Thursday, September 18, 2008

US aims to make us strategically subservient: Shourie

Source :

How credible are the Bhartiya Janta Party’s concerns about the 123 agreement and the NSG waiver? Those are the key issues Karan Thapar explored on the Devil's Advocate with one of the parties most outspoken critics Arun Shourie.

Karan Thapar: Let’s start with your central objection that the 123 agreement traps India into Hyde Act which will end up emasculating and crippling its nuclear deterrent. Now that India has got a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and can trade with countries like France and Russia, hasn’t the 123 become irrelevant and, therefore, haven’t your concerns and objections become academic?

Arun Shourie: Each time something happens, we say let’s wait for the next one. This is to be seen as a chakravyuh, as an architecture. There are certain things in the Hyde Act, the123 agreement, the IAEA protocol, and there are certain thing in the additional protocols, which are yet to come, which has already been specified in the Hyde Act. In the NSG waiver, there are three other things, so it is all to be taken as a part of architecture.

NSG waiver in the end says that if any member country of the NSG is satisfied that conditions have arisen that it must stop nuclear commerce with India, then all countries should act in accordance of Paragraph 16 of the NSG guidelines.

Karan Thapar: This was in your series of articles in The Indian Express and I’m afraid you’re wrong. You’re referring to Paragraph 3e of the NSG waiver. Paragraph 3e doesn’t say this at all. All Paragraph 3e says is that NSG countries are required to consult and contact on the implementation of the waiver. It does not go as far as you’re suggesting


Arun Shourie: There is no reason we should have any doubt on that. So I’ll read out to you what it says. I’m reading paragraph 5e: “In the event that one or more participant governments consider that circumstances have arisen which require consultation, participating governments will meet and then act in accordance with Paragraph 16 of the guidelines.”

Karan Thapar: And that does not specify that all countries would stop just because one has stopped. Your interpretation is not just wrong but it is, forgive me, exaggerated.

Arun Shourie: It’s not either. It is exactly the interpretation of the Americans themselves. It is the assurance they have given to their Congress.

Karan Thapar: I’m afraid you’re wrong. The American Ambassador speaking to the Network 18 programme Indian Tonight on Wednesday made it crystal clear that Paragraph 3e does not amount to your interpretation. It doesn’t even amount to a periodic review. It is simply a process of contact and consultation on the implementation of the waiver.

Arun Shourie: That is not what the US Government has told the US Congress. Mr Mulford’s statement should be seen in that context.

Karan Thapar: Forgive me, the US government has not as yet communicated with the US Congress about the NSG waiver at all.

Arun Shourie: No, please understand what they have said in their record of their answers to questions of 45…

Karan Thapar: But that’s not in connection with the NSG waiver. That at best has a connection with the 123. The NSG waiver only happened last Saturday. Paragraph 16 doesn’t lead to automatic termination. I’m afraid your interpretation is a part of the confusion that’s entered into the debate.

Arun Shourie: That’s not the case at all. You’re spreading confusion. You please read the text once.

Karan Thapar: I have read the text. I have researched it thoroughly before I came here. I double-checked with the American Ambassador when he was here on Wednesday. I double-checked with the Indian authorities. No one believes that your interpretation of that paragraph is correct. That’s why I’m saying to you that your concerns emanate from the 123 but now with the NSG coming into place, the 123 is irrelevant. Therefore, your concerns have become academic and irrelevant.

Arun Shourie: Absolutely not. Paragraph 16 of the NSG guidelines provides as follows: “In the event that one or more suppliers believe that there has been a violation of supplier/recipient understanding avoid acting in a manner that could prejudice measure that maybe adopted in response to such a violation.”

Karan Thapar: That does not mean that they have to act in a particular way. Once again you’re over-interpreting.

Arun Shourie: You don’t see the implication of all this?

Karan Thapar: I do — you’re over-interpreting. You’re seeing the worst possible interpretation that is based upon a misunderstanding, perhaps, I would even say, a wilful misunderstanding.

Arun Shourie: That is absolute bunk and nonsense and you’re using words that are not justified by the text. Text clearly says exactly what the Hyde Act has said — if America terminates the trade if it believes India has not acted according to the Hyde Act…

Karan Thapar: For the 123, not the NSG. You’re confusing the two.

Arun Shourie: No. The two are part of an architecture. You have raised these nonsensical words such as exaggerated and wilful misunderstanding…

Karan Thapar: Explain to me why you think that the NSG allows for the whole of the NSG terminating the trade ties because one country terminates. It is against the NSG guidelines…

Arun Shourie: That is not the case. The US government is obliged to ensure under clause 16 of the guideline that if it terminates its commerce with India all other countries will coordinate.

Karan Thapar: That’s Hyde Act you’re talking about. You’re now interpolating that into the NSG guidelines. The NSG is not subject to the Hyde Act. NSG has its own rules. Individual countries of the NSG don’t observe the Hyde Act regulations and stipulations. You’re reading one into the other.

Arun Shourie: … because they are part of an architecture. We have gone to the NSG and the IAEA as a consequence of the 123 and the Hyde Act.

Karan Thapar: I accept that but the essential point you’re missing and, this is the one I want to emphasise, is that now that we’ve got the NSG waiver, the 123 has become academic and irrelevant. If India chooses not to go ahead with the 123, the Americans will be angry and will deem us to as ungrateful but we would have opened a window to unfettered commerce with the NSG, particularly with countries like Russia and France who are not going to accept America’s regulation s on their head.

Arun Shourie: If that were the case, Russia and France would have already entered into nuclear commerce with us despite American blockade.

Karan Thapar: We are the country that has held back. They are keen to go ahead. Their ambassadors have communicated that much to us.

Arun Shourie: That’s only now.

Karan Thapar: No, it was earlier.

Arun Shourie: That is since the statement of the Prime Minister in February 2007 in regard to the four plants that Russia was prepared to give us. We raised the maintenance question — that you went to Russia and the Russians said that the agreement was ready, then why did you not sign it.

Karan Thapar: As a gratitude to America so that they had an even plain field for their companies. It wasn’t because of any legality.

Arun Shourie: That is what I’m trying to say. This is from February 2007. The sanctions we had on Uranium 20 years before that were only of America. But we could not go to France and Russia.

Karan Thapar: The NSG waiver has ended the experience of 30 years. That’s a significant step. What I’m saying is that people may believe or disbelieve your concerns with the 123. They may be valid, they may be invalid but now that that waiver has opened up opportunity for trade with the NSG countries, your concerns with the 123 and the Hyde Act are overtaken and hence irrelevant because they don’t apply to the NSG.

Arun Shourie: When the 123 agreement came you said ‘oh but the Hyde Act is irrelevant.’ Now that the NSG waiver has come, 123 has become irrelevant.

Karan Thapar: That’s because 123 and Hyde Act don’t affect NSG countries. They are separate, sovereign countries.

Arun Shourie: No. It’s a part of the architecture and India will have to pay the consequences after this waiver, as Germany and Japan have said.

Karan Thapar: Let me quote to you the leading non-proliferation authority, Daryl G Kimball of the Arms Control Association in America. He’s made it absolutely crystal clear that the restrictions of the Hyde Act have not been incorporated in any shape and form into the NSG. The Bush administration resisted efforts to incorporate in the NSG waiver the same restriction and conditions on nuclear trade that are mandatory to US law. Now I come back to my point: your concerns about the 123 are academic because they don’t apply to the NSG. The NSG has opened a new window which doesn’t have the same

restrictions and it actually makes up for the deficiencies of the 123.

Arun Shourie: Till yesterday you were saying there are no deficiencies in the 123 and that my interpretation of the Hyde Act is overblown. Now you’re saying all that is academic and NSG is all that counts. That’s not my interpretation. We can go on in circles about this.

Karan Thapar: The NSG waiver doesn’t put any restriction on fuel supply or assurances or upon the size of strategic deterrent that India can develop.

Arun Shourie: We were told the opposite — the NSG waiver will provide for a positive statement about India building strategic reserve, and that IAEA protocol will provide for India taking corrective steps in case…

Karan Thapar: It does permit corrective steps. The IAEA protocol in its preamble does permit corrective steps for India but it doesn’t specify what they are. By definition, corrective steps are something you can’t specify because then you lose the sovereignty of defining them.

