Dr Jay Dubashi
The Swedish Academy has decided to award this year’s Nobel Prize in economics to a little known scholar called Beni Prasad Verma, for his work on inflation. Verma, who holds a ministerial post in the Indian government under another economist, Manmohan Singh, is the second economist after John Maynard Keynes to work on inflation and employment, but Verma’s work is far superior to Keynes’s and the Nobel will go to him this year.
Verma’s research, which has appeared so far only in learned journals published in Barabanki, a town in Uttar Pradesh, shows that inflation is good for farmers, and since farmers constitute nearly 60 per cent of India’s population, it is good for the whole country. The higher the prices, according to Dr Verma, the better it is for farmers, though many conventional economists do not think so. Asked what he thought of Dr Verma’s new theory, Prime Minister Singh said it is a major theory and completely changes the entire foundation of economics, just as Albert Einstein’s theory relativity changed our view of the universe.
Verma says that his theory has turned economics upside down. He is now working on a computer model to prove that his theory – for which he has not given any name so far – applies to everything, from prices to diseases, and from crime to wars. Just as prices are good for the economy, diseases are good for doctors, and crime is good for the police. Similarly, wars are good for armies, and atom bombs are good for scientists.
If there are more diseases, you will need more doctors to treat them. If there are no diseases, you will not need doctors at all, which is bad for doctors. So, the doctors should not work on eradication of diseases but on propagating diseases. All hospitals should be abolished, which will reduce expenditure on them, and make everyone healthy, wealthy and wise.
Asked why farmers are committing suicide, Verma said that it is wrong to think that farmers are committing suicide because of higher prices. Actually, they want even higher prices and they commit suicide because they are not getting higher prices. His ministry, under the leadership of his Prime Minister and the lady from Italy, will ensure that prices go still further, and everybody becomes rich.
According to Verma, economics has gone topsy-turvy, because all countries are trying to control prices, instead of doing the opposite. In Europe, prices have stopped rising, and so has employment. In some countries, every other able-bodied person is jobless, though prices have fallen to an all-time low. There are actually queues for food in London and Paris, not to mention New York and Washington, though food prices have hit rock bottom. In India, on the other hand, there are no queues, because prices are going up, which makes farmers and others so happy and contented, that they do not have to stand in queues anymore. This proves my theory, Dr Verma said.
The Minister pointed out that his theory applies to scams too. The more the scams, the richer the government, and the richer the people. Scams are like inflation: when prices go up, farmers are happy; when the number of scams go up, politicians are happy. He had met Suresh Kalmadi in Pune recently and he had never seen a happier man. It was wrong to have sent him to jail, since jails serve no purpose. Kalmadi has emerged from jail, not only a happier person but healthier too.
In fact, according to the new Nobel laureate, all this fuss about scams in various industries, including coal, serves no purpose at all. In coal, all that has happened is that the government has allotted coal free of charge to some favoured industrialists. This has helped reduce the cost of inputs and therefore brought down prices. You people complain, says Verma, that inflation is rising, yet when government distributes coal free of charge, you again complain that prices are going up. Government should look after every body, including Tatas and Birlas, for that is genuine socialism.
Dr Verma asserted that his theories were Gandhian in their approach. The Mahatma had said that farmers were the backbone of the economy and the aim is to enrich them. The only way to enrich them is to ensure higher prices for their grains, and that is precisely the role of inflation. Inflation has gone up by nearly 50 per cent in the last five years, ever since this government came to power for the second time, which means higher prices for farmers, more money in their pockets, and better clothes for their wives and children. Because of higher prices, they are much better off than ever before. Even the Planning Commission says that they are now living on 32 rupees a day. Would that have been possible without inflation, he asked.
Asked why the farmers are committing suicide, Dr Verma said that this is one problem he has not looked into, and will be the subject of his further research. The relation between inflation and death is a spiritual one, and since he is not a spiritual man, he has not been able to devote more attention to it. Perhaps that will be the subject of his next research.
There are reports that Beni-ji may be appointed Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, and recommended for the top post of the World Bank. The Bank has not been much of a success so far – though it was set up by John Maynard Keynes and others – because of its wrong approach to the philosophy of development. If Dr Verma takes over at the Bank, he will be the first Asian to do so. He will also be the first person to have the opportunity to use his economic theories.
Asked how he would describe his new theory in simple terms. Dr Verma said it is simple. Whatever goes up, he said, is good; whatever goes down is bad. If prices go up. if is good; if crime goes up, it is good; if scams go up, it is also good. He will try and incorporate this theory in the next election manifesto of the Congress Party, if Rahul Gandhi will permit it. He said he will try and meet Rahul Gandhi after he returns from Stockholm, unless they send him to Washington to take over the World Bank!