Tuesday, April 21, 2009

India is new to IT and urbanism… but still lingering with the Great Indian Socialist Darkness….

In a interview with the ET Mr N R Narayana Murthy says some interesting discussion especially about Nehru. Some excerpts:   

  • “we have been unable to redeem the pledge that our founding fathers took when India got independence. That is to provide decent access to education, nutrition, healthcare and welfare to the poorest of the poor. India has the largest mass of illiterates in the world, largest mass of poor people in the world, 250 million people don't have access to safe drinking water, 650 million people do not have access to decent sanitation. So this whole paradigm of 8-9% GDP growth becomes somewhat irrelevant when you look at these aspects. 
  • ..a country like India we need to solve three pieces of development -- first is creating a public opinion that values good work ethic, honesty, discipline, secularism. Second, we need to develop a cadre of leadership who espouse these values and serve as role models and demonstrate leadership by example. Third, we need the determination of the elite and the powerful in the society to eschew creation of asymmetry of benefits in their favour vis-à-vis the common man. Only when these three conditions are fulfilled will we be able to create a fair, just, equitable and inclusive growth in our society. In essence this is the fundamental thesis on which the book is based.  
  • I don't think that there is any shortage of good quality people. The important thing is for our political parties to provide opportunities to the young. For instance just as in Infosys I voluntarily gave up the MD position when I was 52 and later the CEO position at 56 years and supported those youngsters who came to those position. I believe it's important that politicians give new opportunity to younger people.  
  • Can you tell us about some of the lectures in the book? 
  • They all address different, crucial aspects of our progress. For example, Address to Students and Values (parts 1 &2) I believe are extremely important. There is a lecture about `What Can We Learn from the West' delivered as the Lal Bahadur Shastri Memorial Lecture which touches upon how we can make our already wonderful value system even stronger. Then there is the Darbari Seth Memorial Lecture `In Praise of Secularism' which is very important at this hour of extraordinary progress we are making.  

I read with interest particularly the `What Can We Learn from the West' and `In Praise of Secularism' the latter one is not just eye opening but seems to be miracle of war with word like minority. I was happened to receive the last copy of Darbari Seth Memorial Lecture `In Praise of Secularism' published by TERI. 

  • We have to ensure that there is a spirit of oneness in our country rather than differentiating ourselves. We have to summon the energy, enthusiasm, hope and confidence of every community in India to make this a better country and that's where secularism is very important. There is a lecture on the Role of Discipline in Accelerating National Development which emphasizes that unless we embrace discipline in every aspect of our live we will not be able to bring fast and equitable growth.  
  • The way our politics is going these days regional issues are more important, regional parties are taking centre stage... 
  • That's because the quality of our political leaders is going down. Remember when Jawaharlal Nehru was the PM between 1950 and 1962 this country achieved extraordinary growth. Five steel plants were completed, Bhaba Atomic Energy Research Centre was established Tata Institute of Fundamental research became strong, Bhakra Nangal dam came up, IITs, AIIMS, you name it all of that happened in 12 years post independence. You tell me of any other 12 year period where we made such growth in government. 
  • If you have a great leader of the caliber of Nehru even India with all its problems even after independence, with all its lack of resources can make extraordinary progress. Establishing five steel plants is not easy but the man did it. Establishing a centre for atomic energy research is not easy, he did. Getting 400 plus Phds from around the world to IIT Kanpur was not easy, he did it. All of this happened because of the vision of one man. 
  • In fact in 1967 many of my professors at IIT Kanpur said they all came back to India because of the vision and the enthusiasm of Nehru. Today these institutes are not able to attract five such faculties per year but that man attracted 400 such people at just one institute. What does it tell you? It tells you if you have great leaders you can achieve what seems impossible. I am absolutely convinced, as I have written in the book, three fundamental pieces of development -- values practiced by people, leaders who serve as a role models and the elite and the powerful who will eschew any asymmetry of benefits. These three pieces of development puzzle are absolutely necessary if India has to make decent, equitable, just fair, growth. 
  • ………….unfortunately as Franz Fanon has said in his book *Black Skin, White Mask*, the tragedy of most post colonial societies is that the elite and the powerful continue to operate as colonizers, operate under a different set of rules. The civil society has to stand up and change this.” 

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