Right ya Wrong?

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Right ya Wrong? A child’s dilemma

– Chaitanya Bhalerao,  CRISIL Ratings

Right ya Wrong? It was in my childhood when I first faced this question. My history teacher from sixth grade while giving me a ride back home was stopped by a policeman. My teacher did not have his driving license. I could not believe what happened after. A 20 rupee note (that was the going rate back then!) exchanged hands along with gentlemanly handshake and good-bye courtesy.

I have seen cross-roads many times since then and sometimes been there myself, often not knowing what the right answer was. I pondered on questions – if prostitution was as evil as I have always been told (statistics suggest over 3 million prostitutes work out of brothels in India and over a third of them are below 18 years old)… why isn’t it banned by law? If hey (administration/police/society)
wanted to take action, even 12 year olds in my building know where all this goes on in Mumbai. We love it when the actress in Ghajini saves the girls from getting thrown into the flesh trade but what about reality?
I have heard arguments that Delhi is the rape capital of India but over 2 lakh prostitutes work out of Mumbai alone. I don’t know… but maybe that is the only reason crime against women is less in Mumbai (please don’t get me wrong… I am from Mumbai and I love this place).

As I grew up I got interested in politics, economics and every other thing that went around. Someone told me to read The Fountainhead. I didn’t understand too much the first time I read it. A couple of times reading it after, I was heavily influenced by it. Capitalism was the mantra… an answer to all the questions, a singularity, the ultimate truth. A rich and powerful America was the proof. I liked the notion of survival of the fittest. Fair competition within the framework of law was as unbiased as a fair coin could ever be. Any argument against it was wrong. So were the people who spoke against it or in favour of socialism.

However as I went along, as fair capitalism seemed… it also seemed equally scary. It actually meant my history teacher from 6th grade was wrong… so was the policeman… so were the prostitutes and so was the government, the police and the society which allowed the evil to exist!

Some time back, I attended a lecture by Amartya Sen. In a very intriguing yet simple way, he led us to a question – how do you define growth? As I found out later, he had developed the human development index. His argument was while GDP is good measure of growth… does it actually always lift the standard of living of the people? He showed us a few statistics of Kerala vs. Gujarat model of development and surprisingly for me Gujarat was trailing on many of the human development parameters. Same was the case while comparing India with its neighbours. India trailed Sri Lanka and even Bangladesh in many of the parameters including sex ratio, life expectancy and child mortality rate.

A few days back I heard from someone about an argument economist Keynes had made during great depression – the problem with capitalism is that while it is good in the long run, people get hungry in the short run. Implication being that while eventually there might emerge one right answer… there is no right answer in the short run. Thinking of it now I remember the explanation my 6 th grade history teacher had given me – sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.



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