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Governments all over the world resort to spin to present themselves in the best possible light.

The boundary between gloss and outright lies can often be blurred. Statistical information is the easiest to fudge. The actual numbers may not be fabricated; that would be too obvious. Instead the spin masters use a few standard tricks: they select which numbers to present and which to hide, and they drawing unwarranted conclusions from a headline number. Official statistics present every opportunity to cross the line from disingenuous spin to downright misleading propaganda - or lies, in plain English.

Statistics is like a bikini, as the wit said, what it reveals is interesting; what it conceals can be vital.

Here’s an example of misuse of official statistics from India.  The Finance Minister tweeted a headline number about annual revenues from direct taxes. For the first time in 2017-18 it had crossed the 1 trillion rupee mark.

But he did more than just mention that 10.02 lakh-crore number. He made 2 further statements - one was implied and the other is an explicit and clear conclusion. Both bear further examination.

The statement that the 2017-18 revenue was 18% higher than in the previous year was not there just for completeness. The implication is that it was a substantial rise; it was a creditable, praiseworthy performance of the Indian economy. Is that really true?  

An 18% rise, on the face of it does sound a whopping rise! And it would be creditable if it had bucked the trend. Is that the case?

We do have the figures going back to 2001. They are here, on page 2 of this report from the Govt of India.

The data cover the years 2001-01 to 2016-17. Lets take the 10.02 trillion Rupees number given by the FM in his tweet for 2017-18 and add it to the existing time series data. The following chart shows the growth in direct tax revenues over the years.

Now, set in the context of previous years’ data the 10.02 trillion figure for 2017-18 looks like it is no more than the trend growth.

What about the  18% y-on-y growth? That sounded impressive. Again, taking the entire data series and plotting the y-on-y % aage increase over the previous year, we get this interesting plot.

So, now the 18% looks par for the course; its good but can it factually be described as ‘historical’? The y-on-y growth has returned to levels last seen in 2010-11, and is nowhere near the amazing near 40% growth seen in 2006-7, and the 36% seen the following year.

Now lets turn to the second part of the statement. The FM drew a clear conclusion about what led to the (not so) creditable 18% growth in 2017-18. He ascribed it unequivocally to ‘accountable governance’ under his leader, the Prime Minister. Leaving aside for the moment the question of the extent to which the Govt allows itself to be held to account, if the 2017-18 performance is ascribed to the leadership of the Prime Minister, the question that begs to be asked is this:

What led to the  9% growth in 2014-15, the 6.6% rise in 2015-16,  and the somewhat better 14.5% in 2016-17? You can’t claim credit for a good (if not stellar) performance and deny responsibility for a dismal performance.

References:

  1. Income Tax Department,  Time Series Data, Financial Year 2000-01 to 2016-17. See https://www.incometaxindia.gov.in/Documents/Direct%20Tax%20Data/Time-Series-Data-2016-17.pdf

As news of Rabbani being killed in Afghanistan spreads like wild fire, there is a looming unease that things in Afghanistan are not as well as we pretend they are. We look on it as a regional matter rather than something relevant to us.

And yet, it ought to matter to us more than it does.

I would like to begin with saying that we have a rather lax approach to security overall. After 9/11 it didn't take us too long to cotton on to the fact that the new villain worldwide - terrorism is a way what we used to call militancy could be described. Since then, we have been talking about how we have been victims of terrorism orienting from Pakistan for far longer than the US. As the regional situation deteriorates steadily, and all goodwill is destroyed in power games, people perhaps now comprehend that what we had been shouting to the world for a long time was not reciprocal propaganda between sibling nations, and that they may have made a big mistake by investing so deeply in Pakistan.

But there has been little we have done to take advantage of the regional dynamics to resolve or assert necessary issues. We have sat and wrung our hands about the terrorism we face from Pakistan, but we have done nothing to fix that either. In the meanwhile, United States of Abhimanyu and the Afghani Chakravyuha goes on merrily. The Taliban have nothing to lose, and the foreign troops are caught between a rock and a hard place.

Pakistan is increasingly showing bolder stakes in forcing the US out, while both countries maintain a superficial pretense of civility, which is cracking.

While it is all well and good to talk about planned withdrawals of forces, increasingly vicious attacks bring up the question of whether it will be a withdrawal or escape - if at all it is possible. I imagine, it will not be easy to exit either - not with the ground situation so volatile. It wouldn't be the first time the Taliban uses brutality to take over the country, particularly if Pakistan starts believing that Afghanistan might distract the Taliban from Pakistan.

