Talking to Lead India Winner, Rk Misra on development in Bangalore
RK Misra was adjudged the winner of the Lead India, an initiative by the Times of India to identify new generation political leaders. In an interview with MyBangalore.com, he talks about politics in general, his role as a member of ABIDe and more.
Rajendra K Misra (RK Misra) is among the well known young leaders of India as was adjudged by the Times of India’s Lead India initiative in a nationwide survey of next generation leaders of India. He is a member of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), India’s principal national opposition party. One of the early IT entrepreneurs, RK Misra founded and managed high growth businesses and made successful exits. He founded 3 IT and Telecom businesses in Japan, US and India before he bid adieu to corporate world in 2005, on turning 40, as he wanted to give back to the society.
RK Misra wanted to provide livelihood opportunities to poor and underprivileged of Rural India. He firmly believed that this is achievable by ‘efficiently implementing public policies and actively promoting social entrepreneurship’. To pursue his desire, RK Misra founded “SAHYOG” – The Indian Council for Public Private Partnership (ICPPP), to bring together ‘public policy experts, government agencies and Social Entrepreneurs’ to promote sustainable and scalable initiatives in the areas of primary health, education, rural livelihood and renewable energy. He is also spearheading sustainable eco-friendly urban transport and infrastructure development of Bangalore as a member of the Government’s Empowered Committee on Urban Infrastructure – ABIDe. Excerpts from the interview:-
MyBangalore.com: From being a Lead India winner to now, how has the journey been?
More people have got to know about me and the work I have been doing for past 5-10 years. People have also approached to join hands and ask for suggestions about getting involved in issues of social and national importance. People have high expectations and expect me to take lead on issues which affect society and nation at large.
What made you to plunge into this challenging career – ‘Politics’?
We usually complain about poor quality and lack of abilities of our political leaders. I wanted to implement my thoughts and ideas into the system of governance and policy making. But to be able to do that you have to be part of the government and political establishment.
Unfortunately educated and successful professionals do not have an opportunity to enter politics, as current political system is dominated by people who either come from political families or join politics at an early age as grass root political workers. I wanted to be a New Generation Political Leader and hopefully a role model for educated professionals who are willing to serve the country by being in politics.
Did you face any hurdles settling down in this career?
I won’t call them hurdles, but managing people’s expectation and being able to take them along was a good experience. Being public life means a lot of responsibility and commitment. Anything I say or do is critically reviewed and commented upon. People expect me to do the right thing and stand-up for their cause. It is a tough task, but I am enjoying it. It is really satisfying to motivate people and get their support for the work and issues I have undertaken.
What is your view regarding Bangalore in terms of its progression, infrastructure, and traffic? Has it changed?
Bangalore has grown too fast and our planning and development has lagged the growth. Lack of coordination and absence of a central and coordinated planning has resulted in haphazard and piecemeal solutions to the infrastructure problems faced by Bangalore. Unfortunately the economic importance of Bangalore in Karnataka’s development has not been fully understood and appreciated by our political establishment. Planned development of Bangalore will lead to long term economic prosperity of Karnataka as a whole. Current model of development with multiple agencies working in silos and at times at cross purposes has resulted in current sorry state of affairs. Political tug-of-war and corruption has also resulted in poor quality of infrastructure and services. Bangaloreans do not seem to be happy with current state of affairs.
Hence it is extremely important that Bangalore gets it’s “Nodal Planning Agency” which has representation from political leadership, urban planners, subject matter experts and municipal officials. Central Government has mandated the setting-up of “Metropolitan Planning Committee - MPC” to play this role.
The present government had constituted ABIDe in September-2008 to prepare a vision document which will become a blue-print for planned and sustainable long term development of Bangalore. As per this mandate, ABIDe, comprising of elected leaders, experts and government officials has worked hard for over a year and has consulted more than 30,000 citizens to prepare “Plan Bengaluru 2020”. This report addresses Governance, Infrastructure, Heritage, Culture, Urban Poor and Environment aspects of Bangalore’s development. We hope that Government shows commitment to implement these recommendations of ABIDe. I have also contributed to this vision document as a Member of Abide.
Do you feel there's a dearth of youngsters in the Indian political system?
I do feel that Youth needs to be politically aware and engaged. Future belongs to Youth, so what is being done today by our political system will affect the future. Not engaging with the political process means that youth is letting someone else determine their future. Youth needs to support parties and candidates who fulfill their aspirations and relate to their thought process. Youth also needs to realize that they constitute 60% of the India’s population. By engaging politically they can chart a course of their choice for this nation.
However I would caution young and students against joining electoral politics at an early age. They need to work towards professional careers and learn the issues and problems faced by the society and the nation. Only a successful professional and understand the issues and potentially suggest viable solutions. After achieving professional success and financial independence, they could surely decide to enter active politics and get involved in electoral politics.
If you had to make a few changes in the present political system, what would they be?
State Funding of Elections, Complete ban on Criminal and Corrupt from contesting the elections, Finding alternate ways to current system of “First-past-the-pole” (simple majority wins) system of electing our representatives, Introducing compulsory voting and political parties should provide opportunities and encourage educated professionals to enter electoral politics.
How important role does education play in today’s society?
Education has been and will remain the most important pillar of industrial era societies. In Indian context, given our large population and limited resources, quality education is the only way for our nation to find its respectable place in the comity of nations.
Who do you draw your inspiration from?
I would say No One in Particular. I do what I like. I have been fortunate to get the opportunity to do work in my areas of interest which include “Urban Governance” and “Rural Livelihood”. I believe in “Walking the Talk” which loosely translates to what Gandhi ji had said – “Be the Change you want to see”.
Tell us something about yourself? What do you prefer doing in your free time?
I am family man. I enjoy spending time (whenever I get some) with my children. I also like to travel and learn about different cultures and traditions. I enjoy listening to music and occasionally I go to see movies. I walk and exercise every day. I go off-road cycling in nearby villages. I play Golf and go swimming when I have same spare time at hand.
Your advice to youth of our country? Do you believe in the power of youth?
Yes I do believe in youth. In fact, I have lot of expectation from Youth of India. Today’s resurgent India has capable and confident Youth willing to take challenges head on. This was not the case when we grew. Country was still struggling with 2-3% of GDP growth and opportunities were very limited. However today India is is different and today’s youth has tremendous opportunity to further his career and meaningfully contribute to the growth and prosperity of our nation.
However, I would like to remind and request our educated youth, that India still has crores of poor and uneducated youth, mostly in Rural India. They do not have the resources and opportunity to compete with privileged and urban youth. They can’t even manage basic needs and livelihood necessities. It is our, the privileged sections of our society, collective responsibility that, while we work hard to pursue our dreams and career opportunities, we must not forget those who have been left behind as they did not have means and opportunities. We must always work to help those who are in need and support them so that they can stand on their own. No country can prosper and be a SUPER POWER if half of its population is uneducated and poor.