Archive for May 12th, 2015

Unintended consequences of ATM usage restriction..

May 12, 2015

Nice story from Hindu Biz Line.

With the Reserve Bank of India restricting free monthly ATM usage, banks have found a novel way to cash in.

“ATMs are loaded with only 100-rupee notes in the first 10 days of the month. If I withdraw ₹10,000 after getting my salary then I exhaust my limit at the start of the month as the ATM machine can dispense only 100 notes per transaction,” said Arun Prasad, a harried private sector bank customer. For every subsequent withdrawal there is a charge of ₹20 even for withdrawal of ₹500. No fair!

Is it happening across the cities?

How Bollywood and Dalal Street are increasingly getting disconnected from real India..

May 12, 2015

Food for thought piece by PB Mehta.

Starts with the famous French lines and then moves on to Bolly:

Some reactions to Salman Khan’s conviction have elements of a Marie Antoinette moment for India’s ruling classes.

When confronted with the fact that the poor were rioting because they had no bread, Marie Antoinette is alleged to have said, “Why can’t they eat cake?” Strictly speaking, this attribution is incorrect. In his Confessions, Rousseau attributes this howler to another princess. But when discontent rises, as it did during the French Revolution, the distinction of generations matters less than the follies of class.

Faced with the reality that someone was mauled to death while sleeping on the footpath, reactions from some stars have the same quality: the outrage is not over the drunk driving, the sympathy is not for the victims, the concern is not for the rule of law. Rather, what emerges is the stunning “why were they sleeping on the footpath?” The poor are to be held responsible for their own lack of options. They are a nuisance, standing in the way of drunk drivers in fancy cars who think footpaths are racing tracks. It would be easy to write this off as the reaction of a deluded few.

But it is hard to shake off the feeling that this moral obtuseness and lack of social imagination is now so much second nature to India’s ruling classes that there is no longer any shame even in espousing it. The evidence for this is Bollywood itself. Bollywood’s great success, when it was a genuine national institution, and not a cultural manifestation of the secessionist tendencies of India’s privileged, was this. It sublimated all eros into refined poetry. But it also sublimated the desire for justice into a popular art form. Bollywood provided an escape. But it was not escapist. The Bollywood of the early Raj Kapoor, of Sahir Ludhianvi and Shailendra, of the Progressive Writers’ Movement, Guru Dutt and Bimal Roy, the angry young Amitabh Bachchan or even Prakash Mehra and Manmohan Desai drew its resonance from a popular desire for justice, the hope that in movies, if not in real life, the underdog and the marginalised will get some redemption. Or even if they were not redeemed, their presence pricked the conscience of the privileged.

Then to Dalal Street:

Similarly, so much of the schizophrenia over land acquisition stems not from obtuseness over the possible long-term benefits that might necessitate short-term pain. It stems from the raw suspicion that this is not really for the benefit of farmers. There is no surrounding culture of identification or empathy, nothing in elite sensibilities or behaviour that could credibly convince anyone that this progress is really about the future of farmers. There might be objective reasons why giving up land might be a good idea. But those making the case are doing so with such a sense of entitlement to poor people’s property that you wonder. If you want the sociological equivalent to Bollywood’s obtuseness over Salman Khan’s case, just watch the Twitter handles of so many captains of industry, including in leading sectors like pharma: the open contempt for poor farmers will become apparent. Indian capital’s moral obtuseness makes it its own worst enemy.

We often decry politicians for bending over backwards to appear to be pro-poor. They may be hypocrites. They may use pro-poor arguments to underwrite bad policies. But at least they somewhere have to acknowledge a complex reality. If you thought Lutyen’s Delhi was out of touch, just wait till you see Dalal Street and Bollywood. Even more Marie Antionettesque.

Much of D-street owns and funds B-street. So it is but natural to show the disconnect on the big screen as well…

Lutyens Delhi – India’s vibrant smart city..

May 12, 2015

Rahul Jacob says how Lutyen Delhi is India’s only smart city so far.


Importance of neighborhoods in children’s life outcomes

May 12, 2015

Nice post by Gulzar Natarajan.

He points to studies which show the importance of neighborhoods in shaping children:

An excellent example of data journalism in the Times that highlight the works of Raj Chetty, Lawrence Katz and Nathaniel Hendren on how neighborhoods – schools, community, neighbors, local amenities, economic opportunities, and social norms – influence life outcomes. Briefly their two studies from the US show that not only do neighborhoods attract those who succeed (or fail), they also nurture success (or failure).

The first study tracked the life outcomes of the children in 4600 families in five large US cities in 1994-98 who won the Moving to Opportunity housing experiment (families living in public housing could enter a lottery in which the winners were offered a voucher to mover to better neighborhoods) lottery. The authors used the natural random selection experiment to track the outcomes of the move on younger and older children (the earlier studies clubbed both and found negligible effects). They also compared outcomes of those who won Section 8 subsidized housing vouchers which did not require moving to better parts of the city. 

….The second study uses earnings records to effectively track the careers and neighborhoods of 5 million people over 17 years. It reinforces the MTO experiment. The earlier a family moved to a good neighborhood, the better thee children’s long-run outcomes. The effects are symmetric, too, with each extra year in a worse neighborhood leading to worse long-run outcomes. Most important, they find that ech extra year of childhood exposure yields roughly the same change in longer-run outcomes, but that beyond age 23, further exposure has no effect. That is, what matters is not just the quality of your neighborhood, but also the number of childhood years that you are exposed to it. 

Importance of good company matters in all aspects of life..

Avoid bad teacher rankings/grades using behavioral tactics..

May 12, 2015

Nice article by Prof Thaler (HT: Prof Mankiw Blog).

He used how behavioral insights helped him improve his teacher grades:


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