Sunday, 16 November 2008

Nandan’s Book: Imagining India captivates imagination!

I am at the WEF India summit in Delhi, listening to Nandan talking about his book- of course, Nandan is a brilliant speaker, and it is always a pleasure listening to explore his ideas, but his conversation started to get me thinking- and in particular two of his safety net of 18 ideas that i am trying to do something with ( but i have mentioned the others he spoke about):

Idea 1: the importance of English- India has gone thro multiple convolutions on how it looks at English- our founding fathers liked the notion of hanging onto English because many of them had those backgrounds, from England etc. Later on the southern states, particularly tamil nadu vehemently opposed imposition of Hindi and gave English newer leases of life. Currently the outsourcing revolution ha s put English on a pedestral, making it the language of aspiration. In the 1970, we stopped teaching English in Bengal, Gujarat and UP- and they feel they have lost out- and things are reverting back to English - pressure from the bottom- change. English is a caste solvent, it eliminates caste.

Idea 2: education/ primary education- steadily education has to grow and will grow- because of the subterranean changes that are happening in society, including the aspirations of young people. We have a situation in rural India, where many students go to private schools, with parents paying a significant proportion of their wages to get their children educated, because the public education system is so dysfunctional. Typically, change works in 3 phases, 1 we need to recognise it is a challenge, 2- we put money/resources into it, 3) we tend to then focus on outcomes-the risk is evolution is slower than the pace of change, hence we have to accelerate it.

The way his book is structured is that he divides his 18 ideas into-

  • Ideas that arrived- are primarily Responsible for 6-8% growth
  • Ideas that need to be implemented- will sustain the growth rate
  • Contested ideas- are about accelerating this growth (bigger middle class/ accelerate)
  • Anticipated ideas- are about identifying the problems of prosperity- managing prosperity

2nd set of ideas: Ideas that are accepted but yet to be implemented:

  • Urbanisation
  • No concept of national market: Services- national markets, products- state level markets- and agriculture produce- only for local markets: thats the reason for different growth rates.

3rd Set of Ideas: Contested ideas:

  • Caste/ political system- ones left out of markets are going to use the political system to enter.
  • Higher education- no foreign university/ nfp/ regulated who they hire, how much they pay, what they teach etc- how do we fix this
  • Labour- 93% in the unorganised sector- leading to slow growth in the organised sector

4th Set of ideas: Anticipated ideas- look at what's gone wrong with prosperous nations and try and solve for them:

  • How technology can be used for transformation=- power, energy, poverty,. Etc
  • Health (from hunger to heart disease)- anticipate the health issue and go thro the problems of healthcare
  • Social insurance and entitlements- aging populations/ Medicare/ unfunded liabilities- 40 years from now, if we repeat the same problem- we shouldn't create a burden
  • Environment- destroy get rich and fix, vs harmony with the environment
  • Energy- to continue to grow at 8%- we need to fix per-capita income will growth 16 times, but per capita carbon consumption can only grow twice- break the paradigm between income growth and carbon emission


Jessie Paul said...

Yes, there is a huge vacuum in intellectual discussions in India. More so in the realm of politics. Not saying there aren't intellectuals in politics - it is just they seem to get marginalized by those more interested in feeding the lowest common denominator. (In the US I think Bill Clinton was a (secret) intellectual and Obama is an open one). Now in this scenario, how can an intellectual discussion, in English, from someone outside the government, be continued? I think the ideas are great, but it needs a PPP group to decide which to implement and how.
BTW, just for the record, I think English is important and we must learn it, but also that in each state we maintain our linguistic identity and develop that too. In Bangalore you get by without learning the local language and I think in the long run our culture will be poorer for it.

Guru said...


ref your comment 1- spot on. infact a reasonable chunk of questions to Nanda focused on the prioritisation and implementability of ideas- clearly Nandan has created the burning platform that will hopefully carry this conversation further.

Ref comment 2-Agree we would culturally be poorer without the regional identity,(as long as it does not spill over into jingoism a la Maharashtra).

Coming back to English though-The key question is- what is the 1 thing we can do to increase employability of the millions that are coming out of our academic insititutions, Perhaps that one thing is to improve the quality of english.