But that is the tip of the iceberg. Increasing volatility in the region makes India's security more difficult too, as Pakistan gets increasingly uncontrollable, and we have not consolidated any real stake in Afghanistan in spite of our massive aid. It may be argued that the Afghan government hasn't been able to do it either, but that is besides the point.

If the Taliban continue to strike back at the NATO forces with increasing viciousness, there is going to be a point where the NATO presence gets rendered irrelevant for Indian purposes - present or not.

Forcing NATO back in the AfPak theatre will also translate into increased confidence against India. In other words, that is one place we don't want to be in - because we are nuclear powers. And it isn't too far away. As militants in Kashmir are at an all time low, the point where the plan must be abandoned completely or drastically invested in comes close.

Another factors are China and Iran. China wants to drive through PoK to get at their port. They most certainly don't want us messing that game. Also, strategically, we are pretty much the only thing Pakistan wants from China. Iran once used to be a stronger ally than it currently is. We are letting that lapse.

So where am I going with all this?

I am saying that India should have been acting to secure its interests conclusively for a long time, and the need is getting urgent. Beyond a certain point, it will cease to matter to the result.

An article in Pragati (will search for link and insert later) argues that India should send troops to Afghanistan to aid the NATO effort. I think it is a bad idea. India doesn't have the physical distance from the theater of war like the rest of the countries, and India is not a default target of the bad guys either. Sending troops to Afghanistan is a guarantee to make them special targets as well as trigger terror attacks in the country. Worse, our anti-terror apparatus isn't so strong that we can take the risk of not preventing them. All in all, it will enrage the terrorists, and our civilians will be right there to take the brunt of the rage too.

However, the thought behind the idea of sending troops to Afghanistan is vital. The action may not be the best solution, but there is no doubt that we need to explore ways to make our stake in th region more secure - both for our sakes as well as lending security to the overall situation.

If we are able to open a second, less attacked aspect in this situation (using our soft power), it may create an opening for us to achieve our objectives easier as well as provide troops in Afghanistan a welcome breather, which is also in favor of our objectives.

I think it is definitely important that we integrate our soft power into strategic planning and use it far more proactively than we currently do. The less our actions look like military intervention the better, but it is definitely important to be a player in the game - not just as we are, by contributing, but by leveraging ability to influence happenings.

 

PS: These are more random thoughts on the dynamics from emerging news than hard factual data.

This article by Gity Yousafi from Herat, Afghanistan is from an ongoing series called Afghan Life, where friends from Afghanistan send in their stories and articles as an effort to understand the Afghanistan beyond the news priorities. NONE of the articles in this series have been written by me (Vidyut).

It is the message for Afghans women that they want to reach in their dreams and wishes.

Dream and wishes are the important aspect in our life and it is an essential phenomenon in human kinds. Because these are, that helps us to life and be hopeful in our life and our future. It gives us power to live, and fight to live.

If we see in our country and our society, we can see all the times and periods. Most of the women with out reaching to their dreams and wishes passed away. Their big ambition was freedom that I can say. If we consider the past and present we see no differences in women life and their rights. They couldn’t get their rights completely, their rights trampled by men all the times. Why? Because we let them that men control our life and live as a slave.

Before we are a woman, sister, mother, wife, we are a human and as human we have rights to be free and in depended.

In my opinion it is our fault that men abuse of their power and do some things that they want. Because we feel weaker than men. Believe me if they have a strong body, we also have strong mind to defeat them, be silence is not the way to get our rights. We must give hand to hand and be united to get our rights. Never men come and says, sorry we had equal rights please get your rights and freedom, they never do, believe me. It is our job to get it, even by force and fight for our rights. But you know lack of knowledge is the big problems that most of the women have. Please, please come together and give hand to hand for literacy campaign, it is the best way to reach to our dreams and wishes. I know that all of you have your own wishes, but have you ever think how to reach it and what should to do? If we be silence we never be success to get our rights and freedom. Please come together and fight for your rights, freedom, future, and wishes. By doing this we never see that a girl suicide or escape and do something else, also it can helps that we never have force marriages, self-immolation, family violence’s.

If you have enough knowledge you can be success in your life and get your rights, and know your rights, in this case men can’t control your life.

Be Success.

By: Gity (Yosufi) Heart Afghanistan