Resignation of Urjit Patel and Indian State

First, it was the resignation of Arvind Panagariya. An incident. Second, it was the resignation of Arvind Subramanian. A coincidence. Third, it was the resignation of Urjit Patel. A pattern.

I know that just three resignations in the mighty Indian State do not make a pattern. But then, these are not the resignations of a regular working professional but of highly respected and widely acclaimed professionals from their field.

Arvind Panagariya, Arvind Subramanian and Urjit Patel were not dependent on the Indian State to make their name and fame. They were not seeking any patronage or favours from the Indian State. They were not interested in any post-retirement posting either. Rather, these people chose to leave aside greener pastures and came to work for their mother-land. And, then, they resigned.

What do their resignations tell us about the governance of Indian State?

Only the IAS survives the Indian State

Have we ever come across any resignations from the IAS/IPS cadre? None. Unless of course, it is for jumping into the political arena himself/herself. An IAS officer seems to be facing no difficulty in working with political bosses. Wonder how UPSC selects them? Or is it their training? No idea.

There would not be any of these 3 resignations should an IAS officer be appointed to carry on these tasks.

These 3 resignations are a sure shot indication that the idea of lateral entry to the Indian State is going to be an utter flop (I am limiting myself calling it an idea of lateral recruitment, as it is never going to see any execution).

(I am aware that the person appointed in place of Arvind Panagariya is not an IAS, but the person appointed has also given free reins to Amitabh Kant, an IAS. The person appointed in place of Arvind Subramanian is not an IAS, but a professor from ISB, with no mandate. The person appointed in place of Urjit Patel is surely an IAS, a retiree, a history graduate).

Political leadership keeps professionals till they toe their line

Unlike Congress, Narendra Modi government did bring in the professionals. But they were more like trophy appointments. Till the time they followed the commands, their presence was required to give credibility to the government actions.

Arvind Panagariya did not have anything worthwhile to do in Niti Aayog apart from adding his signature to whatever Amitabh Kant was up to. There was actually no line for him to toe, he anyways resigned.

Arvind Subramanian had an Economic Survey to publish every year. There was not much to publish though, but he marched on. Then came the new GDP data re-worked, the back-series. He resigned.

Urjit Patel tagged along on the demonetisation, the idea was sound, the execution was not. Then came the issues of weak banks, the RBI reserves, the RBI autonomy and so on. He resigned.

After having burned the fingers 3 times, Arun Jaitley was not going to repeat the mistake. He saw the pattern that the trophy appointments do not work. He opted for the IAS, the tried and tested, guaranteed by the Britishers.

Markets do not care for the professionals

RBI Deputy Governor Viral Acharya said, “the governments that did not respect their central bank’s independence would sooner or later incur the wrath of financial markets”. What happened after the resignation of Urjit Patel? What happened after the appointment of Shaktikanta Das? I do not suppose markets came to know about either.

Markets mirror the Indian State or is it the other way around? Does it even matter? One thing for sure is that Viral Acharya should have come to know a bit more about the Indian markets, if not the Indian State.

Conclusion

Indian State and the professional expertise do not go hand-in-hand.

The pliant, the jack of all but master of none, the yes-man IAS serves the Indian State the best. The governance of Indian State is going to remain the same across the party-lines whoever gets elected to govern. Markets are the by-product of the defunct Indian State.

The above is my learning from the resignation of Urjit Patel.

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