Delhi Student in Time List of Next-Gen Leaders

Interesting, this must have come as a huge surprise even for this student of English Literature in Delhi.

Gurmehar, who recently spoke against university campus violence only to be trolled and threatened with violence by the pro-BJP brigade, has now made it to the Time list of next-generation leaders.

That’s fair recognition for the courage she showed when even the media showed laughable shamelessness, with most journalists chickening out, not just bowing to Modi mania but also going all out to glorify the divisive politics of the BJP-led Government.

‘Free speech warrior’ Gurmehar is one of Time magazine’s Next Gen leaders

G Joslin Vethakumar


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Demonetisation, the Nudge Theory and Nobel Laureate’s Contradictions!

The annual Nobel season has ended and, aligned with tradition, experience has combined with expertise (and, possibly, a bit of lobbying), for yet another instance of the triumph of the 60+ generation.

The last of this year’s awards was announced yesterday – the Nobel for Economics which went to Dr Richard Thaler (72), professor at the University of Chicago School of Business.

Behavioural Economics

Dr Thaler’s area of specialisation: Behavioural Economics. Reports have him as the father of the “nudge” theory with its thrust on a persuasive approach for influencing decisions as opposed to one of authoritative enforcement. Actions can be mandated provided there is an opt-out provision.

It does not matter if it is politics or corporate governance or even people’s self-interest, what is significant is that the “nudge” theory is integral to economics and finance.

I must confess though that I am no economist, but my learning pursuits, (or should I say exploits?) involve one of the six Nobel Prize categories!

Nudge or Hegemonic Drive?

I have no deep knowledge of the Nudge Theory as well, just a superficial understanding. That is bound to gain stronger focus with Dr Thaler winning the award.

When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed demonetisation in an out-of-the-blue decision, that was to plunge the nation into an economic mess, there was no evidence of any nudging, just a hegemonic drive.

Thaler and Rajan

Inherent Contradiction

Still, Dr Thaler was quick to put forth an appreciative Tweet on Mr Modi’s sudden ban on 500- and 1000-rupee notes, only to express surprise and dismay when pointed out that 2000-rupee notes were being introduced.

But going by his first Tweet, I cannot help asking “where is the nudge theory in demonetisation, Dr Thaler?” To me, there is a contradiction inherent in his initial reaction. But then nudging is also meant to signal decisions taken in the interest of the people even if thrust down their throats!

That is not the case in India with demonetisation having triggered an economic slowdown and led to the loss of millions of jobs and of 120+ lives (they were those who died standing in queues for hours together to draw/deposit their money).

Dr Thaler's Tweet on notes ban

Multiple Disciplines Coming into Serious Play

Dr Thaler’s focus appears to be on a combination of behavioural finance, public policy, political concepts, human psychology, philosophy, social sciences, rationality and even self-control. That is an interesting dimension to Economics, with multiple disciplines coming into serious play. So, what is missing? I guess that will be application of common sense, atheism and marketing!

I won’t be surprised if in the future a professor of history wins the Nobel for Economics. After all, didn’t a musician/lyricist win a Nobel for Literature last year –  Bob Dylan!

Professional Rivalry?

Dr Raghuram Rajan, former Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), also teaches at the same institution. When Dr Rajan rejoined the university after a three-year tenure with the RBI, Dr Thaler is said to have tweeted: “India’s loss is the university’s gain.”

Dr Thaler is an accomplished economist, and now a Nobel Laureate, so any suggestion of professional rivalry will be petty. I will stay clear of that.

Clarivate List

Incidentally, Dr Rajan was among the six economists named by Clarivate Analytics as potential Nobel winners. While Dr Thaler was not one of the six, his name did figure among the list of additional contenders.

Dr Rajan (54), who became the IMF’s youngest ever Chief Economist in 2003, is much younger but more popular than Dr Thaler, having shot into international notice in 2005 when at a forum he predicted the 2008 global economic crisis, which was at odds with other distinguished economists, including former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan.

His prediction was met with disapproval, even derision. However, as it turned out, it was not clairvoyance without basis. It emerged out of a deep, incisive assessment of the systemic risks facing the economy with questionable instruments such as credit default swaps. His prognosis of a meltdown became reality three years later. Dr Rajan was among the earliest of economists to have foretold the crisis.

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Interesting NYT Discussion on Singapore’s Health Care System

This New York Times (NYT) piece has triggered some lively, interesting comments.

While I am happy to see the Singapore health care system drawing praise, my personal experience is that it is as expensive as in the U.S.

I must agree, though, that private specialist care is top notch. Most medical centres, including government hospitals, are like luxury hotels!

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Carlsen in Singapore, Poor Media Coverage!

Singapore’s chess enthusiasts got to see World chess champion Magnus Carlsen in action in the country over the weekend when he played 16 simultaneous games, winning all of them.

I was not aware of it until I read a report about it in The Straits Times today. It is a newspaper that does not cover chess in its sports pages. But, today, it did!

Carlsen in singapore

Worse, it hardly reports on even big chess tournaments, missing the recent World Cup in which Carlsen lost in the third round to a Grandmaster from China.

Five-time world champion V Anand had also played simultaneous games against 50 young players in March this year. He had won 48 of them, losing two.

