An Open Letter To The Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh

February 07, 2011

Dear Dr. Manmohan Singh

I am an ordinary citizen and you are an accomplished elected representative and the head of our constitutionally empowered government. As we both engage in our day to day life, I am sure we are being weighed down by the constituents of our common link that is our great nation. It is a paradox that  I have this liberty to express my thoughts fearlessly and equally your prerogative to ignore them; as I make some critical points towards the well being of our nation. I am not sure if democracy was designed thus to ensure checks and balances or as many things, if this is another way of  winging our constitutional framework that does not specify many things about Governance and its related accountability in the modern world  and the consequent concerns of the Governed.

First and foremost, let me very humbly submit to you that I’m proud of your achievements raising yourself to a great education and success as a professional; highlighting the hardwork and intensity of Purpose and your Humility despite the high positions you have seen. It is amazing that these two qualities shine through everything you do; whether  it is your steadfastedness to the Nuclear Bill or your desire to create peace between  India and Pakistan or your warmth and understatement in making friends with world leaders such as George Bush and Barrack Obama or throwing the gauntlet at the wretched opposition parties and submitting yourself to be questioned by the CAG. Your personal integrity is unquestionable and perhaps will always held as an undeniable record of highest veracity.

However, I am in considerable confusion about your professional choices. At the outset, I would like to clarify that you are of course entitled to your  opinion but I am as well bestowed with the same entitlement in a democracy and therefore the discourse. When you started architecting the new free economy as the Finance Minister with the then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, it was absolutely necessary to free India from the license regime. Also in the process, you tended to create a more Consumer Oriented Economy than a Contribution Oriented Economy. In the process, the Value Creation of the nation has suffered a huge damage.  You seem to continue that thinking from your Finance Ministership days through your prime ministership with a great deal of consistency. But the fact that is more startling is that, all your attempts seem to be half hearted; where your convictions have not seemed to carry through any initiative to its logical end; whether it is inviting Retail Investments or Rupee Convertibility or Privatization of Banking, Commerce and Industry. Is it just you or are the people who surround you and influence your decision making that confound us ordinary citizens with this duality?

The doubts are couched in the fact that we have no demonstrable program towards achieving innovation. There is no targeted policy framework towards education other than rhetoric. We are keen to sustain the outsourcing rather than creating mechanisms for product development. Our banks still have no access to credit. Your finance minister and you do not think of planning and make statements such as “You don’t have a magic wand or an alladin’s lamp” to make recession go away. As a qualified economist you continue to believe that reducing basis points by the Reserve Bank after the inflationary report is a cure to ease money and material in the Value / Supply Chain. It is even more scary when you target a minister such as Jairam Ramesh who has taken his portfolio seriously and is doing what is required of him in his ministry as the enemy of reform regime. Outsourcing is not going to provide either the revenue or the margins forever. We need our entrepreneurs to contribute innovation that will be consumed by others across the world. We need more productive output in Agriculture, Education, Manufacturing and Science & Technology.

I cannot help but be reminded of a story that I want to share with you.  Once a  noble man invited some people of eminence to his residence for dinner at his manor. The guests arrived and marvelled at the mansion and its beauty. One of the guests went to the pond at the entrance of the mansion that had some very rare and beautiful fish collected from different parts of the world. He sat by the periphery of the pond and started taking out each of the fish and putting them on the ground. The servants did not dare question their master’s guests and so hurried up to the master and reported the event. The master immediately rushed to the pond and enquired of the guest as to what he was doing. To which the guest replied, “I’m saving the fish from drowing”. I think you certainly need to review the spin that Montek Singh Ahluwalia keeps throwing, for starters around our planning and budgeting.  And then of course we all know, we need good execution behind good ideas; whether it is the NREG or the Bharat Nirman or Women Empowerment or Education Reform.

