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Learning From The Un-Indianness Of Raghuram Rajan

22/06/2016 8:30 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:27 AM IST
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Mike Theiler / Reuters
India's Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan looks up as he listens to remarks during a seminar on "The New Normal in Asia: Will Growth Inevitably Slow?" at the IMF and World Bank's 2015 Annual Spring Meetings, in Washington, April 16, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Theiler

It's official, Raghuram Rajan will not seek a second term as the governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). He will go back to academia, he declared on Saturday, 18 June. It's such a shame, in my view, and proof of the blatant disregard of well-intentioned, educated and rational individuals by a power hungry, largely divisive, and autocratic political set-up in India.

It's a shame because with this saga, the Indian government and the political set-up in general have discouraged just about any educated, progressive, renowned professional of Indian origin abroad, who may have contemplated moving back to India with a view to making a positive difference. More so, Rajan's decision has perhaps vindicated the decision of many others to emigrate out of India.

India is a nation of sycophants. There exists a pyramid of power within India's political ranks, with a battery of leaders at the top, flattered by an entire army of power-seeking flunkeys at various levels beneath them. The model is consistent for all political parties, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) included.

Rajan does not fear being challenged on professional decisions and has the integrity to debate matters with dignity and poise. That's some more un-Indianness right there.

In such a culture, you survive only by conforming to the "orders" and the fallacies of the top mob. You seldom question the ones in power and you never rebel. For doing so will either be treason, or blasphemy. You may be a world-leading subject matter expert in your own right, like Rajan is (and much deservedly so), but your professional merit and integrity counts for bugger all to a political frame-work more eager to get elected or stay in power at any cost.

The rational and fact-based views of the Indian economy and its future, as often presented by Rajan, ran the risk of empowering the citizens and making them aware of the real challenges faced by their nation. That was extremely un-Indian of Rajan, no doubt. How could the political parties have allowed such a straight-shooting intellectual (who knew what he was talking about) to derail their shabby rhetoric of "acchhe din" and so on?

When you have worked across cultures, and across borders, you don't only grow as a professional; you grow as an individual too. You are more grounded, more aware and more considered in your actions. Rajan is a leading example of such professionalism. He is measured, informed, and extremely articulate in most of his interviews that I have seen on television. He does not fear being challenged on professional decisions and has the integrity to debate matters with dignity and poise. That's some more un-Indianness right there. Obviously, he had no other choice but to leave. He was an utter misfit. Undeniably.

He must be greatly applauded for his choice. It's easy to succumb to the enticements of power, but to make a moral choice is a much harder proposition.

In every sticky situation there is usually more than one choice at one's disposal. I am sure Rajan also had an array of options. To trade in his values and stay on as the head of RBI for another term, or to leave this rotten web of political mavericks and work with people seeking to learn and develop themselves in academic institutions. And in my view, he must be greatly applauded for making the latter choice. For it's easy to succumb to the enticements of power, but to make a moral choice is a much harder proposition. Something the Indian political class is not accustomed to, when it comes to them.

And herein lies a subtle lesson for all Indian citizens as well. A person who is empowered, and has a trade or a skill to fall back on is less likely to be manipulated by the corrupt and manipulative political class. Such people can make their own choices, and do just fine in life. That is one way to sidestep the quagmire of opportunistic politics.

The media will be lush with "professional" opinions about Rajan's departure and his successor, over the next few days. But I felt it was important that ordinary opinions, and frustrations, of people like you and I are put out there as well. Because the Barkha Dutts or Arnab Goswamis are not our crusaders in this struggle against corrupt and compromised Indian political establishments. They are mere professionals seeking recognition, and revenue, through their opinions.

The real hurt and the real sentiments lie within all of us. So we must be the people making most of the noise.

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