Raghuram Rajan repeats: We need to resist bid to close our society

Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan reiterated on Wednesday that India would be “crazy to lose” its biggest advantage and emphasised the “need to keep an open society” and “resist all attempts at closing it down”.

DAYS AFTER he called for “tolerance and mutual respect”, Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan reiterated on Wednesday that India would be “crazy to lose” its biggest advantage and emphasised the “need to keep an open society” and “resist all attempts at closing it down”.

“It’s very important that both fringes, extreme left and extreme right, don’t say I’m going to shut you off if you don’t say what I want to hear,” Rajan said in an interview to a Bloomberg team that included Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait. “It has to be a genuine debate. You have to preserve that environment. Thankfully, the mainstream is well and truly supportive of this.”

Referring to his October 31 speech on tolerance at IIT-Delhi, he said: “It wasn’t a speech about here and now. It was more about where is the dialogue going and how are we going to maximise the advantage we already have. For that we need to keep this an open society and we need to resist all attempts at closing it down.”

“You cannot have a debate by screaming at one another. Let the ideas fight each other but let’s not prevent each other from saying what we think,” said Rajan, adding that everyone across the political spectrum should “calm down a bit in order to foster healthy debate.”

Rajan said India would be “crazy to lose” the biggest advantage it has over countries at a similar stage of development. Stating that India’s democracy is its greatest strength, Rajan said his speech was “an exhortation to support a fundamental future underpinning for growth.”
At the IIT-Delhi convocation on October 31, Rajan had emphasised the need to “improve the environment for ideas through tolerance and mutual respect”. He had also warned that “excessive political correctness stifles progress” and “a quick resort to bans will chill all debate”.

He had said that protection should be given “not to specific ideas and traditions, but the right to question and challenge” and the “right to behave differently so long as it does not hurt others seriously”.

“India’s tradition of debate and an open spirit of enquiry is critical for its economic progress,” he had said. “The first essential is to foster competititon in the marketplace of ideas. This means encouraging challenge to all authority and tradition, even while acknowledging that the only way of dismissing any view is through empirical tests. What this rules out is anyone imposing a particular view or ideology because of their power,” Rajan had said.