Unravelling a Narrative on Education, Economy and the Vision Forward with Dr Raghuram Rajan

Unravelling a Narrative on Education, Economy and the Vision Forward with Dr Raghuram Rajan

“Our development has to build on our unique aspects, more specifically on our liberal democracy and institutions, and that will be our strength. The future is limitless.”  

These inspiring words pitched the gateway to a deeply insightful session anchored by Dr Raghuram Rajan, as he shared narratives on the need-of-the-hour remedies for India’s economic recovery, on creating better education and healthcare systems, and working on using hard infrastructure to facilitate access to markets.

In a wide-ranging discussion, with the students at Krea, Dr Rajan also responded to a room brimming with questions and shared his perspectives on various aspects, from making a choice to move away from the rat race, better ways of financial inclusion, entrepreneurship and its merits, lessons from history and the need for young students such as the audience to fight for preserving and advancing the India that we have created, with resilience and optimism.

Dr Raghuram Rajan kicked off the interaction shedding light on the K-shaped economic recovery in India and how poor employment numbers are the key indicators of economic underperformance.

“One of the numbers that really struck me is the female participation in the workforce in India and it was the lowest in G 20 along with Saudi Arabia in 2019.  Even Saudi Arabia has reformed, opening up jobs for women, their labor force participation for women is 33% today, we are still at 20%. We have a long way to go.”

He expressed the need for a reality check, on what could be rectified and done differently. On why a country with definite successes such as the largest two-wheeler industry in the world, ability of ISRO to send missions to Mars for a fraction of the cost as NASA and whose UPI is being emulated in many countries as a case study of fast payments, is still underperforming.

He laid emphasis on creating hard infrastructure that allows connections and access to markets and soft infrastructure such as creating more education and healthcare. He suggested that withing the economy, India focus on services more than goods. He conveyed the importance of investing in people and how the biggest concern today is not economic recovery but schooling, especially of young children in government schools who have been set back by two years and are in the danger of dropping out.

Reminiscing his time at RBI, he spoke of days when they would step out to have a meal at the home of a Class 4 employee, the lowest tier of employment in the organisation. “It was a fascinating sight to see the children of these employees work with Infosys and some as bank managers. In one generation they had moved out of the low level of employment to this, that’s what education can do.”

As the session moved on to the Q&A segment, the questions rolled in succession. Answering one of the queries on disparity, he retorted “We have to work on ensuring quality of education spreads from stronger universities to weaker ones. Universities like Krea should become research universities, so they can train teachers and students at Krea could do a PhD, come back and populate the other universities. Create an ecosystem and spread the benefits. This won’t happen overnight and will take 20-30 years to realise but any vision has to start now.

In answer to a query on colonialism and India and its dire effects on India’s progress, Dr Rajan recommended that we look forward and use history in matters such as dialogues on climate change. “Use it to insist on the right to more emissions than Western countries as they have been destroying the atmosphere for a much longer time”.

Speaking in response to a question on financial inclusion, Dr Rajan emphasised how entities in microfinance do bridge the gap through easy facilitation of credit, but the bigger problem lay in the management of finance by the poor. There is an urgent need of imparting skills and education before providing credit to them. In many such cases, Fintech could step in at places where banks are reluctant and even hand hold them, exploring new possibilities and ways to access.

On being asked to comment on the ‘rat race’ and a way out of it, he advised, “You can refuse to be part of the rat race. There are so many possibilities today. As we grow richer as a country, we can afford basic living in what we do and wherever we are. Then you can look at fulfilment in what you do instead of from the salary you are getting.”

Sharing anecdotes laced with humor from his own life experience, Dr Rajan explained how during his younger days, the choices were limited to either the IIT, the stream of medical science and to some extent the Economics at St Stephens and becoming an entrepreneur was often associated with youngsters who couldn’t land employment opportunities. On how he succumbed to the rat race, studied at IIT and later circled back to Economics. He shed light on how there were innumerable opportunities for the young graduates today.

As a parting note, Dr Rajan left these powerful words with the young audience to mull and act on. “As young people you need to fight for a better India, the future of the country is in your hands. Fight for a country which embodies the best of the past. We have a constant battle on what is best and it’s you who has to decide that. The experiment of India that our founding fathers thought of is a bold one, let’s not lose the best of what we created, let’s preserve that. Do whatever you do with all the energy you have. It’s not necessary to be a social worker or work in an NGO, you can produce the best widget in the world and still add value. Just go out and be the best in whatever you do.”

Lekshmi Gopinathan reports, from the Communications Desk.

In conversation with Dr Vishakha N Desai, Member, Governing Council and Academic Council at Krea University

In conversation with Dr Vishakha N Desai, Member, Governing Council and Academic Council at Krea University

Dr Vishakha Desai is a member, Governing Council and Academic Council, Krea University. She is also Senior Advisor for Global Affairs at Columbia University, and an adjunct professor at the School of International and Public Affairs. She was President and CEO of the Asia Society, a leading global organisation committed to strengthening partnerships among the people, leaders and institutions of Asia and the United States. In 2012, President Barack Obama appointed her to serve on the National Museums and Library Services Board. Dr Desai holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Mumbai, and MA and PhD in Asian Art History from the University of Michigan.

