Kamal Haasan at Harvard: 'Fed up of complaining about govt inaction; demanding good governance is my right'
Kamal Haasan delivered the keynote address at Harvard's India Conference 2018, discussing politics, the state of Tamil Nadu and alliance with Rajinikanth
After delivering an eloquent speech at the prestigious Harvard University in 2016 on 'India in Transition - Opportunities and Challenges,' Kamal Haasan, on 10 February, delivered the keynote address at Harvard's India Conference 2018. This is the second time in the last two years that Haasan has spoken at Harvard, with the latest session moderated by noted journalist Barkha Dutt.
India Conference is a student-run conference held at Harvard Business School & Harvard Kennedy School every year. It is hosted by the graduate students of Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts, United States.
Addressing a large gathering of students, businessmen and entrepreneurs among others, Haasan elucidated his vision to adopt a village in every district of Tamil Nadu and rebuild it as a sustainable, global model village.
"Good evening to the people of my larger global family. I come from a global village called Tamil Nadu; part of a cluster of villages called India. That's how we are. We can be nothing less or more, except in arrogance. Tamil Nadu is a state and has many things to be proud of, ranging from our rich heritage, culture, language, architecture, food, social justice, pioneers in the world trade and many sects of remarkable achievements. However, all is not well now," pointed out Haasan about the current state of affairs in Tamil Nadu.
"My true purpose today is to challenge the status-quo and mediocrity in the polity that is plaguing our state of Tamil Nadu"
Elaborating about how mediocrity has been accepted as a standard in today's political climate in TN, Haasan said, "As I stand on this podium, I can boldly say I dare to have a vision. The new brave is being bold with a purpose. My true purpose today is to challenge the status-quo and mediocrity in the polity that is plaguing our state of Tamil Nadu. I have often said that when avaricious businessmen and politicians set mediocrity as the standard, then rubbish becomes acceptable, ordinary becomes extraordinary, and extraordinary becomes genius. Genius itself, if it exists at all, is relegated to a state that needs psychiatric monitoring. Fortunately, my vision in these clients is just extraordinary. Extraordinary only when compared to the policy paralysis and the lack of imagination that exists in Tamil Nadu today."
"Tamil Nadu's revenue deficit is at an all-time high and gross fiscal deficit is the third highest in the country"
Haasan also alerted how the gross fiscal deficit of TN stands among the third-highest in the country and the revenue deficit at an all-time high.
"To make this into a specific rather than a wandering generality, the three big things that are plaguing my state are:
1. The apathy showed by the political class of the state's financial health and management. With the revenue deficit at its all-time high of Rs 160 billion and growing every day, the state's gross fiscal deficit stands at an approximate Rs 405 billion, the third highest in the country for the year 2016-17. A large part of this deficit is driven by ineffective public spending, lethargy and the lack of vision by the people in the government.
2. The inability to manage our state's treasures, namely our waterways, which for decades have been neglected. If only we had managed this better, we would have been self-sufficient by now.
3. the gradual lowering of the bar in every aspect of the society from education to health care to social justice to creating employment," he explained.
"To move on in this regressive times, what I propose may just be a dream. But is much akin to the sheer necessity that made our ancestors come up with the idea of the wheel. The new wheel is an old concept. Neons old. It's an idea of creating a virtuous cycle to weave its magic on the populace. The cycle that we have to recraft and may we humbly reinvent. My firm belief is that the business of new-age politicians should be to set a context and be an enabler to embed this new wheel within our society."
"I'm announcing a plan to adopt one village in every district of Tamil Nadu"
Quoting Mahatma Gandhi's favorite quote about building self-sustained villages, Haasan said, "My mentor once stated that if the villages perish, India will perish too. It will be no more India. Her own vision in the world will get lost. For him, the rebuilding of the nation could be only achieved by reconstructing self-reliant, self-sustained villages. My mentor was none other than Mr Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. I'm shameless in plagiarising his ideas for the benefit of my people and society."
Kamal Haasan said he would announce his plan to adopt one village from each district of Tamil Nadu and scale it up to the whole state later. "On 21 February, as I embark on my political journey, I'm announcing a plan to adopt one village in every district of Tamil Nadu. With the vision and aspiration for them to be the best villages ever in India, an exemplar of sorts for my state and the country, these villages will be planned to be holistically sustainable, economically, ecologically, sociologically, technologically, and high on educational skills, and health. All the key faculties for a healthy society. With this, we will set in motion a series of virtuous cycles in Tamil Nadu by being the change. I truly believe that a strong Tamil Nadu augurs well for a strong India."
