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Scope of IndiaPolicy;
I have faced this recurring complaint and I have often addressed it: will
do so again:
On Thu, 27 Aug 1998, Ash Mahesh wrote:
> > Ash: did you check out the action plan on the web? What exactly
> > would you like to add to it? Please be very precise, and if it is
> > acceptable to all, then it will be done. Sure. I do think that a bit
> > of focus on training, and a bit of work on the flyers, needs to be
> > begun simultaneously.
> I don't know about "simultaneouly", but I was trying more for
> "immediately". Actually, what I propose is that some people carry on the
> discussion and others try to evolve a mechanism for putting the ideas
> that come up into practice, possibly with pilot programs.
The act of building a consensus about what are the 'ideal' set of actions
for India to be taking is a massive piece of action: for those who are not
yet convinced; please realize that it was a small society, called the
Fabian society in England, whose little action of thinking up some
thoughts, caused this tremendous agony to India for 50 years.
It was that little piece of work known as the Communist Manifesto that
caused tremendous pain and torture to millions of people for nearly 130
years (and causes this to this date, when ULFA or other terrorists follow
those principles to physically eliminate their "opposition").
The power of thought far exceeds the power of 'mere' running about on the
streets/ villages by about a trillion-fold. I have spent a lot of time
trying to tinker with the system as an official of the government,
including running about from place to place; trying to build small
independent organizations, etc. That work has its own place. It is useful
in building experience. But after that one must sit back and analyze. That
is what I am doing on IP. Those who have not put in over a decade of hard
work in the field and seen the intricate causes of the failure of almost
every 'pilot project' that can be imagined, might believe that there is
still scope for trying newer projects. But that area is saturated with
failure. The cause of the failure needs to be studied, and changed. That
is what I am trying to do. And I hope others, too. I have no more time or
energy to try out small pilot projects. They will all fail unless we
transform India's policy structure. That is the only challenge left, which
we must attempt.
The work of IP is clearly on a different plane. It is supposed to build a
consensus among a generation of Indians about how India needs to reach its
top position in the world. All of us can sit down, analyze our thoughts,
and tell each other how this has to be done. If all of us do this, I have
no doubt that we would have discovered close to the 'best' set of policies
that can be designed for India today.
By distracting from this work and trying to set up pilot projects in the
field, we will fail in this critical task. Many, many of us have run many,
many pilot projects. Now it is time to sit back and think.
About other groups: I am a member/ advisor on many other groups, with
different focus: more direct action; less thinking. The task that you
recommend is appropriate for other groups, to at least one of which (India
Together) you belong. If you want to try out a few pilot programs I can
offer the services of Shram India too, particularly in Assam.
What I have seen in my 20 years of studying India at first hand, is that
there are too many facile conclusions being about the expectations from
most pilot projects, without an understanding of the assumptions, or
understanding the mechanism of how people will actually behave.
For example: rural development: almost all attempts so far have failed
because the assumptions were completely wrong. People, markets, the
economy - do not function the way the rural development planners expect
these to run. Trying to create terracota art work or primitive handlooms
(except for a very few specialists) won't help anyone. And so on. I've
spent a zillion manhours describing these things in many earlier postings
to IP. Won't repeat. Too tired. Nobody seems to look at these archives
The focus here, on IP, is to build a consensus and to present this
consensus to the People of India on the 1st of Jan. 2000 AD.
Later, I hope that IP will expand its work to propagate this consensus,
encourage those groups which wish to provide 'governance services' (i.e.,
political parties) based on this consensus, and train those service
providers in public policy. I would love to help train thousands of future
MPs of India. These folk are in serious need of training. And nobody tries
to do that today. Let us do that for India.
> I somehow see
> IP not as a "thought for action" type of think-tank, but as a "thinking
> in action" type of body. Perhaps I am straying outside previously
> established boundaries here.
Thinking in action is necessary, but very difficult. Thinking is action
itself, in a way. Let us think, very deeply, very clearly. Collect our
thoughts; debate; build a consensus. That is enormously difficult. This is
like building a rope from strands; individual strands are weak; together,
with a clear consensus, we can do something really useful for India. As
individuals we all fritter away our expertise and knowledge in different
directions. Together, with a very clear focus, we can achieve something.
Today for example, I was very very pleased. When Kush gave us those 20 odd
points on IGF or whatever and Suresh Anand gave us the shipping policy
points. I am pleased beyond imagination with the progress we are making.
If this is not action, then please tell me what else will help India. What
Pilot Project can be greater than this attempt at building a national
consensus. We are not there yet; but we are definitely on the way. Go
IndiaPolicy! Lead the way!!
> Perhaps we can pick one
> thing, health, education or environment, and explore how to translate
> the thinking into a pilot project.
Repeating my earlier points, I am not interested in anything as specific
as that for a Pilot Project. The only Pilot project acceptable is for
people - who believe in this consenus - to actually offer to run India on
the basis of these policies, and to then run it for about 10 years across
the length and breadth of India. A National Pilot Project for 10 years.
That is what I would like to work for.
We gave the Fabian Socialists 50 years to run their Pilot Project. They
have failed miserably. We now need to give the IP model at least 10 years.
If per capita GDP does not triple in 10 years (as Arivind or someone else
suggested as a target) then we can abandon the whole thing and declare
India to be an incurable case. In that case you and I can keep on trying
to reform one village or one household, or whatever it pleases us to
reform, till the end of our lives.
Implementation of the entire set of policies WILL be done - in due course
(there are already such forces building up) - but by different groups.
Those who want to implement tiny pilot projects should join Shram India or
other such groups. My interest in tiny projects has waned considerably
after having seen the logic of their futility (in most cases).
By the way, (this in response to Arvind - I hope he is still reading :
this is a very long note) there is nothing esoteric about what we are
doing. This kind of thing - defining the free citizen, state, etc., is
crucial for us to build the detailed policies upon. A basic philosophy of
mutual respect, voluntary interaction, choice, etc., is critical. That
philosophy was missing in Marx's thinking, and in the thinking of Fabian
socialists. Trying to define these things precisely does not make it
esoteric: makes it precise.
Sorry about this long post. I hope we have a consensus on what we are
doing on IP. If not let us continue that debate. Please check out the few
points I have placed on the indiapolicy.org page as the task for IP. We
can do with a discussion on those points.
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