then they won’t explain anything.*

Why am I so hell bent on proving these 3 Idiots** are taking us to the cleaners? After all they all seem earnest, don’t they? What else can you expect when the Home Minister of the world’s largest democracy says that his is a thankless job? In a sit down interview Barkha Dutt and Prannoy Roy asked if him in all seriousness (?) if he were ‘enjoying’ being the Home Minister, this is what P. Chidambaram had to say:

Click here for to kill time and read the entire NDTV interview.

There is some thing about people who use numbers to get by in life. They are angry if we don’t take them as seriously as they seem to take themselves. I once had a CA friend open his power point faster than Quick Draw McGraw to explain the sub-prime in the USA and he got angry that I couldn’t understand the simple play of numbers that lead to a global economic meltdown. The head honchos of this nation are angry that while I should be happy that they enabled me to drink Coca Cola, I’m busy suggesting they ain’t fit for the job.

How can I be anything but angry…when they are busy proving the existence of some thing that simply isn’t there? The trio is trying too hard to prove that nothing’s wrong with them or they way they see the world; the fault lies with us.

You see, we just need to change our point of view…

*FYI # 1- The update on sacked Patils. Patil #1 is now completing a no tell all memoirs (why write it then…?) and Patil # 2, who is called a Sharad Pawar in the making (scary sic), is doing his bit for the beleaguered Marathi manoos by brokering a peace deal between the multiplexes and Marathi film producers.

** FYI # 2- 3 Idiots might just be a registered trademark of Vidhu Vinod Chopra.

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