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Friday, April 10, 2015

Arun Shourie on Role of Professionals and Entrepreneurs

Kotak Institutional Equities (KIE) Conference, 2015 had former Minister Arun Shourie speak recently on the topic of  “Preparing India for the Future“.
Commenting on the topic of his speech Mr. Shourie in his inimitable style began by saying
“Forecasting is a treacherous exercise specially if it is about the future but for us it is equally difficult to forecast the past.”
He talked of how suddenly the growth rate rose without any of us having any idea about it !
He also said that,
“One thing we should know is that future is going to be determined by the forces which are not in our control and our heckling is not going to stop time.
We feel that if we want to stop WTO then WTO will stop but the world goes on.
They are not going to slow down they are not going to muffle the effects of their advances on us just because we are not able to sort our problems out.
And we must also realise that people are much bolder in facing the future trying new things then governments.
Governments are more stuck in the ideas of past.
Take the case of GM crops – what is the area under GM cotton in Gujarat today ?  Almost completely. And now government is deciding whether there will be trials of GM crops or not.”
The second point that he raised was on why decisions we make now will have life and death consequences to future generations:
These developments will have life and death consequences on us as an individuals, organisations and as a country.
So the outcome will depend on how we prepare ourselves to either take advantage of those opportunities or to ward off their effects that are going to come.
We are going stay at even modest growth rate of 5 and 6% a middle income country let us say in two three decades.
At that time then youths will be demanding jobs which will then meet their aspirations.
In Punjab youth don’t want to work in agriculture sector.
If the country is not able to provide the right kind of jobs or if the government is not able to provide what other middle income countries provide then you will have social unrest.
In Punjab as we can see people are taking to drugs and other things because there is just nothing to do.
So relentless, unending accelerating change having life and death consequences in every sphere that is our future.
Mr. Shourie talked about how he has been writing about China and Islamic militancy since last 10 to 15 years but no one was ready to listen. He told his audience that we have vaguely heard about how China has turned its economic might into its military might and the effect that it is having. He added that what we don’t realise is that now every single month to map Indian Ocean China sends a submarine.
He asked how many of us are aware of it and if our media publishes this thing.
He  added that as yet it is a common knowledge and each and every intelligence agency knows it. He also told the gathered people that by now 1/3rd of Chinese trade is settled in their own currency and that Chinese currency is well on its way to become international reserve currency.
He elaborated on the consequences of Chinese currency becoming a reserve currency and if we are living up to it or not.
Mr. Shourie on excelling and meritocracy
Larger problem that he said for India is that there will be tremendous opportunities in the world but it will be a heartless world with no place for second rate persons and he added that in India we have made meritocracy elitist.
For us in India intimidation is argument as on TV debates and assault is proof.
He talked of how half the secretaries in the central government will be in service on the basis of birth and not merit. He said at this rate how can we compete with China. He said we should aim at being excellent where all the opportunities are available to all for excel and there is no deviation from that while we are doing complete opposite of it.
He said we learn from the US how to commensurate reward with the efforts.  He said instead of providing facilities to lift an individual we are diluting the standard.
On great leaders
A great leader is one who changes the direction. He gave example of P V Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He said that countries can face future only by robust Institutions. No leader who puts in 23 hours at work can change equip the nation to face the future without Institutional support. He said that leaders like Indira Gandhi had used institutions as instruments whether it is police force or CBI or court or universities where relatives were put as Vice Chancellors resulting in the Institutional Atrophy we suffer today.
On judging success of a government programme
A government programme can be considered successful to the extent it reduces role of government in our lives.
Mr. Shourie had his audience laughing out loud when he said that IT industry grew as government was not concentrating on it. He said that in the same way now that e-commerce is growing people should not talk much about it lest it attract government’s attention.
He further advised that it is not a good idea to expect government to do much about the higher education too.
Rather he said one should start a programme for deregulation of colleges and universities and that universities should say that we are affiliated to the government so we will not give any degree like IIMs and IITs do. They should only give a certificate and this will make sure that they are known by the merit and calibre of their students.
On what people can do
He said that till the time we do not change the process by which we chose rulers for billion plus people no major change can be expected.
He said he had written that there will be two classes, middle class professionals and entrepreneurs, in India whose creative energies will be stiflled by inefficient government.
He also was critical of media in not doing its role and paying servitude to the governments. He gave the example that how the media was hailing coal blocks bids while the truth was that 45% was bought by the likes of LIC.
He concluded by saying that to make India strong enough to face the future, the middle class professionals and entrepreneurs should come up with solutions, work solutions out in detail and make them part of the public discourse and make sure that the government follows that path strictly.
we should not be too understanding of the difficulties of the government

