Column: Lies, damned lies, and worse

May 10 2014, 04:10 IST
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SummaryBashing those praising Modi’s track record is par for the course, but this has to be backed with honest evidence

The closer Narendra Modi gets to be a possible PM, the more intensified becomes the slur and troll campaign of intellectuals and academics opposed to Modi. 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 Soz, and to a lesser extent Alagh and Ghosh-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—i.e. one lies. Such an accusation needs to be backed up by evidence, and that is what this article is about.

Alagh: A former economist and former Planning Commission official, Alagh does not even bother to present any evidence for his quite dishonest interpretations about poverty levels in Gujarat. His conclusion: “the richer a state is, 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 intellectually dishonest 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 FY12 had a per capita income level 65% 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 CSO data (4th) and NSSO (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, than 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 Narendra Modi’s

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