Dr Desai, the theme for the International Women’s Day 2022 is ‘Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow’. Why, according to you, is every word in this year’s theme is crucial

The phrase sustainable future, implies that it would be a future that would have consistency, a clear path and continuous renewal. Such a world is not possible if half the human race is not fully involved in creating that future. Equality doesn’t just mean participation but also equity of ownership, where women not only need a place at the table but also have the capacity to change the shape of the table, if necessary, to create a more sustainable future. 

Personally, do you believe that the world needs to dedicate a day exclusively to reinforce, reiterate the role, existence and impact of women in society? What is your view?

I wish we didn’t have to dedicate a day to highlight the role of women in society. It implies that the days in the rest of the year are not about issues and aspirations of women. The main reason we need to highlight women’s contributions on a single day is to remind everyone that this needs to continue throughout the year! Not a token that can be forgotten the next day, but an important step that paves a road. 

In an interview about your recent book, World as Family, responding to the relevance and importance of the idea of the book, you say, “​​the Coronavirus reminds us that no matter where we are, and who we are, the pathogens of the pandemic will affect our bodies the same way. My dancer friend Faustin Linyekula once said, the world lives in our body.” If we were to apply the same principle to the context of gender equality, would you say, women across the world – no matter the countries they are from – are grappling with a common set of issues and are in a sense, united in their fight for equality?

With the exception of a few matrilineal societies, it is fair to say that women in many parts of the world face issues of discrimination, but they are not always the same. As we have learned with Covid, while the pandemic affects people with the same level of alacrity, it does matter how individual countries or local communities handle the pandemic. Similarly, while women suffer inequality universally, how their issues are handled by political and social leaders does affect their well-being. 

You call two countries – India, and the United States – your home. As a woman, have you had to straddle these two worlds, differently? 

Given the different cultural contexts of the two countries, of course, one has to be sensitive to the surrounding conditions. But I do feel that through my upbringing in early independent India in a family of Gandhian freedom fighters, I learned to have my feet firmly planted while keeping my mind and eyes open to the world.  And that has served me well no matter where I am. 

What is your take on the global progress on gender equality?

After the Beijing women’s conference, there was a strong sense that women all over the world will continue to move forward with confidence, but it is fair to say that the progress has been unequal. For example, in India, more girls were going to school but during the pandemic, it affected young female students as well as women workers more adversely than men. In other words, in many parts of the world, new policies may have been put in place, the social attitudes have not changed fast enough because there has been less attention paid to changing the mindset. 

In countries across the world, women even in positions of power have had to make choices that men are less likely to make. While workplace policies over years have attempted bridging the divide, at a time when the world is talking of gender equality for a sustainable future, how do we accelerate systematic support so that women continue career roles while they continue to be mothers and caregivers?

First and foremost, we have to recognize that all societies have to account for the needs of families to provide shelter and financial support and taking care of the children and elders. These functions need not be gendered.  That is the reason some northern European countries are focusing on support for children and elders and not penalize women who often end up being the caretakers. 

Do you believe that the fight for equal rights is an everyday work-in-progress? 

Yes.

Do you have any advice for students who seek careers at the intersection of sustainable development and gender?

Sustainable development is often exclusively associated with environment and climate change, and it sounds very neutral. But as we are learning now, issues of equity, class and gender do affect how the climate crisis plays out. For example, it is only in the last five years or so, scholars have begun to highlight how the urban poor are more adversely affected by environmental degradation than others.  Similarly, the environmental degradation caused by wood and cow dung-burning cooking affects rural women more severely, and requires a gendered lens.  So, it is important to provide a gendered lens to the questions of environmental sustainability , and in the process expand the definition of sustainable development.  

And finally, if you were to share with us, three women you consider your role-models, who would they be?

My mother, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and my women friends in their late eighties who continue to be engaged, active and always interesting! 

Nobel Laureate Dr. Esther Duflo joins Krea University’s Governing Council

Nobel Laureate Dr. Esther Duflo joins Krea University’s Governing Council

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Nobel Laureate Dr. Esther Duflo as a Member of our Governing Council.

Dr. Esther Duflo is an economist and professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She is also Co-Founder and Co-Director at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). She was awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize for Economics (the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in memory of Alfred Nobel) along with Dr. Abhijit Banerjee and Dr. Michael Kremer for developing an innovative experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.

Welcoming Dr. Esther Duflo to the Governing Council, Mr. Kapil Viswanathan, Chairman of Executive Committee & Member of Governing Council, Krea University said, “As a path-breaking scholar who has brought scientific method and rigor to the social sciences, Dr. Esther Duflo personifies Krea University’s interwoven approach to research and learning. It is a great privilege to welcome her as a member of Krea University’s governing council.”     

Commenting on her appointment, Dr. Esther Duflo said, “It is fair to say that we would not have received a Nobel prize had it not been for all the research we could do in India, thanks in large part to the support we received from Krea University’s sponsoring body since 2008.  I look forward to helping Krea University realize its mission to help humanity prepare for an unpredictable world.”

