As he exited the Indian Express last year as its most acerbic pen, the Harvard-educated economist Mihir S. Sharma launched into “adman” Suhel Seth in a long review of the latter’s book in The Caravan.
Now, at the Business Standard as the editor of its opinion pages, Sharma trains his guns at the Magsaysay award winning rural affairs editor of The Hindu, P. Sainath, mocking his selective use of internet search engines.
The provocation: Sainath’s recent piece attacking the profligacy of the deputy chairman of the planning commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia while expecting India’s poor to subsist on subhuman amounts of money:
“The government will get away with it, because of our perennial confusion between public and personal austerity, and our jaw-dropping incompetence with simple mathematics. Consider, for example, the recent attack on Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia by one Palagummi Sainath, famously the favourite journalist of Press Council Chairman Markandey Katju.
“For a widely-read column in The Hindu, Sainath Googled previous newspaper reports that Ahluwalia had spent Rs 2 lakh a day on some of his foreign trips, and that he had spent 274 days outside the country in his seven-year tenure. (He did not mention that Mr Ahluwalia was the point-man in India’s interaction with the G-20 in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Odd, I’m sure that’s Googleable.)
“Let’s assume that that’s excessive; and that Mr Ahluwalia and his delegation should have spent half that. That comes to an excess spending of Rs 40 lakh a year. This year’s fiscal deficit is more than a million times that sum. The folly of such ‘analysis’ is matched only by the cynicism of the UPA, which thinks that responding to laughable smears with its unpersuasive attempts at ‘austerity’ will answer genuine complaints about its profligacy with public funds.”
Read the full article: Austerity abuse