WEEKEND LIGHTER: "I Do What I Do": Raghuram Rajan

WEEKEND LIGHTER:  “I Do What I Do”: Rajan
 (September 9/10, 2017)
Feel free to mail your views on this edition of WL to mgwarrier@gmail.com

Section II Leisure: Say your prayers regularly


I

Cover Story

“I Do What I Do”: Rajan

Former RBI governor Dr Raghuram G Rajan’s book “I do what I do: On Reform, Rhetoric and Resolve” released on September 5,  2017 and Rajan’s speeches and interactions following and preceding the book release, to be precise, from from September 4, 2017 the day he came out to speak after a one year self-imposed silence (claimed to be not to embarrass his successor Dr Urjit Patel while settling down as governor!) are becoming food and fodder for a hungry media and starved analysts. The euphoria is likely to last much longer than the interest generated by two memoirs published in quick succession by his two illustrious predecessors at Mint Road, namely Dr Duvvuri Subbarao and Dr Y V Reddy in that order.
We will not attempt a review of Rajan’s book at this stage for two reasons. One, the content of the book comprise speeches he delivered and articles he wrote which, we have read only very recently, except for explanatory notes prefixed and suffixed by the author to explain the context and add clarity. Two, the interviews given by Rajan and the reviews already published make another recap of the content of the book or comments thereon redundant. We will restrict the scope of this article to select observations by Dr Rajan himself about the book and comment on two or three select questions he has/should have asked himself about his performance as governor for which he has not been able to provide satisfactory answers.
 Dr Raghuram Rajan, with his long teaching experience and deep knowledge of the ins and outs of Indian financial sector, has been using his excellent communication skills ever since he started taking interest in India’s economic development. Viewed in this context, his new book “I Do What I Do” which comes out after the one year’s self-imposed ‘silence’ (Rajan claims this silence was not to embarrass his successor when he settles down as RBI governor!) will be more popular among economists, analysts and policy makers than the memoirs his two immediate predecessors brought out in quick succession in recent years.
“I Do What I Do” interprets events during the three year tenure of the author’s stay at Mint Road by just adding notes or explanations to what Dr Rajan has already spoken or written as RBI governor.

Demonetization

The cautious observation about short-term economic costs outweighing long-term benefits of demonetization now being made public is a masterstroke. As the opinion was given ‘orally’, it is always possible to play with the words like long term benefits and short term losses. The present observation makes it abundantly clear that RBI was associating with the groundwork for demonetization from February 2016.  The present revelations can also expose Dr Rajan to the allegation of having evaded the responsibility of not getting himself involved in preparing RBI adequately to implement the ‘Note ban’, once a decision was taken by GOI.

RBI’s capital and reserves

Rajan remained a mere spectator when the central bank’s capital and reserves eroded to an all time low during his tenure. Depending on an internal report which said RBI had “adequate reserves for three years” he saw the transfer of entire surplus income of RBI to GOI from 2013-14 to 2015-16. Result: The percentage of reserves to total assets came down from a self-set target of 12 (which the Bank had almost touched in 2009) to 7.5 in 2015-16.
Parity of pensionary benefits for RBI retirees with GOI
 His having shown pedestrian apathy to the cause of parity with central government staff in retirement benefits for RBI retirees, is intriguing, as, on record he was convinced about the genuineness of the long-pending demand from the staff. On page 211 of the book, Rajan laments:
"...On the internal front, my biggest regret is that I could not solve a long-pending matter that I inherited from my predecessors: securing for retired RBI staff the same pension benefits that government employees enjoy, despite repeated assurances from the government that the matter would be addressed. I hope the government will do the right thing here..."


On his return to academia
As always, Rajan has pre-empted his adversaries from reading between the lines. One of two examples is about his exit on completion of his “sanctioned leave”. Now he blames the absence of “offer on the table”, while everyone knows his one foot was all through in Chicago!
Credit should go to Rajan
Rajan’s contribution to sorting out some of the long-pending relationship issues between the government and the RBI and expediting banking sector reforms will be remembered in India with gratitude.
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II

Leisure

Light in the funeral pire

Today (September 10), Mathrubhumi Vaaranthappathippu carried a full page article Rathi Narayanan on Ramesh Korappath, who has, by choice, accepted a life time (24X7) occupation serving humanity, intermediating between death and post-death "life". You've guessed correctly. He is a post graduate in History and Economics and is overseeing a crematorium "Iver Madom" on the banks of River Nila in Palghat District. Iver Madom accepts maximum number of dead bodies, next only to Banaras.
Rathi Narayanan has brought out the approach to life and death, attitude to charity and service to humanity and a philosophy that Ramesh nurtures and preaches.
Human beings like Ramesh helps humanity survive.
M G Warrier
Say your prayers, regularly!
No, I have not been able to practice this regularly. But, since my early childhood, I've seen my father doing this.
Once he wakes up in the morning, he used to sit in the bed for about a minute, touch the floor with his right hand and say:
"Samudravasane Devi
Parvathasthanapandithe
Vishnupriye Namastubhyam
Paadasparsham Kshamaswa Me"
While going to bed, his prayer, translated into English was:
Protect, me and my family
Let everything good happen
Protect us from
Poverty and dreaded ailments (Mahaavyaadhi)...
Let all good things happen..."
you will amused to know the context I thought of sharing these thoughts:
I was reading an interview with Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan in one of the "Onam Special" magazines. A seasoned journalist who was asking questions touched God and Astrology and asked specifically whether Pinarayi Vijayan had got the horoscopes of his children prepared. The answer was revealing:
"You know, this is the age of computer horoscopes... They are there... But so far no occasion came to take them out and see..."
I thought, there's no harm in being regular in saying our prayers, the content, of course will depend on the individual’s attitude.
I may pray, "My SB account balance should not go below the benchmark attracting fines"
and one of the Ambanis may pray, "Please ensure, next year my position improves in the list of billionaires"
I don't think anyone will follow my father.

M G Warrier

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