Recognising this appointment, Vice Chancellor of Krea University Dr Mahesh Rangarajan, stated “Professor Duflo is exceptional as a scholar, researcher and teacher not only for her outstanding work but equally so for the impact of her ideas on the larger world.  Her leadership and interventions also set a standard for scholars, policymakers and the public at large.”

IFMR GSB PhD scholars present papers co-authored by Prof Madhuri Saripalle at 17th CAED Conference

IFMR GSB PhD scholars present papers co-authored by Prof Madhuri Saripalle at 17th CAED Conference

We are delighted to share that Aditya Kumar and Manasi B – two PhD Scholars at IFMR GSB (Batch of 2019) – presented their individual papers at the recently concluded 17th Comparative Analysis of Enterprise Data (CAED) Conference organized by the Faculty of Economics – University of Coimbra, Portugal. 

Aditya’s paper was on “Determinants of Export Intensity in the Indian Food Industry”, and Manasi’s paper delved into the “Growth of the Indian Pharmaceutical Firms: An Empirical Analysis”. Both the papers were co-authored by Prof Madhuri Saripalle (Associate Professor at IFMR GSB). Congratulations to them!

Professor Sudip Roy elected as Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry for his contribution to the Chemical Sciences

Professor Sudip Roy elected as Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry for his contribution to the Chemical Sciences

Dr Sudip Roy, Visiting Associate Professor of Chemistry, has been elected as a Fellow to the prestigious Royal Society of Chemistry. This honour is in recognition of his significant contribution to the Chemical Sciences and extensive work with Industry and promoting industry-academia collaborations. Dr. Sudip Roy has 20 years of experience in research and innovation. Dr. Roy obtained his Ph.D. in chemical sciences from the University of Saarland in Germany followed by post-doctoral work at Technical University Darmstadt, Germany. He is a Chevening fellow 2019 and studied management of research, science, and innovation at the University of Oxford.

Measuring women’s unpaid work: Understanding the challenges

Measuring women’s unpaid work: Understanding the challenges

While it is a welcome attempt to provide worth to housework, steps to reduce and redistribute such work are, perhaps, more important than asking for women’s unpaid work to be monetised, even notionally. They are important to ensure women’s rights and a sense of social justice. Soumya Kapoor Mehta (Head – IWWAGE) and Sona Mitra (Principal Economist – IWWAGE) look at the challenges to compensating women for their unpaid work. Read the article published by The Hindustan Times here.

State-of-the-art incubation centre launched

State-of-the-art incubation centre launched

Catalyst AIC now has a full-functional, state-of-the-art incubation infrastructure in Jaipur, spreading across 11,000 sq.ft. The space has been designed keeping in mind the kind of vibrant and bustling environment that technology entrepreneurs need, backed by high-end facilities for the team as well as the incubated startup teams. Launched recently, Catalyst AIC has already entered into significant partnerships with various organisations including Jaipur Rugs, Social Alpha, LEAD at Krea, RAIN, Sirohi, TiE, Upaya Social Ventures, Creative Dignity, among others.

IFMR GSB Faculty publishes impactful research paper

Sumit

IFMR GSB faculty member — Sumit Mishra, Assistant Professor, Economics and Data Science has published another impactful research paper. His paper “Diversity Deficit and Scale-Flip” co-authored with Naveen Bharathi (Harvard University), Deepak Malghan (IIM – Bangalore), and Andaleeb Rahman (Cornell University published in the Journal of Development Studies, using data from more than half a million villages in India, shows that greater caste-diversity is associated with better public goods access in rural India.

IWWAGE launches ‘Gender in Focus’ Magazine

Gender in focus IWWAGE (1)

IWWAGE, an initiative of LEAD at Krea University, launched the first edition of its quarterly Magazine, Gender in Focus. The digital magazine showcases IWWAGE’s work in the intervention, research and advocacy space around key issues emerging as challenges for women’s economic empowerment in India. Gender in Focus presents a teaser of some of the work that IWWAGE is involved in, to address some of these challenges and in capturing best practices.

The inaugural issue brought voices from the field based on open-ended discussions held with our partner civil society organisations in four states, on how women and their groups have been affected by the pandemic and the lockdown. In addition, the issue provides snapshots of webinars conducted around the theme of COVID-19 and its impacts on women in different domains, and presents a new series of policy notes, to provide timely and actionable recommendations so that policies or programmes announced by governments help build not only a more resilient, but a gender responsive world post COVID. Besides the emphasis on COVID, this Gender in Focus issue presents summaries of the other exciting work that IWWAGE has been engaged in, such as, unpacking state-wise trends in labour force participation in India, the sectors that women work in and wage gaps; a new policy and programme series (also at the state level) to map what programmes exist and are targeted at women, and their effectiveness; women’s engagement with the gig economy and the precariousness they face while engaging with such platforms; and digital solutions that IWWAGE is working on with its tech partners in helping women gain information about their rights and entitlements. Gender in Focus can be downloaded from the website with this link- Gender in Focus.