August 28, 2009 – “Ethics and the World of Finance” Conference in Prasanthi Nilayam
It was to be a wonderful chapter in the book of world finance that has been torn and battered ever since the housing bubble burst and various economies grappled to find a firm foothold, and the situation continues till this day. In this scenario, to give it the firm foundation of morality, a conference entitled "Ethics and the World of Finance" began in the holy hamlet of Puttaparthi under the 'August' auspices of the Sri Sathya Sai University. The Conference was scheduled to be inaugurated at the divine hands at 10 a.m. in the institute auditorium. Live video streaming of the event to the three campuses of the University was also organized so that everyone could participate, and more importantly, also have the divine darshan
On the dot at 10 a.m., Swami arrived at the auditorium. He was welcomed by a Veda group with Poornakumbham and by the Vice Chancellor and Principal of the Prashanti Nilayam Campus. Swami entered the green room where Mr. D. Subba Rao, governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the former governor of RBI, Mr. Y. V. Reddy greeted Him. Swami blessed them and then moved on to the stage where He was received by the gathering as they rose upto their feet. Swami lit the lamp to mark the inauguration of the Conference. Before we proceed, it would be very instructive to just glance at the Delegate Sheet for the conference. It consists of the who's who of the Indian financial edifice.
Swami seated in the centre with the past and present governors of RBI on either sides was an inspiring sight in itself and surely the world of finance would have heaved a sigh of relief and experienced a surge of joy that the Lord had taken up its case.
Chairpersons for the inaugural function, Dr. Duvvuni Subba Rao and the former Governor, Mr. Y. Venugopal Reddy were garlanded by Dr. Naren Ramji, and Mr. Srirangarajan, Registrar and Controller of Examinations of the University respectively, before the commencement of the day’s proceedings. Delivering the welcome address, Prof. Vishwanath Pandit, the Vice Chancellor of the Sri Sathya Sai University, highlighted the direct relevance the conference has with the current world affairs.
Prof. Pandit was categorical in emphasizing that value-based education has to be practised in life, rather than confining the same to bookish knowledge. He also made a mention about the University’s contribution to the society by sending out students with ethical values and academic perfection. Interestingly, he mentioned about the remark of the NAAC committee that the Sathya Sai University was the "crest jewel" in Education institutions of India. The UGC delegation visited the University in September 2008 and made a similar remark, unofficial though that “what we see here is exceptional and must be replicated. This place does not need our support; we need the support of the University”.
The Vice Chancellor said, the conference would deal with panel discussions on (1) Quintessence of Ethics, (2) Behaviour and Structure of Financial Institutions, (3) Role of the Government and Regulatory Authorities and (4) Role of Education.
In his key-note address, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Duvvuri Subba Rao today said there was no evidence to show that people in the financial sector were inherently less ethical than people in other professions. However, given the larger temptation and more opportunities, the power of context to be short, there could be greater incidence of unethical behaviour in the financial sector, he remarked..
Economics, as an academic discipline, is losing its value base, and conjectured, if that could be at the root of the malaise in the financial sector. In his in-depth analysis of the present economic recession and the role of ethics, the RBI Governor outlined how a sense of responsibility to larger societal good underpins on the mandate of the RBI. ``All of us as individuals, families, social communities and faith communities confront ethical dilemmas everyday, and we resolve them in our own ways. We take the value of ethical behaviour to be axiomatic,’’ he observed.
Dr. Subba Rao referred to financial scams that shocked the world and led to the collapse of markets, from Nick Leeson, Bernie Madoff, Dennis Levine to Satyam Ramalinga Raju. On the RBI role, Dr. Subba Rao said the bank had a broad mandate. Concluding his speech the Governor listed out the ethical dimensions of Reserve Bank of India, listing the bank’s roles and responsibilities being the guardians of nation’s financial security.
The next speaker, the Ex-Governor
of RBI, Mr. Y. Venugopal Reddy, sent out a barrage of questions with
reference to the recent global financial crisis. Referring to some of the
“Questionable Practices” that could have caused the crisis, Mr. Reddy drew
everyone's attention to the previous crisis in the early nineties. Listing
out the consequences thereon, Mr. Reddy sounded interrogative as to whether
the present crisis would bring similar consequences.
The last speaker for the session was Mr. S.V.Giri, formerly Chief Vigilance Commissioner of India and the 6th Vice Chancellor of the Sri Sathya Sai University. His speech was mainly on the topic as to how the foundations of character building were laid through activities like Grama Seva and the like. Summing up the morning session he highlighted the five cardinal human values describing them as pillars of Sanathana Dharma and so "cannot be compromised, whatever be the situation or condition".
