This Article is From Apr 10, 2017

Cow Vigilantism Is ISIS In India, Says Economist Surjit Bhalla

No sane person can offer excuses for what is done in the name of a cow, said economist Surjit Bhalla.

New Delhi: The sort of extremism that led to the lynching of a 55-year-old dairy farmer in Rajasthan's Alwar district last week is not very different from the brand of fanaticism endorsed by ISIS, economist Surjit Bhalla said on The NDTV Dialogues. "Nobody is for this kind of nonsense. The cow slaughter vigilantism is ISIS in India there is no difference... No sane person can defend or support or even offer excuses for what is done in the name of a cow. It is just horrible," Dr Bhalla said.

The comments came during a discussion on India's fight against poverty. Discussing the economic impact of crackdown on illegal slaughterhouses on minority communities in Uttar Pradesh after the state elected a new BJP government last month, noted economist Abhijit Banerjee said, "These crackdowns are arbitrary actions by the state. I have a living and it is suddenly taken away from me. So whether I am poor or not, I resent it."

"I think that inequality in that particular mode will have consequences and also lead to a broader sense of resentment of the fact that some people seem much better off. Such resentment changes politics. If BJP doesn't manage to make people feel that they will be able to catch up with this or at least get a piece of that, they will lose," he said.

On poverty alleviation, Dr Bhalla said India's record is one of the best in the world and the country has in fact, "mismeasured" its poverty levels.

He said, "India's poverty level in 2011-12, was close to 12%. China for that same year and for that same definition of poverty, was 9%. China has one better than us but India hasn't done bad. We have mismeasured our poverty levels. What is important to understand about the mismeasurement is that the poverty industry is bigger than any crony industry or crony capitalist you can think about. This is crony socialism at its finest when it comes to dealing with poverty or any discussion about poverty."

Responding to Dr Bhalla's comments on the 'poverty industry', Dr Banerjee said, "I think the amount of corporate giveaways we do, eventually our banking sector is bankrupt, so we have to bail them out, when we bail them out, 14% of the GDP is transferred to the corporate sector effectively because we write-off these loans. That's way bigger than anything that the poor ever got. Poverty industry is a drop in that ocean."

On whether issues of inequality should be a priority alongside poverty alleviation, founder chairman of the Meghnad Desai Academy of Economics and a British parliamentarian, Meghnad Desai, said, "I don't give a toss about inequality. I only want to cure poverty. I don't care how much money (Mukesh) Ambani has. I really care about the poor. I want the poor to have good education, good healthcare, decent housing and good power supply. The issue of inequality distracts us from poverty which is a more urgent problem."

Responding to the view, Rohini Somanathan, professor of economics at the Delhi School of Economics, said, "It is important to realise that there is a dynamic that got us to where we are. It is not like choosing vanilla ice cream or chocolate ice cream. The fact that there is a lot of inequality in a country that claims to be a democracy, where people have equal say some constitutional sense and yet we are very unequal means that obviously there is some cheating that is going on."