Vinay Sahasrabuddhe may be a politician by profession affiliated with the BJP, but meet him in his Indian Council of Cultural Research (ICCR) office, and he appears to be a full-time academician. But ask him about his latest book, The Innovation Republic, and the ICCR chairperson appears as much an intellectual as he is a politician. The book tells the story of 17 important innovations introduced by the Modi government, some of which using breakthrough technologies and others creating new institutions, bu t” all of these ultimately bringing in greater efficiency and effectiveness in governing this vast country,” as the author reminds.
“People generally are averse of innovation because we relish status quoism. Theres an element of risk and criticism involved when one goes for change. Also, officialdoms, across the world, are status quoists in nature. Amid all this, we have a Prime Minister in Narendra Modi who is not afraid of innovative ideas. The book celebrates this new, bold mindset, “he says.
According to Sahasrabuddhe, PM Modi’s governance mantra minimum government, maximum governance has helped the NDA become “less corrupt, more people-friendly and not averse to risk-taking in the last four years. The entire process,” he explains, is: “Once there’s a policy, it paves the way for rules and regulations, which then reduce discretionary decision-making, leading to corruption being curbed.” He, however, doesn’t deny the “teething” problems associated with the change.
“The government’s entire endeavour is towards greater transparency. For instance, if all government money now directly goes into bank accounts, those not having accounts may face problems. But it has curbed corruption and stopped leakages. The government may face wrath in short term but its without doubt a good decision,” he says, reminding that the Modi government realises the hardships, which explain the initiation of schemes like Bank Mitra. Sahasrabuddhe is also aware of the Catch-22 situation the government and the party face. “I remember when the Centre implemented the biometric decision, most Delhiites became unhappy. Maybe that’s why we lost the elections then. But we have to take such decisions.”
The author also names GST and demonetisation to prove his point. “Both GST and demonetisation often criticised underscore our desire to not just fight black money but also initiate a clean one. Close to one crore people are under tax net now, thanks to the much-demonised note ban,” he says. So, what explains the the likes of the Nirav Modi phenomenon? “These incidents show how deep the rot is. Nirav Modi could loot so blatantly because the system had been badly tempered with over the decades. Things are changing now, but they will take time to settle down.”
As the ICCR chairperson, Sahasrabuddhe’s focus is to let both Indians and outsiders know and understand more about this country. “The problem is when we make some changes in our books or hold a cultural programme, we are being hurled with saffronisation charges. Its, in reality, de-Macaulayisation of Indian minds. Our students know more about America and Europe than they know about the Northeast or Ladakh. We have to make them aware of their own history and geography,” he adds.