Friday, April 3, 2015

Arun Shourie on Preparing India for the Future

Arun Shourie, noted journalist, author and politician, spoke on the topic ‘Preparing India for the future’ at the Kotak Institutional Equities Conference 2015. Mr. Shourie also launched the book ‘The Making of India’ by Akhilesh Tilotia. Mr. Shourie showered lavish praise on Mr. Akhilesh Tilotia and highly recommended that the book be read.
Mr. Shourie began by stating that he prefers analysts to economists and on lighter note added that if an analyst wants those elected and in government to read the book then first one should elect people who can read. Continuing in a similar vein Mr. Shourie took a subtle dig at the political class saying once a person gets elected one becomes ‘sarv gyani’ and therefore sees no need to read a book. Mr. Shourie’s lament perhaps was at the declining intellectual quotient of Parliamentarians and those in Government over the years.
Mr. Shourie added that one should therefore write with an aim that common man will read it and it will become part of public discourse which will take the shape of an idea in the public domain subsequently. He added that once crises arise, then to both the rulers and the courts the ideas and solutions that are already in the public domain and part of the public discourse would  then come across as their own ideas and will thus see a greater likelihood of getting implemented with lesser resistance. He also added that in India everybody has an opinion but nobody has the facts. He had his audience in splits when he said that he sees that each evening on Times Now.
Alluding to the challenge in India of poor and mostly outdated data Mr. Shourie said that even when we have facts they are very dated and hence end up being of little use. Giving the example of a Survey during the UPA government Mr. Shourie pointed out how the then Government came to know that no meaningful jobs were created between 2005 and 2010.  The UPA then ordered one more survey in 2012 which found out that 15 millions jobs had been created in two years. He said this was like CBI during the UPA era making the kind of case  one wanted to suit the regime in power.
On Land Acquisition he said that it is surprising that only 3% land is taken up and if that is doubled also it will only come to 6% and that wonderful cities can be easily set up in completely non arable land. Mr. Shourie said that it was as if we are looking for excuses for not doing the most obvious things.
Mr. Shourie added that the flip side of this was that we do not even look at our successes. He gave the example of Indian Railways earning 154 billion rupees in 2014 through online ticket booking being completely ignored while Flipkart at 28 billion rupees is considered a success.
with the problems automatically solutions come
Mr. Shourie illustrated this with an example that when the law doesn’t allow hiring of people the solution comes in the  form of contract labour. He added that the moment something starts moving government stops it and people again come up with some other unique solution.
He further elaborated that our schools and colleges churn out unemployable graduates and so companies like Infosys and Tata come up with their own training programmes. For skill development companies come up with vocational courses. Mr. Shourie then went on to quote Professor Hayek and said that,
“Economies grow by human effort, not by human design”.
He went on to add that when by our lack of knowledge we insist on government’s intervention then there are unintended consequences which are not intended by us or government.
He gave the example of how in  the Agriculture Sector women get paid less than men. To balance this out the Government under NREGA pays equal wages to both genders. What is the result –  women lose out on jobs more as compared to men.
Mr. Shourie ended by requesting the author to come up with a sequel to the book where he talks of who should do and what.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Arun Shourie on UPA 1’s “dream team” back in 2009

Arun Shourie

Arun Shourie is not just a noted Indian journalist. He is a renowned author and politician. The collection of the speeches he delivered in the Rajya Sabha form the first two parts of the book “We Must Have No Price”.
Shri Arun Shourie’s Book “We Must Have No Price” can be purchased from Amazon – click here and Flipkart – click here.
The 9th chapter is based on a speech that he delivered in Rajya Sabha about the situation that prevailed in 2009 when UPA 2 was just formed.
According to Mr. Shourie :
“And the team that has taken office this time is more reassuring. The principal ministers are persons of substantial experience; none of them has the sort of taint that marred several ministers in the first Manmohan Singh Government; equally important, the principal ministers are ones who are less liable to ignite the acrimony that characterised the last five years.”
He had also stated that,
“We must remember that, yes, the country has enormous potential and, in the last ten years, we have had but a glimpse of what can be achieved; but, it is just as true that, unless we mend our ways, unless we improve our governance and discourse, the country can get stuck in that well-documented pit, the middle-income trap: Brazil, Mexico, Thailand, Philippines and so many other countries also registered spurts of high growth rats, only to get stuck before attaining their full potential. In a word, all sides have been afforded an unexpected opportunity to do right by the country; they must seize it, inside Parliament as much as outside.”
Mr. Shourie had also spoken in 2009 about how precariously dependent India is on the US for dealing with Pakistan as well as China when it came to its foreign policy. He had elaborated way back then as to how the US needed help of both Pakistan and China and so will not help India. Pakistan was needed by the US to continue the fight in Afghanistan and Iraq till the time US found an honourable exit. China was needed to finance bailout packages that were necessary then to save its economy and financial system.
With regards to defence policies during his 2009 lecture in Rajya Sabha he had said that,
“Both in regard to internal security as well as fortifying ourselves against external aggression, we face a dire situation.”
Back in 2009 during his speech in Rajya Sabha he had talked about how the countries like the US and UK had totally banned the adoption of communication systems from potentially hostile countries which had proved to plant backdoors and triggers in such hardware and software. He had also told that in India the very same companies had, in spite of the strenuous objections of intelligence agencies, been allowed to install the very same sort of equipment across the country.
During the same speech of 2009 in Rajya Sabha Mr. Shourie had talked about how in spite of the fact that a “dream team” was said to have been in place during UPA 1, reforms remained at a standstill. He had also said that,
“For we should not forget that, because Reforms had been brought to a standstill, the momentum of growth had already begun to slow down well before the international economic meltdown. By March 2008, to cite just one example, over 25 lakh jobs had already been lost in the three sectors. Several reforms, like the dismantling of the Administered Price Mechanism in the petroleum sector, were actually reversed. Similarly, several initiatives which were going to restore our competitivene3ss, had been brought to naught: when we met industrialists in October 2008, we were astonished to learn that for almost nine months there had been absolutely no disbursements from the Textile Modernisation Fund.”
Mr. Shourie in his speech had cautioned UPA 2 in regard to disinvestment and said that proposal of selling up to 51% shares in governmental enterprises while government control over the enterprises will be maintained was the worst possible alternative.
Mr. Shourie had while quoting Sachar Committee Report also sincerely hoped that the UPA 2 Government would think again about where the measures which it is pushing for the ostensible purpose of helping Minorities will eventually lead the country to ?
Sadlt for India that advice from Mr. Shourie fell on the deaf ears of the Sonia Gandhi-Manmohan Singh led UPA Government.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Arun Shourie on the Environment debate


