The Great Indian Dream aka Freedom of Expression in the 21st Century

Arindam Chaudhuri must be taking a moment to reflect on the mission espoused by his foundation whose mission is, I quote: “To do everything possible in order to achieve the Great Indian Dream of making India an educated, healthy nation, free of poverty and its inhuman indignities.”

Surely he of all people would realize that it is the empowered individual who is an agent of change; the individual that cares about doing the right thing, that it is such people that can move nations and bring about positive change. Yet it appears that the institute, of which he serves as a Dean, is in the center of a controversy, a David and Goliath battle in which his institute comes out looking really bad.

I had read the Great Indian Dream and was frankly moved by much that was written: it now appears that all those words ring hollow – how can I trust and believe what is written there [unless I do my own background research on each and every statistic quoted in the book] when I find that the institution managed by the author misrepresented the truth using statistics that are no longer relevant – to attract gullible students. How can I then trust or hope to support the foundation created by the author when that trust has been so thoroughly shaken?

This issue has highlighted one bright point though. It has shown that disparate individuals connected through the net – the blogosphere – can make a difference. A few days ago the New York Times picked up the story – the human interest angle virtually ensured that it would get picked up by some international news org – but it was the wellspring of support by the blogging communty, that linked to the posts and further delved into the matter that ensured that the issue got the publicity it deserved. Surely Prof Chaudhuri, you must be proud – the conflux of individuals, Indians, came together by their own accord, to highlight an issue that deserved talking about. If at all, the original statement that appeared in JAM is patently false, then by all means, address it point by point – we all have equal access to the media, and I for one would post your refutation here – as would many bloggers, I believe.

IIPM has tackled this issue in a totally incorrect and undesirable way. It is a textbook example of how NOT to counter bad publicity about your organization. From a story about advertising and factual claims [or lack of thereof] it has escalated into one about freedom of speech and the empowered individual. Does the average indian citizen in this country have the right to express her opinion without fear of intimidation? This goes beyond the reputation of a B-School – this goes to the very heart of just how free, how empowered people today are in India.

Below are some relevant links: [Note this is just the tip of the iceberg – like the infamous monolith that sank the titanic – there is a lot more out there than is visible]

Hope you all had a nice weekend!