SMU economist Dr. Ravi Batra knows how to think big-as in big, looming catastrophes and big, complex explanations of those coming nightmares. Batra’s book, The Great Depression of 1990 (tick…tick…tick…) says that world economies tend to wax and wane in sixty-year cycles-and history is jiggling the handle, ready to flush our society into oblivion.
Economists, talk show hosts, and journalists have debated Batranomics and where it’s all heading. As for where Batra himself comes from, that’s a story almost as strange as his theories.
Batra, who hails from New Delhi, India, admits to being a follower of one Prabhat Ranjan (P.R.) Sarkar, founder of the Indian religious cult known as the Ananda Marga-the “Path of Bliss.” Depending on who you’re listening to, the Ananda Marga, who have a cell in Dallas, practice “ritual murder and mutilation and . .. homosexuality” (V.S. Naipaul); steal explosives, attempt assassinations (The Rise and Fall of the Ananda Marga); and are responsible for firebombings, stabbings, grenade attacks, and a hijacking (a CIA report). Or, according to defenders, they’re a persecuted humanitarian group dedicated to helping the poor, the sick, and the hungry.
Evidence-much of it confus-ing and contradictory-exists for both views of the Margas, who combine Eastern spiritualism with a wide array of social programs such as medical clinics, nursery schools, and food programs for the poor. Batra says the bloody stuff is all a fabrication by the government of India, which has banned the group. But he doesn’t deny his loyalty to Sarkar. And he admits that his own cyclical view of economic destiny owes much to Sarkar’s thinking. He once told this writer that he and Sarkar talk every night, “via mental telepathy.” Top that, Milton Friedman.