“I am not saying that at all. It is a responsible role. Sometimes he raises interest rates to control inflation and sometimes he lowers it to control inflation. Sometimes he raises interest rates to promote employment and sometimes he lowers it to promote employment. Sometimes he raises interest rates to improve the Foreign Exchange reserves and sometimes he lowers it to improve Foreign Exchange reserves.
At any given point of time, half the people are in favour of raising interest rates and the other half, as you might already have calculated, are in favour of reducing them. For achieving the same goals.
Once the action has been taken, either reducing or increasing rates, half the people, irrespective of what they were advocating before the decision was taken, are of the opinion that the situation has improved and the other half, as you might again have calculated, irrespective of what they were advocating before the decision was taken, hold the opinion that the situation has deteriorated.”
The recently appointed ruling-party member of the Rajya Sabha, who, for the sake of brevity we will call SS, was at pains to explain the importance of the role of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). He had been cornered by a section of the media wanting to know the reasons behind the letter he had written to the Prime Minister asking for the removal of the RBI Governor, who, for the sake of brevity again, we will call RR. But, having studies and taught Economics at a leading American University, he was on home ground in this discussion.
SS had begun the discussion on a bellicose note, stating in no uncertain terms, “Unprofessional conduct will not be tolerated. Senior jobs are only for professionals. We owe it to the common man who has voted for professionalism in public affairs. We need a thorough professional for the position of RBI Governor.”
The gathered mediapersons cast accusing glances around the room at the other mediapersons, as if asking “Did you vote for professionalism in public affairs? Coz it wasn’t me.”
Schooled by their profession to be unfazed by political belligerence, they had shot back at SS with, “Can you explain what you mean by professional? Does RR not come with the highest professional qualifications, having studied at the most renowned educational institutions in India, thereafter continuing studies at a leading American University where he has also been teaching”?
“Unfortunately professional has become a loosely used term. I don’t think you people understand the meaning of the word professional,” SS had shot back with equal energy, which quickly transformed into a masterclass of what professional really means, for the gathered mediapersons. “Do you know who is a professional? A professional is one who toes the party-line; of the party in power. A professional is one who is unable to make eye contact with a passing politician, of whatever rank the politician be. A professional is one who speaks in the voice of his employer and can explain away frequent missteps of his employers, politicians in this case, with arcane theories. A professional is who has little independent standing in the world and is forever beholden to the political establishment for his job.
Look at the legendary RBI governors we have had in the past. Thorough professionals. Very few people would have even suspected the existence of the post of RBI Governor, let alone heard their name. And almost nobody knew how their job impacted anyone’s life. Oh, how we wish for such men in today’s times.”
The gathered mediapersons looked at each other. It was as if a weight had been lifted off their chest. They finally knew who a professional was. But they were mediapersons. It was not in their JD to let go. They persisted: “But surely that cannot be reason enough for asking for his removal.”
SS, seeing that the mediapersons were getting it, mellowed down: “You are right. Everyone knows we are fair people. We are fair to everyone who agrees with us. There is another charge against RR. Do you know that he is mentally not fully Indian and has wilfully wrecked the economy.”
Media: “But how did you measure his mental Indianness?”
SS: “I will tell you how. How many times have you heard him say that mythology, wherever it is Hindu, is equal to history?”
Mediapersons looked at each other. They had heard and seen leading politicians and religious leaders do it, but never RR. They shook their heads and said “never”.
SS smiled wryly and continued. “Have you heard him say ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ without any reason, especially when someone senior in the political hierarchy is watching?”
Mediapersons looked at each other. They had seen and heard leading Bollywood actors and politicians do it, but never RR. The light of realisation was dawning. They shook their heads and said “never”.
SS: “Now do you see why he is not fully Indian?”
Mediapersons were quiet. Sensing his opportunity, SS moved in for the kill: “Moreover, he is also mentally not fully Indian because he has studied and taught Economics at a leading American University. How can you entrust the affairs of the RBI to such a person. We have more mentally fully Indian applicants for the position who have not studied or taught at any leading American University. Some of them have not even studied or taught at any leading, or even lagging, Indian University.
He is not a politician, after all. Only Indian politicians have the ability to study and teach at a leading American University and still be mentally fully Indian. Other than that, the only position open to Non-Resident Indians is a nomination to the Rajya Sabha, especially if they are rich and are likely to invest in unviable businesses by borrowing money from public sector banks.
Besides, he was appointed by the previous government.”
Mediapersons reeled. Logic was difficult to argue against at the best of times. Coming from a maverick leader with a penchant for shooting his mouth off at the slightest provocation, it became an insurmountable task. They struggled to regain some dignity and made a weak query: “But what about the position itself? Do you not think it is an important position for which we should seek out the best person?”
SS’ response is captured in the opening paragraphs of this story. He concluded that analysis with: “As there no clear evidence to say what really happens when interest rates are either reduced or increased, he must be operating against the interest of the country. QED.”
Refreshment trolleys being rolled in saved further embarrassment for the mediapersons. They could avoid looking into the searing eyes of SS with the excuse of picking up a cup of tea.
SS, sensing the need of the moment, climbed down from the dais and mingled with the group. Placing his arm around the shoulders of one, he said, “These are dark days indeed. If RBI governors start opening their mouths and voicing opinions, what will politicians do? Do we want thousands of politicians to lose their jobs just because we have a transparent RBI governor? It will lead to anarchy. Whose utterances will people make fun of? How will we waste the billions we collect as taxes? Senior people need to be careful.”
Picking up a cup of tea and moving onto another scribe, he continued, “Look at toxic debts of public sector banks. Which RBI governor in the past has pushed public sector banks to sever relationships with leading industrial houses by asking for borrowings to be paid back? How will the country finance the next elections if we make recovery claims against industrialists? On whose money will industrialists make merry?”
Moving onto a third scribe, he said, “Have you heard of an RBI governor saying ‘in the land of the blind, one-eyed is king’? Which country’s Central Bank does he think he manage that he has to speak the truth? Norway? Canada? The common man in India is mature. He can handle lies. Again and again. The same ones.”
Meanwhile, at another event, the RBI governor has expressed views. Once again. On the Licence raj and Permit raj. On regulations for small and medium enterprises. On smooth availability of finance. On access to input and output market. On healthy competition. And many other areas that planners and governments need to focus on.
Some people never learn, it seems.