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Alluding to the challenge in India of poor and mostly outdated data Mr.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.

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