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Category: India

The critical role of a liberal student union for India’s future

In February 1998 when I started the work on building a liberal political party for India, I assumed that there would be a lot of liberals in India.

I was quickly disappointed. There were a handful of liberals, but none of them was politically inclined.

After many years of work, I decided in December 2007 to launch the Freedom Team of India to find and build liberal political leaders. The idea was that by 2011 we’d have sufficient leaders (say 1500 of them, or even 500) to launch a liberal political party.

That seemed to be going well initially but it soon became clear that only one out of 25 FTI members were real leaders, and even fewer were going to do anything politically in their life. (Most of the 250 odd persons who joined FTI disappeared over time; the founder of the trust, LK Kandpal, joined the ultra-socialist Swaraj India (party) of Yogendra Yadav!).

With whatever few active FTI members that existed at that time, I helped create Swarna Bharat Party in June 2013.

But to date, the number of serious and committed political liberal leaders remains dismally low. We have some outstanding people like Asif Iqbal, but one could count all such leaders on the fingers of one’s hand.

There is now only one last solution left: to build new leaders from the ground up. This will involve building a liberal students union across the country and have thousands of young students join it.

Over the next 5-10 years we could hope to develop 5-10 leaders in this manner. Given the rate of attrition, probably 1000 student leaders have to be developed for every one genuine political leader to emerge. These 5-10 leaders could potentially galvanise India.

Anyway, there is no other option left. India is a barren desert of slavery. To find a shoot of liberty today is almost impossible. We have no choice but to very carefully build and nurture leaders.

From scratch.

Its back to the drawing board.


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Preparing for my talk for the Horasis conference – draft notes for comment

I have started thinking about my talk at the Horasis conference in June. I’ll probably get 3-5 minutes to talk. This is a placeholder post – I’ll review and improve the structure of the talk till I think I’ve got it right.

Happy for your inputs. And this is good material to share around, anyway. My message is for EVERYONE in India, not just for the participants at the Horasis conference.



I want to start with the story of Nehru and Lee Kuan Yew. In his official biography JRD Tata said that Nehru had told him that he hated the mention of the very word word profit. Nehru insisted. He said: ‘Never talk to me about the word profit; it is a dirty word.’”

At around the same time, Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore was telling his people that “You make profit into a dirty word and Singapore dies.”


What you see around you – here Switzerland – is almost entirely attributable to one thing: to liberty. And that includes respect for private enterprise.

All successful countries allow people to do most of the things themselves. The government does only a few things, the essential governance and infrastructure. This is the simple secret of success.

India was lucky to get Ambedkar’s Constitution. As a result, the idea of liberty is enshrined in the Constitution. Without the protections Ambedkar included in the Constitution, India would have been a failed state by now.

But that Constitution has been seriously eroded by the socialists. Every aspect of India has been taken over and distorted by socialist ideas.


I want to talk briefly about one impact of socialism which very few people understand. But it is the most insidious impact and costs India very dearly. This is the way the socialist incentives have infiltrated the design of our governance system.

There was a very good reason why Chankya wrote in Arthashastra that Ministers and senior officials should be paid very highly. There was a very good reason why Lee Kuan Yew insisted on very high salaries for himself, his ministers, and bureaucrats of Singapore.

But in India Nehru’s model drove down the wages of ministers and bureaucrats to a level that forced them into corruption. Our politicians not only have to spend crores of rupees to get elected, they are then paid a miniscule amount. Our bureaucrats are not only paid poorly, they are tenured for life and no one can remove them for non-performance.

I have explained this at great length in my book, Breaking Free of Nehru. Basically, India’s governance system is designed for corruption. Our politicians are necessarily corrupt, so also are most of our bureaucrats. And on top of these politicians and bureaucrats are necessarily incompetent.

I have worked both in the Indian system (in the IAS) and in the Australian system. I would say that only a very small fraction of the IAS would qualify to enter the basic policy roles in government in Australia, and an even smaller fraction would move up the ladder to senior positions. The competence of the Australian bureaucracy is so superior to the Indian, it is simply not comparable.

