Strongly advocating the citizen’s right to question and the need to safeguard it, Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan batted for an improved environment for ideas through tolerance and mutual respect. Amid a raging debate over intolerance, the RBI Governor also emphasised that excessive political correctness stifles progress and only tolerance can take offense out of debate.
“In this protection lies societal self-interest, for it is by encouraging the challenge of innovative rebels that society develops… Fortunately, India has always protected debate and the right to have different views,” Raghuram Rajan said.
Speaking at the convocation of IIT Delhi on Saturday, he said actions that physically harm anyone or show verbal contempt for a particular group, with an aim to damage somebody’s participation in the marketplace for ideas, should certainly not be allowed.
“Sexual harassment, whether physical or verbal, has no place in society. At the same time, groups should not be looking for slights any and everywhere, so that too much is seen as offensive; the theory of confirmation bias in psychology suggests that once one starts looking for insults, one can find them everywhere, even in the most innocuous statements,” the top economist added.
On the debate whether ideas or behaviour that hurt a particular intellectual position or group be banned, Mr. Rajan opined otherwise.
“Possibly, but a quick resort to bans will chill all debate as everyone will be anguished by ideas they dislike. It is far better to improve the environment for ideas through tolerance and mutual respect,” he said adding India’s tradition of debate and an open spirit of enquiry is critical for its economic progress.
Speaking on the essence of tolerance, he said, “it does mean being so insecure about one’s ideas that one cannot subject them to challenge – it implies a degree of detachment that is absolutely necessary for mature debate.”
In his concluding thoughts Mr. Rajan asked the students to remember the tradition of debate, respect and tolerance.
“By upholding it, by fighting for it, you will be repaying your teachers in this great institution, and your parents who worked so hard to send you here. And you will be doing our country a great patriotic service,” the RBI governor said.
(With inputs from the PTI)