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Tuesday 28 January 2020

Piyush Goyal gives science triple talaq: Einstein, Newton, economics

The statement of Union Commerce and Railways Minister Piyush Goyal is odd on three counts: Who discovered gravity? Did Einstein defy maths? Can low GDP growth propel India to $5 trillion?

New Delhi: That the BJP-led NDA government isn’t quite able to steer the economy to prosperity may be a recent discovery. Its funny takes on science are pretty old. Along the lines of Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling the head of Lord Ganesha the first example of stem cell therapy and plastic surgery, then science and technology minister Dr Harsh Vardhan attributing to Stephen Hawking a quote that the Vedas were superior to Albert Einstein’s equation e = mc2 and several other examples of the kind, Commerce and Railways Minister Piyush Goyal today said, “Maths never helped Einstein discover gravity.”

This comes days after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman blamed taxi aggregator services like Ola and Uber for the slowdown in the automobile sector. “The automobile and components industry has been affected by BS-VI and the mindsets of millennials who now prefer to have Ola and Uber rather than committing to buying an automobile,” the finance minister had said on Tuesday in Chennai.

Goyal’s comment came in the context of GDP. He said, sounding exasperated, that the present figures of GDP growth could not explain how India would attain the goal of being a $ 5 trillion economy.

Goyal’s remark is odd on three counts. First, the discovery of gravity is generally attributed to Isaac Newton and not Einstein. Second, so far it has been nobody’s case that Einstein defied mathematics for his theory of relativity. Third, how the current 5% rate of growth can help the country reach the size of a $ 5 trillion economy defies commonsense.

Goyal was speaking to reporters after a meeting with the Board of Trade. His was a bid to instil confidence in the people about his government’s capabilities, but one doubts he could quite pull it off. “Don’t go by all these calculations you see on TV, that if the country has to become a $5 trillion economy, it will have to grow at 12% but right now it is currently growing at 6-7%,” Goyal said. “Don’t get into those maths. Those maths have never helped Einstein discover gravity,” he added.

“If he had only gone by structured formulae and what was past knowledge, I don’t think there would have been any innovation in this world,” the minister said.

After being lampooned in mainstream and social media alike, Goyal defended himself by saying he was being quoted out of context. Does the context affect established facts as to who discovered what scientific phenomena? Hear him out:

The growth rate in the first quarter of the financial year 2019-20 stood at a dismal 5%, the lowest in six years. One of the most discussed sectors facing sluggish growth is the automobiles sector. Sitharaman pinned the blame for this on BS-VI fuel norms and the millennial preference for taxis and public transport.

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