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Bill Gates and Indian Billionaires

As we read about the world’s richest man’s now almost annual trip to India and his commitment to eradicate disease and provide support for education an obvious question to ask is where do our own billionaires stand in comparison to Mr. Gates. I think the media owes us an annual report card regarding the social commitments of our own mega-rich and well to do. And here, I am not talking about reprinting the press releases doled out by them but genuine investigative reporting regarding any difference (if any) these people have made to Indian society over and beyond their primary business.

Ironic as it might be, despite being Karna’s country it is obvious that corporate social philanthropy is not one of India’s strongest points; or for all we know it might very well be – but I’ve never read a media report that would support that notion. We’ve read stories about Mr. Mittal’s or Mr. Roy’s or Mr. Bachchan’s son’s or daughter’s wedding but now we’d like to know if Mr. Bachchan has sponsored a seat in Hindi literature in Allahabad University or if Mr. Ambani has contributed to research in Chemical Engineering in Gujrat or if Mr. Mittal is contributing to research on less polluting smelting techniques in Bihar. I guess you get the picture I am trying to portray here.

As the year nears its ends there will be a plethora of stories regarding the top 10 or bottom 10 of the year. As India continues to take its baby steps towards US style capitalism don’t you think that the public deserves to know who are the top 10 industrialists who have made a difference and then the bottom 10 who were totally callous?

RIP: M.R. Kutty

M.R. Kutty was killed by Taliban in Afghanistan. Behind all the bickering on whether Pakistan was or wasn’t behind the attacks, an essential question still remains unanswered. What forces the Kuttys of the world to leave behind their families in search of livelihood to all these dangerous places? The Prime Minister has announced an aid of few lakh rupees for the surviving family and free education for the kids but that will not bring the husband and father back.

Oh! and where is Arundhati Roy when we need her? Wasn’t she on the forefront denouncing the US when it decided to take out the Taliban? Maybe she should go to Afghanistan and try doing the same there – after all she is the citizen of the world, isn’t she?

Drucker on India

Read this in one of the obituaries of Peter Drucker. It is surprising how much of it still holds true and also how much of it does not, thanks to two people, Manmohan Singh and the man who gave him a free hand, Narsimha Rao.

From “India and ‘Appropriate’ Technology,” March 1, 1979: No one in India could tell me what the economic policy of the government is. The only governmental actions are expansions of already large government enterprises, unchecked growth of an already obese bureaucracy and more bureaucratic regulations. The cabinet cannot agree on anything and has no policy whatever. Substantial sums are being allocated to “the villages” but without programs let alone goals. But there is a pervasive rhetoric of smallness and of antitechnology…

As a reaction to the delusion of “the bigger the better,” which enthralled earlier Indian governments, especially Nehru, [Prime Minister Morarji] Desai’s emphasis on rural India is overdue. Earlier governments neglected the village, where 90% of India’s 550 million people still live. But “small is beautiful” is just as much a delusion as “the bigger the better.” What is “appropriate” is not what uses the most capital or the most labor; it is not what is “small” or “big,” “pre-industrial” or a “scientific marvel.” What is “appropriate” is quite simply what makes the economy’s resources most productive. What is appropriate in a country of huge population and rapid population growth is what multiples productive jobs. What is “development” in a country, which like India has sizable resources of managerial and entrepreneurial skill and at the same time huge unfulfilled consumer needs, is whatever creates purchasing power.

Our politicians

Oh the depths to which our politicians would stoop to get votes. Hindustan Times is reporting today about posters in Mumbai that congratulated Margaret Alva, the head of Congress in Maharashtra, on winning the United Nations’ Nelson Mandela award for minorities’ empowerment. One slight flaw though – the UN does not give out any such award.

Read the entire story here.