Tuesday, Jan 27, 2015

The slur and troll campaign

The rebuttal of the Gujarat model relies on flawed analysis and obfuscation. (PTI) The rebuttal of the Gujarat model relies on flawed analysis and obfuscation. (PTI)
Written by Surjit S Bhalla | Posted: May 10, 2014 12:29 am

The closer Narendra Modi gets to possibly becoming prime minister, the more intensified the slur and troll campaign of intellectuals and academics opposed to Modi becomes. I have written several articles on growth, poverty and living standards for the different states of India and for different socio-economic groups. The footnote to the table is just a partial listing of this research. The broad conclusion of the research: on all three counts — growth, poverty reduction and welfare improvement of Muslims — Gujarat has done very well.

This conclusion has not been met with approval, at least from the anti-Modi brigade. There is nothing wrong with disagreement, and such disagreement, if it points to errors in analysis, is always welcome. But what Salman Soz and, to a lesser extent, Yoginder K. Alagh and Sourindra Ghosh-Atul Sood commit is intellectual dishonesty, and in my book there isn’t a larger crime that an intellectual/ academic can commit. The crimes arise from ideology. We are all ideological animals, that is not a problem. Intellectual dishonesty is when one makes an error fully knowing that one is wrong. Such an accusation needs to be backed up by evidence, and that is what this article is about.

Alagh: An ex-economist and ex-Planning Commission official, Alagh does not even bother to present any evidence for his interpretations about poverty levels in Gujarat. His conclusion: “the richer a state, the lower its poverty levels”. Hence, Gujarat has lower poverty, whatever that means. Alagh should know better, and given that he does, he is being disingenuous in making the above statement. Poverty levels are a function of several initial conditions, among which per capita income or consumption and its distribution are two of the more important.

Delhi, for example, in 2011-12, had a per capita income level 65 per cent higher than the second-richest big state, Haryana, yet its poverty level was just 1.1 percentage points lower.

The table shows poverty levels for various socio-economic indicators for two comparable states, Gujarat and Maharashtra. Note the difference in ranking of Gujarat according to Central Statistical Office data (4th) and the National Sample Survey Organisation (12th). The poverty data needs to be interpreted with reference to this NSSO rank among 21 big states; if any indicator for Gujarat is less than 12, then Gujarat is performing better than expected. Poverty levels for the different groups are generally lower in Gujarat than the richer Maharashtra. This holds true for all groups except Modi’s own OBC caste — perhaps now the Congress intellectual trolls will complain that since his own caste has “relatively” lost out, Modi is not fit to be PM!

There are other problems with Alagh’s rant. Most importantly, he accuses Ashok Gulati of publishing results because he was paid to do so; Gulati has responded, effectively showing continued…

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