Arun Shourie (File photo)
Arun Shourie (File photo)
Arun Shourie, the winner of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for journalism in 1982, wrote in his book ‘We must have no price’ about the UPA’s official position on the  environment some of which has its relevant even today.
Shri Arun Shourie’s Book “We Must Have No Price” can be purchased from Amazon – click here and Flipkart – click here.
The four propositions on which India’s official position on environment had been articulated at various international fora in the past were :
1. On a per capita basis, emissions from India that harm world climate – COand the rest – are much, much less than those from the developed countries.
2. India is affecting perceptible, indeed substantial improvements – in area covered by forests (that is, in sequestering carbon), in energy efficiency (for instance, in energy-intensive industries like cement and steel), in improving the quality of air, etc.
3. Several of the measures and protocols that are being suggested will curb India’s growth rate, and, thereby, perpetuate India’s poverty.
4. And it is poverty which is the greatest pollution, it is also the greatest polluter: hence, India shall continue to strive to eliminate poverty and maximise growth. As they are the principal doers of harm, the developed countries must do their bit first before compelling countries like India into curbing their growth.
Mr. Shourie was of the opinion that the argument that others have problems, that others are exacerbating their problems and ours, is of little consolation: the deterioration that has taken place in India’s environment during the last 30 years because of things happening within India inflicts grave harm on Indians, here and now.
He also added that neither the then government’s draft on environment nor the pattern of development which underlied it were sustainable. According to him if things were to continue as they were, between then and 2050, close to 500 million people will be added to our cities. Mr. Shourie raised the question if India would be able to provide the quality of urban services that the urban resident of 2050 would demand. He added that India would have to do its bit, both for itself and also for the world.
While the amounts of emissions and pollutants that it releases per capital are lower than those of the developed countries, the totals of these are large, and, if Indians were to persist in acquiring consumption levels and adopting production processes of the developed world, these emissions will become fatally large because of the size of India’s population.
The renowned author and politician Arun Shourie, also suggested that India would be well-advised to set up national research missions to develop items such as the following:
» A cheaper and more efficient photovoltaic cell
» Cheaper and more efficient wind turbines
» The entire range of technologies and construction techniques that would enable us to set up off-shore wind farms along our extensive coast
» Technologies to harness tidal power
» An efficient hydrogen fuel cell
» Clean coal processes
» Desalination of sea water using solar and wind energies that are available in virtually endless supply along India’s long coastline
» Fast breeder nuclear reactors
» The thorium cycle for nuclear power
Mr Shourie stated that the entire discourse in India back then revolved around whether we will be growing at 6.7% or 7.6%. Quite apart from the fact that the way our GDP, etc. are estimated, such discourse places a concreteness on these numbers that is just not warranted, obsession with such growth rates obscures what is growing at these rates. Even a little reflection shows that were India to continue to pursue Western consumption patterns and production processes, twenty years hence all the steps taken together would have proven inadequate.
Mr. Shourie concluded by stating that there just aren’t the resources that could sustain that energy-intensive, high consumption, fossil-fuel dependent “growth”. Nor is it evident that higher and higher consumption and production of those commodities and services is what will contribute to what the Bhutanese have correctly identified as the goal towards which societies should strive – Gross Domestic Happiness.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Is Modi going to be India's Hitler? : Karan Thapar to Arun Shourie



