Dipankar Gupta (for Info only, not official)

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Dipankar Gupta

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    ...Worldwide there is a growing acceptance that the enemy is at our doorstep, if not in our house, in the shape of a migrant, or a refugee, or even a dreaded anti-national. This is how those from other states are characterised in Indian metros, like Mumbai or Bengaluru. This is also how Mexicans in the US, or Poles in Britain, or Turks in Germany, are looked at. Government figures tell us that migration is falling in cities like Delhi and Mumbai. Across the seas, more Mexicans are leaving the US today rather than coming in. Yet, there is every sign that the anger against them continues to grow. To a significant extent, such animosities arise because the enemies we knew and hated so well in the past, are no longer near us anymore. Therefore, when things go wrong and it is time to blame someone, who might that be? Distance makes love grow stronger, but it destroys a good enmity. ...

    TOI on Dec. 2, 2017, 2 a.m.

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    ...One could well be marked “His” and the other “Her”; because through one you see “History” and through the other, “Heritage”. In many ways, history is the way a patriarchal narrative presents itself. There are goals to be accomplished and there are grand personages forcing them. Peasants and workers, artisans and traders are drawn in, but they did not start the plot. Whether it be war or peace, or licence to make and sell, those below either submit or rebel on a stage set by others. Heritage is very different. It is about ordinary people who are skilled, resourceful, adventurous and risk taking; but not war like, nor policy driven. Heritage proceeds in peace and there are no great movers and shakers, no princes and potentates when its story is being told. This story instead is about farmers and herders who tamed the wild to breed edible seeds and food; about merchants and craftspeople who braved mountains and deep waters to exchange knowledge; about rustic engineers and metallurgists who first hammered copper. ...

    TOI on Nov. 4, 2017, 2 a.m.

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    ...After Vietnam, America may still be looking for a war to win, but each time it must depend on hawks on the sidelines to send innocent young people to fight, die, and sometimes return. Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush’s secretary of defence, never saw real war. That did not keep him from supporting America’s Vietnam involvement. Vice-president Dick Cheney evaded the Vietnam draft five times, but later his company, Halliburton, made masses of money from hostile engagements in the Middle East, including Iraq. Many army personnel who breathe hell fire never really had the experience of fire raining from hell, or combat duty. The Greek tragedian, Aeschylus was right: the first casualty of war is truth. ...

    TOI on Oct. 7, 2017, 2 a.m.

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    ...As policy makers like precision and economists like numbers, after a short, sweet exchange of equations they can hitch up for life. Consequently, economists find it unattractive to enlarge their intellectual gene pool by making contact with others on the planet. It is this failing that makes many of their recommendations questionable. Take exports, for starters. It is true that our performance here is miserable, but is currency devaluation the best way out? Check out the consequences of this advisory. Well before our exports get tastier, our import costs would rise as the machines we need to make our goods are nearly always ‘foreign made’. No exporter can leave the table before that bill is paid. Consider in this connection an interesting factoid. About 25% of our imports are petroleum related, but 20% is on account of buying machinery from abroad, usually China. Further, the import content of exports is about 25%, not including the vast, but incalculable, second hand market for imported machines in the MSME sector. ...

    TOI on Sept. 9, 2017, 2 a.m.

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    ...Now that the shoe is on the other foot, we should learn to tie up our laces and move. Only malingerers, who wallow in self-pity, find excuses in history to stay away from work. Every year Independence Day sends out a clear non-partisan message: this is your country now, look ahead, not back. Blaming colonialism has an attractive political ring about it, but it is a lazy, disingenuous ploy. We can accuse the British for our poverty, our bureaucracy, our cumbersome laws, our rote learning, and so on, but such charges are time barred. It is now our job to right those wrongs and not of that ghost who has long since gone. When we allow memories to condition our thinking, we lose the capacity for self-examination and introspection – so essential for progress. George Santayana was wrong. The truth is that those who remember too much of their past are condemned to repeat it. We must break this cycle before it becomes an addiction. The right time to stop smoking is ‘now’. ...

    TOI on Aug. 12, 2017, 2 a.m.

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    ...Hence, the chances are that only those issues will be raised which can be resolved through government, or quasi-government, statistics. Anything outside of this is over-spiced and bad for contemplation. It is this attitude that has kept our understanding of informal labour on a low calorie diet, though it gobbles up 93% of our economy. As information on this is sparse, even if the issue is so big, it is convenient to look the other way. This explains the administrative reluctance to bulk up on policies related to this subject. The system works best when answers predate and frame the questions, leaving little to chance. The stage is now set for the policy maker, as diviner, to deliver with a flourish. This method actually resembles the way religious discourses are conducted. The Church opposed Galileo and Copernicus because they asked questions for which the sacred texts had no answers. As Joshua had bid, in the Old Testament, the sun to stand still and not the earth, therefore, Martin Luther concluded, Copernicus must be wrong. ...

    TOI on July 15, 2017, 2 a.m.

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    ...For instance, the Baniyas are frequently presented as crafty, chatur, peace-seeking merchants, but many of their origin tales spin a different story. In these legends (or, jati puranas) Baniyas come through as heat-seeking warriors; brave and fearless, never dodgy peddlers. This is actually to be expected, and had it been otherwise that would have been quite unusual. For some reason, humans everywhere want to be remembered as fighters. Like our Ranjits and Vishwajeets, some of the commonest European names, such as Vladimir, Ludwig, Louis and Richard mean conqueror, brave, vanquisher, and so forth. Once we factor that in, it becomes easier to accept the Baniya version of the self as ruler and warrior, prone, on occasions, to recklessness too. ...

    TOI on June 17, 2017, 2 a.m.

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    ...Both sides have misplaced priorities, and this is bad for our brains. Those who argue that minorities are being pampered should ask themselves, why then, in aggregate terms, are Muslims always poorer than Hindus? At the same time, a fact check is advised for those who think banning beef is anti-secular. True, Hindus are forbidden to eat the cow but neither does Islam ordain that it be slaughtered. Muslims would certainly not lose their faith if they did not get a regular ration of beef. In fact, some of the best cuisines from Awadh, Hyderabad and Kashmir, are mutton based and, in all such instances, the connoisseur would be horrified to stir cow meat into the pot. Nor is it that the veneration of an animal is strictly a Hindu peculiarity. The Egyptians believed the cat was sacred; the Zoroastrians, like the Hindus, revere the ox as their prophet was, in lore, saved by one; the Cherokee Native Americans give the eagle a special place and nobody is allowed to mess with it. ...

    TOI on May 20, 2017, 2 a.m.