All the while, Swami was on the stage listening to every talk. In the end, He presented the two governors, past and present, of the RBI with momentoes which were made as replicas of the Sarva Dharma Aikya Stupa at Puttaparthi.
Swami asked for prasadam to
be brought and distributed to all. He did not want the aarthi to be
performed and blessing everyone, He moved to the green room. There, when a prayer
was made to Him that the governor of RBI would like an interaction with Him,
Swami said that He would meet him in the interview room in the Mandir.
The evening session turned out to be even more memorable. The stage had been grandly arranged and all the delegates were initially seated in the bhajan hall. Swami arrived at 5:00 p.m. and after finishing the darshan round, He arrived on stage. During the darshan, as Swami moved in the ladies side, He blessed the delegates and their spouses and relatives who too had come to Puttaparthi. He was particularly playful with one baby that stretched out of its mother's arms as if trying to go to Swami! Twenty six chairs had been arranged on the stage, 13 on either side of Swami.
The number 26 seemed symbolic for it was as if the "A-Z" of the financial world had arrived at the Source, the primeval principle that Swami embodies. As Swami sat in the centre stage, the names of each of the delegates were called out. They arrived one by one and offered flowers to Swami. In return they were blessed with their special moment with Him as He granted them padanamaskar. In this way, soon all the chairs were occupied and Swami asked for the session to begin. The Registrar introduced the two speakers for the evening.
The first speaker for the session
was Mr. K. V. Kamath, the Non-Executive Chairman of ICICI Bank. Calling it
Bhagavan’s foresight that made such a unique event a possibility, Mr. Kamath
hailed the University’s initiative. The whole crisis should be seen from the
point of view that the two strong pillars, Truth and Righteousness are under
challenge, he said.
There could have been no better place to deliberate, understand and find solutions for the future than this place. Going back to morality, going back to ethical values, going back to fairness would be the solutions to prevent such happenings in future," said Mr. Kamath.
Mr. Kamath was followed by Mr.
Gunit Chaddha, CEO-India, Deutsch Bank. Starting with prayerful salutations
to Bhagavan, Mr. Chaddha told, “It is truly an honour and privilege to submit
myself before the Lotus Feet of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
Swami was then requested for His
divine discourse but He knew of the flood of emotions and feelings that had
been welling in the hearts of many of the finance captains on stage. He asked
Mr. K. R. Ramamoorthy, the Chairman of ING Vysya Bank whether he would like
to say a few words and he was positively delighted.
The fourth speaker for the session was Mr. V. S. Das, Executive Director, RBI. Claiming the day to be the best day in his life, Mr. Das appreciated the wonderful conduct of the ongoing conference. Recounting Bhagavan’s adage ‘My Life is My Message’ he said that one could get greater lessons by attending such conferences, wherein practical demonstration of hospitality, system supported management, and organizational ability were demonstrated for one and all to see and imbibe.
He said that values and ethics flow from a heart which has affection for fellow beings. "Why talk of morality and ethics only when we reach a stage when we are operating banks? These values should start at the grass root level, at the individual level which should help building a society wherein these values could be instilled. Business is run on the terra forma of society. If the individual is sound, society would be sound and business also would automatically become sound, said Mr. Das reflecting Bhagavan’s teachings.
The fifth speaker for the session, Mr. Jagdish Kapoor, Chairman, HDFC Bank Ltd., in his short speech highlighted that financial affairs were in no way separate from the moral values that we carry and there could have been no better place for holding the conference than the Sri Sathya Sai University, where each student would carry with him impeccable discipline and high moral values as taught by Bhagavan and followed by everyone in Prasanthi Nilayam.
Prof. Venkataraman, the 5th Vice Chancellor of Sri Sathya Sai University spoke in detail about various service projects taken up by Bhagavan, that included the medicare, water project, housing project scheme in Orissa and so on. Reiterating what Mr. Kamath outlined in his speech, solutions to human problems could be found by going back to the two strong pillars of Sathya and Dharma with love as the essential tool, said Prof. Venkataraman. He used Swami as the shining example and it was very clear that if we can follow Him even to a miniscule amount, the world would be a much happier place.
Swami now asked the students to sing a bhajan with aalaap. "Sri Raghavam" began. For reasons best known to Him, Swami stopped that bhajan midway and asked for aarthi which was performed and then prasadam was distributed as Swami retired for the day.