Published on Apr 21, 2014
As far as opinion polls go, there seems to be little doubt that a BJP-led coalition government headed by Narendra Modi will come to power at the centre this year. However, while some believe that Modi's brand of dynamic and decisive leadership is exactly the cure that an ailing Indian economy needs at the moment, his seemingly 'communal' attitude has also given many a big cause for concern. Arun Shourie, former journalist, author and former Union Minister in the previous NDA regime, in this candid interview with Karan Thapar, seeks to allay those fears.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

‘Modi may be an agent of change, but he has to reshape an entire ocean

‘Modi may be an agent of change, but he has to reshape an entire ocean’

Arun Shourie, minister in the  previous NDA government, added depth and intellect to the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Cabinet.
Former Union minister Arun Shourie talks about the ‘impenetrable fog’ that surrounds those who assume office and how the media makes it more dense.
P Vaidyanathan Iyer: What do you think about the government and the buzz around PM Narendra Modi’s style of functioning?
I don’t want to use harsh words but the  consensus seems to be that when all is said and done, more is said than done. I am sure sincere efforts are being made and they may yield results, but as Akbar Allahabadi said, ‘Plateon ke aane ki awaaz toh aa rahi hai, khaana nahin aa raha (The  plates’ sound can be heard but the food is not coming)’.
Harish Damodaran: Why is the food not coming?
In every government, including this one, the focus is on announcing new schemes. Each scheme adds a task to the hands of the government/state. People in office think their marks will depend on the number of schemes they have announced. Yet, in spite of all the talk, we do not attach importance to the State — its functioning, personnel, institutions, rules, etc. With the kind of personnel any government in India chooses for institutions, does it show they attach importance to the State? We always think of reforms as one scheme — GST aayega ya nahin, insurance Bill pass hoga ya nahin. But the real theme of reforms has been to reduce the role of the State in our lives. We continue to do the opposite. That’s why things don’t happen. And rationalisations develop for this. An article commented on Mr Modi’s Cabinet. It said there is the Pareto rule that says institutions and governments are run only by 20 per cent. You only need 20 per cent who are good. So, we seem to think of putting good persons in only two-three ministries.
Even today, the main instrument relied on is bureaucracy. But bureaucracy is not what it was 30-40 years ago, you don’t have L K Jhas or B K Nehrus. A civil servant I met recently said: ‘I am going to retire in 15-20 months. Ten years after my retirement, I will be subjected to some CBI inspector. So, why should I take a decision? Let the minister take it.’ Thirdly, you could still rely on civil services but induct experts. But that can only be effective if you put them not in decorative advisory positions but in decisive ones.

Dilip Bobb: So you don’t think Modi is an agent of change?
He may be an agent of change as an individual. But no matter how big your oar is, you have to change, reshape an ocean. It’s not just about simplifying reforms. The depth and pervasiveness of reforms has to be great. To reform, say, the CBI, you can’t just change the director, but the training of persons who are at the cutting edge — the inspector, the investigating officer. How long will it take to do that?
Same is with the the lower judiciary. In November last year, a policeman came to our home with a non-bailable warrant of arrest for my wife — if she didn’t report at 10 am in a Faridabad court the next day, she would get a five-year punishment. Shocked, I asked why. He said she refused summons five times. But I said we got no summons. He offered no explanation.
At the court, I asked the woman magistrate why an arrest warrant was issued for my wife. She said she refused summons. I said we got none. She said, ‘Sometimes our people don’t deliver summons and write they have been refused.’
She said we were sent summons for building an ‘illegal’ farmhouse  and asked if we had a plot in the Aravallis. I said the plot was registered in our name for a few months. We needed money to build a house near Pune, so we sold it. We didn’t place a single brick there. The public prosecutor said, ‘Yes, it’s not their plot and they have built nothing there.’ The judge, however, said: ‘But now the process has begun. I can give your wife bail but only till the next hearing when she has to appear physically.’
So, my wife is out on bail for refusing summons which were not served, for building a house which we have not built on a plot which we don’t own. The lady magistrate has gone, a new person has come. He says, ‘I know you have done nothing. But if I let you off, people will say it was done under political pressure or that you’ve paid me.’
So the reform has to be much deeper. When people assume office, they forget how deeply the system has to be changed. They get surrounded by an impenetrable fog of self-satisfaction. And media makes the fog more dense. Their photographs are everywhere. The industralists says you are ‘almighty’s gift to us’. I am told secretaries have started speaking this way. They think change has already come. Our job is to keep them awake.

