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Vision of an elephantine progress

India will never roar ahead like the Asian tigers did in the Eighties and Nineties, but will, “like a loveable elephant”, lumber up the path of growth and development in a “cautious, yet firm” manner. This is how CEO-turned-writer Gurcharan Das charts the country’s course in his latest book, The Elephant Paradigm: India Wrestles with Change.

“The book presents a contrast between a rich, vibrant private space and a callous and impoverished public space. Everything that the government touches turns to dust, while private-sector involvement makes it productive and efficient,” says Das, in town to launch his book.

He is referring to the message in his second non-fiction book that follows India Unbound, where he talked about India’s transformation in the 1990s, from a closed to an open economy. Das’ latest book, a collection of essays, walks through an entire gamut of issues, ranging from the role of women in society to the need for higher spending in education, from lack of pace in the pursuit of disinvestment to the instability in the political system.

For the former CEO of Procter & Gamble in India, who is now a student of Sanskrit at the University of Chicago, the 1990s have been “the best” in terms of economic achievements in the country, despite heightened “political instability”. Das attributes this success to economic, political and social “liberation” and, most importantly, that of the mind.

In the book, Das takes a closer look at politics and religion in India and attributes the slowing down of the country to, primarily, these two factors. “But I doubt if we would ever exchange either for faster growth,” he smiles. According to him, the most important failures in the country have been “day-to-day administrative incompetence”.

But he is quick to assert that in the sixth fastest growing economy in the world, there is no place for “wholesale pessimism” and insists that the violence in Gujarat, the threat of terrorism and the Pakistan factor are “temporary” distractions. “Our real destiny is nothing except economic prosperity,” observes the optimist.

The failure of the polity in ensuring a better and enriched life for the citizens of the country comes under attack. “The BJP government has failed to give us good governance and its running of the country’s affairs has not been much different from the Congress,” feels Das, who claims to have harboured a political dream. He, however, congratulates the government for its success in telecom and roads — the paths that the elephant will take, one presumes.

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