Friday, November 04, 2011

In defence of Rajat Gupta

ET carries an article asking that Rajat Gupta not be denigrated for whatever lapses he may have committed. The article carries the names of Analjit Singh, chairman of Max India group, Pramath Sinha, who was among those who ran ISB in the initial years, Savitha Mahajan, deputy dean of ISB, and Vijay Mahajan, the microfinance entrepreneur. They write:
Our intention is not to defend , or offer a view on charges levelled against him. But we find it unfair and unacceptable that as a people, we should negate all the past good that a man has done and suddenly discover that we always knew that he was a 'rogue' , and 'deserves' this fall from grace. We find it sad that wise, grown-up people should, in full public view, behave like five-year olds, who would clap their hands and mock one from among their group who has tripped and fallen......We all have our weaknesses, but, on balance, some people compensate for theirs and still make a huge impact on the world and people around them. Rajat is one such person.

It is for the court to judge whether Gupta committed any offences. And I agree with the authors that if he did commit some, that would not take away from his significant contributions, such as the founding of the ISB and the Public Health Foundation in India.

However, it would be incorrect to suggest that such contributions would somehow 'compensate' for misdemeanours. If one accepts that, one would have to excuse corporate and other misconduct because people at the level do make contributions to society at large; it would mean that if somebody indulged in philanthropy, for instance, that would excuse his breaking the laws of the land. One cannot grant that. All one can say is that that the misdemeanours, in Gupta's instance, may not by themselves warrant the sort of outrage that has been expressed.

Somehow, there is a suggestion in all this that Gupta's behaviour is something of an aberration, that people at the top have superior standards of conduct. It is possible to be sceptical on this account. It is not as if people make a few mistakes or mis-judgements along the line and then get it right once they reach the top. In  most places, a certain disregard for scruple or ethical considerations is an integral part of the behaviour of those at the top; they do at the top exactly what they have done in order to get there. In other words, they survive and prosper precisely because of their disregard for values. Any excessive concern for values would be a burden and a disqualification. Thus, the sort of behaviour for which Gupta is being reviled now by many in his own class may well be the norm, except that others are lucky or smart enough not to be caught out. Once you grasp this truth, you arrive at a better appreciation of Gupta's own lapses.  

By the way, please do not jump to the wrong conclusion from the title. I am not trying to defend Gupta, just referring to an article written in his defence.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

YES, I agree when you say, "In most places, a certain disregard for scruple or ethical considerations is an integral part of the behaviour of those at the top; they do at the top exactly what they have done in order to get there. In other words, they survive and prosper precisely because of their disregard for values.".............
Apologists mean to imply that a Doctor having saved many lives is licensed to 'murder' enemies of his choice. Or a life guard at Kankaria Lake can shoot and kill at his discretion..............
Regards..............
- Ketan Bhatt

sujatha said...

Does the last para imply that honest people don't make it to the top?
In climbing the professional ladder some compromises have to be made. These may appear unethical to some, it is entirely subjective.
To what extent one can step on others toes is based on value system one has grown up with.

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