We now have worst possible governance system in the world. This is one of the most devious and deadly contributions of socialism to India.


In January 2001 I resigned from the IAS. It was abundantly clear that the system simply could not be reformed from within. There was no choice but to change the way India thinks. This had to be political, a fight for liberty.

The last person to fight against socialism in India was Rajaji. In 1959, nearly six decades ago, Rajaji was 80 years old but deemed it necessary to fight Nehru’s socialist obsession. Rajaji’s Swatantra Party got 44 seats in Parliament in 1967 – the same as the Congress has today (with its 45 seats).

But this voice of liberty died with Rajaji’s death. Even after the liberalisation of the 1990s no one came forward to talk about liberty. So liberalisation has stalled.

In the meanwhile formerly communist countries like China and Vietnam have gone far ahead in terms of market friendly policies and are flourishing.

I spent most of the last 15 years trying to work with other parties. That did not work. No party is liberal in any genuine sense.


Finally, in 2013, I decided to proceed with creation of a new party – Swarna Bharat Party. It is India’s first genuinely liberal party. We have an outstanding manifesto, that takes into account the world’s best practice.

Since July 2016 we have started reaching out to the people. In April 2017 I wrote a central op-ed for the Times of India on the party. I have a few copies with me if you wish to read it.

SBP is offering India an unprecedented vision – of total change and transformation that will make it a Golden India. I believe India can become the world’s richest and best governed nation within one generation, with most changes taking place in the first three years of SBP’s governance.

Gurcharan Das, the author of India Unbound has joined SBP – a clear signal that there is no other party with this kind of leadership.

I’m grateful to Frank Ricther for identifying SBP in its very early stages and inviting me to speak at this conference.


Anyway, so what next?

My message today is simple: We have act.

I invite you to step forward and get involved. There is no possibility of your achieving your potential under the governance system that India has today.

For the first few years, the party’s task will mainly be educational – to identify and build leaders, to enter the debates across the country.

How can you connect with the party? You can go to its website and write to

Or you can write to me at and we can discuss over phone and someone from the party can meet  you. I am in India for a short time from next week, and if possible can meet some of you at length in India.

Once again, I’m grateful to Frank for inviting me to introduce you to Swarna Bharat Party. He is not involved in the party in any way, but perhaps thought it worthwhile for you to get to know about the party.

I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.



India is one of the world’s worst governed countries. There is chronic inefficiency in every aspect of governance. There is chronic corruption (including in the judiciary). The rule of law is very weak. There is no fundamental right to property. The people can’t count on the courts to enforce contracts, adjudicate disputes, protect property rights, and punish fraud and other crimes. The justice system is slow and heavily backlogged. The bureaucracy is extremely corrupt and inefficient. Take the example of James Tooley, one of the brightest thinkers on education the world has ever produced. And what does India do? It imprisons him on bogus charges. He wrote about his experience in a book Imprisoned in India.

Sixty years of socialism has left India with grinding poverty and rotting infrastructure. Mumbai is awash in slums, trains are crammed to capacity. The worst hit by India’s socialist policies are the poorest of the poor. The antidote to poverty is free-market capitalism and free trade. Socialism creates and promotes poverty.

The country remains trapped in a timewarp. Religious views are dictating policy.

Doing business in India is a huge challenge. Businesses face hurdles at every step, that raise the cost of doing business in India. To make matters worse, onerous labour laws prevent business owners from formally hiring workers. Vast swathes of promising sectors such as the mining industry effectively remain closed to business. The the vast overwhelming majority of businesses and employment are in the informal sector, to minimise interaction with the corrupt bureaucracy.

India continues to underperform in attracting foreign investment. Investing in India is high risk business. Indians have been themselves taking their money abroad since the systems in India prevent them from an honest living. “Make in India” can only work after India’s governance is modernised and India’s leadership takes the people out of their medieval mindset. We need to open up the economy to all forms of trade and investment. We need foreign investment in retail, infrastructure and service industries.



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A massive education program – and stiff penalties – will be needed for Indians to stop open defecation

An excellent piece of research by Sangita Vyas has provided insights into the issue of open defecation in India. This video is worth spending 15 minutes to watch.

