Kaushik Basu delivered JSW Group’s 6th Independence Day Lecture in Mumbai on Monday.
Noted Indian economist Kaushik Basu on Monday served a warning for Indian leaders about the damage the recent spate of lynchings can do to the country’s goal of becoming an economic superpower.
Speaking to NDTV in an interview, Professor Basu said, “I like to believe that all Indian people, even political and corporate leaders, realise that no matter what happens to growth from these kinds of divisive moves that are taking place within the country, you do damage to the perception of the nation in the eyes of the world and to the nation’s moral quality, enthusiasm with which you work and take the country forward.”
“On top of that I do believe that if you have this kind of divisiveness in the country in the long run it is also bad for growth. So not immediately, but in the long run, people work worse. And one of India’s strengths is that it has been that it is a country that has tried to pull in diverse kinds of people together and this has today – India from 2003 to 2011 has grown at a rate – which was exemplary. There are very few parallels in the world growing at 8.5% per annum. So we were there. We were taking advantage of that and we should continue to do that and I would like to believe that all our leaders share this view,” Professor Basu, who teaches International Studies and Economics at Cornell University, added on a cautionary note.
Talking about the state of higher education and why India is falling back and the legacy of former Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Professor Basu said, “In higher education, India did very well soon after independence. We set up some frontline scientific institutes and we set up the Indian Institutes of Technology, IIMs and this put India on a map that no other developing or emerging economy had reached. It’s really on par with many of the best countries. Since then ranking wise India is sliding. And the reason is not that we are actually doing anything worse or we are ourselves sliding. We are more or less holding at the same level. So other countries are overtaking us.”
Talking about criticism that there is an effort these days to glorify the ancient past to mask the problems of the present, the former Chief Economist of the World Bank, said, “I think there is a tendency to say we had done it in the past to which my response is – If we had done it all in the past and lost it we should be ashamed of the fact that we lost it all. The truth is we have done a few things and other countries have done a few things. India indeed has a long heritage but that must never become an excuse to sit back today and say that we don’t have to be on the front lines of science because we had done it a long time ago.”