Friday, June 17, 2005

A Letter to Jairam Ramesh and his Reply

Jairam Ramesh is a prominent figure in the Congress Party in India in which he has held several key positions in the past. He has also served in the Planning Commission, Ministry of Industry and other economic departments of the central government in various capacities. He is the architect of the National Common Minimum Program of the present government and was a key player in developing India's 1991 economic reforms. He graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering @ IIT-Bombay and later studied public management @ CMU and technology policy, economics, engineering and management for a year @ MIT.

My mail/request to Mr. Jairam Ramesh

"Mr. Ramesh,

I have admired you for a long time and more after I saw the "Commanding Heights" documentary that aired on PBS. However, I feel bad in a way that an American free media had to introduce us to the people behind the reforms in India. The men behind the whole documentary were economists and people profiled are from across the spectrum - politicians, economists, policy makers, etc. I would believe you have the knowledge and the connections to reach out to the people who have shaped India since its Independence.

It would be wonderful if you could take the initiative to work on a documentary to profile the whole economic/public policy process of India from the days of Independence to what it is now without any political affiliation of any sort. Although the PBS segment on India itself was very little compared to the length of the documentary, the segment dealt with the period after the reforms in 1990 and economic changes that followed - free markets, globalization, etc. Not many people in India (students mostly and I confidently would say MOST politicians) know about the first five year plan, the core economists that shaped the first economy after Independence, changes in the intermediate period, development and contributions of economists (Sen, Bhagwati, Manmohan Singh, K.N.Raj, Bimal Jalan, Rangarajan, etc.) in the 'unbundling' of India. I am sure there are so many budding economists in India and abroad who would be more than happy to devote their time and energy for this cause (including me although I am just an engineer with a strong interest in public policy and economics!!).

If this is a task that cannot be implemented soon, you must ATLEAST attempt to maintain a blog of some sort to share with us the operation of the government on a daily basis. There is absolutely no way for us (young people) to interact with politicians or policy makers of any sort and I would appreciate if people like you would take a more pro-active step to keep us 'informed'. "

Mr. Ramesh's prompt reply,

"many thanks for the nice words. your idea is a good one. it exists in bits and pieces but not in a consolidated manner (if interested read v.n. balasubrahmanyam's "conversations with indian economists")
do stay in touch. "

Let me reinforce the book in bold again -
"Conversations With Indian Economists" by V. N. Balasubramanyam.

India has a whole bunch of people with a wealth of knowledge and experience (retired RBI governors, former advisors to the central government, prominent reformers, etc) who remain a valuable source of reliable information of the past and present economic system. I think a concerned effort must be made to engage them in a dialogue in understanding the real problems faced rather than pointing fingers at politicians and policy makers!!

A complete netcast of the six hour Commanding Heights storyline that aired in three parts in PBS is available here. Also included are some essays in the same website.


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