Dr. Parakala Prabhakar in conversation on his new book The Crooked Timber of New India on Karwaan

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Dr. Parakala Prabhakar is an Indian political economist, social commentator, and communications strategist[1]. He was born on January 2, 1959, in Narsapuram, Andhra Pradesh, India[1]. He earned his Master of Arts (M.A.) and Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.) from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi[1]. He is known for his work as Communications Advisor in the Andhra Pradesh Government, where he held a cabinet rank position between July 2014 and June 2018[1]. He has also presented current affairs discussion programs on television channels of Andhra Pradesh, including Pratidhwani on ETV2 and Namaste Andhra Pradesh on NTV[1]. Dr. Prabhakar was a former spokesman and one of the founding general secretaries of Praja Rajyam Party, and in the early 2000s, he was the spokesperson of the Andhra Pradesh unit of the BJP[1]. He is the spouse of the incumbent union Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs of India, Nirmala Sitharaman[1]. They have a daughter[1].

Dr. Prabhakar is a managing director at RightFOLIO, where he specializes in developing communications and branding strategies and designing market research[2]. He has a PhD from the London School of Economics and Political Science[3]. He is also a policy consultant, music lover, and chess player[3].

Dr. Prabhakar has written a book titled “The Crooked Timber Of New India,” in which he discusses the challenges facing India’s democracy and the need for reform[5]. He has also been in the news for his remarks on various political and economic issues, including his criticism of Nehruvian socialism and his advocacy for a free market economy[4].


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parakala_Prabhakar

[2] https://in.linkedin.com/in/parakala-prabhakar-98351613

[3] https://www.instagram.com/parakala/?hl=en

[4] https://www.pgurus.com/finance-minister-nirmala-sitharamans-husband-parakala-prabhakar-again-embarrasses-her-over-act-of-god-remark-on-corona/

[5] https://english.mathrubhumi.com/features/specials/we-must-save-our-republic-dr-parakala-prabhakar-1.8705810


The key idea of the video is that India is facing numerous challenges, including economic distress, social divisions, and undemocratic practices, but there is hope for a more inclusive and prosperous future through dialogue and addressing these issues.

Key Insights

Challenges to India’s Democracy and Pluralism

📚 Dr. Parakala Prabhakar’s book, “The Crooked Timber of New India: Essays on Republic in Crisis,” delves into the layers and challenges faced by modern India.

🚓 During the Freedom Movement, Dr. Parakala Prabhakar’s father experienced police atrocities and was even imprisoned, highlighting the intense struggle for independence during that time.

💔 The author expresses concern over the erosion of pluralistic values and the disregard for the hard-fought freedom in India’s past.

💰 India’s youth unemployment rate is alarmingly high at around 23%, putting it in the same league as countries like Iran, Lebanon, and Syria.

🌍 The term “Crooked Timber of New India” suggests a hope for a more inclusive and better society, indicating the need for dialogue as a solution to the challenges faced in the country.

🌳 The new India is described as a “crooked timber” that cannot be straightened, implying that it is difficult to achieve a straight, diverse, plural, democratic, tolerant, and liberal society.

💡 “The Crooked Timber of New India essays on a republican crisis and his insights might really help you gain more insights of your own when you think of India nowhere.”

📚 It is important to read and engage in debates, even if you disagree with a book, in order to foster conversation and exchange of ideas.

Impact of Hindu Nationalism on Indian Society

🤔 New India is facing the challenge of living in an Orwellian autocracy where there is no rule of law, suggesting a potential lawless wasteland dominated by a single religion.

🤝 Many sections of civil society, including the media, judiciary, academia, and political parties, have formed alliances with this poisonous mindset, compromising their integrity.

⚖️ The current government in India is using the assertion of Hindu identity and othering non-Hindu identities as a means to maintain political legitimacy, while disregarding principles of justice, equality, and shared living.

🤔 Treating citizenship as exclusive to one religion and subordinating other religions as second class goes against the principles of equality in Indian democracy.

