ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Growth, Poverty and Reforms

India long suffered from a mindless commitment to policies that were advertised in the public policy domain as solutions to poverty and destitution but that tragically accentuated instead these tragic phenomena over decades. The economic reforms from 1991 onwards were meant to reverse the situation and have made a successful contribution. And yet we hear again sceptical voices against the reforms. Since a spirited response is necessary to prevent a roll back to the counterproductive policies of the past, it is useful to examine a few arguments against reforms in the public policy debate today that have superficial and hence popular appeal.

This is a celebratory occasion. The students who will receive their degrees today deserve our warmest congratulations. But even more so, we must salute the parents, many present today, without whose many sacrifices and unceasing nurturing, the graduating students could not have fulfilled their dreams today. I might recall my own parents who brought up seven sons and a daughter (and two cousins of ours), denying themselves and us any luxury but putting their hard-earned money exclusively into our education. None of us were indulged with even a rupee if we asked for money to go to restaurants or to dress in fancy clothes; but we had an open account at the local bookstore where we could run up bills up to hundreds of rupees! If I stand before you today, and if many of my brothers also did so well that my eldest brother became the chief justice of India and others have reached eminence in their professions as demanding as neuro-surgery, we owe it entirely to our parents’ vision and dedication to our education.

Your achievement is a product also of your own dedication; you did not fritter away the opportunity that came your way. And your achievement is particularly noteworthy because your university is unique in India. Its distinction includes two Nobel Laureates, Har Gobind Khurana and Abdus Salam. As it happens, my path crossed theirs, since I was a colleague of Professor Khurana at MIT in the US and a student in St John’s College, Cambridge in the UK when Dr Salam was a Fellow in the very same College. Your university’s unique eminence in India today also enhances my pleasure at the honour that is being conferred on me today by the award of an honorary degree.

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