Even more important is the thinking that goes behind the planning and the dynamic ability to shift course to multiple scenarios. A bull has been been designed horns to protect it from danger and it will use them when it senses danger. But we humans have been bestowed with intelligence and therefore have no license to kill.  We are required to use this intelligence to not only avoid danger but also prevent it, don’t you think? Would it be therefore wise to claim credit for a economy that has not crumbled as badly as North America and not take the blame for rising inflation and sufferings to the common man?  Whatever happens in our country, 20% of the super-rich people are least conncerned, 35% of the middle and lower middle class talk a lot about it and 65%  of  under privileged suffer in silence. These 65% of Indians don’t have the faintest idea of the impact your thinking and leadership is making on their lives because they don’t experience any change to their struggle for survival and you are not connected to them. The 40% vote on a whim of what the television anchors guide them through friendly Public Relation personnel and the 20% only expect you to do them favors;  hell with the rest of the world.  These 20% of the population are the ones who are only thriving and they will; with or without you. Actually, you  may be an inconvenience to them with your personal moral standards.  Don’t you want your purpose of becoming this country’s Prime Minister be fulfilled?

You have everything to gain and nothing to lose in the remainder of your term. Why don’t you introduce some bold and young doers who will take this country to a higher trajectory of growth by the sheer power of their dreams? Sam Pitroda is old hat. He did introduce the STD booths in all parts of the country under the Rajiv Gandhi administration, but what has happened to those who operated those booths over the years? Have they prospered economically?  Are they in a position to service the new offerings of the 3G and 4G that telecommunication technology has to offer?  If the answer is no, then why make him the look after the innovation initiatives of your government?  Innovation should result in growth. If you were a businessman and expecting returns from these STD booth operators as customers, would you not have planned a vision that enables successive generations of technology to benefit your business? Don’t you think you could use a little more imagination in choosing your team and support? The appointment of Nandan Nilekani for the UID initiative and the more recent announcement of inducting Ramadorai are welcome steps in that direction. But these must go beyond mere tokenism and be accountable for some tangible outcomes that can make a difference to the lives of the people at the grassroots level in this country.

Why can’t you be the architect of constructing an infrastructure in this country on which rides the aspirations of the new generation of Indians?  Wheter it is defense or homeland security, why don’t you fulfill one agenda completely and feel  the purpose of your appointment to the highest office achieved? If you complain of constraints, imagine the plight of the under privileged of this country and their hopes? It is never too late. There is still opportunity despite the fact that you and your cabinet are busy preparing for the budget session. Take a deep breath and bring in fresh air to your lungs and the country. No offence to you, the budget never connects to the Aam Aadmi no matter which government or finance minister presents it. Think afresh and think differently.  Can you assemble a team for transformation and dedicate the rest of your term for completing one or two key initiatives and take that as the example to the people by the time the next General Elections are due? This country could do with your continuity; only if you show a different sense of courage and conviction to connect to the people who really matter.

Thank You for being patient and reading this letter. I am available at the shortest possible notice to clarify anything that might rankle you in this letter. On the other hand, I pledge my support and effort to galvanize action, should you choose to call upon me.  I wish you the very best in all your endeavors and will not cease to believe in you until you choose to shut me out. I can assure you that I am voicing the heartfelt of millions of Indians.


Subbu Iyer

PS: Copied to Ms. Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson UPA. Incidentally, there is no shame in the Party and Government Partnership and this arrangement must be seen more in the interests of the nation and therefore the dialog made transparent to the nation, whenever possible.

About Subbu Iyer

Subbu Iyer is an Innovation & Transformation Leader as with 28 years of serving customers globally. He is currently the Chief Designer & Transformer at Energizing Innovation, an enterprise that is being founded to facilitate continuous growth in enterprises and as a consequence create societal wealth. The Radical Shift that this enterprise intends to employ is focusing on the Potential rather than the Performance of a business. He has been a serial entrepreneur and an intrapreneur in his past life, having founded Nihilent Technologies and Nandaki Systems besides being associated in senior leadership roles with firms such as Coopers & Lybrand, Cambridge Technology Partners, Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro Technologies and Steria.
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