Outrage over gang-rape, graft will catalyse change: Nilekani

Last Updated: Fri, Jan 25, 2013 16:30 hrs

Jaipur, Jan 25 (IANS) The mass outrage over the Delhi gang-rape and the protests against corruption will bring in real changes in governance in India, said UIDAI chief Nandan Nilekani and writer Gurcharan Das at the Jaipur Literature Festival Friday.

"In the past, agitations were sectoral - for quota, jobs and concessions. But the last two protests were about universal public goods - healthcare, education and law and order. You will see many changes in the next 10 years," said Nilekani, chairman of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and co-founder of software giant Infosys.

He was speaking at a session on India and China titled "The Elephant Paradigm, The Dragon Paradox".

"In every society, there is an event that leads to change. It will become an impetus to bring change. We are seeing a huge reaction and outrage to corruption and the terrible incident of gang-rape because of people's aspirations and one day it will lead to change, like the Rosa Parks episode during the civil rights movement in America. In a democracy, you have to spur change," said Nilekani.

Nilekani, the author of "Imagining India", said the Indian state had a very important role in people's lives - providing healthcare, education and building infrastructure. "It is not the state versus the market. It is about finding the right balance among state, market and society."

Gurcharan Das, author of "India Grows at Night" and a former CEO of Proctor and Gamble, said: "When you have a demand for reforms, reforms do take place, like the Anna Hazare movement or the gang-rape protests."

On India-China relations, Das said the rise of China threatened the world but the rise of India did not.

He said India had to let go of its non-alignment mindset. "We must be prepared from the security perspective. One neighbour (China) is giving the other (Pakistan) nuclear technology on a regular basis. I feel threatened," he said.

Das added that India's politics too had been sectional, giving reservations to Dalits and free power to farmers. "But with the recent gang-rape incident, politicians thought that everyone can benefit from improving law and order," he said.

Das said the state was created to manage law and order and what let down India in the last 65 years was failure of governance.

"Why should it take 12 years to get justice? Why should it take 10 years to get roads? We need deeper engagement with institutions of governance. The demand the civil society is creating is impressive. And the politician understands that. He is not a fool," Das added.

The third speaker, Peter Hessler, a China expert from the New Yorker magazine, countered this. "China is not a militaristic state. I'm more concerned about the United States."

To a query by a Chinese student in the gathering, Hessler said that on his first visit to China, he was surprised to find that it was not an intensely political state. "It was very impressive. But you cannot have a (literature) festival like this in China," said Hessler, the author of three books on China.

To this, Nilekani said: "People look at China but the best thing is for India to do well. Our best antidote is to become stronger."

The session was moderated by Daniel Kurtz-Phelan, a former editor of Foreign Affairs magazine.

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