My experiments with truth in the Indian capital markets ….Speech by C. B. Bhave

This is truly an amazing and inspirational speech by former SEBI chief – Mr. Chandru Bhave. And what a title based on Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography. It is a no holds barred speech and completely on front foot Sehwag style. Or in this FIFA season Robben style.

I had the pleasure to hear the speech at IIMB in one of the classes and was floored.He comes across as a pretty reticent and low-key person but was amazing all the way in the speech. The speech had a bit of everything- finance, inspiration, policy development and challenges, building capital markets in India, handing special interests etc. All this along with some humor as well. At that time his name was not taken in the MCX case but in this one, he speaks his mind on the allegation as well.  I was wondering how to put this speech up. Great thanks to Ajay Shah Blog for putting this up though given at a different venue.

I am not discussing the speech as every word is great. But how about this for ending the speech?

When you are in authority and people appreciate you for meeting them at the appointed time, when they thank you for returning their calls and when they compliment you for your honesty and for owning up responsibility for your decisions you might feel happy. But may I submit to you, that these things should be a cause for deep reflection. The first two tell you how feudal our mindset is and how free citizens of this country still expect to be treated with disdain by the authorities. They are surprised and thankful that normal courtesy is extended to them! The other two make us wonder if our expectation of ethical behavior is so low that what should be normal behaviour is treated as a great virtue. Should public servants not normally be honest and ready to own up responsibility?

Despite all the gloom around us there are many in the country that have not given up. The recent appointment of the SIT on black money is a case in point. There were some people who did not give up the idea of bringing the tax evaders to book. They used the PIL route to get the attention of the Supreme Court. After some dithering and a change of Government we have an SIT in place. Notwithstanding some pundits who have already declared that nothing worthwhile will come out of this, I have no doubt that a process has been set in motion that will solve at least a part of the problem.

To sum up, ladies and gentlemen, I have tried to make the following points. The state of ethical standards and moral behavior in our society is really down in the dumps. We are in bad shape but we do not have to be that way. There is no reason for us to give up. Reform and improvement is possible. The progress made by us in the area of capital market regulation and infrastructure shows that things can be changed dramatically. Reform is a long and painstaking process. We can make our contribution by standing up for the right causes.

This talk was based on my own experience and observations. The challenge was to talk about my own experience but stay focused on ideas and issues. If I had talked merely about issues and ideas it would have sounded like homilies. If I had talked excessively about my own experience I would have committed the mistake of self-projection. I have tried to achieve a balance. I leave it to you to decide if the balance was right. Thank you for your attention.

Couple of points though.

We need to appreciate our political class for allowing people like CB Bhave to head such bodies.  And yes he came from the IAS, a body which is usually criticised by the media for not doing anything. I mean the way our capital markets have expanded and improved is no joke and no mean task. But somehow there is no mention of people like Bhave who have spearheaded these places without any hype and tamasha. India’s capital markets surge and the various players and institutions involved is worth many a theses…

People like him should actually take up teaching in India’s Univs to give people like us a better perspective on policy and finance.


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