Amitabh Sinha: Going by high-pitched campaigns like Swachh Bharat, cleaning Ganga, or reviving Sanskrit, what do you make of the priorities of this government?
Swachhta is a wonderful idea. It involves both society and the State in cleaning public spaces. If the State succeeds in generating a movement, it would be very good. On Sanskrit, there is the either/or thinking — similar to over the three-year vs four-year courses at Delhi University. What is the fault of those who are learning German? If you are so keen, introduce Sanskrit as an optional subject, then increase the capacity to learn… Maybe a lot of YouTube videos, CDs… Over three-four years, introduce the whole thing. It becomes a painless transition.
Rakesh Sinha: What do you make of the move to dismantle the Planning Commission?
Dr Y V Reddy had said that throughout, even when it was not a great intellectual resource, the Planning Commission was regarded as a referee between the Centre and states. But the perceived proximity between Manmohan Singh and Montek Singh Ahluwalia made the Planning Commission look like an instrument of the Centre. So, it lost credibility.
The Planning Commission had asked me to write a paper on reform. I had interviewed officers and asked them to characterise the Commission. Somebody said ‘a parking lot’, another said ‘gaushala (cowshed)’. I told an officer that his colleague had called the Commission a gaushala. He said, ‘A gaushala has cows that give milk. This is a place for derelict cows.’ So, if you appoint such personnel, the institution loses credibility. You could improve the Commission by getting the best personnel.
Mr Modi’s presumption, I think in this case, was formed by the resentment of the previous 10 years as a CM against the commission.
P Vaidyanathan Iyer: Do you see the current government as an extension of Modi’s campaign — one person at the top and the Cabinet not very varied or delivering governance at the doorstep? 
India is diverse and very large. I am using the words of a very big man, whose name I cannot tell you. ‘It is not a municipality, it is the federal government of India,’ he said. It cannot be run by small numbers.

Raj Kamal Jha: One of the most visible things Modi has done is on the diplomatic front — his visits to the US, China, Australia, Japan. How do you view India’s international relations under the new government?
Modi certainly thinks on a different scale, and laterally. I remember his phrase: ‘Arrey, yeh theek nahi hai, kuch dhamakedaar idea do (This is not okay, give a bombastic idea).’ You can see that in foreign policy: one is emphasis on neighbours, and secondly, looking at China. I endorse that, but it should be done at a lower profile. If you look at it from the Chinese viewpoint, all these are acts of provocation. If you want to provoke them, you have to be prepared for the backlash. In Japan, Shinzo Abe has a stridently anti-Chinese rhetoric. Vietnam is in non-lethal conflict with China. I am all for alliances and intelligence exchanges with them, but don’t rub it in the face of China.
What has China done? Without any fanfare, they signed an MoU with Nepal for the development of districts. They have announced $65 billion for development of infrastructure in Pakistan.
We are going all over the world (talking) about our acquisitions and orders. I fear we are doing things with a visibility, which will provoke China.

Surabhi: Critics say there is intellectual paucity in the government — no Planning Commission or PM’s economic advisory council.
Three PMs valued ideas as ideas: Panditji (Jawaharlal Nehru), Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The others seemed to be practical men. Maybe that is what India needs, but ideas are also necessary.
Rajgopal Singh*: What is your opinion on age limit for political appointments at the Centre?
I am past 72 or 73, but I felt this is the wrong criterion even when I was younger. Sanjay and Rajiv Gandhi were young men. What did they do? The two biggest reformers in India, Narasimha Rao and Vajpayee, were older men. Look at a person’s capacity to contribute. Harish Damodaran: The PMO interacts with the secretaries and the ministers are nowhere. Is it sustainable — ministers with no power and bureaucrats all powerful?
The first part may be correct, but not the second. I had taken up this view with Mr Modi before the formation of the government, that given the quality of people the electoral system throws up, he would have to ensure direct contact with secretaries who would, generally speaking, be better than ministers. But do secretaries know how much they can decide? I don’t know. Do ministers know how much they can decide? I don’t know. What is the limit? Can they appoint directors on their own to Coal India, to Air India, to banks? Under Vajpayee, you would be given a charge and could do anything.
Praveen Swami: This government has announced grand schemes but has not given out details about their execution. Do you believe there is a lack of vision or do you believe a few people close to the government saying there is a great deal going on?
A PM can only give a sense of direction, he can symbolically do a few acts so others take it up. But if the others are uncertain about what they can take up, then details do not get worked out. Maybe it is a reflection of that. Such campaigns have to be carried to the toilet on the road. But maybe the Transport Ministry doesn’t know, so they don’t work out the details.
About the 100 smart cities, by now, we should have been told the essence of smartness… In the case of Swachh Bharat, we should not look upon it and ask whether Modi will succeed or fail. Then it becomes merely Modi’s campaign.

