India needs leadership institutes for politicians: Narayana Murthy-Business Line 19.12.2013
In order to improve public governance, India must create institutions that can train the political class in economics and technology, said Infosys Chairman N.R. Narayana Murthy.
“India needs leadership institutes for politicians. We need to ensure that adequate training is provided to politicians in the areas of macro economics, rudimentary micro economics, international trade and on the role of technology in improving public governance,” he said.
Murthy, who was in Mumbai on Wednesday to deliver a lecture to students of the Vivekanand Education Society, mentioned one such institution in Pune without naming it.
“This college brings together several politicians every year and gives them the opportunity to listen to leaders who have accomplished a lot in their chosen fields. We need more such initiatives,” he added.
The 67-year old exhorted youngsters to make their opinion heard on these subjects.
“You need to speak about it on television. Once people like you take this up, there will be critical mass and politicians will have to listen,” he said, pointing towards the cheering crowd of students from different age groups.
After eight unsuccessful attempts over the last five decades, India on Wednesday took the historic step of enacting the Lokpal Bill. Murthy said that the lion’s share of the credit should go to the youth for rallying behind anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare.
Murthy believes that students should be politically groomed from a young age. Responding to a student’s question on the concept of ‘college politicians’, Murthy said: “It’s a brilliant idea. I have spoken about it many times and have discussed the same with the UN Secretary General and several others.”
The youngsters of today have the potential to be more successful than previous generations, he said.
“You should aspire to be more successful than me. In the 1980s, we had fewer opportunities than what you have today,” Murthy said, responding to a student who wanted to know how he could become the next Narayana Murthy.
Infosys was established in 1981 by Murthy and six other engineers with just $250. Today, it is the country’s third largest software exporter, with a market cap of over $30 billion, after Tata Consultancy Services and Cognizant Technology Solutions.
Aam aadmi ko gussa kyon aata hai
What is common to Tiruppur, Aligarh, Bareilly, Mysore and Guwahati? One is a state capital, another, the erstwhile capital of a long defunct kingdom. A couple more are known for their small industries. But all, most Indians would agree, have only one thing in common — they are considered to be ‘small towns’ — in size, population, and mindset.
The thing is, most Indians would be wrong. This quarter — that is, sometime in October-December of 2013 — these five ‘towns’ would have crossed the one-million population mark, according to projections based on the 2011 Census. By virtually any classification you would care to name, any habitation with a population in excess of one million would be considered as a city.
They have another thing in common, which may be somewhat less recognised or acknowledged — a large pool of angry citizens, fed up of the chaos around them, the non-existent infrastructure and the appalling quality of life offered in India’s explosively growing ‘cities’.
This is the reservoir of anger which the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) managed to successfully tap into in its astoundingly successful debut in electoral politics. While many commentators have attributed AAP’s agenda for cleaning up corruption in public life as a major reason for the popular show of support for the debutant political party in Delhi, much less attention has been paid to the rest of its manifesto.
Some of the key promises made by AAP to voters in Delhi included a fresh audit of power distribution utilities — and a promised reduction in electricity charges for the ordinary consumer. It also promised free water up to 750 litres per day per household, by making households which consume more than 1,000 litres per day pay extra.
It also promised to radically reform the way Delhi — and by extension, all cities — will be governed in the future under an AAP mandate. It promised to set up mohalla sabhas — literally, neighbourhood assemblies — which will have the final say on how public funds will be spent in their area, and for what.
These sabhas will monitor everything from the public distribution system (PDS) to municipal services, including registry services, healthcare, education, public spaces like parks and streets, etc.
Predictably, the manifesto was dismissed as ‘populist’ and ‘unrealistic’, even dismissed outright as bizarre. A prominent newspaper quoted sociologist Shiv Vishwanathan as saying that the AAP is yet to show evidence it “understands process”. “You can't just change things...you have to see points of view of various stakeholders.”
That may well be true. However, what the manifesto — which the party claimed was developed through neighbourhood meetings and discussions — does represent is the scale of frustration of the average urban Indian with the lack of governance. At a basic level, the manifesto is simply a laundry list of what city dwellers anywhere in India want, but feel they are not getting for their tax money — better infrastructure, better governance, and better delivery of services.
India has been transforming in ways — and at a rate — which our political class, the bureaucracy and even industry has simply not grasped yet. The 2011 Census said ‘unacknowledged urbanisation’ was one of the significant findings of the decadal counting exercise.
So called ‘census towns’ — where farming has been entirely replaced by other means of livelihood — account for 30 per cent of the urban growth in the last decade. Over 2,500 such ‘towns’ were added in the 2011 Census. Previously, they had been classified only as large villages.
India has the largest, as well as the fastest growing urban population in the world. But this ‘urban’ should not be confused with visions of steel and glass skyscrapers and air-conditioned metros. These towns and cities are urban only by nature of their size, population and type of economy. They are villages in every other respect, including access to the most basic of infrastructure — bijli, sadak, paani(power, roads, water).
Their finances are in a mess. Governed by archaic municipalities, which have been severely constrained by lack of revenue resources and overdependence on the political whims and the bankrupt coffers of the administration in power at the State level for survival. Most have simply abdicated their responsibility, leading citizens to enter areas expressly prohibited to them under various laws.
They generate their own power through gensets, devise their own water supply through borewells and tanker services, educate their children at shoddy and expensive ‘private’ schools, and transport themselves (on the kind of overladen two-wheelers which spurred Ratan Tata into developing the Nano).
The speed of change is astonishing. By the time December comes to an end, Muzaffarabad, Kurnool, Vellore, Udaipur and Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu will cross the 0.5-million population mark, while Moradabad, Bhubaneshwar and Jalandhar would have crossed the 0.9-million population mark. This scale and speed of change has simply defeated the system’s ability to cope. The 2011 Census also highlights another shameful statistic — more than 65 million people live in slums — a number greater than the population of France or South Korea! Of this, over a third live outside what are officially either notified or recognised as slums.
These are slums according to the Census Commission, which consist of “at least 300 population or about 60-70 households of poorly built congested tenements, in unhygienic environment usually with inadequate infrastructure and lacking in proper sanitary and drinking water facilities” (Census 2011 Guidelines).
This is the flip side of the India Growth Story, where the providers of the growth momentum (remember the definition of census towns?) are themselves unable to reap the benefits of that growth.
The political class, too, has so far simply ignored the urban Indian. They were perceived to be not significant as a vote bank, and were relegated to the back benches of political activity — a ward councillor’s ambition was to become a corporator; a corporator’s dream to become an MLA or MP. The local government itself was viewed as a political stepping stone, a sort of internship period, as well as a handy base for garnering the funds required to fuel greater political ambitions.
The result has been nothing short of anarchy. Estimates put the percentage of municipal funds at less than one per cent of a state’s average domestic product. The balance has to come from ‘above’, involving all the leakages, corruption and inefficiency that come with it.
So far, nobody has bothered to do anything about this, because it was assumed that the urban voter was irrelevant in the larger scheme of things. As the recent elections in Delhi demonstrated, these assumptions can no longer be made with the same insouciance.