Tuesday, January 10, 2012

'Bias for thought against action'

"Although Indians blame ideology (and sometimes democracy) for their failings, the truth is that a mundane inability to implement policy -- reflecting a bias for thought and against action -- may have been even more damaging."

This is a quote from an essay written by Gurcharan Das in Sep., 2006 issue of Foreign Affairs. Nearly six years later, just about every point in the essay continues to hold good, including this trenchant comment about our bias for thought over action.

The most recent example of this was on display at the 99th Indian Science Congress, attended by over 15,000 scientists and students. Here, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared in his inaugural address that China had beaten India in science. A comment that drew headlines the next day.

A few days later, an intrepid journalist from the Indian Express, Amitabh Sinha,  found that Mr. Singh been repeating the same platitudes for years. Sinha notes, "speeches of the Prime Ministers in the last 10 years reveal how repetitive this exercise has become reflecting either a policy stasis in the sector, lack of bold reforms or both. Each year, the PM underlines the same themes: increase in investment, de-bureaucratisation of scientific establishments, public-private partnerships. So much so that sometimes the Prime Ministers use the same quote to make the point."

For a PM widely criticised for his 'masterly inactivity', one wonders why he had to bring China into this inaugural address. Was it to goad the scientists into action (while assuming they had a short memory), or was it merely to add a dash of variety & drama to his repetitive public statements that are merely reflect our continuing bias for thought against action?



ENS (2012): China has beaten us in science: PM, Indian Express, 4 Jan., 2012, URL - http://www.indianexpress.com/news/china-has-beaten-us-in-science-pm/895449/

Sinha, Amitabh (2012): If science seems stuck, so do the Prime Ministers, 8 Jan., 2012, URL- http://www.indianexpress.com/news/if-science-seems-stuck-so-do-the-prime-ministers/897127/

Kulkarni, Sudheendra (2012): INDIA NEEDS SWADESHI S&T, IE 8 Jan12 p11

Editorial - Indian Express (9 Jan 2012): THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, URL - http://www.indianexpress.com/news/the-more-things-change/897460/

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