Haasan said he's practical enough to understand that every journey begins with a single step. "Therefore, as a first measure, we will take one village and reimagine it for excellence. Later, we shall scale it across the state. Let's reimagine our villages. Let's reimagine society. Let's leave a lasting impact on Tamil Nadu and India for posterity. All Indians and even global citizens are welcome to contribute to this idea. Being a Tamizhan is not a prerequisite or a condition. But as I have often said, it is merely a postal code. Some skeptics might think, 'Oh, you rookie politician! I know what way you are taking this. You're here with the begging bowl for money.' Begging bowl? Yes. Money? No. I seek something more valuable than money. Your ideas. Your imagination. Your intellect to reimagine our villages. Your time and participation in pursuit of excellence. My political campaign begins here with the aspiration of forming a brain trust with my Tamil women and men at Harvard."
"I'm fed up of complaining about governmental inaction. Demanding good governance is my right"
It's my firm belief that immediate action with good intent is better than theories of utopia and armchair politics. I have embarked on a journey towards electoral politics. I used to mimic the very intelligentsia that looks down with disdain at electoral politics and later through learning and kind tutoring understood that politics need not be something below us. On the contrary, it should be a civic duty. A duty that we have neglected and hence we are suffering its stifling consequences. I'm fed up of complaining about governmental inaction. Demanding good governance is my right. And no government need take umbrage.
Kamal Haasan recalled the boldness and bravery of Spartacus, Genghis Khan, and the Tamil kings by being determined and courageous. He also called for volunteers to sign up at his website www.maiam.com to contribute their ideas for the reimagining of villages.
"This address, here, is only a preamble. A prima for the dialogue that I wanna have with my people. I'm actually rehearsing it with my vibrant minds. Hopefully, kind critics and partners in attendance here. Help me help Tamil Nadu. I'm just a medium. A tool offered for you to use. Sharpen me. Shape me to sculpt our little village. The time for lamenting is over. Everyone is in agreement that Tamil Nadu has touched its nadir. It's time to recraft the polity. I recently signed in a college guest register as a politician."
"On second thoughts, I should have signed as polity culturist. That's about we all are. Cultivating a new polity. Enough said I guess to indicate the direction of my journey. It's simple. A slave called Spartacus would dare to think of freedom when slavery was a social address and norm in the Republic of Rome. A man called Genghis Khan would dare to dream of an empire knowing fully well he was nothing but a normal tribal. And closer home to my forefathers, the Tamil Chera, Chozha and Pandiya kings would domineer the spirit of language, administration, and world trade. Each of them over time has left behind some great ideas. Even recent leaders have left lessons behind to be learned. Their endeavors, successes, and failures are specimens in our socio-political laboratory. I have the humility to learn and keep learning. Part now with me on this epic journey of reimagining and rebuilding Tamil Nadu. And hopefully, one day our country for a better tomorrow. Please visit www.maiam.com to volunteer. Naalai Namathe (Tomorrow is ours). Goodbye," he said on a concluding note.
"I hope Rajinikanth's hue is not saffron"
Talking about forging a political alliance with Superstar Rajinikanth, who had announced his foray into politics on New Year's, Kamal Haasan said, "We can, as friends, be on one side. But politics is different. Because I'm trying to make that difference to my state. Our approach and the general intent might be the good of the people. But, I believe there is a certain way through which the good will have to come to the people. I don't like to take a detour. So, it (joining hands with Rajinikanth) might happen. We will wait for his manifesto to be out. And mine will be out on 21 February. So, if it gels, then in polity, for the sake of the nation and the betterment of the people, a good alliance, if it's not full of lies and deceit and if we are able to see eye to eye on a point, then, maybe. But, I don't think so. The very fact that he in his first announcement made some statement which gave him a hue... I hope his hue is not saffron."
"When it comes to religion, we are poles apart. If the hue that he's going to acquire is going to be saffron, then I can't see a clear understanding. Unless some other explanation he gives that convinces my rational mind," he added.
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