Arun Shourie: When we quoted the preamble of the Hyde Act, everybody said the preamble is non binding, but in the IAEA safeguards you say they are binding.

Karan Thapar: In the case of the Hyde Act, George Bush in his signing statement in December 2006 specified that he would not honour and go by section 103 and the preamble. He said so and that’s why people argued that it’s not binding.

Arun Shourie: Again, another complete distortion. Bush’s signing statement had two points that in regard to foreign policy and seeking the determination of American foreign policy to an international body like NSG he would not give up US presidential powers

Karan Thapar: And he would therefore not implement section 103.

Arun Shourie: What is section 103?

Karan Thapar: The one that we’re talking about.

Arun Shourie: Not at all.

Karan Thapar: Yes. The whole of interpretation of the Hyde Act is irrelevant to the NSG

Arun Shourie: You are making assertions about the Hyde Act which are absolute bunk.

Karan Thapar: The NSG has given India fuel assurances. There is no bar on the size of strategic reserve. It gives India unlimited access under NSG concerns to non proliferation and enrichment technologies. It also allows India the right to reprocess. All of those were deemed to be deficiencies by some analysts — deficiencies in the 123 that have been taken care of by the NSG.

Arun Shourie: You are just completely fabricating things which are not there in the guidelines at all. Where is this bit about unlimited supplies in the NSG guidelines?

Karan Thapar: There is no bar. The NSG waiver permits India access to fuel supplies without restriction, it permits India to develop strategic reserves without limitation, it permits India access to proliferation technologies that are so defined to do with enrichment and reprocessing.

Arun Shourie: You are completely lying through your teeth to your viewers.

Karan Thapar: The point is — there is no bar on them. This is a waiver which is an exemption.

Arun Shourie: Karan this is your technique; you slip in your words and mislead the viewers.

Karan Thapar: Do you still believe that your concerns which are limited to the Hyde Act and the 123 apply to NSG countries, which are not subject to the Hyde Act or the 123? Do you still believe it?

Arun Shourie: Absolutely.

Karan Thapar: They have no sovereignty?

Arun Shourie: The NSG will work as a club. It says it will coordinate its efforts. Article 16 of the guideline specifies that they must coordinate their efforts. If one country is satisfied that conditions have arisen in which there has been a violation by the recipient country, they will all coordinate the effort.

Karan Thapar: Let’s come to the politics behind your concerns with the nuclear deal. For many people, the BJP is the architect of the relationship with America, which is today culminating in the Indo-US nuclear deal. Yet today, by some amazing transformation, the BJP has converted itself into the principal opponent to its own vision for the future.

Arun Shourie: BJP is the architect of strategic relationship, not of strategic subservience, and we believe that this architecture puts us in a position in which we would have to accept the American umbrella…

Karan Thapar: America’s aim is to make India strategically subservient. Is it a trap that America has set for India?

Arun Shourie: Of course.

Karan Thapar: Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the man who called America India’s natural ally. And today you’re saying that America has set a trap for its natural ally?

Arun Shourie: It is an ally and you have to be very cautious with this ally. Just see what they have made of Pakistan and several other countries.

Karan Thapar: Middle class supporters were exultant when the waiver was granted. Today you are putting yourself in opposition to them.

Arun Shourie: Are you the only one who understands the middle class? Don’t we know about the middle class? It will have consequences for the next three decades and we believe that it does subordinate India in a strategic relationship which is just a first step.

Karan Thapar: Isn’t it interesting that you’re arguing the same point which the CPM in China raised? So is BJP on the side of China when it comes to Indo-US nuclear deal?

Arun Shourie: You can get the CPM fellows and ask them that aren’t they ashamed of the fact that they are arguing the same thing as BJP. Is this even an argument?

Karan Thapar: Why does China not want the deal to go through? They believe that it would give India an opening which should be resisted. You seem to be arguing China’s case for them.

Arun Shourie: I’m arguing that in my view we have a great threat from China and we can not rely on the US umbrella to face it we have to strong independently.

Karan Thapar: Do you have no second thoughts about your criticism on the NSG waiver? You may be right about the Hyde Act, you may be right about the 123, but are you still critical on the NSG waiver?

Arun Shourie: Of course not.

Karan Thapar: Arun Shourie, a pleasure talking to you.

Arun Shourie: Thanks.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Listen to the new India, hear success ring in your ears

Listen to the new India, hear success ring in your ears
Dated August 15, 2003
The Indian Express

Twenty to twenty-five years ago, even 10 years ago, few of us had heard of Information Technology. Today, exports from this industry are worth $10 billion - that is, over Rs. 45,000 crore a year. That figure is 20 per cent of our total exports.

In spite of the fact that each of the markets to which we supply IT software and solutions has been in the trough of recession for years, IT exports have grown by 26 per cent this year.

Infosys had not even been born 25 years ago. Wipro was a company selling vegetable oil. Indeed, other than the ''Tata'' in Tata Consultancy Services, there is scarcely a name in the IT industry that was known then.

And guess what the average age is in the industry? Just 26 and a half! These 26/27-year-olds have changed the world's perception of India. It's not just a country of snake-charmers; it's a country against which protectionist walls have to be erected. Of course, we can also charm snakes.

And not just, to pluck a phrase of Malcolm Muggeridge, snakes in snakes' clothing!

And these 26-year-olds are changing India's perception also of itself: that India can; that, therefore, we should face the world with confidence.

That is the situation in activity after activity. We lament the fact that, while we are ahead in software, we have lost out to China in IT hardware. That is true - as of the moment. We shooed away firms like Motorola when they approached us in the early 1990s for facilities to set up manufacturing operations in India. China welcomed them, it wooed them, it created every conceivable facility for hardware firms from Japan, of course, but also from Taiwan, a country at which 400 of its missiles are aimed. It has thereby leapt ahead.

But the game is hardly over. That world-class hardware can be produced in India is evident. How many of us would have heard of Moser-Baer? Located in unprepossessing Noida, it is the world's third largest optical media manufacturer, and the lowest-cost producer of CD-Recorders. Its exports are close to Rs. 1,000 crore.

The firm sells data-storage products to seven of the world's top 10 CD-R producers. And it produces them so efficiently that, to shield themselves, European competitors had to file an anti-dumping case to stop and penalize its exports to Europe. Moser-Baer fought on its own. And won.

A firm most of us have not heard of. A firm that is manufacturing products at the cutting edge of technology. A firm exporting Rs. 1,000 crore of products that require the utmost precision and technological sophistication. A firm that European firms fear.

And equally important - the very international fora that our ideologues shout are instruments of exploitation hold against European firms, and in favour of this Indian firm.

There is more. Moser-Baer has acquired Capco Luxembourg, a firm that owns 49 per cent of a Netherlands-based CD-R distributor. And it has set up Glyphics Media Inc. in the United States-for markets in North and South America. And here we are being made to shiver at the thought that foreign firms are about to swallow us!

Heard of Tandon Electronics? Its exports of electronic hardware are close to Rs. 4,000 crore!

