Letters to the editor

Readers' comments: Modi's comment on hard work and Harvard has been taken out of context

Responses to an open letter to the prime minister by Harvard student Prateek Kanwal published on Scroll.in.

Hard work and Harvard

Dear Prateek Kanwal, I am sure you would have heard the proverb: ‘People who live in glass houses, should not throw stones at others”
(“Dear Prime Minister Modi, here’s what you could learn from Harvard”).
Your amusing letter reeks of arrogance and you imply that Harvard is almost God’s own University! Oh Please! Don’t make us educated and sensible Indians laugh at such silliness!

I am a proud Indian woman and I have graduated from Stanford, but I do not shout this out from rooftops. Let us not overrate business schools. Yes, they are very important and they certainly can help. But they are not the only solution for developing countries like India.

Most business schools in the West are designed for the Western thought process, culture, infrastructure and way of life. Some of their teachings may not exactly fit developing economies – for instance, the IMF ruined many countries in Africa and Asia with its complicated and ill-fitting requirements during the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Many so-called Ivy League Graduates have to ruin millions of hard working people by being instrumental in some of the world’s biggest frauds. So what does this show us? That it is people and not university names that matter in life.

For 10 years, because Manmohan Singh (despite his top academic credentials) allowed himself to be trampled by the Gandhis, India stagnated and was a hell hole of corruption, where the tax payer lost crores of rupees.

The whole world knows that the Congress is full of corrupt scoundrels. For a change at least Prime Minister Modi is trying to change the country and put it on the growth curve. Look at some of his policies and actions. These should have been done by the Congress decades ago. But no. They were busy making money for their leaders.

Do you even know why demonetisation was necessitated? Do you even realise what would have happened if this had not been done? Do you even realise that Modi sacrificed all his political advantages and took a massive political risk for himself and the BJP in initiating demonetisation?

It is very difficult to initiate change in a country like India. But it is so easy for people like you to constantly whine and be arm-chair critics. I cant believe that a Harvard elite like you is even bringing up this issue! Do some genuine introspection with a clear conscience, leaving apart your own political benefits and compulsions.

Jai Hind. – Gauri Jalan

***

The recent open letter by Prateek Kanwal to the esteemed prime minister of India has raised many eyebrows.

Some die-hard Modi fans brushed it aside as a letter from a commoner with no sense of nationalism, which seems to have become a forced buzzword in recent times. But careful analysis of his letter shows that it has been written by an analytical person.

The letter writer also comes across as a proud and patriotic Indian who seems to have been perturbed by the environment of hate and frenzy being silently endorsed by prime minister.

As Prateek says, an evidence-based approach and operational plan to cause minimum disruption was missing from the abrupt demonetisation introduced by the prime minister.

He also makes a valid point that to develop a country as diverse as India people of different perspectives need to be brought together to move toward a direction of growth. Just like Prateek, I am also an expatriate living in Japan and echo the same opinion and views as Prateek.

The prime minister and his coterie have knowingly or unknowingly creating a monopoly of ideology and thought processes. Any opinion or viewpoint that is not in sync with theirs is quickly brushed aside as naïve. I wish politicians would high standards through their comments and approach issues that affect the common man with some empathy. – Vibhor Singh

***

Harvard does not need to be defended. Its achievements speak for itself, better than your article does.

But what needs to be challenged about the prime minister’s speech is the idea that any criticism of India from abroad (mostly the West) is biased and motivated. An attitude like that can only lead to the closing of our minds. We have paid a terrible price for this attitude in the past.

The second thing that needs to be challenged is the tendency to denigrate intellectuals and the institutions with which many of them are associated: the universities. Intellectuals, like any other group in society, have their flaws. But they also perform a vital role by challenging existing ideas. They are the thinkers who are the source of new ideas. Societies that have tried to eliminate intellectuals have paid for it: China and Russia paid a huge price for what Mao and Stalin did. Let us not go down that route. – Suresh M

***

Modi is not mocking Harvard but only some economist who harshly criticised demonetisation due to political compulsions, such as the esteemed former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh! Demonetisation, hopefully, was not at all a disaster as is said! No offence while saying that hard-work is more powerful than Harvard.

And whole world saw how low the recent presidential election in the US went. So, brother, take it in your stride. – Aditya Kumar Dandime

***

It was great to read your views and opinion. I appreciate your positive way of thinking and thank you for your concern about the nation. We need people like you for development of the country.

I am not a blind supporter of Modi, but I look at his comments at Maharajganj a little differently. He referred to Harvard as a phrase and the intention was not to show any kind of disgrace to Harvard or Harvardians.

He was speaking to a crowd of mostly uneducated people, who cannot think of ever going to Harvard or even comparing themselves with the graduates from Harvard. His view was to make everyone a hard working person and in that course, if he refers to the prestigious university, that should not be an issue.

The main idea is that in any field hard work is required for success.

