Harvard, hard work and Modi


A letter to the editor from Gopalakrishna Gandhi published in The Hindu (March 2) prompted me to search for this report. Gandhi was highly critical of Modi's comment on Harvard.
M G Warrier

My response

Economists, politics and linguistics!
Prime Minister Modi’s expression of preference to ‘hard work’ over ‘Harvard’ is being widely discussed in media for the last few days. Narendra Modi had successfully used this ‘preference’ in BJP’s 2014 election campaign, then targeting P Chidambaram who has ‘Harvard connection’. This season, media and analysts have taken Modi more seriously, as they feel that now PM is targeting an Honorable man, namely Amartya Sen whom nation had earlier respected by awarding Bharat Ratna and who is a Nobel laureate. What went wrong?

I do not support the view that the professors and research scholars do less important jobs than the farmers or factory workers who work hard to produce food grains and industrial goods. And I do not believe that Prime Minister had any specific activity involving hard work or the Harvard campus in particular in his mind while first talking about ‘hard work and Harvard’, which latter got popular. In his post-demonetization remarks, his anguish, possibly was against the strong criticism unleashed by analysts, economists and media against a measure initiated by his government in good faith and following due procedure.
Politicians are not saints.  Dr Manmohan Singh’s observation that “Waging a war on black money may sound enticing. But it cannot entail even a single loss of life of an honest Indian” and Amartya Sen’s description of demonetization as “a despotic move that has struck at the root of an economy based on trust” are harsh and if they have provoked Modi to respond the way in which he has done, the episode deserves deeper analysis.

Now, there are constituency issues. MMS and Sen can choose their own time to respond or refuse to respond on current issues of public interest. Professors and analysts have the freedom to indulge in monologues while expressing their views on controversial matters. PM is in the media glare 24X7.
Mentioned all these to drive home the point that if veterans maintain elegance and restraint in their expression, the likelihood of their being drawn into controversies would be less. We have examples of Kalam, Pranab Mukherjee, C Rangarajan, Bimal jalan and many others who have been knowledgeable and outspoken, but were using elegant and socially acceptable language that did not hurt the opponents.
M G Warrier, Mumbai


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