Changes have come from decisive leadership: Pranab

March 6, 2009
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"India's own experience as a modern nation demonstrates that the government has played a critical and pivotal role in the management of change."

The theme of the 2009 India Today Conclave, ‘Challenges of Change’, has been wisely chosen. To me, change is a multidimensional concept. Some aspects of change can be measured by indices like growth rate, per capita income, human development index, and others which relate to the ethos and psyche of a nation. Yet, for the growth of a nation, change is essential.

Pranab Mukherjee
Pranab Mukherjee
As a person who has spent a better part of his life in public service and in the government, I would like to believe that the government is, more often, a facilitator and, at times, a regulator of change. Indeed it should be so in any democratic society.

The three main factors that make a government a facilitator of change are: leadership, vision and expertise. History tells us that all momentous changes in the world have come from the exercise of decisive leadership. These have also been individuals who have either seized the opportunity to usher in change or have enjoyed a broad-based mandate to undertake change. I would identify the role played by Rajiv Gandhi who enjoyed a massive mandate to prepare the country for the 21st century. His leadership and vision helped India emerge as an IT powerhouse within a decade or so.

Let me now turn to the role of government in India. The government has to play the role of initiator, regulator and facilitator of change in varying degrees depending upon the internal and external environment. In a broad sense, governance can be broken into two levels. At an aggregate level, the purpose of governance is to provide an environment that supports and encourages private initiative in a non-discriminatory and inclusive manner. At an individual level, it is concerned with provision of basic services universally to all citizens. The NREGS, Bharat Nirman and the Right to Information Act are such initiatives.

At the international level, we need to reorient the growth paradigm. It is all the more critical because the developing countries still have positive growth rates and can provide the basis for global economic recovery. In these difficult times, it will be short-sighted to go into protectionist mode. That the biggest economy in the world, the US, where this global financial tsunami originated, should be resorting to trade-restrictive practices is disturbing. The US Government’s stimulus package imposing restrictions on public procurement or discouraging US firms from outsourcing or restricting hiring of foreign workers is not in keeping with the spirit of global cooperation.

Of the many challenges of change today which governments have to manage, one of the most important is terrorism. States that have used terror as an instrument of state policy should be left with no choice but to dismantle their infrastructure of terrorism and actively cooperate with the international community to eliminate this scourge. As this week’s reprehensible attack on Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore shows, the government’s lack of will or capability in tackling this menace becomes a major hindrance in the process of change.

In conclusion, India’s own historical experience as a modern nation demonstrates that the government has played a critical and pivotal role in the management of change. This has been possible, also, due to the nature of the relationship between civil society and the government. Today as we move ahead on a high growth rate trajectory, we are sure about the efficacy of the India model of economic growth: unique in world history. Our socially equitable economic growth has taken place within a democratic framework which was used not only for wealth creation, but also for wealth distribution. The concern for aam admi is central to this philosophy of inclusive growth.


Q. In the last five years, on fundamental issues like security, infrastructure, power, education, health, the record of your Government has been poor.Why should we vote for you?
Performance is always relative.You ought to compare with whom you want to cast your vote and with whom you want to entrust the responsibility of running the government. I leave it to the judgement of 700 million electors who are going to cast their vote in five phases.

Q. There are two major requirements to bring about changes today. First is the calibre of our political leaders. Second, from the security point of view, police reforms are very essential. Unfortunately both NDA and UPA have taken no initiatives. Do you think the Opposition and the government can work together to bring about these changes?
. Firstly, our population–police ratio is abnormally low compared to any other country. But I am not going to find any excuses. Modernisation of police forces, improvement of their mobility, equipping them with modern techniques is absolutely necessary. Political parties sometimes respond to people’s urge and demand. Secondly, political parties may not give tickets but that doesn’t prevent a chargesheeted person from contesting elections because every citizen who is not otherwise disqualified can seek election.

Q. This ministry is the largest ever with 72 ministers, 33 of them of Cabinet rank. Indira Gandhi ran the country with only 42 ministers. Are you paying the price of a coalition? The number of secretaries then was 300, now it is 700.
If you have a clear two-thirds majority, the leaders are not susceptible to manoeuvrings. It’s not the same with a large coalition government without adequate support on the floor of the House. Also, the complexities of the administration have increased. Look at the population. There were 35 crore people once. It’s 112 crore now.

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from the chairman

We are living in turbulent times. Political equations are being rewritten, new economies are rising, terror is a global problem, the environment is under threat and technology offers new opportunities. How we meet these Challenges of Change will decide the shape of the future.
Aroon Purie
Chairman & Editor-in-Chief
India Today Group

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