Erosion of Transparency and Accountability

📊 The Indian statistical system, once highly regarded and sought after by other countries, has lost its prestige and transparency under the current government, as they fail to provide accurate information on important issues such as migrant labor deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic.

💭 The lack of discussion and dialogue in passing important laws, such as the Farm laws and data privacy, highlights the disregard for public input and transparency in the decision-making process.

Long Summary

00:00 📚 The speaker discusses the concept of “The Crooked Timber of New India” and its implications for the future of the nation, exploring the challenges faced by India’s democracy, social fabric, and economy, including high youth unemployment, inflation, public debt, and declining private investment.

  1. The speaker discusses the concept of “The Crooked Timber of New India” and its implications for the future of the nation, exploring the layers of the current state of India and its challenges.
  2. Dr. Parakala Prabhakar discusses his background in economics and his studies at JNU and the London School of Economics, as well as meeting his life partner.
  3. The speaker grew up in a coastal town in Andhra Pradesh, completed his education in various places including Hyderabad and London, and met his life partner in JNU before returning to India.
  4. My family has a history of involvement in the Freedom Movement in India, with my father and maternal side experiencing police atrocities and being underground during that time.
  5. The book “The Crooked Timber of New India” was written by Dr. Parakala Prabhakar in response to the troubling state of India’s democracy, social fabric, and economy, which he believes are in crisis due to a lack of pluralistic values and the intertwined nature of politics and the economy.1.6 Youth unemployment in India is at 23%, comparable to countries like Iran and Lebanon, while inflation and public debt have increased, corporate debt has been written down, corporate taxation has decreased, indirect taxes have significantly increased, and internal savings and private investment have been declining.

🔍 Corporate India is not investing, the government is suppressing data, democracy is moving away from its principles, and New India is facing problems it refuses to acknowledge.

  1. Corporate India is not willing to invest, as evidenced by the increasing number of people relinquishing Indian citizenship and the withdrawal of foreign institutional investors from the economy.
  2. The government of India is suppressing and not revealing credible data that goes against its narrative, including employment and unemployment figures and the number of migrant laborers and COVID-19 deaths.
  3. The lack of available data from the government and the deterioration of social fabric in India pose significant threats to the economy and the founding principles of the Democratic Republic.
  4. Democracy in India is moving away from its principles as there is a lack of dialogue and discussion in the parliament, leading to the passing of laws without proper debate and withdrawal without discussion, resulting in a dysfunctional system.2.5 Bills are carried without ideal democratic procedures, media and cultural divisions exacerbate conflicts between the state and center, and there is dissatisfaction among states regarding fiscal devolution.2.6 New India is facing problems that it refuses to acknowledge, resulting in a lawless society where one religion dictates everything, contradicting the right-wing economic understanding.

🔍 The lack of a cohesive economic ideology within the BJP has resulted in ineffective policies, economic distress, rising inflation, and a lack of government accountability, exacerbating issues such as youth unemployment and a lack of skilled workforce, as well as failures in providing medical assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  1. The lack of a cohesive economic ideology within the BJP has led to inconsistency and incoherence in their policies, resulting in a lack of accountability among the public.
  2. The government’s sudden demonetization policy in India, based on flawed economic reasoning, resulted in the collapse of the informal and rural sectors, with ongoing economic distress exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  3. The lack of a cohesive economic philosophy and the influence of economists who don’t understand how to run the economy has led to ineffective policies, such as stimulus packages that only address the supply side and ignore the demand side, resulting in rising inflation and uncontrollable prices for essential goods.
  4. There is little evidence of sensible economic advice being offered to the government, as programs like Make in India and Skill India have been left by the wayside due to a lack of cohesive policy structure.
  5. India’s youth unemployment and lack of skilled workforce are major issues, leading to a rise in support for religious narratives and a lack of government accountability for economic performance.
  6. The government in India has not been held accountable for its failures in providing medical assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, including lack of oxygen, hospital beds, infrastructure, and vaccination, as well as the negative economic performance and social strains, which would have led to the downfall of any other government.