At a moment's notice, my friends Amit Mitra of FICCI and Tarun Das of CII send me particulars of firm after firm, in sector after sector, that has broken new ground. A sample:

  • Fifteen of the world's major automobile manufacturers are now obtaining components from Indian firms.
  • Just last year, exports of auto-components were $375 million. This year they are close to $1.5 billion. Estimates indicate they will reach $15 billion within six to seven years.
  • Hero Honda is now the largest manufacturer of motorcycles in the world-with an output of 17 lakh motorcycles a year.
  • One lakh Indica cars of the Tatas are to be marketed in Europe by Rover, one of the United Kingdom's most prestigious auto-manufacturers under its - that is, Rover's - brand name.
  • Bharat Forge has the world's largest single-location forging facility - of 1.2 lakh tonnes per annum. Its client list includes Toyota, Honda, Volvo, Cummins, Daimler Chrysler. It has been chosen as a supplier of small forging parts for Toyota's global transmission parts' sourcing hub in Bangalore.
  • Asian Paints has production facilities in 22 countries spread across five continents. It has recently acquired Berger International, which gives it access to 11 countries, and SCIB Chemical SAE in Egypt. Asian Paints is the market leader in 11 of the 22 countries in which it is present, including India.
  • Hindustan Inks has the world's largest single stream, fully integrated ink plant, of 1 lakh tonnes per annum capacity, at Vapi, Gujarat. It has a manufacturing plant and a 100 per cent subsidiary in the US. It has another 100 per cent subsidiary in Austria.
  • For two years running, General Motors has awarded Sundaram Clayton its 'Best Supplier Award'; the volumes it sources out of India are growing every year.
  • Ford has presented the 'Gold World Excellence Award' to Cooper Tyres.
  • Essel Propack is the world's largest laminated tube manufacturer. It has a manufacturing presence in 11 countries including China, a global manufacturing share of 25 per cent, and caters to all of P&G's laminated tube requirements in the US, and 40 per cent of Unilever's.
  • Aston Martin, one of the world's most expensive car brands, has contracted prototyping its latest luxury sports car to an India-based designer. This would be the cheapest car to roll out of Aston Martin's stable.
  • Maruti has been the preferred supplier of small cars under the Suzuki brand for Europe. Suzuki has now decided to make India its manufacturing, export and research hub outside Japan.
  • Hyundai Motors India is about to become the parent Hyundai Motors Corporation's global small car hub. In 2003, HMC will source 25,000 Santros from HMI's plant in India. By 2010 HMI is targeted to supply half a million cars to HMC.

It was only in 1999 that HMI got its first outsourcing contract and already, in 2003, 20 per cent of its sales will be what it supplies as an outsourcing hub. It is exporting cars to Indonesia, Algeria, Morocco, Columbia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

  • Ford India got its first outsourcing contract in 2000. Within 3 years outsourcing accounts for 35 per cent of its sales. Ford India supplies to Mexico, Brazil and China. The parent Ford is sourcing close to $40 million worth of components from India, and plans to increase these in the coming years.

Ford India is already the sole manufacturing and supply base for Ikon cars and components. These are being exported to Mexico, China and Africa.

  • Toyota Kirloskar Motors chose India over competitive destinations like Philippines and China for setting up a new project to source transmissions as this option proved more economical.
  • Europe's leading tractor maker, Renault, has chosen International Tractors (ITL) as its sole global sourcing hub for 40 to 85 horsepower tractors.
  • Tyco Electronics India bagged its first outsourcing contract in 1998-99. So successful has it been that components and products others have contracted from it already account for 50 per cent of its total sales. It supplies to the parent, Tyco Europe.
  • TISCO is today the lowest cost producer of hot-rolled steel in the world.
  • TVS Motor Company has been awarded the coveted Deming Prize for Total Quality Management. Many of the largest of organizations, even American ones-like GE-have not managed that recognition yet!

India's pharmaceutical industry has come to be feared as much as its infotech industry. It is already worth $ 6.5 billion and it has been growing at 8-10 per cent a year. It's the fourth largest pharmaceutical industry in terms of volumes and 13th in value. Its exports have crossed $2 billion, and have increased by 30 per cent in the past five years. India is among the top five manufacturers of bulk drugs.

Even more telling is another figure. We are always being frightened, ''Multinational drug companies are about to takeover.'' In 1971 the share of these MNCs in the Indian market was 75 per cent. Today it's 35 per cent!

There's another feature we should bear in mind: India's strengths are becoming evident across the technology spectrum:

  • We are among the three countries in the world that have built supercomputers on their own, the US and Japan being the other two: two months ago, the fourth generation PARAM supercomputer was inaugurated in Bangalore.
  • We are among six countries in the world that launch satellites. We launch some of our own satellites of course; we have launched satellites for others too, among them such countries as Germany and Belgium. We have the largest set of remote sensing satellites. Our INSAT system is also among the world's largest domestic satellite communication systems.

At the other end:

  • India is one of the world's largest diamond cutting and polishing centres. CLSA estimates nine of every 10 stones sold in the world pass through India.
  • Trade of Indian medicinal plants has crossed Rs. 4,000 crore.

Here is proof positive that liberalization has indeed worked. ''By opening the economy before giving it a chance to become competitive, we have thrown our industry to the wolves,'' it used to be said. Quite the contrary. The success in exports, in fields such as IT in which competition is fierce, in which technological change is fast as lightning, success in auto-components, in pharmaceuticals shows that our industry has fought back, it has become competitive.

Remember all that shouting about Chinese batteries a year ago? ''Markets are closing down, thousands are being thrown out of their meagre businesses, and factory after factory has shut down.'' That was the shouting just a few months ago.

Where are those batteries from China? Yes, trade with China has grown-by 104% in the past year. But according to figures of the Chinese Government, in the first five months of 2003, India has amassed a surplus in its trade with China, a surplus of close to half a billion dollars.

And China is just an instance. Exports as a whole, and in the face of an unrelenting recession in the West, have grown by 19 per cent in the year. In a word, what committees upon committees with their piles of recommendations would not have achieved, being actually exposed to actual competition has.

Our foreign exchange reserves are at an all-time high-$82 billion. We have announced that we will not be taking aid from a string of countries.

  • We are giving aid to 10 or 11 countries
  • We are pre-paying our debt.
  • We have just ''loaned'' $300 million to the IMF!

How distant the days when we used to wait anxiously for the announcement about what the Aid India Club meeting in Paris had decided to give us.

But there is the other side-equally telling. Why is it that so few among us know even the elementary facts about these successes? Why is it that so much of public, specifically political, discourse, when it is not whining is just wailing?


India's new world, of unlimited opportunities
Dated August 19, 2003

The problems that have bedeviled Japanese banks are well known - the quicksand of ''directed lending'', NPAs, and the rest - as is the way these problems have been at the heart of Japan's inability to pull itself out of the trough for over a decade. The Long Term Credit Bank of Japan, the giant LTCB, followed the same trajectory as other banks, except that it has suddenly, in just two years, shot out of the pack.

LTCB was established in 1952. It was one of the principal financiers of Japan's phenomenal industrialization after World War II. As the 1990s rolled on, its troubles became deeper and deeper. It went bankrupt. To prevent the collapse from bringing down other parts of the banking sector, the Government had no alternative but to nationalize the bank. That was in 1998.

The bank continued to hemorrhage. Soon, in June 2000, it had to be sold to a consortium of international investors. That was a thunderclap for Japan - this was the largest organization that had to be sold to foreigners. The bank was renamed the Shinsei Bank.

In just two years, it has turned around, even as others are still in the morass of old problems. It turns out that Indian professionals - a thousand of them from Nucleus Software Exports, Mphasis, Polaris, i-Flex Solutions and Wipro - have played a crucial role in transforming the bank: they are the ones who have completely re-engineered the bank's processes, they are the ones who have reorganized the bank's operations around a completely new, modern business model.

And they have done it all in record time, and with record economy: the new, transformed retail bank has been launched within one year instead of the anticipated three; implementation costs have been 90 per cent less than estimated; a range of new financial products has been launched that are better than what competitors are giving; hardware too has been drastically downsized. When I was in Tokyo a few weeks ago to open Indian IT fair, the success of these professionals in rehabilitating the Shinsei Bank was the talk of the banking and IT community in Japan.

What is it that Indians could bring to this task that, say, Chinese software firms could not? The Indians could not just write software for different functions and transactions that the staff of the bank had to perform - the Chinese too could have done this: China also has a very large software industry that today caters to its domestic IT market, a market which is many times that in India.

The Indians could bring to bear on the task expertise in a host of other domains - for instance, knowledge of financial markets, of modern commercial banking, of accountancy - and thereby provide not just software but complete solutions, from software to hardware to completely new business models.

Similarly, high-end Indian garment industry can avail of not just cheaper labour. In addition it can tap into our fashion designers. Is it any surprise then that Wal-Mart sources $1 billion worth of goods - that is, half of its apparel - from India? That GAP sources $500-600 million from India? That Hilfiger sources $100 million?

The point is the successes we have encountered above are not fortuitous. India has a score of strengths that others do not.

Cost is one of them. Nor is it a marginal advantage. Indeed, the difference between the cost at which we can provide services and many commodities of comparable quality and what those cost in the developed world is so vast that, should those firms and economies shut themselves out from our supplies, they are the ones who will be severely disadvantaged, they are the ones who will be making themselves un-competitive.

