Bibek Debroy (for Info only, not official)

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Bibek Debroy

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    ...If ILO lends its name to a report, it ought to be taken seriously. Ending modern slavery, forced labour and forced marriage are laudable objectives. The report says globally, 40 million suffer from “modern slavery”. Of them, 25 million suffer “forced labour” and 15 million “forced marriage”. There is a riddle for small children — what is full of holes, but can hold water? As everyone knows, the answer is a sponge. A reading list of critiques of the methodology used in this report is as long as an arm. The report is full of holes. Does it still hold water? Since people have generally criticised the part devoted to forced labour, let me focus on forced marriage. ...

    Indian Express on Nov. 30, 2017, 12:35 a.m.

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    ...To appreciate the problem, some figures: Twenty-five million cases pending in subordinate courts, more than six million for over five years. Sure, there are backlog issues in high courts and the Supreme Court too, but let’s focus on subordinate courts. Economists speak, or used to speak, of extensive and intensive methods of growth. Under the former, growth results from increases in inputs (land, labour, capital). Under the latter, growth results from increasing the productivity of existing inputs. Discussions on backlog resolution are prone to harping on the extensive, rather than intensive — increase the number of courts, increase the number of judges. ...

    Indian Express on Nov. 16, 2017, 12:35 a.m.

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    ... There can be an entire book of apocrypha based on what John Maynard Keynes is supposed to have written or said. On one occasion, Lord Keynes was reportedly asked, "How is your wife?" He replied, "Compared to whose wife?" Despite his marriage to Lydia Lopokova, given his proclivities, both the question and answer are unlikely. However, many things are judged on the basis of a relative, rather than absolute, performance. Most people will remember the name of the first person to reach the South Pole, but may not remember that of the second. Whether it is the International Food Policy Research Institute's (IFPRI) Global Hunger Index or the World Bank's Doing Business Indicators, there is an obsession with ranks. ...

    Indian Express on Nov. 2, 2017, 12:09 a.m.

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    ...I loved the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. I have no idea whether people watch it any more. Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke wrote the screenplay. The sequence is something like this. Arthur C. Clarke wrote a short story titled ‘The Sentinel’. The film was based on the short story. After the film and screenplay, Arthur C. Clarke wrote a book with the same title. The film and the book have a character named Moonwatcher. Moonwatcher was a leader of the man-apes and in the film, the role was played by Daniel Richter. (He wrote Moonwatcher’s Memoir, a book documenting his experiences during making of the film.) If you remember the film more than the book, Moonwatcher was the character who first picked up a bone as a tool and tool-wielding man-apes used them to beat back rivals. ...

    Indian Express on Oct. 19, 2017, 12:45 a.m.

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    ...We have been repeatedly warned against blindly believing everything we read or are forwarded. With that dash of sodium chloride, here is the gist of a message I was forwarded, not as a prospective job applicant, since I possess qualifications for neither. A restaurant 89 km from Ankamaly (Angamaly) requires a full-time porotta maker, at a monthly salary of Rs 18,000 to Rs 20,000. A concern 60 km from Thrissur requires a full-time “civil engineering B.Tech or diploma holder, at a monthly salary of Rs 6,000 to Rs 7,000”. These are two isolated advertisements from Kerala and don’t constitute a proper sample. However, some sample survey data is available on the internet, though sample sizes are small. For instance, the salary of a cook (not a chef) is Rs 12,000 per month in Delhi and that of an engineering diploma (not degree) holder between Rs 10,000 and Rs 12,000 per month. That of a driver is Rs 14,000 per month. Therefore, the correlation between education and salary isn’t quite what we might expect a priori. ...

    Indian Express on Oct. 5, 2017, 12:12 a.m.

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    ...The two gentlemen have nothing to do with each other. The Dutt in question is Manmath Nath Dutt (1855-1912), sometimes also spelt Datta. Unless you are interested in English-language translations of Sanskrit texts, you may not have heard of him. Other than being well-versed in literature on the Buddha, Hindu metaphysics and ayurveda, he was a prolific translator. He is the only one to have translated both the Mahabharata (including Hari Vamsha) and the Valmiki Ramayana into English. I mean unabridged translations, not the abridged ones. In addition, there were translations of several dharmashastra and tantra texts, the Rig Veda and at least five puranas (Agni, Garuda, Markandeya, Vishnu, Bhagavata). In the English language, he was India’s greatest translator, by a long shot. ...

    Indian Express on Sept. 21, 2017, midnight

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    ...I don’t mean Macaulay Culkin. I mean Thomas Babington Macaulay. Macaulay was no mean historian, of England, though not of India. Anyone who knows a smattering of Indian history should know about the Law Commission (Macaulay was chairman) of 1834, the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 and the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), 1861. In spite of amendments, the core of the IPC, 1860, is still in the statute books. Not unlike today, there was a time lag between the draft legislation in 1837 and its enactment — the IPC was enacted in 1860. Despite a Second Law Commission in 1853, the IPC was the single-handed work of Macaulay. His imprint can also be seen in the CrPC, the Civil Procedure Code (CPC) and the Indian Evidence Act. Cast your mind back and imagine the prodigious task of harmonising and unifying criminal law. In pre- and post-Independence India, no other individual has had that kind of impact on law reform. Macaulay never married and had no offspring. ...

    Indian Express on Sept. 7, 2017, 12:30 a.m.

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    ...The government must cease to be a compulsive litigant, and executive power should be made use to reduce the grievance of the future litigant.” Although the share depends on the level of the court (Supreme Court, high courts, lower courts), in aggregate, two-thirds of the cases are criminal. A crime is committed against society. Therefore, by definition, the government will be a party in criminal cases, depending on how government is defined. With this lens, 46 per cent is low — it cannot refer to all cases. It must mean civil cases. I doubt robust data exists to substantiate the figure. It is probably a guess, though it figures in the Department of Justice’s June 2017 Action Plan to reduce government litigation. ...

    Indian Express on Aug. 24, 2017, midnight