Abhishek Angad*: How do you think the government is handling issues about Muslims? 
I agree with Modi’s general approach, which is to provide facilities across the board, not on the basis of caste or religion. Whenever we provide benefit based on a criterion other than economic, politics is played around it. Development requires focus, and Modi has to ensure that focus, which means you must also control the fringe elements. You cannot talk development in Delhi and love jihad in Muzaffarnagar. It distracts. If love jihad was so dangerous, how did the phenomenon stop after voting?
Ajay Shankar: The Modi wave still seems to be prevailing. When and how will there be a reality check?
The reduction of oil prices has put blinkers on people’s eyes and has delayed a reality check. Otherwise, by now, with the fiscal deficit and diminishing oil prices, if for the first seven-eight months the targeted deficit would have been consumed, a reality check would have come. As Swaminathan Aiyar said, it’s not just achhe din, but also achhe sitare.
P Vaidyanathan Iyer: Would you accept a role in government if offered?
Nobody offers me, what to do? (Laughs.) Faiz Ahmad Faiz had said, ‘Kuch hum hi ko nahin ehsaan uthane ka dimaag, woh jab aate hain mail-ba-karam aate hain (I did not want to take on another obligation, whenever she came, she came determined to endow her favours on me)’.

Ajay Shankar: What happened during the famous pre-government meeting of yours?
The post-government meeting should also be famous. First newspapers give you the job, then next day say you are disappointed (laughs). I’m neither appointed, nor disappointed.
*EXIMS student Transcribed by Aslesha and Saikat Bose

Source http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/modi-may-be-an-agent-of-change-but-he-has-to-reshape-an-entire-ocean/

Friday, January 2, 2015

Arun Shourie on the wages of dereliction that India paid


Arun Shourie (File photo)

Arun Shourie (File photo)

In the book ‘We must have no price’ the noted Indian journalist Arun Shourie talks of how last ten years Indians have only heard great talk and seen no needful action. Mr. Shourie says that we have heard that extraordinary economic circumstances merit extraordinary measures and the then finance minister had also added that now was the time to take such measures and then proceeded to take no measures.

Shri Arun Shourie’s Book “We Must Have No Price” can be purchased from Amazon – click here and Flipkart – click here.

Mr. Shourie then adds that how the UPA government which had all along refused to recognise how serious is the crisis in which its mismanagement has pushed the country’s economy, had been awakened – by job loses across the country, plummeting production indices, by mounting defaults and the consequential pressure on banks – that the economy has been brought to an abyss.

Alike Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mr. Shourie also talks of concentrating on outcomes and not allocations. Mr. Shourie talks in the book as to how the action of making Mumbai into an International Financial Centre was completed. For the purpose Rs. 1000 crores were pledged and till July 2007 only Rs. 16 crore and 16 lakh had been released. Mr. Shourie also mentions that an inquiry from his colleague Kirit Somaya revealed that not one more paisa was released for the project and it did not figure in the coming Budget as the action had already been completed by making a power-point presentation to the then PM. Mr. Shourie says that it is only for us to decide as to how far from or as near Mumbai is from becoming an International Financial Centre.

The issues he says that India faced during the UPA Government are:

1. The UPA Government departed too far from the limits that had been prescribed in the FRBM Act, limits that were acknowledged all round to be necessary both as prudence and to maintain our credibility for investors and creditors abroad.

2. Despite warning from several commentators outside Parliament and persons like Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha and he himself inside Parliament repeatedly showing how the Budgets were underfunded and that the country would be saddled with the costs of such subterfuge UPA Government paid no heed.

3. The deficits had absolutely nothing to do with any planned Keynesian stimulus to the economy. They had arisen wholly from the profligate mismanagement from 2006-07. In turn, there were two aspects of this dereliction. To begin with, the items on which governmental funds were expended have left next to no capital assets in their wake. They were just populist heads. Furthermore, the resources that were needed to fulfil these populist commitments were grossly understated. They were understated deliberately and for a purpose: so that the Government could claim that it was adhering to its obligations under the FRBM Act.

4. The alarming deficit figures were certainly underestimated. The Business Standard had nailed how the fertilizer subsidy has been understated. The subsidy payable for 2008-09 was Rs. 1,02,000 crore but was shown to be Rs. 75,847 crore and it was shown to fall to Rs. 50,000 crore.

Mr. Shourie also talks about how reforms were left to rot at a standstill. He says that reforms does not mean that one makes the occasional speech on it. Commitment is measured by what you are prepared to stake for that objective. He also said that dereliction is in itself a crime against the country. But there has been more than dereliction: the UPA Government actively fed the bubble as it swelled, and then decreed measures that accelerated the downswing.

Mr. Shourie then mentions meeting leading figures from the market as well as leading industrialists and how they studied their first-hand reports of what was happening all round the country, and tabulated a set of recommendations. He added that the then government had no time for any dialogue and so they released them in public.