  • Indian IT firms provide world-class services at one-tenth what the same services would cost in the United States.
  • An MBA costs about $5,000 in India. In the US, an MBA costs around $120,000.
  • Developing a new automobile model in the US costs about $1 billion. Indica and Scorpio have been designed, developed and produced totally in India. They have been acclaimed abroad, and found to be up to international standards. The cost of designing them? Less than half what the design would cost in the US.
  • In an important address - you will find it in FICCI's publication, Unleashing India's True Potential: CEO's Vision of the Future - M.S. Banga, Chairman, Hindustan Lever, and reports results of inquiries that the company made. In spite of high power costs, high interest rates, it found that the capital costs of setting up plants in India to produce an item like toothpaste for Levers worldwide were just 35 per cent of what its sister companies in the US and Europe would have to spend. And the conversion costs were just 15 per cent. In tea bags they were just a quarter of what they would be in the US.

Sourcing already accounts for about half of Hindustan Lever's exports of Rs. 1,500 crore a year. But Banga surmised, by being just the hub from which Levers' units worldwide would source their requirements of such goods, Hindustan Lever could build up a business of $1 billion a year - that is Rs. 5,000 thousand crore a year. Moreover, as it would be marketing directly to these companies, it would save on the costs of reaching, winning, retaining the individual customer.

  • Surgery: Arvind Netralaya performs a cataract operation, including the cost of the lens, for $12; that very operation costs about $1,500 in the US. A bypass surgery in India costs around Rs. 40,000; in the US it can cost anything upwards of Rs. 6 lakhs. The cost of open-heart surgery in the UK or the US can be anywhere between Rs. 15 lakhs and Rs. 35 lakhs as against Rs. 1.5 lakh to Rs.5 lakhs in the best of hospitals in India. The cost differentials in more complicated surgeries - liver and kidney transplants, etc - are even higher.

Brains are another strength - far, far more important than material resources in several sunrise activities. Most would have been surprised to read recent accounts in magazines such as Business World of India being looked upon as a research hub by company after choosy company. FICCI's list includes:

  • Over 70 MNCs, including Delphi, Eli Lilly, General Electric, Hewlett Packard, Heinz and DaimlerChrysler, have set up R&D facilities in India in the past five years. Together with laboratories set up before 1997, 100 of the Fortune 500 have set up R&D facilities in India. By contrast, only 33 of the Business Week 1000 companies have R&D centres in China.
  • The scale of these operations also tells the tale. Just four years ago, Intel had a mere 10 persons working in India; today it has over 1,000. GE's John F Welch Technology Center in Bangalore is the company's largest outside the US. With an investment of $60 million, it employs 1,600 researchers. GE's R&D centre in China by contrast employs only 100.

The Indian centre devotes 20 per cent of its resources to fundamental research having a five to 10 year horizon in areas like nanotechnology, hydrogen energy, photonics and advanced propulsion. With 17 clinical trials (10 of them global), the Eli Lilly research facility at Gurgaon is its largest in Asia and the third largest in the world.

  • GE Medical in Bangalore has developed a high resolution-imaging machine for angiography to meet GE's entire global requirement. It has also developed a portable ultrasound scanner that is exported around the world from Bangalore.
  • Two-thirds of GE Plastics' 300-member research team in India is doing fundamental research on molecules. GE Plastics has contributed to the development of a family of polycarbonates of engineering plastics that are being used in auto headlamps and CDs. It has also developed heat resistant monomers for applications in aircraft bodies and high-end medical equipment.
  • GE Motors India has developed an almost noiseless motor for GE's most sophisticated washing machine lines in the US; it is the sole sourcing point for a million of these motors every year.
  • Monsanto has been in India for over 50 years. After examining China and India, it set up its first non-US research facility in Bangalore in 1998. This facility is responsible for Monsanto's R&D for Asia. The company is researching ''promoters'' - accelerators that improve crop productivity.
  • Whirlpool's Pune Research Lab develops refrigerators and air conditioners for Asia (including China) and Australia. Forty per cent of this facility's resources are devoted to its core research on global projects.
  • The DaimlerChrysler Research Centre in Bangalore is engaged in fundamental and applied research in avionics, simulation and software development.
  • HP Labs India has built a prototype that can scan handwritten mail through a small handheld device instead of a scanner. It has also built the prototype of a computer for unsophisticated users.

You can extend the list many times over by just following our business newspapers and magazines for a week. Moreover, while youthful professionals and entrepreneurs have been adding these sinews, the most far-reaching structural change has taken place:

  • The proportion living below the poverty line has fallen from 36 per cent to 27 per cent.
  • The balance of power between state and society in the economic sphere has been overturned: the dismantling of the license-quota raj, the transfer of power to regulators in one sector after another.

Indeed, not a week passes and there is yet another advance in economic management. One reason these changes do not get adequate notice is that, many of the structures having been set up, the improvements are now in the details. Those who are acquainted with economic policy and administration know that each of these improvements will have far-reaching consequences as the years go by. But as the improvements are in the details, most of us miss their significance.

As a result of such steps, many of the handicaps that hobbled our entrepreneurs have been eased in the past few years. Initiatives in different, seemingly distant fields have reached fruition. And the effect is not additive, it is multiplicative:

  • The turnaround time in our ports used to be eight to 10 days; it is now four-and-a-half days.
  • As recently as 1999, our telecom infrastructure could provide a bandwidth of only 155 Mbps; today it is able to provide terabit capacity, that is, 75,000 times what could be provided just four years ago. Within a year or so, as the fibre optic network being laid by various enterprises gets in place, it will not matter whether your office is in San Jose, California or in any of 300 cities in India.
  • Till the other day we used to be in awe of the rate of expansion of mobile phones in China - a million a month. In the past two months these have increased in India by almost 1.5 million a month.
  • Long distance telephone tariffs have fallen by two-thirds in five years.
  • Tariffs for data transmission have fallen by 80 per cent in three years.
  • The work done by the far-sighted people who set up what seemed at that time such an esoteric institution, one oriented to the rich elite, the National Institute of Design has borne fruit. Today graduates of that fine institution help design cell phones, CAT-scan and MRI machines ...

Other handicaps too have been eased. Interest rates have come down drastically, foreign exchange restrictions for business purposes are as good as non-existent...

On the other side is the fact that the developed world will increasingly require services and personnel from a country such as India. We are the ones who have to be swift enough to prepare for and grab the opportunities:

  • Various studies conclude (you will find them summarized in the All India Management Association's India's New Opportunity - 2020) that the workforce of developed countries will fall short by 32 to 39 million by 2020. In the US alone the shortfall is expected to be between 8.2 and 14.3 million.
  • The proportion of the aged to persons in working age is shooting up precipitously in developed countries from Germany to Japan.

Such developments provide excellent opportunities for India - for services that have to be provided in situ such as nursing and care for the elderly, for services such as surgery that can be provided to residents of those countries upon their coming here. In fact, there are opportunities in a host of new services of an even higher order, and ones that exist not in the future but right now:

  • Higher, specially medical and engineering education: educating an MBA to world standards costs $9000 in India; in the US that degree of education costs $30,000.
  • Editing, composing, formatting text, from books to newspapers: a sub-editor costs an American paper $25,000; in India an excellent substitute can be employed for $5,200. The editor of an Indian paper told the proprietor of a leading British paper the other day he could edit the latter's paper for merely the amount that the latter's publication spent on renting the space occupied by sub-editors in the publication.
  • Printing and binding books: Hong Kong and Singapore, which had taken a leap in this regard, have become high-cost centres.
  • India has exactly the same order of cost-cum-competence advantage in professions like law, accountancy, design, engineering, tax consultancy, financial services of all kinds.
  • In software itself, though there have been the most conspicuous successes, the field is limited only by our imagination - in that IT fair in Tokyo that I mentioned, I saw fine text-to-voice software that has been developed by a small software unit in Lucknow. It was receiving excellent reception in Japan. It can be used to quickly produce audio versions of books upon books for the visually impaired.

