TECH TALK: Letter to Arun Shourie

I was recently in Bangalore at IIIT-B at the invitation of Prof. Sadagopan to make a presentation to Mr Arun Shourie, Minister of IT and Telecom (and Disinvestment). Prof. Sadagopan had aggregated 14 companies to make 10-minute presentations as part of a session called Jewels of IT. Due to an unexpected development, Mr Shourie couldnt make it, but the session went ahead as scheduled a recording was sent to Mr Shourie.

As part of my talk, I was planning to also make suggestions on what India needs to do in IT and Telecom. Since Mr Shourie was not physically present and in the interest of time, I skipped that segment of my talk, and thought why not elaborate on it and make it into a Tech Talk series. (I dont know if Mr Shourie will read it, but those fortunate enough to know him could perhaps email him a link!)

Before I start my letter, a little about the person. Here is a profile of
Shourie. I remember reading his articles, editorials and exposes in the Indian Express in the early 1980s. He topped a recent Economic Times poll of CEOs of the most admired politicians. The paper wrote:

While most people are surprised at the ease with which Shourie has made the transition from being a journalist to an economic policy maker, they should not be. This Stephanian is one of the most qualified politicians in the business, with a PhD in economics (not a an honorary one but one he burnt the midnight oil for) from Syracuse University .

He briefly worked with the Tata group for a period of three months before joining the World Banks young Professionals Programme in 1966. He then served as an economist with the World Bank for over a decade (1967-78) and during that stint he worked as a consultant to the Indian Planning Commission.

And while Shourie may have traded in the pen that inked many a expose, he continues to be a firebrand, speaking out fearlessly against all that he perceives as wrong. Shouries professionalism can be seen in the speech he made while accepting the ET Business Leader of the year 2002:

Everyone in society should be accountable. I believe theres much more accountability in business than in public life. When things go wrong in business, people have to answer, but politicians get away with it. And often persons in public life become immune to scandals. The man may be soft spoken but there is no mistaking the steely edge to his voice.

The Economist recently wrote about Arun Shourie:

[Shourie] boasts of a tenacity nurtured in his days as a crusading editor of a newspaper known for its dogged pursuit of scandals. I am a graduate of the Indian Express; we exhaust the other fellows. Victims of this persistence include not just civil servants and judges, but politicians. After about 20 parliamentary debates on privatisation in the past four years, the most recent were adjourned for want of a quorum.

As this implies, Mr Shourie sees the politicians themselves as obstacles to getting things done. The quality of many who people our public lifethat is not democracy, it is disarray, it is free-fall. Yet he refuses to use India’s democratic system as an excuse for the country’s painfully slow pace of economic progress over the past 20 years compared with China. Governance, he argues, is not golf: that we are a democracy does not entitle us to a handicap.

Tomorrow: Letter to Arun Shourie (continued)

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.