Times of India

Pursuit of happiness

We would be pretty sceptical if Laloo Prasad happened to promise us happiness. Most of us sensibly believe that human unhappiness is a private matter, and is the result of things like unhappy marriages, ungrateful children, losing a promotion, or even the lack of faith. We know too well what would happen if our government got into the act: Chidambaram would tax ungrateful children, Sonia Gandhi would ban divorces, Manmohan Singh would create a promotions commission, Arjun Singh would detoxify faith, making atheism illegal.


We have had an unusually long spring this year. It is over now, and so is the frenzy of board exams. It is not surprising that thoughts of the young have turned to romance. But not for long for one has to think of a career and making a life. Millions of young Indians as they leave school and head for college, ask: should I study science, arts or commerce?

India has law, China has order

The Chinese premier's visit to India is a good thing because it takes our minds off Pakistan. We really have to learn to ignore Pakistan and heed China. Pakistan pulls us down into an abyss of religious fundamentalism, terrorism, and identity politics. China will lift us up, firing our ambition for better roads, schools and health centres.

Now, Turn to Governance

The Budget has come and gone, and it is time now to turn to governance. It was a good Budget, overall–it should continue our growth momentum. It lowered tariffs, reduced corporate tax rate, raised infrastructure spending via public-private partnerships, and simplified personal income tax.

Making India One

There is really one paramount issue that concerns us all, and we should remember it tomorrow when the Finance Minister gets up to announce the nation's Budget. Fifty-seven years after Independence India is sadly not a common market where goods and services move smoothly. If Bollywood, cricket and Hinglish unite us, our irrational system of indirect taxes divides us.



Our politics is filled with ironies. Here is a government led by a dream team of reformers, but all we seem to hear is the Left's strident criticism of the reforms as the frustrated reformers watch the show. The second paradox is that the Left has historically stood for change but in India today our Left stands rigidly for the status quo. The third absurdity is that the Left advocates the same swadeshi policies of the extreme right wing RSS and SJM, policies that harm consumers and favour producers.


Earlier this month I found myself in unlikely Ajmer to attend a three day seminar on the Mahabharata. Walking along its lakefront, I was drawn to the marble pavilions called Bara Dara, built by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jehan. I thought this must be the most appealing spot on the earth to idle away a few hours. Until I stumbled onto a mountain of garbage piled like a scar on the city's beautiful face. I looked around for a garbage bin, but found instead a man urinating. I looked for a toilet, but there was none. By now the joy had gone out of my day.

To be worthy of Freedom

They tell me that putting my email id at the end of this column is iffy, but when a gem crosses your path, such as this one, it makes it all worthwhile. Last week a female traveller to India wrote this:

Capitalism and Our Schools

The government presented the free and compulsory education for children bill in the winter session, and we are celebrating as though we had beaten Australia in cricket. We should hail it as a great blow against the curse and shame of child labour. But we are not, and for good reason — we have lost faith in the state's ability to run schools.

First, Do No Harm

A few months ago a well-meaning minister asked me if I had any ideas about how the government might help business. In an unguarded moment, he admitted that he had once been a socialist, but had now converted and wished to help the private sector.