Thus, on the one side the opportunities are unlimited; on the other we have incomparable advantages for grasping them. But as has been said, ''When opportunity knocks, some complain about the noise.''

Software engineers or cyber coolies? runs the headline of a newspaper feature. In the US a software engineer earns $21 an hour, in India even the leading companies pay him only $2, runs the text. Is this not exploitation? it asks.

Now a salary of Rs. 100 an hour is excellent for someone living and working in India. Why throw away the advantage? Look at it the other way. China has accumulated its huge pile of foreign exchange reserves - over $280 billion - not by high-technology exports. It has accumulated them by flooding the world with low-technology items - leather, leather products, garments, toys ... And it has used the advantage of lower cost - and perfectly disciplined labour - to the hilt.

China's achievement we gape at: ''How have they become the manufacturing hub of the world?'' we ask. But our advantage - in some senses the very same advantage China has put to such good use - we want to throw away.

Keep these foreign accounting firms out, proclaim our accountants at a high-profile function. They have been involved in frauds abroad. On that reasoning, shouldn't we bar our own accounting firms also? After all, frauds in our banks, in our stock markets, the way so many of our firms that have run up NPAs are then able to extract bail-out packages from financial institutions, could such things have happened if our accounting firms had been doing their job?

And there is the other point: we want their accountants and lawyers to be kept out, but they must open their doors to our IT professionals! As the title of one of Jairam Ramesh's monographs ran, Yankee Go Home - But Take Me with You!

Why not look upon the opportunities positively? Why not institute courses in our law colleges on Germany's legal system, in the accounting systems of the US and thereby capture the markets there? Why not multiply the number of nurses we train, and have them learn Japanese? Why not enable private firms to open world-class universities in India, and thereby become educators to the world?

Part III

This is India's moment, can we grasp it?
Dated August 17, 2003

On the one hand, we have unbounded opportunities and incomparable advantages to seize them. On the other, there is the fate that will surely befall us if we falter. Unemployment will reach such proportions that social unrest will become unmanageable. Similarly, if the rates of growth of India and China continue to differ by the margins of the past 15 years, within the next 15 years the Chinese economy will be six times that of India. And the consequences will be worse than we can imagine.

Economic strength is itself power. To take one instance, because China has been able to attract so many more to invest than we have, China today is able to mobilize so many more-American firms, for instance-as lobbyists to advance its interests.

Moreover, economic strength gives China the wherewithal to go in for comprehensive modernization of its armed forces. Indeed, that there is so much talk of China's economic transformation obscures what China is already doing, what its economic modernization already enables it to do in the military sphere.

Will a China six times stronger than India not administer another slap at us? Indeed, will it have to administer a slap? Will an India dwarfed to that extent not learn to pay heed to China's interests subliminally?

Now it is nobody's case that China is free of problems. Quite the contrary. The achievements-the incredible infrastructure built in Shanghai, for instance-themselves remind us of problems it may be storing up: this infrastructure has been built by getting the country's banks to lend money to the special purpose vehicles that were created for building the projects. But everything has to be paid for in economics: what is the rate of return of these projects today, and how does it compare with what is needed to repay the investments?

There is moreover a fundamental issue. The 21st century is going to be the century of knowledge-of its continuous unraveling and of its continuous application. One of the central lessons of the 20th century is that where the state is pervasive, creativity does not flourish. The Chinese have indeed transformed their state. But it remains pervasive. How will they ensure creativity-of the kind, say, youngsters in our IT firms have displayed?

So we have many things working for us. In many ways, this is India's moment, even vis a vis China. For the first time, observers have begun to voice questions in public about China-its statistics; the fact, for instance, as a German investor said recently at a conference I was deputed to attend, that, ''If you want your factory to come up quickly, go to China; if you want to make money, go to India.'' On the other side, everyone's noticing Indians make a mark in every sphere: writers, scientists, doctors, IT, cricket, beauty pageants, chess...

So it is the moment for India. It is a moment. But, it is only a moment. What should we do to ensure we grasp it?

First, we should begin to notice what is happening around us. We have become what an American author calls ''Negaholics''-addicted to the negative, as an alcoholic is to drink. Ever so many of us are unaware of even the elementary examples that have been listed above.

Nor is that the result merely of inattention. We look for, we latch on to the negative; even if some achievement breaks on to our mental screen it does not percolate into our awareness, we do not see that it is part of a pattern, that it is not an isolated fluke. Indeed, our instinct is not to believe evidence of that accomplishment.

Remember how eager many commentators were to find fault with NSS data that established a steep decline in proportions living below the poverty line? These are symptoms of a habit. Remember the exercise that books on creative thinking recommend? Is there much blue around you? You would not have noticed much. Now make an effort to look only for blue things around you. You will notice so many that, though they were lying around, had not registered.

It is especially important that those who are in public life-who hold public office, who participate in public discourse-break out of this addiction to the negative. Because of my work, I have had occasion to travel abroad several times in the past two-three years. Each time I have been struck by the contrast between the way India is looked upon abroad, and the way we look upon it here. There is an equally telling symptom here at home-there is much greater confidence in the Indian industrial class than there is in the rhetoric of politicians who ostensibly are shouting on behalf of and to save that industry!

The result is our discourse continues to be mired in fear, so many of us just keep repeating slogans of 30 years ago. We should listen to the new India.

Next we should be alert to what the critics of reform are doing where they are in power. In New Delhi, the CPI(M) shouts against even the slightest attempt to reform-for instance, privatize - a public sector unit, they bring woe upon anyone who may say that repeated revival attempts having failed, such and such firm has to be shut down.

But in West Bengal the state government has already shut down two state-owned units, it is disinvesting 10 more. It's just that the state government does not talk of ''disinvestment''; it says it is just turning the firm over to a joint venture partner!

Remember Ajit Jogi's hysterics over Balco? Remember his threat ''Should anyone from Sterlite enter Chattisgarh, we will break his legs''? Since then his refrain is ''Sterlite is scripting the success-story of Chattisgarh''! More important, he is today the leader in public sector reform! Including privatization! The Indian Express reports he has already closed thirty-seven public sector units.

Remember all that shouting, ''Why are you selling profit-making companies?'' The Housing Board-HUDAC-Jogi has just closed down has been a profitable concern, reports The Indian Express. Remember all that shouting ''But the land of Balco is itself worth Rs. 1,000 crores''? Reporting about that Housing Board, the Express correspondent writes from Raipur, ''The assets ... also include some prime properties and a land bank of approximately 600 acres of land. In Raipur itself, HUDAC owns 300 acres of prime land near Tatibandha-an upcoming commercial area. Bhilai and Durg towns are also key urban towns where HUDAC had purchased land ... Other assets, according to the HUDAC balance sheet, include hundreds of unsold HIG, MIG, LIG and EWS houses, shops in urban complexes and other properties...''

A simple rule of self-denial among political parties would help: ''Do not block another party from doing what your own party is doing where it is in power.'' As parties are unlikely to deny themselves even this much, journalists and others should bring the rule into being in effect: keep an eye on what the party is doing where it is in power, recall what it was doing when it was in power and, each time the party tries to stop a rival from prosecuting a reform, broadcast those facts, grill its leaders on them.

There is a more intractable problem-a central dissociation between democracy as we know it in India and what is needed for rapid growth.

All change involves dislocation. And this is where the strengths of yesterday become the handicaps of today. BSNL has one of the world's most extensive networks of copper-wire. But people are switching to wireless telephony. Every time there is a proposal for new technology, our first thought is, ''But what will happen to the thousands of crores that have been sunk into that network?''

Nor is the drag confined to governments. As BSNL has been purchasing copper wire worth Rs. 2,000 to 4,000 crore every year, 30 or more companies have come up that can survive only if BSNL continues to purchase copper wire! Their owners and the workers employed in them too would rather that the switchover to new technologies is slower.

That is how over the decades the Civil Aviation Policy becomes the policy for Air India rather than for India. That is how our finances get sucked into quicksand-that is how we continue to ''protect'' existing producers of wheat and rice with ever higher minimum support prices even as government godowns overflow with stocks, and even though we know that these support prices are in fact preventing the crop diversification that other programs of government are trying to promote; that is how a state like Maharashtra brings its finances to the brink by continuing subsidies to sugar growers; that is how over the years we squander Rs. 10,000 or 15,000 crores keeping obsolete mills of the National Textile Corporation (NTC) on artificial respirators rather than using the money to modernize the textile industry; that is how we continue to guarantee procurement of tobacco, of all things, even as we spend crores admonishing people to abjure it; that is how, ostensibly to protect existing tenants, we continue rent control laws, thereby discourage investment in housing and thus ensure both housing shortage and urban decay.

