23rd February 2012
Dear Arvind, the only path to corruption-free India is through policies of liberty
Before I talk about my meeting with Arvind Kejriwal let me affirm that IAC has indeed made a significant contribution to India. Gurcharan Das, whom I met last evening, had many positive comments about Team Anna's movement, particularly in awakening the Indian middle class. If for nothing else, Arvind Kejriwal, the brain trust of Team Anna, deserves credit for making a real difference to India.
But there is MUCH MORE WORK ahead! And the conversion of our aspirations for India into reality is a much harder task.
So let me now talk about my meeting with Arvind. I will also send this blog post to Arvind so he can read this and get the opportunity to recapitulate some of the comments I made to him in the meeting.
As many of you aware, senior FTI member Somnath Bharti has represented Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi in their court case against CWG corruption. This case was very successful and led to 14 cases of corruption being filed by CBI.
Both Somnath and Arvind are IITians (along with a few other FTI members). Somnath also respects Arvind deeply, and believes that Arvind's integrity is totally beyond question. Given my presence in India, Somnath organised a meeting between me and Arvind, held yesterday (22 Feb) at 12 noon in Arvind's office in Kaushambi (on the way to Ghaziabad).
The meeting was very short: only 20 minutes. Arvind was very busy. Anna was coming to Delhi just a little later and Arvind was being constantly interrupted by people even while he was talking to me. Names like Hegde and Kiran Bedi were being bandied about. Anna's flight was slightly late so that was discussed. And so on.
There was no time for niceties or getting to know each other better. People were swarming around us. I had to cut to the chase.
I introduced myself briefly, with the LBSNAA as link, a place where I had taught in 1994 and Arvind had passed through as a fresh civil service recruit in 1992. Harsh Mander was our common friend.
I outlined to him (in short-hand!) why, after so many years in the IAS I decided in February 1998 to change India. There was no one else willing (or capable) of bringing about the change. I had no choice but to do it myself. I then gave him an outline of the three failed political efforts I made in this regard. Then told him about FTI and why FTI will succeed.
Lack of liberty: the root cause of all problems in India
I pointed out the mess outside his office, about the miserable poverty that is experienced by hundreds of millions of Indians. That is the main problem in India: the total waste of our people's potential.
In this context, while asking Arvind which countries he had visited, he mentioned (among others) Korea. That was an excellent hook. I therefore spoke to him about the key difference between North and South Korea – which I have discussed in detail in my book, Breaking Free of Nehru. The difference is all about liberty.
I explained that good governance, underpinned by the principles of liberty, is the best way to remove corruption and bring unprecedented prosperity to India (such as to the people who live in misery just outside his office). I explained how some of the world's best academics such as Alasdair Roberts (who has taught at LBSNAA) have vetted my book. We therefore need to understand and follow world-best models of governance in India.
Our job is to ensure the kind of governance that will enable our poor to create wealth. This will AUTOMATICALLY eliminate both poverty AND corruption.
I added that corruption is a symptom, NOT the cause of India’s many problems. Corruption is like malarial fever while the cause (malarial parasite) is lack of liberty and bad policies. Even Anna, Arvind admitted, agrees that Lokpal will only act like a band-aid and more fundamental reforms will be needed. We need not just the enforcement of rules (or stronger punishment to the corrupt), but the right kind of rules.
Arvind should offer his leadership to India and DIRECTLY change India
I pointed out that in order to change the lives of our desperately poor people, we must not provide mere band-aids or a patchwork of "solutions" unrelated to any fundamental principle of governance. We must provide a comprehensive solution based on the principle of liberty. And the only way to do this is by directly providing political leadership to India through the parliament.
I mentioned that all his IAC work will make not the slightest dent in India's governance. What is needed is to take over the government and directly provide the governance that India needs.
I mentioned that the Director of the Academy in 1984 (IM Puri) used to tell us that if we really want to change India we have no choice but to enter politics. And when a probationer from our 1982 batch asked Indira Gandhi in 1983 (during a meeting in the PM’s house) why there was so much corruption in the Congress party, she challenged the probationer thus: If you can do better and remove corruption why don’t you do it yourself?
That same challenge remains today, 30 years later. Let us not preach nor exhort others to do things for us. In our free democracy, we are obliged to directly do it ourselves. I have taken up that challenge in February 1998. And I want all the best leaders of India to take up that challenge.
Why is it that we have such high quality people in India and such low quality results? The time to complain is over. Now it is time to DIRECTLY do the job.
I added to Arvind that I’m interested ONLY in him – personally – and not his group. I’m looking PURELY for high quality young leaders for tomorrow's India. But in addition to being honest these young people must understand the right policies.
That means Arvind will need to understand the concept of liberty better, and pay serious attention to policies.
He agreed to read any material that I may send to him. I promised to do so soon.
I also explained that on FTI we only take people who are determined to become Prime Minister of India. If people don’t have such determination – to offer their PERSONAL services to India as its leader, they should not waste our time.
Indeed, on FTI there are at least 60 Arvind Kejriwals today (figuratively speaking). They are currently not well known (e.g. Somnath Bharati), just as Arvind was not well known when he first started his work. But the capability is there. 100 per cent! I also explained that some well-known leaders like JP of LokSatta are effectively members of FTI.
Therefore Arvind can consider joining FTI when he is ready. I'll provide more details to Arvind via email.
That, in sum, was the discussion:
a) Showing Arvind that doing IAC work is fine so long as everyone in IAC knows that this work will NOT change (by even ONE BIT) the lives of the poor people who live like pigs just outside Arvind’s office.
b) Showing Arvind that our fundamental problem is lack of liberty (with accountability).
c) Showing Arvind that without directly offering our PERSONAL political leadership to India, we are never going to be free of the corrupt rascals who govern India.
Let us battle these thugs at the hustings. Let us take over the parliament.
Our meeting ended on a pleasant note, with a photo, shown below.