'One-Eyed' RRR, The Economist, Is A Flop Show, Unlike Rajamouli's Blockbuster

by R Jagannathan - Apr 22, 2022 11:30 AM +05:30 IST
'One-Eyed' RRR, The Economist, Is A Flop Show, Unlike Rajamouli's Blockbuster(Representative Image)
Snapshot
  • RRR, the blockbuster movie produced by Telugu film-maker S S Rajamouli, has set the multiplexes on fire. RRR, the economic thinker, is a wet blanket and increasingly a flop show.

There is something underwhelming about the kind of economic wisdom being dished out by RRR — former Reserve Bank Governor and Chief Economic Adviser Raghuram Rajan — these days. Maybe it is the result of disappointment that 2014 and 2019 did not elect a government that needed his services, but he has not had something useful to say for so long that one wonders why he is still being feted and promoted by the media.

In a speech at the India Economic Conclave organsised by The Times of India group yesterday (21 April), he advised India to avoid putting all its eggs in the manufacturing basket, something that the government can hardly be accused of doing. Its productivity-linked incentive (PLI) scheme is about bringing more manufacturing to India, not about putting all eggs in the manufacturing basket or ignoring value-added services.

India is emphasising manufacturing now because it did not do so in the past. And even if manufacturing does not create as many jobs directly as it could have earlier, making more in India is key to creating jobs in services linked to manufacturing. Also, globally, with the disruption in supply chains, most countries are reducing dependence on single sources of supply (read: China). They are diversifying supplies and even choosing to produce more at home even at higher cost. The cost of disruption in a partly deglobalising world is higher than paying more for greater dependence on domestic manufacturers, especially in defence.

RRR also gave us gratuitous advice on how we must promote value-added services, including tele-medicine, when we are already doing it in spades. This is how healthcare functioned during Covid, and it is only a matter of time before it is included in free trade agreements that we will be signing with many countries.

But RRR could not avoid the usual dissing of Indian democracy. He said: “When a country is seen siding with authoritarians, and you read every day about ‘this is a country that oppresses its minorities’, and then you hear ‘this is a country that is suppressing data on how many deaths happen’, just like other authoritarian countries, it all adds up to an image we can well do without.”

This is typical of someone who belongs to an ecosystem where you decide that the glass is half empty since you do not like the colour of the government now in power.

Is India really siding with authoritarians, when the US is not? Saudi Arabia, and much of the Gulf monarchies, are key allies and China is its biggest lender and trade partner. Europe still buys more gas and oil from Russia than India. Are minorities the only victims in India, or are many Hindus also being attacked and their rights trampled upon? How is it that RRR cannot see basic injustice in the state controlling more than 100,000 Hindu temples, when Article 25 of the Constitution promises the right to freely profess and propagate religion, and Hindus are being ethnically cleansed not only in the neighbourhood, but also inside India (as #TheKashmirFiles so visibly demonstrated). How can Hindus hold their own when the means of propagation, ie, temples, are controlled by the state?

On data, one can half agree that our Covid data is far from perfect, but this is not the same as assuming that Western extrapolations on Covid deaths, which claim up to five or 10 million unreported deaths in India, are bang on. Deaths on that scale would have registered more clearly even without great data. Just to be clear, 10 million is roughly India’s annual crude death rate, and barring the months of April and May last year, when the sudden 10-fold spike in Covid cases overwhelmed the healthcare systems and crematoria (but not graveyards), we did not see any massive increase in deaths due to Covid. And the country managed to vaccinate almost all its adults in just over a year, and around two billion doses have been administered as of date. That is a feat few countries can claim, but Rajan is only seeing things to criticise.

For a man who could not prevent himself from making references to Hitler and “one-eyed kings” even while serving under the Modi government, and who publicly contested the government’s policy of Make in India by claiming that it should be Make for India, RRR is clearly letting his political biases dictate his economic stance.

RRR, the blockbuster movie produced by Telugu film-maker S S Rajamouli, has set the multiplexes on fire. RRR, the economic thinker, is a wet blanket and increasingly a flop show.

The late US President, Harry S Truman, quipped that he would like a "one-handed economist", the reference being to economists who hedged their recommendations by references to "the other hand". India would like RRR better if he used both his eyes instead of only one — the jaundiced one.

Jagannathan is Editorial Director, Swarajya. He tweets at @TheJaggi.
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