Ten year old Sonali sits on the baked mud floor of one of the open spaces of the village, grips a pencil tightly as if she fears it may dance away from her, and painstakingly writes spidery letters in a grubby exercise book. When she completes a line, she has a big smile on her face. For Sonali and for almost 100 other children aged between 7 and 12 sitting around her on the mud floor this is something new that her parents and even her elder brother never experienced, a day in school.

This is Paltoo ka Nangla in Uttar Pradesh state, just 55 km from the Taj Mahal, that monument to love and power, and 205 km from Delhi, where Manmohan Singh, M.A. (Panjab University), M.A. (Cambridge), Ph.D. (Oxford), not to speak of honorary degrees galore, wrestles with the task of getting India's economy back on track.

Singh has protested that India is not facing a crisis. But other learned economic commentators who do not have the prime minister's vested interests have claimed that the wheels of the Indian juggernaut are falling off, which might seem an appropriate image given that the word "juggernaut" derives from the Sanskrit "jagannath", a huge chariot under which Hindu devotees threw themselves to be crushed to death.