Why should we encourage dissent in our society

In a vast country like India, we need to have different points of view presented by Indians from different parts of the country. It is very dangerous to allow any single narrative of any political party or a significant group to walk away with narrow interpretations of events in society or issues. Dissent is something that needs to be encouraged in our society; some dimensions are being discussed in this article.


In its simplest form, dissent simply means the right and the ability of a person to just disagree with another view presented by one. The other person could be one's wife or husband, a boss at the office, a neighbour or even a stranger but a co-passenger travelling in a long-distance bus. The key is the acceptance of dissent. The key is to allow dissent to grow and present itself.

Making dissent very common in our society has many advantages. Chief among them are a) Ability to generate creative and totally new points of view b) Ability to help people express themselves c) The change for more democratic societies to develop d) The rub-off effect in autocratic environments and e) The long-effects of human development in various walks of life.

Ability to generate creative and totally new points of view

This is a very big plus. Very often, dissent brings out the best in any human being. More so, when there had been attempts to stifle dissent by some authority and the new authority allows it one hundred percent. In this case, there will be total transparency and the fresh narratives will have so many variables that will combine to present a very creative alternative to the original suggestion or idea mooted itself. For example, it was during the late Rajiv's Gandhi's time that the telecom revolution really started happening. It was said that though Rajiv Gandhi had a good deal of opposition from within his own party, he would patiently listen to all views. However, when he was firm on a particular idea, he would go ahead and convince his key people the reasons for his pushing that particular idea. Thus was born the splendid C-DOT, an organization headed by a technocrat called Sam Pitroda. He brought out the first telecom revolution in India. The later revolutions merely built on the massive infrastructure that was built then.

Similarly, even in academic institutions like the IIM-A, there is a huge space given for dissent. Nothing is done in an autocratic manner. The various points of view presented by the students and faculty members then go on to form a very big organic whole set of ideas and concepts. For example, the evolution of new electives at the IIM-A is amongst the best in the world. When this happens, the institution is amongst the most updated institutions offering the PGDM course in India. This happens more like a process that never ends. It continuously renews itself. The number of Indian case-studies produced is stupendous.

Ability to help people express themselves

Even at the workmen level, the various participative forums that encourage the active implementation of what is now called Kaizen in the Japanese language, is nothing but continuous improvement in some aspect of the production process in the factory. This practice allows dissent to flourish, as there is an active discussion amongst the members of the Kaizen team, normally, a voluntary group that functions on the shop floor and is merely guided by the engineers. In fact, the key is the empowerment of the Kaizen team and the resulting motivation. Once this happens, all other things fall in place. Dissent is encouraged and it often helps that the bosses keep on encouraging the workmen to continuously do what they are good at. In particular, in the TVS group of organizations, such Kaizens are very common. The added advantage of workmen empowerment leads to a very good climate of transparency on the shop floor.

The chance for more democratic societies to develop

We often claim to be a very big democratic society. We are one only on paper. Social activists who talk with a great deal of confidence and authority are commonly termed and even branded "anti-Indian" by members of the ruling party at the centre. It is in this rather distressing scenario at the macro level, that we need to encourage dissent in a more active form and take the same to the next level. The talk of One party, one language and one identity is sought to be promoted with the dangerous narrative of declaring India as a Hindu nation. This is not only atrocious but goes against the very spirit of the Indian Constitution. As rightly pointed out by the famous writer Arundathi Roy, this narrative can undermine the unity of India. It can very easily propagate the caste system as well. We need dissent to flourish at various levels in our society so that we can project the same to other nations of the world and thereby project and promote the right kind of democracies to develop.

In particular, the massive dissenting voices to the " Jai Sri Ram " rhetoric in the whole of Tamil Nadu is a big expression of dissent. It should be noted that in Tamil Nadu and even in neighbouring Kerala, the people of various religions live happily together and are known to respect each other so well. Dissent is very much allowed and the kind of frenzy that is now being the sort to be driven up is never going to succeed in these two States. The political discourse needs to continuously debate the pitfalls of the dangerous narrative, bring into the public domain, the more interesting and more refined discussions that will cement the secular fabric of India.

The rub-off effect in autocratic environments

When a human being starts observing that dissent is encouraged in one part of the organization, the massive effects on other departments start to follow. The kind of social mobilization seen in social movements is often characterized by dissent among leaders. This is very much essential for internal democracy. Only in certain places, dissent is not allowed. Even today, in certain family-owned companies, dissent is not encouraged. Whatever the lalaji thinks and does is said to be accepted as law. This can have fairly unhealthy consequences and the emergence of chamchagiri practices, that is, the yes men, start influencing minds of bosses. This often happens in companies like paper, cement and so on, where the process capabilities are simply excellent and hence the autocratic decisions, even when they have shades of grey, is the common rule.

However, even in such environments, the advent of the most advanced information technology practices have brought about new forms of communication, through the company-wide intranet. Of late, the third generation of owner-managers has taken over Management control in most family-managed companies and their Outlook and worldview are totally different from those of their fathers and earlier generations. Hence, dissent in some form is now encouraged. For example, even in Wipro, an organization with a history of professional Management, today, the young Premji has taken over from his father and there will be a continuity of change as well as even more professional thrust on the best Management practices.

The long-term effects of human development on all walks of life

Stuffing out dissent also have disastrous consequences on various aspects of human development. This is more often true of all middle-managers in many manufacturing organizations where they are controlled by autocratic bosses who push their own selfish agenda. Dirty tricks are also played in many situations. For example, when the talented subordinate comes up with a very good suggestion, his nasty boss will reject it. However, one of his yes- men would gather all the details and brief the boss. In a meeting with the CEO, the selfish manager would tell the former the total details and claim credit for the implementation. Even when the concerned person comes to know the sequence of events on a later date, he is helpless. The damage would already have been done. This is exactly what happens. The young man would resign in disgust. Many brilliant managers have lost their entire careers due to such dirty games of autocratic bosses. On a cumulative basis, one can imagine the damage to morale and motivation and the overall human development as well.


The days of not allowing dissent in any form is virtually history now. The most modern environments in the society and formal organizations will hopefully encourage dissent like never before. Only then we can really see the advent of an entirely new society with democratic norms and practices and the new forms of human behaviour.

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Author: DR.N.V. Srinivasa Rao30 Jun 2019 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 5

A good article from the author. Dissent among the people in society is good for the development of the country. Anywhere, if everybody agrees for whatever we say, we will feel we are the masters and the eagerness for learning will fade. That will be the starting point for our decline. If somebody points out a difference we will try to rectify. So dissent will always help the man for improvement. This is always required but there should be a proper reason for the disagreement and one should be able to elaborate on that. Some people want to differ for the sake of differing. But it is not a positive sign. It will not be constructive and makes no impression on others.

But I want to add a point that many people in society are not caring for any dissent and they try to do whatever they like. Changing such people is a difficult issue and many of our politicians will be from this class only. They don't care for anybody and they will do whatever they want. They don't give any importance to dissenting views and opinions.

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