36:13 🇮🇳 The divisive narrative in India rewards those who promote the idea of Hinduism being under threat, leading to the re-election of the BJP and a shift in the narrative of Indian politics towards emphasizing Hindu credentials, while the absence of representation of the largest minority suggests a disregard for their importance.

  1. The divisive narrative in India rewards those who promote the idea of Hinduism being under threat, despite the lack of data supporting this claim, leading to the re-election of the BJP and reflecting the mindset of the Indian public.
  2. The chances of the new opposition in India winning the upcoming elections by focusing on developmental ideas and excluding religious aspects from their propaganda is a larger question that has seen a significant change in the narrative of Indian politics in recent years.
  3. The main narrative in Indian politics has shifted from parties claiming to be secular to now every political leader emphasizing their Hindu credentials.
  4. The BJP has shifted from appeasing and assimilating the largest minority in India to adopting a policy of rejection.
  5. The absence of representation of the largest minority in the Indian government and political parties, such as the BJP, in various states suggests a disregard for their importance and a demonstration that they are not needed for those in power to come to office.
  6. The largest political party in India, claiming to be a microcosm of the country, is troubling as it lacks representation and faces challenges from a weak opposition.

45:20 🔍 It will take a long time to remove the poison of Hindu-centric narratives and the lack of scrutiny in Indian society, as the government expects unquestioning loyalty and criticism is equated with being anti-national.

5.1 It will take at least a decade and a half to remove the poison that has infiltrated the minds of many people, as various sectors of society, including the media, judiciary, academia, and political parties, have engaged in Faustian bargains with those spreading this poison.

5.2 Some people in India pretend to believe in a Hindu-centric narrative for personal gain, even though they don’t actually believe in it.

5.3 Newsrooms are not scrutinizing the government’s claims and there is no interrogation or scrutiny of the basis for claims such as lifting people out of poverty or the size of the economy after demonetization and the pandemic.

5.4 The present dispensation in India derives its political legitimacy from asserting Hindu identity, othering non-Hindu identities, reducing democracy to majority rule, and disregarding justice, equality, and shared living.

5.5 The need to question the power we chose to rule us, as the government expects people to follow them without questioning, which has led to a dangerous shrinking of public discussions in diverse India, where criticizing the government is seen as sidelining its benefits.

5.6 Criticism of the government in India is often equated with being anti-national, but it is important to recognize that one can be critical of the government and still be a patriot, as certain organizations are falsely portraying themselves as patriots despite having no involvement in the country’s freedom struggle.

53:57 🔍 The speaker emphasizes the importance of addressing the problems in India, such as religious and linguistic biases, and discusses the contrasting ideologies of former Prime Minister Vajpayee and current Prime Minister Modi.

6.1 The speaker emphasizes the importance of focusing on the problem at hand, rather than getting distracted by unrelated positives.

6.2 The diversity of India, including linguistic, regional, and religious diversity, is the heart and soul of the country, and equating citizenship with one religion and treating others as subordinate is a problem.

6.3 The speaker highlights the need to identify and address the issues that are deviating India from its core principles and ideals, emphasizing the importance of discussing and deciding the kind of India people want, free from religious and linguistic biases.

6.4 Mr. Vajpayee, the predecessor of Mr. Modi, transformed from a radical Hindu to a more secular and inclusive Prime Minister, while Mr. Modi’s rhetoric shifted from secular to exclusionary, contrasting the two personalities.

6.5 Modi, who initially idolized Vajpayee, has now abandoned his ideals and embraced Savarkar, as seen in his shift towards a Hindu-Muslim divide and neglect of issues like unemployment and poverty.

01:01:05 🇮🇳 The changing political landscape in India and the removal of Nehru’s name and picture from posters indicate a shift in consciousness, but there is hope for a more inclusive society through dialogue and addressing undemocratic practices within political parties.

