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THE DISSENTER .. why we need more of them

Updated: Aug 19, 2023

It is often said that a prophet is not without honour, save in his own country. It's an extreme example of how familiarity actually breeds contempt to the extent that it can blind you to the obvious truths told by a person living amongst you but which are then so apparent to be readily acceptable by people outside.

C Rajagopalachari or Rajaji would fit the description of a prophet ’s predicament to the extent that most of his ideas which went against the grain of state-controlled and centrally planned economy, with several naïve notions of Fabian socialism, which are so out of sync with the ideas of good governance today .

Consequently, the rate of growth of the Indian economy in the first three decades after independence was derisively referred to as the Hindu rate of growth by economists, because of the unfavourable comparison with growth rates in other Asian countries.

CR or Rajaji as he was called is credited with coining the phrase “permit-quota-licence raj", the consequences of which Indians continue to endure till this day. He was a liberal insofar as issues relating to the economy were concerned but conservative on many social and societal issues.

“The party in power & in possession of the public exchequer & the Mint can buy votes by subsidies and grants which destroy the foundations of security & prosperity (of a stable currency)". Such criticism made his rivals bitter. In December 1961, Nehru called Swatantra Party “a mixture of the rottenest ideas imaginable."

Today, thankfully the government has withdrawn from business mostly, although it can still influence an entire sub-culture of subsidies, statism and mediocrity. It's often claimed that the software industry in India & the culture it thrived in was because of the government's apathy &not at all due to its support.

Whatever the outcome, we can feel proud of this legacy of dissent, the main ingredient in free speech & ideas which can only prevent disastrous policies from being pursued. Today, 155 years after his birth, the clarity and foresight with which he explained and interpreted events is sorely missed.

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