I missed that too, I will blame that also on the poor media coverage.

G Joslin Vethakumar 

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The Evil Trio and the Mannargudi Mafia

Continuing Embarrassment for Tamilians! Fools, Fools!

One of her live-in evil partners, Jayalalitha, is dead and another, her so-called husband Natarajan, has saved himself with organ transplants in Chennai at the plush Gleneagles Global Hospital, owned by a healthcare entity based in Singapore and Malaysia.

Corruption convict Sasikala, who had distanced himself from Natarajan (or pretended to have done so) to become a partner in crime for the late chief minister of Tamil Nadu, was released on parole yesterday to enable her to call on the ailing 74-year-old man.


The Perarivalan Parole

The release follows the one-month parole one of the convicts in the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was given on August 25 this year to visit his sick father. On September 25, that parole for Perarivalan, who had spent 26 years in jail, was extended by another month.

The Tamil media and politicians gave Perarivalan such coverage that I thought the foolish electorate will make him the chief minister of the State.

That said, I wonder why Natarajan did not get himself treated at the Apollo Hospital, where Jayalalitha died in December last amid widespread suspicions leading to the launch of a probe into the circumstances that consumed her life.

Now that Sasikala is out, anything can happen! She will do everything possible to have her parole extended.

Foolish Tamilians, Silly Media

For that, she can count on the silly media and the Tamilian fools who love to imagine they are the country’s self-respecting intellectuals. When Sasikala kept her MLAs hostage at a resort, the media were agog with reports that the Tamilian public would lynch them should they come out.

Then Sasikala’s nephew, Dhinakaran, lavished a resort lifestyle on the 18 MLAs loyal to him, relying on their faith in the gullibility and foolery of Tamilians.

Kodanad Acquisition, Deaths and Intrigue

The deaths and intrigue at the Kodanad estate that Sasikala and Jayalalitha stand as examples of the feverish acquisition of property and associated crimes the duo were involved in.

The sprawling Kodanadu estate was owned by a British national who was coerced into selling it at a bargain basement price through Jayalalitha’s benami, liquor baron Udaiyar, as this report explains.

Sasikala, Dhinakaran and their relatives, who together have come to be known as the Mannargudi Mafia, have five more days to plot a further downfall of the State.

My earlier post


G Joslin Vethakumar

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It is a Mad, Mad World!

From Winning Nobel Prizes to Killing People, the Two Extremes Involving 60+ Generation

Concert Halls New Terror Targets – but then this post is NOT about Violence

This week, we had three 60+ life-saving doctors (two of them in their 70s) involved in seminal research win the Nobel Prize for Medicine / Physiology.

A day before that, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock struck terror in Las Vegas with an AK-47 type rifle, killing 59 people, spraying bullets from the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay Hotel on an audience at a concert, listening to country music star Jason Aldean.

How can a wealthy, one-foot-in-the-grave man become a terrorist overnight? People his age are winning recognition for ground-breaking work, not killing people. But then they can do what the millennials can do and cannot!

My Mandalay Bay Stays

I had stayed at the Mandalay Bay Hotel during one of my two visits to Las Vegas almost a decade ago when I was with Cisco. I didn’t see any evidence of security being lax then. But I find it hard to believe that the attacker was able to smuggle an arsenal of weapons into his room.

The Mandalay Bay strike comes four months after another lone-wolf suicide bomber unleashed an attack that left 22 dead at an Ariane Grande concert in Manchester.

From pubs to concert halls, no leisure and fun event appears safe from terrorists.


Also, just two weeks ago, a 65-year-old American chess Grandmaster James Tarjan pulled off a major upset by defeating world number 5 Vladimir Kramnik

Countries are governed by 60-something leaders and businesses are being steered through a rough cyclical terrain by industry veterans.

Still, in the ever-evolving corporate world which is being turned upside down by Artificial Intelligence, people feel more threatened by the greying generation than by automation.

The Millennial Question

The millennials, in contrast, appear to be easily succumbing to depression. Studies have consistently been showing how the millennials are more depressed at work than any generation.

One study even shows that depression costs the US economy more than $51 billion a year in absenteeism from work and lost productivity and $26 billion in direct treatment costs.

The young do have reason to be anxious – with recessionary trends hitting the economy and machines taking over their jobs.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Brilliant Anand Beats Hou Yifan for a Fine Finish

Attacking Middle Game and End-Game Mastery on Show at Isle of Man Tournament 

It was a fine finish for Viswanathan Anand at the elite Isle of Man tournament today as he showed endgame mastery to defeat Hou Yifan. 

The easy win took his tally to 7/9 points, just half a point behind World Champion Magnus Carlsen who drew his final round match with Hikaru Nakamura, who also ended up with a 7/9 score.

The title expectedly went to Carlsen, followed by Anand and Nakamura.

Having watched all of the nine rounds online, I can say that Anand’s win against Hou Yifan was his best in the tournament. He was fully in control throughout the game, went a pawn up early and with an attacking middle- and end-game play scored an emphatic win.

Vidit Gujarathi wound up the tournament half a point behind Anand.

G Joslin Vethakumar 

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