IIM Nagpur was delighted to host Mr Vinod Rai, former Comptroller and Auditor General of India, for a special lecture on ‘The Role of Government Institutions and Regulations for Indian Business’. A 1972 Batch (Kerala Cadre) officer of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Mr Rai is credited with the publication of the report on issue of licenses and allocation of 2G Spectrum in India in 2011.
His address to the students of IIM Nagpur was prefaced with a brief welcome by PGP Chairperson Prof Deeparghya Mukherjee. Following this introduction, Mr Rai took the attendees through the various aspects touching upon the events that influenced India’s economic growth in the post-Liberalisation era; the state of affairs that resulted in the current slowdown that the country is undergoing; and the role that managers-in-training have to play in ensuring that long-term growth is not compromised in pursuit of nearsighted benefits.
Mr Rai related how, in spite of withstanding the shock waves of the 2009 global meltdown, the Indian economy suffered from the ill-effects of crony capitalism after enjoying considerable growth post-1991. He observed that the pressure exerted by regional parties on the Centre in a coalition government allowed the entry of incompetent, overleveraged entities primarily in the domain of infrastructure development. The massive losses that resulted from this dealt a setback that the economy continues to struggle to recover from.
He then moved on to the public institutions, that ensure accountability among governing entities. He stated that these institutions further good governance, which is essential to propel sustainable economic growth. He emphasized on the need for such institutions – such as the Reserve Bank of India, the Election Commission, the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India – to maintain a certain distance from the government in order to function efficiently. Drawing a page out of his new book, Rethinking Good Governance, he spoke about the healthy tussle between the risk-averse RBI and the growth-oriented government, which ensures that the best interests of the country are taken care of. The focus, he opined, should be on minimizing external interference that has led to the current crisis in the first place.
The last part of Mr Rai’s address focused on the behavior expected of future managers, so that crises affecting the public at large are averted under their leadership. He spoke about vertical accountability, that is demanded by entities external to the government and the bureaucracy, such as the media and the citizens. He stated that the common people now have the power to scrutinize every move that individuals in leadership positions make. The leaders, therefore, should steer clear of unethical practices in pursuit of short-term competitive advantage. He reiterated that the values of objectivity, transparency, accountability and professional integrity should be inculcated by all future leaders. Mr Rai concluded his speech by exhorting the audience to acknowledge their privilege as students of a premier educational institution, and to give back to society more than what they inherited.
The floor was then open from questions by students. In a Q&A session moderated by Prof Mukherjee, Mr Rai offered his well-rounded perspective on issues as varied as the governance of sports administration, assurance of accountability from defaulting individuals, ensuring the autonomy and impartial functioning of institutions such as the RBI, the PMC Bank crisis and the entry of corporate professionals in government spheres.
The event, compered by Eina Gupta was concluded with the presentation of a memento to Mr Rai by Prof Rahul Kumar Sett. SAC President Bharath Turlapaty proposed the vote of thanks.
IIM Nagpur expresses its gratitude to Mr Vinod Rai for his engaging presence and enlightening words.