You yourself seem to be a very hard working person and therefore are successful.I do not know whether demonetisation was good or bad but one thing is for sure, one is taking decision which is very much required for the nation. – SK Bhartia

***

Obviously, hard work is not less important than the politically motivated opinions of people from prestigious universities. Why does a student becomes cynical about a comment and takes it out of context? It’s not scholarly to take things out of context or mock a prime minister either. – P Madhu

***

I believe that Modi’s comment was not generic. It was directed towards specific Harvard graduates who made comments based on vested interests. – Rajes

***

These days it has become fashionable to become social media hero. I really laugh at people like you who study at Harvard. Think positive instead of becoming a social media hero. – Navin C Patel

***

The article says: “We are trained in the “evidence based learning” approach, which helps in designing and implementing policies effectively so that disasters such as demonetisation can be avoided.”

Seriously? The inability of economists to foresee the last financial meltdown in the US was a big subject for world thinkers to ponder. Subsequent US treasury was allowed to be driven up to a point of bankruptcy. In retrospect, Harvardians had thrown around lots of wisdom. But nothing as a prospective action really. – Anuradha Dhupkar

***

I am a illiterate person like some who attended the prime minister’s rally and also a middle class person like you. Yes, the prime minister mocked the prestigious Harvard university, which is wrong, but you missed the context in which he did so.

Please also write something about hard work. And lastly, if such a statement pushes you away from doing good work in the country don’t write Jai Hind in conclusion. I hope you will enlighten many people like me in future with your knowledge and do great things for this country. – Arpan

***

Great, so you disagree with Modi and say Harvard is more important than hard work. Good show, keep it up. You reached Harvard through hard work but from now on, Harvard will come first! You want to cherish the aristocracy and not hard work. – Swapnil Garg

***

Dear Prateek Kanwal, I appreciate you taking out your precious time to send your feedback to Modi’s jibe. There may be no doubt that you are the hardworking nationalist you claim to be, but it does seem like you need to mature a little before commenting on Modi’s remarks.

I think Modi’s idea was not to prove Harvard wrong on what it does but just to show that demonetisation was fruitful and not what was predicted by so-called influential economists at Harvard.

You have to get deep into the issue. It was like a top secret mission – if he would have discussed the demonetisation with economists before he would have made the cheaters aware of his plan and would have completely messed up.

If you think that the pros and cons were not studied before demonetisation was implemented, you are absolutely wrong. Do you really think the government of India would do that! You read the text of Modi address to the nation on November 8, when he announced the currency ban, to understand better.

Calling the political discourse vitriolic in India puts a question mark on your ability to analyse policy-based decisions in future. If someone tells the people at Uttar Pradesh that their hard work is more valuable than something else it will make them feel proud. And that’s the power of poetry (rallies are done to motivate and guide people not to surprise and demean them).

Lastly, it is wrong to conclude that demonetisation was a disaster. It was a success (though not a super success) because the purpose was achieved. Your allegation that the honourable prime minister was mocking economists and credible academic institutions is also false. He has very high regard for all the institutions in the world where knowledge and skills are shared with correct attitude. History doesn’t need to be kinder – rather, history cannot be kind enough!

Instead of writing even a line in his praise on how he managed to implement such a gigantic task of demonetisation, you are still caught up with one of his jibes.

Hard-work is always powerful, whether it is compared to Harvard or something else is too small a topic to be discussed! – Satyajeet Gopal

***

It has become fashionable for Indian students studying in Harvard to think that all universities in the US are far superior to those in India and to give sermons to all Indians.Please remember that the famous Chanakya did not study in Harvard or any other foreign university, but is still remembered for his intelligence. I have also been staying in the US since 2009. –Krishnamurthy Balasubramanian

***

What Modi said about hard work being more powerful than Harvard is true. No matter which top business school we pass out from, we will need hard work do our jobs. If Harvard graduates were the only managers the US needed, why do they take so many Indians in various departments and positions?

The prime minister’s statement does not undermine Harvard in any way. In Indian politics, hard work is more important than a fancy degree and many Harvardians have failed when it comes to planning and executing policies.

I appreciate how our Indian scholar at Harvard has expressed his views. He should take the prime minister’s statement as a challenge to prove that a hard working Harvardians can do even better. I wish him good luck. – Maheshwar Dutt Sharma

***

Pratik Kanwal gave his coup de grace in his last sentence, but the megalomaniac at the receiving end couldn’t care less. – Kanchan M

***

Kanwal is wasting words. Modi’s comments do not warrant a response. They should be ignored since they have been made to play to a gallery that time will show has been cheated and fooled numerous times over! – Hem Pande

***

Very well said. The moot point is that we all need to develop a tolerance for lateral thinking and differing opinions, even if we disagree. – Kamna Aggarwalla

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
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Participants of the program.
Participants of the program.

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Sessions on World Mental Health Day, 2017.
Sessions on World Mental Health Day, 2017.

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