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Anecdote 4

Of Cranks, Central Banks and Public Policy

From the Files

The Reserve Bank, as the central bank of the country, often receives letters from the common man on matters of public policy and interest. Some of these letters are focused and lend themselves to policy decisions. Many, however, while imbued with reformist zeal, are emotional outbursts merely lamenting the state of affairs and do not lend themselves to any action. The authors of these, however, are persistent in their 'pro bono publico' endeavours. Such letters are addressed to the central bank, often to the Governor, as the central bank is in some ways involved in charting the economic policies of the country.

The traditional systems in the Bank demand that all letters received need to be 'inwarded', examined and 'marked off'. A specific decision even on persistent 'crank' letters needs to be taken. A note recorded on one such letter in the Department of External Investments and Operations (DEIO) is reproduced below.

The Nation's Woes: RBI's role therein - Letter dated 26.12.1988 from Thiru XYZ

Placed below is a letter from Thiru XYX expressing outrage and ire - at the scheme of things entire, - which he fain would remould - closer to heart's desire. What, how and in what image is, however, not specified. The RBI, being one of the agencies of prime economic responsibility, he feels is partly the villian in this state of affairs.

While his outrage may be justifiable, the letter per se is discursive and addled in terms of

  1. the issues addressed,

  2. the identification and analysis of causes, and

  3. the courses of action prescribed.

The epistle wanders from exchange rate policy (DEIO) to supervision over chit funds (DFC) to the sale of gold under Shri Desai's premiership (DGBA). In as much as no positive steps are prescribed to redeem the state of affairs, the letter could be regarded as that by a crank cribbing O Tempora, O Mores and lamenting Quousque Tandem. He, however, demands to know why!

Unfortunately, we too know not why. In most general terms the fons et origo mali could possibly be attributed to

  1. avarice and greed,

  2. deterioration in moral fibre,

  3. lack of commitment and intellectual honesty,

  4. the ascent of fissiparous tendencies over those of humanity and fraternity.

As a central bank, we cannot give such answers and exhort brother XYZ to work harder and spread moral awareness as his mite towards the upliftment of the nation. We could

  1. ignore his letter,

  2. write to him to unscramble his thoughts and offer specific comments (in duplicate if necessary to dissuade him) which we shall be glad to consider. This should keep him busy for a while, help clear his head and also give him a feeling of participation in Nataional Construction. For us, it will break the monotony of routine cases. (Draft letter placed below).

  3. call for his income tax returns to ascertain his antecedents and thus blunt his appetite for seeking answers.

While course of action at (i) will be most prudent, (ii) is recommended as a more spirited approach. If the same is approved, the case could be sent to the PRO for necessary action.

Investment Officer

Although the above note appears to have been recorded in a lighter vein, the analysis is realistic. We should make critics of policy understand larger issues and give concrete suggestions. Let the suggested reply be issued from Press Relations Office.

Chief Officer

P.S: Incidentally, prudent action as at (i) was adopted.


O Tempora! O Mores! : 'What times, what customs....', Cicero's defence of an old general who had written a book against the dictator Sculla.

Qousque Tandem: 'How much longer'. The opening lines of Cicero's last polemic against Catalina - 'How much longer, Catalina, will you abuse our forbearance....'

fons et origo mali : 'the fount and origin of evil'


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