At a time when political leaders in different states, including Karnataka, are making a strong pitch for freebies, Narayana Murthy, co-founder of Infosys, said freebies work only if the beneficiaries give back something in return to society.
His statement also comes at a time when the Karnataka government is implementing five of its ambitious guarantees, including free electricity, free bus service for women, free 10 kg rice and cash incentives for women below the poverty line and unemployed college graduates.
Murthy, who was on a freewheeling chat with Nikhil Kamath, co-founder of Zerodha, during the 26th edition of Bengaluru Tech Summit (BTS) 2023, said the subsidies should translate into beneficiaries and their future generations giving back to society to improve other social and economic indicators.
“For example, if the government is giving free electricity, which is a huge thing, it should have asked the people to send their children to the schools and help grow attendance by 20 per cent in return. Nothing should be given for free and there should be a contribution of the citizens towards making our society a better society,” said Murthy.
He also clarified, “Although I am not against free services that are given, I think we should expect something in return from those people who receive the free subsidies; to take a slightly bigger responsibility towards making their own future generations better.”
‘NEP: step in the right direction’
Emphasising the importance of National Education Policy (2020), Murthy welcomed the new policy as a step in the right direction.
However, the Karnataka government is all set to scrap the NEP 2020 and is in the process of formulating its own state education policy. Murthy said, “The NEP is a step in the right direction. Given that eminent members were a part of the policy, it will show us a path towards becoming better. The need of the day is to focus on critical thinking, active learning and thinking of solutions for the world.”
He further highlighted that the government needs to focus on building more English-medium schools in order to increase the local workforce in IT industries.
Working three shifts a day
Days after Murthy stoked a mixed debate with a statement of working 70 hours a week, during the BTS he stated that in order to improve the Metro connectivity and the overall public infrastructure in Bengaluru, Metro workers need to work three shifts on a given day.
“People in infrastructure must work in three shifts a day. In nations that have high aspirations, I have seen them work at least in two shifts. We want to be better than all those countries,” he said.
He also implied that the Metro work along the IT corridor, especially the Electronic City (Yellow Line), must be fast tracked to improve the public infrastructure in the city.
‘India should learn from China’
Murthy highlighted that India should learn from China, especially in decision making and nation building. “China has reached a GDP of 19 plus trillion dollars, however, we are at 3.4 or 4 trillion dollars. In other words, a neighbour of ours, which has the same problems as ours, has reached a GDP which is five or six times more than ours. Our political leaders need to study China carefully and learn the good things and implement them here. With this, both China and India can become countries that have reduced poverty.”
Capitalism vs Socialism
Shedding light on his views on the ‘capitalism versus socialism battle’, Murthy categorically said capitalism is an enabler of poverty-free society.
He recalled, “Before I went to France in the 70s as a student, I was a strong leftist because my father was a great admirer of Nehru who believed in socialism. Every day we were fed a staple diet of socialism.”
He added, “When I went to France, my whole edifice of socialism and leftism crumbled. I saw clean roads, prosperity, healthy people, etc. Therefore, I was transformed from a confused leftist to a determined and compassionate capitalist. I believe capitalism is based on the twin pillars of free market and entrepreneurship, which are the only solutions to any country to solve its problem of poverty.”