We block voice-over-internet for long, we set the police upon youngsters who have begun using the technology; for years we won't allow personnel of IT firms to avail of the Closed User Group facility-lest the revenues of BSNL get affected ... It is as if we were to block the introduction of the automobile to protect carpenters who are making tongas. Without doubt, one of the reasons West Germany and Japan forged ahead of the United Kingdom after World War II was that the entire industrial stock of those two countries had been bombed out of existence while that of the latter had survived.

In the end, all such efforts fail. One cannot block technology any more than one can block time: in the end Bangladesh has had to close down the largest jute mill in the world, in the end we are having to close down NTC mills ... But over the years we ensure our country's progress is slowed down, and our governmental finances are brought to the brink.

The problem becomes all the more acute in a democracy, all the more so in what we have made of democracy. The electorate has been so fractured by caste and the rest that it does not respond to national issues. To attain office and retain it, therefore, parties have to aggregate votes, section by section. Each section liable to be dislocated by change-the tobacco farmer no less than the textile mill owner and the powerloom operator-is able to suborn parties and politicians to block that change.

Of course, in due time a constituency will arise of those who have benefited from the change-the IT professionals, the ones who will prosper if only we were to allow our entrepreneurs to set up institutions of higher learning ... But they are in the womb of the future. And the ones who will be dislocated are ones who will defeat the party today. As the horizon of political parties seldom extends beyond the forthcoming election, even a bit of aggressive shouting can ensure that reform is deferred.

There is another factor that confounds everyone into submission. All politicians are nervous-witness our nerves before every reshuffle! Politicians faced with elections are more so. And no one quite knows what issues are on the people's mind. So the moment a step is mooted, everyone can, and does, proclaim, ''Not just now, elections are round the corner. People will turn against us.''

Was disinvestment an issue in any of the elections during the past five years? If free power could have won elections, how come the Akalis in Punjab, the DMK in Tamil Nadu were swept away? I well remember a meeting in a state on the eve of elections there, and what was being said ''on the sidelines', ''Please get (the chief minister) to abolish (a local tax) ... If only it is removed, we will sweep the urban areas.'' It was abolished. The urban areas swept away the alliance.

There isn't much that can be done about the politicians' nervousness, except to go on pointing out reforms are not the issue they are made out to be: internal bickering has brought defeat to parties not issues like disinvestment or tariffs.

But the problem-the dislocations that change will cause-is real and we have to attend to it. Four things can help.

We should multiply outlays on activities that will engage large numbers, and are things that we should be doing in any case. The Planning Commission has prepared three first-rate reports, for instance-on biofuels, on bamboo cultivation and products, and on medicinal plants. Each of these can engage millions. As can organic farming, diversification into vegetables and fruit and floriculture. As can water harvesting.

When activities like these flourish, incomes will multiply, nutrition will improve, fewer will flock to urban slums. Indeed, through them the country would register gains even in foreign exchange-outlays on biofuels would save on imported crude; organic farming, medicinal plants would bring foreign exchange.

Similarly, projects that entail huge earthworks-the Prime Minister's Quadrilateral and gram sadak projects, the linking of rivers-can absorb millions who may be dislocated and at the same time unleash the country's productive potential. They are the real social security that will cushion our people.

But the main solutions lie, as usual, not in the economic realm. They lie in political arrangements, in discourse. We must reduce the frequency of elections: schedule elections, as the vice-president and the deputy prime minister have proposed, to state assemblies and to the Lok Sabha simultaneously; fixed terms for legislatures even as individual ministers can be voted away for dereliction.

Even before such changes are put into effect, and even after they have been instituted, we have to make everyone see that change cannot be blocked. The more we succeed within India in delaying it, the greater the lead that others will get over us. Schemes to rehabilitate and reposition workers or farmers who may be dislocated must, of course, be devised and executed. But the project or technology must not be blocked.

Soon enough that project will have to be executed in any case; soon that technology will come to be adopted. Time will have been lost. Resources that could have been used for modernization of that enterprise, that industry, for the prosperity of that very region would have been wasted in keeping that obsolete technology or enterprise ''alive''.

And we must with evidence induce everyone to see that more often than not the resources needed to take care of and re-equip those who will be dislocated are embedded in the obsolete enterprises themselves. Look at the land NTC's mills have in Mumbai. If only the government would be allowed to sell it, more than enough would be available to retrain and re-equip every single worker in those mills, as well as to modernize the mills that are to survive.

Not the details of economic policy-that is not where the impediments lie. The way we look at things, our discourse, the drag of interests that are vested in the way things are-these are what we need to change.

By: Shri. Arun Shourie

The Indian Liberal Group, Chennai, had organized a meeting on 13 July 2007, where Arun Shourie and Cho Ramaswamy participated and talked about the Congress Presidential nominee Mrs. Pratibha Patil.

To listen:
Arun Shourie (English, 32.16 min)

To download: Arun Shourie | Cho Ramaswamy


Quota is not the way: Arun Shourie

Quota is not the way: Arun Shourie

TimePublished on Sun, Jun 25, 2006

Karan Thapar: Hello and Welcome to Devil’s Advocate. My guest today is one of the sharpest critics of India’s reservation policy. In a book published this month Falling Over Backward, he exposes its intellectual hollowness and its moral two-facedness. But is he against reservation specifically for the Scheduled Castes? And if he answers this as yes, then how does he think India should respond to the centuries of discrimination they have suffered? Those are the two key questions that I would put today to Arun Shourie.

Mr Shourie, let me start with a simple question to establish your position. When you say you are against reservation per say, are you also including reservation for the Scheduled Caste?

Arun Shourie: Yes, I think so. Because reservations are not meant to compensate for historic wrongs. They are meant for helping people at the moment.

Karan Thapar: Well, that’s what I want to put to you. The Scheduled Castes have been treated as untouchables for centuries. In fact, even their shadow was considered to be polluting. Their dignity has been trampled upon. Their individuality and humanity has been questioned. Why do you believe that reservation is not an appropriate way of giving them confidence and status?

Arun Shourie: Firstly, these are clichés without particular examination of historical records. Because a passage occurs in something called Manu’s doctrine or Manu’s compilation, I mean I have not met a person who realises or who acknowledges the fact that this compilation was done over 700 years.

Karan Thapar: Let's leave Manu Smriti out.

Arun Shourie: No.

Karan Thapar: When you are saying these are clichés, are you saying that in fact the untouchables have not been treated in the way that history acknowledges?

Arun Shourie: No. They have been in parts of India. Let's say in some districts of the South. And the real remedy to that has been in modernisation. In overcrowded trains... Indians make five billion railway journeys every year. Five times of our population. In overcrowded buses, are you first verifying what is the caste of the person standing next to you?

Karan Thapar: But what happens when you get off the bus? It’s an argument in your book.

Arun Shourie: No. No.

Karan Thapar: Equality may be forced upon you in a bus, because you have no choice. But when you get off the bus, inequality reigns supreme. It is that inequality that I am talking about.

Arun Shourie: It doesn’t. That’s not the argument in my book at all.

Karan Thapar: I am not saying it is the argument in your book. I am countering your position that reservations are not justified for Scheduled Castes. I am asking you why you believe that centuries of discrimination should not be countered by reservations?

Arun Shourie: You asked me that and I gave you the answer that reservations were and are not meant in the Constituent Assembly as a compensation for historic wrong.

Karan Thapar: They can be used for that?

Arun Shourie: But… My friend, let me answer. Because there are better ways to lift people. Poor must be helped, they must be lifted. That’s the duty of society, but reservation is not the way and that’s why I argued.

