The Takshashila Institution organised a lounge of the book ‘The Visible Hand Volume II’ by Narayan Ramachandran, co-founder of the Takshashila Institution on Friday, February 29. The author is also a social entrepreneur, columnist and emerging market investor. He has also worked on Wall Street (mostly at Morgan Stanley) for over 20 years, most recently as head of global emerging market investing and then country head of Morgan Stanley in India.
Mr Ramachandran held an interactive session with the audience, and opened the conversation by pointing to some of the great minds like Jyotirao Phule, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Savitribai Phule and Gopal Krishna Gokhle, who contributed to he liberal movement in India since the 1800s.
Mr. Ramachandran then outlined what he sees as the good, bad and the ugly of India since 1947.
Pointing to the good, he said that India has by and large remained a vibrant and plural democracy. Going against all the predictions made by Western scholars, who said that the odds of India breaking at 50%. He also said that India has made the transformation from a poor, agrarian country to somewhat a modern, low-income country, with healthcare and education having largely improved since independence. He further said, “It is truly remarkable that India has not gone into a major war for a long time. This is not a common occurrence.”
Speaking to the students and younger crowd in the audience, he said that we must indeed critique the development story of India, because it helps us improve and reach for more. But we must not criticize out of context, we must be aware of where we have come from.
Moving to “the bad” of India’s journey, Mr Ramachandran said that India faces a problem of implementation deficit, where we are not able to fully complete the policies that have been promised. This inability to complete what we start has hindered India’s growth by 1-3%. He also said that though the mortality rate of our country has gone up significantly, we are still 10-15 years behind where we could have been.
The author also lamented the fact that Indians do not celebrate some of our success stories. One such story is the implementation of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) which has been among the best in the world.
Has the last 72 years been glass half empty or glass half full? Many raised their hands saying its glass half full. Some answers: many have moved above the poverty line (about 300 million). Infant mortality rate has also improved since 1947.
Finally coming to the “the ugly” side of the story, Mr Ramachandran said that somehow since independence, quality and accountability in the government’s work has been quite low, and the capacity of panchayats and municipal governments in particular, has been very low.
He further said, “The other ugly thing is the separation of science from the learning institutions. We need young people doing research along with professors rather than having career scientists do research.”
Mr Ramachandran then invited questions from the audience, particularly from the students in the audience.
The Takshashila Institution is an independent and non-partisan think tank and school of public policy. Takshashila offers 12 week certificate courses in Public Policy, Technology and Policy, and Defence and Foreign Affairs and a 48 week post graduate program in Public Policy.