This further confirms that SBP’s policy on open defecation is the way to go:

An end to open defecation

India is the global capital for open defecation. This leads to the spread of disease and is also linked with sexual assault on women. Changing it requires significant awareness building through civil society initiatives. Each gram panchayat will be expected to enforce a ban on public defecation, in a manner similar to a ban on littering. Local governments (e.g. panchayats) could give land on long lease to privately owned and managed public toilets.

Our government will not, however, build or subsidise toilets in people’s homes. Unless people pay for installation of toilets in their own homes, they are unlikely to use them.


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Rakesh Agarwal, spare yourself any delusions about SBP. And goodbye.

Facebook tells me where anyone mentions SBP. So I found this post:

(Btw, I know Kanwal Rekhi very well, and REJECT him outright – I spent one full day with him in 1999 at Palo Alto we travelled in the same car in the front seats, etc. etc., and he rejected my commitment to starting a liberal political party. I also spoke about it to around 20 top Indian CEOs of Silicon Valley and they rejected the political party idea outright. Such pseudo-liberals are the bane of India – I’m quite sick of their betrayal of India – and yet they PRETEND to be liberals).


Rakesh Agarwal Swarna Bharat Party comes close to what India needs. It is a liberal political party that is yet to take to the ground and is limited to a group of people connected electronically. I have my reasons not to join it but do hope to have it merge with whatever I create or join in the near future.


Such delusions of grandeur!! SBP will NEVER merge with any other party under any circumstance. Period. I have tried all kinds of things for 15 years and now the journey is clear: SBP or nothing.

SBP is the only party with the intellectual resources and capability to lead India. Only that matters, in the end.

Sorry, Rakesh, you seem to be one more of those fake liberals who keep making excuses NOT to build India’s liberal party. You are intending to be a destroyer, just like the thousands of other destroyers I’ve come across.

I asked you 100s of times to work with SBP. You refused. Now you are threatening to “merge” SBP with something you create? Why? Because India’s interests don’t bother you. Your own self-interest comes first.

Sorry, this is NOT the approach I approve of. Goodbye.

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Explaining SBP’s PoK policy

Someone wrote to me:

I plan to join the party as soon as i get my voters ID and help make a difference, that being said there was one line that I found very disturbing ” If Pakistan can demonstrate and assure durable peace through changes to its internal governance systems, we will consider formalizing the Line of Control (LoC) into a permanent national boundary.”

PoK was and always should be an integral part of India, we should strive to take back what is ours and then look at undisturbed peace and trade. We have fought three wars with them regarding the whole State of Kashmir and cannot just dismiss all the sacrifices and not to mention resources spent fighting for it. After everything that has happened we cannot just hand Kashmir to them on a silver platter (Granted Pakistan will take a hell of a lot of time to stabilize and stop using state sponsored terrorism to fight proxies with us). But it will happen in due course of time and I will more than happy for them but we should not formalize the LoC into a permanent boundary just because of that.


Please read The Discovery of Freedom (particularly chapter 4) –
There is nothing like “PoK was and always should be an integral part of India”. Territory has constantly changed throughout human history and will continuously change in the future.
There are no historical “claims” in the field of territory. It is all about possession. By force. That is the only way territory is occupied. There is no other way.
The day India agreed to the ceasefire around the LOC, that day, possession of PoK passed on to Pakistan. India can (and should) assert its right over that land, but it will be foolish to make this a policy position [i.e. that the party will ensure that PoK is taken back by force].
Recall that according to British, Junagarh were to go to Pakistan. India forcibly annexed it. Pakistan can’t now claim Junagargh.
While India must continue to claim (as a negotiating position – which includes the prospect of taking it back by force) PoK, unless India is willing to undertake a nuclear war in which big huge cities like Delhi could be obliterated, there is now virtually no chance to recover that territory. (Same applies to the border with China, which has occupied vast areas of J&K).
However, India cannot and should not officially recognise the LOC unless Pakistan entirely changes its behaviour.
SBP’s policy will stand.
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