Friday, 18 September 2015

Of News and Other Stuff 5-Delhi Sultanate Special

  1. Every time I feel sick of Delhi, I discover some new nugget of history about the city which makes me love it all over again. Did you know that Siri Fort was Alauddin Khalji’s capital? According to legend (which would probably explain some of our bloodlust) the word Siri is derived from the ‘sir’ (head) of the Mongols who Khalji defeated. Either he built it on the lands where the heads of the poor sods lay or decorated the palace with the decapitated heads. Maybe it's just me with the bloodlust.
  2. Feroze Shah Tughlaq was probably the first ruler of India (or at least Delhi) to have a Public Works Department. (This could be a defence when the Municipal Corporation decides to rename the Feroze Shah Road).
  3. You can blame our current leaders for trying to name and rename every road, airport and scheme after its own cultural ideologues (BJP) or friends and family members of the Nehru-Gandhi clan (Congress), but they are still better than Alexander, who went around naming multiple cities after himself.
  4. In contrast to most rulers who liked to take on pompous titles and names (think Shah Jahan or Vikramaditya), we had a Rajput ruler called Sadharan. Yeah. His son was the ruler of Gujarat in the late 14th Century and his daughter was married to Feroze Shah Tughlaq. Other than that, he was sadharan.
  5. Our middle school history texts do not emphasize enough on Razia Sultan. Not only did she head the Delhi Sultanate for three years, her father (Iltutmish) nominated her as successor, in preference to her many brothers. All other historical female figures I have heard about till now (including the daughter of Chandragupta II, Chand Bibi or even Rani Laxmibai) became famous for what they did, after and because their male relatives had died. [Note to self: Do a post on the women in Indian history].
  6. The Delhi government wants to cut down on school text book chapters to lower the burden on kids (possibly because they can quickly mug up the rest and pass exams with flying colours). One of the chapters they plan to can is on Jan Sangharsh (Public Struggles) in the 10th standard Civics textbook because they feel that children will learn that protests against the government and anarchy is a way to achieve social justice.
  7. Talking about lack of self-awareness, does the Sangh Parivar know that the first ban on the RSS, in 1948, was imposed by Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, whose legacy they’re trying to appropriate?
  8. In an edit in the Hindu, the writer recounts an ex diplomat saying that at one time, India had a choice between either pursuing real power by becoming nuclear capable or ‘illusory’ power by becoming a permanent member in the UN Security Council.  Even though we no longer face that choice, shouldn’t we be a little more circumspect in chasing UNSC membership? Given our foreign policy of getting along with everyone, from Saudi Arabia to Iran and from North Korea to the US, permanent membership could end up being a crown of thorns.
  9. Does the US Fed consider the feelings of others when backtracking on interest rate hikes? Does it stop to think about the painstaking work of the economists of the World Bank and IMF who conduct detailed surveys of analysts and track the economy fervently, in the hopes of getting their predictions right? Or all the writers of Financial Stability Reports who base their assessment of risks on the predictions of the IMF and World Bank? Or poor Raghu Rajan who will now face more pressure than ever on cutting rates in India? Or all the op-ed writers who had their articles ready on the impact of this move on India? Really.
  10. Pronab Sen, the Chairman of the National Statistical Commission and earlier Surjit Bhalla, explained why the GDP growth rate for Q1 of FY 2016 was lower than expected but with very different conclusions.  Essentially, they explain that the 7% figure was a result of an IMF imposed idiosyncrasy. GDP (at market prices) is the sum of Gross Value Added (or GDP at factor cost) and Net Indirect taxes. The IMF requires that the growth in the Net Indirect Tax in the quarterly estimates be taken as the growth in the nominal figure divided by the change in tax base (that is the nominal growth in manufacturing, services and exports). Hence if there are any increases in the tax rate or tax compliance, they get counted as an increase in the price. This means that there was an over-estimation of inflation in the last period. Since real growth of GDP is calculated by subtracting the inflation rate from the nominal GDP growth rate, the CSO subtracted more than what was ‘actual’ inflation, and thus got a real GDP growth rate that was lower than expected.
  • Sen used this to argue that the deflation scare is misplaced (and though he does not say it, possibly just scare-mongering by the Govt. to get the RBI to cut rates). The Chief Economic Advisor is assuming, or at least leading others to believe, that a fall in prices (as reflected by a negative WPI growth for consecutively 10 months now) means deflation. In reality, a deflation would be a cause for worry only if it reflected slowing domestic demand. This has not happened, as the explanation about the calculation shows. Instead the fall in the WPI has been due to falling global prices.
  • Bhalla says that even though growth rates are higher than what the data suggest, they ‘feel’ low, because the messianic BJP government has used the gains from the lower fuel prices to decrease deficits and inflation (hmm…). Now the RBI should cut rates so that the growth based on GDP feels high (hmm…again).
  • K M Chandrashekhar, an ex-bureaucrat, gives his own example and that of his buddies in the banking sector to claim that people are risk averse at the moment and so a rate cut on its own might not help (not to say he is wrong). To his credit, he doesn’t write with the brash confidence that comes easily to some of our economists who want their feelings to be the basis of economic policy (not to say that their hunches are wrong either). 

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