Piyush Goyal’s “Don’t Get into those Maths” is Another Baffling Case of Ministerial Logic in Action


Piyush Goyal’s “Don’t Get into those Maths” is Another Baffling Case of Ministerial Logic in Action

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

Union Minister Piyush Goyal sounded a lot like a 15-year-old about to sit for his ICSE board exams yesterday, when he implied in a speech that maths was actually quite a useless subject — especially for theoretical physicists. To make his point, Goyal used the example of Albert Einstein, who the minister claimed “discovered gravity” (roughly 200 years before he was born) armed with no formulae, and an abstract desire to innovate all over the place.

Not that it really needs much of a fact check, but Goyal was obviously wrong. Isaac Newton is famously considered to have first recorded the law of gravity some time in 1727, back when studying maths and spending your free time solving equations was all the rage. If actor Akshay Kumar had been around at the time, maybe we would have learned all about it in a tearjerker of a film. Einstein, meanwhile, is most famously known for his theory of relativity and the equation “e=mc2”, which even Goyal has to admit looks a lot like maths from where we’re standing.

But of course, it’s likely that the minister made a mistake and messed up the two names. It happens to the best of us — especially at those damn family events where we’re expected to remember (and then possibly be engaged to) every random person who walks past the pani puri counter. Except, Goyal followed up his speech, just a few hours later — during which time he had access to Google, we presume — by repeating the exact same mistake from earlier. Goyal indignantly reinforced his point about how more Indians should innovate, and yelled at everyone else for misquoting, and making fun of him.

As if this situation wasn’t bizarre enough, it turns out that the Commerce and Industry minister hadn’t been hired by the Einstein estate to publicly steal credit from the Newton estate for the discovery, but was responding to a question on how India should go about becoming a $5 trillion economy. “Don’t get into those maths,” was his solution, because as we all know, the best way to not pay much attention to a slowing economy is to completely stop acknowledging all statistics and percentages related to it altogether.

If there’s one thing Goyal did right, it was stealing the limelight from his colleague after she became an online meme.

Now while this is all technically true, might we remind you that Goyal is the Commerce and Industry minister, and not the Philosophy and Channelling Your Inner Creativity Minister. If there was one person in the country whom you’d expect to be paying attention to all the useless numbers, it should have been him. And maybe even Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

Unfortunately, though, Sitharaman walked into a situation of her own two days ago for apparently making a similar mess of economic theory. If there’s one thing Goyal did right, it was stealing the limelight from his colleague after she became an online meme. Sitharaman had said that millennials’ affinity for online cab services were partially responsible for the automotive industry going into decline, and all hell broke loose. While she later clarified that it was not what everyone was thinking, the damage was done, and #BoycottMillennials began trending — and nobody could tell if it was ironic or for real.

Goyal and Sitharaman are the two newest ministers looking to offer novel solutions to our everyday issues, and let’s just say we appreciate the effort. Last week, Giriraj Singh of the Animal Husbandry, Dairy and Fisheries ministry, also attempted to get his own humble department on the map by claiming to have come up with a solution for cow lynchings. Singh had said that artificial insemination in cattle will ensure only female calves are born, leading to fewer cattle being abandoned as a consequence, and that there would be nothing to lynch over. Not sure, but I think we missed a couple of steps in between. 

That being said, we can’t really blame the ministers for the constant stream of faux pas. Now that everyone has access to social media, our ministers are constantly bombarded with questions about how they’re going to fix long-term issues, which they must answer in short, snappy media bytes. So, it’s safe to say that there’s a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks as well. Who knows, maybe you’ll be personally blamed for the decline in the Good Looks industry. Let’s find out.