Pedigree as crucial as degrees

If you were watching the presentation of the Union Budget along with the simultaneous analysis of the Finance Minister’s recommendations by the carefully chosen panels of experts on TV channels, it may or may not have occurred to you that our policy shapers are primarily individuals who come from pedigreed academic backgrounds. Swaminathan Aiyer along with his more vocal brother, Mani Shanker, went to Doon School; Omkar Goswami is an alumnus of St.Xavier’s Kolkata while Shubashish Ganguly earned his early spurs in Presidency College in the same city and shared countless “Charminar” cigarettes with me in the physically dilapidated but intellectually vibrant college canteen that served as a melting pot of some of the most bizarre ideas that one can imagine.

Dr Pranay Roy is also a Dosco.I am keeping out worthies like P Chidambaram from this discourse as he was born privileged like Rahul Baba. But the other gentlemen featuring at the top of this piece worked their way up the system purely on merit. Laloo Yadav and Amar Singh may have a thing or two to say about the alleged elitism that is bred by the educational institutions that I have spoken of but my take is that if at all there is exclusivity in these centers of excellence, it’s purely on the basis of academic brilliance blended with a holistic world view; the latter being markedly absent in most of contemporary Indians. There is a strong lobby today that is out to flatten the world. The advocates of this tenet are predominantly the software czars of our country who have built massive modern day factories that employ people who are singularly uni dimensional in their thought process and hardly ever think of the big, wide world outside their computers. Pink Floyd had figured this trend out much earlier. They are being weaned on a booster diet of execution rather than thought leadership as such a mindset suits the limited objectives of their employers and their cost arbitrage seeking clients. A former member of the Planning Commission had uncharitably called this furiously expanding tribe of technology professionals “cyber coolies” but he was merely overstating a hard fact. I know of hundreds of middle level technology folks in Bangalore who have visited more cities in the US than in their own country. Some of them can’t tell a Punjabi from a Jat and far less a Manipuri from a Naga. Quite a few of them are not even aware of the seven north eastern states. But they can amaze North Americans with their ability to write complex software code. Given the inconsistency in the syllabus of schools across our states (unless one is exposed to the CBSE or ICSE curriculum), freshmen enter colleges with radically differing views of the country and the world. Bangalore’s 32 engineering colleges that produce the fodder for the off-shoring and outsourcing industry are not as alive to the overall development of the student as the faculty of St.Stephen’s, Hindu, Presidency,St.Xavier’s, Loyola and MCC are. Our services sector where technology is a major contributor accounts for 60% of our GDP but service tax adds upto just about a percent of taxes. The brunt of taxation is borne by the manufacturing sector as we all know. So if some evangelists are out to flatten the world, they need to ask themselves what has been their contribution to the nation other than creating a couple of lacs jobs to service foreign clients. Execution ability is indeed commendable but there has to be a coherent broader plan that remains the burden of the few who were brought up to think and debate rather than blindly follow.

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