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2 November 2015

RBI Governor calls for tolerance to keep open the ‘idea factory’

Quodsi everti ancillae vim qui lorem persius petentium RBI Governor calls for tolerance to keep open the ‘idea factory’

New Delhi, Nov 2 (ENA)  What does an educational institution or a nation need to do to keep the idea factory open? The first essential is to foster competition in the market place for ideas, the second being to protect the right to question and challenge, said RBI Governor, Raghuram Rajan.

“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. Instead, all ideas should be scrutinized critically, no matter whether they originate domestically or abroad, whether they have matured over thousands of years or a few minutes, whether they come from an untutored student or a world-famous professor,” Rajan said, calling for tolerance in the ‘idea factory.’

The RBI Governor was speaking at the convocation of his alma mater, IIT Delhi on October-31 on the subject – ‘Tolerance and Respect for Economic Progress.’  He went on to explain why India’s tradition of debate and an open spirit of enquiry are critical for its economic progress.

Ideas start with questioning and alternative viewpoints, sometimes seemingly silly ones, he said adding that the second essential to keeping the idea factory open was protection, not of specific ideas and traditions, but the right to question and challenge, the right to behave differently so long as it does not hurt others seriously.

“In this protection lies societal self-interest, for it is by encouraging the challenge of innovative rebels that society develops, that it gets the ideas that propel Solow’s total factor productivity growth. Fortunately, India has always protected debate and the right to have different views. Some have even embedded these views in permanent structures. Raja Raja Chola, in building the magnificent Brihadeeswara Shaivite temple at Thanjavur, also incorporated sculptures of Vishnu as well as the meditating Buddha thus admitting to alternative viewpoints. When Shahenshah Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar invited scholars of all manner of persuasion to debate the eternal verities at his court, he was only following older traditions of our Hindu and Buddhist kings, who encouraged and protected the spirit of enquiry,” he explained.

What then of group sentiment, Rajan asked? Should ideas or behaviour that hurt a particular intellectual position or group not be banned? Possibly, but a quick resort to bans will chill all debate as everyone will be anguished by ideas they dislike. It is far better to improve the environment for ideas through tolerance and mutual respect, he said.

“Actions that physically harm anyone, or show verbal contempt for a particular group so that they damage the group’s participation in the marketplace for ideas, should certainly not be allowed,” he emphasised, adding that sexual harassment, whether physical or verbal, has no place in society.

Laying emphasis on the virtue of tolerance, “Tolerance means not being so insecure about one’s ideas that one cannot subject them to challenge – it implies a degree of detachment that is absolutely necessary for mature debate. Tolerance can take the offense out of debate, and indeed instil respect...Tolerance and respect then lead to a good equilibrium where they reinforce each other,” he said.

IITans like you will lead India’s race for ideas. The India that you will graduate into is much more capable of using your technological prowess than the India we graduated into, he said wishing the graduates unlimited ambition, great success for those who continue thinking and challenging.

“But as you go out in the world, remember our tradition of debate in an environment of respect and tolerance. By upholding it, by fighting for it, you will be repaying your teachers in this great institution, and your parents who worked so hard to send you here. And you will be doing our country a great patriotic service,” he said.  (ENA Bureau)

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