An Academic Clairvoyant

Posted by on Mar 18, 2017

The other day I read a report (Harvard talks back to hard work: Professor finds Modi’s election victory like a Bollywood blockbuster) in The Economic Times on the remarks made by Bhaskar Chakravorti, a Tufts University public policy professor, on Narendra Modi’s latest election victory. The report also contained comments about what the author considered a ‘policy failure’, namely demonetisation. The most intriguing comment on the effects of demonetisation that the professor made is, what I would consider, a rash and sweeping statement involving every Indian: “Every person living in India had to experience some form of dislocation or inconvenience.”

Bhaskar Chakravorti must be a clairvoyant, a person gifted with the ability to perceive matters beyond the range of ordinary perception or how could he know about the experiences of ‘every Indian’? Can he read the mind of others? Ever since the Indian government announced the cancellation of higher denomination banknotes, some ‘intellectuals’, here and abroad, opposed the move that was primarily an attempt by the government to identify people who hoard cash. Why should you hoard cash unless you are dishonest or corrupt? Why, in today’s world, should most of your liquid wealth be in your personal possession rather than in a bank? The most obvious motive of hoarding cash is to hide income and evade the tax net. Indeed, demonetisation should hurt the dishonest and the corrupt the most, those who do not pay tax despite earning a sizeable income, those who do not contribute to nation-building.

Admittedly, such a measure will cause some inconveniences to some people but to say that everyone has faced disruption is a blatant lie. Does a poor Indian need banknotes of Rs. 500 or Rs. 1000 on a regular basis? There are villagers in India who have never seen those notes. The lower denomination notes of up to Rs. 100 are adequate for their daily needs. A large section of the urban population, especially the younger generation, would face the least disruption because most of them can efficiently use the digital modes of payment. Yes, there are many Indians who can’t use digital payments, but those who have the most, those who carry large transactions are all well-equipped to do it! Even poorer people like this translator here can do with a little cash!! The government never said that it is aiming to have an entirely cashless economy, which is not possible any way. It was a measure to compel people to do with less cash so the corrupt can’t hoard cash and hide their wealth. I do not know why an honest man, especially those who have some education, would oppose it. But professors from the haloed institutions of the West, some intellectuals here, and many who opposes the central government had only negative things to say about the move. Shall we say that all these critics have some personal (vested?) interest in cash?

line and wash drawing of lawyers in a court

India reels under corruption and nepotism. Would this professor tell us if he has any ideas how to remove those ills? No, they won’t offer us any solution to the problems that this country faces. Only when some positives steps are taken, they would oppose it.

How would a relatively cashless economy restrain corruption, you may ask. The fact is when you do a digital transaction, you always leave a trail and the tax authorities can find it. If you and I exchange millions of rupees several times between us and do business, the government may not have any means to know about it unless we do the transactions through a bank. Professionals –doctors, lawyers — would ask for their fees to be paid in cash. Big purchases are made in cash. Bribes are paid in cash. Recently I visited a local court with someone who came from another country. What she saw at the court premises made her dumbfounded. Every payment needs to be paid in cash because things won’t move if you don’t pay bribes and no one would accept the bribe if you use a credit or a debit card to pay the bribe, would they? I asked a young lawyer, ‘What if I pay your fee using my credit card?’ The young man said, ‘Then your job won’t be done!’ That is the real India!

I don’t know if this Tufts university professor visits India. He needs to go to a government office, a police station or a court in India with a personal errand to understand the meaning of the word ‘inconvenience’! He should then remember that an Indian citizen faces it daily and perhaps feel ashamed to compare that daily harassment with the small ‘inconvenience’ of demonetisation that perturbed him so much.


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Review: Uni-ball Shalaku Mechanical Pencil

Posted by on Mar 12, 2017

I have been using mechanical pencils for writing for the last couple of years. I have brought products made by Kokuyo Camlin, ITC and Luxor and have seen quite a few made by Faber Castell’s Indian division. A cursory glance at these Indian products will tell you that the Indian stationery products manufacturers do not take the adult and mature users of pen and pencils very seriously. Or else it is difficult to explain why all these mechanical pencils are made of cheap plastic and their very appearance and the choice of colours seem so puerile. The sheer fragility of these writing instruments makes it clear that companies that produce them do not want them to last more than a few months. They are intended to be lost or left behind in your college or office! I used to buy those Indian mechanical pencils for Rs. 10 or Rs. 25 apiece.

line and wash drawing of a ghat

It was such a relief then when I found Uni-ball’s (a brand name of Japan’s Mitsubishi Pencil Co.) Indian website uniball.in from where they sell all kinds of stationery products. Uni-ball’s mechanical pencil, sold under the name Shalaku, costs Rs. 50 per pencil. The very appearance of the pencil will make you feel that here is a writing instrument meant for the adults! Shalaku comes in six body colours: pink, red, black, light green, light blue and blue and in two versions: M5 228 for 0.5 mm leads and M7 228 for 0.7 mm leads.  In my view the black pencil is the handsomest of them all. I prefer the 0.7 mm leads for everyday use but pick your choice according to your own preference.

Shalaku mechanical pencil has a contoured plastic barrel and a metallic tip. The barrel is partly transparent, so you can observe the mechanism that works inside. The grip area is the fattest. The lead advancement mechanism is at the front. Shalaku  has convenient side-click mechanism for advancing the lead which obviates the need of going back to the bottom tip to click and advance the lead. When you write continuously, you won’t have to stop writing even for a split second to advance the lead. Although I rarely use the erasers that come with mechanical pencils, Uni-ball’s Shalaku has a large, replaceable eraser covered with a plastic cap.

The pencil comes with Uni-ball’s Nano Dia leads that are strong and smooth. What I like most about Uni-ball’s Shalaku is how it feels in my hand. The pencil has a nice balance and its shape and grip is just perfect for long hours of writing. It will not tire your hands and, for this reason, the slightly higher cost is justified. After all, you do not buy a mechanical pencil every day and used with care, these should last a long time. Try it and you will not want to go back to the cheaper Indian brands.

Uni-ball Shalaku can be yours for only Rs. 50 from uniball.in. A tube of 12 leads cost only Rs. 35 and is available from the same site. If you use your pencils a lot, I am sure you’ll never regret this purchase.

Do you use mechanical pencils for writing or drawing? Please use the Comments feature below to tell us about your preferred brand of mechanical pencils.

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