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Reflections on Policymaking in Half Measure

To conclude I must add a few small points. Though the book carries a map of India portraying the towns where the Yadavs predominantly reside, it would have been helpful if a map of Mathura was also carried to depict the precise sites where the research was carried out. Also, the glossary contains some avoidable errors

BOOK REVIEWEconomic & Political Weekly EPW March 21, 2009 vol xliv no 1235To conclude I must add a few small points. Though the book carries a map of India portraying the towns where the Yadavs predominantly reside, it would have been helpful if a map of Mathura was also carried to depict the precise sites where the research was carried out. Also, the glossary contains some avoidable errors – Lok Sabha is the lower house of Parliament and not the Parliament, mundan is a ton-suring ceremony and not a mere shaving ceremony, panda is not a pilgrimage just a temple priest, laddus are round sweets which come in huge variety, and a brass or iron vessel is not a tasla but a kalsa. These minor errors apart, works such as Michelutti’s are important because they build up our scarce pool of inter-disciplinary research. They portray how the study of Indian politics has to con-tinue to reach out to other disciplines to unearth insights and obtain deeper understandings of the transformations that are taking place in the socio-political realm. This work on the vernaculari-sation of democracy demonstrates how the study of Indian politics can gain from the methodological tools which anthropology has to offer. This disci-plinary reaching-out will sharpen our inspection of past events and help us gauge future trends.Email:mkatju@gmail.comReferencesAlam, Javeed (2004): Who Wants Democracy? (Hyderabad: Orient Longman).Kohli, Atul, ed. (2001): The Success of India’s Demo-cracy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).Rudolph, Lloyd I and Susanne Hoeber Rudolph (1967) (Reprint 1987):The Modernity of Tradition: Political Development in India (Hyderabad: Orient Longman).Weiner, Myron (1965): “India: Two Political Cultures” in Lucian Pye and Sidney Verba (ed.),Political Culture and Political Development (Princeton: Princeton University Press).Reflections on Policymaking in Half MeasureK S KrishnaswamyThis slim volume, which has the sub-title “Memoirs of a Development Economist”, is largely an account of V V Bhatt’s distinguished achievements as a scholar and a high official in both India and the World Bank. Much the greater part of his career in India was in the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) research department and later as chief executive of the Industrial Development Bank of India (IDBI).This was during the 1950s and 1960s, which were decades of an intense plan-ning effort – and equally intense debate on the many economic and social issues thrown up in the process. Though not di-rectly concerned with the doings of the Planning Commission, Bhatt and his col-leagues in the RBI were drawn into a series of debates on such matters as deficit financing, saving and investment, choice of technology and other issues related to economic development and productive employment. During his years at Harvard University as well as in the RBI he had occasion to both meet and debate on development topics with distinguished economists and social scientists, Indian and foreign.This ability to identify practical or esoteric issues of relevance to economic and social engineering characterised his contribution as both a researcher and teacher in the many institutions he has served over the years. Like all upcoming economists in that period, Bhatt deve-loped fruitful association withThe Economic Weekly and its famous editor Sachin Chaudhuri.Though Bhatt has recounted in these memoirs the many development issues on which he worked during these years, he has been distressingly brief about them. Most of them were vital matters of con-cern during India’s planning decades – and many of them still continue to be so even today. Unfortunately, Bhatt has not thought it fit to expatiate on at least some of them, setting out the questions as they came up as well as his stand on them. The years since the early 1950s, when he start-ed working for the RBI, have seen enor-mous changes in the Indian (and the world) scene, which have been reflected in economic policies as also economic thought. It would have been useful to see how Bhatt reacted to these, keeping in view his basic philosophy of economic development and related issues such as poverty alleviation, income distribution, the free-market system, globalisation, and so forth.It was obviously not an economic history that he had set out to write; even so one misses in these pages some account of his specific contributions to the body of eco-nomic thought on planning for economic development, on the various modifications in India’s economy over the years. Bhatt has highlighted the major ones and point-ed out how the nature and purposes of macroeconomic planning were trans-formed after 1966.That was truly climacteric in both eco-nomic and political affairs, when Indira Gandhi assumed control and destroyed all democratic institutions systematically. Even more importantly she corrupted them all, virtually beyond repair. This malady has continued in India’s body poli-tic and made governance a mockery. All this may be as Bhatt implies, a conse-quence of the “licence-control raj” which came into being in earlier years. However, it would have been useful if he had consid-ered what else could have been done when domestic savings were limited and struc-tural transformation through substantial public investment in infrastructure and basic industries was badly needed, and not much foreign savings was available. Is it also not possible to argue that later pri-vate investments in consumer goods and services were possible to some extent be-cause of earlier public investments?It has since become clear that left to itself the private sector in India has Perspectives on Development: Memoirs of a Development Economistby V V Bhatt (New Delhi: Academic Foundation), 2008; pp 135, Rs 595.
BOOK REVIEWMarch 21, 2009 vol xliv no 12 EPW Economic & Political Weekly36notbeen particularly interested in invest-ing in, for instance, power or roads or major irrigation. Infrastructure invest-ments in the last two decades have been woefully short of needs and it is a moot issue how this can be remedied without public investments or, in the alternative, exacerbating the mal-distri-bution of wealth and incomes. As I have observed earlier, Bhatt was a very effec-tive commentator and it would have been very rewarding to the reader if he had let himself go some distance on his contributions.His final chapter on profound insights into the development process deals essen-tially with three original thinkers – Adam Smith, Schumpeter and Gerschenkron. As regards Smith, he identifies the relation-ship between growth of the market and increasing returns as the seminal idea, which was developed further by Alfred Marshall, Allyn Young, Nicholas Kaldor and others. On Schumpeter, his stress is on the process of “creative destruction” – which is a consequence not merely of a growing market but of enterprise and innovation under capitalism. In some ways, he owes this to Karl Marx, whose famous works mooted the process of capitalist development under the petit bourgeoisie, the resulting creation of the working proletariat, monopolisation of surplus value by the capitalists and so on. Schumpeter’s creative destruction is in reality a consequence of technical progress and monopolistic competition; however, Schumpeter’s contribution on how un-bridled capitalism leads through this process inevitably to transformations benefiting societies.Bhatt had, of course, the opportunity to study under Schumpeter and Gerschenk-ron in Harvard and was naturally impressed by their specific contributions to the development process.Alexander Gerschenkron’s approach to development was through the analysis of what transpired in Europe, after Britain’s industrial revolution. Europe’s industrial development was mainly in the latter half of the 19th century. That was also a period of great progress in the physical sciences, as well as of spatial growth of markets. Part of this, especially in Asia, Africa and South America, was through colonisation and imposition of alien rule. But the trig-ger for development was essentially tech-nological progress, which enabled large-scale production and increasing returns to scale. In some ways, the Gerschenkron theory is an exegesis of Schumpeter’s analysis; but that in no way detracts from the former’s achievements in identifying the development process. What was, how-ever, left untouched in all these studies is the contribution of the “empires” to Euro-pean and in a different way to American economic growth.Altogether, Bhatt’s volume sets out in a compact way some features and prob-lems of planning in India and some of the development theses. Having known Vinoo Bhatt for many years, he is apt to err on the side of modesty. His own contributions to development policy have been very considerable and it is a pity these have not figured as much as one wishes.Email: srkswamy@vsnl.com

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