He also talks of how during one discussion in the Rajya Sabha, Yashwant Sinha drew attention to these recommendations and P Chidambaram had then said that all of the recommendations from FICCI, CII and BJP will be examined by the UPA government as and when necessary. Mr. Shourie mentions in the book that this attitude had brought the nation to the level where growth had slowed down, reforms that would ensure future growth were arrested, and the worst thing he says was that the word of India’s government was devalued.

Source http://www.niticentral.com/2014/12/21/arun-shourie-wages-dereliction-india-paid-292437.html

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Arun Shourie on Lessons learnt from Reforms

Arun Shourie on Reforms (PTI file photo)
From the time of mid-1960s when those who argued for liberalisation were traduced as “agents of capitalists” as “World Bank-IMF men”, India has come a long way but there is still lots to be done as per many experts including Arun Shourie, the noted winner of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism in 1982.
Shri Arun Shourie’s Book “We Must Have No Price” can be purchased from Amazon – click here and Flipkart – click here
According to Shourie, India only changed its stand towards “socialism” when the Soviet Union itself broke, in a word, as the Marxist Quran got disowned in its own Mecca. As yet Shourie says that the correctives were not set in motion until there was a complete breakdown in India’s external account to furnish the weak and imprisoned political class the excuse to do the obvious things.
The major issue he says with Reforms in India has been that “Reforms of the more basic sort have been implemented only during two phases: during 1991-1993, the first half of the Prime Ministership of PV Narasimha Rao, and during 1997-2004, the Prime Ministership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. As against these, Reforms in China have been more or less a continuous pursuit.”
He mentions in the book, “We Must Have No Price” that just as our leaders were for “Socialism for the masses”, many of our entrepreneurs are for “Liberalisation in all sectors except mine”. This he says is an unexpected obstacle that reforms have to face. As per Shourie, one well-known problem in executing Reforms is that “Those who are liable to benefit from them are diffuse and scattered, and the benefits that are liable to accrue to them lie in the indefinite future; on the other hand, the dislocations that Reforms are liable to cause are here and now; the ones Reforms are liable to dislocate are concentrated in industries, in tight geographical areas; they are liable to be organised.”
Also several characteristics of the media propel it to be an obstacle to Reforms as per Shourie. He says for media, everything comes to have two sides. At the least, national resolve is dissipated: people are dissuaded in advance from putting up with any dislocation for the change. The difficulty is compounded by what has come to be the very nature of “news”. Shourie says that
“The media will be full of stories of inefficiencies of the way things are. But the moment you change them, journalists will rush to the person opposing the changes, to the workers who have opted for the Retirement package, to allies of the Government who are opposing the reform.”
Just as Prime Minister Narendra Modi has always advocated the role of States in bringing about Reforms and not just leave it to the Central Government, so advocates Shourie. He says, “It is a fashion today to say that Reforms should be “inclusive”. But, in our Constitution, each of the sectors that would ensure immediate benefits to the rural areas, to the poor are in the States’ or the concurrent list.”
These sectors include Agriculture; Irrigation; Health; Education; Rural infrastructure, in particular rural roads; Drinking water; Electricity; Housing. When you implement Reforms but there is no improvement in these, the people are easily led to believe, “They are only worried about the industrialists.” The Left as well as the activists get the ammunition to shout, “Reforms are elitist.”
“One of the principal steps that can be taken today to push Reforms is to reshape allocations among States so as to hugely reward the ones that carry through the changes that the country needs.”
Shourie, however, sadly concludes that even when there is a pressing need for them, just don’t get done. A succession of Finance Ministers have announced plans to reform the Public Distribution System; to bring down government equity in banks; to open up sectors like insurance more aggressively; to overhaul the pension system, but none has been able to make any headway on any of them.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Arun Shourie on China and Tibet


Arun Shourie on China and Tibet

Arun Shourie on Tibet

Post 2014 Lok Sabha elections India has witness drift from the Nehruvian policies that have influenced India since independence. This raises a question and a hope about India’s policy towards its neighbour Tibet which has acted as a buffer state between India and China. Arun Shourie, the noted politician and the recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for journalism in his book “We must have no price” has dedicated an entire chapter on India’s Tibet Policy.

Mr. Shourie mentions how under Nehru’s firm hand, the Indian Government shut its eyes to the roads and other infrastructure which were being built in Tibet. He states that,

“Indeed, the “policy” was carried further. The view was taken, and enforced, that we should not only not ourselves raise, we should oppose efforts by others to raise in a forum like the United Nations what was being done to Tibetans. This, Panditji laid down, is what would be in the best interests of the Tibetans themselves.”

Just as Mr. Shourie has forewarned us we see that the net result of shutting eyes to Tibet was that the Chinese having already swallowed Tibet are now making systematic inroad onto the southern slopes of the Himalayas. There is another feature about India’s stance towards Tibet as per Mr. Shourie which is a feature that reveals a lot about us as a people, a feature that goes beyond the attitude of successive Indian governments.

