Week with “The Economist”
by Chandrakant Sampat and Niti Sampat-Patel
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This is what we found interesting from the current issue of the “The Economist” (August 04th – 10th August 2012).


If humanity has to survive it will have to give up a debt, greed, and consumption based economic growth. Two profiles in the issue provide guidelines for a new education that make this possible. The first is the obituary of Captain Lakshmi Sehagal, and the second is the character of Yuri Milner.


  1. Captain Lakshmi Sehagal expired on the 23rd of July at the age of ninety-seven in her rented clinic in Kanpur. She made her patients feel better and safe. She was always reassuring. In 1971 she served the Bangladeshi refugees. In December 1984 she served the victims of the Bhopal chemical tragedy. In the jungle of Singapore she commanded a unit of the Indian National Army in hope of overthrowing the British Raj. She met “Netaji Bose” when she was only fourteen. Fifteen years later, she set up a free clinic for Indian migrant workers. Netaji Bose appointed her as a captain. She was an accomplished singer. She felt that the entire freedom struggle had gone wrong. Partition was a disaster, and the modern pursuit of money ruined whatever was left. As the only woman in a short-lived cabinet of Bose’s Provincial Government of Free India, she hoped to abolish child marriage, dowry and the re-marriage of widows.


  1. When Indira Gandhi was murdered, she interposed her small body to save Sikh Shopkeepers as the Ayodhya mosque was being demolished in 1992, and she rebuked Hindu neighbors who were dancing in celebration (page 74).


    1. Every morning, until the day before Captain Lakshmi’s heart attack in July, she went to her clinic at 9am. Many poor patients visiting her and she charged them nothing. Before she opened the clinic, she would personally sweep the street in front of it.


    1. She entered politics and became part of the upper house of Parliament. In 2002, at the age of eighty-seven, she was the chosen candidate of four left parties for India’s presidency.


  1. Yuri Milner: “Back to Basics” (page 63): He was working complicated maths of quantum chromodynamics (a theory in particle physics). On July 31st he announced that he will dish out $3m for nine prizes and picked the inaugural recipients. In February or March, these nine will name next year’s winner or winners, for the prize could be shared by any number of people. A $100,000 prize was also set aside for a promising young researcher.


    1. Crucially, recipients earned the prize for the inspired contributions that have yet to be experimentally verified. If these later prove beautiful but wrong, so be it.  Mr. Milner wanted to give the world’s best brains the financial freedom to pursue fundamental ideas. According to him that would keep some imaginative physicists away from Wall Street.  


Acknowledgements: These excerpts are taken from The Economist, August 4th-10th August 2012.


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