About the ISB Event — Part 2

{Followup to part 1.}

Nov 6th, the first day of TiE-ISB Connect 2008 had a packed schedule. The final panel, “Taking India Forward”, was the most memorable for me.

It had an interesting mix of panelists: a journalist/reporter/documentary film maker Nupur Basu (formerly of NDTV), Manish Sabharwal of TeamLease Services, Dr Jay Prakash Narayan of LokSatta, Santosh Mehra from the Anti Corruption Bureau, and Manoj Kumar of Naandi.

It was late in the day when the panel got under way. I had had a long day as I had been on the first panel of the day at 9 AM, and by 7:30 PM my batteries were running low. I thought I would sit in for a few minutes and then go back to my room for a shower and change before the “networking dinner.” That did not happen.

I had heard of R K Mishra of “Change India Foundation” and was vaguely aware of some popularity contest that the Times of India had run and which Mr Mishra had won. I don’t really hold the ToI in very high regard. Judging from the content and concerns of the ToI, I think that the majority of its readers must be retarded. I think this majority voted in the popularity contest. Mr Mishra was the panel chair that evening.

Within a few minutes of Mishra’s introductory remarks, I was simply glued to my seat in the very impressively large and comfortable Khemka Auditorium at the ISB.

Mishra took special delight in telling the audience that he was responsible for gathering such an august panel and several of them were his friends. He explained his rationale for selecting them and why he is so good at this. His claim is remarkable because later on I was told that he had precious little to do with getting the panel together.

He also stressed that he is very good and good leadership is what India needs and that he had received 10 million SMSs about leadership and so on and so forth.

I was captivated by the barefaced self-promotion. Political leadership material. I liked best his thinly veiled attempt at claiming proximity to political power by saying that he was “advising a young potential future prime minister of India.”

Mishra eventually stopped his monologue and invited Nupur Basu to speak. Ms Basu enthusiastically started reading her speech (and it was a speech) which began with a reference to the recently concluded US elections. Her earnestness was the palpable earnestness of a social activist who is all fired up about the unspeakable injustice that the poor continually have to endure. That injustice, lest it be forgotten, is the result of the greed of the corporations and rich people. The misery you see around you in India — farmer suicides being an example — is the result of the liberalization of the economy. (I did not take notes; this is just an impressionistic description of her speech.)

She went on about the “global economic meltdown.” There are deep and dark forces at war with the good and the holy. It was easy to see that the enemy portrayed was private business. So it was confusing to me when at one point she said that she was moved to tears when an emaciated farmer (his arms were thin as sticks) told her, “I don’t care about what the government has given us; what I care about is what it has taken away from us — our dignity.”

I would agree that a corrupt government reduces people to dire poverty and thus to a state of abject surrender. There is no dignity. A corrupt government sucks the very blood out of the citizens all the better to control them. The government does control the people — and how. The people are constantly voting the government to power, and the government responds by increasing the license-permit-quota-permit raj one more notch. The private sector has to please the people with its goods and services; the government has the power to control and coerce the people. The farmer suicides are a failure of a corrupt and inept government. Trying to blame liberalization is stupid and dangerous.

I wonder at how much damage such flawed socialistic thinking does to society. Basu is not an average idiot spouting nonsense at a cocktail party. She writes columns and does TV reports. And her viewers and readers then go out and vote. You know the results.

She had to be prompted to conclude her speech. She asked for another 30 seconds and went on for a good four minutes after that. But like all things good or bad, it got over. I had to talk to someone to vent my anger at such a flawed speech. I got up and sat next to a prof at ISB whom I know well. I calmed down a bit and decided to leave in a bit. But here’s some guy called Manish Sabharwal. Let’s see what he had to say.

The next ten minutes or so was a study in contrast to the previous presentation. Manish was good, very good. I kept whispering to the prof that this guy is good. As I told Manish later, mera paisa wasool ho gaya.

Stay tuned. More details at 11.

Author: Atanu Dey


2 thoughts on “About the ISB Event — Part 2”

  1. Not relevant to the current post (but can’t comment on the ToI link):

    “The Times of India published three articles which praised the Quran during the Petition controversy. Goel claims that a rebuttal to these articles could not be published in the Times of India. Goel claims that the chief editor, Girilal Jain, regretted his inability to do so for reasons he could not reveal.”



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