He says that the Buddhist tradition was forgotten in India, however, among the places in the world, where this great heritage of mankind, and the Buddha’s doctrine and practice, were preserved has been Tibet. The great Tibetan masters have been with us and amidst us now for 50 years. Mr. Shourie says that,

“It is often said, “But we had no option in 1949-50.” Take that to be true for a moment. They tragedy is that six long decades later, we remain a country without options.”

Mr. Shourie says that it is weakness that lies at the root. The rest, accepting Chinese “suzerainty” one day, “sovereignty” the next; accepting Tibet as an autonomous region within China one day and as in internal affair of China the next; these are just successive steps to “operationalise” that weakness, so to say.

Mr. Shourie rightly says,

“Unless we acquire strength comparable to that of China; unless we build up an alliance system with other countries that are concerned about Chinese intentions and might, we will be left with hope as our only policy: the hope that “ultimately truth triumphs,” that “ultimately tyrannies dissolve,” the hope that like all else “ultimately China too will evolve towards freedom and democracy.”

After witnessing the moves of China in the recent year it is very clear what China wants to be. It is obvious that China wants to be the dominant power in Asia and one of the two major powers in the world. It regards India as a potential nuisance; a nuisance that must be confined within South Asia. The onus is now on the Indian Government as to how it wants to review its Tibet Policy. While the new Indian Government decides on its Tibet Policy it must know that for China conquering and suppressing Tibet, militarising Tibet and stationing air and nuclear bases in Tibet are part of China’s larger policy.

Source http://www.niticentral.com/2014/10/25/arun-shourie-china-tibet-241858.html

Arun Shourie on Strategic Thinking


Arun Shourie on Long Term Thinking

Arun Shourie on Long Term Thinking

Arun Shourie in his book “We must have no price” says that a host of factors are liable to affect the security of our country, some here and now, others in the middle distance. And some will affect us 20 or 30 years from now. Here it is important to know that the last lot are no less important for that reason: their effects could be absolutely devastating, as we shall see, and preparing for them will take all of 20 or 30 years.

Arun Shourie then goes on to talk about the nations in our neighbourhood.

Pakistan:

Among the factors that bear upon our security here and now, is the course events are taking in Pakistan. Mr. Shourie adds that a development which will affect our security in the immediate future, a development which transcends Pakistan but which is now centred on what is happening there, is the foreseeable withdrawal of the US in defeat: from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Nepal:

The UPA government’s neglect of the situation in Nepal is as per Mr. Shourie one of the costliest blunders. He says that outsourcing foreign policy to CPI(M) ensured monarchy was abolished in Nepal, China got gateway to descend to the southern slopes of the Himalayas and Pakistan got to bring up string of madrasas and mosques right along the Indian border.

Bangladesh:

Mr. Shourie says that the illegal migrants from Bangladesh in West Bengal and Assam has altered the demographic balance in the states to such an extent that who shall be elected in over third of the seats in the Assam Assembly and in close to a fifth in the West Bengal Assembly is now decided by illegal migrants.

Sri Lanka:

As per Mr. Shourie the LTTE cadres who have escaped can set up pockets in the Nilgiris or links with our insurgents. This would create problem later on for us but as of now Sri Lanka poses no immediate threat.

China:

China is the biggest threat for India as per Mr. Shourie. He says that Chinese rulers have translated economic strength into military muscle, as well as diplomatic influence. So much so that no country is prepared to speak the truth to or about China. He adds that China has a definite view about India: that it is a potential nuisance, and, therefore, it has to be kept busy in South Asia. Accordingly he says China has ringed India: Pakistan as a willing instrument; a fully militarised and nuclearized Tibet; a friendly Nepal; Bangladesh with which it has a military pact and which is by now dependent on it for arms and equipment: Myanmar as a dependency.

As per Mr. Shourie we need to make nationalism respectable again and we must make pursuing the national interest legitimate. To be able to face the danger we must educate people that bombing terrorist camps will not help. It simply solidifies people behind regimes. He also suggests that we must exhume the connections of, the selective humanism of liberals, civil rightists, and peace-mongers. He adds we must make our decision-makers think beyond clichés.

He gives the most useful tip by stating that to protect our nation we must help create the environment, the climate of opinion and provide alternatives to the people and leadership by great intellectual works. We need to look decades ahead and foresee the likely transformation in the nature of warfare; likely evolution of countries and to the availability of resources for us.

As Walter Lipmann put the matter succinctly: “A nation has security when it doesn’t not have to sacrifice legitimate interests to avoid war, and is able, if challenged, to maintain them by war.” We need to make our nation secure.

Source http://www.niticentral.com/2014/10/26/arun-shourie-strategic-thinking-241861.html

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