Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan reiterated that India’s democracy is its greatest strength and it would be “crazy to lose” its biggest advantage while emphasising upon the “need to keep an open society” and “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,” Rajan said in an interview to Bloomberg, days after he told students of IIT-Delhi that free debate, tolerance and mutual respect were key to a healthy society and economic growth.
He said India’s democracy is its greatest strength and everyone across the political spectrum should “calm down a bit in order to foster healthy debate”.
“It is very important, that both fringes, extreme left and extreme right, don’t say I am going to shut you off if you don’t say what I want to hear,” Rajan said. “It has to be a genuine debate. You have to preserve that environment. Thankfully, the mainstream is well and truly supportive of this.”
The RBI governor said his speech to new graduates at IIT-Delhi was meant to help them understand the importance of cultivating an environment of free speech. He called the speech “an exhortation to support a fundamental future underpinning for growth”.
“It was not 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,” Rajan said in the interview.
In his speech at IIT-Delhi on October 31, Rajan had said, “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.”
Rajan had said that alternative views must be protected while ensuring “the right to behave differently as long as it does not hurt others seriously”. He said excessive political correctness stifles progress as much as excessive license and disrespect, and that all ideas should be scrutinised critically regardless of the source.
“India’s tradition of debate and an open spirit of enquiry is critical for economic progress. Tolerance can take the offence out of debate and indeed instil respect. Tolerance and respect then lead to a good equilibrium where they reinforce each other,” Rajan had said.