Saturday, March 26, 2011

DEAR IIMA, PLEASE BOYCOTT YOUR CONVOCATION CHIEF GUEST!

I write this today as so far the most recent graduate of Indian Institute of management Ahmedabad. I graduated in 2010 convocation from the lesser known Fellowship Program in Management (equivalent to PhD) of IIMA after spending five years in IIMA.

In my interactions at IIMA with faculty, staff, guests, visitors, and about seven batches of students, one thing that was constantly and prominently visible was that every action of an IIMA student is subject to responsibility, dignity, and ethics. From the day we started our journey, we were not mere mortals who can do or say anything and get away with that. Rather, we were supposed to be the representative of a legacy. A long legacy of legends that originates from Vikram Sarabhai and Ravi John Matthai and covers C. K. Prahlad, M.S. Banga, Harsha Bhogle, Jerry Rao, Kiran Karnik, and Raghuram Rajan among many other ‘builders’ of modern India.

When I graduated last year, we got our degrees from C. Rangarajan – the reputed ex-governor of Reserve Bank of India, distinguished former Member of Parliament, and an eminent economist. However, when the alumni association mailed us with the information that this year’s convocation chief guest is Dr. Manmohan Singh, I was a bit disappointed for graduating one year too early. With all due respect to C. Rangarajan, he was not the PM of India. And I secretly wished if I could convocate again.

However, that secret wish is stronger than ever today – so strong today that I had to stop everything else till I wrote this! For once, the future leaders of the nation (and perhaps of the world too) are going to receive their degrees from the 'Dhritarashtra' politician. Never before the IIMA had students receiving their degrees from such a person. This is only the third time when there will be a sitting PM of India distributing degrees to IIMA students. First PM was Indira Gandhi, who was the convocation chief guest in 1968 – much before she got tainted with license-quota-permit raj and emergency. Another sitting PM being the IIMA convocation chief guest was P.V. Narsimha Rao in 1993, again before he got tainted for buying JMM MPs for trust vote and later on facing charges for multiple scams, including the (in)famous briefcase with Rupees One Crore cash .

But let me explain my angst with Dr. MMS. Like the entire nation, I also believed initially that Dr. Manmohan Singh was the public face of UPA and for all the horrific corrupt actions of the government, those crooked politicians are responsible but not this innocent and studious Sardar economist. After all, “Sardars are never heard of dishonesty or stealing” (courtesy: the movie ‘Rocket Singh: salesman of the year’). However, there comes a limit when innocence looks more like a blatant assault on trust and faith of the entire nation. Let me try to give a short partial list of such assaults by Dr. Manmohan Singh.

Leave apart his incompetent handling of economy – blaming international factors for rampant inflation and blaming the legacy of socialism for inefficient-by-design social sector programs of UPA. There are so many instances of outright corruption and manipulative practices that the nation has so far ignored because of sheer trust in the PM. At the time of appointment of Navin Chawla as CEC, we believed that MMS is truly a powerless political puppet. When Pratibha Patil landed up in the presidential seat, MMS was spared and as usual, the sacred royal family of India was also spared the blame. We believed in the PM’s political burdens when he inducted scandal-ridden Lalu Prasad Yadav, convicted rapist Mohammed Taslimuddin, and known historysheeter Jaiprakash Yadav in his cabinet and we continued believing in his coalition dharma when he snubbed the criticism of D. Raja and even defended him.

The nation also readily forgot the reference to Balochistan in the Sharm el-Sheikh declaration as the progressive India is in the process of caring lesser for Pakistan’s antics. The slip-off of Ottavio Quattrocchi, de-freezing his accounts, and eventual closure of the case was forgotten easily by the young India as a matter of history and unrelated to the PM. We also believed that Suresh Kalmadi was the only culprit for the Commonwealth Games swindle and none from Congress party is responsible. Even in the case of non-disclosure of Swiss bank account holders, we believed the most in the efficient economist rather than the politically motivated opposition. The recent case of CVC appointment was brushed aside after the PM office took blame for that and the PM excused himself with an excuse of oversight.

And as if so many oversights were not enough to shatter our belief in the innocence of Dr. Manmohan Singh, there are Wikileaks now. Last month, when I was teaching a class in IIM Indore on political economy in international trade, I had casually observed that there may be some pressure on the union government to replace India’s second best trade-negotiator, commerce minister Kamal Nath with the novice and low-profile Anand Sharma. I had no idea that in a month’s time, my words will be proven true in such a painful manner. Right from buying MPs for saving the government and passing the bills to shuffling his own government on US’ tunes and deciding foreign policy matters for suiting US’ interests, can we still afford to believe in the innocence and honesty of Dr. Singh?

And here lies the reason why I am again looking at my alma-mater with hope. Dr. Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India, will be the chief guest in the convocation of IIMA on March 26, 2011. And that will be your moment, fellow friends, to show that IIMA still stands for honesty, ethics, and responsibility. I earnestly request my friends, colleagues, staff, and authorities to boycott the function if MMS still remains the chief guest after the latest revelations.

Dear IIMA, if you are thinking about giving this chance to Dr. Singh, ask the soul of your founding fathers if they would like the future generation of the leaders of India to receive their degrees from a fallen politician. This is your moment when you can choose to be the first to boycott the ‘Dhritarashtra’ or miss the chance of being the guiding light of the nation. This is the chance for you to decide whether you want to go down the pages of history to be the first one who stood firm and protested or the last one, who sat silently and got attested by an ethically and morally bankrupt head of state. I wish I was also there to register my protest with all of you, Dear IIMA!

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