Karan Thapar: Let's come to the better ways in a moment's time, I very much want to talk about them. But for most people listening to this interview, it will come as supreme shock that you believe reservations for the Scheduled Castes, who have suffered centuries of discrimination, are unjustified. Let me put to you why people disagree. Even today, Valmiki graduates are unable to get proper jobs and have to scavenge because they are considered untouchables. Even today, the Mushahars of Bihar are forced to eat rats and mice because they are too poor to access proper meal. Are you saying to me that reservations for such people are wrong?

Arun Shourie: Yes. Because the way to help them is to give them jobs and to give them access to education so that they don’t eat the damned mice. And the very fact that after 50 years of reservations, they are still eating mice is a conclusive argument against the compassion that you are showing.

Karan Thapar: Except for the fact that they don’t get jobs because they are untouchables.

Arun Shourie: Absolutely bunk. It is the other way round.

Karan Thapar: Why then are there Valmiki graduates scavenging for a living?

Arun Shourie: But there are Brahmin graduates who are doing it because of inadequacy of jobs.

Karan Thapar: But there is a difference. In one case, there is discrimination and in the other it is the inadequacy of jobs.

Arun Shourie: No. No. You just don’t let me speak. In China, people are scavenging and eating rats. Not because of caste, but because of 110 million of floating population who have lost their jobs.

Karan Thapar: Chinese eat snails, they eat eels, they eat snakes. There is a different culture and cuisine.

Arun Shourie: No. Just one second. I am talking of the 110 million Chinese who have been dislocated by modernisation. You read any Chinese text and you will find that. The point there is that I am all for the stopping of eating mice and elimination of poverty and giving people jobs, but it is wrong to presume…

Karan Thapar: Aren’t you missing the point here? There is difference.

Arun Shourie: No, I am not missing the point. You are not letting me make the point here. But when they are being discriminated against, the persons who are doing that most, who are beating them, who are responsible for the massacres as reported by Mandal himself are the so-called OBCs, who own land.

Karan Thapar: But that’s not the question I asked you.

Arun Shourie: But that’s the question.

Karan Thapar: No, that is not the question. The question is this. There is a difference in dislocation because of modernisation that affects people of all classes, of all castes. I am talking about discrimination due to untouchability, due to a wall of prejudice, which has affected people for centuries. Surely, today modern India has a moral obligation to atone and to recompense for the way it has treated the Scheduled Castes. You are denying that?

Arun Shourie: Karan, I completely would put aside this moral outrage that many of you put on.

Karan Thapar: It’s not put on, it is a reality for the people who are affected.

Arun Shourie: Just a second. Yes, but the so-called modern people do put on this compassion. The fact of the matter is that great progress has been made by our social reformers. That is the real way for dealing with this. Swami Dayanand, Swami Shraddhanand, Sri Narayan Guru in the South…

Karan Thapar: I am afraid it hasn’t changed the situation at the ground.

Arun Shourie: You are absolutely…How do you know the situation? Will you please just let me speak?

Karan Thapar: Can I just answer that?

Arun Shourie: No. First let me speak. Let me first answer your question when you assert that the situation has not changed, that is what I call a cliché. You have to listen.

Karan Thapar: Can I justify that?

Arun Shourie: No. Just one second, let me complete it. I will give you the documentary evidence. You see what Sri Narayan Guru reported in Kerala at the turn of the century. You see what Gandhiji found in the 1920s and you compare that with things today.

Karan Thapar: Compare it with 2006. Name one village out of India’s 6,00,000 villages where the Dalits are permitted to stay in the centre of the village. Not only are they banished to the outskirts, but in most cases, they are required to live in the south side so that the wind that blows over them doesn’t pollute the village. That is the extent of discrimination they still suffer.

Arun Shourie: And the wind in all of South India comes from the south my friend. I don’t know where you get this nonsense from?

Karan Thapar: Chandrabhan Prasad, perhaps one of the few Dalit intellectual scholars, who can easily confirm the facts to you.

Arun Shourie: Well, maybe. We have all got impressions about India. India is a large country. Almost every statement about India must be true, but the south business is quite silly because if you come to Goa my friend, you see the wind coming form the south. You come to Kerala, you see the wind coming from the south.

Karan Thapar: Ok. Let's approach this matter differently. Let's not talk about it in terms of moral obligation or recompense and atonement. Let me put it like this. Do you believe that reservations are intrinsically wrong because they lower standards, because they sacrifice merit as a way of giving people access for the wrong reasons?

Arun Shourie: Yes, they are for all these reasons and many more. For instance, especially when they are caste-based, then they reinforce caste as they have done in South as they are now doing in the North.

Karan Thapar: That’s disputable. You can only fight caste discrimination in terms of caste. Leave the caste basis aside. Your concern is that it affects merit.

Arun Shourie: But why it is caste-based? All reservations in India are caste-based. How can you just put it aside?

Karan Thapar: Because you are correcting caste prejudice. If the Dalits have been discriminated against as untouchables, you have to be given reservation on that very basis to make up for it.

Arun Shourie: That was the argument my friend. That is how things were rationalised in the end when the Constitution specifically forbade caste-based reservations. Then there has been discrimination on the basis of residence. There has been discrimination in India, it has been alleged, on the basis of language as in every other society. On the colour of one’s skin.

Karan Thapar: Quite right.

Arun Shourie: Just one second. So why not have reservations on the basis of the colour of one’s skin?

Karan Thapar: Well let's not talk about hypotheticals. I am trying to understand your concern about reservations.

Arun Shourie: I am not talking about hypotheticals. You said that there is discrimination on the basis of caste.

Karan Thapar: It’s a fact.

Arun Shourie: So I said there is discrimination on the basis of the colour of one’s skin. Why not have reservations for that? You are not answering it.

Karan Thapar: Because I am saying to you that the level of discrimination that has been practised on the basis of caste and because of untouchability is infinitely and incomparably greater. The comparison doesn’t arise.

Arun Shourie: How do you say that, my friend? Where is the basis?

Karan Thapar: Let's come back to the question that I began with. The real reason, if you are not accepting the moral obligation, that you find reservations wrong because they undermine merit, that they sacrifice standards?

Arun Shourie: Yes. That is one of the reasons.

Karan Thapar: But can I then point out to you that special concessions on the grounds that we are talking about have been granted to Indians since at least the 1850s, upper castes were beneficiaries. Let me give you an example. When the first college was set up in Madras in the late 1850s, British records show that the pass marks had to be reduced form 40 per cent to 33 per cent and a whole new concept of third division was introduced to help the sons of Tamil Brahmins. If it can be done for them in the 1850s, why can’t the same concession be given to the Dalits today?

Arun Shourie: Firstly, we are in 2006. The demand for proficiency is much greater. You look at the range of jobs at that time and the skills required for those jobs and…

Karan Thapar: But the problem is the same?

Arun Shourie: No. Firstly if that was the case, it was wrong. Second, if I have to learn typing and you give me a concession on that as in the case of N M Thomas vs. State of Kerala, then it is one thing. But if the job that is required is a highly skilled job in a medical institution and you lower the standards, the consequences are much greater. It’s not typing that you are lowering the standards for.

Karan Thapar: But talking about lowering standards to give them admissions and entrance, we are not talking about lowering standards of graduation. What we are talking about is just creating an opening field.

Arun Shourie: My friend, you have just not studied the Constitution in which it has now been provided that standards will be lowered even for promotions and standards have been lowered for post-graduate courses for reservations.

Karan Thapar: No, I am not questioning the extent…

Arun Shourie: You are. You just said this and then you run away.

Karan Thapar: No, I am not. I am not questioning the extent to which reservations have been taken. I am questioning the position you began with which is that reservations at the very outset for Dalits and Scheduled Castes is wrong. I am putting to you that similar concessions were given to Tamil Brahmins. Let me add. As the Indian University’s Commission says they were even given in 1935.

Arun Shourie: To hell with Tamil Brahmins, man. I am not defending. Dekho Tum baat hi nahin karne detein. Tamil Brahmins be damned. I wouldn’t care two hoots of what the British did. My whole argument is that the British sowed many of these things like separate electorates to divide Indian society.

Karan Thapar: All right. Let me give you a modern example. Yogendra Yadav did a study this month (in June) of 315 key positions in journalistic organisations and he chose 37 national journalistic organisations -- both television and print -- and he discovered that not one of the top 315 positions is manned by a Dalit. That is an example surely of the manner in which discrimination keeps out people of talent only on caste.