7.1 The Independence Day addresses used to talk about Team India, but now it’s not a team anymore, as the government of India and its agencies have removed the name and picture of Jawaharlal Nehru from posters, indicating a shift in consciousness.

7.2 The speaker discusses the changing political landscape in India and the need for pressure from various political establishments and civil society to uphold the original values of the country.

7.3 India’s political landscape is not limited to center left and center right, as the ruling government has shifted towards the right and implemented majoritarian ideas, but there is hope for a more inclusive society through dialogue.

7.4 The crooked timber of New India must be straightened in order to achieve a diverse, plural, democratic, tolerant, and liberal society.

7.5 The speaker highlights the importance of inclusivity and representation in a diverse country like India, emphasizing the need to address undemocratic practices within political parties.

01:08:53 🌱 There is hope for India outside of the dominant narrative, with a need for dialogue to address historical homogenization, economic concerns, attacks on public universities, and the rise of private universities, while being cautious about the selling of PSUs and potential consequences, and engaging in conversation and debate to address calls for change in Manipur and Haryana.

8.1 There is hope outside of the dominant narrative, with 62 percent of the population providing a foundation for optimism, and this conversation should continue across different generations and regions of the country.

8.2 There is a need for dialogue in India to address the homogenization of history and heritage, as well as the economic concerns of the younger generation, and “The Crooked Timber of New India” provides valuable insights on the present and future of the country, including the attacks on public universities and the rise of private universities.

8.3 PSU selling PSUs is considered an achievement, but the selling of railways was a disaster, and now there is concern about how much more can be sold and the potential consequences.

8.4 If current trends continue, there will be open calls for change in Manipur and Haryana, and it is important to be cautious and engage in conversation and debate.


Q1: How has the tax structure in India changed in recent years, and what are the implications for different sections of society?

A1: In recent years, the tax structure in India has undergone significant changes. According to government data, there has been a decrease in corporate taxes and a corresponding increase in indirect taxes. This shift has led to a burden on the poorer sections of society, as everyone pays indirect taxes. Moreover, there has been a decline in savings and private investment in the country, which can be attributed to these changes. Furthermore, there has been a decline in Indian citizenship relinquishment and a withdrawal of foreign institutional investors from the economy. These trends indicate that the tax structure changes have had adverse effects on various aspects of the Indian economy.

A2: The credibility of economic data produced by the Indian government has been called into question, particularly regarding its transparency. There are concerns that the government suppresses and manipulates data to fit its narrative. One area of concern is the lack of credible data on employment, unemployment, and migrant labor deaths. The absence of reliable and transparent data raises doubts about the accuracy and trustworthiness of the official economic statistics. This lack of transparency hampers an accurate understanding of the economic situation in the country and can undermine public trust in the government’s economic policies.

Q3: What were the issues surrounding the implementation and subsequent withdrawal of the Farm laws in India?

A3: The implementation of the Farm laws in India was met with controversy due to a lack of adequate dialogue and debate in both civil society and Parliament. Many stakeholders felt that the laws were pushed through without thorough discussion, leading to unrest and protests among farmers. These laws were later withdrawn without any meaningful discussion, further highlighting the lack of proper consultation and engagement with the affected communities. The episode surrounding the Farm laws brings into question the government’s approach to policy-making and its ability to address the concerns and interests of different sections of society.

Q4: How have policy changes and economic shifts in India affected employment and relocation decisions?

A4: Policy changes and economic shifts in India have had significant implications for employment and relocation decisions. While there is a potential for multinational corporations to shift production from China to India, the shortage of skilled manpower in India acts as a deterrent for such relocation. Additionally, the rise in the young population and unemployment contributes to social unrest and a lack of government accountability. These factors, combined with the economic distress faced by rural sectors, create challenges in generating employment opportunities and attracting investments. The need for comprehensive and well-thought-out economic policies becomes evident to address these issues and ensure sustainable growth and development.


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