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Book Review

When Not An Advisor, Spill

Subramanian should have stuck to GST, demonetisation, agriculture.... In his zest for divulging tasty bits, he hasn’t done the CEA’s office a good turn

When Not An Advisor, Spill
Photograph by Narendra Bisht
When Not An Advisor, Spill
outlookindia.com
2019-02-01T10:29:24+05:30

Until recently, Arvind Subramanian was India’s chief economic adviser (CEA). He left his imprint not just on policy, but also on  the ‘Economic Survey’.  The introduction begins: “I was in Machu Picchu, the site of the spectacular, isolated ruins of the Incan civilisation in Peru, when I first received an email in July 2014 asking if I’d be interested in the job of CEA to the government of India.” Nothing happened for a while. “The delay…arose partly because the nat­ivist sections of the ruling party were opposing me, claiming I had indulged in anti-national activities…. I was appointed CEA in October 2014, although the charge of being menta­lly un-Indian would come up occasionally during my tenure….” Arvind, as we know, is fond of literature. That introduction quotes T.S. Eliot from Burnt Norton and ends with the line “Into the rose-garden”.  The next lines are, “My words echo/Thus, in your mind./ But to what purpose/Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves/ I do not know”.  Arvind is a friend. Hence, Arvind, why did you write this book?  I do not know.

There is a rationale of sorts in the int­roduction. “One of the responsibilities of having been a privileged witness to history is the need to record for fut-ure historians events and debates, act-ions and reforms of these years…. I can also leave behind a record of my own contributions and failures. Accordingly, this book brings together my writings and reflections during (and since) my four years as the CEA…. Readers should be forewarned that the focus is squarely on policy debates. This is no kiss-and-tell memoir, no gossip-laden account of intrigue, backbiting, favour-trading and double-dealing, no tale of grand heroism and base betrayal.”  

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