This post is made in three of my blogs as it of interest to all my readers of Jacob's Blog, and more specifically the readers of my Mumbai Cathedral and John Connon School Blog, Seventh Heaven, and readers of the Stephanian Blog, Kooler Talk (Web Version).
I apologize for this multi-blog posting, as many of you are readers of all the three blogs!
Budget Battleground was event that took place against the backdrop of my alma mater, St. Stephen's College, beautifully lit in the background, had a selected audience of young economists from Delhi School of Economics, Shri Ram College and St. Stephen's College, three of the many premier colleges in Delhi.
The anchorman was NDTV Managing Director, Dr. Prannoy Roy, who was connected with another good friend, great economist with tremendous wit, the person who turned around Doordarshan in the late eighties and early nineties and then went on to head Rupert Murdoch's Star TV and then his own channel, Broadcast Worldwide Ltd., and also a Stephanian, 61er/63er Rathikant Basu.
This is from the Wikipedia entry for NDTV Managing Director, Prannoy Roy:
On 20 January 1998 Central Bureau of Investigation filed cases against New Delhi Television (NDTV) managing director Prannoy Roy, former Director General of Doordarshan R Basu and five other top officials of Doordarshan under Section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for criminal conspiracy and under the Prevention of Corruption Act. According to the CBI charge-sheet, Doordarshan suffered a loss of over Rs 3.52 crore due to the “undue favours” shown to NDTV as its programme The World This Week (TWTW) was put in `A’ category instead of `special A’ category
The two in the hot seats were 63er Montek Singh Alhuwalia, who was very much present in St. Stephen's College during my three years there, and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen (difficult to say whether he is an Indian or Bangladeshi as both countries have laid claim to him).
One can never forget 63er Montek, not for his knowledge, but for the unique way he wore his turban and certain mannerisms (the nervous laugh when he knows what he is saying is not what he believes), which have not changed, even as of today. The way he argued a point was always from a point that he could not be wrong, although many times, he was and is!
I give below three extract from the autobiography of Amartya Sen (Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1998). In these extracts you will see the mention of a name - Mumbai Cathedral School 59er Sudhir Anand, my classmate who is Professor of Economics at both Oxford and Harvard, a brilliant economist and undoubtedly a brain who influenced Amartya Sen considerably more than a three time mention in his autobiography.
59er Sudhir was from our Mumbai Cathedral and John Connon School. Although unable to make it top our 50th year reunion in 2009, he was very much there in spirit.
"I was also fortunate to have colleagues who were working on serious social choice problems, including Peter Hammond, Charles Blackorby, Kotaro Suzumura, Geoffrey Heal, Gracieda Chichilnisky, Ken Binmore, Wulf Gaertner, Eric Maskin, John Muellbauer, Kevin Roberts, Susan Hurley, at LSE or Oxford, or neighbouring British universities. (I also learned greatly from conversations with economists who were in other fields, but whose works were of great interest to me, including Sudhir Anand, Tony Atkinson, Christopher Bliss, Meghnad Desai, Terence Gorman, Frank Hahn, David Hendry, Richard Layard, James Mirrlees, John Muellbauer, Steve Nickel, among others.) I also had the opportunity of collaboration with social choice theorists elsewhere, such as Claude d'Aspremont and Louis Gevers in Belgium, Koichi Hamada and Ken-ichi Inada in Japan (joined later by Suzumura when he returned there), and many others in America, Canada, Israel, Australia, Russia, and elsewhere). There were many new formal results and informal understandings that emerged in these works, and the gloom of "impossibility results" ceased to be the only prominent theme in the field. The 1970s were probably the golden years of social choice theory across the world. Personally, I had the sense of having a ball.
From social choice to inequality and poverty
The constructive possibilities that the new literature on social choice produced directed us immediately to making use of available statistics for a variety of economic and social appraisals: measuring economic inequality, judging poverty, evaluating projects, analyzing unemployment, investigating the principles and implications of liberty and rights, assessing gender inequality, and so on. My work on inequality was much inspired and stimulated by that of Tony Atkinson. I also worked for a while with Partha Dasgupta and David Starrett on measuring inequality (after having worked with Dasgupta and Stephen Marglin on project evaluation), and later, more extensively, with Sudhir Anand and James Foster."
Later he says in his autobiography:
"During my Harvard years up to about 1991, I was much involved in analyzing the overall implications of this perspective on welfare economics and political philosophy (this is reported in my book, Inequality Reexamined, published in 1992). But it was also very nice to get involved in some new problems, including the characterization of rationality, the demands of objectivity, and the relation between facts and values. I used the old technique of offering courses on them (sometimes jointly with Robert Nozick) and through that learning as much as I taught. I started taking an interest also in health equity (and in public health in particular, in close collaboration with Sudhir Anand), a challenging field of application for concepts of equity and justice. Harvard's ample strength in an immense variety of subjects gives one scope for much freedom in the choice of work and of colleagues to talk to, and the high quality of the students was a total delight as well. My work on inequality in terms of variables other than incomes was also helped by the collaboration of Angus Deaton and James Foster.
Readers of Seventh Heaven will remember how I have written about Sudhir and the Nobel Prize awarded to Amartya Sen!
The discussion was lack lustre. Montek took the view that he could not discuss the Budget (the whole point of the programme) and gave no real answer for the blazing question how the poor of India had not improved their lot during the time he has been at the head of the Planning Commission. (At one point he says "We have said, the Government has said,…." )
Montek minced words as only a political chamcha can do!
Roy was not hard-hitting in his position as Anchorman. He was being pleasant to his guests!!
Amartya Sen was his own self and wanted to be nice to everyone.
Not a receipe for a successful discussion, but for me, being in the setting of our beautiful college was good enough to sit through the 45 minute discussion!
Anyway, it was good to be away from the depressing media coverage of our hallowed institution which has been plaguing us for almost half a decade!