Arun Shourie: Absolute bunk. I cannot believe that Karan Thapar is not going to employ a proficient person whether it is for camera or for assisting him just because of caste. Karan Thapar is not like that.

Karan Thapar: Then how do you explain 315 top organisations and 37 media houses, including the papers you have worked for?

Arun Shourie: Because it takes time for that kind of competence to be acquired. Journalism is one of the freest professions as sports are, as entertainment industry is.

Karan Thapar: So, you are saying to the Dalits wait a century? Wait two centuries? Do you think time is on their side? You don’t think they need a helping hand?

Arun Shourie: Of course they do. But you don’t let me tell you what the helping hand has to be. Not reservations.

Karan Thapar: Why?

Arun Shourie: Because I have answered it 10 times and you keep going back to the same question. Repeating the very words. Just look at your own recording Karan, you are just repeating. You are taking up time.

Karan Thapar: You have answered it in terms of the moral obligation. Let me point out to you the efficacy between ’47 and ’97. In those 50 years alone, the number of Dalits who as a result of reservations went to schools and colleges grew from 1.74 million to 27.92 million. During the same period, the number of Dalit graduates jumped from 50,000 to over 5.5 million. That’s an example of how reservations have helped and you are denying this to them.

Arun Shourie: You have just picked up a few statistics.

Karan Thapar: Very meaningful ones.

Arun Shourie: Just one second. For the total number of persons going to school, what is the statistics from 1947 to 2006?

Karan Thapar: What do you mean the total number?

Arun Shourie: Irrespective of Dalits. The total number of school-going population in India from 1947 and now. Tell me.

Karan Thapar: I don’t know the answer, but the point that I am making is that the percentage of both has increased. I am saying the percentage of Dalits has increased because of reservations. Otherwise the system would have kept them out.

Arun Shourie: How do you say the last sentence?

Karan Thapar: I will illustrate it by taking government employment.

Arun Shourie: No. But firstly, you did not know what was the total growth.

Karan Thapar: Do you know it?

Arun Shourie: No.

Karan Thapar: You don’t either. You are simply trying to question whether the two have increased equivalently. I am saying that in fact the reason why the Dalits have increased. It's because of reservations and not because of general improvement in society.

Arun Shourie: That is just an assertion of yours.

Karan Thapar: It is a fairly valid one that most people would accept.

Arun Shourie: How do you say this? Then we have two contradictory assertions.

Karan Thapar: So you neither accept the logic in terms of morality or in terms of efficacy?

Arun Shourie: Yes.

Karan Thapar: On both grounds, you think reservations are wrong?

Arun Shourie: Absolutely.

Karan Thapar: Arun Shourie, since you are implacably opposed to reservations for the Scheduled Castes, what is your preferred way of tackling the discrimination they have suffered for centuries?

Arun Shourie: Firstly, I am not against reservations only for the Scheduled Castes, but for everybody. Second point is yes, if they have suffered that kind of discrimination and we have got good records of this kind of thing happening in the South, for instance in many parts of Tamil Nadu, then the best way is social reform and these great reformers who have made an enormous difference to India in the last 200 years as testified to by the Christian missionaries themselves.

Karan Thapar: Is there a second way beyond social reforms?

Arun Shourie: Yes, there is. Second is economic growth and modernisation.

Karan Thapar: Third?

Arun Shourie: Third is to find out what is the real reason for the poor performance of the child. For instance, he cannot retain what he learns in class because of poor nutrition, give him four free meals a day.

Karan Thapar: Individual attention?

Arun Shourie: Yes, absolutely.

Karan Thapar: Is there a fourth?

Arun Shourie: Yes. There are many things. He doesn’t have a place to study, make free dormitories. He needs free textbooks, he needs training and education.

Karan Thapar: That’s all part of individual attention. But is there yet another measure you would like to implement to help the Dalit? Because let me tell you why I am asking you all the things you have talked about -- social reform, economic growth, individual attention, they are very slow. They are unenforceable, they are difficult to monitor, they are certainly not transparent and in most cases, they are voluntary. The reason why people prefer reservations is because they are transparent, they are enforceable, and they are monitorable.

Arun Shourie: And for 50 years you have not monitored them? Even the government.

Karan Thapar: But that’s not the failure of reservations? That is the failure of the administration.

Arun Shourie: No. No. You don’t understand. Reservations are going to be implemented by whom? By the Americans in India?

Karan Thapar: Reservations have been implemented badly. That’s not an argument against reservations per se?

Arun Shourie: That is the usual argument of Five-Year Plans. Plan was good, but was not implemented properly.

Karan Thapar: But in this case, it is the truth?

Arun Shourie: It is not the truth. It is an assertion that you keep making. The fact of the matter is that these free lunch programmes, midday meals have helped a great deal in reducing dropout rates, in retention of what is learnt. We should do that. That is what requires painstaking work and the very fact that things are not being monitored…

I will give you an example if you please permit me. Recently in the Standing Committee of the Parliament on Social Welfare, there was a report available in May, in which the Secretary of Social Welfare was asked: "You have a backward classes of financial corporation, how do you distribute the money between he states?" He said: "Madam, we distribute it according to the proportion of OBC population in different states." She said: "How do you know the number?" He said: "We don’t know the number." She said: "What is the total number of OBCs in India?" He said: "We don’t know." "What is the total number of Scheduled Caste people?" He said: "We don’t know." If we don't know the number, we don’t know the distribution, we are not monitoring who is getting what.

Karan Thapar: It is a little facile to knock down reservations on the ground that the administrators who are responsible for administrating them are fools. That’s what you are proving. You are proving the administration, not the policy of reservations, is wrong.

Arun Shourie: I am saying more. Many commentators are just assertives. I will not listen to…

Karan Thapar: The assertion could be on fact?

Arun Shourie: What is the fact?

Karan Thapar: I can argue that your refusal to accept this is based on prejudice.

Arun Shourie: No. The caste people…

Karan Thapar: I being the asserter, you could be the prejudiced.

Arun Shourie: Could be. The Scheduled Caste people are saying that the benefits of reservations are being hogged by a Creamy Layer within Scheduled Caste.

Karan Thapar: But at least they are getting it. The Creamy Layer didn’t have it 50 years ago.

Arun Shourie: It is impossible to argue with that.

Karan Thapar: Why? It is a fact.

Arun Shourie: What is the Creamy Layer?

Karan Thapar: Once the Creamy Layer has benefited, you can remove them, but let them benefit before you remove them.

Arun Shourie: But you can benefit the people by having an economic criterion for identifying the individual. Why not?

Karan Thapar: You know that each time milk boils, it forms a Creamy Layer. You just remove it. Each boiling brings a fresh layer to the top.

Arun Shourie: Milk could be made to boil many time over, provided you identify the state policy by the unit of the individual and you identify the beneficiary individual by economic criteria. You would then not be fortifying precisely the types of regressive institutions within Indian society like caste, which you want to get rid off.

Karan Thapar: Except that the people who are untouchables were not created untouchables because of their individual character but because of the group. That’s why the group is being focused upon.

Arun Shourie: It reinforces the kind of group. This was Panditji’s view. I believe that this has been vindicated by time that we have reinforced that group identity to the great evil of society, to the ill results of society.

Karan Thapar: This will unfortunately have to be my last question. That many Dalits listening to you will say that ‘he may be a liberal in many matters, but he is a hard-hearted, callous man who simply doesn’t understand what it’s like to be oppressed under centuries of discrimination.’

Arun Shourie: They said that to me when I wrote about Bhindrawala. He is a Hindu, Arya Samaji, does not…

Karan Thapar: The two situations don’t equate.

Arun Shourie: They do. When I wrote about the Shariat and the consequences of Shah Bano, everybody said he is communal, he is Hindu. And now? So wait for time.

Karan Thapar: So the verdict of your peers or the verdict of the majority of society is water off a duck's back as far as Arun Shourie is concerned.

Arun Shourie: I don’t know what the majority of the society. Karan Thapar doesn’t speak for them either.

Karan Thapar: Arun Shourie, a pleasure talking to you.

Arun Shourie: Thank you.

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