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Postscript

Establishment cover-up

It’s regrettable but true that post-independence India’s academics and intellectuals have no tradition of open debate and prefer to either side-step or bury inconvenient truths. Early this year Pustak Mahal, Delhi, published Nehru’s 97 Major Blunders — a scathing indictment of the rule (1947-64) of Jawaharlal Nehru as free India’s first prime minister — by Rajnikant Puranik, an obscure author, certainly not from the Lutyens Delhi smart set . In the carefully, even if not aesthetically presented book, the author demonstrates how ignoring the five-millennia free enterprise tradition of the subcontinent, Nehru u-turned the economy by imposing Soviet-style central planning led by giant doomed-to-fail public sector enterprises. This misjudgement brought calamity on the Indian economy and the country’s rural majority. Moreover, while foolishly refusing to negotiate a permanent boundary settlement with China — even while too-readily conceding China’s suzerainity over Tibet — and failing to settle the Kashmir dispute through a plebiscite as he had promised to, the Great Man forced one of the world’s poorest countries to maintain arguably the world’s largest army and incur defence expenditure equivalent to 3.5 percent of GDP annually for half a century — a massive aggregate sum which could have been invested in education, health and rural development. 

Surprisingly, the establishment has completely supressed this book. The only review of Nehru’s 97 Major Blunders — to the knowledge of your editor — was published in the Business Standard whose resident intellectual T.C.A. Srinivasa Raghavan condescendingly rubbished it. The other review appeared in EducationWorld (April) which called for a widespread debate on the issues raised in the book. But to no avail.

In particular one wonders why self-confessed admirers of Nehru such as historian-intellectuals Ramachandra Guha and Shashi Tharoor among others have not sprung to Nehru’s defence. To all intents and purposes they have prospered mightily — best addresses in town, country homes, children in varsities abroad — during the Nehru-Gandhi era. Surely they need to rise to the Great Man’s defence? Or is it possible there’s no case to answer? 

 

EPW spinelessness

Alas, poor Paranjoy, I knew him well. Almost four decades ago Paranjoy Guha Thakurta began his career as an earnest correspondent of Business India (BI), of which yours truly was the founder-editor. However as a committed communist, his heart wasn’t in BI which was promoted to end neta-babu licence-permit-quota raj which by the early 1980s had driven the high potential Indian economy into the pits. So soon after the spectacular debut of BI when your editor was pushed out by publisher Ashok Advani, Paranjoy moved to Delhi to work with several newspapers including The Pioneer, The Telegraph and India Today. Moreover, he also made a mark as a television chat show host for CNBC India. Therefore the greater the tragedy that within 18 months of landing the dream job of every left-wing jholawala — as editor of the Economic & Political Weekly (EPW, estb. 1949), a journal which is the holy writ of the dwindling Bolshie brigade — Paranjoy has been forced to resign. 

Curiously, the eminent trustees of the Sameeksha Trust (chairman: Dr. Deepak Nayyar, former vice chancellor of Delhi University) were spooked by a mere legal notice from Adani Power Co Ltd which claimed that the company had been defamed by an investigative report in EPW alleging that it had wrongfully filed for a refund from the Union customs and excise department without having paid duty in the first instance. Given the long history of the self-professedly anti-capitalist EPW in exposing corporate scams and shenanigans, this legal notice should have been par for the course. Instead, for mysterious reasons, the trustees chose to make it a federal issue. 

My interpretation of the trustees getting spooked? Over the past half century the Bolshies who run EPW failed to sufficiently monetise the publication resulting in its living a hand-to-mouth existence with no reserves in the bank to fight legal battles. So when Adani who has a reputation for playing hardball threatened a multi-crore defamation suit, the trustees crumbled and made Paranjoy the sacrificial goat. According to lefties ‘profit’ is a dirty word. But if EPW had been managed as a profitable business, its trustees would have had more spine. 

 

Captains’ culpability 

Indian cricket has come a long way since the Lord’s Test in 1952 when the score-board famously read 0-4 and India’s batsmen attracted derision and pity for edging towards the leg umpire as Fred Trueman ran in to bowl. In the recently concluded ICC Champions Trophy 2017, the Indian men’s team beat all the major cricket playing teams before losing by a massive 180 runs to arch-rival Pakistan in the final match played on June 18. More commendably, against all expectation the women’s team reached the final of the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017, losing to England by a mere nine runs. 

But even as comfort is being drawn from the fact that both the men’s and women’s teams were beaten but not disgraced, detailed post-mortems have not been conducted. Close analyses of both losing final matches indicate that captains Virat Kohli and Mithali Raj were grossly negligent and hugely to blame. 

Every club cricketer, including your editor who played in the London league decades ago, is aware that in English conditions where the ball swings unpredictably, a batsman should never play across the line. Shockingly that’s exactly what Kohli did. A ball which should have been played out to cover/extra cover, was attempted to be played to mid-wicket and resulted in an easy catch to cover off the splice of the bat. That unforgivable stroke (after a previous ball dropped catch) cost India the ICC Champions Trophy 2017. Similarly, an egregious error — failure to ground her bat — a nostrum drilled into all under-13 cricketers, resulted in Mithali being run out by a yard and cost India the women’s championship. 

The objective of this post-mortem is not a witch-hunt, but a cold facts-based analysis to ensure that such elementary errors never recur. Especially not from captains. 

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