It was an evening of an interesting conversation between Mr. William Nanda Bissell, the man who has made “Fabindia” a household brand name in India, and Prof J Ramachandran, BOC Chair Professor of Business Policy, Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. The occasion was the book-launch of Mr. Bissell’s book “Making India Work” on 21 st October, 2009 at 6.30 pm.
Mr. Bissell’s book analyses the deepening fault lines between the “have-s” and “have nots” in our country which have led to skewed development and widespread discontent and suggests a radical, new paradigm for development that delinks consumption from quality of life without destroying the natural environment in the process. He suggests a new policy tool - the Targeted Catalyst (TC) system to build quality public services in the process of alleviating poverty and an economy where cash is dematerialized. He also advocates reforms in the pattern of governance in which communities (comprising of approximately 25000 people) play the role of sheet anchor in managing the welfare of their members and administration of the community assets. His basic premises are -
Prof. Ramachandran examined each and every premise and proposition of Mr. Bissell to suggest that while each one of them sounded nice, attractive and acceptable, they were perhaps too idealistic - even Utopian - to be achieved in a country of the diversity and inner contradictions as India. Mr. Bissell demurred and stated that each one of the propositions in his book was based on practical and real-life work done by him personally. Prof. Ramachandran had an indulgent smile on his face as he said that his observations were basically intended to provoke the audience.
From the animated discussion that followed it was clear that the sympathy of the audience was overwhelmingly with Mr. Bissell. In response to a query from an ex-Army General, Mr. Bissell recounted an anecdote about a conversation he had with a cadet in Indian Military Academy, Dehradun. The cadet said, “I want to be in a country for which it is worth dying”. From the spontaneous applause which erupted from the audience, it was clear that nobody wanted anything else.
The Director of BIC welcomed and thanked the guests.