Eminent birds of passage

EducationWorld January 2019 | Postscript

During the past few months, several well-researched books on the Indian economy written by émigré academics based in blue chip American universities have received good reviews and exposure in the Indian media. The authors of these learned tomes — Kaushik Basu (The Republic of Beliefs: A New Appraoch to Law & Economics (2018)), Arvind Panagariya (Free Trade & Prosperity (2018)), Raghuram Rajan (I Do What I Do (2017)) and Arvind Subramaniam (Of Counsel: Challenges of the Modi-Jaitley Economy (2018)) — have served in high positions in the Central government as chief economic advisor, governor of the Reserve Bank, deputy chairman of the government think tank Niti Ayog etc. Another common factor is that they provide valuable insights into the interaction between the government and advisory offices and institutions.

However, few people in government or the intelligentsia take their tomes seriously. They are soon forgotten by all except perhaps the eminent authors themselves.

That’s because within Indian society and the intelligentsia, there is subliminal awareness that these eminences are mere birds of passage who will return to their comfy nests abroad after saying their lines. They won’t be around to suffer the consequences of their advice, should it prove to be damaging to the economy or social fabric.

One also wonders about the peculiar preference of the great Indian middle class to serve in heaven rather than reign in hell. Instead of mending things in their own country, they prefer to fly into relative obscurity abroad. Little wonder that few take these grey eminences seriously.

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