Sunday, 18 February 2018

Rhymes to go with the times: An economist’s musings

He is one of India’s best known economists. Bibek Debroy is also a member of the NITI Aayog, the think tank of the government of India. He chairs the Economic Advisory Committee of the prime minister. When not redrawing policy, Debroy spends time reading and writing on a range of topics. He has translated what some people believe is the best rendition of the Mahabharata, in ten volumes. His translations of the RamayanaBhagavad Gita and the Harivamsha, are also widely acclaimed.

His most recent work is a compilation of witty verses based on current events, The Book of Limericks by Bibek Debroy is a brilliantly illustrated guide for anyone trying to understand what exactly happened last year.
From economic issues to citizen concerns, these hilarious five-liners will take you on a roller coaster ride through the year 2017.

From GST to Aadhaar, road renaming to anti-Romeo squads, and no-fly lists to Delhi pollution, noted economist Bibek Debroy explains with the help of limericks the key developments of 2017.

On the GST, he writes, “If you happen to sin,/get ready to take it on the chin,/The GST rate will be hefty,/Forcing you to be thrifty/And sending your budget into a tailspin.”

Debroy has this to say on the anti-Romeo squads in Uttar Pradesh: “O, Romeo! O, Romeo!/Careful about that cameo./In some quarters at least,/If you behave like a beast,/You may be rounded up in a rodeo.”

After assuming power, the Yogi Adityanath government constituted the anti-Romeo squads to prevent eveteasing and provide a safe atmosphere for women. The anti-Romeo drive drew flak from gender activists who alleged police excesses and its adverse impact on autonomy and the right to make choices.

Talking about Aadhaar, he says, “There is now data first-hand/On Union government-owned land./Assets to modernise/And productivity monetise,/Not to forget states as an ampersand.”

On the CBI’s affairs, he says: “As its woes multiply/What’s with the CBI?/The caged parrot spat/Now ex- chief’s on the mat,/No longer the cynosure of every eye.”

The illustration along the limerick has a caricature of former CBI chief Ranjit Sinha, who is facing allegations of trying to influence the probe in the coal scam cases, standing near four other men.

On rivers Ganga and Yamuna being recognised as having legal identities, he writes: “As living entities,/Ganga & Yamuna have legal identities,/They possess rights/That will aid the fights,/Against polluting propensities.”

The no-fly list is also another topic of Debroy’s five- liners. The government has come out with a set of rules for the no fly to rein in unruly flyers and ensure the safety and security of passengers.

“A fly in the ointment/ Cannot hide his disappointment,/With a no-fly list/How will he insist/On proving his privileged anointment? he says in the tiny book, published by Penguin.

On the renaming of roads, Debroy writes, “One brother lost his name,/The other has his claim to fame,/One Mughal a poison toad,/The other perceived as antipode,/What next in the road rechristening game?”

The limerick has a caricature of late president A P J Abdul Kalam after the Aurangzeb Road was renamed by the NDA government.

He expresses his concern over Delhi’s alarming pollution levels with these lines: “Delhi and surrounding air/Choke, impossible to bear./The action plan a black hole – / Health and transport take a toll,/Residents are driven close to despair.”

Debroy has worked in academia, industry chambers, and for the government. He is the author of several books, papers, and articles. He has also published in Indology and translated (into English) the Vedas, the Puranas, the Upanishads and the Gita.

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