“Country does not run on Harvard but on Hard-Work:” Narendra Modi, Chennai Feb 8, 2014

The grapevine is abuzz with the news that the new think tank that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is setting up in place of the Planning Commission---as he declared in his Independence Day address to the nation from the Red Fort---will include Columbia University, US based Arvind Panagariya, Arvind Subramanian and Jagdish Bhagwati also of the same University. Other names in circulation include Cambridge scholar and aformer friend of the Congress party, Bibek Debroy.

PM Modi’s statement about Harvard was widely perceived at that time as being a poke at then Finance Minister P.Chidambaram. But clearly he has no such compunctions when it comes to appointments for the new body expected to replace the Union Planning Commission.

Surely he should know that the political preference for foreign educated persons in such jobs is a legacy of colonialism, as it tends to dismiss others as ‘rustics’. Both Sarvarkarites and Nehruvians share this same vision.

If there were Chidambaram’s, Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s, Mani Shankar Aiyer’s in the UPA government, their replacements in the BJP led ruling coalition now are the Jagdish Bhagwathi’s Arvind Panagariya’s, Arvind Subramanian’s, Subramanyan Swamy’s (who is also Harvard educated). The London and Boston living pundits are in every ideological camp. The Left parties provide no exception for these foreign educated Brahmins.

Though one understands the difference between political and intellectual power, the immediate post-independence political and intellectual power was fused into forces that were Western educated. Ambedkar and Nehru represented such forces. At least now we must think of building institutional confidence among our universities. To be a good economist, or good intellectual there is no need for a Harvard or MIT (Mache chutes Institute of Technology) certificate.

In the history of Congress the most native, rustic, who did not get any degree at all but saved that party and this nation was Kamaraj Nadar. Like Modi he too came from the Other Backward Class (OBC) background. He was a school dropout and was responsible for expanding the rural education system and initiating the first ever Mid-Day meal program for poor school children in Tamilnadu. In the 1960s it was ‘’Kamaraj Plan’ ’ that saved that party and democracy. Similarly Karpoori Thakur, a college dropout, from a Barber community, changed the systemic course of Bihar.

When I joined the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library as a Fellow in 1994, I still remember, Mr P.N.Haksar, the chairman of the selection committee saying ‘’though this boy does not have a foreign Ph.D, he is good’. Perhaps I was the first non-foreign Ph.D to join that institute as a Fellow. As I was from Osmania University of Hyderabad, not even from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi or Delhi University, I needed to swallow several humiliations from the anti-globalization ( anti-globalization was a fashion then) London loving scholars.

I have no problem if the Planning Commission is done away with, a Soviet born baby, in the image of Leninist plan, seems to have served its purpose. When it was started all ideas were being generated from Oxford, by London Brahmins. But now the new ‘’Think Tank’’ is being conceived by Boston Brahmins, who subscribe to Hindutva ideology. What is the difference?

Even after 67 years of independence with a network of “Swadeshi Jagaranwalas” all around Modi’s Government, what is the need for importing intellectuals from the US ( Indian born or of Indian origin)?Is it because those who studied here, lived here cannot Think?

The tragedy is that all intellectuals in Sangh Parvar are busy in coining phases like “Love Jihad” to stop love marriages in India. But they do not synthesis productive field experience and coin phrases for a transformative purpose. The PM is saying “Lab to Land” but they are saying “Love to Die”. Remember there are some Harvard educated in coining new phrases like “Love Jihad’’. But they never coin any phrase for social reform or to abolish untouchability.

The nation has to become confident in its knowledge, build institutions that we ourselves respect. Economics is not alien to our rural masses. Production and distribution of goods was not taught to our ancestors by persons educated in Harvard, Columbia ,Oxford, Cambridge or Yale and so on.

The Harvard walas have created a feeling that this branch of knowledge called economics is not available here at all? Exactly on the lines of Pakistan elite, there is an elite caste/class here that wants to live in London or Boston or New York when they are not in power. If they get power they want to commute between New Delhi and those cities.

I am not against learning from all corners of the world. But as a pre-condition, at least, the intellectuals should work in our universities, teach our students. What is the use of attacking Harvard education when one is in opposition and depend on them when in power?

This country respected Raja Rammohan Roy, who lived for long in England and died in England

(in1833, Stapleton,Bristol) . But it never respected a man who constructed reformist knowledge only by studying here, living here and dying here—Mahatama Phule. The Bhadralok brahminism defined everything in its interests. Now it has become global. Should we fall into their trap again?

If Modi is against importing intellectuals to run the power structures he should change this culture of London or Boston Brahmins guiding our economic structures, while living in those countries. Nobody is saying they should not do research and write books on India.

We must understand that these intellectuals live there and manage awards also. They recognize those who got Western awards. But this country needs people like Phule, Kamaraj, Karpoori Thakur, who thought about this country day in and day out all along their life, those who lived amidst and died amidst this country’s people. Or at least like Ambedkar and Nehru they should live here and work for the people all along.